Last Saturday I dropped by my old house, where my daughter now lives, to load up on books. She’s currently fixing up the place a treat while putting my books away in boxes. I have always enjoyed reading and have worked my way through many thousands of books over my life (mostly what my old English-teacher would have described as ‘tripe’). Right now, I’m at the side of Attila in Costain’s ‘The Darkness and the Dawn’ (1959) riding comfortably on my boney steed into battle against the Romans.
What with the wonders of the Internet – preparing and writing Business over Tapas, entertaining myself with YouTube and posting pithy poppycock on Facebook – I don’t have the same amount of time as before to spend on the couch with a book.
Plus there are the real-life horses that I look after, that need watering, feeding, exercising and so on.
For the leisure hours, there’s the TV as well, but I hardly ever watch it beyond checking the headlines on Wednesday evening. I can’t keep up with the films for very long – maybe they don’t make them for people like me: old, deaf and cynical. Oh, and the good thing about books? No commercial interruptions!
There’s one good bookshop in our city – I live on the edge of Almería – and I go there for a treat once or twice a year, blowing and wheezing gently through my face mask as I negotiate the stairs into the basement. It has an odd collection of books in English: some Shakespeare and Dickens plus a few slightly peculiar classics – like Dana’s ‘Two Years before the Mast’, mixed up with some science fiction, Steven King and several trilogies with the first or second part inevitably missing, probably sold to someone on a brief visit to our fair city.
When not sorting through their selection, with most of the spines of the books upside-down (the Spanish print theirs the other way round from us) meaning one has to crick one’s head to the left rather than the right… until one comes to a book which has been replaced on the shelf by a previous customer, thus making one look slightly eccentric, nodding this way and that at the truncated trilogies.
The average book is priced on the far side of ten euros, so I prefer to visit a charity shop when in what is now my daughter’s English-speaking pueblo. There I can find four or even six books for a euro, which ain’t bad. Indeed, there’s currently a large plastic bag full of them on the floor by my window.
But why bother, when there are all those boxes of books at the old house?
From Spanish Property Insight here, an article from Celeste Alonso asks whether we are in a recession or a depression. And what does this mean for the coastal property market?
From The Corner (with data from Caixabank Research) here: ‘Foreign Demand for Housing, Key to Spain’s Sector’s Recovery’. It sums up its findings with ‘…Given the gradual recovery expected for international flows of people, the decline in foreign demand for housing (in many cases for holiday purposes or investment in tourist rental accommodation) will probably be more persistent and take considerably longer to recover. Nevertheless, in May and June Google Trends data show an increase in the popularity of searches for property for Spain suggesting that international buyers are still interested…’.
From Sur in English here: ‘Fear of squatters showing signs of hitting sales of Costa properties to foreign buyers. The local real estate sector is worried about media reports of illegal occupation of second homes, especially those owned by Scandinavians’.
‘Spanish banks that own empty properties are part of the problem with illegal squatting in communities, claims a report...’. The Olive Press reports on the subject here. ‘…A special report called ‘Illegal Occupation and Housing for Tourist Use’ has been produced by the General Council of the Associations of Property Administrators of Spain (CGCAFE) and the insurance company Mutua de Proprietarios’.
Is there too much panic in the media over the okupa problem? ElDiario.es interviews Paco Morote, spokesperson for the platform of those affected by mortgage and bank foreclosures, the PAH. He says, ‘The conservative media are running a panic campaign with plenty of adverts with companies that can evict squatters or fix home-alarms, especially on the radio’. How many empty homes are there in Spain, asks the paper. The last available figures (from 2011) show 3,400,000 empty dwellings, many of which are bank-owned.
‘Few places are as tied to mass tourism as the Spanish resort town of Benidorm. It’s often dubbed the birthplace of package tours, and on a typical summer day its broad beaches, towering hotels, and palm-lined promenades are jammed with visitors seeking sun and surf. This year it’s been more about silence and social distance…’. From Bloomberg here.
From Hosteltur, the news is not any better on the Costa del Sol: ‘Only 23% of hotels to remain open in September’.
From Confidencial Digital here: ‘The Canary Islands survive the summer thanks to national tourism: only 15% of visitors were foreigners. Lanzarote and La Graciosa are the most popular destinations. The Canary hospitality industry foresees a collapse of its hotel occupation in September’.
‘Hacienda is aware of 112,000 tourist apartments in Spain thanks to data provided by Airbnb and its rivals’. The likely figure is nearer 300,000 says El Independiente here.
Staycationers: a new kind of tourism, says The Guardian here: ‘It is usually the domain of hangover-nursing sunbathers and rowdy tourists getting an early start on beach parties. But this year – as quarantines, restrictions and advisories take a toll on travel – the white sandy beaches and crystal-clear waters of Magaluf on the Spanish holiday island of Mallorca have some new visitors: Mallorcans. “This is the first time we’ve ever come – Mallorcans do not come to Magaluf,” laughed Laura, 31, as she settled in for a day on the beach with her friends. “We came this year only because we knew there were no tourists.”…’.
‘Spain experienced Europe’s worst job destruction in the first half of the year. A strict lockdown, reliance on tourism and a high rate of temporary contracts help explain why employment decreased by around 8%’. Headline from El País in English here.
From The Corner here: ‘Renewed Growth Goals, Temporary Layoffs Extension and the Preparation of the 2021 Budget’. It begins, ‘Nadia Calviño, the Minister of Economic Affairs expects, “with all due caution and prudence,” a third quarter GDP growth of 10%, in addition to an improvement in employment data. At the same time, Pedro Sánchez anticipates that the aid Spain will receive from the EU Recovery Fund (€140,000 million) will add 2 percentage points to the GDP in the long term…’.
The Minister of Finance, María Jesús Montero, has 'warmed up' the meetings to discuss the General State Budgets (PGE) with the Secretary of State for Social Rights, Nacho Álvarez, known as the 'guru' of the Podemos economic program since 2015. As El Español says indignantly, ‘With this movement, the Moncloa makes it untenable that the Partido Popular could support the budget: Pablo Casado has made it a condition that Unidas Podemos must not be present in this equation’ (!). The PSOE and UP are agreed to meet with Ciudadanos to seek support for the budget (which has been stalled since 2018) says El País here. ElDiario.es says that the 2021 budget needs to be passed for Spain to receive the 140,000 million in aid from the EU. On Wednesday, a meeting between Pedro Sánchez and Pablo Casado to discuss the budget proved ‘fruitless’, with the Government saying ‘The leader of the opposition has turned his back on dialogue and continues to be an obstructionist’. A second Wednesday meeting, with Inés Arrimadas from Ciudadanos, went better.
El Español has published its latest political survey, showing (to its barely concealed satisfaction), that support for Podemos is withering. Its figures show the PSOE (118) with a small lead over the PP (104), with Vox (45), UP (22) and C’s (15) following behind.
Eco Republicano brings us Cristina Almeida (a well-known far-left lawyer) who says ‘There’s more will to defeat this government that there is to defeat the coronavirus’. (The article includes a video of Cristina on La Sexta).
The erstwhile leader of Vox in Andalucía, the judge Francisco Serrano, who is under a cloud for alleged fraud, has now abandoned his seat as a non-aligned councillor in the Junta de Andalucía and left politics altogether. La Ser has the story here. Público also runs the story here. Serrano is called to declare to the court on September 8th. ElDiario.es is pleased to see him go here.
The Sur in English here: ‘Britons in Spain take to Talk Radio Europe to express frustration over the UK’s quarantine rules. The station, which is broadcast from Spain's Costa del Sol, has become a mouthpiece for British residents to voice their opinions, including criticism of Boris Johnson's handling of the coronavirus crisis’.
A blistering article on the United Kingdom from La Vanguardia here: ‘The Winter Apocalypse of the UK. Great Britain prepares for the worst: pandemia, Brexit and economic chaos’. It begins with a contrast of Biblical plagues with the ones expected to befall the UK, ‘…a devastating new outbreak of the pandemic, Brexit, unemployment, recession, collapse of hospitals, economic upheaval and riots in the streets…’. The article ends with this gem: ‘…In the Book of Revelations (called ‘El Libro del Apocalipsis’ in Spanish), there is a mysterious rider on a white horse who comes to the rescue in the great battle between the forces of Good and Evil. There are multiple interpretations about his identity and meaning, but, whichever way you look at it, it doesn't seem to match Boris's profile’.
‘August ends with more than 5,000 new coronavirus cases a day in Spain, five times those detected in July’. El País in English here.
The Health Minister Salvador Illa: "There is nothing to suggest that Spain will return to a situation like that of last March". From an interview at La Vanguardia here. Why not? “They are not comparable: we are not like we were in March. It is obvious that there are more cases now, but if we evaluate the data as a whole we see that more than half are asymptomatic, that the mean age is much lower (around 40 years), with milder cases, and the pressure on the hospitals is far lower at around 5% and that, fortunately, the number of deaths is very different from that of March or April”.
As school starts, says VozPópuli here, ‘Parents of infected students will have paid leave from work during their quarantine. "When one of the children or any other member of the family is positive, there is an obligation to maintain the quarantine on the part of the home-makers", explained the Minister of Finance’.
‘As Spain and the rest of the world waits with bated breath for a widely-available and effective Covid-19 vaccine, health ministry figures may help to put some minds at rest: Even though the number of cases in the country has risen by 78% this summer since lockdown ended, only 4.43% have had to go to hospital, and only 7.1% of these have needed to be admitted to intensive care…’. Item from Think Spain here.
From Sur in English here: ‘Radar Covid, which is free, uses Bluetooth technology and anonymously informs users if they have spent at least 15 minutes within two metres of a person who has tested positive for coronavirus in the previous 14 days.
El País in English agrees: ‘Spanish PM calls on ‘all citizens’ to download coronavirus tracking app Radar Covid. With cases of the virus continuing to rise, Pedro Sánchez says the device must be adopted across Spain, highlighting that it could reduce the impact of the pandemic by 30%. A video of how it works here.
Search for 'Radar COVID' in the App Store for iPhones or Google Play Store for Android.
Madrid is presently the centre of the epidemic with double the Spanish average.
The latest figures for Tuesday September 1st: 3,663 new cases, a third of them in Madrid.
David Marjaliza to the judge: "We paid money in black to the PSOE as well as to the PP and then a little to the IU as well, to keep them quiet" (during – at least – the years 1999 to 2002). Video and story at El Mundo here. A builder confesses in the Caso Púnica currently being heard in Madrid. Not that the PP gets away scot free…Wiki explains the Caso Púnica here: ‘On 27 October 2014, 51 politicians, councillors, civil servants and businessmen were arrested by the Guardia Civil for allegedly being involved in a corruption scheme that awarded public services worth 250 million euros over two years. In return, illegal commissions were allegedly charged - 2-3% of the volume of the contract which were subsequently laundered through a corporate scheme. Francisco Granados, former number two of the PP in the Community of Madrid behind Esperanza Aguirre, was one of the main people involved, in addition to indirectly giving his name to the operation…’. The five-year inquiry has now been extended by the judge for another year says La Ser here.
The New York Times has ‘another go at Spain’ with its title ‘Spain, the Country where Discotheques are more important than Schools’ (BoT 363). Público comments here: ‘In reality, each sentence of the article is a smack in the face of our politicians, but also in that of our citizens. The NYT warns that we have foolishly passed our time in absurd disputes and lawsuits instead of worrying about strengthening and improving our educational system. An example is this sentence: "For years, more energy has been wasted in discussing whether the subject of religion should count towards the final score than in getting students to master English, understand a literary text or acquire basic knowledge in science"…’.
The Church owns the COPE Radio (among other media possessions). There, a famous broadcaster is Carlos Herrera who, to no one’s surprise, doesn’t like Podemos.
Even Mother Nature… From The Guardian here: ‘Boats off Spain damaged in orca encounters. Vessels off Galicia warned to keep away after Spanish navy yacht and French boat damaged’.
‘The naturalist Carlos Torralvo has embarked on an almost impossible mission, to recover a breed of horse called the Retuerta (Wiki) in the marshes of the Bahía de Cádiz Natural Park. According to recent genetic studies, it is the oldest European equine breed and the only one that lives in freedom and isolated from other populations. There are so few left, barely 300, that it is classified as endangered…’. The story is at 20 Minutos here.
'Phishing' alert: the CNI (Spanish secret service) investigates the hacking of the cell phones of several ministers and senior government officials says Business Insider. The Minister of Justice was one of the victims.
Imagine this: the organisers of the three-month-long ragging outside Pablo Iglesias’ home in Madrid are now seeking funds on social media to help them keep going (and to face sundry legal fees etc).
The long wait to get married in Ibiza: British couples are already booking for 2022 in their particular Las Vegas. Thousands of Britons marry and divorce each year in Ibiza. It is their particular paradise of love, paella for 50 guests and party until dawn. With the 2020 wedding-season suspended, 2021 is now complete’. El Mundo reports here (paywall).
General Franco’s civil-war lunch-truck has been sold for a song, after the owner went into bankruptcy. The Ford 817T, apparently donated to the Caudillo by Henry Ford, has been sold quietly for a farcical 3,200€ says El Español here.
From El País in English here: ‘A Spanish judge tells Franco’s heirs to return his summer residence. The ruling finds that Pazo de Meirás (La Coruña) is the property of the state and that the dictator’s descendants are not entitled to compensation’.
An alternative to the Sociedad General de Autores y Editores, or SGAE (‘devoted to the defence and collective management of intellectual property rights’ here) has been launched, called La Sociedad Española de Derechos de Autor (SEDA). More here.
‘Spanish phone giant Telefónica launches world leading 5G technology for 75% of the country’. The Olive Press says that the company plans on providing 75% of the country with the ultra high-speed service by the end of 2020. ‘…Rival Vodafone launched its 5G in June last year in 25 major cities and Orange plans to open its own service next week, starting with Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia, Seville and Málaga…’.
From the peculiar Global247News here: ‘Hundreds of British nationals are giving up on Spain’s Costa del Sol as the economic decline in the area takes a nosedive. … As British owned businesses close for good by the day, the dream of living in the sun on the Costa del Sol is over for hundreds of British ex-pats, who head back home to the United Kingdom leaving a trail of debt behind them…’.
The oldest and largest castle in Europe (it says here) is Gormaz in Soria. There doesn’t seem much left of it today. It has a wall of 1,200 metres long, 28 towers and was 400 metres wide.
El País with Lonely Planet brings us ‘the most hidden villages in Spain’. Nice photos of fourteen places we’ve never heard of!
From España Fascinante (in English) here: ‘Argul, the Asturian village whose passageways let you live without stepping on the street’
Albacete has always had a bad rap. It’s on the way to Madrid (or the coast, depending) is very hot in the summer and horribly cold in the winter. The Spanish have an epitaph for the city which is not nice (Albacete, caga y vete). So, we rarely stop there, although the Parador Hotel is pleasant (the only place where the waiters whisper!). From Ciudades Ave comes an article called ‘The seven unmissable things to see in Albacete’ here.
A few subscribers have told me that Gmail is once again warning readers not to open BoT – ‘Este mensaje parece peligroso’. Those with other emails seem to be immune!
My thanks to those readers who send me useful links and information from time to time. These include José Antonio Sierra, Chuck, Charles, Per, Robin, John, Jon, Jake, Colin, JO, Harald, Dwight, Brett, Jackie, Norman, Tristán and Lorna.
Business over Tapas is on Facebook here.
Medina Azahara with Paseando por la mezquita on YouTube here.