Blogs in this series

Life in Culebrón is a very British view of life in a small village in Alicante province, my experience of Spain, of Spaniards and sometimes of the other Britons who live nearby. The tabs beneath the header photo link to other blogs written whilst I was living in other parts of Spain, to my articles written for the now defunct TIM magazine and to my most recent photo albums.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Nothing in particular

It's raining. It's rained quite a lot in the last couple of weeks. We've forgotten all about the drought which lasted from last winter through to a few weeks ago. Usually, though not today, it rains overnight which is very civilised. I can't pretend that it's warm but it isn't cold either - at least not outside. Generally we're into the mid to high teens during the day but with sun and blue skies so it feels pleasantly warm. Overnight we're down at 7ºC or 8ºC maybe. I expect it will turn cold in December, it usually does. The pile of leaves that have just started to clog our drive suggest that Autumn has finally arrived. And its getting dark just after six in the afternoon. Considering it will start to get lighter again just before Christmas that's not too bad. So outside, in the fresh air everything is as it should be. Inside the house of course it's miserable. On the front page of today's Alicante paper there's a headline which says that nearly half of the houses in Alicante province lack any form of insulation against sound, heat or cold. This statistical information is tied in to the introduction of energy efficiency certificates for dwellings a while ago. In our house the little windows, designed to keep out the beating sun of summer make our rooms dismal in winter and the uninsulated house with tiled floors, painted walls and badly fitting doors make it exactly the opposite of cosy. With the log burner alight the living room has been lovely and warm but all the adjoining rooms have a cold, musty feel. Getting into bed is quite unpleasant until you stop shivering.

In the news, corruption stories are everywhere. The health minister resigned this week. She was mentioned by a judge as being the direct recipient of goods bought with her husband's dodgy money. I heard lots of comments that it was like making the poor thing resign for having eaten poached game when she didn't know it was poached. Hmm. The same judge said the ruling PP or Conservative party had benefitted directly from dodgy funding but the health minister's boss, the national president, forgot about that when he stood up in parliament and said that corruption was not endemic. The last three PP party treasurers have all been in court, one is on remand and that one has accused the current president of taking illegal payments. I wouldn't like to give the idea that only the PP have their fingers in the till. Certainly on percentages they come out top but, down in Andalucia, there's a huge corruption deal about suspect redundancy notices which implicates two past PSOE or Socialist party presidents. And the independents don't want to miss out either. In Cataluña an almost mythical ex leader turns out to have a stash in Andorra and there was a case of illegal party funding a while ago that another key political figure somehow seemed to sidestep.

Back to our national president; he's a very strange president. Earlier this month a couple of million Catalans turned out for an illegal referendum on independence - the national president generally ignored that and sent something akin to the Crown Prosecution Service (if it's still called that) after the regional president for running an illegal poll. So much easier than arranging to talk about it. He's behaving the way I do when I need to talk to someone in Spanish on the phone. Anything to avoid a difficult conversation.

There are close on 2000 politicians currently charged with some level of corruption yet none of the promised anti corruption legislation has got past the committee stage. The politicians don't go easily either. None of them behave like people convicted of crimes. No sackcloth and ashes. Most of them spin out the process for ever with iffy legal arguments and expensive lawyers. The few who have been locked up argue about which prison they'd like. An ex president of one of the regions was in the sort of prison regime where you go home for the weekends and only put on your stripey suit every now and again. When people found out they got a bit indignant so a judge decided to withdraw those privileges. The ex politician appealed the decision. Another ex regional president who has been sentenced to four years in chokey still has body guards and an official looking car and has been asking the Central Government for a pardon - a real live get out of gaol for free card.

Yesterday I got a text message from the General Treasury of the Social Security on my phone to tell me that my petition to become a self employed person had been approved. In the past I've complained about the difficulties that people face who want to set up their own business here. People needed to have a hefty amount of cash behind them in the bank or at least some heavyweight backers willing to cough up if the business went pear shaped. Social security payments were high too with even the smallest business subject to a 260€ minimum payment from the first day of trading and before any tax committment. Anyway, for my new job, my new boss suggested that I should be self employed. This only made sense because now there is a sort of reduced charge sliding scale social security payment scheme starting at around 53€ for the first 6 months and then going 130€, 180€ and finally 260€ after two years. I thought it sounded like a good scheme. An incentive to get people to register and run legal businesses from the start rather than to start illegally and register only when the profits justified it. Nonetheless in my case I thought it sounded a bit flaky and there were plenty of disadvantages as well as advantages but the accountant told me that at least it was all legit. He did all the work. All I had to do was to sign on the dole and hand over some basic ID documentation and he did the rest. Then a text message. Nearly as strange as our president.

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