Demonstrations in Madrid

I was in Madrid last weekend for the Great Madrid Escape, when on Saturday afternoon – with not too much to due thanks to the weather – I ventured out of my hotel only to be confronted by police cars blocking off the street.
It turned out that a demonstration was about to take place and I stayed to watch and found out what it was all about.

The flyer that one of the passing demonstratos gave to me explained the main reason for the march. The week before there had been attacks by a group of right-wing “terrorists” who had thrown bottles and stones, requiring at least one person to need medical treatment.
They claim that was not an isolated incident, and that these “terrorists” are part of the far-right, neo-nazi scene, who want other people to be afraid to go out on the streets.
For this reason they organised the demonstration as an act of public defiance, to show that the working people of Madrid will not tolerate such violence in their city.
I have a feeling that many of the people there came with groups that have other main causes – the large red, yellow and purple flag for example was being carried by a group who wanted to make Spain a republic and to do away with the monarchy.
What fascinated me most was how different it was compared to such an event in Germany. Here, many people would turn away – in Madrid many passers-by stopped to listen and even take photographs. There were even family members walking alongside the march and passing in drinks to the marchers.
I often wonder if we do enough in Germany to stand up for our rights. The Spanish, or at least the Madrileños are definitely more passionate about theirs!

A puppet on a string?

Well, maybe not quite on a string, but still a puppet nonetheless.
Yes, it’s Dustin the Turkey – Ireland’s entry to this year’s Eurovision Song Contest.
As a big fan of the contest, I was almost shocked to read that the puppet had won the Irish pre-selection to the contest.   After all, was it not Ireland that brought us some of the best Eurovision ballads?
When I think of Ireland in the Eurovision, two songs immediately come to mind: “Rock’n’roll Kids” (winner in 1994) and “In Your Eyes” (winner in 1993).  This was part of “my” golden age for the contest – opening up to new countries in Eastern Europe, before they became smaller and more numerous, requiring the contest in two stages.
They were also the songs that accompanied me through my student year in Germany – the first winning before I left the UK and the second winning whilst I was there.
Last year, however, I became somewhat disillusioned by what seemed to be tactical voting.  I am please to see that the EBU has tackled this problem by splitting the contest into two semi-finals and making countries that often vote for each other take place in different ones from each other.
But still, I think the charm of the evening’s entertainment has been lost by spreading it out over three instead!
I guess the contest will just keep getting bigger and bigger…

Filling up with petrol – a robot's job

I’m sure that many readers will remember the days when petrol stations had attendants that put the petrol into the tank for you – before the days when “self service” became the modern way of filling up.
Well, perhaps we are going to return to that kind of service. I’ve been fascinated today by a video of a petrol station in the Netherlands, that uses a robot arm to fill up the cars.
The robot knows from the type of car how to open the petrol cap, and presumably whether or not to put diesel in. I wonder how it copes with bio-ethanol?
It looked rather slow at the moment, so I guess the queues at the petrol station near here would just get longer. I also didn’t see anywhere to pay for the petrol – does the robot arm swipe your credit card as well?
As fascinating as it is, I’m still not too sure what to make of it all. It may be nice not to have to get out of your car, but it doesn’t help the unemployment figures!

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