Weblog Commenting and Trackback by HaloScan.com rockpool in the kitchen: Visitors

Thursday, August 03, 2006


Mr and Mrs Handsome have gone for a few days jolly on another island. Granny presumes Mrs H's interestingly fancy underwear went with them. When she drove the holiday-makers to the airport - Mr H showing off his tanned biceps, reeking of aftershave, Mrs H flaunting her even browner belly, the fake diamond winking in her navel - both had that look in their eye; both were a little giggly. Granny and Beloved meantime have been deputed to mind their dog and their tortoise. Beloved who likes his animals cussed, scorns the dog: Granny rather likes him. He is a little-boy dog of local mixed-biscuit variety, short-legged, curly tailed, but with a surprisingly big-dog bark; it's not his fault he mostly lives a life of lapdog. Leaping in and out of the sea down at the salt-flats, getting muddy along with their dogs is very good for him, she thinks. He loves it. The tortoise on the other hand leaps only round his glass case. His fondness for lettuce makes Granny think of Beatrix Potter -'Sir Ptolemy Tortoise brought his salad with him in a string bag'. (How accurate BP always was about her dressed-up animals, she thinks - broody ducks will lay their eggs in all kinds of stupid places, mice are busy, badgers smelly, kittens inquisitive, and so on. That's why they are never merely cute, like most story-book animals; in fact not cute ever.).

More illustrious visitors have been arriving on Granny's island lately, all from Spain. The Canarians don't much like the Spanish. They call them, disparagingly, 'los Peninsulares.' When you know that in the past, Canarians, along with Jews and Muslims, were not considered fit to be full Spanish citizens, this is hardly surprising. Nonetheless the Peninsulares do have their uses, especially when it's the Prime Minister and his family, raising the profile of the island - or so the islanders think. This time he is also promising that the Spanish oil company won't drill for oil off the coast of this island and its neighbour without Canarian agreement. Not that this means much, thinks Granny, cynically, knowing her locals - all the oilmen have to do is fund a few politicians' swimming-pools and they'll be able allowed to drill anywhere. (In the name, of course, of addressing the peak oil problem referred to by Link in a comment on Granny's last post.) The King of Spain is due to come here later this month with his family, spreading his favours round the island groups of Spain - though everyone knows the royal lot prefer Mallorca. While the Minister for Costas - coasts - much more significant - has already been and gone, on business not holiday, arriving in July before the August exodus which paralyses this island each year as it does the rest of Spanish territory. (Don't think to buy/build a house in August in Spain; there are no lawyers, no notaries, no builders working: nothing.)

Much as the Canarians may dislike the Spanish, everyone knows they have their uses, especially when it comes to the growing local backlash against developers. The Minister for Coasts had already been persuaded to make the national Environment Ministry buy up the piece of coast alongside the salt-flats - the only ones on the island - where the dogs play, as above - and where the spoonbills hang out - meaning that the threatened 6000 houses can never be built. This time, still better, he ordered the demolition of a large hotel built altogether illegally down south, overlooking a series of beaches by far the best on the island and located within an environmentally protected area, covering the beaches and the hinterland. Because the beaches are the best on the island, and much the prettiest, spread out in a series of coves along a mile or more of coast, and reached only by dirt roads, the developers, supported covertly by the local council have long had their greedy eyes on them. This hotel, Granny suspects, was seen as a Trojan horse, getting them in there. It sits just within the environmentally protected zone, at the recent far end of the local resort, which 20 years ago was a fishing- village consisting of two streets and a harbour. Even since she first saw it in 2001 the resort has doubled in size as the developers - abetted by the local authority handing out building licences here, there everywhere - used every excuse they could to evade the order of 'zero development' for as long as possible. The houses were necessary for workers, they and the council said, the hotel was to provide work for unemployed workers. Oh yeah. Oh yeah. Looked at from the beaches, the hotel is an eyesore, ruining the once pristine vista of sea and sand-dunes, cliff and sand. But the owner of the finca on which it sits, the hotel business, the developers all benefited from it. As of course did the council; the previous mayor is in the prison for corruption already, as is his deputy. The present mayor, altogether cannier, is known to be on the take as much as any - probably more so - but to date he has managed to do it in ways not so easily detected.

Fortunately, the hotel not only contravenes local planning, it also contravenes the new orders by which Spain is at last trying to get grips with the despoilation of its coastlines. Outside the seaside resorts all buildings within a certain distance from the sea, together with the land around them, are subject to compulsory purchase and subsequently to demolition. This building fits well within the the order. The Ministry of the Environment will pay for the acquisition of the land. The local authority which issued the illegal licence in the first place will have to pay the 19 million euros it's going to cost to demolish the building and to restore the beach below and the clifftop to its former arid splendour. This means of course the local taxpayers will have to pay for it; to the detriment of already not very generous local services. (Most districts provide wheelchairs for the disabled, for instance; not this one.) You can be sure the politicians themselves won't suffer. They'll probably benefit rather, getting kickbacks from whatever demolition company wins the contract.

Still let's say a big thankyou to this visitor, the Minister for the Costas.

More, less welcome visitors to end with. Beloved last night found himself covered in mysterious mites. They didn't bite, they just ran all over him. Granny forbade him to come to bed until he'd showered thoroughily and put all his clothes in the wash.

In the morning Beloved googled mites on the internet. Seems there are millions of species: without an entomologist on the one hand, a microscope on the other, identifying this lot is virtually impossible. But he also googled a guaranteed mite remover, which is being sent for. Mites of any kind - with the possible exception of cheese mites - are not welcome visitors. Granny itches at mere thought of them, not even needing to suffer from the infestation that overtook her Beloved. The visiting summer cockroaches are quite bad enough - worse even -she's phobic when it comes to cockroaches. But at least there aren't many of them.

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