Monday, January 30, 2006

Red Letter Day

A letter arrived today for the Indálico from a reader who considers the paper (the sister paper to The New Entertainer) to be right-wing. Hooting, it was, about Jesus Carreño (a very funny and, admittedly rather pig-headed republican writer). He calls Zapatero ‘el risas’, the smiling one. The letter-writer was incensed.
This month, so far, two other letters are on my desk for inclusion which accuse me, I suppose, of the same thing. Being right-wing that is. One deals with an editorial I ran in January about the Catalonian ‘estatut’, a translation of a very funny piece from Angel Medina, while the other letter throbs with indecent rage about Peter Gooch’s regular political articles.
Peter Gooch, in fact, gets more ‘fan-mail’ (in the form of comments from John Q. Public) than the rest of us put together. About three quarters of them are favourable. The other most assuredly aren’t. His articles are certainly anti-government and anti Zapatero, but this doesn’t make them rabidly right-wing – just ‘sensible’.
Both papers operate on a ‘as long as its well-written’ basis and we have never taken the Partido Popular shilling (supposing they were to offer it).
Some of our writers are leftist, some are rightist. It makes no odds.
At least we get letters, for which I am grateful. Generally, I try not to answer them in print, leaving the letter-writer with ‘the last word’. After all, the letter is commenting on an article. The writer of that article has already said his piece…
Like classified adverts, letters are a proof that there is a reaction from the street. People evidently read our newspapers, and they use them to communicate between one another, through those two services, small adverts and (usually) indignant letters to the editor. Me!
A newspaper or magazine with no letters or private adverts is, at the very least, a bit lightweight, don’t you think?
To make a paper interesting, to generate some reaction from the readers, one needs to sometimes climb over the top with fixed bayonets. It’s more of a trick that a reality. Otherwise, editors would choose cereal-packet journalism.
Come to think of it, some of them do.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Watch Your Language

There’s a cracking little documentary on the telly tonight – about The Singing Postman. Marvellous! Unfortunately, it’s been dubbed into Spanish. Well, not really dubbed, what they’ve done is to overlay a Spanish version on top of the original, which has been turned down slightly. Perhaps it gives the professor or the interviewee more authority. Perhaps it’s ‘good television’.
Now, this doesn’t matter if the quiet language there underneath is Inuit, but it’s a bloody nuisance when it’s English, because you can understand the underlay, you can understand (espero) the overlay… but you can’t understand a bloody word when they are both going - more or less - simultaneously.
The Spanish rule on dubbing is easy enough. You name it – they dub it. In films, they turn the original soundtrack off completely and let the dubbers do their worst. The exception to this – in most but not all cases – is when the singalong arrives. Here, the song is left in the original, with subtitles added. These can be quite useful if you never understood the words of the song in the first place (ejem. The Singing Postman).
On Spanish satellite telly (which I hope you have at home), there’s a facility for watching the show in its original language, which makes sense in a place like Europe. They will, since being European is no threat, also show films made by the French. Who are masters of the ‘Seventh Art’. Of course, the original version, as supplied by a button on your remote control, will be in français, but you can always watch it in Spanish…
With this idea - original language at the touch of a button, there would seem to be little reason why much original material, whether comedy shows or BBC documentaries, suffer having the original language wiped. It happens. I watched a BBC film about Sam Cooke the other day – in Spanish, followed by another music documentary – this time about Queen – in English.
Dubbing was an invention of the bad old Franco years. Only Spanish to be spoken, gracias. It is a good way to lightly censor films, helps our less literate members of society with the longer words and… keeps about ten people in the style to which they have become accustomed.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Wipe away a tear for the Catalonian flag

I was trying to post a few thoughts about Catalonian nationalism on another site, but it bounced, and then I wrote it again but the power flipped so, third time lucky, and re-written, I’ll put it here instead.
Over the past hundred years or so (and perhaps before), the Andalucians have thought of Catalonia as a place to go to get a better paying job. Not surprising, really. Catalonia is the wealthiest part of Spain. I don’t think that the Andaluces – or any other immigrants to that area – are particularly concerned about the politics as long as it doesn’t affect them much. Catalonia’s plan to become its own nation, however, supposes a couple of things that fly in the face of the rest of the country.
Firstly, the insistence of the Catalonians on speaking (and forcing everyone else to speak) their own patois, a language which may have some cultural consolation for the Catalonians, may be natural to speak at home or amongst one’s own, but is in international or commercial terms, a dead duck. There are no institutes elsewhere in Spain that offer catalán as a course, and, there’s no one who would want to learn it anyway.
By insisting on the use of this language, it divides Spaniards living in Catalonia into first and second-class citizens. By using it in public pronouncements (when everyone knows that the speaker can just as easily say it in Spanish), the rest of the country feels provoked.
Spanish, or rather ‘Castillian’, is the third (or second) most used language in the world. Celebrated in 2005 as the language of Cervantes… and yet, there’s a part of Spain which wants to use another… patently useless language.
I think that this is the issue that most bothers the Spanish.
The Catalonian claim on retaining half their taxes, if spread to the rest of Spain, make an imbalance more acute. Other parts of Spain receive less as things go, and with the national government releasing funds to the richest part of the country, and promising further and extra investment in Catalonia – for purely political reasons (the PSOE government is in Madrid with the support of sundry minority nationalist parties) – the rest of Spain is becoming indignant. Even ‘barons’ of the PSOE, like Ibarra and Bono – and even to a degree Chaves, together with Felipe Gonzalez and others – are in disagreement.
Spain is in danger, so it appears, of being broken up. Spain, the country of Una, Grande y Libre, may soon become a country of cantons and mini-nations. If Catalonia is allowed to declare itself ‘a nation’ (supposing immediately that any control from Madrid becomes ‘foreign intervention’ or ‘occupation’), then the Basque Country and Galicia are ready to follow. Even in Andalucia, the junior partner on the left, the Partido Andalucista, is talking of ‘Andalucian nationhood’.
Arrayed against this is the slightly unwilling COPE radio broadcaster. Owned by the Church (loosely speaking), the COPE is under threat from a singular Catalonian institution that exists nowhere else in Europe. This is the CAC, a government controlled body that can fine or close-down any broadcaster that ‘strays from the truth’!. Since no Spanish journalist can call a spade a spade, but must wander past a subject and then rush up from behind and bite it on the ass, this is quite a threat. Since the CAC shares the politics of the Generalitat, it is in an excellent position to close down all the COPE radio stations in Catalonian territory. Some fifty different ‘freedom of speech’ groups from around Europe have so far petitioned the Generalitat to drop the CAC. Impressed, Zapatero is considering introducing a similar body to the rest of the country.
The COPE is Spain’s second largest radio broadcaster (after the SER, owned by a group of socialist millionaires) and, not only uneasy about being taken as the champion of the Right, is now under pressure from Madrid as well (twice in the past few months, a government minister has gone to see the Pope in an effort to persuade the Church to close down the COPE). It has no other products to fall back on, again unlike the SER, which is part of a huge multinational media group with many newspapers, magazines, television and satellite companies in Spain and Latin America.
Catalonian pressures have shaken the rest of Spain in a time when the country wants to move closer to a federal Europe.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Service cuts in Paradise.

As you know, a Baker’s Dozen is thirteen. An Almerian Euro is something like 95 cents. Or less. In Mojacar, we pay First World prices for Third World services. Today (as usual) the power has had its one-second glitch – hip hap – just enough to throw all the electrics out in the house – the television and its satellite box, the PC (of course), the fridge – and so on. So far, after this happening five to ten times a week (when its not raining), so far, I say, my home electrical equipment has survived this onslaught. So Far. Sevillana, the inept energy company (owned by Endesa, currently under a hostile take over bid by the Catalonian owned Gas Natural), should be brought to heal. Sold off – with luck – to the Catalonians who couldn’t be so fucking useless if they tried.
Sevillana, two years ago, stopped sending me a bi-monthly bill. I for my part – did nothing! This lasted for sixteen months (!) until, one day, they came and cut my power because I owed them some 1500 euros. I went to their poxy office in Vera where they explained that they had lost my details (perhaps one of their power cuts had fried their own PCs). My fault? I didn’t think so.
Today, the other service we so enjoy is out of order. This is the water – supplied by Galasa – a company set up by the PSOE in around 1988 or so. They took over the water pipes from El Pinar in Bedar from another company, Servamosa, and failed to pay those, like myself, who had been obliged to buy water shares (at about 400 euros a dotación) to get service. I had eight shares of, apparently, some 10,000 sold. Así es la vida. Now Galasa is faced with supplying water to some twelve towns (and untold numbers of golf courses) and is feeling the strain. The company admits to losing 40% of its product to leaks! No wonder it gets cut, or cuts itself off, every now and again.
So today, a slow winter day in Mojacar. No huge power drain. Not much water being used. But both these services, once again, have been on the fritz.
So, if we were living in some Bohemian community, paying a Shilling for a beer and Sixpence for a plate of beans, then it wouldn’t really matter much if we had the odd cut. Candles, after all, are romantic.
But the prices here are through the roof. And the service sucks.
Just being ‘warm’ isn’t really enough any more.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Call This Stuff 'Tea'?

I'm living in Spain: but not really. The province of Almería is growing fast with enormous numbers of people coming here to live: people bringing their own language and culture with them. The (British) Foreign Office say there are around 800,000 (!!) Brits living in Spain although Spanish official figures (i.e. 'residentes británicos' from the INE, the national census institute) are 227,000. This because many Brits (and other nationalities for that matter) fail to register themselves at their local town halls on the 'padrón' - a painless formality that generates extra funding and licences for the municipality concerned.
Nevertheless, it's still a lot of us and it comes, no doubt, from Spain's many attractions. Unfortunately (perhaps), the Brits like to live in particular areas where there are already fellow-countrymen at hand as most of them find it too hard to learn Spanish (the average age of 'los ingleses' is 57, so they tend to be retired and hoping to take things easy). Here in Almería - there are said to be 25,000 Brits. In Málaga, there are probably 250,000!
Spanish figures just out claim 44 million people here, of which 8.5% (they reckon...) are extranjeros: that's a minimum of 4 million scattered about the country! Mainly Moroccans, followed by Equatorians.. and including large numbers (in order of official numbers) of Rumanians, Columbians, Brits, Argentinians and Germans...
So Spain. There is the 'costa' which is most of the Mediterranean coast, where you can live a type of English-in-the-sun life... and the rest of the country, with its many attractions, and where you can learn/join in the culture and society of España.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

A Ride in my Car

The townhall of Mojacar has come across a few extra pennies in the petty cash and has bought itself a Toyota seven-seater peoplecarrier. By a happy coincidence, there are seven councillors in the town hall. As I arrived, they were all heading off to the fish place in Garrucha for a well-deserved lunch (their departure was followed by a few ironic cat-calls from the villagers).

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Choosing the Firewood

They made me watch the football match between the Whites and the Yellows -on a black and white screen. Buggered if I know who won.
So, now home again and throwing the odd useless family heirloom on the fire to keep warm. Now, what happens if I press this button?

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Checking in and tipping the bellboy

Hello - as I figure this fancy new template out on this, gasp!, 'nother blog
I write about Spain, copiously, on with news, commentary and essays based around Mojacar, in Almeria.
I don't immediately expect to write much here, but, check back now and again..