Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Ryanair Cancellations

Few people enjoy flying these days, with no room for your legs, a small and sticky child in the seat next to you and a talkative mother making up the row. Behind, perhaps you will be rewarded with a loud collection of still-merry drunks and in front, inevitably somebody who has already put their seat back that full three inches before the plane has even taken off.
Flying seems to be an inconvenience that one must endure to top and tail one’s holiday, or visit, or business. At least (if nothing goes wrong at the airport) it has the virtue of being both quick and of course safe.  
Of all of the carriers, Ryanair seems to be a particularly uncomfortable choice to experience. No doubt it’s a fiver cheaper, but one must queue in an inelegant shuffle, with hand luggage only – as the charges begin to mount if there’s a suitcase, sit in the flying equivalent of a London underground train – and one now hears of couples being split up by the staff, and carry-on luggage being reduced to a hand-bag.
But well done that Michael O’Leary, who has made himself not only very rich but, as we have seen recently, also highly unpopular.
Ryanair, for a spurious and improbable reason (the staff hadn’t had their hols this year?) has just stopped some two thousand flights across Europe between now and the end of October, putting severe impositions on many thousands of customers. The company has a full list of affected flights here. They say laconically ‘Up to 50 flights a day (less than 2% of flights) have been cancelled for the next six weeks’.
Many of these are connections to Spain.
From the Facua website comes ‘FACUA asks AESA (State Agency for Air Security) to sanction Ryanair for announcing mass cancellations’. The consumer organisation is looking for full compensation for travellers. Ryanair says it has twenty million euros earmarked precisely for passenger compensation.
It appears that the real reason for all this terrible publicity, at least partly, is a sudden haemorrhage of 140 pilots to another discount airline: Norwegian Air.
For the passengers concerned, for their families, their hotels, their brief holiday, their business appointments and their bookings, this really quite ridiculous situation is unacceptable.

Almería Needs More Wind!

There a few uglier views, I think, than a giant windmill park. Those tall white propellers that gather on the tops of hills and provide electricity for our daily use. In Almería, which has enough electricity already thanks to the pollutive oil-fired horror in Carboneras, we are inexplicably blessed with a large and unfortunately visible collection of wind farms. Twenty four of them to be precise.
For those who would not agree with the first paragraph, some good news:
Almería is building more of these things to join the ones currently spinning away (and winking their red lights at night) in Serón, Vélez-Rubio, Abla, Abrucena, Nacimiento, Enix, Alboloduy, Turrillas, Tíjola and Las Tres Villas.
Thirty eight new parks are on the drawing board.
According to Almería Hoy (here), which declines to say where the new wind farms will be located,  'The energy generated by los parque eólicos currently produce enough energy to cover the needs of more than 700,000 citizens while avoiding the emission of about half a ton of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, equivalent to removing some 220,000 vehicles from service'.
So, with 62 populous wind farms stretching across the province, we should all soon be able to see a giant windmill or two from our balconies.
We wonder why we need so much energy - are they going to close the power station in Carboneras?

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Who Complains?

Spain is a country where no one appears to buy the press any more (El País 96,600 copies sold daily here). Perhaps we get our news online, perhaps we watch it on the telly, and perhaps we don’t tune in at all.
With this shortfall in information, it could be that many citizens either don’t know who represents them and what their rights are, or maybe they just don’t care about such things.
It’s certainly the case that the aggressive consumer associations who look after us have an uphill job. Both Facua (here) and the Organización de Consumidores y Usuarios (here) fight numerous campaigns in the consumers’ interest. We have institutional consumer offices (see your phonebook) and even the ombudsman, the Defensor del Pueblo (the national one is here). All of them are working tirelessly for our protection, no doubt.
But what happens if the consumers aren’t particularly interested?
It is of course true that we customers have the chance for complaining sheets if we do so request for them, but, and here’s the remarkable thing: no one ever does.
The cost of electricity is so high that just for the potencia contratada (the maximum power consumption allowed to a customer), we pay the equivalent of a monthly dinner for two (well, not exactly the kind of dinner that shareholders in the power companies are accustomed to). The water bill meanwhile is raised apparently arbitrarily (my home factura suddenly went up 50% last month!). Then we suffer from the absurd government policy regarding alternative energy (decided, evidently, by the power companies), the clausulas suelo, the bank rip-offs, the phone companies, air-pollution and so on...
Over in Granada, a doctor known as Spiriman puts up some spirited criticism of the Junta de Andalucía’s health service cuts (through a mixture of rage and comedy). See his latest video here. On the TV, El Gran Wyoming (here) uses comedy while Jordi Évole (here) sticks to hard research and preparation. All good, but still the consumer is slow to complain.
Here is Facua from their book ‘Timocracia’ on ‘The 39 fines that make it profitable for businesses to defraud consumers until they are caught’: we read ‘...In Spain, ripping off consumers is so low in risk that even an apprentice can be a successful bean-counter. After almost forty years of democracy, the DNA of the Spaniards still does not incorporate the culture of claiming their rights as consumers. The percentage of citizens who report fraud is very low, and most don't know what to do when the company turns a deaf ear or says no...’.

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Social Media makes us Stronger

We are careful not to say – rather, to write – the wrong thing. Oh, someone on Facebook will set up a hue and cry because we didn’t ‘like’ the doggy picture, or we failed to support some post about alternative medicine or tattoos. We could be ostracised – which in Facebook terms means we are ‘unfollowed’.
We support this, we don’t like that... it seems that this large group of foreigners which we belong to and which has chosen Spain to live – a group which has little background to share, coming as it does from all over northern Europe – must weld itself into a cohesive group, by championing the most trite causes they can find. Buddhism (a charming philosophy) is shaken like a stick by an angry dog. ‘Don’t hurt the ants’, says someone after I posted a picture of my kitchen covered in the little creatures. ‘Put down peppermint oil and they’ll go’, says another. Go where... into the bathroom? Too late anyway, I’d already sprayed them with Matón. ‘I’ll have a word with her’, posts another, referring to some evident newcomer who did ‘the wrong thing’ in some public function attracting many hostile Facebook comments in the process. Some of us émigrés want to criticise the large number of immigrants in their country of origin, without noticing the irony. I am shown on my regular visits to Facebook ugly racist propaganda from hate groups, improbable items from fake news sites and disturbing pictures of mastectomies and twisted bodies: just type ‘amen’ they say.
Others seek to chastise those they don’t know who have hurt some animal (I got one today about a fellow who beat his dog two years ago... in Brazil)! We must be suitably shocked and write imprecations and insults (and, for some reason, overuse the epithet ‘moron’). We are introduced into vigilantism. We have become pious and grievous.
Other regular subjects, which attract an enormous tail of comments, include ‘we really must learn Spanish’, ‘bullfighting is bad’, ‘we’re just guests here’ and ‘would anyone please adopt a three-legged nine year old dog called Jaws’.
In the old days (just a few years ago), our waspish criticism of others was hidden by a pen-name, and the ‘forums’ shuddered delicately as we stormed and raged. But now, with our own name not only prominent on each comment but linked to our home-page, one would imagine things would be more settled. Kitty pictures and photos of the loved ones, swimming or posing good-naturedly for the camera. Useful local information perhaps. A sunrise photograph (well, OK, we’ve seen enough of those). Yet the ratio of these posts to hostile political attacks, crude jokes, eviscerated animal photos or endless threads about nothing much in particular... means that some of us – me anyway – are spending too much time on Facebook (or, at the very least, I need to filter out my ‘likes’ and ‘friends’ lists). I arrive at this opinion just as Movistar calls to say they are upping my service to fibre-optic and fifty mega per second. Oh boy, I’ll be able to watch those Facebook videos now!
By the way, ahem, don’t forget to check the Business over Tapas Facebook page!

Thursday, 31 August 2017

First the Electric Bill, Now the Water

Just as La Voz de Almería tells us it has rained more in the last three days than in all the entire months of August, put together, from 1968 to 2016, with 53 litres per metre in Garrucha, we also read (in Almería Hoy) that the water people, Galasa, have put up the price of their product by anything up to 200% or more (the Macael prices went up by 245%, it says). Here in Mojácar, my bill, per litre, is up around 50% over the last one.
The PSOE blame the PP, says Almería Hoy. Funny, I remember when we had water from El Pinar, operated by Servamosa where we had to buy 'dotaciones' to be able to be considered a customer. I had seven for the farm. The PSOE created Galasa which 'absorbed' the installations from Servamosa. None of us who had dotaciones were ever reimbursed. There were said to be 10,000 of these shares, valued at 80,000 ptas each...
Now, who was it who ran Servamosa...?

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Independence on the Horizon

Following on from the recent terror attack, Barcelona was host on Saturday to 500,000 people who had come to show their feelings against terrorism; the King of Spain and Mariano Rajoy were among them. But, anything to do with Catalonia means politics, and there are items aplenty to suit every position.
To help readers make up their minds about the perfidy of the independentistas (the threatened referendum is only a few weeks away), Spain’s right-wing daily La Razón airbrushed out of their front-page photograph of the demonstration the bit they didn’t like and added a patch taken from another view. The photographer himself explains what happened (in Catalán) here. Another example, even easier to appreciate (picture), shows the real and doctored photos put out by the Palace and the Moncloa (here). For pro-Independence news, one needs to go to the Catalonian press like La Vanguardia, or, perhaps a trifle surprisingly, to The Guardian here. Many of the demonstrators certainly used the occasion to push for Catalonian independence, and many placards veered from the ‘We are not afraid’ line to other more pointed issues against Spain or in favour of Catalonian statehood. The bit that most Spaniards didn’t like was the criticism – in many placards and Catalonian editorials – of the King and his apparent friendship – or alliance – with the Saudis – and their apparent sponsorship of terrorism. Certainly Spain sells them a lot of arms - in fact, when it comes to this profitable but unpleasant export to the region, Spain takes third place internationally.  Mind you, the ABC, another right-wing newspaper, points out here that a quarter of Spain’s arms industry is produced and exported by the Catalonians themselves.
Who would lose out more if Catalonia were to secede from Spain? El Español says that Catalonian Business would lose 20,000 million euros and unemployment would rise up to over 40% within a year following the ‘disconnection’. El Confidencial also looks at the issue here and notes that Catalonia’s export and tourism industries are the strongest in Spain, so would presumably be fairly resistant. Indeed, as we have seen, Spain itself would lose 14% of its territory, plus a chunk of its economy, its tourist numbers, its influence and its population – although Catalonians are told that they will be able to hold double nationality (here).  It would also be open to losing other regions along the way, including the Basque Country and perhaps the Balearics. Andalucía? Madrid should be so lucky.
El Español warns that ‘the passivity of the Spanish Government over Catalonia is very dangerous’. They may have a point, but what can they do now – send in the police and make mass arrests... Send in the army...?
To underline the Spanish confusion about Catalonia, there’s a page on Facebook run by the Ultras called Boicot a los Productos de Cataluña. With around 60,000 supporters. What’s this – they want Catalonia to stay part of Spain... by bankrupting them?
The referendum, short of some surprise move from Madrid, will take place on October 1st, with the campaigning due to start on September 15th and (if we can believe a pro-secessionist site here) the independentistas look set to win...

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Peace Returns to Spain (or it will do in another four weeks or so)

The horrid events in Barcelona last week appear to have reached their conclusion, with the shooting of the homicidal van driver by the Catalonian police, the Mossos d'Esquadra. There is some political and social fallout still to come, no doubt (including a squabble over who should be present in the solemn ‘no tinc por – we aren’t afraid’ Barcelona march on Saturday), but the greatest effect on all of this may be on tourism.
Spain has known that it was – and is – a perfect target for the nihilism of the jihadists. This fine country is easily attacked, as it relies so heavily on tourism – an industry that can, under certain circumstances, disappear pretty much overnight. Perhaps those that visit the cities with their monuments and museums are a different type of visitor to those who choose the beach and its attractions. Perhaps the fear will be contained. ETA knew this, with its bombs in Benidorm and the Costa Blanca during the eighties and nineties. The simple tourist, looking for time with his family, away from the drab factory workplace, will be quickly convinced to change his travel plans following the threat of an attack (the foreign resident, of course, will stay put, with his heels dug in).
How can we stop these creatures? Bollards may stop a swerving truck here, but how about there? Do we need more police... or more ‘intelligence’... or more controls...? Should we concentrate just on tourism – are other areas less likely to be attacked? What about some other alternate but equally vile plan from the jihadists to bring us down – poisoning the water or kidnapping someone famous? Presumably, someone somewhere is hatching a fresh plot right now. Meanwhile, as both feared and anticipated, we have a small but growing call for some form of massive institutional violence on our part, a pogrom or even a war. We are discovering hatred growing on our side, on what should be the Side of Reason. Racism, ignorance and bigotry. The terrorists had planned a larger attack, says The Local here, including a plan to destroy the Sagrada Familia. That would have probably tipped the Spanish into entertaining the most terrible reaction.
Meanwhile, the political parties have broadly agreed to an ‘anti-jihadist pact’, which Podemos has sent observers to, but won’t join. The Government of the Partido Popular, says Podemos, is blithely doing business with several Middle Eastern sponsors of terrorism. Maybe if we did attack them, they would use those very weapons we have been selling them for decades against us.
But, back to tourism – have the record numbers stumbled at all? Maybe, if they do, it will be down to the forthcoming strikes in Spain’s airports...