Friday, June 27, 2008

Catalonia is not Spain (Well, maybe a little right now …)

It’s been great fun watching Spain’s serene progress to the final of Euro 2008 in all senses of the word.

Great fun because they have played some exquisite football; last night’s demolition of Russia was sublime to watch. But great fun also because it has highlighted the bitter-sweet relationship between the Catalans and the nation as a whole.

You don’t need a Spanis civil war history lesson here to know that for a chunky minority of Catalans, Catalonia is not Spain (as the posters given away outside European games at the Camp Nou proclaim).

On top of the 10% or so who would like complete independence, many more here feel Catalonia should get considerably more autonomy, and keep a higher percentage of its economic revenues, from the central government. Culturally, many Catalans feel as close to Madrid as they do to Lisbon or Paris.

So when the tournament opened, just 45% of Catalans watched the opening game on TV versus around 55% nationally and 65% in the Madrid region. While thousands sang and danced in front of the big screen in Madrid’s Plaza Colon, Barcelona’s big squares were empty.

Even the dramatic quarter final penalty shootout over Italy, which I watched in a bar deep in the Catalan countryside, seemed to evoke only a smatter of amused indifference among the locals.

As one Catalan friend put it ‘What really pisses us off is all the ra-ra Spanish stuff that goes with it all.’ He means the Spanish fans dressed as matadors in Vienna or staging mock bull fights in Austrian squares – the whole sangria and senorita image of the country that should have died about 40 years ago. The TV coverage is becoming more nattily nationalistic by the day.

But there is a slight thawing going on. There was a widespread tooting of horns after the games last night; it was hardly akin to when Barca win a title, but it made a decent noise. And I suspect there will be more if they win on Sunday.

And, heck, why not? Spain are, by any measure, playing beautiful football, the like of which few international teams have aspired to in recent years. And it’s being inspired by a Barca/Catalan engine room of Xavi, Iniesta and Fabregas. Last night’s victory was made in Catalonia.

And, really, would you go the whole hog and back Germany on Sunday just to spite the national cause? We’re not talking plucky little Denmark here or pledging our troth to the beautiful game as played by Portugal. We’re talking big, bad unlovable Germany who win far too often and do so without the passion and beauty that the Spanish bring to the game.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

How cheap are a pair of trousers?

Under 20 euros at Zara for a pair of linen/cotton trousers. 19.90 to be exact. As far as I remember these were around 29 euros last year.

The trousers are made in Turkey and the reduction seems to have everything to do with the strength of the euro. While it's hurting the amount of money I get (I get paid in pounds) it is making goods imported into the EU from outside that much cheaper. 

These trousers were made in Turkey and Zara's Turkish lira costs have decreased around 30% over the last six months.  So I am winning on one side of the equation and losing on the other ...

Sunday, June 01, 2008

When chefs fall out

The dispute between Santi Santamaria and Ferran Adria et al over the alleged ‘poisoning of diners’ is both hilarious and pathetic. 

Nobody has summed it up better than Aidan Brooks, trainee chef at Commerc 24. 

No need to summarise his piece. just read it here.

The fourth wet weekend in succession

My friend who runs the biggest cinema chain in Spain  is thrilled. The rest of us are less than enchanted. The reservoirs, 20% full at the end of March, are now over half full. The drought is officially over. 

Enough already. Bring on flaming June … 

Three things I did this weekend which I didn’t expect to do and enjoyed

  1. Dance on the stage at ommsession at 3am. Life in the old dog etc
  2. Go to see (male) beach volleyball. Weirdly in a city with so much beach, it was half way up the Montjuic mountain
  3. Watch ‘21’ the brilliant film based on the true story about six mathematicians who take on the Vegas casinos and almost win.