The ‘Neanderthal gene’ LZTFL1 gene has been shown to double a person’s risk of severe disease and death. About 15% of Europeans have it, compared to c. 60% of South Asians. This gene is theorised to be responsible for ‘up to a million Covid deaths’. But this isn’t the first time it’s been fingered . . . For it had previously been shown to double a person’s risk of severe disease and death.
Cosas de España or Galiza
Everyone who lives in Spain readily accepts that it could well be the 2nd noisiest country in the world. But what no one can understand is how come the placid Japanese live in the ‘winner’ in these stakes. Does it, I wonder, have less to do with people than with machines or traffic noise. Or is it down to paper-thin walls, leading to even more complaints about irritating neighbours than here in Spain? My walls aren’t paper-thin but I certainly suffer from that from time to time.
On this theme of noise in Spain, here’s the start of a Menéame article cited by Lenox Napier in his latest edition of Business Over Tapas and posted below in all its glory: Noise, fucking noise. In this country, noise is as unavoidable as the air. It follows you wherever you go, whatever you do. Motorbikes, building sites, shouting, music, mobile phones, bells, firecrackers, barking, horns, alarms, barrel organs, radios, pile-drivers, rubbish trucks, heels, electric drills, the upholsterer . . . We live in acceptance that silence is no longer possible. We have surrendered. We have accepted with total naturalness that we don’t have access to tranquillity’.
Lenox himself describes this weekend’s Moors and Christians festivals in Mojácar as: Three days and nights of a solid wall of noise: with 7 bands playing simultaneously in the village, with endless thunder-flashes and explosions from blunderbusses, with screams from the kids and yowls from the dogs. By comparison, we get off lightly with our fiestas in Pv city.
On the Japan v. Spain question, the article’s writer says: Japan’s ranking is misleading: Japan measures the decibel levels in its cities with excessive zeal and applies control regulations that don’t compare with those in Europe and the USA.
As I write this post, workmen next door are hammering on my neighbours’ basement wall. And I don’t mean just to put a nail in it. This could go on for hours, as it frequently has in the past. At least it’s not siesta time . . .
I’ve mentioned more than once that the many young (North) American women brought in by the government to be Assistants in primary schools have reduced the cost of an English lesson by a native speaker to what it was 20 years ago – €15 an hour. Last night, I learned that, as they’re here on student visas, their working privately after they’ve knocked off for the day at 2.30, is illegal. Not only that . . . Their price-fixing is openly maintained via an FB group in which they’re all encouraged to charge only this – effectively an illegal cartel. As you can imagine, this makes life difficult for those running an English academy with high overheads – one of the few enterprises in which foreigners wanting to work here could once hope to succeed. It’d be a very brave soul who tried to embark on such a venture now, at least in Pv city. And maybe Spain-wide.
Yesterday, I enjoyed a fine 22km camino walk in excellent company to Caldas de Reis, marred only by the difficulty of confirming there’d be a bus in the afternoon to bring me back to Pv city. The first time I went to Monbus’s web page, it said there’d be only one bus at too-early 13.00. The 2nd time, it said there were buses every 15 minutes from 16.06 or 16.20. As this seemed very unlikely, I called the bus company, only to be treated to a recorded message and then dreadful modern music for more than 20 minutes before someone confirmed there’d be a bus around 4pm. So, I rushed the last 3km to get to CdeR for 3.50, only then to have to wait an hour to get a bus which a bartender confirmed was ‘a little late today’. 30 minutes late, in fact. So, a good day semi-ruined. And my legs are paying the price today for that totally unnecessary last 3km rush. Sometimes, as it says below the foto above: Life in Spain is not always likeable . . .
But, to be positive, I attended an enjoyable wine-tasting event in the evening, at which I naturally overdid the tasting during and after the informative lecture. So, another price I’m paying this morning.
When its comes to exchanging your British driving licence for a local one, it seems that, as the old sayings goes, Spain certainly is different. See the 2nd article below, from The Olive Press, for Everything you need to know about the driving licence exchange debacle for Brits in Spain
Finally . . .
A relevant foto from the article on noise:-
For passing readers: If you’ve landed here looking for info on Galicia or Pontevedra, try here. If you’re passing through Pontevedra on the Camino, you’ll find a guide to the city there.
1. The noise, the fucking noise.
In this country, the stridency is as unavoidable as the air. It follows you wherever you go, whatever you do.
Motorbikes, building sites, shouting, music, mobile phones, bells, firecrackers, barking, horns, alarms, barrel organs, shouting, radials, pile hammers, rubbish trucks, heels, drills, the upholsterer…
We live accepting that silence is no longer possible, we have surrendered, we have accepted with total naturalness that we do not have access to tranquillity.
It is another right that has been taken away from us by the rush of the days, a stressful rhythm of life and an unbearable festive and hedonistic sociopathy. But, in addition, its absence has become another privilege to which only those with large salaries have access. Do you want peace and quiet? Buy a house in a housing estate. If you’re poor, you’ll have to put up with the restlessness and all that goes with it.
Spain is the second noisiest country in the world. And we have been that way for more than 25 years. We are only beaten by Japan, but this ranking is misleading: Japan measures the decibels of its cities with excessive zeal and applies control regulations that don’t compare with those in Europe and the USA.
We are dying of noise. 1000 premature deaths a year are caused by uncontrolled decibel levels. It consumes us progressively. Wherever you are, if you keep quiet and tune your ear, you can hear the sound of a construction site. There is no control whatsoever over licences. The city councils themselves carry out works non-stop. The philosophy is clear: the potential voter must perceive that the council is doing things. Let’s do senseless building works, let’s constantly renovate buildings, roundabouts, roads, sewers that have already been renovated, let’s fill the streets of our cities with cement dust, sparks and perforated eardrums. Noise is synonymous with competition, activity and seriousness. If a city is noisy, it is alive. Noise is, for the State and the municipalities, urban planning, the theatrics that make the electorate believe that their money is being invested in useful initiatives… even if they don’t make the slightest sense.
Let the telephone and internet companies continue to fill the facades with tons of cable with the noise that this entails and the monstrous ugliness that it implies for the aesthetics of the street. In January Movistar, in March Orange, in September Yoigo and so on until tympanic madness. The limit is not the sky, it is the square metres of frontage and our patience.
Let’s have sustainable, electric, green cleaning trucks to help reduce pollution in the city. It doesn’t matter that they make an awful noise and that they start at 6 a.m. Noise pollution doesn’t matter, only CO2, circular economy and all the other nonsense that we can then publish in the regional newspapers.
Let’s keep passing more and more restrictive laws on motorbike noise but let the city fill up with Just Eat, Uber Eats and motherfucking Eats. You’re more likely to see a unicorn than a policeman stopping a sputtering motorbike. Spain is a country that can be driven through by a squirrel [slang for a clever, quick-witted person] from end to end on motorbikes that don’t comply with noise regulations.
And the fiestas? Let’s allow constant carnivals in the neighbourhoods, reggaeton, bachata, salsa, tribute bands that would make a deaf man cry, tacky and cheap concerts for the neighbourhood groups, which are not even attended by 1% of the local population, but which mortify 100% of the inhabitants. YOU HAVE TO SPEND YOUR MONEY, TAXPAYER, YOU HAVE TO MAKE NOISE. We take mountains of your euros and burn them, and instead of smoke, SOUND WAVES COME OUT. Can’t you hear them, neighbour? Come closer and take a deep breath.
And the onion-paper walls? How wonderful to be woken up at 7 o’clock on your day off, whether it’s the neighbour taking a shower while shouting at his wife or the kids in the sixth-floor flat who had three good slaps at the back, too many years ago. Or if not, put on some heels on the floor and dance a tango, fuck it, what difference does it make. Between being uncomfortable but elegant at home and respecting the neighbours’ rest, it’s clear: nobody is going to tell you how to dress at home.
And the Erasmus and student parties? How wonderful, those Wednesdays until 5am. You call the police. Sometimes they even laugh, I swear. It doesn’t matter if you have to wake up at 7 a.m. the next day, the madero [cop], as you can understand, doesn’t give a damn. He’s been wide-eyed since midnight on the night shift. If you can’t sleep, you should have thought about it beforehand and have played the Euromillions to go to the mountains. Or done an oposición, like me. That’s life, citizen. You almost always lose and a few win. The poor guy doesn’t sleep and if you don’t like it, go to Cuba.
And the drill at siesta time? But let’s see… if I never take a nap, how can anyone else? Besides, is there a better time to put up a shelf than after lunch? That way the food goes down better and then I can spend the rest of the day doing other things. And besides, how exaggerated people are, if this thing is in place in half an hour… until the following month they change the place again or they take down the wall to make the kitchen bigger. In this country it’s easier to do a building work without a licence than to earn two euros without registering as self-employed.
And the gypsy with the barrel organ? Hey, but are we going to give up the joy that this marvellous and traditional breath of cultural air brings to the neighbourhood? Christmas carols, pasodobles, rumbas… the musical thread from hell. An extraordinary sonorous blackmail that leads you to pay for the search for silence. It’s almost worse to have your child kidnapped, or without the almost. Or without the almost. What about the police? Don’t they watch over our rest? There are other more important things to watch out for, like an eviction or a yield. Besides, these poor people have to make a living.
And what about carrying loudspeakers with music on the street? I’m really mad about this, because there is a direct relationship between a person’s bad taste in music and his or her tendency to share it with others. If you really liked music, you would seek to listen to it with quality and you would wear headphones, which are also much more comfortable. But no, they are generous, and sacrifice on the altar of their fucking sociopathy the quality of listening, so that, also demonstrating their supreme “tackiness”, everyone, within a radius of 30 metres, can listen to their fruit salad of stinking shit with tropical touches and sexualising lyrics. They don’t want to listen to music, they want you to know that you are listening to THEIR “MUSIC”. Don’t tell me they’re not to be loved. Dead.
What about calls from telemarketers? The day has 24 hours. Which one is the most appropriate? That’s right, the siesta. Don’t tell me it’s not a tender act of empathy not to call during peak work hours so as not to affect the worker’s performance and so that he can still give his best for his company. Let’s reserve our calls for those time zones in which there is a certain amount of rest and thus make better use of the time. And even if he doesn’t answer, let’s call to exhaustion and let’s not pass laws that prevent it. If you think about it, we are not human beings, we are consumers: they should also be allowed to call in the early hours of the morning.
What about work? For those of us who have a purely creative function, it’s wonderful to have to put up with the endless shouting of bosses and colleagues. We are motivated by those 30-year-old windows that let in everything from the noise of constant building work to the drop of a penny from 100 metres away – it’s almost heavenly music to us. We are encouraged by those people, who are also usually the bosses, who do not take the sound off their mobile phones and who, every time they press a key to write, send out into the wind a din of beeps and beeps that bring us a little closer to the living death, making our work a via crucis that makes us stronger. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.
And the firecrackers? What an extraordinary display of joy and happiness. What’s my team winning? Firecrackers. What’s my kid’s birthday? Fireworks, even though I live in the fucking centre. That I’m bored? Rocket with my kids, because making noise is something that is taught, transmitted and inherited, like haemophilia and psychopathy. The pets and those who go to bed at 11 o’clock because they wake up before the sun rises to go to their shitty jobs thank you in their souls, you son of a bitch!
Spain is the country with the worst soundtrack on the planet. The one generated by millions of tacky and fucking crazy sociopaths who confuse noise with music, stridency with activity and shouting with joy.
So don’t fucking shout. Turn off the sound on your mobile.
Don’t press the fucking horn if you’re not going to kill yourself.
Between 3pm and 5pm stick the electric drill up your ass and if it doesn’t fit, drill your knee and that’ll take the boredom away, you fucking do-it-yourself soul-suckers.
Tell your son to stop crying because you didn’t buy him that shit or next time put on TWO CONDOMS INSTEAD OF ONE.
Put on fucking headphones. Your music is shit and nobody cares for it, you vulgar sod..
Community life is about LIVING, not just SURVIVING. Respect, care, reverence, love silence, you fucking Spanish cunt.
2. U-Turn Campaign: Everything you need to know about the driving licence exchange debacle for Brits in Spain
One of the biggest issues currently facing British expats resident in Spain or those hoping to relocate here is the failure between the UK and Spain to come to a bilateral agreement over driving licence recognition for British residents in Spain who still have UK issued licences. The Olive Press has been highlighting the issue affecting our readers across Spain and is determined to highlight their experiences in the hope of adding pressure on the authorities to make it a priority to resolve the problem. Here we attempt to explain in depth what the situation is, how we got here and how people are affected.
Who can and can’t drive in Spain?
Spain has a law that requires those foreign citizens who live here permanently to swap their driving licence for a Spanish-issued one within 6 months of being resident. This rule has been in place for decades although many Brits living here didn’t follow the law and never swapped their licences despite being legally required to do so.
Swapping is theoretically a relatively easy process for those with an EU-issued driving licence, and this was the case for Brits living in Spain until Brexit changed everything. The process involves making a cita previa at the local DGT office, turning up with a valid licence, a filled-in form, a residency document, and a passport. Applicants were also required to present a certificate to show that the driver has passed a very simple medical check carried out at authorised testing centres that checked eye-sight and reflexes. Plus a receipt of payment for the application made at an approved bank is required.
The application was submitted with a check made by the DGT together with the issuing authorities in the country where the licence was issued – which for Brits was the DVLA. If the check came back clear, then a Spanish driving licence was either ready for collection or mailed out anytime between three weeks and three months from the original appointment.
This is still the process for swapping a driving licence for those who come from a country within the EU zone. Unfortunately this is no longer the process for Brits living in Spain since the UK left the European Union as a result of the Brexit referendum.
However Brits are, like every other foreign resident, still required by law to have a Spanish licence if they wish to drive legally after 6 months of being resident in Spain. Those visiting Spain from the UK, or anywhere outside the EU zone, are allowed to drive a car in Spain for a period up to six months so this rule does not affect holidaymakers and only applies to those with residency in Spain.
What happened with Brexit?
As mentioned above, everything changed for Brits with the UK’s decision to leave the European Union. The UK officially left the European Union on January 31 2020, but that didn’t mean things changed overnight. A Withdrawal Agreement was struck between the UK and member states which established a transition period that ran until December 31 2020.
It was also agreed that any Brit who was resident in an EU country before this date would be able to enjoy the same rights they had to live and work in their adopted EU country. In Spain that meant that those who were resident here before December 31 2020 would still be able to swap their driving licences using the old process. However, because of conditions caused by Covid – which saw DGT offices closed for months during the pandemic – combined with a last minute rush as thousands of Brits tried to regularise their situation – it became impossible for many people to complete the process before the deadline. Therefore Spain came up with an interim plan.
Those who lived in Spain before the Brexit deadline and had their rights covered under the withdrawal agreement had to register their intent to change their driving licence before December 30. They could do this by phoning a dedicated phone line and giving their information. Spain said this was to allow those who registered intent before the deadline to be given a six month grace period to secure the appointment and make the change before June 30 2021.
Because of the huge numbers applying and because of the continuing problems securing appointments this grace period was extended first until the end of October 2021, and then a further 3 times until finally Spain refused any further extensions. This meant that from May 1 those Brits who had been living in Spain longer than six months were no longer legally allowed to drive on a British licence.
This applies even to those who had lodged their intent to exchange before the December 2020 deadline but had not yet done so as well as those who had been resident but failed to register intent, along with anyone who arrived after Brexit.
During all this time Spain and Britain have been ‘in negotiations’ for a permanent solution to the issue that would allow British residents to easily swap their licences for Spanish ones in the same way that they could in the pre-Brexit era.
The vast majority of EU countries have been able to reach a deal with the United Kingdom over the recognition and easy exchange of driving licences post-Brexit, but the bilateral deal with Spain has not been forthcoming. For weeks and weeks we have been given regular updates by the British Ambassador who said that negotiations are progressing and an agreement is likely to be struck in the near future. So it was a major blow when the Spanish authorities refused to prolong the extension leaving hundreds if not thousands of Brits in limbo. Those Brits are now left unable to drive legally and with the only option of taking a Spanish driving test or waiting for who-knows-how-long until an agreement is made in the hope that it means an easy exchange will be possible.
What about this agreement?
It is unclear yet if any future agreement would benefit just those British residents who are protected under the Withdrawal Agreement or will include UK licence holders who moved to Spain to become resident after Brexit came into force on January 1st 2021.
We don’t know exactly what is on the cards, as the Ambassador keeps reminding us. “Unfortunately, I simply can’t go into lots of detail or give a running commentary of what is an ongoing negotiation,” Hugh Elliott said in the latest update on June 2. But he does remain committed to striking a deal and remains optimistic that it will happen soon. “I assure you we are working on this everyday. We are genuinely making progress,” he said.
He did have one piece of good news that “an agreement had been reached on a clause that will permit everyone back on the road from the moment an agreement is signed for a period of up to six months to allow people time to once again try and exchange their licences.” He declined to give an exact time frame of when an agreement might be signed but said he expected it to take a matter of ‘weeks rather than months.’
There have been rumours that part of the reason an agreement has been so elusive is that the UK government has refused to allow the sharing of passenger details from the DVLA with its Spanish counterpart, the DGT. Data sharing would allow Spain to more effectively pursue those who speed and commit other offences after they have left Spain and would allow for the automatic issuing of fines for offences committed by British drivers. However, this is currently not the case in any other agreement between the UK and an EU country, which, it has been alleged, is why the UK has refused. The Foreign Office – which is leading negotiations on the British side – denied the data sharing issue was a sticking point to the Olive Press.
Without a bilateral deal on driving licences, the UK will continue to be third country for the recognition and exchange of licences. Under the current rules most non-EU driving licence holders have six months from their arrival in Spain to use their foreign licences before they are required to change them for a Spanish one. (although some need an international driving permit from the very beginning).
There are no figures on exactly how many Brits resident in Spain are waiting to exchange their driving licences. But of the more than 407,000 Brits now officially registered as residents it is a minority. However for many of the hundreds or possibly thousands of those unable to legally drive, the issue has been devastating. There have been reports of Brits living in rural areas without public transport who are now stranded and no longer able to access shops or medical services. Many readers have written in the Olive Press to share their plight describing how they are isolated and now reliant on the kindness of neighbours or left having to fork out huge expense for taxis.
There are those who are nervous about going through the Spanish driving test as they fear their Spanish skills aren’t adequate. Others who have attempted to enrol on a course of Spanish driving lessons – a necessary requirement before taking the test – have found there are long delays and it could be months before they can take the practical test.
Not everyone is sympathetic to those who have been left in limbo in the driving licence debacle. Dozens of comments on social media posts about the issue, most significantly beneath the regular updates on the Brits in Spain Facebook page run by the Embassy, point out that there was plenty of time and endless warnings about the need to exchange licences ahead of the Brexit deadline. Some express a definite lack of sympathy for anyone who failed to do so, accusing them of either holding a ‘colonialist attitude’ for living in Spain but refusing to abide by the local rules, or of putting their head in the sand and ignoring the warnings.
While it is true that it has always been a legal obligation to do the licence exchange, many thousands of people hadn’t fulfilled that obligation and the last minute rush to do so overloaded the system and meant many missed the deadline.
Moreover, we have heard of dozens of examples of those who attempted to follow instructions but were thwarted either by the system failing or through bad advice from ‘gestors’ and even local officials who ought to have known better.
Others had the misfortune of arriving in Spain after the Brexit deadline meaning the ‘registering intent’ was impossible.
The Olive Press is calling for an immediate return of the ability of Brits to swap their licence once they have settled here. We have the support of councillors, business people and residents and believe that a failure to enact a change now will result in misery for thousands. We are urging everyone to sign the parliamentary petition HERE to allow Brits back on the road.
We are continuing to publicise the stories of those for whom driving in Spain is absolutely essential and are demanding faster action from the government on both sides.
P. S. Some readers might recall that my Madrid-based daughter was caught up in this mess, having left it until very late to apply and then experienced the system crashing, followed (naturally) by the refusal of bureaucrats to accept a screenshot of her on-line application before the initial deadline. In the end, she paid 300 euros to have forceful gestor from the South to come to Madrid and browbeat said bureaucrats into treating her as a special case.