Friday, May 28, 2010

Viva Madrid

Just back from Spain, having spent a few days teaching and checking whether the arguments I made in the previous post stand closer scrutiny (maybe I've got my research technique the wrong way round?).

Nearly everyone I know there works in the public sector, and are therefore directly affected by the across-the-board civil servant pay cut (average 5%) in Zapatero's emergency decree passed Thursday. Not surprisingly, they're pretty depressed. Restaurants are emptier than usual, and there are more beggars than usual (although only slightly more). Only Miguel, who works in a bank, seems chirpy.

Returning to London it is quite striking to compare the metro trip to Barajas with my tube journey home from Victoria. In Madrid, gleaming stations with marble floors as the ever-expanding metro transports Madrilenyos effortlessly around the city. In London, the system does move people around well enough but the physical environment is shabby, smelly and depressing, as well as slightly unsafe. Spain and the UK have similar sized deficits, but I get the feeling that their bubble left behind something more tangible, useful and pleasant than ours, which was built mostly on swaps of existing housing stock and accompanying bits of paper.