Wednesday, July 30, 2014


The Hotel, My Friends, is Legal!

The ecologists were sat round a fire, trying to open a tin of beans with a corkscrew. 'The Hotel Algarrobico is Legal', shouted one of them, holding a piece of newspaper that had blown in from a nearby building site they had successfully stopped last year. The building licence granted in 2003 for the ghastly twenty storey hotel was kosher, rules the Supreme Court. Now, of course, the builders can sue both the Andalucian Government and the environmentalists for interference, trespass, work stoppage and degrading the gigantic building. Should be a nice sum of money, says an eco-warrior uneasily to another, covered inexplicably with baked beans and nursing a bleeding thumb.
So will the promoters finish the hotel, sell it to the Swedes, or turn it into an old people's home, as suggested by the local mayor?
I know, they could give the penthouse suite to Helen and Len Prior!

Saturday, July 26, 2014


Almería Bombarded by the Germans

An interesting piece of history here recalls the story of how the Germans bombarded the City of Almería on May 31st 1937.
A squadron of Republican bombers, Tupolevs, had flown out of a Murcian air-base some days before and had attacked a German battleship (under, apparently, the idea that it was the Admiral Canaris, a warship used by the Nationalists) which was moored in Ibiza. The ship was in fact a German pocket battleship, the Deutschland, which suffered the loss of over thirty crew-members as a result of the strike. The Deutschland belonged to Nazi Germany, a country which in 1937 was part of a non-aggression coalition but the ship was, nevertheless, trespassing within a ten mile exclusion zone.
Appraised of the incident, Hitler was incandescent and planned to shell Valencia (the provisional capital of the Republicans), however, on reflection, Almería as a smaller target was chosen and another battleship, the Admiral Scheer, was chosen for the job, together with four supporting destroyers, the Albatros, Luchs, Seedler and Leopard.
The Admiral Scheer, while in Gibraltar.
Over 200 rounds were fired at the undefended port and city. Fifty people died, another 55 were reported wounded and a number of buildings were destroyed. Unlike the attack on Guernica some weeks previously, the German forces made no effort to disguise their nationality, nor to work in any alliance with the Rebels. This was about revenge.
Great Britain and France made small complaint and the event was swept under the carpet. Meanwhile, a large web of tunnels was quickly built under Almería to protect the population from further attacks - enough to protect 35,000 citizens (the tunnels are now a tourist attraction) from the privations of the Nationalist, Italian and German forces. As 150,000 refugees from Málaga, newly taken by the Nationalists, struggled into Almería, adding to the incalculable stress of the situation. The city itself was shelled another fifty times by the Rebel forces in the following months.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014


More Government Censorship, with the 'AEDE Canon'

Our boys at El Mundo write about those who profit from their labour... and then helpfully add a link to Facebook, Twitter and Meneame.

The 'Google Tax' was solemnly passed by the Government on Tuesday (without debate). This is a canon that must be paid to a select coterie of daily newspapers when any 'non-significant fragment' of news in aggregated, anywhere within Spain. The AEDE get the money, regardless of who is quoted and linked to, while the evident argument that a link merely adds readership to the site in question has been laid to one side yet again – here in Spain, it's about the power of the lobby, in this case the most powerful news groups – to cause a censorship of the lesser media (and pirate some extra cash). Take Menéame for example (Spain's version of Reddit), who last year provided readers with some 300 million links to original material. The editor says he can either close down... or move abroad. Facebook, Twitter and a whole host of smaller news providers will be affected. For commentators, bloggers and bad English-language gazettes, it will certainly be harder to find the news to share with readers. I suppose they can either make it up, or just pinch it without attribution. 
So - will you now be better or worse informed about the news, analysis and events going on in Spain following the implementation of the 'Canon AEDE' otherwise known as the 'Google Tax'? More opinion here and here. A list of the AEDE controlled newspapers here.
Oh my goodness, am I breaking the law? 

Wednesday, July 16, 2014


Machine Life in Adolfo Suarez

Ar the airport in Madrid, having got through immigration and customs at warp-speed, I galloped through the giant shop which takes up a serious chunk of the airport, sticking religiously to the narrow grey road that winds through it, while chanting an incantation against faeries, majick and sourcery, to arrive some time later, safely, at the wing which serves the flight to Almería. I had time for a coffee: a decent one, at last (I had been in America, where the coffee is weak and the waitresses are jolly).
The man made me a cortado and I chose a bun. That, he said, would be three euros forty. I waved a five at him, but was told to feed it into a machine, where, in due course, my change would clatter into a convenient tray. 'Look', he said, doing it for me.
So, how do you tip a machine?
'It'll never make it to my pueblo', I told him.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014


Current Events

I don’t even know if I feel much like writing at the moment, besides keeping the tradition alive of posting something – at least – once a month here on the Shilling. My Darling Barbara died less than two weeks ago on June 4th, victim of a long-term and horrible illness, named after the concentration camp doctor who apparently first identified it: Wegener’s Granulomatosis.
We buried her in the Mojácar cemetery on the Thursday, surrounded by the usual group of fascinating and occasionally rather odd friends that one finds if he lives here long enough: indeed, I just wanted to rush home and tell Barbara who was there to say goodbye – which was pretty much everyone except for an estranged brother of hers who thunders aimlessly about Mojácar on a Harley all day long.
But that’s over now: I’ll write about Barbara a bit later on...
I flew out the next day, Friday 6th, to California, where my younger daughter lives. I have always liked America and, over the years, I’ve visited or stayed there better than a dozen times, including lengthy stays in San Francisco in the mid-seventies and in southern Los Angeles a decade later. This time, I’m staying in Laguna Beach, further south and not so far from the Mexican frontier. Laguna Beach is a small resort overlooked by some spectacularly expensive homes (5 to 10 million dollars or more). The Pacific Coast Highway runs through it, furnished with more expensive and exotic cars than I’ve ever seen before. I saw an antique British sports three-wheeler yesterday. Stretch limos, Maseratis and souped-up golf carts roll past as I walk along the coast, with the beach on one side and an amazing 180 art galleries (!) on the other. Unlike Mojácar, Laguna Beach really is an artist’s destination – although few of them live in those big six million dollar mansions above the bay.
I have walked around the resort a few times – it’s tasteful, with no large hotels or signs of vulgarity – no wally-trolleys, neon signs or Banderas Azules to reassure the doubtful of the efforts made by the local authorities to keep their citizens happy. The architecture, a mixture of wood and brick, is much more varied than we are used to. No doubt the teeming hordes live elsewhere. As expected, the streets are crammed with beautiful, skinny blond girls.  
The bus has a ramp on the front for bicycles, and the post office sells greeting cards. The local restaurants seem healthier than I might expect – there’s no evidence of French fries, or fast-food outlets. It’s an expensive town, with Thai, Mexican, suchi, and fancy places, together with some good (large) bars with live music and capable staff. Parking is expensive, with parking metres, but free to residents (who, presumably, have bought a permit off the town hall). But why not – tourists should not be able to take all the parking spots, don’t you think?
One of the things that is expensive is health care. An old case of sciatica returned to pain my leg, severely. I couldn’t walk more than a few steps. I tried a Thai masseuse (I would have tried one anyway) and then a chiropractor. I had my feet done over at the Chinese pedicure. I then found a local sports-injury centre with machines, weights, some rather nasty vitamin supplements and some friendly staffers who joyously twisted me into knots for two days (all I could afford).
I’m staying with my daughter and her Spanish husband, so I am speaking rather more Spanish here, between home life and visits to bars and restaurants where the staff are slightly surprised-looking Mexicans, than I do at home in Spain. Each morning, I even get to see a re-transmission of the news from Madrid on the frankly gigantic TV they have here. So, I’m keeping up with things at home.

Saturday, May 31, 2014


Homage to the Foreign-Born Mojaqueros

Mojácar was just another crumbling Andalucian village until the beginning of the sixties, when the mayor, Jacinto Alarcon, had the idea of giving away scrub-land or houses in ruins to those who would improve them. The town had drifted from 6000 inhabitants before the Civil War to nearer 600, and the advent of enthusiastic forasteros become the beginning of a new chapter in Mojácar's history.
The new vecinos brought their new ways, their culture, their tastes and, above all, their money with them. The town thrived.
While few local people have ever acknowledged the impact on their lives of the 'foreigners', whether they came from Madrid, Munich, Manhattan or Manchester, and the Town Hall still merrily refuses to do so, local historian (and ex-municipal cop) Francisco Haro, son of the old boy who ran the Hotel Indalo in the Plaza Nueva, has written a book about those fascinating and peculiar people who descended on the pueblo in the sixties. Here you will meet Sammy, the gay New York mafioso on the run from his family; Fritz the eccentric painter who could down a bottle of anis at a sitting; Charlie Braun, the large German womaniser who skied for James Bond, Tony Hawker who built hovercraft in his spare time, my parents Bill and Heather, My parents-in-law Jim and Mary, and so on. Bars, shops, ateliers were opened; intrigue, stories and the occasional feud followed. The local talisman, the Indalo, the little stick-man with the bow over his head, became as well-known in London as a bottle of Terry brandy.
The town eventually allowed itself to be seduced by a large tour-operator who set about ruining (once again) the attraction which had, for a brief decade, made Mojácar the bohemian capital of southern Spain. Local greed brought poor choices for the village, demolitions of historical buildings, unimaginative architecture and a plethora of small rarely-used apartments squeezed into an inadequate infrastructure.
The book is called 'Mojaqueros de Hecho' and will be presented in August.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014


Submarine Stops Here (Until 11.00pm)

There's an opinion held by Officialdom that we can read things better if we go letter-by-letter. Which explains why ambulances and the police like to write their names back to front on the hoods of their cars. We might never guess who they were while trying to figure out the letters in our mirrors. Similarly, while driving and reading the letters written on the road for our attention (or would this sign be for pedestrians?). But this isn't a photograph of a sign for the bus, but a forward thinking councillor in Mojácar anticipating the rise in the sea level thanks to global warming (that and pumping all our sewage out there). Yes, one day it'll be 'No Spitting on the Sub'.

En castellano, aquí.

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