Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Hard News is Good to Find

There's hardly any coverage of the, well let's call it 'News Event of the Year', especially for the British ex-pats, to be found in today's Weeniegraph.
We mean of course the Black Wednesday, the departure of the UK from the European Union: the Brexit. Whatever happens, we know that it'll happen double to the British living in Europe.
We are treated instead to an editorial about an event outside the British Parliament last week when a brutish British lunatic drove into a crowd and knifed a policeman to death before meeting his own violent end. Turning to Leaky Lee's page, we discover that '...there are thousands more goat grabbing gnat brains out there waiting to step into his shoes'.
The inference being that many Muslims prefer a good goat-fuck over even the notorious 72 virgins ('...enslaved to comply with his every twisted fantasy...') that The Leaker seems so read up about.
It's not easy filling up the spaces between the adverts in a free-sheet, and good editors are scarce, but the question returns: is this newspaper serving the interests of its readers?
For proper news about Spain; no adverts, no fluff and above all, no Leaky Lee, you should turn to Business over Tapas (here).

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Fake News from the UK

From the sometimes fake news champion The Express: ‘Spain's EU exit on horizon as “only a miracle” can save nation from debt bubble bursting. Spanish university professors and economists are calling on Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy to come clean over its debt burdens as calls for the country to leave the European Union grow’. Well, let’s see – one does: Roberto Centeno from the far-right Intereconomía group (Wiki). But even he makes no mention (nor can there be one) of Spain wanting to leave the EU.

Oliver Cromwell's Commonwealth Lasted Twenty One Years

There has been talk on the Facebook about what to call the UK after Brexit - whether as a whole, or (increasingly likely) as just a core. An England and Wales sort of thing.
Naturally, those in favour of the EU (known as 'The Remoaners' by their rivals) and those who like Brexit (increasingly referred to as 'The Quitlings') have very different ideas of how to call the Royaume once the shit has hit the fan (Wednesday. Looks at watch).
But, analysing the different characters of the leavers and the stayers, those who hate racism and pettifoggery versus those who see a bright (if a trifle misty) new country, free from the shackles of garlic-eating foreigners, I think that 'The Fatherland' would be an appropriate name for whatever emerges from the wreckage.
I've even written the first verse of the new anthem:

God save our Fatherland
Long live our Fatherland
God Save Us: Please.
Long Life in Bigotry,
Here where we Once were Free
Three Cheers for Penury
God Save Us: Please.

I'll need a second verse though...

Monday, 27 March 2017

Big City News

It seems that, after several decades of doubt, interference, disapproval from Seville and 'what about my bit of land?', Mojácar's cunning urban plan - the PGOU - is to finally be approved.
The number of dwellings that catch the sun and inspire travelling artists is to increase from 9,500 to 15,000, and we can now plan for a permanent population of around 25,800 souls, says La Voz de Almería here.
This may, of course, include the Mojácar share of the massive project planned by the Junta de Andalucía back in the halcyon days of the Boom, in 2007.  That's to say, the giant 6,200 hectare Llano Central project, which will fill up the empty bit between Vera, Turre, Los Gallardos, Antas, Garrucha and Mojácar turning us, together, into the fourth biggest city in the province. (well, you didn't think the projected AVE train station in Vera was just for Don Paco and his chickens, did you?).
The Llano Central and its clutch of second-line hotels and golf courses and 25,000 homes-without-a-view went quiet after the bust of 2008, but things are now slowly improving, and a lot of important people bought some hitherto worthless land a decade ago...
If the Mojácar urban plan doesn't include the monster to the north, we are still looking at a progression from a small artists' village, to a tourist town, to a large resort.
Still with just the one narrow road along the beach... and apparently, no proper beach-bars.

Friday, 24 March 2017

The Dutch Nob

Now and again, a Dutchman called Peter Janssen likes to paint his body with provocative words and to leap over the ruedas at the bullring to make his point of view made to, precisely, the people who are the least interested in the world in knowing it: that's to say, bullfight fans. He's done this, to date, on sixteen occasions.
The aficionados have paid their money to see a legal (and state-approved) cultural spectacle, only for Dutch Pete or one of his mates to make his tiresome statement.
It's, at the very least, a presumption that his view of things is better than anyone else's.
So, he gets fined. Anything from 300 to 30,000 euros, for being a twat. He doesn't care - a 'foreign charity' coughs up the boodle.
Understandably, the toro people are fed up.  We don't interrupt your football games with silly slogans about half-naked millionaires chasing after a bag of wind, they might almost be saying.
The 'Fundación Toro de Lidia' have scraped together some dosh and gone to find some expensive lawyers, who in turn have come up with a cunning plan: Pete and his pals are now guilty of a form of violent coercion which is punishable by a jail term.
The Dutch crusader, currently in foreign parts, is now 'en busca y captura', which may help cool his jets if he ever returns to Spain.
El Mundo has more.

Beach Gravel - Not for Sitting on (though, in fairness, it does make a great sand-castle)

The beaches around here, from Mojácar to Cuevas, have just been refreshed by a large dump of sand for The Season. The timing wasn't perfect, as the last storm was still pulling the beach into the sea, but now everything is calm once again.
Except in The Ecologists' fur-lined beach-hut.
The sand, you see, isn't sea-sand, but rather comes from a gravel pit, say the tree-huggers. 15,000 square metres of gravel dust, stones, pebbles and anything in-between. Not the proper stuff.
Bad or uncomfortable for one's feet and under the bathing costume.
Furthermore, we read in Teleprensa that 'Ecologistas en Acción' reckon that the mix is mortal for the sea-dwelling fauna with which we are locally blessed.
...and so on. Those fur-lined beach-huts are expensive.
Our own opinion: Mojácar's shore-line gets very close near our famous beach-bars, and the master-plan of the Town Hall is to occupy a strip between the chiringuitos and the sea for their walk-way, bicycle lane and sundry other wonders. This will be a built-up rocky affair, looking delightful from the sea, but very crowded from the shore. The beach-bars will become kiosks, with no room to sling a hammock.
One answer to this is to make the beach wider at this point - with a small breakwater. The charming village of Costa Cabana, next to the airport, has just built eight breakwaters and their beaches are now fifty metres wide. No beach-bars of course, but lots of empty beach.
However, Mojácar doesn't do breakwaters (except where there are hotels). This could be from pressure, perhaps, by the many restaurants on the other side of the road?
So, we shall see how the Spring-break and the Easter crowd reacts to our sandy beaches. The next phase of the promenade will probably begin this coming winter...  

Thursday, 23 March 2017

The End of an Era

The British government is to trigger the infamous Article 50 on Wednesday 29th of this month. This is the mechanism to begin the UK’s departure from the EU. It should apparently take two years to achieve. Maybe.
It is the beginning of – at the very least – a leap into the dark. The seminal joke circulating on Twitter says: ‘Don’t forget, the clocks go forward one hour on Sunday and then back sixty years the following Wednesday’.
This may be a tragedy for the United Kingdom (or, yes, a blithe and fearless ascent into some fluffy Wonderland), but, on the whole, it could be a good thing for the remaining 27 States within Europe.
Two reasons: firstly, because the UK was always the one putting the brakes on the European project and secondly, ensuring that no one else follows the British exit, we can expect a slightly more democratic and sensible Europe – the future Home of Straight (and Curly) Bananas.
The losers in all this are the ones that Spanish Officialdom might describe dismissively as being ‘en una situación irregular’. Those of us who weren’t planned for in the European Utopia: the expatriate British in Europe, the expatriate Europeans in Britain.
Between one thing and another, these so-called ‘bargaining chips’ (who don’t have much political representation) add up to a little over four million souls  - the population, for example, of Croatia.
We are left with the European reaction to all this – perhaps London Loves Business can explain:
‘...Fury has erupted by euro-sceptics after Jean-Claude Juncker boasted how harshly Britain will be punished and that no-one else will want to leave the EU.  He said that the member states will all “fall in love” with each other again and this will ensure the survival of the Brussels club. Theresa May was also threatened that Britain will have to accept demands on the divorce bill as Brexit negotiators are preparing of up to a £50bn settlement that is regarded as Britain’s share of the liabilities. Mr Juncker was asked by Germany’s Bild am Sonntag about his concerns of other EU member states leaving the EU following our example in quitting. Mr Juncker said: “No. Britain’s example will make everyone realise that it’s not worth leaving.”...’.
Not a happy divorce it seems, but then, they never are...

Saturday, 18 March 2017

The Slow High-Speed Link

That railway-bed that lies between Turre and Los Gallardos, that's been there for several years now, is part of the AVE, the high-speed railway that will become, so they say, the Corridor of the Mediterranean. All those bridges. High speed trains don't do rises and drops and corners... they're going too fast, so the bed needs to be flat and straight.
Indeed, stretching off towards Almería, although not very far, the railbed passes through a couple of enormously expensive tunnels perforating the arid mountains, tunnels which have now been bricked up to stop the shepherds using them for shelter.
Going the other way, the future route just about makes it to Vera.
So, there's a lot to be done before the Almería to Murcia line is finished. Not that the Almería to Granada line is even started yet, but, patience.
Now we read that the builder of this Pharaonic endeavour, Adif, has cancelled their bid for the Cuevas to Pulpí chunk of the line.
Again, patience...

A Second Language

Here in the multicultural town of Mojácar, where half the students in the local school - as today as it was twenty years ago - are both foreign and bilingual, there is practically no one in the Town Hall who can manage a second language. We wonder what happens to them. Even the material from the tourist department, with its photos of our pueblo and the beaches, as often or not has a mistake in the English rendition. They might as well use Google Translate and be done with it.
Outside, in the shops, bars and restaurants, domination of English is, of course, far higher.
Across Spain, around 40% of Spaniards are said to speak a second (foreign) language. Half of these claim to speak English (although only a fifth of these can carry on a 'reasonable' conversation in English says El Mundo in an article from 2014).
Spain doesn't use subtitles much in Hollywood films or TV thrillers, preferring to use dubbing instead (the joys of hearing Humphrey Bogart in his original voice, or Homer Simpson for that matter, are lost to Spanish viewers). Franco didn't like people speaking in foreign, since they might be saying something he wouldn't have liked. So he insisted on dubbing instead of using subtitles (he banned the sign-language of the deaf for the same reason).
The joke here is that waiters need to speak English, but politicians don't. The reality is that many party leaders do - Pablo Iglesias from Podemos, Albert Rivera from Ciudadanos and Pedro Sánchez who was (and may return to be) the leader of the PSOE, are all fluent in English, although Mariano Rajoy famously doesn't speak a word of this or any other language beside his own. Over at El Confidencial, an article this week says that Rajoy is not alone - a massive 81% of Spanish deputies (parliamentarians) don't speak a second language.

From a Reader: About politicians speaking a second language:
First of all, I think any foreigner who wants to take part in a local election should understand enough Spanish to know what is being discussed.  Secondly, I don't think that Spanish politicians (and English ones, for that matter) really need to speak a second language, but I do think that they should learn to use their ears -  none so deaf as will not hear.   Spanish politicians by and large develop "wilful deafness" when talking to their Spanish voters, and by not understanding any foreign language they don't even have to make an effort not to hear what foreigners say.

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Property News

I receive a daily 'Google Alert' on Spanish property for my weekly Business over Tapas bulletin. Tonight's effort has two stories - one from an English-language freebie that says that the Spanish property market is stronger than ever before, while the other, from that splendid British Brexit-supporting newspaper The Sun, headlines with the breathless title 'Brits ditching plans to retire in sunny Spain amid fears Spanish government will punish ex-pats by barring healthcare and pensions after Brexit’.
One speaks for its advertisers, not its readers, while the other speaks for its owner and his political agenda.
Hmm, what to believe.
I think, on the whole, I'll stick to other more reliable sources.
I have a reputation to maintain.

Monday, 13 March 2017

Brexit. What a Mess

Following Scottish leader Nicola Sturgeon announcing earlier today that she will be seeking a second referendum for Scotland to leave the United Kingdom, we have already heard from the Welsh, whose Plaid Cyrmu leader says 'Welsh independence must be explored'... and also from the Northern Irish, in the shape of Michelle O'Neill, Sinn Fein's leader in the region, who says '...there is an urgent need for a referendum on Irish unity as the British government has "refused to listen" to the majority of people in Northern Ireland over Brexit'.
In short, the only people who appear keen to leave (and this is by no means all of them) are the English. Wouldn't it be easier, as people are beginning to ask, for the English to get it over with, go the whole hog, to leave both the EU and the UK and, in consequence, disappear - as they so earnestly dream - into inconsequentiality?
It must be hard to be a Brexiteer, when the evidence is so clearly against you. Even the racist card won't work any longer - are your roving gangs of skinheads going to resort to stringing up all the Commonwealth immigrants once the Europeans have been deported or obliged to leave?
Odder still are those Brexiteer Brits who live in Spain or France, desperately hoping that that bequiffed Dutch Nazi who's first name sounds like a lavatory cleaning product is going to win the elections there and that somehow, the whole of the European Union is going to collapse like one of Auntie's Yorkshire puddings and then, after the smoke clears, the dispirited Continentals, clutching their berets mournfully in their hands, are going to ask the English for help and advice. Such a cunning plan.
OK, seriously. For those of us ex-pat Brits who live in Spain, things will be hard following the Brexit. At the very, very least, your pound will be worth less (I say 'your', because I don't have any). Your money from the UK will be harder to get and your pension will probably be frozen to 2017 levels. Don't believe me? Remember, if you will, the Winter Heating Allowance. Nobody in Whitehall cares for us, you know.
Then, we can expect holidays to become more expensive, possibly with visas or ESTA approval. Doesn't matter for us, we are already here, watching our Sky TVs with mild concern, but for the family and friends...
Work permits will become the norm. For those of us who work here, that is, 'taking away a job that a Spaniard can do'. The Spanish would have scant reason to treat the Brits differently from how they treat any other non-EU national. We think we are the cleverest, bestest and most wonderful people in the world... but, you know (and you had better sit down for this): no one else does. Perhaps, with the visas and the three (hey, or maybe six) month extension non-legal residents will be allowed (those that aren't on the padrón and aren't registered with the police), they may find their stay here a little uncomfortable. In the old days, we would cross the frontier and get a stamp in our passport, but now, Europe doesn't have many frontiers, and the Gibraltar one will probably be closed. It sounds like the only thing for it is a quick dash for Dover or Southampton.
Those who are legal, 270,000 or so of us, will probably lose the vote in local elections (depending on whether the British Government agrees a bilateral deal with Spain). Our rare British councillors would, of course, disappear into the history books. We would obviously lose our European vote (for whatever good that's ever done us) as well but, who knows, perhaps the British would give those of us who've been here over fifteen years the right to vote in Westminster.
Cor. Imagine what I could do with that.
We could easily be asked by the Spanish authorities to show a certain amount in the bank and a viable income from abroad - perhaps hold a convertible account at the Unicaja as we did in Franco's times.
I must say, I'm feeling quite nostalgic at the thought of it.
The health card is another issue, and we are all getting a bit older now. No doubt the British embassy would be only to happy to help when we get sick. Perhaps they could organise a whip-round.
So, many of us might be tempted to go 'home', like the old Africa-hands before us. No longer sitting on the terrace at dusk, watching the elephants bathe in the nearby swamp as we enjoy drinking a sundowner or three, but now wandering around Sainsbury's wondering if they have any drinkable wine for under a tenner. To do this, we would need to raise some lolly and sell up the old casa, but there may be a drop in demand: a drop in prices. And, how much is a decent place in London or indeed Wells-next-the-Sea going for these days anyway?
Driving might be hard back in the UK, since we've all finally just about learnt to swerve to the right. But the hardest thing of all will be finding a suitable place to live. Perhaps the British Government would help - get the Poles (before they deport them) to build half a million Quonset huts on Salisbury Plain.
But before all that happens, I expect more than a few of us are going to discover that we have recent Scottish, or Welsh, or Irish ancestors, and we shall be negotiating urgently for a passport.
A useful passport.

Thursday, 9 March 2017

So Many Laws (No Wonder We Skip a Few of Them)

From Business over Tapas

Paperwork, laws, rules. Bureaucracy. Often from different offices, different authorities. The inspections... the social security... the ‘norms’ and so on. How do we do it? You may want to create employment and help the economy in a modest way, but first, you need to get those permissions to open. 
Tacitus says: Corruptissima re-publica, plurimae leges – the more corrupt a country is, the more laws it has. In Spain, we have more than 100,000 laws and regulations which occupy over 1,250,000 pages in the Official State Bulletin (BOE) and – at least – another 800,000 in the rules from the various autonomies. Vozpópuli opines on this subject here

A Reader writes: I wanted to comment on your snippet concerning Spanish laws and Spanish bureaucracy.  From what you write (and wrote earlier) I take it you haven't had to deal much with British laws and bureaucracy of late?  Or, for that matter, Dutch laws and bureaucracy.
What I find so refreshing in Spain is that there is little or no moral disapproval if you don't observe all the laws.  If you break a law (or do not observe it) and get caught, you get fined  - and the neighbours just shrug their shoulders and laugh a little for being such a fool as to get caught. Our experience has been that even the stern bureaucrats in Hacienda often shrug their shoulders and try to help us find a way of avoiding the worst tangles. Whereas in Holland and England, people who break the law also get disapproval ladled over them as being immoral and wicked - the neighbours won't speak to them and their children are not allowed to play with the children of the malefactor.
I suppose a lot of your time (and certainly a lot of our time) is spent on constructing methods of avoiding the problems encountered in observing all the laws, but then we have the same problems in Holland and England.  It is just that each country has a different area in which it is difficult and a lot of time passed in getting used to one country is spent on finding the "wriggle room".

Win a Car

Your chance to win a car. Alright, it's not much of a car, second-hand and built in India, but, hey, you can't look a prize like this in the mouth (or under the bonnet). All you need to do is answer thirty questions about this site in the most fawning way you can and the winner, or his descendent, will be chosen when the competition ends, in June 2025.

Saturday, 4 March 2017

Racism in Albion

I've not been to the UK for a long time - a brief transit at Heathrow; a few days in Salisbury three years ago and before that, twenty four hours in London about six years back. Really, for better than thirty five years, I have hardly set foot in the country where I was born.
So, all I know about Today's England is what I see on Facebook, or the TV, or from what people tell me. I say England, because I'm from there, born in Norfolk many years ago, and because things seem to be a little different in the rest of the UK (or, perhaps not).
The issue, of course, is racism. Following the Brexit, the good people of England have apparently decided on embracing racism and racial hatred. Is this true?
Can it be true?
I see so many articles and clips in the Media - here's one just now - showing a kind of horrific hatred for foreigners coming from the place where I was born.
My Godfather was a racist. He hated Jews and Blacks. He was briefly a Conservative MP before breaking away to form the National Front in the 'fifties. He told my Dad once 'We don't want the upper classes, or the educated - they like to ask questions and worry the subject. We want to speak for the little people, the workers, the mob'.
Brexit - from the point of view of any ex-pat (with a modicum of intelligence) - is bad. At least for those of us who live in Europe. If this racism, apparently encouraged and abetted by those who should know better, is going to direct policy on the European Union, then we are in for a tough time.
But, to get back to my question - has racism, jingoism and nationalism really taken hold in England?