I found my first driving-licence the other day, in a box in the room that passes for an attic in our house with a flat roof. It was green and came from Nevada. I had bought it off a fellow called Fat Freddy for 100 pesetas when I was 14. The great thing about Nevada driving licences in those far-off days was that they didn’t have a photograph (as didn’t the Belgian ones apparently). All one needed for the driving licence to be an unqualified success was a typewriter and a steady hand.
My next one, four years later and now eighteen, I got from our local city of Huercal Overa. Don’t worry – despite its odd-sounding name, it’s in Almería.
To earn the licence (sixty pesetas plus driving school), I had to go through the tedious formality of learning to drive. My dad had a Renault 4 furnished with that interesting push-pull gear-stick so dear to the French and in this I took my first lessons. Sammy, a very camp bartender, was delegated to give me classes, or rather, tips on driving. But first, I had to teach him how the gear-lever worked. If you don’t know it, it’s a bit like stirring a bowl of lumpy soup with an umbrella.
Sammy taught me that, if it looks like you are going to crash into someone, then accelerate. That way, you’ll hit them harder that they’ll hit you.
Following these basics, I then went to driving school with a fellow called Casanova. He wasn’t such a big hit as his namesake (at least, in Sammy’s opinion), but at least he kept his hands to himself. I was now practicing with a Seat 600, which is about the size of a loose-fitting suit.
A line was pencilled in under the rear right window, used for reversing into a parking space. One simply had to turn the wheel sharply after passing the rear-bumper of what would be the car in front.
I’ve always tended to park about a metre away from the verge thanks to this piece of basic training.
After studying the book they sell you and taking notes, and following a thumbs up from Casanova himself, the great day for the test arrived. Two elderly nuns and I were called to take turns to navigate the streets of Huercal Overa.
I was told that I could take the written test in English, which I did. They then said that there was a small problem, as they didn’t have the answers, and could I now take it in Spanish. I think the embarrassment may have helped them to allow me to pass on my first attempt. The two nuns? Failed dismally, poor things.
I’ve given a few lessons myself. A couple of years ago, in an old Mercedes driving though the river-bed, to three deaf friends of my daughter. My sign-language is still at a spelling-out-a-word stage, so telling them to S-T-O-P was a laborious affair indeed.
My most recent classes were to teach my Spanish step-son, who was flunking at school in English. I thought, as we raced around the parking lot, I’ll just speak to him in English while we do this. Remembering Sammy, I taught him the two ways to stop: (‘press the brake firmly, or head for the nearest tree’) and reminded him of the one cardinal rule in driving in Spain:
Everyone else on the road is a complete idiot.
ECD reports that ‘The sale of homes soars 124% in May and the price falls 3.6%, according to notaries. Mortgage loans for the purchase of a home are doubling’.
From MSN here: ‘Madrid's 2021 urban plan for better city streets & liveable homes’.
A pueblo in Spain offers free work and housing to those who move there, says El Deber. ‘If you want to live in the country-side and leave the tumult of the big cities, a town in Spain invites you to move where, in addition to living in a dream place with your family, you will receive a job and they will pay your rent’. It’s called Griegos and it’s located somewhere in the heights of the Sierra de Albarracín in Teruel. Let us know how it works out!
EU Countries Impose Stricter Entry Restrictions on Spanish Travellers, as Spain Keeps Borders Open for Britons’ – headline from Schengen Visa Info here.
Maybe wait until the autumn for those holidays abroad? From El Correo here, ‘The British look to postpone their holidays in Spain to autumn. The evolution of the pandemic encourages caution among tourists, despite the liberalization of travel this summer’. The news-site says that an estimated 400,000 Brits will visit Spain this August.
From The Olive Press here: ‘Balearic Islands downgraded to amber on UK travel list’.
From the Gov.UK here: ‘Quarantine-free travel to resume on 19 July for fully vaccinated passengers returning from amber list countries. The guidance on travel to and from amber list countries to England will change 19 July 2021’.
Will there be a better class of tourism after the pandemic has finally passed (read ‘wealthier’)? The South China Morning Post reports that ‘…Spain’s tourism minister, Reyes Maroto, echoed the ambitions of other destinations when she told the Financial Times newspaper in May: “We are moving from a model of ‘the more tourists, the better’ to one of higher expenditures, more nights and premium tourists”…’.
La Vanguardia from last Thursday says that ‘The fifth wave of the pandemic sinks foreign tourism. The pressure from France, Belgium or Germany not to travel to Spain after the increase in infections puts Spain at extreme risk is a hard blow for the sector’.
For once, La Razón takes the longer view: ‘Spanish tourism will disappear under the sea in fifty years. Climate change will raise the sea level, devouring a good part of the Spanish coasts in less than half a century’ with video and links. A map from Climate Central shows the coastlines under threat from the rise of the sea-level by 2100. Silly, we’ll just get new resorts which are currently located a few kilometres inland!
From Spanish Property Insight here, ‘The cost of living in Spain is 5% below the EU average’ (this one was being discussed on Facebook, and we thought that Almería was cheaper still).
‘The Consumer Price Index remains at 2.7% in June, its highest rate in four years, due to electricity and food prices. The CPI rose by 0.5% in June compared with the previous month and placed its year-on-year rate at 2.7%, the same as in May and one tenth of a percentage point higher than at the end of last month, according to data published Wednesday by the National Statistics Institute…’. From The Corner here.
Perhaps it was shaping up to be a slow week in politics, or perhaps they were merely attempting to distract us with the story that Alberto Garzón, the IU leader and Minister of Consumption, announced that we should eat less meat (and save the planet). The meat industry is incandescent. Pedro Sánchez says that, ‘…personally, I like a nice underdone steak’. Sánchez's response, ridiculing the position of a ministry of his own government, does not reflect much on his own political stance as presented just two months ago. In the plan for Spain 2050 it was stated that "different reports indicate that the consumption of meat by the Spanish population is between two and five times higher than recommended" and that "in the future it will be necessary to reduce the consumption of certain raw materials and products". Pablo Casado chimed in, as he stirs the pot, with "This meaty joke from the Communists version 3.0 is not funny because Spain is an agri-food power". The scientists have the last word says Yahoo! Noticias: ‘Of course Alberto Garzón is right’.
By the weekend, things had heated up. Pedro Sánchez had a cabinet reshuffle, or rather, as El Mundo says, ‘un crisis de gobierno’ with major changes. An eye-popping seven ministers were replaced. The first Vice-President Carmen Calvo was sacked, along with José Luis Ábalos, Juan Carlos Campo, José Manuel Rodríguez Uribes, Arancha González Laya, Isabel Celaà y Pedro Duque. Iván Redondo, the Moncloa Chief of Staff was also defenestrated. The new First Vice-President (was ‘Second’) is Minister for the Economy Nadia Calviño, who said from a G-20 meeting in Venice ‘"This Government is dedicated to consolidating the economic and social recovery, that is our priority to deploy the Recovery Plan…", adding "It is an honour and a great responsibility to be Vice President of this Government with this exciting and inspiring future program,"…’. El Español unkindly says that Sánchez wanted to fire the Minister of the Interior Fernando Grande-Marlaska, but couldn’t find a good replacement. In the allied Unidas Podemos party, all five ministers remain, and the Minister of Labour Yolanda Díaz becomes the Second Vice-President.
In all the excitement following this ‘Red Wedding’ (sic), the PP unsurprisingly insists that Sánchez calls for fresh elections.
El Huff Post says that the first job of the new Exterior Minister José Manuel Albares is to fix the rift with Morocco.
From Zero Hedge comes ‘Spain's Proposed 'National Security Law' Would Allow Seizure Of Citizens' Property During Health "Crisis". The prominent Spanish daily El País is reporting a hugely alarming scenario in which Spain's central government is mulling a national mobilization and "security law" which would compel citizens to "temporarily" give up their rights in instances of future public health crises or emergencies such as happened with the coronavirus pandemic…’ (Thanks to Ann). The original El País story is here.
‘The National Security Law "is tailor-made for the Government to act without democratic control" Legal experts consulted by Libertad Digital consider it a scandal that the Sánchez government "does not want to submit to parliamentary control" (here). In case we miss the point, the same news-site has an editorial: ‘An aberrant National Security Law to turn Sánchez into a tyrant’. Vox is taking the proposed National Security Law to the Constitutional Court according to El Mundo here.
The hysteria is contained at Maldita here, which writes of exceptional circumstances (based on the Constitution Article 30 of 1981) and the similarity to a law from 2015. Newtral says that it is a proposal to update the 2015 law on security and means, which at the time was never fully implemented.
La Línea de la Concepción – the grungy border-town with Gibraltar – is fed up with its lot. It is seeking a way to secede from Andalucía and set itself up as an independent autonomy similar, perhaps, to Ceuta or Melilla. The sixty thousand inhabitants of La Línea are unlikely to get their wish says elDiario.es here. A referendum is planned, says OK Diario here, for some-time in early 2022. An oddly translated version of the foregoing comes from Market Research Telecast here (the town is reduced in English to ‘The Concepción Line’).
All right, this one has to be a joke: ‘Casado says that Spaniards cannot "freely decide which party to vote for". The leader of the PP mixes Cuba, Podemos, meat, freedom and taxes ...’ (El Huff Post).
From the Irish RTÉ here: ‘Britain has said it does not recognise the European Union's estimate of the overall Brexit settlement cost, and that the total bill remained within the government's original projections…’. The figure mentioned as being owed by Westminster to Brussels is 47,500 million euros ‘as part of its post-Brexit financial settlement’.
From La Vanguardia here: ‘Europe needs 60 million immigrants to survive. The low birth rate will force European countries to open the doors to massive immigration before 2050, and to a large extent it will be African’.
From The Express here. ‘Power-crazed EU will collapse in on itself, nothing is more certain. If the European Union wants to achieve its goal of ‘ever closer Union', combined with an expansion of its borders, then it's time the bureaucrats in Brussels re-evaluated their strategy’. Give this newspaper its due – once it gets hold of an idea, it doesn’t let go of it.
‘Spain’s regions reintroduce coronavirus restrictions as fifth wave gains pace. With the incidence rate rising to 368 per 100,000 inhabitants, the Valencia region has approved a curfew in 32 municipalities, while Catalonia is seeking to limit public and private social gatherings’. El País in English has the story here. (‘436 per 100,000’ in a later report here).
‘72% of patients currently in the ICU for Covid in Andalucía are "no-vaxxers" aged between 50 and 60 years. The vice president of the Junta de Andalucía warns that 72% of the 122 people who are now in an Intensive Care Unit are "people who have not wanted to get the vaccine" from that age group’. elDiario.es has the story here.
‘85,000 computer attacks were counted last year by the National Cybersecurity Institute. Episodes have grown steadily in recent years, and increased internet use due to the pandemic has led to a spike in incidents’. More at ECD here.
El Salto Diario looks at the power and influence in the media in Spain in an article surrounding a quote from Eduardo Galeano (Wiki): ‘the dictatorship of the single word and the dictatorship of the single image are much more devastating than the dictatorship of the single party’. We read ‘…These media groups (particularly Mediaset, Atresmedia and PRISA) belong to large companies, both national and foreign-owned, and have, practically, the ability to influence the political and social life of this country. They are the ones who have decided that Vox is just another political party. … We don't put a face on them, we don't vote for them in elections, we don't remember giving them that power, but they have it. Let us demand responsibilities from politicians, but it is time to also demand responsibility from the mainstream media and for them to pay for their complicity…’.
A simple post from Adam McKay on Twitter catches the spirit: ‘Every day I have to marvel at what the billionaires and Fox News pulled off. They got working whites to hate the very people that want them to have more pay, clean air, water, free healthcare and the power to fight back against big banks and big corporations. It’s truly remarkable’.
Is it worth an occasional bung to a tame news-site? El Salto Diario says that the far-right OK Diario received 345,000€ from the regional PP governments of Murcia, Madrid, Castilla y León and Andalucía plus a couple of wealthy PP-run town halls for institutional advertising between 2018 and 2021.
Protests in Cuba, protests in South Africa (Google Search links here and here). Why does the Spanish media concentrate on the first while flatly ignoring the second? The readers’ interest is stronger over the first? A political point is made? A lack of newsprint space…? (One death so far in Cuba, over 70 in South Africa).
Stories about King Juan Carlos continue to embarrass the Royal House and the Government (probably in unequal measure). From Público here: ‘King Juan Carlos I forged his fortune by selling arms to Arab countries together with Manuel Prado y Colón de Carvajal and Adnan Khashoggi’. Not so much the commissions on crude oil, as arms sales, says the ‘exclusive’. A second article from the same source looks at the ex-king’s ‘partners in the arms business’. From infoLibre here: ‘Nine (fringe) parties are asking Congress to investigate "the illegal sale of weapons" by Juan Carlos I. The initiative has been signed by ERC, Bildu, Junts, PDeCAT, CUP, Más País-Equo, Compromís, BNG and Nueva Canarias’
Facu Díaz (Wiki) explains in a YouTube video here how the games and betting lobbies operate.
The golden couple of Pablo Iglesias and Irene Montero are to divorce and the house at Galapagar is already on the market says Semana here. La Opinión A Coruña says that the couple have been separated since March here. However ECD has Irene Montero claiming that the news is false, saying "I detest la cloaca (shit-opposition) that lies so much and with such impudence, I detest those who protect them and also those who do not stand up to them thinking that the thing is not going with them. I detest those who do not know how to do politics and seek to destroy the adversary with foul play". From elDiario.es here, another quote from the Minister: ‘"When la cloaca lies about your partner even when he has already left politics, when they intentionally spreads fake news, when they harass you judicially, when they persecute you at your home or on your vacations, when they attack your children, then your family worries," she says in a message on Instagram…’.
Jokes, you want jokes. Here they are at Periodista Digital.
From Republica here: ‘Valencia will be the world capital of Hyperloop, the transport of the future. The week of July 19 to 25, Valencia will host the European Hyperloop Week, an event dedicated to the novel transport system that will allow passengers and goods to be carried safely at speeds of more than 1200kph and, what’s more, in a sustainable way’.
From RTVE here, an hour-long documentary called ‘Cantata of the Spanish Civil War’. The video brings us through popular music and archive images, the daily life and the confrontation between Spaniards during the Civil War of 1936 – 1939.
An appropriate item for here: ‘How long should your naps be?’ (with video) from Ted here.
rom Eye on Spain comes a nice piece from Karethe Linaae called ‘Ode to the Smile’. It’s about taking off the masks (where safe to do so). ‘…What a true joy it is to be able to see the faces of people on the streets again! I mean the entire face – nose, cheeks, mouth, chin, and skin with freckles and scars and all the lovely wrinkles that appear when people smile. What an utter blessing it is to be able to take deep profound breaths way down into our lungs, and exhale fully without having to breathe through 3 layers of synthetic cloth or a chemical smelling paper surgical mask - all which prevented us from taking a free breath of air while covering almost our entire faces…’.
La reduflación. Many commercial products have quietly gotten smaller over the years. Like iced lollies. In English, it’s called ‘shrinkflation’.
‘Ramon Aymerich, La fábrica de turistes. El país que va canviar la indústria pel turisme [The tourist factory: the country that traded industry for tourism] – this interesting book says that ‘Catalonia is no longer a country of industry, but one of tourists’. It’s reviewed at Literary Rambles here (thanks to Brett).
‘After a near crash involving a driver who misread my signal, I've decided - after years of resistance - to conform to Spanish norms and make no signal on entering, navigating or exiting a roundabout. In this way, oncoming drivers will be forced to stop, as they'll have no idea what I'm going to do next. But, of course, I won't ever assume that they will actually stop. It’s a percentages game and I’m just trying to decrease the probability of being killed on my bête noire’. Colin Davies from his daily blog here. (My own tip for roundabouts is to decide which exit you will be taking before you enter the roundabout).
Let’s eat something good in Cartagena with Eye on Spain here. In Cartagena fusion cuisine is age-old: Romans, Phoenicians and Arabs have left their mark on family recipes, based on a variety of ingredients that few regions can boast of having as it is considered to be one of the best vegetable gardens, bursting with an array of autochthonous varieties. This, together with a rich cuisine and culture, makes the gastronomy of Cartagena one of the most surprising…’.
even museums in Madrid and a few others across Spain now have free entrance until October says La Razón. The list includes such glories as La Casa Museo de Sorolla (Madrid) and Toledo’s Museo del Greco.
For something completely different – The Sexican with Cuarto de la Banda on YouTube here. The Sexican is a Danish group which provides ‘…a mad sonic melting pot of ethnic and modern influences. The musical offspring is World Rock with elements of Mariachi, Gipsy and Balkan tonality…’ (here).