Monday, November 28, 2011

Spanish Invention

You probably knew that the submarine is a Spanish invention. There is an early example raised on the port in Cartagena. Designed and built by a local engineer called Isaac Peral in Cadiz in 1887, it ran on electric current. The earliest Spanish submarine, however, was built by a Catalonian called Narcis Monturiol and ran manually. For (presumably) rather short distances. A later version ran on steam.
But Spain has invented many other useful gadgets (a friend of mine here in Mojácar lives comfortably off a garlic peeler he came up with a few years ago).
The Autogiro being one such (or so I read here). This was a variation on the helicopter, with stubby rear wings and a forward propeller. A large free-spinning propeller pointing upwards kept the thing (more or less) in the air. A British version called 'The Flying Bedstead' used to putter loudly over our garden when I was a child in Norfolk. The autogiro was developed by Juan de la Cierva in the nineteen twenties. Another useful invention, the arquebus, comes from Spain, although Wikipedia appears to disagree, suggesting Hungary instead. Better luck, perhaps, with the easy-to-assemble Molotov cocktail, which was first used by the Republicans during the Civil War before finding its way to the Finnish resistance to the Russian invasion of 1939.
More peaceful inventions include the famous Chupa Chup, the gob-stopper on a stick, introduced by Enric Bernat in 1958. I know that he sells a lot of them to the Chinese and Kojak used to swear by them when solving crimes. Chupa Chups are often used to wean one off another Spanish invention, The cigarette. This was manufactured originally by Seville beggars, who would roll odd bits of tobacco collected from the cigar makers into tubes made from rice paper. The first commercial cigarettes in a packet appeared in 1825 and where commercially named as 'Cigarrillos Superiores' in 1833. They didn't carry health warnings in those days.
The fregona is a fine Spanish invention. I've no idea what it's called in English, but it is a sponge on a stick used for washing floors. It comes from a airman called Manuel Jalón Corominas, introduced in 1956. Another, the pencil-sharpener, dates from 1945 from the workshop of Ignacio Urresti. Then, two partners called Juan Solozábal and Juan Olive came up with the stapler in around 1930.
Finally, according to the comments that follow the Spanish original (an article which promises more inventions in a second part), much of the above is erroneous.
Now they tell us!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Underground Carpark

For those readers who haven't been up to Mojácar village recently - either because they live in California, Coventry or Kiev - or because they don't fancy a short drive up from the beach, here's how the famous dig is coming along. The picture comes from upstairs at the Town Hall's urbanismo building. The church is on the left and there's a narrow string of slightly worried shops and bars running along the top of the picture. Will it all be ready for Easter?

Quality Tourism

As the Mojácar Town Hall wonders how much to budget for the Madrid tourist Fair in January - the Fitur - I would like to suggest a few things which might be done to attract visitors (and package-tour trippers, for what they're worth to the local economy), all without breaking the bank.
A sign on the motorway exit to start with, similar (for example) to the one off Puerto Lumbreras (Ciudad de Alfarería) or the nifty models - rather mistreated these days - outside Nijar. According to a study made in a tourist destination in Cadiz somewhere, about 10% of the tourist traffic that arrived off the motorway was impulse-driven. How much would a sign cost?
Jacinto Alarcón, our old mayor, once recommended visitors 'to summer your winter in Mojácar'. The point is, the small and inadequate infrastructure in Mojácar is full during the summer and yet it is completely empty during the rest of the year when Mojácar, thanks to its extraordinary micro-climate, is extremely comfortable. That's a season to promote... and it would be directed to people willing to listen.
Make the pedestrian entrance to Mojácar near to where the cars are parked. Three hundred metres walk to the Plaza Nueva and another three hundred metres back...? Along a narrow road with a miserable pavement...? Put an elevator up to the back square and make it - now that we are building there anyway - into something attractive and vehicle free (dentro de lo que cabe).
Support up-market hotels, like the Parador, where the clients have money to spend, rather than run-down tripper hotels, whose agenda is to cut every corner, while encouraging their guests to stay within the walls.
Encourage foreign retirees to buy in Mojácar - they will be bringing in large sums of money and spending all year long. Stop treating those foreigners, now local residents in good faith, as pariahs: allow them a bowling green if they want one (no one here plays padel tennis). Perhaps celebrate 'International Day' like they do in the Costa Blanca and the Costa del Sol instead of the just-mojaquero-days like the Romería and the Día de la Virgen. Mojácar's reputation could improve.
A silly thing perhaps, but maybe a street name to honour the foreigners who, between them, brought this town back from absolute poverty? We don't have any Calle Fritz Mooney, Plaza Paul Becket or Avenida Bill Napier. In fact, while there are Calles de Rumanía, Francia, Suecia, Dinamarca etc... there isn't one honouring Inglaterra or Reino Unido. We are 50% of the population you know.
The sign in the photograph is good, isn't it? It comes from Granada and doesn't have any mistakes in the English. It's as if... they asked someone to check the spelling.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Rosmari's Carpark III

Work has started to speed up a bit, some fifty days into the project. Soft 'fill' is being taken out of the upper side of the square. Already one unsuspected water pipe has burst. One can see the church with its protection and the metal chapa that surrounds the entire square. The best viewpoints being either from the upstairs of the Town Hall's urbanísmo department (above the Tourist Office) or from a handy stump outside the Vientos del Desierto restaurant. The leader of the Moros Viejos, the founding club from the 'Moors and Christians' festival held each June, has expressed his dismay in the speed of the obra to the mayoress, Rosmari Cano in a letter delivered recently.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Rosmari's Parking II

I was in the pueblo this evening for a look around and a drink. The two squares are now one, with our old house and the 'schoolmaster's house' demolished. As things stand, it's quite nice, although, with the high metal fence (to stop us seeing any rare artifact from the past two thousand years...?), the view is pretty limited. The church has a lona (a canvas cover) to protect it and rumours are about that the floor is already giving way. At La Sarten, the local foreigners are enjoying 'quiz night'. Some questions, however, remain best unanswered.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

The Lavatory Bar

In the old days, before the passing of Franco, the bars closed at 1.00am. Most of them no doubt closed a lot earlier, right after the black and white football game on the telly ended, but the bars in the tourist towns at least, would remain open for the boozy foreigners until the bell went. By the late sixties, prices for a gin and tonic had crept up to fourteen pesetas, and a beer cost anything up to a duro – five pesetas. Our town lush, Old Antonio, would patrol the bars in Mojácar on the look out for a drink, looking more and more dishevelled after each invitación. ‘Rubio, dame un duro’, he’d whine.

The local bars were dressed in simple stone, marble, slate, tiles and plaster. There might be a calendar for decoration, the obligatory shelf of bottles, Green Fish gin and so on, perhaps a TV or a radio or a juke box – or with luck, all three. Noise was the keynote of a good bar, with the walls rebounding the sound and lifting it on high.

The few foreign bars would be decorated with paintings from local artists (who always attempted to drink for free) and would have the lights on low. Music came from a record player.

By 1.00am, those who wished to continue with the business of drinking would move to our solitary discothèque, run by Felipe, a Frenchman from Casablanca. Felipe would charge a little more for a cubata, the generic name for a mixed drink, but he had a disk jockey and a dance floor. At 2.00am, according to the rules, he’d close the door and pretend to be shut while we finished our drinks.

This could take some time, as the next legal establishment, the Fisherman’s Bar in nearby Garrucha, didn’t open until three.

In those days, the local Guardia Civil had to provide their own transport, which would generally be an old moped. They wouldn’t bother hiding behind a road-sign to catch the occasional drunk driver – they couldn’t stop you without ‘probable cause’ anyway. At best, they might be in the village watching the small car-park and helping drivers reverse safely out of their space and away down the hill.

The trip to Garrucha took about fifteen minutes and included a drive through the dust, ruts, or puddles, depending on the season, of the floor of the riverbed, the oddly named ‘Rio de Aguas’ that, in those days, more or less divided the two towns geographically.

Garrucha High Street was and remains, a narrow and ugly road that flows straight through the fishing village and away towards Vera and civilization to the north. In those times, it was a two-way street. Half way down it was the Bar Bichito, a bar with a special licence to open at 3.00am for the fishermen to have an early morning carajillo, a black coffee and brandy. This particular mixture always seemed like a good idea to the inebriates from Mojácar who would order a round as a song began to bubble up from within them.

Hitherto, the drinking had been reasonably quiet, with the music taking the strain, but in the Bichito, fetchingly designed in white tile throughout and known to the foreigners as ‘The Lavatory Bar’, there was no music and entertainment had to be found elsewhere. The bar made ordinary local bars of the times look positively attractive. The door was on the end and opened into a narrow bar which stretched along in a small 'el' shape parallel to the street. There were two small tables and a few chairs just inside the door, and, if feeling faint, one could always sit outside on the curb. Otherwise, we stood at the chest-high bar (or even higher for some of the vertically challenged local fishermen), blinded by the bright lights and namesake decor and watched, between songs, as Pedro man-handled his one-spout Italian coffee machine. The toilet facilities, a throne with a long drop, were through the back and doubled as a storage room for the beer and soft drinks.

The fishermen and the old municipal cop would look on in a friendly way as the small group of plastered Britons, French, Germans and Americans, depending on the draw, would start on their lengthy repertoire. A family favourite of ours was ‘I Wonder Who’s Kissing Her Now’ (an old song immortalised in the late sixties by the New Vaudeville Band) followed, perhaps, by the popular drunken bawl ‘I’ve Got Sixpence’ or perhaps ‘Bless Em All’. A cockney couple, Pat and Tony Farr, had taught us a number of songs, such as ‘I’m One of the Ruins that Cromwell Knocked Abaht a Bit’ or ‘I’m Henry the Eighth I Am’ and so on.

More carajillos as Pedro, face pitted with acne, would tell everyone to hsss, to be quiet. People are trying to sleep (apparently).

Things could only get worse as the Rugby Songs were unleashed. Rugby Songs are England’s answer to folk music and run along the lines of ‘My Little Sister Lily’ or ‘They Were Tattered, They Were Torn…’ with lots of lines ending in –uck and so on. Curiously, many of them are set to opera music, which gives the performers a chance to really crank out the key words with enthusiasm. At times, even the extranjeros can be loud.

The ride home was always uneventful I’m sorry to report. No accidents or arrests. But those were different times. Cheap, basic and fun.

Rosmari's Underground Parking (update)

Apart from the hive of activity that is Bartolo's nick-nack shop, the cigarette shop and the lotería (we never close), the village of Mojácar is dead this windy Sunday morning. Up by the Church, the Mayoress' plan for an underground car-park totters on, slowly. As the pictures show, nothing much has been accomplished so far, beyond removing the parked cars from the two upper squares and closing off the entire area with 'chapa'. One section of this stamped metal has ceded under the heavy wind, blocking off the narrow run into Liberio's house. Liberio the Carpenter is not amused. 'Will this crap be finished by Easter?' I ask him. 'Maybe the following one' he says.
LATER: apparently, on Monday 7th November, work started on the demolition of the two houses centred in the photos. The one on the left, originally built as two apartments, was our first home in Mojácar in 1966.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Welcome Home

One of our oldest residents decided in May to return to England. She had lived abroad since the fifties, first for many years in Tangiers, and later here in Mojácar. Her house is a beautiful home bathed in light and our friend is always full of cheer and warmth. Sometimes there were parties around her pool - a chance to catch up with some of the older residents who don't 'get out much'.
Family pressures obliged her to move to a nice country retreat near Brighton, and it was with a mixture of surprise and pleasure that I heard her voice on the phone a few days ago. 'I'm back', she said. 'No more England for me'.
It seems that she had missed her home and her friends and, despite being 93 years old, she is back here 'for good'. With so many people leaving - or wishing they could leave - it is great to see what must be our oldest resident back amongst us.
Another small garden party yesterday. Tapas, wine and some good laughs. I think that all of us present felt both pleased that she had returned, and in some way, we felt confident that we too will stay.