Thursday, 29 November 2018

Two More Titles Down

Tragic news today as we learn of the loss to ex-pat society of two more strings of newspapers, the S*L Times and the Round Town News. Both were well established for many years but, after coming under the wing of The Weenie, Spain's leading English-language free-sheet, they soon crumbled and have now been, uh, quietly closed.
I was reminded of something similar happening to my own newspaper The Entertainer a few years ago.
I suppose any thought of a pension (I've just turned 65) for my production of the first seven hundred issues of The Weenie must now be forgotten, which is a bugger, since I can't afford a bottle of champagne to commiserate over today's sad news.
The announcement itself can be found here (note the ensuing comments from the terrified 'bunnies').

Tuesday, 27 November 2018

Brexit - Three Ways...

There now seems to be three alternatives. One article on each:

‘Why Theresa May's Brexit Deal Is Terrible For The U.K. The UK’s Prime Minister, Theresa May, has succeeded in what she set out to do. She has brought the country together. Politicians of all colours, along with their supporters, are at last in full agreement. They are united in their hatred of Mrs. May’s Brexit deal. And with reason. It is a terrible deal...’. More from Forbes here.

‘The European Commission has defended Tuesday before the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) that a hypothetical revocation of the Brexit adventure would require the approval of all Member States and a unilateral will on the part of the United Kingdom would not be enough. On Tuesday, the CJEU held a hearing to analyse the preliminary ruling by the Scottish High Court on the possible reversibility of Article 50 of the EU Treaty. Under this article, the UK will leave the EU on 29 March 2019, two years after it formally requested it. The Treaty provides for the possibility of extending the exit date, but only as a result of a unanimous agreement from the member states, and the team of lawyers from the European Commission argued on Tuesday before the CJEU that any change in the present undertaking must have the approval of the other 27 member states of the EU bloc...’. From El Huff Post here. (That’s torn it!).

‘What to expect from a no-deal Brexit. The terrifying consequences if nothing is sorted’. An excerpt: ‘...The greatest worry in the medium term is that the rights that ex-pats in Britain and the rest of the EU would enjoy under the deal would be whittled away. France says that, legally speaking, all Britons living there after a no-deal Brexit would need work permits, and that employers with Britons lacking such permits on the payroll would be criminally liable. Its draft law covering a no-deal Brexit recalls the legal requirement for retirees and others to apply for long-stay visas. There are 190,000 Britons living in the EU who get the same access to health care as locals thanks to agreements a no-deal Brexit could end. Some, poor and elderly, would move back to Britain rather than pay for new insurance...' From a powerful article in The Economist here.

Wednesday, 21 November 2018

Spanish Customs, Explained

I got a letter from the Aduana today, the dreaded Spanish customs. Years ago, a fellow from Chile sent me a sample of half a kilo of cod in a freeze-pack to see if it was worth starting a business importing Chilean fish to Spain. Anyhow, the customs got hold of it and - well, that was over twenty years ago now. I wonder if they've noticed the smell yet.
Today's letter as seen here, addressed to Lenox Naier (why can't they get our names right in Spain? Fuck me, it's not as if I'm called Rachanivarakonkul), and  dated " Mi�rcoles " (Curse those nineteen eighty computers!) is to tell me of a massive package of dubious merchandise waiting for my attention in Madrid.
The first thing I thought was 'it's a trap - they've found the fish!', but then, I saw that it had come from my daughter, who lives in foreign parts.
The package in question: a pair of sneakers for my birthday.
So, as you can see, I filled out the form, then read the back of the page to see that I need to contact our officious friends by email, sending them a scan of my silly police letter together with another of my passport, only their formulario doesn't allow foreigners NIE numbers and my password -Fuckyou1- evidently wasn't long enough.
So now, I must put copies of all this in the post, being sure that they receive it before Mi�rcoles otherwise it will be 'Returned to Sender' (or more likely, destroyed in a controlled explosion or, of course more likely still, stolen).
But now I'm thinking: 'Customs, eh?' Aren't they the people who like to look through other people's stuff, rifle through steamer trunks and search diligently under the dashboard? Perhaps my box is full of Peruvian marching powder, or a rhinoceros' horn, or perhaps an AK47. So, why don't they open the fucking thing instead of asking me for my maiden name? On the box it says 'shoes' but they may want to question this - that's why they get paid - to make the world a safer place. But why the fuck ask me what's in the box. I'm going to say 'shoes' and they are going to say 'Ah hah! Got him!'.
In the improbable event the shoes make it though all the hoops, I will apparently be asked to pay ransom (or 'duty' as they prefer to call it) on them.
Sometimes, between all the pleasures, one forgets what a silly place we have chosen to live. 

Tuesday, 20 November 2018

The Andalusian Elections on December 2nd

The Andalusian elections of December 2nd are interesting both for Andalucía and indeed for the rest of Spain. It’s assumed that Susana Díaz (generally known as La Susanita) will win – after all, the PSOE always does in Andalucía – but she will certainly need to join with one of the other three – led by Juan Manuel Moreno (PP), Teresa Rodríguez (Adelante Andalucía) or Juan Marín (Ciudadanos) – to form a government. These four candidates (who met in a televised debate on Monday) are, in national terms, only the second best, and thus the four leaders from Madrid are doing all they can to help support their party comrades, especially as a national election begins to appear possible in May next year.
Pablo Casado, for example, is in Fines (an obscure Almería pueblo) on Friday with his new and original motto ‘Guarantía de Cambio’. There are hopes from the AUAN that he will save the ‘illegal homes’ in the nearby communities (Facebook link). Note to politicians – we need to check in the thesaurus for a new and different word for ‘change’. One of his ideas for change, as he told them in Algeciras, was for a Gibraltar Español.
Albert Rivera from Ciudadanos (or ‘Albert Primo de Rivera’ as the Podemos are calling him) was saying in Cádiz this past Sunday that the Madrid PSOE hasn’t time for the old socialists in Andalucía, who would be better off supporting his candidate. ‘We are the cambio’, he said to the adoring crowd.
Teresa Rodríguez from the IU-Podemos clone Adelante Andalucía, is asking – oh, here we go – for ‘la alternacia’- she wants a switch rather than just a change.
Talking of change, pocket change that is, Susana Díaz, rather overdoing the ‘we’re all common folk’ card, this week declares her current account at the local bank to stand at just 81€, plus a few bits and bobs she has elsewhere. El Mundo says, poor woman, that she is ‘condemned to hug her worst enemy Pedro Sánchez who beat her in the primaries’. All for the sake of the Party.
El País asks here, ‘why does the PSOE always win in Andalucía?’ The answers seem to be a mixture of tradition, a historical dislike of the right, innumerable obligations to those in power, and a couple of historic socialist champions from Seville (Felipe Gónzalez and his wing-man Alfonso Guerra). As one politician admits in the article – Andalucía has been at the tail of Europe for forty years, but the people still support the same party...
Besides the four contenders, we have two small parties that will skim a few votes: PACMA, the eccentric animalist party (Bizcocho for president), and the sinister-sounding far-right Vox which could even take one seat in the San Telmo parliament in Seville (see them here). 

Monday, 19 November 2018

Thanksgiving (although, it could'a been better)

Like Time itself, we must march ever forward. Well, in my case, it's more of a cross between a lurch and a limp; but I'm getting there slowly. I broke my ankle in the first days of September and you find me now with crutches and an infernal boot, compliments of the rehab people; a vessel which weighs several kilos and is designed to keep me wobbling that ankle-bone.
All praise to the Spanish national health which did a bang-up job (nine pins and a plate in my shin-bone) and cost me nothing more than a few sandwiches in the hospital tuck-shop.
But now we have entered the bit of November where for many years I celebrated Thanksgiving - the American holiday which involves eating turkey, mash, stuffing, peas and pumpkin pie. I celebrate no longer, because my poor Californian wife is dead and the kids are all in the USA (there are not many jobs for foreign bilingual well-educated kids in Modern Spain).
So this year I shall make myself a turkey sandwich.
Thanksgiving in our family also meant my birthday. A bit like Easter, my cumpleaño traveled around the late-November calendar always managing to fortuitously land on Thanksgiving Thursday, assuring me of a turkey dinner with all the trimmings. It made up for having my birthday in the school term during my formative years (no cake, no presents and, as often as not, a Latin exam to deal with).
This year, my birthday, now returned to a regular date (next Monday, since you ask) will be the dubious celebration of my sixty-fifth year on this earth duly registered. If I were to get a pension, I would get it now.
However, all is not lost, I'm due a bus-pass apparently, if I can only hobble to the bus-stop half a mile away.

Thursday, 15 November 2018

National Suicide UK

Referendums are probably not a very good idea. They are posed as a once-off vote rather than a cyclic four-year election. Whoever loses wants another one. Whoever wins piously says 'the people have spoken'. 
In elections, the people speak, and they can then change their minds four years later. 
In a referendum, it's different. It's a singularity. They are rare beasts, these single-issue plebiscites, when there is a call for one to be made on a specific issue and, apparently,  to be sealed in stone for evermore.
Referendums are unusual and, evidently, they are divisive. 
Take hanging. A poll on this barbarity would probably bring in a popular majority for Capital Punishment.  
Which is why, God knows, they have never proposed such a thing.
But David Cameron, surely to be remembered in the same breath as Charles I for being Britain's two worst leaders of the last 400 years, called a referendum to divide the country - pretty much down the middle. 52 to 48 is not a swinging win for anyone.
Two years later, as the UK flounders in its own mishmash of xenophobia, jingoism and ignorance, between a rock and a hard place, the dreadful result of Cameron's betrayal brings us to a head:
We must now call for another referendum.
Of course, everyone knows such a vote would bring a decisive swing to the 'Remainer Camp'. Those against such a poll say 'well, we already had one and it was a democratic result', yet they are precisely the people who don't want a second one. 
Because this time - even without the vote of those of us who live in Europe (and would cheerfully be left behind by the Brexiteers) - the vote this time would be made by more-or-less informed people rather than the hitherto gullible readers of the billionaire media owners. 
Mrs May said on Wednesday that her draft proposal was '...a deal that delivers. The choice was this deal, no deal or no Brexit at all’.
Whether she will be around by next week is anybody's guess, but the point remains - she is no longer representing nor speaking for the majority of the British as we approach the end of this fraught period where the United Kingdom is now more at risk of breaking up than is the United Europe we apparently yearned to abandon.
We need another vote and we need to stay (a trifle embarrassed perhaps) within the European Union. 

Tuesday, 13 November 2018

A Statue of Columbus Comes Down

Poor Christopher Columbus, the man who Discovered America. They have just taken his statue down in Los Angeles because, well, you know, he committed genocide. A local councilman says: “It’s a natural next step of eliminating the false narrative that Columbus was a benign discoverer who helped make this country what it is. His statue and his image are really representative of someone who committed atrocities and helped initiate the greatest genocide ever recorded in human history, so the fact that his statue came down is the next step in the natural progression”.
The Spanish are very proud of him, understandably enough. In the same year that the Moors were finally ejected from this marvellous country, one of their sailors commanded three laughably small ships and crossed the Atlantic Ocean to discover the New World. Without any doubt, this was an astonishing feat. Columbus knew the world was round and thought he’d discovered a new route to India (which is why the Native Americans were called ‘Indians’).  Now, unlike Eric the Red and anyone else who had been there beforehand (the list increases every now and then), Columbus and the Spanish that followed (Cortes in Mexico, Pizarro in Peru and Núñez de Balboa who reached the Pacific), discovered and populated an entire continent (or two), duly plundered the spoils and made Spain very rich (although with most of it ending up in the fifteenth century equivalent of Swiss banks).
He was an adventurer: a man to stir the blood of small boys reading of his exploits and derring-do. Now he’s considered as a monster. How does this play back in Spain?
An indignant Arturo Pérez-Reverte says – they’ve just knocked down the statue of Crístóbal Colón in a giant city which, by the way, bears a Spanish name. El País runs an editorial on the fall of the ‘Genoese sailor’; saying (and edited) ‘...The majority of historians consulted strongly deny that Colombus can be called a genocide. He is a figure that until now had not been challenged thanks to his achievements in navigation, for colonizing a new space and for contributing massively towards our knowledge of the Globe. However, there is also a dark side, because the main motivations of that process had more to do with the yearning to find gold and spices. The conquerors found populations and, at times, destroyed their lives and culture, and there were confrontations with those who had every right to defend themselves against intruders. However, one cannot speak of genocide, because "there was no desire to exterminate a race, among other reasons because they were needed as labour".
But heroes must fall. One day, I think, the Moonlings will knock down the statue of Neil Armstrong.

The Falkland Solution

I had suggested last week that the most virulent of the Brexiteers might be persuaded (hey, or forced) to move to the Falkland islands once the noxious Brexit plan has been hit on the head and the ringleaders have been meekly escorted to The Tower.
It works quite well. There are no pesky foreigners in Stanley (a thriving city which features hourly on the Sky News weather forecast), no European nurses, no Remoaners (besides the entirety of the tiny native population), no tropical festivals to worry about and, I am reliably informed, there's not a single mosque in the whole archipelago.
Better still, the accursed Brussels is almost eight thousand miles away. 
Only slightly smaller than Yorkshire - at 12,000 square kilometres -  there's definitely plenty of room for a meaty chunk of  'the seventeen million', and hell, we'll even throw in South Georgia next door.
While there are no foreigners in the Falklands to contend with (a leading point with the Gammoners), there are of course the fiendish Argentinians lurking just across the (sizeable) channel to shake their fists at on Saturday nights after the pub closes.
For the rest of us, a United Kingdom without the Faragistas would be pleasant, and the EU, I am reliably informed, would immediately drop all plans to stop British tourism next year to Benidorm.  

Sunday, 11 November 2018

Brexit Might be Avoided, but at a Cost

Encouraging news begins to seep out of the UK. Even some of the most obtuse people are now beginning to accept that Brexit is a mess and, with luck, the whole thing will be scuppered by a rare attack of common-sense at the last moment.
I don't need to list the companies that have moved out of the UK, the NHS staff who have returned to Spain or elsewhere, the ghastly Democratic Unionists who seem to have control of the Red Button, the increase in racial attacks, the rise (and acceptance) of Tommy Robinson, the geographical ignorance of the Minister for Brexit, the geopolitical manipulation of Trump, Putin, Murdoch and the far-right, the Scottish dream of breaking from Westminster, the peculiar compliance of the Leader of the Opposition, the Sunday Times hiding its recent Brexit poll results, the recent remarks of the plotter Aaron Banks,  the fall in the pound sterling, the likely new rules on travel or (and imagine this!) the national stockpiling of food and medicine.
No, it's as good as over. That's not to say that it might still happen, as it is sometimes hard to talk hysterical people off of a windowsill, and there are many angry and small-minded ruffians still in a position of power.
The UK has a psychological problem to do with its place in the world. Since Hastings, it hasn't been invaded and it has 'ruled the waves' (at least in song) for hundreds of years. The British entitlement and supposed superiority to the pesky foreigners has produced some great literature over the centuries. But now, its place at the table of the World's Big Four has gone - and the choices appear to be to remain in a European partnership or in vassalage to the United Sates of America and Comrade Trump.
But what will happen if Brexit is successfully stifled and tragedy is averted? There are still millions of people in the UK who think with their fists rather than their brains, and many of these follow the Brexit xenophobia. Would they rise up in violent protest if Brexit were averted? Most likely. Is there somewhere they could go to feel that they belong? (Well, Northern Ireland I suppose, but I was thinking more the Falkland Islands, after all, they owe us one).
Would the UK's reputation and influence in the EU stand such an embarrassing U-turn when a contrite British parliament finds itself obliged to send a fawning message to Brussels. We've changed our mind, and can we have our old offices back?
Here in Spain, the prime minister recently said in a parliamentary speech that while the British think of little else than Brexit, the subject occupies only a tiny part of European politics. And this is the key to the whole mess - the UK is neither as important as it once was or indeed thinks that it deserves to be..


Thursday, 8 November 2018

The USA Backs Away From Palomares

President Donald Trump is not willing to remove any more of the tons of earth contaminated by the infamous nuclear accident that occurred 52 years ago over Palomares (Almería). So said the Spanish Government in a parliamentary response in which it reveals that the Americans "have given to understand that it does not consider itself bound by the agreement between the Spanish Government and the Obama Administration and that has no intention of initiating bilateral talks towards this end".
To questions made by a deputy from Ciudadanos called Diego Clemente, the Government has now recognized what was hitherto an open secret: that the agreement reached in October 2015 between the then Minister of Foreign Affairs, José Manuel García-Margallo, and his American counterpart, John Kerry, can now be considered as worthless.
The people of Palomares were already upset by the recent discovery of a delivery from Madrid of better than a ton of radioactive material from the CEIMAT environmental agency, material which was originally from Palomares and had been trucked back there in 2016 (details of which only emerged in October). The agency insists the material was earth taken in various tests over the years from the site of the fallen bombs, being simply "samples carried out in the area since 1966 that are of low activity".
Is Palomares dangerous? Back in 1966, nobody cared. It was a forgotten part of dusty land located on the coast, a modest agricultural village belonging to nearby Cuevas del Almanzora. Four nuclear bombs fell in January that year following a mid-air collision between a fueling place and a bomber. The bombs were unarmed and two ended up on some scrub-land, fouling an area of two-square kilometres with plutonium, a third fell on the beach without mishap, and a fourth in deep water off the coast. It was later fortuitously found by the American sub 'Alvin' on the very day that Franco visited the area. The Americans later hauled away a large amount of topsoil which was then (according to a 'spook' I knew in those times) spread on the earth in farms in South Carolina. 
Today, with much more knowledge of the dangers of radiation, plus the change in the local fortunes from small-time agriculture to heavy tourism, the worry of sickness or cancer from the fallout are evident. However, there doesn't seem to be any abnormalities in the area. So, despite a few jokes and some misgiving, the area is deemed safe for both agriculture and tourism. 
The news item from El País about Trump nevertheless ends with this:  
'The Government recognizes that the contaminated land in Palomares, as a result of the fall of four thermonuclear bombs when a B-52 bomber collided with a KC-130 tanker from the US Air Force, "represents a threat to the safety of the zone and an impediment when it comes to achieving economic development and promoting tourism ".

Tuesday, 6 November 2018

No to Nolotil (If you have blue eyes)

The first call to ban Nolotil, a pain-reliever popular in Spain, came from The Olive Press which launched a campaign against the popular drug back in August last year. The pills were held responsible for a number of deaths – oddly, all British visitors to Spain. The item read in part ‘...the drug seems to mostly affect people of fair skin, from the likes of the UK and Scandinavia, by poisoning their bone marrow and destroying their white blood cells...’. Could this be the case, a drug which could adversely affect fair-skinned people, yet be only found to be efficacious to those of a darker complexion?
It would appear so. Metamizol, the active ingredient in Nolotil, is banned in the UK, the USA and Australia says Soitu here.
Despite a petition at (which appears to have died – as they do), the Spanish health authority had until now ignored the situation, but this has now changed. El Español reports here that Nolotil and its imitators (Metamizol Aristo is one of them) is to be restricted in its sale at the pharmacies from northern visitors - essentially, Brits won't be able to buy it any more. The drug can bring on a blood condition called neutropenia, says the article, but it has only been found (apparently) in 'Anglo-Saxons'. The Times of London reports this week that ‘Tourists will be banned from taking a popular painkiller in Spain after the deaths of 10 Britons who had taken the drug’. Thus the Spanish pharmaceutical association AEMPS has asked doctors not to prescribe the drug to 'the floating population, where controls can't be made'. That's to say - to tourists.