Tuesday, 30 July 2019

The Condrey Prize

A British entrepreneur was given a prize – organised by La Voz de Almería and the town halls last week in a local gala in Northern Almería (surprising enough to me – such a thing would would never happen in Mojácar) and this honour has upset some of the local Brits. 
Gordon Condrey, who has been in the area with his Spanish wife for at least thirty years, began promoting Albox and the surrounding area of the Almanzora Valley to his fellow Brits back in the mid-nineties. Not all of his deals were ‘sweet’, and they included homes which would later figure among the 300,000 ‘illegal homes’ as created by the Junta de Andalucía in around 2007 (we remember Helen and Len Prior).  
The mayor of the nearby municipality of Arboleas, who chose Gordon for the 2019 honour, seems popular enough with his foreign residents. But maybe not. The story can be found at Almeria Hoy here and at Murcia Today here. Neither article features a reply from either Mr Condrey or the Arboleas Town Hall.
It probably won't in Thursday's Weenie either.

Tuesday, 16 July 2019

The Expat View of the Running of the Bulls

One of the services of my mobile phone is to send news items which, through clever algorithms, can decide that the owner of the device – me in this case – might be interested in viewing. Some of these make their way to Business over Tapas, since my phone is tuned, through a process somewhere between supply and demand... and outright spying on my viewing habits...  to Spanish news (plus a sprinkling of Brexit stuff, but that’s another story). One of the stories that came up on Monday was an item from The Olive Press telling me of the ‘Grisly fate of Pamplona bulls during Spain’s famous San Fermin festival’. Apparently, they end up in the bull ring where they are killed. Well, golly gee, who knew?
The EWN calls it ‘T
A clutch of anti-taurinos
he Festival of Cruelty’ in an editorial and wants the bull-running banned (the Pamplona burgers raking in 165 million euros during the festival in 2017 – here - would disagree). We foreigners know what is best for our Spanish friends, apparently. 
The British embassy was offering tips on how to enjoy the Pamplona festival on Facebook last week, and got shot down in flames by hundreds of irate expats here.
The Pamplona bullring is the fourth largest in the world, at 19,720 people. There were bullfights this year (here) for ten days. Bullfights are expensive – (El País claimed back in 2008 that a first class bullfight would cost the promoter around 90,000€) and of course no one would bankroll them if they lost money. According to Temas de Empresa here, ‘The Fiesta del Toro is an economic engine that not only generates employment but also produces good returns and feeds thousands of families. According to the Junta de Andalucía in Spain this sector moves 2,500 million euros and in Andalucía about 500 million. As for the number of employment, the Fiesta Nacional is worth somewhere between 180,000 and 200,000 direct jobs...’.
Bullfighting is a sensitive issue of course – most Europeans don’t like it – but to misrepresent it so banally to the expatriate readers to, what, gather ‘likes’ on the Facebook page (?) seems a little silly, because it begs the larger question – what else is being misrepresented in the expat press?
In other news, and no doubt to the disgust of the anti-taurinos, the Coliseo Balear de Palma de Mallorca celebrates its ninetieth anniversary this year and they will have a bullfight there on August 9th – the first since the recent local prohibitions were cast down as unlawful by the Spanish government.

Monday, 8 July 2019

Well Done Spain, You Came Fourth

Excellent news from the HSBC, the bank that says we, er, Ex-pats rate Spain as the fourth best place to live and work in the whole wide world (or ‘www’ as we call it for short). The bank in question, the Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Limited, is as right as it is wrong. Yes, Spain is a truly great place to live, but what’s in it for the HSBC, its customers, friends and employees? The HSBC in its Country Guide (here) has this to say ‘...Those seeking an improvement to their quality of life should look to Spain. Ex-pats report improvements to both physical and mental well-being, all while enjoying an incredible climate...’, giving Spain fourth place overall worldwide.  
A bank is the last place I would ask for a great place to live (I wonder which country the Bullfight Gazette or maybe the Saki Drinkers Guide would recommend), but beggars can’t be choosers. The local English-language press have taken up the story with the fourth place converted to first (after all, who wants to live in Singapore or Switzerland?). The Olive Press says: ‘Spain voted BEST country in world for ex-pat quality of life. "Ex-pats in Spain are happier, healthier and their aspirations are to live comfortably amongst beautiful surroundings"'. We read in an enthusiastic El País in English that ‘...83% of foreign residents saying their overall wellbeing had improved since arriving...’.
So who will argue with this claim? The Spanish like it, the ex-pats like it, and to put a cherry on the top, Foreign Policy hasSpain’s Formula to Live Forever. The country is set to boast the world’s longest life expectancy by 2040. What are the Spanish doing right?’ The article cites clean water, healthy food and ‘a mild climate’, plus institutional respect for the elderly.
Many foreigners who move to Spain (or who work for the HSBC and its friends) will have learned Spanish beforehand. Others – perhaps elderly souls who find it difficult learning another language, and equally difficult finding anyone to practice it on, may identify slightly with this amusing story of a Brit interviewed on radio who after 27 years still can’t speak a word of Spanish. ‘...Lenny replied: "I can not pronounce the words, I am a cockney."...’.
There are many like Lenny, and what a lot are they missing. How can you rate a country when you have no idea of the culture, the language, the politics and the people?
Spain is a fine place to live as we all know, although Portugal might be a better bet – it’s cheaper, has a special ten years no-tax deal for foreign settlers, and – unlike Spain – doesn’t have a Modelo 720 to try our patience.
Let’s see what the HSBC think of Portugal... No, not mentioned at all in the Top 33 (Brazil is 33rd).
Maybe they don’t have a branch in Lisbon.  

Wednesday, 3 July 2019

Albert's Nightmare

Four years ago, Albert Rivera was Europe’s Golden Boy: the man who spoke for the uneasy elite and the moral yet indignant middle-classes. Now, the same man is enjoying a perfect storm. His refusal to either support or at least abstain and allow Pedro Sánchez to form a government is causing him headaches. His party’s apparent romance with Vox is causing him nightmares. So far, he has been criticised by his erstwhile mentor Emmanuel Macron who now openly wonders whether Ciudadanos is a Brussels ALDE ‘liberal party ally’ after all.  Several of his senior partners in Ciudadanos have quit in the past few days, including his party spokesperson for finance Toni Roldán (here), the MEP Javier Nart (here) plus the Asturias regional candidate Juan Vásquez (here) and his substitute Ana Fonseca (here). Support from star-signing Manuel Valls has also disappeared. Worse still, the party co-founder Francesc de Carreras criticises Rivera heavily in an interview with La Vanguardia ‘He refers to the leader of the orange party as "a capricious teenager who takes a strategic 180-degree turn and puts supposed party interests before the general interests of Spain"’.
Now, as Rivera refuses to pose in a photo with Pablo Casado and ‘his executive shows signs of fracture’ (here), seventy per cent of his supporters think the party should allow Pedro Sánchez to be sworn in as president and as El Mundo reveals this week, a dispirited 20% of Ciudadanos voters are now regretting their choice.
Unlike Podemos, Ciudadanos appears to be sinking without anything much achieved, as the New York Times has it, thanks in part to Rivera’s ‘ideological incoherence’.
The PSOE smells blood says ElDiario.es here.
The jokes are now flying thick and fast (always a bad sign in politics), with Diarí Català leading the charge here. While even Felipe Gonzalez has torn up his party card says the satirical magazine El Jueves here.  A Facebook joke says that with the loss of MEP Carolina Punset (who left the party in October last year), Valls, Roldán, Nart and Vázquez, all Rivera’s got left to love him these days is Pablo Casado and Santiago Abascal.
The main difference between Pablo Iglesias, whose star is also falling, is that Iglesias has achieved much, while Rivera, outside of his party politics and personal ambition, has achieved nothing beyond division.