Nationalistic referendums here and there

As Spain’s prime minister Mariano Rajoy prepares to try to block Catalonia’s independence referendum, set for 9 November, local radio continues with its debates and phone-ins about the significance of the Scottish no vote.

A colleague, discussing an article I was to write about the outcome of the Scottish referendum, asked if I was fully up to speed, living as I now do in rural Spain. Their’s was an incredulous response when I described the wall to wall coverage the issue has had here. Oh, and the continuous playing of bagpipes over the airwaves.

Spain isn’t a federal state, but it does operate a decentralised system of administration. Its autonomous regions and cities have tax raising powers. To a point. When the Catalan government asked, in 2012, for an increase in those powers, it was refused. Many predicted that this would push the wealthy region towards independence.

For Andalucia, Spain’s largest and poorest region, this is effectively a class issue. Perhaps that is why the European elections saw a shift to the left, with Izquierda Unida (United Left), and the new and populist left party Podemos (we can), enjoying a significant upsurge in votes.

But here in Órgiva there appeared to be some confusion about the line to take on the Scottish issue. Graffiti appeared overnight, all over town, calling in big red and black letters for independence for Escocia. And alongside it, in what looked remarkably like the same hand, a demand that the Reino Unido (United Kingdom) remain just that. Alas, I didn’t take pictures. But perhaps the person with the spray paint was the same misguided individual who daubed ‘Goodnight, left side’ on a wall near the Alpujarras supermarket. The slogan of black shirt, jewish, violent neo-nazis was soon painted out. That it now just reads “good night” is rather fitting for our peace loving, hippyish community.

A very poetical bus club

IMG_0630School runs are not what they were. A thirty minute drive to a neighbouring town, Velez de Benaudalla, has us snaking around the Lujar, blinded by the rising sun and occasionally avoiding magnificent male ibex as they leap from the mountainside. A previous school run took us past giraffes, living in the same zoo that was home to a couple of ibex. We’re not planning a move that will take in wild giraffes any time soon.

Velez could not be more different to our rather desaliñado (scruffy) Órigiva. A straight through the town, no bends, tree-lined street (calle) with road humps and hardly a hair out of place. The residents of Velez shared a big prize in the Christmas lottery El Gordo a few years ago. We don’t know if the town was as pristine pre-lottery windfall as it is now, but we are convinced the locals polish their cobbles.

Not that we see many locals. The place is strangely quiet. Our little bus club – the half a dozen or so parents waiting for the arrival of the school bus – is, we suspect, the biggest daily gathering in the town that is so proud of itself that it calls itself a city (cuidad).


Velez is also proud of the important literary heritage of this corner of Andalucia. An extract from Madrigal de verano by Federico Garcia Lorca, the liberal and gay poet who was murdered in Granada in 1936 by Franco’s fascist regime, is inscribed on a monument by the school bus stop.

Too little is taught in Spanish schools about the civil war. Velez may or may not tell  its young people about the fate of the emblematic member of the Generation of ’27 that it has also named its main road after. But the monument alone has our daughter asking about him and we will try to enlighten her, as we enlighten ourselves.

And here’s the place:

Four weeks


The bluest of blue skies above the Lujar

Funny how four weeks at Casa del Sol have felt nothing like a holiday. Perhaps it’s the lack of return tickets, the absence of a countdown to a return to what was (perhaps still is) home, or just the presence of an overgrown puppy forever after something to eat that will surely rip its insides apart (the pool solar lights are particularly tasty), but books have stayed unread, sunloungers unlounged on. Even the pool has cooled from lack of action. Instead there is a routine of early morning dog walking, school running, weekend piano lessons, fun with new friends and, oh, working.

For you can take the London out of the journalist, but you can’t take the journalist out of our much-loved new home town, Órgiva.

A client asked if I was on holiday after getting the international ring tone. I explained I was not, but still received a slightly provocative “but you can still have a quick Sangria when you fancy it”. Perhaps I protest too much, but if I was working in London during what I read has been a glorious September, would it be assumed that I would nip out for a drink half way through the day?

That said, I found myself closing the bedroom windows to shut out the sound of the swimming pool’s jets after they noisily fired up while I was conducting a telephone interview with someone whose business was struggling and who said they hadn’t had a holiday for years. There was no reason why they would assume the sound of running water was anything other than, well I’m not sure what in the context, but I had this horrible sense that my phone could somehow betray my location to my interviewee.

Working from home in southern Spain for UK clients is clearly going to have its challenges and carry with it a fair amount of guilt. But the bright blue, clear September sky, accompanied by the cooling breezes that attracted us to this valley, make it unlikely that I’ll be returning to Northern Line misery to assuage my conscience any time soon.