Saturday, January 31, 2009


“Es correcto, se están llevando a cabo trabajos de prospección de suelo para saber si el lugar reúne las condiciones para construir un pantano, el muro de contención estaría ubicado un poco antes del Dorado, con lo que probablemente el arroyo de las gallinas quedaría inundado.

Desde hace un par de semanas estamos detrás del tema, reuniendoinformación sobre el posible proyecto ya que todo esta bastante oculto y en los boletines oficiales no aparece nada al respecto, con lo que por ahora todo hace indicar que son catas de suelo y mediciones para la viabilidad del proyecto.

La información extraoficial que tenemos es que el agua del pantano estaría destinada a Sotogrande, las urbanizaciones de la costa y el posible campo de golf de san pablo, de todas formas ya hemos informado a los grupos ecologistas para investigar conjuntamente y estar al tanto.”

The above message from Fran Gómez of the Izquierda Unida in Jimena is the news that the residents of Arroyo de las Gallinas did not want to hear. There have been rumours that plans were afoot to turn the valley in to a giant reservoir but until the drilling machines turned up nobody wanted to believe it.

The Arroyo de la Gallinas is a beautiful secluded valley that starts in Gaucín then crosses the boundary between Málaga and Cádiz and runs for several kilometres in Jimena de la Frontera. The plans have been kept secret but the plan is plain enough – to send water to Sotogrande and the Costa del Sol with a large dam wall by the El Dorado farm school.

If the valley is flooded all the people who live and draw their livelihood there will be forced out.

Out will go ‘Capricho’ – a man in his 80s whose family have farmed the valley for generations and live there still.

Out will go ‘Lute’ – who tends thousands of orange trees on large plantations and lives in the valley with his young family.

Out will go Dominic – whose family have lived in the valley for 12 years – he pleads: “I don’t want to loose my home.”

The problem has been the scheme to destroy the valley and their homes has been kept secret - none of those living there have been consulted. The majority are fighting back by withholding permission for the drilling teams to enter their land. Now, with this dreadful scheme made public, they can fight the nameless bureaucrats out in the open.

Friday, January 30, 2009


The Spanish High Court says it will launch a war crimes investigation into seven Israelis, including a former defence minister, over a 2002 attack that killed 14 civilians and a Hamas commander in the Gaza Strip.

Spanish law allows the prosecution of foreigners for such crimes as genocide, crimes against humanity and torture committed anywhere in the world. Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak called the Gaza legal case "delusional" on Thursday.

The Gaza-based Palestinian Centre for Human Rights is bringing the case against then-Defence Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer and six military personnel involved in the decision to drop a one-tonne bomb from an F-16 plane into a housing block on July 22, 2002.

Although the blast killed Hamas commander Salah Shehada the human rights organisation said it was only bringing the case on behalf of the families of 14 civilians killed, nine of whom were children, and 96 injured.

Palestinian Centre's lawyer Gonzalo Boye said: “If Israel would like to be a civilised nation it will have to accept the rule of law, and the rule of law is not served with a 1,000-kg bomb.

“I do not justify the actions of Hamas. I think both parties are guilty. The only people that are innocent are the civilian victims. We have excluded from our criminal case that person from Hamas who was the target of the Israeli army.”

Judge Fernando Andreus will lead the investigation which will last several years. The case was taken up by after Israel declined to reply to a question from the court last August as to whether the seven would be tried at home.

This is all well and good. I fully approve of Israel and Hamas being called to account for the slaughter of innocents. However is this the job of the Spanish court system and should it not be left to an international court of justice?

I beg this question as Spain’s judges are about to go on strike in protest at their workload and lack of resources. Many important cases are suffering lengthy delays because of the huge backlog. The Huelva child Mari Luz Cortes died after being kidnapped by a paedophile who should have been in prison at the time if the court system had been working effectively. Yes I believe in justice – but Spain needs justice first before its courts go show boating on the international stage.

Thursday, January 29, 2009


The battle of slogans between Christians and atheists has reached ridiculous levels in Madrid. Depending on which bus you catch you can either be accompanied by a pro or anti God poster – and if you change routes you can travel with both.

If there is a God, I suspect he, she or it has a keen sense of humour. After all God did create man and woman. I would also think that God is having a good old chuckle at the antics of the Christian and Atheist lobbies. The fact is that whether you are the Pope, an Imam, the Chief Rabbi, the Dalai Lama, other religious leaders or the venerable Stephan Hawkins – you have no idea if God exists or not.

I would describe myself as a Catholic agnostic. An agnostic certainly because I simply have no idea whether a Supreme Being presides over us or not. A Catholic – well as they say, once a Catholic always a Catholic - and although I have long since lapsed the smells and bells still ring a chord in my heart.

What both followers of God and atheists share is faith. If you read the writings of the key figures in the Christian church you will see they were filled with doubt – just like we are. It took the act of faith for them to say – yes, we believe in God and that God is Christ. It is the Catholic faith. Equally atheists cannot be sure there isn’t a God either – their poster says as much – “There’s probably no God…” So to accept that there is no God requires faith as well. So it is also the atheist faith.

I believe we all need a spiritual element in our lives. However we won’t know whether God exists until we are dead – and then it could be too late for many good and bad reasons. Amen.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009


“Reino Unido: El consumo de cerveza baja con fuerza por la situación económica.”

That’s the headline that greeted me over breakfast yesterday in the business section of La Opinión de Málaga. Now you may be surprised, even impressed, that I actually read the business news but then I am a man of many facets.

When I was young, which was many a year ago, there was a slogan drinka-pinta-milka-day – or words to that effect. Now it appears that Britain’s brewers might well encourage the nation to do the same.

It appears that due to the recession beer sales in the UK have slumped by 8.3 per cent in the last quarter of 2008. That equates to an astonishing 2.2 million pints less a day.

Drink has always been the last resort of the poor in times of hardship. Beer in its various forms may have been the British drink of the last century and before that the working class areas were awash with gin as the populace deadened their minds against their extremely poor lot in life.

Back in 1889 George Sims, who was a supporter of the Temperance Society, wrote: “Drink is the curse of these communities; but how is it to be wondered at? The gin-palaces flourish in the slums, and fortunes are made out of men and women who seldom know where tomorrow’s meal is coming from.”

Sim continued: “The gin-palace is heaven to them compared to the hell of their pestilent homes. A copper or two, often obtained by pawning the last rag that covers the shivering children on the bare floor at home, will buy enough alcohol to send a woman so besotted that the wretchedness, the anguish, the degradation that await her there have lost their grip. The drink dulls every sense of shame, takes the sharp edge from sorrow, and leaves the drinker for awhile in a fools' paradise.”

Which begs the question – are the British in this latest financial crisis abandoning the traditional solace of drink? Or are they simply shunning beer and downing more chardonnay? The answer to that La Opinión didn’t tell me but it did impart that McDonald’s turnover rose by 80 per cent last year – yes 4,313 million US dollars more. Perhaps people have simply given up drink and are opting for obesity instead.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


It appears that those who have opted to be cremated and who die in Gibraltar have to have their funeral held in nearby Spain even though a crematorium opened on the Rock last April.

Apparently the crematorium is ready to be fired up and a separate furnace for clinical waste and the cremation of pets has been in use for some time.

The hold up seems to be that regulations need to be finalized and those wishing to be cremated need two death certificates instead of the usual one. I am sure that is not the case in Spain and it seems rather an odd requirement as Hindus in Gibraltar have been sent off to their maker on a simple open fire with just one certificate.

It appears the crematorium section for funerals is set aside for human use only – so there is no danger you’ll consumed with a load of old bandages or dearly departed Fido.

It is said the new crematorium is state of the art and complies with all EU requirements. All very reassuring but if it’s sitting idle it doesn’t really matter a toss whether it meets the European laws or not – and if you’re dead you are in no position to complain anyway. I also have to say that I have never come across a cremation centre before that caters for humans, animals and waste all on the same site.

Is this an unsavoury first for Gibraltar?

Monday, January 26, 2009


I was recently pointed to the Battle of Barrosa by my good friend Malcolm Davidson. I would like to pretend that I was already aware of this set to between Anglo-Spanish and French troops as part of the Peninsular War in 1811 but have to hold my hands up and say I didn’t even know that it had taken place. I have looked up some basic facts that I share with you now. However before I proceed let me say that in my experience there are as many versions of historic events as the number of people that took part so please do not bombard me with variations.

The Battle of Barrosa was fought on March 5 1811.It was an unsuccessful French attack on a larger Anglo-Spanish force attempting to lift the siege of Cádiz during the Peninsular War . During the battle, a single British division defeated two French divisions and captured a regimental eagle. I understand it was the first French eagle to be taken in battle and as a result Sergeant Patrick Masterson was commissioned.

Cádiz had been put under seige by the French in early 1810, but in March of the following year a reduction in the besieging army gave its garrison of Anglo-Spanish troops an opportunity to lift the siege. A large Allied strike-force was shipped south from Cádiz to Algeciras where they were joined by English troops from Gibraltar, and moved to engage the siege lines from the rear. The French, under the command of Marshal Victor, were aware of the Allied movement and redeployed to prepare a trap. Victor placed one division on the road to Cádiz, blocking the Allied line of march, while his two remaining divisions fell on the single Anglo-Portuguese rearguard division under the command of Sir Thomas Graham. Following a fierce battle on two fronts, the British succeeded in routing the attacking French forces. A lack of support from the larger Spanish contingent commanded by General La Peña prevented an absolute victory, and the French were able to regroup and reoccupy their siege lines. Graham’s tactical victory proved to have little strategic effect on the continuing war, to the extent that Victor was able to claim the battle as a French victory since the siege remained in force until finally being lifted on 24 August 1812.

Graham was furious at the failure of La Peña to support him and the way in which the Spanish general had conducted the raid. The Spanish Cortes awarded Graham the position of Grandee of the First Class which he refused, resigning his post as commander of the British and Portuguese forces in Cadiz and returning to the main army in Portugal.

Malcolm tells me his writing about the Battle of Barossa so I look forward to featuring some of his more detailed findings in the future. He says it is quite difficult to identify the site “amidst all those golf courses around Santi Petri!” Indeed I wonder how many of today’s golfers realize that they are playing on an historic battle field. Until now I certainly wouldn’t have.

Saturday, January 24, 2009


“El mito de la siesta española ha quedado desterrado, ya que sólo un 16 por ciento de la población de este país practica esta sana costumbre a diario.”

These are the findings of a study carried out amongst over 3,000 Spaniards aged over 18 for the Fundación de Educación para la Salud del Hospital Clínico San Carlos (Fundadeps) and la Asociación Española de la Cama (Asocama). It has revealed that the ‘deporte nacional’ is fast dying out except amongst tourists and we, the foreign residents.

The siesta is one of the international stereotypes of Spain along with bull fighting, flamenco dresses and castanets. However you only have to think of today’s life style to wonder were the afternoon nap or sleep would fit in for the vast majority of Spanish people.

Back to the study, of the 16 per cent who do have a siesta the majority (72 per cent) only have a light nap after lunch whereas 27 per cent confess to going to their bed for the traditional and enviable siesta “con pijama, Padrenuestro y orinal”.

The research also shows that 58.6 per cent of Spaniards never siesta, 22 per cent only on occasions and 3.2 per cent sleep after meals, but only at weekends.

The siesta is one of the most important parts of the day largely for men aged over 45 – but there is little surprise in the next finding – it is women who have the most difficulty in finding the time to sleep in the afternoons.

Well as a male aged over 45 I can promise you that I will have a siesta this afternoon but will be up again in good time to see Xerez play Celta Vigo on TV. Nessun Dorma? ¡Dormiré como una piedra!

Friday, January 23, 2009


“Desde la Plataforma Cívica en Defensa del Hospital y la Salud, denunciamos el mal estado y abandono del hospital linense, incluso en temas de seguridad que puede poner en peligro la integridad de las personas y de producirse incendio estarían en peligro Maternidad, Nido y Área de Pediatría, al ser éstas áreas de la segunda planta las más próximas a esta zona de basuras escondidas y ya viejas donde habitualmente se fuma, se tira basura y cigarrillos al suelo, por donde hay corrientes de aire desde un piso al otro a través de los grandes agujeros del shunt, agujeros que además al ser de fácil acceso y haber puertas que están desmontadas o rotas, podrían ser mortales en el supuesto de que algún niño de pediatría o acompañante de familiares de enfermos se acercase al lugar y cayese hasta el piso inferior. Los cables eléctricos, como se pueden ver en las fotos también está totalmente expuesto con su consecuente peligro y no sólo en la segunda planta, sino también en la 1ª y tercera.”

I received the above press release from J J Uceda raising yet another concern over safety at La Línea’s hospital. It concerns me personally because I have been a patient and am still under the supervision of its specialists. I have had friends and family treated there. Also, although it is the La Línea hospital it serves the community of San Roque, part of Los Barrios, Castellar and my own village, Jimena.

For me a “hospital” is made up of two constituent parts – the building and the people. Whatever refurbishment or touching up is done cannot hide the fact that the fabric of the building is well past its life expectancy – probably because of long term neglect - and the new state-of-the-art hospital for the area can not come soon enough.

Whilst I share the concerns over the management of the hospital by the health authorities I only have praise for the medical staff who have looked after me and others that I know. The fact that they have had to do so in poor and demoralizing conditions is all the more to their credit. The only gripe I have is the lack of specialists over a prolonged period – but the blame lies squarely at the door of the health authority and not with the medical staff.

I did see statistics that showed the La Línea hospital had the highest mortality rate in Andalucía. Part of the blame for that tragic statistic can probably be found in the extreme poverty in parts of the border town. However it is arguable that the poorest town deserves the best medical care – sadly in La Línea that will have to await the new hospital.

Thursday, January 22, 2009


Totnes was the first transition town in the UK having started three years ago. Hence it was appropriate that Guy Chapman from that group should travel to Estepona to give a talk on Monday night to the Ciudad de Transición Estepona (CTE) – the first such group in Spain.

Regular readers of my blog will know the transition town movement was started in Ireland but now over 100 Transition Communities in UK have followed Totnes lead with this group probably being the most advanced. Most of the initiatives that are under way are relevant to the economy of Estepona as like Totnes it is a coastal tourist resort.

CTE organiser James Machin told me: “High on the priority list is energy usage, and much effort is being expended on this issue. Guy explained how Totnes undertakes Oil Vulnerability Auditing, an innovative approach that helps small local businesses to assess and quantify their risk from rising/fluctuating oil prices, then understand potential solutions and take timely action. There’s also a solar water heating initiative underway that involves the bulk purchase of systems on behalf of participants, resulting in a significant reduction in cost.”

With the currency markets in turmoil it was perhaps appropriate that Guy took from his pocket a ‘Totnes pound’. The ‘Totnes Pound’ is the ‘local’ currency that was launched in March 2007. ‘Economic Localisation’ is considered to be a key aspect of the transition process, and local currency systems provide the opportunity to strengthen the local economy whilst preventing money from leaking out. They have also received an unforeseen bonus, in that the ‘Totnes Pound’ has become a tourist attraction, with visitors buying the pounds and taking them home as souvenirs. Businesses can also assess their supply chains to see how they can buy locally and thus support the resilience of the local economy.

Another part of the Totnes experience that is of keen interest to Estepona is the Food Group. James explained: “it is working to strengthen the resilience of Totnes and the surrounding district in the area of food. They work closely with the farming and business community to develop a re-localised food infrastructure as well as encouraging individuals and communities to grow their own food. One scheme that is proving to be highly successful is the ‘Garden Share Project’. The Project matches keen, enthusiastic and committed gardeners and local garden owners who want to see their gardens being used more productively.”

Guy Chapman added: “A core theme is for a community to come together around the challenges of Climate Change and Peak Oil (world oil production capacity declining). The full implications of these two factors are huge and mean a very different future ahead. But we can approach this as an opportunity to create a vision of what kind of world we want in say 2030, for ourselves and our children. Then what steps can we take towards that, what projects can we start now; in education, agriculture, with local government, businesses etc. The knowledge of our elders who lived with low energy needs and low carbon output has much to teach us, especially in local growing methods.”

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


Yesterday, the day of Barack Obama’s inauguration, I received the following email from a Blog reader:

“I'm sure that, like me, your focus is very much turned on events in Washington today. Is it the Gemini (or simply the cynic) in me? - one half buying into the 'Brave New Dawn', 'Time for Change!' mood; the other sniping from the sidelines "Right!", "Again!"”

I am sure you have your own take on events but here is mine.

By the very fact that the USA has elected its first Afro-American President I believe that a profound change has occurred in that nation and its perception in the wider world.

Now what about Barack Obama?

Well, in some ways, his job is done. By simply being elected he has caused a seismic shift in American life. For that alone he will go down in history.

Will he go on to be a great president? Only time will tell because in many ways the ball is not in his court.

He will be judged by his fellow Americans by how he deals with the economic crisis. He will be judged by the rest of the world by how he, along with his Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, deals with the rest of the world.

Few, if any, will mourn the end of the Bush era. His time was up and the wider world is grateful that a Bush Mark II hasn’t stepped from the wings to take over. We’re all euphoric at seeing the back of ‘Dubya’, for now that will have to suffice.

We know that Obama can talk the talk – which he does very well. But can he walk the walk? He certainly intends to be running from day one.

A brave new world? I am not so sure. Even though I was born a Catholic I never had any great belief in miracles and unfortunately for Barack, that is what the world is expecting.

So will we end up applauding or barracking Obama? I have no idea – ask me in four or eight years.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


El jefe militar de las FARC colombianas ha prohibido las relaciones de pareja entre los guerrilleros para frenar las numerosas deserciones de enamorados.

A curious tale this. According to the Bogota newspaper ‘El Tiempo’ the top man in the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia, better known as FARC, has banned the male and female guerrillas from forming romantic relationships. In this way Mono Jojoy, alias Jorge Briceño, hopes to eliminate the large number of desertions from the terrorist group by members who become lovers. Indeed last year alone FARC is said to have lost 3,500 members to romance.

Now as far as I am aware from the various police reports detailing ETA arrests there are often romantic partnerships or marriages between this organisation’s terrorists.

In contrast when I lived in Ireland the IRA and other paramilitary groups seemed to be male dominated but I suspect there were women in the background in “support roles”.


Well whilst Mono Jojoy might insist that “hace la Guerra, no el amor” might solve his man-woman power problems – for the wider world “make love not war” should be the mantra to bring the peace we all desire.

The trouble is that the majority of terrorists are fuelled by the dogma of hate so love, as we know it, is an unknown quality to them.

I guess they just hate to love and love to hate – except in FARC!

Monday, January 19, 2009


The arrival of the high speed AVE train service in many of Spain’s major towns and cities has hit the airline industry hard. It could also impact on the nation’s carbon emissions as passenger numbers on fuel-guzzling domestic flights fell 20 per cent in the period to last November.

Now both commuters and tourists are letting the train take the strain opting to journey in modern spacious high-speed AVEs rather than have the hassle of cramped flights coupled with the journey to out of town airports.

Travel experts say that the AVE trains that can travel at up to 220 miles per hour have been the reason behind a 28 per cent growth in traffic in the same period that air travel numbers collapsed. Around 400,000 people shunned the airlines for RENFE, the national railway carrier.

Not only have train journey times between Madrid and Barcelona been slashed to 2 hours 35 minutes but the nation’s capital now has AVE links to Valladolid, Segovia and Malaga with many others including Cádiz under construction. In addition AVE links between Barcelona and Málaga plus Sevilla are also now operational.

In 2007 aircraft carried 72 per cent of the 4.8 million long-distance passengers who travelled by air or rail within Spain. That total has now dropped to 60 per cent and experts believe they will be at parity within two years.

Spain’s premier, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, has put infrastructure projects at the heart of his anti-recession plans and will invest 108 billion euros in the high-speed rail network until 2020. In addition the government has promised to lay 10,000km of high-speed track by that year to ensure that 90 per cent of Spaniards live within 30 miles of a station.

Part of this expansion is raising concerns in Gibraltar over the future use of the airport which is undergoing a major expansion. The AVE system is already on track to come to Ronda and from there the service will be extended to Algeciras.

Both Iberia and the former GB Airways withdrew their flights between the Rock and Madrid on economic grounds. It had been hoped that one of the benefits of the Córdoba Accords between Spain, Britain and Gibraltar would be the starting of services between the Rock and Madrid, Barcelona and other key Spanish cities.

However, no such flights appear to be in the offing, and if the AVE comes to Algeciras then both business and tourist passengers might opt for the cheaper, easier high speed rail link.

Although British Airways, EasyJet and Monarch currently flying from Gibraltar to the UK they have no interest in a Madrid or other Spanish link. A lack of flights to Spain could endanger the very viability of the airport’s costly expansion plans.

Sunday, January 18, 2009


It is estimated that over 1,200 people have been killed and another 5,000 injured in the Gaza tragedy.

Announcing the ceasefire the Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said in Tel Aviv on Saturday:

"We regret very much the fact that there were so many who, in spite of the genuine efforts made by the Israeli army, suffered from this confrontation. I want to apologize on behalf of the government of Israel for everyone who was unjustly affected, in Gaza, by this operation."
You’re sorry! That’s alright then – we’ll drop the war crime investigations. Better luck next time!

Saturday, January 17, 2009


“Los comentarios de la diputada del PP en el Parlamento catalán, Montserrat Nebrera sobre el acento “de chiste” de la ministra de Formento, Magdalena Álvarez, le han traído consecuencias, ya que la dirección del PPC le ha abierto expediente.”

Yes, now there is a huge row as the Catalán deputy finds herself at odds with her own Partido Popular in Andalucía with the party’s president, Javier Arenas, blasting that jokes at the expense of the region are simply not acceptable.

This of course opens up all the ancient wounds between the ‘superior, hard working’ Cataláns who have always looked down on the ‘lazy, ignorant’ people from Andalucía. Nebrera, like all politicians caught out, is busy back tracking rather than having the strength of her convictions – but then since when has the modern day politician had any convictions?

Nebrera referred to the accent of the minister Magdalena Álvarez as being “a joke”. Not only is Álvarez of Andalucía but she represents Málaga province in Congress in Madrid and was born in San Fernando – so the insult against her was also an insult against all Gaditanos.

For her part Álvarez says that she does not take the ill-considered remarks personally as she considers it an insult against all the people of Andalucía. Not only that but she pointed out that Nebrera’s own grandparents came from Andalucía so she was not only insulting the region but her own family.

Many years ago I knew a lad who spoke in a broad cockney accent, had married a Málaga lass and learnt his Spanish on the local building sites of that same city. Hence he either spoke in the tongue of my native East End or rough Andaluz. I did congratulate him on being totally incomprehensible in two different languages. As he was rather heftily built it was just as well he didn’t understand a word I said.

Friday, January 16, 2009


Spain has always been famous for the ‘Cobrador del Frac’, the gentleman dressed in a top hat and morning suit who turn up on the doorstep of those who have not paid their debts.

I also remember hearing on Spanish radio a good few years ago of a company that sent its debt collectors out dressed as the Pink Panther or other film figures such as Bat Man. They would both visit the premises of the company or person owing money and also follow him or her through the streets.

This struck me as very inventive and rather scary. However I now concede they are old hat or old battered top hat.

A debt collection company in Lithuania is promising to work its magic for those owed money but hiring a witch. Skolu Isieskojimo Biuras in Vilna has contracted Vilija Lobaciuviene, the most famous witch in the Baltic State.

The director of the company says that certain people are using the economic crisis as an excuse to avoid paying their debts. Now Vilija will cast her spells on them.

Needless to say, not everybody is impressed. Columnist Monika Bonckute says it is a return to the age of the occult.

He may be right but if a warty witch threatened to turn me in to a toad – I think I’d pay up.

Thursday, January 15, 2009


At the risk of showing my age I remember from my childhood the song that went – “I hear music but there’s no one there.”

Now it seems the singer or perhaps rather the composer was just a heavy coffee drinker.

In this week of continuing tragic news from Gaza it is good to see that British researchers can still come up with whimsy.

Apparently hearing voices when nobody is around or seeing things that aren’t there such as ghosts is all down to drinking too much caffeine.

The study found that students who consumed more than the equivalent of seven cups of instant coffee a day were three times more likely to have had these kinds of hallucinations compared to people on a single daily cup.

Simon Jones, a psychologist at Durham University said: “This is the first step towards looking at the wider factors associated with hallucinations.”

The findings are also the latest in mounting evidence indicating the amount of caffeine a person consumes may directly affect a person's health.

Recent studies have suggested caffeine may lower a woman's risk of ovarian cancer while others have found too much doubles the risk of miscarriage. What ever.
Certainly in my younger days I knew a lot of students who drank a lot of coffee. However when it came to hallucinating or seeing ghosts it was usually Hungarian Riesling or wacky backy that was to blame!
( I believe "I Hear Music" is a popular song composed by Burton Lane, with lyrics by Frank Loesser for the Paramount Pictures movie Dancing on a Dime (1940). Long before my time!)

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


El presidente del Gobierno, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, ha asegurado que el Ejecutivo dialogará con las asociaciones de jueces para analizar su situación, pero ha advertido de que su objetivo será defender el interés general y que no habrá subidas salariales por encima de las presupuestadas.

Yes, the judges in Spain are considering taking strike action. The dispute is not over pay as such but what the judicial authorities see as a lack of resources and personnel which is causing huge backlogs in the justice system.

One victim of this dispute is the Mari Luz case. The child who was kidnapped and then murdered in Huelva on January 13 last year, before her body was found floating in the city’s river estuary 54 days later, is now at the centre of the legal dispute.

Sevilla judge Rafael Tirado is at the heart of the bitter row because he allowed the alleged killer of Mari Luz, convicted paedophile Santiago Del Valle, to remain free. Had he been jailed as sentenced then Mari Luz would be alive this day.

The judicial authority, the CGPJ, held a disciplinary hearing then an appeal and judged Tirado’s offence to be not extremely serious so he has only been fined 1,500 euros instead of being barred from office. The argument goes that he failed to imprison Del Valle because of the overburden of work in the courts. This is the very point that the judges and court workers are up in arms over so hence Mari Luz is dragged in to the debate – as if her poor parents had not suffered enough.

The government argues, with some justification, that judges do not have “the luxury” of being able to strike because they are at the very foundations of the power of the State. “What if the government went on strike?” they cry – better not to go there.

But what if the criminals went on strike? No crime and you would have no need for judges or the courts.

Would the government then have to offer incentives for us to break the law?

Would we see advertising urging us to go shop lifting or house breaking?

Would murders be offered – kill a person and kill another one free!

Criminals of the world unite – you have nothing to loose but your prison sentences.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


At some point the current war action in Gaza will stop and Israel will return to a fragile peace. Without any doubt violence will flare up again, may be in Gaza or the wider Palestinian territories, perhaps in the Lebanon, it could be a regional conflict or in Israel itself. What is certain is that it will happen. It will happen because the very creation of Israel was born in violence and until those real or perceived injustices are sorted out violence will remain to the forefront.

It is time to start again.

The Zionist movement was calling for an independent community in their historic homeland of Palestine back in the 19th century. Britain declared its support for the concept in 1917 and in 1920 the League of Nations placed Palestine under British administration. From that point on there were disputes between Jews who wished to settle there and indigenous Arabs who opposed their arrival.

Back in 1937 Britain proposed separate Arab and Jewish communities, this was accepted by the Jews and not the Arabs and the fighting started. My father was stationed there at the end of World War II. In 1947 the United Nations, which had succeeded the League of Nations, supported this concept. Hence when in 1948 Britain ended its mandate the State of Israel was proclaimed with David Ben Gurion as prime minister.

This saw neighbouring Arab states send forces to crush the fledgling Israel but they failed. In 1949 a cease-fire was agreed but by then Israel controlled more land than was originally allocated to it. Hundreds of thousands of Arabs fled to Jordan and the Lebanon and Israel declared Jerusalem as its capital, although its status is not recognised by the UN.

Within that mishmash of events you have the birth of the tragedy that continues to this very day and will carry on its bloody way in to the future.

It is time to start again.

There is no doubting Israel’s right to exist. However to start to live in peace with its neighbours Israel has to put past wrongs to right. That is not achieved by killing innocent people in Gaza or negotiating with the Palestinian leadership with the sole objective of giving nothing but demanding everything in return.

In the coming weeks Israel will elect a new government. Yet I see nobody in that country or on the international stage with the will, skill and determination to take this problem by the scruff of the neck and sort the problem out.

None the less I say - it is time to start again.

Monday, January 12, 2009


It is perhaps appropriate that given the title of this blog I dwell from time to time on the subject of wind power. Last week I broke you the story of the wind generator in Lincolnshire that had mysteriously had one of its rotors broken off – was it by a UFO? This week my subject is more serious.

In these times of economic crisis it appears that renewable energy might not only save the planet but also give a much needed boost to the employment market.

The Asociación de Promotores y Productores de Energías Renovables en Andalucía (Aprean) believes that in the next five years some 105,000 jobs could be created in Andalucía over and above the 25,000 that already exist.

This prediction is the result of a study carried out by Aprena and presented last week. The regional government’s delegate in Málaga province, María Gámez, stated that the findings offered data and not just hope of how these numbers could be achieved largely through the wind power sector. Indeed 68 per cent of those jobs would come from wind generation plants planned for Málaga, Cádiz and Almería provinces.

Gámez pointed out that Andalucía was an ideal base for this developing industry largely because of its geographic characteristics and well as its ability to carry out the required investigation and development. All the companies in this sector are under 10 years of age and the average age of the employees is between 30 and 40 years. Also around 82 per cent of the work placings in the renewable energy industry are secure with no danger of lay offs or redundancies in the next 25 years.

For his part the president of Aprean, Mariano Barroso, stated that the energy policy in Spain was beginning to bear fruit thanks to the planning that has been put in place in recent years. He also indicated that the energy sector “is the most hardened” as in the past five years it has not required any type of institutional help – it is “self financing”.

Barroso said the objective was to develop other types of renewable energy such as sun or heat generated alongside wind power. He added that what was currently missing from the mix was the political will to speed through the required bureaucratic procedures to establish the wind parks or other renewable energy sites. However that is a contentious issue as on the Costa de la Luz and wider La Janda various communities are opposing plans for these wind parks.

Currently the renewable energy sector produces between 1,900 and 2,100 megawatts of power. That is an increase of 40 per cent on 2007, 130 per cent more than in 2006 and the objective for 2010 is 3,500 megawatts. With the added promise of large scale employment in these troubled times support for this clean energy industry could receive a timely boost.

Sunday, January 11, 2009


We know that in the coming days or weeks the current tragedy in Gaza will come to a halt. We equally know - surely as night follows day - it will be only a matter of months before tensions are heightened and in due course the fighting will flare up again – perhaps in Gaza may be somewhere else. I am grateful to my friend Veronica in Ireland for sending me this letter from the Sulha Peace Project. I have had to shorten it but have included the link for those wishing to learn more. In these dark days let us grasp and encourage every small glimmer of hope! Shalom. Salaam.

“We are mourning the loss of lives and are praying for the safety of our friends who are in danger in both Gaza and southern Israel. We pray that both peoples come to true compassion and forgiveness toward the other.

With the only news coming from the from the Holy Land being about the war, we send some news of another picture from the Holy Land. Though we Palestinians and Israelis who work together for peace are being tested more than ever, the relationships we have built stay strong. The Sulha Peace Project continues to aspire to create a new reality and prepare the people in the region for a life of mutual respect and trust.

Not long ago, over three days last August 26-28, thousands of Israelis and Palestinians met for the seventh annual 'On the Way to Sulha' gathering on the grounds of the Latrun monastery between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. The Sulha Peace Project worked in full partnership with the Palestinian organization, Al-Tariq, to plan the event. Israelis and Palestinians came from all over the Holy Land, and including 200 Palestinians from the West Bank cities of Jenin, Nablus, Ramallah and Hebron. Our partners in Gaza who have been with us at previous events sent messages of blessing and support from the people of Gaza.

The Kitchen, made fully kosher brought Israeli and Palestinian volunteers together to chop vegetables and cook side by side to feed hundreds of peace each meal.

Our special guest was Rabbi Marc Gopin, director of the Center for World's Religions, Diplomacy and Conflict Resolution at George Mason University. Rabbi Gopin spoke about his work in Syria for building bridges of dialogue. We had a special corner set up at the Sulha gathering for children and adults to write messages of peace that were then delivered by Gopin to the people of Syria. As Marc Gopin is now in the Holy Land, visit his website for his insightful commentary and post cast about the present war in Gaza and south Israel:

In the prayer tent, we held inter-religious study sessions, with panels on the themes of 'Forgiveness' and 'Religion and Ecology'. In addition to Christian, Muslim and Jewish religious leaders and scholars from the Holy Land, joining us were Geshe-la Thebten Phelgye a Tibetan lama and member of the Tibetan Parliament, Sheikha Khadija, teacher of Sufism from New York and Rabbi Marc Gopin. On the main stage the final day religious leaders spoke about Sulha, reconciliation, in our religious texts and traditions.

Each evening there were highlights. Sheikh Abu Falastin from Sakhnin led hundreds of us in a Sufi 'zikr' ceremony together, after which Rabbi Menachem Froman led us to chant in unison, calling out Allahu Akbar in Arabic and HaShalom Yinatzeach (Peace will Prevail) in Hebrew.
Later, there was a magical performance by "Acharit Hayamim"- an Israeli religious Jewish reggae band, who performed with an ensemble of refugees from the Darfur region in Sudan. On the final evening, Sheikh Abdul Qarim al-Zorba, Imam of the Dome of the Rock chanted songs from the Islamic tradition.

The 'Sulha Family', Israelis and Palestinians continue to meet, planning events to heal the wounds and re-build trust between our peoples. After the riots in Acco between Arabs and Jews last Yom Kippur, we organized a peace tent there, with two days of bridge building activities. The 'Sulha Family' met recently, gathering for Shabbat in Jerusalem to support each other during this time. Israeli 'Sulha Family' members are meeting with friends from Palestinian partner organization Al-Tariq. The Sulha Peace Project is joining Middle Way for a peace walk in Jaffa January 9th and setting up a dialogue tent in Jaffa.

Please send a prayer of healing for the children of a Gazan peacemaker who has brought his family to several of our Sulhita youth gatherings. His son and daughter have been seriously wounded in the violence in Gaza."

Saturday, January 10, 2009


As the second Bush era draws to a close and the age of Obama dawns you may want to keep abreast of events in the USA through a keen eye.

Let me introduce you to Kidd Millennium, who is older than his years, because he has already brought us a deep insight into two terms of George Dubya. Enough to age the best of men (and women)!

The Kidd is the brain child (pun intended) of Ron Callari and more recently he has been fleshed out by my old friend (well he’s older than me) Jon Donohoe.

Ron tells it that: “On January 1, 2001, kidd emerged as a full-blown character and an ongoing, self-proclaimed spokes-kid for the next generation. Estimated at 3.9 million American children, societal forecasters believe that this new population group (born post 2000) will eclipse the attention of the boomers, the last major bubble to have moved through the population funnel. Based on that premise, kidd millennium comments, with attitude, on his brave new world from a narcissistic and questioning point of view. The weekly cartoons present an editorial perspective of topical issues in today's society, this side of the millennium. Similar to a cartoon character that emerged over a 100 years ago, called the Yellow Kid, kidd millennium satirizes the social and political foibles of the day.”

Ron contacted over 1,000 illustrators world-wide to see who was worthy of the challenge of bringing the Kidd to life. Since 2004 Jon has performed that task having told Ron at the time: "The Irish generally do not hold a high regard for George Dubya." And with those words of wisdom a highly creative partnership was born.

By the by, Ron has never met Jon or his predecessor Jack Pittman – all this stunning work has been achieved over the internet.

Now the search is on for O’Bama’s Irish roots. My theory is that the homestead is in Barna in County Galway, a slip of the pen over the centuries accounting for the slight name change, but then what do I know?

Whilst they sort out that mystery I commend you to visit
– for ‘comments with attitude’ on our shared future under President Barrack.

Yes – comments with attitude with no dribble or drivel in sight - I kid you not!

Friday, January 9, 2009


I feel very fortunate in having made my home in Andalucía. I am aware that it is a region of great history and tradition but for me, as a foreign resident, it is essentially Spanish – a part of a wider Spain.

I know that Andalucía has a president and a parliament. I understand that the concept of the “modern Andalucía” did not arrive in the post-Franco years but before the Franco era with the “Padre de la Patria andaluza” –Blas Infante and did not die with him in 1936.

Spaniards have always identified themselves to me as of their village or town – jimenato, rodeño – or the wider Gaditano, Malagueño – but never as Andaluz other than as the language that some are proud to speak.

Blas Infante stated: “Mi nacionalismo, antes que andaluz, es humano. Creo que, por el nacimiento, la naturaleza señala a los soldados de la Vida el lugar en donde han de luchar por ella. Yo quiero trabajar por la Causa del espíritu en Andalucía porque en ella nací. Si en otra parte me encontrare, me esforzaría por esta Causa con igual fervor.”

Being part-Irish I understand the concept of nationhood very well. ‘A Nation Once Again’ is a favourite Republican anthem but I am unsure whether Andalucía is a nation or a state – of mind.
Politically the majority people of Andalucía vote for the PP, PSOE and IU – national parties, parties without any specific feeling of what it is to be of Andalucía.

Which brings me to the Partido Andalucista.

I have supported the PA in Jimena over the years because it was the one voice in opposition to the previous PSOE administrations at the town hall. Now it is arguable that although it has no elected councillors the IU is the more vociferous counter balance.

Whilst in Jimena the PA may have been the answer in neighbouring Gaucín it has been the problem. With the conviction in the courts of the corrupt PA mayor Francisco Corbacho, with other members of the party under a cloud, it now remains to be seen whether there will be a change for the better. Don’t hold your breath on that one.

In Ronda, where in 1918 was celebrated the first regional Andaluz assembly, a PA mayor is in power. Antonio Marín presides over a divided party, has previous talked of abandoning the PA for the PP and now says he would like to join PSOE – who apparently have an ideology very similar to his own party.

However the real test for a party that is of Andalucía has to be how many MPs it has in the Andalucía Parliament. Since the last election the PA has had none, zero, zilch - which must be as a resounding death knell as has ever been tolled. If the people of Andalucía will not support the Partido Andalucista – what is the point of the Partido Andalucista?

The last regional elections saw the Partido Andalucista abandon its independence to stand in a coalition with the PSA of Pedro Pacheco. Even though Pacheco had been a past candidate for the PA for the presidency of Andalucía he along with his PSA and the PA were roundly rejected by the voters of the region. This marked a dark day for Pacheco who had also previously lost his post as the PSA mayor of Jerez to PSOE’s Pilar Sánchez Muñoz.

So what now for the Partido Andalucista?

Marín, who had stood for the Andalucía Parliament for the PA talks of fleeing to the PP, PSOE – in fact any party that will have him - and keep him in power in Ronda.

Pacheco has withdrawn from politics but rumours have spread that he intends to form yet another party to try and win back Jerez – whilst he pledges that his loyalty to the PSA remains intact but makes no mention of the PA.

The doctors of the PA have huddled round and talked a lot but this body politic still appears to be dead, at least to me.

If Andalucía is to have a party – un Partido Andalucista – then it needs to be of the people of Andalucía. It has to encapsulate their dreams and ambitions, it has to confront their fears, it has to capture their hearts and their minds, it has to be their voice, their soul.

Tragically the Partido Andalucista has failed miserably in the task and perhaps should now be laid to rest.

Thursday, January 8, 2009


There is no shortage of wind turbines in Andalucía especially in the Tarifa area. Keep a very close eye on them!

From Conisholme, Lincolnshire, in England comes news that a wind turbine has been destroyed and the blame is being laid at the tentacles of a UFO.

Local residents say they saw a bizarre tentacle-shaped UFO above the wind farm on the night before the wind turbine was mysteriously destroyed. They report that they were woken by the smash after strange lights were spotted streaking towards the 290ft-tall generator on a wind farm.

One witness told of how he looked out of his landing window and saw a massive ball of light with tentacles going right down to the ground over the wind farm. “It was huge. With the tentacles it looked just like an octopus.”

Baffled power chiefs are investigating in incident that left one of the wind turbine’s giant 65ft blades torn off.

There is an added mystery. There is no trace of the missing blade.

The truth is out there - and with it a giant turbine blade!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009


The Ministry of the Interior has counted the coffins and cremation urns and tells us that 2,181 people died on Spain’s roads last year. That is 560 or 20.4 per cent less deaths than in 2007.

The average number of deaths a day was seven. In 2008, when there were 1,929 accidents, 866 people were seriously injured, some may have subsequently died, be now the living dead or made full recoveries. Another 938 received light injuries.

The slapping sound you can hear is the minister and the traffic authorities congratulating themselves on their mutual shoulders. They say the reduction is due to the 2005-2008 Strategic Plan that aimed at a 40 per cent reduction over that period, a tougher policing regime and the docking of points on driving licences.

So do you feel safer on the road today? I don’t! I might add that I drive in Andalucía which in 2008 was the only region in Spain to record an increase in road deaths.

I recently drove on the Ronda to San Pedro road. En route you pass old road death commemoration crosses and fresh flowers. Several cars flew past me and given an inch here or there a near miss could have been a fatal crash. On a recent quite day I found an overtaking car bearing down on me on my side of the road as it overtook another vehicle on a blind bend – and we were the only three vehicles within sight.

I am pleased the numbers are down. I hope that the downward trend continues, nay accelerates. However I am alive and uninjured today thanks to luck and not the driving of my fellow motorists.

Make no mistake, there – but for the grace of God – go you and I.


With the conflict in Gaza it appears that attacks have started on Jews in Europe including those in Britain, France, Belgium, Sweden and Denmark.

In my blog of last Friday, “Shalom”, I told of an old Jewish friend of mine whose parents perished in the Holocaust but is fiercely ant-Israeli.

Whilst the State of Israel is predominantly a Jewish country it does not necessarily follow that Jews around the world support the actions in Gaza and the suffering of the Palestinian people.

Any more I may add that all Arabs and Muslims are guilty of the Twin Tower horrors in New York even though the perpetrators were both.

However I suspect for George W Bush and his administration the tragedy of Gaza is nothing more than pay-back time.

One can only pray that fair minded people around the world will not equate the tragedy of Gaza with the Jewish people.


Tuesday, January 6, 2009


There is little to cheer us as 2009 starts what with the economic crisis and the human tragedy in Gaza. The one bright light on the horizon is that we’ll soon be waving farewell to George W Bush.

That light has been somewhat eclipsed by Dubya’s father, the previous president George Bush. He is still intent on creating a lasting Bush dynasty and wants his other son, Jeb, to take his seat in the Oval Office.

Jeb, you will remember, was the former Governor of Florida. His 84-year-old father, who was the nation’s 41 st president, accepts that now is not the time for a Bush to run for office as both the USA and wider world are Bush whacked!

None-the-less he says he would like to see Jeb mount a campaign for the presidency. He says he is competent and has all the skills to take on the job. Did he say the same about Dubya?

Just as you thought it was safe to go back in to the water ... Jeb!

Monday, January 5, 2009


Word reaches me that there's to be a protest march in the city of Almería this Friday (January 9) at noon. It’s to demonstrate against the arbitrary political control on the 'illegal builds', 'land-grab', demolitions and institutionalised local fraud in property in Andalucía. The date coincides with the anniversary of the demolition of the Prior's house in Vera by the Junta de Andalucía.

Since that time, the Priors, a retired British couple who bought in good faith, have been living in a garage without water or electric connection. Neither have they received compensation or an apology. They are the best known, but many thousands of homes are at risk in Almería province alone.

Indeed I know a member of the Guardia Civil who is assigned to the environmental arm – Seprona – who has been stationed in Almería province. He says his main task is to deal with illegal properties and tragically the majority of the owners are non-Spanish.

Whilst this corruption is often portrayed as the cheating of foreigners this is not actually the case. The fraud affects all but unfortunately as foreign residents have bought many of the properties on the coast they have borne the brunt of the problem. However in recent years I have written reports on illegal urbanizations, especially those inland in both Cádiz and Málaga provinces, where the owners have been largely Spanish.

It was Lenox Napier who kindly sent me the information of the Alméria protest and he admits it is not only the Northern Europeans that suffer as the local small-town businesses and work force are also threatened.

The demonstrators plan to disrupt the busy city of Almería on a working day to make their cases more widely known. They also want an office set-up to help and advise residents coming from outside of Spain on their rights and how to deal with the appalling situation that faces many of them.

Lenox is known to many in Spain as having owned The Entertainer newspaper that still flourishes on-line. However those interested in the history of Gibraltar and the military will recognize the name Napier. Lenox is descended from the first Baron Napier of Magdala, a British Field Marshall, who was also a Governor of Gibraltar.

For more information on the demonstration go to:

Sunday, January 4, 2009


In his introduction to Francisco Rubiales book, “Políticos, Los Nuevos Amos”, the former Spanish government minister Manuel Pimental writes in his introduction: “Políticos, los nuevos amos afronta el problema de la degradación del poder con extraordinaria valentía, claridad y profundidad”.

Pimentel goes on to recommend the book to presidents, ministers, those holding political office, party activities and all citizens who are anxious and worried by the state of democracy. He adds that it is a tough book, free, holding political correctness in contempt, has the ability to provoke thought and strikes hard blows to the reader’s conscience.”

The main thrust of the book is that: “Existe un componente depredador y rastrero en el concepto de poder que nunca ha abandonado el escenario a lo largo de los siglos. Unas clases dominantes suceden a otras y cada época establece sus sistemas de dominación y sus reglas, pero el poder, aunque disfrazado, sigue siendo el mismo: depredador, al servicio de las élites, implacable y utilizado sólo por los amos como instrumento para dominar y sojuzgar”.

Now regular readers of my blog will know that I often refer to Francisco Rubiales blog ‘Voto en Blanco’ and pick up on themes that he and his writers debate. I also urge all my readers to read these thoughts and views, many of which deal with citizens’ impotency in a democracy that has been hijacked by the politicians.

I believe that it is important for all thinking foreign residents in Spain to engage with blogs such as ‘Voto en Blanco’ to get a feel for the views and thoughts being debated by the country’s writers and concerned citizens. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t argue that you should accept Francisco’s or his writers’ views but you should feel free to argue and debate them online.

Let’s be frank, if Francisco is correct and the politicians have kidnapped politics then we must keep democracy alive through freedom of speech and the right to debate freely.

Therefore it is important that we all make our voices heard.

Saturday, January 3, 2009


Yesterday amongst the demonstrations around the world calling for a ceasefire in Gaza some 100 people gathered outside the Andalucía government’s sub-delegates office in Algeciras. It was organised by various political and NGO groups and was joined by passing members of the public.

I remember standing in the street to protest over the killing of Miguel Ángel Blanco in 1997 and eleven years on ETA still murders in the name of a would-be nation that few people want.

I marched through Algeciras against the Iraq War. After the 1994 Spanish General Election the new PSOE government withdrew its troops but the tragedy goes on to this day.

Every time there is a death from domestic violence people organise a dignified protest but the slaying of women by their partners, past and present, continues.

It is vital that in a democracy we exercise our right to show our opposition to acts of violence that claim innocent lives by protesting on the streets.

We have to do that whilst understanding that the men and women of violence are deaf to our cries of outrage – but cry we must!

The real danger to society comes not from their evils acts but when we stop demanding a halt.

Cry out, we must!

Friday, January 2, 2009


As Israel is once again in conflict with one of its near neighbours my mind goes back to frequent conversations I had with a Jewish friend.

For the sake of this piece his name is Daniel.

He grew up in Germany in the 1920s and 1930s and his parents sent him and his brother to safety in 1939. Neither of his parents survived the holocaust.

Daniel went to relations in Southern Africa. Eventually in the 1950s he came to Spain. He is trilingual speaking German, English and Spanish but with his heavy Germanic accent in tack.

His brother, who went to England, anglicised his name.

Daniel is proud of his German Jewish roots and refused to change anything.

To this day he is a practicing Jew.

However when the subject turns to the State of Israel his hackles rise. He is a proud Jew but wants nothing to do with the Jewish state. To him Israelis have learnt nothing from the history of the Jews. Or rather they have learnt too well the injustice handed out over the centuries and now exercise it over others.

When you hear an educated man speak of Nazi Germany and Israel in the same terms you have to listen. When that man fled the Nazi’s and his parents perished in the concentration camps you listen very carefully indeed.

I know that at this time, this man who has suffered more than most of us can comprehend, is in anguish yet one more time.

To him and all the people of the bitterly divided near East – Shalom!