Monday, February 28, 2022

I Wanna Move to Spain (and so you should)

 Somebody was asking on Facebook – is it easy to move to Spain and get a job? I answered with that old chestnut: ‘the only way to make a small fortune here, is to start with a large one’ (cue laughter and approval from the usual suspects).

For Northern Europeans, their money here is good – after all, whose isn’t? One can buy something, a car, a box, a shirt or a meal – as long as they take it away with them shortly afterwards. A house though, and here’s the problem, it doesn’t move.

In the old days, when houses sold for pocket-change (I once foolishly failed to buy a large apartment in front of the Royal Palace in Madrid for the equivalent of 36,000€), the money was welcome enough, but now we have los nietos, the grandchildren, saying ‘Oh, why did abuelo sell that farm to the ingleses all those years ago for just a million pesetas?’

‘And they still don’t speak Spanish or help us with the olive-pickin’.

It’s probably a small gripe.

We open a bar, but only our fellow foreigners come and drink in it. A local story goes that Gordon – who had run La Sartén since God was a Boy – was feeling seedy and, one thing and another, he hadn’t been around for a few days to the nearby Gabila’s for his morning carajillo.

‘What’s up’, asked El Gabila, in that slow Spanish which is reserved for foreigners after bumping into Gordon one day in the supermarket, ‘why haven’t you been to my bar in the last week?’

‘Well’, asked Gordon reasonably, ‘why haven’t you ever been to mine?’

Our Facebook friends who want to move here from the UK might want to take note.

If they open a bar, they will compete with all the other guiris for the tourist trade, and if they stay open in the winter, then they can expect that the expats will drift in once the sun disappears (around half past five); but they won’t get the local trade – and nor indeed will the restaurants (although my mate Juan used to agree enthusiastically with me about ‘los fish y pips’ down at Mervyn’s).

So some of us turn to plumbing (no Spaniard would employ a British plumber – for two reasons – only the second being the paperwork), or they seek work as a mechanic, or a psychologist or a set designer. Maybe a crooner down at the campsite. How about an air traffic controller as somebody was asking today on Fb (after all, she points out, I speak pretty good Spanish)?

Of course, some of us do make a living: real estate or selling adverts or house-cleaning or putting in satellite systems, but our clients will all be fellow-foreigners.

The best way to live in Spain is with money coming in from abroad. Either a decent pension, or an income from business interests or, hey, even a monthly remittance from an angry parent… It’s all good.

Maybe one can swing one of those working-from-one’s-computer jobs from a nice place in Mallorca. These days, it all done on the phone…

If all fails, we must turn our talents to other ends. Ripping off gullible people is so easy (‘Ah yes, I speak the lingo, I’ll get you a deal’).

You see those stories every week in the local free press.

But we will have to prey on our own nationals, because Spaniards won’t fall for it. Then, if things turn out badly, there’s always the panicked ‘midnight runner’. Load the car, and head for the frontier.

‘How’s Bob, I haven’t seen him in a while… Say, isn't that his cat?’

Over the years, the times I’ve been swindled here has always been by fellow Brits. On one occasion, it was for quite a lot.

But don’t let me put you off. Spain is a great place to live; it’s just not a great place to make money.

Thursday, February 24, 2022

Our Romantic Trip

 My late wife Barbara wrote this one in 2012.

At some moment of time in the late eighties, I was writing a special for our newspaper on romantic get-aways and I contacted the head of tourism for the small resort of Lanjarón in Granada. In those days, newspapers didn't buy agency copy and we had to either write our own stuff or ask the fellow upstairs to pen something.

Lanjarón is a beautiful village, high in the Alpujarras and famous for its natural spring water and hot springs and old Moorish baths. It had to be a great place to visit, I thought.

After speaking with the head of tourism over the phone, he kindly invited me and a guest to stay in his hotel and spend a weekend taking in all of the wonders of Lanjarón. It was late November and Lenox’s birthday so I thought it would be a wonderful surprise that would normally be out of my price range.

We had driven up to the city of Granada from the coast to make our way over the top of the Sierra Nevada on what turned out to be an alarming and stony track, with the snow either beginning to fall or already banked on the side on our route. The car was a rear-engined two-seater and we had no chains for the wheels if the going got any worse. We gingerly passed through little villages and hamlets at the very summit of the Alpurrajas. Arriving at last in the town made famous from its bottled water, we found the hotel to our surprise to be chained, locked and bolted. The neighbors said maybe the manager (and acknowledged expert on tourism) had gone into Granada to go shopping.

Or, who knows, maybe he had just bolted.

We spent the rest of the day wandering around the town - there was just the one street - and finally decided to take a room, at our expense, in the only hotel that was open. It turned out to be a hotel for senior citizens where the Spanish Social Security system brought elderly people by the bus-load in a service called El Imserso.

We checked into our room and were told that dinner was at seven. Our room was large, freezing and filthy. The view from our bedroom window was of snow; not a beautiful snowy landscape but of packed snow up against the window. We went to the dining room around 7.15 only to find that, in a most un-Spanish way, they meant dinner was served at seven and not, as usually understood, that it started vaguely anytime after seven but best show up around nine.

Every course was a type of purée. The soup, vegetable, meat and pudding had all been put through a blender. Who, we wondered, needs teeth with a meal like that? After this rather disappointing dinner we went out to find a bar and something proper to eat but along the main and indeed practically only street, everything was firmly shut; so we returned to the hotel bar. The only beverage on the shelf behind the bar was an elderly bottle of Cointreau, so Lenox ordered one and, to his gratification, was given a huge water glass full of this sticky orange-flavoured liqueur. I asked for a Coke and the bar-tender had to leave the building only to return ten minutes later with a can of Coke held firmly in his gloved hands: he must have got it out of a friend’s refrigerator.

Some of the other guests were gloomily playing dominoes in the lounge while others were watching the TV. We decided to retire to our icy room and go to bed.

We were wearing every piece of clothing we had packed while all of the blankets and towels were spread on the bed and yet we were still freezing. Lenox suggested adding the rug on the floor but it was covered with heavy clumps of what appeared to be human hair.

After an unsatisfying breakfast of puréed toast and with our hitherto benevolent opinion about Lanjarón firmly in retreat, we decided to leave the town, as even the hot springs and baths were closed for the season. We drove down the mountains towards the coast looking for somewhere beautiful and interesting. To our surprise, we came across a place called Orgiva – looking like the Santa Cruz Mountains of California wrenched directly from the 60s, with long-haired hippies wearing outsize velvet caps, a reek of patchouli oil, Tarot-readings in the market, and a few painted VW buses. The whole lot of them: all apparently moved in a woozy bulk to the Alpujarras of Granada.

We broke our trip briefly in another notable village, Yegen, where Gerald Brennan had lived for many years. The entire place appeared to us to have chosen in its origins to be built entirely in the shade. White houses grey. Our conclusion? Don’t visit it in November.

We continued eastwards, still in search of a nice hotel to roost in for a break - after all, I could always write about somewhere else. We coasted into Trevélez and came across a restaurant apparently famous for its trout so we pulled in to the car-park only to find three bus loads of German tourists parked in mathematical precision in front of us. That would be a lot of trouts for one day, we thought, so we gave up.

It was getting dark, but the only rooms we could find in Trevélez – tourism in the eighties evidently still not being a strong point from Lanjarón onwards – was above a gas station, so we decided to give up and go home. When we regained the coast we changed our plans, deciding not to let our romantic weekend be completely ruined so we went to a giant hotel located on the beach in Aguadulce, Almería. A least the bar would have something crunchy. The hotel was full of English and German tourists all looking to be entertained around the clock and, by chance, it was “Dress in Drag Night”. So nice to see the two nations coinciding for once – if only in complete idiocy.

I had never been so happy the following morning as to return to the beauty and comfort of Mojácar, and until now, all these years afterwards, I have never written that article I had promised Lenox and his readers about Lanjarón.

Saturday, February 12, 2022

'Click the Link Below to Read More'

There is a desire among newspapers and news-sites to get more readers, because more readers means more advertising revenue (apparently). 

This ruthless chase to the bottom is evident in the Facebook page of the Euro Weekly News, where evidently, anything goes.

Posts are now festooned with hashtags (such as #Spain or #LatestNews) which are used - in theory - to bring extra visitors. 

There is the good old click-bait. The headline leaves a teaser for the reader to click on, where  all will be revealed. Today, there's one that wonders how much the Spanish Royals make each year ('Find out here'); or this one (grammatical mistake included): 'Who remembers the serial killer Dennis Nilsen? Well one of his inmate's has a story to tell'.

They run riddles to gather those hits (visits, really). 'What goes up but never goes down?' is today's effort.

They ask questions like 'what is your favourite love song?' or 'would you eat crickets?' or 'Covid passports - is it time they were scrapped?'. No doubt the Spanish health authorities are biting their collective lip waiting for the answer of that last one from the Weenie readers.

Or, 'how many ducks are in this picture?' (unfortunately, I'm banned, so I couldn't give my considered answer).

My favourite of today's crop of drivel has nothing to do with Spain (or even the UK):  'Just how tolerant should the police be in removing protestors, has New Zealand gone too far...?' They apparently play Barry Manilow music to upset the protestors (and understandably so). 

Is there a daily quota or something?

Wisely, the search button shows no posts from Leapy Lee following one from 2020 where readers were asked to vote on this far-right one-note warrior (74% of those who showed a preference said they liked him).  

Facebook works by dropping a few of your 'favorites' into your feed, so unless you visit a particular site, you will only be treated to a reduced number of their posts. More, perhaps, if you keep clicking. I think, if you really feel you the want the news from this outfit, you should probably stick to their webpage (or maybe choose the BBC, or the Express, depending on your needs).

 This week's paper has a few eye-catching things about it as well. The front cover appears to be a girl who has taken off a flimsy undergarment in public. No wait, it's a face-mask.  I think I speak for all of us when I say I was sorry this picture (and news item) never made it to the Facebook edition - perhaps they were worried that it might have been misconstrued. But shouldn't this story have continued on Page Three rather than Page Two?