Friday, October 31, 2008


Poppy Day article removed by Court injunction.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Rapture

I was at the fuente picking up supplies when the German fire-eater called me over. 'Look in the sky', he said, nonchalantly playing with a box of matches, 'wultures!'. Now, Mojácar doesn't have vultures (oh yes it does...) and these birds must have come over from Cadiz or down from central Spain. What can they be after here in our quiet and increasingly bankrupt corner of paradise? I saw them wheeling over Marina de la Torre, the ugly hotel, apartment and golf complex on the way to Garrucha so rushed home to get a camera, only to find them flying over my house. They are now in Turre... having some lunch.

Later: My associate at the radio had to go up the mountain behind Mojácar this morning (Wednesday), to El Picacho, to fix something in the COPE transmitter cabin. He said that when he got up to the top there were about 200 vultures flying around his car and he was so frightened he turned around and came down again.

A left-wing artist friend was positively gleeful about the whole thing. 'They've come to eat all the sin verguenzas', he said, rubbing his hands, 'they are one of the seven plagues called down from the heavens'.

It was the time of The Revelation.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Act of Worship

Tonight we must put the clocks back an hour. There is some reason for this which escapes me slightly, along the lines that it stays dark in the mornings so, making it darker in the afternoons will make it lighter in the earlier hours. And in the spring, when the days get longer, why, we have the reverse.
Unless you live in Australia.
Seems to me that, all things considered, we should keep with the summer hours.
As a child, I used to enjoy this autumn process – an extra hour in bed! It seems that kids can never get enough bed-time and, while through infantile contrariness we would try and stay up late offering up any kind of protest against being sent away to our rooms so as to give the grown-ups some badly needed ‘quality time’ (I should hardly need to point out here that I don’t come from a Spanish background where of course the reverse is true), we nippers would nevertheless stay in bed the following morning as long as we could.
I used to enjoy the maid coming in and stripping the bed while I was still in it. There is nothing in my opinion quite like a midmorning bout of 'slap and tickle'. These childish moments of joy may return, with a small degree of luck, to enlighten my final years while a resident of the Vera mental home.
I used to enjoy reading in bed from the earliest age and was therefore slightly less averse to being ‘sent off’ than some other kids, though the reading excuse wasn’t particularly available at my various boarding schools. The ‘eight o’clock bell’ - and the absence of maids - rather ate into my morning dozing as well.
Nowadays, an hour added to my nigh-nigh is not quite as welcome. I usually wake up between four and six in the morning anyway. If it’s four and my bladder is in agreement then I try and sleep again – if it’s six, I give up and get up.
But tomorrow, what will I do if it’s five?
The whole reason for interrupting our sleep patterns, changing the clocks and fiddling with the dashboard on the SEAT, isn’t to save money in public lighting as the government is obliged to claim every time they do this (the broken meetings and lost appointments between them lose anything gained). The reason is far simpler. It’s about power. Look, our elected officials say, we can do something that even your God can not do. We can put back time itself. Worship us!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Couldn't Put it Better, Myself!

Doonesbury (G.B.Trudeau) is a daily current-affairs cartoon which has been going for at least 35 years in the USA. I've got a couple of his early book-collections. You can find your 'daily dose' on Slate at (Squinty? - then click on the picture!).
Reason I'm posting it here... is a salute (Tah Tchah!!) to mah fellow Bloggers!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Valencia Concert

This is the old market in the Ensanche area of Valencia, called the Mercado del Colón. A few years ago it was reamed out and re-invented as a smart café and exhibition centre. It's very nice. No doubt home-prices in the surrounding square have shot up as a result.
On Sundays from 12.00 midday, they have a concert from one of Valencia's brass-bands ('bandas municipales'). On this occasion, the band was a group of around sixty enthusiastic young people who ripped through a collection of cheerful (and presumably local 19th century) pieces of music to the pleasure of a couple of hundred people - surprisingly not more - who'd come to listen. And have a coffee.
The trick to these bands apparently - Valencia has a massive 300 of them - is to see what their final piece is. It's always 'Valencia' but there are two different tunes with this name. One is the Valencia Hymn (all stand and place hand on heart, weeping is permitted) which is the local tune for the conservatives; the other, Valenciaaa (di di dum di dum di dum...) is the tune for the socialists. In the end, to the slight consternation of the fellow who told me this, they played both.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Banco Santander (Madrid Branch)

Don't be confused by my photo, taken in La Hortaleza in Madrid - the Santander is doing very well. See Wiki for the lowdown on this - the second biggest bank in Europe and one of the ten biggest in the world.

Oops - to celebrate the current crisis - they've just bought another bank...

I suppose the joke is that the jefe is called Emilio Botín. Botín means 'swag' or 'loot' or 'booty' which one might consider a bit near the bone.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

The Secret Agent

Leslie Howard was perhaps Britain's best-known film star in the thirties. The red-headed star of 'Gone with the Wind' and 'The Petrified Forest' returned to London from Hollywood at the outbreak of the war against Nazi Germany and made several propaganda films. It was rumoured after his death in 1943 - his plane was shot down by German fighters over the Bay of Biscay - that he was also a spy for Churchill.
It's certainly true that he made several trips to Lisbon and Madrid during the war - overtly for cultural reasons - and no doubt did what he could behind the scenes. However, a new book by José Rey-Ximena called 'El Vuelo del Ibis' ('The Flight of the Ibis'), retraces his final visit to Madrid which was to end in the tragic death of Howard over the Atlantic.
Leslie Howard, we read, was on a secret mission from Churchill to send a message to Franco 'not to interfere in the war'. Howard's contact was an old girlfriend and actress called Conchita Montenegro (they had made a Hollywood film together called Never The Twain Shall Meet in 1931) who, by 1943, was dating Ricardo Gimenez-Arnau, head of the Falange's foreign department. Howard was officially in Madrid that May to head up a conference on Hamlet at the British Institute. He arrived in Madrid and checked into the Hotel Ritz on May 10th 1943 where he angered the head of the British Institute, Walter Starkie, by 'Howard's poor attendance' during his stay.
The author of The Flight of the Ibis was able to interview Conchita Montenegro at length before her death in 2007 about what happened during that visit to Madrid. A gypsywoman was part of the retinue of a flamenco group at the welcoming party at the British Institute. 'That man', she said, pointing to Leslie Howard 'has death engraved on his face. I can only see his skull'. When the British and their guests sat down to their evening meal, Howard reputedly jumped up and said that there were thirteen at the table and Starkie was obliged to find another person to join them.
Bad augeries aside, and with the help of Conchita and her contacts, Howard did manage to meet Franco and - with the excuse of talking about making a film about Cristopher Columbus - he was able to deliver the message.
Howard left Madrid for the Lisbon airport on June 1st and found that his plane had thirteen passengers!
The commander of the eight attack planes, Junkers 88s from Bordeaux, sent out his messages to his pack: 'Indian at eleven o'clock' and 'shoot it down, shoot it down'. The last radio message from the striken passenger plane was 'we are under attack from enemy planes'. The aircraft burst into flames over the sea near the Galician town of Cedeira.
It has been said that Goebbels ordered the attack personally - Howard had often made a fool of him in propaganda films.

There are two other books on Leslie Howard's last months, In Search of My Father by his son Ronald and Flight 777 by Ian Colvin.

El Vuelo del Ibis (ediciones Facta) José Rey-Ximena. Article in précis from El Mundo and Wikipedia