Friday, March 31, 2006


Once again, I'm in Pamplona for a few days. I come up here to the north of Spain fairly regularly so am now getting to be an old hand on this fine city of Iruña (as the Basques call it) or Pamplona as everyone else in the world prefers.
The Basque dream is to make Iruña their capital when Zapatero hands out another chunk of Spain to the nationalists. There is a small problem for the Txistorra eaters, Navarra is not part of the Basque provinces of Spain (or, rather obviously France) which will become, one day, the glorious country of Euzkal Herria. Navarra is a one-off autonomy (like Murcia or Madrid) which used to be something else a thousand years ago, but is now resolutely Spanish. The province is bi-lingual, but I have actually heard just one family talking euzkera on a hospital visit. Everyone I ask here looks gloomy and says that they only speak Spanish and that Basque is a language from the high mountains.
I just asked the bloke at the next table about the foregoing in the cyber-cafe where I write this. Hooting with indignation. He says 'Euzkera isn't a language! It's a dialect!'
He doesn't speak a word of it. Won't on principle. I mean, it's not like you having a few words of French or German or something. The upper limit of Basque spoken here is 'agur' for good-bye.

Friday, March 24, 2006


Mojacar is to host a special evening of Bizet's Carmen, by a Russian Opera group (sorry – I’ve lost the bit of paper). It promises to be a wonderful event. It has been organised by the Unicaja, for (according to a rare poster put out by the emblematic Almerian savings bank) April 1st at 10.00pm at the Artisan Centre in Mojacar pueblo. I went to the bank to get a poster, or maybe even a picture for the newspaper, or, goodness! Perhaps an advert. Nada! Tickets, I was told, are available at the local police. Free? Dunno.
In any event, I found that the tickets are in fact available at the Tourist Office, at ten euros, and the event is, according to them, at 9.30pm (not 10.00) at the Building Formerly Known as the Artisan Centre. The culture department from the ayuntamiento, in a press release, reckons it starts at 10.30pm!
It will be fun. Come early!
Perhaps they will even take down the posters from the Michael Strogoff show from last January and put this up instead. However, it's not the town hall specifically running this one.
Here we have the age-old problem of a local agency being given some cultural doo-dah to deal with. No interest, but some slight obligation. I remember a friend from the ministry in Madrid recalling ‘we would ring up the Russians and say – I’ll swap you a dozen Flamenco dancers for the Kirov Ballet. Vladimir would say.. 'Hokey!''
So, once again a major act appears in Almeria (in this case Mojacar) which is under-promoted, under-supported and under-rated. It’s as if we have been given some ‘cultshure’ by someone whose job it is to pass this stuff around (‘Hello, yes, send them down with a bit of information on them by fax’). You can imagine the reviews in the local daily, or – Hell, I’ll write them now…

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Recommended websites about Spain

The Entertainer Online at Updated daily.
The New Entertainer (monthly newspaper)
El Indalico at you'll find a Mojácar webcam here as well.
Sur in English and Valencia Life
The Costa Press Club (which kindly made me an Honorary Member recently).
*A good site for general Almeria information and with an extensive message-board is at, another full service site is at Viva Almeria
*An eccentric interactive site for Madrid (in specific) and Spain in general, is Jeremy's Multimadrid at
*The most complete (and impartial) site available on Spanish news, information and events is, without doubt, Typically Spanish
A complete site for visitors is Then there is EuroResidentes (in various languages), a full site, at and the useful SpainExpat at
Gibraltar news is covered by David Eade’s
A full site for Galicia visitors and friends is Galicia Guide at
Barcelona Reporter covers Catalonia at
Locally, Roquetas de Mar has a three-language site at
and Mojacar’s Tourist office is at

Ciudadanos Europeos, with good information for residents on laws, taxes, politics and so on, presented in English, go to For help on land-grabs and the Ley de Ordenación de Territorio (LRAU or LUV in Valenciano), go to Abusos Urbanisticos No! at The British Expats Association (Spain) for all your paperwork woes at Neighbourhood Watch (!!) is here at and, for those worried about their investments, there is The Costa Action Group at

There is news and comment from The Spain Herald at (right-wing). The Expat Blog Directory at has a full list of blogs worldwide and a forum written by extranjeros.
There are all kinds of blogs around, try some of the following: Per Svensson and his blog, Periscope, at For funny comment on Spain, go to Sal de Traglia’s Virtual Tapas Bar at Thoughts From Galicia is a well-written commentary on Spain at Scribbles from Tenerife is fun – at and El Casareño Ingles comes from the Costa del Sol at A Wandering Woman Writes from Spain (from Salamanca) at Another amusing and stimulating one, this time from Barcelona, is Guirilandia (a joke on foreigners-ville) at, and from Madrid, the always well-written Spanish Cockpit at
*Locally, environmentalists should check
*A (slightly spurious) site called El Mirador has some tasteful photos of the Mojacar area, plus a few the tourist department probably wouldn’t care to print (no update recently).
*For your spiritual health, go to
*Barbara’s Animo – Animal Assisted Therapy – is at
*A good pan-European blog is A Fistful of Euros at

...always glad to hear about other sites...

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Time-share Touts and others who won't leave you alone

I receive an e-mail as follows:

'I have just returned to the UK after a memorable holiday in Palma Nova.
My family and I regularly visit Spain and Mallorca in particular, as often as four times a year, and during the winter months we love to visit the Palma Nova area.
Regrettably, I must say that "street touts" (time share and holiday club sales people) offering scratch cards and surveys are spoiling the resorts. My family were continually approached by these people who refuse to be put off and even shout abuse if you fail to stop. I actually saw one English man being restrained by his family members because he was about to attack a street tout.
These people are a desperate nuisance who take away much of the charm of the area and any steps to outlaw this practice would be really appreciated by visitors.
I do hope that somehow, something can be done - Geoff'

In our own fair corner of Almeria, street touts are still just a twinkle in the eye, but we are beginning to attract other unwelcome guests, notably the pernicious accordion players from the eastern states. If only they knew some decent tunes – but incessant rounds of ‘jingle bells’ and ‘New York New York’ all the way through the season, plus a cap being thrust under your nose as you try to relax with a coffee, is a regular pain in the ass. We may also receive attention during the summer from deaf nick-nack vendors, looki looki men, flower sellers, poets, gypsy women with twists of rosemary plus, of course, the usual round of lunatics, nutters and oddballs that feel obliged to 'pick you up'.
Returning to property-sales, the worst ‘hard-sell’ techniques belong to those outfits with liveried cars shooting around with a white-faced couple in the back (I always imagine the inside door handles have been removed). The victims are flown out, harried at all times and may find they were, like the time-share types, given little chance to decide for themselves.
The Spanish view is simple: as long as the foreigners just stick to questionable tactics or rip-offs against other foreigners… we’ve got better things to do.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

The Birds

The Asian or Avian Flu is coming. Something like an undersea rumbling, a wave forming far away that may or may not rush ashore to drown us all, the Flu is coming. It helps to name it and offer blame to the birds, as if they in some unspeakably dishonest way are responsible. It helps if we can identify this disease, to give it a name (and to know that our scientists have given it another, a set of letters and numerals like a far-off star system).
It’s the birds that did for us, like the Daphne du Maurier story filmed by Hitchcock. The birds are coming!
As the reports get ever closer to our homes, we search the skies as the migratory birds, usually the innocent harbingers of springtime, return in their flocks to infect us with some foul disease. We must corral them, close them, kill them.
In Spain as elsewhere, the trick from the Ministry of Health is to slow down the disease, to appear to be doing something useful. Watch the birds in the wetlands. Intern the chickens and close down the markets.
But the disease is not in the birds, it has travelled to the cats. They too must be controlled. The pigs, the cattle, the wild things of the fields and woods! The neighbours.
Soon this grippe will pass through our communities, to infect or spare us. We must be patient and should not panic. It will come. It will pass.