Monday, 23 May 2011

Election Day

Yesterday was election day here in Spain. Local elections, at least, the general elections being held next year.

As expected, the PP more or less swept the board, dealing a heavy blow to the socialist PSOE, the party of the national government. How Spain can remain so right-wing is a worrying mystery, I have to admit.

The PP has achieved this largely through unjust claims, jibes, complaints and other "mentiras" at the expense of the PSOE. The only hopeful aspect of the situation is that the PP at local level will show that the problems that they have ridiculed are genuine ones, which do not have simple solutions. Indeed, most of the problems are either PP generated (from their previous term in office) or are a direct result of the international financial crisis (produced largely by right-wing policies, such as those supported by the PP). Perhaps then th Spanish people will see the error of their ways and will vote for the PSOE in the general elections of ne xt year.

We can but hope.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Well Said, Stephen Hawking

Ah, good. Stephen Hawking also looks upon the nonsense of an afterlife and heaven as fairy-tales. I've been saying this for years and not only about the afterlife, so now that someone with a mind as great as Hawking has dared to say it, perhaps it will be taken a bit more seriously.

How anyone in the twenty-first century can believe in such medieval (and earlier) baloney goes beyond me. No doubt they also believe that there is a great big giant at the top of a beanstalk somewhere, just waiting to eat up little boys.

Accept it: we are just the packages that are used by genes to propagate themselves. Our afterlife, such as it is, rests solely in the continuation of our genes in further generations: the package is burnt up and thrown away, usually after having lived for far longer than is really necessary. Be happy with that and forget all the claptrap about heavens and paradises and whatever else you have been told. Such rubbish is just a load of tales made up to satisfy the fears of ignorant people in the past, yet perpetuated today in an attempt by organised religions to keep the masses under control. Fear is a wonderful controlling mechanism.

Stephen Hawking spoke out against the afterlife in a recent interview with the Guardian . His illness prevents him from speaking very much, so everything he "says" (he uses an electronic device to produce his words) is carefully weighed in order to make as big an impact as possible with very few words. Yet by saying so little his great mind manages, in fact, to say an awful lot.

Photo attribution.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Bring Back Boyle!

I am somewhat embarrassed to admit that, as I am writing this, the Eurovision Song Farce, oops sorry, Contest, is playing live on the television, watched with great enthusiasm by She Who Must Be Obeyed, who strictly forbids me to put on anything else.

The voting is on at the moment and it is even worse that the singing (well, sort of…). Why do most of the performers insist on spouting out in English, a language that in most cases they far from master, with poor pronunciation, even allowing for the rather-further-west than mid-Atlantic accent they use? Still worse, perhaps, is that the lyrics are also often in a convoluted version of English: if they don't want to use the language of the country they represent, then let there at least be a test on correct English usage.

Language use is also problematic during the voting sessions, of course, but it's not just the poor language use that is a problem—the representatives in the various countries seem quite incapable of actually speaking: they shout, sing (again, sort of…), blurb and glug, utter nonsensicalities and absurdities before getting round to summing up their voting results.

Even more farcical is the distribution of the votes. Why the drawn-out process of gathering, counting and presenting the votes is necessary is a mystery, as it the allocation of votes is a foregone conclusion, based on the primary-school question of which countries are the neighbours of the country currently voting.

The whole ESC has outgrown itself, it's become too big for its boots. Oh for the days of a simple stage, one or more singers per country performing a song (that's what the contest is supposed to be about), rather than giving a theatre production, an orchestra led by a representative of the country on stage, and the elegance of the likes of good old Katie Boyle to present the show: no exaggeration, no hyperbole, no histrionics, but instead a simple, organised, polite, correct presentation.

And while we're at it, how about a cynical commentary by Terry Wogan?

(And my douze points go to Moldovia.)

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Local elections

The run-up to the local elections here in Spain started a few days ago, so now placards, posters, banners and other electioneering paraphernalia adorn every available space, as the various parties try to persuade us that our vote is best spent on them. If the pollsters are to be believed, and that seems highly likely this time round, then the PP (Partido Popular) will make huge gains across almost the whole of the country, thereby taking control of many more "ayuntamientos" from the unjustly maligned PSOE (Partido Socialista Obrero EspaƱol).

This is a terrible thought. True, Spain is still very much divided between left and right, but relatively recent history has shown just what the right is capable of, and local councils already controlled by PP are hives of corruption. The PP is basically the party of Franco's heirs, an ultra right gang of conservative, catholic, anti-socialist individuals, who probably have gilt-framed photos of Margaret Thatcher in their bedrooms and think that Bush was the personification of the Second Coming.

The poor PSOE has had a hard time in main government and this will be reflected in the results of these local elections. They are blamed for an economic crisis with which they have had little to do, a crisis of worldwide proportions, generated by greedy bankers and suchlike, which has had repercussions in a Spain whose economy the PP, when it was the governing party at the end of the last century and the beginning of this, ensured was built on the shaky foundation of the construction industry, which, if it did not build a solid economic platform, at least meant big backhanders for the PP-ers who ensured that land was redesignated as building-ground, irrespective of the actual legality of such actions and with no regard at all to the future.

In many ways, El Raso, the estate where we live, is a miniature example of Spain and such PP shortsightedness. The area occupied by El Raso was designated building-ground by the PP when they ruled the roost in Guardamar, even to the extent of allowing roads and building plots to be laid out in the area immediately adjacent to a nature reserve, when the law expressly prohibited such behaviour. A large housing estate was established, including numerous very large, well planted roundabouts and several green areas. All very nice and prestigious, but no thought had been given to the maintenance of these areas, nor to the provision of telephone lines, or a postal service. The PP was interested only in large short/term gains for the few, of course.

Thankfully, the PSOE took over control of Guardamar after only a limited amount of construction of buildings in the prohibited zone, but the damage had already been done by the roads, which had first been laid, and the inadequate planning for service facilities, thanks to the PP's lack of forethought. As a result, the PSOE was left with a host of El Raso-related problems and an extremely limited budget with which to solve them. They have, during the past five years or so, done much to improve matters, but this goes unnoticed by most, who see the problems as occurring during the mandate of the PSOE and remain blind to the reality that they were generated by the PP.

This is remarkably like the situation in Spain as a whole, though on a far smaller scale, of course. The really sad part is that the results of these local elections are likely to be reflected in the general elections, to be held next year. Spain will then most probably lumber itself with an inward-looking, Europhobic, xenophobic government and control by the PP will be complete, with both local and national governments in their hands. That will be a sad time for Spain and a sad time for Europe, too, as yet another country falls to the short-term thinking of the right wing, who delight in strengthening delimiting borders and even building more.

Monday, 2 May 2011

Olea europaea farga

There's a Spanish saying, "Malas hierbas nunca mueren," meaning that weeds never die. It seems that this might also apply to olive trees.

Close to us is the Hotel La Laguna and in the small gardens of that hotel is this magnificent, ancient specimen of Olea europaea farga. This sort of tree is prized for its small brownish-blackish olives, which produce excellent oil. Who knows how many people, not to mention birds and so on, have profited from the produce of this venerable being?

The wooden plaque at the base of the tree indicates its Latin name (sadly misspelt) and tells us that it originates from the old Roman Road in Teruel, which is some 400 Km from the tree's current location. Not only is this a well-travelled tree, it is also one of remarkable longevity, for the plaque further informs us that its age is between 1500 and 1800 years!

Just imagine, the tree was some 200 years old when the Moors invaded Spain and it saw their conquest of that country, with all its associated advances, followed by the later overrunning by the Catholic hordes. It was already at least 500 years old when the Normans invaded Britain, and some 1,000 years old when Columbus came across the Americas.

Now it looks absolutely wonderful for its age and one can only hope that it will outlive many more generations of paltry humans.