Monday, 21 August 2017

Radio Hoohah

It's hard getting an FM radio licence here in Andalucía. You need the written permission of the appropriate department in the Junta de Andalucía or you will end up with a huge fine. Huge. I was working for La COPE in Mojácar for a while. La COPE - the radio in the tower at the Parque Comercial - was part of a large radio presence owned, thanks to an edict from Franco, by Spain's bishops. You become a bishop, you get to share control of the COPE, you become an archbishop, well, you are on to other and no doubt greater responsibilities.
The Junta de Andalucía doesn't like the COPE. It's reporting is obviously rather right-wing, and the Junta's politics are firmly to the left.
So, the Junta sent a letter while I was at the radio. Your station is to be closed down as you have no licence and your 'dial' - your frequency - is to be given to La SER (a left-wing station, owned by the El País people). There wasn't a SER in Mojácar at the time, but some fellows were easily enough rounded up and the broadcasts quickly began.
Shortly after that, they moved to Vera.
So, the COPE was closed (a fine of 600,000€ was mentioned by the smoked-salmon socialists of Seville). In fact, although the COPE is one of the top three commercial stations in Spain, there are no COPE FMs in the whole of Andalucía.
Around the same time, another Mojácar radio, Radio Cool, was also closed by decree following a compliant from a competitor, and a smaller if still considerable fine was levied against that radio as well.
Mojácar's only radio today is Spectrum, which has a peculiar (indeed, unique) licence from the Ministry of the Interior in Madrid.
Mojácar has a licence for a 'municipal radio', but the mayoress doesn't want anything in Spanish on the local airwaves, as, well, they might say the wrong thing in a moment of madness...
Another radio which was causing problems for the Junta, no licence and the wrong politics, was Radio La Marinera, broadcast out of Puerto Rey by a retired pop singer called Andrés Caparrós.  After another huge fine and other threats, Andrés started broadcasting on the Internet and through the social media (which the Junta can't control), but he has now thrown in the towel, it says here, after a number of years of his radio broadcast. Not many people listen to satellite radio, beyond a few die-hard Radio 4 listeners connected to their digiboxes.
Internet or satellite radio may be the way forward, but governments can't control the content and, for this reason, European cars are not fitted with satellite radio. Imagine that.

Thursday, 17 August 2017

Brexit News

Half of the British think they are cleverer than the Europeans. 
Unfortunately, it's the stupider half.

Thursday, 10 August 2017

Strange and Frightening Headlines in The Weenie

Churning through the dribble that is printed in the Almería incarnation of The Weenie as I generally do, I give you here their last few front page main titles.
A paper which, presumably, is meant to encourage visitors and promote both the area and the businesses within.
What do these headlines have in common, I wonder?
Today's effort is 'Drug-fuelled Frenzy. Man Arrested For Assault'.
The previous weeks follow below:
'Gang Warfare. Gypsy Turf War spreads'
'Dead to Rights. Fire Killers locked Up'
'Up in Smoke. Cannabis Factory Shut Down'
'Text Horror. Serial Child abuser Held'
'Deep in the Red. Provincial Debt Nears €500 Million'
...and so on.
It's not as if there's much of any news about Spain inside, after all. 


Wednesday, 2 August 2017

A Zebra Crossing is just a Travelling Donkey with Stripes

Driving quietly home from the beach (I try and get my stuff done by 10.00am when the traffic  gridlock and road rage begins), I was behind a truck and a few cars by the time I had got to the Fuente de Mojácar. The truck was stopped at a zebra crossing to allow a pedestrian his right to cross the road. Operating on the principal of 'everyone's gotta stand somewhere', the old fellow was looking placidly at the line of vehicles before remembering his manners and waving the truck forward. By the time I reached the crossing, several cars later, he was still there, gazing into space, perhaps remembering other times, when there was only a few donkeys and underpowered motorcycles clogging up the road...

Monday, 31 July 2017

Always Nice to Leave: Always Great to Return




Two weeks holiday in Portugal has made a pleasurable break from Paradise. Spain is a wonderful place to live, but a short time away can help put things in better perspective.
Certainly, our first day back in España (I went on vacation with my Spanish companion Loli), we watched the Noticias de la Primera on the TV. A woman wearing an alarming-looking heavy gas mask and a protective suit spent the first ten minutes of the news reporting the referendum in Venezuela – a story that oddly hadn’t appeared of much interest to the Portuguese news channels. But here, we are subliminally reminded of the threat of Unidos Podemos each time the fiendish activities of the mad chauffeur from Caracas is featured on the telly. Don’t agree? Whither Turkey TV time with the equally mad Erdogan?
Lisbon was full of tourists of course, and the Portuguese speak English, French, German... but never Spanish (much to Loli’s indignation). We ate well, took a trip around the city in a tuc tuc (Spain is missing a trick with these little three-wheeler cabs), listened to some Fado and bought endless fridge magnets and tee shirts.
And the obligatory bottle of port, of course.
Unemployment at 9.8% is relatively low in Portugal, and jobs are often posted in the windows of shops and restaurants. In general, the government seems rather more on the ball than the one in Spain, with an offer of ten years tax-free to any foreigner who wants to buy a house and take out residency.
We met Colin Davies, who is a fellow blogger, in the dramatic city of Oporto after taking a cheap local train ride up the coast from Aveiro where we had been staying. Colin writes about Spain from his home-base in Pontevedra, Galicia. He introduces his daily posts with a quote that I like: ‘Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable’. So true.
Coming back into Spain (no passport control, no customs... just a sign saying ‘you are now in Spain’ - suck on that Brexiters!), we stopped for lunch in Antequera, Oh, the noise! It’s good to be back, I shouted to Loli, who was sat next to me stirring a decent cup of coffee.
Yes Darling, she bellowed in return, patting my hand absently.

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

People are People Too



We are often guilty of putting ourselves in the imaginary position of the dogs and the cats here, or even the bulls. So many pious remarks about how they are mistreated, or tied up, or end up facing a matador in his suit of lights. It’s a rare community that doesn’t have an animal protection society staffed by volunteers and we even have a political party, the PACMA, which currently enjoys the support of around 300,000 voters.  Animals are without a voice and perhaps they need more protection, and a champion to defend them. Especially those poor superannuated hunting greyhounds.
Yes, maybe these are important points to raise, and perhaps it is true that the Spanish tend to have a different viewpoint from our own. We can even feel superior to our neighbours about our elevated care and love for our ‘four-footed friends’. We shall post something on Facebook about this, right away!
This generosity of spirit, however, is rarely extended to the African immigrants that walk among us, unseen.  Most of them will have arrived here, in search of a (slightly) better life, having overcome the most terrible ordeals and threats. Many of them will never make it to the shores of this country, but will be drowned or murdered or incarcerated in the attempt, crossing first the countries of North Africa, and second, the Mediterranean sea.
Those who do manage to arrive in Spain may end up with a horrible job in the plastic farms of Almería and Murcia. Some others will be given trinkets to sell on the beach (the ‘looky-looky men’) or in the cities (the ‘manteros’) – with their produce lying on a sheet with string holding the four corners – ready for a quick getaway. They’ll sleep in squats, or in highly priced apartments, ten to a room. Maybe they can send a little money home to their families.
The police don’t like them much, and the shopkeepers don’t like them at all. However, a squab of hope, or at least dignity, comes from an association of these manteros in Barcelona, which has launched their own brand of clothes, called Top Manta, with ‘...the logo made up of two waves: one represents the materials used, the other the perilous maritime journeys many of the sellers undertook to reach Spain...’ (The Local here). We say: ‘Good for them’!

Saturday, 8 July 2017

The Things They Eat

Someone on Facebook was missing some item of British food. I was reminded of a story of my Dad's.
They had bought a Mercedes and were heading out to Spain to live, once and for all. The Mercedes didn't like Spanish petrol and limped across the country at around 50kph, with ratty old Citroens and Renaults overtaking them with a gleeful squawk from the klaxon every now and again.
The boot was full of tined turkey in sweetcorn sauce.
Our friend from Middle Wallop had been in the turkey business for many years and in 1966 he decided with his brother to take the empire a step forward by introducing tinned turkey.
He was flat broke within three months.
When my parents announced they were leaving the UK for good (coincidentally, the morning after they had left me in my boarding school), our friend pressed several boxes of tinned turkey with the sweetcorn sauce, unlabelled, into my father's doubtful charge.
'There'll be fuck all to eat in Mojácar', said the friend with a certain logic.
So, after a ferry crossing to Calais, the customs officer beckoned to my father.
'Ouvrez', he said, waving imperiously at the boot of the car.
'C'ést quoi ça?', he said, pointing at the boxes of unlabelled merchandise.
My father wasn't much good at languages, but he was game: 'un gran wuzzoh para mange', he answered.
The customs officer, stumped by this answer, called for a can opener.
On opening the first tin and viewing the contents, he burst out in English - 'Sacré bleu, you Anglais will eat anything'.


Wednesday, 21 June 2017

The Mojácar Foreign Department

(Following on from a post a few weeks back: Spanish as She is Spoke), I am glad to see that the mayoress has put a Brit in charge of the Mojácar Foreigners Department.
Not as elegant as it could have been done, perhaps, since Lucas is a 'non-aligned' councillor for the Grupo Mixto, but, By Jingo, we do actually have a Brit drawing a wage from the Town Hall of Mojácar.
'Scuse me while I swoon in amazement.
Lucas Mayo was raised here by his step-mother Isabel, the daughter of Jacinto Alarcón, the wonderful old boy who turned Mojácar around in the sixties from a hill full of ruins to what it is today.  Lucas is, of course, totally bi-lingual.
He runs a gestoría on the beach, Gecko Services (ph 950 475 949), and has the knowledge and experience necessary to do the paperwork which our friends the Spanish are so partial towards.
Lucas became a councillor when the head of his party (Gas Station Diego), disillusioned to have not won the last elections, quit with his Nº 2 on the very next morning following the vote. Numbers 3 and 4 of Unión Mojáquera 10 were catapulted, much to their surprise, into Public Service.  Lucas became an Independent in early February of this year (here) and has supported the majority PP since then.
The current Mojácar Town Hall (nor most of the previous ones, come to think of it) has not been known for handing out many favours to the giant non-mojaquero population (around 60 to 70%) so, we are pleased to see that we finally have someone in The System.



Saturday, 3 June 2017

Movistar become Anal (What's New?)

Movistar knows my email and my telephone number (because I am a client of theirs). They send me a paperless factura for the month to my email. Very modern of them. But, from this month, I have to go through some more hoops to find it (what is my NIE number... what is the password...?). What password? Why are we so fucking anal in Spain?
So, here I am, jumping through hoops with the coffee this morning. Filling out forms, looking for my NIF number which (subconsciously, it makes sense) I have never learned. Suddenly, the house-phone rings. It's that sweet little anodyne Movistar-girl who lisps me a four digit number, which I am encouraged to write down.
Things could be better though, because (as I slurp still more coffee), it turns out that I need an eight digit number.
Bored with this, and out of coffee, I write them a nice letter (which no one is going to read). It says: 'Who the fuck is going to jimmy my email just to find out how much I am being clipped by the Movistar people with the monthly factura?'.
I wonder - have they put the bill up... in the hope that most people won't bother to fart about trying to see how much is going to be walloped out of their bank account?
Later, after a bathroom visit, I think - shit. I'm going to find out how much my telephone bill was for May.
I give them a call on 1004.
I wait.
The girl finally picks up (it takes six minutes this time). Ahh, hello, listen, I want to know my factura for mayo.
Once we have established the number I am calling her from (it's on her screen), she asks 'are you Willian?'.
My father, Bill, died in 1986. I have never got around to telling Telefonica about the tragic loss of their client. The paperwork would kill me.
'Yes', I say firmly, 'that's me, Willian'.
The factura, friends, was 87,56€. (The last one I can find, September's, was 77,83€). An annual price rise of around 15%.
The coffee is cold.

Friday, 26 May 2017

Almería Islam: Ramadan Begins

Almería, we read, is the second province, after Alicante, with the highest proportion of foreigners, at 18.7% (official figure from the INE). While, yes, there are lots of Britons, the majority of these foreigners are Moroccans, and Ramadan, the month of fasting during daylight hours, has just begun.
According to La Voz de Almería, quoting figures from the Unión de Comunidades Islámicas de España, some 90,000 Muslims across the province will observe the festival, which is around 13% of the population (Spain's Muslim population is around 4%). Of these, around 27,000 are Spanish citizens, the others coming from Morocco, Algeria, Senegal and so on. The province has 52 mosques, although the large Muslim population that lives in El Puche - a slum area in Almería City near the Estadio de los Juegos Mediterráneos football stadium - must make their devotions on a piece of public land there.
The festival will end with the new moon, in 28 days time, and three days of celebration, the Eid al-Fitr follow.

Thursday, 25 May 2017

Brexodus on Facebook

I visit one of those 'Brexit is Terrible' Facebook pages aimed at slightly unsure Britons living here in Spain. It reproduces articles from the British press about how things are going downhill over there, or what a monster Mrs May is, or what a weed the other fellow is, or fruitless arguments about whether we are 'expats' or 'immigrants'.
The threads go around in a circle, drying up after a while, until they start again with another posted item.
I write a post - quoting a line from Leapy Lee, the man who 'dares to say what other people think'. The quote is in this week's Weenie and it comes from an article about the wonders of Mrs May:
'...Are not the pathetic leaders of the European Union acting exactly as we knew they would?
Their pouting, childlike attitude to the terms of the UK’s departure, is precisely the reason we need to leave this bunch of spoiled brat, unelected wastes of space to their own pathetic devices...'.

All good stuff. My point is that a newspaper serving the Britons who live in Spain could be a fraction more sanguine about life here, about our future and about our position. A little less about the moors murderer and other rum goings-on in the UK, the pesky Europeans and maybe a bit more about Spain? We had several large news stories here this week, after all.
The Facebook page in question didn't agree with me on this, and scrapped my post, as is its right to do so.
Now, its gone happily back to arguing about whether we are ex-pats or immigrants again.


*The page itself is part of a larger site, with much useful action taking place behind the scenes. I support its aims, of course. For another FB page with similar content - and an introduction to this one and others, go here.

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Spanish as She is Spoke

While many of the people who have gone through the Mojácar school, both today and over the past twenty years, are English, the Town Hall, as we know, has remained determined that none of them should be given a place amongst the staff there. Imagine - a bilingual person in a Spanish town where the most widely spoken language is English.
No local police, or specialists, or clerical staff, or anyone in the tourist office comes from the other side of the tracks.
Indeed, we recall that on the very day Rosmari won the last elections (24th May 2015), she fired her secretary, Francesca, who was the person who helped out the English.
We need an  office to help (help!) the foreigners who live here with their paperwork, with their taxes, with their doctor, with the cops: an office with a couple of bilingual foreigners (Angeli, the Dutch woman who speaks five languages, for example), but no. The Costa del Sol towns might have 'em, the Costa Blanca towns too - but here in Mojácar - it's all and only jobs for the Mojaqueros. You want a translator - go pay for one!
OK, we know, it's a lost battle.
But, when our town hall elders promote Mojácar to the visitors in fractured English, as happens every day, then the reaction can be something other than what was wanted. Disbelief. Laughter.
We are not a town without human resources.
But, anyway; that battle is lost too. Mojácar is for the Mojaqueros. We, who have come here to live, may love the place to bits, but, well, our friends and neighbours here see the old place more as an opportunity than a beloved home.
If I had made ten or twenty million euros out of my town, why, I'd build a theatre, or a hall, or a clinic. The Lenox Napier Clinic for Elderly Drunkards. But here, in what is apparently the richest town per capita in the whole of Andalucía, there's not even a park bench somewhere with a modest brass plaque saying 'Donated by Paco the Good' or some such.
We know this and we carry on with our lives. It's not worth a fight. And, although for example my three bilingual children, all brought up here in Mojácar, are currently settled in another country, well, perhaps we should be happy with what we've got.
But along comes a terrible tragedy in far-off Manchester, followed by some thoughtful and kind words from the Mayoress for our condolence - presented just in Spanish, (translated here, apparently, by a foreign resident for a Facebook page with the help of Googlespeak): '...Similarly, wishes to inform the British population resident in mojácar that yes, unfortunately, one of them has been affected by this barbaric act, has opened the gates of the city of mojacar and have all the help you can offer this municipality'.
An opportunity to bring us all together collapses quickly into farce.




Tuesday, 23 May 2017

The PSOE is Reborn


In the election to the socialist Party Secretary on Sunday, Pedro Sánchez won with just over 50% of the vote from the militants. Susana Díaz, who was around 10 points behind him, couldn’t even mention his name in her brief speech following the count.

El Pais, the newspaper of the institutional PSOE so to speak, has a lively anti-Sánchez position. Here is its by-now famous editorial just after the Sunday count:El ‘Brexit’ del PSOE’. In the translation over at El País in English, the editorial begins, ‘Pedro Sánchez’s victory at the Spanish Socialist Party primaries places the PSOE in one of the most difficult situations in its long history. The return of a secretary general with such a legacy of electoral defeat, internal division and ideological swings cannot but be cause for deep concern...’. It goes downhill from there, later on likening Sánchez to Donald Trump! El Mundo worries that Sánchez won’t be able to unify the PSOE, pointing out that Susana Díaz avoided congratulating Sánchez in public, even though she was in the same building. The tough PP leader from Catalonia, Xavier García Albiol, says that the victory of Sánchez is a ‘disgrace for Spain’. Other sources are rather more optimistic, including El Diario, who says that the party-members have defeated the barons of the party, and El Huff Post which begins an article with ‘"They failed to understood the scale of the political change we are in," said Pedro Sánchez this week about Felipe González, Rubalcaba, Zapatero and the territorial leaders who were against him. The primaries have shown that they did not understand the political change, or, what is more serious, the change in their own party: it was of such a magnitude that the militancy has made a mockery of its establishment and is prepared to face a time without popes, nor barons, nor sultanas, nor guardians, nor flappers. The Chinese vases of the PSOE have been shattered...’. An editorial at El Diario says that ‘Sánchez has been reborn from the ashes and returns to lead the PSOE with an unquestionable victory and more power than he ever had before’. And back to the opinion piece in El PaísPúblico has its own: ‘Madre Mía, the reaction on the Internet to the editorial from Prisa’.