Showing posts from April, 2016

Goodbye, My Bookstores

I read a newspaper article yesterday about a bookstore that is closing. Another one. The article complained that no one reads anymore and that books are considered luxury articles unnecessary to every day life. And that the government doesn't care and does nothing to help independent bookstores because it simply doesn't want its citizens to think.  When I first arrived here, twenty-five years ago, internet shopping was still a thing of the future. I would make trips to Santiago and roam its bookstores, hoping to find something in English, buying in Spanish when there was nothing else. There were various bookstores I visited. Of all those I knew then, only four are still open. And two of those are closing before summer.  Santiago is a university town, but the crisis and demographics has cut back on the volume of student spending. Especially in textbooks. Now, few buy them. Most students try to find a volume and copy it. It's illegal, but copy stores will do it, and it

Bird on the Wing

Yesterday, our dog barked at something. Yes, he generally barks at all and sundry, but yesterday it was a special bark, a playful bark. Like when he catches a mole.  My daughter and I ran outside and saw the dog with a little animal on the ground in front of it. Thinking it was another mole, we looked closely, and saw it was a sparrow, lying on its back, alive and breathing rapidly. We turned it over but it didn't walk nor attempt to fly. We thought the dog must have injured it somehow, so I took it out and put it in the grass underneath a fruit tree, to let it die in peace.  Our dog has a complicated relationship with the sparrows in our barn. Sometimes they will fly to his food bowl, and try to peck at the croquets we serve him. Our Tommy doesn't like that, so when he sees them trying to eat his food, he runs after them. They fly away, but yesterday one of them didn't fly fast enough. Once he scared it away from the food, he decided to play with it. He doesn't qui

Celebrating Books

Four hundred years ago today, two great writers passed away. Miguel de Cervantes died in Madrid, and William Shakespeare in Stratford-on-Avon. That was one of the reasons the twenty-third of April was chosen in 1920's Spain as National Book Day. The other reason was that the twenty-third is Sant Jordi's day, patron saint of Catalunya. The red rose is a symbol of the saint and is usually exchanged on this day. Now, it's a book and a rose ever since UNESCO declared the twenty-third of April World Book Day in 1995.  Actually, Cervantes and Shakespeare didn't die on the twenty-third. Cervantes died a day before and was buried in the church crypt of the convent of the Trinitarias Descalzas in Madrid on the twenty-third. Shakespeare died on the third of May by the present-day Gregorian calendar. Still, who cares about little details? The twenty-third of April it was. On this day many cities in Spain have book fairs, and all bookstores sell books with a ten percent discoun

Banking Greed

In before-crisis Spain, when everything was fine and dandy and a bank would give loans just for the fun of it, there was a financial institution on almost every corner and in almost every village. There were the normal corporate banks, and the cajas, which were like a cross between a credit union and a savings and loan bank. These last were set up in the nineteenth century for clients who needed financial help but didn't have enough resources to be even looked at by the commercial for-profit banks. Cajas never charged commissions for simple things, like having an open account with less than a certain amount deposited in it. Their charters also obliged them to be involved in social and cultural aspects of society. Dividends could not be distributed among the subscribers (clients) and had to perforce be invested in society.  The boards of directors were made up of members of the local governing bodies, either municipal or regional; clients; founders or owners; and workers. During

Turbo Headaches

Just when it seemed most drivers were getting the hang of not plowing into other cars inside a rotary, new rules have been put into practice at some rotaries. The intention is to facilitate entrances and exits, so that no lane changing is necessary within the rotary. Hah! In a normal rotary with two lanes, the right lane is always used to exit. The left lane is generally used to make a u-turn, or when the intended exit is the third or fourth. Approaching the exit, the driver should change to the right lane to take it. Most drivers don't follow those rules. Generally, when two lanes lead into a rotary, the drivers stay in their lanes, and exit from either of them. Eagle eyes are activated by drivers exiting from the left lane to make sure the driver next to them in the right lane won't cut them off by continuing around the rotary. After fifteen or twenty years of practice, drivers have gotten the hang of avoiding accidents. Usually. In the new turbo rotaries, you must enter

The Hunter, Hunted

There is an association in Spain called Manos Limpias (Clean Hands), which considers itself a watchdog of corruption. Its website states the five pillars by which they act: the defense of the Constitution; the defense of the lawful State, of the transparency and dignity of public and institutional powers; the defense of the interest of workers of public administrations; denunciation of political and economic corruption; and causes of public and general interest. They are committed to denouncing any case of wrongdoing that affects the public interest. In fact, they are the only ones who initiated judicial action against the King's sister, Doña Cristina. While it claims to have no ideological affiliation, however, it is considered a far-right association. Its director, Miguel Berna d Remón, was a close friend and collaborator of Blas Piñar, the found er of two extremist fascist political parties in the 80 's and 90's (once with the help of Jean Marie Le Pen). The bigge