Friday, December 27, 2019

White Rabbits

We are in that small space between Christmas and New Year (complicated slightly by the Spanish who insist on celebrating the Twelfth Night followed by school the following morning). We must face the disappointment of not winning a farthing on the Christmas lottery last week, together with the gloomy certainty that we also won't win anything on El Niño (drawn on January 5th), with a sense of inevitability, especially when we are repeatedly shown on the TV the people who won vast sums on their chosen numbers waving uncorked bottles of cava and looking just like the people did on the TV last time around. God, they are so undeserving.
I haven't enjoyed Christmas much this time to be frank, possibly because I was tricked by the calender hanging next to the computer (turns out it's from 2018) and so I missed the first day of December, and in consequence, my customary shout of White Rabbits, which brings - as readers will know - guaranteed perfect luck for the entire month.
And horrid misfortune if you forget.
My wife Alicia broke her leg on the first day, and has been in bed ever since. The national health, usually so good in Spain, was not up to scratch, and she had to wait ten days in hospital before she had an operation. So, she is running (a poor choice of word) ten days late on her recovery. I reckon it'll be San Valentín before she can get on her feet for rehabilitation and horseback riding both.
Amongst other disagreeable tasks, I have been obliged to take over the cooking.
This involves me receiving instruction called from the front room - Alicia is in the sitting-room supine on the couch - as I clumsily break eggs and stir the rice. Our diet has never been so varied.
The horses need attention as well: straw, oats, grain and so on, plus the shit duly shovelled. I have help for this, so don't have to get too down and dirty. Just an artful smear of poop on my cheek, and maybe a wet trouser-leg for effect.
I had asked for a small pension from the indulgent Spanish government back in February, but, as 'things from the palace move slowly' (a local axiom), I still haven't taken my seat on the gravy train a mere ten months later. In short, fourteen years of running The Entertainer (the precursor of The EWN) between one thing and another hasn't paid at all well.
Other misfortunes... well there were a few, but nothing which will survive into the early moments of January, when I shall be found standing on the roof, bellowing White Rabbits at the startled neighbours!

Sunday, December 08, 2019

Pirates off Macenas

A 'londro' - the kind of merchantman that appears in this story
In the middle of the 18th century, the Catalonian merchantman “San Raimundo”, was heading for Cádiz loaded with wine. She had been anchored off Águilas (Murcia), waiting for better weather. On January 22, 1741 she set sail and soon after, a Moorish vessel was seen to be in pursuit. Trying to flee from her pursuers, she headed for land, running aground on the beach near Mojácar's Macenas tower. The patron Domingo Benapres and the crew jumped to the sand: "without time to save anything other than myself and those of the six men and the cabin-boy, three rifles, a life-boat, five oars, the two anchors and some bedding".
The Moorish pirates managed to re-float the ship and took it with the cargo of wine included; but for some reason, they left one of their fellow-pirates behind on the beach.
The following morning, the Mojácar troop, which had come out after being informed of the presence of pirates, found the Moor, seizing him, and shortly afterwards, they also located the eight Catalonian sailors.
Following the strict orders of the time to avoid the costs of contagion of plague and other contagious diseases, they began a curious caravan towards Vera, which Diego Soler, one of the soldiers of the cavalry troop, recounted: “From the Rambla de Macenas, the Company of Mojácar escorted the Moor to Vera by foot in this way: at the distance of a rifle shot, while a single soldier went before to show him the way. Following the Moor at a similar distance went the eight sailors, and finally the troop with their weapons, without allowing any mixing the one with the other, as had been ordered by their captain despite knowing that none of the sailors or the troop had been at any time close to the Moor”.
The military commander in Vera threw his hands to his head when he saw the caravan arrive and ordered them to return at once to the place of the encounter, to pass quarantine there.
Luckily, the patron of the merchantman was able to justify the evident state of health of his sailors, and, sending word to the warden of the fortress in Águilas, the quarantine order was lifted and the crew were given permission to return on the first ship that could take them back towards Catalonia. As for the Moor, he would have to suffer his quarantine and, following that, be judged for piracy.

From an article in Almería Hoy by Mario Sanz Cruz.

Sunday, November 24, 2019

The Lost Art of Hay Surfing

Every farm in southern Spain has something called an 'era' which is a flat dirt circle, I think called a threshing circle in English, where the hay would be put after being cut with a scythe. A wooden board with rows of knife-like wheels underneath was pulled by a donkey and driven with long-reins by the farmer. Weight must be applied to the board in order to cut the hay, hence the children. There are actually several different boards with different types of knifed wheels for each phase of cutting. It was a very exciting time for the children when the farmer called them to come and sit on the board while he went round and round. It takes several days to cut the hay into small pieces and release the grain from the stalk. It is a sticky job, in the heat you get covered in pieces of hay and it is a bit like a ride at an amusement park, bumping up and down it is a rough ride especially when the hay is in the centre at the beginning, it gets to be a smoother ride as the hay gets spread around the circle. The board sometimes even flips over.
No harm is done because you just fall into a huge pile of hay. You must watch your fingers though and can’t hold on to the board for risk if being cut by one of the blades. When the threshing is done you must wait for a windy day and with a naturally grown pitch-fork, you throw the hay in the air. These pitch-forks grow on a tree in the shape of a fork and after being whittled down a little make the perfect pitch-fork. On the windy day, and after hours of repeating this procedure of throwing the hay in the air, the cut hay is on one side of the era and the grain on the other, it is quite ingenious really, each to be stored and used throughout the year. I would like to have shown you a picture of the pitch-forks but ours was lost. We have an era on our property and across the street is another era that is shared by three houses: it is communal property and doesn’t belong to any one of the houses but to all three. It is things like this that make buying land in Spain difficult. For example a long time ago your grandfather may have traded a donkey for the large algarrobo tree on the corner of his property, the donkey is long since dead but the tree on your land now belongs to someone else.

From Barbara Napier's Animo Stories here

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Grand Projects

A friend from Madrid sent me this:

I ran Spain's largest free-paper (in any language!) back in the eighties and nineties. There were three editions: Costa del Sol, Almería and the Costa Blanca - I never got as far as the Balearics. Of course, a free paper doesn't mean the printing and distribution doesn't need to be paid. The idea is to put in lots of adverts (and some decent copy to make it worth while picking up). Thus the balance - the advertisers pay for the printing (and maybe a bit for the owner to buy a beer).
These days, with colour, the internet, competition, embarrassing self-promotion and a sprinkling of sharks in the world of the expat press, I'm sticking to just producing a few blogs instead. 

Sunday, November 10, 2019

On the Road to La Matanza

It was one of those adventures that sometimes spring up over a beer. It seemed that old Antonio el Perejil (Tony the Parsley) had recently gone to his reward and had left his house to his son, who wanted to sell it.
The house was, apparently, quite close to Níjar, recently brought into the pack of Almería's Most Beautiful Towns (actually, there should be about fifty on the list), and up a track.
Into the Nowheres.
We drove into the pueblo to find the road which, as Google said, led to a walkers' path, was closed. Reversing down a narrow street and around the other way, we waved down an old fellow and asked him which was the best way to get to La Matanza.
A great name, no?  It's called La Matanza because this was the final stand of the Moors in the Níjar of the Reconquista, around 1490. 'Oh', says the old man, 'you mean Antonio el Perejil's place? He's dead you know'. 
Yes, we knew that.
'Well, you go out of town, along that road, then up this other one, round there you know and it's just a hop and a skip. I was there only a few years back, lemme see, well in around 1980 now that I think of it'...
I helped the old boy back onto the pavement and we pulled a u-turn and, as they say here, we abandoned Níjar.
The new road we found turned into a street and from there into a track, and then a river bed and then a track again. We were about ten kilometres along this route, by now with alarming drops on one side and cliffs on the other. Google had fizzled out and we were wondering whether to go on or turn back when a van arrived in a gentlr cloud of dust (you are never completely alone in Spain). Now my Spanish is pretty good and Alicia is from Almería, but we had trouble with the man who climbed out of the Renault to have a look at us. 'Gor and blast', he said 'La Matanza? It's just down there'.
The house is the higher one, on the right. It comes with forty hectares of land.
We peered uneasily over the drop. 'Of course she'll make it', said the man, looking appreciatively at our car, 'mine does it, no worries'.
We arrived at the house, which had some olive trees behind it and a courtyard to the right. One of the neighbouring houses (they were all empty) had solar panels and a full reservoir. 
In the Bad Old Days, during and after the Civil War, a place like La Matanza, an isolated clutch of a dozen houses, was probably a good place to be. It was safe, ignored and produced its own food and water. There wasn't much to do after night fell, especially if you had run out of candles, but one rose early there.
Now, there's no one left - apart from the man with the van - although he would be living back in the pueblo, where there's electricity, TV and a number of decent pubs.
A tired sign pointed back towards Níjar, at 4.5kms. That was probably the Google walkers route.
It was a cold and blustery day, so the pictures aren't as bright as they would normally be, up in La Matanza, which looked, we decided, like a modest version of Machu Picchu, but without the tour buses.
Sea views? Of course there are sea views!
It's for sale, if you're interested I'll mention you to Antonio's son. it's probably ideal for someone who wants to get away from it all and can't afford Algeria. 


Wednesday, November 06, 2019

Buy This Book

I was with my father in a dream last night. We were together in an office of some sort and I saw a bookshelf on my left. As my father was talking to the fellow behind the desk, I took down a book, thinking to read it. It was Ray Bradbury's 1953 classic Fahrenheit 451. I put it back. I had read it a long time ago.
The novel (as you probably know) is about a fascist society that burns books.
Maybe I have been thinking of the Vox party which is evidently doing well in Spain. Whether they are ready to burn books yet, they are certainly dangerous. Javier Ortega Smith, their Nº2, threatened the spokesman for the PNV regionalist party Aitor Esteban during a debate on the TV last week: ‘“Worry, worry I tell you. Worry, because when we can, we will abolish your party”’.
But dreams, apart from the ones that fascists invariably have, are more complicated than that.
I went in to the main bookshop in Almería this morning. It's called Librería Picasso. I thought I would treat myself to a new book.
In Mojácar, you can pick up (and I do) four or even six books for a Euro at the PAWS, the MACS and most other charity shops. Then in the Friday market in Turre, there's an Englishman called Tony who sells (re-sells) thrillers for 2,50€.
Between one thing and another, I am rarely able to afford the luxury of a new book for twelve Euros (that works out at seventy-two second-hand ones!).
The Spanish print their book-spines upside-down for some reason. You have to look at them cricking your neck to the left to check them out on a shelf, instead of going right as for English books. The Picasso people, however, blithely stack their all their books, Spanish and English both, leftly - which is a little tiresome.
On their English shelves (downstairs to the right), the first book I saw, its dust-cover flat against the shelf, was Fahrenheit 451.
Twelve Euros it cost!

Friday, October 25, 2019

Be What You Want

Much is written in the more pious sections of the Facebook short and succinct posts about whether we are ex-pats or immigrants.
The Spanish, of course, unaware of this delicate distinction, think we are all guiris.
You might think we émigrés had better things to worry about - will we be left in peace here following Brexit, will the pensions from the UK be frozen, will we still have European health coverage, and will they finally fire that awful Leaky Lee - but no, first we have to label ourselves in some way which can divide us still further, or place us in our inimitable British class system, now successfully exported to Benidorm.
Many of we Brits are against the word 'ex-pat', which is short for expatriate (ex-patria, out of our motherland) and prefer 'immigrant', nobly allying ourselves with the family of the corner-shop Pakistani in Lewisham. In truth, there are certain differences, since few of us open corner-shops, and fewer still learn to speak the local language, swat up on the Spanish constitution, its history, geography, politics, society and culture while dreaming about citizenship.
OK, so let us throw this in the ring: we are émigrés - we're never going back (unless we get deported following the Brexit shit-storm harr harr) - we live our lives here, but still congregate from time to time to speak our native language - English - among our fellow Brits. An immigrant is someone who takes out Spanish nationality. If you don't, you ain't an immigrant. That makes most of us Brits living in Spain, dwelling in English ghettos, reading The Weenie and watching Sky on satellite - ex-pats.
Expatriates. But really, call yourself what you want. Foreigner is fine. We are 'the foreigners'.
To take it a step further, until the numskulls in Westminster finally light the Brexit fuse, we are Europeans.

Friday, October 18, 2019

To Barbara

I am lying next to you, awake now while you sleep,
For death has just released me, yet in your dream you weep.
If only you could see me, so peaceful and serene,
But you must live a little more and carry on the dream,
A dream from which one day you’ll wake and see me by your side,
And know for sure that I’m still here and that I never “died.”
So now go on, be strong and look for me in wondrous things,
In the quietness of starlight and the warmth that sunshine brings,
And hear my voice to calm you, to say that it’s all right,
For I’m only here beside you, whispering in the night.
Of course you’ll cry, you’ll miss me, your very soul will ache,
But I am here, a breath away, waiting for you to wake,
So know that life is just a dream of love and fleeting pain,
And know I’m waiting by your side to love you once again.
Life Is But A Dream
Paul Hayward

Saturday, October 05, 2019

The Empty Villages of Spain

The authorities are worried, as more and more people move to the cities and away from their moribund villages in the quinto pino (the sticks). Small villages are losing their inhabitants and even drying up completely, ending as news items along the lines of ‘Entire Spanish village for sale’ in the newspapers.
Depriving them of services certainly doesn’t help – no bank, no pharmacy, no school, no town cop and even – Yarggh – no bar.
There have been some protests recently, as the villagers march on Madrid (waving their pitchforks).
But the politicians, keenly aware of the small (and evidently decreasing) number of votes in play, are not all that interested. The campaign ‘Teruel Existe’ notwithstanding (Teruel is a small and bitterly cold province, merrily ignored and avoided by all and sundry), the province has lost fifty per cent of its population in the past 100 years.
Alcontar (Almería) lost almost 10% of its population in 2018.
In Almería, over sixty of the 102 municipalities claim  a population loss: municipalities where the young have moved to The City to find jobs, romance and a decent tapa.
Those old houses in the pueblos are kept, as often as not, by the now-displaced owners who visit once a year (in their fancy cars) and they may still appear on the local padrón (to vote for their cousin Paco, of course). In short, the real numbers are even worse than the statisticians admit.
So, what to do?
Property is cheap enough in them thar hills, and as long as the ecologists or jackasses in the regional government don’t mind about foreigners moving in, providing jobs, money and a hankering for tinned beans in the local shop, there is a small gain to be made for the pueblo. A campaign perhaps? After all, the kids aren’t coming back, so we will need new (or rather, old) settlers to replace them. Imagine that, a Spanish promotion aimed at foreigners, but not at tourists!
Other settlers might be those poor refugees, washed up on Spanish soil. Go and till that land!
Sometimes, one of those peaceful villages could make an excellent old people’s home: a community benevolently run by the social services, with proper treatment for those who could benefit from country life under supervision.
The Government could step in, of course, and say – no town under two thousand without a bank, a chemist, a bus-service and a school!
And maybe, as some villages hopelessly die, amalgamate them into nearby municipalities. We don’t need on paper 102 communities in Almería if ninety would be enough.

Thursday, October 03, 2019

The Moresco: No Takers

Nobody wanted to buy the Hotel El Moresco. It was put up for auction during September but there were no takers. Comically, the local PSOE had put forward a motion in the most recent town hall plenary session to say that the ayuntamiento should buy it, remove the squatters, ream it out (it's a ruin), condition it and re-open - all so that the village's fifty souvenir shops or more could have a little extra action.
Phew, that would have taken a bite out of the annual budget.
The Moresco started out as the Bellhaven, a hotel which was begun in 1966 and never completed. Horizon Holidays (our first package holiday) bought the hulk in 1972 and were then obliged to tear it down and start over. They built a huge behemoth with 294 rooms, great views, a swimming pool and a nightclub, but, er, no parking.
The nightclub was briefly popular with the villagers, as we tried to climb into the underwear of the British trippettes - with some success - while listening to the melodic shrieks of the BeeGees.
With Horizon going belly-up and being taken over by Clarksons in the mid-seventies, the hotel began to lose its lustre and the clients were starting to prefer the beach to the uncertain charms of the village. Most of them would walk out of the front door clutching their towels (and daughters) and would turn left - never once discovering the magnificence of the pueblo, a mere hundred paces away to the right.
A colourful businessman from Madrid eventually bought the hotel, borrowed heavily off it from the Junta de Andalucía, neglected to pay about half a million euros in property taxes to the ayuntamiento, closed the hotel down in 2008 and eventually lost possession of it due to other debts and obligations, passing ownership of it over to the Government of the Community of Madrid which, not knowing what to do with it (or caring) has now put it up for auction - with a reserve of 8,622,500 euros.
The Moresco is huge, and takes a large chunk out of the side of Mojácar. Demolishing it would leave a massive hole; replacing it with apartments would need a huge refit: how much would the apartments sell for, and where would the parking be?
Opening it again as a hotel - well frankly, who would stay there?

Monday, September 30, 2019

Vélez Blanco and the Indalo

It was good to revisit Vélez Blanco on Sunday (the día de turismo, as it happened) and have a great lunch at the Mesón El Molino, one of the province of Almería's top restaurants.
Afterwards, belts loosened, we walked through the streets and up, as one must, to the extraordinary castle which occupies the hill above the town.
The first time I went, as a child back in the late sixties or early seventies, one had to find some fellow who had the key. 'Be sure to leave it in the bar when you are through', he told my father.
Which, now that I think of it, must be that very same key which graced our mantelpiece for all those years afterwards.
The castle, at any rate, remained closed to the general public for several decades, until the Junta de Andalucía took it over, opening up another route into the fortress, and put in a small shop selling Indalos and other memorabilia: yes, Vélez Blanco finally got itself a souvenir shop.
The Junta has fixed up the inside, and it looks quite splendid. There are several large rooms in good shape, and splendid views in all directions.
Around a hundred years ago, some agent travelling around looking for statues and other items to buy (or steal) and sell to the Americans, came across the castle, which had spent some time as more of a country house than anything else, operated at the time by a down-at-heel marquis. From the old fellow, in exchange for a few pieces of silver, the agent took the interior patio from the castle and shipped it to the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art (where it can be seen to this day).
The lady in the shop (entrance free) told me that the Junta is planning to put in a copy of the original.
The town is under the impression that the Indalo comes from a collection of prehistoric drawings in a nearby cave, where a number of stick figures can be found, and a half-hearted effort has been made to decorate the area with a few cast-iron Indalos and other totems in case the lacklustre tourism picks up (Vélez Blanco is without doubt the most beautiful town in the province of Almería, but it has no beach, no hotels, no night-life and it gets bitterly cold there in the winter.).
Recently, a historian called Clemente Flores published a book called Vida y Milagros del Dios Indalo which stated that the original Indalo, the famous stick-figure named after the Indaliano artists' group from the 1940s, was painted in the rooms of various abandoned houses in Mojácar by one of the artists who was living there in merry artistic squalor. Not so old after all! The mayor Jacinto Alarcón enthusiastically adopted the figure as the symbol of Mojácar ('where it has brought good fortune to the people for hundreds of years' he would say convincingly to all who visited), a condition it enjoyed until the early nineties, when a senior politician from Almería called Tomás Azorín declared it as the provincial symbol. Which is why, Best Beloved, you can see the Indalo anywhere in the province, except in Mojácar (what was the deal, anyway?), where we now enjoy a sort of drunken Indalo figure instead.  
To get to Vélez Blanco, take the motorway towards Murcia and switch to the other motorway heading to Granada at Puerto Lumbreras. Vélez Blanco is just past (and through) Vélez Rubio, another fine town to visit (there's a 'bull-fighters bar' in the main square next to the cathedral).  

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

In Bed with a Book

Isn't that a terrific view?

I used to visit record stores and bookshops when younger. So nice to flip through the records, stacked in their boxes; so nice to angle my head and walk the bookshop shelves.
Following a trip somewhere, my suitcase home would hold a tee-shirt, a stack of albums and a selection of novels for ballast.
The money spent on those records...
The money spent on those books...
At home – Mojácar – there were never any local record or book shops of note, or if there were, they never lasted for long. After all, it’s a small place and, there’s not much of a market (especially for books, where half the population doesn’t read the language of the other half).
I tried Amazon for a while, but they have a pesky prime account which adds to the bill, and with our local charity-shop selling thrillers and whodunits at four for a euro, who cares how up-to-date they are?
My parents brought a quarter of a ton of books with them when they moved to Spain, as a kind of alternative activity to drinking. There was no TV in those days (there still isn’t in our house), and apart from a regular trip to the local cinema to improve our Spanish (‘Hands up’, being the first phrase I learnt), the evening pastimes back then were reduced to sleeping, reading or carousing.
Since I was thirteen, it was pretty much just the first two for me.
They stopped making records in around 1992 (and decent pop songs as well), so my record-buying days ended (I’ve got about 1,500 albums, all in stacks). As for the thousands of books, well they’ve just increased over the years and probably mated and had children.
The house is full of novels, with shelves of them in every room, a pile on the floor by the bed, a clump on the mantelpiece, a couple under the PC monitor (for height), boxes of them in the dining room, crates of them in the kitchen and even one on the table by the lavatory (with most of its pages missing for some reason).
My daughter has been putting them in boxes. She tells me not to worry and that they will be safe. I went out and bought some more last week just in case...
I expect I read less than I used to – what with social media and other Internet usage (for an apparent total of four hours a day average!) cutting into my time, but I’ve been in bed just now, with man-flu, so have been enjoying a good read.

Sunday, August 25, 2019

History through Tourism

As the Mojácar authorities continue with their plans to convert the 'pyramid mount' of Old Mojácar into a tourist magnet (yet otherwise appear to show little interest in the history of Mojácar), other experts across the province are following with their own 'cultural tourism'.
Our region is the birthplace of history, whether pre-historic daubs on the cave-walls of Vélez Blanco (where we desperately look for an 'Indalo' to prove an unprovable point), or the bronze-age Argar ruins of Antas (Wiki) and Fuente Álamo in Cuevas (Wiki) or the astonishing ruins of Los Millares (in Santa Fe de Mondújar) from 4.000BC (here). There's an interesting article on the importance of these sites to archaeologists here
Yet 'cultural tourism' visitor-numbers are down. La Voz de Almería says that visitors to sites in Almería controlled by the Junta de Andalucía - museums and archaeological sites - have fallen in the first six months of the year by over 24,000 compared with the figures from 2018. This includes a drop in the numbers visiting the Almería castle - the Alcazaba (Wiki) - from 142,000 to 116,000 visits, and the sublime castle of Vélez Blanco (Wiki).
The only 'cultural site' run by the Junta to have had an increase in visitors is the Centro Andaluz de la Fotografía in Almería City (unfortunately, the popular museum is rumoured to be in trouble with the politicians in Seville).
Almería is profoundly historical, and is valuable for more reasons than the potential tourist-dollars. As an archaeologist tells Almería Hoy: '...we have something called heritage that we have to promote. That is the perspective. Our 'grail' exists and is called El Argar, which is a colossal engine for the economy of any place and its value should completely change the economic appearance, not only of Antas, but of the entire region. If we continue to allow it to fall apart and let it be lost, we are allowing that inestimable value we have at the corner of our house to be lost. We must wake up the municipality itself, from the confluence and awareness of all citizens and all politicians'.
Is this the answer - to bring our history into focus through (and for) tourism?

Friday, August 23, 2019

Almería Fiestas

It's a long way across the city of Almería to get to the Paseo so, rather than put the kids in danger, we took them to the beach instead. Indeed, only four riders showed up in the Paseo, plus a few carriages. The organisers need to plan things better. Why not allow riders in the fairgrounds (where there is plenty of room) during the day like they always used to do?

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

The Aku Aku and the Old Mojácar

'Once upon a time, Mojácar, in the province of Almería, was a place located somewhere outside the known world; a secret place where special people, half-hidden and forgotten, yet completely happy ended up. Artists, painters, bohemian foreigners, crazy Englishmen, one of the Glasgow train robbers. A hippy era, of parties on the beach, with a little smoke and some fantastic beach bars...'. Thus begins a recent article in the national newspaper El País based on one of our beach bars, the famous Aku Aku - which in known for its great paellas and sublime summer concerts (proper music, not bad bands reprising Stairway to Heaven and Knocking on Heaven's Door for the millionth time).
Mojácar has changed of course from the 'secret place' of forty years ago into a tourist destination without much to recommend it. The Town Hall, with the support of the local merchants, has turned the village and its beaches into a money factory.
Where else does a residential village have concerts every night for the length of the tourist season (which never seems to end and yet is satisfyingly short)?
The article makes a similar point as somebody says '...The Aku Aku is of the little that still remains from that time, it maintains the spirit. Now you go out there and you find a gang of youngsters wandering around noisily with plastic penises stuck on their heads: a bachelor party. I once saw a group with a dwarf attached by a leash. The one holding the leash was so drunk that it was almost the dwarf who was leading him...'. (There's an agency that rents dwarves in Benidorm, seriously!)
Many articles that appear in the national press are reproduced by the local tourist department, but probably not this one. If for no other reason than that the town is conservative, run by the Partido Popular, and the Aku Aku is a beacon of the opposition PSOE, where the President of Spain was recently photographed in mufti, enjoying a paella with his family.
There are of course many other places in Mojácar where the old spirit survives, as the article itself points out. Many of these though, are chiringuitos, beach bars, and the Town Hall wants to extend a beach-wall and promenade through their land (where the diners sit) which will make the playa more pleasant for visitors, dwarfs and others included, and more remunerative for those who own businesses on the other side of the road.  
If you are visiting Mojácar for the first time, then before you leave, go and have a meal at the Aku.
Tell María I sent you.

Monday, August 12, 2019

The Fiesta Magazine 1979.

It's forty years since the Mojácar fiestas of 1979. What has changed in that time? The program had a small budget and barely ran to colour. The adverts were decidedly 'home-made', and the content was modest. There's 'un saludo' from our mayor of the time, Francisco González (Barbara Napier, then Beaumont, worked for him as his secretary).
Francisco - better known as Paco Marullo - was Mojácar's first democratically chosen mayor, voted in to power in April 1979. The foreigners didn't have the vote in those days, and there were certainly less of us, but we enjoyed a respect and 'una convivencia' that no longer exists today.
The first article in the magazine is a 'biografía' of our famous Canadian pop-singer resident JJ Barrie (No Charge and other hits).  JJ gave a concert that Sunday night.
Another item in the magazine is an interview with El Mister. This was an Italian called Aldo Cecchi who acted as the Mojácar football coach. Aldo was in the diplomatic service and had been the coach in Toronto before retiring to Mojácar. He was married to Yola, the sister of Silvio Narizzano (another local resident and the director of the movie Georgy Girl).
There is an interesting article from Martín Navarrete (as the local journalist from the ABC always signed himself) about the village square, the Plaza Nueva.  The article - purportedly written by the square itself - laments the changes brought about by progress: the old arches demolished and the trees gone.
There is some poetry in the magazine from local mojaqueros, including José Luis Molina, Pedro 'El Parral' and José Maria Montoya, and an article in both English and Spanish from my father Bill Napier which begins 'Where in the world is there a village that can attract so many different nationalities from so many diverse backgrounds and make them feel that this is their home?...'.
The new 2019 fiesta magazine, forty years later, is full of colour. It is professional, slick, is in two languages and is aimed at the tourists. Does it still preach 'convivencia' with the foreign residents?
Perhaps not. 

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Recycling? I've Never Cycled.

Every time we go to the dustbins these days, we are greeted (most of us) by an array of contenadores to put our waste in – glass, plastic, paper and general garbage. The general one – at least – is then hauled off six nights a week to some vile destination known only to the seagulls. Some people prefer to leave their trash in the fields or in the verges; some throw it off a handy cliff (video here, yes, he’s been identified by the police) while others neatly leave it next to the contenador (for company, maybe?), but most of us know to gamely lever up the heavy and sticky lid and to push our bin-liner of kitchen garbage into the box and out of our lives.
Waste management is, of course, a lot larger problem than Sr López from next door forgetting to divide the glass from the plastic in his trash, and probably reckons it’s a waste of time anyway.  
We gamely consider buying an electric car (maybe next year) and console ourselves that the ugly wind-turbines that dot the Spanish countryside are at least clean and save on the diesel-burning power stations – not that we see any difference in our electricity bill.
The accidental fire in Seseña, June 2016
Yet, our environment is still dirtier than ever. Madrid, Barcelona and Granada have been recently fined by Brussels for unhealthy levels of smog, while our practical solution to destroying plastic and rubber waste (by an accidental fire) and our record for being the second largest polluter of the Mediterranean (after Turkey) is not a happy one.
Worse still, the junk bled into the seas from our cruise ships, and into the skies with our airplanes, means that, unlike Sr López, we are simply fiddling while Rome burns.