Tuesday, June 30, 2009


For years romantic teenagers sent letters with – S.W.A.L.K – signed with a loving kiss – in capitals on the back of the envelope.

Now the Basque terror group, ETA, seems to have started a new campaign – S.W.A.D.K.

For a long time it has been a well-known tactic of ETA to raise funds by sending extortion letters to businesses in the Basque region. However even this terrorist organization which thinks nothing of slaughtering innocents has still managed to raise eyebrows by including on its mailing list a 14-year-old boy.

The new wave of letters is to coincide with the anniversary of the organization and bears the number 50 as part of the logo. The president of the Confederación de Empresarios de Navarra (CEN), José Manuel Ayesa, stated that the letters started to appear in May and on average demand amounts of between 120,000 and 180,000 euros although some are as high as 400,000.

The inclusion of the 14-year-old marks a new tactic on the part of the terror group. Instead of just sending the letter to the business person they are now including a member of the family to ensure the contents of the missive are noted by all. However as they take the details from the town hall census ETA doesn’t know who specifically it is writing to...but they are deadly serious none the less.

Ayesa has repeated the call to all those who have received the letters not to give in to this extortion from what is a terrorist group...but that requires bravery and defiance from the targets.

The problem for ETA is that its murderous campaign for a Basque state has little popular support in the region and hence no reliable source of funding. The Basque region shares the same rights and privileges as all the other component parts of Spain. Therefore to make its cause known ETA bombs and kills both within its would-be homeland and wider Spain.

Perhaps it should take the “50” emblem off its letters and write S.W.A.D.K instead.

Monday, June 29, 2009


Last Friday ten animal protection societies gathered in Cádiz and condemned the lack of interest shown by town halls and other administrative bodies over the care of abandoned animals.

Before I continue I should draw the distinction between animal protection societies who seek to rescue, care for and seek homes for abandoned cats and dogs and private dog pounds who earn their money by taking these animals in, providing the minimal facilities then more often than not putting the poor creatures down.

The protection societies spoke out just 18 months after the closure of the Puerto Real dog pound for maltreating the animals in its charge. In a statement the societies denounced the fact that: “unfortunately today there are new private dog pounds, where the emphasis is on destroying the animals and the business element, and where in the majority of cases there are a lack of suitable living conditions and a lack of any adoption policy.”

The societies believe that in the majority of the dog pounds in the province many of the animals are kept in bad conditions, suffer from the excesses of cold and heat, do not have veterinary care – especially at weekends and if they are puppies they are condemned to death from many of the illnesses prevalent in the installations.

After the closure of El Refugio in Puerto Real in November 2007 because animals had been put down with a muscular paralysing drug without respecting the requirements of the law the 15 town halls using the animal pound relocated their animals to Rota, Jerez, Los Barrios and installations in Sevilla.

The president of the association of town halls of the Bay of Cádiz, Felipe Márquez, then promised that a “model” centre for caring for abandoned animals would be constructed on land by the cemetery in Chiclana but this has never been done.

The societies lamented: “All the town halls and political parties have chosen to look the other way and have shown no interest in knowing about the terrible conditions that exist is the majority of animal pounds.”

Of course in times of economic crisis politicians look to caring for humans (who have votes) rather than animals (who don’t). Nor has the status of animals in Spain been helped by the Catholic Church that for years told the people that cats and dogs had no rights as they didn’t have souls. Indeed the Spanish bishops recently caused outrage when they ran an advertising campaign complaining that the endangered Lynx had more protection than the unborn human foetus. One might ask whether clergy that sided with the fascists, protected the interests of the rich over the poor and abused children also had souls – but that is a debate for another day.

It used to be said that you could judge a society by how it cared for its old people. Perhaps we should now add – and for its animals either within the home or when abandoned.

It was St Francis of Assisi who said: “If you have men who will exclude any of God's creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity, you will have men who will deal likewise with their fellow men.”

My point entirely.

Saturday, June 27, 2009


I never wrote about Michael Jackson when he was alive – if I had I doubt whether it would have been positive.

Sticking to the age old adage - never speak ill of the dead - I will not write about him now.

Yet I will talk of his passing and more specifically Sky News.

When I tuned in to Sky News on Friday – at around 6.00 Spanish time – his death was deemed as breaking news.

When I tuned in to Sky News – at around 14.00 – it was still breaking news.

Again on Friday evening –it was still breaking news.

In between times as far as Sky was concerned there was no other news.

There were no demonstrations in Iran.

No atrocities in Iraq.

No attacks in Afghanistan.

No world economic crisis.

No British MPs pay scandal.

No train crash in Madrid.

Wimbledon had been forgotten.

Indeed apart from Michael Jackson dying all was right with the world.

Now even Michael Jackson can only die once. However if all it takes for all our problems to disappear is for a pop or film star to fall off this mortal coil – then there’s no shortage of candidates.

Indeed we could start the process with a Sky News newsreader!

(As I tuned in to Sky News this morning it was still breaking news. Only now the Prima Dona has been flown to Los Angeles and posted outside the coroner’s office. As 23.00 LA time passed she told us with due gravitas that the body of Michael Jackson was still inside and the family only had a short time that night to have it collected. She then interviewed a member of the paparazzi who said he had blue prints of the building – a helicopter in the air – and when that body moved he’d know about it. An official from the coroner’s office then emerged – told us that Michael Jackson’s remains had been taken to another location just after 21.00 – several hours earlier - and when asked “was it in secret?” replied: “no – in a van”. Laugh I could have cried!)


Before she left us my mother told my sister that when she died and got safely to wherever she was going she’d arrange a thunder clap to say all was o.k. As a woman of her word the afternoon she died she duly obliged with an impressive rumble.

Yesterday was the fifth anniversary of my mother’s death.

At around the time of her passing thunder boomed over my sister’s house.

The clocks stopped.

The kettle started behaving oddly.

My sister’s new puppy stared in to the living room as if somebody – a stranger - was there.

Now if you believed in such things….

Friday, June 26, 2009


I am currently reading Indian Summer by Alex Von Tunzelmann in which she details the role of the Mountbattens in the partitioning of India to form Pakistan and the hand over of power in 1947. What struck me is the details given on how that partition was carried out strictly on religious grounds without any reference to the realities of local life with the then Moslem Eastern Pakistan (now Bangladesh) being deliberately made unviable in the belief that it would be forced to reunite with Hindu India.

Now I have often mentioned in this blog that I was brought up in Britain in the 50s and 60s as a Catholic in what was then a fundamentally Protestant country. I certainly remember taking part in Corpus Christi processions through the streets of my home town. Now whilst these are common yearly events in Spain, and wider Catholic Europe, it must have made a curious sight for my fellow Londoners. However in all those years I can truly say that I was never made aware of any anti-Catholic feeling. Indeed I remember when a divorcee moved in to our street accompanied by much nudge-nudging and sly winks. The woman was in all probability the innocent, hurt party but she was - the divorcee. Yet although we were the only Catholic family in the street and all marched off to mass on Sunday mornings, high days and holidays, never a word was said.

It was only when I moved to Dublin in the early 1970s that for the first time in my life religion became an issue. I would be asked straight out in the office was I Catholic or Protestant – a topic that had never been raised in my four previous jobs or whilst I was in the Royal Auxiliary Air Force. I soon learned that whilst Dublin is the capital of the Catholic Republic of Ireland, such companies as Guinness, Boland’s or Gouldings were Protestant concerns, where leading with the right rather than the left foot would help in your climb up the promotional ladder. Most of the people I worked with were Catholics but there were some Protestants who were clients who believed that because I was English I must be one of them.

By then of course I wasn’t one of anything because although born a Catholic (and hence according to the Church always a Catholic) I was non-practicing and was as I am today an agnostic. It was all rather bemusing and amusing for more often than not in London it had been presumed, especially in the media world, that I was Jewish – but that’s another story.

Thursday, June 25, 2009


I was yesterday reading a very interesting report by my esteemed colleague Brian Reyes in the Gibraltar Chronicle (see note at the end of this blog). It concerned a report published by the environmental group Greenpeace in conjunction with environmental groups on both sides of the border on the need for the Spanish, British and Gibraltarian government’s to put their political differences aside in order to tackle the problems in the bay zone.

One paragraph caught my eye: “As if to underline the point, the report is careful to refer to the bay as ‘the Bay of Algeciras/Bay of Gibraltar’, reflecting the differing positions on jurisdiction.”

The naming of the bay has been a constant thorn in my side. If you are Gibraltarian – it is the Bay of Gibraltar, which I believe it also its internationally accepted name. If you are Spanish – it is the Bahía de Algeciras – the Bay of Algeciras. Over the years I have received stinging fleas in my ear from Llanito readers when in an article on Gibraltar I have referred to the bay with its Spanish name.

Now I am more careful. If writing specifically for Gibraltar – I use the Bay of Gibraltar. If I am writing from a Spanish angle – it’s the Bay of Algeciras. More often than not I duck the issue and talk of the bay zone.

Brian also referred to “less well-known concerns such as the fact that most towns in the area - including both Gibraltar and Algeciras - pump untreated sewage directly into the sea.”

Now I have known for a long time about the problem of Algeciras. Indeed I have written on it many times as it has been faced with action by the EU as it is the only town of its size in Spain without a water treatment plant, contravenes Euro law and hence Madrid faced heavy sanctions. A sewage plant is now under construction but it would be a wiser man than me who would give you a date when this will actually be operational.

However I had no idea that the same situation existed in Gibraltar. The Rock with a population of no more than 30,000 is tiny compared with its neighbour across the bay with an official population of 115,000 but where many more people live and heavy industry exists.

None-the-less I was rather alarmed to learn that Gibraltar with its advanced infrastructure – with plans underway for a new airport plus major developments off the west beach – has not installed a water treatment plant. This after all is the most basic of requisites.

There are of course numerous major issues in the report such as bunkering, shipping, nuclear vessels, cancer concerns and the environmental effects of heavy industry. All the same it has to be said that if we are concerned with the quality of water in the bay and Strait then water treatment plants in all towns must be a top priority.

(To read Brian Reyes – Letters from Gib, an excellent blog, click on the link on the right hand side of this page. I was particularly interested to learn about his recent experiences in the House of Lords).

Wednesday, June 24, 2009


I haven’t blogged on the situation in Iran till now. To be honest it has left me rather perplexed. I have vivid memories of the overthrowing of the Shah and the Islamic regime that by seemingly popular acclaim took his place.

I am not surprised that young people in Iran are rejecting the strict Islamic rule. They were not even born when the Ayatollahs took over, have a different view of the world, are no doubt Muslims but do not wish to be ruled by the strictures of the Islamic revolution.

So what has puzzled me is that Mir Hossein Mussavi should be the catalyst for their rejection of the status quo. Young people have laid down their lives in his name and other languish in prisons or hide in fear.

Of course another generation of young Iranians also laid down their lives at his behest. Mir Hossein Mussavi was prime minister of Iran for eight years which included the bloody war with Iraq. Hundreds of thousands of young Iranians lost their lives as they rushed in to battle crying “Allah Akbar”. His hands are already wet with his country’s young men’s blood.

So this Islamic gentleman and his charismatic wife (by traditional Iranian standards) seemingly is the man carrying the banner of freedom for his people.

Has this Persian leopard changed his spots?

Are the young people who are dying and protesting in his name true followers of Mir Hossein Mussavi or do they hope that if he can break the strangle hold of the mullahs they can then go on to win their own revolution?

I know not but I am old enough to have seen many false dawns that have, in time, been the heralds of profound change.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


If you have read my blogs over a long period you will know that I am very supportive of the Transition Towns movement.

I have to thank my good friend James Machin for keeping me fully abreast of many environmental issues. We marched together against the Cepsa refinery at Campamento in San Roque. He kept me in touch with the work of the Bucket Brigades in Gibraltar and the bay zone. He was briefing me on Peak Oil in the days when it meant little to a few – now Google ‘Peak Oil’ and you’ll see its one of the hot topics of our age debated from Wall Street to Wallsend.

The same is true of the Transition Town movement. It started in Ireland in a town that is very close to my heart and soul - Kinsale. There Rob Hopkins had worked with the students of Kinsale Further Education College in writing an "Energy Descent Action Plan" and one of them, Louise Rooney, set about developing the Transition Towns concept and presented it to Kinsale Town Council. This resulted in the historic decision by councillors to adopt the plan and work towards energy independence. There are now at least 100 such communities in the UK, Rob started the first in Britain in Totnes and James was instrumental in forming the first group in Spain – Ciudad de Transición Estepona.

Indeed the real challenge for our age is not that we have reached Peak Oil but also possibly Peak Food. Therefore in the coming decades our communities will have to cope with the decline in our conventional oil powered lifestyle and our ability to produce sufficient food to feed our people.

This is a serious issue that involves all the communities spread throughout the world. Communities within the Transition Town movement are encouraged to seek out methods for reducing energy usage as well as increasing their own self reliance. In short this is a matter that should concentrate all our minds – and depending on our ages the implications will impact on us, our children and our children’s children.

So why my concern? I have just visited a website – no names, no pack drill – that promotes the Transition Movement but at a coming festival offers workshops on giving hugs, music improvisation, body consciousness and magic – so you can visualize the transition.

Fine. I have no problems giving hugs but I find it easier to visualize a world that hasn’t made the transition than one that has. I also have nothing against festivals and am as happy to dance around a May Pole as the next man!

However my real point is this I believe the transition movement is a serious movement for everyday people and mustn’t be hijacked by those whose dreams are more important than reality.

If our communities are to make the transition, if the concept is to capture people’s imagination and more important inspire them to action then it has to be as a broad-based popular movement – one we can all identify with, one that deals with the real issues and not the abstract.

Monday, June 22, 2009


Last week Gibraltar’s Parliament voted on a private member’s bill introduced by the Minister of Justice, Daniel Feetham, on lowering the age of consent for homosexuals. A motion was recently passed by the House allowing the bill to be debated but when the actual vote was taken it was defeated by eight votes to four leaving Feetham humiliated.

Amongst those voting against the bill was the Chief Minister Peter Caruana and two of his ministers plus the opposition. Five members were missing from parliament either on holiday or government business in Guernsey.

The opposition is in favour of lowering the age of consent to 16 years for homosexuals to come in line with that for heterosexuals. However the GSLP and Liberals oppose the bill because they say it is both a poor one and is a private members bill. They argue that if a new law is required as the government states on constitutional grounds then it should be a government initiative and not a private members bill.

This is where politics comes in to play. The Chief Minister Peter Caruana has made it clear that he cannot support the move on religious grounds hence he extended a free vote in a private members bill. If the issue was brought to the house as a government measure then Caruana would be placed in the impossible position of voting against his own administration’s bill.

Gay and wider human rights supporter Peter Tatchell was quick to demand that the Foreign Office should intervene to established an equal age of consent of 16. He stated: “The Government of Gibraltar is required by the European Court of Human Rights to equalise the age of consent for same-sex relationships. The equalisation legislation should have therefore been sponsored by the government and not introduced as a private member’s bill.

“I am very surprised and disappointed that this was a private member’s bill and not a government bill. The government gives the impression that it is trying to evade its responsibility to uphold equality and human rights. “As a British Overseas Territory, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has ultimate responsibility for ensuring Gibraltar’s compliance with human rights law.

“I urge the Foreign Secretary to read the riot act to Gibraltar’s Chief Minister, Peter Caruana. Gibraltar cannot be allowed to evade its human rights obligations.

“The opposition’s vote against the bill gives a bad impression and contradicts its previous support for gay equality. They say it was principled stand against a flawed bill, which had failed to remove offensive legal references to disabled people as ‘imbeciles’, ‘idiots’ and ‘defectives.’ They protest that they were not given adequate parliamentary time to make the necessary amendments.

“The Government of Gibraltar seems intent on scuppering gay equality, with its ham-fisted tactics.

“Why was the legislation suddenly rushed through parliament, when a number of MPs were overseas and when there was insufficient time for a considered debate and amendments?” asked Tatchell?

Indeed apart from the age of consent Gibraltar is also at odds with EU over housing for Gays and its treatment of its Moroccan community.

Saturday, June 20, 2009


Rómulo, one of the rhinos at the Bioparc in Valencia, is receiving therapy to stop him walking round in circles. Apparently he has acquired this habit as he lived in a confined space for 22 years in the city’s old zoo.

The technical director of the Bioparc, Miguel Casares, says the 30-year-old rhino turns in circles of 18 metres in diameter. That was the room he had in his former enclosure and even though he now lives in a much large space he sticks to his old habits.

To help change the habits of nearly a lifetime the Bioparc has changed the objects around the rhino and introduce the smells of other species to get Rómulo to react and hence break away from his circular life.

Casares admits that there is only a small possibility that Rómulo can be cured but insists that otherwise the rhino is in good health.

I don’t know about you but I have been going round in circles for years with no sign of breaking the habit. Changing the sand, tree trunks and smells around me might help. I will let you know. Meanwhile if any reader knows a better cure – you know where to find me.

Friday, June 19, 2009


On June 5 I blogged here about the case of the Northern editor of the Dublin-based Sunday Tribune, Suzanne Breen, and asked you to sign a petition in her support.

She was the subject of a legal case brought by the Chief Constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland, Sir Hugh Orde, who wanted information on the murders of two British soldiers in March.

Suzanne Breen had received the Real IRA’s claim of responsibility for shooting dead Sappers Patrick Azimkar, 21, from London, and Mark Quinsey, 23, from Birmingham, at the gates of Massereene Army Base in Antrim.

The police wanted the court to force Breen to reveal her sources. Not only does this go against journalistic practice as a source is always protected but to have revealed the name or names would have endangered Breen’s life. Indeed had she done so it would have made many journalists’ lives more dangerous as it could have given suspicion to them also being forced to divulge sacrosanct information in the future.

Breen was adamant that she would never reveal her sources. Had she been ordered to do so by the court and refused she would have faced up to five years in prison.

She told the judge that protection of sources was the linchpin of investigative journalism and that is was the police’s job to investigate crime - not the media’s.

However there is another aspect to this case. The police and security services brought their action under the terrorism legislation. This meant that the lawyers and police spoke to the Belfast Recorder Tom Burgess in secret. Breen’s legal team made her case in public and were not party to what the police were saying and could not refute any claims made by them. This simply flies in the face of justice as we know it.

In the event Belfast Recorder Tom Burgess acknowledged that there was public interest in catching the killers but said the journalist’s right to life outweighs that.

The victory has been hailed as a victory for journalists. It is.

It is also an important victory for the British legal system where a judge refused to be bullied by the police and security services in to ruling in their favour!



Thursday, June 18, 2009


Yesterday I chewed the cud with my good friend Prospero. To be more accurate we chewed a mollete con aceite, jamón y tomate in the Bar Vecina – but same difference.

We talked of language. That in itself is a sign of our times. Twenty or thirty years ago we would have talked of sex, drugs and rock and roll – now we discuss the English and Spanish language.

Prospero, who amongst his many talents is a translator, was telling me that he’d been chatting with his colleagues on-line and apparently whilst translating from English to Spanish in Spain is taking a drop because of the economic crisis in Argentina it is on the up because they charge a lower price.

Now as Prospero is fluent in English, English American, Castellano and South American Spanish (he was born in Argentina) he was pointing out to his fellow translators the problems of say a Briton in Spain asking a Spanish translator in Argentina to work on a document as words would be different.

It was Churchill that said that Britain and the USA were two nations divided by a common language. The same is true of Spain and Latin America. However because of the cultural interaction between the zones in books, theatre, TV and cinema we normally have little difficulty communicating with our cousins across the pond.

Citizens of the USA talk of sidewalks (pavements), gas (petrol) and elevators (lifts). A bill in the USA is a bank note but in Britain it is an invoice – a biscuit in New York is a scone in London. If a Briton said fanny it would be a vulgar way of saying vagina but an American would mean buttocks. If a Briton could murder a fag – he or she would be desperate for a cigarette but in San Francisco it would mean you want to kill a homosexual.

The differences between Spain and Latin American are similar. A computer in Madrid is an ordenador but in Buenos Aires is a computadora. In Spain they talk of mantequilla (butter), aguacate (avocado) and albaricoque (apricot) but in Argentina, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay they are manteca, palta and damasco.

The words coger (to take, to catch), pisar (to step on) and concha (seashell) are commonly used in Spain but are extremely vulgar in South America.

I remember a young presenter at a radio station in Benahavís telling me with glee that her aunt hand fallen whilst on a visit to Mexico and laying on her back called out using coger. In Spain that would have meant pull me up – in Mexico – err, have sex with me – apparently the passers-by did neither!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


When I was young, yes that long ago, letters from the Civil Service in Britain would be signed – your obedient servant.

More often than not the letter was from the tax office demanding more money or a ministry turning down an application for some benefit but it came from – your obedient servant.

It was a time honoured recognition that the government, councils and the civil service served the people.

Today the people are deemed to be the servants of the politicians, governments, councils and civil service. In areas of Britain people live in fear of council officials in case they are caught putting their rubbish in to the wrong bin.

This has got to change ... change back to where the people are the rulers and elect governments and councils who in turn employ civil servants and officials to serve the people.

There is a connection between the distaste of its politicians in Britain, to protests by citizens in Spain against corrupt town halls, to the people of Iran demonstrating on the streets.

It is because those we elect and those they in turn employ believe they rule over us.

Wrong. They are our obedient servants.

(PS: on a lighter note my first job was in the Civil Service but I never sent out a letter so no “obedient servant” from me. The job bored me to tears but I did always chuckle on going to the bathroom where each sheet on the toilet roll bore the legend – OHMS – On Her Majesty’s Service).

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


Are women better drivers than men or are some men just a danger on the road?

I ask because my region of Spain, Andalucía, has seen the loss of more driving licences since the point penalty law was introduced in 2006. A total of 5,118 drivers have been banned compared with 4,465 in Cataluña and 2,589 in Madrid –less than half of the Andalucía total.

On a national level 91.7 per cent of those who have lost their licence under the points system are men. That translates to 22,072 out of the 24,046 total with just 1,974 women being banned.

Overall 1.9 million people have had points added to their licence for some infraction and men make up 75 per cent of that total.

The balance between men and women varies between regions. In Andalucía 366 women have been banned from driving compared with 4,752 men but in Cataluña 4,024 men now have to walk or take public transport compared with 441 women suffering the same fate.

The statistics were released in ‘Tráfico y Seguridad Vial’ a magazine that is edited by the Dirección General de Tráfico (DGT) - the State road authority.

Women have always argued that they are better drivers than men. Better or less likely to break the law? Your opinion will probably depend on your sex.

Monday, June 15, 2009


In March I highlighted here the plight of the many Moroccan workers employed on the Rock. I have been interested in this theme for many years from when I first came across Moroccan workers’ accommodation above what is now the beautified Casemates Square. They were third world then and although these men now live elsewhere their dwellings are still third world.

Moroccans were heavily recruited in Gibraltar after the border with Spain closed in 1969 and the cross border workforce was no more. They have taken up the slack in the Rock’s employment needs but have been treated appallingly by all administrations. Only the men are allowed on the Rock, their wives, children and wider families are banned. The direct means of travel across the short Strait from Gibraltar is haphazard at best and in an emergency they face expensive flights to the UK and then back to Morocco.

Now it is not just their own associations and those with a regard for human rights who are speaking up on behalf of the Moroccans. The British union, Unite that is represented on the Rock is fighting their cause.

Unite has promised it will pursue the issue of Moroccan workers rights in Gibraltar both in the UK and in the European Union. Unite’s National Secretary for Equalities, Collette Cork-Hurst, has issued a statement pledging that the union will intensify its campaign “to eradicate the discrimination that exists against non EU Nationals working and living in Gibraltar.”

The statement was released following a meeting with a Gibraltar TGWU/Unite delegation led by District Officer Charlie Sisarello. They were in London as part of the on-going campaign on behalf of the Moroccans. Unite expressed its criticism of what it terms “the inaction of the Gibraltar Government, and the silence maintained by the socialist opposition on this human rights issue.” Indeed I first came across the workers’ sleeping quarters during the days of the Bossano GSLP administration in the early 1990s. In the statement Charlie Sisarello said: “To add insult to injury it is incredible that political parties are attributing more importance to the issue of apes and seagulls, than to the plight of human beings. This to us is incredible to put it mildly.”

To this Mrs Cock-Hurst added: “We fully support the campaign to end unfair treatment of Moroccans and other non-EU nationals living and working in Gibraltar. Moroccans were called to Gibraltar 40 years ago and have contributed to the community through taxes and hard work over all that period of time. It is only right and long overdue that they are granted full citizenship rights and all the other benefits that this entails including residency rights, access to decent and affordable housing and improved access for Moroccans travelling from Gibraltar to Morocco.

“We call on the UK and Gibraltar Governments, Moroccans organizations in Gibraltar, trade unions and other interested parties to work together and to end the injustices facing many Moroccan people in Gibraltar.”

The plight of the Moroccans is a stain on Gibraltar’s reputation and gives rise to the claim that the Rock believes that people from the “third world” should be treated as lesser mortals when in fact they are the same as us – human beings.


Sunday, June 14, 2009


The president of Venezuela, Hugo Chávez, has been speaking again – when does he ever stop – and is now upset with some Europeans who have said he is vulgar.

The word that has got him in to trouble is “El Vergatario”. That is what he labelled a new low cost mobile phone that has come on to the market for 30 bolívares – around 13.95 US dollars.

Clutching a dictionary in hand Chávez lamented that Europeans had said that he had called the phone “a penis”. He then stated that his copy of the Pequeño Larousse had many descriptions for “Vergatario” including it meant - of much quality, to be very good.

Not in my book it doesn’t. There “Vergatario” is listed as penis, a crossbow and various naval connotations.

So is Chávez vulgar and gross - or just misunderstood?

It’s a tough call!

Previous Chávez blog –

Saturday, June 13, 2009


As my blogs this week have been on the heavy side I was looking for a little light relief for the weekend. I have failed you miserably!

In my inbox I found an email and photographs from a reader that quite frankly left me stunned. I used to visit New York a lot but having watched the events of 9/11 unfold on my TV screen as they happened I am not sure I could ever visit there again. The Air France crash has also left me cold. I cannot vouch for the authenticity of the photographs or the caption – you look, you read, you decide!

“Un amigo me ha enviado este correo. No hay palabras para la persona que tuvo la valentía de hacer estas fotos justamente antes de morir. La vocación de los que amamos la fotografía.”

Yesterday the world saw the disappearance of an A330 Air France during a trans Atlantic flight between Rio to Paris. Very ironic that a day before I got a mail of the photos taken by a passenger on a flight mins after a mid air collision, and mins before the crash of the said aircraft. Two shots taken inside the plane before it crashed. Unbelievable! Photos taken inside the GOLB 737 aircraft that was involved in a mid air collision and crashed.....

A B737 had a mid air collision with the Embraer Legacy while cruising at 35,000 feet over South America. The Embraer Legacy, though seriously damaged with the winglet ripped off, managed to make a landing at a nearby airstrip in the midst of the Amazon jungle. The crew and passengers of the Embraer Legacy had no idea what they had hit. The B737 however crashed, killing all crew and passengers on board.

The two photos attached were apparently taken by one of the passengers in the B737, just after the collision and before the aircraft crashed. The photos were retrieved from the camera's memory stick. You will never get to see photos like this. In the first photo, there is a gaping hole in the fuselage through which you can see the tail plane and vertical fin of the aircraft. In the second photo, one of the passengers is being sucked out of the gaping hole.

These photos were found in a digital Casio Z750, amidst the remains in Serra do Cachimbo. Although the camera was destroyed, the Memory Stick was recovered. Investigating the serial number of the camera, the owner was identified as Paulo G. Muller, an actor of a theatre for children known in the outskirts of Porto Alegre. It can be imagined that he was standing during the impact with the Embraer Legacy and during the turbulence, he managed to take these photos, just seconds after the tail loss the aircraft plunged. So the camera was found near the cockpit. The structural stress probably ripped the engines away, diminishing the falling speed, protecting the electronic equipment but not unfortunately the victims. Paulo Muller leaves behind two daughters, Bruna and Beatriz.

Friday, June 12, 2009


In the Andalucía town of Ronda the Partido Andalucista mayor, Antonio Marín, along with his party’s councillors have left the PA and become members of PSOE.

There was no surprise here. Previously he had courted the Partido Popular but as they didn’t seem keen to have him in their ranks he booted the centre right party out of his coalition and brought on board the centre left socialists instead.

As the PA is in coalition with PSOE it means little in the day-to-day governance of the municipality. However there is a wider issue here.

Voters (remember us?) elect their politicians based on their decisions on Election Day. A large number of people in Ronda rejected PSOE, PP, the IU and any other party on the ballot and chose the Partido Andalucista. Now they find they are totally unrepresented.

Several months ago a Republican senator in the USA decided he’d become a Democrat. The majority of people in his State voted Republican –they should have a Republican voice in Washington.

British MPs have occasionally switched parties turning a Conservative seat Liberal or whatever.

This is where politicians have lost the plot. They are elected to speak for us not to treat us with total contempt once they have gained office.

If any politician feels that the party he or she was voted in as a member of no longer meets their beliefs then they should resign in favour of reserve candidates or hold a by-election so that the voters can either return him or her in their new colours or choose another party.

Democracy is about voters not politicians.

Thursday, June 11, 2009


The Andalucía regional government has now approved its law for a dignified death, legislation that has very much been pioneered in Spain.

The ‘Ley de Derechos y Garantiás de la Dignidad de las Personas en el Proceso de la Muerte’ will now pass to the Andalucía Parliament for final approval.

The law has the support of the ruling socialists, the far-left Izquierda Unida as well as the Partido Popular that traditionally is the hardest critic of such proposals. The spokesperson for the PP in the Andalucía Parliament, Esperanza Oña, stated: “Everybody has a right to a dignified death because nobody wants to die with unnecessary suffering.”

The law will allow a person aged 16 years or over who is terminally ill to reject treatment that only prolongs their life in an artificial manner. It does not allow for euthanasia or assisted suicide. These two subjects are covered by the Spanish penal code which a regional government has no right to alter. The law does not allow for medical staff to refuse to comply with a patient's wishes although the rights of doctors and nurses are laid out in other legislation.

The need for the legal provision for a dignified death has been driven by such tragic cases of that of Inmaculada Echevarría. This woman who suffered from progressive muscular dystrophy was kept alive for 10 years on a breathing machine against her wishes. She died at the age of 51 having been immobile for 30 years but didn’t want her breathing machine turned off as she said that would be a “cruel” death but wanted a lethal injection instead. She finally died at the Hospital de San Juan de Dios in Granada after being heavily sedated to ensure she didn’t suffer when the life support machine being disconnected.

During one period when my former partner was in the Punta Europa Hospital in Algeciras with terminal lung cancer she shared a room with a man also in the final stages of the disease. He lay in bed largely unaware what was going on around him with his wife and her sister in attendance. The sister confided that it was a terrible ordeal for all of them and stated that had he been in hospital in Madrid his and their agony would have been peacefully ended.

Whether that was fact or fiction I know not. I do know that some six weeks later he was still being kept alive. My partner had been taken back in to hospital but was in a different room. The man finally died one night crying out in much pain which must have had a terrible effect on him and his family in his final moments as well as the fellow cancer sufferers who would have feared such an end for themselves.

May we all have the good fortune to die in peace.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


Last Thursday Gibraltar along with the rest of the UK voted in the Euro Elections. It was the second time that the Rock has been able to cast a vote for Euro MPs as part of the South West England and Gibraltar constituency. In the first elections in 2006 there was a high turn out on the Rock as Gibraltarians had won a hard fought battle to vote but the indications are that this year there was a lot of voter apathy.

In some ways this is hardly surprising. Gibraltarians are a sophisticated people politically but they were being asked to support parties that have no bearing on their day to day life. The key candidates were Tories, Labour and Lib Dems who do not exist as parties in Gibraltar although the GSLP and Liberals have links to the later two.

In the 2006 elections Gibraltarian Lyana Armstrong-Emery stood for the Greens. In this election Llanito Liberal Jonathan Stagnetto was a candidate for the Lib Dems but as the sixth candidate on the list had no chance of being elected. To make the Euro elections relevant to Gibraltarians either they should have their own seat or have candidates high on the list on all the major parties.

Ahead of last week’s polling the Progressive Democratic Party restated that its objective is to secure a separate MEP for Gibraltar. Until that happens the PDP says it considers that there is a democratic deficit to the detriment of the people of Gibraltar.

In a statement the PDP said: “There is no doubt that the MEPs from the three mainstream political parties, have served Gibraltar well. A vote for any of these is a vote for people who in the past have shown support for Gibraltar. The issue of course does not end there and Gibraltarians will have to judge the parties on their overall commitments to Gibraltar in areas such as sovereignty, self-determination or our defence on economic, environmental or social matters of importance within the European Union.”

“Additionally their attitude to Gibraltar having a separate MEP is important. None of the major parties, Conservative, Labour or Liberal Democrat have so far committed themselves to allocate a separate seat for Gibraltar.”

In the run-up to last Thursday’s election the PDP call on all three of the British parties to adopt that as official party policy. It noted Labour’s Glyn Ford has expressed his personal support for this but as yet it is not a Labour party commitment.

On Stagnetto the PDP observed: “Equally welcome is the inclusion by the Liberal Democrats of a Gibraltarian on their list. However given that seats are allocated to those at the top of the list only, the reality is that because he is at the bottom of the list Jonathan Stagnetto stands no real chance of being elected even if all Gibraltarians voted for him. It would have been different if he had been named second on the list. The conservatives have given firm and high profile commitments on sovereignty but have not pronounced themselves on the issue of a separate MEP for Gibraltar.”

In last Thursday’s Euro vote the Conservatives won 51.93 per cent of the Gibraltar vote followed in a distant second place by Labour on 18.53. The Lib Dems with Jonathan Stagnetto on the ticket polled just 17.71 per cent. The staggering statistic was that only 7,166 Gibraltarians or EU citizens opted to vote – around 35 per cent of the electorate (compared with 58 per cent in 2006) – well below the EU average. Gibraltar is now represented by three Conservatives, two UKIPs and one Lib Dem – the long serving Labour Euro MP, Glyn Ford, lost his seat.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009


There was outrage in the UK after the far right BNP picked up district council and Euro MP seats.

There was an indignant snort as I left the polling booth on Sunday after a fellow voter spotted a Falange voting list amongst the numerous parties on offer in Spain.

Of course the difference is that the BNP scored some success whilst the Falange secured just a fistful of votes.

I carry no candle for extremists in politics be they on the right or the left. For me the television shots of hate filled protestors outside Manchester town hall preventing the BNP leader, Nick Griffin, from entering was just as troubling as his party’s success within the same building.

However I would still argue that the participation of these parties is good for democracy.

For those of us in the middle ground it is a strong reminder that we treat democracy with disinterest or disdain at our peril. To ensure the merchants of hate and prejudice stay solely on the fringes we have to make sure that the main body politic remains healthy and meets the diverse needs of our people.

The BNP voters didn’t come from thin air. A significant proportion normally support the Labour Party so it is a sobering thought that this party of the centre-left is home to those who would vent their anger and frustration by voting for fascists.

Equally the Falange was the party of Franco. All political parties are a broad church and the centre right Partido Popular would be the normal home of those on the far right. As the PP is currently in the ascendant there is little cause to vote Falange…but that could change.

I sometimes watch Fox News to remind myself why I don’t want to be an American. There is a sector of US politicians who believe that democracy is only valid as long as it elects parties that agree with them. They argue that being a democratic nation and electing politicians who do not agree with the Republican or US objectives must somehow be fundamentally undemocratic.

Not so. The election of the BNP and the standing of the Falange is good for democracy because it reminds us of what is at stake and also gives us the opportunity at future ballots to reject basically evil creeds. If they should succeed it is because we and the centre-based political parties have failed - for that there is a heavy price to pay.

Monday, June 8, 2009


It must be a glummer Gordon Brown than usual that woke up in the flat above 10 Downing Street this morning. After the mauling he received in the local elections, the fiasco of his reshuffle, the booing from sections of the crowd in Normandy he now finds his party’s Euro vote has collapsed pushing Labour in to third place being the Tories and UKIP. I guess its good news though for Nokia as the British PM will no doubt hurl a couple more mobile phones around and they’ll need to be replaced.

I watched the election results come in on Spain’s TVE1 and Sky News. In Spain we polled on Sunday and by 22.00 around 80 per cent of the vote was in and we knew how the parties had fared.

Over on Sky News a depressed Adam Bolton was left reviewing the results from Spain, Poland, Italy and elsewhere in far-flung Europe. One constituency in England told him the result might not be known for six hours...even the rest would take a good while to crawl in. I bet Gordon Brown muttered “what’s the rush, what’s the rush!”

In Spain the centre right Partido Popular’s leader, Mariano Rajoy, and his party’s supporters were wearing large smiles. Hardly surprising as the party had chalked up its first National election victory since it lost power in 2004.

In the interim the PP has lost two Spanish General Elections and the last Euro poll so Sunday’s victory tasted very sweet indeed. However whilst prime minister, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero will have been disappointed with second place the results were far better than a government battling with the full effects of the economic crisis could rightfully expect. Indeed how his socialist counterpart in London must envy him.

After Sunday’s poll the PP have 23 Euro MPs a loss of one over 2005. PSOE have 21 four less than last time out when they had a one seat advantage over the PP. The PP commanded 42.23 per cent of the vote (41.21 in 2005) and PSOE slumped to 38.51 compared with 43.48. So PSOE are firmly in second place but it not a disastrous result and with the general election not due to 2012 Zapatero will still be hopeful of a recovery. What would Gordon Brown give for 38.51 per cent of the vote? Don’t ask!

Saturday, June 6, 2009


On Tuesday I wrote about the mayor of Puerto Real, José Antonio Barroso, who was that day facing the judge – José María Vázquez Honrubia – in the High Court in Madrid.

He was answering a case brought by the Ministerio Fiscal that in April last year at a Republican Rally in Los Barrios he had made statements in his speech that were injurious to the king – Juan Carlos I.

The State prosecutor was seeking a fine of 10,800 euros and in the event the judge found Barroso guilty of excessive criticism of the monarch and wacked him for 6,840 euros – 18 euros a day for 12 months.

For the full story you can read my blog below but the essence is that Barroso, a staunch Republican, had stated his belief that the king is corrupt, as was his father who was also a playboy – or words to that effect.

I believe this is a serious issue but in life I have found most such stories have a humorous side as does this.

It now transpires that the co-ordinator general of Izquierda Unida – the party of José Antonio Barroso – says the IU is to write to the king to ask him to help pay the 6,848 euros fine. He argues that Juan Carlos I has more financial assets that Barroso and the IU which has economic difficulties.

I am not sure whether Cayo Lara was smiling when he announced this news – I certainly was when I read it. However it does strike me that if Barroso is a staunch Republican and anti-monarchist (as well may be Lara) then the last person they should ask for help is the king – but then what do I know.

Friday, June 5, 2009


As this week I have been blogging about freedom of speech and the role of journalists it is perhaps appropriate that I should today feature the case of Suzanne Breen.

Suzanne Breen is the Northern Ireland editor of the Dublin-based Sunday Tribune and could be jailed by the Belfast Court for not handing over to the Police Service of Northern Ireland her notes, recording material, mobile phone and other material relating to her articles about the Real IRA.

There are two worrying aspects about this case.

First the protection of confidential sources is internationally recognised as one of the basic principles of press freedom. If journalists are forced to disclose source information, whether to the state or other organisations, the very future of investigative journalism could be put at risk. Indeed it is no exaggeration to say that Breen’s life could be laid on the line.

Second, and astonishingly, we are talking of the United Kingdom where Anti Terrorism legislation is being used in this case so it is being heard in private, without even Suzanne Breen or her legal team being given the opportunity to hear the case being put by the police. This means that Ms Breen will be forced to make her case without even knowing the evidence that has been put by the other side. Such a move seems to go against the very basic principles of justice.

When it comes down to it if Suzanne Breen is ordered to hand over her materials she will refuse and be jailed...the alternative is not an option.

NUJ Irish Secretary Séamus Dooley, said: “The PSNI has made a sweeping application aimed at forcing Suzanne Breen and the Sunday Tribune to hand over confidential material. A journalist who hands over confidential material is compromised and is immediately put at risk. Suzanne Breen has no option but to refuse to hand over material.

“The basis for the PSNI application is evidence provided in private ... when even Ms Breen’s legal team were barred from the court. How can Suzanne respond fully to this application since neither she or her legal team are aware of what precisely was said in court by the PSNI ...”

“The right to protect sources is vital to journalists. Recent revelations in the UK regarding the expenses regime at Westminster underline the importance of protecting Whistle Blowers. Any legal threat to the protection of sources is a direct threat to whistle-blowers and is therefore not in the public interest.”

If you wish to add your voice in support of Suzanne Breen and press freedom sign the petition at this link.


Thursday, June 4, 2009


Regular readers of my blog will know that I often refer to themes that are carried on Voto en Blanco – a blog that I believe is required reading for all Britons living in Spain. As I have explained previously I do not argue that you should accept all or any of the views expressed there but I do believe that as foreign residents in Spain we should engage with themes and views being discussed by thinking Spaniards.

Voto en Blanco is the blog of Francisco Rubiales – an esteemed Spanish journalist who amongst other positions was the “Madrid” correspondent in the Far East and Mexico and headed the EFE bureaux in Cuba, Central America and Italy. Now he has sharpened his ancient quill to pen a new book “Periodistas Sometidos. Los Perros del Poder” (Almuzara 2009). It is the last of a trilogy that deals with politics and power – in this volume he looks at the role of journalists. It is being read with great interest by politicians, journalists and citizens who are interested in knowing in detail the deep crisis in the media in Spain.

Francisco lays the blame, in part, at the foot of journalists for what he sees as the assassination of politics by the Spanish political parties that has transformed the country into an oligarchy without dignity or respect. “The free media is the spine of democracy, but the submissive media is the supporter of tyranny.”

Francisco states: “The Spanish media is ill because there are too many professionals who have resigned to independence in which they do not propagate the truth, but the truth of the power, that is very different, and that has been in exchange for money, privileges or, which is worse still, awaiting being compensated by the powerful ones. Those journalists who contribute light, independent information and truth, are the guardians of the democracy, but those that have been put under are “Los Perros del Poder” - “the dogs of the power”.

In reality many journalists – perhaps the majority – are not free even in democracies to express independent views or facts. They instead have to reflect the views or stances of their employers – often large media groups.

The biggest political story with implications for democracy is the revelations in the Daily Telegraph over MPs expenses. However it was the management of that newspaper that decided to buy the discs containing the damning information whilst other newspapers passed up the opportunity. It was only then that the project was handed over to journalists.

A degree of independence is allowed in some newspapers. Staying with the Daily Telegraph on Saturday it ran a leader urging its largely “conservative” readership not to vote for UKIP in the Euro elections. However its respected columnist, Simon Heffer, on the same day in his column stated he would be voting for UKIP and suggested his readers did likewise. Two different “conservative” viewpoints were allowed within the same publication – but Simon Heffer would never be tolerated in the socialist Daily Mirror, nor probably would he ever wish to toil there.

Of course as Francisco identifies it is on the internet and in blogs that journalists can break free from the shackles and state views, present facts or instigate arguments that would never be tolerated by our media or political masters in conventional publications. Without doubt the internet is a vital tool in preserving democracy but those who would wish only to propagate their version of the truth also know this – hence we must be prepared to defend that freedom as many journalists have done in the past with imprisonment and even death.

(Voto en Blanco – http://www.votoenblanco.com/
This column also appears on Blogs de Cádiz – for both click banners on the right)

Wednesday, June 3, 2009


On Sunday June 7 Spain goes to the polls to elect its Euro MPs. Spaniards will be joined at the polling stations by EU citizens who have registered to vote. This year an Irishman is the first non-Spanish citizen to head a national party list in Spanish political history.

Sean O’Curneen Cañas was born in Washington, USA, but moved to Spain when he was six. He is standing for the CDL - Centro Democrático Liberal – which also has another Briton, Jacqueline Cotterill, at number four.

As the name suggests the CDL is a Liberal party and has been endorsed by Nick Clegg, Leader of the British Liberal Democrats; Guy Verhofstadt, Prime Minister of Belgium from 1999 to 2008; Graham Watson, Leader of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) in the European Parliament and candidate for President of the European Parliament; and Flo Clucas, President of ALDE in the EU's Committee of the Regions and Deputy Leader of Liverpool City Council.

In recent days Sean has been on the road from his Madrid base campaigning in Barcelona and Murcia. I managed to halt him for a short break to ask him why he chose the CDL. Sean told me: “Working for the European Liberals in Brussels, Europe’s third largest political force, with 100 MEPs, 5 Prime Ministers, 9 of the 27 European Commissioners, we are a strong and decisive political force in Europe. Although of Irish nationality, I am and feel more Spanish than anything else, and upon arriving in Brussels I was determined to ensure that the people of Spain have what most other Europeans have: greater political plurality and the opportunity to vote for a centrist, liberal democrat party.”

So why should ex-pats vote for the CDL rather than the mainstream PSOE, PP, IU and Greens? Sean replied: “The CDL hopes to achieve a number of things on the Spanish and the European front. In the European Parliament, one of our priorities will be to ensure that the Auken Report, which strongly condemned Spanish authorities because of the urban planning abuses, is followed through and its recommendations are carried out. We will be very vigilant to ensure that the EU rights of citizens are not infringed and we will be working to develop new rights for citizens throughout the Union. In addition, championing sustainable renewable energies, the role of small and medium sized enterprises, and opening up the EU to greater interaction with its citizens, for example by enhancing the role of the Parliament's petitions committee.”

Sean added: “No other Spanish party would have dared to put a non-Spanish citizen as their head of list, and indeed include another one as number 4 - Jacqueline Cotterill - out of a list of 50 candidates. In this way, CDL shows that it understands and cares for the EU citizens living in Spain and is determined to work for all citizens in Spain, regardless of their nationality.”

Britons voting in Spain on Sunday will find some differences from the usual system at home. Spain is a national constituency and you do not put an “x” against the candidates you wish to vote for put chose a party list. Inside the booth will be slips for PSOE, PP, IU and all the other parties offering candidates including the Centro Democrático Liberal – CDL. Make sure the “papeletas” have not been interfered with and if you are voting CDL that Sean O’Curneen Cañas’s name is top. If you can’t find a ‘papeleta’ for the party of your choice then ask for one. Finally fold your paper, put it in an envelope provided and pop it in the ballot box.

PS: Best wishes to Jonathan Stagnetto, a Gibraltar Liberal, who is standing for the Lib Dems in the South West England and Gibraltar constituency. In the last election Lyana Armstrong-Emery also stood as a Gibraltarian in the same constituency for the Greens. Liberal Leader, Dr Joseph Garcia, tells me Jonathan is sixth on the list so sadly he, like Lyana, is placed so far down that his election is highly unlikely. We look forward to the day when a British party follows the CDL lead and places a Llanito at the head of its list in the South West England and Gibraltar constituency.

(A nod in the direction of my good friend Lenox Napier for his help in this blog. You can click on his own blog – Spanish Shilling – in the box on the right.)

Tuesday, June 2, 2009


The left-wing mayor of Puerto Real, José Antonio Barroso, appears in the Spanish High Court today (Tuesday) to answer the charges that he called King Juan Carlos amongst other things corrupt.

He made the remarks at the 77 th anniversary of the Declaration of the Second Republic on April 14 2008 at a meeting in Los Barrios.

Now Barroso is a leading member in Cádiz province of the Izquierda Unida and a Republican - in my book he should be free to express his views.

Not so says the State prosecutor so he could be fined 10,800 euros.

The Spanish King and the Royal Family are largely popular but there are those who genuinely hold the view that Spain should be a Republic and that the king comes with a large amount of baggage.

During the meeting Barroso said of King Juan Carlos:

“El Borbón es el hijo de un crápula.”

“El Rey es de naturaleza corrupta porque lo es de condición, pero también los es en lo personal.”

“El Borbón de condición deleznable, el presente no es menos deleznable de lo que su padre fue.”
Basically that his father was a debaucher and the King is corrupt as was his father.

Now I am sure there are many people who hold similar views about the British Royal family yet they don’t end up in court by expressing them at a Republican meeting.

Had Barroso urged people to kill the king or members of the Royal family or threatened to do so himself he would have a case to answer.

But in a democracy we are all entitled to express our genuinely held views freely and without hindrance and if the king finds them objectionable then it is he and not the State prosecutor who should seek legal address.

That is what free speech is all about. We might not like what somebody says but we should defend his or her right to say it.

Monday, June 1, 2009


There are many good reasons for living in or visiting Britain but the weather isn’t one of them.

For some years I lived in a village that was supposedly the driest place in the UK. The first August I was there not only was there non-stop rain but it bucked down. I remember thinking if this is the driest place what is the wettest place like?

Hence my amusement when Britain actually has a really warm day the newspaper headlines shout – and the weather girls gloat – “We’re hotter than Spain today”. Indeed – shame about the other 364 days.

It is difficult to talk of Spanish weather because it’s such a large country with differing weather zones. Last Monday afternoon I called in to a bodega near Sevilla for a plate of fried fish and a glass of chilled Barbadillo white wine. It wasn’t hot by Sevilla standards but warm enough. I sat stunned watching a TV report, I think from La Rioja, where that morning there had been a deluge and JCBs had to be brought in to remove the feet deep hail stones from the streets. Cars had been washed away, houses flooded and there sat I slaking my thirst with a bottle of water.

The summers in Andalucía are hot but on the days when the thermometers really peak I have never read or heard in the media – it’s hotter than Athens or Rome today. Well we know it’s hotter than London but what about Timbuktu when we swelter in the high 40s?

I wish Britain many sunny, happy days. Yet you know full well if they should occur they’ll be national angst over heat stroke, jelly fish in the sea, overcrowding on the beaches, buckling lines on the railways, road tarmac melting – better to stay cold and damp – then for one day a year to be hotter than Spain… and shout it out loud!