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Spanish Shilling

Some stories and experiences after a lifetime spent in Spain

Spanish Warming (Written Just Before a Cooling Rainstorm)
Wednesday, June 22, 2022

It’s getting hotter each time around, and worse still, it’s getting hotter earlier.

This may be because I’m becoming older, and it’s just a subjective opinion, or it could be that the meteorologists, climate scientists and environmentalists are right: global warming is occurring and, on first impression, that’s not good.

The record high temperatures reported this year at the poles must be a concern. All that ice melting into the sea can only mean that, sooner or later, the coastal cities are in for a nasty shock. It’s starting already with Venice, and perhaps we have seen those mock-ups of London, the Netherlands or Seville under water.

And really and for true, using less shower-water; or putting the plastic bottles in the right-coloured trash-container; or cutting out the inconsiderate use of ear-wipes, are all very commendable things to do, but at the same time – it won’t make an atom of difference. The major polluters: the oil companies, plastic container-users, the coal burners, the cruise ships, those who chop down the forests and those who sell us the SUVs – none of them will slow down their drive for profits – even if it kills them.

Recycling – the great panacea to our industry-encouraged over-consumption – is more of a chimera that a reality. Did you see that mountain of unsold clothing dumped in Chile? Did you think that plastic can be melted down and used again? The Chinese don’t want our old plastic bottles or the sun-bleached sheets from the invernaderos anymore. How about those accidental fires over at the vehicle and tire-dumps?

Spaniards are worried about the climate-change which they are experiencing, but they are not necessarily prepared to do much about it. No one accepts a higher tax on petrol, or to eat less meat, muchas gracias.

We put up with not getting a free shopping bag from the supermarket – as we load all of the heavily wrapped-in-plastic products we took off the shelves into a cloth-bag. Who are we fooling here?

Those of us who are older must worry for our children and those that come after. We think that they won’t have it as well as we did: even if they can afford an air-conditioning system.

This latest heat-wave we have suffered in Spain, where apparently half-cooked baby birds fell from their nests in Córdoba, is said to be nothing compared to what is coming in the years ahead.

Most of Spain is on a high-plateau. The coastal bits are relatively benign, but the inland parts of the country suffer temperature extremes. Ándujar (Jaén) has just reported a new June record for Spain, at over 44ºC. Last year’s August 14th record of 47.4ºC in Montoro (Granada) still stands for the moment.  The World Meteorological Organisation says that this heat wave just settling down now was around 10ºC hotter than the usual for this time of the year in Spain and France and furthermore, ‘was a harbinger of things to come’.

Together with the fires (another sad record in Zamora this week with 30,000 hectares burned), the polluted lagoon at el Mar Menor in Murcia and the generic desertification, we are indeed facing an uncertain future.

Summer, by the way, began on Tuesday – what we just went through, that was Spring.

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Eve and the Trippers
Thursday, June 16, 2022

I was in our local cemetery, where the foreigners at last lie in peace with their Spanish neighbours. Walking around slowly: looking out for my parents, for old friends and for people I knew. Here is the British bullfighter; there the Air-Vice Marshall. Here is my dad. There is my mum. Here's Fritz the artist, who's headstone claims he was born on November 31st, a month with only thirty days. Old Pfeiffer, whose apfelstrudel was all the rage in Vienna, is there: dead these forty years. And then I saw the stone for Eve Steinhauser, who despite her name, was an Englishwoman who worked for Horizon Holidays.

I had also worked for them, briefly, when I was 17; taking tourists round the sites (the sights) in Crete, the old Minoan Civilization. A posh accent describing the Minotaur to retired doctors, bank-managers and their wives. I was at the top end of the tour-operator's offer, a subsidiary of the holiday-company called Wings.

Eve had been sent to Mojácar by Horizon to see if it was worth bringing their holidaymakers to the small resort. Mojácar doesn't really work as a tour destination - it is a pretty village two kilometres away from the sea on a high hill, with beautiful views, and with a long coastline (for all practical purposes) of a dozen kilometres. From your hotel to wherever you wish to walk... is a long pull. There was no bus then although there was a couple of old taxis - we are in the early seventies; but there wasn't much to do after a hot walk, besides take the inevitable tour to the cowboy town in Tabernas an hour away in a coach (cue some Morricone music) or see some dodgy Flamenco in the hotel disco.

So Eve, conscious of the fact that a man who works in a toothpaste factory wants a holiday that won't stop, knew that Mojácar wasn't the right place. There was just one hotel in the village that could work and nothing of any size on the beach.

But then she met my mother.

Heather had suffered from encephalitis some years before she came with my dad and myself to Mojácar in 1966. The scars in her mind were slight, but she had no spacial memory, no recent memory, and she had somehow lost the bit that stops you from being rude to strangers.

+ One night in the bar +

Eve - I'm here to see if Mojácar is the right place for a tour operator.

Heather - Don't you f***ing dare to bring in those a***holes to our town you horrible woman.

Lenox writhing in embarrasment.

Eve would tell the story (since my mother forgot) - I had quite decided to tell Horizon against coming to Mojácar, until Heather changed my mind.

So, the company came to the village, to turn it into a resort. They bought a second hotel on the hill, a hulk which they were forced to demolish, before rebuilding it alarmingly over-budget. With the new hotel, the Moresco, and the other place above it, the Hotel Mojácar (built with public money by Roberto Puig - a Valencian who couldn't bear the thought of customers in his hotel), Horizon Holidays opened Mojácar, as my mother would say, to the f***ing trippers.

Horizon was bringing in tourists, the Mojácar people reacted accordingly. The foreign residents, who had brought in money, bought houses and opened bars, were quickly dropped in favour of the trippers. Nicknack shops opened, and Old Jacinto the mayor changed the name of the main street up to the village from the Generalísimo to Avenida Horizon.

The company, now heavily invested in Mojácar, was allowed to build another hotel, an ugly skyscraper on the far end of the beach: a twelve storey monstrosity called the Hotel Indalo. Shortly after this, as the millions of British trippers insisted on continuing to enjoy their holidays in Benidorm, several hundred kilometres up the coast, Horizon quietly went bust.

Clarksons came and went, as did other tour-companies of the era. Mojácar attempted to sell the tourists (here on a shoe-string holiday) small and squashed-together apartments. No one was buying villas any more.

With an ever-larger presence of Britons in the town, whether living here or merely visiting, it was only a matter of time before we twinned with a tourist town, and where more appropriate than Encamp, the Andorran town famous for its banking with no questions asked. The Avenida Horizon became the Avenida Encamp. The Hotel Mojacar was rebuilt as apartments, the Hotel el Moresco has been closed since 2008 (never to reopen). The Hotel Indalo along the beach is now the Hotel Best and the playa itself is now full of bars, ice cream joints and of course, an unending supply of nicknack shops selling Chinese-made goods.

Residents don't buy souvenirs, but (to employ my mother's word), trippers do.

Benidorm, meanwhile, continues to grow.

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Changes in Latitudes
Sunday, June 5, 2022

The summer hols are upon us. We shall pack our bags (or our hand-luggage if we are travelling with one of the cheapies) and jet away to somewhere warm, where we shall get drunk, have a brief romance, buy a souvenir, punch someone and be sick in a flowerbed. Perhaps we shall look wistfully at a property if there’s a rainy day, or discover to our surprise that the holiday business has become an industry.

Spain is no exception.

Ludicrous newspapers like The Express are always full of stories about why readers shouldn’t be holidaying here for one reason or another: whether it’s a limit to six drinks a day in the all-inclusive hotel, the ignominy of having to queue in the Non-EU line at the airport or the bar-staff that can’t understand you when you ask for a bacon sarnie.

The Spanish probably couldn’t care less what The Express thinks, short of a few small hoteliers who are worried that anyone is going to change their mind because of some inflammatory article about Etias visas and decide to stay for two weeks in Southend instead.

Meanwhile, Easyjet and other airlines cancel large numbers of flights from the UK for some reason or other. More queues, more anger, less time around the pool.

There are several issues of slightly more weight that worry the Brit tourist, such as the 90 / 180 day deal in the Schengen Zone, and the agony of whether a resident can use a British driving licence (both subjects sublimely ignoring the self-inflicted punch of Brexit).

Some of Spain’s destinations are crashing out of the tourist stakes – such as La Manga, which overlooks the Mar Menor: now a dying lagoon. Under extreme threat too from illegal wells is El Parque Nacional de Doñana in Cádiz.

Cruise-ships now are so large that their pollution is impossible to ignore. While they visit Barcelona giving enough time for passengers to disembark and visit a souvenir shop or two, they leave behind far more CO2 than they do travellers' cheques. The city hall says it intends to limit their numbers.

So, tourism changes: it diversifies and it evolves. Now we read that the second kind of tourism, what might be called city-visitors – is facing a crisis as China considers halting all Chinese holidays abroad. They may not be much for bucket and spade tourism, but they do appreciate a flying visit to Madrid, Granada and Barcelona to see the sights.

Better news comes from Germany, where the travel agencies are mooting the idea of sending their senior citizens en masse to Spain for the winter months to save on energy (a sensitive topic in Germany at the moment). If Spain tuned in, they could convert some of their abandoned villages into merry North European retirement centres (and get funding to pay for it).

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Could You Say that Again, Slowly?
Monday, May 30, 2022

An interesting subject here. Spain is the only country that prohibits the use of its place-names in Spanish where local versions/names occur. Mostly. 

Gerona or Girona? Sangenjo or Sanxenxo? Jávea or Xàbia? The local version often takes precedence, which is a bother if you don’t know that Iruña is another way of saying Pamplona (apparently Pampeluna in English says Wiki) or Elx is Elche. 

Or Maó is Mahón.

A few other cities have an English version (we use Seville over Sevilla and Majorca over Mallorca even if we have given up on The Corunna).

Sometimes – in the Basque country at least, they just use both – like Vitoria-Gasteiz (well, officially anyway). 

Then there are the English-language newspapers that for some reason don’t have an ‘ñ’ on their keyboards, bringing us the joys of Logrono, Peniscola and Salobrena.

And the seasonal Feliz Ano of course. 

Come to think of it, the Catalonians prefer Catalunya to Cataluña (they haven’t used the ñ since 1913).

Spain therefore bends over backwards (mostly) to accommodate regional variants – Lleida for Lérida, Eivissa for Ibiza (I mean, really!) and so on, whereas other countries just use the regular name (imagine the weather forecaster on British TV saying Caerdydd instead of Cardiff or Dùn Èideann for Edinburgh).

However, when the Spanish go abroad, it’s all Londres, Estocolmo, Nueva York and Pekín. 

Finally, how about the Galician name for Xibraltar!

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Business over Tapas
Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Each week, I send out to subscribers a news-letter about Spain. There's no fluff, no kittens and no tv listings. I think it's useful to know something of the current affairs of this great country we live in.

Here's this week's edition (if you missed it) - the links to the original material are underlined:


May 26 2022            Nº 447




It’s a subject that one would prefer to shy away from, but the Old King, Juan Carlos I of España, was briefly in his erstwhile kingdom over the past weekend. He had flown in to Vigo airport in a horribly expensive chartered jet. It was his first visit to Spain in 21 months.

He was generally given a rapturous welcome (the local daily gave him the first nine pages), and certainly so by the good folk of Sanxenxo (Pontevedra) where he went to the Club Náutico to join the regatta for the weekend. One fondly imagines that he ate mountains of caviar and drank the best champagne, but no one seems to think that such behaviour, far removed from the experience of most of his ex-subjects, was in any way inappropriate for the occasion.

And, after all, he had been in exile in Abu Dhabi for a couple of years, no doubt quietly drinking tea, weeding his garden and reading favoured bits from The Old Testament.

The journalists finally caught up with the Emeritus, and as he was setting off to Madrid on Sunday one of them thrust a microphone under the Royal nose and asked Juan Carlos what explanations he would be giving to his son. ‘About what?’ said the ex-king, as he wound up the window with a laugh.

On Monday, attention moved to the Royal Palace for what must have been a slightly frosty interview with his son – the first time they had been together in two years – followed by a luncheon (his wife Queen Sofía, just back from Miami, has tested positive for Covid and regretfully missed the meal, while Queen Letitia also decided against joining the family reunion) and then a trip to the airport with one small overnight bag (just kidding).

No press release has been issued about what went on behind the closed palace doors.

How the brief visit played with the population is down to which news-source one prefers – with everything from a clutch of flag-waving Spaniards outside the Royal Palace shouting ‘¡Viva el rey!’ on the one hand; to Alberto Garzón, the truculent leader of the Izquierda Unida, telling jounalists that ‘everyone in Spain knows he’s a crook’.

The New York Times is quoted in the Spanish media as making the point that Juan Carlos’ actions are certainly complicating the reign of Felipe VI.

Then there’s the suggestion that the Emeritus will soon be returning to Spain for another refreshing dalliance.

But, let us leave the last word with El Gran Wyoming, who has written a song to celebrate the fleeting Royal Visit.



‘British buyers snap up 20,000 homes in Spain in three months. In the Balearics 35 percent of sales are to non-Spaniards’. Headline from the Majorca Daily Bulletin here. The article begins: ‘British property buyers went on to a major buying spree in Spain during the first three months of this year, snapping up almost 20,000 homes, according to figures released last week…’ Spanish Property Insight has a similar title: ‘Foreign demand starts 2022 with strong growth’. The article brings some interesting charts of the different nationalities and ends with the remark that: ‘Whichever figures you look at, the story is the same – foreign investors are piling into Spanish property like they haven’t done since the real estate bubble year of 2007’.

From iNews here (paywall removed), we read the opposite. ‘Brexit barriers leave British communities in Spain fading away as expats put off by huge visa costs’. The article – which claims 407,000 Brits as living in Spain – says that, with some post-Brexit issues to deal with, ‘British expats find themselves grappling with a new, and in most cases, unwelcome new world’.

Helicopters are just one of the aids used by the catastro people to find our spare buildings, swimming pools and sheds. From El Confidencial here: ‘Hacienda has detected in the Region of Madrid more than 11,500 undeclared pools in its latest analysis’. It also recorded 100,000 new constructions, extensions and other buildings in the region. Even glassing in one’s terrace is a change in the structure of a dwelling, and must, of course, be reported. Understandably, it rarely is. The changes in the size of one’s built area naturally leads to increases in the annual property tax, the IBI.

Idealista News has a peculiar idea: ‘If you are tired of your home and are thinking of moving, you would be forgiven for thinking that the only option is selling your house in order to buy or rent another one. However, there's another option! House swaps are on the rise in Spain, meaning you can get your hands on another property, in most cases without any money even changing hands…’ They even list some homes where the owners want to trade away from (one can’t help but guess that there must be a hidden problem…).

Idealista is a go-to site for buying/selling property. We typed in ‘cheap home in Andalucía’, and found several houses at six thousand euros or less…).



There hasn’t been a great resignation of jobs, just a refusal to work for peanuts, says here, which claims that there are around 109,000 jobs out there that no one wants. El Mundo says that The Ministry of Labour recommends that businesses should pay their staff more if they don’t want to lose those who work long hours – like waiters and bar-staff. Directo al Paladar explains the issue here: from the bar and restaurant-owners: we wish we could pay more. From the staff: huh, they need slaves, not staff. An owner says on a TV show, quoted at 20Minutos – ‘In this business, a half day work means twelve hours’.



The polls are back again – in the event of an election today, who would you vote for? The main CIS poll gives the PSOE a small lead of 30.3%, the PP catching up with 28.7% and Vox at 16.6%. The DYM poll has the PP ahead with 28.4%, the PSOE following at 26.3% and Vox at 16%. The Simple Lógica survey gives the PP a three point lead: PP at 29.2%, the PSOE at 25.7% and Vox at 18.3%. This last survey also shows the popularity of the different political leaders – with a veritable gulf between Yolanda Díaz and Ione Belarra – the two leaders of the far-left.

Madrid’s Isabel Ayuso is still looking for the top job within the PP says here. The Party Congress this past weekend was ‘an enthronement of the new president of the PP in Madrid’ and, to help this along, says El Huff Post here, the celebration removed all memory and mention of Pablo Casado.

Alberto Nuñez Feijóo himself is aware of his party’s rise in the polls and is seeking the centre-ground says ECD here. The president of the PP says that his party will not return to the debate against the right to an abortion, so as not to play into the hands of Vox. (ECD readers are 84% horrified).

Yolanda Díaz already has a party-brand with which to begin to gather support in the process that will begin after the Andalusian elections says here. It’ll be called Sumar.  


Andalucía Elections June 19:

La Vanguardia (paywall) says The collapse of the left in 2018 and the forecasts of the polls predict a solid conservative majority on June 19’. says that ‘The PSOE must fight to regain the support of its traditional electorate in Andalucía in a campaign which the party realistically has few expectations of winning’.

The candidate for the Vox party is Magdalena Olona. Ms Olona is normally a deputy in Madrid – she comes from Alicante – but she will now stand down in the Cortes to run and work out of Seville. There was some bureaucratic fuss over her recent empadronamiento in Salobreña (Granada) as she doesn’t live there, indeed the town hall gave her warning last week, but the Electoral Board ruled on Monday that there was nothing improper and that her candidature stands. The Vox candidate promptly sued the mayoress of Salobreña for ‘the crimes of administrative and electoral prevarication’. An article at ECD here enthuses about the chances of Ms Olona becoming president of Andalucía (colour that unlikely).



‘The Court of Justice of the European Union has provisionally restored the parliamentary immunity of Catalan pro-independence MEPs Carles Puigdemont, Antoni Comín, and Clara Ponsatí’. Found at Catalan News here.

‘The Spanish Supreme Court has reversed its decision to uphold the pardons for the formerly jailed independence leaders. On Tuesday, the tribunal voted in favour of allowing the appeals against the pardons to go ahead. The decision happened after a change in the composition of the court. The court revoked the ruling from January 2022, with the vote of three judges against two...’ From Catalan News here. (!)



‘President Sánchez affirms that Finland and Sweden will be at the NATO summit in Madrid’. El Huff Post says that ‘The President of the Government indicates at the Davos Economic Forum that Spain will accelerate the accession process of both countries’. Spain is to host the next NATO summit in late June.

The European pig population, by country.



The Spanish cesspit activities – as the secret activities of the Rajoy Government are known – included the activities of the ex-national police commissioner José Manuel Villarejo who acted as an enforcer. From El Confidencial here: ‘Speaking on TV3, Villarejo admits that he carried out "absolutely illegal" actions to stop the Catalonian independence process, and he affirms that he would do so again’. Catalan News also reports the story here, saying ‘…that Spain plotted fake news reports to discredit the independence movement just before an election in Catalonia’.



‘The ‘trade-union’ Manos Limpias (wiki) denounces Alberto Garzón before the Supreme Court for calling Juan Carlos I an "accredited criminal" and a "thief"’. EuropaPress has the story here.



Much is being written about Pedro Sánchez referring in the Cortes to the national police in Catalonia as ‘piolines’. The joke (?) comes from the previous national government barracking the police during the independence troubles of 2017 in a gigantic Snoopy and Donald Duck cruise-ship moored in Barcelona harbour. Un piolín is a Tweety-bird from Looney Tunes. Maldita looks at the issue here.

While the old folk watch up to six hours a day of television, those between the ages of 13 and 24 manage on just over an hour average says VozPópuli here.

The monthly collection of fake news items (‘bulos’ in Spanish) from the far-right media, as always collected by Al Descubierto here. They are usually about Muslim attacks against the Spanish police, or the neighbours, or foreign rapists and other evildoers, often found in OKDiario, EsDiario or Libertad Digital and often invented for our reading pleasure. Other subjects touched on in April include banning beer and wine from the menu del día (a bulo originated in El Español) and many others of an overtly political nature.



The thermometers have fallen at last, as The Guardian writes of ‘Temperatures in parts of Spain reached the highest on record for May’. There’s still the summer ahead of us! says: ‘Record heat: two out of three provinces registered maximums up to 17 degrees above normal in the May heat-wave. The spike from last week, an extreme phenomenon that will be increasingly common due to climate change, has left unprecedented temperatures in seven provinces’ (our province, Almería, last Thursday recorded a peak of 34.7ºC, that’s 10.6ºC higher than the May average since 1960).

‘The mayor of Barcelona Ada Colau has sent letters to the Government, the Ministry of Transport and to the Port of Barcelona to address the limitation of cruise-ships. She describes the situation as "totally unsustainable" due to the daily arrival of large ships and summons the three competent administrations to create a working group to agree on a limit’ says here.



Two stories from the remarkable San Diego Union-Tribune: ‘Spanish govt chides ex-king for failure to explain conduct’ and ‘Spain’s former king mulls second visit amid swirling debate’. Here and here.

‘The president of the Community of Madrid, Isabel Díaz Ayuso, criticized this Tuesday the "humiliating treatment" that the King Emeritus, Juan Carlos I, received during his visit to Spain after two years away, with the "complicit and cowardly silence " of the President of the Government, Pedro Sánchez’. Item from 20Minutos here.

The Headline of the Week must be ‘Spain appeals to British tourists to make up for a lack of Russian visitors’ says Andalucia Today here. Enjoy.

There are so many structures on the pavement now – including the extra space allowed for bars and restaurants – that local residents are getting steamed up about it. El País in an opinion piece looks at ‘The City against its Inhabitants’ here.  

Oddly, football clubs are allowed to build up a massive debt without much fuss. says that first and second division clubs owe the banks and other lenders a total of 2,328 million euros.

Funds from the EU for the Mediterranean Corridor seem to be ending up in routes that pass through Madrid. From Valencia Plaza here: ‘With an invertebrate country, in which the train from Valencia to Alicante takes longer than the one to Madrid, the State continues to prioritize central connections over those on the coast, even using the European funds allocated for the Mediterranean Corridor…’

This is an interesting video (in English) on YouTube about the ‘empty part of Spain’. The pronunciation of Spanish names is a bit dodgy, but no doubt somebody else wrote the script. It’s worth a watch!

Around 100 of William Turner's evocative and romantic landscapes are on show at the Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya through September 11. More (in English) here. Over at El Español, there’s a fuller article on the subject, with several photographs of the artist’s work (tastefully decorated with McDonald’s and other adverts).


See Spain:

Satisfaction as The Times chooses Agulo, in La Gomera, as Spain’s most beautiful pueblo.

From The Guardian here: ‘Bandits, beaches and Roman baths – Andalucía’s wild side’. You’ll need a car (or a sturdy bicycle) for these…

A blog called BBQBoy brings the reader to Jaén here.



Cowboys in Almería

Sounds like fun. Never met Lenox. Lots of Brits around Mojácar.

My first jobs in Spain was galloping around the Tabernas area in Almeria westerns. I rarely knew the titles but they were for the most part Italian or Spanish productions. Back to back productions, my agent told me which bus to get on at the break of dawn and on the set you would be given a horse, a saddle and a bocadillo. Except for the bocadillo you had to return the horse and saddle at the end of the day and in return you were given a thousand or so pesetas according to whether you had a line of dialogue or not. All the same, sound and dialogue was usually done in post-production.

Since I was usually the only rider who looked vaguely like a cowboy, the rest were gypsies, on most occasions I got to say the dialogue. Normally something like "Let´s go boys” before galloping off in a cloud of dust. Always very scary for me because up until then, I had only ridden lazy Alabama plough-horses. The movie horses were most often very nervous and damaged horses from the bullfight world.

The gypsies had to ride as Indians in the afternoon. Mostly naked and bareback. Thanks to the colour of my skin, I was spared that.

The westerns were so bad, the cowboy thing didn´t last long, the Clint Eastwood films were the notable exception. But there was always some major production going on down there. World class actors sitting around the terraces in the afternoon. From Yul Brynner, Sean Connery to Bridget Bardot and Raquel Welsh. I think about just about everybody who worked in films showed up in Almería at one time or the other in the 60s. Now they go to Morocco or Tunisia.



Funeral plans

Hi Lenox,

As a retired financial adviser (working in Spain) I was acutely aware of some of the “dubious claims” made by a number of funeral plan companies! In particular they would offer a level of service (for sake of argument let’s call them Gold, Silver, Bronze) and you would pay a fixed sum / monthly premium commensurate with the service level you selected. So far, so good!!

Now this is where things start to get interesting, as you have agreed (& paid) a price for a service, that you hope won’t be needed for some while in the future. How do you know that what you invested say 10, 15, 20 years before, will be sufficient to provide the level of service you bought and paid for?

The answer is of course they can’t! Sadly, there are some funeral plan businesses who effectively lie to their clients, by telling them that their money is invested with guaranteed returns! There is no such thing! Indeed a BBC Radio 4 “Moneybox” investigation a few years back highlighted some of the very questionable sales tactics used by some funeral plan companies!

Sadly, I lost my wife in 2019. I used the local tanatario, who provided an excellent service. It was significantly less expensive than the plan I was offered (some years before) by a local funeral plan company, and the procedure nowhere near as complex as their “scare” tactics would have you believe!

All I would say to anyone taking out a funeral plan:

Caveat emptor”!!!




Los Celtas Cortos is a terrific group. They stepped out of character for this one from 1990. Odín on YouTube here. Loud, please!


Like 3        Published at 7:46 PM   Comments (1)

Almería: Cowboy Country
Sunday, May 15, 2022

When I think of my province – Almería – I don’t bring to mind flamenco dancers eating enormous plates of paella after an enjoyable afternoon at the bullfight explaining the minutiae of the spectacle to aghast tourists.

Hideous plastic farms aside (and I live completely surrounded by them), I’m gonna go along with the cowboys.

I learned my Spanish from going twice-weekly to the old pipa-theatre, the summer cinema open to the stars (late-showings only) and began with ‘hands up’ and rapidly progressed to ‘die, you dirty dog’ – useful on so many occasions, and especially now, with the Russian army due to arrive later this week on the twelve noon from Numa.

The old pipa-theatres were so called, because you ate a twist of sun-flower seeds noisily from your wobbly wooden chair, which could be picked up and turned around to make it easier to chat more comfortably with one’s neighbours during the slow boring bits.

Of course, with a good cowboy film, shot locally and with an Italian, German or Spanish director, there weren’t going to be many boring bits for sure.

Barbara my Californian wife would say, oh look, those aren’t American horses, those are PREs (which is horsey-folk slang for Spanish nags) as the rest of us wondered how a German director could get an Italian actor to say ‘Hands Up!’ in Spanish.

The gigantic speakers, plus the simple story line (Die, you dog!) made it easy to both follow the plot and also to pick up some vocab.  Even today, I like my movies loud.

The movies were shot in Almería back in the golden years of regular visits to the cinema. The desert scenes of Tabernas were considered just the job for a good shoot-out and the extras came cheap enough. Sergio Leone and others like him managed to take an American original (we were all brought up on cowboys and Indians, stamped with the heavy American morals of the time) and improve upon it. Cut the chat, they figured correctly, and shoot somebody. Leone brought the camera close to the actor’s face and we could see the twitch in the eyes just before the guns blazed. The astonishing Ennio Moricone provided the music.

At 25 pesetas for a cracking good evening, with a beer or a soft drink for another ten, hold the pipas, it was blissful.

Tabernas today, a half century on, has several cowboy towns – or film-sets – open to the public. The largest is the Mini Hollywood now called Oasys with a museum, film posters of Anthony Steffen, Giuliano Gemma, Bud Spencer, Terence Hill (all Italians), Clint Eastwood, Lee van Cleef, Dan van Husen (who came to my 21st birthday party in Mojácar), Klaus Kinski and so many more. There’s a collection of old film-projectors, a zoo (for some reason), a bar with lots of character actors wandering around shooting each other as we complacently drink a beer and many other attractions besides.

They even lend you a cowboy hat and a revolver and take a picture of you looking either mean or else bemused (or in my case, mildly sun-stroked and drunk).

By the mid-seventies, the film-makers had moved on, as the local agents got increasingly greedy, and they began to make cowboy flicks in Yugoslavia or Morocco (‘Huh, that’s an Arab horse’ says Barbara derisively).

Nowadays, Tabernas gets a few adverts shot there and maybe a Spanish director will make a rare cowboy film (Pedro Almodóvar is filming one at present), and my old mate Eduardo, who has made his career by getting shot and dramatically falling off a galloping horse, will likely make a brief appearance in the second reel.


The history of the Spanish cowboy films at Valencia Plaza here explains how the local industry fell to pieces.

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Breakfast on the Costa
Monday, May 9, 2022

In the eighties, a bumper-sticker plastered on the back of a number of vehicles in the USA’s most intriguing state would read ‘Welcome to California. Now Go Home’. Behind the wheel of the old rust-bucket bought from a dealer in Detroit (where else?), I felt a bit of an interloper driving around The Golden State with my travellers cheques, my snappy British accent and my half-empty jar of Ovaltine.
Tourism may not have been such a Big Thing in California, despite the popular song from Supertramp (here ya go) and the steady arrival of farmers from the Dust Belt looking for a decent job; but, at 12% of GDP (here), it’s certainly a Big Thing in Spain. Before the pandemic, around twice as many foreign tourists chose to enjoy Spain's charms as there are Spaniards living here. And, if that was not enough – with two people dressed in lederhosen, or with peeling noses, or perhaps wearing sticky ‘Gibraltar is British’ tee-shirts for every Spaniard, you can add the huge numbers of displaced Spaniards themselves – everyone has a right to a vacación – flocking to the same destinations.
Those resorts will have put up the flags, organised a fiesta and will be ready for the onslaught. Shops full of glitter, bars with cold beer and restaurants with fresh fish. The late night joints will be buzzing and the cops will be on every corner, complacently fingering their books of fines. A loud midnight buzz of people, fun, parties, botellones, noise, fire-crackers, sirens, arguments, screams, music, songs and the burble and bang from those irritating Harley Davidsons... The following morning, there’s the rubbish to clean up.
Money is made, vast amounts of money for the shop-keepers, the apartment owners, the barkeeps, the souvenir shops: the municipality itself – but that’s no consolation for the normal folk, those who live here year round, working in ordinary jobs or retired, who must somehow get through their day: past the jams, the queues, the noise and the dust.
The town fiesta: costumes and spectacle, paid with our taxes, is so full of visitors, that there’s no parking, no room, and no welcome for the locals who with resignation will decide to stay home and see it on the telly. ‘We’ll go next year’ they say.
The apartment block: with half of the flats rented out, a two-bed apartment with twelve people staying there, filling the pool for a late-night dip, uprooting the flower bed and being sick in the lift.
So now we have a new word: la turismofobia. And we read the headlines, particularly about Barcelona and Madrid, Granada and Palma, where the cities are taken over by the tourist hoards. How can one rent an apartment when the owner can earn five or ten times as much as a weekly tourist-let (legal or otherwise)? The football hooligans, over for a match between one of their and one of ours. The drunken swarms of young foreigners bellowing and vomiting their way across the coast-road. The staggering numbers of flights into Spain (275 million people passed through a Spanish airport in 2019). Then there are the cruise ships, with their sudden massive influx into the local port.
Worst of all, we simple guiris, as we negociate our way through the crowds of trippers, must make that same answer, over and over again: 'No, I'm no tourist, I live here'. In the old days, we stuck out by not carrying a camera. Now we have to wear long trousers instead.
This is a fabulous country and there are few better places to live; but on the car, there’s a new sticker. It reads: ‘Welcome to Spain. Now Go Home’.

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The Driving Licence Issue - Resolved
Sunday, May 1, 2022

My first road-legal vehicle was a Vespino. This is a moped with a 49cc motor. With such a machine, I could pedal away to help its small engine get me and a packet of cigarettes up the hill to the village. I was sixteen.

Following this, and a few other mopeds (the pedals were usually removed to make the bike look a bit racier, and the motorbike would be ‘trucado’ to get it up over whatever the limit was, I think it was 60kph in them days).

Like most young fellows, I wanted a car and, in 1975, the year that Franco died, I passed my driving licence in Huercal Overa and took over operation of the Peugeot that my dad had bought in Madrid a few years earlier on tourist plates (from Bert Schroder, if there are any old-timers reading this). A succession of cars followed, usually second-hand, and there it was – the perfectly normal story of a fellow living in España, trying to impress the girls with his wheels.

Many Brits living here in Spain, in this post-Brexit time, seem surprised that the rule to stop the legal use of a British driving licence for foreign residents of the British persuasion should not have been subject to yet another extension once again as May 1st 2022 rolled around. Somehow, many of us British are convinced that we should be allowed to be different from the American or South African resident or anyone else who aspires to drive on his home-licence.

The message evidently didn’t get through to the Spanish – we Brits are special. Oh, but we are allowed to drive with a British licence in France, we say – why not ’ere?

Thus, the cold water of reality now means classes and both a written and practical driving test, which is a serious bother. They’ll do a health check as well.

Mind you, one can always wing it – how many times does one get stopped by the tráfico anyway; and if you do, you simply explain to them in a condescending yet respectful way that you are British.

They’ll soon see your point and will no doubt wave you on your way with a crisp salute.

It’s clear that many of this unfortunate set of non-European foreign residents will need to bite the bullet and go through the rigmarole, and it is not easy. Fifty years driving and now told to watch your rear-view mirror and to hold the steering wheel properly, with three eighteen-year-olds squeezed across the back seats nudging each other and chuckling.

For some, the answer is a taxi or a bus. The Tarjeta SensentayCinco for the Oldies gets you discounts on travel. Or then there’s the car-share app Blablacar for long trips. For others, perhaps, one can acquire a vehicle that doesn’t need a full licence. Not the Vespino, no, nor a mobility scooter (not yet, anyhow), but something to do the shopping with or to go out as a couple to a favoured restaurant.

The answer to this is the ‘coche sin carnet’, the microcar. The reality is that one does need a licence for these, the same AM permit as for mopeds and three-wheelers (it’s very easy, just drive a zigzag and a circle). They have a limit of 45kph and, needless to say, with their egg-beater engine, they can’t go on the motorways.

There are a few brands available in Spain, including the Aixam, the Ligier, the Chatenet and the Microcar.

Even cooler is the all-electric city-car, the Citroën Ami (road-test here). To drive one, you just need to be sixteen years or older and perhaps equipped with a keen sense of humour.

It’s not easy changing one’s feathers as one gets older, but a golf-cart with windows, heating and a radio doesn’t sound so bad.

At this stage, who did you want to impress anyway?

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The Invisible Tribe
Tuesday, April 26, 2022

In the past I have often pointed out the difference (and benefit) to Spanish society between foreign settlers and foreign tourists. While the settlers are cordially ignored by the authorities (except during the tax season), foreign tourism receives enormous media attention, massive investment, endless promotions both at home and abroad, heavy institutional advertising and even a dedicated government ministry along with its regional equivalents. In several communities and resorts, the councillor for tourism is the second most visible politician in the government.

But then, as Spain basks in the huge amount of money brought here by tourism (forgetting that a sizable chunk of this stays in the country of origin to pay agencies, airlines, insurers and so on), along comes something to put the cork in – maybe a pandemic like the one that has assailed the industry for the last two years.

If visitor numbers had dropped by 75% in 2021 over 2019 (the last halcyon year for tourism) the number of foreign residents either stayed the same (they couldn’t sell-up and leave, what with one thing or another) or even rose in numbers.

That’s of course not including those few who dared the odds and actually took out Spanish nationality.

There are currently over six million foreigners resident in Spain at the present time – up from 4,850,000 recorded at the beginning of 2019. That’s ten per cent of everyone. Some of them are retired, some of them are living from income from abroad, some of them working and some of them studying. Some of them here illegally. Some without documents. Some of them sending their money home to their families, as they should.

While many of the six million are immigrant workers, the largest collectives being Romanian, Moroccan and Colombian, the fourth largest group of foreigners currently living in Spain are the British at precisely 282,124 souls.

Maybe. That's the figure from the padrón - those who are registered in the town halls across Spain. Other painstakingly accurate figures for the Brits are quite different. The Government claims 407,628 Brits living in Spain. Statista reckons on 313,975 and the ABC newspaper goes with 290,372.

All good for December 31st 2021.

Why are the figures so different (and so painfully acquired)? We imagine teams of dedicated beancounters adding up numbers each time they go to the market, the expat bar or the dog pound. And then, to show they weren't making it up, they arrive at those ridiculously exact figures before locking their desks are rushing out for a coffee.

There are other official government sites available, but the browser found a ‘potential security threat and did not continue to’. So, we shall remain blissfully ignorant of the information to be found on that no doubt highly useful page.

Then we have headline from  a silly English-language newspaper from last October which claimed that British expats are said to be leaving Spain "in droves"; while, conversely: the property site Idealista was posting the opposite: ‘The Brits bought 7,560 homes in the second half of 2021 – the largest group of foreign buyers’, they said.

With all the confusion, the authorities will understandably react according to the figures to hand (once they’ve successfully looked up the phrase ‘in droves’ in the dictionary), without worrying if they are correct; or maybe just go out for another coffee instead. Of course, looking out of the window in an office in Madrid, one won't see many Northern European residents. They tend to live in a wash of small pueblos along the coast and on the islands. Even then you probably won't notice them - or confuse them with tourists - unless you happen to be trying to sell something to the director of the local medical centre.

In all, nearly 64,000 homes were bought by foreigners between July and December last year. And that’s good money brought here almost exclusively from outside Spain. 

So we come back to our original doubt - why does Spain chase the foreign tourist and ignore the foreign resident?

Rather than try and figure out the number of foreign residents who are retired or live from funds from abroad (including a clutch of wealthy Americans, some rich Venezuelans, a few idle Chinese and a sprinkle of superannuated New Zealanders), but not Tommy who works at the campsite, we can only choose a wildly inaccurate number – say 500,000 – to contrast with the tourists, whose statistics thanks to the enormous machine dedicated to surveying them we know down to the last digit.

Figures suggest that the average age of this sub-group of half a million – that’s to say, those who live comfortably in Spain without employment – is around 61 years old, against tourists who are (I’m diving through the INE records) maybe 20 years younger.

Then of course, residents often take trips within Spain – not to all-inclusive hotels on the beach, full of fellow-Brits or Europeans, but to more expensive destinations, such as the Parador hotel chain or to fancy restaurants, or to areas away from the sol y playa; which makes them, in the eyes of the Spanish authorities (if only briefly), tourists.

So, if the money spent by just the wealthier foreign settlers – 500,000 multiplied by a year’s worth of living – is contrasted by the amount spent by the tourists, then the residents are clearly a group to treasure. At 20,000€ a year (my guess, and we shall ignore the major investment of buying both a 250,000€ house and a car) that’s 10,000,000,000€ per year spent by the higher end of the resident foreigners in Spain. The average visitor, here for five days rather than 365, is going to be worth a lot less.

But you won’t find any official agency or policy that promotes foreign home-buyers investing in Spain!

Tourists, then, are described as anyone foreign who comes to Spain (even if they are taking an onwards flight to somewhere else and never even leave the airport), plus all the people on all the cruise ships – regardless of if they disembark for a two-hour stroll around Málaga harbour or not – plus all the people who hop over to Spain every weekend (add ’em all together José), but not the ones who drove across the frontier or who slept in the guest room last night or on the sofa.

Then we have those non-EU citizens (now including a large number of Brits) who own homes here are but aren’t allowed to stay for more than 90 in any 180 day period. What are they exactly – residents, home-owners, tourists? No one knows or seems to care – except of course for the affronted local businesses.

Following the pandemic, we now have a terrible war and next up perhaps, a tourist bombing, or an earthquake, or something poisonous in the water. Maybe Portugal will drop its prices or Greece will give free ouzo to visitors. Tourists are just fine, they leave money and go away with a sunburn and a hangover. But they are finicky, and without any obligation or an emotional link to return.

But the residents will stay. They have an investment in Spain: their property.

Why can’t the authorities see this? There is so much more opportunity in this field.


Like 3        Published at 7:11 PM   Comments (4)

Spanish, as She is Spoke
Monday, April 18, 2022

This thing about learning Spanish. It's hard to pick up a new language, especially if you plan to chat, gossip, converse or argue the issues of the day with someone sat on a bench wearing a beret and absently chewing on a bull's-pizzle a bit beyond 'Cor, it's hot today'. 

That was about the first thing I learned - a sort of Mediterranean version of the standard English comment 'it looks like rain again', with the massive positive - at least for me - that being too hot beats being too wet any day of the week.  

It's useful too, because your partner in conversation can shake his head, if he has the energy to, and reply, 'eyep' or the equivalent in our local version of castellano, which might be 'joder' or some other positive and considered answer.

Which doesn't get you very far in practicing your Teach yourself Spanish, Chapter Two, the verbs. 

Bloody verbs, grammar and future imperatives. There's not one person in a thousand who knows his way around the infinitives and the gerunds back home, and now we are faced with them here, along with the huge lists of vocab - and that's just to buy something in the market. 

'Leeks, Señora, I want leeks! Hold on, here it says... puerros! Did I pronounce that right?'

One lady I knew learned her Spanish entirely from a book. She was quite good, too, only her pronunciation let her down. 'Hooeyvos' for eggs. Or 'heggs', as a Spanish market-fellow helpfully told me the other day. 

All that effort and they try and answer in English!

Another lady, also a master of Spanish, got hers from a course in XVI Century plays, and would say to the barman something out of a Calderón de la Barca primer like 'Prithee, varlet, bring me a flagon of your finest grape'. Imagine explaining that to Antonio, who had only that very morning learnt not to put hot milk in our teas. 

When we do learn Spanish - the type for conversation rather than the one for ordering half a kilo of rice - we will need something to talk about. Which is where knowing about Spanish culture comes in.  An example would be the vice versa experience of the other day, when the man at the gas station told me that he once lived in Dartmouth 'just over the bridge'. Ahh, I said wisely. 

I have no idea where Dartmouth is, although Google says there's one in Canada with a floating pontoon.

Knowledge of the Spanish culture - having something to talk about - means knowing the geography, history, politics, literature, music, gastronomy, bullfighting, TV shows and the latest sports results. There's no point in interrupting a talkfest to announce 'I bought a kilo of leeks yesterday in the market'. There may be a couple of seconds pause as everyone digests this in companionable silence, before the conversation about putting in solar electricity on Paco's roof will resume once again.

To learn these things - throw your English-language TV, books and newspapers out of the sitting-room window (after all, they talk about where you are from, now about where you are now) and read and watch Spanish stuff. Armed with what you've learned, be like a parrot. Repeat. 

A Brit asked me the other day while I was enjoying a noisy beer in Antonio's - there was a football match going on the TV - how to say 'Kill the Ref!' in Spanish. I told him the magic words which he then shouted out at the top of his lungs. We both drank free than evening until the bar closed. 

A hobby is a good idea. Join the local railway club, or historians society, or painters' nook. You already have something of interest shared by all the group - if it's only where to buy a decent tube of umber. 

Speaking Spanish can sometimes feel frustrating, when the addressee refuses to understand you. This may be because you don't look like a local person, so logic dictates that you therefore must be a foreigner, who - as everyone knows - speaks foreign. Which, tragically, he spreads his hands in apology, he doesn't.

There are ways around this of course, you can try wearing a beret and ordering a bull's-pizzle from Amazon. Or you could consider calling them on the phone. I always wanted to grow a pencil-thin moustache to look the part, but my hair is too blond and patchy. 'Shut your eyes' I tell 'em, 'you'll see'. 

In short, it may not be easy, but it's worth it.

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