Thursday, 16 July 2009
About the same time as I was putting the final touches to the article the authorities were erecting large signs informing the city that the holes, trenches, piles of rock and detritus in the Calle de Serrano would remain untouched for the foreseeable future.
Work has come to a sudden stop.
It seems they have uncovered a sixteenth century waterway and have had to call in the archaeologists. Workers on the site and beleaguered shopkeepers on the street supposed it was all to do with a find of a historical site dating back to Felipe IV made in May, but this water channel is apparently more important that will require cleaning, sifting and cataloguing. It has been suggested that the shutdown with delay the finalisation of the project well into the middle or third quarter of next year. Naturally the shopkeepers are furious.
Customers of the famous shops in the Calle de Serrano (it is called Madrid’s “Fifth Avenue”) have been negotiating an obstacle course of safety fences and bollards, holes and piles of materials. Temporary pipes have been laid along the surfaces of pavements, waiting to trip the unwary. There is nowhere to park cars and buses, unable to move into the side, drop passengers off in the middle of flowing traffic. The merchants were hoping to see a return to normal for the Christmas shopping season, but that now looks a forlorn hope. One shop-keeper is reported sayings, “We had expected to see a fall in sales due to the crisis, but the road works are having a worse effect. This new thing is stupid. We are suffering for nothing”.
A tobacconist says he has seen a fifty percent reduction in sales since the work began.
But at least he has a job. For the construction workers, many of whom have only recent returned to work after unemployment, this “Tontería” (stupidity), as one described it, will cause hardship.
“They tell us that we will all be dismissed”, said one of the workers interviewed for a report in El Mundo. “I am a father of a family, with two daughters and I was expecting to work for three years and now they tell us there is nothing for us to do. We cannot go back to claiming unemployment benefit as we haven’t been working long enough to earn it.”
The report said more than fifty workers would be affected by the stoppage and went on to say that Friday, tomorrow will be their last day of paid work.
This work on the Calle de Serrano has already led to heated exchanges between the Ayuntamiento, which runs the city, and the Comunidad, which is responsible for all the surrounding areas. Although on the same side politically, Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón the mayor of Madrid and the president of the community, Esperanza Aguirre, have never been what you could call “close”. The war of words over Serrano has been as petty as how many trees to leave standing to more serious accusations of causing deliberate delays. The community is claiming this is just another tactic by the Ajuntamiento.
Meanwhile low paid workers and shop owners are feeling the pinch and Madrid will be finished that little bit later.
That’s twice recently the news has affected something I have said or written. Knowing my main work is in the oil industry, I was asked recently about whether Spain has any oil of its own. When I was asked the question I was in a remote part of Spain away from any form of news media or the internet. Now I wasn’t part of the survey that was done a few years ago, but I have read the reports and the answer was basically that there was nothing worth bothering about. So that’s what I replied.
The next week I returned to Madrid to read the news that Repsol, the national oil company, had made a major find off Spain’s north coast.
It pays to keep up with the news.
Any comments? What do you think? Post below.
Posted by A View Of Madrid at 15:29