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The UK property bubble is the key to the next financial crisis

Property prices, particularly in London and the south-east are completely out of control, and have been for years. Osborne’s economic policies seem determined to keep the whole dodgy scheme running despite the fact that more and more people are being priced out of the market. What’s interesting about the London property bubble is that it is increasingly fueled by foreign banks and investors. Meaning that exposure to its eventual collapse is distributed. Quick: everybody buy a second home now!

I’m voting ERC for a change in Cerdanyola

Since I first moved here 13 years ago, Cerdanyola has been governed by ICV and the PSC. Under Cristina Real (PSC) until 2003 and especially Toni Morral (ICV) until 2011, Cerdanyola has changed a lot. In lots of ways for the best (I’m thinking about the improvements to Carrer Sant Ramon, Plaça Sant Ramon and Plaça Abat Oliba in particular). But there has also been inertia and the wrong sort of development. The toxic waste dumps between the main town and Bellaterra have been left to fester. The Riu Sec is a total mess. The Altis sports center was mismanaged into bankruptcy, only to see €8M spent on turning it into a library. Money has been spent on padel courts while nurseries are shutting down. Plans surfaced for the Centre Direccional – 4,000 new houses to be built on green field land. And a huge shopping center is planned, with the approval of the PSC and ICV. Most recently, the proposed construction of a crematorium, a few hundred metres from people’s homes, hidden by the PSC and ICV as a simple ‘remodeling’ of the existing cemetery.

Until late last year, I was a member of the local branch of Iniciativa. My reasons for leaving were mostly down to the party’s national leadership. But they weren’t helped by what I feel is the complicit attitude on the part of Cerdanyola’s branch. Jordi Miró should, in my opinion, defend sustainable development and green policies but he shrugged and told me that dealing with the toxic waste dumps – where they want to build these 4,000 homes – was “too expensive”. A party that refused to rule out the construction of a large shopping centre on the edge of town (Cerdanyola’s residents have access to good value locally owned shops in the town centre, as well as shopping malls at Baricentro, Sant Cugat, La Maquinista, Terrassa, etc – there is, simply, no need for another large out-of-town centre). I think that Jordi is a good guy on a personal level – I voted for him in last year’s primaries – but I don’t think he or his party can deliver change in Cerdanyola.

Meanwhile, Carme Carmona, the appointed PSC mayor of Cerdanyola seems to have done nothing. She and her party celebrate every pot hole filled as if it’s a minor miracle. But ask them why they’ve cut down dozens of trees in the last few months and they’re silent. They’ve acted as if doing the bare minimum is something to be celebrated. I don’t care that much about the cynical way they’ve suddenly started repairing streets in the last few weeks, in time for the elections. “It’s what everyone does”, after all. I do care that almost every project she and her town hall seem to be proud of has been completed within a couple of months of the elections. And I cared when Carmona complained on Twitter about ‘Latin barbecues’, as if immigrants were the only ones capable of making a mess in the park. I don’t know if there’s any truth in the rumour that she has recently bought a house in Sant Cugat but it wouldn’t surprise me.

During the last 4 years, Helena Solà and her ERC colleagues have formed a genuine opposition to the PSC-ICV ajuntament. Questioning the town hall’s spending, the vanity projects, the public funds for a football pitch and padel courts that the vast majority won’t use, the senseless tree-cutting campaign (allegedly to save money), the secret plans for a shopping center, the secret agreement to build a crematorium, the abject failure to resolve a hundred other problems. ERC’s program for Cerdanyola is ambitious but not unrealistic. A bit like how I’d describe their chances of winning (they won the most votes in the Euro elections this year). Having spoken to her a few times over the last year or so, I believe that she’s genuinely determined to improve Cerdanyola and to deliver change from the left.

So this year, I’ll vote for ERC and Helena Solà in Cerdanyola. They haven’t held the town hall since the 2nd republic: I’d say it’s time to give them another chance.

Mens’ Health

If you follow me on Twitter, you might have noticed that I went to the doctor the other day. Apart from very occasional trips to get the baixa/alta when I had flu, and once when I broke a rib, I generally avoid doctors. In fact, this was the first scheduled appointment I’ve ever had in Spain… the first, certainly, for more than 10 years.

The reason for my appointment was simple enough: my ears are blocked up, to the point where I’ve lost quite a lot of hearing in one of them. Having assumed that this issue would fix itself, in the way the body generally seems to, I arrived at the point where I could hear nothing in my right ear when I got up in the morning. Not good. So I went online and booked an appointment. Everything was going very smoothly.

Until, that is, the nurse called me in to answer some questions about my health and lifestyle. Physical dimensions baffle me: I never remember how tall I am or how much I weigh. Similarly, I’ve no idea when I last had a tetanus shot. I told the truth about how much wine and beer I drink, and how many cigarettes I smoke (about 5 or 6 a day, to which the response was “well what’s the point, then?”). Then she said she’d take my blood pressure. Ah….

The truth is, I was pretty sure I had high blood pressure anyway. I’d probably been avoiding medical checkups partly because I suspected I’d be told something like this. So, yes, she took my blood pressure and frowned. “Have you had your blood pressure read recently?”, she asked. “Not for ten years or so,” I replied, “Why? Is it very high?”. “Not very. But it’s high”. She took it again to confirm the first reading. It was the same (I’m so bad at this kind of thing, I have no idea what the reading was). The upshot is that I have to go next week and the week after, to properly confirm the result… not that there’s probably any need.

The funny thing is that this coincides with a general feeling since I turned 30 that I probably ought to be taking better care of myself. A tasty sandwich every morning, as much coffee as I could stomach, bread and salt as staples… I knew I’d have to knock all of this on the head sometime. But I hadn’t really bothered to do anything until the nurse told me what I already knew. So here’s my resolution: less salt and bread, more exercise, healthy cereal or yoghurt for breakfast, bacon and eggs (and any type of fast food) only an occasional treat, pâte, foie and embotits in minuscule quantities, decaff when possible, tea without milk in the morning, etc etc.

My ears can be cured with boric acid and some other drops (and yet another visit to the nurse and her pliers). My blood pressure is something I accept that I should manage better now, rather than suffer from later on. My youth, an age of carelessness, is replaced by a bit of responsibility. The worrying thing is: I’m quite happy about it. There must be something wrong with me.

I have not given up

I’ve got various ideas for blog posts but I must admit that none of them have really turned out very well. Added to that, I’m very busy at work (as usual in January). But, whatever I might have said on Twitter, I’ve not given up on thebadrash.com

I’ll hopefully be able to post a couple of times over the weekend.

Tom

thebadPoll: Where to live in Barcelona?

RmdBcn

Gemma and I are beginning the process of looking for a new house. Our awesome little flat in Cerdanyola del Vallès was perfect as a starting point for our life together here but 7 years on, it’s not getting any bigger. We’re looking in Cerdanyola, because we like the area where we live. But we’re also going to look at places in other parts of the metropolitan zone. This thebadPoll is really very simple: where would you choose to live in BCN if you could choose right now? Do you like the narrow streets of the Gòtic, or do you prefer the seaside charm of Vilanova i la Geltrù?

The list of options is not exhaustive, so feel free to recommend a place if you really think it needs a special mention.

As usual, you can vote on the right >> … but it’s your comments I’m hungry for.

Just over a year ago…

…Iberian Notes stopped being updated. Just thought I’d remind you. A whole year of reduced blood pressure and increased happiness. I really never thought he’d be able to last a year.

And so it falls to me to be the moody expat loser blogger (Trev is better but he never says anything).

First topic: off to Modbury (‘el poble’) next weekend. Not much blogging will ensue. Still alive, though.

Is Barcelona inherently gay? How about ass?

If you’ve been wondering what I’ve been up to recently, and let’s face it: you haven’t but it works as an opening gambit; I’ve been fairly busy with a pleasantly productive period of work in the real world. My new-ish desk offers me a view over the city including the Sagrada Familia, Montjuic, the Forum, that hill where they have the Parc Güell and the Mediterranean sea (pollution permitting). Well, I’ve been doing that and tweeting.

I make no apology for using Twitter. I do apologise for dissing it in the first place, because it can at times be great. Much of my time on Twitter has been spent obsessively checking my ‘hetero rating‘ on a website affiliated to Stockholm Pride, an event that kicks off next week. This fun little toy works by analysing one’s tweets and every time I check it, I get a rating of ‘42% hetero’. Apparently, this is because I use the words ‘Barcelona’, ‘coming out’, ‘opera’, ‘available’ and ‘ass’ in my tweets. These words make me a ‘hybrid hetero’ and lend support to the argument for ‘an extra orientation’. Sounds fine to me, except for the words selected that indicate my degree of hetero-ness.

Picture 1

Barcelona has long been gay-friendly and the unofficial Gayxample district contains plenty of hotels and bars which cater mainly to the gay market. But it’s not an exclusively gay city. Indeed, I’d say it’s probably predominantly not gay. But I may be wrong about that. Opera, as well as being often incredibly camp musical theatre, is the name of a web browser. Ass? Well… I can’t really explain that. I may have been calling someone a loser ass or something. Or perhaps I was talking about ass, but that might possibly have been be hetero ass.

I shall spend the next few weeks tying to increase my hetero rating. I’ll use manly terms like ‘muscles’, ‘bear’ and ‘trade’. That should fix it.

Oh, and we also went to Cotlliure in Northern Catalonia (France as the nationalists would have it), a couple of weeks back. It’s a lovely place, but I recommend visiting out of season if possible. Photos here.

Dr. Coldlove, or: Why I learned to stop worrying and love the aircon

This post is related to my last, partly because it deals with my unpopular suggestions for dealing with common problems and partly because it involves mosquitoes (‘the devil’s moths’ as I call them*).

Last night, with an indoors temperature of 30º and level of humidity that a fan would not shift, only direct, we elected to put the air conditioning on all night. It was a simple enough decision. Gemma turned to me and said “I think we should put the a…” but by then, I’d already closed all the windows and found the remote control for our air-con unit. We continued to watch Star Trek: First Contact with the pleasant, and pleasantly guilty, feeling of cool air caressing our youthful skins. (Well, Gemma has a youthful skin; despite being YEARS younger than her, mine has developed the reddish hue and blood-vesseled texture of a Plymouthian living in Spain**).

We slept right through the night with barely a stir, except for when it got too cold. One of the many advantages of sleeping with the air conditioning on is the fact that it’s cooler when you want to sleep. Another advantage is that while you have the windows closed, all but the most ingenious mosquitoes are barred from entry to your boudoir. A disadvantage is that any cigarette smoke from the sitting room that wasn’t expelled before the airlock was sealed becomes your ‘smoke buddy’ for the night (though this probably helps some people maintain a minimal nicotine blood level and for that reason it should probably be counted as another advantage). There are no other real disadvantages… unless everyone does the same. Because that would cause massive amounts of carbon to be released into the atmosphere, by way of electricity generation.

So I ask you, people of Barcelona, Toulouse, Marrakesh, Los Angeles, Singapore, Perth (Australia, obviously) and Mumbai: tonight, switch your air conditioning off. I won’t, because I need it. But if you took some time to think about the future of the planet, you would.

__

* I refer to moths as ‘the devil’s butterflies’ and mosquitoes as ‘the devil’s moths’.

** I was born in Freedom Fields

*** Obviously the title could have been “Dr. Coldlove, or: How I learned to stop worrying and love the aircon” but I decided against it

Nightmare in Cerdanyola

I had a dream last night that I received some sort of prize from the communist mayor of Cerdanyola. I think it was for coming 1st in a treasure hunt.

But after I had a chat with him, I realised that in fact he was none other than Federico Jiménez Losantos, former communist, right-wing shock jock and utterly mad conspiracy theorist. Also, he only had one hand.

It was an imagery-laden dream and while not exactly terrifying (I had won first place, after all), I can’t help but wonder what the significance might be of having Losantos talk to me in my sleep, in Catalan.