Monday, 2 August 2021

A Spanish Passport

There are a lot of pluses in being a foreigner. One of them is that you can be eccentric without anyone minding too much (‘ah well, foreigners, hey?’) and another is that you can learn a whole new culture: its language, history and customs.

If you want to.

A school-friend of mine, like me, is married to a Spaniard. Like me, his Spanish is perfect, but, again like me, with a marked English accent. At least we have better grammar than many Spaniards, knowing the difference between a ver and haber, or vaya and valla.

We are in celebration as my friend has just got his Spanish nationality – it took him over five years for the appropriate funcionarios to leave their mark, but there it is. Passport too! Me, all I’ve got is the new-fangled foreign identity card or TIE (a loathsome thing which celebrates my novel status of no-longer-even-being-considered-a-European).

He called me this weekend to tell me the good news about his new nationality, and so – perhaps in a burst of (his newly-acquired) Latin excitement - he spoke to me over the phone in Spanish.

He never used to.

The British living in Spain have a regular – and painful – squabble about whether they are ‘expats’ or ‘immigrants’ – most of them leaning for some reason towards the latter. Now, my school-friend – he’s an immigrant!

But do the Spaniards think of him as Spanish? Probably, at first look, not; unless he wears a rojigualda tee-shirt – or writes a book about Lorca (ejem: Ian Gibson, Spaniard. Wiki).

Sometimes, foreigners become belovèd Spaniards at the drop of a hat – usually those who are very good at sports (there’s a hundred of them who became speedily naturalised in the past quarter century listed here). Indeed, several Europeans got themselves a quick Spanish passport through this scheme.  

Others have it more difficult. Lebanese pop-violinist Ara Malikian (Wiki) may have obtained Spanish nationality, but he’s still barred from the Latino Grammies even after being nominated. He says "In Lebanon they do not consider me to be Lebanese enough because I’m of Armenian origin, the Armenians did not consider me to be Armenian enough because I was born in Lebanon. When I settled in Europe they did not consider me European because I was not born in Europe. It took me years to be in peace with who I am and to accept being the eternal foreigner". Here’s a YouTube theme of his.

Returning to sport: something which is most encouraging can be found at this year’s Olympics. There’s a twenty-nine strong independent team of refugees coming from eleven different countries. They are the IOC Refugee Olympic team here.

C’est bon, ça.

Tuesday, 27 July 2021

Light 'em if You've Got 'em

 Now there’s a headline we never expected to see: ‘Tobacco firm Philip Morris calls for ban on cigarettes within decade’.

That’s the Marlboro people talking! When big-business, the government and the charities all agree on something, then there will be some changes coming.

There’ll come a time when the only agency that wants people to continue to smoke will be the tax-people. In Spain, 77% of a smoke ends up in taxes, that’s 9,000 million euros – or 4% of all tax-revenue in Spain. 43,000 people work in the sector – planting, rolling or selling them. In Spain, around 22% of adults are daily-smokers while another 25% claim to be ex-smokers says the WHO (May 31 2021).

We used to smoke in restaurants, in hospitals, in the airplane, in the cinema, in the lift, after sex and before breakfast. For a long while there, smoking was considered attractive (or manly), for which we can thank Madison Avenue and its equivalents elsewhere. In those days, cool and groovy people smoked, as the doctors looked on approvingly.

It was certainly a fun and daring thing to do at school (behind the lavatories).

Nowadays, we must not smoke in our car or on the beach. There’s now a designated place some five metres outside the front door of an office where people huddle, in all weather, for a fag. It must surely becoming ever-more clear to them that this is no longer a pleasurable pause, but an uncomfortable addiction, to say nothing of their promotion chances.

Eventually we smokers became short of breath and our clothes smelled. We gave up, or in some – many – cases, it gave us up. Joe Camel stopped being cool. He became a killer.

And yet…

Don’t smoke, don’t drink, don’t drive fast, don’t say this, don’t do that.

In the future, as we behave ourselves more and more, keeping within the narrow bounds of the limits set by society, we will probably live longer, only to finally expire of boredom in front of our tellies. 

Monday, 19 July 2021

They are on to you!

Cash is no longer King. The banks and the taxman have got together on this one – now all one’s loot has to go through the savings account.

One can no longer pay for anything in cash over 1,000€, using instead a credit card or bank transfer. This leaves a paper-trail so that Hacienda can cast a watery eye over each and every transaction larger than the purchase of a bottle of whisky or a pink unbreakable piggy-bank from the nearby Chinese bazaar.

From Laboro here: ‘For sure you have seen that the law prohibiting cash-payments over 1000€ has been approved by the Government (BOE 11/7/21). No doubt everyone thought that that was the end of payments to the plumber, or an expensive new washing machine, or crossing one’s lawyer’s palm with silver, or paying Paco down at the garage for his work on the car…’.

However, says the article, you can no longer – as an employer (which is what you are when you pay someone to do something) – pay a worker, even in fractional payments. That sum is gross – including transport, meals and the notorious ‘pagos extras’ (usually Christmas and late June extra wages).

Just paying in cash the first 999€ won’t work either, as any debt in full over 1,000€ must be satisfied through the bank.

How would Hacienda know about cash payments solemnly paid (laundered) into the bank? Even mini payments, a bit each day? From As here: ‘The Tax Agency monitors certain amounts of money that are paid in cash, so the citizen must be prepared to prove its origin’. We read, ‘…Specifically, the agency monitors cash payments that exceed 500 euros and any income in our bank account that exceeds 3,000 euros. The banks themselves are responsible for reporting this to the Tax Agency. This may not be a problem, because if Hacienda considers that the movement is legal, it will not inspect or sanction it. On the other hand, if they suspect something, they will initiate an investigation and the citizen must prove the origin of the money…’.

Fines can be as high as 150% of the ‘black’ money paid into the bank.

Of course, there is always the banco del colchón with variations between keeping a safe behind the oil painting of grandfather stuffed with cash, or folding it up under the mattress – as poor people have done for centuries.

Still, if you can’t spend it…


Monday, 5 July 2021

Face-mask (The Movie)


We can now (in certain circumstances) take off our face-masks outside, but I am not sure that all of us are going to take up that offer.

In my case, it’s good to be able to breathe properly once again after eighteen months behind the gauze, and the mask is without doubt an uncomfortable garment to wear (women say that now we men finally begin to understand the discomfort that the ladies must undergo from a brassiere). It also fogs up my glasses when I’m trying to read the tiny words on the screen of my android. The mask tickles, too.

However, there are some good reasons to continue to wear one while outside the house.

The obvious one is that the Covid is still around. Youngsters seem to be catching it more than the elderly – probably because they ‘party’ harder, and also because we’ve had our shots. Nevertheless, there are new variants and, perhaps in our ignorance / perhaps in our wisdom, we don’t want to mess with them.

Enough people have gotten sick from this dreadful virus.

Enough people have died.

I find a few other good reasons to wear a face-mask:

I can privately smile or even laugh at some of the outfits worn by people that I cross paths with, the tee-shirt or the tattoo.

I can confuse those intrusive face-recognition cameras which were filling up the streets just before the pandemic started.

It keeps the hot Spanish sol from burning my sensitive nose, a regular victim of sun-burn.

It has been easier for me than for many others – I live in the country on a horse-farm, so when other people weren’t about, or during the worst of the quarantine, I could spend time outside, and better still, without a mask. It must have been terrible for those who live in tiny apartments, locked away from the outside. No wonder they’ve had enough.

Wearing the face-mask isn’t really to protect oneself from infection, as much as protecting others from catching something that you yourself might be carrying – so it’s simply a question of good manners and responsible citizenship.

All this, plus I had bought 144 masks at a great price in the local market only last week…