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Puntos de vista - a personal Spain blog

Musings about Spain and Spanish life by Paul Whitelock, hispanophile of 40 years and now resident of Ronda in Andalucía .

Have you heard the one about the two Englishmen, the German Fräulein, the Portuguese “rock chick” and the Moroccan wine connoisseur?
Sunday, June 16, 2024

No, it’s not the lead-in to a joke! Far from it. This is the story of the people I met last Thursday, 13 June, in and around Ronda, where I live.

 

Will and Miriam

I met Will, an English writer, and Miriam, his German Lebensgefährtin, partner, at the cinema in Ronda.

Once a month Multicines Ronda shows a newly released film en versión original, usually English, with Spanish subtitles.

This Thursday we were there to see “Back to Black”, the new biopic about Amy Winehouse.

Will and Miriam live in Olvera (Cádiz). We exchanged contact details and vowed to keep in touch. We shall see!

 

 

 

 

Marilyn and Trevor

After the cinema I headed for home, but popped into my local, Hotel Ronda Valley, for a nightcap (NOT cocoa or Horlicks, but a nice cold beer – Alhambra on draught).

A couple approached the bar to pay their bill. They were clearly English, and we spoke for a while.

Marilyn and Trevor had owned a house in Montejaque, one of my stomping grounds, since 1998. They had sold it and were going to the notary the following morning to complete the sale. They were staying at the hotel.

Incredibly in over a quarter of a century our paths had never crossed, even though they seemed to know just as much about me as I know myself: my wife’s name, her house in the village, and my writings, including a controversial article I wrote last year for the local magazine “El Hacho”, as well as other musings of mine to be found on www.help-me-ronda.com and www.eyeonspain.com.

I wished them well, as they went off to bed.

 

Marta

Marta was also staying at The Ronda Valley. At first sight, we all thought: ‘Blimey! Look at her “tats” (tattoos)!’

She was covered from head to foot!

I got talking to her and discovered that she was Portuguese, 34 going on 24, a “rocker” (Yamaha 750cc), single and a hairdresser in near Lisbon.

I had breakfast/coffee with her two mornings running.

Marta was delightful! She looked good in her “tats”, and also in her biker’s gear!

 

 

 

 

 

“Ben”

The last “new” person I met that night in the Hotel Ronda Valley was “Ben”, from French-speaking Morocco. He approached me at the bar speaking English. He was doing a tour of Andalucía with his wife.

We spent a very pleasant while together, ranging over several topics, including Morocco and the best places to visit; politics in France; Spain’s president Pedro Sánchez; and muslims vis-à-vis alcohol – he is a wine-drinking follower of Islam! Good for him!

I saw “Ben” again at breakfast the following morning and we exchanged contact details with a promise that I would visit Morocco in 2025.

 

 

 

 

Footnote:

At the cinema on Thursday, I also spotted other “local” foreigners, so-called “guiris”.

There was Delphine from France, the organiser of the film evenings, and her partner Fernando from Ceuta; Fátima (Spain), a lawyer and PSOE councillor on Ronda Council, and her partner Drew, from England, a cycling guide; Ashley and Claire, English, owners of Andalucia Cycling Experience; April, English, and widow of Philip Amis, who was the brother of author Martin Amis and son of author Kingsley Amis; Philip and Susan (England via Singapore) owners of Hotel Molino de Cuatro Paradas in Benaoján; and Sheila, English, an environmental campaigner from La Indiana.

 

 

 

 

 

 

© Pablo de Ronda

 

Links:

April at the Ayuntamiento - Ronda Council pleno (eyeonspain.com)

Back to Black (2024) - FilmAffinity

Hotel Molino Cuatro Paradas | Hotel Molino Cuatro Paradas, unas vacaciones rurales cerca de Ronda en uno de los paisajes más bellos que el sur de España tiene para ofrecer (molino4paradas.com)

Hotel Ronda Valley en Ronda. Web Oficial

What is a guiri? It's what the Spanish call us foreigners - but is it good or bad? (secretserrania.com)

www.andaluciancyclingexperience.com

www.eyeonspain.com

www.help-me-ronda.com

 

Acknowledgements (Photos):

Filmaffinity

Hotel Ronda Valley

Multicines Ronda

Paul Whitelock

World Atlas

 

Tags:

Alhambra, Amy Winehouse, Andalucia Cycling Experience, April, Ashley, “Back to Black”, “Ben”, Benaoján, biker’s gear, biopic, Ceuta, Claire, cycling guide, Delphine, Drew, “El Hacho”, England, English, Englishmen, environmental campaigner, Fátima, Fernando, France, Fräulein, French-speaking Morocco, German, “guiris”, hairdresser, Hotel Molino de Cuatro Paradas, Hotel Ronda Valley, Islam, Kingsley Amis, La Indiana, Lisbon, Marilyn and Trevor, Marta, Martin Amis, Montejaque, Morocco, Multicines Ronda, muslims, Pablo de Ronda, PSOE councillor, Pedro Sánchez, Philip, Philip Amis, Portuguese, “rocker”, “rock chick”, Ronda, Ronda Council, Sheila, Spanish subtitles, Susan, “tats”, versión original, Will and Miriam, wine connoisseur, www.help-me-ronda.com, www.eyeonspain.com, Yamaha 750cc



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Ryanair one of four airlines fined for illegal charges for passengers
Saturday, June 8, 2024

By Pablo de Ronda and The Spanish Fly

 

The world’s largest and most successful low-cost airline, Ryanair, has been handed a massive fine for illegal charging of its customers. Three other budget carriers, EasyJet, Voltea and Vueling, were also fined.

 

Ryanair, the Irish airline, has been found guilty by the Spanish government of levying hand luggage charges and other irregularities, and has been handed a fine in excess of 100 million euros. The other airlines involved received lesser penalties.

FACUA, Spain’s consumer affairs watchdog, has been lobbying for the government to clamp down on these charges for six years. Their perseverance has finally paid off, although the airlines in question are likely to appeal.

Until now the highest such fine imposed was by the Junta de Andalucia on mobile phone company Movistar in 2016 for illegally raising their tariffs. That fine was a mere 6.23 million euros, although it was later reduced to 1.53 million on appeal.

For more information visit FACUA’s website at https://facua.org

 

Tags:

consumer affairs watchdog, easyJet, FACUA, Junta de Andalucia, Movistar, Pablo de Ronda, Ryanair, Spanish Fly, Spanish government, Voltea, Vueling



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Euro Elections
Thursday, June 6, 2024

By Jennie Rhodes and Paul Whitelock

Thursday 6 June 2024

 

The elections to the European Parliament start today, 6 June, and last until Sunday, 9 June, amid concerns that after the votes are counted, the Union may take a sharp step to the right. Extreme right-wing groups like the Alternative fur Deutschland (AfD) in Germany, VOX in Spain and the Partij voor de Vrijheid (PVV), Party for Freedom, in the Netherlands are just three examples.

 

Backstory

Foreign residents of the 27 member states of the EU may vote in European elections, as well as in local ones, but not in regional or national polls. This is out of order, in my opinion. We pay taxes in our country of residence, yet may not vote.

Since Brexit, surely the greatest folly known to man and proof that voters cannot be trusted to make sensible choices, British residents of EU countries may no longer vote in Euro elections. So, I say NO MORE PLEBISCITES! Why elect a government to represent you and then have referendums?

The only way for any non-EU resident from another country to vote in the general election of that EU member state, is to become a national of that country. In Spain, many have done just that since Brexit.

EU residents may either vote in the European elections in their home country or their new one.

 

Eligible to vote in Spain on Sunday

Suzanne Mastbroek is originally from the Netherlands but lived in Belgium for many years before moving to Málaga province three years ago.

She opted to vote in the Netherlands because she says: "As a resident in Spain I could also have voted here, just like last year for the municipal elections, but for now I know too little about Spanish politics to do that. Maybe next time."

Mario Blancke is originally from Belgium. He got involved in local politics in Málaga province as part of the “Save our Homes Axarquía” association to fight for the rights of owners of illegal houses.

He says he always votes "in honour of all the people who gave their lives for the right to vote."

Mario adds, "Looking back at all the problems we faced with the regional and national government, SOHA decided to fight, and we made the difference."

Helen Sijsling, a Dutch national who lives in Málaga, says that for her "it is important to vote for the EU for solutions to big problems like climate change that do not stop at a border ".

Helen explains, "My husband and I received two ways to vote, one from the Netherlands, as we are Dutch, and one from Spain as we live here."

The couple decided to vote in the Netherlands.

Nolwenn Gaudin is originally from France and lives in Málaga. She decided to vote in Spain and says: "I had the choice to register for France or Spain and living here with very few voting rights, it's important to me to vote whenever possible."

She adds, "While the EU is not exactly the dream organisation that was described at its inception, many rights, subsidies and political decisions that better our everyday life do come from it.

“So it matters to me to vote for representatives that will defend my rights and opinions at the EU Parliament."

 

 

 

How to get a Euro vote

Any citizen of an European member state wishing to vote for the European Parliament in Spain should take an original ID document (no photocopies) which can be a national identity card, passport or driving licence along to a polling station on Sunday.

For more information visit: www.elections.europa.eu/en/how-to-vote/es/

 

Some have changed nationality

Lawrence Renaudon Smith has lived in Mallorca since 1993. After Brexit he decided it was time to apply for Spanish citizenship.

"Of course I will be voting in the European elections this time. The main thing for me about having Spanish nationality is that now I am once again living in Spain as my right, like I did as an EU citizen," he explains.

David Eldridge has lived in Mallorca since 2008. He says he started the process of applying for Spanish nationality in 2019.

"Basically I didn't want my European citizenship taken away and had a way to avoid that."

"Voting is the main practical advantage, but others are slightly easier bureaucracy and much easier travel."

But he says the biggest advantage "is a psychological one. Once again, my passport reflects my European identity. Having lived in different countries including outside Europe, my number one identity is European."

 

Adrian Stone Mills and Hannah Morrish Wilson have lived in Málaga province since 2002, where they own and run a small hotel. They say:

"In the years running up to Brexit we had reached our eligible years for taking out [Spanish] nationality and it was something we had discussed but never pursued. Brexit gave us the push we needed and in 2016, after the results were declared, we started the process for ourselves and our two children.

"Now as European citizens we will be able to vote in the upcoming European elections. We have our ballot papers at the ready, the research is done and we ready to go."

***

As for me, I’ve been contemplating doing this since Brexit. I did all the research, did a sample multiple-choice exam online (I got 98% correct), and then ..... I never pursued it.

But now, I’m sick and tired of having to join the long “Outside the EU” queue at passport control, while my EU contemporaries just swan through the blue channel without hindrance.

But most important for me is having the vote. As I’ve indicated, I can currently only vote in local elections. I want to vote in all elections and have my say in the country I chose to live in over 15 years ago.

So, I shall get my application in before the end of the month.

 

Photo: Euro Weekly News

© Jennie Rhodes and Paul Whitelock

 

Further reading:

Acquiring nationality - Residence - Citizens - Your rights and obligations in the EU - Tu espacio europeo - Punto de Acceso General (administracion.gob.es)

Why can’t we have the vote? - Secret Serrania de Ronda

 

Useful links:

www.elections.europa.eu/en/how-to-vote/es/

http://www.immigrationspain.es

 

Acknowledgements:

Adrian Stone Mills

David Eldridge

Euro Weekly News

Hannah Morrish Wilson 

Helen Sijsling 

Jennie Rhodes

Lawrence Renaudon Smith

Mario Blancke

Nolwenn Gaudin

Pablo de Ronda

SUR in English

Suzanne Mastbroek

www.proz.com

 

Tags:

Adrian Stone Mills, AfD, Alternative fur Deutschland, Belgium, Brexit, David Eldridge, driving licence, Dutch national, Election, Europe, European citizen, European election, EU, European Parliament, European Union, Euro Weekly News, France, general election, Germany, Hannah Morrish Wilson, Helen Sijsling, Jennie Rhodes, Lawrence Renaudon Smith, Málaga province, Mallorca, Mario Blancke, national identity card, Netherlands, Nolwenn Gaudin, non-EU resident, Pablo de Ronda, PVV, Partij voor de Vrijheid, Party for Freedom, passport, Paul Whitelock, “Save our Homes Axarquía”, Spain, Spanish citizenship, SUR in English, Suzanne Mastbroek, UK, vote, VOX, www.proz.com



Like 0        Published at 7:37 AM   Comments (3)


What happened to Monday nights? “Guiri night.”
Monday, May 13, 2024

My local, the Hotel Don Benito, on the Seville Road just outside Ronda is a place where Monday is official “Guiri night”. The Hotel has been renamed twice in the last few years; first of all La Posada de Ronda, and subsequently Hotel Ronda Valley. Did the Portuguese owners realise that this was such a clever naming, especially for Welsh people, or indeed any British folk? (If you don’t understand what I’m talking about, all will be revealed at the end of this article.)

Anyway, all we locals, Spanish and foreigner alike, still call it the Don Benito.

 

“Guiri night”

The numbers “attending” fluctuate. I have known as many as 20 to be there. A couple of weeks ago there were 12 of us: four English, two Scots, one Welshman, one Irishman, one Hungarian, one German and two Anglo/Spaniards. Last Monday, however, I was the only guiri in evidence.

Of the usual crew, several were away. One family of five plus selected friends went to Lisbon, Portugal, to celebrate a 60th birthday; a married couple were away on the Costa del Sol for a few days, getting their holiday rental ready for the coming season.

No problem. I know the local andalucesfarmers, agricultural workers, vineyard workers, builders, a car mechanic, a restaurant owner – so there’s no shortage of conversation. But, it’s nice to catch up with other guiris occasionally, if only to get a bit of English practice. At home, we speak German, and the rest of the time, out and about, I speak Spanish.

I wonder who’ll be there tonight …..?*

 

 

 

 

Note:

The name of the hotel featured in the article, Ronda Valley, is reminiscent of the Rhondda Valley in South Wales. This half-Welsh author finds it funny, in any case. So much so that he wrote these two articles in 2022 and 2023:

Another - new – Ronda Valley (eyeonspain.com)

The other "Ronda valley" (eyeonspain.com)

 

*PS:

I wrote this on Monday 13 May 2024. So “tonight”, ie Monday has now happened. How many guiris were there?

Nine! : 5 English, 1 Scottish, 1 Welsh, 1 Irish, 1 Hungarian

 

© Pablo de Ronda

 

Tags:

andaluces, Anglo/Spaniard, British, Don Benito, English, German, guiri, “Guiri night”, Hungarian, Irish, Irishman, Lisbon, Pablo de Ronda, Portugal, Posada de Ronda, Rhondda Valley, Ronda Valley, Scot, Scottish, Spanish, Welsh, Welshman

© Pablo de Ronda

 

Photos by Paul Whitelock

 

Tags:

agricultural workers, andaluces, Anglo/Spaniard, British, builders, car mechanic, Don Benito, English, farmers, German, guiri, “Guiri night”, Hungarian, Irishman, Lisbon, Pablo de Ronda, Portugal, Posada de  Ronda, restaurant owner, Rhondda Valley, Ronda Valley, Scot, Spanish, vineyard workers, Welsh, Welshman



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April at the Ayuntamiento - Ronda Council pleno
Sunday, May 12, 2024

In my last job before retirement in the UK,  I was obliged to attend council meetings from time to time. As a senior education adviser for Sefton Council (Merseyside), if the topic had something to do with my areas of responsibility, eg one of my schools, modern foreign languages, European matters, I needed to attend to offer expert advice to the elected members.

 

I also attended council meetings in a personal capacity in Warrington (Cheshire); once when there was a proposal to build a housing estate on green belt land in the village of Thelwall, where I lived (we were successful in fighting that off) and a second time when there was a proposal to amalgamate the separate infant and junior schools in the village into a single primary school. I was a governor at both schools and had a child in each (we won that battle too).

I had never attended a council meeting in Spain ….. until last Monday.

 

The April “pleno” of Ronda Council

I was asked to represent The Olive Press newspaper at this meeting to report on proceedings concerning a controversial plan to site a massive rubbish disposal/treatment unit on green belt land adjacent to a via pecuaria (drovers’ path).

This agenda item was scheduled for the end of the meeting, around 12 noon. An action group against the plan was intending to be there for that, and to mount a demonstration outside the Town Hall.

However, there were a number of other agenda items of interest to me personally, so I decided to attend the whole meeting starting at 10.00 am.

 

Topics

Other matters, which were discussed and voted through included:

  • Keeping the Puente Nuevo open (the opposition party, PSOE, had proposed its closure).
  • The proposed Car Park on protected land in Barrio San Francisco was confirmed.                                
  • The proposed Palacio de Deportes near the Recinto Ferial was confirmed.
  • The Escuela de Enfermería will go ahead.

The proposed waste treatment plant was next on the agenda.

 

The environmental outrage

You can read more about this in the current issue of The Olive Press newspaper (published on Thursday 2 May 2024).

I was asked by the OP’s editor, Jon Clarke, to represent this free campaigning newspaper, and write an article for him. Since I was going to the meeting in any case, I agreed.

As it turned out I was the only Press person present. The other free English-language newspapers published in Andalucia, SUR in English and the Euro Weekly News, were seemingly not interested in covering this environmental story.

Nor were the local and regional Spanish Press at the meeting. Ronda Semanal and Diario Sur were conspicuous by their absence.

When this item came up, the demonstrators outside entered the public gallery and were invited to make representations by the mayor, Mari-Paz Fernandez, who was chairing the meeting.

Three residents of La Indiana, the area in question, made impassioned pleas against the plan.

Manuela León, born and bred opposite where the company, Plant Rent Hire SL, wants to build the giant waste processing plant, by the River Guadalcobacín, said in an impassioned statement that the plans should be thrown out: “This is virgin countryside which will be ruined by this development.”

She added: “I am sure much toxic material will end up in the river, which flows into the River Guadiaro and then to the coast and into the Mediterranean.”

María Mena, a resident and livestock farmer, made a lengthy and emotional speech: “It’s all very upsetting. How can they consider destroying the local environment in this way?”

Paco X, a resident farmer, was outraged. He spoke briefly but emphatically against the proposal. When the discussion returned to the local councillors, he interrupted twice before storming out of the chamber.

In summary, Mari-Paz Fernández, claimed that her hands were tied.

“If the proposal meets the conditions of the law as it stands, I, as mayor, am obliged to sign it off, whether I agree with it or not. I would be deemed guilty of prevarication and subject to prosecution.”

Fernández urged objectors to submit alegaciones (written objections) before the end of April.

The council meeting paused for a comfort break, and I interviewed two councillors, Alicia López (PP), and Fátima Fernández González (PSOE).

I asked López about the issue of the proposed unit being adjacent to a vía pecuaria, an ancient drovers’ path dating from the Middle Ages and protected from development by environmental law.

López and I live on another vía pecuaria. “Could this happen to us?” I asked her.

“Possibly, but unlikely. Medioambiente, the environmental group, would intervene, as they will do in the case of the proposed plant in La Indiana.”

Fernández González and her party, the socialist group, are firmly against the proposal. Yet she told me:

“The mayor is right. If the applicant complies with the legal requirements in place, the politicians must pass it, or risk sanction.”

So, that was it. The council meeting resumed, and the objectors dispersed. We await further developments.

 

Conclusion

My first Spanish council meeting was not dissimilar to all those I attended in England a quarter of a century ago. Formulaic, turgid and pretty boring. Democracy at work.

Yet absolutely necessary if there are controversial proposals which impact upon citizens and their lives under discussion.

 

© Pablo de Ronda

 

Acknowledgements (Photos):

Diario Ronda

Paul Whitelock

The Olive Press

 

Tags:

alegaciones, Alicia López, Ayuntamiento de Ronda, Barrio San Francisco, council meeting, Diario Sur, Escuela de Enfermería, Euro Weekly News, Fátima Fernández González, La Indiana, Manuela León, María Mena, Mari-Paz Fernández, Medioambiente, Mediterranean, Olive Press, Pablo de Ronda, Palacio de Deportes, PP, PSOE, Plant Rent Hire SL, pleno, Puente Nuevo, Recinto Ferial, River Guadalcobacín,  River Guadiaro, Ronda, Ronda Semanal, Sefton Council, SUR in English, Thelwall, vía pecuaria, Warrington, waste disposal plant

 



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Michael Portillo – From political hate figure to cuddly presenter
Wednesday, April 24, 2024

By Paul Whitelock

24 April 2024

In the UK General Election of 1997, I well remember the TV coverage of the result in the Enfield Southgate constituency in the 1997 general election, at around 3:10am on 2 May 1997. The Labour Party candidate Stephen Twigg defeated the sitting MP, Defence Secretary in the Thatcher and Major governments, Michael Portillo. The thunderous look on Portillo’s face was wonderful to behold. Had there ever been such an obnoxious politician? 

 

Introduction

From villain to saint, from zero to hero; has there ever been such a dramatic conversion in the history of mankind? Saul to Paul on the Road to Damascus comes close, I guess.

Michael Portillo, the epitome of a right-wing nasty politician, this son of a Spanish republican in exile from his homeland and a Scottish mother, has transformed himself into a well-liked travel presenter and occasional benign political commentator.

Nowadays Miguel Portillo lives in Carmona near Sevilla in Andalucía. He is a fluent Spanish speaker and has returned to live in the country of his father’s birth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The politician

Michael Denzil Xavier Portillo, known on his passport as Miguel Portillo y Blyth, was born in Bushy, Hertfordshire, in 1953 (currently aged 70) and was first elected to the House of Commons as an MP in 1984

He became Chief Secretary to the Treasury under Margaret Thatcher and subsequently Employment Secretary. He was Defence Secretary in John Major’s government following the demise of “The Iron Lady”.

He was forthright and controversial and not popular, but he was a Tory in a safe seat, the Enfield Southgate constituency. Until 1997 when he and most of the nation were “gobsmacked” when he was ousted by Labour candidate Stephen Twigg. Nobody saw that coming.

 

The “train guy”

He got a gig as the presenter of a travel programme using the train network, first in the UK and then abroad. There is a memorable programme where he travels on the Al Andalus Express and calls in on Ronda, the town where I have lived for over 15 years.

He has now moved on to be host of a new TV programme called 'Andalucía con Michael Portillo', a production by AMC Networks International in which he tours southern Spain, now his home.

 

 

 

The “old” life

After starring, at the age of six, in a TV commercial for the drink Ribena, Michael Portillo obtained a first class degree in history from the University of Cambridge. He began his working life as a graduate trainee with the transport company Ocean Group plc, before joining the Conservative Research Department in 1976. 

First elected to the House of Commons in 1984, Portillo served as a junior minister under both Margaret Thatcher and John Major, before entering the Cabinet in 1992 as Chief Secretary to the Treasury.

He was promoted to Secretary of State for Employment in 1994.

A Thatcherite and a Eurosceptic, he was seen as a likely challenger to Major during the 1995 Conservative Leadership election, but did not stand, and, as a reward, was subsequently promoted to Secretary of State for Defence.

Portillo unexpectedly lost the hitherto safe Conservative Enfield Southgate seat at the 1997 general election. This led to the coining of the expression "Portillo moment".

Returning to the Commons in the 1999 by-election in Kensington and Chelsea, Portillo rejoined the frontbench as Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Standing for the leadership of the party in 2001, he came third behind Iain Duncan Smith and Kenneth Clarke.

He retired from the House of Commons and from active politics at the 2005 general election.

His membership of the Conservative Party has since lapsed.

His high profile led to constant attention from the media, including Private Eye, which mockingly referred to him as "Portaloo".

 

A New Life

Now living in Carmona, near Sevilla, Portillo has fashioned a new life. He is a well-respected travel presenter. In an interview given to journalist Rosa Palo of Diario Sur, published on Sunday 21 April 2024, he talks of his two lives, first as a politician and then as a TV presenter.

He reminisces about his father, Luis Gabriel Portillo, a republican politician in Spain, who sought exile in the UK as Franco came to power in the 1939.

He also talks about his new television venture 'Andalucía con Michael Portillo', a production for Spanish TV in which he tours southern Spain.

Fluent in Spanish he now lives in Carmona and enjoys his time with local friends. He plans to stay put when he retires.

“Me encanta la vida que tengo y no puedo pensar en variarla,” he says in his perfect Spanish. (I love the life I have and cannot imagine changing it).

 

© Paul Whitelock

 

Acknowledgements:

A1 Translations

Diario Sur

Rosa Palo

Wikipedia

 

Tags:

1997 general election, A1 Translations, Andalucia, 'Andalucía con Michael Portillo’, Cambridge, Carmona, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Commons, Diario Sur, Enfield Southgate,  Eurosceptic, House of Commons, John Major, Kensington and Chelsea, Luis Portillo, Margaret Thatcher, Michael Portillo, Ocean Group plc, Paul Whitelock, Peterhouse, “Portaloo” "Portillo moment", Private Eye, Ribena, Ronda, Rosa Palo, Secretary of State for Defence, Secretary of State for Employment, Stephen Twigg, Thatcherite, “The Iron Lady”, Wikipedia



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Montejaque “gets the bird” (festival)
Tuesday, April 23, 2024

By Paul Whitelock

Tuesday 23 April 2024

For the first time the small village of Montejaque (Málaga – pop. 980) has played host to the Andalucia Bird Festival.

Over the course of three days last weekend, the festival offered talks, walks and so much more in the Centro de Deportes of this village in the Serrania de Ronda on the edge of the Sierra de Grazalema.

This area is on the migration route of hundreds of bird species, many of them quite rare.

 

Pre-amble

With wide coverage in the local, regional and national press, the organisers, including Englishman Peter Jones, president of the Andalucia Birdwatching Society, and long-time resident of the area, were delighted.

Here are some translated extracts from Ronda-based journalist Vanessa Melgar’s recent article In regional newspaper SUR. Vanessa also writes for local newspaper Ronda Semanal.

 

Andalucía Bird Festival 2024

Montejaque was the epicentre of ornithology this past weekend. This small town in the Guadiaro valley, in the Serranía de Ronda, is one of the best places for birdwatching, an activity with an increasing number of enthusiasts, both nationally and internationally.

Montejaque celebrated for the first time its Andalucía Bird Festival and hopes it will become a regular feature and a benchmark of this important sector.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Friday 19 April

On Friday, the festival was inaugurated by Patricia Navarro, the delegate of the Andalusian Government in Málaga; José Antonio Víquez, the delegate for the Environment; Cristóbal Ortega and María del Carmen Martínez, the provincial deputies for the Environment and Economy respectively; and Diego Sánchez, the mayor of Montejaque. Also present were, among others, Alfredo Carrasco, a specialist ornithology guide and head of the company Nature Tours Andalucía and the afore-mentioned Peter Jones, both heavily involved in the organisation of this event.

The festival ran for three days until last Sunday. The dates were chosen to coincide with the migratory passage of birds from Europe to Africa, flying over Montejaque and the Serranía de Ronda to the Strait of Gibraltar.

The festival comprised a range of activities including conferences, exhibitions, workshops, ringing birds, making nest boxes and field trips.

"The conservation of natural heritage is in itself a gold mine of development and the fight against depopulation," said Navarro, while highlighting the need to support ornithological tourism.

"It is an activity that has aroused great interest in the last two decades with a type of visitor aware of nature conservation.”

In the province of Málaga you can observe around 300 species of birds, an attraction that attracts hundreds of tourists, especially foreigners mainly British, with an average age of 50 years, also interested in the flora and the rest of the fauna in general.

The best times to enjoy this activity are autumn and spring. The most common species are vultures and flamingoes. The province also has wetlands that are nesting points.

In and around Montejaque it is possible to see the wheatear, the crested lark, the stonechat, the booted eagle and also the rare and much sought-after Bonelli's eagle.

 

 

 

 

Saturday 20 April

On Day 2 of the festival, Saturday, the programme started with a route, which allowed observation of birds in the surroundings of El Pantanillo and concluded in the evening with another walk in the surroundings of the Cueva del Hundidero and the Presa de los Caballeros.

There were also presentations by Jacinto Segura, Stewart Finlayson, Keith Bensusan, Antonio Román-Muñoz and Jesús Pinilla. There was also a children's workshop of crafts, drawings and face-painting.

 

Sunday 21 April

On Sunday, the event continued with a bird-ringing workshop in the morning and another route through the area of the Cueva del Hundidero and the Presa de los Caballeros; a children's workshop on making nest boxes; the award ceremony of a photography contest and discussions led by Tim Appleton, director of the Global Bird Fair-UK; Miguel González and Eva Bratek, herself a former resident of Montejaque. After that the documentary film Aguilucha: The Indomitable Spirit was presented.

The Festival concluded with another observation walk through El Pantanillo.

 

Conclusion

As a resident of Montejaque for many years, I commend mayor Diego Sánchez and his team, for their efforts in boosting the tourism profile of the town.

This festival is just one of the many projects which have been introduced over the years to enhance the offer. Two new car parks, the Mirador, the Caminito and the current project to turn the abandoned Guardia Civil barracks into a hostal for walkers are just some of the steps that have been taken.

Montejaque looks forward to hosting the second Andalucia Bird Festival in 2025.

A round of applause to Peter Jones and Alfredo Carrasco for their enthusiasm and involvement in this inaugural event; to the regional politicians for their support; as well as to guests Tim Appleton, Miguel González and Eva Bratek for their contributions.

 

© Paul Whitelock 2024

 

Acknowledgements:

Alfredo Carrasco

Andalucia Birdwatching Society

Ayuntamiento de Montejaque

Diario Sur

Karl Smallman (main photo)

Peter Jones

Vanessa Melgar

Wikipedia

www.andalucialive.com (photo)

 

Further reading:

Birds of Andalucia (quarterly magazine published by the Andalucia Bird Society)

El Sistema Hundidero-Gato by Manu Guerrero Sanchez [Editorial La Serrania]

Las aves de la Serrania de Ronda [Editorial La Serrania]

Sierra de Grazalema (Map and Guidebook) [Editorial Penibética]

The Cookbook and Village Guide (El Libro de Cocina y Guia del Pueblo) by Carolyn Emmett [self-published]

Valle del Guadiaro by Manuel Becerra Parra [Editorial La Serrania]

Walking in Andalucia by Guy Hunter-Watts [Cicerone Press]

Walking in the Ronda Mountains by Tony Bishop and Eva Bratek [Editorial La Serrania]

 

Tags:

Aguilucha: The Indomitable Spirit, Alfredo Carrasco, Andalucia Bird Festival, Andalucia Birdwatching Society, Antonio Román-Muñoz, award ceremony, Ayuntamiento de Montejaque, Caminito, Carolyn Emmett, children's workshop, Cicerone Press, Cueva del Hundidero, Diario Sur, Diego Sánchez, Editorial La Serrania, Editorial Penibética, El Libro de Cocina y Guia del Pueblo, El Pantanillo, El Sistema Hundidero-Gato, Eva Bratek, Global Bird Fair-UK, Guardia Civil barracks, Guy Hunter-Watts, Jacinto Segura, Jesús Pinilla, Keith Bensusan, Las aves de la Serrania de Ronda, Manuel Becerra Parra, Manu Guerrero Sánchez, Miguel González, Mirador, Montejaque, nest boxes, ornithology, Paul Whitelock, Peter Jones, photography contest, Presa de los Caballeros, Ronda Semanal, Sierra de Grazalema, Stewart Finlayson, SUR, The Cookbook and Village Guide, Tim Appleton, Tony Bishop, Valle del Guadiaro, Vanessa Melgar, Walking in Andalucia, Walking in the Ronda Mountains, Wikipedia



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ST GEORGE’S DAY – APRIL 23
Tuesday, April 23, 2024

By The Crazy Guy

St George, a military saint, is famous for slaying a fierce dragon, which was causing panic in the city of Silene, Libya, at the time that George arrived there. Historically, the countries of England, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, Ukraine, Malta, Ethiopia, as well as the regions of Catalonia and Aragon in Spain, and Moscow, the capital of Russia, have claimed George as their patron saint.

 

 

"My" St George

St George is also the nickname I’ve given to my builder, and now good friend, Jorge. This 51-year-old gallego, born in the same town, El Ferrol, as the infamous Spanish dictator Franco, who ruled over Spain for 36 years, following  the Spanish Civil War, first entered my life in 2020.

I’ve used a few builders in my time, both in the UK and in Spain, but they’ve usually disappointed. Not Jorge. He is outstanding in every respect.

When he first showed up in Summer 2020 to dig me a ditch, I thought this quiet little man with the goatee beard was just a peón (labourer). He didn’t say much, just got on with the job and did it to my satisfaction.

I asked whether he could paint all my iron gates and fences. He did that conscientiously over the next few days, rubbing the metal down properly and wire-brushing the rusty bits before applying Hammerite.

I asked if he could lay bricks and render and finish off with capa fina so you couldn’t see the join.

“¡Soy albañil, coño!” was his slightly miffed reply.

Did he like gardening? Over that post-Covid period he has felled and pruned trees, built raised beds, constructed a superb jardinera on our private terrace and moved two cubas of topsoil from where it was dropped on the road outside my house into the garden to improve my very clay-y soil.

Electrical work? He installed an exterior socket for me in no time at all. At the house I am renovating in Montejaque he cut all the channels in the walls and ceilings for the re-wire and installed the cajetines, sockets and switches.

He has knocked down walls, built walls, replaced the rotten wooden beams in the kitchen ceiling with concrete ones, without the room above collapsing on top of us.

He re-did two roofs.

He doesn’t like carpentry, but he has hung new doors and installed windows. They’re perfect.

He even changed the wheel on my car when I had a puncture, something he had never done in his life.

What he doesn’t like is water. He won’t do plumbing, so José, my other albañil, or I do that.

In fact, he hates water so much, he left damp and rainy Galicia at the age of 17 to come and join the Spanish Foreign Legion in Ronda, looking for a better climate.

After his 15 years’ service as a legionario, he stayed in the area, re-trained as a chef and later as an albañil (bricklayer).

Jorge has told others that I am his guiri friend, which makes me feel good, because I like him a lot too.

He even used to baby-sit my dog, Berti, on occasion, including overnight. Berti was sadly run over and killed. The guy truly is a saint.

He is quite fiery and very opinionated. He is well-informed and has, as far as he is concerned, valid views about what he sees as the disastrous politics of Spain. He is a huge fan of his hometown “brother”, Francisco Franco. As a confirmed liberal democrat/socialist, I disagree with him entirely, of course. As a point of fact, Spain has one of the fastest-growing economies in the world, right now.

The saints George and Paul having a drink after work

As for my reforma, if he disagrees with what I want to do, he says so. The guy has style. He has come up with some much better ideas and solutions to problems than I have.

I’m the boss, as I pay the bills, but he’s the jefe really.

Jorge does not drive, so I have to collect him and take him home. He doesn’t like my driving.

“He sobrevivido cinco guerras; no quiero morir en un accidente de tráfico. Más despacio, coño, porfa.”

“I’ve fought in five wars (the Gulf – twice, Afghanistan, the Balkans and Iraq) and I’ve survived. I don’t want to die in a banal road accident. Will you please slow down.” 

Fair enough. That’s San Jorge.

He no longer works for me as he has found permanent employment with a building company, and my obra is done, so I don’t need him. We occasionally bump into each other at my local and we have a good chinwag, avoiding politics, of course!

 

Note: The real St George, patron saint of England, and Spain’s dragon slayer, also have stories behind their legends. I just thought my St George is a more interesting character and, if you want to find out about him, you can’t look him up on Wikipedia.

 

© The Crazy Guy

 

Acknowledgements:

Karl Smallman

Paul Whitelock

Secret Serrania

Wikipedia

 

Tags:

Afghanistan, albañil, April 23, Aragón, Balkans, Berti, Bosnia and Herzegovina, carpentry, Catalonia, chef, Crazy Guy, cuba, electrical work, El Ferrol, England, Ethiopia, Foreign Legion, Francisco Franco, Franco, Galicia, gallego, George, Georgia, guiri, Gulf, Hammerite, Iraq, jardinera, Jorge, José, Karl Smallman, labourer, legionario, liberal democrat, Libya, Malta, Montejaque, Moscow, Paul Whitelock, peón, Ronda, St George, St George’s Day, San Jorge, Secret Serrania, Silene, socialist, Spain, Spanish Civil War, Spanish Foreign Legion



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My temporary office
Sunday, April 7, 2024

My daughter and two grandsons arrived from England late last night to spend a week with us here in Ronda.

Amy, Felix and Jude flew from Stansted to Malaga, where I picked them up.

We had spent the last few days getting our house, garden and pool tidied up ready for their arrival.

                                                                                                                                             

                                                                                                                                                 Photo : Jeryl Whitelock-Burgess

Busy, busy

I cleaned the pool and tried it out a few times (Brrr! Just 15C!). I tidied up the garden and the playground which two friends and I created a couple of years ago for our eight grandchildren to use when they visit. I also created a new “secret garden” (a private seating area with loungers and a sun umbrella) at the back of our large plot with fruit bushes, plants, and a barbecue.

And I planted more fruit trees in the adjacent huerto to complete my orchard.

 

                                                                                                                                    Photo: iStock

 

In the house I had to vacate the “office”, or study, which doubles as our third bedroom when we have visitors. Out came the two single beds for Felix and Jude, while Amy had the main guest bedroom to herself.

So, I moved my computer to our “entrance lobby” off the dining room. It’s not used as an entrance as we blocked up the front door and use the back door as our main entrance.

 

 

 

 

My temporary office

This “vestibule” is rather pleasant, if we say so ourselves. The furniture is antique. The restored desk is by Gillow and worth a lot of money. Crafted in the early 20th century before Mr Gillow got together with Mr Waring to establish an upmarket furniture chain in the UK, Waring and Gillow, sadly no longer.

That is where I am sitting writing this piece.

Pride of place on this piece of oak furniture with leather inlay is a pre-World-War-Two wooden clock on top of which sit three elephants from my extensive collection of said creatures. To the right is an antique desk-top fan, which works if needed, eg in the summer. The rest of the desk is covered with family photos which have been shoved to the back to make space for me to work.

 

Family photos

This is a true family archive spanning four generations. There are wedding photos of my mum and dad, Jack and Vera Whitelock (1948), of Rita and me (2010) and of Tom, my son, and Su (2018). Also, a wedding photograph featuring our extended family.

Jack and Vera Whitelock (1948, UK)       Rita and Paul Whitelock (2010, Germany)   Su and Tom Austin-Whitelock (2018, UK)

 

There are old photos of the Drechslers, Rita’s family, with her mum Elisabeth, and four siblings (Rita is a cheeky-looking five-year-old), Birgid, Karin, Horst, and Irmhild. Missing from the photo is Friedrich, dad, who died when the children were small. Karin later died young, aged 26, following a botched routine hospital operation.

Also, a photo of Rita’s two surviving sisters, Birgid and Irmhild, and their husbands, Uwe and Egon.

 

   The Drechslers from Oesterholz (NRW)                                                 The Brinkmanns and the Goehmanns

 

On the desk is also a nice photo of Rita with younger son, Jojo (Jonathan).

 

As for my side of the family, apart from the ones already mentioned, there’s a nice photo of me and my mum, Vera (then aged 92), taken outside Maulbronn Abbey where we got married. Yes, despite her age and being in a wheelchair, Vera made it to our wedding in Germany.

There’s a photo of me and Rita taken at Restaurante Molino del Santo in Estacion de Benaojan, where we were celebrating a wedding anniversary; of Felix and Jude with a gorilla at Fuengirola Zoo; Felix’ first school photo and another photo of Felix and Jude; Amy and Tom as teenagers in our garden in Thelwall, Cheshire, and that’s it.

 

The rest of this lobby area features a restored wooden hallstand, a metre-high oak cakestand, an oak dining chair and a large painting on an easel, which I bought from Venta El Puente, La Indiana, where it was on display.

On the walls there are two pictures of tramps in old oak frames and a framed poem, called ‘The Art of Marriage’ by Wilferd A Peterson, which was read at our wedding by my best man, brother Simon.

As I sit here writing this, all is peaceful. It’s Saturday 7.30 am and the others are still asleep. I shall conclude this now and go and make a second cup of tea. I’m English and old habits die hard!

Have a good day!

 

 

 

PS. It’s my brother Simon’s 71st birthday today. Congratulations, bruv!

 

© Pablo de Ronda

 

Photos:

Paul Whitelock, unless labelled otherwise .

 

Tags:

Amy, Art of Marriage, barbecue, Birgid, Cheshire, Drechsler, Egon, Elisabeth,  Estación de Benaoján, entrance lobby, Felix, fruit bushes, fruit trees, Fuengirola Zoo, garden, Gillow, Horst,  huerto,  Irmhild, Jack, Jojo, Jonathan, Jude, Karin, La Indiana, Maulbronn Abbey, Molino del Santo, oak furniture, office, orchard, Pablo de Ronda, plants, playground, pre-World War Two wooden clock, Rita, Ronda, secret garden, Simon, study, Su, temporary office, Thelwall, Tom, Uwe, Venta El Puente, Vera, vestibule, Waring, Waring and Gillow, Whitelock, Wilferd A Peterson



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“The Good Life” (Andalusian style)
Thursday, April 4, 2024

Do you remember the classic BBC Television comedy series starring Richard Briers as Tom, Felicity Kendall as Barbara, with “posh” neighbours Paul Eddington as Jerry and Penelope Keith as Margo?

                                                                                                     

                                                                                                               Photo: BBC

It was about a couple, Tom and Barbara Good, trying to be self-sufficient by growing their own fruit and veg and having chickens for eggs. Their neighbours, Margo and Jerry Leadbetter, were of a different opinion.

 

“The Good Life” (Andalusian style)

Well, I reckon my German wife, Rita, and I are close to living our own version of the good life.

We live in the country and have a large garden and an additional field of one hectare (10,000 m2).

The garden is well laid out, thanks to our predecessors, the Bradleys. There are bushes of various kinds which give us colour all year round. There are roses of all hues, oleanders, bougainvilleas, Pfeifenputzer (bottle brushes), climbers, honeysuckle, cherry trees, heather, daisies, aloe vera, cactus and much, much more.

In the nearest part of our large field, I have allowed our gardener, Rafael, to use a 150 m2 area as a huerto. There he grows a variety of vegetables on a grand scale.

 

 

 

     Villa Indiana [Photo courtesy of A1 Inmobiliaria]

 

We also have a small orchard here with some 20 fruit trees and bushes ranging from almond, apple, apricot, blackberry, blackcurrant, cherry, gooseberry, lemon, mandarin orange, mirabelle, pear, plum, quince, raspberry (red and yellow varieties), redcurrant.

Near the house I have reclaimed several areas of lawn which had little or no grass, added topsoil, free from a local restaurant, enriched the earth, and planted vegetables with varying degrees of success.

 

 

 

Tomatoes and runner beans have failed consistently, but this year I have a bumper crop of mangetout peas, several kinds of lettuce, onions and broccoli. The broad beans are looking promising and I’m still waiting for artichokes and brussels sprouts.

It's only early April; too soon to plant potatoes, cucumbers and some other crops.

In addition, Rafael, a green-fingered Spanish guy if I ever I saw one, provides us with a supply of tomatoes, courgettes (green and yellow), cucumbers, squashes of various kinds, whatever he grows, throughout the summer.

Neighbours also occasionally give us produce.

 

No chickens

Unlike Tom and Barbara Good we don’t keep chickens. Yet we get a regular supply of farm-fresh eggs from our next-door-but-one-neighbour Mercedes. Free-of-charge. We reckon it’s a kind of “rent” for the use of a corner of our field by her house, which she has turned into a huerto of her own.

If her chickens aren’t laying we can buy eggs from another neighbour further up the lane, Pepi. Two euros for a dozen! Amazing! Her husband, Juan, already in his 80s, is also an industrial scale gardener and sporadically gives us produce such as cabbages and lettuce.     

   

                                                                                                                     Photo: Britannica

 

Our good life

And just like the TV comedy, The Good Life, our situation is also a bundle of laughs. 

Both long retired, we have the time, if not always the energy, to live this kind of good life. It's fairly inexpensive; we just need to pay for the odd packet of seeds or some seedlings, the occasional fruit tree and sacks of compost to augment my own two compost heaps (one aerobic and one anaerobic).

Most of our produce is free, or based on a kind of barter system.

 

Latest project

An area in the back left corner of our garden has been a dumping ground for plant pots, reclaimed wood, eg pallets, rubble and goodness knows what. I am currently turning it into a "Secret Garden", a tidy sitting area with plants, shrubs and an almond tree. There are sunloungers, a sun umbrella and a table and chairs. Oh, and a barbecue.

Located behind our pumphouse (for the well), and shaded from the next-door property by a hedge, it is very private.

There is also electricity available, for power tools and for lighting, should we wish to sit there in the late evening.

 

Conclusion

"The Good Life" English-style or our good life in Andalusia, well, it's all much the same, I reckon.

***

All photos by Paul Whitelock, unless otherwise indicated.

 

Interesting links:

Working for free? Why? Er… why not? - Secret Serrania de Ronda

Working for free? Why? Er… why not? Part 2. (eyeonspain.com)

 

© Pablo de Ronda

 

Acknowledgements:

A1 Inmobiliaria

Britannica

BBC

Eye on Spain

Karl Smallman

Paul Whitelock

Secret Serrania

 

Tags:

almond, almond tree, aloe vera, apple, apricot,  BBC, Barbara Good, barbecue, barter system, blackberry, blackcurrant, bottle brushes, bougainvilleas, cabbages, cactus, cherry, climbers, compost, cherry trees, chickens, electricity, daisies, Eye on Spain, farm-fresh eggs, Felicity Kendall, fruit tree, Good, gooseberry, green-fingered, heather, hectare, honeysuckle, huerto, industrial scale gardener, Jerry Leadbetter, Juan, Karl Smallman,  lemon, lettuce, lighting, mandarin orange, Margo Leadbetter, Mercedes, mirabelle, oleanders, orchard, Pablo de Ronda, pallets, Paul Eddington, pear, Penelope Keith, Pepi, Pfeifenputzer,  plant pots, plants, plum, power tools, pumphouse, quince, Rafael, raspberry, redcurrant, Richard Briers, reclaimed wood, roses, rubble, "Secret Garden", Secret Serrania, seedlings, seeds,  shrubs, sitting area, sunloungers, sun umbrella, The Good Life, Tom Good



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