The news in the Telegraph, followed by the rest of the British Media with that certain relish that the British 4th estate has for anything that proves us ex-pats to be delinquents, shirkers and lazybones, is that 90,000 Britons, living peacefully in Spain, suddenly all decided one day to up sticks and return to the glories of Olde England.
Perhaps someone has a spare room for them all.
The Spanish press followed the news, a bit more cautiously; after all, it wasn't like our venal and useless politicians had caused the abrupt exodus, they said, and maybe we could sell all those extra houses to the Russians and the Chinese anyhow, throwing in free visas for the wealthiest of them, although knocking down their pleasure palaces in a sunny future imagined by our idiot ecologists may be worth considering, this time around, a bit more carefully.
What, 90,000 Brits just left like that – 20% of them, apparently (believing the anal number-crunchers at the INE, who get their information in this case from the padrón, the town hall registers of this Great Land)?
No wonder our Mojácar Town Hall has dropped its plans to get a native English speaker into the Casa Consistorial to help with the Google Translations. There's no point now in adding to the 150 locals working there, since the percentage of the British element in our thriving village kleptocracy has precipitously fallen to not much over 60%.
In reality (and don't, for Christ' sake, tell the Telegraph), the thing about the padrón, is that most Brits don't bother to register on it in the first place. So, no one knows how many of them are living in Spain. The INE, in a burst of idiocy, says 297,229 – oops 228 – while the British consul vaguely waves its hands and suggests 800,000. No one can even say, in a European country without border controls, how many of one European race or another there are physically present, short of those who are registered for working, home-owning, studying or merely appearing on some police file. Plus, of course, those who want to be registered because it is their civic duty to do so.
The Spanish move, occasionally, from one town to another during their lives. They register on the new town's padrón, and the secretary informs their old town, who strikes their name. All easy and straightforward. With the foreigners, it's a different matter. Returning to Chipping Norton, Oslo or Timbuktoo is rather more final and the authorities in those fine cities will most certainly not bother to inform their Spanish counterparts of the change in residence. The local ayuntamientos must find this out for themselves and draw the appropriate line of virtual ink through the departed subject's name. Bearing in mind that the Town Halls of Spain have little interest in their foreigners – apart from a strong desire to demolish their homes – its easy to see that the numbers can get a bit wonky.
Thus, in its wisdom, the Ministerio del Interior recently ordered the Town Halls to check their registers – every two years for the foreigners and every five years for the comunitarios, the Europeans who walk among us.
So, those 90,000 absent Brits, rather than leaving last Saturday after the Match, as has been suggested by the Telegraph, have in fact tended to fade away over the past five years – sometimes returning to the UK, sometimes going forward to another country or destination within Spain, or sometimes by quietly dying!
Another piece of news, which is appearing shyly in some quarters, has it that a full 13% of all Britons living in the Sceptered Isle, would move to Spain in a heartbeat if they could.
And finally, an observation for the statisticians. Rather than counting on the padrón as a guide to population numbers, use the electric companies who at least know how many foreign households there are. Then, simply add 300,000, being the number of homes occupied in their majority by 'those who left their brains on the plane' and live in 'viviendas ilegales' without water or electricity.
Sounds uncomfortable that. I wonder if any of them are considering leaving.