Friday, 26 May 2017

Almería Islam: Ramadan Begins

Almería, we read, is the second province, after Alicante, with the highest proportion of foreigners, at 18.7% (official figure from the INE). While, yes, there are lots of Britons, the majority of these foreigners are Moroccans, and Ramadan, the month of fasting during daylight hours, has just begun.
According to La Voz de Almería, quoting figures from the Unión de Comunidades Islámicas de España, some 90,000 Muslims across the province will observe the festival, which is around 13% of the population (Spain's Muslim population is around 4%). Of these, around 27,000 are Spanish citizens, the others coming from Morocco, Algeria, Senegal and so on. The province has 52 mosques, although the large Muslim population that lives in El Puche - a slum area in Almería City near the Estadio de los Juegos Mediterráneos football stadium - must make their devotions on a piece of public land there.
The festival will end with the new moon, in 28 days time, and three days of celebration, the Eid al-Fitr follow.

Thursday, 25 May 2017

Brexodus on Facebook

I visit one of those 'Brexit is Terrible' Facebook pages aimed at slightly unsure Britons living here in Spain. It reproduces articles from the British press about how things are going downhill over there, or what a monster Mrs May is, or what a weed the other fellow is, or fruitless arguments about whether we are 'expats' or 'immigrants'.
The threads go around in a circle, drying up after a while, until they start again with another posted item.
I write a post - quoting a line from Leapy Lee, the man who 'dares to say what other people think'. The quote is in this week's Weenie and it comes from an article about the wonders of Mrs May:
'...Are not the pathetic leaders of the European Union acting exactly as we knew they would?
Their pouting, childlike attitude to the terms of the UK’s departure, is precisely the reason we need to leave this bunch of spoiled brat, unelected wastes of space to their own pathetic devices...'.

All good stuff. My point is that a newspaper serving the Britons who live in Spain could be a fraction more sanguine about life here, about our future and about our position. A little less about the moors murderer and other rum goings-on in the UK, the pesky Europeans and maybe a bit more about Spain? We had several large news stories here this week, after all.
The Facebook page in question didn't agree with me on this, and scrapped my post, as is its right to do so.
Now, its gone happily back to arguing about whether we are ex-pats or immigrants again.

*The page itself is part of a larger site, with much useful action taking place behind the scenes. I support its aims, of course. For another FB page with similar content - and an introduction to this one and others, go here.

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Spanish as She is Spoke

While many of the people who have gone through the Mojácar school, both today and over the past twenty years, are English, the Town Hall, as we know, has remained determined that none of them should be given a place amongst the staff there. Imagine - a bilingual person in a Spanish town where the most widely spoken language is English.
No local police, or specialists, or clerical staff, or anyone in the tourist office comes from the other side of the tracks.
Indeed, we recall that on the very day Rosmari won the last elections (24th May 2015), she fired her secretary, Francesca, who was the person who helped out the English.
We need an  office to help (help!) the foreigners who live here with their paperwork, with their taxes, with their doctor, with the cops: an office with a couple of bilingual foreigners (Angeli, the Dutch woman who speaks five languages, for example), but no. The Costa del Sol towns might have 'em, the Costa Blanca towns too - but here in Mojácar - it's all and only jobs for the Mojaqueros. You want a translator - go pay for one!
OK, we know, it's a lost battle.
But, when our town hall elders promote Mojácar to the visitors in fractured English, as happens every day, then the reaction can be something other than what was wanted. Disbelief. Laughter.
We are not a town without human resources.
But, anyway; that battle is lost too. Mojácar is for the Mojaqueros. We, who have come here to live, may love the place to bits, but, well, our friends and neighbours here see the old place more as an opportunity than a beloved home.
If I had made ten or twenty million euros out of my town, why, I'd build a theatre, or a hall, or a clinic. The Lenox Napier Clinic for Elderly Drunkards. But here, in what is apparently the richest town per capita in the whole of Andalucía, there's not even a park bench somewhere with a modest brass plaque saying 'Donated by Paco the Good' or some such.
We know this and we carry on with our lives. It's not worth a fight. And, although for example my three bilingual children, all brought up here in Mojácar, are currently settled in another country, well, perhaps we should be happy with what we've got.
But along comes a terrible tragedy in far-off Manchester, followed by some thoughtful and kind words from the Mayoress for our condolence - presented just in Spanish, (translated here, apparently, by a foreign resident for a Facebook page with the help of Googlespeak): '...Similarly, wishes to inform the British population resident in mojácar that yes, unfortunately, one of them has been affected by this barbaric act, has opened the gates of the city of mojacar and have all the help you can offer this municipality'.
An opportunity to bring us all together collapses quickly into farce.

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

The PSOE is Reborn

In the election to the socialist Party Secretary on Sunday, Pedro Sánchez won with just over 50% of the vote from the militants. Susana Díaz, who was around 10 points behind him, couldn’t even mention his name in her brief speech following the count.

El Pais, the newspaper of the institutional PSOE so to speak, has a lively anti-Sánchez position. Here is its by-now famous editorial just after the Sunday count:El ‘Brexit’ del PSOE’. In the translation over at El País in English, the editorial begins, ‘Pedro Sánchez’s victory at the Spanish Socialist Party primaries places the PSOE in one of the most difficult situations in its long history. The return of a secretary general with such a legacy of electoral defeat, internal division and ideological swings cannot but be cause for deep concern...’. It goes downhill from there, later on likening Sánchez to Donald Trump! El Mundo worries that Sánchez won’t be able to unify the PSOE, pointing out that Susana Díaz avoided congratulating Sánchez in public, even though she was in the same building. The tough PP leader from Catalonia, Xavier García Albiol, says that the victory of Sánchez is a ‘disgrace for Spain’. Other sources are rather more optimistic, including El Diario, who says that the party-members have defeated the barons of the party, and El Huff Post which begins an article with ‘"They failed to understood the scale of the political change we are in," said Pedro Sánchez this week about Felipe González, Rubalcaba, Zapatero and the territorial leaders who were against him. The primaries have shown that they did not understand the political change, or, what is more serious, the change in their own party: it was of such a magnitude that the militancy has made a mockery of its establishment and is prepared to face a time without popes, nor barons, nor sultanas, nor guardians, nor flappers. The Chinese vases of the PSOE have been shattered...’. An editorial at El Diario says that ‘Sánchez has been reborn from the ashes and returns to lead the PSOE with an unquestionable victory and more power than he ever had before’. And back to the opinion piece in El PaísPúblico has its own: ‘Madre Mía, the reaction on the Internet to the editorial from Prisa’. 

Saturday, 20 May 2017

Motoring News

According to an article in Saturday's El Mundo, the ITV inspection on vehicles (the MOT) is to become 'a lot more severe' from next year. It won't be any good buying a clapped out old oil-burner to go to the shops any more - it'll be failed by the goombahs. So, we must either buy a spanking new car from the beaming concesionario on the corner, or get those bus tokens ready.
Another fly in the motorist's ointment is plans from the DGT, the traffic police, to give you a lifetime ban the second time they catch you 'over the limit' (and there's you thinking they were just after the fines!).

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Beach-Bar Wars - There's always Vera.

As the beach-bar row in Mojácar intensifies, with the regional TV taking interest (video here), one thing is clear: the Iron Lady is not for changing her mind. A couple of beach-bars in the long run will survive, including the 'treasure island' one known as La Manacá (waaaay down past the Tower), the ubiquitous sore-thumb Mandala and something being cooked up by a local chap down in the Río Abajo; but the others will lose, at the very least, their views and, more likely, part of their concession. The bars in the current round of building the Great Sea Wall will lose around half of their space, so there'll likely be no more lunches or pop concerts.
Tito escaped this in part (and got a nice car-park built next door) but his place was neutered and is now little more than a kiosk with people walking through and past. Not the place to smoke a joint then. Perhaps that will be the lot of the Patio 2000, the Maui and the Cid - to stock beers and ice-creams; maybe the Aku Aku could serve paella to go. Maybe the next round of beach-bars, which will be demolished (the Cava, Dolce Vita and La Pirata) will be able to open something somewhere else - Turre maybe.
As Mojácar's charm crumbles in the face of iconoclastic mediocrity, Vera Playa is looking increasingly attractive. There are a number of beach bars there, including the huge new Lua Puerto Rey (here) and the even larger (at 7,000 metres) Marau 'Beach Club' (here), plus a generous handful of others, with some nudist ones as well.
Those of us who live here and own property have an investment in our town. We would like to think that we had bought wisely. Maybe we did. Maybe we didn't.

Sunday, 14 May 2017

In Germany, Before the War...

From Europa Press comes an article which begins: 'The Spanish Government has requested an official investigation into the xenophobic attacks perpetrated against Spanish individuals or businesses in the United Kingdom since the referendum in which it was decided to leave the EU (Brexit). The crimes of hate against foreigners have increased since the consultation and, although their main victims have been Polish citizens, there have also been cases that have affected Spaniards...'. The item goes on to mention a Spanish citizen, attacked with a wooden board in the street, after a British yob heard him speaking Spanish.
A Spanish friend comments to me that 'in general, the Spaniards in the UK are young professionals at work, not like the type of drunken Brit that we get here'.
You see how easy it is?

Sunday, 7 May 2017

Beach Bar Blues

Part of our new plans for Mojácar, at least, those as decided by the Town Hall, include stretching the beach walkway - rather better sounding in Spanish, the Paseo Marítimo - all the way from the ghastly Hotel Indalo as far as Garrucha.
The Paseo is a stone wall (to defend us from sea serpents and Barbary pirates) topped by a walkway, with flower gardens and wooden benches - not the kind presented to the corporation by successful local merchants, we don't do those things here - and a cycle path - for those too scared to use the road.
All of this beach architecture eats into what is previously there. Scrub... or parking spaces... or, as around the El Patio beach bar and its neighbours, beach bars!
The beach there is a narrow space between the sea itself, continually eating away at the sand and rock, and the narrow road which serves our entire resort (a road which, as another part of the General Plan informs us, will need to support a residential population of triple what it is now).
Alternatives to the Death of the Chiringuitos exist, but are unpopular in Official Circles. We could move them to where the beach is wider, in front of the camping... or we could build small piers to increase the amount of sandy beach itself...
Or we could drop the whole sorry idea.
But no. Work is already starting, bringing the current phase of the beach promenade from the Cruz Roja down to the Maui beach bar - well known in Spain as the home of Mujeres, Mojitos, Mojácar.
What will the beach bars do? Well, they could reinvent themselves like Tito's, which successfully turned itself from a beach bar into a sort of kiosk, with the General Public walking (or cycling) past between the customers and the beach beds. It takes away the atmosphere, but the ice creams are good.
Of course, there just isn't room in the case of Maui, or El Cid or El Patio. The walkway will be about eight or ten metres wide (I say, without checking the plans) and there is little sand there on the beach side as it is. Say they run the thing inwards from about where the tables start.
There might just about be room for a bar and some stools. No sea-view, no tables, no beach beds.
No concerts, of course.
Mind you, and luckily for us, on the other side of the road there are some fine Mojaquero establishments to dine in.
... ...
The Town Hall is sometimes thought to be 'stupid', but it's not.
There is a perfectly fine plan for our municipality. This resolves, essentially, around making wealth for the Mojaqueros themselves. This is now seen to be through 'bucket and spade' tourism, families with kids, rather than non-local residents who are looking in a different direction indeed. These foreign and national residents want a peaceful (yet noisy) Mojácar, rather than the other way round. They don't want neon, traffic jams, queues and seasons. More worryingly still, they (we) are in the majority and could easily wake up and vote against the Five Families.

The new paseo will cut the beach bars in half. El Ideal here.
The 'Save Our  Chiringuitos' Facebook page here.

There will be a plenary session on Wednesday10th May  in the Mojácar Town Hall (opposite the Church) to rubber stamp the PGOU General Plan, starting at 9.00am. The Public is welcome to attend.

Friday, 5 May 2017

Cleaning up the Smog from Carboneras

The Carboneras power station, run by Endesa, is filthy. It releases a large amount of smog into the atmosphere - smog, which can easily be seen through Polaroids, hanging dismally over the sea most afternoons, or, if you happen to be in a yacht, then the purple cloud can be seen floating over the land. Bédar, which for some reason has a detector that measures atmospheric contamination, has been publishing unacceptably high limits of  poisonous gases including sulphur dioxide - responsible in the province, say Greenpeace, for up to 110 premature deaths a year for respiratory problems.
This week, Endesa, which is owned by the Italian energy giant Enel - has announced that it is investing 250 million euros in the power station to clean its output, 'demonstrating the company's commitment to the province of Almería'. In fact, because of new European rules.
The changes will reduce sulphur dioxide (SO2) emissions by 60% and nitrous oxide (CO2) by 80% say the company, beside creating 500 new jobs.
The power station's output is gigantic, especially when the surrounding consumer population is so small. This is because the electricity is added to the national grid.
Work on the power station will be completed by the summer of 2018.

Updated contamination levels across Andalucía can be found here. Bédar levels for May 4th are SO2 - good; NO2 - good; particles - good; 03 - acceptable; air quality - improving. 

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

The Whitewash

This is the Calle La Cal - a narrow street in Mojácar Pueblo. It's an odd name for a street where the whitewash is falling off, especially as Rosmari has been asking everyone to paint their houses for the tourist season. The street used to be called Calle Pedro Barato - in honour of Cheap Pete, an American who built the next door restaurant El Palacio back in 1970. He was called Cheap Pete because he was an antique dealer, always with the best price. Anyhow, La Calle de Pedro Barato - the ONLY recognition ever made by Mojácar towards all of those foreigners who revived this pueblo when it was nothing - was renamed by the current régime as the romantic-sounding Calle La Cal. Whitewash Street.

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Back Home (a Fantasy, Of Course)

We had been back in England for a couple of weeks, housed in a giant sprawl of wooden huts and buildings erected on Salisbury Plain. I was in a dormitory of around a hundred people, a small microcosm of expatriate British, considered as little better than traitors by the larger public. The dorm was run by three protestant Irish fellows, who had evidently preferred to move to England rather than see their island reunited following the Brexit.
Each of us had a bed and a lockable wardrobe. The lock on mine had been forced and a couple of bits of silver and jewellery taken the day I arrived. We had been arrested in our different European countries (except for Germany, which didn’t seem to mind), taken to various congregation points, and bussed or shipped back to the UK. I remember the police saying ‘one small bag, no pets and no foreign consorts’.
Most of us had ended up here in the camp. I imagine some were doing well enough, perhaps they had enough money to circumvent The Trouble, perhaps they owned a place in the UK. Perhaps they had escaped to Morocco or Germany.
We heard of stories of confused expatriates driving on the wrong side of the road. Others punched for drinking without paying; others still, attacked by thugs for queue-barging. It was for our own good, they had told us, a lot of angry people in England wanted to harm us: Daily Mail readers, we said. Nazis, we whispered.
It gets cold in England in October, and the heaters in the dormitories weren’t working. ‘The winter allowance hasn’t come through’, said a jocular Ulsterman. We wondered how long we would have to stay in the camp.
That autumn, we were obliged to begin heavy labour – cutting trees, farming, building. It was to help pay for our food, they said. You need to contribute to the War Effort, they told us. The gates are locked for your protection, said a billboard.
‘The only way out of here is in a coffin’, said an emaciated man who had a bunk near my own.
‘I don’t think so’, I answered.