‘España tiene problemas’…

…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.

Raining in Spain – for some time to come…

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).

Even Spanish dogs play football
But should my young neighbour really have to spend his time teaching the dog to do a great header?

‘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.

Looks like the set for Bill and Ben, Little Weed, and The Gardener
Pippa. In case anyone wondered what had happened to him. He doesn’t play football though.

47 comments on “‘España tiene problemas’…

  1. If more journalists actually took the time to talk to the person/s living next door rather than sitting in front of their laptops with their ears plugged into whatever iThing, news coverage would be far more accurate. And definitely more enjoyable. Very well done, roughseasinthemed. :)


    • Wow! Thanks alessandro. Normally I try and quantify my posts with so-called other sources to provide a balance. For once I wanted to write something from the heart and show what austerity means to people who have no jobs.


  2. Your neighbours appear a very tightly knit family, something very sadly missing in the UK. I admire them for sticking with each other when times are bad.

    Most of the news from Spain recently has been of the terrible floods in the south, even more heartache for the unemployed I guess as they struggle with what life throws at them.

    Nice to see Pippa :-) is he being lazy and lying down to eat?
    Are those your brown toes LOL ;-)


    • Must be the light, but yes they are. I did wonder about mentioning ‘plus my toes’!

      Sometimes he likes to lie down to eat. Either that or we hold it up for him if he wants to stand. :)

      Er, what floods? :D

      These things happen every year and the media should be concentrating on the appalling economy of the country. Bah!

      My neighbours have no choice Vicky. It’s not like you and I choosing to live our own lives. They have no choice. Spanish families here can only live on the back of their family, literally and metaphorically.

      They have a good relationship, and we adore them all to bits, but, could I do it?


  3. Welcome back – good report – I especially like your balanced assessment of Rajoy! I was surprised recently in Greece (Kos) that despite 25%+ youth unemployment lots of British and Australian young people working the bars but I have no explanation for that!


    • Thanks Andrew. Balanced assessment is too kind. He is still a tosser, but you can’t blame more than a decade’s worth of problems on the poor sucker that inherited it.

      Hey,unemployment in Gib – why are Spaniards still working here? And every nationality under the sun? Not so easily solved with our really flexible borders.

      Brits and Aussies working the bars? At a young age? Cash? Just to do the whole Med/year out thing? Easy.


  4. You’ve said pretty much everything there is to say… I’d just add that the corruption makes my stomach turn. So does the incompetence. I’ve been fighting San Roque for months now because they’re trying to charge me garbage collection and garbage ‘treatment’ taxes for plots where there’s no house. It’s exhausting. You can explain it to them 500 times, THAT LAND IS NOT A SEPARATE HOUSE, IT’S MY GARDEN- and still no one does anything to fix the problem.


    • Thanks. I could say a lot more. I was being relatively pithy for once.

      I think the worst thing is the incompetence at corruption :D

      Our council faffed around with garbage too. Just another way to try and rake in some money. Boring. It’s probably a plot for a house therefore it NEEDS to be taxed separately for garbage, yes? :D

      [And if you live in Sotogrande, you must be worth a go at, just a shame you speak Spanish….]


  5. I echo allessandro.. You are a true journalist and not only do you present the facts, you also bring a level of compassion and insight for the reader. I’d love to see you working and writing stories that a broader audience could read.
    This was a great read (despite the bleakness)


    • Normally I try and present an overall view, but this time I wanted to go – as you say – for the insight. If it worked that’s great. Thanks for your generous comments. I’d like to write for a wider audience too! Must do a bit of self-marketing when I have time :D


      • You really should.. you are a seasoned journalist and there are way too many fly-by-night writers out here who present slanted journalism.


        • Thanks L. Trouble is, even back in my ancient days, slanted stories were often required …. it wasn’t easy to argue and say ‘that isn’t a story, I’m not making it up just for a front page lead’ or ‘ don’t describe people as ragamuffins, it’s totally inaccurate’ etc etc.

          People write what they are told to write. Simple as that or they don’t get paid.


  6. Another great piece with your wonderful personal insight. As stated in the previous comments, it is so refreshing to hear about your surroundings from you and not a talking head. Your experiences and feelings certainly shape your “commentary” on the daily life of a person in your unique situation. I hope I can speak for all that we readers appreciate the time and energy it takes you to produce such a fine and educational online journal. Thank you.


    • Thanks Iquitoz. It probably makes a slight difference when you have known the ‘reporter’ for some long blog years :D Otherwise I could be a talking/writing head. While I have had a few weeks off, it gives chance to reflect on what I want to achieve on here, and trying to provide different approaches to news here in Gib and Spain is part of that. Thanks to you for your support and comments over the years.


  7. The ‘professionals’ call what you wrote ‘anecdotal evidence’ and discard it, being brainwashed into only using hogwash put out by other ‘professionals’.
    Anecdotal evidence tells it how it is.
    Super job. Thank you.


    • Thanks Helen. Need to visit your blog when I am fully awake for a better read, looks extremely interesting.

      Your comment in fascinating, and has set wheels turning for another post (probably on my Clouds blog) about the use of ‘sources’. I think it was the use of the word anecdotal that made me think. When I was a young journalist traipsing the streets (literally) – stories were made of interviewing people. Does that make them anecdotal – or a story? I would normally quote other ‘printed’ sources, to add perspective and background, but really, everyone should know by now that Spain has problemas economicas, so I felt this could stand on its own.

      Thanks for the visit and the comment. I’ll return the same to yours, hopefully in the morning. (or rather later this morning as it is already past midnight, no idea what it is in Costa Rica!). Hasta luego.


  8. People do what they need to do (or feel compelled to do) to survive, whether it be here, there, or anywhere… Saskatchewan has always been a ‘have-not’ province, where many of our youth disappeared into neighbouring provinces to find work, and many of our men worked out of province on strange schedules, living here where housing and food was cheaper. Now we are on an upswing economically, which is good – but brings its own brand of odd issues. Like a huge construction boom which means it is impossible to find a plumber to do a regular ‘small’ job. :) In the end, jobs mean money, and money means people eat and have a place to sleep. All good things in their own way. :)


    • Now why didn’t I realise you were in Canada? probably make the same mistake as everyone does and think ah, North America, must be USA… :(

      Saskatchewan sounds like Andalucîa – my neighbours went to work on the border with Portugal at one point, and a lot of people actually moved to France including my neighbour’s sister who he hasn’t seen for years. It’s been poor because there is no industry and the basic economy was agricultural and much of the land was owned by rich families. When we arrived there was a construction boom (sound familiar?) – and the reason for many of the problems is the collapse – predictably – of that same boom. Hope your people are putting their hard-earned money away for that rainy day.


      • Most of them aren’t…. I think most of us seem to be living beyond our means, investing in toys and gadgets galore. We live pretty simply ourselves – and don’t tend to spend what we don’t have. But credit has become too easy – I fear we will end up like our American neighbours, overextended and with nothing to back it. :(


        • I did spend when I was earning good money, although not particularly recklessly. Certainly not on toys and gadgets, more like decent furniture and rugs – all of which we still have.

          It’s a shame people are impelled to spend money unnecessarily for whatever reason. It’s hard to stand out from the crowd and not have your iPhone or your iPad or whatever else (yes, I do have an iPhone and a MacBookPro – but that’s not down to peer group pressure, rather the tools of the trade).

          Governments have a problem in that they need to keep money circulating to keep the economy going, they also are in hock to big business. Otherwise they would come out with extremely sensible advice. They never do.


          • They are under too much pressure from too many quarters, and tend to be more Chamberlain than Churchill when it comes to standing for something, I fear. Not entirely without cause, either. *sigh*


  9. Excellent re-entry, and I particularly enjoyed it from an ‘anecdotal evidence’ point of view. I love real stories, even though this one saddens me. But in another way it heartens me to see families able to live together and support each other in this way. Awful that they have to. Better by choice alone. It amazes me how little some people live on. On a lighter note… Bil & Ben, The Flower Pot Men… Little Weeeeeeed. I loved them :) Nice to see a piccie of Pippa.


    • Thank you. I hadn’t really though about how long I have been absent, but it has been a nice break I must say, although I’ve visited some blogs. Part of the reason for the new blogroll was to make it easier to check my fave blogs out instead of waiting for wordpress to possibly bring them up on reader.

      I thought the ‘over-the-garden-wall’ conversations captured a different aspect of Spain’s economic problems, but no less valid for that. I’m glad I did this post because it’s reminded me I said I would take some photos back of the lad playing football with the dog. It’s nice to give them something.

      Their family unit is a totally alien way of life to me. My parents always considered me to be their little girl and that they were the authority figures. Next door, all the younger members are treated as adults and with respect. That’s not to say they don’t have discussions/arguments, but don’t we all? And six people/three generations living in what would be considered small space in UK terms is quite amazing. The family unit is everything in Spain. When people talk about integration living abroad, I think they underestimate that life revolves around family and it is very hard to break into that.

      It was the spade and the fork that reminded me, I can’t remember whether there was one near Little Weed’s plant pot or whether it was when we saw the gardener’s tool shed. I’ve not looked it up, but it just came to me as a flashback memory when I posted the photo.

      Well there isn’t much of him to see as he was too busy purposefully getting his food down his neck, but I thought it was a nice head shot and his ears looked cute!


  10. Really interesting post, thanks for sharing. I think that’s what a lot of people want, just to survive and get by. Most folk aren’t really greedy I don’t think anyway, most working class people aren’t at least. Really very nice insight, thanks.


    • I think increasingly we all feel lucky if we can survive and get by. Gone are the days of aspirations for the majority of people. Sadly, because goals and hope are good for the soul. Thanks for the comment and the visit.


  11. i wish I had neighbour like yours, and you writing a story as to how it is and not adding any dramatics to you words. We so often read a story and then further into it the writer decides to include something to make it more dramatic and take you away from the original story line..
    Love your posts roughseainthemed’ even though I dont always understand them from your side of the Gibraltar politics etc..but I am learning,, nice write… ;)


    • We’ve always been lucky with our neighbours (or maybe they were? :D) but these probably get the gold star award for the absolute best.

      The story fell into my lap really and I thought it was worth relating, a typical Spanish family and their problemas economicas over the last seven or eight years.

      Thank you. I try and keep the politics simple, but it is very different here. Spain is probably easier to understand, and I guess may receive more publicity in the UK, either way, you get the mix on here!


  12. Yesterday in Madrid, at about 10 a.m., I saw about 50 people, mostly men, queued up to enter the Comedor Santa María, as the sign by the door identified it. Soup line, in other words. This is what can be observed on the street.

    What you tell of your neighbours is certainly representative of what’s happening behind closed doors. On the other hand, you’re wrong to lump public sector workers with bankers and politicians. A great many of them only earn €1000 a month, which doesn’t put them in the same category as Emilio Botín (or Emile Booty as we would say in English – head of Banco Santander for people outside Spain who’ve never heard of him) and there’s no reason that they more than anyone else should have their pay cut by 5%, which isn’t the whole story of how their incomes have been reduced. And similar things are happening to workers in other sectors as well: a third of the staff is sacked and their workload is shifted onto those who remain. Health care and education budgets slashed, and so forth, paving the way to blatant dictatorship (it already exists, but the façade of democracy is still being propped up, especially in the mainstream press).


    • We’ve not seen any locally in Spain but that doesn’t mean there aren’t any. I’m sure there will be some in Málaga. There are at least three to our knowledge in Gib.

      I was being sarcastic about bankers and politicians, sorry I didn’t make that clear. And, I also wasn’t clear about public sector workers, my neighbour was talking about judges and medics (which I mentioned earlier up in the post) and that was who I was aiming my dig at. Even in Spain, you can’t tell me that judges and medics are badly paid. Certainly more than 1000€ a month. I don’t think we will get into EB’s obscene payments, can hardly call it earnings.

      Nor do I think anyone should have pay cuts or job losses (except bankers and politicos). So basically I agree with you. Just that some people have it worse than others. But that’s life.


  13. (HA – there is a post: once again not getting all of my notifications)
    Great journalistic piece: concrete information and actual story of real people. Much better insight than what passes for news here – mostly magazine-type reporting…and poorly done.
    Hadn’t thought how the eco crisis might be fueling thoughts of independence by parts of Spain. You are right, this time it isn’t just radical students.
    Wondered last week how it affected Gib. with the free movement between borders.
    There are areas here with certain groups that live off of senior relatives’ pension/ gov. subsidies. It’s pretty sad. The difference here is there are jobs (this area is growing and not booming, but there are jobs if you don’t mind working in a store, cleaning, landscape, construction and other places that may be blue collar, but don’t require much education and it is a pay check. Some technical skills/college: opportunities there, if you are willing to work. When multiple adults prefer and mooch off old people, there’s something wrong with society that accepts that. I’ve actually heard a graduating senior respond to the question “what career/job do you plan to work towards” with “Work? That’s for suckers. I’m just going to sit back and draw government money. Only fools work.” Generations of sloths.
    Ok off topic again…but it sounds like life there is pretty relaxed for your neighbors. Wonder about the using the car when they could walk and save money.
    We love Pippa! Molly would send a smooch except she’s crashed out under the fan….90 yesterday, 87 now…but a cold front due in…uh, yeah, except Molly will have even more energy.
    Love your take on the news! Thanks


    • Notifications? What are they? Apart from providing some interesting blogs for my readers, another reason to make a second list of my fave blogs so I can just go down them to check for updates.

      Thank you. In fact it was idle reporting. I didn’t even have to ask questions, but so much better when people are just happy chatting away without a nosy journalist in their face.

      People here would love to work in all those areas, when I say here, I mean Spain and Gib. My partner is out of work in construction which he had done for 40 years.

      Spain has a different way of life to WASP type countries. The obligation of parents is to look after their children, and vice versa. I’ll write a post at some point.

      Life is always relaxed in Andalucía. But the car puzzled us.

      Thanks for the comment and visit as ever. Need to pass by yours now I am back on line.


  14. I’ve seen a few things in the last few days about Iceland. Many will remember in 2008 they decided to renege on 85 billion US$ of debt, they wrote off the debt of many of their householders, indited their former PM and put the Chief Execs of the main banks in jail.

    Seems they are now coming out of the mess, have growth of 2 to 3 % and unemployment is coming down. Now they won’t be able to go borrowing money on the money markets for a few years yet, and they still owe money to the UK and Holland. My point would be the sky didn’t fall in, it wasn’t the end of the world. Having to live within their means for a few years probably isn’t necessarily such a bad thing.

    Back in the blogosphere after two weeks in bed :(


    • I never did understand how the whole Iceland thing arose. Four years to get bailed out of a mess? Not bad going. Spain has been going down the pan for some time though, just not admitted it :D

      Sorry to hear you have been out of action. I had a day last week where I couldn’t get up I felt so bad. No food, no nothing. Ok, a glass of tomato juice!

      Hope you are feeling much better. Thought you had been totally busy showing potential buyers around the place. Obv not :(


  15. Much of the world’s economic problems stem from several decades of ‘offshoring’ the profits made, often illegally, by the global elites and then, more recently, lumping the liabilities onto national economies’ balance sheets.
    Gibraltar is one small but important cog in the British offshore system that begins in the City of London and radiates outwards like a spider’s web.
    Describing Gibraltar, John Christensen, a former Jersey financial sector professional, said, “We in Jersey considered Gibraltar as totally sub-prime. This was where you put the real monkey business.” Quoted in ‘Treasure Islands: Tax Havens & the Men Who Stole the World’ by Nicholas Shaxson.
    So where are the monkeys now?


    • Ouch! It seems we have cleaned up our act over here thank you very much and we meet appropriate financial criteria as a legitimate place in which to invest ones vast funds.

      Assuming you have vast funds.

      Much of the world’s problems stem from greedy global capitalist companies ripping the shit out of everyone.

      Oh and the monkeys are up the Rock for now.


  16. Returning with a bang, eh? A splendid post, which made me think of the people I know who are just surviving and those who are trying hard to move on. Two nieces and a nephew from different sides of the family have had huge problems finding work here in the UK, though each seems finally to have done so, touch wood. I also know a number of younger people in work who are still living at home with their parents, as rents are so high where they live (major cities) and
    they are desperate to scrape together the (now large) deposit needed for a home of their own.

    It makes me realise just how lucky I was to be young and starting when I was – back in the 1960s.


    • Thank you. I’m surprised at the comments I have received on this post. I guess I am so used to the way my Spanish neighbours live that it is life now. There is no way any of the young people in our street could get a deposit let alone a mortgage.

      And truth be told, we needed money from my parents back in the 80s when we wanted to buy a home or we couldn’t have got anywhere.


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