Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Ballena blanca

This is the surprisingly apt name given to the anti-corruption and money laundering operation launched in 2004. Now we all know there is corruption here, but the scale of it compares to Russia's Yukos oil scandal.

Already, one of Marbella's leading lawyers, Fernando del Valle is facing jail over organising the laundering of hundreds of millions of euro through property deals for dozens of organised crime syndicates. The fallout has cost one Marbella mayor, Julian Muñoz his job and he's been convicted on corruption charges. Marbella's planning control has been taken away by the Junta de Andalucía. The (former Gil party) mayor, Pedro Tirado is in jail also facing corruption charges. And now his socialist successor, Salvador Zotano has been arrested on similar charges.

The Junta has criticised almost every town hall in Málaga province for planning irregularities, and now insists that every planning application for rural land goes through them. One of the few town halls not to have been caught up in this is Casares. It seems thay have a more pragmatic approach - The town iteslf is inland and the district has a tiny coastline, about 1km. All the housing developments on the coast do not spoil the town itself. Furthermore, the developers pay the town hall a premium for the land which funds the town´s infrastrucure. At the moment there are two new car parks, a community centre, a Guardia Civil barracks and sheltered housing all being built on the back of costal land sold for housing development. True this means we have five tower cranes (practically a motif for the Costa del Sol) in town, but it means somewhere to park the car. Until now the town had 80 parking spaces for over 400 cars in a mountain town with mediaeval narrow streets (see town photo from my first post).

Sunday, January 22, 2006

El acoso escolar


I've been unable to post for the past few days due to:-

  1. being busy at work (makes a change)
  2. writing an article for the Parents Association (AMPA) for the local primary school, and
  3. finally getting my ADSL connection set up at home.
The first AMPA meeting was an eye-opener. We had intended to raise the subject of bullying (our son suffers quite a bit). We were beaten to the post by other parents. Of the nine families represented, five complained of bullying and violence and one other clearly had problems but said nothing. Bullying is a hot issue in Spain. There have been a number of high profile cases, especially that of Jokin, English versions are included here and here. What really gets my goat is the teachers continued denial that there is any problem, in fact referring my son (the victim) to the school psychiatrist!

The only action taken which seems to have had some effect (at least temporarily) has been to make a denuncia against the bullies. This is because, if made against the child, the denuncia is heard before the judge in 24 hours. If the parents cannot successfully defend the case, their children are taken into care. We had the parents round our house double-quick begging us to retract the denuncia. We eventually did this after getting solemn promises from the parents, but made it clear that any repetition would see a repeat performance and no retraction.

What is required now is action by the school to control the problem. This will mean a transformation in attitude by the school staff (not just teachers).

Thursday, January 12, 2006

¿Dónde he escuchado eso de Andalucía un «país de ciudades»?

I'm feeling teed-off and bolshy today. My job seems about to end and I haven't been paid for December yet. My employer has even tried to not pay my 'paga extraordinaria'. I need to go and see the union about that. In fact abuses by employers of all nationalities here in Spain make it your number one priority to join.

This story from ABC Seville's edition reminds me of 1997 in the UK. Remember the Blair government saying it would be for all the people, and then actually only serving its powerbase of socialists? As a countryside dweller in the UK, do you feel betrayed by the government?

Now it seems the same is to happen here. The mayor of Seville says that Andalucía is a "country of towns". What about the 50% of Andalucían people who live in the countryside? Are they to be shafted over drought / falling agricultural incomes / bird flu like UK rural populations were over BSE / F&M disease / GM crops / fox hunting?

This comment was part of the posturing around the socialists support for the Catalan statute. This statute may now define Cataluña as a 'nation'. Already one leading Lt.-General has been put under house arrest for suggesting the army might have to get involved to defend the Spanish consitution.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Los Reyes Magos visitaron Casares

I found this photo on our town hall website.

We were all there joining in the scrum for sweets. If you look carefully at the bottom right-hand corner you will see my youngest daughter (in pink) with her back to the camera. She managed to fill a shopping bag with sweets. On getting back to the house afterwards, we found an entire tin of sweets from last year.

As a nice touch the Three Kings gave each child a set of coloured pencils. Ours will come in useful, parents have to pay for school books and materials. This school year we were looking at 100 euro per child until the Junta de Andalucía and the Ayuntamiento stepped in with grants. These grants still only apply to primary schools, so I'll have to start saving for their secondary school education now.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

El primer correo

Post number one

A bit of a cheat this, as I'm doing this from the office. The courier company sent me a text message today that they are delivering my ADSL kit (WiFi modem et al) but cannot find my house. This is unsurprising in Spain. Couriers will often only deliver to a house they can easily find. Mine is up a steep, winding, narrow street and then up a flight of forty-two steps (I know, I count them each time I bring home the family shopping or furniture)

The solution I've found is, like my neighbours, to have the package delivered to my local bar (Los Claveles) to be collected later.

Weather today: 5-13 C, overcast.

That's it until I get home this evening.

¿Donde vivo? ¿Qual es el ITV?

This is the view from our house.

Casares is 15km inland from the Costa del Sol, 100km from the provincial capital, Málaga and over 400m up.

The 'Casareños' are a little different from the coastal Spanish, more insular and more in tune with rural life. It's still not uncommon to see a horse tied up in the plaza whilst the owner is inside a bar. However, 'burros' have disappeared. I haven't seen one here since we arrived last year. Plenty of 'quads' though.

'Quads' or the little ATVs are extremely common, since they don't require feeding, and can negotiate the steep roads easily. Most do not have an ITV (MOT) certificate. In fact, Málaga province is the worst in the whole of Spain. Less than half the vehicles on the road which need this test have one. One-fifth of vehicles (mostly scooters and 'quads') have NEVER had an ITV.