Monday, 11 December 2017

The Bullring of Laujar de Andarax

This unassuming construction is the old bullring in Laujar de Andarax (Almería). It's been closed for a long time and held in private hands. The town hall has now successfully negotiated with the owners to buy the 100 year old bullring for its subjects and will now fix the place up for 'the enjoyment of all the Laujareños'.
Who can argue with that noble purpose?

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

The Catalonian Elections

There’s a decidedly odd election coming up, on a Thursday, just four days before Christmas, between seven parties, of which one is led by a man in exile in Belgium and another by a man in prison in Madrid. Three of the parties are for an independent republic; three evenly balanced against them are the ‘constitutionalist’ parties (with Ciudadanos leading the pack), and there’s the odd-one out – the local version of Podemos, which, as The Local says here,  ‘...the likely kingmaker according to the polls will be En Comu, the alliance made up by far-left party Podemos and Barcelona mayor Ada Colau, which according to the CIS poll would capture nine seats. The party opposes independence but backs a legally binding referendum on secession which Spain's central government deems unconstitutional...’.   
On Tuesday, the day campaigning officially started, Spain dropped the international arrest warrant against Puigdemont (but only to ratchet up the pressure against him with stronger charges at home). ‘Puigdemont está kaput’ said Rajoy during the celebrations of Constitution Day, Wednesday. Puigdemont is meanwhile campaigning via video feed from Brussels, and he asks those who are against the imprisonment of Catalonian political leaders to wear yellow.  The ERC, whose candidate Oriol Junqueras remains in jail in Madrid, is represented in meetings by another leader of the party – one who was recently returned to freedom after 33 days – called Carles Mundó. On the other hand, the largest – in public support – of the three ‘constitutionalist’ parties is Ciudadanos, whose regional leader Inés Arrimadas could wind up being the next president of the Generalitat. Who would be the most ‘popular’ leader? Well if you asked the recent poll organised by El Español, it would be Puigdemont followed by Arrimades.
The Government in Madrid, meanwhile, is warning of some ill-defined ‘cyber-attack’ against the Constitutionalist vote. 
Elections, then, on December 21st, and as The Guardian says ‘...The campaign must unfold freely, lawfully and peacefully and the outcome must be respected’.

A Shortage of Specialists

According to the local newspaper, medical specialists don't like to stay in the Huercal Overa hospital any longer than they must. They generally 'don't last even six months'. A spokesman for the medical union says 'Currently, there are no dermatologists and there is just the one ENT doctor.  I think there's one urologist too and some of the surgeons are leaving as well. The situation is not good'.
The reason, apparently, is to do with temporary, monthly contracts. Any better offer comes along, and they are history.
'Just up the road in Murcia', says the union man, 'they can earn 1,000€ a month more'.

Sunday, 3 December 2017

Spain's Beautiful Pueblos

Mojácar hosted this weekend a meeting of the 'Pueblos Más Bonitos de España', which seems to be a (very incomplete) list worth taking notice of for future trips around this beautiful and fascinating country. Mojácar is, without doubt, worth its place on the list - even if our main strengths - the view from the village, the narrow white streets and the increasingly rare 'old building' were all in evidence long before anyone thought of tourism, marketing, drunken Indalos or souvenir shops.
There are currently 57 'Pueblos Más Bonitos' and a further eleven are joining the club: Segura de la Sierra (Jaén), Mondoñedo (Lugo), Ledesma in Salamanca, Briones in La Rioja, Lerma (Burgos), Castro Caldelas (Orense), Almonaster La Real in Hueva, Mirambel in Teruel, Guadalupe (Cáceres), Zahara de la Sierra (Cádiz) and Bubion in Granada (Photos of them here).
In reality, there are hundreds of other beautiful pueblos in Spain - perhaps a little less focused on tourism - and many in our own Almería: Bédar is obvious; then there is Agua Amarga, Senés, Vélez-Blanco, Sorbas, Nijar, Abrucena, Fondón, Laujár and Serón for example...

Later: In case you were wondering, 'the object of the Pueblos más Bonitos in 2018 is to bring international tourism', says Radio Huelva here. There are now two official Pueblo más Bonito festivals - held, presumably, in each and every one of the towns involved. The 'Noche Romántica'  on the 23rd of June, and the celebration of the association on 1st October.

Friday, 1 December 2017

Barbara's Ordeal

I was reading one of my late wife’s posts on a blog she wrote, about how it hurt when she went to see the doctor to have some bandages removed. She wasn’t exaggerating either, as the side of her head, her scalp, was open, without hair or skin. The doctors had tried to transplant skin from her head onto her face to refashion a nose. The transplant had failed for the third time.
They never knew that she had a disease called Wegener’s Granulomatosis (named after the German concentration camp doctor who discovered it!). ‘Oh, said her brothers, ‘she lost her nose because she took coke’. Not so, even if you wanted an excuse to cut her out of your parents’ will.
We had run out of money by 2002, cheated in a swindle. The cheats even had me drive down to a lawyer’s office in Torremolinos (in a borrowed car) to pay me a portion of what they had agreed to a few years earlier, only to not be there at my destination (neither was the lawyer for that matter).
We were broke, selling off bits of this and that, and much of this went to pay for Barbara’s bills. The hospitals were free, but the hotels and meals of course were not. We had Sanitas health insurance until 2008, when I could no longer pay for it. This meant that subsequent hospital visits were to the public hospitals of the social security. Hospitals in Pamplona, Madrid, Almería, Murcia and Málaga. Barbara had thirty two major operations between 2002 and 2014, when she died. It was the first of these, in Madrid in 2002, where she had her jaw broken, her teeth removed and her nose excised. A novel treatment by the doctor (I had to slip him 1000 euros) failed completely.
Barbara talks of ‘the Scary Room’, the place where you visit, fully conscious, for your appointment with the surgeon. I would wait outside: Spanish doctors are very good at what they do, but they sometimes forget to tell the ‘family member’ how the patient was doing. None of them knew why she was ill, until the local Mojácar Doctor Galindo recognised her condition, a form of auto-immune sickness. He put her on to prednisone, a nasty but lifesaving drug. Later, she would take ketamine (horse-tranquilizer!) for the pain and eventually, as her kidneys failed, she was on twice-a-week dialysis in Huercal Overa.
The palliative doctors came to our house to visit and they
gave her a heavy dosage of morphine, to be administered (by me!) every six hours until the end.
Reading Barbara’s blog again today, I feel such tenderness towards her and hope that she is blissful in Heaven. 

Barbara's blog was about animals and hippotherapy. It was called Animo

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

The Presentation on Safety and Security

It is hard to learn a foreign language, and hard to understand the culture behind the conversation. The accents, the words spoken in laughter or whispered or referencing some icon not known to a foreigner: all making comprehension difficult.
Today, the Guardia Civil gave a talk in the Artisan Centre to the English-speaking residents in Mojácar regarding personal safety and how to avoid robberies and rip-offs. They also told us what to do if anything looked suspicious or if anyone became a victim of an robbery or an assault.
Two young Guardias gave the lecture, apparently on their day off, and did a good job explaining the different chapters in their talk on crime and prevention. I had been asked to translate, but an enthusiastic lady from the Cruz Roja took charge and I sat at the back in a mild sulk.
The presentation was fun, with the two Guardia helping the 'translator' to more or less get the ideas across. They were aided by a power-point presentation which the Cruz Roja lady gamely tried to render into English, with lots of 'how you say in English...?' and other garbled explanations.
Never mind, as the two Guardias pantomimed various scenarios and everyone was amused and, hopefully, informed.
A leaflet in English was handed out to help with the presentation, but it had an important mistake - a wrong phone number for the local police.
Which begs a question - if you call the local police, or the Guardia Civil, will they understand you?
Those numbers:
Any emergency 112
Local Police 091
Guardia Civil 062

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Prison Life

It must be horrible to be in prison. The Norwegian ones – where the repentant murderer plays his guitar, cooks his own meals and has a terrace to his room notwithstanding. We should also excise the Dutch ones which are closing down, through a general lack of prisoners to fill them. The American ones – which we have seen often enough on the TV or in films – are more like it: usually with Morgan Freeman or that Tom Cruise fellow banged up for life. Nasty guards, murders and people pumping iron.
Spain is a bit different. Firstly, not everyone that might be expected to end up in prison, ends up in prison. Politicians, bankers and those connected to the best families for example. Here, we read of ‘those who steal a ham’; those who write something improper on Facebook or Twitter; and of ‘political prisoners’, which means ‘politicians from either failed parties (the GIL or the PA for instance) or otherwise seditionists from Catalonia’. We see demonstrations concerning Basque prisoners, terrorists and political, being sent to serve time in the other end of the country – to the evident confusion of their families.
Still, ‘if you can’t do the time, then don’t do the crime’. Right?
Spanish prisons are in the news this week, firstly – it’s an anecdotal story rising from the ugly subject of rape – a mother has now been allowed to spend her days at home after four years incarceration. She had revenged herself on her daughter’s rapist by dousing him in petrol and setting him alight. Evidently, he died in some discomfort shortly afterwards. A case now going through the court in Pamplona sees five fellows who allegedly raped a girl in the fiestas there this summer. Jail-time? Maybe – one of them has influence.  
But, returning to politics. One of the two ‘Jordis’ –  Jordi Sànchez, the first to be arrested for treason in the ongoing Catalonia story – was witness this week to a prisoner knifing another during a Mass in his prison. That should take the smile off his face.
From Brussels, where the lively question of what an earth to do with Puigdemont and his fellow ‘ex’-ministers, comes a query about Spanish prisons. Are they alright? Would he be fed properly? The Spanish prison service has obligingly sent a photograph of his future cell back to the Belgians.
As to whether Spain can hold foreign political prisoners (in the improbable event of the Republic of Catalonia being recognised internationally following some change of heart), we will have to joyously return to the safer world of fantasy. 
(Thursday's editorial for Business over Tapas).

Mojácar, Mojitos and, ah, Family Tourism...

The Town Hall of Mojácar's plan to build the next stage of its sea wall, which will eat into (and presumably destroy) a number of beach bars, has met a brief snag, says a press release from that office.
The future stretch of the Paseo Maritimo, with its wall, its walkway, gardens, cycle path, lamps and access, together with its elevation, will be built between the road and the sea in the area between the Maui beach bar and the Red Cross building, where the hotel strip begins. The walkway will need to eat into the terrain of the existing beach-bars, the long-loved Aku Aku, El Cid, El Patio and the Maui (plus another couple of them who's names I've forgotten) thus incapacitating them forever. They will probably need to close down (or turn into narrow kiosks with a few bar stools and little view of the sea).
The Town Hall says that a lawsuit placed against them by the Maui beach-bar people has slowed the process down 'by a few months', but that the project will continue as 'it is in the interest of all the people of Mojácar'.
Indeed, says the press release, '...The Paseo Marítimo, as is well proven, is a must for any coastal tourist town. Due to the experience on the sections already built, it establishes adequate accessibility to the sea's edge, provides the beaches with services of showers, drainage, sanitation, public lighting, street furniture, gardening and playgrounds. In short, it creates an indispensable framework for tourism...'.
The key is in the final clause above. It's for the tourists.
And why do we need these tourists?
Why, for their money of course.

Monday, 20 November 2017

Tourist Dollars

A meeting was recently held by the good people of Vera, Cuevas del Almanzora, Garrucha, Mojácar, Pulpí, Huércal-Overa, Turre and Los Gallardos (Los Gallardos?) to get more tourism. To do this, they have sent a nice letter to the Government with a request for ten million euros. They explain in the letter that they have too many tourists, but that they want more. The money would help realise this - in some slightly vague way - and even Los Gallardos would get something out of it.

Sunday, 19 November 2017

Almeria Pet Rules (no, no, not 'Pets Rule!')

It might be bad enough walking the pooch with a plastic bag or two in your pocket to avoid the disapproving looks of one's fellow Mojácar-dwellers, but spare a thought for the City-folk of Almería who not only risk a nasty fine if their pooch drops one on the pavement, but from now, they can even be hit with a complaint for allowing their dog to take a whizz against a municipal tree. Where on earth can you take them - the apartment is no good, the stairwell doesn't work, the streets aren't available... it looks like a brisk twice-a-day visit to the city limits.
It's hard having a pet in the city. They need walking if they are a dog, and the reason they need walking is precisely to lighten the load on their kidneys and sundry other organs. Cats are easier, you just open the window and they take off over the roofs, leaving their calling cards strewn among the mess from the pigeons. Goldfish are good, because they pretty much leave their effluent inside the jar.
Elephants can also make a good pet, as there are no laws - at least in Almería - regarding their defecatory rights (however, you should know before you order one, that they eat seven bales of hay every day).
Should one be allowed pets in cities? Maybe not, but they make companions for their owners, some of whom are living alone.
Feral cats, on the other hand, fed by the neighbours... that's not very salubrious I think, and they supplement their packed-lunches with birdies, lizards, snakes and rodents. They also bring fleas to the party...
Returning to the dogs - the local newspaper, the Voz de Almería - recommends that one should use water and bleach to remove the doggy-urine from His Majesty's streets. You may need to get down on your knees with a sponge to fulfill this novel requirement.
The new rules about pets don't stop here. You shouldn't leave the animal on the terrace either 'as it is prohibited to disturb the life of the neighbours with noises emitted by the animals'.
So, no peacocks either.
Leaving food out for the wild animals - the feral cats mentioned above - is now also illegal (and fineable) in the Big Al. So, don't do it!
Lastly, as we clean up another pool of pee pee with our bucket and squeegee, know that any dog over 20 kilos in weight must wear a muzzle when taken outside.
In short, Mojácar-dwellers, you have it good. Stop moaning!

Thursday, 16 November 2017

Propaganda does not deceive people, it merely helps them to deceive themselves

Curious how we blame the Russians for people voting the wrong way, or thinking the wrong thing. A recent article in The Times of London says that the Popovs were solely to blame for the good people of the Greatest of Britains inclining against their better judgement to vote for national suicide, also known as 'Brexit'. Neither the newspapers nor the racists nor the huge gangs of, uh, non-European foreigners taking away their jobs and their women were to blame. The S*n, the Mail and the Express, owned as they are by tax-dodging millionaires, had nothing to do with the sorry outcome. The Russians, you see, influenced the electorate with their tweets, posts and millions of leaflets dropped over the country by their Tupolev bombers.
Not content with this mayhem, the Rooshians also swung the American people away from Hillary - good, honest Hillary - and gave the world Donald Trump. No doubt millions of Rubles were spent by the Czarists to persuade the dumber segment of the USA to support the Orange One. He would never have won otherwise. The Alt-Right news-sites, the tax-dodging millionaires and the hayseeds from West Virginia would never have been enough. Once more, Moscow was responsible for the rout of democracy and human decency.
And so we come to the north-east region of Spain, where once again, the pressure was on from the Castillians with their 'Boycott Catalonia', the monarchists with their 'a por ellos', the newspapers with their single-note reportage and the Government with their imported cops quartered in Tweety-pie ships in the Barcelona and Tarragona harbours while making their grim presence felt.
The Catalonians will have their reasons for supporting an independent republic, but it is unlikely that they were swayed to this course by Russian propaganda as we as repeatedly told by El País and others.
In short, when an electorate does something stupid - let's blame Vladimir Putin.

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Media Manipulation (Turns out, it was the Russians all along)

Returning to the subject of El País and its far from balanced reporting, here are the stories about the pesky Russians found in its English-language Internet edition on Tuesday. 

*‘EU agrees to dedicate more resources to fight Russian propaganda. Interference from Russia in the Catalan independence crisis has spiked concerns about the manipulation of public opinion’. Here.

*‘How the Russian meddling machine won the online battle of the illegal referendum’. Here

*‘Government confirms intervention of Russian hackers in Catalan crisis’. Here.

*‘The zombies of disinformation. The global financial crisis and the information technology revolution have created a perfect storm. Governments must act’. Editorial. Here.

*‘Romanian euro-deputy: “Catalonia is another case of malicious Russian meddling”. Here.

*‘Crisis in Catalonia. “Spain needs to take the Russian threat very seriously’. Here.

*‘European Union fights the Kremlin’s propaganda machine. Team that detects and fights Russian cyber-attacks warns of campaign to aggravate Catalan crisis’. Here.

...and of course: *‘Spanish minister links Julian Assange meeting to Catalan independence drive’. Here.

The Catalonian people are evidently unable to think for themselves and..., that Madrid stuff? It was all just a fantasy.

The cartoon says - roughly - 'these days, it's hard to tell the difference between real news and satire'.