Saturday, April 19, 2014


The Plague on the Prickly Pear

The ecologists, when not encouraging the demolition of foreign-owned homes or over-sized hotels, are concerned with fighting aliens. Not in this case the extranjeros, but rather the animal and plant life that doesn't (didn't) belong. They would like to be, of course, like Rousseau's Natural Man; and it sounds like a splendid plan, if only there was anything much left to dance about in after the exotics were weeded out.
As for the local people, let them eat sand.
In the natural park that stretches across most of southwestern Almería, it seems that the pita and the agave have got to go. The pita is the Century Plant, a spiky looking number, which after a great deal of procrastination suddenly shoots out an enormous stem with yellow flowers on the top of it, and then the whole she-bang keels over dead. The stalk was used in bygone times to make roof-beams (I had a few in an old house in Bédar. They rot after a while). The agave, sisal, was used for making raffia, rope, cloth and paper at one point. If only they had thought of Tequila. The plants were brought back from Mexico by the conquistadors (the ones who didn't find gold and therefore had plenty of space in their bags), and planted in the Cabo de Gata, thus giving the area something interesting to look at and, at the same time, upsetting their ecologically-minded descendents working out of the Consejería de Medio Ambiente y Ordenación del Territorio (that's right, the same department that has such a lively interest in foreign-owned homes in the interior of the province).
The ecologistas of today are, and it's documented, the Holy Inquisition of the sixteenth century.
I once wrote a learnéd article for a Spanish magazine about the Nijar/Cabo de Gata natural park and suggested it needing salting with a few critters such as the odd wallaby to move things along. At least the tourists would have something to photograph. The suggestion went down like a lead brick.
However, while the ecologists are busy getting excited from their fifth floor apartments in downtown Almería about how best to impoverish both the countryside and those unfortunate enough to live in it, they appear to have dropped the ball when it comes to a long line of insect infections we have suffered (beyond and above the German Cockroach, which prefers the cities anyway). We had the horrid palm tree beetle (palm trees come from Egypt, and tourists like them, so the ecologists looked the other way and instead made a great fuss of trying to catch racoons which had been left 'in the wild' by a few owners). We have the Eucalyptus fly which can only, apparently, be killed by the Eucalyptus spider, and we aren't allowed to import any: spiders that is. The old story about the old lady who swallowed a fly must be more popular here than I had thought. Besides which, even our IU green-minded mayor of a few years ago, Carlos Cervantes, had no compunction in uprooting an entire Eucalyptus grove on Mojácar Beach - the damn things come from Oz. Do you remember Carlos, the noisy and opinionated chap with the big black beard? He was the one who was against a ring-road for Mojácar because it would crush a rare plant called the limonium, a kind of lily.
So now, we have another blight, this time one that attacks the Prickly Pear, which is about as ubiquitous in our desert landscape as it can get. It is spreading slowly west, from Murcia. Here's a picture I took of some affected by cochinilla. It's on our neighbour's land.
Will the local authorities be given some squirty stuff by the Conserjería to get rid of this plague, I wonder? In the end, of course, it doesn't really matter. The Chumbo comes from Mexico as well...

Tuesday, April 15, 2014


A Lifetime of Pictures

Our daughter Jessica is here for a week - over from the USA - and we were going through the old photographs, which are in boxes, crates, trunks and albums: endless albums. And that's just the good ones. Almost fifty years of living in Mojácar plus the inevitable 'before we arrived' pictures, mostly in black and white. School pictures and me as a small white-haired child with my dog posing in the garden in Norfolk.
Then there's the slides, lots of dusty slides. I had taken to them for a year or two - long before digital cameras made a mockery of everything that went before. I was looking for a 'slide-viewer' to see what, and who, I had. In the end, it's holding them up to the sky and squinting most fearfully.
Now the pictures, taken with a digital camera rather than the old click, wrench and fiddle things we used to have, expensive and tiresome, rest quietly in the bowels of the computer, at least, the recent ones do. The previous rash of digital pictures are in the entrails of the earlier home computer, now in another box somewhere and probably irreparable. Perhaps the answer would be to print the photos I like the best and then find another cardboard box to stash them. Yes, that could work.
Meanwhile, the better ones find their way to the 'Mojacar Golden Years' on Facebook. The picture here is of our son, Daniel, admiring an early edition of The Entertainer, I newspaper I ran from 1985 to 1999. But don't get me started on old photographs, I've got thousands of them...

Tuesday, April 01, 2014


Mojácar Spring 2014

Welcome to Mojácar. The Town Hall has fixed the place up for the season, with repaired roads, new sidewalks and a fancy new roundabout. The elevator up to the village - I call it El Ascensor de Luciana in honour of a departed arch in the old village - is pretty much completed and will no doubt be opened shortly.
On the beach, there's a great selection of bars and restaurants, with a wide choice of venues (Greek, Italian, British, Irish, Indian, Thai, German, Mexican, Argentinian, Brazilian, French, American, Lebanese, Chinese and many good Spanish places). There are some new venues to try and a number of old-favourite beach-bars to return to.
There is plenty of sport (including a new lawn bowls green), music and culture.
The weather is good - of course - and Mojácar is a great place not just to visit, but an even better place to call home.  

Wednesday, March 19, 2014


A Question of Semantics

This is a picture taken on Wednesday of a number of people entering Melilla. Apparently around 500 souls, merrily waving their passports and duty free bottles of scotch, are now enjoying traditional Spanish hospitality.
I suppose the question arises - for the purposes of the statisticians, will they be treated as in transit, tourists or as residents?

Friday, March 14, 2014



So what happens to those millions of documents our friends the funcionarios are so keen on producing? Eventually, they go to the 'Junta de Expurgo', which orders their destruction. And the whole beautiful cycle of life begins anew. Here, from today's Voz de Almería, 70,000 old court documents are incinerated.

Sunday, March 09, 2014


The Torrecárdenas Hospital

The provincial hospital is in Almería and is called the Torrecárdenas. It's a gigantic building which is stretched to the limit. Hard-working staff, nurses, doctors and emergency crews working long hours. An immense army of patients and out-patients, family members and entire gypsy clans wheel around the wards and passageways, while patients in pajamas creep outside with their drips attached to have a not very furtive cigarette. Over the way, there's a bar/restaurant doing splendid service, if a bit less than in the good old days when it also sold brandy. Indeed, back in the day,  if you gave blood, you got a chitty for a free drink, a coffee and biscuit perhaps, or that aforementioned brandy. Like most services in Spain, there isn't enough parking for the enormous number of visitors, while cars are regularly being towed from inconvenient 'spots' they've found or created. An army of the disabled collect a coin from each driver who is obliged to leave his car on a giant field of rocks just about within walking distance of the centre.
It's a fine and noble hospital, daily forced to work miracles. Perhaps the politicians should spend a little less on their high-speed trains, and a little more on their hospitals.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014


Copyright, Copywrong

Some notes from this week's Business over Tapas*:

No one seems quite sure what the new 'Ley de la Propiedad Intelectual' could mean for the Internet in Spain. Heavy control and censorship? Perhaps. The idea in the proposed rule is to charge 'aggregators' who supply links to news stories, sites like Google News and Menéame, and share part of the spoils with the AEDE, the Spanish Daily Press Association. But how far will this go? To the television guide? To Business over Tapas? Here, we could continue, with a summary but without supplying links (that's to say, to the Spanish media, not the foreign ones). Or perhaps link without quotes. Or plagiarise (by not supplying the link, so easy). Or then again, pack the dog and move next door to Portugal. Either way, we would lose some stories as they passed 'under the radar'. Perhaps some news outlets would indeed prefer to allow linkage while others will want to charge locally-based reportage (although the law, if passed, would be obligatory), but isn't it useful for the media to receive extra readership (and potential new fans) through precisely these introductions? In short, the whole idea sounds ill-thought out and silly, much like this Government.

A number of articles on the proposed news 'copy and link' law promoted by the 'Culture Minister' Ignacio Wert: 'Euphoria in the world of culture. Ecstasy in journalism. The crisis of the press – pillar of democracy, the rule of law and good manners at the dinner table – is finally holding a miracle cure. Several newspapers dedicate their front pages to this. We have saved ourselves. Or rather, the Government has saved us from... (music of terror) the piracy!'. From Guerra Eterna. The BBC notes simply that '...Websites can link to freely available content without the permission of the copyright holder, the European Court of Justice says...'. An interview with Internet expert Enrique Dans in La Información includes the gem: 'this Government is completely analfabeto (illiterate) when it comes to the Internet'. Lastly, El Mundo interviews Ricardo Galli, the head of Menéame, a Spanish version of Reddit: 'It will do a lot more damage to the newspapers than it will to us', he says.

Another aspect of the proposed LCI is to charge a canon of 5€ per university student for using technical publications on the Internet (ignoring, once again, the whole point of the Internet, which is that material posted there is freely available). Gizmodo en Español has an interview with Internet lawyer Javier de la Cueva discussing this subject.

'Things have been moving in newspaper circles recently, with the owners expelling their editors (El Mundo, La Vanguardia and now El País), even though these titles are all pro-system, in favour of new apparently more malleable editors. The newspapers themselves are becoming more pro-Government, softening their criticism and reporting Government activities in a more favourable light. The deal seems to be that the newspaper association AEDE can now look forward to becoming protected by the CEDRO (copyright for printed materials) in a way similar to the SGAE, charging and controlling usage under obligation. Will Twitter and Facebook have to pay up?' A Facebook Page here. Of course, many readers come to newspaper articles, directed precisely by aggregators. So, with this rule, readership would fall. 

*Goodness, will I be allowed to link to my own websites? 

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