After a year in minority government, consensus is the key word for the
mayor of Barcelona, who calls for a period of political calm and
– What's the best thing about this past year?
That almost all the seeds are planted so that they can grow.
– And the worst?
That it is hard to imagine what it will become.
– You say you want to reach an agreement with ERC. How do you think
that might work?
In terms of governability, it is true that in the next few months I
would like a more stable environment. It could be a good thing for
everyone. We will work over the next few months and I will get
involved personally, though before that happens we have work on policy
to get on with. (Full story in printed edition).
Friday, 30 May 2008
After a year in minority government, consensus is the key word for the
When Europe's national football teams line-up to do battle in June for
the 2008 Eurocopa some countries will be conspicuously absent.
England, for example, the originators of the game, failed to qualify
and will to sit the tournament out.
But there are also a number of European countries who were never given
the opportunity to qualify because they are not recognised by the
international football federations, Uefa and Fifa. One such team is
Catalonia. (Full story in printed edition).
It is hard to help noticing that in Spain in general and Catalonia in
particular, the most alarming items of news about violent rightwingers
pass practically unnoticed, allowing the latter to go about their
knifing, shooting and extorting with near perfect impunity - whereas
the raising of a suspected ETA member's little finger, so to speak
(never mind a full-blown maiming or slaughter) will send the media
into paroxysms of gabble for days on end. (Full story in printed
I rely on fig trees, for broad-leaf summer shade and to zap my
tastebuds and tummy twice a year. The experience is divine, the
consequences are unmentionable.
Between my office window and the lines of Garnacha vines where we
labour like mad dogs in our main fruiter stands, with bark like
elephant hide, a perch for birds, cats and children. We have green
figs and striped figs all around the old farmhouse, but this
particular tree with its purple fruit bears an avalanche of offerings
in June and again in September. If we don't take the harvest it falls
and explodes on impact, a feast for flies and a squidgy mess with the
adhesive attributes of dog poo. (Full story in printed edition).
I must admit that I've always had a soft spot for the Eurovision Song
Contest with all those exotic languages, shiny outfits, brokenhearted
losers and utterly ecstatic winners. Unfortunately, the ecstatic
winners always tend to fade back into the anonymity they've come from,
with the exception of ABBA and Celine Dion. Spain has gone for very
conservative offerings on the whole, although they took a risk with
Peret back in 1974 with his jolly rumba and the flamenco singer
Remedios Amaya in 1983, who didn't get a point. Winning or losing,
however, isn't really what it's about because Eurovision basically
makes being naff into an art form. (Full story in printed edition).
While Albert Serra might not care, the audiences at the Cannes film
festival seem to love him. The Banyoles-born director's latest film El
Cant dels Ocells (Birdsong) recently met applause and positive reviews
after a screening at the Directors' Fortnight during the southern
French town's mythical film festival. The film tracks the Three Wise
Men as they wander, half lost, through a barren landscape. Le Monde
praised the film's "discreet humour," "mix between the sacred and
profane" and the "shock between the grotesque and the sublime," while
the French daily Libération simply said, "cinema should always be like
this." (Full story in printed edition).
The Museu d'Història de Catalunya is now officially uptodate, opening
a new permanent exhibit that fills in the gap between 1980 and the
History, one could say, is a tough act to follow – literally. One
never knows what major event of today will fade into obscurity with
the passage of time, while the everyday people that make up the fabric
of a society are often ignored at the expense of those with more
political clout. Now, in the middle of a change in directorship, the
Museu d'Història de Catalunya (MHC) has addressed these challenges.
(Full story in printed edition).
It seems that drinking omelettes out of a glass at "deconstructionist"
restaurants wasn't enough for adventurous diners in Catalonia. For the
past four years, curious epicures have been bypassing French-approved
high-end restaurants and getting a more affordable thrill by going to
Llorenç Patràs' stand at the Boqueria market, and ordering scorpions,
worms, beatles and other succulent invertebrates. But now, after four
years of bureaucratic lollygagging, this is about to change. Health
officials have determined that selling foods that would hardly raise
an eyebrow – or an antenna – in the rest of the world, should not be
sold here. (Full story in printed edition).
Signs of spiritual slippage seem to have been going unnoticed by the
majority of society, wrapped up as we are in more earthly concerns
like water, oil and whether we here in Spain will be graced by
Cristiano Ronaldo's exemplary displays of humility come next season.
Yet fear not, for the Church never sleeps when it comes to sounding
the alarm over the nation's moral decline. This week we have been
warned by none other than the Cardinal of Madrid and head of the
Conferencia Episcopal Española himself, Antonio María Rouco, that
"Spain and Europe are feeling the temptation to declare the death of
God." Ah, a man of the times. If, at least as far as Europe goes, the
"times" he is referring to were a couple of centuries ago. But
whatever modernity Cardinal Rouco lacks in thought, he more than makes
up for in style. I mean how can you not trust a man of the cloth who
dons shades? Or, for that matter, an army general? The truth is that
the sunglasses so popular among priests and higher ranking military
officials (generally of the Latin world) has never really put me at
ease. But again, I doubt they are really out to win over my heart and
mind. (Full story in printed edition).
Monday, 26 May 2008
Last year, the father of a child attending the Collaso i Gil secondary
school in Barcelona contacted Catalonia's ombudsman, the Síndic de
Greuges, to make a complaint about the growth in the proportion of
immigrant children at the school, which in 2001 stood at 32% and had
risen to 80% in 2006.
The complaint was only one of 148 received by the ombudsman in 2007
and in most cases the rise in the proportion of schoolchildren of
immigrant origin did not correspond with the proportion of foreigners
living in the local area, which was usually much lower.
This last aspect is the main conclusion drawn from the report on
segregation in schools presented by the Síndic de Greuges to the
Catalan parliament on May 15. (Full story in printed edition).
Not only prisons keep their portals locked. The Associació Vallès
Amics de la Neurologia (AVAN), like many other voluntary organisations
dedicated to the care of people with damaged nervous systems, ensures
that the gates of its centre in Sabadell are secured at all times to
prevent its patients from drifting into a world that doesn't have a
clue as to their particular needs and difficulties. When I went there
last week, I was expecting to see mainly middleaged or elderly people,
more likely as they were to be affected by Parkinson's, MS, Attention
Deficit Disorder and similar illnesses. So it was a surprise to find a
very young man in the audience. It turned out he'd been in a car
crash, then six months in coma, and now he was fighting to make the
simplest movements, to mouth the shortest of syllables. (Full story in
England was significantly warmer than Barcelona last week and a BBC
radio station invited me on air so they could gloat.
I kindly but forcibly informed the listeners of this nation's
unbridled relief. The downpour on our farm measured two hundred litres
per cubic metre of rainfall in four days and I'd splashed about like
Bloody typical, I said when I put the phone down. Wafer-thin global
awareness in a supposedly know-all age. Then I realised why I'd been
forced to lob some serious discussion into the lighthearted banter.
The water crisis here has sneaked into the British news, finally. But
between the bitter pill of the news slots, radio stations and
television programmes have to fill cavernous gaps of time, preferably
with something bland, cheery and easily digestible. (Full story in
Benedetta Tagliabue has already produced one landmark building in
Barcelona and now the celebrated architect will be responsible for
another. After the success of the Santa Caterina marketplace with its
multi-coloured roof, Tagliabue has been charged by the Barcelona City
Council to oversee the rebuilding of the Can Ricart factory in the
city's 22@ district, which is destined to become the new home of the
Casa de les Llengües, or House of Languages, in 2010. (Full story in
The culture wars have just changed their flavour. Whereas fierce
battles once raged over the divinity of Jesus' mother or whether
multiculturalism had a place in a nation's literary canon, the latest
earthshaking cultural debate revolves around the use of a certain type
of modified cellulose in cooking. (Full story in printed edition)
Last week we mentioned the case of the poor sister of Princess
Leticia, this one stuck with the rather un-royal title of Telma, who,
tired of being in the media spotlight due to her status of the future
king of Spain's in-law, had gone to court to seek an injunction
against those prying tabloids reporters who will stop at nothing for a
glimpse of her masticating, snoring and, please sweet God let it be
true, picking her nose. (Full story in printed edition)