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Spanish Shilling

Some stories and experiences after a lifetime spent in Spain

The Valencia Apartment-block Fire
Friday, March 1, 2024

 Last week’s main story was the tragic fire that burned two connected 14- and 10-storey blocks of flats in Valencia on Thursday February 22nd in just a couple of hours. 138 apartments were gutted. That it happened during the day meant that only ten people were killed. Another 500 or so (the estimate of the total inhabitants in the two blocks) are reported safe.

The fire started on the seventh floor following a spark from a short-circuit inside an electric window-awning.

The façade of the building – which began construction in 2006 – was covered by an innovative material called Alucobond, an aluminium composite that includes synthetic material.

The manufacturer’s website insists on its product: ‘High-quality, resilient and unique in appearance – Alucobond® stands for sustainable construction quality and the highest creative standards. The façade material is distinguished by its outstanding product attributes such as precise flatness, variety of surfaces and colours as well as excellent formability’.

The suggestion is that the inner core was highly flammable. The cladding ‘was made from polyurethane, Says The Local, which is a versatile plastic material, which exists in various forms. It is used in everything from shoe soles to sportswear fabrics and mattresses. It’s also often found in building construction, particularly for cladding and insulation. The material is highly flammable, and "when heated, it catches fire" said a fireman. The fact-checking site Maldita expressed caution over the claim, saying that the cladding was more likely to be a rock-wool composite. 

A friend who lives close-by sent me the photograph he took the next morning. 

We are reminded of the Grenfell tragedy in North Kensington, London, which burnt down in June 2017 with 70 deaths. The fire ‘was accelerated by a dangerously combustible aluminium composite cladding and external insulation, with an air gap between them enabling the stack effect’. 

Back in 2008, when the buildings were completed, similar to the entire real-estate sector in Spain, the developer behind the project and an even larger sister block nearby, a firm called Fbex, went into crisis. Two years later it filed for bankruptcy for 640 million euros and the entity passed into the control of its lending bank Banesto.

Many of the owners (or perhaps mortgage holders) were left with nothing more than the clothes they were wearing. The city hall of Valencia has given shelter to those affected. Mapfre insurance nevertheless has an obligation for 26.5 million euros on the buildings.

There are an untold number of high-rise buildings in Spain using a similar kind of cladding with polyurethane built before the regulations were changed in 2006. How would the owners (or, again, the mortgage-paying tenants) feel to discover that their building is potentially a fire-hazard? The tenants in the second Fbex project, in nearby Mislata (162 apartments) are understandably very concerned.

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Far-right leaders at CPAC
Tuesday, February 27, 2024

 ‘The Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) is an annual political conference attended by conservative activists and elected officials from across the United States. The CPAC is hosted by the American Conservative Union…’ (Wiki). A toxic mixture of fundamentalist religion and authoritarianism.

Besides the usual suspects, some big names from abroad were at the CPAC last week (held outside Washington DC last Wednesday through Saturday), including German MEP Christine Anderson from the AfD; Hungary’s Miklos Szantho; the ‘anarcho-capitalist’ Javier Milei from Argentina; Liz Truss from the UK and Spain’s Santiago Abascal, the leader of Vox (Media Matters here).

A picture of Donald Trump and Abascal made the Spanish news (they look like they are sharing a lift) – and Europa Press quotes Trump as saying ‘‘From what I read, I think you will soon be number one’, at the same time ensuring that he was "delighted" to have met Abascal and congratulating him on the "great job" that Vox is doing’. The far-right Spanish press was, if possible, even more enthusiastic: El Debate (owned by 'the Catholic Association of Propagandists') quotes Abascal in his speech saying ‘Only from strong nations can we defend the culture and values that unite us: the homeland, freedom, reason, the faith of our parents, family, property, sovereignty, democracy and the limitation of power. And above all, life, from its beginning to its natural end’. Público (on the far-left) says: ‘Abascal deploys his ultra remarks in Washington and charges against socialism, environmentalism and the 2030 Agenda’.

(‘The Global Goals and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development seek to end poverty and hunger, realise the human rights of all, achieve gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls, and ensure the lasting protection of the planet and its natural resources’, we read here).

‘Brexit boss Nigel Farage — a veteran of more than a decade of CPACs — was received warmly by the CPAC audience and proved even more popular at evening cocktail parties. We “need strong leaders,” Farage railed during his speech, adding “we need Trump back in the White House”…’ says the The NY Post here.

All of these leaders would no doubt agree with the opening speaker and right-wing activist Jack Posobiec, who said: “Welcome to the end of democracy. We are here to overthrow it completely. We didn’t get all the way there on January 6, but we will endeavour to get rid of it and replace it with this right here.” He held up a cross necklace and continued: “After we burn that swamp to the ground, we will establish the new American republic on its ashes, and our first order of business will be righteous retribution for those who betrayed America”.


(While on the subject…) Trump on Putin – a short video at YouTube. ‘More and more Republican lawmakers are siding with Russia, seemingly at the behest of former President Trump, who has a long history of fawning over Vladimir Putin’ says MSNBC.

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The Rudderless Island
Sunday, February 18, 2024

Those of us who moved to Spain from the United Kingdom will have our view about how the old country has either prospered or gone to the dogs since the Brexit, or perhaps even before that particular upset.

My dad used to trace Britain’s final decline to the Suez Crisis in 1956. Now, I think it was when they arrested Julian Assange in 2010 on a trumped-up rape charge (oh look, I’ve gone and used the t-word!).

But we all have opinions. Those of us Brits who are living in Spain have other things to think about – unless we are among those unfortunates who find themselves enmeshed in the 90/180 Schengen Trap – then it’s a daily and anxious look at the calendar and the doubt about who to look after the house for the next three months.

Another way to look at the UK comes from a Spanish journalist who works at El País called Ana Carbajosa, who after travelling extensively across Britain has written a book called ‘Una Isla a la Deriva’: the drifting (or rudderless) island. The write-up provided by the printers, Península, says, ‘When did the United Kingdom collapse? How is it possible that the empire in which the sun never set has ended up becoming an increasingly isolated, fragmented and unequal place? How much has Brexit contributed to deepening cracks that had been opening for decades? How were unscrupulous politicians like Boris Johnson or Liz Truss able to end up running the country?’ interviews Ms Carbajosa. Their first question is: ‘What misconceptions are there in Spain about the United Kingdom?’

She answers, ‘We probably think that the United Kingdom is a unit and that the United Kingdom is the English (los ingleses). In truth, the United Kingdom is a very complex and diverse country due to the geographical and regional differences that, as the experts I spoke with for the book explained to me, are the most noteworthy in all of Europe. In all European countries there are differences between rich and poor regions, but the poor ones are not as poor as those in the United Kingdom, which is (by the way) also the sixth largest economy in the world. There is a brutal regional inequality that we are not aware of and that has contributed to Brexit and other political phenomena’.

She tells us that the media and politicians who she meets there talk of ‘Broken Britain’.

But that’s all happening elsewhere. We live in Spain, with its own triumphs and failures (of which, if we stick to The Euro Weekly and other low-shooting English-language media, we are blissfully unaware of).

Perhaps we can stay here – or perhaps some hostile currents in Iberian politics or the media (chucking Spaniards out of the UK needs some retaliation, maybe) may send us abruptly home. There are 5,700 Spaniards currently living in the UK under threat of deportation.

After all, as we fail to concern ourselves about Rishi Sunak’s hostility towards the immigrants, it’s not like we have the ear of the Spanish legislators.

Most unlikely, of course, but there you go. We live in unlikely times.  

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The Farmers' Revolt
Wednesday, February 14, 2024

The farmers’ protests – roads blocked by legions of (recently washed and highly polished) tractors.

Of course they have a point. The low prices paid for their products versus the high prices they (and everybody else) must pay for food in the supermarkets. Someone is making a fortune, and it clearly isn’t them.

Although – in a small way – farmers or smallholders often trade between themselves: a crate of tomatoes here for a box of potatoes there.

The issue isn’t just a Spanish one – rather, it’s Europe-wide. Control on pesticides and fertilisers; rising costs; over-powerful retailers; cheaper (and un-regulated) imports from outside the EU – and sometimes, even legal imports from within (well we know what the French are capable of). Then there’s the political opportunism coming from here and there; the overwhelming list of regulations and the all-weather work, rain or shine.

Which should be worth something. As they say: ‘No farmers, no food’.   

Small and large farmers are in different leagues of course. We read of ‘the decline of small and medium-sized farmers, ranchers or fishermen. Rising costs (and droughts) have aggravated the difficulties in general and, specifically, the crisis of the traditional model, which has been made up mostly of self-employed workers, favouring the business of large companies in all links of the food chain’.

The number of self-employed farmers has fallen by 20% in the last decade.

One problem is that when there’s a drought, extra efforts are made, such as new desalination plants (with their own pollutive issues and high-energy costs) and government aid – which brings in turn more consumption, more crops, more hotels. The next drought finds the short-fall far worse than the previous one, since the demand is by now much higher.

Another issue are the illegal wells. As the strawberry farmers outside La Doñana say – we all have a right to make money for our families.

The Government has dug deep in the past few years. President Sánchez recently said ‘Since 2022, we have provided 4,000 million euros for the primary sector. Including 1,380 million euros in direct aid and 2,800 million for the modernization of irrigation. A further 6,800 million has come through the European Common Agricultural Policy of which 4,800 million are direct aid together with agricultural insurance”.

In fact, the CAP takes up 30% of the entire EU budget.

The far-right has found the opportunity to their liking, rabble-rousing and attacking the ‘out-of-touch elites’. Meanwhile, one of the small pleasures of the ‘tractoradas’ (as they are called) was watching the populist agitator Alvise Pérez – who just happened to be passing by while shouting ‘Por España’ into a megaphone – being beaten up by the police in a park outside Madrid. He’s involved in stirring things up along with Lola Guzmán (president of the 6F Group) who tells the police at the same event ‘that ETA didn’t kill enough of you people’. Isolated events, perhaps, as the farmers become ever-more indignant. Lola herself is an ex-militant of Vox.

Always a pleasure to see the true patriots at work. With their flags and their hatred.

For most of us, the inconvenience of a group striking for one reason or another is either minor or non-existent – unless they block the roads or close down the flight or train-ride we had booked. In this case, the shops may run out of certain items in the short-term and probably will be obliged to raise their prices once the farmers’ claims have been satisfied.

Regardless of the activities of any fellow-travellers, or practical solutions from the Government, it appears that the tractoradas will continue for a while. The DGT has the real-time road-blocks by the farmers (and all other pertinent road-conditions) here.

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Drought and Some Patchwork Solutions
Monday, February 5, 2024

 It’s not looking very good in Catalonia with the water issue at the moment.

The BBC says ‘A state of emergency is declared as the region faces worst ever drought’. The fact is that the reservoirs are all but empty and there’s what the British would call a hosepipe-ban come into effect in 102 municipalities affecting six million residents including the people of the city of Barcelona.

While the Generalitat has concentrated on draconian reductions for agriculture, ranchers and industry (-80, -50 and -25% cuts), the subject of tourism has been left in the hands of the town halls. A headline on Sunday says that some of these local authorities are insisting on sea-water filled swimming-pools and no plugs to be provided in hotel baths.

We learn that tourists apparently like to use more water than residents.

Not enough rain (or snow-melt) is the culprit. But the effect is a drought – in the tail-end of winter.

One plan is to bring water up from Sagunto (Valencia) to the Catalonian capital by sea.

It’s been a warm and dry few months in Spain, with other areas equally worried about water shortage – particularly Andalucía.

All right, they aren’t cutting the water to the golf-courses on the Costa del Sol (at least, not yet), but the larger plan there ‘will focus on using disused wells and boreholes, more desalination projects to make seawater usable and pushing local councils into fixing existing leaks in their water supply networks’.

In both regions – the fear is more that the tourist-industry will suffer than any apparent concern for the residents – as the availability of agricultural water is reduced and water-cuts are programmed for Seville, Córdoba and Málaga.

Andalucía is also looking at cistern-ships, maybe hauling water ‘from Portugal or even Asia’. Didn’t some place in Malaga bring a petite ice-burg down from Greenland last year?

A useful list of household water-economies includes showering rather than taking a bath – but the most effective break on domestic water-use would no doubt be the local water company putting up its prices.

Judging by the last few years of steadily increasing temperatures, the tourist bonanza may begin to falter, particularly in the south – although, here’s Sur in English: ‘Reassurance for Malaga and Costa del Sol tourism sectors following Andalucía's fresh drought decree. The regional government is to spend a further 217 million euros on measures to shore up water supply as the much-needed rain still fails to arrive’.

One answer is to build new desalination plants, but they are expensive and, as Greenpeace says, "This technology is essential to alleviate a period of extreme drought, like the one we are suffering now, but they are the last option". In Spain, there are currently an astonishing 770 of them – mostly used for domestic consumption. 

Thus, we prepare for the summer season - with another 85 million or so international tourists joining us for a drink, a swim and a shower. 

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More, No Wait, Less Tourists: More Money!
Tuesday, January 30, 2024

Following another successful session at the Fitur Madrid tourist fair this past weekend, Spain is preparing itself for the 2024 season.

With numbers of visitors beginning to reach uncomfortable highs, there are plans to try and resolve the problems. After all, as we know, it’s not really the crowds of foreigners, so much as the amount they spend. The Express brings us: ‘Spain only wants to attract 'high-class tourists' as the country becomes overwhelmed. Spain is set to focus on 'high value visitors' including those with significant 'spending power' as the country battles high visitor numbers’.

Plans to spread the visitors around won’t work – after a cold and dull winter, the truth is that nobody wants to go and visit Huercal Overa (a market town in Northern Almería present – inexplicably – at Fitur) for their hols. They want Benidorm.

Tourist apartments are a low-hanging target. ‘Town councils may establish limitations regarding the maximum number of homes for tourist purposes, per building or sector’. There are, we read, 80,000 of these just in Andalucía. In Mallorca, ‘Holiday lets are to blame for Mallorca tourist overcrowding’. Controls are evidently overdue.

This is for the comfort and safety of the customer, peace of mind for the neighbours, and a more ready income for the hoteliers.

Even though tourist-rentals work out as being usually more expensive than hotel stays.  

Then we read of the ‘alarm at the boom in the number of tourist homes in Spain’.  Exeltur considers this as the worst problem facing the tourist industry in 2004 ‘ahead even of concerns regarding the Government cutting short-range domestic flights’.

Some hotels are still yet to recover from the Covid crisis, as we see in an article at Infobae: ‘Tourism is still not profitable: half of the hotels in Málaga, Madrid and Barcelona are at high risk of defaulting on the banks’.

The Bank of Spain weighs in, concerned about the ‘increases in the minimum wage, difficulties in finding staff and adapting to new technologies’ (none of which are particularly a problem for tourist lets).

But, while the high numbers of tourists staying in the downtown apartments is certainly a problem (with their little wheelie-suitcases trundling noisily across the cobble-stones) and one should always feel sorry for the grand hotels with their assembly-line business model, the long-term threat comes from elsewhere.

The looming climate-crisis.  

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Now, They'll Let us Vote in the UK...
Monday, January 22, 2024

It was a shame that those of us Brits who back then in 2016 had lived abroad for fifteen years couldn’t vote in the famous referendum over leaving the European Union. The Brexit as it became known: the one where the UK would steer a new course all by itself.

As to where it was going, who could be sure? Glory, success and ennoblement of course, but maybe only for those few millionaires who had wisely moved their funds offshore beforehand.

But that’s the problem for the United Kingdom and its inhabitants to face. Brexit will bring some benefits perhaps, along with some unpleasant realisations and lessons.

Over here in the remains of the European Union, things appear to be moving along. We are managing quite well in the absence of the British, and wish them well with their straight bananas and trade deals with Timbuktu.

We couldn’t vote, us lot. Normally, voting for a candidate to become either a member of parliament or to crash and burn might be useful enough for those who live there – a good candidate will have ideas and energy to spruce things up locally – with the benevolent support and indulgence of his party – but we live, and have lived for a long time – in foreign parts.

The French have long had a group within their parliament which represents Frenchmen abroad. They have eleven seats in the National Assembly. Nice.

The referendum, of course, was different. Instead of discussing the pros and cons of increasing the acreage of sugar-beet (I’m from a bucolic part of East Anglia: left for Spain when I was thirteen), it was about a subject which would enormously affect us expats – traitors and malingers as we might have been considered back in Henley – in many ways.

Sugar-beet, by the way, is a kind of turnipy-thing that you can either get sugar from, or can feed to the cows.

Yet we couldn’t vote in the one thing that would have affected us.

Back then, I doubt even the British media bothered to ask us our views, despite there being 1,300,000 of us living in the EU and another 4,200,000 living elsewhere in the world.

Regardless of the usefulness or otherwise of swelling my North Norfolk constituency by one person; and following a change in the law, we Brits abroad (fifteen years and up) are now encouraged to register (every three years) and to call for our postal vote. This register of Brits abroad may not be huge (although they endearingly estimate three million potential voters – spread of course across 650 polls), but it might attract a few extra donations to one party or another which will no doubt be welcomed (if criticised elsewhere).

Right now, I’m renewing my passport (they do this these days in Belfast). My current one has ‘European Union’ stamped in gold on the cover. My new one won’t.

I suppose you are right – I should be looking for Spanish citizenship after all these years here. After all, I speak Spanish and know my way around – even if I do happen to look extremely and pinkly Nordic.

All I wanted, really, was to be a European.

Anyway, it boils down to this: either get myself a Spanish passport, or find out more about the fascinating politics of sugar-beet.

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Advertising Blues
Friday, January 19, 2024

Why do we dislike adverts so much in our daily encounter with the computer?  

It’s one thing, I suppose, to be bombarded with commercial messages when the service we use is free - like Facebook - but even there, the main product which that company - and don’t forget its grasping shareholders - lives from, is us chickens.  

We are the ones, we and our information, likes, dislikes, gender, age and location, which is sold to the companies who wish to better direct their products. The fact that a proportion of those advertisers (or ‘sponsors’) are attempting to sell us a dodgy product with ‘last few days’ discounts should warn us: but no - we fall for all these scams and traps.

In truth, advertising is a fascinating industry, which uses psychology in its many forms, from making the buyer feel better, more comfortable and fulfilled. The famous book on the subject, Vance Packard's The Hidden Persuaders, was written long before the Internet - back in the days when cars had tail-fins.

Right now, a targeted advert from some obscure company which probably started business a week ago arrives every tenth post or so on my Facebook feed, telling me of the virtues of some household product which can cure everything, please read on… It's just a form of click-bait, a bit like the one you see in downmarket newspaper headlines. If you turn to it, the new page will offer a wordy article about the hundred different uses for Vicks Vapour Rub, for example, interspaced with endless adverts. Yes, the client company pays young Mark Z to place its advert, which is in turn, full of targeted adverts.

One can only hope the Vicks people get a cut.

What are the moderators really there for - to stop some delightful girl from Denver writing to me out of the blue proposing a relationship if I only send her five thousand dollars?

If we expect it with Facebook (or from the other social media pages which I must admit I’ve not sampled), then what of the ordinary news-sites?

Once again, if you don’t know what the product is, then it’s you. Which is why advertisers advertise.

This is particularly unarguable with a free newspaper. The blurb is just space that wasn’t sold by the sales-reps or the ad-manager. ‘We need some filler for page eight’ calls the fellow from layout from his bunker in the back office. Then perhaps, there’ll be some advertorial (that’s to say, paid-for copy) on page nine.

Adverts: so long as they aren’t too much of an irritation, then fine. But what about - and we return to the computer or the television screen - the pop-up advert that suddenly interrupts one’s reading?

Of course, the medium needs an income. There are staffers, writers, printers, photographers, distributors, lawyers, owners and shareholders to pay. But we have pay-walls, subscribers and a wealthy parent-company putting out its own angled-copy. So yes, advertisers too, but my point is that we don’t have to like them (Sorry!).

As we know, Elon Musk certainly doesn’t.

Then there are the media-sites with pay-walls - do they expect us to get our news from a single source and shouldn't they be, in consequence, advert free? How many annual ransoms should one be paying to get the full range of reporting?

Mostly, one can get around them anyway with a simple paywall-bypass.

Then we have the war between the useful ad-block extension (a practical tool for the consumer) and the ad-block-blockers, increasingly used by the media. It’s a struggle which will never end.

And so we come to YouTube, which will drop an ad-bomb half-way through a spoken sentence. In the same spirit of disorder, Spanish TV - which I rarely watch - will think nothing of interrupting a film with adverts, which understandably irritates the viewer while the mood is irretrievably lost. As a result of this, along with the manipulation in the news, along comes a report to say that TV watching has fallen again in favour of other options.

But what of subscription TV? How about when one has paid to be rid of those pesky plugs that ruin our viewing? What have we learned here?  

Simply this: that advertisements, or commercial interruptions, are a nuisance and a pest. If you pay enough as a subscriber and a streamer, you might be relieved of them.

At least in the novel I’m currently reading, which I got from the library, there aren’t any endorsements.

And then there’s the cinema - at least no one would dare stop the film to promote a fruit-drop.

Which brings us to this question - do we ignore the advertisers buzzing around like flies at the stables, or actively decide to avoid their products?  

It’s easy enough when it’s a BMW, but what about - and it’s coming up to Valentine’s Day - a certain fragrance pour l’homme, or maybe a lengthy message about the many uses for potato-peel?

One thing’s for sure - this article will never appear anywhere outside of my blog…



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Why do Hackers always Wear Hoodies?
Sunday, January 7, 2024

Hackers got into the Orange telephone last week, disrupting the service for a few hours. Later, the same hackers put out a statement saying how they did it and accusing Orange of using ‘weak’ passwords. A hacker, says Wiki, ‘is someone with knowledge of bugs or software who can break into computer systems and access data which would otherwise be inaccessible to them’.

Usually for profit.

Several big names have been attacked in Spain this autumn – such as Telefónica and Vodafone, TeleMadrid or PTV Telecom; Endesa, the City Hall of Seville and even a number of leading banks. All of these companies employ professional IT (information technology) people to keep their accounts safe. Spain is third in the world after the USA and Russia for the number of cyber-attacks suffered.

All we have, here in our homes, is a mild distrust of anything that looks fishy and maybe an old dog-eared copy of Computers for Dummies lying around somewhere

And as for ‘weak’ passwords: if they ain’t weak, then I’m not going to remember them; and if they are strong, then I will need to have them written down somewhere, probably on a Post-it stuck to the wall behind the PC.

Anyway, now it appears hackers ‘have discovered a way to access Google accounts without a password’, so that’s corked it for all of us. 

I suppose being hacked on Facebook is easy enough, and probably reasonably painless. You see those posts sometimes about a terrible accident with someone you might know – click here! These are evidently for the gullible, but sooner or later, you’ll be caught out. This type involves you clicking on the link – the same as when your favourite bank sends you a slightly improbable message or your ‘daughter’ posts to say she’s lost her phone and can you send her some money (this is known as phishing). Click, and you are caught.

Few of us are computer experts – and we often only know a few routes through the maze without having the least idea of how the maze is built. Easy enough – who wants to design a jet-engine or an apartment block? Then, when a new update (or worse still, a full operating system) comes along – we throw our hands in the air: ‘I just got it working to my satisfaction, and now they’ve gone and fooled with it again’.

That’s probably all done to keep up with the competition, to keep the shareholders happy and the programmers rich – or is it the other way around? – as well as potentially staying one step ahead of the hackers.

In the end, it may be for the best not to keep a link to your bank account on your mobile phone, just in case someone gets into the system. Or for that matter, keep your money under the mattress rather than in the bank – although this presents an opportunity for an entirely different kind of criminal.

Maybe – like my friend Alicia – not keep a credit card at all (usually meaning that I have to pay for lunch), although the banks will have insurance for this. Wiki again: ‘Cardholders' money is usually protected from scammers with regulations that make the card provider and bank accountable. The technology and security measures behind credit cards are continuously advancing, adding barriers for fraudsters attempting to steal money’.

So we do the best we can, keeping suspicious and full of mistrust as we answer or ignore the stuff we find on our computers and phones (in the hope that they won’t hack the banks, phone or insurance companies or anyone else who has our details).

It’s a war which we can only watch from the side-lines, hoping that the good guys win.

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Drill, Baby, Drill: a Preview of 2024
Wednesday, January 3, 2024

The question we might ask at the beginning of this year is ‘What is in Store for Twenty Twenty Four?’ 

Nothing good by the looks of things.

The Government seems to be limping onwards, with sustained attacks from the right-wing, the media and the other usual suspects (including, unfortunately, some dark corners of the military), but it is sustained by a hodgepodge of small parties who all want one thing or another and – if it wasn’t for their dislike of the rightist Partido Popular with its sinister ally Vox – then any fracture could take place, followed by a triumphant motion of censure from the PP (thankfully, Vox doesn’t have enough seats to call for one).

So, we have lefties and commies and regionalists on the one side… and the conservatives and the far-right, often joined at the hip, on the other.

This would be manageable, but the social media, particularly TikTok, is doing all it can to raise the temperature.

With the ever-growing and largely unsolvable issue of the illegal migrants coming to Europe, the elections coming up (Galicia’s has been brought forward to February apparently to help the image of Núñez Feijóo the PP leader who urgently needs a victory) then the Basque Country to follow probably in June (no chance for the PP there), along with the European elections, there will likely be fresh gains for the authoritarian parties. Later, in the second half of 2024, Orban’s Hungary takes over the Presidency of the Council of the European Union.

There are elections elsewhere in 2024 – presidential elections in Russia in March (oh, the suspense – who could be the winner: the dictator or that fellow in the Gulag?), a General Election probably in the UK in May (where despite the Brexit being shown to be a disaster, there’s barely any pro-EU politicians with a look-in) and then later, Gor love us, Donald Trump might take the USA again.

Then there’s the invasion of Ukraine, which ‘is estimated to have caused tens of thousands of Ukrainian civilian casualties and hundreds of thousands of military casualties’.

And Gaza with over 22,000 deaths in three short months.  

Many more migrants, or refugees, or asylum seekers will be looking for our protection this year. The choice is stark: either tend to them or turn them away. Left or right solutions?

We have another worry as the summer rolls around: will it be even hotter this year? How much hotter can it get? It’s one thing living on the coast, or in the north of Spain, but what about those who live inland, where temperatures last year were as high as 47ºC and stayed that way for weeks on end. Indeed, this past year of 2023 has been the hottest since records began say the weather-folk gloomily.

Inflation worries us, as the prices are always on the rise. Maybe the wealthy suppliers are getting just a bit too greedy. Perhaps we shall post something on Facebook about them, although Spain’s wealthiest man, Amancio Ortega, gets a huge number of ‘likes’ and ‘hearts’ each time his name comes up on that platform.

Spain’s second wealthiest person, by the way, is his daughter Sandra.

Some good news might be the repeal of the 90/180 day rule for foreign home-owners (as they adapt to the new EES enter/exit IT system at all Schengen border crossings).

Maybe things will sort themselves out, with sensible people being returned to government, the world’s various wars being resolved and a cooler summer season than we either expect or deserve.

Anyway, and sorry for the above. Personally, I’m quite cheerful: I have a new house to live in with a nice view and a garden to potter about in. It's about a hundred metres above sea-level, you know, in case the poles suddenly melt... 

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