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A Foot in Two Campos

Thoughts from a brand new home-owner in the Axarquía region of Málaga. I hope there might be some information and experiences of use to other new purchasers, plus the occasional line to provoke thought or discussion.

159 - In or Out?
16 June 2016

The arguments have been much more vicious, more deep-felt.  People have been unable to agree to disagree.  It’s been far worse than an ordinary General Election.  Perhaps because we’ve had our whole adult lives to get used the concept of different political parties, different viewpoints, different ways of organising a country’s budget and services – different, but not radically so.  Not really.

This has been much worse.  Families have fallen out.  Neighbours have engaged in Poster Wars.  “In” and “Out” banners have been ripped from people’s fences.  Campaigners leafletting railway stations have been abused.  Then a hard-working young Labour MP was shot and killed leaving her constituency surgery.  Beyond awful.

So what’s been the difference?   Why so much rancour and – yes – actual life-threatening violence? I think there are two key issues.  Firstly we have all been slightly discomfited by being “on the same side” as our political opponents.  Rabid lefties have shared David Cameron’s quotes on Facebook, and rabid right-wingers have agreed with Nicola Sturgeon and Jeremy Corbyn.  That puts us all into new and unfamiliar territory.

Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, with age has come a degree of political maturity.  Whilst I continue to disagree strongly with political opponents, deep down I do recognise (albeit grudgingly) that they want the best for their country (they are just misguided about how best to achieve that).   I can understand their context, and therefore a bit of why they believe what they do.  The referendum is different.   The “other” lot (for me, the opposition is the “Leave” lot), are just completely and utterly wrong.  Not just misguided, not just seeing a different route to a good outcome, but 100% wrong.  And of course they feel exactly the same about me / us (though they are, obviously, wrong about that too!).

So we politely explain the “facts” to them.  Bizarrely, they fail to be convinced.  Patiently, we tell them again.  Yet incomprehensibly they continue down their misguided path.  Insults are thrown.  Here in Spain, on dozens of “expat” Facebook groups, the battle lines159-Inhave been drawn in the sand.  The “Leave” lot have claimed to be acting patriotically, and have accused the “Remain” lot of voting from self-interest.  The “Remains” have accused the “Leaves” of failing to understand, of taking advantage of the freedoms of movement while wishing to prevent future generations doing the same.

I doubt that any of the rancour, any of the hotly-held positions, has changed anybody’s mind.  Most Brits here in Spain voted over a week ago by postal vote, so it was too late to convince anyone.  But still the arguing continued.  One man bellowed “But how can you be so stupid as to not GET IT?” at me a dozen times in one Facebook group.

And we will never “get it”.  Because on this issue, unlike in a general election, the others are hell-bent on ruining our future.  Not just for five years, but forever.   We hold 159-outcompletely different viewpoints.  There are no shades, there is simply no meeting point.  And neither side can bear the idea of life under the other’s system.  In normal party politics, we know we can survive when the “other lot” gets in.  It won’t last forever, then it’ll be our turn again.  But “Leave” or “Remain”?   This is a once-in-a-lifetime decision.   And it really, really matters.

So HOW can those idiots be so stupid as to NOT GET IT???

And on Friday we will know.  Will the quiet majority come out and vote for the status quo?  Or have we hurtled off the edge into two years of whirlwind negotiations before floating off on that tiny island, optimistically hoping for a return to those halcyon days when 159-bothpeople believed that the “Great” in Great Britain actually meant something other than simply “a bit bigger now we’ve added Scotland”.  By wanting to believe ourselves important again, have we condemned ourselves to being the sulky kid in the corner of the playground?  The one nobody wants to play with?   On Friday we will know.  And there’ll be no turning back.



©  Tamara  Essex  2016                              


Like 1        Published at 18:17   Comments (1)

158 – Old Roots, New Roots
16 June 2016

You gotta have roots.   Life would be just … I don’t know … just too transient and superficial without roots.

Living in a new country, you have to find ways of accelerating the process of putting down roots.  A sort of Baby Bio for immigrants.   

The first and easiest place is around your new home.  Neighbours, the corner shop, the nearby bar, quickly become places where you are recognised, and where – after a short while – they know your name.  You begin to put down roots.   Then many people seek out the bars or clubs where others of their own nationality or native language can be found.   For others, it’s the local language school, free village Spanish classes, or intercambiogroups.  More places where there is always someone who greets you with a smile.  Or volunteering, which provides an instant community.  A soup kitchen, animal rescue,131-6AngelsVolunteershelping Spanish people learning English, collecting clothes for a refugee centre, working in a charity shop – any regular commitment provides you with another place where you have roots.  Then you broaden your horizons, make proper friendships, find favourite restaurants in nearby cities.  Your confidence rises and you feel at home.  You have put down your roots.

None of that changes the existence or the strength of your earlier roots.  There’s a referendum coming up, in case you hadn’t noticed!  And some internet forums have been vitriolic about those of us they describe as having “abandoned” our roots.  We haven’t of course.  It’s not even worth rising to.  People of any nationality retain deep roots, however long one is away.  The football, the Eurovision Song Contest, the Olympics – those older roots, the really deep ones, inevitably guide one’s heart.  Those of us living abroad will be158-MoFarahwatching the referendum results on tenterhooks – not for selfish reasons about how it would affect our lives abroad if the free movement we take for granted were to become more limited, but because the homeland and its future matters to us just as much.  Those roots go very deep.

Alongside those (but never replacing them), in your new home country new roots must be nurtured.  Being recognised and welcomed in the wider community is important;  it gives us a sense of place, of belonging.  As the theme tune to “Cheers” put it, “You wanna be where everybody knows your name”.

Where I volunteer at a day centre in Málaga for homeless people, one of the things that’s most important to us is going out and about in the city, visiting art galleries, having coffee together in bars, taking part in the life of the city, being part of that community.  Homeless people lack roots;  they are not usually in the areas where they are recognised and welcomed.  It would be too easy for their worlds to shrink to the quarter kilometre around the town hall’s homelessness hostel and our charity-run day centre.  People need to BE158-patiosaccepted in the wider community, and to KNOW they are accepted.   The work of the RAIS Fundación helps people (“personas de cartón”, or the cardboard sleepers) whose roots may feel a long way away and very disconnected, to feel part of their new communities.  “Raiz” is Spanish for “root”.

Roots are with people, too, not just with places.  Randomly, a couple of weeks ago, on a Calais refugee Facebook page, a guy’s post popped up.  Through a bizarre route involving it being his birthday, we connected and got chatting.  It turned out we had similar backgrounds working in the charity sector.  We had both worked with homeless people, professionally and as volunteers.  Shadi is working in Gaza, and was simultaneously fundraising for a small community charity that was building a house for a family living in a shack, and physically building their new home.  Building had ground to a standstill as the158-Gazahouseproject had run out of funds for materials.  I don’t like asking favours of friends, but I got in touch with three long-standing friends and pitched Shadi’s project to them.  Our roots together go long and deep, and just based on our friendship a couple of them sent donations to kick-start the building project.  That’s what having roots means, and that’s why we need them.

I’m lucky to maintain strong roots back in the UK, and to have developed strong roots here in Spain, both in my home town of Colmenar and now in Málaga city too.  I understand why we need them and why they are so important.  The homeless people in Málaga need them too, and the Gaza family needs them.  There’s a Paypal link to help finish their house below.

©  Tamara  Essex  2016                              


Thanks for all the kind emails and messages worried that I haven’t been blogging as regularly as I used to – I really do appreciate them!  Maybe as everything settles into normality for me, it feels as though there is less to write about.  But there’s bound to be something to say either just before or just after the referendum!

This is what I would generally consider to be bad practice.  But if just a handful of you could see your way to making a small Paypal donation to the Friends Community Charitable Association of Gaza, a family would get a home.  I won’t put photos here as emotional blackmail.  It’s Gaza, you’ve seen the news, you don’t need to see photos of crying children or bombed-out streets.  If you could spare a tenner of whatever your currency is, that would be the best thing this blog could achieve.  Thanks.    (for Paypal donations in any currency)     (for direct donations in any currency)


Like 1        Published at 17:42   Comments (0)

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