Recklessness, by the train driver, Rajoy and Ryan Air

Peter Fieldman

It is hard not to be saddened by the terrible rail accident, which is a tragedy for the victims and their families and for Spain. All one can hope for is that lessons will be learnt and cost cutting on security cannot be permitted.

Barcenas-Rajoy Recklessness, by the train driver, Rajoy and Ryan Air

Before the storms the summer sun beat down, even in the UK, where redskins were seen everywhere. Meanwhile Spain is reaching boiling point. Bárcenas sings, Rajoy fiddles and the PP barons bury their heads in the sand hoping the scandals will go away, only to be awakened by the demonstrations outside 13 Calle Genova, which is not turning out to be a lucky number. Dan Brown’s Inferno sells out in book stores but the PP are trapped in the real Dante’s Inferno. Surely the Government must resign if Spain is to have any credibility left. There is an urgent need to root out the rotten apples. But it is a question of how many rotten apples there are in the barrel. Will we learn just who really owns the Bárcenas millions in offshore banks? They will not want this untaxed cash disappear into the State coffers.

llanero-solitario-Peter-Fieldman Recklessness, by the train driver, Rajoy and Ryan Air

Unfortunately, as in every country, the elite has been pillaging the economic wealth and shifting it untaxed into their pockets or offshore banks in the world’s tax havens. They believe the world is their playground.  But it makes neither economic nor moral sense for the 1% to take so much, which they cannot even spend. If the majority of the people do not have money no economy can function. Every nation has to come to terms with the fact that wealth has to be distributed more evenly. Even Italy, where Berlusconi, finally condemned, refuses to accept the judgement. As one politician said. «They got him for tax evasion, like Al Capone.»

Odd that Governments keep saying they have no money for public services, yet find billions to pump into the banks, which are turning out to be centres of organised crime on an unprecedented scale.  There is a saying. “Whoever has the gold makes the rules.”  And Wall Street and the City of London have the gold. However as the driver of the train faces charges for «recklessness» I wonder why not one single banker in Europe or the US has been arrested on the same charge. They were not only reckless but greedy and negligent and have ruined the lives of millions. And their actions were premeditated.

The G20 met for another photo shoot and as usual failed to come up with any significant measures to regulate the financial and corporate sectors, put an end to corruption and the use of avoidance schemes and tax havens, or alleviate the plight of millions who are suffering from austerity measures. Short of revolution it is difficult to see how things are going to change.

I have been visiting Holland, Belgium and France, overflowing with tourists, whose dress sense leaves a lot to be desired.  While the canals of Amsterdam make the city so attractive, I found buying food and eating out very expensive. Brussels was a real disappointment. Apart from the city centre it seemed run down, lifeless and a disgrace for the capital of Europe. And many restaurants seemed overpriced.

Paris still justifies its reputation as the most beautiful city in the world. Sitting on the terrace of a café and eating out is still one of life’s pleasures, at a price. The right bank of the Seine has, as every year, been transformed into a car free zone. Paris Plages provides a unique riverside recreational area with deckchairs, cafes and bars, where joggers and cyclists mingle with families strolling or sitting by the Seine.  The idea is rather like the Manzanares riverside park but without the colossal amount of money Gallardón spent in Madrid. However I do love the spiral bridge, which was actually designed by a French architect.

While the cost of living seems to be rising in northern Europe, despite the many problems Spain faces, buying fresh food and eating out is still unbeatable value when it comes to quality/price.  I do not know how Spain does it because elsewhere it is not the same.  I don’t know if I am out of touch but apart from Spain going out is becoming a luxury.

As chefs have become celebrities everywhere the cost of eating in their establishments has increased to ridiculous levels, especially when Michelin gets involved. The so called great chefs now run worldwide operations which means nobody knows who is in the kitchen (including unfortunately many undocumented illegal workers) when forking out 100-200 euros a head for the privilege of eating nouvelle cuisine dishes for which customers need a magnifying glass to see what is on the plate. Even a basic three-course meal in many European cities now costs 60-100 for two people. And this for dishes which many people can make just as well at home for a tenth of the price.  Can any family justify a week’s domestic food budget for just one restaurant meal?

Of course restaurants have to work hard to survive with high rents, staff costs, rates, charges, food etc etc. but where are the family run great value bistrots? They are becoming extinct. People think it is a good idea to open a restaurant churning out pre-prepared or frozen food reheated and they open and close with increased regularity. Menus now provide the same dishes everywhere. Earlier in the year I was in Italy where 15 euros for a plate of spaghetti, which cannot cost more than 50 cents, is common. This seems to be the standard price for pasta in Italian restaurants in most European cities but in Italy restaurants charge separately for cover charge and vegetables too. So when the menu reads 15euros it turns out to be 25euros. Prices which used to be for a three course menu are now for two courses. Another common practice is to fix the price of a menu to attract diners who then find that virtually every dish costs 2,3, or 4 euros more – the supplement restaurants. And how does any restaurant justify charging 20-60 euros for an ordinary bottle of wine or 5 euros for a small bottle of water? When El Bulli and Can Fabes shut down it suggests something is not quite right, even in Spain.

Talking about Italy I flew from Pisa to Madrid with Ryan Air. When I arrived at the airport their 11 am flight was listed at 16.45 pm and nobody could explain why. All the other flights seemed to be departing. I spent the day with Ryan Air’s sandwich lunch and when the flight eventually left neither the on board team nor pilots could offer an explanation.

I naturally took the matter up with Ryan Air’s complaints department by letter. They explained it was due to fog. Fog! I spent the day in brilliant sunshine! Ryan Air responds with e mails but I had to reply by letter as they do not accept e mails. I checked with Pisa and they confirmed there had been early morning fog but by 9 am there was brilliant sunshine and it was hot. Some flights were delayed up to 2.30h but they could not explain Ryan Air’s flight plans, the cancellation of the 11am flight or unreasonable delay of 5.30h.  When the aircraft finally landed at around 19.00hrs in Madrid they had the cheek to announce “another on time flight.”

I mention this since compensation can be payable if the reasons are not due to external factors. But if I want to take the matter further which is the legal jurisdiction responsible? The flight began in Italy and ended in Spain, the rules are European and Ryan Air is based in Ireland, which makes court procedures very difficult to envisage for anyone not living in Dublin. Nice one Ryan Air. Have a great vacation.


  1. Just another comment dear Peter, Gallardón didn’t ‘spend’ a single euro in Madrid, he ‘invested’ a lot of euros on Madrid. Madrid is a continuosly developing big city requiring improvements all the time, particularly when the city is getting ready for Olympic Games and Madrid has been doing so for quite a few years. Investing is not the same as spending, is it?

  2. What are you surprised of, dear Peter? This is capitalism, now happily set up almost all over the world. Banks, off shore paradises, FMI, WB, EU, Obama star, EU governments, G20, G7, Golderberg Club, it’s all the same capitalist drain! So, if Spain’s Government has no credibility and all other’s pillaging is all the same, why not suggesting a general resignation? Or, should we sign for the honest ones only? How many would remain? You name them.

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