It’s a common complaint.
British expats in Spain, especially on the Costa del Sol, live in their own little bubble, cut off from what is really happening in Spain and more concerned with who got voted off ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ than what is happening on their adopted country.
You really would have had to have been living under the proverbial stone for the past month, however, for the recent goings on in Catalonia to have escaped your notice. The violent scenes were broadcast worldwide and social media was ablaze with images of the Guardia Civil wading into protesters with their batons drawn.
As a journalist who has worked in the newsrooms of one of the UK’s biggest national newspapers, as well as done a bit of television reporting though, I am guessing that a shout from the news editor’s office of “It’s all kicking off in Barcelona! Who fancies going out to cover it?” must have been met with a kindergarten style chorus of “Me sir! Ask me sir. Pleaaaaseeee!”.
I was actually shocked that Sky News didn’t deploy the Weapon of Mass Disruption that is Kay Burley. But perhaps they thought that the Guardia Civil might have just batoned her anyway, trouble brewing our not. I can imagine she can provoke that kind of reaction wherever she goes.
I did wince when I saw the scenes in Barcelona. I was a teenager in the 80s over here, when the Guardia Civil were ‘old school’. The motto that I learnt then, and that serves me well today was ‘Don’t muck with the Guardia Civil’. As a cheeky 17-year-old on a motorbike I soon learnt that these guys were not averse to the occasional slap if I answered back, and I once received a couple of cracks across the legs and full on Franco style telling off when I was caught out, ahem, ‘courting’ in the back of my battered 2CV.
In my own glittering journalistic career I have been sent to the Catalan capital on two occasions. Once was to cover the launch of the Bentley GTC – where they let me loose on the streets of Barcelona with a 700 bhp Bentley convertible and with strict instructions ‘not to bend it’ (I succeeded. Just) And the second was to report on a VIP Experience Company that flew me and a bunch of City executives over on a 24-hour prawn sandwich and champagne fuelled smash and grab raid, which included a corporate box watching El Classico at the Nou Camp. Barcelona won 3-0, we went clubbing afterwards, and things got a little hazy…
I’m not going to wade into the should Catalonia be an independent state argument here – my only interest being that if they did, then perhaps Scotland could declare independence and I could avoid the Brexit fallout by gaining a Scottish passport.
But it did start me wondering what other areas might clamour for self-determination. The Basques would be in for a fair shout, having a strong cultural identity and language that appears to be made up almost entirely of Z and X. This is as a result of being the only Pictish language still in existence in Europe. The Basques were never conquered by the Romans, a historical Asterix if you like, and I’ve met a few rugby players from there who bear more than a passing resemblance to Obelix.
The mystical Celts of Galicia might also want to be their own nation, though you could argue that it is so wet and misty up there for most of the year that they are left alone by the rest of Spain. Plus they are rumoured to be pretty handy with a spell book and they play the bagpipes. If that doesn’t warn you to leave Galicia well alone then nothing will.
Or perhaps our own Andalucia might decide to go it alone. After all, it already has great links with the rest of Europe and North Africa due to the high numbers of foreign residents here, as well as being independently wealthy due to the huge amount of money that went missing as a result of the ERE scandal, and it must be hidden under a king size mattress somewhere. In Sevilla’s own son Felipe Gonzalez we have a president who already has international experience, and we can make Antonio Banderas both Foreign and Culture Ministers. And the Junta de Andalucia has been operating like a banana republic for years now, so the transition will be seamless.
I’ll be happy with a small position in expat affairs, by the way. And perhaps the title of Marquis de Istan…