Saturday, July 30, 2011

Miguel Angel Gallery

My picture shows Félix Clemente Gerez, currently exhibiting at the Miguel Angel Gallery on Mojácar Playa, posing with visiting American artist Lynette Lombard. The exhibition continues through August 30th and is of a very high quality.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Sex Talk

In a country like Spain, where there are brothels on the outskirts of most towns - large bars or hotels with names like ‘Club Los Angeles’ decorated outside with bright coloured lights, sex is no big deal. So, the girls inside might be drugged and under a 24-hour watch. They’ll have their passports kept by the brothel owners and they will have to perform a number of times a day to pay for their room. The police will not usually intercede and the city fathers – as often as not enthusiastic customers during the early evening – will turn a blind eye.

Almería is said to have over a hundred of these jolly clubs, with one of the nearest for Mojácar party-goers located on the outskirts of Vera slap-bang next to a snack bar with the rather unfortunate name of ‘Come, Come’ (it means ‘Eat, Eat’ in Spanish, nothing tawdry here. Move on people). Actually, there are some puticlubs nearer to home, usually apartments or villas hired by strange people from foreign parts, who, now and again, get arrested or deported.

The usual brothel has a number of girls floating around, in various stages of dishabille, bothering or chatting you up (you decide) as you order an overpriced drink from the waiter and nod politely at the mayor sat on the next barstool but one. In fact, many Spaniards use these larger places more for a ‘slap and tickle’ than a fully fledged ‘poke, rattle and roll’ upstairs for a reasonable price (it used to be sixty euros plus a shilling for the maid, last time I asked).

Sex used to be dodgy in the old days of Franco, although Spain has always had its cat houses and its putas. Now, of course, most of the fallen women are foreigners, particularly Romanians (the government has just taken away their rights to get any more honest work) and South Americans. Well, everybody likes something a little bit different.

We have sex workers, tarts or what have you; boys in hot pants and transvestites too; all cruising up and down the streets in certain areas, or in the town park, or on the highway. Now the Catalonians want them to wear fluorescent jackets so as not to be run over. That will be fun – makes them easier to spot, anyway.

Sex is also in evidence in shops and petrol stations, where the XXX videos are on the shelf next to the sales-clerk (and often next to a sellotaped picture of the girl with her boyfriend smiling innocently at the camera). How on earth do you sell those things, I asked the girl at the Mojácar gas station. Well, we have a number of customers who don’t want to miss any on them, she laughed.

The videos are frank and extremely self evident. ‘Let’s Fuck’ would be a rather humdrum title for one of them these days.

No one seems to mind.

We have Internet sex of all sizes, types and description, which is either viewed or not, depending on the inclination of the surfer. We have sex on TV, especially after midnight where – if the translator is working – you get to learn a lot of specialist French or Russian, and if not, your domination of the Spanish word aaarrghh improves no end. There will be adverts galore as well.

But now the bluestockings in the Government, aghast at any sexual inequality, want to put an end to all this fucking. Stage One is to pull prostitute’s adverts from the classified pages of the newspapers. Here’s the kind of thing they mean: ‘Mulata transformist, Miranda, new stunning 23cms. Loaded milk bottle. Private. Discretion. Very feminine. I dress as a woman for you…’ (culled from this week’s Weenie).

The proposal, creaking through the Govt, is to change the General Advertising Law - ‘La Ley General de Publicidad’ - to prohibit adverts ‘for sexual favours and for clubs dedicated to prostitution’ in newspapers and their digital editions, if readership is not (somehow) limited to 18 years or older.

Children, put down that paper at once – read the Beano, whydontcha!

Newspapers, of course, thrive on advertising – especially (and rather obviously) free newspapers. So this rule is going to attract some unfavourable press.

Prostitution, according to El País, is worth about 50 million euros a day in Spain. They say they get that figure from the Asociación de Clubs de Alterne. The Spanish Brotherhood of Brothel-keepers, fine people all. The same newspaper fails, unfortunately, to tell its readers how much the naughty adverts are worth to them on a daily basis, but the Euro Weekly’s Costa del Sol edition for this week has, on P.89, five small display adverts and four columns of classifieds dedicated to ‘XXX Relaxation’.

All this fuss comes from the fertile mind of the new Secretary of State for Equality, a chip of a thing called Laura Seara, who says that she is limiting the new rule to the press, but hopes to amplify it to the Internet and the TV, but ‘that will depend on Congress’.

So, is Spain going to end up like Nebraska? I hope not.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

A Short Drive in the Car

Spectacles, testicles, wallet and watch, combined and in pantomime, appear to be a way of remembering how to cross oneself successfully. For me, they are a simple mnemonic to remember to leave the house properly equipped. As age creeps up upon me, I find I forget things. Like not doing up my flies or forgetting to brush my hair, or coming out without my glasses. However, there is nothing more irritating than driving down to the shops only to find that I had left my wallet at home. And while it is useful to know what time it is, and therefore if the shops are open or not, I depart from the list by not wearing or indeed owning a watch. One day, when they invent watches that tell us what year it is, then maybe I’ll reconsider.

So, my four stations of the cross have descended into three: zipper, not that this is really my immediate concern - unless of course I am entertaining - spectacles and wallet.

Unfortunately, a knot in a handkerchief won’t do. Firstly, because I would have to remember to carry a hankie, and secondly, because my list of vital things to remember before I leave the property turns out to be rather longer than the t, s and two double-yous mentioned above.

I need two pairs of glasses, one for reading and the other to keep the sun out of my eyes. These sun-glasses, usually originally belonging to somebody else, often tend towards being bent, scratched or hopelessly unfashionable, which explains how I ended up with them; but they are useful in the summer, especially if I find I need a short nap while talking to the vicar.

I like to carry a mobile phone. Mine has a short battery life – a couple of hours or so – and is rarely charged when I am. This makes it an optional item on my list. Keys of course: car-keys, house and that strange one on the key-ring that no one remembers where it came from. I must carry an ID, which these days, and thanks to the polizie, mean both a passport and a letter from immigration saying that they care. So much easier than the old Residents Card which I carried about with me for forty years. They’ll be making us wear a blue triangle embroidered on our shirt next thing we know.

My pockets are filling up. I’ve brushed my hair and had a pee. Shut the dogs away and checked that the door is locked. I’ve got the plastic shopping bag out of the kitchen (no sense in wasting three céntimos), turned the water off in the garden (hah!), put the chicken away in its cage, eaten its egg, checked my pockets again and added the coupon from the supermarket, a pen, a small camera… and am now ready.

But wait, I’ve forgotten where I had planned to go.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Recharging in Granada

Granada is such an astonishingly beautiful city. Contrasted with the City of Almería, a dump which had its only time in the sun in the early thirteenth century, Granada regains one's faith in the history and culture of Spain. It's not far from where we live, perhaps two and a half hours - supposing we don't stop in Guadix or Purullena (the troglodyte town where they sell pottery) - and it's a manageable size at something under 250,000 souls. But, what's there to see? Suffice to translate the sign above, which reads roughly as:
Give him some coins, Woman
Because there can never be in this life
Anything as hard to bear
as being without sight in Granada.
I'd leave it there, since the best thing is to rush out, now, and buy tickets (or a tank of gas) for Granada and see for yourself, only, I had one more small thing to say, and it needed a second picture.
It's this; they really do seem to care for their city. The streets are clean. Pedestrian streets are for walking around in (and not dodging cars, or having them double parked) and there is a sense of pride evident in the people there.
This is not Almería.

We stayed in the Hotel Victoria NH which is central and comfortable.

Monday, July 11, 2011

The Fire, Remembered

The brush-fire that burnt 2500 hectares of land in Mojácar two years ago has now been all but forgotten. Several houses were lost, some cars blew up, many trees and gardens went in a moment, animals died and, once again, our town had got itself onto the Front Pages for all the wrong reasons. It wasn’t that the Town Hall hadn’t seen the fire coming, although another fire had burnt much of next door Turre’s Cortijo Cabrera only one week previously, it was their lack of useful reaction which should have peeved the local population.

I say ‘should have’ – people here put up with a lot. There’s no room here for complainers. Not if they ever want to see a job again, at the very least. Anyhow, Mojácar is apparently the richest town per capita (if a trifle undivided) in the whole of Andalucía.

Rather than declare a ‘State of Emergency’, our Mayoress was advised to let a visit by the surprise new (and unelected) President of the Junta de Andalucía José Antonio Griñán, come to see his new possessions, turn into a political opportunity to help our local tourism rather than our locals. Griñán, carefully driven ‘the long way’ to Mojácar Playa from Turre, where the schoolchildren had been lined up to sing him something straight out of Chairman Mao’s Little Red Song-Book, missed the burnt-out hinterland of Mojácar. No soot, dead trees or the smell of charred animals for our leader, but rather a plea to help our hotels (run mainly by Catalonian businessmen and with a staff overwhelmingly drawn from Ecuador) while sipping a sherry at the Parador. Following the meeting, the Andalucian Media, which receives 200,000 euros a day of public funds in ‘institutional advertising’, was duly told to run a few adverts for Mojácar tourism.

And that was that.

Here at my home, we lost a number of trees; in fact, their dried-out trunks are still falling in the high-winds (two fell earlier this week), and a few outbuildings. The garage lost its roof and the swimming pool its pump and some of the façade. I’m not complaining – the main house survived.

A surge blew all of our electric equipment. I rang the Sevillana and was given the modern version of the ‘Act of God’ excuse, that the surge was ‘fortuito’ and therefore not their problem. Accidents are so often ‘fortuitous’ these days, don’t you think? Does anyone have a CD player, or a spare amplifier?

The water pipes burnt during the fire, but the swimming pool held enough sooty water to help with the buckets. The roots of some trees burnt for days, and a bucket of water down a smoking hole would elicit a loud steamy whoosh.

The local fauna all died. Almost all were burnt to death, including some small birds we saw, as the fire hit, that flew off with burning wings. Not an image to forget. Other animals, our lazy tree-rats, the wild tortoises, the rabbits and voles all died. The wild boar may have escaped, but there are few foxes around these days. I remember, just two days after the fire, as we were beginning the job of cleaning up the house and charred garden, hearing the hunters out with their shotguns, in case any bird might have survived the cataclysm and was unable to hide behind the naked trees. Bang. Bang.

We had seen the smoke approaching in the high wind. A police car had fired its sirens – ‘run, run now!’ and, with the dog and a single picture wrenched off the wall by the door, we had fled the scene. We had met up with some house owners in the riverbed and watched as the hill between our house and the shocked group had suddenly glowed red. We learnt afterwards that one of our neighbours was just about to get into her car to escape the fire when the vehicle abruptly exploded, burning her legs and arms. She was forced to run back inside her house as the fire, borne on an incredibly strong wind, rushed against her home and around the walls, igniting what could be burnt, leaving everything else to smoke and soot. We found our shocked neighbour later and took her to the medical centre on the beach. A dozen fire-engines arrived that afternoon and worked until late in the evening. It was good to see them. We slept on the beach and drank tea.

The President of our autonomous Region wasn’t the only person who never visited our barrio to see the fire damage. The Mayoress never came by either. Not to do anything much, but to at least look indignant and shocked as we showed her the smoking ruins. I think we could blame the first fire, which was obviously not extinguished properly, and the ‘environmentalists’ who were campaigning at the time to save the dead underbrush, as it provided cover for our local wild tortoises.

What tortoises?

We were asked to report our losses to an office on the beach, itemised and with photographic evidence. A few months later, a letter arrived from Madrid. In the event of my house being entirely and completely destroyed by some act of nature, the Government of the Nation, it said, would be pleased to extend 15,120 euros to build me a new home. Kind of them, we thought, but luckily our house survived (if a trifle scorched).

Wild fires are regular occurrences in Spain during the summer, although this was the first one in Mojácar for twenty years. It was big enough to receive some press coverage. Even our local English-language ‘newspaper’ laconically reported that a British television personality of small standing had been staying on the beach during a fire but was unharmed. Well, it’s not The News of the World…

So, two years on. The fire cost me a few hundred euros in cleaning up and hiring skips for dead branches and other material, but, as the main damage – several hundred trees destroyed, the stables and store-room contents lost, electrical goods fried and a few domestic birds killed:

Well, put that down to experience.