Archive for spain (Part 1)

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 17, 2011 by cockroach1

controlled area for your use and enjoyment

Ever wondered what the bobby on the beat really thinks about his or her job, the 15M protest movement, immigration into Spain,  and the residents of Lavapies, to name a few controversial topics? Or thought how interesting it might be hear their side of the story? I have, and then I came across this, on a police forum called ‘’. This is the first part of a very long thread entitled:

‘Insults against the police in Lavapies’

about an incident earlier this Summer, in the middle of the 15M protest, when Lavapies residents ‘chased’ the police out of the neighbourhood and stopped them arresting an immigrant. If you want to see the full conversation (in Spanish, I’ll be posting it here in English), follow this link:

or Google: Lavapies. It’s interesting reading…..


I’m getting really pissed off with the media, twisting things, putting their own spin on stories, never mind the truth. Take the latest incident in Lavapies: when the police were in the middle of a raid on illegals, trying to arrest an immigrant, and locals chased them out.

What really happened: a black man tried to jump the metro entrance and some security guards grabbed him. They asked him for his ID so they could book him, but he refused. Then the security guards called the Police. When the officers arrived, they asked him again for his ID, he refused again, and this is when the police officers proceeded to escort him to the station to identify him.

At this point the residents of the neighbourhood started slagging off the police, insulting them, threatening them, pushing them etc. They called for back up, and within quarter of an hour the UIP had arrived, but the crowd had become very aggressive by this point, and the decision was taken to retreat in order to avoid a worse situation.

We have to put up with this kind of crap every day and nobody sticks up for us, not even our unions. This is what we get for doing our job.

There were no plans to arrest the immigrant, as the media is claiming, he was only going to be ID-ed. And anyway, this individual was here legally in Spain, and if he had been illegal, they wouldn’t even have arrested him, only started proceedings against him. And anyway, even if we had been there demanding ID, we’re just doing our jobs!

How about this – why don’t we all stop paying to use the metro, and while we’re at it let’s stop paying taxes as well. Let’s all take over abandoned buildings and exercise our right to squat, and how about we just let all the immigrants in the world in, tell you what, let’s just scrap all laws…



I couldn’t believe it either when I saw that on the telly.

One day…


And me, I really don’t know what’s going on


No way!! Like one of my colleagues said ‘we’re like medicine aren’t we, nobody wants us until they need us.’ Spain is different!’

Never surrender, never back down!!!!!

Have a look at this, this will give you an idea, here’s the video I saw on the news yesterday:


What’s that van at 3 mins 55?


I’d say it’s the  mounted police transport


WHAT A NIGHTMARE! What ignorant people, they can’t even work out what’s law and what’s repression. These dickheads had better not come down the station when they’ve need our help. These things really piss me off.


Yes, it’s the mounted police van, correct me if I’m wrong but I think they park up in the next parallel street.


You said it, mate, what ignorant twats. And the day they need us they’d be the first to dial 091. Ignorant, lying gits. Haven’t you seen in the last few seconds of the video, there’s a black man who says ‘they nabbed a Senegalese guy on the metro and they were mistreating him.’ Where did they get this gem? Have a look at ’20 mins’ today’s edition, there’s an interview with Ablaye Seck, the guy this is all about, who says, among other things, ‘the police treated me well’ and ‘it’s true they nicked me on the metro. That was my mistake. I didn’t have a ticket, I jumped the barrier and they got me.’ This person was treated impeccably throughout the entire proceedings and of course, never once stepping outside the parameters of the law.


What a nightmare, yeah, these people who hurl insults around and shout stuff like ‘murderer’, they’re just morons. It’s a shame the Government doesn’t release a statement sticking up for the police, guardia civil and the military, it’s a bloody shame, because we’re always made out to be the bad guys, and the rest of them are always in the right, because of course, they have more rights than the security forces, and it doesn’t look like changing any time soon.

But I do think the media has a lot to do with peoples’ impressions of the police and the guardia civil, I’d like to see some news about how the police risk their lives, not just pictures portraying us as the bad guys all the time.


 I had a similar experience a while ago, when a load of these ‘indignados’ came round near the barracks and were trying to gain entry so they could hang a banner saying you don’t need the army and that kind of stuff. They were insulting us as well, and the rest. At the end of the day these people are not ‘indignant’ they’re just morons if you ask me, the indignant ones are us police and security forces, every day.


 This country is full of dickheads, jumping on the bandwaggon and they don’t even know what they’re fighting for. If the same thing happened to a Spaniard and he has to go the station to be i.d’ed there’d be no problem.

All full of themselves, then they want police presence in the streets so they’re safe.

The same thing yesterday, this time Local Police Officers who were humiliated, (insulted, shoved, spat at…) while they were trying to detain a drug dealer with a warrant out for his arrest for dealing to minors. See the whole news story here: … es/policia


And while I’m at it, have a look at this article in ABC with an interview with the security guards from the metro who called the National Police, and who were very surprised and offended by the reaction of the local Lavapies residents, which made them give statements like ‘it looks like we can’t even do our jobs now, if it’s anything to do with Rubalcaba’s little friends, looks like we all have to go along with every demand of 15M now…’ … 71114.html

and it ‘aint going to change, because now they know we can’t touch them, and they’re taking the piss out of the police, we should come down on them like a ton of bricks next time, see if that stops them playing up

spot the difference - area controlled by CCTV cameras


Telefonica: Compartida, la vida es más (Life is more when you share it)

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on June 7, 2011 by cockroach1

I was sent to cover a class at the new Telefonica premises yesterday: set in a vast, featureless Hinterland in the North of Madrid, where the wind howls across the plains in winter, with no hills or other buildings to protect you. ‘Distrito C’: the name says it all, you might as well be sent to Siberia. The complex itself is made of glass and right-angles, gravel ‘flower’beds, water-features that look like outlet pipes, the ‘gardens’ interspersed with shivering saplings and mean little pathways as precise as a computer mother-board. I used to do a class there last winter which, thankfully, was dropped from my timetable before I worked myself up to killing myself. It takes over an hour to get there, and you emerge from the metro mouth at ten to eight in the morning into this forsaken place as cold and dark as death, surrounded on all sides by faceless, glass buildings. The first morning I upset myself so much I wandered the ‘gardens’ in the dark and the icy cold, weeping silently at the thought of a year of mornings like this, clutching my briefcase to me, and hoping it was too dark for the security cameras to pick me out. The style is fairly typical of modern, corporate Madrid; there are other business parks like this, as clinically clean as a scrubbed surgery, which make you feel like a person pencilled into an architect’s drawing.

I was bitching about the place to a private student, an architect, and he coughed politely, grinned, and informed me,

‘Actually, a friend of mine did that project.’

‘Really?’ I had already gone too far, so no pretending I liked the place now.

‘Sp why is it so Goddamn ugly and soul-less, then?’

‘Sometimes that’s what the client demands. They want something flashy and showy. They need to show clients they’ve spent a lot of money.’

‘And the glass everywhere? I mean, what happens in Summer? Don’t you fry? How do those buildings stay cool when they’re made entirely of glass?’

Here I was given a very interesting explanation of how ‘smart’ buildings work, and can be angled cleverly against the sun, illustrated with the use of his glass of water, a coaster, and the table lamp.

The place certainly looked less desolate in spring, there were actual flowers growing now, a hint of colour here and there, and the saplings were increasing in stature, but I’d still hardly say it was an aesthetic delight. I passed a bench by the side of one of the paths, and remembered how last year at Christmas-time there had been a life-size stuffed Santa slumped here clutching a mobile phone, a creepy sight in the dark at ten to eight in the morning. I made my way to the class feeling a little cautious about the possible topics of conversation: that morning on the news Telefonica had confirmed they are getting rid of 25% of their workforce over the next couple of years, amounting to 8,500 members of staff. But the students were evidently not among those affected, as this topic of conversation was not brought up. I did, however, discover that the King’s son-in-law is on the board of directors, and the private company’s profits finance his lavish life-style in the States, and his numerous children’s private education, in return for him turning up to the occasional meeting and photo opportunity.  So the company has the money to reward its demanding shareholders as usual, and to build extravangant new office buildings miles away from the center of town, uprooting a workforce who now learn their jobs are probably about to be axed.

To add insult to injury I discover today from another teacher that the English teacher’s pathetic ‘indefinido’ contract (which put simply, means you are employed for an indefinite period, which is normally ten months of the year, then are cast aside for two months in the summer with no salary, to be re-employed again as the academic year starts) is a mutation of a contract designed by Telefonica for telecommunications projects of an indeterminate length. These contracts, of course, suit the language companies very well, saving them a lot of money in tax, social security, and of course, that great inconvenience- salaries, but leave us to fend for ourselves, either taking summer intensive work, claiming dole if you have lived here long enough and have paid into the system, or presumably learning to juggle.

And they wonder why Sol is crammed full of ‘indignados’.

Thank you for smoking

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 6, 2010 by cockroach1

When I was 11 and my parents were divorcing, our mother took us children away to visit a glamorous friend who lived in a villa in the hills above Nerja. I have very vivid memories of this holiday on the cusp of the eighties. Glittering swimming pools and tiny lizards scuttling across hot rocks. Maybe this, combined with earlier childhood holidays in Spain is what hot-wired me to come back and stay.

One of these vivid memories is of visiting the local bar at the bottom of the hill, and seeing a boisterous Spanish family with a serious-faced baby which they were encouraging to smoke their cigarettes. Each puff on the cigarette made the baby splutter and turn purple, and the entire family collapse with laughter.

Fast forward a few years to the end of the eighties when I lived in Madrid as a student. The end of  ‘La Movida‘ (The Movement), as Madrid, like a sleeping beast, rolled over and awoke from the nightmare of dictatorship. Glorious chaos reigned. People smoked everywhere: in Post Offices, banks, on trains, in the metro, and that was just the staff. A statistic I overheard has stuck in my head for all these years- that each year on National No Smoking Day the number of smokers in Spain actually increased. You´ve got to hand it to the them- nobody tells the Spanish what to do. This was a classic example of the deeply anarchic and disobedient element in the Spanish character. ‘Telling me not to smoke, eh? Well, screw you, I´ll do what I like. In fact, I´m going to smoke two at once now, that´ll show you.’ Nanny State? Balls to that!

A familiar sound in the bars throughout the city- a sound that was so hilarious that it almost made you want to go and buy a pack of cigarettes just to be able to hear it- was that of the talking cigarette machines. A smooth, sexy-ish and appreciative female voice used to murmur, ‘Su tabacco, gracias.’ (‘your tobacco, thank you.’) as the packet popped out of the bottom of the machine. Barked at by officious porters, snootily ignored by bank tellers and insulted by shop assistants, at least you could always count on the cigarette machine to be polite and friendly to you.

Fast forward another couple of decades and what has changed? It would be unthinkable to make a baby smoke your cigarettes these days- actively, that is. However there are plenty of babies, toddlers and kids running around your typical Spanish bar even today, while people smoke, happily rotting their innocent little lungs and rolling around on the floor among the fag-ends, screwed-up paper napkins and pipas (sunflower seeds).

Sadly, the cigarette machines no longer speak to you and not only have they been silenced but also restricted in their favours- these days you have to ask the barman/barwoman to activate them with an electronic pager behind the bar- a very sensible measure to ensure under 16´s cannot buy cigarettes. You can no longer smoke in public buildings,  stations or at work. As I race from company to company to give English classes, it is a common sight to see huddles of expensively dressed business people fagging it outside the entrances to shiny new office blocks. Often you have to wade your way through a cloud of smoke to get to the door, and elegant flower-beds and potted plants wither as they are turned into ashtrays, their soil disappearing beneath a pile of fag butts.

For the past five years or so there has been a law in place regulating smoking in bars and restaurants. However, from what I can gather, it is a completely half-arsed measure which is open to many kinds of interpretations. Restaurants over a certain size (say 100 metres square, though this is a guess) must provide a non-smoking section (often a windowless room downstairs by the toilet). Bars on the other hand may opt to be smoking or non-smoking but must advertise the fact. What this means is nothing has changed except a small sticker on the door informing you that it´s ok to smoke here. They are currently debating a ban across the board, to step in line with most of the rest of Europe, but bars and restaurant owners are up in arms about it. There are dark mutterings that tens of thousands of people in the hospitality industry will lose their jobs. Perhaps more realistically and understandably many restaurant owners are angry at the money they had to shell out a few years ago to screen off and sometimes build special non-smoking areas according to regulations, and now they worry they will lose a huge amount of revenue if the law is passed.

The comment I have heard many times from smokers and non-smokers alike is ‘But it´s a Spanish custom to go to the bar and have a drink and a cigarette.  If you ban smoking nobody will go to bars any more. You can’t suddenly take that away from people.’ There´s no point answering facetiously ‘Ah yes, but in Saudi Arabia it´s customary to stone adulterers to death, in parts of Africa female circumcision is traditional, and in the States it´s customary to drink up to 4 litres of Coca Cola a day but it doesn’t mean it´s right or good for you…’

On one point I think we all agree- whatever the rights or wrongs it will not be easy to persuade the Spanish to relinquish their cigarettes. Despite the number of deaths a year from tobacco-related diseases and despite the fact that when you come back from a night out here you stink of stale cigarette smoke: your hair, your clothes, your underwear, even your skin. If you could sniff your own bone marrow that too would probably be impregnated with the cloying smell of smoke.

You may assume that I am writing as a non-smoker. Assume again. I am a ‘social smoker’ struggling to knock it on the head yet again for good. An occasional smoker (or, to use the other common term ‘total fucking idiot’).

I shall leave the last word to my local tobacconists’ where there are 2 discreet signs on the counter. One says ‘We believe it is the personal right of every adult to choose whether or not to smoke.’ and the other, faintly bizarre sign which reads,

‘It is intolerance, not tobacco, which kills people. More people have died in the world due to intolerance than to tobacco.’ Hmm… debatable, and pretty difficult to quantify, but a valiant try. Ok, actually I had to have the last word.

Lavapies Olympics (3) Long Distance gobbing

Posted in lavapies olympics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 22, 2009 by cockroach1

olympics10Not so long ago I was walking up from Tirso de Molina toward Sol and as I passed a doorway a huge blob of gob flew out into the street at about thigh-level, narrowly missing me, followed by the spitter himself. Now, I am not one to cause a scene but in this case I made my feelings perfectly clear.

‘Hey! Do you mind??! That could have hit me! Look where you’re spitting, for God’s sake. In fact, even better- don’t do it, it’s disgusting.’ He was suitably bashful and apologetic, and hopefully will think next time before launching a pavement oyster. Unfortunately you would have to make it a full time job remonstrating with all those who clear their noses and throats in the streets of Lavapies. Like China, the streets often ring with the charming sounds of hawking and gobbing. But even China tried to clear up its act a few years ago during the SARS crisis, as the realistation finally dawned that it isn’t the most hygeinic of practices, and can contribute to the spread of diseases like Atypical Pneumonia, (which is more severe than common or garden Pneuomonia and doesn’t respond to antibiotics), Tuberculosis and other contagious respitatory illnesses. As we are currently at risk from another apparently deadly virus, this time originating from pigs, you’d think people might think twice before depositing their phlegm on the streets for us all to share, but no, the practice continues here.

Culturally it’s something we Brits have not done for years- centuries even, apart from a brief return to fashion during the punk era when it was part of the punk ritual to spit on live bands. While it was a common practice in Western Europe in the Middle Ages, by the early 1700s it had become a habit best concealed publicly, and by the late 1800s it was seen as vulgar, especially in mixed company. The Nineteenth Century gave us the Spittoon, though even the use of these began to die out after the Influenza epidemic of 1918, and today it’s merely seen as gross and socially unacceptable. Unless you are a footballer. It’s not the only sport where spitting has been noted- baseball player Frenchy Bordagaray was once suspended for spitting at an umpire, and remarked drily that the punishment was ‘more than I expectorated’. Yet even footballers are now coming under attack for the habit of spitting on the pitch due to the danger of spreading swine flu. The Health Protection Agency in October this year said spitting ‘could increase the risk of passing on infection’ and also claimed ‘Spitting is disgusting at all times. It’s unhygeinic and unhealthy, particularly if you spit close to other people…. Footballers, like the rest of us, wouldn’t spit indoors so they shouldn’t do it on the football pitch.’ Hear hear, I say. poster_spitting

I have tried to be tolerant and culturally aware, but this is one thing I cannot abide. Maybe it’s because I was once spat on in the face during an argument in a restaurant kitchen. To spit in someone’s face is a universal sign of anger, hatred and contempt. For me it was far worse than being slapped. It made things revoltingly personal. I lose my temper approximately every five years or so, and on this occasion I literally saw red- a red hot rage that made me hurl a bucket of garlic mayonnaise followed by another bucket of olives at the spitter. I was then hustled physically through the restaurant, past rows of startled diners, forks raised in mid-air, and hurled like a sack of rubbish onto the plaza with the cry of ‘and don’t come back!’ Let’s hope the same thing happens to this vile habit- hustle it out of the back door and make it perfectly clear it isn’t acceptable, and isn’t going to be making a come-back any time soon.