Saturday, 29 June 2019

The Not Yet Pensioner

A few months back, being both over sixty five years old and a little short of cash (I was ripped off by some far-from-honourable Brit employees some years ago), it came to my notice that I could get a pension here in Spain.
Now, I have contributed to the system with fourteen years of social security 'autonomous' payments, generally known as 'el impuesto revolucionario', and while you need seventeen years worth before consideration for a thousand or twelve hundred euros or so, anything less is considered to be a non-contributive pension, currently worth around 390 euros per month.
It ain't much, but the wolves are out there.
After getting ripped-off by the rascally employees, and then later by a loutish family-member, there's little left under the mattress.
So, I fill out the forms: yes, yes, no, you're kidding, no and yes, and hand it in to the pension people.
Now, a mere two months later, a fellow called José Francisco says he wants to now how long I've lived here as a resident (it says so right there on the Communitarian Citizens Police Letter which I had sent them, the thing that took over from the Residents' ID Card) and he also wants to know how much, if anything, I get from the UK as a pension. Nothing, not a sausage, nada since I left the place at a Tender Age.
Unlike José Francisco, who can look forward to a couple of thousand a month when he reaches retirement age, I'm fighting here for 392€ in fourteen (!) easy-to-cash annual payments, which will cover the utilities, plus a cheese sandwich twice a year.
So, I've written to some address in Newcastle Upon Tyne asking for them to look me up in their ledgers. I don't have a British ID number, or a social security number either, so I look forward to their reply in interest.
Between this document, duly translated officially, together with a letter from the immigration people in Almería, I shall be ready for Round Two with José Francisco.
Maybe by Christmas.

16 October: Well, sod all has happened so far, with no reply from the British funcionarios in Newcastle. No reply! They only need to say 'Nope, never heard of him', or 'Geez, I hope he isn't deported, destitute, back to the UK, because we won't do fuck all for him then, either'.
I wrote to them twice, then sent an email. But, not a word.
So, I've written a cringer to José Francisco, saying that the Brits can't be arsed to answer, but the bank says I don't get a bean from Foreign Parts, and could he please review my case.
The Fraudsters meanwhile make light of my poverty, but, you know, fuck 'em.  

Wednesday, 19 June 2019

The Town Halls are Decided (at least)

The famous mayor from 'Bienvenido Mr Marshall'
The town halls have now been occupied by the victors from the elections last month. Usually the party most voted, but sometimes an agreement between two or more groups sealed the deal – or in some cases, an arrangement was made by the party leaders in a quiet office in Madrid: you take x and we’ll have y.
The most remarked on deal happened in Spain’s capital city, where Manuela Carmena’s Ahora Madrid was the most voted, but Manuela has gone – ‘now I’m just another madrileña, she says. In her place, a coalition between the PP and the C’s with the Vox for the moment in dubious support. The new mayor is the PP candidate José Luis Martínez-Almeida, wants to close down the low-pollution ‘Madrid Centro’ scheme and to make (another) attempt to win the Olympic Games for the city, this time for 2032 (Madrid’s bid lost out in 2012, 2016 and 2020). The new mayor for Madrid has recognised that Manuela’s government has lowered the city debt and says he hopes to lower taxes accordingly. The new vice-mayor is Begoña Villacís from Ciudadanos.
In Barcelona, Ada Colau managed to hold on as mayoress.
Vox meanwhile has been instrumental in bringing right-wing corporations to six capital cities: Madrid, Zaragoza, Granada, Palencia, Teruel and Badajoz. What do they get in return? The party says they may release the secret document signed by them with the PP if they feel that they haven’t got whatever it was the PP had agreed to.
One party, even more extreme than Vox, namely España 2000 (Wiki), has taken Los Santos de la Humosa: a town in the Madrid Region.
Finally, there are fifteen cities where the so-called ‘Columbus Trio’ couldn’t agree, allowing rather the election of more centrist mayors. These cities include Burgos, Huesca, Jaén and Cáceres.   
In the smaller towns and villages, where everybody knows everyone, the town halls are more to do with local personalities than with far-off leaders and politics. Spain remains a practical country at heart.

Tuesday, 11 June 2019

Mass Tourism and its Pollution

We have seen how much contamination can be caused by tourism (even if we prefer to ignore the data). From Interesting Engineering (May 2018) here: ‘Research Shows Pollution from Global Tourism is More Than What We Thought’. The article says: ‘...The researchers found out that the emissions from tourism are much higher than even international trade. Also, the newfound values point the greenhouse gases from tourism, accounting for one-tenth of the world’s total greenhouse gas emissions...’. Less flights would help ‘...because nothing that we do pumps carbon dioxide into the atmosphere faster than air travel...’ (here).  ‘Over 4,000 million Passengers Flew In 2017 Setting New Travel Record’ (here). Of these, 1,400 million were international tourists (here).

Cruise ships are dirty, too. Forbes reports that ‘Cruise Ship Pollution is Causing Serious Health and Environmental Problems’. Around 26 million customers took a cruise in 2017 (here). From Hosteltur here (and staying with aggressive pollution) ‘From next year NASA will open the International Station to tourists’. From Responsible Travel, an essay called ‘Is travel a right? – The concept of right, & when it’s just wrong’.

Mass tourism can create other ills, too. From Hello BCN Hostel comes ‘The combination of cheap airfare, affordable lodging and social media has led to one of the biggest “trends” in our world today – tourism. It’s a beautiful thing, being able to travel and experience a culture so different from your own. However, there is a certain type of tourism, known as mass tourism, that is destroying culture in these beautiful areas, and driving out locals...’. 

Closer to home, our summer festivals are starting (to continue, in lesser and greater ways, until mid September). The souvenir shops and restaurants are full, the beaches crammed and the roads (we only have two) barely moving. Right now, we are about to discover another form of pollution, brought to us by the trabuco, the ear-splitting discharge from a blunderbuss.

Wednesday, 5 June 2019

Podemos Blues

Podemos has come to the end of its tether. It was a fantastic run – a party that came from nowhere and managed to ignite the passion of the young; bringing change and progress to Spain in a few short years. We can thank Podemos, amongst other things, for the fall of the corrupt government of Rajoy, the end of the ‘Sun Tax’, the regularisation of pensions and for last year’s minimum wage (SMI) increase to 900€.
The power-that-be were against Podemos and its eccentric leader from the start, plotting with Venezuelan politicians to invent scandals against the party and even spending public money on creating an anti-Podemos news-site called OKDiario, with its visible champion Eduardo Inda. The conservative newspapers happily followed the story-line from Inda and even found their own narratives. But it was Pablo Iglesias himself that managed the final shot against him, by unwisely buying a large mansion in a fancy part of Madrid when he should really have been staying with his wife (who is Nº 2 in Podemos) in a modest garret in a poor part of the city. His house may not be as large as some other politicians’ homes, but, hey, Pablo Iglesias’ message is about the little folk, not the nobs on the hill!
A couple of weeks ago, Pablo criticised Amancio Ortega, who is Spain’s wealthiest man (his daughter is third on the moneyed list of billionaires). Amancio has donated expensive machinery to the Spanish health service and Pablo made the point that tax-avoiders should pay their dues rather than perform philanthropic stunts. This, as the Americans say, didn’t go down well in Peoria.
Now, with several founder-members of Podemos either absent, or in another party (Iñigo Errejón being the most notable), or quitting (the leader of Podemos for Zaragoza says ‘she’s lost the dream’ and quits politics), or critical of Iglesias following two disastrous election results; with several break-away Podemos parties like Compromís, Podemos Andalucía (here),  En Marea and Ahora Madrid. Now fellow party founder Ramón Espinar is proposing ‘an urgent Citizen Assembly to address "the failure" of Podemos, "that is broken into pieces"’. ‘Kichi’, the charismatic mayor of Cádiz, supports the idea. Could Espinar be planning to take over the party as Iglesias falls on his sword asks the media?
While Pedro Sánchez holds Pablo Iglesias at arm’s length following the general elections, needing but not needing the input from Unidas Podemos, the Podemos leader has created a small purge in the party, removing the wheelchair-bound Pablo Echenique as party spokesperson in favour of dreadlocks Alberto Rodríguez.
For Iglesias, it could be coming to the end of the trail, a shame indeed, for he will – someday – be recognised as being one of Spain’s greatest politicians.