Sunday, 22 September 2019

If Franco Were Alive Today He'd Be Turning in His Grave - But Which One?

If Franco Were Alive Today, He'd Be Turning in His Grave - But Which One?

Paco. You're confused. You've brought a wooden stake instead of a chisel.'

'I know. Shut up and get digging'

Here we are again in Álora.
Just over a week ago we took our place among the Rolls Royces, Bentleys, Lamborghinis and Ferraris in the queue to board the Good Ship Pont Aven in Plymouth and headed off into the unknown. It appears that a good few of the richest people in the UK had the same idea. There must have been billions of pounds worth of cars crammed on those car decks. It doesn't look good for the British economy when all the toffs are scuttling away to the Continent - like rats leaving a sinking ship, some may say.
Here's a toff showing off his new Rolls Royce Phantom. I bet not many people north of Crouch End have never even seen one of these £400,000 monsters. Ten a penny on the Pont Aven.

We've booked a passage to come back to Blighty in December but God Only Knows (by the Beach Boys) what the future holds for Fair Albion (with all the toffs gone).

However, some of them have been forced to stay behind for a week because of an ancient British tradition called 'Droit de Seigneur. At this very moment 11 elaborately berobed Law Lords with names like Lord Pannick, Lord Keen and Lady Bracknell, (A handbag?!!) are trying to find a way to break the news to the entire population of The British Isles that for the last 300 years (at least) they have had no democratic control over their government. Our parliament ,The House of Commons, has been given two fingers and the bums rush by a fat ex-Eton schoolboy, without so much as a by your leave, and nobody can do a thing about it!

What was all that Women's Suffragette Movement about then? 

 'Take your grubby mitts off me you plebby plod. I'm Lady Bracknell, don't you know.'

Apparently it's all been done by a nod and a wink and the odd handshake in the past and NOBODY HAS NOTICED that we don't have a constitution.

                           The Supreme Court Judges (top toffs)

 I just hope they can sort it all out before we get back.

Speaking of 'judges', Mrs. Sánchez and I are very proud to announce that our little dog Monty was judged 'Dog With  Best Trick'  at the prestigious Brittany Ferries International  Dog Show.

I hope it hasn't gone to his head.

The voyage south across the Bay of Biscay was without incident and, as usual, mostly took place during the night while Mrs. Sánchez and I were were asleep in our 'inside' (no view) cabin, Monty was giving his contralto contribution to the canine chorus from his prison cell on deck 10, and members of the 'Luxury Tours' £8,000-a-head posh car rally were sleeping off their champagne cocktails in 'Commodore Class'. (Try saying that without taking a breath).

                     Choppy seas in the Bay of Biscay

I must say it felt like an escape from chaos as we closed in on the port of Santander. At last, a country at peace with itself after 40 years living under a fascist dictatorship  and 40 more with a CONSTITUTION, a king, and a bright future.

BUT no government either, apparently. At least Spain has a parliament, Las Cortes, but they can't agree about who shall be the Prime Minister.
The PSOE party won the most seats in the latest election, so its leader, Pedro Sánchez (no relation) thinks he should have the top job. The other party leaders won't go for it, so he's well miffed and says they'll have to have another election - the fourth in four years.

                            Pedro Sánchez (bless 'im.)

Personally, I like elections and can't get enough of them, and one a year is not frequent enough in my opinion, but all this messing about has held up the exhumation of Franco's body again.

Generalisimo Francisco Franco Bahamonde. 'El Caudillo'

They were supposed to dig him up in June from El Valle de los Caidos (The Valley of the Fallen) -  the modest monument to Franco's victory in the Spanish Civil War that dominates the skyline a few miles north of Madrid, where he's no right to be anyway because he neither fell nor was he pushed. In effect he gate-crashed the graveyard, but his family and fan club ,The Francisco Franco Foundation can't agree where to put his mummified body when they they've dug him up,

           El Valle de Los Caidos (The Valley of the Fallen)

So, he can stay where he is for the time being.

It's all because of The Law of Historical Memory which was put into force by the socialist and anti- fascist PSOE Party in 2007.
The law was intended to end El Pacto del Olvido ( the unwritten agreement to forget all about what had happened during and after the Spanish Civil War). 
The new law recognises that El Franquismo' (The Franco era 1939-75) was a fascist dictatorship (a bad thing), that Franco committed crimes against humanity and that the families of people who were killed or persecuted for opposing Franco have the right to justice and to give a decent burial to their relatives who, in many thousands of cases,  lie as yet unidentified, in mass graves all over Spain.

Members of the Franco Fan Club at The Valle de los Caidos

This also means that the Valle de Los Caidos can not be used as a 'shrine' to Francoism any more - so El Caudillo got his marching orders.

I noticed in 'El Pais in English' that a little village up near Salamanca called Agueda (60 inhabitants) has offered to have Franco's body buried there, so that the villagers can pay their respects and earn a few euros by selling Franco memorabilia, plaster virgins, beer and ice cream.

The village used to be called 'Agueda del Caudillo' and is one of 300 'Franco towns' that were built between 1939 and 1970'. 

                            Brasilas del Caudillo, Rioja.

101 of these 'colonisations' were built in Andalucía. Franco had them built in order to repopulate rural areas where, presumably, everyone had either been shot dead, locked up in prison or put in one of his concentration camps.

They were nearly all built from scratch in drought areas or swamps and people were shipped in to grow fruit and vegetables. The pueblos were usually named after the modest 'Caudillo' himself.

Agueda del Caudillo has had to change its name to just 'Agueda'. This will help people to forget about Franco.

El Ultimo Pueblo del Caudillo. The Last Pueblo of the Caudillo

All but 7 of the 300 Franco towns have changed their names to ones having no reference to Franco.
The last one not to comply in Andalucía is Villafranco del Guadalhorce which is 22 km (12 miles) from Álora . We used to pass through it every time we went to the coast or the Sunday Market in Coin

The people in Villafranco don't seem to care one way or the other about the name of their town but with new elections on the way, who knows? We had a visit from Vox,  the 'far right' Francoist Party yesterday. It will be right up their street to stir up trouble amongst the peace-loving Villafranceños over a name.

'What are you going to do about the lack of pies in Spain, mate?'

They'd better not start any trouble round here. Las Personas Mayores (the elderly) round here are signing up for this course in 'self defence´. It's being run by Manuel Conejo (Manuel Rabbit) so it should be good. No special equipment will be necessary, but participants are advised to 'wear loose clothing and carry a 'baston' (stick.)'

 'Speak softly and carry a big stick.'
 Theodore Roosevelt.

Bar News 

Sad to report that 'Padre y Hijo'. on Calle Santa Ana has closed its doors again . Since it stopped being the town's Post Office it has re-opened at least 8 times as a bar. The only successful owner was the first, Lars, a tall, serious Swede.

'Bar El Tapeo' on Calle Vera Cruz has had a few incarnations too. It was a bar with that name in 1999, then it was Obi's Bar, then Bar Gallego. Recently it has been selling women's underwear and was  the HQ of the Partido Popular.
Now it's El Sede and is doing very well at the moment.

I've been waiting for those nice people at 'A Place in the Sun' to contact me. So far I have not received the large cheque I was expecting following their visit to Casa Sanchez. I rang their production office a couple of weeks ago but the nice lady seemed to think I was asking about a programme on global warming.
She just kept saying something about 'hell freezing over'.

Juanito Sánchez 22nd. September 2019.

Wednesday, 21 August 2019

What the fox this all about? (Qu'est-ce que c'est que ça?)

What the fox this all about?

                                                           Vulpes Vulpes

Well, We've got this fox.
I don't know where he lives but we share the same back garden. In the past we have got on very well with him, his family and his numerous forebears. Based on the fact that urban foxes rarely live for more than four years, he must be at least the great great great great great grandson of the one we saw when we first moved into this house in the leafy suburbs of Birmingham and we have co-existed here in perfect harmony until a couple of years ago. His family have probably lived round here for much longer than we have so I suppose that we, being the immigrants, should be grateful that we have been accepted, even though we have never made any attempt to learn tuheir language or adopt their lifestyle and cultural values.

Don't get me wrong. I am in no way a 'foxist'. Mrs.S. and I love wildlife. We have a 'wildlife pond', and small 'wildlife area', where nettles grow undisturbed to encourage butterflies and moths, countless bird feeders and lots of 'bee friendly' plants.We even pay a monthly subscription to The Birmingham and Black Country Wildlife Trust. But it's a bit much when a fox engages in revolutionary guerrilla warfare.

Urban foxes come out at night to look for food so you don't see them very often, but it's easy to spot the route they take across our garden and the holes in the fence on each side where they pass through. Sometimes, when we have just returned from Spain, Eddie (our affectionate name for him), will wander up near the house, look surprised to see us, give us a look that says 'Oh, it's you lot again!' and trot away.

'Cuando el gato está de vacaciones, bailan las ratones'
(When the cat's away, the mice will play).

The urban fox should not be confused with his distant relative, the urbane fox 

Urban Fox

Urbane fox

This deterioration in Human/ Vulpine relations has happened since we got Monty, two years ago.
Tommy, who was a large and peace-loving Springer Spaniel, and,sadly,no longer with us, had little interest in foxes and was too big to crawl through the holes they made in our fences. Monty is an enthusiastic foxophile and can easily slip through their  holes and annoy our neighbours who are terrified of dogs, even pictures of them.

                                        Monty checking out the latest foxhole.

What we have now is open warfare. I have patched up dozens of fox holes and Eddie the fox has dug out dozens more. Monty is only too pleased to show them to me.
Can you imagine what it's going to be like setting up a 'hard border' between Northern and Southern Ireland? Well I can!

I googled 'How to prevent foxes entering your garden'. Here's what I read:

Method 1 Deterring Foxes
  1. Make your land less attractive. ...
  2. Block access to enclosed spaces that could turn into a den. ...
  3. Choose a repellent. ...
  4. Apply repellent strategically. ...
  5. Leave out bad-tasting food. ...
  6. Add male urine around the perimeter. ...
  7. Get a guard animal. ...
  8. Try commercial scare products.

Option 6 immediately appealed to me - cost neutral, no specialist equipment needed, eco- friendly and, I admit it, pleasurable.
And it appeared to work.....until

                                       Foxy faeces (not the actual offending item)

The vicious, vile, vulpine vandal crapped on my front doorstep!! There's no mistaking a fox turd. I only just avoided stepping in it when I opened the front door to take Monty for his morning constitutional in Swanshurst Park.
I took this as a clear message that hostilities had been raised a notch. I thought I'd been dealing with a small, wild mammal incapable of higher levels of reasoning. Are animals known to carry out revenge attacks? How does  the fox know what number our house is?

It's now taken to digging dirty big holes in the lawn which I can only keep filling up. The sooner we get back to Álora the better. It can please itself then. I give in.

 That's enough of that.

Mrs. Sánchez and I went to Paris, France for a few days a week ago. I saw a cheap offer for Eurostar tickets and booked us a hotel room in Montmartre - Hotel Regyn's in Place des Abbesses where we spent a 'romantic weekend' together so long ago that we can't remember the year. On that occasion we had a massive falling out on the first night which ruined the whole trip. 
I appreciate we were taking a bit of a chance going back to the same hotel but as they say, 'Lightning never strikes in the same place twice'.(See blog 22/05/18).

                               Place des Abbesses. The 'art nouveau' metro station.

They say that all the Parisians leave Paris in August, but that didn't put us off and we hopped on the Eurostar at St Pancras Station at 8.00 pm. We were in our hotel by 11.30pm- just in time to have a glass of wine before retiring to our 5th floor room which had the same view down to the Tour d'Eiffel as we had last time.

                                             A room with a view (daytime)

Apart from trying to speak to people in French using a vocabulary almost entirely Spanish, the next day went very well. We queued for half an hour with our prepaid tickets to get into the  Musée d'Orsay  to look at lots of very impressive impressionist paintings and sculptures. There were a lot of sculptures by Degas and Rodin, and loads more Rodins down the road at the 'House of Rodin'.

                                                    Famous Rodin sculpture.

 I must say I was very disappointed to learn that 'after he completed his apprenticeship, Rodin never lifted a chisel again' but left all the hard graft to his pupils and assistants.
What a swizz! The lazy git!
As far as I know Monet painted all the pictures that bear his name in the bottom right-hand corner.

                                                       La Petite Danseuse

Here's a famous bronze figure of a young ballerina by Edgar Degas. It's the only sculpture that he exhibited during his lifetime. It turns out that all those dancers and horses of his were made after his death from wax and plaster models. Some art experts aren't even sure if this one is original. I've got a couple of these up in the loft I bought at a car boot sale. I was going to take them to The Antiques Road Show if it ever stops in Birmingham, but I'm not sure I want that Fiona Bruce smirking at me and calling them ´fakes'.
The Art world is a minefield.

Compared to Álora, Paris is very expensive. I was expecting this and took lots of euros to pay for drinks at atmospheric cafés and bistrots along the picturesque boulevards, but €5.00 for a cup of coffee seemed a bit chère.

                                                              Notre Dame

Still, despite the prices and the tacky, crowded Champs Élysées, Paris is a magical city. Pity about the  Notre Dame Cathedral. Restoration work has been held up until some of the 440 tons of lead roofing that went up in flames and came down as 'toxic dust'  has been cleaned from the streets. I must say it puts my moaning about candle wax on the streets of Álora look a bit of an overreaction.
 It's a good job I've only just found out about this because, after an unforgettable day down in the city and a delicious meal at La Pomponette, Mrs.Sánchez greeted the dawn with her head in the bog, throwing up. She was very poorly. I put it down to food poisoning and had a go at the chef about it when I bumped into him on my way to buy bottled water and more tissues. He just shrugged his shoulders and murmured 'Zut alors' and 'Sacré Bleu'. Now I suspect lead poisoning, especially as she's put on a lot of weight.

Anyway, that was the Paris trip ruined again. At least we didn't fall out. We spent the second (last) day in our room, looking at the lovely view and  wondering if we could make the 7.00am. train to St. Pancras the next morning. We did.

                                                                 'Au revoir'

We hope to be back in Álora in time for the annual Romería in September. Eddie the fox is marking off the days on his canine calendar in animated anticipation. 
A usually unreliable source has told me that a new bar, 'La Baranda' has opened on Calle Veracruz and a new hostal is taking bookings down near the Guardia Civil cuartel.
Good luck to them both.

Juanito Sánchez. 21st. August 2019.

Sunday, 21 July 2019

Man not in Álora says 'A Pox on Both Your Houses'. How Spain Infected the World.

    Man not in Álora says 'A Pox on Both Your Houses'. How Spain Infected the World.

Mrs. Sánchez and I left Álora three weeks ago and I´m homesick for my pueblo already. ('pueblo' means both  village/small town and people, which is rather nice, I think.) It's very hot there at the moment which is normal - 38 degrees this weekend/ 46 if you put the thermometer in full sun, so I hope that Juan is watering our plants for us, as agreed. No sign of rain there for the foreseeable (4 'e's in that word!) future either.

The night before we left Álora there was a break-in at a house on our street. We drove off as the 'municipales' were sealing off the bashed-in front door with 'duck' tape (you either climb over it or duck under). Perhaps La Plaza Baja deserves its dodgy reputation after all.

It´s been warm and sunny here in Brum too ('You've brought the good weather with you!') so we've been out in the garden most days trying to cut back and dig up all the nasty, vicious vegetation that is trying to recreate the Forest of Arden right here. It's been like rediscovering The Lost Gardens of Heligan or a Mayan city (OK, that's a bit of an exaggeration). I've found paved pathways previously lost to living memory. Hard work for Mrs. S. and me, but the results are well worth the effort.


We were able to sit out on our patio the other day with an old pal and a bottle of wine.

O.P.: 'How do you say 'Cheers' in Spanish?'

Me: '¡Salud!'

'Salud ' (health) comes from the Latin word ´salutare' which also means 'greet' and we in Britain often say 'Good health' too, along with :
'Down the hatch!'
'Here's to you'
'Gentlemen, The Queen!'
'Lang may your lum reek!' (Scotland)
'Bottoms up! (Try explaining that to Spaniards).


Nearly every European country has at least one 'toasting' expression which means 'Good health'.
Why? I expect it's for the same reason that people tend to ask about your health after they've said ´Hello', as in:
'Holá, como estás?' ('Hello, how are you?')
or 'Holá. Qué tal?' 
Here in Birmingham people just say  'All right?' or ignore you completely.
Nobody really knows where the word 'Holá ' comes from. Some say it's from the Arabic 'Allah'  (Peace be upon God), but some say its origins are Greek or Iberian).

To 'say hello' is 'saludar' in Spanish, from the Latin/Italian salve/salvere which means both 'Hello' and 'Be well'- from which we get the word 'salute' and so on.

                                      'Good health!'

You, my faithful readers, are probably both wondering what this has all got to do with Álora. Well here's the link.

Álora. (Our casa is at the foot of the church tower, hanging off the cliff)

 I few weeks ago I went to our local Centro de Salud (Health Centre) in Álora. As far as I know there is only one. It serves 12,951 people. Mrs. Sánchez and I do not have travel insurance (we're a risky proposition, apparently) so we depend on our EHIC (European Health Card) for any emergency treatment.

I'd been advised, back in Bimingham, to have some wax cleared from my ear so, as it was an emergency, I walked down there to see if a kindly nurse could sort me out.

                           Centro de Salud, Álora  

I was told to go home and pour some olive oil down my ear for a week and given an appointment with Pedro the nurse.

Pedro is a very conscientious health professional. He looked in both ears and declared. 'No hay nada' (There's nothing there). I stood up to leave but he told me to sit down, wrapped the blood pressure thing round my arm and started pumping. I didn't have chance to ask why because, without a by your leave or how's your father, he stuck a spike in my thumb and squeezed some blood out.

'Have you had breakfast?'
'That's OK then.'
'Thanks. Is that all?
´'When did you last have a blood test?'
'A couple of years ago in England'
'You should have one every year. Go to reception and book an appointment'.
I was starting to get worried now.
The lady on the desk booked me in and gave me a contraption for harvesting a urine sample.
'What? now?´
'No'. (look that says 'stupid') 'When you have the blood test'.

To cut a long story short, I now have a vitamin B12 deficiency and had to buy some tablets costing €8.45 from the local Farmacia (Pharmacy)

'Come back in November'.

Lessons to be learnt;

1. Healthcare in Álora is very good and accessible.
2. They don't care where you come from.
3. Pedro´s family own  the Farmacia.

I suppose we ask about everybody's health because in the olden days deadly illnesses were common and if someone  replied 'Not so good' or 'A bit under the weather', you'd avoid them like the plague - partly because you don't really want to hear about all their problems and partly because in those days there was a fair chance they actually had the plague or worse still, 'Spanish Flu' or Smallpox.

Influenza, Bubonic Plague, Typhoid, Cholera, Smallpox and  Dysentery are just a few of the grim diseases that, for centuries, stalked the continent of Europe and claimed millions of lives. 'Spanish Flu' (1918-1920) alone killed 100 million people worldwide and Spain got the blame for it.
It really started in the USA.

In order to maintain morale during the 'Great War', (1914-1919) newspapers in Britain, France, Germany and the USA were ordered by the censors to play down reports of the illness. But Spain was a neutral country and so when King Alfonso Xlll of Spain caught it and 'was gravely ill', the media, which just meant newspapers in those days, had a field day, blamed Spain and called it 'Spanish Flu'.
Not Spain's fault at all. Alfonso recovered and went to Santander to convalesce. (See previous  'Man in Álora' 13/12/2015)

Incidentally, the French called 'syphillis' 'The Spanish Disease' good an example as you can imagine of the 'kettle calling the pot black', in my opinion.
In retaliation the Spanish called it 'The French Disease' so that showed them!

Smallpox.....was Spain to blame?

Smallpox , which is highly contagious, killed 500,000,000 people in the 100 years up to the disease being eradicated worldwide in 1980.
The last two cases (one fatal) in the world occurred at Birmingham Medical School, on September 11th. 1978, 6km.  (3.6miles) from where I am sitting right now. 

                                    Janet Parker.

Janet Parker was working as a photographer at the medical school and became ill.  Both she and her mother were diagnosed as having Smallpox. Janet's mother survived the illness but Janet died. Her father who was quarantined at the same hospital as his wife and daughter had a heart attack while visiting Janet and died, too.

The circumstances have never been fully explained but the microbiologist, Professor Henry Bedson who was working on the eradication of Smallpox at the time and whose laboratory stored the smallpox virus, blamed himself, was hounded by the press and took his own life.
A tragic story.

The story of the development of a vaccine to prevent and eventually eradicate smallpox is colourful and long, involving milkmaids, cows, gardeners, prisoners and an aristocratic Lady Montagu,  but  the credit usually goes to an Englishman, Edward Jenner.

 Edward Jenner trying out his vaccine on his gardener's son.

There are still stocks of the smallpox virus stored around the world, including at Porton Down in the United Kingdom, so we may not have seen the last of it.

Only 30% of Smallpox sufferers died as a result of the disease but the survivors were often horribly disfigured, giving rise to the adjective 'pockmarked', as in:
'the old church wall was pockmarked with bullet holes'. 

Spain was not blamed directly for Smallpox but when the Spaniard 'conquistador' Hernándo Cortés invaded what is now Mexico in 1519 he took with him the smallpox virus.
                                   Hernando Cortés

30 million Aztec people lived in the area at the time of the Spanish 'entrada'. After a series of smallpox epidemics and warfare the indigenous population of 'New Spain' fell to less than 3 million.
                           The Conquest of Mexico.

Spain gained an empire and unimaginable wealth from its colonisation of Central and South America, undoubtedly assisted by smallpox, so I suppose they were to blame for spreading it to the 'New World'.
Some may say that Charles lV of Spain partly made amends for this sad but highly profitable period of his country's history by sending  'The Royal Philanthropic Expedition'to 'New Granada' (now Columbia) 300 years later. Too little,too late.

On a lighter note, The Birmingham International Jazz Festival has just kicked off here and the weather looks promising so I'm off into town to hear a few bands. I'm particularly looking forward to seeing ´The Potato Head Jazz Band' from Granada, not very far from Álora.
As luck would have it all the venues are bars or pubs so it should be fun.

Tat-ta for now.

Juanito Sánchez  July 21st. 2019


Saturday, 22 June 2019

We're Going to Change the World. Lennon, Lucas and Love is All You Need

               John Lennon as Musketeer Gripweed

We've just got back from Almería which you can find in  the bottom right hand corner of Spain, if you have a spare minute.


   Indalo. The symbol of Almería

 They say, 'See Naples and die'. Well, my advice is: 'See Almería from the autovía, stay clear and head home for a square meal.' Everything shuts down at 4.00pm. We had to settle for a cup of coffee and a piece of cake.
Mind you, it's worth going to see the statue of John Lennon in the Plaza de las Flores. He stayed near Almería in 1966 when they were making the film (movie) ´How I Won the War'.

                                    John Lennon

If you read the last edition of this venereal organ you may remember that tens of thousands of Malagueños fled from Málaga to Almería in 1937. They were being hunted down and killed by German fighter planes on the orders of General Francisco Franco. In such circumstances Almería would be well worth a visit

It's not often that Mrs. Sánchez and I leave the comfort of Álora to explore uncharted territory, but our expeditionary fervour to boldly go beyond Granada and life as we know it was tickled by a chance to visit some old friends who now have a place near Las Arboleas in Almería province. Brian and Cynthia are Brummies (people from Birmingham) and we were mates for most of the seventies. We were comrades then and we still are. 

Nobody was talking about Climate Change  in the seventies.
They were days of workers' struggles, revolution was in the air and 'Red Robbo' struck fear into the hearts of the capitalist class at British Leyland's car factory at Longbridge, Birmingham.

                          Derek 'Red Robbo' Robinson

It was also the time of the The Corporate Plan , A bold set of ideas that was put together by workers at Lucas Aerospace, a branch of Birmingham based Lucas Industries plc.

Faced with massive redundancies following Defence cuts, Lucas Aerospace trade union members across the country combined together to devise a set of ´socially useful' products which could save their jobs and at the same time move the company away from producing systems for the arms industry. A trade union 'combine committee' brought together both 'staff' and 'worker' unions. They all put their heads together and came up with plans for 150 'socially useful products that could be made at the company factories across Britain with existing skills, technology and  equipment. These included wind turbines, 

kidney machines, hybrid engines, road/rail vehicles and environmentally favourable heating systems for 'council houses' (remember them?)

Brian was the chairman (this was before 'chairpersons') of the Combine Committee and co- led negotiations with the management at Lucas Aerospace, but the 'bosses' dismissed their ideas out of hand.
They had no time for ideas coming up from 'the shop floor' nor what they considered to be 'hippie', low tech. pipe dreams and thought the company could survive by turning out more and more killing machines.
The Plan was 40 years ahead of its time

    Brian, earlier this year with campaigning rapper 'Lowkey'

Many of the Plan's suggestions are now in full production as a response to declining fossil fuel supplies, pollution of the seas and atmosphere and global warming.

Production for social need rather than for profit alone is now back on national and world agendas. A new film The Plan  about the Lucas Aerospace Corporate Plan was submitted to the National Film Institute this year. It's hard hitting and bang up to date.

Brian told me that I should put more politics into this blog, so I hope he'll stop telling me off now - but it´s not really about politics is it? It's about the survival of the human race.

Speaking of global warming and survival,it's flipping hot here in Álora but it's been raining cats and dogs in England for weeks, apparently. I can't wait to get back. We don't usually stay this late. 

It´s Corpus Christi day tomorrow, when the priest leads a parade around town with a piece of the hostia (host) in a monstrance. The 'host' is a piece of bread which has been changed into a piece of the body of Jesus Christ.

Corpus Christi. Álora

It's never on the same day two years running. They love parades here and it's a  long time since Easter, which they also move about a lot, so they (the Pope)  introduced this event in the 13th. century to remind everybody that they should go to church.

In happier times they used to drag any backsliders, heretics and protestants out of their houses and give them a good seeing-to to jog their memories, but this doesn't happen round here any more. They´d need a whole month just to get through a few streets - all the Brits would be in for a biffing for a start.
Our neighbour, Lina, is putting un altar (an altar) up outside her door at the moment and she wants us to give her some leaves off our grapevine to decorate it. ('Sí señora'). It pays to keep in with them. ¡Nunca se sabe! (You never know!)
Oddly enough 'hostia' also means 'a slap in the face' and 'Bloody hell!' (I'd be careful with that one.)

For some reason they've chosen the same day for Corpus Christi and the 'Vispera de San Juan' (the night before the saint´s day of St. John) this year, which could cause problems because it's traditional to chuck buckets of water on people from the balconies of tall buildings on this day. We found out about this the hard way many years ago.
Down on the coast they jump over bonfires on the beach and eat sardines, which sounds a lot more fun.
You can't say they don't know know how to have a good time round here, can you?

 We've got a new alcalde (mayor) now in Álora. That´s him in the top left hand corner. His name is Francisco Martinez.(Humillo to his mates) I can't wait to meet him and I'm hoping to form the the same close friendship with him as I enjoyed with our previous leader José Sánchez (Epi to his mates). 

I'd like to talk to him about La Plaza Baja de la Despedía (La Plaza Baja to its mates). It's the historic old centre of Álora at the bottom of our street. It's home to the biggest parroquía (parish church) in Andalucía, you have to go through it to get to our historic castillo arabe (arabic castle) and el museo municipal Rafeal Leria (the town museum) is there. The famous author of Don Quijote, Miguel de Cervantes lived there for a time, where the now 'Mirador Cervantes' provides stunning views of Álora's olivares (olive fields).
There used to be three bars, three shops and a kiosco in this picturesque cobbled square and four big leafy trees which provided shade for people to sit under and roosting room for the hundreds of noisy little birds that flocked there at dusk.

      The Plaza Baja. Despedía Day with the old trees.

The last remaining bar, Bar Mocho run by a great lad called Manolo, will close soon because he is being forced to sell it by his family. (Families eh? Who'd have 'em?)

The leafy trees were pulled out some years ago and replaced by four sickly palm trees which provide no useful shade so that the vecinos (local people) have to huddle in doorways during the day or stay indoors.
When Bar Mocho closes the Plaza Baja will be 'dead'.

I want our new alcalde to breathe some life into our 'bottom square'. Twenty odd years ago it had a bad reputation for which the 'gitano' commmunity, as usual, took the blame. The 'comfortable classes' of Álora look down their noses at La Plaza Baja and tell their children not to go there, except for the annual 'Despedia' ceremony on  Viernes Santa (Good Friday), bodas (weddings), bautismos (baptisms), primeras comuniones (first communions) and the odd funeral now that the town cemetery has been moved from the castle to a new leafy glade opposite our back wall.

The weekly market used to be held there, which kept the bars busy but they moved it up to the town car park. There used to be thriving vecinos club on Calle Ancha too, which organised a three day annual verbena (party) in the square.

I shall be making an appointment to see our new alcalde when we get back in September - he should have settled in by then. Meanwhile, Mrs. S. and I would be very grateful if readers of this humble journal could write in, in your thousands, to Señor Martinez (c/o El Ayuntamiento, Álora) demanding a re-vitalisation programme for the community of La Plaza Baja.
(How´s that for politics, Brian?)

For anyone who is missing 'Pie News' or the `quiz', I apologise.
I also seem to have again missed an opportunity to meet my entire readership from The Turks and Caicos Islands who visited 'Alora en masse last week. Sorry folks....¡otra vez sera!

Juanito Sánchez 22nd. June 2019