Thursday, June 20, 2024

The Coming Divorce

 I don't suppose that anybody cares much, but me and Facebook, Facebook and I, are about to part company. 

We had a longish fling together, eleven years according to them, but now the time is fast approaching when we must divide the furniture, the paintings and the dog, and see who gets the car. 

This is because they keep putting me down

I post something, and they put it 'lower in feed' (how many people read - or rather see my posts on Facebook anyway?). 'Lower in feed' is kind of like Being Sent to Coventry.

Not nasty stuff, like pictures of dead Palestinian children, or swastikas, or pictures of Donald Trump looking stupid - but, I don't know, pretty innocuous news stories from the Spanish press (one last week showed a graphic from elDiario.es on the voting spread following the European elections). I post these things because they are interesting. 

They currently question, or remove, about one post a week. 

They accuse me of posting 'Graphic violence' on this one, and another of the Argentinian president Milei insulting Pedro Sánchez (also a press clipping). Javier Milei is currently back in Spain and no doubt insulting the Royals this time. Me, I'm not gonna say nuffing, no.

Today, they suddenly removed an article which comes from this blog about the old drinking habits of the foreigners in Mojácar back in the sixties which I had posted just over a year ago on Mojácar Golden Years (a page about Mojácar back in the sixties).

A year ago!

They said it was 'spam'.

 It is, I agree, a pretty terrifying article - I wonder if they had read it. Maybe they got a complaint from Alcoholics Anonymous.

Indeed, the break-up is edging closer (freeing me up to spend more time with other projects).  

I put Ronald Searle's marvelous cat at the top of this page to try and fool the Thought Police - we shall duly see how that goes. 

Monday, June 17, 2024

The Lizards Need to Cool Off

It’s been so hot here recently (thankfully, the weather changed for the better after the weekend) that I decided it was time to have a look at the two antique air-conditioning units that top and tail my digs. I had only the one mando, which needed batteries, but that was an easy challenge well within my capabilities. The other air-con didn’t have a control or any buttons or knobs as far as I could see.

I know that the global warming – you can believe it or not, I don’t care – is besieging us and each year it’s a tiny bit hotter, and well, I’m a tiny bit older too.

My daughter sent round a capable young fellow called Ashley (born and raised in the pueblo) to see if he could work his magic. 

I thought I had better clean up the bedroom and so moved things here and there, creating some space for air-conditioning mechanics, and discovered why the bedroom unit wasn’t working after I pulled a heavy trunk away from the wall.

Yes, friends, it had been left unplugged.

By the time Ashley arrived, I was down to just one non-functioning air-conditioner.

This particular piece, a relic from the days of Francisco Franco, is in a room full of both books and my computer and is decorated with a cane-and-plaster ceiling which is generally heaving with geckos.

We feared that the small and amiable lizards probably looked on the rather fuzzy-looking box located above the small window as a kind of Geckos’ Graveyard. Switch that thing on and there’d be bits of grated lizard all over the house.

Anyway, it turned out that there is a way to open up these things, and buttons are revealed. ‘Huh. Who needs a mando’ I wondered.

And, it works a treat. Sort of. No reptile’s entrails to speak of.  

Now I have to upgrade the computer with a new operating system. Maybe Ashley knows someone. Like the air-con, the old box of tricks has seen better days and it never fully recovered from the millennium bug fright, you remember, when the internal calendar was going to return everything back to 1900: Goodness, how the time has gone.

The power here is erratic, with those annoying micro power outages, which is why I must remember to ‘save save save’ as my late father in law, a retired IBM technician, would say.

To counter this, some years ago I bought an eternal battery (well, good for three minutes anyway) which also controls any fluctuations in the voltage. One can never be sure.

Anyway, it doesn’t work and when the power goes, it goes too.

There’s probably a lizard trapped inside it.

 ...........

Ashley (Mojácar area) Tf. 693 486 788

Wednesday, June 05, 2024

Country Life

 The arrival of June means summer is here, which brings with it hot days and steamy nights, lots of visitors to dodge (or greet, depending on one’s age and inclination) and above all, lots of noise.  

There are fiestas and concerts plus, if you live anywhere south of Madrid, the Moors and Christians thrashes – which in our town’s case means three days of very noisy cap-guns, stunning outfits, parades and music from the marching bands.

I live in the campo, which has its own challenges. The visitors tend to have six legs, come out in swarms, and bite. A dab of repellent behind each ear usually keeps them away – or failing that, a green incense coil does the trick. The noise is provided by the hordes of brightly-coloured Argentinian parrots ('cotorras') who come and perch outside my window, the barking of the dogs who weren’t invited to the fiesta, and me shouting at the wild boar which have recently multiplied in my neck of the desert.

The pigs will come out at night and dig for grubs and the tender roots which are an unappreciated detail of my flower beds and modest fruit orchard. They will also pull down rocks from the stone terraces which are a fixture of southern Spain. They have noses like bulldozers. Sad to relate, I have found that putting the rocks back where they were doesn’t seem to work as it should. There must be a lot more to building a good terraza than meets the eye.

Oddly, the most destructive brute of all is a charming looking kind of wild goat called an ibex (or maybe it’s an arruí, a Barbary sheep, say some of the local naturalists doubtfully). It looks like a deer and it can stand on a thimble. Or, if there isn’t one to hand, then the top of a fruit tree will do. This cabra montes doesn’t just eat the fruit, or the geraniums when dallying in my garden; it breaks off the branches, or throws down heavy planter-boxes, while one of them even bit off an entire potted shrub the other day and then it pooped in the suddenly empty and unappealing flowerpot: a little souvenir of its visit, bloody thing!

There are about twenty of them local to me, and I’m told that they have moved, like the wild pigs, down from the hills and into the municipality. For most of my life, I had never seen a single one, but now I must rush outside and go ‘Hoo!’ several times a night.

Maybe I should get a dog to frighten them off, but the last one died of leishmaniasis, which comes from the no-see-ums – the tiny biting flies.

I was just talking on the phone with my son, who is in Missouri. There, they have a lake full of a kind of aggressive fish called an alligator gar which he tells me makes a barracuda look like a beginner. One simply can’t swim there and these things apparently reproduce at an amazing rate. They are from foreign-parts, he says, and thus an invasive species. A bit like the ibex and the cotorras, or maybe (to stretch a point), your humble correspondent.   

Monday, May 27, 2024

Allez les Filles


Isn’t it a grand thing when one can change one’s opinion? It doesn’t happen often in one’s adult life – beyond maybe discovering that some of those rock groups really weren’t that good after all – and yet, lookit, here we are today: fans of Spanish women’s football!

They’ve done awfully well in the last twelve months, breaking the records that men’s football can currently only dream about – championships, FIFA World Cup championships and more – indeed, the Barcelona women’s blaugranas team just beat the French Olympique Lyonnais team in the Bilbao stadium in front of 51,000 spectators to win The UEFA Women’s Champions League.  

This strange new world we live in: a proper televised women’s sporting event where a couple of fellows brought a pro-Palestinian banner on to the pitch at the beginning of the match, receiving cheers from the fans (and evident approval from the organisers).

I learned today that Women’s Football has been played in the UK since 1890 (at least) but that ‘some saw it as a threat to men’s football. The FA banned women from playing the sport at FA affiliated grounds between 1921 and 1971, with the governing body stating: “…the game of football is quite unsuitable for females and should not be encouraged”’.

In Spain, the first club ‘the Spanish Girl’s Club’ dates from 1914 (‘twenty years before women could vote’, says an article I’m reading). From the Civil War until Franco’s death, the sport was dropped – call it chauvinism if you like.

I’ve never liked football – a long game interspaced once or twice in ninety agonizing minutes with a shrieked ¡gol gol gol! from the exited commentator on the TV on the shelf behind me. ‘Who won?’, I ask without turning round.

It’s probably to do with my early school life – the choices were either soccer or Latin (or, uh, smoking on the roof of the lavatories).

But look at the players! Somebody said unkindly a few years ago that you would never get eleven women to agree to wear the same outfit in public, but suddenly we saw that this whole deal wasn’t about sexy girls, like the ones playing volleyball matches – where nobody cares about the score anyway. This was about real ones: playing sport and playing to win: an inspiration for girls everywhere. Something to make society proud.  

Luis Rubiales was the one who discovered that the age of treating young women like giddy chickies was now officially over. ‘He didn’t respect me, neither as a player nor as a person’, said Jenni Hermoso.

Now that’s a mistake he won’t make again.

Monday, May 13, 2024

Mojácar Mass Tourism


There is so much spoken about making Mojácar more attractive for the tourists. This begs a few questions: 

1. Why? 

2. Where are we going to put them? 

3. What is in it for the majority of us who don't have businesses here? 

4. Will we have to queue everywhere? 

5. Will we be able to park? 

6. Will we be able to sleep? 

7. Will the business-folk still need us during the summer, like they do during the winter (the ones that stay here during the 'low season')? 

8. How many 'I got laid in Mojácar' tee shirts should I buy each summer?  

Fact: one resident spends, in one year, the equivalent of 500 tourists; and is still here next year. 

We could really make something of Mojácar if we dropped the Walt Disney vulgarity and became proud of the place. A beautiful town would create more demand than cheap tourism can - and more demand raises property values (unless they flood the municipality with thousands more noddy-houses - the current plan).  

There isn't room,
it doesn't fit.
It's Mojácar's doom.
Enough of it!

Saturday, May 11, 2024

The Banksters

 And how are our friends the banks doing?

The banks used to – vaguely and no-doubt erroneously – be thought to be more of a service for citizens than their current behaviour - a kind of inspiration for the vultures, the hyenas and other consumers of the dead, dying and the weak.

The banks make their money from the manager’s office rather than the teller’s desk, as the widow’s mite is placed into the drawer where it will start to earn interest, only, not for the widow, poor dear, but - down the line - for the share-holders. 

The bank isn't that interested. Small beer doesn’t make you a major player. You need some big investors with stories of major profits ahead.

So how did the banks become so unpopular? Less branches, more commissions and a diminishing service.

Now we have the case of the hostile bid from the second-largest bank in Spain towards the fourth. It started friendly enough, but the smaller bank said it wasn’t a high-enough offer. All this, right now, during the frenzy of the Catalonian elections. That fourth largest bank, that’s from Sabadell in Catalonia (although their head-office these days is safely in Alicante) with 19,213 slightly worried employees.

The putative pirate, the Borg as it were, is the BBVA (the name is an amalgam of distant banks). The head office is in Bilbao, and there are 121,486 employees. The president of the BBVA is Carlos Torres and last year he took home 7.6 million euros (not much by the standards of Amancio Ortega, who expects to pocket some 3,000 million euros in 2024, but still enough to keep the wolf from the door).

And those shareholders: wealthy leeches who can’t even claim a loyalty towards the company whose paper they hold, the employees, the traditions and the products it makes.

Although, of course it’s true that the banks only make the one product. Money.

My bank (I’ll send you my account details by separate cover) is a lot smaller. It’s one of those Cajas that used to be run by the Church. These days, of course, it maintains a stand just inside the Cathedral door in case the Messiah returns unexpectedly. But for the rest of us, it takes our moolah, charges us for the pleasure, and makes its real money from investments, projects, deals, the resale of homes it has expropriated from those who couldn’t meet the mortgage, and other worthwhile and marvellous devices too numerous to mention.

The politicians (well, those who don’t plan a future in la banca) are against the merger. There will be less banks. There aren’t many already with Santander, BBVA, Caixabank and Sabadell being the Big Four and taking up, between them, 75% of all deposits and, if there’s a fusion, why, there’ll be even less competition.

Fewer branches too. The widow will have to take a bus to get to the nearest counting-house.

Oddly, my bank was burgled over the May-day holiday. Two weeks later, you know, it’s still shut. 

...

After I wrote the above, I found this headline from El Mundo: ‘Banco Santander, in favour of the BBVA's takeover bid for Sabadell: "It makes sense and it benefits shareholders"’. 

Well, that’s all right then.


Wednesday, May 08, 2024

The Last Morisco (with some corrections)

 A local author has written a fascinating book about the revolt of the Moriscos in 1570. These were the times when the defeated Moors who remained in Spain had to become what was called by the Spanish ‘the New Christians’ (eat pork, go to church and all the other things one must do to show one’s fealty). Even so, they were not allowed to own land and their children were obliged to be educated, thanks to strict rules from Felipe II, by Catholic priests. The Moriscos, descendants of Muslims thus forcibly converted to Christianity, faced increasing pressure. These ‘New Christians’ (many still with a copy of the Koran hidden under the bed) remained suspect in the eyes of the authorities, leading to latent tensions and conflicts. Between 1568 and 1571, the Moriscos in the Alpujarras and down towards the Almerian coast rebelled against their treatment.

The book is called El Último Morisco by Diego Ramos.

It has been ably translated into English as ‘The Last Morisco’ (but yet to go to print) by Andy Mortimer, and I’ve been sent a proof to comment and correct as I see fit.

The problems we have found so far – I’m half way through it – are firstly to do with grammatical accents (does the English language accept the odd place or person’s name with an accent?). The British newspaper-guides say ‘no accents’, but we are living here in Spain and, it seems to me, we might as well try and learn things right rather than wrong.  That said, we prefer Malaga to Málaga, Cordoba for Córdoba and for that matter, we use Seville for Sevilla and Orense instead of Ourense.

But then, what of the Spanish ‘n-with-a-squiggle’: the ‘ñ’ that doesn’t even appear on our British keyboard? We have decided that this, the most Spanish of letters, will stay. España, año, and Peñiscola indeed!

A second issue is measurement. Do we talk of leagues, kilometres or miles? What about yards? The Spanish measurements of the time were complicated and they even varied between one place and another. La fanega, a land-measurement, changes violently according to both location and indeed meaning. It was considered in Castilla to be 1000x1000 varas, which was a unit something smaller than a square metre. So, a sort of pint-sized hectare. However, in Galicia and Valencia, Andalucía, the Canaries and Extremadura, the range differed considerably. In short, anything from 5,707m2 down to a pocket-sized 833m2. In some places, it was merely the extent of land necessary to grow a certain amount of grain. The word fanega comes from the Arabic faddãn. The word still appears in old escrituras in Almería (to the horror of any surveyor).

So we think maybe to resort to old English measurements – a pace, a morning’s walk, a day’s ride and so on. After all, it’s not a text-book, it’s a fast-paced novel: indeed the blurb at Amazon says ‘…Focusing on the story of Khalíl and Dídac, two young people whose lives are shaken by the storm of war, El Último Morisco recreates with singular vividness the Spanish universe of the mid-16th century, populated with characters, some despicable and others heroic; with broken families and the corpses of innocent people half buried in wintry ditches…’

The tag says ‘Could history repeat itself?’

The English version will be in print perhaps by September. It is the story of a shockingly bloodthirsty time in Spanish history (although, perhaps not the most, since every now and again along the way, there’s been a revolution here of some sort or another). By chance, I’m currently reading a novel about Madrid in 1936, on the eve of the Civil War.

Things are not looking good.

Perhaps the lesson here is that an occasional violent rebellion is in the nature of this most charming and welcoming nation.