Friday, December 07, 2012
Of course, they knocked it down eventually and made some crap souvenir shops instead.
Sunday, November 11, 2012
Sunday, November 04, 2012
The Canadian doctor Henry Norman Bethune, acknowledged in a leading article in La Voz de Almería (Nov 4th) called 'El canadiense que salvó vidas durante la huida desde Málaga a Almería en 1937' - The Canadian who saved lives during the retreat from Málaga to Almería in 1937.
Norman Bethune is best known for 'his service in war time medical units during the Spanish Civil War and with the Communist Eighth Route Army (Ba Lu Jun) during the Second Sino-Japanese War. He developed the first mobile blood-transfusion service in Spain in 1936. A Communist, he wrote that wars were motivated by profits, not principles' (Wiki)
One of his most well-known poems was published in the 1937 July issue of a Canadian magazine:
And the same pallid moon tonight,
Which rides so quietly, clear and high,
The mirror of our pale and troubled gaze
Raised to a cool Canadian sky.
Above the shattered Spanish troops
Last night rose low and wild and red,
Reflecting back from her illumined shield
The blood bespattered faces of the dead.
To that pale disc we raise our clenched fists,
And to those nameless dead our vows renew,
“Comrades, who fought for freedom and the future world,
Who died for us, we will remember you.”
On February 7, 2006, the city of Málaga opened the Walk of Canadians in his memory. This avenue pays tribute to the solidarity action of Dr. Norman Bethune and his colleagues who helped the population of Málaga during the Civil War. During the ceremony, a commemorative plaque was unveiled with the inscription: "Walk of Canadians - In memory of aid from the people of Canada at the hands of Norman Bethune, provided to the refugees of Málaga in February 1937". The ceremony also conducted a planting of an olive tree and a maple tree representative of Spain and Canada, symbols of friendship between the two peoples. (Wiki)
An hour-long film of his life is here .
Story by Amber Napier
Friday, October 19, 2012
No one is going out at the moment, the hotels are closing for the season, the bars are empty and many of the shops have thrown in the towel after the rents went up. We are all living a simple life these days (apart from a close relative who owes me money but instead appears to have bought himself a fancy new truck). No doubt the economy is in safe and capable hands and everything will be fine and dandy again in a few years from now (ahem!); but meanwhile, the only thing to do is to follow the dog's lead.
And make a run for it.
Thursday, October 04, 2012
I think that perhaps a small quiet town without hotels or beaches or campsites has a lot to recommend itself.
Friday, September 28, 2012
Wednesday, September 19, 2012
Here in Mojácar, we use a Californian gardening book. It has most of our flowers and shrubs, but it is understandably light on the subject of the local fauna that flitter from bush to bush, or in the case of our latest guests, from root to root.
To the shop on the beach, which offers me rat poison (now, that can't be right), and so on to the Ramblizo in Antas. Readers may know this store, which has everything for hunters, riders, pet-owners, prospective pet-owners, gardeners and I haven't even made it to the upstairs yet, where there are kitchen goods, televisions, fly-traps and screwdrivers. It's a sort of Farmers' Dream (with a little Something for the Housewife). Anyhow, they gave me a Jumbo-sized box of what turned out to be rat poison again. Stick a bit down the tunnel and stand back. Hmmn.
My father was known in Norfolk by his neighbours as The Eichmann of Moles. When a molehill appeared on the lawn (it was a fifty acre lawn and, as I remember, it needed a lot of mowing), my dad would stick a metal trap down the centre of the mound, with appalling results. But there were other equally grisly ways of dispatching a mole. It appears that moles are hemophiliacs and therefore, a bit of broken glass on the floor of their run will cause them to bleed to death. There are gases which can be pumped down their highways, and a horizontally placed British milk-bottle will allow them in, don't you see, but not out.
So this afternoon, I was watering and fending off the mosquitoes (I don't think they will be spraying for these pests, since the tourists aren't here and us: we've already voted). But then, I found my latest plant, filched only last week from a public seed-bed, was surrounded by a pile of earth. In went a small stub of rat-poison. Take that, you little swine.
Tuesday, September 04, 2012
As it happens, one of the nags is a playful brute and one day, it pulled the plug out of the bath and emptied it. This means, apart from the mess, that there is no water until someone comes by and fixes the problem. It turned out to be me and, casting about for the bung, I found a half chewed bit of hard rubber tossed under some straw, chewed and perforated too.
Back to the hardware store. Can I have another plug... this size please. The plug was flattened and hard to measure. Take a 48 and a 54 said the lady, one of them will fit.
As it happened, neither did. One was too big, the other too small. The smaller one is now in our bathroom at home, having taken over from an old and manky bung we've had for thirty years. The new one, with a shiny metal back to it, has rusted already.
So, back to the shop. Look señora, you sold me the unit, so you must have a plug that fits. No comprendo, she answered. When in doubt with angry foreigners.
So, to another shop. This one is the ferretería from Hell. It's a giant and wildly overstocked place where shoppers get lost. You can sometimes hear their pathetic shrieks late at night as you drive quickly past. The quality of the merchandise is highly suspect, boxes with bits missing, old stuff made in countries that no longer exist, wooden hammers that break on the first whack... and I don't like going there without a piece of string and a guide-book.
Their plugs are down in the eighth aisle, turn left, second aisle, right and right again. I eventually discover, a little later that morning, that they don't have anything except 48s and 54s either.
I went back to the first shop. Sell me another unit please, I said, with a spare plug.
We've run out of units, she answered with a certain satisfaction, I think you bought the last one.
So, to the next door town of Turre and its ferretería.
The story about the horse, tee hee, and could I buy a unit with a spare bung, por favor.
Yes I could.
Monday, September 03, 2012
Monday, August 27, 2012
Saturday, August 25, 2012
Does it say 'Verano' (summer) or 'Vera no'?
By Amber Napier
Wednesday, August 22, 2012
The presentation was offered by the mayoress, with her crew of councillors standing in an orderly line behind her, to a small gathering of the Faithful. Opposition councillors were not sent an invitation and neither were various local media, including the Actualidad Almanzora who note in their write-up in the latest edition that: 'Como siempre, la versión del equipo de gobiereno no es posible reflejarla porque mantiene un boicot informativo absoluto hacía este medio, que nos priva incluso de recibir las notas de prensa municipales.' They say that they have an absolute boycott against them from the Mojácar authorities.
The underground car-park, to hold the famous 37 or 38 cars (depending on who's telling the story), won't be opened for, ah, business until next year. You know, paperwork... however, the large granite expanse above is now ready to admire, or put café tables on in an artful and refreshing manner. One has to think of the tourists. Nearby, a small wash breathes across a granite-chip wall, a fountain. Next to this is one of Rosmari's heavy plastic signs: 'On this date, Rosmari Cano opened the new plaza...'. There are quite a few of these scattered about the municipality, in a town where mayors are usually forgotten as quickly as is considered decent.
The mayorial presentation to the small group of supporters was accompanied by a video which showed in slow motion a film of the protests from last year. The opposition parties got their medicine in the speech as well. Afterwards, a tapa and a drink were offered to those present, numbering around eighty. As to the parking (in what we were told is now a pedestrianised village), how much would a single parking place cost, to defray the public outlay? Around 50,000 euros a pop. Are there any takers?
My first thought about this remarkable architectural onslaught arrived after I noticed the lift which towers politely over the proceedings. A splendid elevator that takes you from the plaza, whoosh, down to the underground car-park below. I imagined the maid Luciana, yearning for her Moorish prince, rather than throwing herself off the cliff to her death, could have just opened the metal door and pressed -01. Instead of the sad ending known to generations of Romantics, she would have descended safely and would now be living ever after with her prince. Who probably would have left her and opened a chiringuito instead.
But, that's foreigners for you.
Sunday, August 12, 2012
Thus, together with the national Asociación de Promotores y Constructores de España, they want the gummint to organise a 'macro road show' in foreign parts. There are, we are told by La Voz de Almería, some 25,000 viviendas for sale in this province alone.
Now, news flash for the promoters, bankers and politicians: foreigners don't buy homes or apartments in the big cities. There are no Brits living in Almería DF, Dalías or El Ejido - they would like to live in the smaller towns, villages and pedaneos in the hinterlands or on the coast. Of course, having seen the TV programs and read the newspaper articles in the British, German and Norwegian media about how the Junta de Andalucía likes to wait until a foreigner has bought his house before declaring the structure illegal and worthless as an investment (there are over 250,000 such properties in Andalucía, mainly owned by European foreigners who stupidly thought that Spain lived by the 'rule of law'), sales are decidedly sloppy. Yes, Andalucía is an excellent place to retire to, and the move is a definite win/win for all concerned, with the new residents pumping in foreign funds twelve months a year, creating jobs, repopulating dying villages and improving their surroundings; but there is a firm and powerful rejection from the environmentalist lobby - that group of city-folk who presume to know about the countryside and are as impervious to criticism as was the Spanish inquisition in its day.
The reasons offered by La Voz for the drop in sales of these 'second homes' - and presumably echoed by the building community - include 'la crisis', tax relief and encouragements which have now been removed by the Partido Popular, the rise in IVA (well done those politicians!) and the staggering 35% unemployment in Almería - all of which are small beer compared with the summary illegalisation of most foreign-owned property across the region.
In brief, Andalucía has its post-dated 'illegal homes', Murcia its valueless bank guarantees on unfinished off-plan sites and Valencia, when the times are good, its Land Grab. Don't buy in Spain.
There are many foreigners, Europeans who should have certain rights as agreed at Maastricht, yet treated as extranjeros by the Spanish authorities (I must show you my residence card one day), who would like to live in Spain. It should be the European equivalent to Florida - wealthy and comfortable. Some foreigners, attracted by Spain's vibrant and fascinating culture, would disappear into Madrid, Granada and Seville; but we are concerned here with the majority - who want sun, peace and to drink a cool glass of wine as they sit in their garden and watch the sunset.
'We must regain our judicial reputation abroad', says José Manuel Galindo, the director of the Almerian promoters and builders association with a blindness little short of breathtaking. He's got 25,000 empty homes in Almería alone - and a hell of a lot of unpaid and anxious brick-layers, carpenters, marble-workers, electricians, plumbers, painters and gardeners to look out for. Plus any number of realtors, agents, lawyers, bankers and municipal tax collectors hoping that he can pull a rabbit out of his sombrero. But he can't, because the foreign media doesn't want its readers and viewers hightailing off to Spain, and as far as the media is loyal to its consumers (rather than its customers), it doesn't like to see people being stung.
If he could get the Junta de Andalucía's department of viviendas y obras públicas to pay compensation to Helen and Len Prior for having their house in Vera summarily demolished in January 2008 (they have lived amongst the ruins ever since), then maybe that might send a signal to the Northern Europeans.
Until then... there's always Cyprus.
Thursday, August 09, 2012
The quandary until the traductora came along was how to get English-speaking clients without actually having to buy them a beer or (gasp!) pay them to put something of yours into their language, or at least to correct the version as supplied to you written on the back of an envelope by Cousin Bertín, who was once in Oxford for almost three weeks.
In Andalucía, Billboards, menus, signs, booklets and even the Guardia Civil's complaint forms are all full of mistakes in the English version.
A thing that we Britons laugh at (unless we're professional translators, in which case it rather pisses us off).
Friday, August 03, 2012
The second picture, taken from the Loro Azul's upstairs terrace, shows the decorations (before the childrens' swings and the graffiti go in). Over there to the left is Liberio's carpentry shop and apartment, which he doesn't seem to want to repair. He could open a bar there...
The Plaza doesn't seem to have a name yet. Maybe the 'Plaza Voto por Correos' (Postal Vote Square) might fit nicely.
Wednesday, July 25, 2012
The young 'uns are certainly enjoying Mojácar during these summer months. Trolley-fulls of beer and hootch are wheeled out of the supermarkets and into the apartments. So, if the Pierre people don't pull up their socks, Rosmari Cano will - in the words of the Voz de Almería - close 'em down.
The thing is - when you chose cheap and cheerful tourism, you get cheap and cheerful tourists.
Monday, July 16, 2012
It will no doubt remain like this for a while to come.
Tuesday, July 03, 2012
Now whether this speed sign on the way to Bédar reads ninety or thirty three and a third can only be discovered by driving there yourself.
Go on, it's a pretty little village, with no hotels or playa, and just the one cop.
Wednesday, June 27, 2012
And somehow, it'll all be our fault.
Monday, June 25, 2012
Sunday, June 17, 2012
Los Albardinales, is open for lunches and, by reservation, for dinners - closed Thursdays.
Following our visit, we headed back a short distance towards Sorbas and turned off on a minor road towards Lucainena de las Torres, a pretty, white and forgotten village in the low hills behind Nijar. Here, our destination was the Venta del Museo, a well-known (in a secretive sort of way) German-run restaurant and hostal. Beautifully and imaginatively decorated, this restaurant was run for many years by HansPeter Wohler who famously had a unique wine cellar. I asked the new manager Stefan what had happened to the collection. All gone, he said sadly. Lunch here is a treat, so don't be shy.
The third place on our list was a small 'hippy' retreat, a type of rural hostal, called El Saltador and run by Claudia Scholler. From Lucainena, head towards Nijar but turn off to the left after a couple of kilometres towards Polopos. Claudia has regular exhibitions and flamenco concerts in this out-of-the-way spot - a small exhibition of the late American master Fritz Mooney paintings is currently running there. Claudia was just serving lunch to her guests so we talked for just a few minutes and promised to return. She sent us on towards Polopos on what turned out to be a stunning trip through a fantasy of mountains, gorges, ruins and desert, along a narrow road converted from a single-gauge miners' railroad. If somebody came the other way, we'd still be there today.
After arriving safely in Polopos, a one-donkey village, the road dipped along a river-bed and eventually and obligingly deposited us on the roundabout behind the Venta del Pobre petrol station and restaurant.
We crossed the motorway and headed down into the national park towards Agua Amarga, breaking off that road to head west to Fernán Pérez and on towards Cabo de Gata. Lunchtime loomed and I wanted to stop at the La Gallineta restaurant in Pozo de los Frailes (Tel 950 380 501). This is a small village just a couple of kilometres short of San José and La Gallineta, owned by Pedro from Alicante and his English-speaking son, was going to serve me dentón, a kind of deep-sea fish (apparently called 'dentex' in English) which was (as our Danish neighbour Paul Becket used to sometimes say) 'fan-flaming-tastic'.
Our fifth and final stop - it sounds like a treasure hunt - was another rural hostal, this time the Cortijo la Tenada which is located behind the miniscule village of Los Albaricoques. This small retreat is run by Umberto and is as quiet as it gets.
'Quiet' is not a word to describe the inappropriately named Campo Hermoso, where the national park suddenly switches into intense plastic farming and where the visible population appears to be a massive number of North and Central Africans peddling around on bicycles. We were lost for the first time that day, driving through endless passageways between abandoned plastic greenhouses. Finally, we found the motorway... and accelerated towards home.
Saturday, June 16, 2012
The only scientific way to stop noise leakage from a competitor, is to turn your own speakers up. Loud.
There are buses running all night and there's a superb procession on Sunday afternoon with over a thousand brightly dressed participants, together with yet more musicians. Bring suntan oil and cameras.
Monday, June 11, 2012
God, I hate football.
Here, as every four years, louts drive around with flags sticking out from the windows of their cars, Spanish flags and an occasional English one. People firing off rockets when somebody scores a goal, honking their horns, the newspapers full of the football, which is as ephemeral as yesterday's weather forecast.
So Rajoy, ungainly in his box in Warsaw, or Gdansk, jumping about as if he were a fan. Spain might be a second-rater in politics, finance and influence - but she's first rate in sports.
Meanwhile, back on the coast, a couple of our grimmer local red-top English-language newspapers have produced cut-out-n-keep centre-page spreads on the European football championships. All we need is a couple of thumbtacks and a spare bit of space in the den next to Britney and the Spice Girls.
Monday, May 28, 2012
So, to Almería. I had two things to do and an entire morning to do them in. The trip from our town is an hour and a bit, plus half an hour driving around Almería itself in ever decreasing circles to get to the first point of call, the immigration office, located whimsically enough in the Calle Marruecos. According to a paper with necessary instructions I had received from them, I was to give them a copy of my passport and silly green police A4 paper (issued by the very same office last year), plus photocopies of the above. It took about an hour, first queuing for a number, followed by me in conversation with a nice gentleman from Nigeria who wanted to sell me a Rottweiler, before I was finally called to the desk of a surly young man wearing a tee-shirt and ear-rings. I think he was angry that he hadn't got the day off like his companions at most of the other desks appeared to have done. We began. Turned out, I needed a photocopy of the list of instructions as well. I hadn't seen that one coming. Well, we got there finally, after he had waited for me to walk down the street in search of a shop with a photocopier and return with the vital document, adding it to my modest pile of papers.
I'll let you know, he said.
Then by taxi, because I had forgotten where the place was, assuming they hadn't moved it in the past year or two, on to Trafico.
There, I meant to put an old car in baja. This was to save me a massive 173.67 euros per annum being my town's circulation tax. Last week I had gone up to the town hall to see Nemesio about whipping the car in question off the town computer. I had the tax paper for this year, stamped as paid. No, won't work any longer: nowadays you have to go to Trafico, he'd said.
So, I'm in the taxi. Lots of people are putting their old cars en baja, said the driver. With the crisis, you have to cut any costs you can.
At the trafico building, I am allowed in to the room and, after taking the number from a machine, am invited to sit. Luckily, there was an interesting show on a screen in front of both me and a half dozen gleeful gentlemen in djellabahs featuring a properly dressed young woman driving a car, filling up with gas and checking her tire pressure, changing gears and daring my new friends to have anything to say about it.
My number came up.
Hello, I would like to put this car in baja, I said. She pushes papers across the desk: fill out this form, this other form, pay eight euros over there and then come back tomorrow. But I'm looking at the form. It wants the car's numberplate, which seems fair enough, and its date of registration, which doesn't. Hey, I said, I don't know the car's birthday, I hardly know my wife's birthday... and, anyway, what's this about coming back in tomorrow? I've just driven here from across the province.
Well, she answers, the linea to Madrid is down, so I can't do anything today.
So there we left it, with a final score of maybe one out of two. We'll see. Don Quijote would have understood.
Friday, May 25, 2012
Sunday, May 20, 2012
We want to thank all those who have helped us arrive at this decision:
Thanks to corrupt politicians.
Thanks to Spanish bipartisanship.
Thanks to the autonomies, provincial councils, town halls, etc
Thanks to our former leaders now enjoying their fat annuities.
Thanks to the Employers Confederation for destroying jobs
Thanks to the unions for doing nothing.
Thanks for raising our taxes
Thanks for cutting our citizens' rights.
Thanks to politicians for their salaries, allowances and privileges.
Thanks for injecting public money into the banks.
Thanks for forgetting about the self-employed and small-business owners.
Thanks to Greece for showing us what's in store.
Thank you for allowing parasitic economic models.
Thanks for forcing our kids to emigrate from the country.
Thanks to all of the powerful elite to make us feel more free and for leaving us without a bean!.
Apparently, the sign proved to be something of a success and visitors to the 900m2 store 'increased by a huge amount', said the owner sadly, before he had to close the doors for ever.
Thursday, May 17, 2012
|The Gnomo Feliz in Vera, Following the Bank Eviction May 2012|
|The Destruction of the Priors' Home in Vera, January 2008|
Almería unemployment stands at 35 per cent,
lots of the lawyers and the politicians here are bent,
you can't buy a house here, neither can you rent;
...and they really couldn't tell you where the money went...
Friday, May 11, 2012
Tuesday, May 08, 2012
Saturday, April 28, 2012
Thus, with the support of the IU, the candidature of José Antonio Griñán as president of the Junta de Andalucía in the presidential debates on the May 2nd and 3rd new parliamentary session, followed by the investiture is now assured. In deliberations leading up to this situation, the PSOE had agreed to the ‘minimum conditions’ of the IU (the ‘Izquierda Unida Los Verdes-Convocatoria por Andalucía’ to give it its full name - a loose coalition of far-left groups dominated by the Partido Comunista de España). These are the departure of those civil servants in the Junta de Andalucía connected to the estimated 700 million euro ERE fraud (the Ex-Councillor for Employment was jailed without bail on Monday for his part in the scandal); the creation of a ‘public bank for Andalucía’ to manage seed money for small and medium businesses; the prohibition of evictions by foreclosures of the banks (a petition will need to be sent to the Central Government in Madrid, which has the power to implement or otherwise this); a basic income for all Andalucian families and the offer of four months of public scat-work for the unemployed. Furthermore, agreements have been reached to increase taxes, introduce fresh wealth taxes, inheritance and gift taxes, and to implement an environmental and tax-fraud watch.
Later (From The Entertainer Online): The cake - or is it a pie? - has now been carved up between the IU and the PSOE in the new Andalucian Government. The junior partner Izquierda Unida to take control of public works and housing (watch out 'illegal property' owners) and - of all things - tourism. Diego Valderas (IU) will become the vice-president of José Antonio Griñán's Junta de Andalucía.
Friday, April 20, 2012
Several Days Later: Oddly enough, no mention of the Tenth Anniversary in the pages of the Euro Weekly. I wonder why?
Sunday, April 15, 2012
Today's Voz de Almería has an article in it about some British women. As often happens, it makes them look, and by extension all of us, slightly foolish. The ladies come from Albox and appear to have managed to miss most of life's attractions in Spain (which, it goes without saying, explains why they ended up in Albox). Their thing - is about dogs. Abandoned, raddled, mangy and hungry.
I imagine the Spanish must wonder about these Brits who have come to live here. They appear to show no interest in getting to know the culture and the language, travel, history, the food and the drink (beyond cerveza and wine in a carton), the politics and the social life of the Spaniards, their family and their education. Not for them the traditions, handicrafts, misas, matanzas and toreo. The only thing that appears to interest these funny new neighbours (so must think the Spanish) is their extraordinary hang-up on charity... and not even on human charities: the nuns, the poor, the disabled and the weak. Just the dogs and cats.
The thing about animals is simple: you can talk to them in English. They won't mind.
There was a time a few years back when the entire corporation of a town hall in Alicante was arrested for the usual fraud so common in those small towns with too many builders, rural land and eager clients, and just one councilor escaped, making him suddenly the acting mayor. This worthy was an Englishman (cynically stuck on the lista to make up the numbers and get a few extra votes for the party in question from the extranjeros). His department in the ayuntamiento was 'doggies and moggies' and he spoke not a word of Spanish. On hearing the thrust of the eight-hundred page report, the Judge, once someone had slapped him hard on the back a few times finally managing to dislodge a lump of tostada con tomate from his tubes, ordered the arrested to be sent back to their town hall. 'ASAfuckingP', added the beak, thus breaking a judicial tradition that has lasted centuries in Spain.
The local dog charity in Mojácar, whose job is essentially to look after Spanish abandoned dogs, reportedly spent 145,000 euros last year - which all came in contribution from the extranjeros. Mostly items sold in a charity-store for a euro or two. Not only the dogs and cats benefited from this British largesse, the owner of the shop got a bloody good rent as well. The local mayoress has now ceded a new shop for the charity. No doubt for charitable reasons.
What is it about the local dogs here that ignites our cold British passion? Poisoned, garroted, abandoned, tortured and starved?
So the ladies in Albox. One of them, who gets the headline, has thirty three dogs in her home. Just imagine that for a moment. The report begins by huffily pointing out that the British 'if they don't respect animals more than we Spanish do, at least approach them in a different and more organised way'. Whatever that means. Well, we don't string them up in the campo with just a sausage roll full of poison for company.
Then we learn that the lady in question must leave for England for an operation and may be delayed or perhaps not return. Cue the 33 dogs. Someone apparently wants to buy the house (cleaned and dog-free) and the dogs could all be sent to Holland with the money, where they will all live in the lap of canine luxury - no doubt comfortably near to a cosmetic factory. But that's just me talking. Don't the Dutch have their own strays... why would they want so many Spanish ones? And why do they prefer those little ratonero dogs with pop-eyes?
The problem is, of course, simple: 'the Spanish don't castrate their dogs', says the second lady to the journalist.
Through an interpreter.
'The Spanish neighbours give us their spare puppies', say the ladies indignantly, 'or abandon them on our step and scarper, or else they just toss them into the garbage'.
The article ends with a plea from the by-now converted hack not to buy a dog, but to adopt one.
Of course, and here's a thought: if they can't sell them, the breeders can always throw their spare puppies into the skip.
Friday, April 13, 2012
Following on from the changes in Spain’s relations with Arab countries, socialist leader José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero proposed the Alliance of Civilizations at the 59th General Assembly of the United Nations in 2005. It was co-sponsored by the Turks. The initiative sought to galvanize international action against extremism through the forging of international, intercultural and inter-religious dialogue and cooperation with an emphasis on defusing tensions between the Western and Islamic worlds. By July of that year, the Spanish government had approved a million euros spending money to the new agency, earmarked another twenty million for a headquarters in Barcelona and, above all, Zapatero’s initiative was playing well to the galleries back home in Spain. Spain had taken a shot at becoming the moral leader of the world, although it was sadly obvious that Zapatero was punching outside of his class.
One can almost imagine a flying saucer landing in a field somewhere. ‘Take me to the chairman of the Alliance of Civilizations’ says a small green individual holding a ray gun.
The historian Henry Kaman was one of the critics of the Alliance. In 2004 he wrote: ‘Presumably the intention is not to export the decadent western cultural concepts such as democracy, women's rights, freedom of expression and freedom of religion or sexual tolerance. If Zapatero does not intend to delve into these issues, does he then seek to further develop concepts such as dictatorship, control of the press and the denial of sexual freedoms?’.
By the end of 2006, a report from the ‘high level group’ chosen by the United Nations to outline recommendations and practical solutions on how the Western and Islamic societies could solve mutual misconceptions and misunderstandings was issued. According to the report, ‘politics, not religion, is at the heart of growing Muslim-Western divide’.
In 2011, Spain’s contribution to the Alliance was down to 800,000 euros and the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Gonzalo de Benito, notes that this year’s payout will be even smaller ‘since there is no alternative’ but ‘will still be a significant amount’.
A Spanish right wing outlet called Periodista Digital recently stated: ‘It appears that the personal adventure in which Zapatero obsessively immersed himself will now disappear after many millions wasted, much time lost and countless absurd and senseless projects that went nowhere and which no one will remember’.
One gets the feeling that Spain may enjoy the reflected glory of being the originator of such a fine plan, yet now finds that there are other more important fish to fry.
Thursday, April 12, 2012
More properly, riding for the disabled is a way by which the gait of a horse can be incorporated to help a rider who has little or no control of their lower limbs. This could come through an accident, or a congenital condition. Many people, disabled in some way, have found that they can improve their life through either some therapeutic program with a horse, which could be anything from being placed on the back of an animal, surrounded by side-walkers, a leader and a number of medical experts – to just learning to ride for its own pleasure. A young girl with polio famously once learnt to ride and she went on to win the Silver at the Helsinki Olympics in 1952 in Dressage proving that people with disabilities can participate in sports – this long before the introduction of the Paralympics in 1960.
Long-term local resident Barbara Napier worked as a young woman in California with disabled children and, betimes, enjoyed her hobby of horseback riding. The two disciplines were always going to come together. She was a board member, for a number of years, on the Federation of Riding for the disabled International (now re-named as the HETI) and represented Spain.
On Sundays, Barbara and I drive to a stable outside the city of Almería. There, we join a group of friends – including a riding instructress, a physiotherapist and a psychologist – and work with some special needs children. This is true hippotherapy, with a growing number of disabled children attending each week: children with cerebral palsy, autism, genetic disorders, some hemiplegics and quadriplegics. Barbara and her friends and volunteers have recently resuscitated ‘Animo’, Spain’s first animal assisted therapy charity, started by Barbara in 1986 (and based then in Mojácar) until her health made it impossible to continue some ten years ago.
Barbara has almost completed a book about her experiences over the past ten years, it’s called ‘Riding For My Life’ and it details how a regular course on horseback (with and under expert tutelage) can save one’s life by slowing down or reversing sickness or extreme cures like chemotherapy.
Animo is a nationally registered charity and Barbara’s personal webpage can be found at animospain.blogspot.com