Saturday, November 29, 2008


A study by the Germany-based Institute of Condom Consultancy (I kid you not) reports that Frenchmen say they need the largest condoms in Europe. No surprise there for British men. We have always considered the French nation to be a bunch of large pricks.

We are also told that the Greeks have the smallest needs. Frenchmen on average claim to need 15.48 cm long condoms, about 3 cm longer than the poor old Greeks.

No wonder Britons call condoms French letters!

The survey was amongst 10,500 men in 25 EU countries who were asked to measure their penis and enter the number into a database. Spaniards had an average length of 13.58 cm slightly below the European norm of 14.27 cm. As results for Britons have not been released I guess we are boringly average and/or told the truth.

Jan Vinzenz Krause, the institute’s director, told the Reuters news agency on Friday that he did not want to comment on how honest he thought the Frenchmen had been in reporting the data. He doesn’t need to, we can guess.

The survey was aimed at educating youngsters about the importance of effective contraception. I remember many years ago the daughter of a friend asked could she take a banana to school the next day. On enquiring why she said it was for a sex education class - she needed a banana to slide a condom on to. Later the next evening she reported the lesson had been a bit of a failure as she had felt hungry and eaten the banana before class time. How like real life!

I will leave the last word to Jan Vinzenz Krause who on the clinic’s website compared the size of a person’s penis to differing sizes of feet adding: "Wir haben auch unterschiedlich große Füße und tragen die Schuhe, die uns passen."

I couldn’t have said it better without putting my foot in it.

Friday, November 28, 2008


On Thursday the King of Spain, Juan Carlos I, made his third visit to Ronda to present the awards, scholarships and medals at the Real Maestranza de Caballería.

It was his only visit to Málaga province this year and the first time the King had presented the awards that marked the end of the Real Maestranza course year. The Real Maestranza was created in 1572 and was accredited with the name royal in 1764 by King Carlos III when his son the Infante Don Gabriel de Borbón was named the ‘Hermano Mayor’, the position held by the current monarch.

Now I have spent several hours in the royal presence I do feel a sense of elevation and this blog is written more in the spirit of Borbón than bourbon. I also think a tad of deference by you good reader would be appropriate. Perhaps gentlemen wearing hats would take them off when logging on to my page, a small bow towards the screen would not go amiss either or a gentle curtsy from the ladies. I know that some of you are already in the habit of doing this and rest assured it has been noted.

I shall not be altering my habits, I shall remain as humble and approachable as before – but – oh yes there is always a but - in future I will only eat morcilla that comes from pigs with blue or purple blood.

Thursday, November 27, 2008


It has been revealed that the municipalities of the Campo de Gibraltar have a collective debt totalling 395 million euros. It is probably much higher because it will have increased since the figures were compiled.

Algeciras, by far the largest town in the region, has a public debt of 163.1 million euros, the equivalent of 1,431 euros per inhabitant. The second largest municipality, the border town of La Línea owes at least 95.8 million euros or 1,504 euros per citizen.

Indeed every municipality in the area, except rural Castellar, is in the red including my own. Some of this debt is with private companies but the majority is with the State (largely the tax and social security agencies) so the funding from Madrid is often withheld as La Línea and Los Barrios know to their cost. La Línea has also been expelled from the Cádiz fire fighting consortium because of its debts to the organisation.

There is nothing new in a municipality owing money – indeed it is the norm throughout Spain. What is different now is our own financial position. In good times with high employment, easy finance, booming companies, we shrugged our shoulders. Now as unemployment grows, mortgages or car loans are hard to come buy, the construction and tourism industries are in turmoil, this debt has become personal.

Some of these debts have been run-up in corrupt practices or mismanagement others have been incurred trying to offer basic services with inadequate funding. This latter situation has seen the Izquierda Unida mayors and councillors in Andalucía take the case for better funding from the regional government to Sevilla. In addition the IU in Málaga province says it will stage a series of demonstrations ending with a rally in Málaga city in late December and January.

The IU maintains that there is insufficient funding for the town halls. It says it is demanding “money for the municipalities, for the people and for the policies that they are applying”. Few would argue with that but if and when that money comes it must be used to reduce the debts and provide services and not to enrich those elected to handle our local affairs.

Sadly whilst our town halls are laden with debt the confidence of residents in their mayors and councillors is also deeply in the red!


Tilting at Windmills has now joined the blogs on-line at La Voz de Cádiz whose website has a special Blogs de Cádiz section. Here you will find many excellent blogs, some about Cádiz, some on wider subjects including our good friends at Jimena Pulse and Tio Jimena.

Tilting at Windmills is already amongst the links section of Francisco Rubiales’ Voto en Blanco website – “un blog para ciudadanos libres, para pensadores independientes, no para fanáticos”.

On the right hand section of this website you find our own links section. Apart from Blogs de Cádiz and Voto en Blanco you can also go directly to the Alexander Bewick, Ecologistas en Acción and Greenpeace blog/websites plus Panorama, the on-line newspaper for Gibraltar.

Who said the art of reading was dead! Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


Yesterday was the international day for the elimination of violence against women.

As a day it was important to highlight the violence and abuse that women suffer.

However to eradicate it, as we must, it is not a 24-hour event but a day-in and day-out task.

So far this year 68 women have died in Spain from domestic violence or at the hands of former partners.

True, a good percentage of those were immigrants in to the country, but such violence knows no race, no colour and no creed.

Many women are the victims of violence or murder in Spain because they are immigrants and they are more fearful of seeking help because of their illegal status than they are of their attackers and slayers. That is why many organisations that work in offering protection to abused illegal immigrants urge them to put their own safety first.

The Ministerio de Igualdad estimates that so far this year 400,000 women have suffered domestic violence in Spain. Every 40 minutes a woman in Andalucía denounces her partner or former partner. In some ways these statistics are more telling than the terrible death total.

Many believe that yesterday was about women but in fact it was about men.

It is men that carry out these vile acts of violence and men that kill these unfortunate women.

Hence it is only men who can stamp out this blight on our society.

It is therefore time for all men to stand and up and be counted.

It is time for all men to reject violence against women in any shape or form.

It is time for men to show no tolerance for those who condone or carry out such acts.

¡Basta Ya! - is a fine slogan – but the time for slogans has passed.

Men need to act now - ¡Basta Ya!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


According to a study “Diferencias de calidad seminal y resultados reproductivos” carried out by the Instituto Valenciano de Infertilidad the semen of Spaniards is low in volume, mobility and concentration but is the most effective in achieving pregnancy.

Some 12,000 couples in 13 European countries took part in the study that was carried out between 2000 and 2008 on patients receiving fertility treatment.

The report shows difference levels of quality between the semen in the various countries and the results of assisted reproduction treatment.

Spanish semen was ranked 9 th for volume, 10 th for mobility – I hate to think what that is – and 11 th in concentration. Only the Belgians and Turks fared worse in this last category but then they were also bottom of the other two as well.

Sweden and Norway were tops in concentration and mobility whilst Ireland and Germany hit the mark in the volume of sperm ejaculated. I wonder how they calculated that?

However when the study looked at the ability of the various nations’ semen to achieve pregnancy Spain came second after fellow Iberians Portugal.

The Director of the IVI Alicante clinic and co-author of the report, Elena Sellés, stated: “Over 40 per cent of the Spanish who undertook the treatment achieved pregnancy at the first attempt and 25 per cent achieved it over a longer period of time” – which the good doctor attributes to the high quality of Spanish semen.

They say knowledge is power but I would counsel you to be careful in how your share this information.

For example, discussing the negative points of Spain’s semen would not be an ideal topic in a Spanish men’s bar.

Go carefully out there!

Monday, November 24, 2008


On Saturday I lunched with Christine and Richard at their house in Jimena. This is always an enjoyable event because they are extremely good company. More than that it is often Richard who does the cooking and he is renowned for his signature dish – fish pie. It is always delicious but on Saturday it was brought to the table and was a truly awesome sight.

Now I mention this because in the pre-meal chit chat the other guests seemed surprise that it was Richard and not Christine that had prepared the meal. Indeed he had also cooked a tasty soup – but I should add – Christine, who is no slouch over a hot stove, came up with a wonderful bread and butter pudding (with marmalade).

However the inference from the assembled multitude was plain - surely it was women and not men who should be cooking? I too was asked if I cooked and could answer yes indeed I did – with as it so happens Italian dishes being a firm favourite.

Isn’t it odd that in the home a woman’s place is deemed to be in the kitchen – and yet – if you go out to a restaurant you expect the chef to be a man! Indeed Spain, where men will cook al fresco but rarely in the house, has given the world its top chef and three of the world’s best restaurants are divided between Roses en Cala Montjol and two in Santander.

The chef-patron Ferran Adrià of El Bulli has seen his restaurant win the coveted award for the world’s best restaurant for three consecutive years and four times in all. Fourth in the rankings is Chef Andoni Luis Aduriz at Mugaritz, who was the chefs’ own choice and his restaurant jumped three places from 2007. Let us also tip our chef’s hats to Juan Mari Arzak whose Arzak in Santander is at number eight, up two places.

So when it comes to wielding a spatula both Richard and myself are in extremely good company, though I bow on bender knee to dishy Richard and his awesome fish pie.

Saturday, November 22, 2008


A disco in Valencia is apologising to anybody who will listen over a draw it was organising in which the first prize would have been a breast enlargement operation.

Pachá has now cancelled the draw and says it is sorry for having offended any person or institution and it had no intention of showing any lack of respect towards women.

The disco had organised a “Pretty Woman” night for December 5 that was billed as a “tribute to women”. For 20 euros they could buy a ticket for the draw and the breast enlargement surgery was worth 4,500 euros.

The government and the regional authorities slammed the promotion as “sexist”. The minister for health, Bernat Soria, has stated that he is opening an investigation with the Valencia ministry of health, whose minister, Lourdes Bernal has expressed her “total indignation” at the event and planned prize.

The row broke as it was learnt that a major Japanese web shopping mall, the Wishroom, had sold over, wait for it, 300 men’s bras for 2,800 yen each.

Wishroom representative Masayuki Tsuchiya told Reuters as he modelled the bra, which can be worn discreetly under men's clothing: “I like this tight feeling. It feels good.”

Whilst Wishroom Executive Director Akiko Okunomiya said she was surprised at the number of men who were looking for their inner woman adding: “I think more and more men are becoming interested in bras. Since we launched the men’s bra, we've been getting feedback from customers saying ‘wow, we'd been waiting for this for such a long time’.”

My B cup runneth over so I’m off to find my inner woman, but men - next time you are left feeling a bit of a tit, log on to the Wishroom website.

Friday, November 21, 2008


As the debate over Esperanto rages below me I am today turning to another hot topic – nuclear power.

Yesterday Greenpeace blocked the entrance to the Garona nuclear power station which is facing closure next year. It has urged the government to shut it down immediately in line with election pledges to phase out nuclear power.

It is a fact that nuclear power is unpopular in Spain and both PSOE and the Partido Popular vowed to build no new plants in the pre-March general election campaign. However to the victorious Socialists fell the prize of deciding whether to extend the working lives of existing plants, which supply about 20 percent of the nation’s electricity.

Now Greenpeace says Spain’s booming renewable energy sector could easily replace the 500 megawatts of power produced by Garona. You may be surprised as I was to learn that Spain is the world’s third-biggest producer of wind power. Indeed wind parks in Spain have the capacity to produce more than twice as much power as nuclear plants, but – and here’s the catch – they actually generate about half as much as the wind does not blow in a constant manner.

I do not have the figures for solar produced power but I know that in San Roque they recently opened the largest generating plant in Andalucía. In addition many communities in the region are now setting up their own solar power facilities. What this region does have in abundance is sun – and on the Costa de la Luz from Tarifa west much wind – but if you head north to Galicia for instance, you might have much wind but sun can be scare.

Nuclear power was already unpopular in Spain and the situation has not been improved by the radioactive leak at the Asco I plant in April. The CSN nuclear watchdog has ruled that the leak was improperly handled and the government has opened sanctions proceedings. There was also a fire at the Vandellos II plant in the summer and this along with other incidents has seen the CSN tell nuclear generators in September that they have to observe tighter safety procedures if their operating permits are to be renewed.

The debate over how our future power should be generated is real both here and in the UK where experts say there could be power cuts within the next five years because of the closure of outdated power stations whilst demand increases. So where do we go from here? Britain intends to follow France by embracing the nuclear option but in Spain the opposite is the case.

Where will our future power come from?

Is the answer blowing in the wind or is wind power just hot air?

Thursday, November 20, 2008


Former political correspondent, John Sergeant, has taken Britain by storm with his woeful performances on Strictly Come Dancing. Half the nation wanted him voted off because he simply can’t dance and the other half was in danger of voting him in as the eventual winner as a poke in the eye for the smug judges.

Now despite the public constantly voting to keep him on the show although the 64-year-old regularly finished bottom of the judges’ scoreboard he has decided to quit. Giving reasons for his departure Sergeant stated that he found it “rather absurd” that he was in this winning position.

He added: “I am sorry to say I have decided to leave Strictly Come Dancing. It was always my intention to have fun on the show and I was hoping to stay in as long as possible. The trouble is that there is now a real danger that I might win the competition. Even for me that would be a joke too far.”

Fair enough. However there is a serious issue here. The show’s producers knew that Sergeant had two left feet when he was contracted – so this admirable man, who is nobody’s fool, was set up to be made a fool of.

British men, as a nation, have two left feet (no religious connotation here) and so Sergeant danced and spoke for us all. Given his success isn’t it time the BBC started a new prime time show – Strictly Two Left Feet Dancing?

Isn’t it time we had a competition we can all identify with, enter and win?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


As I write this the convicted ETA killer, Juan Ignacio de Juana Chaos, has been released on bail after giving himself up to a British court in Belfast on Monday.

De Juana Chaos, who was freed from a Spanish jail in August after serving around 20 years for the killing of 25 people in 11 attacks, is wanted back in Spain on terrorism related charges and extradition proceedings are now underway.

Barrister Stephen Ritchie acting for the Spanish Government told the court the arrest warrant stated that on the day of his release on August 2 this year, De Juana Chaos gave an identified woman a letter to be read out in his name urging a continuation of the armed struggle.

The offending phrase said to have been made by De Juana Chaos was a Basque saying meaning “kick it up the field”, a footballing phrase which the Spanish authorities interpret as urging ETA onwards in its campaign of violence.

There is no denying the fact that De Juana Chaos is a convicted killer and if there is an injustice it is in the fact that having been sentence to 3,000 years in jail he was released after just 20. His victims enjoyed no such leniency. If you want to look in to the face of a cold bloodied killer look at De Juana Chaos.

However I have seen many other photographs of ETA members, on posters and Ministry of the Interior press releases, where the young men and women do not have an air of evil about them. On the contrary they look like the boy and girl next door which when thinking about it is even scarier.

There are those who believe in the Basque separatist movement so much that would aid and abet these killers. There are others, equally innocent looking, who would not hesitate in killing you or me, our children or loved ones, in the belief that is so doing they were striking a blow for a free Basque nation, a nation by the way that the majority of Basque people do not wish to belong to.

I am not a psychiatrist so I will not attempt to get inside these peoples’ minds. Yet let there be no mistake they would shed innocent blood in the pursuit of an ideal that has no popular support and even the majority of the few that would wish to see an independent Basque nation would not wish to see it built on a foundation of the broken bodies of ETA’s victims.

When Jesus hang dying on the cross he is believed to have said: “Forgive them father for they know not what they do.” Without a doubt he was talking of ETA, the IRA and every other terrorist group.

(It will come as no surprise to British readers that De Juana Chaos has been living in Belfast for six weeks and enrolled to claim social security benefits a week after his arrival and was assigned a National Insurance number. I understand his bail was also paid out of State funds.)

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


When I penned my blog yesterday on Spanish and English my hand hesitated over the keyboard as I debated on whether to include Chinese and Esperanto.

Well I did the former and not the latter. I promptly received a comment from Brian Barker which can be read in full below yesterday’s blog. He stated: “There is an alternative to English (or Spanish) as the dominant World Language, and its name is Esperanto.

Esperanto is now within the top 100 languages, out of 6,800 worldwide, according to the CIA factbook. It is the 17th most used language in Wikipedia, and in use by Skype, Firefox and Facebook.

Native Esperanto speakers, include George Soros, Ulrich Brandenburg the new German Ambassador to NATO, and World Champion Chess Player, Susan Polger.”

I have known many people in my long life and only one of them was an Esperanto speaker. Indeed he was a fanatic but apart from those people he conversed with at meetings in London he was unable to communicate with any of us around him in that tongue as we only spoke English.

There are an estimated 1,500,000,000 English speakers world-wide and some 417,000,000 Spanish speakers. For Esperanto I found estimates of between 100,000 and two million speakers with only up to 2,000 “native speakers”.

What Esperanto lacks and both English and Spanish have is a solid culture behind the language. In both cases you do not just speak English or Spanish for by being able to do so you open up a rich heritage going back hundreds of years and that is being added to all the time. In addition the two languages gave to the world both Shakespeare and Cervantes – debatably the world’s two greatest writers.

In the unlikely event I have ever to speak to George Soros – I can do so in English. I suspect that apart from his native Hungarian and of course Esperanto, this high cultivated man also has other linguistic strings to his mighty bow.

Monday, November 17, 2008


When I was young, yes that long ago, we were offered French and German as foreign languages at school. In some schools Spanish was an option but largely thought of as being only useful if you were going to holiday in Benidorm.

French was the first choice being deemed in those far off days as an international language. Well how the world has changed!

Today English is still the number one international lingo albeit American English. Now even the French anglicise their language – le weekend – and everybody seems rather bemused that Spanish is the other pace-setter.

Spanish is the second or third most spoken language in the world depending on whether you include Chinese or not. Of course it is also a major language in the USA because of the large number of Hispanic immigrants.

Both England and Spain have one thing in common – they are the minority nations in which the languages they originated are now spoken. Spanish is the first language of choice for much of southern and central America whilst English dominates in the USA and Canada. This of course has led to variations of the original mother tongue with the word ‘coger’ having very different meanings in Spain and South America as ‘fag’ does in Britain and the USA.

On Saturday I popped in to my local baker who insisted that he count out my loaves in English – one – two – three – he said with a very satisfied grin. Apparently his son is learning English at school so he is listening carefully to pick up various words. I told him the problem was that his son would only be taught to count from one to ten. “Yes”, he replied, “I asked him the other day what was the English for twelve and he just shrugged his shoulders”.

As English and Spanish are now both major languages it is pleasing to note that the people of Britain and Spain are making such efforts to learn each others tongues.

There are those of course in each of our countries that have rejected English and Spanish for political purposes. Hence you find road signs in Welsh that nobody can understand and in the Basque, Catalan and other ‘separatist’ regions of Spain the local language is pushed to the fore.

Isn’t it ironic as the world gets smaller and English with Spanish take centre stage there are those who in the name of “nationalism” insist on languages being used that even their own people do not speak.

Saturday, November 15, 2008


Cepsa, the Spanish petroleum multi-national, has launched a new website. The purpose is to show you the shortest and most rapid route to your destination. Drivers can also opt for the safest route that should get you there in one piece.

Wasn’t GPS meant to do that?

I have yet to find anybody using GPS who has arrived at their destination without frantic calls for help and resulting insanity.

A number of years ago an American came to stay having flown from New York to London then Málaga – without any problem.

Then came the journey to San Pablo de Buceite in the province of Cádiz.

He phoned to say he had arrived safely. Then a couple of hours later, when I was expecting him to arrive, a panic call – “I am at a service station and lost!”

“Where are you?”

“I’ve no idea – here talk to this man.”

This man happened to be the very bemused service station manager. He happily told me he was on the then N-340 – in Almeria! Right! I told my would-be guest to turn round and drive in the opposite direction – yes the direction he’d just come from, then on some and look for road sign posts just past San Roque for Ronda.

Another couple of hours passed. Another phone call – “I’m lost.”

“Where are you?”

“I think I’m near Tarifa – there’s a road sign says Ceuta – should I go there?”

I was very tempted to send him on to the Spanish enclave in North Africa but desisted. I remembered there was a McDonalds on the N-340 in Los Barrios and surely an American would spot that symbol of his nation’s culture.

Sure enough, an hour later, he crawled in to the McDonalds car park, keeping a steady eye on his GPS and from there he followed me home along a clearly sign posted road to where he should have arrived some five hours previous!

Let’s hope the Cepsa guide is more efficient. You’ll find it at:

Friday, November 14, 2008


Denis Macshane is a former Minister for Europe. The one time journalist had a short lived ministerial career –no great surprise there.

Now he has warned Britons living in Spain to prepare to come under attack because of the global credit crunch. He says they could receive the same sort of attention as has been given to Polish workers in the UK.

Speaking on the risk of social unrest in Europe Macshane says: “I would not want to be a Romany; I would not want to be a foreigner; I’m not sure I would even want to be a Brit in Spain.”

Macshane admitted to the Royal United Services Institute that he had not yet seen any evidence of hostility but warned some were questioning the burdens placed on services by some expats. Later he told the Press Association: “There are already some low-level rumblings in Spain that the ageing end of the British population are demanding the care and attention that older people do.”

Quite –because those people have paid in to the British health service and are now claiming benefits from the Spanish health service. Therefore the British government has to find an adequate way of repaying Spain.

Macshane went on “But as Spanish unemployment is rising faster than anywhere else in Europe you will see the gradual arrival of anti-foreigner feeling - much as there has been anti-foreigner feeling generated in Britain by the tabloids against the Poles and Eastern Europeans. I would predict that across Europe there will be the kind of anti-foreigner demagoguery that we have seen in a lot of our tabloid papers and from some right-wing politicians against the Europeans that live and work in Britain.”

I doubt if many Britons in Spain will take Macshane’s words too seriously although one may question the effect they may have in stirring up tension.

The majority of Britons in Spain have either retired or have second homes there – the majority are self sufficient and have private health insurance.

Those on low pensions and who draw on the health service are a problem – but a problem for the British and Spanish governments to resolve.

Those of us who live and work in Spain do so legally, as part of the Spanish tax and social security systems. The majority of British workers are not competing in the Spanish labour market but tend to service the requirements of fellow ex-pats.

The construction and tourism industries, the very motors of the Spanish economy, depend on Britons and other foreigners to invest, visit and live in the country. Indeed they are working hard to bring Britons in not attack them in the streets.

Drive the Britons and other foreigners from Spain and the country’s economy would truly collapse.

Drive the Polish from Briton and you will just have to wait longer for a plumber.

In the meantime spare us from idiots like Macshane –the world has enough real problems as it is.

Thursday, November 13, 2008


A number of years ago, when I lived in the valley, I spoke to Isidro about Juan who had bought a lot of land up thereabouts. Where does he come from I asked? “Oh he’s from Granada, a foreigner – in fact he’s more foreign than you because you live here!”

Isidro’s end of the valley was in Málaga province, mine in Cádiz, but it was to the Cádiz villages of San Pablo and Jimena that he went to the shops, the doctor and so on rather than Gaucín. None-the-less he insisted he was a Malagueño and did not want to be thought of as a person from Cádiz.

So I guess if you asked Isidro where he was from he would first say the arroyo de las Gallinas, then Gaucín, followed by Málaga, Andalucía and finally Spain – bearing in mind that all outside his pueblo were foreigners.

In the nation of Spain there are those areas that are Spanish and those that would claim separate nationhood such as the Cataluña and Basque regions. (I won’t complicate matters by mentioning all the other areas with various aspirations as there would be nowhere left). If Barcelona soccer team won the European Championship it would be a Spanish victory but reportedly when Spain won the European Final the achievement was ignored in much of Cataluña.

So what am I? I am a Londoner, English and British whilst giving a nod to my Irish ancestors. Or am I? According to a dictat from Caerphilly Council – I and the rest of the nation should no longer be called British in case we found it offensive. Apparently it suggests a false sense of unity and might be upsetting to people from Scotland, Wales and ethnic minorities.

Caerphilly has been best known for its cheese. Correction, it was only known for its cheese – well, until now that is. Apparently 3,900 of the council’s workers describe themselves as “white British” with another 5,400 saying they are “white Welsh”. Give me strength!

The Caerphilly booklet states: “Many Scots, Welsh and Irish resist being called British” – I notice that the poor English seem to be excluded from this even though they make up the vast majority.

I am sorry but we all happen to live in the British Isles and therefore are British plus whatever nation within the United Kingdom we come from. If you are an Indian who becomes nationalised then you are British as I would be Indian if I became a citizen of that country... or indeed Spanish if I took nationality here.

I suspect all this would have old Isidro scratching his head. He certainly doesn’t want you thinking he is from Cádiz but he would be outraged if you told him he wasn’t Spanish.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


As I drove through Ronda around 6.00 this morning I espied a banner hanging from a bridge announcing that November 15 was ‘un día sin alcohol’. In days of yore this would have evocated a cry of outrage but today I just shrugged my shoulders.

Being in the media business all my life drink played a major part both of the working and after work day. I have friends who have fallen victim to alcoholism and some sadly perished but such a fate passed me by. I do believe that there is a gene that makes us addicted to alcohol or nicotine and mercifully I have neither. I have lost too many loved ones to the deadly weed too.

By the time I’d made it to the Bar Vecina for breakfast I was in a melancholy mood. On the bar around me were small empty glasses and just behind the counter bottles of anis and brandy – it had obviously been a morning for quick shots to keep out the cold and damp. I weakened for 10 seconds; thought of days gone by and quickly ordered my coffee.

Whilst spirits no longer play a role in my life and my beer is strictly non alcohol I do enjoy my wine, in moderation of course. Several years ago, my good friend Alex of this parish, sadly now departed first to France and then to wherever miserable buggers go, went to see the doctor at our health centre. He had been ordered off the drink by his heart specialist but insisted that could not possibly include wine. He raised the subject with the doctor, who whole heartedly agreed, then got busy writing – not a prescription, but a list of recommended good labels!

Later today I logged on to the Voto en Blanco website and read a piece by Rubén. It told of how three radio stations belonging to Vocento and two of Cope had been silenced by “el totalitarismo catalán”. As a result he was boycotting Catalan wine and other products. Naturally I was keen to show my solidarity with my media colleagues … but boycotting wine, ummm.

Luckily the article was accompanied by a map of the Catalan wine region. I realized that all the whites I drink are from Cádiz but what about the reds? Rioja, La Mancha, Ribera del Duero and Serranía de Ronda – phew, not a Catalan wine amongst them. That will keep me in good stead with my media brothers and sisters until New Year’s Eve - and Cava, which definitely is from Cataluña. Right to hell with the recession – it will have to be champagne!

(To read Rubén’s article - BOICOT ANTITOTALITARIO – click on the Voto en Blanco link on the right).

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


Next year will mark 70 years since the end of the Spanish Civil War but of course the legacy continued much longer under the Franco regime.

It is still very much with us today as communities seek to find out what happened in their midst or where their dead are buried all these years on. This is not just some rarefied action taken by senior judges such as Gárzon but involves even the smallest communities. Indeed as I write this my own village has seen a grant made to José Manuel Algarbani to investigate the Civil War and post-war period.

I have always viewed such sensitive matters as being for Spaniards alone. However the civil war was not simply Spanish but an international encounter involving Germans, Italians, Russians and all those who volunteered for the International Brigades including many Britons.

Looking back over all those years it now seems absurd that the US, British and French Governments stood idly by following a policy of non-intervention whilst the legitimately elected government in Madrid was attacked and overthrown. Had they acted would the Second World War been averted? Who knows? However we should remember that the US entered WWII late because of its isolationist stance so we shouldn’t be surprised that much of Middle American supported the Catholic crusader Franco against the Moscow aligned government in Madrid.

It was not only foreign fighters that were in Spain at the time but also news correspondents. I must therefore commend to you Paul Preston’s new book – We Saw Spain Die – Foreign Correspondents in the Spanish Civil War.

It is estimated that around 1,000 journalists and writers were in Spain during the conflict and five of those were killed. Those who reported from the rebel zone were threatened with death or placed on Gestapo lists if they were found to have reported objectively.

The Times correspondent, George Steer, reported that “the reflection of the flames could be seen in the clouds of smoke above the mountains from 10 miles away.” He was witnessing the carpet bombing of Guernica by the Luftwaffe – a tragedy that was denied by Franco over the next 35 years.

Louis Fischer writing in the New York weekly ‘The Nation’ observed “it was not enough to write” and hence many correspondents became nurses, fighters, advisors and spies.

Herbert Matthews of the New York Times stated: “Spain was the melting pot in which the dross came out and pure gold remained. It gave meaning to life.” Indeed later he probably spoke for much of the international press corps when he wrote: “We left our hearts there.”

I leave the final word of this blog to Martha Gellhorn who wrote about the Republicans and their legitimately elected government: “They were fighting for us all against the combined forces of fascism. They deserved our thanks and our respect and got neither.”

These brave correspondents deserve our time in once again reading their stories and Paul Preston deserves our praise for putting together this fine book.

Monday, November 10, 2008


I beg the question but I will not be giving an answer.

Certainly in my years in Spain I have not encountered any racism. However I am not a black racing driver or soccer player.

I have certainly encountered racism against me in the USA, Ireland and South Africa where my life was put at risk by a priest, a member of the Zulu royal family, who insisted I was an ANC spy in the midst of an Inkartha area.

About ten years ago I met a group of older Spaniards who insisted that as a foreigner I had no rights in Spain – but I suspect that was more a hangover from the Franco era than racism.

So why am I raising this issue?

Firstly because the Formula One World Champion, Lewis Hamilton, was insulted by supporters of Spain’s Fernando Alonso when he practiced in Barcelona in January of this year. He also suffered racial abuse on a Spanish website ahead of the Brazilian Gran Prix.

Alonso dismissed the claims of racism explaining that the fans involved had been taking part in ‘carnaval’. Bernie Ecclestone, the Formula One Supremo, stated last week on BBC Radio 5 Live “I think people look and read into it things that aren’t there. Those things are all a bit of a joke and people are entitled to support who they want to support. I don’t see why people should have been insulted by it.”

The FIA thankfully takes a different view and runs an “Every Race” campaign whilst Hamilton’s father, Anthony, at the time wondered if his family should be subjected to such treatment. I make no comment – just look at the photograph and judge for yourself.

Secondly matters are far worse in the world of soccer. Black players in Spain’s La Liga suffer badly at the hands of racists supporters, just ask Barcelona’s Eto’o. England have refused to play Spain in Real Madrid’s Bernabéu in February because of the abuse hurled at its black players during the last encounter between the nations there in 2004. At that time David Beckham was a Real player and mumbled –“I was surprised because I’ve never heard it in Spain even though I live and play here.” Atlético de Madrid has also been recently sanctioned by UEFA after racist abuse in the European Champions League.

Now if you ask me are Britons racist I would say that sadly we are or certainly have been. The difference is that in soccer the authorities have taken a hard line against abuse and this has spread to other sports and the general public. Indeed we have so many black sporting heroes, including Hamilton, that racial abuse is now no longer tolerated at sporting venues and this attitude has filtered through to a wider level of society.

Is there a need for Spain to follow suit?

Saturday, November 8, 2008


Late on Wednesday morning I climbed up the hill to the Vecina Bar for a coffee and some breakfast, an 11.15 breakfast. Well after all I had been up late and early watching the US elections results on CNN, TVE, BBC and Sky.

Already at the bar, on his second visit of the day, was Alberto. Now here is proof positive that Botox and monkey glands work for the mature man. Alberto told me that on his first visit the TV was confirming the news that Barack Obama was the next US President. An old gentleman of the village, who could not read or write, was next to him at the bar then as he was now. Alberto confided that when Obama appeared on screen and it was made clear to him that he was America’s new president; he mumbled words unknown to the clergy and gentler folk. There I won’t delve but we did wonder if he even knew where the USA was.

If you have ever watched the Jay Leno Late Show on US network NBC you will no doubt have seen a regular spot in which he goes out on to the street to ask a series of passers-by questions which you and I, well you anyway, would be find easy peasy. Some were about the USA, others about the wider world, but needless to say the majority of the answers given, whilst hilarious, were wrong, very wrong.

We should not be surprised. For now rumours emerge that the Republican Vice Presidential candidate, Sarah Palin, thought Africa was a country and didn’t realise it was a continent. She thought South Africa was merely a region in the larger nation of Africa. I do not know what is the most frightening that she could have been a heart beat away from the presidency or that John McCain believed that had he kicked the bucket she was capable of stepping in to his shoes.

We must also remember that McCain wasn’t sure who Spain’s premier José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero was – he thought he was the leader of a rogue South American State. Countless Americans know that various States have towns named London, Paris and Rome but seem bemused that they are also the capitals of European nations. Did we copy them?

Britons should not be smug either. When I was young Sir Winston Churchill was a national hero. I mean a real hero not a McCain-style hero. Churchill died on Sunday January 24, 1965 and was given a State funeral the Saturday after. I had a paper round over that momentous period so whilst I didn’t report on the news - I read all about it. Recently a survey was carried out in the UK when children were asked who Churchill was – and they said the bulldog in the insurance commercials. In another survey earlier this year a quarter of Britons thought that Churchill
never existed...but Sherlock Holmes did!

Truly, never in the field of human ignorance has so little been known by so many.


Aprendiendo inglés y periodismo del bueno
Por Francisco Rubiales

Todas las mañanas visito el blog TILTING AT WINDMILL con un doble objetivo: saborear periodismo anglosajón del bueno y aprender inglés.

TILTING AT WINDMILLS es el blog de un periodista británico radicado en España, cuyo alias es "Sancho", como el famoso escudero de Don Quijote, un nombre que ya orienta sobre la naturaleza de su información y sus enfoques independientes, libres y atrevidos.

El blog permite a los españoles curiosos e informativamente ambiciosos asomarse a enfoques diferentes e independientes de la realidad y a una dimensión de gran interés, la de conocer como nos ven los observadores y analistas extranjeros. Sin esa dimensión, el bagaje informativo de un estudioso conspicuo quedaría siempre mermado.

Su uso del lenguaje es directo y sencillo, como todo el periodismo anglosajón, sacrificando las florituras y elegancias lingïsticas a lo que es más importante: la claridad informativa. Cada vez que leo a Sancho recuerdo al periodista Francois Reitberger, con el que coincidí en Cuba entre 1975 y 1977. Él era corresponsal de Reuter y yo de EFE. De él aprendí las esencias del periodismo anglosajón, el valor de la independencia y el orgullo que debe sentir un informador cuando se enfrenta a los totalitarismos y opresores profesionales.

Friday, November 7, 2008


I have spoken before in these blogs about my great admiration for Juan José Cortes. He is the father of little Mari Luz Cortes who was taken from near her home in January and her body was found floating in the cold waters of the river estuary at Huelva several weeks later in March. The family’s neighbour, convicted paedophile Santiago Del Valle, has admitted kidnapping her but disputes the manner of her death.

Juan José Cortes, of gypsy stock, has acted with strength of mind, serenity and moderation since the death of the five-year old to try to bring profound change to the legal system in Spain. Over 2.5 million people have signed a petition started by Juan José and his family along with their many supporters to demand tougher sentences for paedophiles, to require that the whereabouts of paedophiles are notified to parents and the authorities as well as ensuring that those convicted of child murders are never released. The Spanish Parliament will debate this measure in the coming months.

Many awards have been showered on this man and more will be in the future. The latest is the ‘Medalla de Oro’ of his native province, Huelva. He has accepted the award with grace and stated that it is in recognition of his campaign to ensure that no family has to suffer again the pain that his has endured.

A gold medal it may be, but let us make no mistake here, it is worthless when compared with the loss of his little one, Mari Luz.

Thursday, November 6, 2008


When I Googled the title of this blog this morning up came numerous references to Barack Obama but given the world-wide hype since his elections I thought I’d give the poor man a rest, at least for today.

True my clean pair or rather pairs of hands are in the USA but are not election related but rather the subject of a study by the University of Colorado. There biologist Noah Fierer has determined that on the typical pair of mitts there are 150 different species of bacteria.

Staggeringly on the 102 hands (51 people) tested there were 4,700 different species of bacteria. Reassuring only five people had all of them – I think they should be named and shamed!

Now here is the interesting bit. It appears that women’s hands have more bacteria than men’s –and knowing what men do with their hands that may well shock you too!

The theory is that as men’s hands are more acidic its allows less bacteria to breed. Also women use more creams and treatments on their hands and this encourages the bacteria – I guess the same applies to David Beckham.

There was little difference in the level of bacteria on the right or the left hand and of the 51 people taking part only 13 per cent of the various bacteria were on their respective hands. Some bacteria were less present after washing but others increased so washing with an anti-bacteria soap is recommended. The good news is that the vast majority of the bacteria on our hands are not harmful and indeed many protect us against pathogens.

Not in the least related but I will tell you anyway is the news that olive oil helps prevent the appearance of chronic illness and improves the quality of a person’s life. This news will officially be given by Doctor Francisco Pérez Jiménez to the II International Conference on Olive Oil and Health to be held in Jaén later this month.

Now call me an old cynic, believe me I have been called worse, but giving good news on olive oil to the chief growing area is like telling a conference of a major petroleum producer that oil slicks don’t harm the environment.

None the less you’ll be pleased to know that olive oil when used as part of the Mediterranean Diet cuts down on inflammation and holds back serious illnesses. It is more beneficial than other oils, controls cholesterol, blood pressure and oxidation, whatever that may be.

However to get the benefits it is not just necessary to use olive oil but virgin or virgin extra.

You don’t need me to tell you that when handling a virgin of any description it is important to wash your hands with the right soap first!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


As I spent much of Tuesday night –Wednesday morning in front of the TV watching the USA election results I am not blogging today. Thank goodness for that you all cry!

Well I could have cried myself for scanning the headlines on Tuesday for suitable reports I mistook Osama for Obama. Easy enough I hear you mutter.

According to the Spanish daily, El País, Osama is now amongst us. He arrived at Madrid’s Barajas airport on a flight from Egypt bound for Casablanca.

Not Osama bin Laden but one of his sons, Omar Osama bin Laden.

He is by all accounts being held by police who are saying nowt whilst the government considers a request for political asylum.

We are assured that Omar Osama is a pacifist who has rejected terrorism - as opposed to a pacifist who hasn’t I guess.

Why he is seeking political asylum in Spain is not known – least not by me.

So a brave new world dawns as Obama moves in to the White House - and Omar Osama moves in to Spain. ¡Ole!

(In case you have a nagging feeling at the back of your head it’s not a flea more likely the fact that you think you’ve heard of Omar in the news before. Indeed you have for last September the story broke that four times married Parish councillor Jane Felix-Brown from Cheshire had made him hubby number five but they were getting divorced after his family discovered her background. I am not sure what they found most objectionable – her being from Cheshire, a Parish councillor or a serial wife. Apparently she didn’t find the fact that his father is a terrorist and mass murderer in the least off-putting. Omar is a scrap metal dealer – I am sure I could find some pithy comment to make on that - but let’s not go there.)

(Since writing this blog it has been announced that the Spanish Government has rejected Omar's application for political asylum - no grounds were given but it is understood that the Ministry of the Interior believes he is not in danger of persecution in other countries. He has 24 hours to appeal.)


Today the USA heads to the polls to elect both its new president and the man who will take over the mantle of the leader of the free world. The latter crown has become tarnished of late but for as long as the USA is the main power he will affect all our lives. I have argued in the past that if the US president is to speak for us then we should have a say in who he or she is but that is an argument for another day.

President Bush is now so discredited that he is locked up in the White House until the elections are over. No Republican candidate whether for the presidency, Senate or Congress wants to be associated with him in any way. No doubt he is contemplating his legacy but it is a subject that most Americans and the rest of us would prefer to forget.

The USA desperately needs a change and so does the wider world. We can forget the election rhetoric because whether Obama or McCain wins the keys to the White House their actions will be governed not by their manifestos but by wider events that will set the agenda.

As far as Spain is concerned it needs an Obama victory so it can regain its place at the world table when the USA plays host. George Bush has made it clear that he will never forgive José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero and his socialist party for defeating his ally and friend, José María Aznar, at the 2004 General Election and pulling Spain’s troops out of Iraq. Equally worrying is the fact that Senator McCain doesn’t appear to know who Zapatero is and Sarah Palin probably doesn’t know where Spain is.

Obama has been derided by his Republican opponents as a “socialist”, which isn’t true, but the Democrats are more in tune with PSOE and the wider socialist movement in Europe as well as the British Government. He also knows who Zapatero is and there is no doubt that under his presidency the leader of the world’s eight largest economy based on GDP would not be ignored at economic summits.

Yesterday the president of the European Commission, José Manuel Durao Barroso, voiced his personal support and that of the EU institutions for the inclusion of Spain in the world financial summit being hosted in Washington on October 15. Speaking in Madrid he said Spain should be at the table both because of the size of its economy but also because it has a great interest in the reform of the financial system. Indeed not only does Spain have the largest bank in the euro zone but its system has been less badly affected by the financial crisis that its EU partners.

As a lame duck president George Bush has tried to keep Spain from the summit. It is to be hoped that as a dead duck president, with Obama waiting in the wings, Washington will see sense and include Spain at these vital talks.

Monday, November 3, 2008


In my Saturday blog (see below) I reported on how the Spanish Queen, the Reina Sofía, has anger the Gay community with remarks reported in her biography ‘La Reina muy de cerca’ penned by journalist Pilar Urbano.

The book was published to coincide with the Queen’s 70 th birthday and caused a storm because although she could accept, understand and respect Gays, she did not understand their demonstrations and disagreed that a Gay union could be called a marriage.

Now it appears that the British Attorney General, Baroness Scotland, who is quoted by the Mandrake column in the Daily Telegraph, agrees with her. She stated:

“To have a valid marriage, it has to be the union of one man and one woman and that marriage is not a marriage until it is consummated. Civil partnerships have no consummation and are certainly not entered into by one man and one woman. It can never be equated to marriage. It is an acknowledgement.”

It is best on a wet Monday morning to leave the consummation to one side. Moving on I am sure that Baroness Scotland was not aware of what the Reina Sofía had reportedly said, but to my eye at least, they are saying the same thing – and in the case of the Attorney General she speaks as the UK Government’s law officer.

By the by I find the title of Baroness Scotland rather a grand one. I always thought that those who received such honours chose the name of the village or town they were born in – the Earl of Bognor and such like. To choose an entire country seems rather greedy to me. I know await the arrival on the scene of Lord Blair of the Universe.

Saturday, November 1, 2008


The Spanish Queen, the Reina Sofía, has got herself in to hot water with remarks she made to the journalist Pilar Urbano who has written her biography “La Reina muy de cerca”. The book has been timed to coincide with the Queen’s 70 th birthday and what are described as private conversations have apparently found their way in to print.

The main comments that have cause outrage, predictable, concern Gay Rights. According to the Spanish daily, El País, the Queen said:

"Puedo comprender, aceptar y respetar que haya personas con otra tendencia sexual, pero ¿que se sientan orgullosos por ser gays? ¿Que se suban a una carroza y salgan en manifestaciones?"

"Si esas personas quieren vivir juntas, vestirse de novios y casarse, pueden estar en su derecho, o no, según las leyes de su país: pero que a eso no le llamen matrimonio, porque no lo es. Hay muchos nombres posibles: contrato social, contrato de unión."

The Reina Sofía said quite clearly that she understands, accepts and respects people who are Gay. She also accepted that Gays should be able to enter in to stable legal relationships. The fact that she does not feel those relationships should be called marriages is very much in line with her Catholic beliefs. Indeed many of the 1.13 billion Catholics in the world would agree with her.

I know of another consort to a monarch, also curiously from a Greek upbringing, who would probably consider her acceptance of Gays to be an anathema.

Having been employed in the media for most of my working life I have always worked alongside women and Gays - on an equal basis. I have never discriminated against either group and have no time for those who believe one or both groups are inferior to men.

I have no time for Gay rights or any other such movement either.

I believe we are all equal and that we should be treated on an equal basis regardless of our sex, race, colour, age, wealth, religion, politics or sexual orientation. That is the equality I believe in and the equality I have always spoken out for.

I have no time for people who would put down women or Gays. I equally have no time for women or Gays who would put themselves above all others.

I have no time for people or groups that confuse equality with superiority.

The day we stop pandering to those who are only interested in themselves can not come too soon.

Nor can the day come soon enough when we accept true human rights for all – and mean it!