Wednesday, February 24, 2010

 

Something about Birds

Breakfast is, as often as not, a meal shared with lots of friends. Small, feathery ones called ‘sparrows’. Now, British readers may not be familiar with these creatures as apparently there aren’t any left in that great country as they have all succumbed to the fumes from lead-free petrol, rather like the dodo succumbing in its day to – apparently - lead. Poor British sparrows, what will the cats do?
Here in Spain, we have either been blessed by an entirely stronger version of this ubiquitous birdie or, more likely, the unleaded gas has as much lead in it as ever.
Proof of this apparently improbable claim came from my old luxury Mercedes 500 – which ran enthusiastically on leaded petrol and single-handedly kept the Arab States in Wellington boots and caviar. In the days of the ‘turn-over’ to unleaded from leaded – this latter having an extra extra tax on it to encourage us to switch – I was concerned because my car wouldn’t be able to run on the unleaded stuff and that I would eventually end up leaving it on the side of the road with the keys in the ignition and a sign in the window saying ‘do not under any circumstances steal this car’.
It turned out, on enquiry at the local petrol station, that it ran just fine on the green stuff, so that was alright, except, they could have told me before and saved me some lolly. Perhaps they were fooled by my apparent wealth, although the Old Girl actually cost relatively little and the 500 badge on the boot didn’t really have much to do with the 200 badge on the engine.
I’m down at the beach today, as always, sharing my little buns – two doughy things – sugared bread-balls for goodness sake, with a hoard of sparrows who don’t mind a little sugar in their lives. I have been told that the owner of the cafeteria in question, clearly a keen bird-lover, puts some insulin in his cakes, or at least he should. Otherwise the Spanish sparrow might follow the fate of its British cousin, killed by something we sometimes mix – for odd reasons – into our petrol.
As I watch the diabetic sparrows hopping erratically over to our table, my wife is telling me that you can’t throw rice at weddings any longer, as the pigeons eat it and it swells up in their stomachs giving them indigestion. It is indeed wonderful what concerns we humans have for our fellow beings, as long as they have either four legs or lots of feathers. Personally, I never feed pigeons anything, as they are little more than airborne rats in my opinion. I do however remember throwing bits of bread soaked in ouzo at the seagulls following the ferry around the Greek islands, and other bits of bread soaked in brandy crossing over to Tangiers. Seagulls enjoy the game and will, after a couple of mid-air catches, fly upside-down for you for a while. Until they crash into the side of the ship of course, or drown.
You had to have been there.
So, I was feeding some snowbirds a few days ago tapas and beer over at the campsite. I know them from other years and we were having a chat about this and that. They want to buy a winter-house here, they say, and then fly here instead. They have been driving down to the south in an enormous camper every winter and then they move north again in the summer, a bit like the swallows which should be arriving any day now. Our swallows – actually, I think they are really martins, but I’ll call them ours – spend the winters in Africa and migrate north to Spain in the springtime, returning to the area and even the nests they vacated the summer before. It will be interesting to see how many return to perch on the telephone line outside, as their departure last July coincided with the famous and horrible Mojácar/Turre brush-fire which killed so much of our local bird and animal-life, including all the tortoises. We let our visitors from Africa build their mud nests under our eaves.
We don’t get many birds that wander about on the ground near our porch, thanks to our bloodthirsty cat. The sparrows on our estate aren’t tame, like the ones outside my breakfast café, and other birds are careful not to land in our garden. Apart from Bertha our pet chicken, of course, who is built like a brick out-house. The cat keeps out of her way. Things are better at one of our neighbours whose garden is feline-free and often visited by doves. I was over there the other day and those pretty grey turtle-necked doves were wandering around pecking at this and that, even at our shoes. Who needs a cat, hey?
I saw a hoopoe today while sawing up some charred branches (from last summer’s fire). This is a kind of jay, I think, with a crest on its head that rises and falls at its owner’s whim. They are a pretty bird with a remarkable call, from which they get their name. No sugar buns for them – they like insects. This one had soot on his feet, from perching on one of our trees, I expect.
We have an aviary with a number of teetotal ‘love birds’ living there, little brightly coloured parrots. It gets so you don’t notice their singing after a while, despite the aviary being just outside the bedroom. I feed them a mixture of seed I get from the molino in Turre and they reward me by making me smile. It is strange to think that only a few dozens of millions of years ago they used to stomp about the land, tearing each other to shreds and considerately leaving their bones, as dinosaur fossils, for us to wonder about.
I wonder if these distant creatures would have liked those little buns, with sugar on them, which I have for breakfast with my coffee.
Or perhaps they would have preferred something a little stronger.

Friday, February 19, 2010

 

A Portrait of Mojácar


Mojácar used to be a town of around 6,000 people in as far back as 1870. It maintained this number of inhabitants until round about 1900 when, slowly, numbers began to fall, speeding its descent in the 1930s. Through the various local vicissitudes of the drop in the local water-table, the end of the de-forestation, a peculiar plague of locusts in 1901, the end of the mines in the 1920s and the troubled times of the Civil War, the area in general eventually became depopulated with mass emigrations to Barcelona, Algeria, Germany and even Argentina, and Mojácar itself began its long descent into what was, by 1960, a moribund village of just 600 souls.
The late XIX Century had seen lead and iron mines in the Sierra Almagrera and the Sierra de Bédar bringing wealth into the area, served principally by the port of Garrucha.
By 1911, Mojácar had 4,979 people on the padrón, and the town had just installed public lighting (run on acetylene). There was a café, a ‘cantina’, two butchers, a carpenter’s, three food shops, a pharmacy, a post office and a bookshop.
Mojácar’s politics were divided into two rival families, the Carillos and the Flores. In 1881, the mayor Francisco Flores Grima signed a contract with the British vice-consul, based in Garrucha, George Clifton to deed part of Mojácar’s fresh water to Garrucha. As the tubes were being laid to channel the water to the port town, Mojácar erupted in a ‘mutiny’ and the leader of which, a certain ‘Blás’ took the staff of office from the mayor Francisco and ‘broke it over his knee’.
But let’s meet another mayor, Nicolás Carillo Murcia, whose ‘reign’ lasted for just one year, 1900, when he was 28. Nicolás is perhaps better remembered as Mojácar’s first hobby artist and this picture – possibly the oldest extant portrait of the village – would have been painted somewhere in the first decade of the XX Century. The scene shows the ‘Espiritu Santo’ on the left, Mojácar in the centre and Garrucha in the distance on the right. Nicolás was also known as a sculptor, although most of his wooden figures, including two Christs for the churches of Mojácar and Turre, were destroyed in the first weeks of the Civil War in 1936. Better known to Mojácar residents, the terrace windows and the wooden porch of the Torreón were designed by Nicolás. He also helped build and decorate the famous Aquelarre theatre opposite the church in Mojácar in 1925 (torn down in the frenzy of easy money in the 1990s).
Nicolás Carillo Murcia left Mojácar for good in 1930, migrating to Barcelona, where he died in 1955.

 

Taking a Leak

I had just discovered that the editor had pushed his fine paper up from biweekly to weekly and this meant that I would need to write something quickly. But what could I write about? There’s only one place where a man can think about these things, look for inspiration and admire at the same time Mother Nature’s wonderful design and symmetry, and that is while having a refreshing pee off the side of the terrace.
We have the good fortune to live in a country house, surrounded by either lush vegetation or a scorched and arid landscape – depending of course on the time of the year and whether we have had any really good brush fires in the recent past. My dad bought the house years ago, attracted I think, as much by the terrace and its pissing opportunities as by the house itself and its austere marble bathroom.
I learnt from an early age about the advantages of emptying one’s bladder while contemplating the sunset and considering a knotty scientific problem or remembering a bit of poetry from school. It certainly beats staring towards a white tile finish or a vandalised french letter machine where speed seems to be the only concern, while the mind is disengaged and quiet. I know that this is a man’s thing – which explains why we are so good at building cathedrals – but there is always room for company I suppose. At least, behind that bush over there.
I don’t think there was any formality to this habit of emptying one’s bladder outside until my dad’s second wife took to planting mint in a garden just below the kitchen window. Until then, any part of the terrace, or even the big eucalyptus would do for a whiz. But from that time until now, the spot outside the kitchen window has always been my favourite.
As for my step-mother, she wasn’t as sharp as my mum and it took her a year or two before she discovered why the mint never did very well and why the rest of the family never wanted any in our gin.
We are, as I have said, far away in the deepest country and it is rare to see anyone while going about my morning’s ablution. The first of the day. Today I was lucky to spot our snooty neighbour go past (looking firmly the other way) riding on his roan stallion and trailed by his greyhounds three. I waved cheerily at him, without letting go, but it was probably a wasted gesture. What on earth can I write about for The Reader, I asked myself, idly spelling my name in the dirt below.
My dad would tell a story of drinking in some French bar, now long disappeared, on the playa. It, too, had a terrace. At some point, round about the fifth brandy, my dad zoomed in on this feature of the building and decided to take a leak as the barman was otherwise engaged, adding up his bill. It was night time and the terrace looked awfully inviting and anyway, my dad thought, it might help remind him where he’d left the car and also, come to think of it, what sort of car it was. He stepped over to the terrace and, to his momentary surprise, lurched off the edge towards the garden, some five metres below. He landed, as he recalled later, in a cactus. Convinced that he’d been pushed by the barman (a story denied later by a very amused Frenchman who presented himself at our house the next morning in search of his twenty five pesetas) and picking spines from his chest, my dad decided to walk home, straight over the hills and navigating by the stars.
The oddest part of this tale, told sometimes late at night around the fire, was when my dad got part way home, fairly lost but with the scent of ruined mint faintly playing in his nostril, he found that he had to give that same organ a good blowing. Normally he would carry a handkerchief (and a very bloodstained one was indeed offered by the Frenchman in evidence) but – since no one was present – my dad sat down, took off his trousers and then his underwear, and luxuriantly blew his nose on this patient and forbearing undergarment.
Much, apparently, to the surprise of an old peasant pissing against a nearby algarrobo tree.
So many silly stories from the good old days, before we were obliged to behave ourselves.
Ahhh: a beer from my wife to bring inspiration. Little does she know where I’ll get it. So the other day, a school friend and sometimes writer came over to stay from London. Over his duty-free scotch, we remembered the names of the masters and imitated their accents, we recalled the nicknames of the other boys (I kindly refrained from reminding my old friend of his) and we talked of our lives since.
I eventually went outside for a pee and my friend joined me as a shooting star fizzed its way across the heavens. ‘Gor’, he said, ‘It’s marvellous here. I haven’t done this since I was a kid’.
‘You’ll remember the words to the school song now’, I told him. They were in Latin, a bloody useless language they taught us there. He did, too, and soon we were both bellowing out the old song ‘Floreat, floreat, floreat Rugbeia’!
So there we are; a deadline to beat and nothing to write about. I think I’ll go and have a pee on the terrace and see if inspiration strikes.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

 

The Message on the Wall

They’ve not done much in the past thirty years as regards the building of social or cultural projects in our town. There is an ‘artisan centre’, which was built with finance from the Regional Government, in a town which has never produced much in the way of ‘artisans’. No mad desire on the part of our local politicians to help those mysterious basket-weavers and toy-soldier makers perhaps, but there was a handy piece of land there that, let us say, increased its value overnight. The whole point of the building was finished before it was started, if you know what I mean. We eventually managed to fill it up, more of less, and convert it into something ill-planned but vaguely useful. Many years on, the building has been repainted and had the locks changed - and has been reborn as the ‘Centro de Usos Multiples’, the multiple-use building. Very clever, that, although now no one can quite agree on what this seamlessly integrated building is now called. Streets, buildings and so on are always having their names changed in Spain. We give them nicknames and say to the taxi driver, ‘the street after the pink church’ or ‘just past the Mayor’s folly’.
Besides our Artisan Centre, which has a mixture of free and, inexplicably, paying-for social attractions inside, plus a converted ‘sort-of’ concert hall, a theatre, a conference room, a bar, a library and some offices, the town now boasts a new (if unusable) swimming-pool and sports centre, along with a two storey car park all built on what used to be the Campo de Fútbol, which means in English ‘the Football Field’, although it no longer fulfills that function at all. Oddly, there’s no political will to change the name. Perhaps the taxi drivers put their feet down for once.
We also have a new – unopened – art museum, several marble statues of local girls in traditional dress scattered about and the fairly new remodelled area around our castle. The castle, described in the 1910 edition of the Encyclopaedia Española as ‘inmutable’, or ‘unknockdownable’, was knocked down the day after the ‘M – P’ volume of that worthy reference book came out and long before the tourist boom and the idea (around here) that castles might be of interest. There’s a pretty nice house there instead. We call it ‘El Castillo’. Such irony. Surrounding this is the remodelled area known either as the ‘lookout’ or the ‘bunker’, depending, perhaps, on your politics. The Junta de Andalucía dug deep for this construction in the early nineties, hurriedly removed the archeological traces they found, plus a ‘number of bones’, and ‘castellated’ with heavy stone the approaches and surroundings. They put up some spiffing lights as well.
Unfortunately, the area has been adopted by the world’s foremost graffiti artists as their unofficial headquarters. The tone of the decorations here is, essentially, juvenile politics with just a touch of personal epigrams. We are entertained principally by messages - in Spanish - such as ‘¡Viva las FE de los Jons’, or ‘Yay for the Junior Fascists’, which may have been crossed out by the next yoof in favour of ‘Nacional Sindicalísmo’ or ‘¡Viva Lenin!’ Which, essentially, all means the same thing.
It’s a curious fact that you never find a graffito, which says ‘Hooray for the Agreeable Centrist Party!’
The area surrounding the top of our town is built with porous stone blocks covered by the aforementioned graffiti. In August, it’s covered by panting tourists as well, all taking videos of the view (which removes the necessity of contemplating it ‘en vivo’ as it were). But they are, al least, easy to remove.
On the approach, next to the tattoo parlours, there are some handy spray-paint outlets for the artist who came: inspired yet unprepared.
Which leads me to ask, if the Government is prepared to add a ‘special tax’ to the price of a CD or a DVD to pay the impoverished pop singer or film director whose work it is assumed that you are stealing (!!), an extra euro on every purchase, then why not add a few bob to the price of spray cans and give the money to the unfortunate department that has to clean all this crap off the walls every day?
Moving to the cities, these painted messages change. Granada is now totally ruined by the grafiteros or ‘street artists’ as they are quite revoltingly called. A brave judge has just fined one of these cretins 1,000 euros, but a practical magistrate like this is rarer here than a clean city wall. In Murcia, the tone is beastly paintings of people’s initials in various colours, plus some sexual innuenda. However, I should pause here and acknowledge one superb graffito in that city which has been painted on the wall of the Foreigners’ Centre, the ‘Centro de Extranjería’, and has remained there for years. It looks down at the long queue of hungry and sad looking foreigners and asks in violent black paint: ‘¿Burocrácia o apartheid?
Bloody good question that.
In the Valencian community, the main thrust of the graffiti artists is to paint-out place names which smack of sounding Spanish, and replacing them with their Valenciano versions. Thus Jávea will be blacked out on all of its approaches, and Xàbia put in its place. Elche becomes Elx. Since road signs are useful only to those who are not familiar with the way, and since these (wealthy tourists...) will almost certainly be unfamiliar with the Xàbia place name, one might expect some attrition or spoilage among the visitors. Nationalists are such shallow and inconsiderate people.
In Almería, we are concerned with just the two languages: Spanish and, in all its many flavours, English. We live, as the Cajamar savings bank would have it, ‘in a sea of profitability and tranquillity’.
As the rusted orange paint gently falls from our inert cranes, and discoloured posters advertise half-built urbanizations in Águilas, our town has concerned itself for once with the padrón, the population registry. As we all know, this register helps get extra funds for the municipality (so artlessly spent) and also allows for extra licences, schoolteachers, police and medics. However, the government of Zapatero, keen to stave off a popular insurrection at its complete ineptitude, has taken to sending out lolly to the town halls in what is known as the PlanE which is meant to create short-term (at least until the next elections) jobs.
Jobs for the boys, judging from what I’ve seen.
So, more souls on the padrón equals more cash for the project, which explains the rather pointless parking lot and, now, two padel courts for our citizens (it’s a form of Mexican tennis apparently).
Plus a 1.7 million euro football field (Boy – that’s really going to confuse the taxi drivers) somewhere on the beach and carpeted, unusually, with Astroturf.
No. Hold on, we have to pay for that.
One day, the local wannabe politicians who talk of fixing our community will do so from the viewpoint of experience and solidarity rather than the tired old mixture of ignorance and greed which has so blighted our communities. We half-heartedly listen to the ‘experts’ as they flap on about tourism or ‘rural tourism’ or ‘golf tourism’ or, God forgive us, ‘gastronomic tourism’ as if these are the simple answers which will fix our municipalities and bring work, even to those poor coloured people queuing forlornly in Murcia. Sometimes, the braver politicians even talk of ‘residential tourism’. Do you know, I think they mean us.
However, whether we can see it, read it or not, there is little doubt that as things stand for our small mistreated community, short of a big change in our thinking, we won’t need a spray can to know that the writing is on the wall.

Monday, February 15, 2010

 

Found This (heh heh)

The Calamar Song
(Apologies to Lonnie Donnegan)

Does your calamar lose its flavour on your denture overnight?
Does your partner say don’t chew it do you whimper back ‘I might,
If the ruddy thing weren’t frozen I would cough it out in spite’.
Does your calamar lose its flavour on your denture overnight?

Does your migas taste like porridge when it’s sticking to your gums?
Do you try to use a finger - but find that you’re all thumbs?
This Spanish plat de jour tastes a lot like baker’s crumbs!
Does your migas taste like porridge when it’s sticking to your gums?

Go on then, one more!

Do your molars go all lumpy when the tapas plates are laid?
Snails and squid and tuna bits, d’they make you feel afraid?
Get a round of drinks aboard and hope that someone paid –
Do your molars go all lumpy when the tapas plates are laid?

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

 

Free Willy (and Edna)

It rained the other day. You may have noticed it if you live anywhere near me, because it bucketed down with the enthusiasm of an explosion at sea. It poured. Those of us lucky enough to live on a flat bit of land were merely worried about the water coming sideways through the windows, but for those whose homes are built on the side of a cliff, the view from those same windows must have changed from one minute to the next, as their homes spun round and slid inexorably towards the soft warm Mediterranean down below, just past the recently-barbecued beach bar.
It was a ‘perfect storm’, as the book of that title would have it. It filled the rambla, the dry-river bed which, for a short while, revealed its true function of being one of the province’s major drains. The appropriately named ‘Rio de Aguas’ showed its teeth as it does once every seventeen years.
Our two goldfish must have sensed the rain sluicing under the door. They appeared agitated each time that they circled their comfortably equipped quarters towards the front, where the view of a few books floating across the carpet must have caught their eyes. As they arrived again in front of their tank, gobbing gently in horror at the scene, their piscine brains may have briefly awoken once again to the prospect of a larger world without. Not even a soggy meal of fish-kibble floating slowly past them towards the bottom of the aquarium where the dishabille little glass mermaid lies on a bed of sponge would put them off this unexpected contemplation of a world beyond their ken.
The number of animals under our care has risen again recently with the arrival of a small dog which I suspect was once billeted at a PAWS compound and has now, by a roundabout route involving some friend of my son’s, made its home with us. The flood didn’t seem to bother it, nor yet the bad-tempered cat with the long claws and the remarkable aim together with a well-known antipathy towards all things canine, nor indeed the chicken, whose egg-laying capabilities, coupled to a number of outraged squawks delivered outside our bedroom window every morning, have made it a favoured member of the family for providing us with a regular breakfast, an early-morning wake-up call and the prospect of an agreeable Sunday lunch if her other duties fail her. The philosophy of our pets, well-cared for as they might be, is simple. In every life a little rain is going to fall.
I was gently releasing a large and outraged country rat that my wife had found hiding under the sink, now dried and fluffed, back into the garden when a thought suddenly hit me. Why not allow the goldfish their freedom? They could be released into that giant muddy lagoon which the river had by then become, and maybe, if rumours about Edna’s sexuality were true, start a whole empire of goldfish down in the lake.
Well, a short-lived empire. The sun would dry out our rambla by Easter. Then again, when your attention span is reduced to just a few seconds, three months is a hell of a long time.
We could even sell the untenanted aquarium in the classified section of The Reader, now universally confirmed as Almería’s leading Eng-lang weekly.
So, I squelched my way across the garden and back inside, trailing mud across the carpet on my way to the kitchen to find an empty jam-jar.
My son wandered in at that moment. ‘Would you like to release Willy and Edna into the wild, to allow them to swim free, to let them go where no fish has gone before? And anyway, we could sell the aquarium at the market’, I asked breathlessly.
Visions of covering himself in mud must have dazzled him. ‘Yep’, he agreed. ‘I’ll do it’.
Willy wasn’t entirely convinced about his departure to another home. There might be sharks there, he may have reasoned, or cat-fish. But, as Edna had already packed her things and leapt into the jam-jar, Willy had soon forgotten his concerns and was quickly wedged in beside her.
My boy climbed onto his motorcycle and was soon skidding his way enthusiastically down the lane towards the rambla, a jar of slightly reluctant fish in one pocket and the bottle of fish-eats in the other. Just in case they didn’t like the local grub.
I was emptying the fish-tank and explaining events to the glass mermaid when he returned, covered as expected from head to toe in mud.
‘Wait’, he said, ‘I found a terrapin’.
So, now the aquarium and the mermaid have a new guest. For some reason, we call him Noah.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

 

The Snails of Palomares (reworked)

Back in the sixties, the allies had this idea that it would be a good thing to have a few bombers aloft in the skies, loaded for bear (Russian Bear, that is), in case Breshnev or Kennedy’s finger slipped on the fateful red button while playing with their respective girlfriends. I write this, but I’m not entirely sure about Leonid. I think he preferred drinking. Anyhow, a USAF B52 bomber was peacefully taking on fuel from a KC 135 flying tanker carrying 110,000 litres of the right stuff high in the skies over Vera on January 17th 1966 when something went terribly wrong – the two aircraft touched… and exploded. Debris rained down on the fields and coastline below, including four vacuum-packed and unarmed nuclear bombs.
The non-nuclear explosives in two of the weapons detonated upon hitting the ground, resulting (I discover from Wikipedia) in the contamination of a 2-square-kilometer area by radioactive plutonium.
The kafuffle as the remains of the aircraft, blobs of raw plutonium and the four bombs were quickly re-secured by the Americans is well known. Two of the bombs landed on the ground in Palomares (‘falling open and melting everything in their path’ according to unverifiable and probably rather unreliable reports) and the other two fell in the sea, where one was soon found rolling gently in the breakers while the forth was located in a deep trench off the coast several months later by Alvin, that cute little mini-sub that starred in the National Geographic magazines of the period. I remember reading about it at school and thinking that I wanted one. Another suggestion is that a wise old fisherman, who reputedly enjoyed a shot or two of Magno with his breakfast, may have helped in the search by circling the area in his row-boat with his head in a glass bottomed bucket scanning the sea-floor for large metal sausages (as the scientists kindly put it to him). He’s been known ever since as Antonio the Glow.
As far as the American Navy was concerned, he was certainly cheaper to fuel.
Franco was on board the Fifth Fleet destroyer for a brief visit to see how things were getting along while toying with a complimentary chocolate Easter bunny and complaining about the length of time needed to find a ruddy great steel bomb when, just at that very moment, a large and sinister looking object, rusted and covered in whelks, was fortuitously hauled aboard right in front of him.
A suggestion from the time was that the last bomb was in a very deep hole in the sea and was impossible to extract, so a cunningly designed plastic reproduction had been lowered off the other side of the ship to be triumphantly raised in the presence of the mad Caudillo to cheer him up.
This of course leads one to surmise that the fourth bomb is still out there somewhere, rolling slowly about as the current plays with it in its dark and forgotten trench: which in turn accounts for the fish with two heads I had for lunch yesterday.
Fraga Irribarne the Minister of Tourism, perhaps unaware of this sleight of hand, famously took a dip in the sea with the American ambassador at the time to show there was no radiation. Come to think of it, perhaps they did smell a small rat, as, in point of fact, they carefully enjoyed their frolic in front of the Mojácar Parador, some ten kilometres down the coast.
The Marines, for want of anything better to do, removed 20,000 tons of topsoil, fertile and safe, and took it to South Carolina where they spread it on the fields, because, you see, there was no radiation.
It's now used to grow terbacca.
A small desalination plant was built in Palomares by the Americans for thirty million dollars as a kind gesture (it was quickly closed down after the resident engineer moved to Mojácar to open the El Patio beach bar and, seeing that he wasn't coming back, the Catalan caretaker sold the guts of the building for scrap). A few rusting Geiger counters were left to record the ambient radiation level – if only there only would have been any, which of course there isn’t – and new construction extending from Vera Playa into Palomares was given the go-ahead by forward thinking (and impartial) town-planners.
Now, after forty some years, along comes ‘the bombshell’. A recent test on Palomares snails (please pay attention here if you count pond-life in your carefully balanced diet) has shown a higher than normal level of radiation. That luminous slime they leave as they melt their way over the rocks is, apparently, smokin’.
The American Department of Energy, together with the CIEMAT Spanish atomic agency, has now bought ten hectares of the land which had been previously cleared by speculators ready for some building, although one can only wonder quietly about the dust already raised and blown to the heavens by the tractors and diggers.
The site is now being examined by a team of experts armed with exotic scientific instruments together with a bucket and a kitchen sieve which they bought from Lopez. Rumours are that they have failed so far to find the presence of any dangerous radiation particles, but they have confirmed the discovery of the marble floors from two Roman villas, the still-faintly luminescent remains of Antonio’s row-boat and part of the foundations of what appears to have been a small Phoenician shoe-shop which the Junta de Andalucía has since described disparagingly as ‘probably illegal’.
Local ecologists have reacted to the news by saying that a much larger area needs to be sanitized.
The half-life of plutonium is a lot longer than ours.
For the meantime, don’t eat the snails.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

 

It was Paul Beckett the artist who once said 'Mojácar is a beautiful village - despite the best efforts of the mojaqueros to ruin it'. Well, that was a long time ago and they have continue to have full rein to trash the pueblo, which was - and probably still is - the imán - the main draw or the magnet that brought all of us here in the first place.
You have seen some amazing pictures of the pueblo of Mojácar which rises in a tumble of white blocks on the final mountain of the Filabres chain as it swoops towards the sea.
Quite magic.
The narrow streets - just a donkey's width - and the flat roofs. The whitewash and the old girls dressed in black. Well, some of that has gone now, especially the old girls who are now decked out in more modern outfits. Those narrow streets are quiet squares are now full of tourist tat, junk-filled shops and late-night bars. The town hall is currently knocking down a swathe of cheap Franco housing by the church to build more car spaces (in a town that should be pedestrian only) and re-inventing its history. At the medieval fuente, the new roundabout (traffic is heavy in the summer season) will have a giant stainless steel Indalo to decorate it. The mayoress' idea, apparently.
Approaching Mojácar, the first detail you see is an enormous orange crane that has reared over the village now for around three years. No one wants to offend the builder by suggesting he might want to take it down. Maybe nobody cares.
Here's a billboard that decorates the side of the road as you approach the main square, the Plaza Nueva.
Ugly, isn't it?

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