Sunday, August 30, 2020

A Rattling Good Yarn

Last Saturday I dropped by my old house, where my daughter now lives, to load up on books. She’s fixing up the place a treat while putting my books away in boxes. I have always enjoyed reading and have worked my way through many thousands of books over my life (mostly what my old English-teacher would have described as ‘tripe’).  Right now, I’m at the side of Attila in Costain’s ‘The Darkness and the Dawn’ (1959) riding comfortably on my boney steed into battle against the Romans.

What with the wonders of the Internet – preparing and writing Business over Tapas, entertaining myself with YouTube and posting pithy poppycock on Facebook – I don’t have the same amount of time as before to spend on the couch with a book.

Plus there are the real-life horses that I look after, that need watering, feeding, exercising and so on.

For the leisure hours, there’s the TV as well, but I hardly ever watch it beyond checking the headlines on Wednesday evening. I can’t keep up with the films for very long – maybe they don’t make them for people like me: old, deaf and cynical.  Oh, and the good thing about books? No commercial interruptions!

There’s one good bookshop in our city – I live on the edge of Almería – and I go there for a treat once or twice a year, blowing and wheezing gently through my face mask as I negotiate the stairs into the basement. It' called El Picasso and it has an odd collection of books in English: some Shakespeare and Dickens plus a few slightly peculiar classics - like Dana’s ‘Two Years before the Mast’, mixed up with some science fiction, Steven King and several trilogies with the first or second part inevitably missing, probably sold to someone on a brief visit to our fair city.

When not sorting through their selection, with most of the spines of the books upside-down (the Spanish print theirs the other way round from us) meaning one has to crick one’s head to the left rather than the right… until one comes to a book which has been replaced on the shelf by a previous customer, thus making one look slightly eccentric, nodding this way and that at the truncated trilogies.

The average book is priced on the far side of ten euros, so I prefer to visit a charity shop when on a visit to Mojácar. There I can find four or even six books for a euro, which ain’t bad. Indeed, there’s currently a large plastic bag full of them on the floor by my window.

But why bother, when there are all those boxes of books at the old house?

Tuesday, August 04, 2020

Tourism is ¡Agggh! dead

I have always maintained that Mojácar should concentrate on being a residential town. With a pandemic, or a natural disaster or a recession or better tourist offers from Cyprus, the tourist market is always potentially unsure. But with (what the Spanish are pleased to call) Residential Tourism, we are here all year, spend far more than a tourist does (a hundred times more than one tourist) and we respect and repair our community, rather than being sick in the flower-bed. There's no ministry or agency or promotion or advertising for this industry of encouraging foreigners to buy a 200,000€ house and an expensive car, but the Spanish in their wisdom put all their eggs in the tourist basket.

Which is broken.

Indeed, attracting retired people, with their pensions, plus ‘digital workers’, who can earn their bread from working at home (check out teletrabajo on Google), plus the workers who must attend them, plus the all-year business for supermarkets, banks, restaurants and bars, plus the taxes they bring, are all more useful today to smaller towns than ever before.

Plan the town around its residents, not its customers. The festivals and attractions should be designed to appeal to those who live there (and have space for them to attend). Don't worry about the half a dozen money-crazed businessmen who want to turn the beach into a holiday camp, or the hoteliers (based in Barcelona) who want hordes of cheap all-you-can-eat tourism, or the souvenir shops, who only open during the summer months (when was the last time you bought a souvenir?).

Think of the residents, and make them proud of their pueblo.