Friday, July 15, 2011


To start at the end this is my 600 th Tilting at Windmills blog. Hence it seems a good place as any to say goodbye, for now. I have enjoyed my time tilting at the numerous windmills out there but for the next couple of months I have to tilt at others in real life.

My Gibraltar Viewpoint column will still appear on a weekly basis and Looking to the Left updated as and when my features appear in The Morning Star. You will find the links on the right hand of this page.

For now I leave you with Richard ‘Stinker’ Murdoch. He was born in 1907 and died in 1990 during which period he became a household name as a radio comedian as well as a film and TV actor.

He went to Charterhouse School, where a ‘Stinker’ almost certainly existed in the dorm. Whilst at Pembroke College, Cambridge he joined the Footlights. His big radio break came with the BBC comedy programme Band Wagon that ran from 1938 to 1940. He was part of a double act with Arthur Askey and it is from there he acquired his ‘Stinker’ handle. During World War II he served in the RAF.

Amongst his many roles he appeared with Kenneth Horne in BBC Radio’s Much Binding In The Marsh (1944-54), The Men from the Ministry (1962 – 77) and even appeared in the first TV series of Blackadder. His final TV appearance came a few months after his death in an episode of Rumpole of the Bailey where he played Uncle Tom, the senior briefless barrister in chambers.

When I rejoin you the name “Stinker” may have been added to two other members of that clan. Richard would have been appalled, like the rest of us, by the antics of Rupert and James but whilst he was a loveable, much admired character they certainly are not.

See you soon!

Thursday, July 14, 2011


I am sure that many readers have been glued to their seats in front of the TV in recent days as the revelations about Murdoch’s iffy empire poured in and his bid for BSkyB unravelled.

However one man actually made me fall out of my seat. He was Andy Hayman who incredibly was a former Met assistant commissioner and was in overall charge of the 2006 investigation.

He was up before the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee and one of the MPs, Lorraine Fullbrook, described him as a “dodgy geezer”. Which is ironic as the chairman of the committee, the senior Labour MP Keith Vaz, has had his collar felt numerous times by the House of Commons authorities. As of yet Hayman is as straight as a dye till he’s ever found to be bent as a cork screw.

Hayman’s problem is he is a Cockney. Well many of us were born in the “Smoke” but few of us sound like extras playing small time crooks in an episode of Arthur Daley’s Minder.

Within months of leaving the force Hayman took a job with The Times, one of Murdoch’s upmarket organs. Not only did he see nothing wrong with this given the fact the Met have been investigating News International one has to wonder how if Hayman “can’t talk proper” he manages to write.

He told the committee his boyhood dream was to be either a journalist or a copper. A dream for him, a nightmare for both professions!

He also admitted he had enjoyed dinners with News International staff despite conducting an investigation into their behaviour although he wasn’t quite sure when the dinners took place. “It could look bad,” he admitted, “It does look bad.”

Hayman even had the nerve to mock the former Labour Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott’s complaints about phone-hacking saying he’d eat his words if the claims were true. I would have thought the verbally challenged Hayman and Prescott had much in common and as Prescott’s claims have been shown to be true we all await Plod of the Yard’s paper eating feat. I guess we have to wait for him to extract his ‘daisy roots’ from his mouth first.

There are allegations that police officers had been bribed and all those appearing before the Committee were asked if they had accepted any iffy cash. The previous two officers replied firmly they had not. Hayman lost his cool: “Good God!” he yelled, “I'm not letting her get away with it! I can’t believe you asked that!” She, the doughty Lorraine Fullbrook had, and his response suggested this man doth protest too much!

Having watched Hayman before the committee it would be easy to image him as a DI down the local nick. What is as shocking as the Murdoch revelations is that Plod of the Yard was one of the Met’s most senior officers. Pot Pourri! As Del Boy would say!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011


Viewers of British television of a certain age will remember well Lance Corporal Jones in the BBC comedy series about the Home Guard – Dad’s Army. One of his catchphrases was “Don’t Panic!” which he shouted repeatedly whilst doing just that.

Jones would have felt at home in Almaraz in Cáceres last Friday when the nuclear alarm was broadcast over loudspeakers. The town is close to a nuclear power station which the Consejo de Seguridad Nuclear (CSN) says has two reactors.

One of the reactors is currently out of use as it is being refuelled. The CSN stated the other reactor is fully operational with no problems in its security. It is investigating why the warning system to alert people that there has been a technical breakdown had been activated and whether it was intentional.

The Dirección General de Protección Civil which is part of the Ministry of the Interior has sent officials to study the cause of the activation of the loud speaker alarm. Apparently the system can only be activated manually and it is not yet known whether that was deliberate, human error or an electrical fault.

Mayor Sabina Hernández she would be unhappy to learn that the sounding of the alarm had been an act of sabotage. She added the alarm had caused widespread panic in Almaraz and a large number of people had to be treated at the health centre for shock.

She has called in the Guardia Civil to track down the culprit or culprits. If caught Lance Corporal Jones other catchphrase “They don’t like it up ‘em” would seem to suggest a suitable punishment.

Thursday, July 7, 2011


If an opinion poll published by El País on Sunday is correct then PSOE have a mountain to climb to win the general election whoever leads the party. The soundings indicate the Partido Popular have an over 14 per cent lead as Spaniards react with anger to the high levels of unemployment and the financial crisis.

The poll by Metroscopia says 44.7 per cent of those questioned intend to vote for Mariano Rajoy’s PP. PSOE currently led by the prime minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero with Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba waiting to take over, limps behind on 30.4.

These finds give the PP a 0.5 per cent increase in support over the last month. However in the real life elections – municipal and regional – on May 22 the PP’s lead was just over 10 per cent.

At the last general election in 2008 PSOE had a lead over the PP of 3.6 per cent. This gave Zapatero his second mandate and second victory over Rajoy. Rajoy may be third time lucky but Zapatero will remain undefeated as he will have left the political stage by then.

However the Spain of 2012 will be very different from that in 2008. The economy no longer has the highest growth in the Euro zone. The property bubble has truly burst and unemployment stands at a massive 21 per cent – double the European average. Hence it is no surprise that support for PSOE has tumbled by 13.3 per cent whilst the PP have seen a 4.6 per cent growth.

Perhaps the most depressing fact for PSOE is there seems to be no Rubalcaba bounce in the offing. On July 9 the current first vice president of the government and hard line minister of the interior officially is anointed as the successor to Zapatero. His likely accession has been known for two months but support for PSOE has dropped by 1.3 per cent over that period. In addition 88 per cent of Spaniards believe the PP will form the next government.

Rubalcaba is famous for his hangdog look and the poll readings are likely to add another crease to his face. The fact that he has gone unchallenged to the top job is probably because all the other heavyweights know the writing is on the wall. They don’t want to go down in history as the candidate who led PSOE to a historically heavy defeat. Mind you if Rubalcaba can pull off a miracle recovery...

Thursday, June 30, 2011


Although I was a monarchist at the time of Queen Elizabeth’s coronation – I was easily bought by thoughts of a street party – I am now a Republican.

OK I am a benign republican who is happy to see the Queen see out her days on the throne. Then I would bung the remaining members of the Royal Family a million quid each and leave them to their own devices.

All the palaces and assets would become State property and I am sure the tourists would still flock, especially as they would then have access (for an admittance fee) to the various residences.

Perhaps somewhere like St James’ Palace would then become the home of the president. Just who would be president remains to be seen but it would be a symbolic post. As the majority of the world uses this model I see no reason why Britain shouldn’t. I am sure Ireland would lend us Mary Robinson for a term whilst we get used to the idea.

So given that scenario you may wonder why today I am speaking up for Prince Charles. It’s simply this - this week’s headline story has been he has seen his taxpayer funding increase by nearly 18 percent. This is at a time when Her Majesty’s subjects were tightening their belts due to harsh austerity measures.

The heir to the throne’s income from the British government rose 17.9 percent from £1.66 million in 2009-10 to £1.96 million in the past year, according to his official accounts.

However much of the funds covered travel costs with Charles and his wife Camilla travelling 34,000 miles to and from official engagements, including more than 14,000 miles on overseas trips.

Paddy Harverson, Charles’s spokesperson, who may also be the person responsible for putting his toothpaste on his brush, stated: “Spending on royal travel is decided by the government, not the prince. This is because the government determines where members of the royal family go on official overseas visits.”

Quite so. If the British Government decides to send Prince Charles off on trips on its behalf the money should come from Foreign Office funds and not be loaded on to the Royal Family’s account.

Hapless Charles comes in for enough stick as it is, much deservedly so, but beating him with a bat when he is representing Britain simply isn’t cricket.

Sunday, June 26, 2011


Each Saturday when I buy La Opinión de Málaga I receive a free copy of Interviú.

It is an interesting magazine combining hard core porn with hard nosed investigative reporting.

There is a section entitled “Nuevo Periodismo” which gives some of the more bizarre headlines of recent weeks.

One in the latest edition from La Flecha reads: “Una mujer tiene orgasmos cada vez que come dulces.”

Not sure that is headline worthy. I reach a similar state after eating a Crema Catalana. I am sure others enjoy equally sweet experiences!

I knew a woman who caught a bus each day after work in London’s Victoria to the Old Kent Road. She insisted she always experienced orgasms en route. Whether it was the throb of the diesel engine, the bumps in the road or a secret device I know not.

However if you have ever travelled on a London bus and seen a person smile it is a rare occurence indeed. Certainly worth a headline whatever the cause!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


Over a four hour period yesterday evening and into this morning I was in the emergency unit of the local hospital.

Blood was pouring from my mouth like a macabre gargoyle and having been first to the nearest health centre, only to find the two doctors on duty were out on call, I went to the hospital.

As I entered with a bloody towel round my mouth I was immediately ushered in so see a doctor who told me my blood pressure was through the roof and convinced herself that I had said I had a bad heart. I don’t but it is difficult to talk with a mouth full of blood and I nearly had a heart attack when I found out.

Having had two different mouth washes over half an hour the flow of blood began to ease finally halting after around an hour and a half. It started again when I laughed out loud so I refused to speak or smile from there on. I was kept in whilst they did some tests; to make sure the bleeding didn’t restart and so they could check my blood pressure again.

When I was called back in around two in the morning the consulting room floor was covered in blood, not mine, and a person with a mop and bucket arrived to clean up whilst the doctor went through my test results.

They re-did the blood pressure test. I explained my pressure was usually normal but I had been very tense because of the blood and rushing around –convinced I was bleeding to death if the truth were known.

I added I was still rather tense what with a woman being rushed in to give birth, an old woman in a wheel chair crying out in pain, an old man also in a wheelchair as silent as the grave, various women clutching parts of their anatomy, a young man rushed off to trauma, various family members gathering to peer and poke at a loved one - all of whom had at one time or another been gathered around me that night in the emergency waiting room.

I was solemnly told my blood pressure was now just slightly higher than it should be but – normal for a man of my age!

It was as I left I passed a small room in to which had been seemingly crammed all the people who had shared the waiting room of the emergency unit with me. It was a bizarre scene of which Goya would have been proud. I stared in disbelief at them as they stared back at me with blank faces. I decided the time to discuss hallucinations with the doctor had passed and went home to sleep – which I did very well.

However in the morning I couldn’t help wondering over what I had seen.

Bloody hell indeed.

Friday, June 17, 2011


For over eighteen months I have been writing about the cases of the missing babies that were first announced in La Línea de la Concepción in November 2009 but which have since been reported throughout Spain. Indeed there are now 105 “denuncias” in the Campo de Gibraltar alone.

In La Línea the missing babies were largely all born either in the former municipal hospital or two private clinics in the town. The mothers were told their babies had died shortly after birth but the suspicion of many of these families is their babies were sold or offered up to adoptive families.

The cases in the Campo de Gibraltar have been taken over by the Algeciras prosecutor who in turn has ordered the National Police to investigate. The majority of the reports of the missing babies relate to the 60s and 70s although some extend in to the 1980s.

On Tuesday afternoon the San José cemetery closed its gates after a La Línea judge ordered three of the niches to be opened. At around 17.00, with the judge, a judicial secretary, forensic police and members of the specialised and violent crime squad in attendance, the exhumations started. The parents of the babies involved were only informed hours before the niches were opened and the mobile phones of the cemetery employees were impounded so no photographs could be taken.

The final resting places opened belonged to a baby that allegedly died in 1971 and two who passed away in 1988. In the first case the remains were supposedly buried but seven years later the parents decided to place their son in a niche. It was then the parents discovered the cemetery had not registered their child’s burial and in the place of a certificate for the moving of a tomb they were given one for interment. In the two 1988 cases the remains are in the cemetery but the families believe their own new born babies were sold or offered for adoption.

Now we are approaching the moment of truth in these specific cases. The remains from each tomb were placed in a separate cardboard box. In one tomb there was just dust, in the case of the baby from 1971 some suspicious bones and in the third bone fragments. These will now be analysed by the forensic scientists and if human remains then DNA tested to see if they match with their alleged family members.

Many of the mothers who gave birth and believe their babies were stolen did not have the support of a family around them because they had come to La Línea from another part of Spain looking for work, often in Gibraltar. However the story of Francisco del Valle, whose son supposedly died on July 7 1971, is pitiful to modern day ears.

Their baby died just two hours after it was born. The matron told them what had happened and said they were not to worry as they were young and could have more children. It was then explained to them that every time a whale passed through the Strait of Gibraltar a baby died, and that is what had happened in their case.

Del Valle says because of their ignorance and the epoch in which they then lived – the Franco dictatorship - they said nothing. However he was shocked to find the coffin supposedly bearing the body of his son weighed virtually nothing. Now the DNA of the pieces of bone will be matched with that of his wife and the truth will finally be known.


The European Commission has looked at the Spanish economy and suggested higher taxes and more activity to generate jobs but it totally overlooks the private debt built up by businesses and families during the euphoric years between 1996 and 2007.

The economic crisis amongst the banks has closed off the credit lines. Also the foreign investment in to the property market has ceased with the bursting of that market’s bulb.

Without internal demand Spain can only grow by exporting. However to export to Germany which is the leader of European growth this country would have to improve its competitiveness. As Spain cannot devalue its currency the pressure is on to reform structures with the cutting of workers’ rights and the real threat that there will be a regression in the standards of people’s lives.

In to this scene comes the 15-M democracy movement that insists that politics cannot be dictated by the markets. It is calling for “popular sovereignty” and “economic sovereignty” What does it serve to vote if the government is in the hands of the markets and banks, it asks?

According to Professor Emiliano Carluccio: “the debt in the private sector grew greater than in other developed countries” over this period. Now the crisis in Spain is not the public debt.

The level of debt of the central government, the autonomous regions and the town halls is more than 60 per cent of GDP, the wealth that Spain generates each year. Surprisingly this is less than the European average of 80 per cent or the rest of the major European countries.

However whilst the various arms of the State have accumulated debts of 639,767 million euros the debt level amongst Spanish families dwarfs that total. Private debt stands at 886,460 million euros, 38.6 per cent more than all the State debt. (Curiously as I posted this blog Reuters issued an article highlighting the growth in Spain’s public debt but saying nothing of the private total).

To be added to the family debts are those of businesses which come in at 1.2 billion euros more. This means that the debt in private hands is a massive 189 per cent of GDP.

Another problem faced by Spain is the size of its external debt. Japan (200 per cent), Italy (117) and Belgium (101) all have far greater levels of public debt than Spain. However that money is owed to the nation’s nationals whereas in Spain the majority of the debts are international.

In the case of Spain the exterior debt (the majority of it private) is equivalent to 170 per cent of GDP. In hard figures it means that Spain has to pay back to the rest of the world 1.87 billion euros. That is because during the good years Spain was importing two thirds of the financial resources demanded by its businesses and families.

Thursday, June 16, 2011


The Libyan leader Muamar Gadafi is the owner of half the land in Pujerra and a third of that in Júzcar in the Serranía de Ronda. This has been confirmed by the mayors of both municipalities, Francisco Macías and David Fernández respectively. They say they have no information on the companies involved.

A finca of 7,200 hectares is owned by the Libyan State. In the deeds appear the names of the Libyan Foreign Bank - the Banco Exterior Libio and extends over five municipalities: Benahavís, Estepona, Igualeja, Júzcar and Pujerra.

It is in the latter two municipalities that the Libyan ownership has not been known by the residents or that Gadafi has owned much of their land for many years. Initially these lands were owned by the Unión Resinera Español and later purchased by the Libyan bank.

In the case of Pujerra Gadafi owns some 1,000 hectares although the mayor believes it could be higher as nobody is any too sure who owns what. As the land mass of Pujerra is 2,400 hectares Macias observes the Libyan leader could have around half. The holding runs from La Venta de Tía to Los Baños de la Corcha on the boundary with Benahavís.

Macias says that some years ago directors of the Libyan bank arrived in the village to talk about building 400 luxury homes in the municipality “but they disappeared and since then we have not heard from them.”

A similar situation exists in Júzcar where Libya has acquired 1,384 of the 3,400 hectares in the municipality. Mayor David Fernández says he has been in office for four years and never during that time has there been any contact with the owners. Again the finca runs from La Resinera to the boundary with Benahavís.

In both cases the land acquired by the Libyan bank is principally pine forest and mountainous. At the start of the year a 60 kms long wire fence was placed around the land. However both mayors say the land is used for hunting.

Curiously around seven years ago some land owners in the area were approached by foreign investors who wanted to buy their lands with chestnut plantations for sums far above the market value. All turned the offers down as the lands have been passed from father to sons over generations and the chestnut crop is one of the main sources of income for families in the area.

I have written about Gadafi’s land holding in Benahavís before – the inland municipality where Michelle Obama and her daughter holidayed last summer. I have also highlighted the fact that the Libyan dictator has numerous other investments in Spain including a petroleum company with numerous forecourts and banks.

That oil rich Gadafi and his family should have investments in Spain is hardly surprising. They have them in the USA and throughout Europe. What is a surprise is that the Spanish Government has seemingly done nothing to impound or embargo them.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011


The 25 deaths in Germany and 2,600 illnesses there and also in other European countries from the E.coli outbreak are tragic. Yet so too are the huge losses suffered by the farming community in Andalucía from Spanish cucumbers being blamed for the E.coli – and then the accusations being withdrawn too late to save the crops or jobs. Now the EU is offering 210 million euros in compensation but it is Germany and not Europeans that should pick up the Spanish bill. Many communities will suffer severe hardship. Around me are farmers and smallholders who grow the crops in their fields and serve them to their families without any ill effects whatsoever. I have never stopped eating their produce and if you have the chance to buy a product produced in Andalucía do. You won’t regret it!

A friend “ML” posted this recently on her Facebook page:



Spaniards are holding on to their old pesetas. The Bank of Spain believes that there are 1,717 millions of euros worth of pesetas that have not been changed in to the new currency.

In the old currency that equates to 285,685 million pesetas. Of that total the central bank says 904 million euros are held in notes and 813 million euros in coins.

In April the Bank of Spain changed a million euros or 166 million pesetas in to the new currency. All those transactions were for notes. During 2010 Spaniards changed a total of 3,328 million pesetas for which they received some 20 million euros. The 2010 figures is a nine per cent drop on the previous year when 3,660 million pesetas were handed in.

Now when Spain changed from the peseta to the euro on January 1 1999 all the money in our bank accounts automatically switched. Those of us who had some cash took it to the bank to change but obviously many people didn’t. Indeed it wasn’t till 2002 that the peseta was finally phased out.

Without a doubt I have somewhere some peseta coins which I never bothered to change as does virtually every other household in Spain. This goes to make up a part of the total. Other sums have simply been lost or forgotten about. I remember when I bought an old ruin the builder who was to convert it busily searched through the canes that covered the ceiling as this was apparently a favourite hiding place to conceal notes from house thieves. Other canes no doubt still hold their booty.

However in this time of economic crisis every Spaniard is keen to lay their hands on any cash that is going. Hence the large bulk of the unchanged sums must be “black” money. To change it means admitting you have it to the Bank of Spain and in turn the tax authority. Large amounts will set the alarm bells ringing whilst large amounts that have been sat on for years will have those bells positively jangling. So we can expect the majority of the missing millions of pesetas to remain missing for evermore – unless of course the peseta makes a return should the euro fall.

Friday, June 3, 2011


I have been in and around Gibraltar for 20 years so when the Gibraltar Tourist Board recently asked me would I like to go on a tour to see some sides of the Rock perhaps I wasn’t aware of, what was my reaction?

For the answer to that question you have to go 1,000 miles north to my native London. As a child I walked every part of the city, West End, Westminster – you name it, I went there. Yet if you speak to the average Londoner whilst they rattle off the names of all the historic sites and attractions, they will then look guilty and say: “actually I have never been to the Tower of London”. Hence my immediate response to the GTB’s kind offer was an enthusiastic yes!

There are numerous ways to arrive on the Rock but probably the three main groups who visit Gibraltar are: tourists from the Costa del Sol who come by coach on a day trip; residents or holidaymakers who come by car and those who fly in and stay at one of the Rock’s hotels.

If you ask the majority of them what did they see their answer will be the airport because you have to cross the runway to get in or out, Main Street plus Casemates Square, the Cathedrals, the Trafalgar Museum, many will have done the Rock tour and seen the various tunnels dating from the years of siege and World War II, been out in the bay to see the dolphins plus of course visited Gibraltar’s famous apes or rather macaques.

I have done all these things numerous times myself often in the company of visiting friends and family. I have also been round the back streets and harbours but I didn’t realise until Gail took me on the tour the numerous places I have missed or was simply not aware of.

Gail is a former Miss Gibraltar and also a very fine artist yet at heart she is a Gibraltarian with a great pride in her Rock; the fact she works for the tourist board is almost incidental. I have yet to meet a Gibraltarian who wasn’t an ambassador for the Rock. We drove around for nearly four hours so what I saw would fill a book rather than an article. Here I will list just some highlights.

Devil’s Tower Road is not the most glamorous place on the Rock. It is an industrial zone which is now being beautified which may mean that in years to come the cave behind the buildings will become more accessible. It was here in 1848 at Forbes’ Quay they discovered the ancient skull of a woman. Eight years later in Germany they discovered an identical skull from the same period. That is now universally known as Neanderthal man but the world should really be talking about Gibraltar woman.

A non-Gibraltarian would never think of Gibraltar as a beach destination. It is a giant rock with harbours and the odd patch of sand over by the Caleta Hotel. The reality is very different with a splendid Eastern Beach but many others hidden away. Actually they are simple to find – you ask the tourist office.

When you used to drive along the eastern side of the Rock you passed an engineering marvel. The catchments literally caught the rain and it ran down the huge corrugated sheets into reservoirs in the Rock. Now they have gone but what is left is even more extraordinary. Once when the Med was land locked it was a desert and the winds blew the sand against the Rock face. The result was a huge sand dune now many millions of years old but which remains intact and newly planted with native species. Incidentally the Rock of Gibraltar is Jurassic limestone dating back some 200 million years but what you see is inverted because in the seismic activity it was turned upside down before the Atlantic roared in and created the Mediterranean.

Everybody knows that Gibraltar is British having been ceded by Spain in perpetuity by the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713. Prior to it being under Spanish rule it became part of the Muslim empire in the seventh century – its name Gibraltar coming from the Arabic Jebel Tarik – Tarik’s Rock. It was named after the Berber chief Tarik Ibn Zeyad who took if for the Moors. So logically there is British Colonial, Spanish and Moorish architecture to be seen. However apart from the Greeks, Visigoths, Phoenicians and Romans all passing through the modern day people of Gibraltar also come from Genoa, Malta, Portugal and numerous other places and that influence can be seen in the houses and buildings of the Rock, especially those in the myriad of side streets.

Queensway Quay has long been popular with tourists but there are now many other marinas in Gibraltar. Perhaps the pride of place goes to Ocean View with its stunning development of top of the market apartments which hide the harbour. Apart from a 24-hour casino it is packed with bars and restaurants on pontoons – some with live music. It is the first port of call for Gibraltarians on a Friday night. The weekend starts here.

I think for me the highlight of the visit was the new King’s Bastion Leisure Centre. The King’s Bastion is a key part of Gibraltar’s heritage because it was from here that the Spanish siege was finally defeated. So expect an old fort inside the thick stone walls of which are displays of its historic past. However in the centre is a totally new glass building with a bowling alley, cinemas, ice rink, gym, kids and adults disco, a restaurant, snack bar, pool tables, internet centre plus much more. Security is a top priority so Gibraltar’s youngsters (and young at heart) can relax and enjoy themselves in complete safety.

I have merely scratched the surface of the Rock here because there is much more to see and do. However whether you spend a day on the Rock or visit for longer please do contact the Gibraltar Tourist Board. Their main office is in Casemates Square but there are others at the border, cruise terminal, coach park and so on. If you don’t you’ll still see the Rock but you’ll miss out on so much of the Gibraltar experience. Like the ghost of the nun at the Governor’s official residence – The Convent. Ask the tourist office, they’ll tell you all about her tragic story.

Gibraltar Tourist Board

(The pictures of the Gibraltar aerial view and the King’s Bastion are the copyright of Gail Francis Tiron. To see more of her work visit her website at

Thursday, June 2, 2011


I have written a number of articles about the desperate plight of the homeless in La Línea. The town hall is bankrupt and cannot pay its workers on time so what hope is there for those with nothing?

I have also written about Mary Finlay who lives in San Roque. She was so moved by the appalling situation in the border town that each Wednesday she and a team take hot drinks, food and clothing to these people sheltered in doorways, the old bunkers and abandoned buildings.

When I first wrote about her work and gave her contact details in various local publications a number of readers contacted Mary to offer their help. No real surprise there because that is what by nature good people do.

This weekend the tragic news of the death of Galeote reached me. He was one of the homeless of La Línea who died leaning against a wall outside the day centre in broad daylight.

Mary told me: “Poor man he was the first that we ever came across the first night we started, so pleasant, eloquent, and extremely grateful for contact.

After a few weeks he said that he had decided to try and gain admittance to a centre because not only was he crippled with arthritis after so many winters out of doors he felt completely isolated from people and was in need of that warmth which we hopefully were showing him. He was taking tablets prescribed by the doctor to stop drinking to enable him to gain admittance.

“A few weeks ago he had to be taken by the volunteers to the emergency department of La Línea hospital because he looked as if he was dying of pneumonia, he had a few days respite and then was put out on the street again, swigging back medicine for his cough but he was never well again; apparently it wasn’t pneumonia but the effects of very heavy heroin addiction.

“On Wednesday, he was standing outside the day centre and after asking after him, he told one of the centre’s users that he didn't feel well, but not to call an ambulance, next thing she knew a lot of foamy saliva was coming out of his mouth. She rushed in to say that poor Galeote was dying but they thought it was the effect of tablets and nothing to worry about. But that was how it happened, he was actually standing leaning against the wall when he died.”

Mary went on to add: “A few weeks ago he completely shaved his head and beard off, I think he knew he wasn’t going to be around much longer.”

My final word goes to Por Un Mundo Más Justo who sent me an email detailing much of the same story. He touchingly writes: “Espero y creo firmemente que nuestro amigo Galeote ha pasado de ser de un P.S.H (Persona Sin Hogar) a un A.C.H (Ángel Con Hogar).”

Amen to that.

(Photograph shows one of La Línea’s WWII bunkers where the homeless shelter)

Monday, May 30, 2011


Violence flared in the plaza de Cataluña in Barcelona in the early hours of Friday morning as riot police moved in to clear the city’s major square of “los indignados” who since May 15 have been protesting against political corruption in Spain and calling for major changes to Spanish society.

The reason for the confrontations in which 120 people were injured was not political but soccer related. On Saturday night Barcelona played Manchester United in the European Champions League final at Wembley and the plaza had to be cleared so that giant TV screens could be erected for the crowds to watch the game. The ensuing battle between baton wielding police and the peaceful demonstrators gave a whole new meaning to soccer violence.

At the time the police moved in around 200 people were sleeping in the plaza as they have been for the previous two weeks. Soon another 1,000 protestors came to the square to attempt to prevent the officers from removing the protestors. The authorities said they just wanted to clean the square ahead of preparing it for the soccer match after which “los indignados” were welcome to return. Return they did for by mid-after over 9,000 people were said to be in the plaza. Now Jueces para la Democracía has called for an investigation to hold to account those officers of the Mossos d´Escuadra and the Guardia Urbana who attacked the protestors.

Meanwhile in Madrid the Movimiento 15-M who have occupied the Puerta del Sol said on Sunday they are to maintain their camp but it will undergo some restructuring. They announced the decision after the centre right Partido Popular ruled Comunidad de Madrid called on the Ministry of the Interior to remove the protestors as they were infringing the State of Law and had prevented the free movement of people. Curiously the PP had raised no objections to the protests in the run up to the recent elections in which they gave the ruling PSOE a bloody nose!

It is expected the protest zone will be reduced in size so as not to inconvenience local residents and businesses. However the assemblies in Málaga, Sevilla, Bilbao, Barcelona and Valencia have vowed to carry on whilst others such as in Toledo have opted to dismantle theirs.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


The international chains serving fast food appear to be bucking the trend in Spain’s catering sector brought about by the economic crisis. Whilst restaurant and bar owners along with their employees are suffering from the downturn the fast food businesses are seeing constant growth. Indeed turnover grew by five per cent last year to 2.600 million euros.

The big battle is between Burger King and McDonald’s who between them account for 97 per cent of the hamburger market. That battle is pretty evenly matched with not just the quantity of food taken in to account but also the number of outlets.

Andalucía is the second autonomous region after Madrid with the largest number of fast food outlets. Overall there are 177 of these restaurants but Burger King rules with 98 compared with McDonald’s 71.

The dominance of Burger King is also seen in Málaga province. Burger King has 35 outlets mostly located in the major commercial centres. In contrast McDonald’s has 20 spread amongst the holiday resort towns of the Costa del Sol.

It is not just the international names and the power of their advertising that has allowed these chains to prosper in hard economic times. Both sell known products at keen prices in comfortable and a familiar environment.

Indeed in 2010 McDonald’s invested 14 million euros in giving a facelift to its 88 stores introducing a new colour scheme and furnishings. Burger King has responded with a futuristic 20/20 design and divided its restaurants in to Whopper Bar and BK Dessert Bar zones.

Each chain is also working to win customers with added attractions. For example Burger King has now added children’s play areas to most of its restaurants. In contrast McDonald’s is offering free Wi-Fi to its customers. Eat and work, eat and play, eat and be entertained is the order of the day.

The overall figures for the fast food business in Spain make interesting reading. There are 3,940 such establishments which is a 2.2per cent increase on 2009 with the total market worth 2,610 million euros. Of that Burger King, McDonald’s and other hamburger chains account for 1,300 million euros, a rise of 4.8 per cent.

Down by slightly more (4.9 percent) are pizza sales at 540 million euros, bocadillerías account for 455 million euros (up 3.4) and others such as tacos and hot dogs bring in 315 million euros, a rise of 3.3per cent. Of the total 2,610 million euros turnover, 2,285 million (up 3.4 percent) is through counter sales whilst home delivery stands at 325 million, a drop of 5.2 per cent.

Monday, May 23, 2011


I was curious to read the findings of a survey as to how the people of Andalucía view their public and private health services. Four out of ten people with private insurance would still opt to go to a SAS public hospital if they had a serious illness because they prefer to be treated by doctors and nurses in the health service. In contrast three out of ten of those with insurance would opt for a private hospital or clinic.

The results come from a study carried out by the Asociación de Empresas Sanitarias de Prestación Asistencial de Andalucía (Aespaa) with a grant from the Andalucía ministry of health. It was carried out amongst 925 users of the Aliad private health service in 17 private centres in Málaga, Sevilla, Almería, Granada, Córdoba and Granada.

Of the patients questioned 45.9 per cent use the private health service more frequently than the public, 37.8 per cent opt for public whilst 14.6 per cent use both equally.

However if the patients were faced with a serious illness then 41.5 per cent would go to the public hospital, 31.1 per cent to the private whereas 22.1 per cent were undecided which they’d use.

Aespaa says the findings show that the majority of insured users of the health system would switch between one and the other. However when it came to choosing one over the other in cases of serious illness there was a higher confidence in the medical staff and facilities of the health service.

In contrast the comforts of the private hospitals and clinics were more highly valued than the often shared hospital rooms of the public sector. On this point alone 85.6 per cent would opt for private treatment both on the comfort factor and the speed with which they would be seen.

The most loyal users of the health service in Andalucía according to the survey are to be found in Cádiz province where less than 5 per cent would go private. This is at complete odds with other provinces where the figure is between 55 and 65 per cent. Bucking the trend in the opposite direction is Málaga province where 71 per cent would opt for private treatment over the SAS.

In 2006 I was both registered with the health service and had private insurance. When I was taken in to hospital in an emergency it was to the SAS hospital in La Línea. I was more than happy with the care and treatment I received from the health service specialists and nursing staff both during my stay and subsequent after care. However after five days in a shared room, during which time my mobile phone was stolen, I did consider using my insurance to switch to a private hospital although in the event I was released so it did not become an issue.

In 2003 my then partner was diagnosed with terminal cancer. She had private insurance but had both health service and private treatment. Her insurance company is part of a UK group but whilst it covered hospitals, doctors, cancer specialists, radiotherapy and chemotherapy there were some expensive oddities. For instance the insurance covered her chemo but not connecting it to her arm that she had to pay for herself. To connect her to the chemo could cost between 50 and 150 euros per session depending on what was required. In her case it was 75 euros, or at least 300 euros a month. If the SAS hospital prescribed her medicine it was with a prescription, hence the morphine came free. Yet during her last chemo session the clinic gave me a prescription for a series of injections the cost of which was 400 euros for just five days supply.

For my part I have cancelled my private insurance and opted to go with the health service which has served me well. One key reason is that if I have private insurance, whilst I could enjoy more comfortable care, I could equally be caught in the trap of having to find huge amounts of cash for drugs or say a chemo link at a time when I could least afford it. Now more and more health service hospitals are being built with single rooms for patients the comfort issue should also be less of a concern.

However I am gratified to see Andalucía’s health service doctors and nurses so highly rated by those with private insurance – they certainly have never let me down.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


As fears over the state of health of the Spanish monarch, King Juan Carlos, continue to hit the headlines the Spanish people have indicated their support for his son and his suitability to inherit the crown.

In a survey 79 per cent said they think the Príncipe de Asturias has the support and social legitimacy to succeed the king and 86 per cent, including 71 per cent of Izquierda Unida voters, say he will be prepared to eventually take on the functions of the head of state. The IU traditionally supports a republic rather than a monarchy.

The survey ‘Pulso de España 2010” was carried out by the Fundación José Ortega y Gassat and Gregorio Marañon. It also showed that 69 per cent of those who voted IU at the last general election back the prince as the legitimate heir to his father.

The report was drawn up between September 24 and November 5 of last year with 5,000 people questioned. It showed that the majority of Spaniards preferred a parliamentary monarch as the best system of government for the country. However support for this is on the decline with over a two year period support dropping from 72 to 57 per cent whilst those supporting a republic have grown from 11 to 35 per cent.

By age group 78 per cent of those below 35 years supports the view Prince Felipe should be king, those over 55 give him 74 per cent support but it is the 35 to 54 age group that boosts his standing with 83 per cent.

On a scale of 10 an average of 6.7 approve of how Prince Felipe performs his role. That rises to 7.3 amongst Partido Popular voters, dips to 6.8 for supporters of PSOE and collapses to 4.9 amongst the far left of Izquierda Unida.

On two key questions the support from PSOE and PP voters is very close. Asked if he has the social support to be king PSOE support is 83 per cent with the PP on 79 and asked if he is adequately prepared for the job of head of state 89 per cent of PSOE voters say yes to 88 in the PP.

Should Spain be a republic rather than a monarchy? Those who voted IU in 2008 back a republic with 81 per cent, but that slips to 40 per cent amongst socialists and just 15 per cent of the centre right PP.

King Juan Carlos has ruled over Spain for 35 years and 7.3 of his fellow country folk say he has done a good job. That number rises to 7.5 amongst PSOE voters, jumps again to 7.8 for the PP but slips to 5.5 for the IU.

Finally 74 per cent of those questioned think the monarchy is firmly consolidated in the country, 56 per cent consider it has brought stability and serenity to public life but 65 per cent say whilst it has been useful in overseeing the transition to democracy its importance is gradually declining.

It would be interesting to know how the people of Britain view Prince Charles’ readiness to inherit the crown or whether his future “subjects” believe it should skip a generation and pass to his son. In this modern age do Britons want a fuddy duddy as monarch or would they prefer William and Kate? Prince Felipe faces no such challenge as he is comparatively young and his daughter has some years to go before she would be of age to become Queen.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, or William and Kate to the British public, have jetted off on their delayed honeymoon.

It is understood Clarence House was informed the luxury and private property in Abbottabad had now been vacated by the previous tenant. It took several days for the house to be cleared up but all was now ready.

William and Kate are keen to protect their privacy especially during their honeymoon. The owner of the house stressed the Pakistani Government had been unaware of the previous tenant’s tenure and the US Government had searched high and low for him for years without success. The royal couple will be perfectly safe.

Rumours that William (who is an RAF pilot) will fly Kate to and from the house in its walled compound by helicopter have been denied.


If you were asked to guess who is the highest paid politician in Spain the chances are you would have answered – the prime minister, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero. However you would have been very wrong indeed.

The top earner is María Dolores de Cospedal and she is not even a member of the ruling socialist party. Yet according to her tax return she earned 223,598 euros in 2010, which is seven per cent less than the year before when she banked over 240,000 euros.

Her declaration means she earns three times as much as Zapatero – the premier only has his 78,184 euros official salary to live off. Cospedal’s tax return was published in the Diario Oficial de Castilla – La Mancha where she occupies a seat, is secretary general of the opposition Partido Popular and is bidding to be president of her home region.

In 2009 when she earned 240,737 euros her three main sources of income were from the Senate, the PP and her three year period with the State lawyer’s office.

However whilst Cospedal is a glamorous high earner she is seemingly a frugal spender. On the day the election campaign was launched last week in Castilla – La Mancha she was seen at a small market at Villanueva de los Infantes buying for herself a five euros pair of sandals.

Obviously a sure footed politician!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011


As according to the Gospels Christ’s tomb was found open on Easter Sunday so the timing of the families who babies were allegedly stolen at birth in demanding just before Easter to have their niches opened is spot on.

For over a year I have written about the missing babies first from La Línea but then throughout Cádiz province and wider Spain. Their parents fear they were taken from them at birth and handed over to an adopted family.

The cases largely date from the 1960s and 1970s and the initial reports centred on La Línea’s former municipal hospital and two nursing homes. At least one of these babies, now a grown man, has links to Gibraltar.

Whilst the cases in La Línea were quickly taken up by the Algeciras prosecutor and handed over to the National Police for investigation the Cádiz prosecutor has been slower to act. The majority of cases in the provincial capital relate to the Zamacola nursing home which stood on the site of the present Punta Europa Hospital.

Anadir, the association that represents many of the families who fear their babies or brothers and sisters were stolen for adoption, has collected over 2,000 signatures to demand that the Cádiz investigation is speeded up. After a meeting of 300 members in Chiclana a protest has been called for May 4 when its delegate in Andalucía, Chary Herrera, will meet the Cádiz prosecutor to make two demands.

The first and most fundamental is that an order be issued to open the niches that are supposed to contain the remains of the babies that died in Cádiz hospitals. The majority from the Zamacola are interred at the San José de Cádiz cemetery.

Of course this is not possible for all the families. When Cristina Díaz Carrasco first hit the Spanish national headlines over the alleged death at birth of her brother in La Línea’s hospital in 1967 it was discovered there was no record of his birth, death or interment and his supposed grave had disappeared. When a family in Algeciras opened the niche of their baby son who is said to have died in La Línea hospital after the family were involved in a car crash it was found to contain just a t-shirt. To open a grave at any time is a traumatic experience for those involved - for the grieving families it could be very traumatic indeed.

Anadir also wants the prosecutor to establish a free DNA bank in the province so that the remains found can be tested against surviving family members. Whilst some tombs could be empty it is suspected that in some cases the healthy baby was substituted for another that died and given to that family, probably purchased. In that case the tombs could contain the remains of the baby from the adoptive family.

If the Cádiz prosecutor agrees to these demands then the province will become the pioneer and this example will almost certainly be followed throughout Andalucía. In Sevilla, Granada and Huelva there are other cases coming to light and there too signatures are being collected for action.

The number of suspected cases in La Línea and wider Cádiz now is in the region of 300 although those that have been formulated in to official reports stand at about half of this total.

Monday, May 2, 2011


When God handed out the beauty gene many of us were in the other room.

I certainly count myself in that group.

However we accepted our limitations and learnt how to make the best of what we have.

Some of us have aged gracefully and others such as me, less so.

Which brings me to the Dorks of York.

When I logged on to Yahoo the day after the Royal Wedding I was greeted by a fright!

It was Princess Eugenie and Beatrice with their father the Duke of York.

Sadly at best the princesses look like their dad in a dress. Drag artists.

At the Royal Wedding – well I was simply lost for words. A right royal mess. Fame and fortune does not bring with it good taste.

The Dorks of York.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011


As I recently scanned the Spanish ‘Voto en Blanco’ blog I was curious to find that “Mr Gordon Brown” was one of its subjects. British voters have their own views of the man who was their premier till just a year ago. So I was interested to see how, ‘Ligur’, who penned this piece viewed him from afar.

In an article entitled “Large armchairs for great failures” ‘Ligur’described Gordon thus – “the ex English premier, has passed into history as a true disaster, with actions and omissions of the colour blind or an individual with crossed laterality. Consequences: slowness and stubbornness amongst others.

“He neither saw the crisis nor were his measures immediate, which caused a meltdown of English banking, which hastily passed into the hands of the State in frightening proportions. The State remains the owner of much of the English major banks, who were not purchased by nor have the participation of Spain’s Santander. In the first elections they gave him his settlement. He went correctly but politicians rarely assume their failures and they go home to hope that an editor will commission their memoirs.”

After dwelling on the future for the next 100 years being in Africa ‘Ligur’ goes on to address the IMF where Brown has been touted as a possible president causing much heated debate in the UK.

‘Ligur’ is of the view that the political class in general and especially in Brussels receive “the surreal and corrupt” because its politicians and senior officials are supported including placing “the surplus failed and burned out” in well-paid jobs at international level.

He continues: “Mr. David Cameron, the British Prime Minister, has spoken clearly about his predecessor stating “he is not the appropriate person to lead the IMF since he never admitted the UK had a debt problem”. Fortunately, for Mr Brown to receive that post, which reported has a salary of 270,000 pounds (350,000 Euros) a year, the British Government would have to nominate him which clearly the coalition has no intention of doing.

‘Ligur’ then addresses his fellow Spaniards: “It is not that the antics and intrigues of the House of Commons that waken me from this dream but it is the similarities… Because his (Brown’s) Spanish counterpart Zapatero has more or less the same merits.” He believes a retired Zapatero, who leaves office next March, could be bound for the World Bank. So, asks ‘Ligur’, if the opposition Partido Popular leader, Mariano Rajoy, replaces him after the 2012 elections will he back Zapatero’s appointment?

Brown and Zapatero are both failed premiers. Their respective socialist parties are more popular than they. Some might argue the IMF and World Bank deserves them. The question is, do we?

Monday, April 25, 2011


Kyrgyzstan’s parliament wanted to exorcise evil spirits from the chamber after a string of violent incidents.

Earlier this month politicians arranged an armed show down in a row over corruption. Ten handguns and an AK47 were seized by police in the building.

So what did they do to stop the bloody violence that included the ousting of President Kurmanbek Bakiyev last year?

They ritually slaughtered seven sheep in the parliament building.

Bloody hell!

(It is the bloody business that informs – Shakespeare’s Macbeth)

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


Being Easter week perhaps it is appropriate that I turn for a while to the words of God. Well actually the words are those of my esteemed colleague Francisco Rubiales Moreno – who is certainly closer to God than me.

Regular readers of my blog will know that from time to time I have featured threads of thoughts from his excellent Voto En Blanco website – see banner at side for the link – and very recently he laid the basis for a trilogy of articles I wrote on political corruption in Spain compared with Gibraltar.

Apart from having spent many years as an international correspondent for the Efe news agency, advised the UN and held the post in charge of communications for Expo 92 in Sevilla Francisco has also previously published three books Democracia Secuestrada; Políticos, los Nuevos Amos y Periodistas Sometidos, los perros del poder.

His new book – Las Revelaciones de Onakra, el escriba de Dios – is a marked change for this previous volumes which were essays on political thought.

I am told because I am yet to read it that this book is an original narrative, inspired by an ancient Italian manuscript, containing mysterious revelations about the arrival of the first angels on earth, their relationships with living species on the planet, the origins of human intelligence and the beginning of the death struggle between good and evil that will dominate the human existence, from the beginning until the end of time.

Within the pages you will find the secret of human history is the fight against evil and man is not anything other than an ally of God in this crucial battle. Although the book is not a political essay, it contains convincing and evocative impetus on the fight against the unjust, a shocking condemnation of oppression and an epic hymn to freedom, which, together with life, is the great gift of God to man, the only created species possessing freedom fully.

After its launch the book was the most sold on Bubok. If I have wetted your appetite then read it for yourself – you can order signed copies on the Voto en Blanco website.


It is well over a month since the UN passed the resolution freezing all the assets of Gaddafi and the Libyan regime around the world. Spain initially backed the NATO action but last week made it clear it would not increase its military activity regarding the no-fly zone. Now it has also emerged that apart from putting administrators in to Aresbank the financial interests of Gaddafi and his family remain untouched in Spain.

It was on February 26 that the UN Security Council passed resolution 1970 under which all the assets of Gaddafi, his wife and four sons were to be frozen wherever in the world they may be. On March 17 there was a further resolution which extended the freeze to seven senior military officers and members of the secret service. The only exception was they could access money for their legal defence should they be brought to trial.

Amongst the entities named by the UN was the Libyan Foreign Bank which was founded in 1972 and is deemed to be under the control of Gaddafi, his family and was a potential major source of funds for the regime. This bank came under the Central Bank of Libya, also named by the UN. It is in the name of the Libyan Foreign Bank that in 1995 the four parcels of land known as La Resinera in Benahavís were registered. On these lands Gaddafi intends to construct 2,000 homes. The finca covers 70 million square metres between Benahavís, Júcar and Pujera and should have been embargoed if the UN’s orders had been followed.

Both the UN and EU have issued directives that Gaddafi’s assets should be blocked. However the lands of La Resinera have no charges or other matters registered against them. The Spanish Government insists that therefore only a court can embargo them hence the Fiscalía General del Estado would have to apply to the Audiencia Nacional to freeze the lands to comply with the UN resolution.

Clearly, for whatever reason, Spain has no wish to do this and a game of buck passing is in progress with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs instating it is a matter for Hacienda, the Interior Ministry and the Bank of Spain. The Bank of Spain says it is not its responsibility to block or investigate Gaddafi’s funds and the Ministry of Justice points the finger back to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The sole action taken was on March 16 when the Ministry of the Economy appointed three judicial administrators to Aresbank – the only Spanish bank controlled by the Libyan regime. Indeed the Libyan Foreign Bank has a 99.86 controlling interest and with the administrators Aresbank can function normally within the restrictions imposed by the EU. Apart from the land in Benahavís the Libyan banks through Spain also control other interests including a hotel in Panama.

Another familiar name to those on the roads of Andalucía, Cataluña and the Comunidad Valenciana is Tamoil. This network of 35 petrol stations was formed in 1991 and employs around 100 people in Spain. Its HQ is in Barcelona; it turns over around 200 million euros a year and is a subsidiary of Tamoil in Italy where it has 2,000 service stations and a refinery. It in turn is the commercial arm of Oilinvest based in Holland which was created in the 1980s with 450 million euros of capital. It appears the National Oil Corporation, Libya’s main petroleum company, controls 35 per cent of this group. The UN says these businesses are under the control of Gaddafi but no action has been taken against them.

However the financial fingers of Gaddafi spread right around the world. Libyan funds make up 26 per cent of the British Arab Commercial Bank which amongst its other interests is involved with the Financial Times and Juventus football club in Turin in Italy. Over 500 million US dollars are said to be tied up in US banks, Gaddafi controls Canadian Verenix Oil, has interests in the Belgian-German bank Fortis, in Italy has 2.6 per cent of Unicredit and 2 per cent of Finmeccanica – that country’s major arms manufacturer.

Saturday, April 16, 2011


I am not a great cinema goer but I have been to see a few recent 3D movies.

Apart from the inconvenience of having to wear a pair of glasses for the duration I must admit it does bring the action right in to your face.

That might be all well and good for Gulliver’s Travels but do you want the body parts shown in an erotic movie poking your eye out. I think not!

In Hong Kong they have just premiered the first 3B erotic movie.

“3D Sex and Zen: Extreme Ecstasy” is in Cantonese but since when have viewers of such films listened to the words. It cost nearly four million US dollars to make by a company called One Dollar Production –obviously not.

By all accounts the film is based on a Chinese erotic book from the XVII century. The 3D effect means the actors and actresses are just centimetres away from you. Could be far too close for comfort.

Apparently the majority of viewers have been women – a marked change from the dirty raincoat brigade associated with Britain’s cheap porno cinemas.

One of the film goers said: “I want to see how they produced porno in 3D on a giant screen.”

The erotic film is attracting a lot of interest and could well be heading this way.

I think I will give it a miss.

The thought of sweaty body parts poking about in my popcorn is not my idea of a good night out.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


There is much consternation amongst the operatives of the Spanish intelligence services as they study a message from Atahadi – an Al Qaeda linked group.

It warns of terror attacks on both Ceuta and Melilla next week – Semana Santa – when Easter processions traditionally take to the streets of Spain’s North African enclaves.

The message is addressed to Muslims living in Ceuta and Melilla and tells them the attacks will be launched in markets and other popular gathering areas. Of course whilst the processions are taking place thousands of people are on the streets participating or watching the spectacle. Atahadi no doubt considers these to be a Christian affront on Islamic soil.

There are several elements to the message that concern the intelligence officers. Al Qaeda and Atahadi messages are usually in Arabic but this one has been posted in Spanish. Why the change and who wrote it for them?

In addition both Spain and Morocco want to know is the threat a device to stir up divisions between both nations over the enclaves – which Morocco claims – or are they a real threat, perhaps both?

Al Qaeda includes in its message allegations that the Moroccan and Spanish secret services have been working together with the objective of promoting a Jewish – Moroccan agenda. In response both Spain and Morocco have accused these Islamic activists of trying to destabilise relations between the two countries.

Back in November I wrote about the potential of Al Qaeda infiltrating and working with the Frente Polisario in the Western Sahara. The then view of a number of think tanks and experts in both the USA and France was this was a possibility, which if it happened would be a drastic and dangerous change in the Maghreb.

At the time Al Qaeda was not a major force in the Maghreb. Its activities were confined to areas of Mali and Mauritania where it has staged a number of kidnappings – perhaps because it is short of funds. Naturally if it were to team up with an armed force such at the Frente Polisario that limited influence would be greatly increased.

However whilst Al Qaeda is still on the sidelines it has been gaining in influence in the Maghreb in recent weeks. Al Qaeda or those sympathetic to it seem to be playing some part in the rebels fight in Libya. In addition it has been reported that Morocco has withdraw troops from the Western Sahara to bolster security at home due to the pro-democracy protests. If that is the case then Al Qaeda could certainly have slipped in to the region.

Morocco takes a very tough stance on Al Qaeda related groups so it is doubtful Atahadi could stage a major attack in Ceuta and Melilla where the Guardia Civil and National Police will also be on a high state of alert. Yet it is also possible so it will be an anxious Easter week for both communities.

Even if the threats prove to be a hoax Atahadi knows it has Spain’s intelligence service worried that it has at least one operative who writes fluent Spanish; it has achieved its objective of creating mistrust in the Christian and Muslim communities and it’s actions will be supported by those Moroccans who want a more active campaign to remove Spain from its enclaves.

Friday, April 8, 2011


Regular readers of this blog will know that every week I meet with Prospero to chew the cud over breakfast. Being busy journalists (stop sniggering) the day is never exact but meet we do.

On our last encounter no sooner had I sat down at the table than Prospero entered the bar and pointing at me accusingly shouted – “You’ve changed!”

Now true Prospero is a cantankerous old sod at the best of times and that day obviously wasn’t one of them. He is older than me but sadly no wiser. So what had incurred his ire?

Well before I could find out he wavered his finger at me in what I have to say was an aggressive manner – probably his Argentinean blood – and yelled at me again “You’ve bloody changed!”

Being a reasonable soul I kept my cool and quickly ran through the things I may have changed in my life. My sex – hardly. My style – what style? My hair – difficult. My religion – no I’m still confused. My politics – even more so. My socks – don’t go there!

Eventually when I had calmed him down and laid a breakfast before him between chomping on his mollete con jamón y tomate washed down with gulps of coffee – he said yet again – now almost in tears – “You’ve bloody changed!”

As he wept on my shoulder he revealed the reason for his agitation was that I have changed the style of this blog page. I explained that indeed I had because I had received not complaints rather suggestions from users of iPhones that the white reversed out of black was difficult to read.

This confused the old fart even more. First he refused to believe I have any readers (on that he is probably right) and secondly – what’s an iPhone?

I ordered him another coffee.


I have been doing some research into Laura Norder.

I thought it would be interesting to find out the Labour Party’s thinking on certain issues and as Yvette Cooper is the Shadow Home Secretary I Googled her name.

Her own website came up which told me nothing I didn’t know already.

So I checked out Facebook and found Fans of Yvette Cooper.

Well the page looks official enough. It has her biog and a link to her own website. However it appears poor Yvette has only three friends.

Now don’t get me wrong it is not the number I refer to. Many of us would be happy to have three friends. For a politician I would imagine such a high number is a rarity.

No my only issue with Yvette is the company she keeps. As you probably know Yvette Cooper is also Mrs Balls – easy to see why she kept her maiden name. Husband is Shadow Chancellor Ed – recently described by the prime minister as the most annoying man in the House of Commons. When you consider what riff-raff reside there that’s no mean achievement.

So I accept that Mrs Balls might find friends hard to come by – but is Nick Griffin really one of her three friends?

Nick Griffin is I am sure you know the leader of the odious BNP – Britain’s far right gang.

Click on Nick’s ‘Activities and Interests’ on his Facebook page and you find listed: Gordon Brown, Labour Party, The Labour Party, Kerry McCarthy MP Twitter Tsar, Ed Balls, Ed Balls, Peter Mandelson. Curiously Yvette’s husband features twice so she is in good company.

How does that old saying go – a person is known by the company he or she keeps.

Indeed! I think its time Yvette reviewed her Facebook friends. Remove Old Nick and you might even get a few more!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011


Whatever happens at the next Spanish general election in March 2012 the country will find itself led by a new prime minister. On Saturday José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero announced at a PSOE conference that he would not be a candidate at the polls.

The move was widely anticipated and so Zapatero draws a close on what will be his two terms as premier. The next prime minister could be Mariano Rajoy whose Partido Popular currently lead in the polls. Who will lead PSOE has yet to be decided.

Although the PP is riding high in the polls, largely because of the financial crisis, Rajoy will be a nervous man. He took over the leadership of the party from outgoing premier José María Aznar in 2004 and seemed favourite to win until the March 11 bombs in Madrid and the anger over the Iraq War railroaded his campaign. H was defeated at the polls just three days later.

Now PSOE will look for a new leader who will probably close the gap on the PP. The problem for Rajoy is he is not popular in the country and various polls have shown that even Zapatero was more liked on a personal basis. So could Rajoy and his party be robbed of the crown yet again?

The process to decide who faces him in 2012 will not start till after the town hall and some regional government elections on May 22. Zapatero said he was announcing his decision now to dispel any uncertainty but there would be no immediate campaigning for his job as everybody would be concentrating on the local and autonomous elections (not in Andalucía until 2012).

It is likely the committee to run the election for his successor will meet on May 28 and the process will be completed during the summer. However whoever emerges as the winner will be the leader in waiting as Zapatero is adamant he will lead the government till the end of its term.

So who will be the new leader? Two names are currently in the frame. The first, and probably favourite, is Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba, the new strong man of the government and first deputy premier. He is also the minister of the interior and has been at the heart of the battle again ETA. His likely challenger is also battle hardened. She is Carme Chacón, the first female defence minister and one who is rated as having made a success of the job.

Rubalcaba is considered by many as the only candidate capable of taking on the PP and winning. According to the Centro de Investigaciones Sociológicas poll Rubalcaba is the mostly highly rated member of the government but is intriguingly followed by Chacón in second place. The other question is – are the socialists and wider Spain ready for a female party leader and hence potential prime minister?

I blogged about Rubalcaba when he first showed in the opinion polls that he would be more popular than Zapatero dubbing his emergence as PSOE’s Gordon Brown moment. Rather than bottle it as the Labour Party in the UK did (to David Miliband’s cost) the Spanish socialists have set the beleaguered Zapatero aside and will go in to the general election with a new leader at the helm. Their hope now will be to win outright or at least win sufficient seats to form a coalition.

Thursday, March 31, 2011


There can be few people in the world who would embrace Gaddafi (well apart from the US, British, Spanish, Italian and other leading politicians plus royalty who did so in recent years) but I feel uneasy about the current military action in Libya.

I agree the people of Benghazi should be saved but then so too should the people of Zimbabwe, the Congo, Sudan, Israel, Gaza and many other places in the world too numerous to mention who have come under fire and been slaughtered whilst the world stood by.

Indeed many of these are not past events but current. Zimbabwe is about to have another violent election but by all accounts has still found time to send “troops” to aid Gaddafi in his fight.

We do not even know who we are saving in the rebel part of Libya. Hilary Clinton admits the US hasn’t got a clue. Yet she wants to arm them in the same manner as the US did in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq in years gone by. Then, years later, the US is amazed when the barrels are aimed at them by the very same people who they thought were on their side.

So why was the British Government so keen to intervene? To cover up for the botched attempts to evacuate its nationals? To divert attention from the real economic crisis facing the British people? Cameron may want to be a world leader – but please sort the mess out at home first.

US Republicans were angry because Obama didn’t rush in to Libya straight away. Now they are furious because he has taken action. The madness is worthy of a scenario involving Gaddafi.

Either the world intervenes to stop carnage or its stands by. You can’t step into oil States such as Libya and Iraq and stand by idly in Zimbabwe and countless other African and Arab nations.

There is no good carnage and bad carnage only carnage.

The West backed numerous despots because they ruled in the West’s national interest. Now the people of these countries want to be governed in their own interests not those of Washington, London, Paris or Rome.

The fact is the Western governments haven’t a clue whether they are coming or going – but in the meantime they’ll bomb Libya.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011


Eight years ago Madrid and wider Spain witnessed major demonstrations against the country’s involvement in the war in Iraq. Last Saturday the protestors returned to the streets of the nation’s capital this time to denounce Spain’s support of the military intervention in Libya.

Behind the banner “No a la Guerra” the marchers included the Izquierda Unida MP, Gaspar Llamazares, actors Alberto San Juan, Guillermo Toldeo and Juan Diego Botto plus the singer Germán Coppini. They were joined by other leading figures from the world of politics and culture.

The organisers say the purpose of the march was to bring thousands of people out on to the street with a twin message – no to foreign military intervention in Libya – and – no to the Muamar Gaddafi dictatorship.

Julio Rodríguez Bueno, president of Paz Ahora, one of the pacifist organisers of the demonstration considers that the foreign military intervention is the support for a campaign of lies. He compared it with the action against Saddam Hussein who was accused of having weapons of mass destruction and being a supporter of Al Qaeda.

From another viewpoint the IU’s social movement organizer, Fran Pérez, believes the conflict in Libya is “a war for petroleum”. He added the aim was to ferment civil war so that military intervention could be used in an imperialist project to dominate natural resources.

Indeed the people of Libya are lucky they have oil on their side. This saw the USA and western nations scuttling in to save them whilst those in Egypt, Bahrain, Syria and Yemen are left to fend for themselves as their countries are as dry as the desert sands.

One pundit observed nations do not back causes they only intervene when their national interests and/or vital resource supplies are threatened.

Let the people of Benghazi give thanks nor for Sarkozy but liquid gold!

Saturday, March 26, 2011


Colonel Muammar Gaddafi has talked of revenge against NATO nations for the no-fly zone and military operations currently being carried out against his regime in Libya under the UN motion.

Of course Gaddafi has his hands full on his own turf without being able to plan outrages in Britain or France. However that is not to say his surrogates will not do his work for him.

British Intelligence has for long stated the major threat in the UK comes not from Muslim inspired terrorism but rogue elements amongst Irish Republican groups. These members of the IRA and INLA do not accept the peace agreement and power sharing accords and are carrying on the fight long abandoned by their brothers and sisters in arms and Sinn Fein.

To see just how an important role Libya played in arming the IRA we have to go back to 1986 when Gaddafi resumed supplying arms to the Republican terror organisation because Britain assisted the USA in the bombing of Tripoli. Sound familiar?

In fact the first arms delivery was discovered back in 1973 when the Claudia was intercepted with guns and ammunition off the Irish coast. Experts say the most significant weapon supplied by Gaddafi to the IRA was Semtex which was used to create landmines for attacks against British soldiers in Northern Ireland. Before Libya’s intervention the IRA was fighting a modern war with ancient weapons.

At the time of the decommissioning of the IRA’s weapons it was estimated the organisation still held 2.5 tonnes of Semtex with a shelf life of another 20 years. Some of that would have gone, perhaps the vast majority, but enough may remain for dissident Republicans to plant another bomb in London in support of their aims and as a thank you to their embattled arms supplier. Even if the Semtex has gone they are not short of a bomb or two.

As I was writing this British Justice Secretary, Ken Clarke, was being interviewed by The Guardian. In the interview he said the dictator could stage another Lockerbie-style terrorist attack: “The British people have reason to remember the curse of Gaddafi - Gaddafi back in power, the old Gaddafi looking for revenge, we have a real interest in preventing that...”

Clarke is envisaging an attack should Gaddafi survive in Libya. I am suggesting it may come before that.

Thursday, March 24, 2011


A few weeks ago I took a drive around Nueva Andalucía in Marbella for old time’s sake. I passed what had been a restaurant owned by those with criminal connections in London. Just up the road was a bar where then recently released English criminals used to call in for breakfast. Over a two week period the American owner told me they had been very friendly, never offered to pay for their food and he never liked to ask. All of this was within a stroll of Mad Frankie Fraser’s old manor.

Of course British criminal gangs have always been involved in turf wars or acts of revenge but these used to take place in their own back yards. In recent years Nueva Andalucía has become the preserve of Britons with criminal connections. There have been a number of shootings, some deadly, in what the National Police call the “settling of accounts” largely amongst drug traffickers.

The latest of these cases was the Thursday of last week just before 15.15 when the 091 emergency room of the local police in Marbella received a call to say there had been a shooting in the calle del Califa. A number of shots were discharged and a person injured.

When officers arrived there was no injured man to be found but eyewitnesses informed them the shooting had indeed taken place with the victim shot in the leg. It is understood the gunman arrived on the back of a motorbike; had got off and shot the victim as he talked with another man in the street. The gunman was then driven off at speed whilst the injured man was taken away in a four wheel drive vehicle.

Police searched the scene and found two spent cartridges which corresponded with the number of shots heard. However there was no sign of blood and no hospital or health centre had treated anybody for gunshot wounds.

From speaking to witnesses police say they are sure those involved were British. Tragically this is nothing new for Nueva Andalucía where one of the more serious shootings was in December 2009 when a Briton was shot three times, with one bullet entering his head.

However the worst case was back in December 2004 when gunmen shot and killed a 7-year-old boy and a 36-year-old hairdresser outside the Andalucía Plaza Hotel. Also injured in the hail of bullets were three other people. This case probably did not involve Britons although one of the gunmen spoke in English.

The tragic events took place at 17.30 on a Saturday afternoon when three heavily armed men got out of an Audi car parked outside the hotel leaving a fourth man at the wheel. They walked to a BMW parked outside the Cosmo hairdressers, which is part of the hotel building, and fired at a man sitting in the passenger seat. Eyewitnesses then say that the trio ran to the entrance of the hotel and one of the men fired a hail of bullets inside. The men were armed with automatic rifles and reports state that police found over 100 spent shells at the scene of the shooting.

Killed in the outrage was the 36-year-old Italian male owner of the hairdressers. Slain too was a seven-year-old boy from Sevilla who was on a short holiday to Marbella. He was waiting in the interior of the hotel for members of his family when around 6 bullets hit him in the abdomen. His aunt and another family member were amongst those injured.

After the shooting, an Algerian-born French businessman, without any known previous convictions, went to Marbella National Police station and told officers that he believed that he was the target of the killers. The businessman is involved in the exclusive fashions industry and commutes between Paris and Marbella. He was in the hairdressers at the time of the shooting.

He claims that he did not know the identity of the four men but they appeared to be looking for a second man after shooting his colleague sitting in the BMW. The injured man, who also has no previous convictions, has been described as the Frenchman’s friend and bodyguard. A pistol was found beneath the BMW car and officers have arrested him in his hospital bed on charges of alleged possession of an illicit firearm.

Today the Costa del Sol is a shooting gallery for rival gangsters. British criminals there are a plenty plus various Italian mafias, Russians, Eastern Europeans and bad guys and girls from other nations. The only difference is now the Spanish police work closely with their counterparts in these countries. Hence if you turn a corner and face a man or woman with a gun they are just as likely to be from the police as a gang member.