…I said, as I handed over my monthly car parking fee for our personal space in a secure car park.
‘Sí,’ said the car park manager, rolling her eyes in a very Gibraltarian manner sounding both Spanish and English at the same time. ‘Spain always has very big problems.’
So what do the Spanish think? Well, our neighbours at the finca certainly think there are problems.
On our return back there, we had the obligatory discussion about politics (OK partner did, while I was busy inside but listening anyway) and got a summary of the main news round-ups.
Pretty much like you read in the newpapers really – that’s if you get any coverage of Spain – endless demonstrations in Madrid and in other cities. It’s not just radical students and miners, but judges, medics, teachers, nurses, to name but a few professionals, are also getting involved.
But what difference does all that make to our pueblo? None. How does Spain’s appalling economic situation affect real people who live from day to day?
Next door there are six people. Two pensioners in their 80s, their daughter and her husband in their late 40s and two grandchildren, aged 17 and 20. Of the four working age adults, no-one has a full-time job, nor have they done since the son-in-law’s job went at a local construction firm nine years ago.
The daughter cleans, four or five mornings a week, and then comes home, cleans her house and cleans her parents’ house. And I thought I didn’t like cleaning. She must have nightmares about mops and dusters. She’s the only one who has been in continuous work and it is years since she claimed any dole money.
Her husband used to get the odd three months work on the local council. It’s a scheme for jobless. There are now so many unemployed that he only gets two weeks at a time before they need to give the work to someone else.
The elder grandson was working part-time at a local stables. Summer is over, no more tourists, so he’s got the push. His younger brother hasn’t worked since leaving college.
We walked down to the beach early one morning and met the youngest cycling back with fishing rods. He’d been trying to do his bit and put food on the table. (He did catch two fish before anyone asks).
‘They couldn’t survive if they didn’t live here with us,’ said José sadly. Six adults surviving out of two pensions and some cleaning money. I dread to think what happens when the oldies die and there is no pension to rely on ….
Meanwhile, the young jobless have started a new course at a local catering college. One is training to be a chef and the other to be a waiter. This is a two year course. That’s another two years without an income, unless they are on the course in order to claim some sort of basic allowance?
‘Why does it take two years to learn to serve food?’ muttered Partner. I guess the only answer to that is that Spanish waiters are pretty slick, and a lot of the time they actually do food prep too.
But here is the killer. This catering centre is housed in an extremely nice castillo, a former Guardia Civil post, just down the road. It is two bus-stops away, or less than an hour’s walk, or a fairly quick cycle ride – even for me. They are, of course, going in the car. What is expensive right now? Fuel. Why not go on a pushbike or a moped? Because they don’t want to be considered poor pobres? Who knows.
So while my heart bleeds for public sector workers whose salaries may be cut, for the poor unfortunate bankers who really aren’t to blame, and the politicians who always just inherit problems, I would like someone to think a bit more about a family of four adults, not one of whom, can get a full-time job.
Incidentally while I think Rajoy (Mariana Rajoy, supposedly in charge of Spain and dancing on the end of the bankers’ strings) is a tosser, even I can’t actually blame him for everything.
Spain has been building up problems for years by allowing so much thoughtless development to continue without any planning or foresight at all, and to a large extent relying on an influx of money from Northern Europe.
Who can say when it started? Before Rajoy, before Zapatero, probably before Aznar. Just going on a roll and loving it without looking to the future.
Reminds me of the South Sea Bubble. Not the same situation, but certainly a Mediterreanean Sea Bubble that isn’t floating too well these days.
What else is on the point of bursting? Spain as a country? Catalunya is pushing (as ever) for independence, and Pais Vasco has always done so. Valencia chimes in now and again, as does one of the other northern ones, can’t remember whether it is Asturias (mining) or Cantabria. José seemed to think there were four autonomous communities that thought the Spanish national government was doing such a bad job that they wanted to be shut of them.
Andalucía, of course, being a poor agricultural community, without industry, hasn’t a hope in hell of sustaining an independence claim. And the other (northern) rich communities don’t want to bail out the poorer parts of Spain. I may be doing an injustice here to the rest of Spain. But that’s what it looks like. The Catalan government has said they give more to Madrid than they receive back. Well, so fucking what? Honestly, that’s what happens in life in a so-called mutual society. I won’t start quoting Rousseau but I am getting very near.
So there we have it. A totally subjective view of Spain’s problems via my 85-year old neighbour (ok with a few comments from me chucked in). I normally quote what I consider to be reasonable news sources, but I thought a personal view and an insight into how it affects a local family would make a sobering contrast to glossy news reports about violence and riots and protests.
Just a family trying to survive.