Sunday, December 27, 2015

Forget What I Just Said (No One's Listening Anyway)

(Goodness - this blog is ten years old)

I was trying to build up my Facebook page for Business over Tapas (my hard and useful news for property owners in Spain), so, seduced by that young and guileless look sported by Mr Zuckerberg in his publicity photos, I put myself down for a 25€ punch to get a few extra followers for my site.
It worked a treat - about 100 people joined up within the week, enthusiastic to hear about what's really going on in this country we call home. Only - on closer inspection, they were all Spanish. I had filled out this questionnaire, listing my main attractions as: 'News about Spain', 'Spanish Property', 'Spanish Investment', 'News Magazine' and 'Tourism'. Note: all English phrases and, in all, a pretty good spread, I think?
And a hundred enthusiastic people came back, swelling my readership considerably... only, just who exactly did Facebook approach with its advertising - British residents living in Spain? Or was it Spaniards?
Well, fair enough - who is interested in our little collective of British residents in Spain? Certainly no one who operates on a country or even a continental scale.
Take the TV people, for example. You want to watch English-language TV, then you should be based in an English speaking country. There's no accommodation for those who speak English, but don't live in the UK or Ireland. Learn the local language, conform. It'll make it easier. So, while many Britons watch Sky in Spain, they are all breaking copyright law. But, there's no legal way around it (not that any of us care).
Or the issue of the 'Brexit'. No one in the UK even considers that we émigrés should have the right to vote in a British referendum (even if it is patently going to affect us more than anyone else). We abandoned the Homeland. All two million of us (across the EU). Those in favour of staying within Europe talk pompously of 'exports' in the British press, but never of 'expats'.
The European Government doesn't recognise us either. We are over 20 million Europeans living in another European country. Do we have any representation? Of course not. Without our own politicians, spokespeople, culture, stars, writers and intellectuals, we will never have any voice; or service; or accommodation (Ask the Priors, who will celebrate their eighth year living in a garage in two weeks time).
In Spain, there's now a political party that represents animals and vegetarianism (I'm not kidding). It's called PACMA and it got about 120,000 votes in the recent General Election. People are more concerned about fur coats than they are about jobs (22% unemployment), or corruption (huge). Or the fact that over four million foreigners live in Spain, and are (with EU approval) not allowed the vote. About two-thirds of them are European. So what?
In geo-politics and in big business, there is no profit in the details.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Christmas Explained

The Christmas season is here, with all the gooey trimmings. I thought I'd write a piece to anticipate the freebie versions for later this week...
The freebies, as you may see, are fond of the word 'festive' which will creep into any article about Christmas, as will numerous references to 'El Gordo' (that's the name - by the way - of the first prize, not the name of the Christmas lottery drawn on 22nd December). There will be an article about the revolting cagoners - small nativity figures from Catalonia, increasingly models of easy-to-recognise public persons (particularly politicians) - portrayed taking a poop.
Christmas used to be the Three Kings (wait, there'll be an opportunity next week to write about them). Los Reyes Magos, of course, brought presents for January 6th: twelfth night, usually the day before school begins. There will be a public show, camels and three fellows dressed as the reyes (one in black-paint), on the evening of the 5th.
Now, commercialism, the Corte Inglés and Spain's millions of children have gleefully adopted Santa Claus (Papá Noel) as their own. More presents. I'll have the Play Station, thanks Dad. Spanish fathers, by the way, don't dress up as Santa. But, it'll come...
Later on in January, some earnest Spanish left wing groups will try and collect toys considered bellicose - plastic guns and catapults, to make a great point of destroying them publicly to make some really stupid point or other. They will receive massive coverage in the local Spanish dailies.
A nice point over the festive season (there, I said it) is to leave cakes and a bottle of booze, plastic cups at the ready, in the banks (useful before you ask to see your balance) and, until recently, in the petrol stations. Pity that's gone the way of all flesh... 
The Christmas lights will be tastefully ignored by most foreign diarists (the garish illumination will remain until someone finally takes them down, hopefully before February), and the ghastly high piping children's voices amplified out of all decency while belting out interminable villancicos (Christmas songs) until long into the New Year will be brushed over.
The Christmas Eve mass (the past midnight Misa de Gallo)  may earn a mention and economists (if not newspaper owners) will want to point out that workers get their Christmas bonus, an extra month's wages, at this time. The families won't be eating turkey - rather gambas and ham or cordero followed by those dry and inedible polverones (they collapse into a powdery lump in your mouth) and plenty of wine.
Don't forget the Spanish day of trickery falls on December 28th, it's called the Day of the Innocents.
On New Year's Eve, probably gathered in an expensive restaurant with live music, open bar and paper hats (called un cotillón), you are meant to eat twelve grapes for good luck (I hate grapes) during the twelve campanadas - carillons at midnight, and then dance until dawn.
But the big news for Christmas this year isn't Santa, or the elves, or the marzipan or the bottle of cheap champers (cava) made by the Catalonians; the big news is the elections. On December 20th. This Sunday. There will be change.

Friday, December 11, 2015

American Art

I have just spent a few weeks in Midwest America, based in Oklahoma, but here in this entry, visiting Arkansas. In a town called Bentonville, where lives the family that started Walmart, is an astonishing museum of American art. In, as a New Yorker or Angelino might say, the middle of nowhere.
The Crystal Bridges Museum is set in a beautiful location, spanning a lake. The surrounding grounds are peaceful, treed and full of sculpture, the inside - a revelation.
The collection goes from early American history to the latest in modern art. Of the twenty or so American artists I have heard of, all (except Fritz Mooney, obviously) are represented in the museum. Maybe not their best known work - but they are there.
The visit took me about 90 minutes, and starts with two portraits of George Washington. The art is well exhibited throughout and I came away highly content.
The museum was funded in its entirety by Alice Walton, a member of the family that owns Walmart. Entrance is free.
Sometimes, the wealthy put something back into the community - Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and others. Not so often in Spain though...




Wednesday, December 02, 2015

How The Politicians Will Affect Us In the Next Twelve Months

For some reason, the Government has decided to hold its General Elections on Sunday December 20th, which is nice for those many thousands of people who must man the polling stations. Besides the regional nationalist parties and the small United Left (the Izquierda Unida is a coalition of all sorts of far left and ecologist groups, including the Izquierda Republicana, the Partido Comunista de España, the Partido Obrero Revolucionario and other similar groups), we have the four main parties running.
These are the Partido Popular (the last government was run by this party in an absolute majority: Mariano Rajoy was the President); the PSOE (Pedro Sánchez, who by the way has an apartment in Mojácar Pueblo); newcomers the Ciudadanos (the leader is a Catalonian called Albert Rivera) and the Podemos (the pony-tailed leftist Pablo Iglesias leads this anti-establishment group).
The likely outcome - a coalition of two parties. Perhaps the PP with Ciudadanos (if the PP accepts a full inquiry and condemnation of corruption). Assuming the IU voters went with Podemos (one can dream), then the four main parties are in fact running neck and neck according to most surveys. The older voters apparently prefer their usual political choices: PP or PSOE; most other people, sick of the endemic corruption (Bárcenas, Rato, Chaves and Griñán, without going any further), like the two new groups, the conservative Ciudadanos or the left-wing Podemos.
Thanks to Government-fueled complications, the enormous number of Spaniards - around two million - who are resident abroad (they are almost all working in their adopted countries) have found that it is almost impossible to vote in these elections (just 7.5% will vote, according to estimates), and, with the election in the Christmas holidays, perhaps even less - as you must vote in your own circumscription - hard to do when it's 'London' and you are visiting Dad in Murcia. Few of this number, needless to say, will be sympathetic to the Partido Popular.
So, what will happen? The Central European Bank and the mainstream opinion in Brussels favour more austerity, more Rajoy (perhaps a soupçon less corruption). The other parties want to loosen things up a bit, drop some of the last government's worst excesses and try and turn Spain into a new direction.
In reality, forces from outside will continue to play a major part - with the hugely complicated Catalonia situation causing concern, the influence of the Troika on the economy and the possibility of incidents rising from terror attacks (one good thump, and Spain's main industry - tourism - could dry up overnight).
For the 750,000 Britons living in Spain (who of course, like the rest of the four million migrants here, can neither vote nor expect any benign attention from the politicians), there is another bumpy time ahead: the British vote on whether that country (and its unwilling expat passport holders) will stay in Europe. If a 'Brexit' occurs, we shall have a whole number of problems: residence, visas, work permits, health insurance, schooling, and - if Britain proves in a post-Brexit society to be sufficiently anti-foreign - perhaps even deportation.
To follow this, subscribe to my weekly newsletter Business over Tapas.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

El Parque Desastroso de los del Medio Ambiente

I occasionally publish something in Spanish - at El Indálico, Actualidad Almanzora or, as here, La Opinión de Almería. This is about the Boticario Park just outside the City of Almería:

El Parque Desastroso de los del Medio Ambiente
Lenox Napier
Un mojaquero británico

Uno de los éxitos de la Consejería del  Medio Ambiente –y la verdad, no tienen muchos reclamos en Almería– es el Parque Botánico del Boticario, ubicado en los Llanos de las Cañadas, en la capital. El parque fue pensado como un escaparate de todos la flora almeriense puesta en un lugar, una estancia de catorce hectáreas. Un grupo de jardineros, unos visionarios y un nutrido grupo de contables, abogados y, sobre todo, políticos se pusieron mano a la obra en los primeros años del siglo actual para conseguir fondos europeos para  realizar en 2005, como dice ‘Almeriapedia’, “…una extensión de 14 hectáreas en las que se ha intentado recrear los distintos paisajes de la provincia y que cuentan con más de 1.300 árboles, 2.000 arbustos y 75.000 plantas”.

La verdad es que es una maravilla. Trabajaron bien los planificadores y el parque nació dividido en varias zonas –un Jardín árabe (“una recreación del Jardín del Paraíso”, como dice la misma fuente); un parque forestal, con muchos ejemplares de árboles autóctono; zonas húmedas; un parque botánico; bancos,  alamedas… y hasta unas cuantas maquinas tipo “biopark” para los mayores. A su lado, hay un restaurante privado, un parque infantil, un tipo que alquila cochecitos de pedal y un amplio sitio para dejar el coche.

Lo malo es que un parque así necesita mucha agua, mucho cuidado y un ejército de jardineros. En una palabra, mucha pasta. Por esta sensible razón, la Consejería intentó (y volvemos a la fuente antes citada) “…ceder al Ayuntamiento de Almería, pero sin embargo, ni Junta de Andalucía ni Ayuntamiento de Almería se han puesto de acuerdo para concretar dicha cesión”.

Así están las cosas. A consecuencia de esta negación, los del parque tuvieron que sufrir algunas economías: por esto existen los contables. La evidencia de varias visitas mías a lo largo de este año me enseña que no hay ningún jardinero (quizás uno sale por los noches, de esto no se sabe). No hay agua; hasta la recreación del Jardín del Paraíso está media seca, sin plantas, y con sus acequias llenos de fango y basura.

Los árboles están más o menos bien, entre algunos secos o mal cuidados. Los prolíficos chumbos (y nosotros pensando que el nopal fue “una planta invasora”), cubiertos en enfermedad, mosca blanca y muertos. A lo largo de todo el parque, en cuanto de “las 75.000 plantas”, sencillamente no queda ni una. La zona húmeda tiene un escondite para contemplar a los pájaros, pero el agua está muy sucia y, de pajaritos, no hay ni una. En el verano, durante otra visita mía, tampoco había agua: lo que hay actualmente viene de la lluvia. Quizás la cosa más chocante es el estado de las maquinas absurdas para los mayores: están oxidadas, destruidas o sencillamente ausentes.

¿Un desastre entonces? No, al contrario, es una maravilla. Catorce hectáreas de alamedas arboladas, muy poca gente, una tranquilidad espléndida y un muy buen bar a la salida, llamado El Álamo.

Saturday, November 07, 2015

Portrait of Seville

Picture by Alfredo Piris. The artist was in Mojácar for a time in 1983. The picture is the view, he told me, from his lodgings in Seville. It looks to me like he couldn't afford the Hotel Alfonso XII.
I was studying at The International School in Spain in 1970, normally in Ronda, but while it was being repaired, in Seville at the British Institute. The school was fun - you could smoke in the classroom, there were girls (I'd been used to the monastic curriculum of a British Public School), American kids... and I lived somewhere in the city, and commuted to my studies (such as they were) on a motorbike. The headmaster was a writer on Spain called Alistair Boyd, who lived in Ronda.

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Toy Story

Well, look at that. A small boy playing with what might be considered by an old-fashioned and irredeemably sexist parent as girl's toys. Boys and girls are all one now and it's our job as parents to make this plain. The picture is just one page in the new toy catalogue from Toy Planet (see it here) as approved by Spain's loveys and the Ideal newspaper here, the other pages are similar: girls with footballs, boys with frilly dolls. The company pitches itself as a purveyor of 'non-sexist' toys (or perhaps reverse-sexist) and it should do well. Besides the anodyne toys now favoured by Spanish parents (especially those who evidently don't want grand-children), there is also a popular drive these days to destroy aggressive war toys. These ghastly things, plastic machine guns (pink for a boy) and so on are routinely handed in after Twelfth Night and burnt in a municipal bonfire or, as in the picture below, mercilessly and overwhelmingly crushed:
So remember, a feather duster for the boys and an electric train set for the girls. Who knows - maybe a few of the braver kids will swap their gifts once the light are out...

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Creep

It must be strange to wear a message written in a foreign language or - even worse - a foreign script - when you have no apparent idea of what it says. Those silly enough to allow tattoo artists to work on their bodies must be near the top of the list - as some decorative piece of Arabic or Chinese is lovingly stamped into their bosom, ass or arm, which may - or may not - say 'Love Brother Love'. Are you going to trust a tattoo artist with your future - especially when you're drunk?
Young girls are particularly attracted to outfits with improper invitations written on them (I saw one over the weekend that said 'Take Me Now' - imagine explaining to the judge the following morning, No m'lud, the invitation was definitely there).
The model in my picture has the best - or is it worst - example of what not to wear. I saw her in H&M yesterday. Blimey, my Dear. 

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Apparently, they are used to make the Earth spin...

I looked up the Almerian town of Fiñana on Wiki. It has a population of just over two thousand, a castle, a fortress, a hermitage, an ethnological museum and the local people apparently thrive on eating gachas and chunks of zaramandoña (no idea).
But wait, I have a feeling they've forgotten some small detail which should be mentioned...

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Bicycle Lanes: The Movie

There seems to be a cycling mania going on.
Yesterday, driving around Mojácar was almost impossible with little gaggles of tourists en bicicleta peddling inexpertly around the beach. Later in the autumn and winter, we shall have the pelotones of professional racing cyclists in giant groups scooting along in front of us (peddle faster, dammit!) as we drive to Turre or Los Gallardos on important business. Meanwhile, the local Town Halls are building more and more cycle paths (at the expense of pavements and vital parking spaces), which - as far as I can see - few cyclists use, preferring the street.
The planners at Almeria City Hall, and I quote my other blog The Entertainer Online, '...are allowing skates, skateboards and oddly, wheelchairs, on their bicycle lanes which now infest (70kms built so far) the city'. The idea is to give preference to pedestrians and bicycles over motorised traffic within City Limits.The idea in Mojácar, I suspect, is to promote tourism as our main source of income despite any inconvenience to those who live there. Luckily, it's too hard a pull for any but the toughest cyclist to make it up to the top of the hill (...and arrive in Souvenir Heaven).

Thursday, October 01, 2015

Hotel Algarrobico. A Decision?

The issue of the Hotel Algarrobico was due to be resolved this past September. But, as usual and to nobody's surprise, it wasn't. It's an ugly building, erected on the coast (there wouldn't be much point on erecting it in the interior, now would there?). The hotel is twenty stories tall and has - or will have, or would have 411 rooms. It would, if ever opened, bring employment to Carboneras, the unattractive town nearby, famous for its dirty power station (far more ugly than the hotel) and its impossibly grand sports stadium which the town hall can't afford to open.
The hotel is just part of a larger projected urbanisation, with shops and restaurants and bars and souvenir shops, all aimed at amusing the tourists who would fill the Algarrobico from the day it was opened, back presumably in about 2008, if it hadn't have been stopped by an inconsiderate politician in far-off Madrid called Cristina Narbona, at the time, PSOE Minister for the Environment.
The hotel was almost finished when the order came through in 2006. The surrounding rock-face had been cut and shaped into space available for the satellite commercial centre and the main building was at the stage of putting in the interior work: 94% finished, says Spanish RTVE here. The builder, Azata del Sol, said and says that it had all the correct paperwork, the ecologists (such as Ecologistas en Acción, Greenpeace and the eccentric Salvemos Mojácar), who managed to halt the wretched thing, say that it is in a national park and can't be built.
As with the 300,000 'illegal homes' in Andalucía, nothing was said until the eleventh hour.
Now, years later, there is still no answer - or rather, there are too many court decisions, some for and some against. Whichever side wins, the Public will lose. If it's Azata, then they will claim massive damages to repair the site, ravaged by time and various attacks from vandals, ecologists and souvenir hunters. Furthermore, after all the excitement, would people want to stay there anyway? Maybe Azata doesn't want to win any more - so just pay them off their investment, plus lawyers, interest, loss of earnings and what have you. If the environmentalists win, then the entire site would need to be demolished and the whole area replaced, somehow, with an innocuous chunk of coastal cliff. How much would that cost? The price of a hospital or two, without doubt.
And, in a region with 35% unemployment, and little chance of alternative income beyond tourism, what about the job losses?
So, whoever gives the order can expect a short future in politics. Best just to change the subject, pass the buck, shrug and let the stupid thing continue to rot. 

Monday, September 21, 2015

Medio Ambiente Fails Again: Cabo de Gata

The Cabo de Gata is a beautiful and untouched area outside the city of Almería. You may have to pass through some plastic farms to get there, but once in the tiny villages of Pozo de los Frailes or San José, the charm kicks in with a vengeance. Small restaurants and bijou hotels, a port in San José, a mixture of fishermen, retired Spaniards and odd-looking hippies in old vee dubs and on bicycles. The surrounding hills are free from any intensive farming and, apart from the odd decorative windmill, are simply green rolling hills. The whole area is carefully protected by the agency of the Medio Ambiente.
Just through San José, there is a untarred road that leads to the fine and untouched beaches of Los Genoveses and Monsul, the former chosen as the top beach of Spain 2015 by Antena3 (here).
Unfortunately for the region (part of the larger Parque Natural de Cabo de Gata - Nijar), one of the many things the environmentalists fail to do is look after the chumbo cactus, the nopal, the prickly pear. They say that it is an invasive plant (ratified by Royal Decree Nov 2011) and, as such, it is not within their remit to care for its protection. The picture here is a glimpse of a large plantation of the cactus, taken just behind the prizewinning Playa de los Genoveses. The bug in question is the tiny cochineal fly, which lifts off in its millions at night, to uncomfortable effect. The infection, the sticky white stuff, is carried by birds. It is slowly wending its way westwards towards Granada and Málaga.  The plants do not recover although the roots seem to be OK: fresh shoots are soon consumed by the pest.
The Medio Ambiente also has a large park just outside Almería City, 14 hectares of land with an exhaustive collection of local trees, shrubs and plants, with walkways and ponds, called El Boticario. The park was built with European funds and the Medio Ambiente has been trying to offload it to the diputación (County Council), or the Town Hall of Almería, ever since completion in 2005. There are no takers.
The result, the park is dying. The cactus (hello, I thought they were 'invasive') are infected, as are a number of other plants. Nothing appears to have been watered or pruned. The smaller flora has long since dried up and died. (A return visit to the Boticario: Spanish Shilling, June this year, here).
There is a push to change the law regarding the status of the prickly pear, whose infection has damaged much of the hills and plains of Murcia and Almería, and we can only hope that it proves successful. Soon. 



Thursday, September 10, 2015

The Ascent of Old Mojácar








Mojácar Could Have Been a Contender...


There’s not much acknowledgment of history in Mojácar as a rule, so we’ll gloss over the first few thousand years of the town and arrive, breathless, in the times of the Mayor Jacinto Alarcón, in the early sixties.
That perhaps modest wave of artists, the Indalianos, mainly from Almería (a city surprisingly wealthy in culture - you can see some of their work today in the Doña Pakyta Museum in downtown Almería) had been and gone: weekending in Mojácar, drinking and painting. They had introduced, or at least, promoted, the local stick figure, which they called after themselves – the Indalo.  Mayor Jacinto, in charge of a moribund village, had been glad to receive them, and he allowed them to stay in a few tumbledown houses. He instructed the artists, the poets and the writers – go and tell people about our town. By about 1962 Mayor Jacinto had an even better idea – to give away ruins or land to those who would fix them up (bringing sorely needed wealth into the community).  Many came, and the town, with less than 600 inhabitants in 1960, began to slowly revive. A small hostelry, the Hotel Indalo, opened in the Plaza Nueva, and, with its bar and first-floor restaurant, it thrived. Some mojaqueros, living in Lyon, Barcelona, Frankfurt or Madrid, heard of the new growth in the pueblo, and they returned.
The foreigners came. They found the village to be a thing of beauty, and above all, cheap. A house in 1966 would cost five hundred or a thousand pounds. A glass of beer, a few pesetas. They brought with them the habits of the swinging sixties: the Beatles, free love and a stick of hashish. The mojaqueros learned of these things as they began to find lots of work in the construction industry. The unexpected introduction of the Almería airport (Franco never liked the province) and the Mayor’s skills at Court bringing us a Parador Hotel in 1964 helped immeasurably. Mojácar was on its way.
Mayor Jacinto was strict, insisting that houses should be traditionally built – with small windows, flat roofs and whitewash. No high-risers and everyone to have a view. The rules were broken by the first hotels, the Mojácar, the Moresco and on the unexploited beach (land at one peseta for ten metres, no takers), the Hotel Indalo. The tour operator Horizon had discovered Mojácar and made it its flagship resort (before going spectacularly bust).
Mojácar’s fame grew abroad. The Indalo was often seen in London and Mojácar became a small phenomenon internationally. More foreigners came and a couple of local families began to take over the local economy. They became very wealthy. By 1990, they were multimillionaires –and friends of the mighty.
Everyone lived together more or less agreeably (as they still do today in Turre): the money was all foreign and it kept on arriving, ending – sooner or later – in local pockets. As perhaps it should. Mojácar itself, with the old mayor’s retirement in about 1978, began to change from a residential town to a tourist resort. A Corsican businessman knocked down the village carpentry in the square – a squat building connected by arches spanning the narrow streets on either side – and built a three story nick-nack shop called Sondra’s. The first ‘democratically elected mayor’ (the foreign population of course couldn’t vote) also allowed the rest of the main square to be demolished, including a beautiful theatre, and a furious scramble of more nick-nack shops appeared on the three levels of the ‘Multicentro’: tee shirts, beaded wrist bands, pottery from Nijar and junk jewelery from China. The old hotel, the Indalo, that decrepit but key building that commanded the square, was similarly demolished for even more ‘souvenir shops’.   On the beach, the Pueblo Indalo was built. The town had decided that tourism brought in more money than resident home-buying foreigners. Tourists spend heedlessly and then they go away; home-owners stay (and perhaps vote, or try and compete in jobs and businesses). Old Jacinto’s call for ‘Mojácar, where the Sun spends the Winter’ was, for some reason, ignored and the town became very seasonal. On the construction side (where the real money lay), small apartments, good for a couple of mildly uncomfortable weeks, were built rather than comfortable villas.
By 1985, as local homes were demolished and rebuilt to architects’ designs, the village had begun to change from ‘a beautiful Moorish clutter of cubist homes’ to a slightly ugly town with narrow streets and a wonderful view. The foreigners themselves continued to enjoy Mojácar (although its fame abroad was vanishing), and many chose to live in La Paratá (on a high mountain overlooking the beach, ridiculously British), or along the beach itself, still at apparently ludicrous prices. Mojácar was a fine place: there was no Sky television and the only news came from the World Service of the BBC – far off and, beyond the fluctuations in the daily rate of exchange, of little interest.  
The second mayor (third really, the age of ‘mociones de censura’ had begun) was Mayor Bartolo, a PSOE man who had worked in the Turre Caja de Ahorros. Bartolo was – one way or another – influenced towards the new president of the Junta de Andalucía, Manuel Chaves, and, inspired to make Mojácar a modern town, he brought back an architect called Nicolás Cermeño, by chance Chaves’ nephew, to rebuild the old Mojácar fountain – La Fuente.
It would be the beginning of the end of Mojácar and its easy cohabitation.
Remarkably, an open meeting was held in the Town Hall to discuss the plan for a new tourist fountain to take the place of the old public one. The mojaqueros were against the idea – one of them, José María (carpenter and undertaker), gave a famous speech about how he had seen enough marble to last a lifetime and he was against an austere gray marble fuente. We all agreed.
Work began a few days later.
The foreigners were aghast. An early copy of ‘The Entertainer’ (the English-language newspaper) has a picture of a local Brit holding a placard which reads ‘Ninety Thousand Pounds to Wash my Knickers?’ (the reference being that, in those days, the fuente was used by washerwomen as a laundry). A few days later, the foreigners made a demonstration in protest against the outrage. They were (unwisely) led by an American actor and long-term local resident called Charles Baxter (who lived openly with his Spanish boyfriend) together with Silvio Narizzano (whose sexual perversions in Hollywood and London were palpably well-known locally, as was his artist and playwright boyfriend Win Wells). I was warned by Antonio, a local friend, ‘to keep clear’. It was well that he told me, because the foreigners, amassed in the main square, were set upon by the mojaqueros and a fight developed. Eventually, the Guardia Civil arrested Silvio (later to be freed: ‘unshackle that man’, said the mayor standing outside the Town Hall. Silvio gave him a large bunch of roses and a kiss). Shortly after the event, Charles Baxter – the gray-haired dapper doyen of the foreigners – left Mojácar for good.
The mojaqueros had the last word – we don’t like the new fuente but it’s for us to complain – not you. The relationship with the foreigners was broken.
A few months later, Bartolo used the same architect to ‘remodel’ the Castillo. No one complained.
...
Years after (in 2014), a local man called Francisco Haro, the son of the old owner of the Hotel Indalo, wrote an astonishing homage to the early foreigners who had brought Mojácar back from the brink of ruin, a fully-illustrated book called ‘Mojaqueros de Hecho’ (Honorary Mojaqueros). Tales of Fritz the mad artist, Charlie Braun, Bill Napier, Paul Beckett, Ulf Dietrich, Ric Davis, the Polansky brothers, Salvatore, Geri, Theresa and many more who brought wealth, fame and fun to the area. The book was completely ignored by the current Town Hall which has, at best, an uneasy relationship with the guiris. These days, and despite the 60% of foreign inhabitants (more or less, depending on the vagaries of the town hall padrón), Mojácar is considered officially as a seasonal tourist town.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Bullfighting on Horseback

Bullfighters on horseback, the Spanish rejoneadores. This was the offer on Saturday 30th August, the last day of a six-day bullfight festival in Almería. the top picture is of the alguaciles, who keep the Law. The second picture shows the three rejoneadores - Hermoso de Mendoza, Leonardo Hernández and the Frenchwoman Lea Vicens. One of the cuadrilla is in the third photo. The rest are pictures taken during the corrida.





Like most people who have lived here a long time (!), I have always been tolerant of bullfighting. I went to see one or two over my time, here and there, even including one with the 'Mojácar Bullfight Club' in a small town in Granada called Huescar a few years back. They managed to fill a bus with Englishmen for the rumble.
Later, as my conversational Spanish improved, I spent more time with Spanish friends. I would become accustomed to joining them sometimes in a bar over a whisky to watch the toros on the television. Among the group, an artist and a writer - both good friends of mine - would gossip with one eye on the corrida above, while occasionally shouting 'olé' or 'get tha fuck outta here' as necessary.
Since my wife died last year, I've been helped a lot by another Spanish friend, whose father was a famous bullfighter called Antonio Bienvenida. I've heard some of the stories.
These days, I move pretty much in a Spanish circle, my companion is Spanish and, like her friends, she goes sometimes to bullfights. I've been to three in the past year. I could claim that bullfighting is cruel and stay home and sulk, I suppose, but that would be silly.
In reality - notwithstanding the British view on Los Toros - no one goes to see them suffer. We go to see the skill, the art, the bravery and the excitement. No one, no one, likes to see an animal die. But it has to be part of the spectacle. The Spanish contrast the four years living on la dehesa (a huge open farm) and a brave death, versus nine months in a cage and a bolt through the forehead for a normal meat animal.
I can understand the point of view of a vegan - they are at least consistent - but a Briton who knows next to nothing about Spain, about her culture, her language, her history, her politics and her family-relationships, and yet likes his steak and chips - is hardly the right person to lecture me on the morality of la tauromaquia.

Sunday, August 09, 2015

Senés, the slate village of Almería

Back in Senés - a small village in the hills behind Tabernas. The pueblo uses slate for its construction rather than brick or tiles. Senés has its Moors and Christians festival this weekend, and here's a few pictures.








Tuesday, August 04, 2015

August on a Half Shell

Driving home after a beer on the beach. I'd hoped for one in the pueblo, but there was no parking left: at 8.00pm. Why not build public parking Mrs Mayor, more parking means more cars means more customers. Who knows, even residents. 
There's a bar in the village, says they make their money from tourism. It's a pretty place, open all year long and run by residents - not those people who open for a couple of months during the high season then fuck off away for the rest of the year. Proper residents they are, with an interest in the village. I reckon I must have spent about 10,000€ in that bar over a lifetime of drinking. I'd like to see the tourist who could match that.
So, the beach. Lots of traffic but the bar I went to, on a side street, was pretty quiet. Some fellow was out last night with a shotgun (or a pellet gun, you know how we exaggerate) and he fired both barrels at a group of people waiting to get into (or out of) a discotheque at five in the morning. So, more police I expect. I drank my beer, ate a tapa and came home again. 
Our road is interesting: no street sign, no pavement, no pedestrians, hardly any houses (there are fourteen), but 59 street lamps, put up just days before the election. Thirteen of the home-owners are against the street lights, the last one on the line is, apparently, in favour of them - although he will have noticed the alarming increase in the moth population. 
Mojácar in August: tourism is in full flood and the cash-registers are ringing. Unemployment is down as summer jobs abound. There are warm queues outside each cash-point (most now charging two euros or more for non-account holders) and gangs of youths wandering up and down our one (one!) street and occasionally being sick in the flower beds. Many of the residents have given up the unequal struggle and either stay quietly at home, panting in the heat, or else they have left for a visit to their countries of birth. Festivals, smoke, noise, music, crowds and – above all – profit. 
September is still a month away...

Thursday, July 30, 2015

The Hatred is Strong in this One, Luke

Goodness, the fuss about a lion.
I have a Facebook account which serves me a regular dose of people's thoughts, opinions, photographs and convictions, strongly spiced with nobility, beauty, wonder, politics, racism, hatred and stupidity. Much, perhaps, like anyone else's Facebook page. I have taken to removing ('unfriending') some of the worst posters, who lean towards the negative over the positive. So, rather than talk about those people who post beauty, useful information, home-pictures, friends, music, jokes or funny videos, I should like to comment briefly on those others who like to post pictures of dead or suffering animals ('animal porn'), or find and support ignorant racist cant from Stormfront or Britain First, or who choose teasers which are solely designed to bring the reader to a separate page often dripping with viruses (known, apparently, as 'clickbait'), together with those with aggressive opinions (often from the vegans, or that unfunny comedian Ricky Gervais) or other posters who have an agenda - not to be against something, but to be against someone else being either indifferent or - worse still - in favour (bullfight pictures from the anti-taurinos - yawn!).
If you believe that shit, go and do something about it. Don't just post a picture of a baby seal being squished by a baseball bat just to ruin my morning trawl through the Facebook over breakfast; why not go and buy a fucking airplane ticket to Canada? And while you are at it, seated on the plane perhaps wondering how you are going to persuade a team of highly-unpleasant seal-killers, or dolphin-slayers, or dog-eaters, or bullfight-enthusiasts  or even some fucking Zulu with a huge cheque hidden in his jockstrap hauling along an idiot American hunter with a bow n' arrow (for Christ's sake), just consider that the rest of us are not impressed by your thirst for revenge, your call for vigilantism or your support for public lynching, all from your own home and in the knowledge that you will never be called out. These kind of posts don't make you strong, or clever, or (God forbid) attractive. They make you ugly.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Some Pictures from Delfos


Delfos is a art and antique gallery on the Mojácar/Turre road, a place where you can get a drink, enjoy some music and paintings in a peaceful setting. The locale is huge, an old cortijo expanded and converted with a remarkable selection of regularly updated exhibits. Mariano, who runs the Delfos, is a true mercader - make him an offer...
Here's the web-page: delfosmojacar.com
 







Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Old Tee-shirts

It's surely tee-shirt weather. It's so hot this month ('breaking records' hot) that I have been suffering from two or even three tee-shirt nights. A revolving fan, the window open once it's gone dark, a cold shower and a few beers for dinner - it's still so hot that the tee-shirts are wringing wet after an hour or two of tossing in the bed.
I have some favourite tees. Like many of us, they were collected as souvenirs from different visits, situations, experiences and, of course concerts. Wow, is that a genuine Rolling Stones 1984 Eel Pie Island concert they ask, adoringly. Heh heh, yes, I was there. It was like this see...
But the moths get at them and the sweat makes them rot. After a while, the neck gets baggy and you leave them, half forgotten, on the shelf in the bathroom and then a funny thing happens. The Tee-shirt Fairy takes them. 
I never knew how many of my favourite tee-shirts had disappeared over the years. Ohh, that green one with uh, the flying saucer and the cows. My old Entertainer one which, truth to admit, was a fraction small, showed a bit of my stomach if I stood up straight. Damn, and the one from Gibraltar I got into a fight about..
The Tee-shirt Fairy had taken them all.
Then one day, while looking under the sink to find a cloth to wipe up some mess before my wife found it, I happened on a huge clump of old, torn and unloved tee-shirts. That's where they go. You know, a few of them were savable...

Thursday, July 02, 2015

Mojácar was an Artists Town

Mojácar was 'discovered' by artists. Until the 1950s, there was little to be said about the town. It had fallen into obscurity and there were few people left. The population was numbered in the hundreds and the rest had gone away, either in search of work, or through political problems following the Civil War. A film crew descended on the village in 1953 and shot part of 'Sierra Maldita' (short video here. Mojácar appears from Minute 3). There was no road to the village in those days, and the crew parked in the river-bed below and mounted the hill on donkeys.
The village was in ruins. Those who left would disassemble their homes, selling the iron rejas, the beams, lintels and woodwork. There would have been no chance to sell the house, no takers. An abandoned home in those days was a ruin open to the elements.
The artists came during that decade, a group from Almería who called themselves 'Los Indalianos', after the Almerian Saint Indalecio. They found a local totem here, the little Mojácar man, an inspiration to any self-respecting artist, and so named it after themselves, and that's how 'El Indalo' was born. They painted portraits of the local people, paintings of the town and the sierras, and were inspired by the light, the landscape and, I think, the poverty.Their art can be seen in the Doña Pakyta museum in Almería (where the Rambla and the Paseo meet) and is well worth the visit. The Mojácar Town Hall owns no examples of the Indalianos, and has no interest in the subject. Indeed, in the museum in Almería, there is no mention of Mojácar and the 'Indalo' is credited as a totem from Vélez Blanco (yet, in the enormously detailed 27 volume Espasa Calpe encyclopedia of 1920 - there's a set at La Voz de Almería - there's no mention of 'Indalo').
Then came the foreign artists and their companions. Apart from Jacinto Alarcón, mayor during the final Franco years who gave land or ruins to those foreigners who agreed to repair of fix them, little notice was taken of these settlers who brought in the money that began to make the local people wealthy.
Today, we have a remarkably ugly 'municipal art gallery' which shows exhibitions in a desultory way. No one goes. The artists themselves have largely chosen more welcoming villages in the sierras, as these days, Mojácar prefers tourists.