Wednesday, September 17, 2014


A Quiet Week on an Island

I've just spent a week in house in the high hills of the north western part of Mallorca staying with some friends. The hills themselves are a World Heritage site (which means they are very pretty) called the Sierra de Tramontana and they surround several villages such as Deìa - our nearest port of call, a village with a small population of residents and an endless transient pop of German senderistas walking the local trails. Guten tag, I say politely, as I pass them. A nearby town, Sóller, has an electric train, a cathedral and a pretty little port for swimming and eating well. It's a far cry from the ghastly resort of Magaluf far to the south.
Where I stayed, a house with four bedrooms, a couch and no Internet connection, I could see the small bay far below - accessed by 200 steps cut into the stone. There is a small beach bar down there to make the descent worthwhile. Above and behind the house, there are any number of old olive trees, gnarled and bent by the centuries. Here are some pix.

Sunday, September 07, 2014


Park Life

According to the Almeríapedia (yes, there is one), the Parque el Boticario just outside the City in La Cañada is 14 hectares in size, that's 34 acres, and it's a large park that proposes to introduce all the different plant life from the province, from trees to plants, from cactus to weeds and, for some reason, from lumps of stone to other lumps or marble. Cute idea. There's a large restaurant/bar and a giant playground as well.
Built for the boys over at Medio Ambiente with government and European funding, opened in 2005, the parque has spent the last nine years drying out, rotting and falling to bits. The bar and restaurant are closed and some of those senior citizen exercise machines - yes, they're there too - have rusted out completely into absorbing works of sculpture. The ponds are almost dry and there're weeds and garbage where there shouldn't be.
It's not surprising I suppose, the Medio Ambiente people (think 'politically-fired environmentalists') are keen proponents of returning Almería to the stone age (Demolition of the Algarrobico Hotel, their refusal to address the prickly pear issue and the spiteful insistence on the demolition of foreign-owned houses across the hinterlands of Almería together with the consequent impoverishment of the small interior villages). So, there's simply no time to look after their flagship park with '75,000 plants'. However, according to the Almeríapedia post, the Consejería of the Medio Ambiente merely built the park, before attempting to cede it to the Almería Town Hall, or failing that, the Junta de Andalucía. Neither of whom wanted it.
Today, it was open, hot, and empty. We saw not one employee there and no visitors either. It has lots of trees, bushes and plants as promised, but they certainly needed watering. The prickly pear had some infection and the explanatory signs had all been burnt black and unreadable by the elements. All said, it was still an interesting visit (after all, the rest of the province is in a similar state of desertification). Just bring a bottle of something to drink, and if you are feeling generous, a full watering can... 
The barman in nearby La Cañada (it's thirsty work walking around a 14Ha park - and on another subject - the tapas are huge), said he had gone along when it was first opened, but expressed surprise to hear that these days it was practically desolate.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014


The Prickly Pear Plague

The plague of the prickly pear has not gone away, indeed, it has got worse. Whole swathes of inland Almería are covered with dead and dying chumbos, with clouds of the male insects, a tiny white fly which turns into a red mess when you smear them, flying around the evening lamps. So many, that they will fill your eyes and mouth. The females, meanwhile, have their heads inserted into the plants, while the miniscule young hang in those white filaments which adorn the stricken plants, ready to be taken away by a gust of wind. The hills look as bad as this sounds - drooping, dying, drying.
The ecologists, of course, do nothing, Their concern is the ghastly Hotel Algarrobico and bothering the houses owned by the foreigners up in the moribund pueblos of the interior.
Now, however, the Cochineal Bug Dactylopius opuntiae is moving onto other plants, with damage found, apparently, on figs and vines.
The reason why the ecologistas don't want to move on the chumbo problem is because, they say, the chumbo is a planta invasora: it's not natural to Spain, therefore it shouldn't be protected. Brilliant! Well done those city-bred nitwits. The patata and the tomate are both invasoras as well!
Since spraying the prickly pear doesn't work - who is going to spray the wild ones? - the answer must lie in finding something that eats these bugs: a natural enemy. Somebody needs to go to Mexico.

Thursday, August 28, 2014


Mojácar: This Thing About Noise

A new group has just appeared here in Mojácar, it's against excess noise. Here's its pitch:
 'The Platform MOJACAR WITHOUT NOISE is a nonprofit organization which has been created by a number of neighbours and residents who defend their right to be protected against acoustic aggressions of any type and anti-social behaviour in special during the holidays.
We don't belong to any political party and we believe in the democratic dialogue that generates the balance among the citizens from a responsible position. It has been created because of the continuous disturbances from bars, discos, etc and in residential areas that generated too much noise and anti-social behaviour.
This platform is open to the participation of any neighbour or resident in Mojacar who wants to share, report or look for support in the fighting against the damaging effects of noise or anti-social behaviour'.

Mojácar is bitterly divided between the mayoress' party and the opposition parties. The first is strongly in favour of noise control, with fines for excess noise, live music, 'high heels in apartments', 'playing dominoes noisily' and dogs barking loudly. All very commendable and no doubt a vote-catcher for residents sick of the young tourists who are up all night, boozing and shouting.
On the other hand, the slightly less tenable argument that noise is an inevitable by-product of tourism, which, we are told, is 'our only industry'. Mojácar, they say, lives from tourism, as if the tourists should have precedence over the residents' right to live here peacefully.
Years ago, things were truly awful in the short summer season which Mojácar seems to prefer for its tourist season (with many places closing for the winter once August is over). There were three bars on the side of the village nearest to me and they would play ear-splitting music until four or five in the morning. I once wrote a piece in Spanish for a local newspaper saying that I couldn't fall asleep each night until one or other of the bars played that particular summer hit that I so enjoyed. In reality, music over distance, mixed or otherwise, loses its shape and all you get is the bass line. Boom boom.
Yes, live music is fine, but let's limit it to midnight. Indeed, you could try starting the entertainment a bit earlier!
The arrival of the new anti-noise group may be a political manoeuvre from the Town Hall, cynically outed to gather votes for next May's local elections, or it could just be the cry from people fed up with the ghastly tourist season, now drawing to a close.
But unfortunately, the village fiesta has just started. Extended by an extra day this year to five, the fiesta started with a bang (to coin a phrase) and means to carry on with as much noise and loud music as possible. Last night's band in the main plaza of the village lasted in full boom boom mode until six this morning. The bangs from the 'firecrakers' (as the Town Hall calls them), but thunderflashes to you and me, are enough to scare the animals, make the dogs bark, frighten the horses, and irritate the neighbours. Is the Town Hall against noise? Really?
Above all (and now we shall see if it is really apolitical), will the new anti-noise association make a stand?

Contact the association at:

Saturday, August 23, 2014


High-Stepping Times in Moras

We had arrived there by walking down a path in the darkness, ducking under trees ill-lit by our mobile phones, and along a riverbed as far as the tiny village called Moras. We had been eating a picnic dinner with some French people who had bought and fixed up a small farmhouse in the sierras behind Sorbas, with a view from their terrace of the crumbling hamlet huddled under the cliffs across the valley. Tiny biting flies clouded around us as we ate salad, chorizo and salmon. A German called Thomas was explaining about the village fiesta and the music that he and a small group of Spanish friends were rediscovering - old music from forgotten times.
Safely arrived in the village square, the seven musicians set up and began to play: Old malagüeñas, strange songs from the hills of Almería, peculiar pieces sung by a local woman ('I can't dance when I'm wearing my specs' was one). A few people tried anyway...
Over at the bar, I sunk a few beers and wondered how much a better camera might cost...

Friday, August 15, 2014


The End of an Affair

Local writer Paco Haro presents his book this Saturday 16 August about the early foreigners who arrived in Mojácar between thirty and fifty years ago. It's called 'Mojaqueros de Hecho'. (8.00pm at the Artesan Centre). Paco's father ran the small hotel in the main square where most of us stayed while we found our way around and perhaps bought an old house locally.
The book is divided into four sections, plus cameos about some of those involved. I'm reading the third part at the moment which talks about the end of the simple times of Mojácar when the investors in suits and ties started to arrive to build their apartments and their ugly and charmless hotels, make a quick profit and move on. It talks of how the most charismatic bits of the town were torn down - the old theatre, the hotel Indalo, the Arco de Luciana, and above all, the Fuente. When plans were announced by Mayor Bartolo to demolish the old Arab fountain and to raise up a marble mockery in its place in around 1988, Paco recalls in the book how the foreign residents reacted to a man, and together with local artist Félix Clemente Jérez and local carpenter José María Pérez, they went so far as a raise a demonstration in the main square with banners and whistles. I remember one sign held by a long-term resident and featured on the front page of The Entertainer - '90,000 pesetas to wash my knickers'. There was suddenly a large fight and it became clear, as Paco remembers, that we had passed from being 'fellow mojaqueros' to 'guiris de mierda'. They didn't need us anymore.
Following that demonstration, the new fountain was built. The whole reason for it was to favour an architect connected by family ties to the President of the Junta de Andalucía. Paco says in his book that following this episode, there were two prices in the bars, the shops and as offered by the local repair people - ours and yours. Suddenly there was no more theatre, cinema, art or music. Just commerce, disneyland and greed.
Mojácar remains a special place - the streets continue to be narrow (except where the current mayoress has demolished a couple of houses and turned the result into a large and spacious square) and the views are as delightful as always (except where the electric company put up a line of giant pylons across the so-called Valley of the Pyramids). The old narrow windows are now wide plate-glass affairs and the modest shingle nailed crookedly above the shops are these days giant neon signs. The summer queues of young and enthusiastic party-goers and bathers keep the businesses full as 'the only industry here is tourism' becomes the mantra (who needs residents?).
In Mojácar, we would sell our souls for an extra dollar... 
So, my heartfelt thanks to Paco (and many other local friends), because while the soulless commercial side of our town is, generally speaking, a tragedy (you should see the tee-shirts), there are still those who would imagine Mojácar as a more people-friendly place: a residential town. That second picture of the fuente, the one in marble...? Above it is an art museum (or would have been, the Town Hall decided at the last moment to make it a municipal gallery instead). 

Sunday, August 10, 2014


Senés: A Simple Fiesta

Senés is a pretty village in the interior of Almería. It's in fiesta this weekend, with its own version of the Moors and Christians. This edition has a small cast, with plenty of poetry and action. It seemed to be directed for the pleasure of the locals rather than for any larger commercial reasons.

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