The biggest disaster of the holiday was undoubtedly the lack of chips.
Driving up the N340 from Gib, we planned to stop midway at Marbella to have a leg stretch for us and the dog, and grab a nice ración of freshly cooked chips.
It was a bit chilly with a nasty cold breeze, so we agreed to eat inside, although normally we would sit out by the Landy and
Pippa would let us have a few chips share the chips with Pippa.
I walked around to enter the restaurant and order the chips. I looked at the door perplexed. Not only was it locked, the iron grille was in front of it and a chain was through it and padlocked. I shut my eyes, shook my head, opened my eyes and waited for the doors to be open. Open Sesame?
It didn’t work. Still closed and very firmly locked. I looked at the opening hours. Yes, winter hours were ten until something or other. Kitchen hours 12-4.30. That means full meals, you can always get a toasted sandwich or chips if you don’t mind waiting for the fryer to heat up.
This was so not good. I desperately wanted chips. I had spent the last hour and a half fantasising about chips. We agreed to stop off elsewhere and get chips but by the time we got there I didn’t want chips. I had wanted chips earlier. We pressed on home.
The next biggest disaster was the freezing cold wind that seemed to be gusting all over the Costa. For those who don’t know the Costa del Sol used to be called the Costa del Viento until it was renamed. After all, the Windy Coast isn’t quite the same incentive for tourism as the Sunny Coast.
It’s nothing like as windy as Tarifa which has to take the prize for mind-numbing wind (hence the high suicide rate in the town), but days of cold winds in winter is no fun at all. It means no sitting outside, no gardening, no external maintenance, and no cycling. OK, some idiots go cycling in the fierce cold winds, but I’m certainly not going to when there are plenty of nice warm calm days to cycle.
But when the sun comes up, and the wind drops, life is good.
However it’s not so good in the rest of Spain. We noticed some of our neighbours, who have/had a construction firm, had fallen back to the staple living in our area – growing veg. No idea whether they are growing it to sell or just to live on, but if you have enough to rent a bit of ground, at least you won’t starve.
The best trick is to try and sell your produce directly. The local corrida (wholesale veg market) not only takes commission (obviously) but also takes a minimum of six weeks to pay out. Although our village is small, we are at the centre of a big agricultural area and our local corrida is huge, with massive frigitrucks coming from all over Andalucía, and further afield, to buy and sell.
In fact, many of the local veg shops both in our village and in the nearby town, only manage to survive because they grow some of their produce themselves or their families do, or their neighbours do, etc etc. Quite a few of the veg shop owners in town come from our village, and the others come from other villages where crops are the mainstay of the economy.
For anyone who doesn’t know, the approximate unemployment rate in Spain is 25%, and that rises to 50% among young people. That obviously doesn’t include all the stay-at-home women who have never registered for employment because they spend all day cleaning, shopping, and cooking.
Does the high unemployment among young people explain the horrific incident in Valencia towards the end of last year when a dog was burned alive? Nothing better to do with their time? Want to victimise something, someone? Amazingly it survived and was treated – and then died. I’ve not included the link as the photos are very distressing.
But what about Fat Cats in Spain? Gatos Gordos literally, but for some reason the Spanish have Fat Fish – Pez Gordo!
While half the nation’s young people are out of work, and a quarter of all adults are unemployed, the royal family has managed to claw back a salary reduction they took in July last year. Or to be precise, Juan Carlos (king) and Felipe (his son), have recovered their previous salary reductions of 20,000 euros and 10,000 euros. That was a really significant gesture eh? ‘We’ll drop our salaries by seven per cent for six months, and then go back to the previous rate in the new year.’
Readers of this blog may recall that any respect I had for the Spanish royal family went out of the window last April when Juan Carlos cleared off on a private hunting trip to kill elephants in Africa (Botswana) while most of the country was suffering from the economic depression and imposed austerity measures. That’s before I even start on Felipe’s comments about Gibraltar. Hello royal family, don’t dabble in politics, there are enough idiots doing that as it is.
Naturally in the spirit of equality, Sofia (queen), and daughters Elena and Cristina, have had their budgets cut by 55,000 euros leaving them with a mere 260,000 euros to spend on their appearance expense budgets this year. The men get their money back and the women take a bigger fall.
The royal garage has taken a bit of a hit too, with the number of offical vehicles now standing at a mere 45 (!!!) from a whopping previous 72.
However, overall the budget has been cut by four per cent and for the first time is under eight million euros. ‘Twould be interesting to compare with other royal budgets, but I have better things to write about. And it’s a shame Juan Carlos and Felipe couldn’t quite manage on that tighter budget. Families live on that sort of money that they have clawed back – and less – all year.
Meanwhile, I should also add that the household budget does not include:
• royal trips – paid for by the foreign ministry
• security – paid for by the interior ministry
• vehicles – (all 45 of them) paid for by the finance ministry
• palace maintenance and other royal residences – paid for by national heritage
It must be good to be a taxpayer or on the dole in Spain, knowing that the king and heir to the throne couldn’t manage on a pay cut, and that the public is also funding their trips, personal security, cars and accommodation.
What about Iñaki Urdangarin? Royal son-in-law, married to Princess Cristina, who has been under suspicion of fiddling funds for nearly six years now. Tax officials are investigating alleged fraud and say that he used a ‘ghost’ company with his wife to conceal a million euros in earnings and avoid paying tax on the money.
Then there is the former Popular Party (Partido Popular) treasurer, Luis Bárcenas, who is under judicial investigation and just happened to have an undeclared 22 million euros in a Swiss bank account.
The PP is currently under fire regarding allegations that party members have received huge illegal cash bonuses on top of their legitimate salaries. The PP, is of course, the party currently in power in Spain. If you can call bailing out the banks, wrecking the economy, and leaving the average person on the street without a job, ‘in power’. Or perhaps they are indeed in power, a clear-cut case of ‘Yo estoy bien Juan,’ (I’m all right Jack) so stuff the rest of you.
Meanwhile, the PP wasn’t too happy that Spanish TV company Telecinco had the audacity to host a programme on the topic and threatened to take legal action against the company.
Surprised and stunned, several commentators on the show suggested it might be more appropriate for the PP to bring legal action against Bárcenas rather than a TV show.
How about convicted criminals being allowed to head up Spanish banks? The government started a consultation this week reducing the requirements for people wanting to be in charge of the country’s banks. The banking chiefs don’t seem to have done a brill job so far, but let’s open it up a bit wider for even more irresponsible people to get their dedos in the till.
For the first time ever, having been convicted for criminal offenses will not be sufficient cause to stop an executive from taking a senior role in a bank.
Good news eh? Let’s have a few convicted crims running the banks – rather than unconvicted ones – or those who have been pardoned like Alfredo Sáenz, head of Banco Santander, initially sentenced to three months in jail but later let off.
Meanwhile the Catalunyan parliament has approved a sovereignty declaration. Not surprising really is it? given the brief summary of news above. Whether or not it will get anywhere is another matter as Madrid is not too keen on Catalunya – or any of the other more bolshie communidades – leaving Spain.
All stories on this post from El Pais which tends to be my preferred Spanish source of news, there is an English version, although the Spanish one gives more info.
Some very different perspectives of life in the real Spain this past week.
But back to the Costa del Viento.
Wandering onto the terrace one morning at sunrise I was surprised to see the clouds on the horizon looking remarkably like the view I see from Gib of Morocco. For a minute, I thought it had floated up the coast!
We played at identifying cloud images. Before they quickly drifted off and floated away into nothing.
By sunset the cloud had moved around again and Morocco was now in the southwest.
And Ensalada de Axarquía, a local salad named after the area where we live. The key ingredients are radish, orange and avocado, all of which are currently in season. Wonderful combination however strange it may sound. My neighbour adds the inevitable Little Gem lettuce hearts, but my taste is for something a little greener. Doesn’t matter what you add, so long as you get the three basic ingredients, usually a little onion as well, fresh green cebolletas.