Tuesday, September 10, 2019

In Bed with a Book

Isn't that a terrific view?

I used to visit record stores and bookshops when younger. So nice to flip through the records, stacked in their boxes; so nice to angle my head and walk the bookshop shelves.
Following a trip somewhere, my suitcase home would hold a tee-shirt, a stack of albums and a selection of novels for ballast.
The money spent on those records...
The money spent on those books...
At home – Mojácar – there were never any local record or book shops of note, or if there were, they never lasted for long. After all, it’s a small place and, there’s not much of a market (especially for books, where half the population doesn’t read the language of the other half).
I tried Amazon for a while, but they have a pesky prime account which adds to the bill, and with our local charity-shop selling thrillers and whodunits at four for a euro, who cares how up-to-date they are?
My parents brought a quarter of a ton of books with them when they moved to Spain, as a kind of alternative activity to drinking. There was no TV in those days (there still isn’t in our house), and apart from a regular trip to the local cinema to improve our Spanish (‘Hands up’, being the first phrase I learnt), the evening pastimes back then were reduced to sleeping, reading or carousing.
Since I was thirteen, it was pretty much just the first two for me.
They stopped making records in around 1992 (and decent pop songs as well), so my record-buying days ended (I’ve got about 1,500 albums, all in stacks). As for the thousands of books, well they’ve just increased over the years and probably mated and had children.
The house is full of novels, with shelves of them in every room, a pile on the floor by the bed, a clump on the mantelpiece, a couple under the PC monitor (for height), boxes of them in the dining room, crates of them in the kitchen and even one on the table by the lavatory (with most of its pages missing for some reason).
My daughter has been putting them in boxes. She tells me not to worry and that they will be safe. I went out and bought some more last week just in case...
I expect I read less than I used to – what with social media and other Internet usage (for an apparent total of four hours a day average!) cutting into my time, but I’ve been in bed just now, with man-flu, so have been enjoying a good read.

Sunday, August 25, 2019

History through Tourism

As the Mojácar authorities continue with their plans to convert the 'pyramid mount' of Old Mojácar into a tourist magnet (yet otherwise appear to show little interest in the history of Mojácar), other experts across the province are following with their own 'cultural tourism'.
Our region is the birthplace of history, whether pre-historic daubs on the cave-walls of Vélez Blanco (where we desperately look for an 'Indalo' to prove an unprovable point), or the bronze-age Argar ruins of Antas (Wiki) and Fuente Álamo in Cuevas (Wiki) or the astonishing ruins of Los Millares (in Santa Fe de Mondújar) from 4.000BC (here). There's an interesting article on the importance of these sites to archaeologists here
Yet 'cultural tourism' visitor-numbers are down. La Voz de Almería says that visitors to sites in Almería controlled by the Junta de Andalucía - museums and archaeological sites - have fallen in the first six months of the year by over 24,000 compared with the figures from 2018. This includes a drop in the numbers visiting the Almería castle - the Alcazaba (Wiki) - from 142,000 to 116,000 visits, and the sublime castle of Vélez Blanco (Wiki).
The only 'cultural site' run by the Junta to have had an increase in visitors is the Centro Andaluz de la Fotografía in Almería City (unfortunately, the popular museum is rumoured to be in trouble with the politicians in Seville).
Almería is profoundly historical, and is valuable for more reasons than the potential tourist-dollars. As an archaeologist tells Almería Hoy: '...we have something called heritage that we have to promote. That is the perspective. Our 'grail' exists and is called El Argar, which is a colossal engine for the economy of any place and its value should completely change the economic appearance, not only of Antas, but of the entire region. If we continue to allow it to fall apart and let it be lost, we are allowing that inestimable value we have at the corner of our house to be lost. We must wake up the municipality itself, from the confluence and awareness of all citizens and all politicians'.
Is this the answer - to bring our history into focus through (and for) tourism?

Friday, August 23, 2019

Almería Fiestas

It's a long way across the city of Almería to get to the Paseo so, rather than put the kids in danger, we took them to the beach instead. Indeed, only four riders showed up in the Paseo, plus a few carriages. The organisers need to plan things better. Why not allow riders in the fairgrounds (where there is plenty of room) during the day like they always used to do?

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

The Aku Aku and the Old Mojácar

'Once upon a time, Mojácar, in the province of Almería, was a place located somewhere outside the known world; a secret place where special people, half-hidden and forgotten, yet completely happy ended up. Artists, painters, bohemian foreigners, crazy Englishmen, one of the Glasgow train robbers. A hippy era, of parties on the beach, with a little smoke and some fantastic beach bars...'. Thus begins a recent article in the national newspaper El País based on one of our beach bars, the famous Aku Aku - which in known for its great paellas and sublime summer concerts (proper music, not bad bands reprising Stairway to Heaven and Knocking on Heaven's Door for the millionth time).
Mojácar has changed of course from the 'secret place' of forty years ago into a tourist destination without much to recommend it. The Town Hall, with the support of the local merchants, has turned the village and its beaches into a money factory.
Where else does a residential village have concerts every night for the length of the tourist season (which never seems to end and yet is satisfyingly short)?
The article makes a similar point as somebody says '...The Aku Aku is of the little that still remains from that time, it maintains the spirit. Now you go out there and you find a gang of youngsters wandering around noisily with plastic penises stuck on their heads: a bachelor party. I once saw a group with a dwarf attached by a leash. The one holding the leash was so drunk that it was almost the dwarf who was leading him...'. (There's an agency that rents dwarves in Benidorm, seriously!)
Many articles that appear in the national press are reproduced by the local tourist department, but probably not this one. If for no other reason than that the town is conservative, run by the Partido Popular, and the Aku Aku is a beacon of the opposition PSOE, where the President of Spain was recently photographed in mufti, enjoying a paella with his family.
There are of course many other places in Mojácar where the old spirit survives, as the article itself points out. Many of these though, are chiringuitos, beach bars, and the Town Hall wants to extend a beach-wall and promenade through their land (where the diners sit) which will make the playa more pleasant for visitors, dwarfs and others included, and more remunerative for those who own businesses on the other side of the road.  
If you are visiting Mojácar for the first time, then before you leave, go and have a meal at the Aku.
Tell María I sent you.

Monday, August 12, 2019

The Fiesta Magazine 1979.

It's forty years since the Mojácar fiestas of 1979. What has changed in that time? The program had a small budget and barely ran to colour. The adverts were decidedly 'home-made', and the content was modest. There's 'un saludo' from our mayor of the time, Francisco González (Barbara Napier, then Beaumont, worked for him as his secretary).
Francisco - better known as Paco Marullo - was Mojácar's first democratically chosen mayor, voted in to power in April 1979. The foreigners didn't have the vote in those days, and there were certainly less of us, but we enjoyed a respect and 'una convivencia' that no longer exists today.
The first article in the magazine is a 'biografía' of our famous Canadian pop-singer resident JJ Barrie (No Charge and other hits).  JJ gave a concert that Sunday night.
Another item in the magazine is an interview with El Mister. This was an Italian called Aldo Cecchi who acted as the Mojácar football coach. Aldo was in the diplomatic service and had been the coach in Toronto before retiring to Mojácar. He was married to Yola, the sister of Silvio Narizzano (another local resident and the director of the movie Georgy Girl).
There is an interesting article from Martín Navarrete (as the local journalist from the ABC always signed himself) about the village square, the Plaza Nueva.  The article - purportedly written by the square itself - laments the changes brought about by progress: the old arches demolished and the trees gone.
There is some poetry in the magazine from local mojaqueros, including José Luis Molina, Pedro 'El Parral' and José Maria Montoya, and an article in both English and Spanish from my father Bill Napier which begins 'Where in the world is there a village that can attract so many different nationalities from so many diverse backgrounds and make them feel that this is their home?...'.
The new 2019 fiesta magazine, forty years later, is full of colour. It is professional, slick, is in two languages and is aimed at the tourists. Does it still preach 'convivencia' with the foreign residents?
Perhaps not. 

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Recycling? I've Never Cycled.

Every time we go to the dustbins these days, we are greeted (most of us) by an array of contenadores to put our waste in – glass, plastic, paper and general garbage. The general one – at least – is then hauled off six nights a week to some vile destination known only to the seagulls. Some people prefer to leave their trash in the fields or in the verges; some throw it off a handy cliff (video here, yes, he’s been identified by the police) while others neatly leave it next to the contenador (for company, maybe?), but most of us know to gamely lever up the heavy and sticky lid and to push our bin-liner of kitchen garbage into the box and out of our lives.
Waste management is, of course, a lot larger problem than Sr López from next door forgetting to divide the glass from the plastic in his trash, and probably reckons it’s a waste of time anyway.  
We gamely consider buying an electric car (maybe next year) and console ourselves that the ugly wind-turbines that dot the Spanish countryside are at least clean and save on the diesel-burning power stations – not that we see any difference in our electricity bill.
The accidental fire in Seseña, June 2016
Yet, our environment is still dirtier than ever. Madrid, Barcelona and Granada have been recently fined by Brussels for unhealthy levels of smog, while our practical solution to destroying plastic and rubber waste (by an accidental fire) and our record for being the second largest polluter of the Mediterranean (after Turkey) is not a happy one.
Worse still, the junk bled into the seas from our cruise ships, and into the skies with our airplanes, means that, unlike Sr López, we are simply fiddling while Rome burns.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Amor Vincit Omnis

As Facebook becomes ever-more concerned with racism, hatred and Boris Johnson, I turn first to something called Amor Vincit Omnis (here) which is a page dedicated to art and poetry. The writer, mvaljean525, works hard at preparing this beautiful site, with several new pictures and text (plus some video) uploaded daily. Each piece of art is accompanied by a poem: sometimes they are from the German or Spanish or Japanese (with their translation).
Where Facebook makes you reach for your keyboard, to post a frowny or send off some irate reply, Amor Vincit Omnis ('To embrace life with the wonderment of a child') is a soothe.

With dirty shoes and baggy pants.
I watched him walking by.
A little boy with curly hair,
and weary lonely eyes.
He came and sat beside me,
he talked of many things.
Poor people, having hearts,
richer than a king’s.
I noticed as he talked,
he was wise beyond his years.
As he told me of his life,
my eyes were filled with tears.
He said, “ I’ve learned that my friends,
are people that I find,
that show me that they care,
by treating me so kind.”
“And the most precious thing,
our heart will ever see,
Is the joy of loving others,
and the joy of love received.”
The Most Precious Thing ………( Based on the Poem “Nature Boy” By Eden Ahbez)
Sharon Rose Mille