Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Just Not Cricket!

Tasty IPA  beers in Spain make me happy. Sad
pervy inadequates on Calblanque beaches do not.
Calblanque Regional Park is an area of outstanding natural beauty which just happens to be pretty much on my doorstep. The park boasts stunning landscapes and a wonderful array of unspoilt coves and beaches. The area is of "high ecological and naturalistic interest....with interesting plant communities and a remarkable wildlife value, as well as diverse ecosystems". Read that carefully. It says "naturalistic", not "naturistic". But somewhere along the line someone decided that the beaches also present a "wonderful opportunity to doff off, get your todger out and march around like a bit of a dick". Hmmm. I mean, it's just not cricket is it?

Now, I may be a Brit - stiff upper lip and all that - but I have no particular problem with naturism. I know that some of the Calblanque beaches attract nude sunbathers and it doesn't take a great deal of effort or initiative to find your own space, away from the often middle-aged, flabby enthusiasts and closer to those more inclined to keep their pads on and private bits private. In fact, even without current social distancing considerations, it is perfectly possible to locate a suitable position in the outfield on a Calblanque beach, well away from the inner ring, with sufficient distance  to warrant a good pair of binoculars if you really, really want to be offended. So, what exactly is my beef (perhaps not the best expression)? Well, I'll tell you........it's the sad, weirdy-beardy inadequates that make a point of marching up and down the full length of the beach, wearing nothing but a hat, a pair of sandals and a rucksack, making sure that you don't miss out on their tiny set of bales. 

I remember a saying from many years ago that "nude women look better with clothes on". I will leave it up to the reader to determine whether or not they agree with this statement but I will add just two things. One; it is only ever men that feel the need to march naked up and down those beaches occupied by the more circumspect amongst us and two; nude men absolutely definitely look better with clothes on.

On one particular day last week, we were treated to four Dick Dastardlys in two hours. Dick no.1 was mid-60's, beard/hat/sandals/rucksack and he even said "hola" to us as he passed, turning slightly towards us as he did so thus ensuring that there was no chance we would miss the show. Dick's nos. 2 and 3 were marching on together (to Leeds perhaps?), a generation younger than Dick no.1, both a little hunched in stature but with the obligatory beard/hat/sandals/rucksacks and, to be fair, looking a bit like your typical real ale geeks (maybe they can't be all bad?) shuffling past us looking a bit sheepish whilst pretending unconvincingly that this was the most natural thing in the world for them to be doing. Dick no.4 was (for I have named him) Herman who was early 60's (?); most disturbingly not only did Herman have no beard on his face but Herman had no beard anywhere else. There it was, Herman's bat swinging freely, unencumbered. It was very off-putting I can tell you.  Surprisingly, Herman then abandoned the beach, clambering up the rocks to then continue his mission, still swinging, on one of the marked Calblanque trails. One can only hope that a dog walker with a hungry pooch was somewhere close-by. We actually saw Herman a few days later, walking along the beach........fully clothed. Maybe he doesn't like dogs? I would bet my mortgage that he doesn't like cricket.

Whilst googling Calblanque, I came across a review of one of the Calblanque beaches on a "nakation" website which, it transpires (it took me a few seconds), means naked vacation. Perhaps an enthusiastic advocate of beach nakedness might take a different view on such matters? "The beach was gorgeous........however stay clear of the cove to the right of this beach........it was here that I saw two men having sex and then got wanked at by a lone male. Honestly, what is it with some people!"

It isn't just me then. My faith in naturists in general is restored. Your genuine naturist likes to doff off and sunbathe. And that's it. Some of 'em might even like cricket. It is the sad little pervy inadequates who like to show off that give the genuine naturists a bad name.

So then Dick's 1,2,3 and 4. We all agree. You really are sad little full tossers. And the next time you want to take a beach hike, put on your budgie smugglers. That way, we'll still all know that you're inadequate saddo's but at least you can shove your socks down the front to pretend you've got something worth showing off down there. Remember, there are Brits out there and we don't want to see your middle wicket. Remember too that we play cricket. And with a suitable batting implement to hand one of us might just treat you to an aggressive cover drive. Be warned.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Ghosts of Spain

As a child I first visited Spain in the late 1960's. General Franco was Caudillo (Leader) and I recall that travel reps' advice to British tourists would include warnings not to mess with the Guardia Civil, not to joke about the tricornio - their three-cornered hat - and absolutely do not be rude or disrespectful about Franco himself. I returned to Spain as a teenager in 1977, two years after Franco's death and the gift shop shelves still full of plastic bulls, flamenco dancer dolls, sombreros and donkeys were now joined by gaudy souvenirs such as playing cards featuring topless women and little rubber toys which, when you squeezed them, would produce an oversized phallus. Even then, to a dumb British teenager, it was clear that Franco's death had been the catalyst for breakneck change in the national psyche. So why, in a country where history confronts you around almost every corner, do we know so little about Spain under Franco's dictatorship and the Civil War which put him in power four decades earlier?

Ghosts of Spain - Travels Through a Country's Hidden Past is a book, published in 2006, by Giles Tremlett, historian, author and journalist based in Madrid and provides a fascinating insight into the country post-Franco. If, like me, you want to learn more about Spain then I would venture that the book is essential and enjoyable reading.

Federico Garcia Lorca - Spanish poet (1898 to 1936): In Spain the dead are more alive than the dead of any other place in the world: their profile wounds like the edge of a barber's razor.

As Tremlett says, "Spain has a wealth of stories to tell....the story does not go stale either, for Spain changes at breakneck speed". Certainly the transicion from dictatorship to democracy in just three years was nothing short of remarkable. "The Spanish people, relieved, embraced democracy in record time, consciously fleeing their own brutal past and burying it in silence....which it did by smothering the past, an unwritten el pacto de olvido, the pact of forgetting. But scratch beneath the surface and this silence hid more than just fear or shame, it hid the fact that Spaniards did not, still do not, agree on the past. The argument disguised by this silence remains that Spain has two versions of who was to blame for the Civil War. There remains two Spains. If the transicion was a success, it was because Spaniards made a supreme effort to find consensus. That effort was driven, to a large degree, by the Civil War ghosts still haunting so many Spanish households".

The book covers, amongst other things, How the Bikini Saved Spain (the development of tourism), the characteristics and claims of the peoples of Catalonia, Euskadi (Basque Country) and Galicia, the Mean Streets of Flamenco and the art of enchufe (being "plugged in"). It is a great read and offers Brits an insight into Spanish national and regional characteristics and differences and how Franco's unwitting legacy was to ensure that current generations understand old conflicts are best resolved with words, not violence.

Friday, June 19, 2020

Some Like it Hot!

This is what you should be doing in June and July. Kenny putting at the
Footballers Golf Classic, La Manga. Another great image by Will Knight.
Following that unfortunate fridge door incident in Wuhan last January and the resultant freeze on life as we know it since, at least some of the important things in life are de-frosting and getting ready for consumption. Yes, football is back, albeit not quite as we know it. And Spanish football is no exception and by "Spanish football" I mean real Spanish football. Yes, Segunda B and Tercera divisions are back, at least for 88 of the total 440 teams who are now to be involved in the play-offs following the premature ending of their season back in March. At the cessation of this season's play-offs, four Segunda B teams from the four Segunda B Grupos will have been promoted to Spanish football's Segunda division, just the one division below La Liga. Sound straightforward enough? Yeah.

For those of you old enough to remember Soap, a night time American sitcom series which ran 1977 to 1981 and basically parodied other daytime soaps, each episode opened with a brief summary of the convoluted storyline ending, "Confused? you won't be, after this week's episode of Soap". Well trust me, as far as Segunda B play-offs are concerned once you have read this you will be confused. So this is how the four promotions will be determined.

The top 4 teams from each of the 4 Grupos qualify for the play-offs, i.e. 16 teams in total. This year, courtesy of the Chinese, the usual two-legged affairs are replaced by single-leg games which will be played behind closed doors at five neutral grounds in the region of Andalucia (southern Spain) between the 18th and the 26th of July. Yes, that is indeed the hottest part of Spain at the hottest time of the year when anyone with half a grain of sense should be on their sun loungers or playing golf with Kenny or sat in the shade enjoying a tasty beer or in fact doing anything else other than playing or watching football. 

The "nerve centre" of the Segunda B play-off competition is to be Marbella where three of the five neutral grounds are based, the other two being in Malaga and Algeciras. One of the 16 teams competing in this year's play-offs is, wait for it, Marbella FC and all their games will be held in (have you guessed it yet?) Marbella!. Hmm. One can only rue the apparent absence of any other suitable stadiums, in the Andalucia region, in which to host a behind-closed-doors match and avoid the potential for charges of favoritism and/or unfair advantage. Anyway.........

The 4 Grupo winners are drawn against each other and the winners from these two games are promoted. Our local team FC Cartagena is one such Grupo winner so they have the chance to gain promotion with just the one match. Two of the four promotion places are now sorted.

The 4 Grupo runners-up (including Marbella FC - booooo ) are drawn against three of the 4 Grupo fourth placed teams (to prevent a runner-up and fourth place from the same Grupo playing each other) to provide a total of four matches.

The 4 Grupo third-places teams are drawn against each other in another two matches.

The winners of the above six matches then go into a draw with the 2 losing Grupo winners (remember them?) to produce another four matches, the winners of which are then drawn against each other for two final matches, the winners of which take the remaining two of the original four promotion places.

Confused? You will be! And I haven't even started yet to look at how the 72 play-off contenders from the Tercera division are supposed to get promoted to Segunda B's Grupos.

Locally we are of course rooting for FC Cartagena to reclaim a place back in the Segunda division which, if they succeed, will probably mean that I have to extend my definition of real football in Spain to now include the second tier. At the end of the day, it is my blog!

Covid-related protocols for the total 14 Segunda B behind-closed-doors play-off matches will include a minute's silence before kick-off in memory of Covid victims and their families, presumably followed by another 90 minutes' silence as the matches are being played behind closed doors. The ball will be sanitized before kick-off and then re-sanitized before every throw-in although not after the goalkeeper has touched the ball because he will have his gloves on. Deliberate handball will be deemed an automatic red card offence and the offending player made to self-isolate for 14 days thereafter. And finally, congratulations to Marbella FC on their upcoming promotion.

I need a beer after that and I only have 28 days to now get my head around the Tercera divisions play-offs involving 72 teams! Wish me luck.