Thursday, 28 December 2017

The Numbers Don't Add Up

As far as I am able to set the record straight - this week's Weenie claims in a preening article that it has been 'published for 21 years', which would put issue Nº1 as coming out back in 1996. The numeration - 1695 - is a bit wonky for that claim as 1,695 weeks backwards takes one to the year 1985 when, of course, 'The Entertainer' started on a kitchen table in Mojácar.
The Entertainer was 'sold' in 1999, and the paper renamed as the EWN in 2002, although, misleadingly,  the old numeration continues to this day.
Basic fact-checking, Gentlemen.

Tuesday, 26 December 2017

Actualidad Almanzora - Useful News

While our local English-language newspapers are full of blethering articles about dogs and day-visits to the cheese factory, the only free local Spanish paper, Actualidad Almanzora, weighs in on heavier stuff.
The latest one has articles about the defeat for Rosmari on her plan to build the paseo maritimo through (rather than around) the beach bars; the broken desalination plant in Palomares; the issues with Sierra Cabrera; a political fraud in Carboneras. There's an essay of the murders carried out in Mojácar during the Civil War; the scandal of an illegal brothel with some underage women in Cuevas (thirty arrests) and more...
Most articles are a page in length, rather than a paragraph with a stock picture and a ridiculous title.
Actualidad Almanzora, now a monthly, deals with political opinion across the spectrum, and the editorial pages are open to anyone. There will be an article, without doubt, in the next issue, devoted to the Priors (ten years anniversary of living in a garage on January 8th 2018).
Miguel Ángel Sánchez, the director, is a professional journalist from Murcia. He also operates Vera Comunicación - the local municipal radio. The paper is free, and it is supported by the local Spanish town halls and businesses. The staff also run a blog.
Being a free publication, it must live from advertising - which it does, with many full page adverts from local town halls and political parties from different sides. Perhaps admiration and fear are equally mixed in their support.
The only town hall that won't touch it, hasn't advertised in many years and has no intention of supporting this useful publication, is of course Mojácar. Indeed, the mayoress even went to the extreme a few years ago of banning radios within the ayuntamiento, since some of her staff were found to be listening to the Vera radio.
Mojácar could always start its own radio of course - there's a municipal radio licence already granted by the Junta de Andalucía.
Since the Actualidad Almanzora is actually read (rather than used to light the fire), foreign advertisers might like to take note. 

Saturday, 23 December 2017

Theresa May (Be Polite)

I found Theresa May's facebook page and wrote this:
Dear Mrs May - 1.2 million of your compatriots are living in another EU27 country and, therefore, under their aegis and laws. This includes me (Hello!, Merry Christmas). We are understandably uneasy about what may befall us - based (we imagine) on what may befall the EU citizens who are working or studying in the UK. We could lose our vote in local elections (I haven't had a vote - ever - in the British ones, and it is nice to be able to vote somewhere now and again). We will most probably lose the right to stand for local office in our adopted countries. Perhaps you could, with your influence, suggest that Brussels produces a European ID card or 'passport' (we remember the Nansen Passport of the 1920s) and allow us 'expatriates' to stay with whatever rights and privileges we currently enjoy. Muchas gracias y un saludo.

Friday, 22 December 2017

The British Junta

There doesn't seem to be what we might understand as a 'government' in the UK any more. The people running the place, and the people in opposition, both seem convinced that by switching off the current, and then on again, they will somehow have, in some vague and ill-thought-out way, a better country at the end of the exercise. A brand new country with a blue passport, containing - don't forget - lots of pages in it for those visas the British - those that can bear to travel - will be needing.
How can the opposition not be an opposition?
Between them, the two main parties seriously appear to think that they will get a better deal from Europe - deal in any sense of the word - when they are outside?
You divorce your wife, and yet you still expect sex...
...and dinner and your clothes washed.
There doesn't seem to be neither rhyme nor reason to the Brexit - besides the joy of somehow sticking it to the foreigners (an activity long enjoyed by both the racists, the nazis and the profoundly ignorant). What can it possibly achieve -  a better trade agreement with the Malagasy Republic? Donald Trump, a man who evidently likes his cash, will come to the rescue of the plucky island nation? Is that the plan?
In some way, it might be a good thing with the UK crashing out of the European romance. The rest of the EU (with a population of 678 million people) might be able to move forward with its plans to federalise, to have a European army and both a single currency and borders. That would be something to be proud of - and part of.
So the British junta, which, joking aside, no longer represents the majority of its people, will nevertheless impose its recessionary plan on its people. Fuck - no second referendum they say with one voice (fearful of losing?).
That's not democracy.
We Britons in Europe, living here without knowing if we can stay (we have no champions beyond a few earnest agitators in Madrid, Berlin and Paris), must either wait with resignation for some or all of our 'privileges' to be removed from us, or possibly (if the British junta really buggers it up) even forced repatriation.
It would be nice if the EU were to feel suitably appalled and consequently give us expatriates a special deal to allow us to stay - maybe a European ID card (issued gamely to us refugees). But, heh, they won't.
Otherwise, as the British mercilessly increase the political and social pressure on their resident foreigners (in some vague suspicion that they are taking their jobs and sleeping with their womenfolk), we shall be caught in the same trap.
Will there be room for one million two hundred thousand extremely irritated expatriates dumped unceremoniously back in the UK?
Where the Hell is a 21st Century Guy Fawkes when you need one?

Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Water in Short Supply

Almería has always had water, sort of, with underground rivers flowing from the high sierras. We have a number of desalination plants (some of them mysteriously shut after a huge investment) and we have water sent in from the Tajo/Segura canal.
We also appear to be using more water than ever before. Golf courses are notoriously thirsty, and so are giant plantations of olives, the plastic farms, our hotels and swimming pools.
What with an increased demand, leaks in the supply-pipes (an average of 25%),  a lack of rain and a few scams in the water business, we are running low.
Almería figures have been released for our two main reservoirs at Benínar and Cuevas, and they are down to just half of what they were at this time last year. They currently stand at just 6.25% of capacity - that's fourteen cubic hectometres. 

Tuesday, 19 December 2017

Might We Lose the Vote in Spain?

Many of the subjects close to British expatriate interests have been discussed in the Brexit talks.
‘Don’t worry’, says the ambassador benignly, ‘everything will be all right’. ‘We simply don’t trust the British Government to represent our interests’, say, with a certain logic, the ‘Remainers’ – those who don’t live in the UK, that is. ‘Scaremongering’ (lovely word) disparagingly answer the surprising number of Brexit supporters who live – incapable of enjoying irony – in Spain.
In short, we must await events, as we shall only know how the cake turns out when we finally take it out of the oven (as our old grannie used to say).
One subject  which has not received any attention so far – and one which will affect all foreign residents living in Spain, regardless of nationality – is the right to vote and to be voted for: the voto active y pasivo which was ceded to the foreigners from EU countries in Spain’s first change in her Constitution, back in 1992. We EU citizens indeed got the vote, but (thanks to a disagreeable Minister called Rubalcaba) we were only able to vote in the European elections of 1995 and not the municipal ones. Per Svensson, myself and José María Martínez de Haro formed a pressure group called Ciudadanos Europeos to try and attract interest in our plight.
I even called for parallel elections with ghost candidates in the municipal elections of 1995 (earning my fifteen minutes of fame).
In 1999, we were finally allowed to vote in local elections, and even to form parties (why not?) and to join a local political party list. The expected surge in Partido Popular votes never occurred, because most foreign EU citizens (plus the Norwegians, who could vote but not run for office) never bothered to interest themselves in local civic affairs. In short (and much to the surprise of the Spanish politicians), they didn’t vote at all.
Nowadays, there are a few more countries – including Trinidad and Tobago (!) – enjoying bilateral agreements with Spain to allow their citizens to vote in local elections, while unable to feature in any voting list (i.e. el ‘voto pasivo’).
But, with the British departure from the EU in late February 2019 – two months before local elections in Spain – what will happen?
Will we Britons have the vote? Maybe (no one knows, no one says). Will we be able to continue in local politics? There are currently a number of British councillors – some very active in foreigners affairs. Will the lack of votes from the British residents lose seats and support for other EU councillors? Without going any further afield, the sometimes vice-mayor of Albox is Irish, the mayor of  Alcaucín is Belgian: both of whom have been very active in the issue of ‘illegal homes’ which their fellow-foreigners and supporters acquired ten or more years ago. Both of whom earned their position, in a large part, from British voters. Both of whom, without the British vote, would be unable to continue in politics.
Perhaps we British will be able to vote after all: with an elegant adjustment that, following Brexit, a bilateral agreement would be signed, restoring our vote. We would, of course, have to wait six months between being registered by the electoral board and being allowed to vote – unfortunately missing the May 2019 municipal elections. Oh my. 

I was lucky to meet with the provincial (Almería) coordinator for Ciudadanos, Francisco Ramos, on Tuesday and to discuss the subject in some depth with him in a lengthy dialogue. He thought his party would be very interested in the matter and we will meet again for further discussions after the Christmas period. 

Monday, 18 December 2017

Another Planet Discovered

The observatory in the high hills behind Almería, Calar Alto, has announced its discovery of a planet. The sun about which it circles every 86 days is a white dwarf, half the size of Sol, and the planet, currently called HD147379b, is apparently the size of our own Neptune.
While some businessmen are already trying to figure out ways to urbanise the planet, it is probably not going to be a success - it's too far for Ryanair to fly to for one thing, has no atmosphere (a bit like Los Gallardos on a Tuesday night) and furthermore, doesn't have any 'solid surface' to stand on.
At just forty million kilometres away, the planet is rather too close to its sun for appropriate tourism (although somebody has already opened a souvenir stall there and there's currently talk of a naturist resort for sun worshipers).
Congrats to the Calar Alto astronomers are in order, however, especially since the observatory
is currently suffering from funding problems from Madrid.

Saturday, 16 December 2017

Public Money, Private Ends

The Mojácar opposition parties PSOE, Somos Mojácar and UM10 have called for a special plenary session to understand how the town hall could pay out half a million euros of public money in 'gratificaciones' - tips, if you will - to certain town hall employees since 2009. The monies - your tax contributions - have not been distributed equally among the swollen town hall staff either.
The three opposition parties have also called for a visit by the Work Inspectors.
It's a peculiar town, Mojácar. Half the people who live there are foreign, with many of them being bilingual. The school, for the last forty years, has been full of foreign children - now grown up - yet none of these citizens have jobs in our swollen town hall (whose budget is currently around eleven million euros per year). 

Later: One of the new acquisitions planned for 2018 is a 12,000€ drone for the local police. This will be handy for chasing the house-burglars. 

Monday, 11 December 2017

The Bullring of Laujar de Andarax

This unassuming construction is the old bullring in Laujar de Andarax (Almería). It's been closed for a long time and held in private hands. The town hall has now successfully negotiated with the owners to buy the 100 year old bullring for its subjects and will now fix the place up for 'the enjoyment of all the Laujareños'.
Who can argue with that noble purpose?

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

The Catalonian Elections

There’s a decidedly odd election coming up, on a Thursday, just four days before Christmas, between seven parties, of which one is led by a man in exile in Belgium and another by a man in prison in Madrid. Three of the parties are for an independent republic; three evenly balanced against them are the ‘constitutionalist’ parties (with Ciudadanos leading the pack), and there’s the odd-one out – the local version of Podemos, which, as The Local says here,  ‘...the likely kingmaker according to the polls will be En Comu, the alliance made up by far-left party Podemos and Barcelona mayor Ada Colau, which according to the CIS poll would capture nine seats. The party opposes independence but backs a legally binding referendum on secession which Spain's central government deems unconstitutional...’.   
On Tuesday, the day campaigning officially started, Spain dropped the international arrest warrant against Puigdemont (but only to ratchet up the pressure against him with stronger charges at home). ‘Puigdemont está kaput’ said Rajoy during the celebrations of Constitution Day, Wednesday. Puigdemont is meanwhile campaigning via video feed from Brussels, and he asks those who are against the imprisonment of Catalonian political leaders to wear yellow.  The ERC, whose candidate Oriol Junqueras remains in jail in Madrid, is represented in meetings by another leader of the party – one who was recently returned to freedom after 33 days – called Carles Mundó. On the other hand, the largest – in public support – of the three ‘constitutionalist’ parties is Ciudadanos, whose regional leader Inés Arrimadas could wind up being the next president of the Generalitat. Who would be the most ‘popular’ leader? Well if you asked the recent poll organised by El Español, it would be Puigdemont followed by Arrimades.
The Government in Madrid, meanwhile, is warning of some ill-defined ‘cyber-attack’ against the Constitutionalist vote. 
Elections, then, on December 21st, and as The Guardian says ‘...The campaign must unfold freely, lawfully and peacefully and the outcome must be respected’.

A Shortage of Specialists

According to the local newspaper, medical specialists don't like to stay in the Huercal Overa hospital any longer than they must. They generally 'don't last even six months'. A spokesman for the medical union says 'Currently, there are no dermatologists and there is just the one ENT doctor.  I think there's one urologist too and some of the surgeons are leaving as well. The situation is not good'.
The reason, apparently, is to do with temporary, monthly contracts. Any better offer comes along, and they are history.
'Just up the road in Murcia', says the union man, 'they can earn 1,000€ a month more'.

Sunday, 3 December 2017

Spain's Beautiful Pueblos

Mojácar hosted this weekend a meeting of the 'Pueblos Más Bonitos de España', which seems to be a (very incomplete) list worth taking notice of for future trips around this beautiful and fascinating country. Mojácar is, without doubt, worth its place on the list - even if our main strengths - the view from the village, the narrow white streets and the increasingly rare 'old building' were all in evidence long before anyone thought of tourism, marketing, drunken Indalos or souvenir shops.
There are currently 57 'Pueblos Más Bonitos' and a further eleven are joining the club: Segura de la Sierra (Jaén), Mondoñedo (Lugo), Ledesma in Salamanca, Briones in La Rioja, Lerma (Burgos), Castro Caldelas (Orense), Almonaster La Real in Hueva, Mirambel in Teruel, Guadalupe (Cáceres), Zahara de la Sierra (Cádiz) and Bubion in Granada (Photos of them here).
In reality, there are hundreds of other beautiful pueblos in Spain - perhaps a little less focused on tourism - and many in our own Almería: Bédar is obvious; then there is Agua Amarga, Senés, Vélez-Blanco, Sorbas, Nijar, Abrucena, Fondón, Laujár and Serón for example...

Later: In case you were wondering, 'the object of the Pueblos más Bonitos in 2018 is to bring international tourism', says Radio Huelva here. There are now two official Pueblo más Bonito festivals - held, presumably, in each and every one of the towns involved. The 'Noche Romántica'  on the 23rd of June, and the celebration of the association on 1st October.

Friday, 1 December 2017

Barbara's Ordeal

I was reading one of my late wife’s posts on a blog she wrote, about how it hurt when she went to see the doctor to have some bandages removed. She wasn’t exaggerating either, as the side of her head, her scalp, was open, without hair or skin. The doctors had tried to transplant skin from her head onto her face to refashion a nose. The transplant had failed for the third time.
They never knew that she had a disease called Wegener’s Granulomatosis (named after the German concentration camp doctor who discovered it!). ‘Oh, said her brothers, ‘she lost her nose because she took coke’. Not so, even if you wanted an excuse to cut her out of your parents’ will.
We had run out of money by 2002, cheated in a swindle. The cheats even had me drive down to a lawyer’s office in Torremolinos (in a borrowed car) to pay me a portion of what they had agreed to a few years earlier, only to not be there at my destination (neither was the lawyer for that matter).
We were broke, selling off bits of this and that, and much of this went to pay for Barbara’s bills. The hospitals were free, but the hotels and meals of course were not. We had Sanitas health insurance until 2008, when I could no longer pay for it. This meant that subsequent hospital visits were to the public hospitals of the social security. Hospitals in Pamplona, Madrid, Almería, Murcia and Málaga. Barbara had thirty two major operations between 2002 and 2014, when she died. It was the first of these, in Madrid in 2002, where she had her jaw broken, her teeth removed and her nose excised. A novel treatment by the doctor (I had to slip him 1000 euros) failed completely.
Barbara talks of ‘the Scary Room’, the place where you visit, fully conscious, for your appointment with the surgeon. I would wait outside: Spanish doctors are very good at what they do, but they sometimes forget to tell the ‘family member’ how the patient was doing. None of them knew why she was ill, until the local Mojácar Doctor Galindo recognised her condition, a form of auto-immune sickness. He put her on to prednisone, a nasty but lifesaving drug. Later, she would take ketamine (horse-tranquilizer!) for the pain and eventually, as her kidneys failed, she was on twice-a-week dialysis in Huercal Overa.
The palliative doctors came to our house to visit and they
gave her a heavy dosage of morphine, to be administered (by me!) every six hours until the end.
Reading Barbara’s blog again today, I feel such tenderness towards her and hope that she is blissful in Heaven. 

Barbara's blog was about animals and hippotherapy. It was called Animo