Wednesday, June 17, 2009


Or miscellany. Or pot-pourri.

1) I went to Algeciras to catch the fast bus and avoid the roadworks at San Pedro. I also went so I could eat delicious tortilla and have a large glass of Rioja. First mistake. I’ve usually had tortilla with onions, or with peppers and onions, but I’ve not had the plain potato one. It was terrible. Rubbery and tasted like sad custard. The glass was scratched and didn’t seem to have the same huge measure as before.

There was a group of young Americans at the back of the bus who insisted on shouting all the way from Algeciras to Malaga. The problem when people shout in your native language is that you can't miss what they are saying. And it was boring. Of course, they did have competition from the Spanish guy opposite me who seemed to think it was generous of him to play his dance style music loudly for the benefit of the whole bus. If he's going to do that, I think we should be able to put in requests. 'How about a nice piano concerto?' would be mine.

Prices – 3.10€ for tortilla plus wine, 11.25€ from Algeciras to Malaga, 2.05€ from La Linea to Algeciras.

2) The next day, having completed watering the garden, weeding the path, and feeding the chickens plus feeding me – but only with grapefruit juice - by 8am, I decided breakfast was in order. When I arrived in Malaga I went to the railway station cafe – El Yate. This is a good place, no smoking and a good choice of food. One of the few places I have found in Andalucia that offers edible croissants. The trouble was that orange juice, croissants and coffee would have given me a sugar overdose. I spotted some patatas alioli. Potatoes in garlic mayonnaise. I asked if they had a plain salad too – ensalada mixta. Actually it is rather less plain than elsewhere. For 4.50€ it includes beetroot, carrot, egg, olives, tomato, sweetcorn, and loads of lettuce. OK, so half of it is lettuce, but the other bits are good. Then I asked for a glass of wine. So it was breakfast time, but I was eating lunch.

The waiter must have been concerned about this. I obviously didn't do much for the image of solo middle-aged English women. He shot from behind the bar and said (in Spanish) 'I will help you.' Fine by me. He picked up a knife and fork 'For your salad' and plonked them on the plate. He picked up the tray with a flourish and I dutifully followed behind. First the fork fell off. And when it did, the tray wobbled, and then the glass wobbled. Ah Joan Collins – where are you when you are needed? The glass fell. Spectacularly. The contents flew in all directions, and the glass shattered. We proceeded to my table and he slouched off with rather less of a flourish. A new glass of wine was brought and 'Sorry madam'. Hell, it could happen to any of us. Rather him than me though.

Prices – 4.50€ for the salad, 3€ for the tapa, 1.50€ for the glass of wine. A small coffee is 1.20€, orange juice is 2.20€, croissant around 1.50€.

3) On the way back, I finally finished my library book – 'Your Face Tomorrow 1 – Fever and Spear' by Javier Marias. It has taken me two months to read this convoluted novel. It might have been easier to read it in Spanish, it felt so toruous at times. But actually by the time I finished it, I decided I had quite enjoyed it. Anyway, now I can read Paul Theroux's 'The Great Railway Bazaar.' As I've been on some of the trains he mentions, this should be interesting.

4) Shower Kleener. I bought this ages ago because it was ecological and green and etc etc. But I was reading the label the other day and it said something about using it meant you could lengthen the time between cleaning the shower. Haha!! I don't need to buy something to make me drag my feet about cleaning. I can do that one all on my little own.

5) Domestic appliances update – no I haven't forgotten about this. No new bed – we are still sleeping on the floor. The Apple is still in the Apple shop countless weeks later – all tests indicate it may be the hard disk/drive. Yeah right, I may have said that ages ago. The HP All-in-One finally went on its holidays. The Canon Lasetjet is rather nice. Update – hot off the press – the Apple shop finally rang to tell me the problem is the logicboard. This is NOT a cheap fix. Ho hum, what to do? Write off a very expensive computer after two years or throw more money at it?

Monday, June 08, 2009

Gibraltar elections - Europe 2009

So, European elections. We received our polling cards a few weeks ago, and oddly enough, I felt rather excited.

It's one thing choosing not to vote - but it's another not being able to. Living in Spain, even as an EU citizen you still can't vote in all the elections, and at one of the recent ones there was total uproar at some polling stations when foreigners were turned away.

They had been told that turning up with a passport, and being on the local register, would be sufficient. But apparently that wasn't good enough for a few councils, so people entitled to vote were turned away.

Here in Gib life is a lot simpler. We just missed getting on the electoral roll when we first bought the flat, but clearly when the register was updated we were included.

We carefully read through the five lots of information we had received. They were from:

Liberal Democrat - and the Lib Dems included a Gib candidate, Jonathan Stagnetto
Green Party
UK Independence Party
Katie Hopkins

The Tories and the Lib Dems produced Gib-specific leaflets. The UK Independence Party didn't mention Gibraltar. The Green Party added a sentence that said 'The Green Party supports self-determination for Gibraltar'. Katie Hopkins is apparently 'A west country woman wanting to give a real voice to the Rock'.

Hmm. I looked at the Gibspecific ones. Apparently the fact that Gibraltar's national football team has not achieved UEFA membership is a significant political issue.

I can understand the implications behind that, but I am not going to base my decision on how to vote, on football. In the Tory leaflet, it was the first item, followed by telecommunications, free movement across the border, and MEPs visiting Gib. There was some important information on the back page about the CEPSA refinery. Is football really so important that it deserves to come before free movement of people, health issues, communication, and genuine involvement in the community from politicians?

To all the parties - it would be good to hear more about all the candidates you put up.

To the ones who didn't even mention Gibraltar - you don't get my consideration, let alone my vote.

When we arrived at the polling station, which was amazingly well organised, and very official, we received a ballot paper with 16 choices. Gulp. I only knew about five of them. And I'd immediately dismissed two of those.

I glanced at the first few - British National Party (BNP), Some Christian Praying Fellowship Warm and Friendly Party, and .... the Socialist Labour Party, led by Arthur Scargill. Ah yes, the man who came to fame on the back of the Lofthouse Pit disaster and never looked back. Mr Scargill merits a post in his own right, but this post about an election in Gib will not be about him.

I read down the 16. I walked up to a booth, pulled across the very nice curtain, picked up my pencil and made my choice.

Into the box it went.

As we walked out there was a small but continual stream of people exercising their right to vote for only the second time Gibraltar residents have been eligible to vote in EU elections.

I hope we made a thoughtful and helpful vote. The right to vote is a very important one, however poor the choice of candidates may appear. People have died in the fight for democracy and the right to vote. Many people in the world still do not have that right. They are still struggling to eat and live from day to day. So it annoys the hell out of me when people try and be clever about not voting because they don't agree with any of the politicians who are standing. Neither do I. But if you don't use your vote, one day, you may find you no longer have it.

And last night when I looked at the internet to find the results, it seems the South West and Gibraltar constituency elected three Tories, two UK Independence Party members, and one Lib Dem.

According to the Gibraltar Chronicle, sadly only some 7000 people voted in Gib, out of the 20,000 or so eligible to vote, so at 35%, that was just over a third of the electorate. In contrast, when at the last EU election, the turn-out was nearly 60%, well above the European average.

Gibraltar's voting pattern also reflected the eventual results in the South West and Gibraltar constituency, with the Tories obtaining half the vote. However the rest of our vote differed from the overall results. Here in Gib, the Tories were followed by Labour and Lib Dems at around 18% of the vote each and with a mere 60 votes difference between them.

Of the so-called minor parties, the BNP got 94 votes, and the Christian party got 70. The UK Independence Party only received 100 votes in Gibraltar, and yet two out of the six MEPs for the constituency now come from that party. There were also 185 spoiled ballot papers.

And one other statistic. The electorate of the whole constituency is around four million. That puts Gibraltar's representation at less than 1%. It will be interesting to see how much our new MEPs actually do - or even know - about Gibraltar.

Both the Gib Chronicle and the blog, A Gibo's Tale, here and here have more information on the EU election. Vox also has an interesting article.

The Chron gives the full breakdown of votes.