Having been coming to Spain for almost 50 years there have been a number of clear changes that are visible to the naked eye. It is clear that with unemployment rates being 50% in the under 24 year olds and 26% in all, things are not good. There are however islands for hope. Firstly many of the British have left and areas like Benalmadena Costa have been at least partially reclaimed by the Spanish. Resultingly there are fewer dreadful ” English Cuisine” restaurants on offer and far more traditional Spanish restaurants. Secondly prices have fallen dramatically. A pint of beer in a decent beachfront bar is rarely more than 1.95 euros. Three course meals tend to be anything from 10-15 euros and often throw in half a bottle of wine. Thirdly, the ecology is changing. Far more birds and far fewer cats. Parakeets abound as do pigeons. This has become a decent holiday destination, flights to malaga are less than 3 hours from London and cheap. Crime is not visible, surely it happens but safety seems better than say in London. This is a place to re-visit. Lastly, the Spanish do things in different ways. Only the Spanish could have equipement outside their bansk that potentially could be used to break in.
Driving as I do around 20,000 miles/year sadly I am sometimes forced by circumstances to stop at these appalling places. My childhood recollections are of stopping late at night often on the way back from football games at wonderful places such as Barrow ( and I mean that, Barrow is a wonderful proper real football ground, the simple fact that it borders on Mordor and takes weeks to get there should not detract too much from that) and finding cold service stations, long queues and smelling vividly of fried food. Sadly not much has changed except two things. In the main they are all outlets, Burger King, Costa ,Waitrose etc, they are all incredibly expensive, but the queues have gone as no-one wants to or can afford the extraordinary prices.
Today typified things. Mug of tea 2£. Served as tea bag floating in mug. Go on a hunt to find milk, spoons etc. Served by the eternally damned or at least they look that way. No hello, no smiles, no thankyou’s. The atmosphere was dire. The tables looked like they had been sourced from a car boot sale selling ancient tables from a closed down club. Dirty. Smelly. It must have taken the last 20 years to extract every last ounce of atmosphere, pleasure, call it what you will. These places are devoid of anything resembling humanity.
Then the shops. Selling a selection of things that non-one in their right mind wants or needs. Buy a paper and one gets asked if one wants to buy two packets of chocolates for £4. The petrol station. Anywhere on this island diesel costs around 133.9-135.9 pence/litre. The more greedy local garages might ask for 137.9. The service station today was asking 144.9 pence/litre. This equates to an extra £7 a tank if I were to buy there.
Service stations are doomed. Only the desperate stop there in increasingly smaller amounts and the reasons above are why. Either charge a fortune but serve excellent stuff or charge reasonable prices in a reasonable atmosphere. Doomed unless you fancy buying one of these nice coats for sale in the shop. I am being serious…….
Well the Cayman Islands bound daughter boarded her flight and zoomed off across the atlantic on wednesday, so the blog reverts to being also news from the UK for her. Well the first piece of news is that the weather has turned. Tonight it is only 9pm but freezing fog is already dancing down upon our road. This morning we were greeted by frost all over the fields behind us. Yesterday was spent mostly in or near Southampton. a visit to Southampton General hospital is always a curious affair. Firstly one is greeted by a queue to get into an exhorbitantly priced car park, that proudly states just where you enter that if you are stopped here there is a 60 minute wait. Also unusual but necessary is that on the very top floor of the car park is an air ambulance in bright yellow. As one walks into the main entrance the first thing to notice is that there are more shops than in many high streets. Not only newsagents and the suchlike, but clothes shops. The first shop however is a solicitors and the NHS wonders why it has so many claims against them? Healthy eating? No sign of that. Burger King, Costa Coffee ( cost a lot 1.90 for a really inedible cup of black coffee ) and some sandwich type shop. But the most curious thing was a queue of young parents mainly, all with children in prams or pushchairs all queueing to get into the childrens orthopaedic outpatients. The queue stretched almost 50 yards and was creating chaos in the corridors.
I had a decent meeting there with a rheumatologist with whom it would be good to do work, then a drive back to Hartney Wintney, a little Hampshire village just off the M3, where a dinner with my colleagues was held in an Italian restaurant called Mama Mia. Nice dinner and nice food. The place was packed, not bad for a thursday evening.