Thursday, March 31, 2011

 

The Bonfires


We used to have a number of pine trees in the fields around the house. They were planted originally by my father about forty years ago. He was a keen tree-planter, he said, because there weren’t any in this part of Spain. Trees, that is. Or planters, come to think of it.
He would drive up to the village fountain with several large plastic bottles that started out life holding industrial chemicals (for the swimming pool – the water came by truck). Fill them up then lug them out of the old Renault and over to the seedlings. In the end, there were about 500 trees, almost all pine, and quite a few of them festooned with a type of disagreeable caterpillar which regularly makes its presence in the pages of the ex-pat press. More because of its rash-inducing hairs and its processionary characteristics that anything it might do to the unfortunate pine tree.
A brush fire in the high hills of next-door Turre a couple of summers ago was improperly put out and a second fire duly caught a week later and rushed down the hill, across the valley and into our municipality, burning, among other far more important things, our five hundred pine trees, along with their resident caterpillars as well.
So, two winters on, the trees are dead and dried up, ready for some attention. They fall like skittles in the wind, their roots rotted away. I have a hand saw and have been pruning away at the smaller trees as and when the house needed firewood, but now, with the trees falling in any direction, crushing whatever is underneath, some friends have come by with chainsaws: some wood for them, some for us.
For the past three days, I’ve been burning the remains of the forest – the small branches, fir cones and other detritus – in some large bonfires. Here, you should get your burning permission first, unless you intend to have a good brush-fire and burn down the neighbourhood (don’t get caught – an Englishman in Granada recently cooked half the province and got fined ten million euros).
In the old days, you went to get a licence from the local police, but now, a special fellow from the department of the environment shows up twice a week (although not on any set days, unfortunately) to give out exactly the same permit. Several of us were waiting for him last Monday. Our policeman phoned to ask where he was. He said he couldn’t get a car to come in that day.
So, I’m using an old permit. It’s not as if anyone is going to check.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

 

The Queue

There's a graffiti outside the Centro de Extranjería in Murcia, the place where, from nine to three, five days a week, scared or patient or bored foreigners must queue for hours in the hope of getting their work or residence papers. It says 'burocracy or apartheid?'.
Oddly, the pintada has been there for at least five years, the time I've been going past to get to the train station.
Either the ayuntamiento de Murcia is very lax about painting over the scrawl... or perhaps they agree with the sentiment.
Being a European with my passport and absurd A4 - ever since the Ministerio del Interior took away our 'tarjetas de residencia' (I'd been a resident in Spain for 40 years - alas no longer!) - I sympathise with the poor North Africans and South Americans as they patiently wait in line. Reading the graffiti.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

 

The Odd Job Woman

Long time Mojácar resident Struan Robertson (owner of 'The Time and Place') has written a thriller available from Amazon. Just type in 'The Odd Job Woman' for details.
A thriller set in expatriate Mojácar, when an English odd job man answers a call from an isolated villa to open a locked deed box - he also opens a deadly can of worms and soon discovers that life will never be the same again! Both a whodunnit and a thriller, the action is nonstop and full of twists, leading to a final denouement set against a backdrop of British expatriate society along the coastal strips of southern Spain. This book is for anyone who likes thrillers - while its eviscerating look at life on the Spanish Costas will appeal to everyone who has ever been there on holiday, lived there - or thinking of moving there...
Struan says: 'I've been writing most of my life but never seriously tried to get published before; except for this book. I'm now half way through another thriller, also set partly in Spain, where I've been living, on and off, for the last thirty years. I'm also writing a memoir. I was brought up on a Scottish Highland sheep farm. Went to sea when I was seventeen and stayed there for the next fifty odd years - except for ten years as airline flight deck crew. Er, that's it..!'.
N:B - book available only at amazon.com (not amazon.co.uk)

Friday, March 11, 2011

 

A Solution for Mojácar

Well, the Town Hall has spent a fortune on the two large empty squares up by the church in the village. The Mayoress wanted to build an underground car-park for 37 cars at a cost of two million euros (around 60,000 euros per car) and says that there were lots of ‘takers’. The Town Hall has spent around 250,000 in buying the rather mungey Loro Azul bar and apartment (where I first lived in Mojácar in 1967 for a couple of years) so as to presumably knock it down. They spent another 42,000 euros on a study to build ‘several municipal buildings’ in the area, although without any plans as to what they might, eventually, be used for.
The whole, rebuilt area, with its car-park nestled safely under it, would, naturally, find space for the much missed Arco de Luciana, a stone tunnel under a nearby bar where a Moorish virgin threw herself to her death after her gallant Captain perished in battle. Or, at least, she might have if the tunnel hadn’t of been built in 1910. Hey, in our town we sell 'fantasy' (witness the Moors and Christians spectacle).
Luckily, there was a schism in a recent pleno, and the lunatic project was dropped – at least until after the next elections. In short, those in favour of an underground car-park, sundry non-specific buildings and a racetrack through the pueblo, vote for Rosmari and the Partido Popular. Those against, don’t.
In another pleno, held on March 11th, the Council decided to offer a modest 3,000 euro prize to anyone who could come up with a sensible idea for the area. Here’s mine.
First of all, I think that it would be a good idea to improve the looks of the pueblo. We could encourage those who live there to improve their surroundings and we could bring fresh ideas to repair the village and, in short, make property there more attractive and perhaps even a ‘good investment’. To do this, we need to return a ‘theme’ to the village, which would clearly be to make it look more ‘ Moorish’. Some arches, overhead beams, ‘ Moorish doors’ with their curves, their charm and their mystery. Lucinda’s Arch should be returned, but it doesn’t really matter exactly… where. It can be in any spot which would be improved by a romantic, arched Lover’s Leap. We shouldn’t build two squares (and underground car-park) around and on the back of a centenary tunnel knocked down by a mayor and ignored both by him, and the three of four that followed. Thinking back, it was just a narrow tunnel outside two bars where people used to piss.
The front of the pueblo, the Plaza Nueva (so called, by the way, as it was built in the Seventeenth Century) is the commercial entrance to Mojácar. It’s pretty attractive, although could be improved. However, it’s where the trucks and suppliers must park to maintain the pueblo and its shops and bars. It has a good ‘look-out’ point, the marbled ‘Mirador’, which unfortunately needs to be urgently replaced or repaired. Perhaps it could return to its earlier function of a two storey car-park… for about thirty cars.
However, the main parking for Mojácar remains around and at the foot of the back of the village. There’s a considerable walk to regain the Plaza Nueva. Most people don’t and won’t visit, even though the pueblo is the lodestone of the area. We love Mojácar pueblo, but we stay on the beach.
To repair this, the pedestrian entrance to the village, the route taken by residents, shoppers and visitors alike, can easily be the same Plazas de Frontón and de la Iglesia. All that is needed is a short vertical ride from the ample car-park below. This car-park, now thankfully relieved from having a Wednesday fruit and vegetable market, has a large number of parking spaces. There are further parking-spaces in other next-door fields and levels. By bringing pedestrians up to the village with a mechanical lift, to be decanted into those upper squares, the whole problem of a pedestrian village is largely resolved. With these two upper squares turned into either gardens or, please, slightly ‘upmarket shops and taverns’, Mojácar could once again regain its pride of place as the leading destination and residential attraction for the area.
Could I have my 3,000€ now?

Sunday, March 06, 2011

 

The Headless Jesús

It seems that a lightening strike decapitated the Vera Sacred Heart yesterday. The ten metre high statue was erected in 1949 on the Cerro de Espiritú Santo, the hill which overlooks the city and which was also the centre of a previous Vera, destroyed in an earthquake in 1518.
The mayor has promised to return the statue to its former glory as soon as possible.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

 

La Cutreza

¡Ay, que gusto ir a comprar en Mojácar donde siempre uno está asegurado de encontrar prendas y otros recuerdos de calidad! "Hay un pelo entre mis dientes y no sé de que coño viene". Muy poético. "He follado en Mojácar", "Me han jodido en Mojácar" y luego, "Mojácar - ¿A ti, como prefieres tu polvo?"
La verdad es que, hasta subimos el tono de nuestras triquiñuelas, no vamos a subir el tono de nuestros visitantes.
Tenemos tiendas que venden las camisetas en las fotos, tenemos tiendas que venden sombreros mexicanos (no se sabe porqué) y tenemos tiendas que venden navajas, muñecas horteras y productos "Made in China". Luego, siempre puedes hacerte un tatuaje o ir a Garrucha a comer pescado. Lo que no se note mucho en nuestro pueblo, que una vez fue el más bonito de la provincia, es vida. Quizás esto cambiará después de las elecciones.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

 

Perfectly Welcome

It was to be a quiet party, just five or six of us. Maude had baked a cake and John had bought a bottle of champagne. There were a few beers and some sodas in the fridge and I had lit the barbeque ready for my speciality of burnt sausage à la birthday boy. Furthermore, in case my older sister Rachel, who works at the tourist office, could make it, we had some roast potatoes and a salad prepared – she’s a vegetarian. I went to put on some quiet music on the CD player.
Just then, a large blue bus stopped outside our house and people began to disembark. Rachel seemed to be there with them, shouting some instructions. The mass of people began to swell towards our gate. I ran over to see what was happening.
“Rachel, what on earth are you doing?”
“Well”, she said, “they’re tourists. They’ve come to join in. Could you take their picture?”
And so it is. Tourism today is so ubiquitous, that any fiesta, celebration, public event or exhibition must somehow cater for the visitors. Often at the expense of the locals, for whom the event was designed. While the bars, restaurants and knickknack shops all make out like bandits during these affrays (or at least, should), the local people will find themselves relegated to the ‘second row’ or even unable to attend at all.
Take our late summer fiesta. The four day long San Agustín fiesta is a very enjoyable thrash that seems more concerned with its commercial element than its social or religious one. Not only are the shops open until all hours, but a large number of out-of-town vendors come along to see what they can earn. The attractions are staged in a relatively small part of the municipality, so the bars and restaurants who failed the ‘location location’ test will not get much out of the affair (besides paying for the fiesta handbook). Lights are put up and taken down again, bands are hired and fireworks are let off. Is all this effort for the residents – or for the tourists?
The mainstays of commerce are industry, agriculture and tourism. There is precious little of the first two here and so we are obliged to cater for the third. I think that some of our shops sell needlessly vulgar tat – perhaps reckoning along the famous line of ‘pile it high and sell it cheap’ of Jack Cohen – and cheap Chinese souvenirs may attract cheap Chinese souvenir hunters. I’m not against tourists – unless they stand in my way – but I’m against hordes of them. Why not cater for less but wealthier tourism – Monte Carlo rather than Benidorm? We could make our town look nicer and even attract a wealthier type of visitor. After all, the Parador is a better hotel than the Pueblo Indalo.
So, the question is this – why does the tourist office advertise a local fiesta? Is it to help the citizens, or to help the shopkeepers?
In fact, sometimes it is clear that the public fiestas are just private affairs. We have two of this type, the Día de la Vieja and the Romería de San Isidro - both town hall picnics in the country where tourists and even non-local residents are simply not invited. Perhaps because there are no commercial advantages to doing so.
It is an axiom that, before you invite your friends over to your house, you clean the place up. Dust, wash, air and plump and even sometimes even paint, plaster, repair and rebuild. Then you feel better, proud of your home and ready to receive. The visitors come away favourably impressed and satisfied. Shouldn’t our resort receive the same consideration? Why not make our town look nicer and more attractive so the tourist will like it better? (To say nothing of how we might like it better as well). There’s plenty enough to be done. Meanwhile, by all means, give them their free paella, but save some for us.
This article isn’t about just Mojácar, but it’s clear that the pueblo itself is a kind of magnet to the area, a magnet which we all acknowledge, but don’t bother to visit…
Benidorm, by the way, works very well as a tourist destination. It takes a massive proportion of all British visitors to Spain and serves them well. It has a grid-system of streets leaving everyone close to their destination and also close to the beach. For residential tourism however, you will have to go to equally wealthy nearby town of Altea (which has just one large hotel).
My story at the top of the page? Well, here’s a true one. Barbara was hosting a small party on the hill behind the village. She and her pet cow along with some friends were celebrating San Fermín. The running of the bulls – or rather the trotting of one very affable pet cow called Petite Suisse. There was a picnic and some gypsy friends played the guitar, passed the bottle and sang. Some walkers joined in, eating and drinking with the group, while everyone vaguely thought that someone else must have invited them. The walkers, it turned out, thought that it was a town hall funded fiesta. So what – they were made perfectly welcome.


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