Monday, August 27, 2007

Vera Sewage

The Spanish can really make something out of the oddest materials. Here - essentially - shit.

This is the view of this morning's presentation of the new and improved sewage station which is located in the Media Legua area in Vera. The Vera town hall want to make it larger and more efficient as there are now many more people living locally than there were when this, ahem, water-treatment plant was first installed in 1992. The water saved from the plant to be used for irrigation, golf courses and so on. The mayor came along today to 'plant the first brick' and to make a speech to the effect of what I've written above. Around four hundred people came to this quite surrealistic event - you may see the entrance to a marquee to the left, some cooks and barmen to the fore, some tables laden with linen, glasses and forks in the centre of my picture and that strip at the back is the sewage plant. Which smells like sewage plants do.

The reason for the interest is because the Junta de Andalucía want to build a still bigger sewage station, big enough to treat seven municipalities' worth of doo doo, at the same site. To do this, they would need to string yet another set of pylons and high-tension cables across some fifty different estates and, as the mayor pointed out today, the Junta's plan calls for the semi-treated waters from their plant to be sent down the (dry) River Antas and, uurgh, out to sea! The mayor is an excellent speaker, and in his remarks this morning, he never once criticised the Seville government, yet he gave the impression that they were fiddling in local affairs where they shouldn't. Finally, the mayor said that he had sent a registered letter to President Rodriguez Zapatero about the issue.

Mojácar has its own sewage plant, behind the go-karts to the rear of Garrucha. The other night, with a strange easterly wind, you could smell it in the Micar valley. A suggestion from the Vera mayor, made a few days ago, was to the effect that the Junta could perhaps use the Mojacar sewage treatment plant for its nefarious purposes.

The problem for the future, as a leaflet thoughtfully printed up by the Vera town hall explains, is that with the ever-increasing number of people coming here to live, there will be acute problems of water, sewerage, communications, electricity, services and the rest of it. In the case of sewerage, from Vera's point of view, the Junta's plan would be catastrophic with '24 million litres of brown water running down the Rio de Antas daily'.

Normally around here, sewage water is pumped out to the sea. Yep, 'fraid so.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The Trees. Won't somebody please think of the trees?

We were working on the subscriptions the other day, sat on the floor and covered in stickies. The most mundane and boring job of the whole lot – printing up those awful fiddly little sticky labels (that don’t like printers), wrapping up and putting on the right addresses to just under a thousand newspapers. If you don’t believe me you can ask the postmaster. Our Spanish paper, El Indálico, covers local events and runs a small stable of some good writers with insights into local events. Our English paper, The New Entertainer, does something similar. The Indálico has been going for about eight years, The Entertainer (in its current incarnation) for about four.
It’s probably not very impressive to a reader to know that we have that many subscriptions, but it certainly is to the other editors around here. They have no subscribers at all – who wants to read regurgitated stuff pulled off the internet or to check on old TV schedules?
One of the functions of a newspaper is to find its way into the historical library run by the local community – in this case, the hemeroteca of the diputación de Almería. We are the only local ‘free ones’ you’ll find there.
That’s right – one day some fellow will write his dissertation on us lot.
I was thinking about this again today as I saw some recognizable brand-name stuck within the mishmash of a truly dire looking rag, with a complete lack of form, lay-out, presentation or – probably – decent print run. Yea, yea, I know – it wuz ‘cheap’.
But, with the exception of the Carpet Baggers buying a new Porsche in Stuttgart on the back of their advertisers, the rest of us give you more or less the same deal. Cheaper means ‘less copies’ and no proper writing. Some adverts are going for fifteen euros. What kind of message are they signaling? Pile ‘em high and sell ‘em cheap. No art or literature here. More expensive means ‘better distribution’, ‘more copies’, ‘better sales’. It doesn’t mean ‘greed’ (except for the above-mentioned louts). For local advertising, the distinction is important, which is why none of us gets ‘Lamboughini’ adverts.
If you are an advertiser, you should be taking a vicarious pride in the medium where your business is presented. After all, you are partly paying for its production and costs. And on the other side of the fence, if you like or support that medium, then support their advertisers – choose them first!
I have to raise this subject because it’s getting quite ridiculous. There are more free English language newspapers and magazines, TV listings, phone listings, plus radios, websites, flyers, one-offs and oddities, than you can shake a stick at. All with their sales-crews rattling off numbers, statistics, exaggerations and absurdities. One newspaper says it distributes in Carboneras and Agua Amarga. No. Our two editions are the only ones that go there. We are the only ones that bother to tool up to Mojácar pueblo for that matter. Between our reputation, our distribution, our content and our subscription list, we are the best known and best respected local newspapers around here. We have lived here the longest and know the area the best. We shall be here next month, next year.
Probably still doing the bloody subscriptions one night a month, two or three of us sat on the floor with a bottle of wine and some classical music playing in the background.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Digital Plus - Spain's Satellite TV

I have the Spanish satellite system, the alternative to Sky and all its wonders. It’s probably not as good.
However, it has an ample selection of news channels, with – of course – a full quiver of Spanish newses (trust me on this – they are a whole lot better than any news channel I’ve ever seen in English). The news channels I get include CNN+, which is a full half an hour without interruption collection of national and international news - with almost no sports, chatter, invitations to see the webpage and other trite filler now so popular with the ‘matey’ English news channels. The other main news channel is the national RTE international news, kind of like the BBC. Besides this and the usual terrestrial channels – for if you want Andalucía’s Canal Sur noticias for example – we also have CNN, the BBC, Sky News (Gulp!), the ferociously right wing Fox News, Euronews (in any of about six languages), Al Jazeera in English and, for reasons best known to ‘Digital Plus’, a 24 hour French News broadcast exclusively in English. Someone must watch it.
In the entertainment channels, perhaps the system is weaker than Sky, but there are eight or ten film channels, including (whew!) French, Italian, Spanish and Japanese films since, happily, Europe is a bit less stuck on Hollywood than Britain appears to be. Sometimes in European films, you can’t even guess the ending!
These film channels will show the picture in Spanish or in ‘original’, which is usually English. They arrive on Spanish screens about the same time as they do on British ones, so we are watching ‘Transporter II’ or that peculiar film about snakes loose in an airplane at the moment.
Or perhaps not.
There are some documentary channels, some light entertainment such as Fox showing old Simpsons and new Boston Legals, AXN showing CSI and the insufferable JAG, a SciFi channel, a whodunit channel – pretty much all in English, and then a desperately unfunny ‘Paramount Comedy’ channel showing endless Catalonian sitcoms. We have the usual music channels, plus some latino ones. Cartoon channels, regional channels… Then there is the inevitably staggering number of sports channels.
Spanish television is different from the British, particularly in its lax respect for ‘18’ films, which are shown at any and all times. Good horror at lunchtime and, for that matter, cutesy kiddywink stuff at midnight. No telling.
Hard pornography is shown on weekends after 1.00am – guaranteed cheap, nasty and always hair-raising stuff. Make your own joke here.
There are lots of pay-channels with modern films, sports events and, inevitably, lots more pornography.
Advertising is reduced on Spanish satellite TV, but there is a certain amount between films and as interruptions on the documentary and light entertainment channels, usually advertising (Spain being Spain) condoms, French ticklers, flavoured condoms, KY Jelly and women’s intimate toiletries with a far from intimate flair. Then, we are also shown children’s absorbent lavatory paper adverts. Plus, to be fair, commercials from the Corte Inglés department store and even, occasionally, adverts for cars and second homes on the Murcian coast.
On terrestrial Spanish TV, the amount of advertising renders the whole subject unarguable. Twelve minutes per hour, minimum. A website called Puerta del Sol has this to say: 'If the 266,628 commercials shown by Tele 5 last year were played back to back, they would constitute 58 days of television'.
Coming with the package is the usual box and dish and, of course, one of those useful but silly controls which is soon covered in sellotape. It’s used by us to change the channel, the language and, of course, to switch off the noise during the National Geographic self-promotion advertising.
In my opinion, the choice and quality has gone down, slightly. One film channel that showed black and white creakers, ‘Clásico’, has gone, but, on the other hand, there are two TCM channels. The best documentary channel, Documental, is no more, and its replacement, Odisea, is only broadcast in Spanish or Portuguese. Again, some comedy serials, such as Frasier and Weeds, are only in Spanish.
So, since we don’t want to feel like exiles, living in Spain but with our hearts in England, we use and watch the Spanish system. Is it better? Yo que sé.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Trying to take a bullfighting picture

I went to the bullfight last Saturday - a jolly event in a temporary bull-ring set up on the beach. A rejoneador (pictured here having a well-deserved drink) and two bull-fighters going through their paces. It varied from everyone involved having fun to the usual gruesome endings. The crowd seemed appreciative enough of a fairly middle-rate show and insisted on the presidencia handing out a steady stream of ears.
The worst thing that a budding photographer like me had to deal with was not being able to see the little screen on the back of the camera because of the bright sunlight and therefore being obliged to 'point in the general direction'.
Really, this was the best shot!
Ric Polansky kindly sent me some pictures of the same event. Very good pictures at that. See them on
Well, c'mon, it beats football!

Friday, August 03, 2007


A report in today’s El Mundo recommends having a good kip after lunch – known to residents and visitors alike as ‘la siesta nacional’ – or, in modern parlance, the ‘yoga ibérico’. Doctors recommend it for obscure medical reasons, common sense supports it as it keeps you off the street during the worst hours of the hot day and it’s even an institution that is gathering adepts in other countries. One can even read about having ‘a power nap’ in American literature. Just the ticket after a hard morning’s work, a couple of beers and a lunch.
Meanwhile, the European Union is committed to stopping the siesta and many multinational companies are now operating in Spain with a ‘nine to five’ philosophy. They probably make their staff sit on hard wooden chairs as well. The bottom line is always the cash. Spain considers that ‘you work to live’ and the Anglos, stiff with their protestant guilt ethic, say that ‘you live to work’. ‘Arbeit macht frei’, as a German philosopher once put it.
I suppose that the Spanish nine-to-fivers experience rather mixed results from insisting on this calendar as, while they may receive business from abroad after the two o’clock watershed, they won’t get many ‘walk-ins’ during those last hours of their working day. It can be quite a nuisance in Madrid when you wake up after a siesta, shower and then take a taxi to some office clean across town to discover that it shuts at five for the day.
Five is hardly a late hour in a country which rarely goes to bed before midnight.
Indeed, much of Spain’s business is carried out over a beer or a glass of wine, either during the leisurely lunch which helps make living in this country such a pleasure, or during the evening, when the office-workers slip next door to the local cafeteria for a beer and chat, perhaps with a client.
The Spanish say that most deals are made outside the office.
Between this agreeable state of affairs and the burgeoning Anglo presence in the business world, the battle lines are drawn.
Movistar, Telefonica’s mobile phone company, appears to have embraced the European working clock – at least, it has taken to sending me irritating ‘peep peep’ commercial messages round about three in the afternoon when I am usually fast asleep.
Another call around three o’clock yesterday came from some English local newspaper that obviously prefers the British work-schedule, wanting to talk to me about an advert I had placed in The New Entertainer. Not to buy something mind, but to ask if I’d like to advertise with them. For this some sales-girl from the Sol Gazette wakes me up…
It ruined that day’s nap entirely; as I was left wondering who else of my clients she was no doubt waking with her ludicrous sales-patter.
The Spanish siesta is an institution that has worked for hundreds of years and is based on the soundest of experience and principals. Oddly, I recently read somewhere that the siesta was introduced by Franco - probably written by some stringer for the telephone company. After all, if the old bastard invented it, it’s OK to give it the bum’s rush and adopt instead those miserable Anglo hours.
Oddest of all is in the erstwhile Spanish town of Albox, where, now re-christened as ‘All-box’ and taken over by ‘los ingleses’ - the British - business hours there are now strictly ‘nine to five’, with some select places running from just ‘nine to two’. I imagine the surviving hoards of locals, fresh from their siestas, casting around after five o’clock for something to buy, somewhere to go.