Wednesday, 19 April 2017

The President to Testify in the Gürtel Case

Mariano Rajoy will testify as a witness in the Gürtel Case, says El Mundo here. The President will be asked about his time as general secretary of the PP in 2003 and 2004 to explain his understanding of the improper party funding during that period when Luis Bárcenas was the treasurer. It is not very good to have the president of a country being grilled by the judges, as PP sources tell LaSexta TV here (video): ‘it’s terrible for his image’.  El País in English says that the anti-corruption public prosecutor loyally complains that ‘...testimony from the prime minister “would not be relevant.”...’.
Important news as this undoubtedly is – it hasn’t made the state-owned television for some reason, says El Español here.

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Britons in Spain Face the Brexit

The British are divided between themselves: those who favour leaving the EU versus those who would like to remain. The Brexiteers (or ‘Quitlings’) are on one side, the Remainers (or ‘Remoaners’) are on the other.
Well, good for them.
Here we are in the expatriate community (where we worry more about if we are ‘ex-pats’ or ‘immigrants’, rather ignoring the point that we are just ‘Europeans’). Brexit isn’t an exercise in freedom versus slavery (or however you want to phrase it), Brexit for those of us who live in the other 27 countries of the EU is about our potential loss of privilege.
We may shortly have to face obtaining a visa, or a work permit. We may need a convertible bank account, or ‘sufficient funds’ to remain. We might lose our health cover or certain pension rights. We would probably forfeit the right to a local vote (and lose, too, our few brave Britons working in local politics). Of course, no one knows, or if they do, they aren’t saying. It is however (as we should remember from our times in the UK), never a bad idea to bring along an umbrella when the sky is looking stormy.
So, what can we do? Being Britons, of course, many of us are quite frankly that strangest of beast – a Continental Quitling! Yes, they say, it’s better to heave the immigrants out of Blightly since they just cause problems and mooch off the State. We’re different – we bring badly needed funds to Spain. 
Yep, they really say that!
Others think we should ignore the issue since somebody (ahh, somebody) will sort it all out for us.
But who?
Our own ex-pat newspapers – the ones that are left in piles outside estate agents and cafés – have singularly failed to help us so far, with some columnists frankly spouting the Brexiteer cause.
The British Government is interested, very interested, in European business. The Embassy too, must spend its time on building Trade. The few unorganised Brits scattered about on the Continent in uninteresting villages or busy with their professional lives in large companies in the cities of Europe are not going to be of any consequence. They are more of a hindrance to the free movement of commerce if anything.
If the Spanish are worried about the whole thing, it’ll be about their citizens in the UK, who may get work permits, visas and the rest of it, or they may not. Again somebody should do something. Some Spaniards – if we are to believe the press – are already being given their marching orders by the British Home Office. Spain is less concerned about the apparently small number of Brits here (see the padrón – we are around 270,000) than we ‘expats’ like to think. We need to attract their attention.
Tourism won’t fall thanks to any Spanish action following Brexit, although EU regulations will put the cost of non-EU flights up, and there will be extra visitor formalities to be undergone. We, again, need to focus the attention on the expatriate community in Spain – known disparagingly by the authorities, as those who practice ‘residential tourism’.  We are the ‘Foreign Residents’, at best. The ‘Guiris’ at worst. You’ll rarely see mention of us in the Media here or on the TV. We are dismissed as living in ghettos in some ghastly place built by a corrupt local politician. Best forgotten.
As Leicester fans invade the Plaza Mayor in Madrid, we need to create our own separate identity. We are not like the hinchas británicas, the hooligans. We are Europeans. Second-class Europeans perhaps, as the Brexit menace pursues us, and we need some help.
We have created some associations to try and publicise the Brexit threat – ‘EuroCitizens’, ‘Europats’, ‘Bremain in Spain’, ‘Brexpats’ and so on. A leader, acceptable and known to both the Brits and the Spanish has yet to emerge from these groups.
Supposing we were offered the choice: British passport only, and to be treated as a non-EU foreigner – or to hold two passports: double nationality, allowing us to retain our Britishness and, at the same time to continue with all current EU privileges (and even throw in a few we don’t currently hold, like full emancipation)? Sounds good? That’s what Spain (and by extension Brussels) is offering Gibraltar. If the citizens of the Rock, once again besieged by larger forces, saw the advantages of the deal, there would be thirty thousand new British Spaniards. Perhaps there would be room, at that time, for a few more...

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Easter in Mojácar: Kyrie Eleison

Mojácar is full. La Voz says so - our 10,200 hotel beds are occupied. This, early in the Easter week. Beyond the hotel numbers (and, my praise to the hoteliers and their cheap prices), we have family, guests, renters, caravans, people sleeping ten in a two-bed apartment, people sleeping on the beach, people here for a two-day marathon then back on the bus, people over for the day from Murcia and Almería. People.
To make them feel comfortable, we have extended the beach promenade, painted our homes, cleaned the verges and watered the plants. We have prepared some traditional Easter parades for their souls and repaired the streets for their soles. The  'Mirador' has been (more or less) finished so they can ascend to the view-point to see the astonishing view (the one thing that has remained over the years, more or less constant) and to enjoy our sunset.
There was no bread left in the supermarket when I got there yesterday. I would have been earlier, but I had to park a kilometre down the road. Never mind, the queues, dust, noise, cars, jams and lack of parking are bringing a delightful profit to our main industry...
The souvenir shops.
Residents don't buy souvenirs. No drunken Indalos, wrist-bands, 'I Got Laid in Mojácar' tee shirts or the myriad other charms of the Chinese wholesalers. Which is why we are being slowly edged out. No honourable mention for us.
The Easter onslaught, happily, only lasts for a week. Then the town returns to the residents and their dogs, and for a short while, the barkeeps remember once again our names and preferences.

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

AVE News

Spain has a great motorway network and plenty of flights from anywhere to anywhere else.
It also has the AVE - the high-speed train that, between gigantic costs, enormous bribes and commissions, plus sponsored rides (every passenger benefits from a modest subsidy) - crosses the country from one end to the other. More or less.
Here in the Levante Almeriense, there's not much AVE beyond a twinkle in a financier's eye, an empty politician's pocket, a few kilometres of expensive rail-bed and some bricked up tunnels to show for the project to bring Maria and her chickens to the market.
The problems for the high speed train are expropriations (often paid years later), the construction costs, maintenance costs, and the lack of customers. A high-speed train is in a hurry, but the fruit and veg companies say they will keep to the motorways and their lorries. And after the novelty wears off, who wants to go to Murcia anyway (the Almería continuation, to Granada, won't even begin work until 2030).
Anyhow... The Government says that the single-line Almería to Murcia link will be completed in 2023 at an extra cost of 1,800 million euros.
Part of the project, of course, is a station outside Vera, allowing us one day to whizz up to Madrid in style and comfort.

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Hard News is Good to Find

There's hardly any coverage of the, well let's call it 'News Event of the Year', especially for the British ex-pats, to be found in today's Weeniegraph.
We mean of course the Black Wednesday, the departure of the UK from the European Union: the Brexit. Whatever happens, we know that it'll happen double to the British living in Europe.
We are treated instead to an editorial about an event outside the British Parliament last week when a brutish British lunatic drove into a crowd and knifed a policeman to death before meeting his own violent end. Turning to Leaky Lee's page, we discover that '...there are thousands more goat grabbing gnat brains out there waiting to step into his shoes'.
The inference being that many Muslims prefer a good goat-fuck over even the notorious 72 virgins ('...enslaved to comply with his every twisted fantasy...') that The Leaker seems so read up about.
It's not easy filling up the spaces between the adverts in a free-sheet, and good editors are scarce, but the question returns: is this newspaper serving the interests of its readers?
For proper news about Spain; no adverts, no fluff and above all, no Leaky Lee, you should turn to Business over Tapas (here).

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Fake News from the UK

From the sometimes fake news champion The Express: ‘Spain's EU exit on horizon as “only a miracle” can save nation from debt bubble bursting. Spanish university professors and economists are calling on Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy to come clean over its debt burdens as calls for the country to leave the European Union grow’. Well, let’s see – one does: Roberto Centeno from the far-right Intereconomía group (Wiki). But even he makes no mention (nor can there be one) of Spain wanting to leave the EU.

Oliver Cromwell's Commonwealth Lasted Twenty One Years

There has been talk on the Facebook about what to call the UK after Brexit - whether as a whole, or (increasingly likely) as just a core. An England and Wales sort of thing.
Naturally, those in favour of the EU (known as 'The Remoaners' by their rivals) and those who like Brexit (increasingly referred to as 'The Quitlings') have very different ideas of how to call the Royaume once the shit has hit the fan (Wednesday. Looks at watch).
But, analysing the different characters of the leavers and the stayers, those who hate racism and pettifoggery versus those who see a bright (if a trifle misty) new country, free from the shackles of garlic-eating foreigners, I think that 'The Fatherland' would be an appropriate name for whatever emerges from the wreckage.
I've even written the first verse of the new anthem:

God save our Fatherland
Long live our Fatherland
God Save Us: Please.
Long Life in Bigotry,
Here where we Once were Free
Three Cheers for Penury
God Save Us: Please.

I'll need a second verse though...

Monday, 27 March 2017

Big City News

It seems that, after several decades of doubt, interference, disapproval from Seville and 'what about my bit of land?', Mojácar's cunning urban plan - the PGOU - is to finally be approved.
The number of dwellings that catch the sun and inspire travelling artists is to increase from 9,500 to 15,000, and we can now plan for a permanent population of around 25,800 souls, says La Voz de Almería here.
This may, of course, include the Mojácar share of the massive project planned by the Junta de Andalucía back in the halcyon days of the Boom, in 2007.  That's to say, the giant 6,200 hectare Llano Central project, which will fill up the empty bit between Vera, Turre, Los Gallardos, Antas, Garrucha and Mojácar turning us, together, into the fourth biggest city in the province. (well, you didn't think the projected AVE train station in Vera was just for Don Paco and his chickens, did you?).
The Llano Central and its clutch of second-line hotels and golf courses and 25,000 homes-without-a-view went quiet after the bust of 2008, but things are now slowly improving, and a lot of important people bought some hitherto worthless land a decade ago...
If the Mojácar urban plan doesn't include the monster to the north, we are still looking at a progression from a small artists' village, to a tourist town, to a large resort.
Still with just the one narrow road along the beach... and apparently, no proper beach-bars.

Friday, 24 March 2017

The Dutch Nob

Now and again, a Dutchman called Peter Janssen likes to paint his body with provocative words and to leap over the ruedas at the bullring to make his point of view made to, precisely, the people who are the least interested in the world in knowing it: that's to say, bullfight fans. He's done this, to date, on sixteen occasions.
The aficionados have paid their money to see a legal (and state-approved) cultural spectacle, only for Dutch Pete or one of his mates to make his tiresome statement.
It's, at the very least, a presumption that his view of things is better than anyone else's.
So, he gets fined. Anything from 300 to 30,000 euros, for being a twat. He doesn't care - a 'foreign charity' coughs up the boodle.
Understandably, the toro people are fed up.  We don't interrupt your football games with silly slogans about half-naked millionaires chasing after a bag of wind, they might almost be saying.
The 'Fundación Toro de Lidia' have scraped together some dosh and gone to find some expensive lawyers, who in turn have come up with a cunning plan: Pete and his pals are now guilty of a form of violent coercion which is punishable by a jail term.
The Dutch crusader, currently in foreign parts, is now 'en busca y captura', which may help cool his jets if he ever returns to Spain.
El Mundo has more.

Beach Gravel - Not for Sitting on (though, in fairness, it does make a great sand-castle)

The beaches around here, from Mojácar to Cuevas, have just been refreshed by a large dump of sand for The Season. The timing wasn't perfect, as the last storm was still pulling the beach into the sea, but now everything is calm once again.
Except in The Ecologists' fur-lined beach-hut.
The sand, you see, isn't sea-sand, but rather comes from a gravel pit, say the tree-huggers. 15,000 square metres of gravel dust, stones, pebbles and anything in-between. Not the proper stuff.
Bad or uncomfortable for one's feet and under the bathing costume.
Furthermore, we read in Teleprensa that 'Ecologistas en Acción' reckon that the mix is mortal for the sea-dwelling fauna with which we are locally blessed.
...and so on. Those fur-lined beach-huts are expensive.
Our own opinion: Mojácar's shore-line gets very close near our famous beach-bars, and the master-plan of the Town Hall is to occupy a strip between the chiringuitos and the sea for their walk-way, bicycle lane and sundry other wonders. This will be a built-up rocky affair, looking delightful from the sea, but very crowded from the shore. The beach-bars will become kiosks, with no room to sling a hammock.
One answer to this is to make the beach wider at this point - with a small breakwater. The charming village of Costa Cabana, next to the airport, has just built eight breakwaters and their beaches are now fifty metres wide. No beach-bars of course, but lots of empty beach.
However, Mojácar doesn't do breakwaters (except where there are hotels). This could be from pressure, perhaps, by the many restaurants on the other side of the road?
So, we shall see how the Spring-break and the Easter crowd reacts to our sandy beaches. The next phase of the promenade will probably begin this coming winter...  

Thursday, 23 March 2017

The End of an Era

The British government is to trigger the infamous Article 50 on Wednesday 29th of this month. This is the mechanism to begin the UK’s departure from the EU. It should apparently take two years to achieve. Maybe.
It is the beginning of – at the very least – a leap into the dark. The seminal joke circulating on Twitter says: ‘Don’t forget, the clocks go forward one hour on Sunday and then back sixty years the following Wednesday’.
This may be a tragedy for the United Kingdom (or, yes, a blithe and fearless ascent into some fluffy Wonderland), but, on the whole, it could be a good thing for the remaining 27 States within Europe.
Two reasons: firstly, because the UK was always the one putting the brakes on the European project and secondly, ensuring that no one else follows the British exit, we can expect a slightly more democratic and sensible Europe – the future Home of Straight (and Curly) Bananas.
The losers in all this are the ones that Spanish Officialdom might describe dismissively as being ‘en una situación irregular’. Those of us who weren’t planned for in the European Utopia: the expatriate British in Europe, the expatriate Europeans in Britain.
Between one thing and another, these so-called ‘bargaining chips’ (who don’t have much political representation) add up to a little over four million souls  - the population, for example, of Croatia.
We are left with the European reaction to all this – perhaps London Loves Business can explain:
‘...Fury has erupted by euro-sceptics after Jean-Claude Juncker boasted how harshly Britain will be punished and that no-one else will want to leave the EU.  He said that the member states will all “fall in love” with each other again and this will ensure the survival of the Brussels club. Theresa May was also threatened that Britain will have to accept demands on the divorce bill as Brexit negotiators are preparing of up to a £50bn settlement that is regarded as Britain’s share of the liabilities. Mr Juncker was asked by Germany’s Bild am Sonntag about his concerns of other EU member states leaving the EU following our example in quitting. Mr Juncker said: “No. Britain’s example will make everyone realise that it’s not worth leaving.”...’.
Not a happy divorce it seems, but then, they never are...