Friday, September 16, 2016


The Cuevas Art Museum

At the top of Cuevas del Almanzora, in the old (and beautiful) part of the city located in the desert region of northern Almería, there's a XVI century castle. The castle houses a collection of modern Spanish art which was put together by a man called Antonio Manuel Campoy, who lived there for a period in the mid 20th century. The art is collected in half a dozen rooms, and includes paintings by most Spanish artists of the first half of the nineteen hundreds, including Tapies, Miró, Solana, Barceló and Picasso. There are also paintings from two famous artists from the Almerian Indaliano movement: Cantón Checa and Jesús de Perceval. Fascinating. The two euro ticket also gets you into the facing gallery with two collections of Goya prints - 'Los Disparates’ and ‘La Tauromaquia’, plus a modern art gallery and a museum dedicated to the local discoveries of the archaeologist Luís Siret.
Antonio Manuel Campoy was originally from Cuevas and was an acknowledged 'man of letters'. He died in Madrid in January 1993. 
Opening times are 10,00h to 13.00h and 17.00h to 20.00h Tuesday to Saturday, plus Sunday mornings. The museum does not allow cameras (Stock photo above).

Thursday, September 15, 2016


The German Visit to Garrucha

This fine looking pocket battleship, the Admiral Scheer, has been in Spanish Shilling before, with a report of her shelling Almería City in 1937, in a revenge attack for the ambush on the German sister ship Deutschland by Republican forces in Mallorca.
A few weeks earlier, the Admiral Scheer has startled the good people of Garrucha by dropping anchor offshore and sending a skiff into the harbour. From the surrounding hills, the local people, all supporters of the Republic and scared already of the progress of the Civil War, watched as the skiff berthed on the sand. A group of militia from the Revolutionary Committee, armed with pistols and sticks, warily approached the boat.
The Commander of the pocket battleship was Otto Ciliax, and his mission was to collect any German nationals that might be resident in Garrucha. After a merry Heil Hitler, his agents were escorted by the militia to meet the German consul (Garrucha was a mining head and had three consuls at that time: British, Dutch and German) Federico Moldenhauer was also the local pharmacist, and he told the Germans that he was perfectly safe and would stay in Garrucha, and that, by the way, here was a crate of wine as a gift for the Kapitan.
To this day, the Moldenhauer family resides in Garrucha, and the pharmacy is run these days by a descendent. 

From an original story by José Berruezo here.

Friday, September 02, 2016


We Hold These Truths To Be Self Evident

It seems like it only took a few minutes before the British ex-pats in Spain started to react in horror to the result of the referendum held in the UK in late June – look at that, they said: the bloody British electorate have ditched us.
We may not be Falkland Islanders, but we had still expected a slight bit of concern from our fellow-Brits trapped over there in the xenophobic atmosphere of 21st Century UK. After all, we did put in our time there alongside them at one point (before a sensible and well-planned exit to a far better place to live). We still have our British accents, our British pride and our British passports - although it looks like, in the not too distant future, only our accents will remain.
How could they have been so stupid?
Well, they were and we are stuck here in Spain (or Germany, or France etc) without a lifeline. We can hardly sell up and go ‘back’. Firstly, the high price of a home over in the UK would have us all ending up living in protected housing in Anglesey. Secondly, who on earth would want to live in a society that appears to be inspired by the early days of Nazi Germany?
They’ll have people wearing triangles on their jackets within a year.
So, over in Europe, we British ex-pats are in shock. Will the new British Prime Minister start laying new rules on the Europeans living in the United Kingdom? Work permits perhaps, or special new registration, or visas or quotas, or even, in certain cases (penury would be an obvious example), deportation? We worry because the European authorities, with their affronted electorate’s insistence, would do the same to us.
We have learned that we are little more than pawns in the politics of ‘Brexit’.
But remember this London: you really don’t want one and a half million indignant ex-pats all being sent back to your tender care. Imagine the reaction of your home-grown Nazi groups and their critical posts on Facebook!
Over in Europe, the ex-pats have formed a number of protest groups. Let us work together with the local governments, say some, or let us ask for a sense of reason from the British authorities, or let us search for protection from the ‘Brexit’ from the European leaders in Brussels.
Coverage of the ex-pats and their concerns has never rated column-inches in the highly partisan British media, but in Spain for example a group called ‘Europats’ has already featured in articles in El Mundo and Almería Hoy (here and here). Another, ‘Brexpats in Spain’, is introduced in La Vanguardia (here).
A full list of ex-pat groups against the Brexit can be found here.
From another age, from another fall-out with those who no longer wanted to be British, a quote: “The distinctions between Virginians, Pennsylvanians, New Yorkers, and New Englanders are no more. I Am Not A Virginian, But An American!”― Patrick Henry.
Friends, I am a European.

Friday, August 26, 2016


The Almería Toros

With all the anti-taurino stuff in the local English press, it was good to go to the Almería corrida on Thursday to see some proper bullfighting. The stadium, built in 1888, was almost full (it holds 9,500 people).
Almería has a tradition of delaying the fight after the third bull so everyone can get out their beer and sandwiches. Or, as is the Spanish way, to offer them to anyone seated nearby.
The three toreros yesterday were a rejoneador (mounted bullfighter) called Hermoso de Mendoza, and the two matadores, Enrique Ponce and David Mora (the latter is substitution for the Peruvian sensation Roca Rey who was bashed by a bull in Málaga ten days ago).
The bulls were all around 450 kilos and born in February 2012.

Everyone came away content.
El Mundo report here.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016



We went to the pretty little town of Frigiliana in the hills above Nerja (Málaga) for a short break last week.
I had looked for a hotel with a swimming pool and found one prominently displayed on a Google search for the town. I booked for three days and after a remarkably short drive - the motorway between Almería and Málaga now finally completed - we were soon checking in. The hotel overlooks the old part of the town, a maze of narrow streets and pretty views - a sort of gentrified Mojácar, and the two pueblos are in fact both members of the 'Beautiful Towns of Spain' club.
The clerk at the desk told us where everything was, including 'nuestra piscinita' - which sounded ominous - our lil' ol' pool. Turned out, the swimming pool was more of a baño, with a sign displayed saying that the maximum occupancy was, erm, six. That's a pretty good photo of your pool you've got on the Internet, guys, it looks Olympic!
Frigiliana is great, and compares well with Mojácar - except for the obvious lack of a beach. The architecture is richer, while the planners have been careful to not allow any eyesores. Their arches, openings, incongruities, charms, courtyards and passages, stairways and public gardens, are all in perfect shape and blend harmoniously with their neighbours. There are no nick nack shops but rather, a number of boutiques (the former, by the way,  have their stock delivered by mayoristas - wholesalers, who sell them any old schtock that sells well, while the latter must go forth to find their wares - or indeed make them up themselves).
OK, there's a fly in the Frigiliana ointment - a walley trolley does the rounds with three little gaily painted carriages drawn by a fake train engine built in Italy. The vessel is driven apparently by one Rafael (the hotel clerk may have been a relation).  Cheesy.
The public looked a little wealthier than the usual Mojácar guests, or to put it another way, they had evidently spent more on their tattoos and - as is presumably always the case, were happy to show them off to the rest of us. At least, the spider web elbow fashion was less visible there,  but nothing I saw made me want to rush into a parlour, drunk, to disfigure myself for life in a burst of low self-esteem.
The food was good, with a variety of restaurants, including a Polish place called Sal y Pimienta with a good selection. The ethnic waiter - heavily tattooed in the best Post-it style - was  mildly disapproving as I ordered a Polish vodka (good stuff).
Since the agency that, via Google, asks me for a rating for their hotel, I should probably mention the dysentery I caught from something on my visit - maybe the Polish sausage, or perhaps the suspect breakfast tortilla back at the lodgings. Whatever it was, it's taken four days of high temperature, aches and a spectacular number of visits to the dunny to overcome.
Still, that's travelling for you...

Saturday, August 06, 2016


Under the Rubble - A Miraculous City Lies Sleeping (National Geographic Edition)

Archaeologists have begun work on a new dig to discover precisely what lies under the town of Disneyville in southern Spain.
It is known that the settlement under the garish collection of today's souvenir stands and disco-pubs was once called Mojácar, but there is little left to guide the investigators into an idea of life in the town in the Twentieth Century.
Beginning at the foot of the hill, volunteers from the Granada School of Archaeology have been working diligently with spades, brushes and blue plastic buckets to unearth the secrets of the town that once existed here.
They now know that the 'Moorish Fountain' was built over the remains of the earlier 'Public Fountain', with a bounty of white marble in what was known at the time as the 'Bathroom China' style of reconversion. The fountain's earlier purpose of washing clothes, refreshing the livestock and providing drinking water (this in the halcyon times before Galasa) was largely sublimated in favour of a photographic concept, designed to seduce the weary visitors, with the erection of a peculiar and most ill-thought municipal art gallery and some other attractions of dubious historical value nearby. The area has now become the centre of Mojaquero culture, with seven bars and a number of jolly festivals, usually including the ancient sport of delivering something pointy to a gaily coloured and beribboned hole from horseback (an early version of wham, bam and thank you Ma'am).
We drive up the hill on the Avenida Encamp (named after a town in Andorra famous for its foreign bank accounts) and past the venerable Hotel Moresco, which is one of the rare buildings that has survived the many changes to the settlement over the centuries. Originally built by the Phoenicians, the hotel has remained closed to the public now for over 72 years, glaring remorselessly at the passers by from its location on the bluff. The owners are said to owe more money in taxes than the value of the building, while having remarkable connections in Madrid. So, an impasse.
Visitors would find it hard to imagine that, at one time, Disneyville was once thought to be an attractive residential village, with a small number of amusing bars, an elegant theatre, an open-air cinema, several romantic arches (including the Arco de Luciana), a single town hall building and sundry other wonders now lost. The surrounds of the old castle that crowns the hill was heavily reconverted in the late 20th Century, with the discovery of an ancient burial ground bulldozed quickly over, and is now the home to a worldwide association of graffiti artists. Another area used as an ancient cemetery was the Plaza de Parterre, rebuilt in an amazing mixture of styles, including Roman, Moorish and Neo-vulgarian. Above, archaeologists have located a strange plaza with what appears to be a tiny underground garage (evidently accessible only to those with impeccable connections who may have been allowed to drive through the pedestrian streets of the village before the introduction of personal fliers and other modern forms of transportation).
But, after all is done, the characterless buildings excavated to find the cultura popular underneath, we must move to the Plaza Nueva, so called, despite being erected in the 16th Century. At the time, settlers, given land in nearby Turre by Royal Decree, could not stay overnight in that region, thanks to the irate mozarabes who dwelt in the hills above, so they would live in and around the main square of Moxacra, which was built in that time with the ever-less appropriate name of 'The New Square'. A few centuries later, now with a road of access built in the mid 1950s (the Generalísimo, later Avenida Horizon and now Av Encamp), the square became the main point of the village. A small hotel called the Hotel Indalo dominated the plaza (archaeologists have found traces of it under the remains of at least fifteen different nick nack shops) and diagonally across the square, the largest of all the emporia stands, three stories of tat. Previously, a modest carpentry evidently occupied the same space,  connected with attractive arches to the narrow street to the left and the wider pedestrian avenue towards the church on the right.
But, it's the viewpoint we focus our attention on: This was a three-storey car-park built by a mayor in the early eighties, with vertiginous ramps for the vehicles. The building was in one way a failure, but it was later used for some small purposes underneath, and a mayor purpose above, where its large marble roof became a perfect place for a number of competing cafeterias to fill with their brightly-coloured tables and dustbins. The viewpoint was an immediate success (substituting, as it did, the previous exactly-the-same view).
In 2016, the construction was demolished and another viewpoint was created to crown a fresh town hall (paperwork and jobs, then as now, was a lively consideration of the local inhabitants).
The narrow streets of the earlier town were, generally speaking, preserved (except near the church, now a souvenir shop selling Chinese-made material, including small busts of one Wallace B Disney). Some streets had been introduced, as it were 'from scratch', in the 1950s and evidence of earlier lanes, running in different directions, give an early example to the sometimes ingenious local planning. The earlier 'popular architecture' was replaced in the second half of the 20th Century by uninspired 'off the shelf' architectural designs with untypical large windows, later used as shop-fronts.
One narrow alley gives evidence to a brief presence of a large number of pre-Brexit British settlers in Disneyville: a street which for around thirty years was called Calle Pedro Barato, named after an ex-pat scallywag who was known as 'Cheap Pete'. The name of the street was quietly changed  in the early years of the current century to Calle Cal.
Disneyville hides many interesting anecdotes under the streets and rubble.

Sunday, July 31, 2016


Old Mojácar

An amazing looking pueblo in the forgotten province of Almería. This picture of Mojácar is probably from about 1962 or so, and shows most of the village as seen from the mountain behind, the Picaccio (which is now adorned with a number of mobile phone and radio antennae). The right hand side of the village is missing, cut just before el Castillo, a castle described in the 1927 edition of a Spanish encyclopedia as 'inmutable' - roughly: unknockdownable. By the time of this picture, the castle had gone - the venerable stones had been taken to build houses, or fill in gullies and streets from the stricken pueblo, which had been largely abandoned since the Civil War in the second half of the thirties. Past the Castillo, now a luxurious home belonging to one of the many early foreigners who had brought the village back to life, the pueblo descends towards the fuente below. In this first picture, one can see the church - an old fortified building dating back to the Sixteenth Century, and just below, the large open-air construction at the lower right is Mojácar's open-air cinema, affectionately known as a 'pipa theatre'.
Behind Mojácar, the dry river bed called the Río de Aguas washes past in the mid distance (every few years, it fills with water from the heavy rains upstream). The surrounding land is dry, inhospitable, and while there are many terrazas from distant ages, by the 20th Century, the land was un-worked.
The view moving to the right - seeing the pueblo staring out towards the sea (this picture comes from around 1930) shows the older construction - with paint to highlight the doors and windows (it helps keep the flies out).
Mojácar is a kilometre away from the coast, rising on a hill. This originally helped to keep the town safe from pirate attacks, but meant that the local economy was more agricultural than maritime.
There were few homes on the coast, and the land down there, as late as the early sixties, was used simply to grow tomatoes. It is recounted that the older children would inherit the land or house 'up above', while the younger ones would be left the useless land on the coast. During the lean years following the Civil War, much of the local population left to find a better life elsewhere - and there are Mojaqueros in Barcelona, Madrid and Granada, in France and Germany and Argentina. With the arrival of the foreign wealth, many of course returned.
Don Jacinto, the last mayor of the Franco era, was the  man who brought Mojácar back from the brink. By 1965, there was a modest government Parador hotel on the beach, a very small Hotel Indalo in the village square, and any number of wealthy and always exotic foreigners living in the pueblo, building lavish homes wherever they could, with the paperwork easily resolved by the forward-thinking mayor and his small town hall.

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