Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Heat and Dust

It’s getting hotter each time around, and worse still, it’s getting hotter earlier.

This may be because I’m getting older, and it’s just a subjective opinion, or it could be that the meteorologists, climate scientists and environmentalists are right: global warming is occurring and, on first impression, that’s not good.

The record high temperatures reported this year at the poles must be a concern. All that ice melting into the sea can only mean that, sooner or later, the coastal cities are in for a nasty shock. It’s starting already with Venice, and perhaps we have seen those mock-ups of London, the Netherlands or Seville under water. 

And really and for true, using less shower-water; or putting the plastic bottles in the right-coloured trash-container; or cutting out the inconsiderate use of ear-wipes, are all very commendable things to do, but at the same time – it won’t make an atom of difference. The major polluters: the oil companies, plastic container-users, the coal burners, those who chop down the forests and those who sell us the SUVs – none of them will slow down their drive for profits – even if it kills them.

Recycling – the great panacea to our industry-encouraged over-consumption – is more of a chimera that a reality. Did you see that mountain of unsold clothing dumped in Chile? Did you think that plastic can be melted down and used again? The Chinese don’t want our old plastic bottles or the sun-bleached sheets from the invernaderos anymore. How about those accidental fires over at the vehicle and tire-dumps?

Spaniards are worried about the climate-change which they are experiencing, but they are not necessarily prepared to do much about it. No one accepts a higher tax on petrol, or to eat less meat, muchas gracias.

We put up with not getting a free shopping bag from the supermarket – as we load all of the heavily wrapped-in-plastic products we took off the shelves into a cloth-bag. Who are we fooling here?

Those of us who are older must worry for our children and those that come after. We think that they won’t have it as well as we did: even if they can afford an air-conditioning system.

This latest heat-wave we have suffered in Spain – where baby birds fell from their nests – apparently half-cooked – in Córdoba, is said to be nothing compared to what is coming in the years ahead.

Most of Spain is on a high-plateau. The coastal bits are relatively benign, but the inland parts of the country suffer temperature extremes. Ándujar (Jaén) has just reported a new June record for Spain, at over 44ºC. Last year’s August 14th record of 47.4ºC in Montoro (Granada) still stands for the moment.  The World Meteorological Organisation says that this heat wave just settling down now was around 10ºC hotter than the usual for this time of the year in Spain and France and furthermore, ‘is a harbinger of things to come’.

Together with the fires (another sad record in Zamora this week with 30,000 hectares burned), the polluted lagoon at el Mar Menor in Murcia and the generic desertification, we are indeed facing an uncertain future.

Summer, by the way, began on Tuesday – what we just went through, that was Spring.

Friday, June 10, 2022

Did We Just Lose Our Vote?


There's a big fuss going on in expat circles (or at least, there should be) about a news item saying that the European Court of Justice has ruled on a case in France regarding the remaining voting rights of the British residents living in the EU.

The ECJ ruled on Thursday that the British, being non EU-members following Brexit, have no voting rights within the block.

In Spain, there are some bilateral agreements allowing votes in municipal elections for a number of countries. These include several Latin American states (but not all), plus Norway, New Zealand, South Korea and - for some impenetrable reason - Trinidad & Tobago. 

With Brexit, the Brits lost their vote in the European elections (not that any continental MEP was going to speak for the 800,000 or so Brits living in Europe), but, we were assured, we would not only keep our vote in local ('municipal') elections, but would be able to continue to run as a candidate. 

Indeed, despite the fact that most foreign residents don't tune in to their local municipality, there are a modest number of foreign and even a few Brit councillors here and there in Spain. 

Now it would appear, if the ECJ authority takes precedence over any bilateral arrangement, that all non-EU foreigners - not just Brits - would lose whatever modest suffrage that they had enjoyed since 1999 (the first municipal elections in Spain where foreign EU citizens, including Brits, could vote).

The problem is obvious. If the town hall must choose discrepancies or squabbles between voters and non-voters, it's clear which way they will go. Why waste time on people who can't vote for you - or indeed, against you?

The question is whether this is a storm in a tea-cup, or the future European policy. 

The next local elections will be held in May 2023. We need to know: will we have the vote. 

One Spanish friend wrote - give us back Gibraltar, and we'll let you keep your ballot-paper. Ah, if only it were that simple. 

Later: The British Embassy says that 'this judgement does not affect UK nationals’ right to vote and stand in local elections in Spain. These are provided by the bilateral agreement between the UK and Spain, which allows UK nationals who have lived in Spain for more than 3 years to vote and stand in local elections'. 

However, from El País on Friday: 'The EU justice rules that British residents have lost European citizenship with Brexit. The ECJ clarifies that UK citizens cannot vote or be elected in municipal elections'.

Now we need to hear from the Ministry of the Interior. 

It's likely that nothing will come of this... unless Vox gets into power of course.

Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Tourism in 2022

The summer hols are upon us. We shall pack our bags (or our hand-luggage if we are travelling with one of the cheapies) and jet away to somewhere warm, where we shall get drunk, have a brief romance, buy a souvenir, punch someone and be sick in a flowerbed. Perhaps we shall look wistfully at a property if there’s a rainy day, or discover to our surprise that the holiday business has become an industry.

Spain is no exception.

Ludicrous newspapers like The Express are always full of stories about why readers shouldn’t be holidaying here for one reason or another: whether it’s a limit to six drinks a day in the all-inclusive hotel, the ignominy of having to queue in the Non-EU line at the airport or the bar-staff that can’t understand you when you ask for a bacon sarnie.

The Spanish probably couldn’t care less what The Express thinks, short of a few small hoteliers who are worried that anyone is going to change their mind because of some inflammatory article about Etias visas and decide to stay for two weeks in Southend instead.

Meanwhile, Easyjet and other airlines cancel large numbers of flights from the UK for some reason or other. More queues, more anger, less time around the pool.

There are several issues of slightly more weight that worry the Brit tourist, such as the 90 / 180 day deal in the Schengen Zone, and the agony of whether a resident can use a British driving licence (both subjects sublimely ignoring the self-inflicted punch of Brexit).

Some of Spain’s destinations are crashing out of the tourist stakes – such as La Manga, which overlooks the Mar Menor: now a dying lagoon. Under extreme threat too from illegal wells is El Parque Nacional de Doñana in Cádiz.

So, tourism changes: it diversifies and it evolves. Now we read that the second kind of tourism, what might be called city-visitors – is facing a crisis as China considers halting all Chinese holidays abroad. They may not be much for bucket and spade tourism, but they do appreciate a flying visit to Madrid, Granada and Barcelona to see the sights.

Better news comes from Germany, where the travel agencies are mooting the idea of sending their senior citizens en masse to Spain for the winter months to save on energy (a sensitive topic in Germany at the moment). If Spain tuned in, they could convert some of their abandoned villages into merry North European retirement centres (and get funding to pay for it).  

Monday, May 30, 2022

Could you Say that Again, Slowly?

 An interesting subject here. Spain is the only country that prohibits the use of its place-names in Spanish where local versions/names occur. Mostly. 

Gerona or Girona? Sangenjo or Sanxenxo? Jávea or Xàbia? The local version often takes precedence, which is a bother if you don’t know that Iruña is another way of saying Pamplona (apparently Pampeluna in English says Wiki) or Elx is Elche. 

Or Maó is Mahón?

A few other cities have an English version (we use Seville over Sevilla and Majorca over Mallorca even if we have given up on The Corunna). Sometimes – in the Basque country at least, they just use both – like Vitoria-Gasteiz (well, officially anyway). 

Then there are the English-language newspapers that for some reason don’t have an ‘ñ’ on their keyboards, bringing us the joys of Logrono, Peniscola and Salobrena.

And the seasonal Feliz Ano of course. 

Come to think of it, the Catalonians prefer Catalunya to Cataluña (they haven’t used the ñ since 1913).

Spain therefore bends over backwards (mostly) to accommodate regional variants – Lleida for Lérida, Eivissa for Ibiza (I mean, really!) and so on, whereas other countries just use the regular name (Imagine the weather forecaster on British TV saying Caerdydd instead of Cardiff or Dùn Èideann for Edinburgh).

However, when the Spanish go abroad, it’s all Londres, Estocolmo, Nueva York and Pekín. 

Finally, how about the Galician name for Xibraltar!