Spain, final thoughts

Two weeks is a short visit to another country, barely time enough to get a limited sense of the geography, no time at all to get a sense of the people, no time except to feel the otherness of the place.

“How was your vacation?” people always ask.

“Loved Madrid, didn’t like Sevilla, thought the pueblos blancos and the mountains beautiful and overwhelming,” I would say.

But even a brief two weeks, alters perception, preconceived notions of a country, and creates a desire to know what is going on there, how are the people doing, what is preoccupying the nation. Before October, I didn’t care whether the banks were failing, or what was happening to the mortgage market, or how many were unemployed, and what that would mean for the people we met, and the way of life we observed.

Madrid was happy, the plazas full of families, the museums with Spaniards on vacation, the skyline with cranes. Sevilla was sad, the streets, where we were anyway filled with tourists, the clerks in the stores and hotels and bars glum, the pueblos blancos, photo-ops that they all were, closed in and except for the British, oblivious to the visitor.

The news from Spain economically isn’t good, especially for the immigrants from the Spanish-speaking countries of the new world. An article today in the New York Times, and late in October in the Globe and Mail talked about the draconian banking laws that prevent individual bankruptcy  proceedings from including a mortgage. The result: the borrower and the guarantor are tied for life to the bank, paying off a debt even though the house is no longer theirs.The banks say this prevented their failure during the economic crisis. The entire sorry tale is available here:


Spain has beautiful cities, ancient villages where Phoenicians and Romans and Berbers walked before we did, and an unexpected, vast landscape. It’s in Europe, yet partly outside it too. I’m glad we went, even it was only two weeks.

My new book, The Facepainter Murders is available at and at


Eight weeks left until I see my last patient. Every day brings a new goodbye.
Yesterday I submitted my CME for 2009. Because we are going to keep our licenses active, that means more CME in 2010. It’s difficult, but I think it would be harder to just stop and never read a word of medicine again.
Oh and the stock market has fallen again. Yet another reason to keep the license active, at least until next year.
Review: How Markets Fail, by John Cassidy – The Globe and Mail. An interesting review of this book about economists and their inability to predict, control or explain the markets.
This week was a good example of the emotional irrationality the rules those who buy and sell. Obama wishes to regulate the banks. A good thing, right. As far as I can see it was regulation that save the Canadian economy from the depths others have reached. But no. The young men in red suspenders have apparently learned nothing, and think the sky will fall if bankers aren’t allowed to pillage economies, paying themselves outrageous salaries as they play with the lives and money of others.
By the way, the US economy has made 5.7% increase in the GDP in last quarter, but the economists don’t expect it to last. Tell me why I should believe them.