Wednesday, 24 January 2018

I Have Nothing Against Immigration

The rather provocative title (you know where it's going) comes from Leapy Lee's latest contribution to the Euro Weekly News (an English-language free sheet left in hopeful piles in bars and shops along the coast of Spain).
Leapy has been writing for the Weenie for around fifteen years and has never really moved away from his one-note repertoire. He writes about immigrants: the ones in the UK that is (in a paper that should be commenting about Spain).
What does he have to say this time?  Well, he says that he, too, is an immigrant, worked and came to live legally here in Spain. He has, he says, nothing against legal immigrants in the UK (I think he has, but that's just an opinion). Then he says this about himself to highlight his point:
'...I did not, create 'no go' areas, consider myself to be above local laws, mow down or slaughter innocent civilians while screaming 'Jesus is great', or scream racism when decisions didn't go my way...'. Leaky wants to control immigration into the UK, he says, as, although he does 'of course recognise that many immigrants are not of this ilk and contribute invaluable input...' (you can imagine him dropping by their homes for a cup of sugar and a gossip), he does 'not condone millions of ungrateful layabouts and fanatics, hell bent on screwing as much as they can from their host countries...'.
And so on. Just about every week.
While Leaky is welcome to his views (after all, as he would be the first to admit, it takes all sorts) we must wonder at the editorial policy of the newspaper that prints him.
Week after week.

Mojácar: The Fabled Resort

The report from Mojácar's presence at FITUR has now been sent out and we are told by our Press Office that all is doing splendidly.
We have opened fresh markets at the Madrid tourist fair, meaning that all is in line for even more visitors. The report says: '...It is worth highlighting those carried out with British tour operators, which have shown the consolidation of the growth of this market, which continues to incorporate new Mojácar hotel establishments into our travel offer, contracting a growing number of hotel beds and guaranteeing thousands of tourists for the destination from May to October.The tour operation market opens this year to new markets such as Ireland and Scotland, with increased flights to the province...'. 
If that isn't enough to set our pulses racing, '...we can expect an increase in visitors to our area in 2018'.
The press release also notes how visitors treasure not only 'sol y playa', but also our sporting offers and, above all, for Mojácar's new policy of encouraging and attracting 'family tourism' (Mojácar is the first resort in the whole of Andalucía to receive the Seal of Quality from the National Federation of Large Families).
So frankly, who needs beach bars?
Finally, the note speaks of Mojácar's donation of two Golden Indalos each year to worthy people who have promoted the resort (they even gave one, after a huge popular petition, to a Brit living in Mojácar a few years ago: Bob Jones). This year, after 25 years and no more ideas, they have decided to give the Indalos to (drumroll) er, the City of Mojácar (at some still undecided date).
Following the fair in Madrid's closure, our energetic tourist councillor flew to Belgium to visit the Vellofolie Fair, and to bring back some more cyclists, some of whom will participate in the 'Grand Fondo Costa de Almería': a cycle race which sets out from Mojácar (May 26th). The webpage for this event says: 'It is written in the stars: Mojacar has got to be on the bucket list of grand fondos for cycle tourists!'.
With all of this effort put in to bringing visitors to Mojácar - at least 'from May to October' - it is plain to see why the town does not spend much time on attracting 'residential tourism' (as the Spanish like to call foreign home-owners). Indeed, despite any reported increase in house-sales locally, the padrón (town hall population register) fell last year by 160 souls.

Saturday, 20 January 2018

There's Always Another One...

Spanish, of course, has two genders in its vocabulary, and while the masculine form is used when there is a mixture of the two (we say 'you' rather than 'you and you', or 'vosotros' rather than 'vosotros y vosotras') the easier and accepted form is to just say the word in question once. However, the current crop of 'progressive' politicians like to be more inclusive, and will talk of 'compañeros' and 'compañeras', or even 'andaluces' and 'andaluzas'. Perhaps women appreciate this fine distinction, perhaps they don't. It's not correct Spanish however, according to the Real Academia Española.
Meanwhile, Facua, the aggressive consumers group, has just been warned by the Junta de Andalucía to be careful of its language, and to use ‘non-sexist terms’ as necessary, such as ‘personas consumidoras’ rather than ‘consumidores’, ‘personas usuarias’ rather than ‘usuarios’ and so on, since those shorter and handier terms are masculine generic words.  The indignant consumers group will lose funding if it doesn’t put up its, er, stockings.
The Junta has itself started a new campaign against sexism, which involves telling men not to wolf-whistle at women (in Spain, you don't exactly wolf-whistle, you rather shout a jolly if somewhat lascivious double-entendre at deserving beauties as they pass by on the pavement: this is called a 'piropo' and can be most amusing (...but, wait, what am I saying?)). Men, according to the campaign, are not to behave like pigs. 
But wait, what is this? An eccentric animal-hugging political group called Equo (Rover for President) has seen red, and is calling on the Junta's Instituto de la Mujer to immediately drop the campaign on the principal that pigs don't behave like pigs. 

Later: Someone sent me an item from Valencia, where the  Councilor for Health wants 'pregnant women' to be referred to officially as 'pregnant people' ('personas preñadas') and children as 'criaturas' rather than 'niños'. This offensive idea being not to offend, presumably.

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Village Politics (Sigh!)

The opposition parties in Mojácar had called for a special plenary session ('pleno extraordinario') which, by law, a town hall must give within fifteen working days. In the event, the pleno was  announced abruptly on Tuesday morning to be held on the same forenoon, a month after the meeting was solicited.
The result was that the opposition parties - PSOE and Somos Mojácar - boycotted the session, leaving the Partido Popular and the non-aligned councillor to sit for a while in stony embarrassment.
The five points were nevertheless raised, read and voted. The first point, to send municipal employment information to the Public Ombudsman was voted one by one by the councillors, beginning with a 'no'... The mayoress apparently said to her colleague, 'you mean 'yes' don't you!'
The other four key points - showing a bit of immaturity from the opposition - were to insist on a Negro to play the part of one of the Three Kings - Baltazar - next year (rather than a Spaniard in blackface) and to ask the Spanish Government to get on their bike and build the AVE line through the province (both voted against); together with the building of a municipal park and an improvement in our local health clinics - both with a 'yes' vote.
Apparently, the whole exercise was worthless and the Mayoress has been reported to the Courts.

Property in Almería: Mixed Signals

Sometimes the news is good; sometimes, not so much. Property is the main industry in Mojácar after tourism. The Town Hall evidently prefers tourism to residential ownership - even after the taxes - and spends efforts to bring more visitors to our fair town (and be sure to bring with you your ticket home again).
We have seen how Mojácar has bucked the trend in Almería, actually shrinking in population (thanks to some enthusiastic pruning of the registration figures over at the padrón). No other significant town in the province has shrunk - either due to new home-buyers or to the natural effects of large birth-numbers.
Yet, the Mojácar property agents are selling lots of houses, no?
The local daily says on Tuesday that the number of 'used' homes on the market in Almería City has grown in the past three years by 20%. How about locally - and why won't the Town Hall encourage new settlers - a larger population on the padrón means more licences, more doctors, policemen and teachers, more funding from the National Government.
A huge, swollen population during the summer season only brings money to the hotels, restaurants and souvenir shops - many of which are closed the rest of the year!
This week, the Tourist Office is at FITUR - the giant tourist fair in Madrid. No doubt they'll be returning in triumph with even more tourists.

Saturday, 13 January 2018

Almería Airport Hits the Million Mark

The Almería airport in El Alquian has announced it had over a million passengers in 2017 - the first time it has hit the mark since the 'crisis' began in 2008. The last million recorded there was back in 2007, and visitor numbers fell from that high (round about when they started extending the size of the terminal in the anticipation that the good times would never end). Just two years ago, the number of passengers was only at 700,000.
With Spain beating its record number of foreign visitors in 2017 - with 82.5 million of them - Almería will no doubt continue to grow. How many of those visitors will come to Mojácar? That's what our tourist office is valiantly trying to build on at the FITUR international travel fair held in Madrid from Wednesday.

Friday, 12 January 2018

The Priors are Compensated (Slightly)

Much has been written (though not enough) about the terrible treatment of Len and Helen Prior at the hands of the authorities. Their home was arbitrarily torn down in Vera just a few days over ten years ago. Rather than scurrying back to whence they came, they stayed (much to the dismay of the politicians) and fought from the dubious comfort of their garage, which had a different licence and was excused from the demolition.
Now, following a number of court-cases, appeals and other legal acrobatics, the town hall of Vera says it will pay the family the finally agreed compensation (a third of what had been asked back in 2008). Furthermore, they will be coughing up in the next few days! Victory? Of a sort.

Thursday, 4 January 2018

How to be Taken for a Spaniard

I've updated the layout for Spanish Shilling, my venerable blog that goes back as far as 2006. Here's a story from 2010 (updated slightly):

Forget learning a few words of Spanish and introducing a morning brandy into your café-life, there’s more to becoming a Spaniard than not turning green each time they put a bull-fight on the telly.
First of all, you have to look Spanish. Many people from foreign parts manage this easily enough, and the whole thing is, I agree, down to fate, but, if you look like a Swede, it doesn’t matter how fluent you might be in the language and culture, you will still be on the outside, looking in. In short, Mother Nature is cruel about our appearance: take the case of two Nordic looking Spanish friends of mine. I once went out to some local dives in Marbella with these two work-colleagues, Alfonso and Juan. Alfonso is blond and has a beard. He comes from Motril. Juan is a redhead and is from Estepona. Me, I look like a Swede. After Alfonso was complimented on his Spanish for the third time (‘not bad – how long have you been in Spain…?'), and Juan was advised to try a glass of ‘we call this vee-no’, we decided to either split up – or to stick to the English bars.
My dad was once drinking in a bar in Murcia with some fellow who, as my father recalled later, ‘looked like a syphilitic Turkish tax-inspector’. ‘Where do you suppose I am from?’ asked the swarthy gentleman as he bought another round of drinks. ‘Denmark?’ suggested my father to his delighted companion, who triumphantly admitted that he was, in fact, a tax-inspector from Istanbul.
‘Spanish’ is not a language (it’s called ‘Castilian’ anyway), but a cultural identity. There is no point speaking it if you have nothing of value to say. You need context. Please don’t go on about Teresa May because no one in Spain has heard of her. Just say the same stuff but switch to Rajoy. In fact, try watching Spanish TV which not only helps you with the language, it also helps you with the culture, informs you about what’s going on around the corner and increases your enjoyment and understanding of this country. You can’t carry on living like an exile like a child pressing his nose to the glass of an English toyshop, missing 95% of what’s happening here (and who’s doing it), just for the sunburn.
To assimilate here – and I don’t mean just being able to buy a drink for the old shepherd who lives in the frightful dive across the hill and whose vocabulary is probably around a hundred words (say two weeks of study with a Donald Duck comic in Spanish) – you need to adopt a few new mannerisms. Three things spring to mind. The proper use of swear-words, never using a winker and the correct disposal of rubbish.


These are the Spanish equivalents of those naughty words that Spellcheck doesn’t like. All those three, four and six letter words that we learnt at a tender and impressionable age. Here, they don’t use asterisks. In Spanish – a wonderful language for swearing in – what might be considered as the harsher words to our way of thinking are here used to great and often gentle effect. You will find the most remarkable terms used towards friends and family, and I will, since the subject is considered disturbing in English, limit myself to just one example.
Lorenzo (a vile old boozer who lives across the way) was telling me about his lunatic and alarmingly cross-eyed son, who had, just that very morning, enjoyed a short conversation with his father about the colours of the sunrise as they briefly melted and blurred into the sides of the hill. ‘Si, hijo mio. Tienes razón coño’, his dad assured him. ‘Bloody right yes, you silly bastard’ would be an understatement as a direct translation, but, in effect, the old boy was really being quite understanding.

Traffic Matters
Never use your winker while driving. No one ever does. On roundabouts a winking car usually means a foreigner is driving, or else the winker has been on for months. Don’t trust it and expect anything. The only time it’s used is probably when the motorist says to himself ‘bugger me, I wonder what this knob does..?’ Actually, in the old days, when driving was a more neighbourly and enjoyable activity than it is today, when we had roads instead of sterile motorways with speed cameras hidden in bushes, when driving half-crocked was considered socially acceptable and people asked for a ride by standing in the middle of the highway, the winker was used by truck-drivers to allow you to overtake. The left-winker meant: ‘the road is empty ahead, please feel free to pass at your convenience’ – or perhaps it meant ‘I’m turning left and there’s a huge pantechnicon bearing down on you’ – or, as I’ve said, ‘help, my winker is stuck’. But that was then. Now, no one uses them. The horn, now there’s a useful button. Very handy for zebra crossings.

A Spreading Waste
The third vital thing to know, if you want to pass yourself off as a Spaniard, particularly one from the south, is the proper disposal of rubbish.
What you do is you throw it out of the nearest window.
This is the hardest of all to get right. Really. And you thought windows were for the view!
Bung it out the window or chuck it on the floor or dump it in the corner-
It’s starting to sound like a song, like the recipe for sangria (‘one of white and one of red…'). Everything must go.
The ditches are full of rubbish, with plastic bags gamboling playfully in the wind and empty beer cans rolling noisily across the highways of the province. Dead cats stare reproachfully at the traffic as empty disposable lighters bounce off their crushed skulls. Of course, it’s not just the Great Outside that’s brimming with junk that, all too rarely, receives a cursory scrape by order of the local government.
Although, we are beginning to see some small political will towards cleaning up, putting things in containers and bottle banks and generally looking like ‘somebody is doing something’.
I remember being given a gamba when I first came to Mojácar. I stripped it down, ate it and chooped the brains (as instructed), but then, feeling uncertain, I put the shattered remains, sticky legs and surviving goo discretely back onto the tapa-dish. No, no! On the floor! I learnt. With the rest of the junk. I had noticed that I was standing up to my ankles in paper, tooth-picks, stoppers, used lottery tickets, fines and pictures of Franco. But, soon enough, a drudge scuttled under me with her broom and plastic scoopy-thing leaving the scene fresh for further onslaught. Nowadays, they either don’t give you a tapa, or else there’s some little baskets invitingly scattered around below the bar, which appears to be a sensible arrangement.
At least, to a fellow who looks like a Swede.

Tuesday, 2 January 2018

Population Trends in Almería

The latest population figures are now available for Almería and her municipalities. Our city, the Big Al, has grown slightly during 2017 from 194,515 to 195,389 souls all included. Other large towns in the province include El Ejido at 88,096 and Roquetas de Mar with 93,393. There are in all 704,297 people registered as living in the province of Almería.
Some of the smaller inland villages are shrinking as people move to the cities in search of work. The smallest municipality is Benitagla (pictured) with just 66 inhabitants left on the records. No one knows what to do to reverse this trend (yeah, really!).
One town that has shrunk in size by a modest 160 souls (2.5%) in the past twelve months - despite glowing reports of sales to foreigners - is Mojácar (thanks in part to an adjustment in the padrón). We are now 6,330 inhabitants, which is over two thousand less than the population of the next door town of Garrucha (8,666).
All the municipalities are here.