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The Curmudgeon

The curmudgeon is a miserable sod. He likes to have a moan. He tackles subjects which many foreigners living in Spain agree with but are too polite to say anything.

What are our local councils playing at! What we need is some Common Sense.
Saturday, February 18, 2023

By The Curmudgeon

We all know that local councils start spending money on vanity projects in the run-up to an election. It happens everywhere, in the UK, in France, Germany, Italy and Spain. Probably also in Ukraine.

 

 

This diatribe is specific to Ronda, but I’m sure it is relevant to other places.

 

Ronda Council is taking the mickey, isn’t it? I don’t usually get involved in politics, but I have looked on in horror at the huge amounts of money being ploughed into all kinds of projects in the town, by the ruling Partido Popular.

Local councils in Spain have elections this May. Ruling councils tend to invest in a range of vanity projects to try and get re-elected. Opposition parties make promises they cannot hope to fulfil.

This activity demonstrates a lack of common sense on the part of our local politicians.

Look at this list of disastrous, extremely costly and environmentally damaging projects currently in progress or recently completed in my town: photo-voltaic farms, new outdoor pool near LIDL, new bus station, huge multi-storey car park in Barrio San Francisco, demolition of existing swimming pool to create a new sports area on Avenida de Malaga, new road layout at the Recinto Ferial.

The Council trumpets its environmental credentials, with its plan to do away with paper and transfer to digital means of communication, but this is just playing at being eco-friendly.

Not a single council building sports a solar panel! Lights in council buildings are on all day whether needed or not. Fiestas and ferias continue as before with a huge waste of electricity on lighting. I could go on, but I’m getting cross ….

Back to the list of vanity projects. Where is the common sense?

100 acre photo-voltaic farms in Cuevas del Becerro are insane. Where’s the common sense?

Why build a brand-new outdoor swimming pool that is only open for three months of the year? Particularly when there was one already on Avenida de Malaga. It would surely have been cheaper to renovate that one. It makes common sense.

Why do we need a new bus station? The current one is well-located. It would have been far cheaper to renovate that. It’s not as if there are that many buses that come to Ronda. No common sense.

As for the monster multi-story car park being built on a greenfield site in the Barrio San Francisco, well, words fail me.

The old swimming pool at the bottom of Avenida de Malaga has been razed to the ground, in order to create a sport zone. Sorry, I thought they were planning one of those on the site of the old Mercadona store, where there is already an indoor pool, an all-weather pitch and other facilities.

The latest headline in the local paper informs us that the council is going to spend half-a-million euros on re-arranging the road system at the showground. The work will take four months. Where is the common sense?

There appears to be no joined-up thinking going on at the council. Where is their common sense?

Right, my rant is over. I’ve probably missed other projects that make no sense, but I hope I’ve made my point.

I shall be exercising my right to vote in the May local elections and I hope other guiris got registered in time so that they too can have a say. I shall be looking for an alternative to the Partido Popular, which has presided over 12 years of waste and a lack of basic common sense in the town. PSOE is a possibility, but there are two other parties, I understand. Contigo Ronda and Ronda 100 por 100.

I hope you will make your vote count also. Vote for COMMON SENSE!



Like 2        Published at 8:26 PM   Comments (3)


Spanish Beer report
Thursday, February 16, 2023

Spanish lagers have never had a good reputation, especially amongst real ale drinkers like The Curmudgeon. However, the rich offering of craft beers in the UK isn't sufficient for him to want to live in the land of his birth.

 

I no longer wish to live in the UK, which has been ruined by that country’s exit from the European Union and the incompetent handling of the process by Boris Johnson, Michael Gove et al. And BoJo’s two successors as prime minister have not improved matters one jot.

Not even the superior range of beers on offer in the UK is enough to lure me back.

 

Spanish beer

One of the few things I truly missed when I emigrated to Spain back in 2008 was decent beer. As a former CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale) member, I was a fan of cask ales.

However, I have to admit that in the last few years here in Spain some better tasting beers  than Cruzcampo and Heineken (same company, by the way) which dominate in Andalucía, have come onto the market, and new craft beers are emerging all the time in places like Madrid, Toledo and even little old Ronda.

The adjacent photo I took recently in a bar in Sevilla, but there are other places around Ronda that offer a fabulous selection of tercios and botellinesBar Alegre in Ronda, Bar Ankanita in Estación de Benaoján, and Venta El Puente in La Indiana spring to mind.

El Águila (Madrid), El Alcázar (Jaén) and Turia (Valencia) are widely available in the Serranía de Ronda, and beyond, both in supermarkets and in bars.

The major brands available on draft that are quaffable include: Alhambra, Amstel, Estrella Galicia, Mahou, San Miguel and Victoria Malaga.

Small wonder that San Miguel, which originated in The Philippines when those islands were still Spanish (Spain lost The Philippines, together with Cuba and Puerto Rico in 1898), is now on sale from London to Lima, from Cardiff to Caracas and from Edinburgh to Erfurt.

 

Marcas Blancas

When it comes to buying beer in the supermarkets, your best bet is to go for a marca blanca, an own brand label beer. Amazingly most are made at the same brewery, Font Salem SL in Valencia. Others are brewed in France, Belgium and the Netherlands.

Why pay 55 - 60c for a branded beer when you can get an equally good, I would say better, alternative, for 25 – 30c?

I particularly recommend Steinburg from Mercadona, Argus from LIDL, Karlsquell from Aldi, as well as own brands from Al Campo, Carrefour, El Corte Inglés, Covirán and Día, and, no doubt, other chains where I do not shop.

 

 

 

 

 

Foreign beers

A wide range of foreign beers are on sale in Spain nowadays.

Most supermarkets and some bars offer German Weissbier, such as Paulaner, Franziskaner and Oettinger. LIDL has its own marca blanca,

Occasionally the German discounters Aldi and LIDL have special offers of packs of English cask ales.

They all sell that famous black stout from Ireland, Guinness. You sometimes see Murphy’s also.

The Czech beer Budvar and the Mexican Sol are increasingly on sale, as well as Indian, Italian and Japanese lagers.

 

 

 

 

 

So, lots to be positive about with the current beer scene in Spain.

As for the UK, I can enjoy a decent pint or two of cask bitter when I visit family there, but that’s as far as it goes.

I’m staying here – Andalucía is for me!

Salud, Prost, Cheers, Skol!

 

© The Curmudgeon

 

Tags: 1898, Al Campo, Aldi, Alhambra, Amstel, Bar Alegre, Bar Ankanita, beer, bitter, Budvar, CAMRA, Carrefour, Cheers, Coviran, Cruzcampo, Cuba, Curmudgeon, Dia, El Aguila, El Alcazar, El Corte Ingles, Estrella Galicia, Font Salem, Franziskaner, Guinness, Heineken, Jaen, Karlsquell, lager, LIDL, Madrid, Mahou, Mercadona, Murphy’s, Oettinger, Paulaner, Philippines, Prost, Puerto Rico, Ronda, Salud, San Miguel, Skol, Sol, Steinburg, stout, Toledo, Turia, Valencia, Venta El Puente, Victoria Malaga



Like 2        Published at 6:36 AM   Comments (3)


What is going on here?
Tuesday, February 7, 2023

As you know, The Curmudgeon likes a moan. Today he is wondering what’s going on with bars here in Spain and also with political opinions.

 

 

 

Bars, etc

“When I were nowt but a lad”, most bars and restaurants in Spain were open all day until late. After they closed, you could go on to a bar de copas, pay double and enjoy the company of pretty young señoritas or even foreign girls on their travels.

It is often suggested that they were “prozzies”, but not in my experience.

But I digress…..

 

 

 

What has happened in Spain, is that, post-Covid, you’re struggling to find anywhere open, especially off-season. Bar owners shut when it suits them, often without notice.

A couple of recent examples spring to mind.

In the tiny village where I live (population 990), you’re struggling to find anywhere open in the evenings, unless there’s a local feria or it’s high season.

Thursdays are particularly bad. In the daytime only two places are open, but they both close around 4.00 pm. In the evenings, two other places open up, both bares de copas, where they only serve micro-waved pizzas and the like.

In the big town, Ronda (pop. 33,000 and falling) I haven’t got a clue what is going on.

The other week we booked a few days in advance a table for four for Friday night in one of the best new restaurants in town. Booking accepted. We were looking forward to eating there for the first time.

However, when we looked at their website on the Friday afternoon to check out the menu, we learned that the restaurant was going to be shut that night. They didn’t ring me to cancel. I rang repeatedly but no one picked up. Unprofessional, or what? We shan't be rushing to go there any time soon.

Fortunately, I managed to get a booking at one of our favourite long-established restaurants in town. As always it was excellent, if somewhat expensive.

To sum up, it seems to me that, unlike in the old days when bars, cafes and restaurants were a “service”, the owners are only interested in themselves and making money. At the first sign of an empty terrace, they shut up shop. We’ve even been hurried up to pay our bill because they wanted to close – at 4.00 pm!

No money to be made? OK, we’ll shut, without so much as a here no there!

Let's call a spade a spade. The restaurant that let us down was La Tropicana, the one where we enjoyed a lovely meal was El Almocabar.

 

Political opinion

I had a conversation with a Spanish neighbour in our local bar the other day. Sergio is only in his 30s, yet he was longing for a return to the ideals of franquismo. Astonishing.

A few days later I bumped into his father, who is in his mid-50s. Esteban is of the same view as his son (or the other way round!), yet he was a mere infant when Franco died in 1975.

I cannot fathom it. It’s a bit like those Americans, British, Turks, Hungarians and Russians who still believe in Donald Trump, Boris Johnson, Brexit, Recep Erdogan, Victor Orban and “El hijo de Putin”.

 

 

 

 

It’s enough to turn you into a curmudgeon!

What’s going on?

 

© The Curmudgeon

 

Tags: Americans, bars, bar de copas, Boris Johnson, Brexit, British, Curmudgeon, Donald Trump, Erdogan, Hungarians, Orban, Putin, Recep Erdogan, restaurants, Ronda, Russians, Turks, Victor Orban



Like 2        Published at 10:13 AM   Comments (1)


Brexit Three Years On
Friday, February 3, 2023

We have just “celebrated” the anniversary of 'Brexit day', three years since the UK formally left the EU on 31 January 2020. The Curmudgeon, a devout Remainer, sums up some of the Press talk floating around at the end of last month.


The International Monetary Fund (IMF) chose to mark Brexit day by publishing a report that said the UK was the only country in the G7 whose economy would shrink this year. Worse even than Russia, and we weren’t even hit by sanctions or engaged in a major war.

Brexit is a ‘complete disaster’ and ‘total lies’, says former Tory donor and private equity veteran Guy Hands, a leading City figure, says Boris Johnson ‘threw the country and the NHS under the bus’.

Speaking on the third anniversary of the UK’s departure from the EU, Hands, the founder, chair and chief investment officer of the private equity firm Terra Firma, said: “It’s been a complete disaster. The reality is it’s been a lose-lose situation for us and Europe. Europe has lost more [in financial services] but we’ve lost as well. And the reality of Brexit was, it was just a bunch of complete and total lies.

“The only way that the Brexit put forward by Boris Johnson was going to work was if there was a complete deregulation of the UK and we moved to a sort of Liz Truss utopia of a Singapore state and that was just never going to happen,” Hands, a former donor to the Conservative party, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

Guy Hands founded the private equity firm Terra Firma

Photograph: Bloomberg/Getty Images

“The British population was never going to accept a state in which the NHS would be demolished, where free education would be severely limited, where regulation with regard to employment would be thrown apart. It was just complete and total absolute lies.”

He added: “The biggest issue about it, and you can take the Brexit bus as a good example, is the lies that Boris Johnson and the Conservative party told about the NHS. In fact, what they did was throw the country and the NHS under the bus.”

According to the polling expert John Curtice, on average polls now suggest that 57% people in the UK would vote to rejoin the EU.

The Brexit anniversary marks three years of political mayhem and economic calamity.

Ironically, it is also 50 years since Britain joined the European Economic Community, the fore-runner of the European Union.

Ten years ago this month, David Cameron made his shameless speech pledging a referendum to placate his party and Ukip-ers, who he had previously called “fruitcakes”, “loonies” and “closet racists”.

Cameron wrongly thought Brexiteers could be appeased, but they proved insatiable. The more harm their Brexit does, the more extreme versions they demand, chasing those impossible phantasms they mis-sold to the country.

Guardian columnist Polly Toynbee wrote on Tuesday: “ ‘Remoaner’ was a clever Brexit epithet for the 48% of us who voted remain. The heartbreak of this act of national self-harm left Remainers keening in grief, in a long moan for the loss of an ideal, along with certain economic decline.

“With the sorrow there was rage, white-hot and vengeful, against cynical Brexit leaders who knowingly sold snake oil and fairy dust”.

David Lammy, the shadow foreign secretary, last week promised there would be a civilised friendship with Europe under a Labour government.

There was talk of reconnecting “a tarnished UK” with its closest allies, “for security and prosperity”; “reducing friction” on trade; unblocking the Horizon schemestrengthening student links and pledging a “clean power alliance”.

"But there is to be no rejoining, no way back to the customs union or single market," Labour says, so as to deny Tory strategists what they yearn for: a re-run of Brexit at the next general election to distract from the economy, the cost of living crisis and collapsed public services.

The pollster John Curtice says that 57% of people are in favour of rejoining, with just 43% for staying out. 49% think Brexit weakens the economy.

Toynbee continues: “Remainer grief eases at signs of a country reuniting against the liars who pulled off this trick. But it’s rash to imagine that even a 14-point lead means a pro-EU referendum would be won: we know what referendums do”.

But, is it not fair to suppose that egocentric Britain forgets that Brussels, with a war on its doorstep and its own economic woes, might shun yet more negotiations with the UK.

Let’s not forget the MEPs and envoys we insulted. The spite and mendacity spread by the likes of Nigel Farage and Daniel Hannan in the European Parliament or (Sir) David Frost across the negotiating table.

Hannan, the ex-MEP and arch-purveyor of Brexit fabrications, is trying to scare defecting Brexit voters back. “There really does seem to be a plot to overturn Brexit,” he warns Telegraph readers in an article.

He uses Lammy’s speech as evidence, plus Labour’s resistance to the EU deregulation law. “There is little doubt the Europhile blob is giving it a go,” he writes, “to hold Britain within the EU’s regulatory orbit pending an attempt at re-entry.”

He also warns: “For their plan to have the slightest chance of success, they need to convince the country that Brexit has been an economic disaster.”

Well, that shouldn’t be too difficult, Daniel! It has been and still is an unmitigated and self-inflicted catastrophe.

Look what Brexit has ‘achieved’:

  • a 4% shrinkage in long-run productivity relative to remaining in the EU, expects the Office for Budget Responsibility;
  • inflation and energy prices are higher than in the EU
  • trade has fallen by almost a fifth;
  • while the government itself says the much-trumpeted Australian deal will raise GDP by less than 0.1% a year by 2035;
  • Brexit has raised food prices by 6% says the London School of Economics;
  • the workforce has been drained.

Did you know that Eurostar deliberately leaves a third of seats empty due to crippling EU/UK border delays?

The grim reality is that the country seems to be falling apart on almost every front.

All that is why Prof. Matthew Goodwin, Professor of Politics at the University of Kent, says that “Bregret is taking hold in Britain” with only one in five thinking Brexit is going well.

Brexiters are now in the minority.

 

Light at the end of the tunnel

A movement that started around the same time as we left the EU, Stay European, is a continuing pro-EU campaign for all of us who still feel European and are not going to give up.

Stay European has always been optimistic about the prospects of the UK rejoining the EU. Yet right now, the popularity of Rejoin is running ahead of even our expectations.
 
In 2020, Stay European expected that there would be a long road ahead in slowly persuading Britain of the benefits of EU membership. Support for Rejoin was not a majority in polls at the time – though it was a strong base, above 40%.

They simply did not expect that Rejoin would be polling an average of 58% by early 2023.

They cautiously predicted that the economic impact of Brexit would start to change minds. Yet we did not predict that soon a prime minister, Liz Truss, would drive the economy off a cliff, sparking a UK-only financial crisis that caused a rapid shift in public opinion.

Back then, the group thought that the next general election might result in a narrow defeat for the Tories. Whilst it would be foolish to count our chickens before they have hatched, the polls have clearly stabilised in a position where the government is facing a landslide defeat.


And in the past year especially, Rejoin has shifted bit by bit from being an outsider bet to being discussed even by Brexiters as a serious likelihood, with the Brexit-supporting Daily Telegraph saying "Britain is going to rejoin the EU far sooner than anyone now imagines".
 

Shifting sands

Now, on one level this can also be frustrating. A spokesman from Stay European says: “If Rejoin is coming down the tracks, why are the political parties still so slow to shift? Why is the media still stuck in 2016? Why does something with majority support still feel somehow 'niche'?”

But The Curmudgeon thinks we should take heart. All the shifts mentioned are continuing. Support for Rejoin continues to grow, up into the high 50s and breaking out over 60% now in some polls. Politicians are slow but will have to adapt.

Rejoin's support continues to rise. If you count from the end of the transition period instead of the formal leaving date, Britain has only been fully feeling Brexit's effects for just over two years. Brexit's popularity still has plenty of room to fall further.

Stay European is still here, having laid a solid base for its campaign, and that campaign is still growing. As Rejoin support spreads Stay European is proud to be part of the early days of a new movement. “The Rejoin campaign has begun,” they say.

“We believe we are on track to rejoin the EU by 2030. However long is still it takes, though, our campaign will continue. Be part of it”.

Acknowledgements:

John Curtice

Prof Matthew Goodwin

The Guardian

Guy Hands

Stay European

Polly Toynbee

 

© The Curmudgeon



Like 1        Published at 10:53 PM   Comments (0)


After a 30-year career in education, I moved to Spain and became ..... a waiter!
Monday, January 23, 2023

By The Curmudgeon

Yes, after early retirement I moved to Spain in 2008 and became a waiter.

At the bank, the gestoría, hacienda, the doctor's, dentist, optician and pharmacy, and the worst of the lot, the policía nacional. Wherever I go, I always have to wait. I’m a waiter.

It happens at the airport too: at security, to board the plane and at passport control.

Before Covid-19, and during the lockdown and afterwards, when you had to get a dreaded cita previa, even for the most trivial of matters, you had to wait. The appointments were timed, but they still ran late so you were still a waiter.

Today I am sitting in the comisaría de policia waiting to make a denuncia. As I write, I’ve been a waiter for three quarters of an hour. I’ve been on my mobile phone, catching up with emails and looking at my WhatsApp and Facebook messages. I made and received several phone calls. But I’m running out of things to do.

Shall I go outside for a cigarette? I don’t smoke!

Go for a coffee? Nip to the loo? If I do, I’ll lose my place.

Oh, well, I’ll just have to sit and wait. I could twiddle my thumbs, but that’s not much fun.

***

Oh, at long last, movement! The people before me have left the “denuncias” office and have gone, so it must be my turn. I’ve now been a waiter for one hour and 20 minutes.

Another 20 minutes and my denuncia is done. Now I need a cita previa with Extranjería . Today is 23 January; the first available appointment is 14 February!

So, I’m back to being a waiter!

 

© The Curmudgeon

 

Tags: cita previa, comisaría, Covid-19, Curmudgeon, dentist, denuncia, doctor's, extranjería, gestoría, hacienda, optician, pharmacy, policia, policía nacional, waiter



Like 1        Published at 4:45 PM   Comments (0)


Brexit - yet another negative consequence of leaving the European Union
Tuesday, January 17, 2023

By the Curmudgeon

 

Brexit has proved a disaster for the UK and for British folk, both those at home and for those of us who live abroad.

Never mind the loss of trade, a rise in the cost-of-living, inflation, the Northern Ireland protocol, loss of European funding, loss of educational and cultural links, travel restrictions, insufficient seasonal workers in agriculture and hospitality. Not to mention the loss of thousands of foreign doctors and nurses from the National Health Service.

According to a recent poll 58% of British voters would now opt to remain in the EU.

 

The latest negative consequence of Brexit is the suspension of the Workaway scheme in the UK.

 

The Workaway scheme

 

This scheme, by which travellers can exchange their skills for free board and lodging, is immensely worthwhile for both host and “workaway”. A genuine “win-win”.

Katie Glass, a travel journalist and erstwhile Workaway host wrote in The Guardian newspaper: “I loved being a Workaway host but now Brexit has ended it in the UK. I was privileged to host international travellers wishing to work in exchange for board and lodgings, but tighter entry rules have now made it impossible.”

Workaway has stated it can no longer list exchanges in the UK because of Brexit entry rules.

When Katie first heard about Workaway it sounded too good to be true. It sounded like something that only happened in dreams.

She had moved to a ramshackle Somerset cottage without enough skills to do the renovations herself, or money to pay tradespeople, so she turned to Workaway for help. For the past year it has kept her in labourers and friends.

Her Workaway guests, sleeping in her caravan and spare room, came from across the globe and the social spectrum, ranging in ages from their teens to their 50s. A healer from Kenya; an engineer from Argentina; a graffiti artist from Seattle and an Irish teenager.

“Often guests were taking gap years or having mid-life crises, and I felt privileged to be a stop on their journeys.”

Most of the Workaways she met were travellers from abroad, but some were British people opting out of the system or young digital nomads looking for alternative ways of living.

“One writer from Boston, Lincolnshire, helped plaster my ceiling in between writing video games in my caravan; a builder from Manchester helped me install a garden gate while trading cryptocurrency on the side.”

As a travel writer whose ability to travel was drastically curtailed during the pandemic, Glass relished the way Workaway brought the world back into her life. She reports feeling spoiled as guests from Italy, Kenya and Brazil cooked meals and she learned to cook more vegan dishes than she knew existed.

Workaway made it known recently that it was “pausing a large portion” of UK host listings until further notice. “As regulations around travel and working visas have become much stricter post-Brexit, especially for Europeans, it’s become unfeasible to continue listing exchanges in the UK.”

A Workaway spokesperson added: “With changes in regulations for EU visitors because of Brexit, it’s no longer feasible to us to continue listing exchanges in the UK, as it takes up too many of our resources. This has been an internal decision.

It has not been a decision we’ve taken lightly, and we feel extremely saddened that we have to take this action.”

Since Brexit, someone from the EU can only volunteer in the UK for up to 30 days, and then only with a registered charity. To do voluntary work for more than 30 days requires a charity worker visa, which is also required by non-EU nationals coming for any length of time.

Katie Glass writes that the end of the Workaway scheme in the UK feels such a loss for her, other hosts, and all travellers who used the site to experience British life in a very “real” way. “Like so many things about Brexit, it seems to have closed the country down and closed the British off to new experiences.”

 

Personal Experience

I have met dozens of Workaways here in Spain, mostly volunteering in the hospitality industry, but some in construction. An Argentinian, a German and a Slovenian, all workaways I met in my local hotel in 2022, did work for me on the side, and I paid them.

I felt privileged to meet people from Argentina, Austria, Canada, Colombia, Cuba, France, Germany, Ireland, Mexico, Russia (before the war in Ukraine), Switzerland, Uruguay and the USA. Most were young, but not all. An older, Argentinian/Uruguayan couple have converted their workaway status and are now waged staff at a local hotel.

 

Conclusion

The Workaway scheme is alive and well in 2023.

Spain and other countries around the world will continue to host Workaways, but no longer the UK for the foreseeable future.

Shame on you Boris Johnson, Michael Gove, Nigel Farage, Tim Martin (Wetherspoons) et al for all your rhetoric and lies about what Brexit would mean for the UK. This is just another consequence on the ever-lengthening list of negatives the 2016 referendum has left us with.

 

© The Curmudgeon

 

Acknowledgements:

Katie Glass

The Guardian

 

Tags: Brexit, Boris Johnson, Curmudgeon, EU, Guardian, Katie Glass, Michael Gove, negative consequence, NHS, Nigel Farage, Tim Martin, Wetherspoons, Workaway

 



Like 3        Published at 11:50 AM   Comments (2)


Rain – Good Weather or Bad?
Wednesday, December 14, 2022

By The Curmudgeon

You have to be careful when you talk about the weather with a Spaniard. What we British instinctively call “bad weather” isn’t anything of the sort to a local. I’ve often been brought up short when I’ve called rainy weather “bad”.

 

This current spell of heavy rain, which to us is bad, to the local farmers and growers, as well as to householders, is unquestionably good. “Hace falta, hombre” they pronounce. “We need it”.

They’re right, of course. Crop yields are down, the reservoirs are nearly empty and we’re fed up of having to share a bath, in order to save water!

However, continuous rain like we’re experiencing now in the whole of Spain, is beginning to get on peoples’ nerves.

Water is leaking into houses, unused to the incessant rainfall, from above and below. Crops are being ruined. Rivers are swollen and some have already burst their banks. Houses and vehicles have been washed away. Have you seen the recent TV footage of Extremadura, Comunidad de Madrid and Málaga?

Closer to home, at the weekend the road between Jimera de Líbar and Atajate was blocked for hours by heavy rockfalls caused by the heavy rain.

Once the much-needed rain starts to endanger life, to undermine the infrastructure of the country, to damage buildings and to ruin people’s homes, I think we’ve had enough.

I’ve lived in the Serranía de Ronda for almost a decade and a half. Over the years we’ve had bad/good weather from time to time. I have documented these events in the press and online. Here is a summary of those previous articles:

 

20 December 2010

“Rain, rain, go away… (part 1)

… Come again some other day!”  OK, the joke’s over!  ¡Basta ya con la lluvia!  We’ve had more than enough of the wet stuff now! It’s hardly stopped here in the Serranía de Ronda since 16 December 2010! Over 500 litres per square metre fell in just two weeks, according to the Spanish Met Office (INM)!

Local rivers have burst their banks five times! Hotels and other holiday accommodation have been inundated and put out of business, homes have been flooded and crops ruined.

The infrastructure has been significantly damaged: roads, rail lines, public buildings, housing stock, drainage systems.  Houses are growing mould inside because of the ongoing damp conditions and no chance to dry out.

Insurance companies are refusing to pay out – ¡acto de Dios! – so everyone is passing the responsibility buckAyuntamientos, Junta de Andalucía, ADIF (the rail company).  Nobody wants to fork out the compensation, although it looks as if the Junta de Andalucía may ultimately have to pick up the tab for failing to maintain its rivers properly.

On the positive side the reservoirs are fuller than they’ve been for many a year.  My village, Montejaque, has acquired a reservoir it never had since an ill-conceived and ill-fated dam was constructed in 1929!

But, really, we’ve had enough now …

“Rain rain go away
Come again some other day
Rain, rain, go away
Bring my love a sunny day.”

 

19 January 2011

“Rain, rain, go away!” (2)

Rain rain go away,
Come again another day.
Little Johnny wants to play;
Rain, rain, go to Spain,
Never show your face again!”

 

The history and origins of the lyrics to this version of the English nursery rhyme date back to the reign of Queen Elizabeth I (1533-1603), one of the Tudor monarchs. During this period of English history there was constant rivalry between Spain and England culminating in the launch of the Spanish Armada in 1588.

The Armada, led by the Duke of Medina Sedonia, numbered over 130 galleons, while the English fleet, under Admiral Lord Howard, totalled just 34 small Navy vessels and 163 armed merchant ships. His second-in-command that day was Sir Francis Drake

The most famous (but probably apocryphal) anecdote about Drake and the Spanish Armada relates that, prior to the battle, he was playing a game of bowls on Plymouth Hoe. On being warned of the approach of the Spanish fleet, Drake is said to have remarked that there was plenty of time to finish the game and still beat the Spaniards. There is no known eyewitness account of this incident and the earliest retelling of it was printed 37 years later.

Whatever the truth, the great Spanish Armada was defeated. Only 65 Spanish galleons and just 10,000 men returned to Spain.

Truth is the attack by the Spanish Armada failed because of superior tactics, the swift nature of the smaller English ships and because of the stormy weather which scattered the Armada fleet. Hence the origins of this version of the nursery rhyme.

 

December 2018

The Rain in Spain

“The rain in Spain falls mainly on the pla–ain”

 

This lyric from the musical My Fair Lady based on the play Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw is a load of nonsense. In my 12 years’ experience of living in the Serranía de Ronda, the rain in Spain falls mainly on the adjacent Sierra de Grazalema. In fact the town of Grazalema is the wettest place in Spain. According to official statistics, more of the wet stuff falls on this pretty mountain town than anywhere else in the whole of Spain. More even than in the towns of Galicia, Asturias and the Basque Country, which we more readily associate with wet weather.

In 2018 you would have thought the end of the world was nigh. In the spring heavy rain fell over a short period and caused major flooding around the Serranía de Ronda. At the Hotel Molino del Puente, at the bottom of the hill below our house, the restaurant, bar and terrace ended up under 30cm of water. Miraculously the hotel was cleaned, dried out and re-opened within 48 hours!

Then in October of the same year, so much rain fell in three hours that the whole of the area was declared an emergency zone. The hotel suffered again – this time water was lapping the ceiling of the bar and restaurant and first floor rooms were flooded by the torrent that ran off the fields, busted the land drains and entered through the front door of the hotel. This time the clear-up took longer and the hotel didn’t re-open until April 2019.

A similar fate befell the nearby Hotel Don Benito (now Hotel Ronda Valley).

The road past our house became a river. A friend’s car was washed away and mine was left suspended over a ditch that had been created when the water rinsed away the side of the road where my car was parked. The car had to be craned out and transported to the garage.

In Ronda, the emblematic Arab Baths were badly damaged and many streets, including the main shopping street Calle La Bola, were flooded, as the drainage infrastructure failed to cope. Around the Serranía low-lying villages such as Benaoján Estación, Jimera de Líbar Estación, La Cañada del Real Tesoro and El Colmenar were severely flooded, and some houses wrecked.

As this was deemed an act of God, the insurance companies were off the hook and the consorcio, a government–backed bailout scheme/emergency fund, paid for by us through a levy on our insurance premiums, stepped in. For example, the 800€ repair bill for my car was paid for by the consorcio.

This fund also picked up the tab for the damage wreaked in our garden, viz fallen trees, a wrecked fence, and a pebbled area that was washed away. Amazingly not a drop of water entered our house, although neighbours did suffer water ingress.

 

January 2021

“Here comes the rain again!”

We are currently experiencing a period of rainfall, but fortunately, toca madera (touch wood) it doesn’t seem to be the damaging kind. Given the amount of dry weather in recent years, the water is definitely welcome for the farmers and in order to top up our rather empty reservoirs.

But, don’t ever let anyone tell you that the rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain. It clearly does not!

 

© The Curmudgeon

 

Tags: act of God, acto de Dios, Andalucía, Arab Baths, Asturias, Ayuntamiento, ADIFBenaoján, Calle La Bola, consorcio, Cortes de la Frontera, Curmudgeon, damage, Drake, El Colmenar, Extremadura, floods, Galicia, George Bernard Shaw, Grazalema, Hotel Don Benito, Hotel Molino del Puente, INM, insurance, Jimera de Líbar, Junta de Andalucía, La Cañada del Real Tesoro, Madrid, Málaga, Medina Sedonia, Montejaque, My Fair Lady, Pygmalion, Queen Elisabeth I, rain in spain, Ronda, Serranía de Ronda, Sir Francis Drake, Spain, Spanish Armada, sun, sunshine



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Gotcha! Fraudster apprehended in Ronda
Monday, November 21, 2022

The Curmudgeon was in court today.  Not as the accused, nor the accuser, not even as a witness, but as interpreter. Let the grumpy guy explain.

 

Several months ago a friend of mine mislaid her bank card. She didn’t realise until two days later when she wanted to make a card purchase, by which time someone had used her missing card several times at different retail outlets and had “stolen” over 200 euros from her bank account.

“How can that be?” You ask. Well, the fraudster was astute enough to only make purchases below the 50€ limit at which you need to enter your PIN. At one establishment the bill came to over 50, so he split it into two payments. Wasn’t the merchant suspicious? Humph!

My friend immediately blocked her card and went to the police to make a report (denuncia). Then to her bank to reclaim the lost money (banks are insured to cover such losses, provided the victim can produce a denuncia).

It took the bank a while to process the claim, but after several weeks she eventually had the lost amount credited to her account.

In considering how this could have happened, my friend recalled that she had paid her car park charge on the Tuesday evening in question by using her card. She recalled that there was a one-legged beggar hanging around the ticket machine asking for money. Could it have been him?

No matter. She had got her money back, so she thought no more about it.

However, contrary to what we often think about the police, ie that they don’t bother investigating such incidents, they had done some digging. Not that challenging – after all, they knew from the bank at which outlets the card had been used.

Several months later my friend received a registered letter from the court, summoning her to appear as a witness at the trial of Marcelino R. for this offence.

Despite being a curmudgeon, I am more than happy to help out friends when they need linguistic support, so I attended court to interpret for my friend who is foreign and doesn’t have good Spanish.

We arrived in good time and were eventually ushered into the courtroom, where there were the court official, the usher, the judge and a police officer. No sign of the accused.

The judge was informed about the case and took some time to read the paperwork. We were then informed that the accused was not present as he was in prison for another offence.

However, after a few moments Marcelino R. appeared on a live video link. Lo and behold! It was the one-legged beggar!

He was informed about the proceedings and was asked if he had used the card, which he had found, to make purchases. He denied it (well, he would, wouldn’t he?). The court official informed him that if he did not plead guilty he would get a more severe sentence than the minimum, which was 30 days and a fine.

My friend and I were asked to approach the microphone and answer the judge’s questions. Which we did. That went smoothly and we sat down again.

Marcelino R. was asked again whether he had used the card and he confirmed that he had.

Accordingly, the judge sentenced him to 30 days plus 10€ a day. Marcelino R. asked how he was supposed to pay a fine of 300€, since he was in gaol and had no income. Bizarrely, the judge reduced the fine to 6€ a day, so 180€, which Marcelino R. still has to find somewhere.

We were thanked for our testimony and told we could leave.

***

My friend thought the judgement was somewhat harsh. I didn’t! Maybe Marcelino will learn, but I doubt it!

 

Further reading:

To read an article about beggars, click here.

 

Tags: accused, accuser, bank, card, claim, court, court official, curmudgeon, denuncia, fine, foreign, fraud, interpreter, judge, limit, linguistic support, Marcelino, PIN, police, police officer, purchase, report, retail outlet, usher, video link, witness 



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Nowhere to Eat or Drink
Friday, November 11, 2022

The village where The Curmudgeon lives is beautiful, a pueblo blanco set high in the mountains of the Sierra de Grazalema. He loves living there ….. except on Thursdays!

 

The small village where I live some of the time is a great place: friendly locals, a spattering of foreign residents  and plenty to do.

However, two problems have emerged this year, which are concerning local and guiri alike.

 

Closures

Firstly, this village of almost 1000 souls has “lost” five bars / restaurants in 2022 alone. There were 12 on 1 January; there are just seven today, 11 November.

The reason for this is neither Covid-19, the cost-of-living crisis nor the lack of tourists. The five that closed were all for legitimate other reasons, since all five were economically viable. It’s unfortunate that they all came one after the other. Just bad luck: one bar owner retired (he was 66); another closed down (he was 22); three thirty-somethings, who had successfully run two establishments for a couple of years, decided to try something else; and the fifth? His lease was up and wasn’t renewed.

 

Thursdays

The second problem, which directly inspired this moan from me (and others, I have to say), is Thursdays, funnily enough market day! This is the day of the week when two of the three bars in the square choose to have their rest day. The remaining bar there does not open until 9.00 am and doesn’t offer breakfast. Another café in the village does breakfasts but he doesn’t open until 9.00 am either. The remaining two are pubs, so they only open late afternoons through till the early hours.

Workers, old men and insomniacs, who like an early coffee and a natter, have to get in their cars and drive to the next village. At least there the bar opens at 6.00 am!

 

It got worse

This Thursday, yesterday, it was even worse. There was nowhere to get a coffee, a beer or a tapa. The two remaining bars that are normally open, were on their annual holidays!

Yesterday everyone was wandering around, lost and confused with nowhere to get a caffeine hit or a chupito. Crazy or what? Everyone was wondering what happened to communication, cooperation and forward-planning? Surely between all the bar-owners and with the "encouragement" of the Town Hall, a contingency plan could have been organised …..

Just saying …..!



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My Top 10 Bugbears – From Banks to VOX
Thursday, November 3, 2022

The Curmudgeon is in a bad mood. Lately a few things have been getting on his nerves. He needs to get them off his chest.

Here he lists in alphabetical order the 10 things that are p**sing him off at the moment down here in Andalucía.

 

The Banks

I wrote about this recently (click here). In summary, the big high street banks are making huge profits from OUR MONEY, yet are offering customers an ever worsening level of service. Top offenders in my experience are Santander, BancSabadell and Unicaja (numbers 1, 4 and 5 in Spain respectively). I’d be surprised if the others are any better, although up to npw I’ve had a good service from CaixaBank.

Despite making lots of money, these successful banks are charging customers maintenance fees, closing branches and trying to shift us to online banking. At least one (Unicaja) has cut its services in languages other than Spanish. It’s an absolute disgrace.

 

Cita Previa

The need to apply online or on the phone for a prior appointment to do most things official is very frustrating.

Introduced during the pandemic for obvious reasons, now that Coronavirus is to some extent under control, the system is being abused, with entities continuing to insist on one.

I had to get one recently just to pick up a letter from Hacienda!

 

Cruzcampo lager

Why do andaluces love this beer so much? It’s horrible, yet it’s ubiquitous in Andalucía – it’s only just about drinkable when served ice cold.

Well, what do you expect? Cruzcampo is owned by Heineken, which alongside Anheuser-Busch probably brew the worst lagers in the world.

Fortunately, for me and other non-andaluces, although most bars round here sell Cruzcampo on draft, they usually stock a more varied range of bottled beers (tercios). Commonly available are Alhambra Verde and Alhambra Blanca (Granada), Estrella Galicia (A Coruña), Victoria (Málaga) and If you’re really lucky you might find El Águila  (Madrid), El Alcázar (Jaen) or Turia (Valencia).

 

Damas (Bus Company)

The taquilla in Ronda Bus Station only opens for two ½ hour slots in the morning and not at all at weekends.

The booking website doesn’t work properly, in that you can’t apply discounts and if you ring either of their two advertised telephone numbers, nobody answers.

Fortunately, you can pay the driver and get the discount, but you can’t buy a return ticket, thereby missing out on the discount for booking ida y vuelta.

The final annoyance is that, despite advertising free Wi-Fi, it doesn’t work very well, at least not on the Ronda to Seville route which we used recently.

This company functioned much better when it was just plain old Amarillas.

 

DHL

There are loads of delivery companies that bring us our online purchases, but DHL is one of the biggest. Indeed, it runs the privatised Deutsche Post (German Post Office).

But they are quite frankly hopeless. Their local delivery driver knows full well where I live, yet last week an urgent packet could not be delivered, because the driver reported neither my house nor my street exists! Funny that, for the road has been there since medieval times – it’s a via pecuaria or cañada real (drovers’ path) and the house has been there over 30 years!

 

Guardia Civil Tráfico

Unlike the guardia civil in general, Tráfico are the pits!

They just fine and fine!

Recently, they fined a 71-year-old lady friend of mine because she stopped briefly on the highway to pick up her husband, who was on foot, and they just happened to be driving past. She’d never been fined in 54 years of driving, a point which was made to the officers, but they weren’t prepared to let her off.

By the way, the lady is my wife. And guess who had to pay the fine?

When I mentioned the incident in passing to a couple of our local village guardias, whom I know, they said: “They’re no friends of ours, nor colleagues – they’re just sinvergüenzas.”

To keep the record straight, I like the “normal” guardias civiles. Of the three police bodies in Spain, they come out top in my opinion, ahead of the Policía Nacional and the Policía Local. I wrote about it here.

 

Hacienda

The sheer incompetence and intransigence of the Spanish equivalent of the British Inland Revenue never ceases to amaze me.

Every year I receive a letter accusing me of tax avoidance/evasion, because I don’t pay them any income tax on my UK pension. And every year I have to point out that my pension is a local government pension, which is taxed in the UK, so I am not liable to pay tax on it again in Spain.

I am fiscally resident in Spain, as I am a permanent resident here, but there is an agreement between Spain and the UK, so that this type of pension is not taxed twice.

You would think that somebody at the Agencia Tributaria would cotton on and save everybody time and money.

 

Partido Popular

What is going on? The PP has been in control of the regional government in Andalucía since 2017. I cannot understand it. How can a region like Andalucía that has always been socialist since the Civil War, elect a right-wing party?

And, what’s worse, it’s looking like the PP will form the next national government after the next general election in 2023, despite Pedro Sánchez, the current prime minister, having done a great job, especially in dealing with Covid and now with the cost-of-living crisis.

Look what’s happened in the UK with 12 years of a Conservative-led government. Five prime ministers (Cameron, May, Johnson, Truss and now Sunak), a ruined economy, out of the European Union, a laughingstock in the rest of the world. Does Spain want something similar under the leadership of the distinctly un-charismatic and naff Alberto Nuñez Fijoo?

My big problem with right-of-centre parties is that they only look after themselves and their cronies at the expense of the poor and needy.

 

Policia Local

Like guardia civil tráfico they love dishing out parking fines, showing little sympathy and understanding. I picked up five in my village in 2021, from the same two municipales! I also picked up two in Ronda, one in Estepona and one in Fuengirola. Pretty expensive at 200€ a time (100€ if you pay quickly). I make that 900€ I’ve contributed to the annual police ball!

 

VOX

I cannot abide any political party that smacks of the extreme right.

Look what happened in the middle of the 20th Century with fascism rife in Germany, Italy and Spain. Oh, and also in Great Britain (remember Oswald Moseley?).

First the Spanish Civil War (1936 – 1939) and then World War II that lasted six years (1939 – 1945). Both cost millions of lives and the repercussions are still being felt today, 80 years later.

The rise of the AFD (Alternative für Deutschland) in Germany, of Marine Le Pen and her far-right National Re-Unification party in France and VOX in Spain is a real cause for concern.

Vladimir Putin, president of Russia, for all his claims to the contrary, is an out-and-out fascist, whilst claiming that the West are the real Nazis! Around here we call him: hijo de Putin! (Geddit?)

 

© The Curmudgeon

 

Tags: The Curmudgeon, banks, Santander, BancSabadell, CaixaBank, Unicaja, cita previa, Cruzcampo, Heineken, Anheuser-Busch, Damas, DHL, guardia civil, tráfico, hacienda, partido popular, policía local, vox, fascism, far-right, Putin, Civil War, World War II



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