Sunday, June 22, 2008

El Cid and other Chiringuitos

Mojácar is famous for its chiringuitos - its beach bars. The playa has been scattered with them since the first ones opened in the early seventies, with places like the 'Kon Tiki' (operated for a while by our most famous resident - Gordon Goody, the Glasgow Train robber), the 'Aku Aku', the 'Patio' (Fuck-a-duck Ric who came here to work on the desalination plant being built by the apologetic American government after the Palomares incident in 1966), 'Tito's', and Lloyd and Tish's 'El Cid'.
The Cid is thirty years old this month so celebrations are underway, including a golf tournament pictured above with Lloyd giving Tish what might be a bottle of something. How on earth they could spend thirty years behind the same bar is a mystery...
The beachbars in Mojácar are anarchic. Many are on private land and the others all seem to manage somehow to get around the rules of the government 'costas' agency. Good for them.
In other parts of the Spanish Med, beach-bars have to be taken down in the winter (to make room?) and are usually made to one design and put out to tender to anyone who wants them (as long as they are related to the mayor). These soviet joints of stainless steel, clapboard, bad flamenco and waiters in white shirts and black bow ties have yet to make their appearance in Mojácar, but, my friends, plans are afoot.
So, raise a glass to Lloyd and Tish, who are known to many thousands of happy visitors and contented residents, on this their thirtieth anniversary. They are part of the charm and magic of Mojácar.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

What You Say

Language is power. If you can communicate with someone you are in a far better situation than if you can’t. Both socially and commercially. That’s why we need to speak Spanish and, by the same token, why local businessmen, town halls and official organisations need to speak English.
Many Spanish owned businesses now use bi-lingual staff and, the fact is, there are plenty of young people who, despite being British, have lived here since their earliest years and are comfortably bi-lingual. In the town halls, you will find English-speakers only in the tourist departments – as if tourists, who, during their five day visit, spending 200 euros on the choo choo train or whatever other vulgarity is available, are somehow more useful to the community that the foreign residents.
A doctor I know who works at the hospital in Huercal Overa says that up to 20% of the patients there are English speakers. Some of the doctors studied in the United States and are fluent in English, but none of the staff can speak a word. Why should they?
Because it makes things a lot easier.
In Spain at large, the problems of ‘language’ are currently upsetting the purists from two different directions. Firstly, as Spanish nouns generally end in either ‘a’ or ‘o’, being ‘feminine’ or ‘masculine’ (remember your Latin), certain people of a liberal disposition feel in some cases slighted. A woman minister (ministress?) has upset the Real Academia Española by describing herself as a ‘miembra’ rather than a ‘miembro’ of the government. One member (thankfully, masculine) of the Royal Academy says ‘If it’s not an error, it’s a stupidity. The minister is a champion of shallowness regarding the subject of sex and gender’.
In Spanish, a ‘masculine’ word doesn’t connote masculinity. It’s just a word. The masculine form is also the fall-back when there’s a group of articles or people of both sexes. You say ‘vosotros’ rather than ‘vosotros y vosotras’. Except for leftist politicians and fringe groups. Some people now use the arroba sign to cover themselves – such as in compañer@s. ¡Idiotas! (sorry, ‘idiotos’ doesn’t exist in castellano).
But a far more serious problem for purists, patriots, pragmatists and conservatives is the limits to which the nationalists in parts of the north and east of the country are prepared to go to crank up the ‘bilingüismo oficial’ which is now an accepted ‘coñazo’ (pain in the arse) in Catalonia, the Balearics, and to a lesser extent in Valencia, the Basque Country and Galicia. Nowadays, for purely political ends, Catalonian children must take practically all their classes in catalán and they will grow up to speak Spanish (if they are lucky) as about as well as I do. Very useful when they want to leave the confines of their community.
In Mallorca recently, a nutter – sorry, a ‘senior nationalist politician’ – accused Air Berlin, which flies in more tourists to the islands than they can count, of disrespecting their amusing local patois by only using German and Spanish on their flights. His thrust was that the company is run by Nazis and he calls the service ‘Air Goebbels’.
The Germans are not amused.
Of course, every Catalán, Basque, Gallego and Ibicenco speaks Spanish (at least, this generation does) so the whole language question is at best, artful. Returning to the Almerían coast, most of the English (the word is ‘ingleses’ in Spanish, which is accepted to mean something nearer ‘northern Europeans’) don't unfortunately speak any Spanish, so there is evidently a certain commercial, social and political case for bilingualism.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Bite De Dust

I recently wrote a piece about knocking down a billboard and, today, found this picture on the web.


The first meeting on the fledgling association AULAN was held on Friday 6th June at the Hotel Continental with about fifty people present. I chaired the meeting and in my opening remarks contrasted the Prior’s home in Vera with the Hotel Algarrobico in Carboneras and chided them for not having built a 22 storey home in their quiet backwater as, perhaps, the Junta de Andalucía wouldn’t have ordered it to be pulled down.
Three people spoke of their experiences with property in Spain and their mixed results. The first was Richard Kaleta whose home in Turre was under threat from the route of the AVE high-speed train. His house had received all permissions from the Turre town hall even though they knew the route of the tracks. After support from Gerardo Vásquez (a British lawyer based locally) and enthusiastic coverage in the British press, the Kaletas and six other families won a last minute reprieve and the route has now been modified.
The second speaker was John Bowling who is suffering from the threat of ‘land grab’ in El Pinar, Bédar, together with a clutch of British residents there. The third speaker was Manuel Esteban who was able to resolve his land problems in Mojácar after the regional edition of El Mundo ran a four-part report on the situation.
Gerardo Vásquez spoke of the need for an association to cover our area, to complement the AUAN in Albox and other areas with urban problems caused by the authorities. The new association to be called the Abusos Urbanisticos del Levante Almeriense – No!. The AULAN.
Those that wish to join the association can contact either Gerardo or myself.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Civilization III

When things go bad – rather than face the crisis, I like to settle down for an agreeable moment in front of the computer; to conquer the world.
It’s a game which takes several months to play. You start with a tiny pueblo and a chap with a pickaxe and you slowly go out exploring, meeting (raping and conquering) the neighbours. It’s called Civilization III (Number II is a bit infra dig and Number IV is a bit too busy to be enjoyable).
I've sometimes tried other computer games. I have to say that I don't like any of them. It has to be Sid Meier's CIV III.
So now my secret is out. Things go wrong in the office; I’ll come home and put another civilization to the sword. Yes, I know: pathetic.
Unfortunately, the CD has been working too hard recently and no longer loads. You might say that it has ‘risen up’ against its master.
So, as I tear out my hair in clumps, I wonder – does anyone out there have a copy?

Monday, June 02, 2008

Mojácar's Old Lags: The 1970s

They were the first billboards for Mojácar. One was a construction company, another advertised the Tío Edy (a small German hotel run by an ex Luftwaffe pilot) and two more promoted Mojácar’s first knick-knack shop, an establishment down to the rear of the pueblo called ‘Jean-Pierre’.
The souvenir shop was owned by Felippe Paccini, an ugly Corsican who had arrived in town in 1970 claiming that ‘he had been thrown out of many places during his life, but he wasn’t going to be pushed out of Mojácar’.
Actually, I’ve just heard that he was wheeled out last week. RIP you French bastard!

My dad, myself and another Mojácar resident called Tony Hawker had decided late one night in the spring of 1971 to remove these billboards in a daring terrorist action. Not having any useful connections with the IRA, we used saws. The four signs fell, one after another, around four in the morning following on from a rather heavy night in the Bar Sartén. One sign was in front of a house on the playa and as it fell, we saw a surprised – and we hoped – rather pleased looking man peering out at his improved view.
We knew the cops pretty well: the Guardia would come by to visit our house once a month on their mopeds to get our signature to prove their patrol schedule and to try a whisky or two. Relations were most friendly and it was a very chastened corporal who told us, three months after the event, that we were to report to the Vera calabozo, the clink. The two other advertisers had ‘let us off’, but the Frenchman wanted his pint of blood.
My mum packed a suitcase and we went to collect Tony who lived somewhere in the pueblo. We arrived around five that afternoon in Vera only to be told that ‘the beds hadn’t been made yet’ and to go and get a drink. The lock-up was in the downstairs of the Vera town hall, looking into the church square. Our cell was ample, with an en-suite thunderbox. One wall was decorated with a large mural of Jesus going about his business clearly chalked by a previous inmate. There was evidently time to kill.
Our suitcase had been searched by another apologetic policeman and the vodka confiscated. We were left with a radio, a few books and some lavatory paper. Tony, a thin man in his forties, had some ‘Bustaid’ slimming pills which, it was claimed on the street, would get you high.
My mother visited constantly, bringing my dad vodka in a Casera bottle (well, it fooled the jailers). Otherwise, supplies had to come through the window of the next-door cell, inhabited by a young villain, and passed through into our quarters in exchange for a small coin or a cup of good cheer.
The judge saw us on the third day. Our excuses fell on deaf ears. ‘¿Cuantos años tienes?’ he asked Tony, who was dressed in a rather scruffy leather suit. ‘How long are you?’ translated the interpreter. ‘About this long’, said Tony, holding his hands a generous distance apart.
He was returned to ‘solitary’ where he complained bitterly through the walls of his jail-mates, ‘a bucket of shit and two thousand flies’. My dad and I were returned to our own quarters and released on bail two days later. Tony was let out on bail the following day.
Franco had an amnesty about that time for evil-doers and we were released from the threat of a three month stay in a proper jail. Well done the Caudillo!
I was seventeen at the time – making me one of the youngest old lags in the business.
The following year, the same Frenchman had another run-in with a foreigner. Paccini lived upstairs from Til, a Swiss sailor who owned a restaurant in the village (‘the customer is always right… except at Tillies’). A misunderstanding arose as to who owned Til’s roof-terrace and after Til had tossed Paccini’s bricks, cement and bathroom fittings into the street, Til found himself in our old cell in Vera. The window had been covered by chicken wire and the young felon had departed so Til was unable to get any refreshment during his stay.
Next to visit the Vera clink was Eddie, a film type who had been denounced for some form or other of wickedness. He arrived at the calabozo in his Rolls Royce, leaving it wedged in the narrow street outside. Within an hour, the gaoler had allowed him his freedom, if he would only agree to move his car.
Cheap Pete was a small and very American character who bought and sold antique carpets ‘by the yard’. There’s a street named after him in the pueblo (‘Calle de Pedro Barato’). He married Josephine and inherited a step-son, a large red-headed bruiser who took a violent dislike to Pete. The subsequent fight was so noisy and bloody that the local police felt honour-bound to put the two of them in the Cooler for three days. With the calabozo near to capacity, they placed them in the same cell. For one reason or another, Pete lost a lot of weight during his captivity.
Fritz was an American artist. He was known for his loud ‘haw haw haw’ laugh, his beard and his bottomless capacity for booze and illicit substances. For some reason – the accusation was ‘gamberrísmo’ – he was locked up in the brand-new Mojácar cell, a small room that gave onto the street. By the evening of his first (and last) day, he had managed to decorate his new abode with several paintings, a radio, a carpet and a pot-plant.
By 1980, the cops had appeared to have given up on the foreigners.
I’d call it a long-term truce.