Sunday, 30 January 2022

Regional Elections, Right?

The regional elections in Castilla y León are upon us, with voting due on Sunday February 13th. The likely winner will be the current president of the autonomy Alfonso Fernández Mañueco and his party, the PP. However, he will almost certainly need the support of a second party as he did back in 2019 with Ciudadanos.

This election was precipitously called just after the Ciudadanos councillors were ejected from the government by Mañueco, so he certainly won’t be planning to rely on that party. Furthermore, generally speaking, Ciudadanos is currently melting faster than snow on a hotplate.

Mañueco’s only likely ally following the election returns will be Vox – and what will be their price?

Vox is something of a dark horse. We know that it is far-right, or fascist, or Nazi (I’m misquoting a judge here), but it is bringing in around 20% of the vote at the present time. The only way to lower that is to move the Partido Popular further to the right, banning abortions, gay marriage and euthanasia and maybe even ‘tourism from other races’ (here). They would also need to support bullfighting, hunting, the armed forces and religious lessons in school – nothing too harsh, but gentle signs on the road towards extremism.

Pablo Casado visits a cow

The results in 2019 in Castilla y León – an area of nine provinces (the largest region in Spain) which holds the cities of Burgos, Salamanca and Valladolid – gave the PSOE 35, the PP 29 and C’s 13. Vox got just one seat. Current projections give the PSOE 27 and the PP 36. Ciudadanos might get 1, Unidas Podemos maybe 3 and Vox appears to be standing at 10. All the latest poll results are at Wiki here.

A further wrinkle in the region is the brand new party that represents – or claims to – the empty forgotten bits of the countryside: the España Vaciada.

Nationally, the single-province version of the Forgotten Spain, Teruel Existe, supports the PSOE/IU Government.

Following from a supposed PP/Vox victory, we would then expect something similar in Andalucía this summer, possibly with a modest Ciudadanos presence (the date hasn’t been set, but it could be as early as May). How would the national government, and indeed the Spanish people, react to such a couple of major wins for the right, righter and rightest?

Sunday, 23 January 2022

The Little Hotel in the Middle of Nowhere

The Junta de Andalucía has changed its tune about property in the region, allowing new licences for various projects which would not have been allowed under the previous regime. If only the Hotel Algarrobico had have been built today (ahem!).

One new hotel – a small one with just thirty rooms and a swimming pool – has been given the green light to be constructed in what was an old esparto-works in the Cabo de Gata (Almería): just a short walk from the Playa de Los Genoveses, described here (in a strange but understandable English) as ‘…the most beautiful bay of the Nature Reserve is this beach consists of dunes virgin fine golden sand’.

Diario de Almería has the sad story here. Oddly, the thirty rooms will need a licence for parking for seventy cars, which seems a lot – two to a room? Perhaps it’ll be a hotel for assignations. More likely though, even if they forgot to mention it in the article, there’ll be a swanky restaurant. Valeted parking, anyone?

(Say, if they let Fulano build a hotel in a National Park, why not me as well, or how about just a teeny tiny urbanisation…?).

Mind you, the new hotel does sound nice – at least, according to the ABC which says here (paywall) that guests will be able to take the goats for a walk, thresh the hay and other bucolic delights. You might want to take your dinner jacket off…

The final word (apparently, Gosh don’t things change?) must come from the town hall, which in this case is Níjar.


Wednesday, 19 January 2022

Care for the Elderly

 One thing that the pandemic highlighted was the lack of protection in the residencies, the care-homes for seniors.

Responsibilities were eventually pointed at everyone except those responsible, as often happens here, and some changes were (we hope) made, although a story this week of 34 of the 39 seniors in a centre in Santiago de Compostela infected with Covid and, we read, left in their own waste for twelve or thirteen hours each night (here) doesn’t inspire much confidence. Who is responsible for that?

José Antonio helps with BoT from his own room in a residence down in Málaga. He says that the issue is the people who come through the door – delivery men, gardeners, visitors – all capable of bringing infection with them. Then, it’s also the case, he says, that old people don’t shake off bugs like younger people do; and furthermore, they aren’t very good at keeping their masks on properly.

There’s also, of course, the funding – often subject to sad but no doubt necessary economies: particularly in PP bulwarks. We know that most residences will take some social security patients, while other ‘private’ clients will be paying something around 1,700 to 2,000 euros a month.

We are assured that the Spanish (unlike their northern neighbours) always prefer to keep the old ones at home with them, and this may be partly true, but now with less time or the whole family working or the space needed (as the kids just won’t leave home), the attractions of an old folks’ home may, however unwillingly, become the solution.

Many years ago, I was working on a project (with our old friend Per Svensson) to introduce a different kind of nursing home in Spain. The idea at the time was for a wealthy Nordic town hall – we were looking at Bergen – to build their own residence in Spain as the costs would be cheaper than in Norway and the patients would be pleased. The proposal was to build apartments which belonged to the foreign town hall but were leased for life to the residents (either private or social security) – and with a spare room to keep their families happy.

We looked at one location in Almería, I remember, which was close enough to the shops and the bars for the residents to egress from their rooms when the fancy took them.

This week, El País in English features such a place in Alicante’s Alfaz del Pi, the magnificent Forum Mare Nostrum (here) and says that there is now plans from foreign companies for others to be built. A small heads-up: the El País article has this line: ‘…To live in Forum Mare Nostrum, residents must make an advance payment of between €100,000 and €230,000 and pay monthly rent, which ranges from €350 to €950…’.

I checked with another such centre down (these days, you look something up, and along comes a slew of advertisements on a similar subject) in Benalmadena (Málaga) called Sensara (here) which is clearly not cheap, but it looks pretty nice.

Another idea for seniors is to pool their money and build/open their own purpose-made residence, sometimes called cohousing (which is explained here). A page for cohousing in Spain is here and an example of one from Google is ‘…an affordable cohousing home for the 50plus generation…’ called Espadevida (it’s near Mojácar, Almería) here.

Perhaps one of those 2,800 empty hamlets scattered across Spain could be re-bored into a retirement village. Perhaps they could refit the doomed Hotel Algarrobico into another.

All fine, if either granddad or the family has the money; if not, it may be back to the residencia where things will not be as bright (especially as one’s comprehension of Spanish may begin to recede with age and deafness and who knows the embarrassing words that indisposed seniors may find that they would suddenly need in a small emergency…)?

The Spanish residencies won’t have English-speaking staff (or TVs) and there may be a call to find a better answer for the foreign residents.

After all, sending them ‘home’ is, I think, a sad solution.