Saturday, November 12, 2016

 

Horsing Around








Monday, November 07, 2016

 

The Old House in Norfolk

About the last thing I expected to be doing last Thursday was to be sitting in a bar in Villaricos with a visiting British couple, reminiscing with the husband: without doubt the only person in the entire world who would be familiar with my old childhood bedroom.
You see, it was his, too.
I was born in a large crumbling mansion in Norfolk in 1953 and spent the first thirteen years of my life, when not at a British prep school being beaten for neglecting my Latin, living a carefree if lonely life in the house and grounds of the family pile.
Both were extremely large. The house had thirteen bedrooms - not all in a comfortable shape, since eleven of them were empty - and it sat in a park of fifty acres, which it shared with a number of cows. The nearest building that wasn't, in some way, beholden to the 'Hall', was at the edge of a village about two miles away. The local policeman would regularly fall off his bike into the ditch rather than see my parents driving home in an erratic fashion from the nearest public house at some time after 'Last Call'.  In return, he got a crate of whisky for Christmas. In fact, now that I think of it, perhaps this explained more his lack of balance on the bicycle rather than his passion for noblesse oblige.
I had no siblings, and hardly any playmates. The house was far away from any neighbours and surrounded by a large park. In Norfolk in those days, besides the dearth of other local children, the fact was that they, as well as being within a comfortable radius, also had to be deemed appropriate to mix with a young gentleman like myself. 
This whittled the final list down, I think, to six.
School, while providing more children of an age and accent similar to me, was not a solution, since I preferred books, hated football, and was known to all as 'a solitary type'.
When I reached thirteen, and was on the cusp of being sent to a public school (even worse than a prep school, since the bigger boys at 18 were, in fact, grown ups), my parents sold the house in 1966 and sensibly moved to Spain, a place where there was no class system, and where the policemen preferred brandy...
On a flying visit back to England, they auctioned the furnishings with the help of the local vicar (during, I have to say, a drunken stupor: some odd bits being later sent in a large box to Spain, including a three-legged chair, an empty crate of whisky bottles and a broken bicycle pump) and left word to sell the roost, which eventually went to a family of whom I know nothing beyond the name - Leggett.
Many years later, when my father was gone to His Reward, I briefly toured Norfolk with my new wife, Barbara. We had come for a memorial service in the tiny Saxon church which stood on land we had owned. My father had given the church to, well, The Church, and in return, the diocese had agreed to allow a memorial plaque to be affixed in the nave, 'when the time came'.
We drove through those narrow Norfolk lanes that summer day in 1987, and where the old house had stood for several centuries, all that we could find left was a large pile of rubble. The Leggetts, it appeared, had been obliged to sell the park and the house to an avaricious gravel company who later mined the entire area, the Saxon church by now resting on a tiny island, apparently providing much of the gravel that lies under the M27. The preservation order on the house being no match for an unattended digger with the motor left foolishly running...
Here comes one of those odd things that happen to make life interesting.
The son of the Leggetts, a boy who spent ten years in the same house as me, who slept in the same bedroom as I did, now lives forty years on in France.  Like any expatriate of sound intelligence, he has a poor view of the Brexit nonsense and, while posting something scathing the other day on Facebook somewhere, found a post of mine nestling just above his own.
I duly got a message (the wonders of the Modern Age): 'Are you the one who...?'
For once, being called Lenox was a help.
My bunk-mate was coming to Spain and would be staying in Villaricos, the beach where the Americans mislaid a few nuclear bombs back in 1966, around the same time that my parents were settling into Spanish life.
Villaricos is about ten kilometres from Mojácar, where I live.
And so, last Thursday, we met over a few beers and a remarkable number of fresh sardines.
And we talked about the old house where we were both brought up...

 

The Old House in Norfolk

About the last thing I expected to be doing last Thursday was to be sitting in a bar in Villaricos with a visiting British couple, reminiscing with the husband: without doubt the only person in the entire world who would be familiar with my old childhood bedroom.
You see, it was his, too.
I was born in a large crumbling mansion in Norfolk in 1953 and spent the first thirteen years of my life, when not at a British prep school being beaten for neglecting my Latin, living a carefree if lonely life in the house and grounds of the family pile.
Both were extremely large. The house had thirteen bedrooms - not all in a comfortable shape, since eleven of them were empty - and it sat in a park of fifty acres, which it shared with a number of cows. The nearest building that wasn't, in some way, beholden to the 'Hall', was at the edge of a village about two miles away. The local policeman would regularly fall off his bike into the ditch rather than see my parents driving home in an erratic fashion from the nearest village at some time after 'Last Call'.  In return, he got a crate of whisky for Christmas. In fact, now that I think of it, perhaps this explained more his lack of balance on the bicycle rather than his passion for noblesse oblige.
I had no siblings, and hardly any playmates. The house was far away from any neighbours and surrounded by a large park. In Norfolk in those days, besides the dearth of other local children, the fact was that they, as well as being within a comfortable radius, also had to be deemed appropriate to mix with a young gentleman. 
This whittled the final list down, I think, to six.
School, while providing more children of an age and accent similar to me, was not a solution, since I preferred books, hated football, and was known to all as 'a solitary type'.
When I reached thirteen, and was on the cusp of being sent to a public school (even worse than a prep school, since the bigger boys at 18 were, in fact, grown ups), my parents sold the house in 1966 and sensibly moved to Spain, a place where there was no class system, and where the policeman preferred brandy...
On a flying visit back to England, they auctioned the furnishings with the help of the local vicar and left word to sell the roost, which eventually went to a family of whom I know nothing beyond the name - Leggett.
Many years later, when my father was gone, I briefly toured Norfolk with my new wife, Barbara. We had come for a memorial service in the tiny Saxon church which stood on land we had owned. My father had given the church to, well, The Church, and in return, the diocese had agreed to allow a memorial plaque to be affixed in the nave, 'when the time came'.
We drove through those narrow Norfolk lanes that summer day in 1987, and where the old house had stood for several centuries, all that we could find was a large pile of rubble. The Leggetts, it appeared, had been obliged to sell the park and the house to an avaricious gravel company who later mined the entire area, the Saxon church by now resting on a tiny island, apparently providing much of the gravel that lies under the M27.
Here comes one of those odd things that happen to make life interesting.
The son of the Leggetts, a boy who spend ten years in the same house as me, who slept in the same bedroom as I did, now lives in France.  Like any expatriate of sound intelligence, he has a poor view of the Brexit nonsense and, while posting something scathing on Facebook somewhere, found a post of mine nestling just above his own.
I duly got a message (the wonders of the Modern Age): 'Are you the one who...?'
For once, being called Lenox was a help.
My bunk-mate was coming to Spain and would be staying in Villaricos, the beach where the Americans mislaid a few nuclear bombs in 1966: it's about ten kilometres from Mojácar, where I live.
And so, last Thursday, we met over a few beers and a remarkable number of fresh sardines.
And we talked about the old house where we were both brought up...

Saturday, October 15, 2016

 

Another Garden Plague

Joining the list of local plant-pests, a list that includes mortal plagues on the chumbo cactus (cochineal bug), the palm tree (palm weevil), and lesser plagues on the olives (olive psylla), pine trees (processionary caterpillars), bougainvillea (ant-bourne infections), eucalyptus (gall wasp) and so on, we are now host to the 'agave snout weevil' (here).
This insect, similar in looks to the palm weevil (picudo rojo in Spanish) is about half the size of its more colourful cousin, and it attacks several different types of agave.
The normal green acacia, the one that abruptly produces the dramatic century flower that towers over the rest of the plant, and then dies, grows in abundance near to Retamar in Almería and this has upset our friends the ecologists. These city-dwelling absolutionists are against what they term as 'invasive plants' (the conquistadores brought them back in their luggage) and they have vowed, at least until the funding dries up, to exterminate the above-mentioned plantation. If they succeed, there will be nothing left but the Almerian pre-desert scrub which seems to soothe their souls.
Whether or not they introduced the picudo negro into the plantation will perhaps never be known. The insect comes from Mexico, and its large, fat, white grub is the thing that is at the bottom of every decent bottle of tequila or mescal. Powdered, with salt, you lick it off your finger with a shot of José Cuervo Gold.
Inevitably, the picudo negro has found other things it likes to eat, including ornamental agave, the type that features in many local gardens. It kills the plant as sure as the picudo rojo killed the palm trees.
They may be in the yukka as well...
Later: the bottom picture after I started removing the dying agave: inside were several palm weevils as well (picudo rojo)! You can see both types, rojo and negro, in this picture.

Saturday, October 01, 2016

 

The British are Nuestros Amigos

Around a quarter of all town halls in Almería sent a clear message this Friday: 'We want our Britons to stay'. These town halls, collected together in a union, have little or no tourism: and much of their recent wealth stems from foreign, mainly British, settlers.
The Spanish authorities in general spend heavily on tourism, with a ministry and a large budget. They however allow nothing for 'residential tourism', as the phenomenon of foreign property owners is described. Small obscure interior towns often have no normal tourism, and are therefore much more understanding and indeed welcoming of foreign settlers than their coastal colleagues
The Mancomunidad del Almanzora is a union of 21 towns in Northern Almería. On Friday in a full plenary session, they agreed to give every support to the British residents to protect them, as they can, from the potential ravages of Brexit.


From the left: The president of the Mancomunidad, the mayor of Zurgena and councillor Jim Simpson. Three local mayors are on the right of the photo.

The institutional photograph after the plenary session. Andrew Mortimer is on the far right next to Jim Simpson. I'm in the back somewhere...

Specific points raised included health services, the right to work and to vote.
The meeting was held in the Town Hall of Zurgena and the subject was presented by local councillor Jim Simpson. Experts called to argue the case were Lenox Napier and Andrew Mortimer.
The President of the Mancomunidad, Antonio García, speaking for his fellow mayors, said he would take on the subject as his own.
There are an estimated 12,000 Britons living within the area covered by the union.
The Mancomunidad is now set to send out a notice to other town halls and councils suggesting they should join in the statement.

Jim, Andy and myself work for a group that seeks to give rights and protection to all ex-pats living in Europe - find out more at Europats here

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.

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