Know before you go

British nationals took and incredible 60 million trips overseas in 2014.

Most of these trips passed without incident, but British Consular Staff handled over 470,000 enquires from around the world in 2014, dealing with everything from issuing emergency travel documents to helping those in hospital and providing a list of local lawyers, interpreters and doctors.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office Minister the Right Honourable Grant Shapps (pictured above right) launched “Helping British Nationals Abroad” in Malaga on Thursday, a guide to the assistance that British Consulates can provide as well as offering helpful advice on how people can take responsibility for their own safety abroad.

These include simple steps such as checking the FCO travel advice, taking out comprehensive travel insurance and researching the country and health risks before travelling as well as making sure that your documents, especially your passport, are kept secure.


For more information visit




The great Alonso love in...

It's the middle of the summer sporting calendar in Spain. But the bad news means that we be subjected to one of my pet hates. Spanish sports commentators

Perhaps it is because I grew up during a golden age of commentators during the 70s, people like David Coleman, Peter Allis, Dan Makil, David Vine, Harry Carpenter and of course the peerless Murray Walker. They had the gift of making you feel part of the action, giving you informed and impartial advice and most importantly, knowing that they didn't have to fill every millisecond of the broadcast with chatter.

A lesson that is lost on Spanish commentators. Whatever sport they are covering, Spanish commentators feel that they have to get behind their team to an overwhelming extent. The worst example of this is Formula One. Sunday afternoon commentary on Formula One is not so much a sporting event, more of a cult to the Church of Fernando Alonso.

It doesn't help that the commentator Antonio Lobato obviously has a huge man crush on Fernando. I've watched several interviews that Lobato has conducted with Alonso and they have been toe curlingly bad. In one interview Alonso pushed the bald Lobato into a swimming pool and he came out with such a coy grin that I thought he was going to ask Fernando to towel him down.

The actual commentary is even worse. I'm not for a second doubting that Alonso is a massively talented driver (I friend of mine once had a Formula One test drive against the young Alonso and when asked why he was a second behind him on the timesheet replied “Because he’s Fxxxxing quick!”) But no matter what is happening in the race, all focus is on the blessed Fernando. And heaven forefend that he’s knocked out of the race.

This reaches its peak whenever Lewis Hamilton is mentioned. The Spanish demonise the British driver to the extent that a few years ago the Formula One coverage to every race had a ‘comic book’ style intro with Alonso as a Spanish hero, while Hamilton was an evil robot. I dropped my pre-race bowl of salted peanuts the first time I saw that, I can assure you. It may say a lot for Hamilton's composure that he did not make a complaint to the Spanish broadcasters. The late, great F1 World Champion and sometime Marbella resident James Hunt would probably have flattened Lobato with a single punch….

Something for the Weekend? - Minions

The story of the Minions begins at the dawn of time.

Starting as single-celled yellow organisms, Minions evolve through the ages, perpetually serving the most despicable of masters. Continuously unsuccessful at keeping these masters - from T. rex to Napoleon - the Minions find themselves without someone to serve and fall into a deep depression.

But one Minion named Kevin has a plan, and he - alongside teen-age rebel Stuart and lovable little Bob - ventures out into the world to find a new evil boss for his brethren to follow.

The trio embarks upon a thrilling journey that ultimately leads them to their next potential master, Scarlet Overkill (Academy Award winner Sandra Bullock), the world's first supervillainess ever. They travel from frigid Antarctica to 1960s New York City, ending in modern London, where they must face their biggest challenge to date: saving all of Minionkind...from annihilation.

Showing now in English at the Cine Goya Marbella, Puerto Banus at 4 and 6pm. M

Sartorial Summer Suffering

Summertime is the cruelest season for the fashion conscious British male on the coast. While the fairer sex can simply throw on a beach cover up over their bikinis while women’s magazines are packed full of style tips of what to wear on the sand. Meanwhile, our continental counterparts look effortlessly stylish with a combination of polo shirts, preppy shorts or cool linen suits.

But for your average Brit, summer is a minefield. Take a short stroll along your local paseo and you’ll see what I mean. The only T-shirt that a British male would seem to be comfortable in is his team’s football top. (And if you think I’m joking, stand in arrivals at Malaga when the Newcastle flight gets in. It looks like a Newkie Brown flashmob), pirate shorts (ok if you are an eight-year-old Jack Sparrow fan, not so good if you’re in your 50s) and, horror of horrors, socks with sandals.

Mind you, I am myself without the odd fashion faux pas. As it’s boilingly hot up at the Casita at the moment, I’ve taken to wearing a sarong around the place a la Becks, to keep certain parts of me cool. Imagine my horror then, when dressed in said sarong and doing a little air guitar to the Red Hot Chili Peppers on the iPod, my gardener came round the corner. Neither of us knew where to look.

As the saying goes “It may feel so right, but it looks sarong”…

It’s life Jim, but not as we know it…

The launch of a Marbella based reality TV series, ‘Life on Marbs’ (and ten out of ten for the title by the way) has resulted in the usual anguished cries from ordinary expats. Although I use the word –‘ordinary’, advisedly. Most of the expats that I’ve met in my thirty years or so of living on the coast have been anything but ordinary.

In case you didn’t know ‘Life on Marbs’ takes an ‘Only Way is Essex’-style look at the party boys and girls in Puerto Banus, and as you would expect, there are more than a fair number of rent-a-bimbos – one calling herself the Marbella Barbie - champagne spraying and blokes who think that they are in a rap video, talking about partying with Premiership footballers, spending thousands in nightclubs and washing their watches in premium fizz. Don’t ask me why…

The reaction on Social Media has been predictable with anguished howls of complaint. Why oh why must television companies always pick people like this, they complain. Why don’t they have a show that looks at the lives of ordinary, hardworking expats in Spain, and not this motley collection of it-girls, wannabies and has-beens?

And though I never thought that I’d find myself wanting to defend trash TV, in this case I have to. Like it or loathe it, with its supercars, superyachts and the occasional supermodel all bathing in the Mediterranean sunshine, Marbella is a perfect location to shoot a programme. Marbella is an internationally recognised name in the same way that Miami or St. Tropez is, so when you prefix Marbella in front of anything, be it Marbella Belles, Marbella Blokes or Marbella Babes, the audience will automatically expect to see opening shots of the aforementioned supercar or yacht.

Somehow the ordinary bar owner in Fuengirola quietly serving pints to his locals looks a little tame when compared to a bunch of good looking, mainly cosmetically enhanced young people sunning themselves in million pound villas.

But to think that ‘Life on Marbs’ shows all of Marbella is akin to thinking ‘Made in Chelsea’ represents all of London. The programme focuses on a very small, albeit loud, slice of the colourful mix that makes up Marbella. But there is so much more to the town, which we locals would prefer is kept secret.

A friend of mine who works in the industry once confided that everyone gains 10 kilos and loses 20 points of IQ when they appear on TV. With ‘Life on Marbs’ where several of the cast have mistakenly called Puerto Banus ‘Pueta Banos’ we can assume that they didn’t have many more than 20 IQ points to begin with...

I’ll be sitting down to watch the programme in the same way that I used to watch ‘Dr. Who’ when I was a small boy. From behind the sofa with my hands over my eyes!

Road Raging (or Car Park Raging, but you get the point)...

OK I'll admit it. I have been known to suffer from the odd bout of road rage. This usually occurs at this time of year when the roads around Marbella are clogged full of tourists in their rent a cars trying to find the nearest sports bar and Madrilleños in their Mercedes, who pay no heed to road signs and parking spaces, considering themselves to be far too civilised to worry about what we uncouth Andalucians think.

Regular readers of my column will know my thoughts on other motoring matters in Spain. Especially my distain of souped up Seat Leons, quad bikes and the fact that no one in this country has the faintest idea about how to correctly navigate a roundabout, And why Spain needs so many of the bloody things. I think that there must be an EU directive that each country with an EU funded road network is obliged to construct a roundabout every kilometre or so. Normally with some ill judged piece of modern art. Therre are giant ants just outside Estepona and one roundabout at the entrance to Benalmadena greets the new arrival with a pile of giant steel balls. I will pass no further comment.

I'm also used to the generally rubbish standard of parking during summer. Any popular bar on the coast will normally have cars double or triple parked outside it, and it can take prolonged beeping plus a few choice Andaluz words to get your car out if you do find yourself blocked in.

The current trend for large 4x4s and American muscle cars also makes parking somewhat of a problem as they tend to take up at least two spaces on their own. And I thought my own bete noir of parking was spotting a gap between two cars, only to find a skip parked there...

All this pales into significance when compared to the parking I witnessed last month. I was doing the weekly shop in my local supermarket and had parked downstairs to keep out of the heat. I try and time my shopping to coincide with siesta so that I don't have to fight my way to the checkout.

The supermarket was quiet and there were only four other cars parked downstairs. And then I saw it. A convertible BMW parked close to the entrance. Across two disabled parking spaces.

Strangely enough I fought the compulsion to key the idiot's blue paintwork and instead posted the photo below on social media, which brought a similar response to my own outrage. So if anyone out there does know whose car this is, I´d be delighted to name and shame them!

Burning Up

Living in a cottage (the Casita del Lago) in the middle of a UNESCO designated biosphere, fire has always been one of my biggest fears. I'm not so concerned about the danger to myself as the Casita is lakefront and so in the event of a blaze my plan of escape mainly consists of grabbing 50 Shades the cat, leaping into one of the kayaks and paddling madly away from any blaze. But earlier this summer my worst fears came true when fire struck the hills.

It was a Sunday and, as I had a couple of guests saying over from Switerland, we decided to hit the beach. I also host a radio show on a Sunday, and not wanting to be distubed from my few hours of free time with my (female) companions, I turned my mobile off.

As I parked the car outside the studio later that day, I switched the phone back on and it immediately began ringing.

The first call was from Marco, one of my neighbours. He told me that there was a fire close to the Casita, and when I asked him how bad it was, he answered “Ufffff”. Marco is a lawyer and not prone to exageration, so I knew “Uffff” was serious.

The Yummy Mummy (a very attractive neighbour, if you were wondering) was next on the phone, saying that she could see the smoke from her place, about halfway up the Istan road, and I should get up there sharpish.

As I speed up the road I could see the plumes of smoke rising further up the valley. I was halted by a Guardia Civil roadblock and I told them that I lived on kilometre 11.

Where was the fire I asked?

“Kilometre 11” they replied.


I was allowed to drive up to kilometre 10, where I could clearly see flames as well as helicopters dropping water. At a second road block I was told that I would not be allowed to drive down the track to my house as it was too dangerous. Two hours later the fire was still burning so I decided to go back to the beach.

The girls had fully embraced the beach lifestyle and I found them chilling out on their sunbeds. When I broached the rather sensitive subject of the possibility of the Casita being burnt to the ground they shurgged. “If the house has burnt down, have a mojito. And if the house hasn't burnt down, then have a mojito!!!”

Later that night we were allowed back down the track to the Casita. The house was untouched but it was close, as the fire had started just 500 metres to the north and the wind was blowing in the opposite direction. That night we stood on the terrace and watched the torches of the firemen as they made sure the fire was out. The fire had caused damage, but without the skill of the helicopter pilots and firefighters it could have been much worse.

All for a Good Paws Cause

Some of the most Marbella's most beautiful girls and hunky guys are highlighting the plight of abandoned animals in a sizzling new calendar

Last-Chance-July-Animal-Rescue-Giles-Brown-Marbella-Malaga-Spain-Jounalist Last-Chance-Mr-July-Animal-Rescue-Giles-Brown-Marbella-Malaga-Spain-Jounalist

The calendar is the idea of passionate animal lover and manager of The Boardwalk Restaurant Kara Robertson. Kara has been involved with rescue dogs for several years and the calendar will help raise both awareness and funds for Last Chance Animal Rescue.

“All of the dogs that feature in the calendar were saved from certain death in the pounds by Last Chance Animal Rescue” says Kara, “It's really important that the charity keeps going and this calendar is one way of raising money. And it'll be great to have hanging on your wall”

Local media personality Giles Brown is perhaps the most unlikely male model to appear but he (tastefully) strips off as Mr February. “I think it's a great idea for a good cause” he says  “And I've never been asked to be a nude model before, so that's another one off the bucket list!” 

You can find out more on Facebook at Last Chance Animal Calendar or by calling Kara on 672 575 644.  

New Deal for Marbella Rugby Club

Marbella Rugby Club announced Grupo Trocadero as its main sponsors at a press conference this week. The four-year deal means that Groupo Trocadero, which owns three beach restaurants in Marbella and a fourth in Sotogrande, will sponsor all of the teams, and that the club will be known as Trocadero Marbella Rugby Club.

Also present at the press conference at the restaurant Trocadero Arena was Marbella mayor Jose Bernal, who stressed how important rugby was in raising the town's profile in the Spanish sports scene.

Marbella Rugby Club enjoyed a hugely successful season in 2014/15, finishing top of the Andulcian league, and the club's junior teams have run out Spanish champions at several levels in recent years. Players have gone to play professionally, as well as represent Spain and England at junior levels.

Club President Francisco Garcia Caro said that the ultimate aim of Trocadero Marbella Rugby Club was to gain promotion to the national league. The sponsorship deal marked a new era for the club, a view that was underlined by the announcement that the club will be working with Victory Sports, a sports marketing company that represents the Spanish National Rugby Federation and has previous secured sponsorship deals with Heineken and Orange.

The 2015/2106 season begins in October, with  Trocadero Marbella Rugby Club once again aiming to be champions of Andalucia.

Feeding Lives

Marbella may be a byword for luxury and wealth, but a charity organisation cares for the less fortunate. Ser Humano, now in its fifth year provides healthy meals for those on very low incomes, as well as giving them theopportunity to enjoy a hot shower and clean and iron their clothes.

The charity operates out of offices donated by the Town Hall in the Miraflores district, one of Marbella's poorest areas, as well as San Pedro Alcantara.  Providing food daily for 400 people, half of them children, director Ana Garido explained that Ser Humano offers offers breakfast and lunch as well as a packed lunch for schoolchildren. People can eat in the canteen at the offices, or collect precooked food to be taken home. In addition the charity also delivers food to the elderly or disabled at their homes.

It was scorching on the summer day that I visited. at the same time that Masons from Gemini Lodge 51 in Calahonda were donating €1200 that they had raised for food, clothing and other supplies that the charity needs.

In the kitchen the volenteer cooks were busy preparing the lunch menu, seemingly oblivious to the heat, while people patiently queued for their food. There was a cross section of people, from women carrying children to elderly men quietly eating their food.

"We have all nationalites and types of people here" explained Ana "because Marbella is like that. People come to us through the social services, health clinics, the Red Cross and others".

Ana showed us around the facilities including the  men's and women's showers, the huge walk in fridges, laundry room and lastly the colourful children's playroom.

"We have been providing food for those who need it since 2010. And donations like today's are vitally important because of the economic situation." Ana told me "But all are welcome here and we try to help everyone."

To make a donation or provide food and other goods call

951 216 602 email

Facebook Asociacion-ser-HumanoMarbella