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?