Thursday, 25 May 2017

Brexodus on Facebook

I visit one of those 'Brexit is Terrible' Facebook pages aimed at slightly unsure Britons living here in Spain. It reproduces articles from the British press about how things are going downhill over there, or what a monster Mrs May is, or what a weed the other fellow is, or fruitless arguments about whether we are 'expats' or 'immigrants'.
The threads go around in a circle, drying up after a while, until they start again with another posted item.
I write a post - quoting a line from Leapy Lee, the man who 'dares to say what other people think'. The quote is in this week's Weenie and it comes from an article about the wonders of Mrs May:
'...Are not the pathetic leaders of the European Union acting exactly as we knew they would?
Their pouting, childlike attitude to the terms of the UK’s departure, is precisely the reason we need to leave this bunch of spoiled brat, unelected wastes of space to their own pathetic devices...'.

All good stuff. My point is that a newspaper serving the Britons who live in Spain could be a fraction more sanguine about life here, about our future and about our position. A little less about the moors murderer and other rum goings-on in the UK, the pesky Europeans and maybe a bit more about Spain? We had several large news stories here this week, after all.
The Facebook page in question didn't agree with me on this, and scrapped my post, as is its right to do so.
Now, its gone happily back to arguing about whether we are ex-pats or immigrants again.


*The page itself is part of a larger site, with much useful action taking place behind the scenes. I support its aims, of course. For another FB page with similar content - and an introduction to this one and others, go here.

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Spanish as She is Spoke

While many of the people who have gone through the Mojácar school, both today and over the past twenty years, are English, the Town Hall, as we know, has remained determined that none of them should be given a place amongst the staff there. Imagine - a bilingual person in a Spanish town where the most widely spoken language is English.
No local police, or specialists, or clerical staff, or anyone in the tourist office comes from the other side of the tracks.
Indeed, we recall that on the very day Rosmari won the last elections (24th May 2015), she fired her secretary, Valentina, who was the person who helped out the English.
We need an  office to help (help!) the foreigners who live here with their paperwork, with their taxes, with their doctor, with the cops: an office with a couple of bilingual foreigners (Angeli, the Dutch woman who speaks five languages, for example), but no. The Costa del Sol towns might have 'em, the Costa Blanca towns too - but here in Mojácar - it's all and only jobs for the Mojaqueros. You want a translator - go pay for one!
OK, we know, it's a lost battle.
But, when our town hall elders promote Mojácar to the visitors in fractured English, as happens every day, then the reaction can be something other than what was wanted. Disbelief. Laughter.
We are not a town without human resources.
But, anyway; that battle is lost too. Mojácar is for the Mojaqueros. We, who have come here to live, may love the place to bits, but, well, our friends and neighbours here see the old place more as an opportunity than a beloved home.
If I had made ten or twenty million euros out of my town, why, I'd build a theatre, or a hall, or a clinic. The Lenox Napier Clinic for Elderly Drunkards. But here, in what is apparently the richest town per capita in the whole of Andalucía, there's not even a park bench somewhere with a modest brass plaque saying 'Donated by Paco the Good' or some such.
We know this and we carry on with our lives. It's not worth a fight. And, although for example my three bilingual children, all brought up here in Mojácar, are currently settled in another country, well, perhaps we should be happy with what we've got.
But along comes a terrible tragedy in far-off Manchester, followed by some thoughtful and kind words from the Mayoress for our condolence - presented just in Spanish, (translated here, apparently, by a foreign resident for a Facebook page with the help of Googlespeak): '...Similarly, wishes to inform the British population resident in mojácar that yes, unfortunately, one of them has been affected by this barbaric act, has opened the gates of the city of mojacar and have all the help you can offer this municipality'.
An opportunity to bring us all together collapses quickly into farce.




Tuesday, 23 May 2017

The PSOE is Reborn


In the election to the socialist Party Secretary on Sunday, Pedro Sánchez won with just over 50% of the vote from the militants. Susana Díaz, who was around 10 points behind him, couldn’t even mention his name in her brief speech following the count.

El Pais, the newspaper of the institutional PSOE so to speak, has a lively anti-Sánchez position. Here is its by-now famous editorial just after the Sunday count:El ‘Brexit’ del PSOE’. In the translation over at El País in English, the editorial begins, ‘Pedro Sánchez’s victory at the Spanish Socialist Party primaries places the PSOE in one of the most difficult situations in its long history. The return of a secretary general with such a legacy of electoral defeat, internal division and ideological swings cannot but be cause for deep concern...’. It goes downhill from there, later on likening Sánchez to Donald Trump! El Mundo worries that Sánchez won’t be able to unify the PSOE, pointing out that Susana Díaz avoided congratulating Sánchez in public, even though she was in the same building. The tough PP leader from Catalonia, Xavier García Albiol, says that the victory of Sánchez is a ‘disgrace for Spain’. Other sources are rather more optimistic, including El Diario, who says that the party-members have defeated the barons of the party, and El Huff Post which begins an article with ‘"They failed to understood the scale of the political change we are in," said Pedro Sánchez this week about Felipe González, Rubalcaba, Zapatero and the territorial leaders who were against him. The primaries have shown that they did not understand the political change, or, what is more serious, the change in their own party: it was of such a magnitude that the militancy has made a mockery of its establishment and is prepared to face a time without popes, nor barons, nor sultanas, nor guardians, nor flappers. The Chinese vases of the PSOE have been shattered...’. An editorial at El Diario says that ‘Sánchez has been reborn from the ashes and returns to lead the PSOE with an unquestionable victory and more power than he ever had before’. And back to the opinion piece in El PaísPúblico has its own: ‘Madre Mía, the reaction on the Internet to the editorial from Prisa’. 


Saturday, 20 May 2017

Motoring News

According to an article in Saturday's El Mundo, the ITV inspection on vehicles (the MOT) is to become 'a lot more severe' from next year. It won't be any good buying a clapped out old oil-burner to go to the shops any more - it'll be failed by the goombahs. So, we must either buy a spanking new car from the beaming concesionario on the corner, or get those bus tokens ready.
Another fly in the motorist's ointment is plans from the DGT, the traffic police, to give you a lifetime ban the second time they catch you 'over the limit' (and there's you thinking they were just after the fines!).
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Thursday, 18 May 2017

Beach-Bar Wars - There's always Vera.

As the beach-bar row in Mojácar intensifies, with the regional TV taking interest (video here), one thing is clear: the Iron Lady is not for changing her mind. A couple of beach-bars in the long run will survive, including the 'treasure island' one known as La Manacá (waaaay down past the Tower), the ubiquitous sore-thumb Mandala and something being cooked up by a local chap down in the Río Abajo; but the others will lose, at the very least, their views and, more likely, part of their concession. The bars in the current round of building the Great Sea Wall will lose around half of their space, so there'll likely be no more lunches or pop concerts.
Tito escaped this in part (and got a nice car-park built next door) but his place was neutered and is now little more than a kiosk with people walking through and past. Not the place to smoke a joint then. Perhaps that will be the lot of the Patio 2000, the Maui and the Cid - to stock beers and ice-creams; maybe the Aku Aku could serve paella to go. Maybe the next round of beach-bars, which will be demolished (the Cava, Dolce Vita and La Pirata) will be able to open something somewhere else - Turre maybe.
As Mojácar's charm crumbles in the face of iconoclastic mediocrity, Vera Playa is looking increasingly attractive. There are a number of beach bars there, including the huge new Lua Puerto Rey (here) and the even larger (at 7,000 metres) Marau 'Beach Club' (here), plus a generous handful of others, with some nudist ones as well.
Those of us who live here and own property have an investment in our town. We would like to think that we had bought wisely. Maybe we did. Maybe we didn't.

Sunday, 14 May 2017

In Germany, Before the War...

From Europa Press comes an article which begins: 'The Spanish Government has requested an official investigation into the xenophobic attacks perpetrated against Spanish individuals or businesses in the United Kingdom since the referendum in which it was decided to leave the EU (Brexit). The crimes of hate against foreigners have increased since the consultation and, although their main victims have been Polish citizens, there have also been cases that have affected Spaniards...'. The item goes on to mention a Spanish citizen, attacked with a wooden board in the street, after a British yob heard him speaking Spanish.
A Spanish friend comments to me that 'in general, the Spaniards in the UK are young professionals at work, not like the type of drunken Brit that we get here'.
You see how easy it is?

Sunday, 7 May 2017

Beach Bar Blues

Part of our new plans for Mojácar, at least, those as decided by the Town Hall, include stretching the beach walkway - rather better sounding in Spanish, the Paseo Marítimo - all the way from the ghastly Hotel Indalo as far as Garrucha.
The Paseo is a stone wall (to defend us from sea serpents and Barbary pirates) topped by a walkway, with flower gardens and wooden benches - not the kind presented to the corporation by successful local merchants, we don't do those things here - and a cycle path - for those too scared to use the road.
All of this beach architecture eats into what is previously there. Scrub... or parking spaces... or, as around the El Patio beach bar and its neighbours, beach bars!
The beach there is a narrow space between the sea itself, continually eating away at the sand and rock, and the narrow road which serves our entire resort (a road which, as another part of the General Plan informs us, will need to support a residential population of triple what it is now).
Alternatives to the Death of the Chiringuitos exist, but are unpopular in Official Circles. We could move them to where the beach is wider, in front of the camping... or we could build small piers to increase the amount of sandy beach itself...
Or we could drop the whole sorry idea.
But no. Work is already starting, bringing the current phase of the beach promenade from the Cruz Roja down to the Maui beach bar - well known in Spain as the home of Mujeres, Mojitos, Mojácar.
What will the beach bars do? Well, they could reinvent themselves like Tito's, which successfully turned itself from a beach bar into a sort of kiosk, with the General Public walking (or cycling) past between the customers and the beach beds. It takes away the atmosphere, but the ice creams are good.
Of course, there just isn't room in the case of Maui, or El Cid or El Patio. The walkway will be about eight or ten metres wide (I say, without checking the plans) and there is little sand there on the beach side as it is. Say they run the thing inwards from about where the tables start.
There might just about be room for a bar and some stools. No sea-view, no tables, no beach beds.
No concerts, of course.
Mind you, and luckily for us, on the other side of the road there are some fine Mojaquero establishments to dine in.
... ...
The Town Hall is sometimes thought to be 'stupid', but it's not.
There is a perfectly fine plan for our municipality. This resolves, essentially, around making wealth for the Mojaqueros themselves. This is now seen to be through 'bucket and spade' tourism, families with kids, rather than non-local residents who are looking in a different direction indeed. These foreign and national residents want a peaceful (yet noisy) Mojácar, rather than the other way round. They don't want neon, traffic jams, queues and seasons. More worryingly still, they (we) are in the majority and could easily wake up and vote against the Five Families.


The new paseo will cut the beach bars in half. El Ideal here.
The 'Save Our  Chiringuitos' Facebook page here.

There will be a plenary session on Wednesday10th May  in the Mojácar Town Hall (opposite the Church) to rubber stamp the PGOU General Plan, starting at 9.00am. The Public is welcome to attend.


Friday, 5 May 2017

Cleaning up the Smog from Carboneras

The Carboneras power station, run by Endesa, is filthy. It releases a large amount of smog into the atmosphere - smog, which can easily be seen through Polaroids, hanging dismally over the sea most afternoons, or, if you happen to be in a yacht, then the purple cloud can be seen floating over the land. Bédar, which for some reason has a detector that measures atmospheric contamination, has been publishing unacceptably high limits of  poisonous gases including sulphur dioxide - responsible in the province, say Greenpeace, for up to 110 premature deaths a year for respiratory problems.
This week, Endesa, which is owned by the Italian energy giant Enel - has announced that it is investing 250 million euros in the power station to clean its output, 'demonstrating the company's commitment to the province of Almería'. In fact, because of new European rules.
The changes will reduce sulphur dioxide (SO2) emissions by 60% and nitrous oxide (CO2) by 80% say the company, beside creating 500 new jobs.
The power station's output is gigantic, especially when the surrounding consumer population is so small. This is because the electricity is added to the national grid.
Work on the power station will be completed by the summer of 2018.

Updated contamination levels across Andalucía can be found here. Bédar levels for May 4th are SO2 - good; NO2 - good; particles - good; 03 - acceptable; air quality - improving. 

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

The Whitewash

This is the Calle La Cal - a narrow street in Mojácar Pueblo. It's an odd name for a street where the whitewash is falling off, especially as Rosmari has been asking everyone to paint their houses for the tourist season. The street used to be called Calle Pedro Barato - in honour of Cheap Pete, an American who built the next door restaurant El Palacio back in 1970. He was called Cheap Pete because he was an antique dealer, always with the best price. Anyhow, La Calle de Pedro Barato - the ONLY recognition ever made by Mojácar towards all of those foreigners who revived this pueblo when it was nothing - was renamed by the current régime as the romantic-sounding Calle La Cal. Whitewash Street.

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Back Home (a Fantasy, Of Course)



We had been back in England for a couple of weeks, housed in a giant sprawl of wooden huts and buildings erected on Salisbury Plain. I was in a dormitory of around a hundred people, a small microcosm of expatriate British, considered as little better than traitors by the larger public. The dorm was run by three protestant Irish fellows, who had evidently preferred to move to England rather than see their island reunited following the Brexit.
Each of us had a bed and a lockable wardrobe. The lock on mine had been forced and a couple of bits of silver and jewellery taken the day I arrived. We had been arrested in our different European countries (except for Germany, which didn’t seem to mind), taken to various congregation points, and bussed or shipped back to the UK. I remember the police saying ‘one small bag, no pets and no foreign consorts’.
Most of us had ended up here in the camp. I imagine some were doing well enough, perhaps they had enough money to circumvent The Trouble, perhaps they owned a place in the UK. Perhaps they had escaped to Morocco or Germany.
We heard of stories of confused expatriates driving on the wrong side of the road. Others punched for drinking without paying; others still, attacked by thugs for queue-barging. It was for our own good, they had told us, a lot of angry people in England wanted to harm us: Daily Mail readers, we said. Nazis, we whispered.
It gets cold in England in October, and the heaters in the dormitories weren’t working. ‘The winter allowance hasn’t come through’, said a jocular Ulsterman. We wondered how long we would have to stay in the camp.
That autumn, we were obliged to begin heavy labour – cutting trees, farming, building. It was to help pay for our food, they said. You need to contribute to the War Effort, they told us. The gates are locked for your protection, said a billboard.
‘The only way out of here is in a coffin’, said an emaciated man who had a bunk near my own.
‘I don’t think so’, I answered.

Friday, 28 April 2017

Not Many Now, Not Long Now

According to the latest figures from our friends the bean-counters over at the INE, there are now just 236,669 Britons on the 'padrón' here in Spain. That's a 10% drop from this time last year. Are we dying... leaving... getting Spanish nationality? Were we ever registered? Does the British consul, the embassy and the media know? How accurate are these figures (with the crafty ones careful to not contribute to this fine country in any way, and certainly to not even register their presence here)? With such a low number of Brits apparently here, the Spanish government is not going to be too worried about us post-Brexit, now are they!

Thursday, 27 April 2017

My Darling Wife

I was reading one of my late wife’s posts on a blog she wrote, about how it hurt when she went to see the doctor to have some bandages removed. She wasn’t exaggerating either, as the side of her head, her scalp, was open, without hair or skin. The doctors had tried to transplant skin from her head onto her face to refashion a nose. The transplant had failed for the third time.
They never knew that she had a disease called Wegener’s Granulomatosis (named after the German concentration camp doctor - of all people - who discovered it!). ‘Oh, said her brothers, ‘she lost her nose because she took coke’. Not so, even if you wanted an excuse to cut her out of your parents’ will.
We had run out of money by 2002, cheated in a furious swindle. The cheats even had me drive down to a lawyer’s office in Torremolinos (in a borrowed car) to pay me a portion of what they had agreed to a few years earlier, only to not be there at my destination (neither was the lawyer for that matter).
We were broke, selling off bits of this and that, and much of this went to pay for Barbara’s bills. The hospitals were free, but the hotels and meals of course were not. We had Sanitas health insurance until 2008, when I could no longer pay for it. This meant that subsequent hospital visits were to the public hospitals of the social security. We attended hospitals in Pamplona, Madrid, Almería, Huercal Overa, El Ejido, Murcia and Málaga. Barbara had thirty two major operations between 2002 and 2014, when she died. It was the first of these, in Madrid in 2002, where she had her jaw broken, her teeth removed and her nose excised. This novel treatment by the doctor (I had to slip him 1000 euros) failed completely. 
A plastic surgeon built her a 'nose' (for 3000 euros). You could wear this life-like looking thing with glasses to hold it in place, like a cruel version of a child's mask. Walking through Madrid with her nose in a small box in her jacket as she came back from the clinic that day, she was pick-pocketed. 
Barbara talks of ‘the Scary Room’, the place where you visit, fully conscious, for your appointment with the surgeon. I would wait outside: Spanish doctors are very good at what they do, but they sometimes forget to tell the ‘family member’ how the patient was doing. None of them knew why she was ill, until the local Mojácar Doctor Galindo recognised her condition, a form of auto-immune sickness. He put her on to prednisone, a nasty but lifesaving drug. Later, she would take ketamine (horse-tranquilizer!) for the pain and eventually, as her kidneys failed, she was on twice-a-week dialysis in Huercal Overa.
Finally the palliative doctors came to visit her bedside and left her a heavy dosage of morphine, to be administered (by me!) every six hours until the end.
Reading Barbara’s blog again today, I feel such tenderness towards her and hope that she is blissful in Heaven.

The Government is Close to Collapse



Following from the many cases of corruption in the PP ranks, from Business over Tapas this morning: ‘...The majority opposition parties could (and should) call for a motion of censure and topple the government. But there’s a problem – with the socialist supporters watching anxiously over their party’s implosion, there’s no PSOE leader around...’. From news sources just two hours later: ‘Podemos promotes a motion of censure against Rajoy. The PSOE, which is not in a position to present an alternative candidate, announces that it will reject the initiative of Pablo Iglesias’ (El País here)
Regarding the PSOE - it looks like Pedro Sánchez was right!

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Sunday, 23 April 2017

Spain, Gibraltar and the Expats. An Interview with a Labour Ex-minister

A headline in Sunday's El Español quoting a British foreign minister from the time of Blair, one Denis MacShane: 'Gibraltar is as British as Melilla and Ceuta are Spanish'. The article - an interview with MacShane - begins with the upcoming election in the UK and May's tactical plan to sink the Labour Party.
But, turning to Spain and Gibraltar, MacShane has this to say:
'Both Rajoy and Foreign Minister Alfonso Dastis and Economy Minister Luis de Guindos have made it very clear that Spain's future lies in a functioning EU. The last thing Spain would want is for the Iberian Peninsula to lose strength. It is true that Spain exports about 7,000 million euros in products to the United Kingdom and that is a good business. But it exports 110,000 million to France, Italy, Germany, Portugal and the Benelux countries. So the future of Spain at this time is in developing better economic relations with its partners in the EU.Then there is the question of Gibraltar, because May has done immense damage to the Rock by supporting a hard Brexit. Let's look at history. Gibraltar, in the last years of Franco, was in a terrible position of blockade and closure of borders. When Franco died, the United Kingdom supported Spain's entry into the European Community as quickly as possible. And as a result, the citizens of Gibraltar have been able to cross the border or buy villas and flats in Spain (Chief Minister Picardo, for example, lives in Sotogrande), and the Spaniards have been able to cross easily to Gibraltar. But once the UK leaves the EU, that automatic right to live and work disappears. It is a disaster'.
The current Spanish proposal for Gibraltar, to have shared sovereignty, is highly unlikely to occur, says MacShane, as neither the Gibraltarians (rabidly pro-British), nor the hard patriotic British element, now in ascendance in the UK, will allow it, thus thrusting Gibraltar into isolation from Europe. Along with a closed border, Britain's absence from Brussels means that the EU's gentle treatment of The Rock's 'exotic fiscal regime' will be changed for a harsher approach.
And, regarding Spain's relationship with the UK, post Brexit?
'It will be harder for the British to retire in Spain as they have done so far, especially if they lose their automatic healthcare coverage and other privileges that come from being in the EU. There are currently 300,000 Britons registered in Spain, but the real figure could reach one million. In the last 30 years, Spain has been a species of Florida for the United Kingdom. And both countries have benefitted. I hope that can be maintained; and when May understands the depth of the problem, that she changes her approach'.

While he is probably right about both Gibraltar and the fate of the British in Spain, post Brexit, a few points to consider.
I think of Gibraltar as being closer to Andorra (rarely mentioned, but with a similar tax and business climate to Gib). The Spanish habitually use it as a money-laundering place (notably Pujol, the ex-leader of Catalonia and indeed Mojácar, which years back twinned with the banking paradise of En Camps). Andorra is a sort of mini Switzerland. It is not in the EU, yet its currency is the euro. It is never ever mentioned in Spain in the same breath as Gibraltar.
Melilla and Ceuta, two slightly pointless possessions on the North African coast, have a much larger population that Gib. Between them, 160,000 inhabitants, pretty much all firmly pro the Partido Popular. The Spanish refuse to compare the situation with 'Europe's Last Colony (Pop. 30,000)' and yet, a 'reconciliation' would gain Spain a couple of square kilometres of territory, 30,000 mutinous new citizens, and the larger loss of their two enclaves  in North Africa (plus a few incongruous islands, rocks and lumps). The citizens all repatriated to the Spanish mainland and... oh... it's not going to happen. 
For Gibraltar, however, a shared sovereignty is a good plan. It allows them to continue as before (largely untouched by a now very satisfied Spain), and releases the future pressure on the British expatriates living, as MacShane says, in Europe's answer to Florida. Perhaps we, too, could be offered a second passport...

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.