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Showing posts from February, 2013

The common cormorant or shag ......

Cartagena is an important port on the Med. Cruise ships, tankers, gas carriers, container ships, fishing boats, pleasure craft and all sorts of warships are a common sight from the town's seafront.

To the East and the West of us there is a lot of untouched coastline where rugged hillsides drop precipitously down to the sea. We can boast a natural park with unspoiled beaches at Calblanque but, to be fair, we also have the huge port and industrial complex of Escombreras with refineries and all sorts of stinking chemical works as well as one of the most polluted beaches on the Med at Portman.

Heading a a fair way to the West out of Cartagena is Mazarrón and to the North and East you bump into La Manga, the strange narrow piece of land which seperates the Mediterranean from the inland strech of salt water called the Mar Menor. Around Puerto de Mazzarón, La Manga and the Mar Menor there are several typical low key Spanish seaside towns - low key in the sense that they don't have h…

Money rich, time poor?

Outside the flat we have a box for all the advertising blurb that people deliver. The supermarket offers, mega deals on beds or super special deals on computers. Most of it goes straight to the recycling bin. The other day though there was a small ad for a dog walking service. I thought it was interesting.

Most Spaniards I teach are relatively well off. Talking to them I don't get the idea that many of them have "servants". If the kids need parking somewhere before they are old enough for nursery, kindergarten or school or after they come home from them it tends to be with the grandparents rather than with child minders. Cleaners are pretty common but they don't seem to do the ironing or the laundry. My perception is that, unlike middle class Britons, there is not a culture of buying people's labour to give the better off middle classes more free time.

So a dog walker is out of the ordinary. Of course it may well be someone just having a go, they may not really …

And whoever wakes in England

I've just spent the weekend in the UK. I went to see my sister and mother. I had a splendid time.

I don't go to the UK very often. I was last there in February 2011. In the past nine years I've maybe spent around ten days there so it's quite a strange place to me nowadays. These are a few of the things I noticed.

Nearly everyone speaks English. This may not be surprising to you but it seemed a bit strange to me. In Ely I heard someone speak and my instant reaction was "ah, Brits, just like me." I turned to have a look. I can say anything I need to in Spanish but in English I can say what I want. It was a marked difference. Mind you I did find myself marvelling at the language of the DJs on Radio 1.

I hired a car. I tried to get into it on the wrong side several times - ah, other door for the steering wheel. I fished around with my right hand for the gear lever. Driving on the other side of the road wasn't a big problem but the traffic was. It goes much s…

Under the table

Spain isn't one of those places where you need to add a folded banknote to oil the wheels of each and every transaction. It's an orderly, organised and well administered European country. That doesn't mean to say that there are not plenty of dodgy deals producing lots of dodgy money.

There must be someone out there whose house deeds show what they actually paid for their house but there won't be many. The usual routine is that the buyer and seller agree both a price and what percentage of that price will show up on the deeds and transaction documents. The rest is handed over in cash. This is usually done in a back room of the notary's office. The notary turns a blind eye.

Spain is an expensive place to contract employees because the "national insurance" is so high. One way around that is for employers to pay some of the contract as cash in hand so they are able to show a lower salary on the official contract. That way the employee gets the protections li…