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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Sumer is icumin in...

Sumer is icumin in.. no singing though. It was a song wasn't it, usually sung by greenery yallery people dressed up as mediaeval minstrels, all very prissy. (Well that's how Granny heard/saw it once, before mediaeval music got bucolic and rumbustious.)

Granny still sees her little Pili round every corner. She still kicks the washing-machine on passing which doesn't do the washing-machine much harm, but doesn't improve her big toe either - all fair enough really. A new cat will be acquired when she comes back here in July. Meantime the mice will have their way with things. And Beloved is back and Mr Handsome outside the kitchen window painting the house, even as she writes.

Apart from the grieving it was a good week. Much sun, little wind, dogs behaved themselves on the whole, Granny had nice lunches with women friends - minus all the men, life stories could be exchanged - and were. Some of her most virtuous friends seem to have been tearaway children: good. And she got back to her piece of fiction - up to 25,000 words now: she still doesn't know whether or not it's a lost cause/total shite or worth proceeding with: she might show it to critic friend back in the UK to get an idea.

Leaving aside all this solipsistic stuff, leaving aside the good weather, she has to report, sadly that the island is in bad shape. The unemployment figures in Spain are 3 times those in the UK, the Canaries the worst in Spain and Lanzarote the worst in the Canaries, 23,000 and climbing; 40% of the working population she's been told. It's not so bad in her area: people have gardens and access to land and they've gone back to doing what they've always done, that is growing things. Oh and bartering and exchanging crops, milk, eggs, etc the way Granny and Beloved do too, a bit, now they're part of the small-holding community.

In the towns there's no such recourse. And very little in the way of social security either. It turns out that few of those who worked in the now collapsed building trade or declining tourism were properly employed, or even on contract. They were casuals, ie 'autonimos' - ie self-employed: moreover, unlike in the UK, they cannot claim unemployment money when the work runs out. (There'd had been some move to change this before the recession broke, but that's now fallen by the wayside.) The result is that families are left without any income; the charities that used to feed street people are now feeding them too. The burglary rate is going up: burglars not only stealing things they can't afford themselves but food; lots of it. (And booze: the local supermarket has taken to locking up their stock of spirits.) Can you blame the thieves? It's dire. The better-off who can afford it are sending stuff to the charities, but of course it's not enough.

Oh and to add to all the good cheer, the water company on the island is bankrupt. Where all the money went, god knows, though one can imagine some of it went into political pockets, given that it's owned by the island council. (Not that corruption isn't universal: look at the news from the UK right now: tax-payers paying for MP's swimming pools? Oh come on.) The managing committee for water is made up of council members from the two parties currently in coalition, the numbers from each proportionate to their representation on the council. Currently there's a coalition between PSOE the Spanish socialist party and PIL a nationalist island party. They were falling out anyway and over the business of the water have fallen out totally. Meaning NOTHING is being decided, let alone done. Since the business can't be shut down - the island cannot do without water - and it can't be taken over, already belonging to the public, what now? God knows. Certainly the politicians don't. But then they never do, do they.

By the way: Granny and Beloved having become via their smallholding to be part of the community is a a good thing for them. In a country where democracy is comparatively young and where good of family/friends trumps good of the community - hence all the embroglios of politicians, developers, business men etc - one weapon of little people is the denuncia - which means literally 'report' rather than the more punitive English meaning of the word 'denounce.' But it works out the same. The denuncia can be anything: you've built an illegal wall/swimming-pool/extension, run an unlicensed business/unlicensed pig. your dog has grubbed up someone's garden, your goats/chickens are kept too near residential buildings. Etc. But once the report is handed to the local police - that's the procedure - even if it turns out unfounded it can cause you - and the police - a great deal of hassle in the meantime. Which is the point. Many expats living in rural areas have been hassled like this. Granny and Beloved have never been - but then they do know the odd thing about the odd illegal local pig etc, which might be a way of them causing problems in return. This helps.

(Ah Spain. Yahoo Espana has just reported an asparagus 3 meters in length. Sumer may be icumin but we haven't hit the silly season yet. Or have we?)

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