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Spanish Shilling

Some stories and experiences after a lifetime spent in Spain

Spanish Customs, Explained
Sunday, October 30, 2022

I'm away for a month - here's a story that's very up-to-date (from four years ago): I've toned down the f bombs.

.....

I got a letter from the Aduana today: the dreaded Spanish customs. Years ago, a fellow from Chile had sent me a sample of half a kilo of cod in a freeze-pack to see if it was worth starting a business importing Chilean fish to Spain. Anyhow, the customs got hold of it and - well, that was over twenty years ago now. I wonder if they've noticed the smell yet.

Today's letter as seen here, addressed to Lenox Naier (why can't they get our names right in Spain? F*ck me, it's not as if I'm called Rachanivarakonkul), and  dated " Mi�rcoles " (Curse those nineteen eighty computers!) is to tell me of a massive package of dubious merchandise waiting for my attention in Madrid.

The first thing I thought was 'it's a trap - they've found the fish!', but then, I saw that it had come from my daughter, who lives in foreign parts.

The package in question: a pair of sneakers for my birthday.

So, as you can see, I filled out the form, then read the back of the page to see that I need to contact our officious friends by email, sending them a scan of my silly police letter together with another of my passport (it would be a TIE these days), only their formulario doesn't allow foreigners' NIE numbers and my password -F*ckyou1- evidently wasn't long enough.

So now, I must put copies of all this in the post, being sure that they receive it before Mi�rcoles otherwise it will be 'Returned to Sender' (or more likely, destroyed in a controlled explosion or, of course more likely still, stolen).

But now I'm thinking: 'Customs, eh?' Aren't they the people who like to look through other people's stuff, rifle through steamer trunks and search diligently under the dashboard? Perhaps my box is full of Peruvian marching powder, or a rhinoceros' horn, or perhaps a pistola. So, why don't they open the f*cking thing instead of asking me for my maiden name? On the box it says 'shoes' but they may want to question this - that's why they get paid - to make the world a safer place. But why the f*ck ask me what's in the box. I'm going to say 'shoes' and they are going to say 'Ah hah! Got him!'.

In the improbable event the shoes make it though all the hoops, I will apparently be asked to pay ransom (or 'duty' as they prefer to call it) on them.

Sometimes, between all the pleasures, one forgets what a silly place we have chosen to live. 



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Send Lawyers, Guns and Money
Tuesday, October 25, 2022

The banks aren’t what they were. The quill has been exchanged by the keyboard and now there's a button on the street-door and a trickster in the manager's office.

My first encounter with a bank was with un corredor - an agent for the Banco Popular. This was the old mayor of Bédar, who used to keep his useful papers, rubber stamp and a modest wad of cash under his bed in a strongbox. One would be granted permission to enter his boudoir and the business would be done, the mayor sat on the bed and concentrating as he filled a line in his ledger, and a receipt for the petitioner.

Word was, that the books would be transported weekly by donkey to the bank in Lúbrin, a dozen kilometres away.

Back on the coast in Mojácar, we had a proper bank, of sorts, since it wasn’t a bank so much as a savings bank, or caja. These belonged to the Church and in principle they didn’t take commissions. Ours was the Caja de Ahorros y Monte de Piedad de Almería, a kind of low-lender and pawn-shop known to the foreigners affectionately as the Cage of Horrors.

We were treated well there, and at Christmas, the Caja would fulfil tradition by offering their clients a bracer, usually a glass of anís or menta. It probably helped keep their patrons happy.

Later, allied to the Málaga Caja de Ahorros and rebranded as Unicaja, they began to offer sets of crockery to potential customers. A Sterling cheque would take a couple of weeks to clear, but if they knew you…

There was another bank of sorts in the pueblo, the Banco de Jeréz (part of the Rumasa empire), where I kept a company account. The teller, young Marcelo, used to remove a cheque from the back of my chequebook now and again and treat himself to a meal or a bottle of gin or maybe two weeks in the Caribbean until I caught him out one day. The manager returned my missing funds, kind of him, and I don’t know what happened to Marcelo. He’s probably in politics these days. The Banco de Jérez, for its part, went bust in 1992.  So, back to the Unicaja for my banking needs and its occasional welcome drop of anís.

Banks grew in numbers and employees with the building boom, which started the day Franco died and continued until 2008. Then came the ‘restructure’ when 88 different high-street banks shrank down through mergers into the ten we enjoy today, albeit with 23,500 less branches and 115,000 less employees.

As for my favoured banking option with the passage of years, the Unicaja Banco (renamed again) has now joined up with Liberbank (an operator from Asturias, Cantabria and Castilla la Mancha) and, keeping its Unicaja Banco name (sorry about that, Liberbank), has turned into something far removed from its halcyon days as a simple savings bank.

But hey, money talks. Any business one might have is not about making things, or deals, or dingbats, it’s about making money – and who is better placed to make money than a bank? Alright, the Royal Mint, but after that… No more bishops behind the door, now they are run by business-folk, or bankers as they call themselves. Indeed, bank staff are now strongly encouraged to sell products to their customers – home insurance, health insurance, house alarms (52,03€ per month with CaixaBank and don't forget to read the small print), investments, Ponzi schemes, crypto-currencies, ostrich farms, precious stones and sundry start-ups while the bank itself invests in property, bicycle teams and volleyball.

If all fails, and there’s the right government in power, then they’ll get bailed out at public expense.

Meanwhile, the Unicaja, having just raised their charges for keeping and investing my modest account to a whopping 20 euros per month, has a sign in our one remaining local office which says that the teller is only there until eleven thirty each morning, and furthermore that (says the sign with satisfaction in a piece of Newspeak) ‘Menos es Más’ - More is Less, and the handy cashpoint outside now does all kinds of tricks as the disgruntled queue to be found there will happily illustrate.   

A rival lender across town is only open two days a week (Tuesdays and Fridays). How much do they charge customers I ask?

As for mortgages - and some hard-won advice here: just don’t.

You may be wondering if my bank still offers a tipple at Christmastime to its patrons.  A flute of Bollinger maybe. I’ll get back to you on that one.  



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The Potshot Kid
Thursday, October 20, 2022

It must be strange living with guns. People may decide at any moment to whip them out and take a shot at you. Perhaps because they were annoyed at you, perhaps it was just in a moment of excitement. It's also true that you could decide on a whim to pull your own gun out of your holster and shoot back at them. Hell, maybe go and shoot someone else while you are in the mood.

There are indeed a few people I would like to shoot, when I think of it (and the world would be a better place for their passing) but, since I live in Spain, I don't have a gun. Being British, the best I can come up with is to shake my fist in their general direction after they have safely passed by.

This is probably for the best. The picture, by the way, is me at the cowboy film set in Tabernas. Don't worry, it's a cap-gun.

As it happens, and talking of firearms, I am soon away to visit family in far-off Texas, a place where one can easily acquire a gun from the local supermarket. Or maybe an arsenal, since they often do a special three for two service. I once asked a fellow I'm friendly with over there as to how many fire-arms he had. He answered with - 'if you know how many guns you have, you don't have enough'!

Guh-uns: he said. Two syllables.

It turned out - and this was some time ago - he had seventeen.

On that visit, I was pruriently looking one day at the guns for sale in Walmart - a sort of gigantic Carrefour. Just looking, I really didn't want one.

Anyhoo, I saw a wrist-rocket (the kind of catapult that might be used by Tom Cruise) for sale and thought that might be a good thing to get, after all, we are infested with cats at home. The salesman said I needed to show him my driver's licence, to keep everything ship-shape.

He was a bit surprised to see a Spanish one (a country that didn't appear in his computer), but we agreed that it was, in reality, a driver's licence in Spanish, so he put me down as coming from Puerto Rico. 

I never got to shoot any cats with my catapult - you see why they named it that - and I think the rubber has since perished. Maybe I'll go and buy another one while I'm there. It's going to be a long winter.



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My Parents Move to Spain: Spring 1967
Thursday, October 13, 2022

Someone on Facebook today was missing some item of British food. Probably something to do with the Brexit cock-up. Anyhow, I was reminded of a story of my dad's.

My parents had bought a Mercedes and were heading out to Spain to live, once and for all. With them went two whippets - a race of dog unknown in Spain, but which would prove to be popular with the local hunters, who were to soon steal them.

The Mercedes, which was fitted with 'fuel-injection', didn't think much of Spanish petrol and it chugged across the country at a throaty top-speed of around 50kph, with numerous ratty old Citroens and Renaults overtaking with a gleeful squawk from the klaxon every now and again.

The boot was full of tinned turkey in sweetcorn sauce.

Our friend from Middle Wallop had been in the turkey business for many years and in 1966 he decided with his brother to take the empire a step forward by introducing tinned turkey.

He was flat broke within three months.

When my parents announced they were leaving the UK for good (coincidentally, the morning after they had left me in my brand-new boarding school), our friend pressed several boxes of tinned turkey with the sweetcorn sauce, unlabelled, into my father's doubtful charge.

'There'll be fuck all to eat in Mojácar', said the friend with a certain logic.

So, after a ferry crossing to Calais, the customs officer beckoned to my father.

'Ouvrez', he said, waving imperiously at the boot of the car.

'C'ést quoi ça?', he said, pointing at the boxes of unlabelled merchandise.

My father wasn't much good at languages, but he was game: 'un gran wuzzoh para mange', he answered.

The customs officer, stumped by this answer, called for a can opener.

On opening the first tin and viewing the contents, he burst out in English - 'Sacré bleu, you Eengleesh will eat anything'.

He was almost right about that, since in turned out the tinned turkey in sweetcorn sauce wasn't a popular dinner in our new home in Mojácar, although my mother discovered that the whippets liked it.



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Winter is Coming
Monday, October 10, 2022

It’s likely going to be a tough winter in Europe, and one solution for those who can afford it – and there’s an oxymoron – is to head south to the Mediterranean.

We read of a new type of holiday – one that would need to stretch for six months to fully avoid the northern freeze – called ‘thermal tourism’.

Well, for the British the figure would be for three months tops to be exact, what with the Schengen rule of 90 days in any 180 for non-EU visitors to most of the Old Continent. November through February maybe. Still, it’s better than nothing.

While those living in the colder parts of Europe will be welcome to consider moving south for an extended period, the promotions are probably more centred on a couple of weeks holiday in the sun before returning home to chilblains, woolly hats and hot toddies. After all, we are talking here about the powerful hoteliers and their lobbying over at the Ministry of Tourism, rather than Ethel’s empty flat overlooking Garrucha harbour.

The Greeks and the Spanish are both working on their campaigns, as they welcome the chance to bring extra tourism out for the low season:  “Wanna feel 20 again?” asks one of the billboards slated to appear in London and other capitals across the continent. “With warm winter temperatures up to 20C, Greece is the place to be,” it proclaims, next to an image of an older couple lounging on a yacht, wine glasses in hand.

A senior Spanish tourist expert brings the clincher to the table when he says: “From what we’re seeing, people are realising that it’s cheaper to come here than it is to put the heating on at home”.

However, you should probably be laying in some firewood (or whatever the equivalent is in non-smoking areas) before you sign up: it’s going to be an almighty shock when you return to your chilly casa!



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Local Elections and the British Resident
Saturday, October 1, 2022

There has now been a pronunciamento on the subject of the vote for British residents in Spain for the municipal elections.

One of the many joys of the Brexit meant that the British residents in the EU lost a number of privileges, without apparently gaining anything much in return. One loss was The Vote in the European elections (not that any MEP ever spoke for the foreign residents), and another was our switch from ‘ciudadanos comunitarios’ to ‘residentes extranjeros’ with our snappy new TIE card. Those without them only being allowed in the Schengen Area for ninety out of 180 days, regardless of property-ownership. Indeed, we TIE-owners can stay in Spain, but we can’t spend more than 90/180 days elsewhere in the EU either.

We became, with Brexit, something less.

The municipal elections have always been of more interest than any other one – since one vote has little sway in a national or regional poll, but in a municipality with mere thousands (or maybe just hundreds) of voters, your word counts for something.  

Despite the ruling from the European Court of Justice following a case in France, it appears that the Spanish/British bilateral agreement on (at least) local voting rights remains firm, if with a few extra formalities to undergo.

These include having to prove you have been a resident in Spain for more than three years (alas, your TIE card makes no mention of your antiquity) and to claim your right to vote (for next May 28th local elections) sometime over the Christmas season. The Election Board (INE) should be mailing out a card soon to the British residents showing our seniority - a proof we will need to show when we register at the town hall.

As to whether one can still join a local party-list as a Brit – a British resident who is also currently a councillor says that ‘yes, we can. Unlike other non-EU nationals, a Brit can still be placed on a voting-list’.

The Spanish/British bilateral accord on voting rights post Brexit from January 2019 is here.

For other nationalities, resident in Spain, there are three alternatives.

-EU citizens can vote in European and local elections, and stand as candidates.

-Certain other nationalities can vote in local elections. The countries with an agreement with Spain (together with the UK) are Bolivia, Cape Verde, Colombia, Korea, Chile, Ecuador, Iceland, Norway, New Zealand, Paraguay, Peru and (for some reason) Trinidad & Tobago.

-Nationals from anywhere else can’t vote (such as… Moroccans, Brazilians, Argentinians, Venezuelans or Canadians…).

In a municipality, it is clear that everyone over 18 should have the vote, as a town hall must represent all of its citizens, not just the ones with the right paperwork. Otherwise, which bit of land will get re-zoned, or who will receive preference in some local project or engagement?

(We are reminded that many Spanish voters, resident elsewhere, opt to maintain their name on the local padrón and vote in consequence).

In our experience, not many British residents voted in earlier elections, and the likelihood is that, with these fresh impediments, even fewer will bother this time.



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Drinkies (Mojácar: 1967)
Monday, September 26, 2022

The day would start with a small libation in the plaza. Late, perhaps, but it had been a long night.

There were two bars, facing each other across the square decorated with a few mangled orange trees, a couple of old cars, several corrugated-sided Citroen vans, as often as not an orange dumper-truck - Spain’s motorized pack animal - and, when not in service, a giant Chrysler from the fifties painted egg-shell blue which served as the village taxi.

No one ever went to the smaller establishment, which sold ice-creams and was run by a succession of daughters from one of the local Families. We would instead use the old Indalo: hotel, restaurant and bar - the clubhouse, assembly room and social hub of the pueblo.


We had stayed there for several months – the price was a hundred pesetas a day for the three of us, rooms, food and drink included – when we had first arrived, and still regularly used the services of the upstairs restaurant where culture-shock and chips were served with a bottle of gritty red wine. We'd all dine there together. Tabs Parcell, the retired air vice marshal, would take his plate and put it under his shirt, next to his skin to ‘warm it’. Sammy, the flamboyant Italian-American homosexual from the merchant navy would handle the translation, under the impression that his bad ‘brooklinése’ would be comprehensible to a mojaquero waiter. Norma, another American expat, who ran an antique shop under the arch, would mutter ‘no, no’ to herself as we kept her glass filled. My dad, tall, freckled and red, known locally as ‘El langostino’, the lobster, would be sticking to whisky – he said the wine gave him gallstones. My mother, practical and in charge, would wander into the kitchen and pick up the lids on the various cauldrons to organize lunch.

The morning session, starting round about twelve, would place the small foreign community, British, French, American and a few others, around the wobbly metal tables of the Indalo, outside on the pavement, or inside, if the weather was bad, at the high marble bar. The inside bar was gloomy, dark, painted in shades of brown and stain, with a big mirror behind the bar together with a few bottles of strange cheap versions of better known brands.

Diana, a retired nanny who had taught generations of children how to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’, appropriated the Green Fish, an unfortunately named Spanish gin, as her own. Diego, whose grand-son these days has a bar on the beach, El Rincón de Diego, where there’s a large photograph of the bar from the old Indalo, would serve his motley crowd with a suggestion of pride. At a few pesetas a drink – a very large brandy cost just a five-peseta ‘duro’ – the foreign customers soon got high-spirited and only the blistering sun managed to maintain any kind of order. Turkey Alan, a youthful cockney pick-pocket, might be telling a story about his dog, a grateful looking greyhound, or perhaps old Cicero, a pungent American professor who lived by himself and spent his money on ‘whiskey and putas’, is noisily standing a round. Tony, a friend of my dad’s, drones on about women while nobody listens and Fritz, the dapper artist with the beard and the terrible laugh, might be sketching an approximation of the party while smoking a ‘dookeedoo’, the strong local cigarette. David, a bald anthropologist who could speak several different North African languages, would be rubbing his short goatee gleefully and telling obscure and very filthy stories about his subjects in the Rif while his wife, Ursula, she of the gravelly voice, is asking me about school in a rather threatening manner as if she was seriously considering the job of ‘Matron’. Another round of drinks arrives. I take a Fanta.

Perhaps, if it was a hot day – it usually was – there would be a move towards the beach; not to swim, in particular, but rather to drink in one of the few places that existed in those days. Beach-land, traditionally inherited by the younger or dumber or less greedy members of the Families over the decades and centuries, was worth nothing. In 1967 we heard of land going for one peseta for ten metres. There were few takers.

There was one really good restaurant on the beach, however, run by French Algerians (they were known as ‘pied noirs’ and Franco smiled favourably on them). This was the Rancho del Mar, where Maxime’s quality food went for McDonald’s prices. Cheaper places, with simple menus, were the Puntazo, the Flamenco and the Virgen del Mar. Salad. Crotchmeat and chips. Sangría.

By three in the afternoon, the group would be building up again outside the Indalo. The post-office, ineptly run by Martín, who couldn’t read or write much, but spoke a bit of French, was open from three to five. I’d be sent to collect the letters, which would be passed to me with their stamps wrenched off by the old man, with the instruction to bring back the ones I couldn’t deliver, ‘…or throw them away’.

In the square, an elderly platinum blonde called Franny and her son Eddie, a semi-retired fifty-year old female impersonator, might perhaps have joined the group, both insisting on drinking Manhattans which they had long ago taught Diego how to make. Roger, who opened the first British bar, La Sartén, in 1968 could have shown up as well, together with Pop-eyed Peter (who was to run away with a mojaquera girl), Alan the Tin Miner and ‘Friggit’, a Swedish woman of doubtful morals. Giggling into his brandy, here's Chris with the long hair and moustache, a pink Mini Moke and a Danish girlfriend called Gitte. As the drinks continued, the group might have felt persuaded to sing, initially simple songs accessible to both the British and the Americans (‘I wonder whose kissing her now’, for example) followed, in the fullness of time, by numbers like ‘My Little Sister Lily’ and ‘Cats on the Rooftops’ (both also available in Spanish upon enquiry thanks to Gerry, who was meant to be studying at Granada University).

The evenings were more of the same. In La Sartén, where Roger would companionably allow you to ‘help yourself, Sport’, or the Zurri Gurri, a sensuous cave-bar run by a couple from Madrid, or the Witches Brew (captained by an American lesbian called Pat and her German friend, the scorching Rita) which also sold leather goods. Today, it’s the ‘Time and Place’.

In those far off times, when the Guardia Civil came in to a bar, conversation died. You had your papers ready. They could hand out some rough and ready justice. We were all a little worried to see them. My dad used to bribe them. ‘Have a drink with me’, he’d say and they’d have a brandy or a whisky and affably call him by his surname.

Later, after the bars closed at one, the only place open was the Pimiento, a disco run by Felipe, another pied noir. Drinks were slightly more expensive, but you could always dance to his collection of scratchy imported singles.

Far into the night, there was only one bar that had a license. It opened at four in the morning in the next-door village of Garrucha for its fishermen. Thanks to its neon lights and white tiling, it was familiarly known as ‘the Lavatory Bar’. Pedro ran it and sold carajillos - black coffee with brandy - to the fishermen and, as often as not, the same thing for the surviving foreigners. I stayed with the Fanta. As the last members of the Mojácar Jets downed their drinks and raised their voices in song, while the municipal cop looked through the door and Pedro went ‘Shhh!’, an age slowly and drunkenly made its way to its final bow.



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The Illegal Immigrants are bringing back the Far Right
Monday, September 19, 2022

All these immigrants washing ashore, hiding in the glove-box over on the ferry or climbing over the high yet un-electrified fence into Spain’s North African city-states. They are hungry in the Sub-Sahara and they are looking for a better life.
 
Many of them will end up with jobs that no European will do – from working for a pittance in the plastic farms of Almería to importuning irritated tourists on the beach who already have a pair of sun glasses, thank you.
 
So far this year, says El Debate, 21,470 have arrived illegally in Spain, some of them, By Jingo, as passengers on jet skis (at least, that’s the quoted number of those who were caught).  
As we accept their arrival, or admit that they should have a chance to seek a better life, we play into the hands of the Hard-Right, who joyfully commission articles about violence, rape and destruction at the hands of the foreigners. 
 
The haters call for ‘mass-deportations’, because, you see,  ‘...this is not immigration, it is a silent invasion that will end the Western world, turning it into Islam’.
 
Ah, Islam, where they wear pyjamas in the street and talk funny. Where words like Sharia, burqa and halal are bandied about by the Media to scare our children. So frightening.
 
A bit like Tea with milk, Do you serve tapas? and What a nice doggy. Oh right, that's us.
 
It is nevertheless evident that the immigrants do cause problems, especially – it goes without saying – the poor ones.
 
Perhaps these issues are exaggerated, because we all enjoy a good story, or a moment of indignation or perhaps some validation for our hatred of foreignness, but there is no smoke without fire. All said, it is true that the current wave of immigrants are not the cream of North African society: they are not doctors from Dakar, nor bank-managers from Bamako, nor chiropodists from Casablanca. They are uneducated, raw and largely unwanted.
 
Three young Blacks live next door to me in Almería. They are from Ghana, and speak a bit of English and rather better Spanish. One of them tells me how he got to Italy from Libya on a patera, a boat with a motor driven by a fellow with a pistol. He also tells me how his older brother drowned trying to use the same route.
 
We can have, of course, no idea.
 
But, as we must know from our past, the hatred of foreigners can bring about war, destruction and harsh right-wing governments. Blacks, Orientals and Moors are so easy to notice, too.
 
Unfortunately for the haters, the Spanish are extremely generous towards foreigners, and many a child here shows evidence of having being born in another culture, but adopted and brought up as a natural family-member. We buy stuff from the manteros, who spread their sheets full of CDs or shoes or knock-off shirts on the sidewalk, we regularly visit the Chinese bazaars (because they are cheap and always open) and we eat in the Moorish restaurants (because the food is good).
 
And the undocumented immigrants themselves are exploited by mafias who, since we are talking illegal, are riding on their backs. The man who pays 1,800€ to cross the Mediterranean. The man who sleeps on the floor of a tiny apartment with ten others and must sell tat to the tourists to survive. The man who works in an invernadero in dangerous temperatures and conditions.
 
We see immigrants in our rear-view mirrors – what do they see?
 
Perhaps a partial solution is to help those African countries from whence come these migrants – but we know that financial aid is no answer (it will all get pinched and end up in a Swiss bank account). However, we could build things for them (like the Chinese are doing).
 
Every day the images are there on the TV, sad but relieved Africans wrapped in thin blankets and waiting to be processed by the overwhelmed Guardia Civil. Some people watching will say – this must stop – there are too many.
 
And yes, it has to stop – because the Far-Right will gather force from the increasingly over-hyped situation, and it will return with a vengeance. 


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The British Residents, Briefly
Tuesday, September 13, 2022

The British residents in Spain are usually politely ignored by the media, so a fallout from the sad passing of Elizabeth II last week brought us – briefly – to the fore. The local paper says that there are so and so many Brits living in our province and then launches into an article involving the bowlers at some club looking glum and dropping platitudes.

What else can one say on an occasion like this?

In all, we may be 282,000 or so resident here (just to make the point – that’s considerably larger in number than the population of the city of Granada which rests at 232,000), but we aren’t noticed much. How many of us Brit residents are household names to the Spanish? James Rhodes, Tony King, the late Michael Robinson, two or three obscure British hispanophiles who writes books about Franco, Ian Gibson (who’s Irish anyway) and then the fellow on the TV who teaches English (Richard Vaughan, who is from Texas apparently).

And let’s throw in Mr Bean, who was very popular here in his day.

My friend Andrew Mortimer (who teaches English to the Spanish Legion) penned an article which appeared in our local paper: Adiós a mi Reina (in English with Spectrum here).

I got interviewed on Canal Sur radio.

Plus a mention in La Voz de Almería where, once again, they spelled my name wrong.

The Canary RTVC produced a report about the reaction from the Brit residents.

La Razón has an article called ‘The Little England of Alicante, in mourning for Elizabeth II’. Again, we start with the numbers (know that there are 69,728 Brits registered in Alicante).

Several Anglican services were held in various resort towns, reported or not by the media.

Some books were made available to write down one’s thoughts. I expect the British Embassy in Madrid had a nice leather one.

El Confidencial says that some of the British tourists in Magaluf got pissed and a little lachrymose.

Sur in English had a full front cover (The Queen died on the Thursday, thus giving the editor time to shout: ‘stop the presses!’, but – alas - too late for its English-language rivals).

Two regions of Spain declared days of mourning – one day for Andalucía, and three for Madrid. Furthermore, both Felipe VI and his Queen, and old (‘after all, I am the oldest royal that’s alive today’) Juan Carlos and Doña Sofía and all due to attend the State Funeral next Monday in London. From France, President Macron said that the British thought of Elizabeth as their Queen, while the rest of the world thought of her as ‘The Queen’. Nice.

Even Putin was solemn and called her passing ‘a heavy, irreparable loss’.

Everyone is sad, except of course the Argentinians.

Sigh!

See – we’ve forgotten about the British residents living in Spain already… 



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Squatters in Spain - No, It's Not That Bad
Tuesday, September 6, 2022

Okupas (squatters), says the journalist Pepo Jimenez Moltó in a short video, are those who occupy empty houses without any services connected. These dwellings will usually (if not always) belong to the bank or to a vulture fund. Otherwise, that’s called illegal entry (allanamiento de morada) and the police will remove them at once. Even if it’s your second, third or fourth home. Spain is one of the safest countries in Europe – yet it is Nº 4 in the worldwide ranking for the number of alarms installed. Don’t be taken in, says the video, by panic, or by politicians, or (above all) by alarm salesmen.

Indeed, a judge from Tarragona is on record as saying that in ten years, he has only had one case of someone returning home to find it occupied. He had appeared on a TV chat show called Espejo Público (a program which likes to create worry and indignation among its viewers) and – to the surprise and mortification of the producers – explained that most of the okupa story is a myth. Yes, of course the police can remove them.

We often see the police doing precisely that, removing people (following a judge’s order) who have not paid their mortgage in what is known as un desahucio. This is the bank acting to evict the tenant (who loses his money paid so far) in order to resell to another. Conversely, empty unfinished bank-owned apartments, with squatters, are left in peace – unless the bank needs the property for some reason. Otherwise, it sits on its books with an apparent accruable value.

In an apartment block, the comunidad de propietarios may be frustrated to find that some of the unsold apartments have been taken over by squatters – who will not be paying their dues and thus the shared services will be either abandoned or unfairly financed. They may have installed illegal connection to the electric or the water. One may find in such a block an empty swimming pool and trashed gardens. That’ll be the squatters.

Squatters themselves will usually take an easy answer – an apartment that simply doesn’t have an irate owner waiting behind the door with some tough hombres. They squat because they can’t afford to rent. They’re poor and unemployed. Perhaps they take drugs.

Yes, there are mafias. There is opportunity, and there are those who will take advantage. These include those who seek to find empty homes and (presumably) sell the information to potential illegal tenants.

And there are almost three and a half million empty dwellings in Spain, built by investment funds, banks and – occasionally – by a speculator hoping to turn a profit. Maybe he should rent it out... or lower his asking price

So, why the fuss? The first reason is to be sure to keep one’s possessions safe, and who better to help than a sturdy front door and a good alarm company? Indeed, normally about now with an article like this, there’d be a brief commercial interruption to sell you one. The fact is, the baddies are more likely to break in, wallop the TV and any jewels on the bed-side table, and be out again in under three minutes.

They won’t be staying.

 

Spanish Property Insight here: ‘Squatters in Spain are a serious threat to property owners in a country where the authorities appear more on the side of squatters than of owners, especially in areas where squatters enjoy high-level political support, like Catalonia’.

Right Casa here: ‘Squatters are a huge problem in Spain, and a blight to legitimate Spanish property owners’.

The BBC here: ‘Squatting has a long history in Spain, often fuelled by high rates of homelessness. But there is now a darker phenomenon too - squatters who demand a "ransom" before they will leave a property’.

The Olive Press here: ‘Contrary to popular belief there are no laws in Spain that grant squatters the right to illegally occupy a house’.

Wiki here: ‘Squatting in Spain’.

From a thread on Facebook:  ‘Squatters don’t choose only empty properties or bank owned ones. They’re really taking advantage of the legal loopholes creates on purpose from this communist government to generate chaos and misery. The truth there is no way of preventing squatters from your property because the law only protects the squatter. It’s any property in danger even luxury ones. I’m located in Marbella and people are always worried if their property may be the next one’.

 

 



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