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