I was once with my parents in a bar in Tangier. Those were the times when the British Prime Minister Harold Wilson had decided that travellers were only allowed to take with them £60 per year – a sum which had to be stamped into the back page of their passport by the bank.
There was no ferry over to Gibraltar that particular day, as some expatriate explained breathlessly to my father, ‘…because it’s having its bottom scraped’. The owner of the bar, another expat (and close friend of the first one), overheard as he wafted past at that moment and said ‘Ooh, the lucky thing’.
The stuff one remembers half a century later.
Sixty pounds wasn’t a small sum in Spain in 1969, but even so, it only took you through to about February.
The solution was to get oneself down to Gibraltar and take out a wad of pounds from the local Lloyds bank. Walk back into Spain looking nonchalant and look for the nearest neon sign that said Change, Exchange, Wechsel.
Franco had inadvertently put a stop to that by closing the Gibraltarian border with Spain, to the inconvenience of the people living on both sides of the frontier, and the smaller hindrance to those Brits who were living here (as extranjeros, there was no EU to worry about). We needed our cash. So, we would take the ferry to Tangier, have a drink in the rather odd bar mentioned above, then cross to Gibraltar and zip once again into the Lloyds bank. An elderly Indian would then take our cash and have the pesetas, less his bite, delivered to a bar in Estepona.
Many years on, my computer, while not suffering unduly from barnacles, was certainly slowing down, and so it duly went to the local dealer to have its bottom scraped.
And here we are with a new hard drive. I’m trying to find the old stuff which is in there somewhere, plus work around some new programs, including an updated version of Word, and try and remember my long list of Internet ‘favourites’.
Let me know if you can’t open this (well, if you can’t, of course you won’t have read this introduction).
The four grandchildren and their mom have arrived from America – about the first flight into Madrid – and were settled in at my (other) daughter’s place. I had dropped off the PC and then gone to spend a few days with the family to eat macaroni cheese and visit water parks and other uncomfortable venues. Granddaddy stuff.
I learned this week that while I am evidently somewhat confused about computers, thinking that they run on a mixture of magic and bile, the last twenty years of tech has generally passed me by. In the eight-seater rent-a-car, one of the kids had some truly ghastly music on their mobile phone, which, by the miracles of invention, wirelessly connected itself to the car’s entertainment system and allowed us all to share the joys of the latest rap music which goes mumble mumble mumble BEEP. The BEEP being an expletive and the only word that I understood. As it were.
So much for the Top Cuarenta.
My daughter showed me another thing which my protected life had previously missed. She could turn her TV from bad Spanish channels to cable, to Netflix, to games, to Internet. She could write on a handy keyboard and have it show up on the gigantic TV on the wall in front of the sofa.
And here’s me back home and crouched over my elderly albeit newly repaired computer in my little den looking to find the pound sign.
And a picture of some barnacles.
From Murcia Today: ‘Tinsa reports a five per cent increase in Mediterranean property values in just one month!’ The news-site says ‘The latest monthly data published by leading Spanish property valuation firm Tinsa report that average market values of homes in this country were 1.3% up in May over a year ago … with much of the increase due to the continuing good health of the markets in the islands and along the Mediterranean coast…’. It adds, ‘…At the same time, the figures show a rise of 5.3 per cent in Mediterranean property values in the month of May alone…’.
Records show that thanks to the pandemic, some people are moving away from the cities to smaller communities. elDiario.es has the graphics here.
AUAN Press Release : ‘Reacting to the paralysation via parliamentary vote of the new planning law for Andalucía, known as the LISTA, Abusos Urbanísticos Andalucía No (AUAN), states that they, in unity with other associations from across Andalucía such as the Federación Extrarradio de Asociaciones de Chiclana, PAVIC in Conil and PAVIP from Vejer de la Frontera, are asking all political parties in Andalucía for the process to be restarted and for consensus in the approval of this proposed new law. These associations represent many of the hundreds of thousands of those affected by planning irregularities in Andalucía, many of whom are from other European countries… Vox has recently dropped out of the reformed planning law in protest at Andalucía taking in thirteen Moroccan children (!)
Newco (a commercial site for investors) says ‘In the last decade, both Portugal and Spain have created very attractive tax regimes for non-habitual residents, the aim being to attract highly-qualified professionals and high-net-worth individuals, and thereby generate additional income for their economies…’.
Another one of those tiny apartments for sale. Just 5m2 for 65,000€ in a pleasant part of Madrid. With pictures here.
One of the vulture funds that owns property in the southern part of Madrid is becoming difficult with its tenants. CTXT reports that ‘Opportunistic funds (good name!) own at least 400,000 homes and mortgage loans in Spain. What for some people is their home, for others is merely a speculative opportunity’. The article looks at Cerberus Capital Management (Wiki) and its policy of raising the rents and failing on repairs and maintenance. The objective of the company, says CTXT, ‘…is not to stay in Spain, but to earn the most in the shortest possible period and, once this is done, to go in search of a new opportunity elsewhere…’.
The threat from squatters is a subject that is followed closely at Spanish Property Insight. Here we read of a useful Spanish police app called AlertCops which can now be used (among other services) to notify the police of an invasion of your property. The app is free and can be downloaded to your mobile phone. More from the makers (in English) here.
Hosteltur says that everyone is going on holiday this summer. Their headline: ‘98% of Spaniards are planning their summer vacations’. Three quarters of them will – perhaps wisely – be choosing a Spanish destination this year.
From El País in English here: ‘Spain hopes to lure German tourists amid uncertainty over UK travel restrictions. The government has launched an €8m campaign to attract visitors from Germany, as doubts remain over whether Britain’s ‘amber’ travel list will be updated this summer’.
From Benidorm, we hear that 20% of their hotels remain closed and that only 10% of the tourists are foreign (it was 55% this time back in 2019).
From El País in English here: ‘The Bank of Spain raises economic growth forecast to 6.2%. The central lender believes activity will return to pre-pandemic levels by the end of 2022 thanks to re-openings that are supported by improved coronavirus figures’. It notes that ‘…Declining coronavirus cases and deaths, coupled with a steady vaccination drive, are stimulating activity, consumption and public confidence…’.
‘Green light from the EU to Sánchez's recovery plan: the process that will unlock 70,000 million in aid. Ursula von der Leyen visits Spain to represent the community approval of the Government's strategy for European funds’. An item from Invertia (paywall) here. 20Minutos also has the story. The funds are earmarked for 2021 to 2026.
So many banking staff have been discharged says elDiario.es here, that Spain now has the least number of staff per branch anywhere in Europe. ‘Although Spain is the European country that has closed the most offices since the 2008 crisis, with 23,673 (most of them now empty and covered with graffiti), the closure of branches does not compensate for the sharp decrease in the workforce. Since that year, 105,065 employees have left the banking sector’.
Headline from Público here: ‘Clothing stores collapse: 15,000 stores, 27,000 jobs and more than 40% of turnover have disappeared in the past year. The pandemic has accelerated the transformation of the sector and its digitization at a rate that is difficult to manage for a small business suffocated by the change in consumption habits, the accumulation of obsolete 'stocks' and the greater supply of the chains’.
La Vanguardia looks at the plans to make Málaga the equivalent of Silicon Valley. The sub-headline reads: ‘The city stands out as a pole of attraction for investments, companies and highly qualified professional workers’. We read: ‘Málaga has been doing everything possible for many years to position itself as a great alternative for life and work for the most cutting-edge sectors of the national and, especially, international digital economy. Beyond the conditions that have turned the capital of the Costa del Sol into one of the great destinations for tourism, such as its good weather or its cultural and leisure offer, Málaga is already looking towards the future to attract highly qualified companies and professionals from around the world. It is the dream of the so-called Málaga Valley that has replaced the sun, the beach, flamenco or tapas as the only attractions in a city that has successfully reinvented itself…’.
Issues with immigration papers are being eased for those who can show they’ve been in Spain for at least two years and working for over six months. The new policy is aimed principally at South American workers with ‘irregular’ paperwork. More here.
An agreement between the USA and the EU means that (punitive) duty on certain exports have now been dropped. Spanish wine and olive oil (for example) will now be 25% cheaper in the USA.
Opinions regarding the indultos – the pardons for the Catalonian rebel politicians – were in the street last weekend. Firstly in Barcelona where the PP and Ciudadanos managed to incite a mere 200 people (say the police) to demonstrate outside the national government’s office in Barcelona on Friday. Another Friday demo, organised by Ciudadanos in Pamplona, only attracted a dozen protesters.
On Sunday, the popular Madrid venue for the far right – the Plaza de Colón (with its enormous flag) – was taken over by Santiago Abascal and the irredeemably obscure Rosa Díaz (an ex-PSOE and UPyD politician now supporting the conservatives says Wiki), with Pablo Casado in evidence in a side-street to avoid a photo with the Vox leader. The 25,000 demonstrators were all against any pardon, but no particular alternative was offered. Perhaps there isn’t any.
The day was stolen by a fellow in a cape made out of a Spanish flag and wearing a bull’s head – a sort of Iberian QAnon character says El Huff Post.
The Guardian’s editorial is called ‘Time for magnanimity. Spain’s prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, would be doing the right thing by pardoning the organisers of 2017’s illegal referendum’. Many people wouldn’t agree.
With some formalities to be completed, the future leader of the PSOE-A (Andalucía) will be the current mayor of Seville, Juan Espadas. Espadas comfortably beat Susana Díaz, the current leader, in the primaries held this weekend. El País (soft paywall) says that Pedro Sánchez has congratulated the candidate, that the party-headquarters evidently preferred, for his 55 to 38.5 per cent win over Susana, who says she will be stepping aside. A third (wild) candidate took 5.5%. Juan Espadas, says elDiario.es, is a good organiser and ‘loyal’ to the party. El Español (paywall) says that Andalucía is lucky to have two moderate leaders – Juanma Moreno from the PP and Juan Espadas from the PSOE – in this age of extreme positions.
Between the fractured demo in Madrid on Sunday and the success for the official candidate in the PSOE-A primaries, it’s been a good week for Pedro Sánchez says Pedro J Ramírez in his weekly homily at the El Español video-blog here.
From La Vanguardia here, Ione Belarra becomes the new party leader with 88% of the votes at the Podemos primaries and she calls on the party to fight "the hatred from Colón (the largest Spanish flag in the world decorates this square in Madrid where the far-right like to use for their demonstrations)". The Corner (a little bit disapproving) quotes Ione Belarra: “we have to face these national challenges in a context of normalisation and promotion of the extreme right which is torpedoing the foundations of our democracy. But I also want to be clear about one thing: we must not forget that the rise of the extreme right is the response from the deepest powers in this country to the democratic progress that has been underway for the past ten years”.
Isabel Díaz Ayuso, the President of the Madrid Region and currently the brightest light in the Partido Popular, says that the ‘Vox is not the extreme right, and that Podemos is a cancer’. Her remarks came on a TV show hosted by Bertín Osborne on Telecinco. One revelation is that Ayuso and Pablo Iglesias were born on the same day (…‘which makes you wonder about astrology’, she laughs…). La Vanguardia has the story here.
A comic remark from Gabriel Rufián (ERC) to the Ciudadanos benches in Wednesday’s parliamentary debate. ‘Friends, four years ago, you won the Catalonian elections. Nowadays, you could all be fitted into a lift. Maybe it’s time to change your tune’. Even the six C’s deputies managed a smile at that dig.
A brief meeting between Joe Biden and Pedro Sánchez at the NATO summit in Brussels say the right-wing media (although it’s the case that President Biden on his first visit to Europe had a lot of new colleagues to meet), but in other news, the Spanish president has brought home next year’s NATO meeting to be held in Madrid.
Any alteration in the geographic extension of Spain would go against the Constitution – and the Fuerzas Armadas. As ECD wishes to remind us: ‘Those peaks of territorial crises that occur in Spain inevitably cause some political leaders, or even military commanders, to invoke Article 8 of the Constitution, which establishes that “the obligation of the Armed Forces is to guarantee the sovereignty and independence of Spain, to defend its territorial integrity and the constitutional order ”. This mission of "defending its territorial integrity" is understood by some to mean that the Armed Forces would have to act to stop, for example, a serious attempt at secession in Catalonia like the one that began in the autumn of 2017…’.
The Government, says 20 Minutos, is planning to pardon the Catalonian independence leaders as early as next week.
It never rains but it pours. The Moroccan parliament has now declared Ceuta to be ‘an occupied city’.
‘Pedro Sánchez is designated as one of the main "enemies" of Morocco’. Onda Cero has been reading Al Ousboue, the best-selling weekly magazine in Morocco, ‘…which has published on its front page a target with the "true enemies of the country", including the President of the Government of Spain, Pedro Sánchez’.
Noticias de Navarra interviews a young journalist born in the camps of Western Sahara who now lives in Pamplona. She talks about the issues suffered by the Saharawi (‘Sáhara Español’ was the 52nd Spanish province between 1958 and 1976).
Four British residents in Spain have been awarded MBEs for their efforts aiding their fellow Britons caught up in the fine print and red tape caused by Brexit. These are Michael Harris, Ann Hernandez, Debbie Williams and Sue Wilson. Well done to all of them. Sur in English has more here. All are frequent contributors to The Olive Press (here). All of them are active against Brexit and its many issues for Britons living in Europe and as such are slightly odd choices for the British authorities, via Queen Elizabeth, to choose.
From EuroNews here: ‘A majority of Europeans believe corruption is an issue in their country, report finds’ (Thanks John).
El Mundo says (Tuesday) that 13 million people in Spain are now fully vaccinated: 27.5% of the population.
The ones who fall between the cracks are featured in an article at La Vanguardia. Those not registered in the Sistema Sanitario Público for example.
‘Spain's health ministry last week scrapped a nationwide plan to gradually reopen nightlife just a week after introducing it, following widespread complaints from regional authorities who dismissed it as either too strict or too loose. The plan, which would have allowed areas with low infection rates to open nightclubs until 3 a.m., drew the ire of several regions and a legal challenge from Madrid's conservative leader Isabel Diaz Ayuso. After a week of tension, health chiefs from Spain's 17 regions unanimously approved a revised version of the document in which the rules are reduced to non-binding guidelines…’. Item from the Mallorca Daily Bulletin here.
‘The PP vetoes the creation of an investigative commission on the high number of Covid deaths in the Madrid residences, after blaming the then Minister Pablo Iglesias for them. The Popular Party has already announced that it will not support the petition "to prevent them from playing with the pain of the families".’. El Plural here. In a follow-up, El Plural reveals that Vox has sided with the Left against the PP on the investigation (Heh!).
InfoLibre ran a story based on a photograph taken over the shoulder of the president of Murcia where a text on his phone could be read. Apparently, he had wangled a quick operation for a relative of a senior PP politician in Madrid. The PP naturally refuses to confirm the story, but has denounced the newspaper for revealing secrets. Podemos has asked for the head of the senior conservative, the General Secretary of the party Teodoro García Egea. The story is here.
The senior policeman in charge of investigating the Gürtel Case was offered a cushy job in the Spanish embassy in Lisbon at 10,000€ a month by the Rajoy Government if he fiddled his report into the corruption of senior political figures. The chief inspector was declaring to the National Audience earlier this week. The story is at El Plural here.
‘The longest-serving Catalan president in modern times, Jordi Pujol, will face trial for the alleged corruption case affecting him and his whole family. Spain's National Court announced the news on Wednesday, also confirming that his seven children and ten businesspeople will also be tried. The clan has been accused of unlawful assembly, money laundering, crimes against the tax office and forging documents…’. Item from Catalan News here.
From The Corner here: ‘The European Commission plans to raise the renewables target to 40%; although Spain is already meeting it’.
Ecologistas en Acción says that, thanks to packaging issues, 11% of the gross weight of our supermarket shopping ends up in the trash.
ore than 30 respirators donated by Lionel Messi have been abandoned in the airport depot for the last 10 months says Infobai here.
‘Less than an hour’s drive from the built-up concrete strip of the Costa del Sol, the picture-postcard whitewashed village of Gaucín tumbles down a cleft of the celebrated Serranía de Ronda, topped by a Moorish castle and with unrivalled views across rolling hills to the Rock of Gibraltar and on most days, Africa beyond…’. The purple prose from The Olive Press is written to contrast with the plan to bring ‘…a series of mega photovoltaic plants that will carpet 2,200 hectares with solar panels up to 7 metres tall in this valley…’. SOS Campiña de Jimena has more here and a petition here.
Last year, a British organisation called Ethical Consumer, together with two Spanish agrarian unions, installed six solar panels next to a workers’ camp in Lucen del Puerto, Huelva. The energy produced was small, but at least provided a bit of illumination at night and allowed the workers to recharge their phones to call home. La Mar de Onuba says here that ‘unspecified security workers’ abruptly came this week to remove the panels.
elDiario.es looks at the psychological problems that can come to those who have ‘returned home’ after years abroad.
During the later Franco years, many Spaniards went to Germany to work. Frankfurt and Stuttgart were popular – providing employment in the automotive business. A comedy from those days is called ‘Pepe, Vente a Alemania’ starring Alfredo Landa (a comic clip on YouTube here). Many years later, Spaniards went to the UK, looking for jobs in the health sector and in restaurants (among many other pursuits). That has all but ceased thanks to Brexit. Now comes a timely article from El Huff Post called ‘Vente 'pá' Alemania, Pepe, ahora que no puedes ir a Reino Unido’ (Come to Germany Pepe, now the UK is closed). It seems Berlin is the place to head for.
The most densely populated square kilometre in Europe is a region in Barcelona called La Florida (50,000 per km2) according to La Vanguardia here. It follows with maps and plans of the heaviest densities and smallest populations across Spain. It also (oddly) equates density with musical talent, at least the drill popular in the poorest barrios of Paris and Barcelona. (YouTube for drill with Nickzzy here).
‘Ambitious plans are afoot to halt the rural exodus and prevent huge swathes of Spain from becoming uninhabited as their existing populations grow older and those of working age leave - around €10,000 million of the country's European Union development funds will be ploughed into saving the countryside…’. Item from Eye on Spain here.
The Parador Hotel in León is nice, but in the dark days it used to be a Francoist prison. After several years, a German tourist has successfully campaigned to make the hotel admit (with a commemorative plaque) its dreadful past as a concentration camp says elDiario.es here.
‘Amsterdam is home to a trove of archives on Spanish anarchism and the anti-Franco resistance. The International Institute of Social History is home to historical documents from the CNT labour union and Iberian Anarchist Federation, including the order that sent Buenaventura Durruti to Madrid’. El País in English takes us to the International Institute of Social History (their webpage here) in Amsterdam.
Business over Tapas has its own Facebook page here.
Spain’s happiest towns. How can they figure that one? Apparently, artificial intelligence (AI) has been looking at Instagram photos to gauge the size of the smiles. So, at Think Spain, here we have… The Top Six Happiest Towns in Spain.
A Basque singer called Mikel Laboa provides the music and sings Txoria Txori (the bird’s a bird), a poem by Joxean Artze on YouTube here (English and Spanish subtitles). With full orchestra and choir, he does it again here.