viernes, 7 de abril de 2017

Fresh Kills

It is relatively easy to start a forest fire, often a stray cigarette butt is enough, but it is incredibly difficult to put out.
Incendiary Geopolitics has been lighting fires across the world for centuries. Sparks fly on the wind and light new fires, and now there is little left to burn. 
The endless tit for tat of attack/retaliation, the suicidal policy of scorched earth, will leave us all with third degree burns and nothing to eat.
Today it is Syria, tomorrow….
After the 9/11 attack, the USA sought revenge. Those who suffered that reaction sought a vendetta of their own. And so on.
After the 9/11 attack, the rubble from the destruction of the twin towers was taken to the municipal landfill site aptly named Fresh Kills.
How long will this song be relevant?

miércoles, 5 de abril de 2017


Gibraltar, the gateway to the Mediterranean, a majestic rock crowning the bay of Algeciras, often shrouded in mist as if trying to hide from the curious gaze of Africa.
Gibraltar, the most Spanglish place on earth, a town of Bobbies with thick regional accents and perfect English, tapas and fish and chips, where corned beef becomes ‘carne con bif’.
Gibraltar, the border town, the tax haven, the military base, the foreign territory.
Gibraltar, the bone of contention.
When it could be so different. Imagine a Gibraltar with no frontier, no customs, no high fences. Imagine Gibraltar with no naval base, no military buildings, no streets full of uniformed young squaddies. Imagine the whole bay of Algeciras, with La Línea and San Roque, from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean, with its beaches and scenery, studded with hotels, a casino perhaps, a marina.
Gibraltar could be the jewel of the south. The history, the geography, the mixed cultures of Spain, Africa and Northern Europe. The Barbary apes, the amazing cave systems in the rock itself, the weather, the cuisine….
Maybe one day the nostalgic imperialists will all have faded away, and the people of Gibraltar, Los Llanitos, and their understanding neighbours  (they know each other, respect each other, without the need for political intervention), will be able to give back to the area the dignity and beauty it deserves.

viernes, 24 de febrero de 2017

Dirty words

We are living a classic reactionary backlash to the undeniable excesses of political correctness. For too many years we have been avoiding certain terms for fear of offending certain sensitive groups. In itself that is a noble idea, but as always it went too far. Terminology became muddled, and many in the media spotlight fell foul to pc's draconian laws. The right to consider phrases uttered, often with the best intent, as offensive, reigned supreme. Enough is enough.
So plain speaking people like Trump felt like a breath of fresh air.
But what you gain on the roundabout...
There are now a number of new words to be avoided at all costs, a kind of mirror version of pc.
The list is long, but here are a few of the new taboo words.
Tolerance, equality, compassion, dignity, solidarity, human rights, international co-operation, environment, social welfare, medical care, freedom....
As Nick Lowe asked so many years ago (all this is cyclical, of course) 'What's so funny about peace, love and understanding?'

jueves, 12 de enero de 2017

Pasaporte Europeo

Llevo más de treinta años viviendo en España, pero todavía tengo pasaporte británico. Ahora tengo el derecho a convertirme en ciudadano español, por el tiempo que llevo y porque estoy casado con una española.
Sin embargo he pospuesto solicitar la nacionalidad española porque esperaba que un día todos seríamos sencillamente Europeos, y que todo esto de pasaportes españoles, británicos, franceses o alemanes sería cosa del pasado. Más o menos como la peseta, el franco o el marco.
Ahora, con Brexit, mis planes han sido truncados. Una vez más nos dividimos. Debo escoger entre una cosa o la otra. La inclusión no es una opción.
Crear un pasaporte europeo no parece estar en la agenda política. Quizás ha llegado la hora de promover la idea, por un sentido de unidad, y con la esperanza de que el proyecto europeo no sea sólo un sueño imposible, sino un futuro inevitable, deseable y posible.

The European Passport

I have lived in Spain for over thirty years, but I still hold a UK passport. I now have the right to become a Spanish citizen, as I have lived and worked here for so long and have a Spanish wife.
However I have put off applying for Spanish citizenship because I was hoping that one day soon we would all of us become simply Europeans, and the whole idea of Spanish, British, French, German etc passports would become a thing of the past. Much like the peseta, the franc, the mark.
Now, with Brexit, my best laid plans have been spoilt. Once again the old divisions. I must choose to be either one or the other – inclusion is not an option.
The creation of a European passport does not appear to be on the agenda. Perhaps it is time to promote the idea, for the sake of unity and a feeling that project Europe is not just a hopeless dream but an inevitable, desirable, attainable future.

jueves, 1 de diciembre de 2016

Europe and Brexit

In 1945 The Second World War ended. Europe had been once more torn apart and destroyed by nationalist fighting. Only just over 70 years ago. It is easy to forget how short a time that is in historical terms.
From that disaster came a firm conviction to avoid future conflicts by uniting Europe in a number of common causes. The process has been slow, difficult and not always successful to date. There have been great advances, huge mistakes, and no end of misunderstandings.
But the idea is brilliant. A united Europe as a guarantor of civil rights, social services, tolerance and equality. A space which has no room for the death penalty, or dictatorships of any colour, or prosecution based on race, creed or sexual condition. A space for peace and freedom.
Now the concept has been put into doubt by the British and their unexpected Brexit vote. On what grounds? According to the right wing tabloid press the problem is one of immigration and of loss of sovereignty. Brussels has apparently gone mad and is dragging the British people down with them.
Criticism is fair and to be encouraged, mistakes should be pinpointed and corrected. There is discontent not only in the UK, but also in Poland, France, Holland and other nations. But to undo what has taken so much to create is short-sighted and dangerous. What if Britain or any other nation state decides to go it alone on immigration? Or on common defence?  How will that affect international relations and trade? What if an ‘independent’ government wanted to bring back the rope?
The answer is not to become a maverick state, to cut hard earnt ties, to burn one’s boats. That is an island mentality, and as the poet said, no man is an island.
Europe will continue to grow as a concept. Differences will be dealt with, crises overcome. There is no turning back, despite the Farages and Le Penns. Britain belongs to Europe and should form part of its growth. But if it finally decides not to form part of its own continent, to remain distant and wrapped in its faded Union Jack, nothing will change. Europe is a reality, a necessity, an achievement.

miércoles, 9 de noviembre de 2016


Trump wins the election. Wasps, monkeys....


From the helicopter we spotted the truck. It had veered off the dirt track into a mound of dry earth. Common enough. Most trucks were imported, second-hand models, with bald tyres and dodgy brakes. Bad roads and alcohol do not help. What was not usual was the group of vultures that scattered as we landed.
All that was left of the driver was the trunk. No head or limbs. The work of monkeys.
For some time now a group of whitewash monkeys had been terrorising the district. They are a particularly aggressive species, colonisers who expel all competitors from the area, hunting and killing all rivals. It was as if they could bear no other form of life other than their own. Hence the name: whitewash. Originally confined to a small protected wildlife reserve, they had recently begun to invade the surrounding farms and villages. A long drought had brought out the worst in them, and they had attacked livestock and even domestic animals. But this was the first news of an attack on a human.

Today we received news that may help to understand the attack on the truck driver. It took place one day last week.
According to the local police, only a young girl called Martha survived. She has been terribly disfigured.
There were three of them, Martha, her elder sister Mary, and a friend called Susana. They were bathing in the rock pool just outside their village. As they left the water, naked, they felt eyes on them. They felt unprotected and afraid. As they reached for their clothes the monkeys attacked. Some men heard the screams and managed to chase the group of monkeys off, but by then Mary and Susana had been dismembered.
Our conclusion is that humans had not been attacked before because the monkeys did not recognise people in clothes as rivals. That has now changed.  

We have informed the authorities, or at least tried to. They didn’t seem too worried. They believe all of this is simply a local matter, nothing that won’t sort itself out in time. They have promised ‘to look into it’.

As I write our dog barks, then falls silent. I can hear a scurrying on the tin roof, and an asthmatic, giggling sound. They have found us. It won’t be long now.