Thursday, August 31, 2006

A Very Special Concert

The fiestas are all but over (just... one... more... week-end...) but, since the standard of the entertainment here in Mojácar has been derisory over the past couple of months - not a single worthy act during the entire summer season - Lenorex Productions (Is It Live - or Is It Lenorex?) have decided to put on one Top Class Act.

And I've got a ticket!

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

The Municipal Vote 2007

The PSOE has long worried about the ‘foreign vote’ in local elections. In 1994, the government of Felipe Gonzalez had proposed that those Europeans living in Spain and listed on the padrón (the town hall registry) should be able to vote in local elections. The paperwork was prepared for the June 1995 elections but an ambitious junior minister, Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba, put the blockers on it at the last moment with the very real worry that the foreigners would probably vote conservative…
In the end, the Europeans were allowed to vote for the European elections (where they of course made no impact), but not the local ones…

By 1999, with a PP government in power and new European rules on émigrés, we were able to – finally – vote in local elections. I was 45 and at last had the vote. I had never been able to vote – beyond the thrilling 1995 European election – in any meaningful way either in England – where I’m from, or Spain, where I’ve lived and actually held residence since 1969.

I could not only vote, I could appear on a list and ask to be voted for. The Spanish inter alia changed their constitution to allow for this for the first time since it was written in 1978. The Europeans, over eighteen, registered on some padrón and who had signed a note asking to vote were able to involve themselves in politics. Added to this, the Norwegians (not a EU state) were able to vote – although not run for office.

Although the ‘European’ vote was never going to make much difference – we live in small coastal pueblos rather than politically powerful cities – the outcome was rather disappointing. A relatively small number of Europeans turned up to the polling booths (some to be turned away for various obscure reasons) and some thirty coastal pueblos – occasionally fielding foreigners safely far down their lists – were in some small measure affected by the European vote. In Mojácar, an independent party, Mojácar 2000, was able with foreign support to wrest control of the ayuntamiento. Its councillors were Spanish.
In Jávea (Alicante), a foreigner became a councillor. There was little else to report.
In 2003’s local elections, the foreigners managed a little better, with some 550 voting from the possible 1,950 enfranchised Europeans in Mojácar. No councillors though. In Jávea, the councillors grew to three and they have now formed their own political party for next May’s local elections (Nueva Jávea at ).

The proposed European Constitution that was thumping about last year, supported by the Spanish but roundly thrashed by the French (and promptly dropped from the ‘to do’ pile of Tony Blair and others), is unkind to Europeans who live in other countries than their own. We can not vote in regional or national elections or – of course – in referenda. We are powerless in Pan-European elections because of our spread. These evident reasons would make us ‘second class European citizens’.

So in Spain, the European vote has slowly grown. Returning to Mojácar, citizens’ meetings, bad politics (still no foreigners or even English-speakers working in the town hall) and better awareness have all started to bring the European residents out of their self-imposed isolation. Mojácar now has as many European as local voters. The field begins to look interesting…

Enter, stage left, our old friend Rubalcaba, now the Minister for the Interior.
All foreigners should be able to vote in local elections, says the socialist, as it’s only fair.
Well, yerss, but the socialist interest is in votes rather than rights. The large number of immigrants that have flowed into Spain from the Third World and have received indulgences or amnesties from the government, together with work and residence permits, will hardly be voting for the conservative Partido Popular.

Let’s look at some numbers (El País 23 August 2006).

Europeans in 2003 (i.e. ‘registered’, being politically expedient but not true numbers): 360,000. In 2007, this should increase to 620,000. By 2007 there should be 165,000 Brits. From the non-EU bit of Europe, and joining the Union in December 2006, there should be 190,000 Rumanians and 60,000 Bulgarians (the Spanish authorities actually estimate the real figure for these two nationalities at 480,000). From certain South American states, add another 350,000 (Spain is fond of South America. Rubalcaba said in a recent speech that he wants to cement the Ibero-American brotherhood. I don’t think they’ll be voting conservative either). The addition of the rest of South America (Ecuatorians in particular), Moroccans, Chinese, Sub-Saharans, Russians and my wife, a (non-voting) American passport holder, were too much for the El País to consider, but there are, in fact, some four million foreigners living in Spain at the moment. Theoretically, perhaps three million would qualify: most being supportive of the PSOE from whence the manna floweth.

These wonderful ideas are not acceptable to Brussels as yet, but the PSOE has firm intentions for next year and the PP is currently on its back foot.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The Point is - you see: ¡es mío!

The traffic has been intense over the past couple of months. There are few places to park (you don't make money building parking spaces) and the visitors have taken all the spots. The streets are decidedly narrow and won't support more than one line of parked cars (even that will clog up some calles). The shop-keepers have to walk miles as the roads are blocked with delivery trucks, people getting lost, Mojácar choo choo trains, people going around showing off their huge four-wheel drive gas-guzzlers and then there's the few parking spots being reserved for minorities for artistic rather than practical reasons (the handicapped, scooters, those with no sense of justice etc). Zebra crossings, enormous trash cans for bottles, for cardboard (overflowing at the moment), skips, gazeeboes, signs, huts, tourist offices, kiddy-gardens and even a few trees, all contribute to make parking spots hard to find. Especially when you're working.
Which is why we double park. Actually!
A new block of shops and offices, just built in front of the Parque Comercial on Mojácar playa, has no on-ground parking at all. I suppose they're gonna use the existing parking. Well done the planners.
Anyway, here's a view of a site just behind the Parque Comercial. As you can see, in a sudden burst of solidarity with his cousins who run all the shops there, our boy has fenced off the block so as that no one can park there. You see, ¡es mío!

Later: Well, no. It's even worse. It's not the owner who is closing off this space for about a hundred cars. No. It's the neighbour. The vecino de enfrente. He doesn't like dust apparently. There you are.
I spent most of this afternoon driving around there in circles.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Here's a cute summer picture of Mojácar. It looks much more peaceful here than the reality of the holiday thrash. The August fiestas will begin on Friday 25th of the month, concluding on Monday 28th. There shouldn't be anyone left after that to party...

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Dearest Beloved

Dear Ms Daboo, I was very sorry to hear about the tragic death of your father, the treasurer for the Bank of Umginginglovu. Truly sad.
Being a complete idiot, I believe every word of your tragic tale, and, since I am also a greedy idiot, I am intrigued by your kind offer to give me fifty per cent of the twenty five million dollars U.S. that your Dad left hidden under a rock just behind the B of U’s urinals. I understand that all I need to do is to give you my bank details, passwords and so on so that you can transfer this sum to my account, where I will hold it safe until you show up and I will give you half of it. I would be Honoured to be an instrument in your cunning yet noble plan to export your daddy's lolly to Civilization.
I have to tell you, I have received no less than seventy (yep, Seventy!) similar offers in the past month, all obvious frauds, and I must warn you to be on the look-out for clever yet dishonest people who rely on the duplicity of strangers.
Perhaps you should give me your bank details so that I can be sure that you won’t be defrauded.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Gimme a glass of milk – inna dirty glass…

Spain has always had an interest in milk, even if, until recently, you couldn’t find a cold glass of it anywhere.
The old milk was a definite bluish colour and came in a 1.5l glass bottle with a narrow top and a metal cramp, like a coke bottle. This stuff could sit in the sun for weeks without losing its taste and often did. Apparently, to help it last, they took the cream out of the milk and added a shot of pig fat. The blue colour came, apocryphally, from the formaldehyde that kept the mixture quiet. This explains why breakfast cereals came to Spain rather late. Pour that stuff over your Frosties, it would have eaten them before you could.
Later UHT milks from different companies, now mostly in the handy tetrabrik box, became acceptable for coffees and so on. A cup of (proper) tea would be shaken by this stuff, but you can get used to anything. Now, we even have sippin’ milk in the supermarkets. Tastes good.
While milk has never been considered a serious drink (despite the best efforts of some of the producers to tell us different in the usual kids adverts), it has certainly spawned a whole slew of versions. We have milk with vitamins, milk with calcium, skimmed milk, partially skimmed milk, milk with royal jelly, milk with acidophilus (a handy bacteria apparently found in drool), specially flavoured chocolate, vanilla and strawberry milks, rice milk and soya veggy milk. In point of fact, I doubt any of them ever loitered under a cow. Certainly Barbara’s pet calf, Petit Suisse, refused point blank to drink one particular brand, the Valencian-produced ‘Leche Ram’. I see the company has since gone pear-shaped. Perhaps the calf knew something.
At the same time, yoghurt has done just fine. I think I first tried yoghurts here in Spain as a child. The Danone people (a company from Barcelona), were putting out their early flavours by the time I first arrived here in 1966 (they actually started in 1919, selling the stuff in farmacias) and apart from the plain one (add jam and sugar), there was at least a strawberry one going strong. How long they might have lasted outside a fridge is probably best not to consider today. These days, there are an untold number of flavours clogging up the nation’s cold-shelves, with anything that grew on a tree or a stalk being processed into a yoghurt cup. You can now even get ‘Greek yoghurt’ (thicker than the usual stuff). Spain is not, with this notable exception, very kind to Greece (try and find a Greek restaurant, a pair of crapcatchers or a bottle of ouzo).
Together with yoghurt, another milk-based little number on the shelves is guajada, a set rennet made from sheep’s milk. It comes in a little stone pot. With a squirt of honey, it’s pretty good.
Spain triumphs with its ice creams. The main area for ‘artesanal’ ices is the interior of Alicante and Valencia provinces, notably Jijona (also famous for its nougat). Heladerías cover the main streets and offer dozens of alternatives. They (thank goodness) are all licenced, so you can put a shot of whisky on top of your tart. In fact, tarta al guisgüi (as the purists would spell it) is one of the best and most august of Spain’s postres, together with the ice-cream bar with two or three flavours (vanilla, strawberry and chocolate), natillas (a custardy thing) and the ubiquitous flan, the crème caramel. Then, there’s leche frita, or ‘fried milk’ – it comes in caramel covered chewy lumps – to try as well.
Before the fridge came along, and those fat blue bottles of Puleva ‘milk’ were still being used for arcane cooking reasons, Spaniards would often put condensed milk (which I think came from Holland) in their coffee. They still do, and as a ‘bonbón’, your coffee will give you a good kick-start.