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Showing posts from November, 2011

Cross all over again

The Spanish banking system drives me crazy. It's slow and ponderous with piles and piles of paper, incredible waiting times and outrageous charges. I've got used to it of course, even old people like me are very adaptable, but it did strike me that I could save about 160€ per year by closing one of the accounts that I no longer really use.

On the surface the banks are all very modern looking - chipped cards, Internet transactions and what not but not far beneath the veneer it's still steel nibbed pens and winged collars. I guessed that I would be expected to go to my own branch to close the account in person. The problem is that my own branch is 120km away. I got in touch with the bank's central customer services to ask how to overcome the problem. Their answer was simple. Only the one branch can close your account.

To be honest I didn't get particularly cross. I wasn't surprised. I've lived here a while now. And, after all this is the bank that, when I ask…

Dancing while the bomb drops

It wouldn't be too much of an exaggeration to say that Maggie loves the musician Pat Metheny. But for her I'd know him vaguely as a bloke who made a record with David Bowie years and years ago.

Cartagena has an annual Jazz Festival. We went to see Ryuichi Sakamoto a couple of years ago, possibly someone else too. This year people on the bill have included Wanda Jackson, Bettye Lavette, Herman Dune, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Sly Johnson, Ryuichi Sakamoto (again), the Cowboy Junkies and lots more.

A new conference centre, El Batel, was recently completed in Cartagena. It's all walls of light and big open spaces. The auditorium has been used for some of the jazz concerts.

And guess who was on the bill of the Cartagena Jazz Festival programme at the new conference centre tonight - got it in one eh?, Pat Metheny. And we went. He's not a personal favourite of mine but I thought it was a good concert and as we were on the front row we had a good view. Such a good view indeed that…

Left right out

I'm feeling a bit left out.  It's the day of the General Election today for both lower and upper houses of parliament and I can't vote. I'm not complaining as such but I'd much rather be able to vote for the Spanish politicians who affect my life rather than for the British ones who are largely irrelevant to me. I can vote in UK General Elections, in European elections here in Spain and in the local Spanish ones. Neither country allows me to vote at the regional level

I've just had a wander around the area close to our house to have a look at some polling stations. I found three in maybe a twenty minute walk - one was in a church building, one in a museum and one in a school. They weren't exactly overwhelmed with voters but there was a steady trickle of people exercising their franchise.

The system here is that you vote for a party. The parties put forward a list of candidates in each area and the number of candidates elected from each list is decided on a…


My Auntie Eileen used to live near Leyburn in North Yorkshire. She was a Conservative supporter. One day she invited my family to a Con. Club do near to her house. Family winning out over ideology I accepted the invitation and enjoyed a frank exchange of views with Leon Brittan, the candidate for the forthcoming elections. To give him his due he bought me a wine and I was weak enough to accept it. Years later I made it very plain to Jonathan Djanogly, the Tory candidate for Huntingdon, that I would rather buy my own. As my Uncle Steve said "The Conservatives could put up a donkey here and it would win." True for Richmond, true for Huntingdon.

It's much the same in Murcia where we live. Blue as they come. Not a lot of election activity. But Andalucia is different. Andalucia has been Socialist since the return of democracy to Spain. At the last elections though, the local elections, for the first time the Socialists took a trouncing in the region.

We skipped over the borde…


Back in 2008 when Heath Ledger died I heard the news on the morning radio. I knew someone was dead. I knew it was a film star. I could understand the biography but blow me if I could get the name. Then I recognised the Spanish title, En Terreno Vedado, as the equivalent of Brokeback Mountain. Deduction, my dear Watson, filled in the gaps.
There are pretty tight rules about how to say words in Spanish. There are variations of accents and what not but, basically, Spanish is a very phonetic language. Fine with Spanish words but a minefield for the foreign imports. I find Anglo names in Spanish mouths almost unrecognisable and words that Spaniards think are English but said with a Spanish lilt can be difficult too. This isn't much of a problem in speaking Spanish as I simply avoid the imported words and stick with the more old fashioned Spanish version. 
The real problem comes with English words used to describe a product - a US film with an English language title, almost anything in…

Little jobs

Repairing things, not throwing them away and buying new, is still pretty normal in Spain. When the handle on my axe broke and none of the standard sized replacement ones in the ironmongers would fit the shopkeeper arranged for a chap to shape an appropriate new handle. After the nose-piece dropped off my 35 year old sunspecs the local optician soldered or brazed on, or whatever it is they do, a new one as I waited.

Of course the crisis, the financial ructions of the past few years, has a lot to do with it. Cobblers are doing brisk trade once again and the little workshops that alter and repair clothes have been given a new lease of life. I suppose a new and less artisan manifestation of the poverty is the huge number of "We Buy Gold" shops or the burgeoning number of pawn shops all over the city.

Anyway the increased visibility of the places that repair and alter clothes made me think that it may be worth having the ripped lining and shredded pockets of my leather jacket re…

Bit of a damp squib then

We've got a General Election here on 20 November. Interesting date, anniversary of Franco's death. It looks as though the socialists, the PSOE, are going to take a right pasting at the hands of the conservative PP. Everyone is so sure that it's going to happen that I wouldn't be surprised if the turnout is pathetic.

Official campaigning in Spain starts a couple of weeks before the election date with no campaigning the day before. So midnight last night was the start line. The normal routine is that there are lots of photos of the big candidates pasting up an election poster somewhere as midnight strikes. No photos like that in my paper this morning. In fact I haven't seen any posters in the streets yet although the volume of political tweets and posts to my Facebook page has rocketed in the past few hours.

No, the only time that I noticed that we are now in full campaign mode was that there were a couple of political adverts on the radio as I was getting breakfast …


A caldero is a small cauldron shaped cooking pot. It has given its name to a fish and rice dish that is popular all along the Murcian coast and the Mar Menor. So caldero, like paella, takes its name from the pan it's cooked in.

I am told that in it's original form it was a cheap and easy meal for fishermen. They were able to use up the fish or fish parts that weren't saleable. The fish, along with tomatoes, local peppers, garlic and saffron is used to produce a stock in which rice is cooked. It is the rice that is the essential part of the meal but, if you have any decent fish available, that can be cooked in the stock too. Normally the fish is served separately. So it really is rice with fish rather than a rice and fish mixture.

The whole lot is served accompanied by ali-oli - an emulsion of garlic in olive oil - which lots of we foreigners mistakenly believe to be a garlic mayonnaise.

Now Spaniards eat a lot of fish. Even the smallest of supermarkets often have extensive…

Telly ads

I was just watching Modern Family on the telly. "We'll be back in 6 minutes," said the message as we went into the adverts. I went to get a brandy and a snack. The programme came back on, I turned the volume up - 20 seconds more of Phil and Gloria and Mitchell and then WHAM "We´ll be back in 60 seconds." Groans from the sofa. Programme back on. Another 20 seconds and another WHAM "We'll be back in 2 minutes." Luckily there was nothing at hand to throw.

There are no adverts on the public channels anymore so a 90 minute film takes 90 minutes to show. It's much better than the olden days when there were (I think) 18 minutes of advertising every hour. One of the favourite tricks was to put the last crop of adverts on just before the end of the film. The denouement is seconds away - adverts - final 45 second scene of the film and it's all over. Infuriating especially at 2am.

So public telly has got much better. They still have long trailer slo…