Spanish elections are a boar

Today we had the Spanish local and regional elections. More about that later.

The donkeys were more concerned about the scent of a boar they had picked up. From time to time, when there is an external threat, I have watched the donkeys go into herd-protection mode. They stand facing the perceived threat and make aggressive snorting noises. Rubí, who is generally the quiet mild donkey, is most aggressive on these occasions. I observe that with interest because she was the best mother of the two (Matilde being less obviously attached to her foal.) Today there was a possible wild boar near the field and I managed to video the reaction:

There may have been a boar nearby – or was it in Rubí’s imagination? – but there was certainly a boar three kilometres away in Finestrat, where the local elections were taking place. Not that elections involved me at all, as it turned out that I was disenfranchised. Let me explain.

I arrived as a new resident in Finestrat in 2010, and in 2011 before the elections, the Partido Popular town hall representative for Residents of Other Nationalities, told me to fill in the form to register as a voter. (I intended to vote for the PP.) When I arrived at the Casa de Cultura to vote on election day in 2011, I was told I was not on the list. When I said I had definitely been registered by the RON representative, they asked me if I had a padron (a local registration document.) I didn’t. They said, “That’s why you can’t vote.”

Consequently, after the election, I obtained my padron as a new resident. This year, I assumed I could vote: as I had the padron and the RON representative had told me she had done my registration in 2011.

No! I couldn’t. It is extremely embarrassing to turn up at the polling station for a second time in four years and have to face a load of people in the Casa de Cultura ALL TELLING ME I HAVE NO RIGHT TO VOTE. This included the woman from L’Hort supermarket who usually sells me my donkeys’ carrots, but was today adopting an air of great importance as she was in charge of the ballot box. As I stood there trying to explain why I should be listed, she loudly announced to all present: “¿Este es inglés y por esto no sabe nuestro sistema!”

What an incredible attitude. Excuse me:I teach in a local school. I am not a peasant who doesn’t understand things, and I was educated in Spain in the 1960s. Some of these local attitudes towards those of other nationalities need to be addressed. You cannot have such ignorance loudly expressed in the voting station, of all places.

Regarding the last PP administration, I have already made my dissatisfaction quite clear to the PP candidate Juanfran Pérez, regarding the way residents here in Benienso have had their “Neighbourhood Watch” scheme completely blanked since the promised second meeting in October 2014, which never happened (Honorato Algado, the PP Mayor, ignored our communications for the past several months, as we asked what was happening.)

The PP are the losers: for I am a natural PP voter, but have been completely let down in these matters. If they win the election today, I will be pleased for them as I find nothing good in the opposition. On the other hand, I am very disappointed with my experience of the PP. If the PSOE or (God-help-us) Podemos win, the PP should spend some time reflecting on their poor communications.

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

King Alfred and the gay cakes


MANY years ago there lived in England a wise and good king whose name was Alfred. No other man ever did so much for his country as he; and people now, all over the world, speak of him as Alfred the Great.

In those days a king did not have a very easy life. There was war almost all the time, and no one else could lead his army into battle so well as he. And so, between ruling and fighting, he had a busy time of it.

A fierce, rood and norty people called the Danes had come from over the seas, and were fighting the English and trying to introduce their perverted new ways of rape, pillage and gay marriage, as well as tinned Spam which was an affront to the delicate and nuanced traditions of fine English cuisine. There were so many of these gay Danes – even though they were just a bunch of pansies – that for a long time they won every battle. It was a war of attrition and if they kept on, they would soon be the masters of the whole country.

At last, after a great battle, the English army was broken up and scattered. Pink flags were flying from every hill, and each man had to save himself in the best way he could. King Alfred fled alone, in great haste, through the woods and swamps.

Late in the day the king came to the hut of a woodcutter. He was very tired and hungry, and quite fed up with poofs. He begged the woodcutter’s wife to give him something to eat and a place to sleep in her hut.

The woman was baking some cakes upon the hearth, and she looked with pity upon the poor, ragged fellow who seemed so hungry. She had no thought that he was the king, or indeed that he had been battling with rabid homosexuals all day.

“Yes,” she said, “I will give you some supper if you will watch these cakes. I want to go out and milk the cow; and you must see that they do not burn while I am gone.”

King Alfred was very willing to watch the cakes, but he had far greater things to think about. How was he going to get his army together again and battle the rood and norty Danish sodomites and drive them out of the land? His mind was busy making plans for tomorrow, but suddenly he noticed what was written on the cakes:

“Welcome Danish perverts: please feel free to rape and pillage our country.”

King Alfred was well pissed off and he pushed the gay cakes into the fire. In a little while the woman came back. The cakes were smoking on the hearth. They were burned to a crisp. Ah, how angry she was!

[Illustration]“You lazy fellow!” she cried. “See what you have done! You want something to eat, but you do not want to work!”

The king laughed at being scolded in this way by a traitor against family values, while he was trying to save the country from a fate worse than liberalism. He told her that he was resolved to gather his men together again and beat the gay Danes in a great battle.

Sadly it would not come to pass, for the woodcutter’s wife denounced Alfred and he was taken away in the night and arraigned before the local magistrate next day on a charge of aggravated defence of the realm, prompted by his prejudice against an enemy simply exercising their Nordic freedom to wear silly hats, eat Spam and do a lot of gay singing in boats.

King Alfred was fined 500 groats, ordered not to defend the country any more, and refrain from looking at cakes.  

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

19th May, the Feast of Saint Dunstan

st dunstan

Today is the feast day of St Dunstan, and of course my donkey Rubí is quite thrilled that the feast falls upon a Tuesday this year, as Tuesday is Rubí’s thinking day. She will obviously be reflecting on the life of this celebrated tenth century Saxon Archbishop of Canterbury, who once caught the devil by the nose using blacksmith’s tongs. There are some sensible hagiographies of Saint Dunstan, but if you prefer the ludicrous version, enjoy this:

It is very rarely that I get through most of the month before writing a blog post, but it has been a particularly busy time as all my students are in exam classes and it is that time of year again. The busiest school week of the year for me, when I had to do final exam briefings for three classes of GCSE and A-level students, was the same week my new next door neighbour – for reasons best known to himself! – decided to open the agricultural water channel sluice gate (just out of interest to see where the water might go?) and flooded my donkey field while I was at work. He left it open, went indoors and forgot about it. Having discovered that he’d flooded the field, he just left it until I came home, later than usual after a drink with a friend after work. The neighbour has my phone number but didn’t think to phone and tell me my donkeys were standing there on a flooded field! If I had known I would have come home immediately, but instead I arrived home late to see the donks standing in a lake.

Worse still, this is half-treated water from the sewage plant in Finestrat and highly dangerous should the donkeys drink it. The work to drain the field kept me busy till after midnight, the day before doing exam briefings for two classes, so I was not exactly overjoyed with my neighbour! Not knowing whether the donkeys had drunk any of this toxic water, I also needed to consult the vet.

Next day, I had permission from school to return home during the morning to collect the medication from the pharmacy for a five day treatment for all four donkeys, and then the vet visited to check them. (Call out and injections one-hundred and fifty Euros.) However, things became more chaotic, as word got around among some students that I had gone home, so when I arrived back in school for the afternoon lesson some didn’t come to their final exam briefing in the last lesson before the exam. Aaaarrggh! Two year’s work to get the best results from my students, and my last chance to brief them before the exams ruined by a thoughtless act by a man with too much time on his hands and no commonsense!

You do your best in this life to try and keep on top of things: in my case with a full-time job and running a small donkey sanctuary single-handed. But then the Prince of Chaos finds a way to mess up your plans. Oh for Saint Dunstan’s pair of tongs to grab the Devil by the nose!

Oh well, here’s a photo of Rubí and I’ll leave her to think these matters properly through, as it is Tuesday.


Posted in Uncategorized | 8 Comments

Almisserà environmental damage

It was reported in the Información de Alicante newspaper yesterday that the extensive remodelling of the landscape in the partido Almisserà – over which I have a view from where I live – is destroying the environment.  An environmental group, the Xoriguer collective, have been monitoring the project and have mounted a campaign to draw attention to the damage, particularly the effect on the hydrography of the area.  I am translating the article into English here for the benefit of local English speaking residents.

Landscaping the Almisserà golf course on the partida Alfarella (photo credit: Información )

Landscaping the Almisserà golf course on the partida Alfarella (photo credit: Información )

Información article by S. Illescas, Wednesday 29 April

Ecologists denounces environmental damage by developers at Almisserà

Xoriguer says this project has removed the natural drainage, public rights of way and ravines

The environmental group Xoriguer yesterday denounced the developers for committing alleged environmental irregularities in the construction of the future golf course of Almisserà. In particular, they referred to some developments are being carried out on land belonging to Finestrat. Jaume Vaello, spokesman for the group, told this newspaper yesterday that they have verbally reported the infringements to the Hydrographic Confederation of Júcar (CHJ) and today they would be making a submission in writing, as these attacks on the environment violate the Water Act…

Xoriguer also say the vegetation of this natural area has been violated and the developers have neither respected the terraces nor the footpaths of the zone. “This place has a substantial ecological value for being a typical landscape of Mediterranean agriculture, with terraces at different levels, stone walls, ditches, ponds and a wide variety of tree species, many examples centuries old. Some are older than our famous “oliva grossa”. The trees have been abandoned and left unwatered by the company despite the brutal drought we are suffering,” said the environmental group.

A spokesman from the Hydrographic Confederation of Júcar (CHJ) indicated that so far there was not enough evidence of these incidents for them to begin any investigation. “We are waiting for the environmental group we pass the written complaint and, from there, we will act accordingly. For now, we are making the necessary checks and have not detected any irregularity, ” they said.

For its part, the Town Planning officer of Finestrat, Juan Francisco Perez, said that the Council has not received any complaint from this group. “Our forest brigade has not reported anything unusual,” he said. “We find it curious that they should wait till now to denounce these things while we are in an election period,” he added.

This newspaper yesterday tried contact the developer, without success.


I will be paying close attention to this story and I will try to speak with the environmental group myself.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

In Benidorm there are melons


Fiesta Melons

by Sylvia Plath

In Benidorm there are melons,
Whole donkey-carts full

Of innumerable melons,
Ovals and balls,

Bright green and thumpable
Laced over with stripes

Of turtle-dark green.
Chooose an egg-shape, a world-shape,

Bowl one homeward to taste
In the whitehot noon :

Cream-smooth honeydews,
Pink-pulped whoppers,

Bump-rinded cantaloupes
With orange cores.

Each wedge wears a studding
Of blanched seeds or black seeds

To strew like confetti
Under the feet of

This market of melon-eating



Sketch done by Sylvia Plath in Benidorm
and contemporary photo of the spot 1956

“Widow Magada’s house: pale, peach-brown stucco on the main Avenida running along the shore, facing the beach of reddish yellow sand, with all the gaily painted cabañas making amaze of bright blue wooden stills and small square patches of shadow. The continuous poise and splash of incoming waves mark a ragged white line of surf beyond with the morning sea blazes in the early sun, already high and hot at ten-thirty; the ocean is cerulean towards the horizon, vivid azure nearer shore, blue and sheened as peacock feathers. Out in the middle of the bay justs a rock island, slating up from the horizon line to form a sloped triangle of orange rock which takes the full glare of sun on its graigs in the morning and falls to purple shadow toward late afternoon.”  (1956)

I’m not quite sure what to make of Sylvia Plath. I had never really paid much attention to her work before, and I was never a great fan of Ted Hughes either; though forced to ‘study’ his poetry once. However, I’m interested in that period, 1956, when they were in Benidorm for six months, so I will go and visit the house where they stayed (59 Carrer Tomás Ortuño) later this week and take some photographs.

1956 is the year usually quoted for the general urbanisation plan (PGOU) but it is wrong: the year was 1955, I have been assured today by historian Francisco Amillo.

Posted in Uncategorized

Why Benidorm doesn’t need Guardian journalists

DSCN2927Benidorm has applied for status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The news was reported today in the Benidorm edition of Información alongside the ironically timed coincidental death of José Miguel Iribas, one of the most powerful voices for promoting the mass tourism model in the resort, who died of cancer aged 65: requiescat in pace.


Benidorm’s application for World Heritage site status will take from three to five years and will involve evaluation of the resort’s cultural contributions and its qualities as an example of a settlement that developed in a particularly unique planned high-rise urban scheme.  Its ecological and environmental contributions will be assessed as well as its place in history.

As a teacher in a local school, involved in continuous research into various aspects of Benidorm’s geography, history and culture, I can instantly see how Benidorm stands a very obvious chance of qualifying for World Heritage status. If you have read the history, and if you are aware of the local culture and the extraordinary connections in Mediterranean antiquity, the idea of Benidorm applying for World Heritage status is not very far fetched: it is simply a continuation of developmental ambitions begun with an outward international maritime world view going back centuries!

And yet the ignorant British flagship of modern sneering liberalism, The Guardian, had this to say in its dismissive superficial story about Benidorm’s application: “As it grew from a sleepy fishing village of 3,000 people in the 1960s to a destination of more than 300 skyscrapers…”  etc, etc, ad nauseum.

Wake up, Ashifa Kassam – the Guardian’s reporter in Madrid – because you just fell into the same trap that the C minus grade GCSE Geography students fall into in their Benidorm tourism case studies: “a sleepy fishing village suddinly beacame a tourism place beacuse of package tours beacuse my grandad said he went there in 1963 on a propelling plane.”  No, Ashifa Kassam, there was no sleepy fishing village: there was a town with long-standing international maritime connections, a vibrant political and cultural life, and an economy that ensured street lighting was installed in 1832, long before many parts of England.

And the Guardian then compounds its ignorance – its total ignorance – of Benidorm with another factually incorrect slur on the resort in an article about two French oceanography “researchers” who don’t seem to have done very much research at all.

“Take Benidorm, where in 1950 just 2,700 residents lived in a sleepy village,” writes the Guardian’s Stephen Starr. He is not much of a star, as he still thinks Benidorm was a sleepy village until it “saw its income fall in the 1950s with the closure of its tuna market. Locals turned to tourism.”

Well, no actually, Mr Starr. They turned to tourism in the mid-19th century, consolidated it in the 20s and 30s, then became involved in urban planning in the 1950s. See the stages properly developed, and don’t keep repeating the primitive C-grade Geography case study. We don’t read newspapers to be misinformed.  Here’s your homework, lad: some of the things you might have missed. There are many more.

Sylvia Plath, 1956 sketch of Benidorm

Sylvia Plath, 1956 sketch of Benidorm

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Back to the sources and an odd pastoral encounter

Last month I wrote about the Benidorm history morning organised by Benidorm town hall Today the history of Benidorm moved into the mountains and, not far from where I live in Finestrat, we began the long climb up the side of Puig Campana mountain in search of the ancient water sources of Benidorm.  These history tours are very well attended, exceptionally well organised, and demonstrate the residents’ appreciation for their own patrimony. As a geography teacher with an existing interest in the local water system, this was heaven!


Start of the morning at the rendezvous point. A bus brought Benidorm residents up to the beginning of the track up the mountain. I pass this point every day on my way to work.

Finca Lliriet with Benidorm in the background

Finca Lliriet with Benidorm in the background

Between the 13th century, when the area was under Islamic rule, and the 1940s in the Franco period, this valley with its aquifers – fed by precipitation on Puig Campana -provided most of Benidorm’s water needs.  The Finca Lliriet is an ancient and feudal site going back to Islamic times and until the 19th century was still an important seat of political power. (The details of this were explained in the history morning but I have to research the main points as I did not really understand them on first hearing!) The main feature of the present run-down abandoned Finca Lliriet is the spring alongside the old ruined house: the Font de Lliriet.


From this source, the water was channeled  down to Benidorm in aqueducts and via a reserve storage tank in the barranco Lliriet, the gully that leads down from the mountains onto the plain where Benidorm is situated.  But the Lliriet was only one source, and we had a long climb to find the second.


As we climbed up higher we passed various water installations including a laundry point which clearly indicated a communal washing routine serving a small agricultural community – now lost in history – and early 20th century concrete installations for transferring the water from the aquifers to Benidorm.

However, the real high point of the trip – and literally a high point as we climbed up this morning in the hot sun – was the Font de Carrers.  This was the main source for Benidorm, which channels down into the same barranco Lliriet.


The font de Carrers draws upon the limestone aquifers of Puig Campana and even after these past two years of drought (see Alicante drought on my geography blog) the spring is still giving a steady supply of pure water filtered through a vertical kilometre of Jurassic limestone from the prehistoric Tethys ocean.

The history of this water source goes back to the twelfth century under Islamic rule but the 20th century concrete tells a curious 20th century tale. In 1936 the UGT (Union General de Trabajadores) in Benidorm, which was a solidly socialist town throughout the Spanish Civil War, decided to guarantee the purity of the town’s water for the health of its citizens. They seized the rights to the source (which was on private land) and worked on the channel all the way to Benidorm.  They built a laundry point in Benidorm (later demolished after the civil war, to punish the local people for opposing the Franco forces).  Scratched into the concrete you can still see the impromptu inscription made by the UGT in 1936:


It was the modern inheritors of the socialist tradition in Benidorm who organised this history trip today, and a good job they made of it.  The PSOE run Benidorm council.  I somehow forgot that (because we have the Partido Popular running Finestrat.) On the way down the mountain I was arranging with a councillor for the possibility of my students visiting Benidorm council to learn more about the development of tourism.

“We will have to see who is in power next year,” he said.

“Oh, yes,” I responded stupidly, “it might be the PSOE instead of you…”

This was a real slap head moment, but nothing like the really stupid slap head moment that followed.  I was introduced to an ancient citizen of Benidorm and told that he was a retired “pastor”.  After talking with him for several minutes about the problems of the Catholic Church in modern Spain, I noticed he was looking increasingly alarmed.  I thought for a moment he might be one of those ghastly Spanish liberal priests. But my mistake had been even worse than that.

“Why do you keep on about the Church?” he asked, rather desperately.

“I was told you were a retired pastor,” I said.

“Yes,” he replied. “I looked after my flock of sheep on the Sierra Helada until I retired.”

“Ah, look at that view of Benidorm from here!” I exclaimed, and made my retreat.


I took Morris and his mother Rubí for a walk this afternoon and that went quite well. No misunderstandings or linguistic confusions. Life is so much simpler with donkeys.


Just look at Morris’s ears, towering over the Jurassic limestone aquifers of Puig Campana. Not that Morris cares much about the sources: as long as his plastic water bucket is filled, he is happy.

Posted in Uncategorized | 9 Comments