Saturday, August 06, 2011

It's 1981 All Over Again

First rioting in Bristol. Now, a tad delayed, North London. It all feels terribly familiar ...

It's obviously a terrible thing that a man has been shot by police. While in modern Britain there can never be such a thing as a cast-iron guarantee against being shot by the police (ask the late Harry Stanley), and I don't know the facts of this particular case, a useful general rule is not to shoot at them first.

Even the mildest of men resents being shot at. If that man is a trained marksman, who just happens to have a loaded weapon on him and several similarly armed mates in attendance, then you're really pushing your luck.

A family friend of Mr Duggan, who gave her name only as Nikki, 53, said the man's friends and relatives had organised the protest because "something has to be done" and the marchers wanted "justice for the family."

"They're making their presence known because people are not happy," she added. "This guy was not violent. Yes, he was involved in things but he was not an aggressive person. He had never hurt anyone."


"shops had been broken into"

I'm shocked, shocked.

Friday, August 05, 2011

"This said, I’ve nothing against telling lies for political purposes"

Thus Chris Dillow.

A pity. I hoped to learn from his undoubted knowledge, but now I'm unsure if I can trust anything he writes, including "and" and "the".

There are altogether too many people in the UK who think it's OK to use their intelligence and knowledge to exploit (usually financially, but the principle's the same) the unintelligent and ignorant. From the supermarket price-setters (bargain ! Tropicana only £1 ! And we hope you won't notice the carton's 25% smaller !) to the people who work out the bewildering arrays of price options for electricity and phones, modern UK capitalism seems to have given up on the search for a better mousetrap and is devoted to maximising the take from mousetrap rental plans.

Sorry to see him join them.

Once upon a time that was the sort of thing the Labour Party were against. Still, all in a good cause, end justifies the means and all that.

Anyway, if Chris wants to exercise his talents for telling lies for political purposes, he's certainly posting in the appropriate place.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

"demand for artificial knees"

Telegraph :

"Smith & Nephew said performance was boosted by a weaker dollar and increased demand for artificial knees, an area in which the group has averted controversy over metal-on-metal technology by offering a 30-year guarantee on its products."

I haven't looked at that market for what must be 15 years, but I'm very surprised S&N can turn a profit on artificial knees, given what was the extremely low cost of a knee transplant from a primate donor.

I wonder if the animal rights campaigners have stopped the trade, because certainly in those days you could get two ape-knees for a penny.

Spanish Libido Falls

70% off condoms. Times may be hard but ... yet the seaside bars and restaurants were crowded, and if the young men dining their senoritas at harbourside tables were boiling with righteous rage, they kept it to themselves.

"City of Langreo - City without employment". A bit harsh - there are still plenty of hefty industrial plants about. Great pipework.

I think this is a Bayer plant, but I may be wrong.

They're two cheeks of the same fascist backside, I tell you! Some child in Gijon thinks there's not much between the socialist PSOE and the conservative PP. In Oviedo I saw graffiti supporting the Falangists.

Enough said.

There was a lot of graffiti directed at the housing boom/bust. Lots of half-finished and abandoned developments which obviously stopped when the bottom dropped out of housing. Still a fair bit of development going on though.

Monday, August 01, 2011


The path is steep and stony. It's blazing hot - every 20 minutes you stop and slather on more factor 50. You've been going an hour and two-thirds of the water's been drunk.

It's also rather dangerous. Unbeknownst to you, when you were stuffing your daughter's jacket into your rucksack, wife and child have taken 'what looked like a shortcut' - concentrating on fitting everything back into the bag, you blindly follow, not noticing that the main path goes up and to the left. You're now close to the edge of a big drop and the path seems a lot smaller than it was.

Ten minutes later ...

"I can't believe the authorities signpost this path as a suitable route. You'd never be allowed to do that in England. Do people really take small children up here ?"

Fifteen minutes later ... the path is between a foot and eighteen inches wide. We've climbed enough to make going back probably more hazardous than going on. To the right, at the edge of the path, a drop to the river several hundred feet below.

"Walk carefully - stay as close into the hill as you can. This is dangerous. They must be crazy to designate this as a route"

"I wonder if we should have gone left instead of straight on when the path split"

"WHAT !"

We had to keep going. About another half mile and maybe thirty minutes on, our tiny path zig-zagged up to join the broad main path, which we'd been following a couple of hundred feet lower down the ravine. We'd added a somewhat twitchy hour to the walk time. And I swore never again to just follow without keeping my eyes open.

Walking on, the ravine opens out - higher up you can fill your bottles with clear, cold river water.

And then you come to what seems like a mirage - an oasis for hot, sweaty walkers, a dream of paradise, a beer advert come to life.

There's a fountain of cool drinking water, shady trees about a river, a small bridge. And about six bars and restaurants! Bulnes was presumably once a very cut-off village - but a funicular railway cut through the mountain (and free to locals) now means that all the wants of the climber or tourist can be brought up.

After a walk like ours, to sit under a sunshade and sip a chilled beer feels very good. And the descent is a great improvement on the ascent - even the heat's less, with the ravine now in shadow. Lovely place - I can see why people rave about the Picos de Europa. Will come again.

The Spanish Are Bastards, Too

El Pais :

One out of every three babies in Spain is born to unwed parents, twice as many as 10 years ago. The decline in marriages, the rise in single mothers, immigration and a more secular society have all contributed to this trend, which brings Spain more in line with the European Union average.
Not quite up there with the Welsh or Scots (or Geordies), but well on the way.

Since 1981, when the law eliminated differences between children born in and out of wedlock, the proportion of the latter has risen steadily. If it was 4.4 percent that year, by 2000 it was 17.7 percent, and in 2009 — the last year for which the statistics office holds data — that rate had grown to 34.5 percent, or 170,604 babies.
That's nothing. We abort more babies than that each year in England and Wales alone ! But I suppose the low numbers reflect the ongoing demographic disaster.

"These are astounding figures," said Constanza TobĂ­o, a professor of sociology at Madrid's Carlos III University. "Couples have become more modern, and Spanish mothers have quickly become almost like Swedish or British mothers on that front. This change is the result of the secularization of society, of tolerance, of mothers' autonomy — they no longer need the safety of marriage to procreate — and of legal equality for children regardless of their parents' civil status."

Does "autonomy" = Daddy State, as in the UK ?

I mustn't get too apocalyptic. On the evidence of a week trying to cram in everything from the dockside quarter of Bilbao and the industrial valleys of Asturias (puzzling Susan with my requests, as I drove, for her to take photos of 'that big chemical works' or 'the graffiti on that bridge') to the touristy beaches and the mountains, Northern Spain is not only a great deal more civilised than the UK - so many people, drinking so much, so late into the evening, and so little trouble - but they still actually seem to make things there. As you drive up the AS117 through Langreo to San Martin, you could be in the Swansea Valley or Vale of Neath - in the days when the factories were still open.

And that's not to mention the greatest natural resource of Spain - rock, the quarrying and crushing of which, despite its grand scale, makes nary a dent in the stony peninsula. I presume a lot of it ends up on their excellent and spectacularly engineered roads - the steep left hand curve and drop as you approach Laredo from Bilbao is enough to give you vertigo, as you realise that beyond the barriers* the city (and beach) are several hundred feet below.

* which flash on and off, warning you NOT to go straight on and pointing you left, adding to the computer-game feel of the drive. Could have done without them.