We went out to dinner last night with a friend and her dog, Amy. Amy has a broken paw, were it not for the cast you wouldn’t notice. She jumps, runs and has a fantastic attitude. I wasn’t in the mood to iron, so I wore crumpled white linen and medium blue trousers. It’s wonderful to get to this point in life when one can say/think I don’t look good, and that’s okay. I spent my teens and most of my 20′s crippled by self-image issues. Hating the way I looked. Spending an inordinate amount of time trying to make myself look better. That seems to be over, for the most part.
I’ve been helping put together a website in French for Casa Alba. That’s the gorgeous house (mansion, really) that I’m going to help show on French channel 5 in July (we’re filming next Thursday). I still don’t know what I’m going to wear. We’re halfway there, but I’ve still got tons to translate. I’ve loaned my website (for my house), www.sotogrande.us, as the web space since it’s an easy address for people to remember. Particularly because the houses are in Sotogrande. If you have any suggestions of what other information should be on the website, feel free to share. I haven’t finished uploading the pictures… so no need to suggest more pictures. Mike did a cute little sketch of the façade for it.
There’s a new commercial on British TV with a fantastic song that I’d never heard before: How Glad I Am by Nancy Wilson. It should really be one of our Gay Anthems. Have a listen:
The television adventure returns for round two. After being granted a reprieve I wanted to be helpful (that’s sort of a chronic disease for me), so I thought I’d offer up my friend’s house to be on the show. It’s a multi (many-many-multi) million euro home and she’s exceptionally charming and talented, so really, she’s the one who should’ve been on television in the first place. The producers saw the pictures and loved it. My friend said yes to them. Suddenly I get a call today and I’m getting roped in to be on the program with her showing the house because I speak better French… And for some absurd reason I said yes.
So in the event you pick up French Channel 5, you may have the misfortune to see me, and even worse, hear me, in July. Before then, have a glimpse at her rather glorious home, and in the event you want to be my neighbour, and one-up me by living in a house that’s double the size of mine, and have a heated indoor pool (apart from the outdoor one), and have between 10 and 20 million euro to spend on a house (I’m not giving the exact price because it seems crass), drop me a line and I’ll help you arrange it
We had lunch at the yacht club today. They’ve got a new chef which is wonderful because I didn’t like the previous one’s food at all. The weather is lovely today.
I got some amazing work news today as well… but I’m not going to say what it is until the 26th of this month at which point it’ll already have happened. Hint: it could have something to do with me and television, but that’s all the information you’re getting for now!!! Fingers crossed!!!
Dinner was amazing yesterday. The club/restaurant was overflowing with people. It’s funny because you drive down the streets of Sotogrande and never see a soul. There’s the occasional jogger or Filipino maid walking to the gates, but not much else. I had tuna tataki (again) as a starter, and then the rib eye, which was wonderful. Then an Irish coffee. Then we had a night-cap at the neighbour’s house which lasted ’til 3am (Mike came home about 2 hours earlier- lightweight!). I think I drank half a bottle of brandy. It was Orleans Borbón and went down like velvet. A friend stayed over here afterwards as to not drive home drunk. I hope the people from last night weren’t horribly bored by me. I talked much too much about antique yixing ceramics (which I’m currently researching). I discovered somewhere in adolescence that people in society generally prefer lighthearted, meaningless conversation and that seeming intellectual is uncool- so I learnt to disguise it well. Sometimes I forget and it bubbles up to the surface. Isn’t it absurd that playing dumb and pretty makes someone more popular than discussing things one actually knows about?
I don’t have a hangover, but I think I might still be feeling a slight buzz. Sometimes I wonder if my body is just going to shut down one night, give up. Sorry, Sir, you’ve done enough. I can’t take it anymore. Then again, Winston Churchill lived until he was 90 and he always had a cigar in his mouth and a whiskey in his hand. Three of my grandparents are still alive and one died in his mid-eighties, so I guess genetically speaking I might do just fine. Wouldn’t that be fantastic? A lifetime of drinking and smoking and good food? My epitaph could be He never did what they said was good for him.
Some renters arrived this morning at the Laing house next door. They’re listening to some very questionable music of the rap variety. Maybe it’s hip-hop, I’m not sure which is which, but I find the sound unpleasant. There’s something aggressive about it. I’ve never understood the appeal. Isn’t the world sufficiently dire? Do people really need to go around saying ho and bitch and talking about violence- there’s not even a melody to soften the blow. Fortunately I can only hear it from my bathroom. Mike was right about how to place the house on the plot, we can’t hear any noise at all in any of the living-areas, bedrooms or garden. The weather is glorious and the garden looks fantastic. I think I’m not going to do anything of any importance at all today.
Our friends from Hamburg are here (I know, much too early for the season), and they’ve invited us to lunch at Pura Tapa, which at the moment is my favourite place. Their summer house is 2 houses up from us, so there’s the added advantage that they drive and we get to drink.
I’m going to have the tuna tataki which is outstanding there. And I’m wearing stripes…
I’d forgotten to mention that a month ago we tried Quorn. We haven’t found it in Spain, but it’s available at Morrison’s in Gibraltar, so Mike went and got some there. I was pleasantly surprised. It’s the only meat-substitute that we’ve liked thus far. The ‘beef mince’, ‘chicken pieces’ and ‘lamb pieces’ work perfectly for a variety of dishes, the sausages are also good if heavily spiced. I’m still experimenting with cooking times and sauces because the recipes available online are quite limited, but it’s a keeper. We’ve been alternating Quorn and sea-food since, leaving red meat only for special occasions or when we go out to dinner. Curries, Indian or Thai, work beautifully. The mince works for Moussaka, Empanada, Bolognese etc. It’s a bit more tender than real mince beef, but if you mix it with a bit of pre-cooked couscous, you get a good texture that quite satisfactorily passes for meat.
Today I went food shopping. The local super-market was empty, which was excellent. This week is going to be busy. A lunch on Wednesday and a dinner on Thursday. I’m not looking forward to one of them. Mike told me that one of the hosts said ‘He must come too! I’ve told everyone about him‘. He is me, and that usually means I’m expected to be entertaining. Being entertaining requires energy that I’m not always in the mood to expend. It’s probably my own fault because when I was young(er) I was a bit hyper, more interesting and considerably more glamorous. I don’t put even 1/10 of the effort I used to into presenting myself or being a part of social encounters. I haven’t been to this or that party, I don’t know about what this or that person is or isn’t doing- and I’m not interested in gossip anyway. These days when I’m quiet, people from my old days ask what’s wrong with me. Anyway, I’ll do my best.
The project I’m collaborating on is coming out nicely. I didn’t like the look of the terracotta in the patio, so I suggested it be covered with the same marble gravel we have out front. It completely changed the feel. The place is in a development where all the houses are exactly the same and two nosy neighbours are now copying the idea- which is annoying, but that’s life.
It’s fantastically sunny today. Feels like Spring is finally here. The palms that are substituting the pampas grass arrived!!! They’ll be planted on Monday. A crane needs to come to do it. I’m excited! The trees I planted on the North side of the house are starting to flower. We generally ignore that side entirely because the land is a different level to the South garden, which is big enough already- but I’ve decided to clean it up. Maybe some haphazard landscaping with succulents etc… We’re cleaning up the terraces, 14 days of sun are coming
I was looking at google earth this week and thought whoa there, people can see straight into my garden and terrace. Shouldn’t they have to ask me for permission to do this? What if someone was sunbathing in the nude? In the case of the second house to the left of us, if their French windows were open upstairs we could see into their bedrooms.
I was also looking for good pictures of Sotogrande today because I’m helping a friend put together an information packet as she wants to rent her place here during the summer holidays and as I scrolled through google images, suddenly, there was a picture of our house in a forum called burbuja (bubble) about the real estate market in Spain. I couldn’t resist reading it- after all, what the hell is a picture of my house doing there??? It’s ABSOLUTELY HILARIOUS. These people are arguing over whether prices have or not gone down in Sotogrande- which is particularly amusing since none of them seem to live here. It begins with someone saying they saw a report saying prices haven’t gone down. Then someone says they hope prices have gone down and that the rich people are now forced to live alongside people who work for a living. Then someone says they saw a report saying prices had gone down- then it gets REALLY FUNNY.
“A ver un segundito que me parece que no sabemos muy bien de lo que hablamos.
Hay DOS Sotograndes, uno al Oeste del rio Guadiaro (ese es el Sotogrande verdaderamente exclusivo y allí no hay apartamentos de lujo, sino mansiones de una media de 5 kilotones de Euros, que no te sueles comprar, sino que te compras un terreno y te la construyes), y la parte del Puerto de Sotogrande, al Este del rio Guadiaro que se construyó creo recordar en 1986, que es para una especie de clase media alta que son los que no les alcanza para el casoplón en alguno de los hoyos del golf. Éstos segundones suelen ser renombrados profesionales liberales y pijos. Los de la orilla Oeste tienen tanta pasta que no parecen ni ricos.
Las propiedades del Este del rio caen en picado, como buen engañabobos que siempre han sido y las del Oeste se mantienen. Hay veces que alguno de los objetos de decoración que se encuentran dentro de esos casoplones pueden costar más que el casoplón en sí.
Es Tostóngrande porque no hay ocio y esparcimiento de copeo y puterío, sino que se organizan grandes fiestones en los casoplones y si mal no recuerdo solía inaugurar la temporada la familia de Garrigues Walker con una fiesta en su casa. Gente eso sí muy conservadora.”
If you don’t speak Spanish (which is a shame since his choice of words is priceless), he’s saying there are two Sotograndes. The exclusive one to the West of the river and the other to the East of the river which “was built for a certain upper middle class who can’t actually afford a casoplón” (funny word for large home). Then he says the ones on the East are pijos and/or part of liberal professions. Cultural note: A pijo is a middle class person who tries desperately to appear upper class. This generally requires a full Ralph Lauren wardrobe, gucci loafers and sweaters draped around the shoulders, apart from wristwatches that are comparable in size to tumours on Discovery Channel documentaries.
Then he ILLUSTRATES the difference. He says these are the sort of houses on the west that don’t go down in price
Yes, I was flattered to be chosen as the first example. Then it gets even funnier:
“Y ésto es el bódrio invendible que han construido y gracias al cual la desembocadura del río Guadiaro y el parque natural de su estuario se ha ido yendo a tomar por culo lentamente desde aquél aciago 1986. Y además se ha llenado de pijos fosforito disfrazados de jugadores de polo, que no hacen más que el ridículo vestidos así los pobrecitos, y que pagaron un pastón por un apartamentucho en el puerto, sólo porque un própio le levanta una barrera por llevar una pegatina en el coche que le identifica como propietario. Lo que fue un retiro dorado de viejos millonetis a los que se les mejoraba el reumatismo mientras les daba el sol al echarse unos hoyos depués de currar toda la vida en países fríos y húmedos, se ha convertido en una pesadilla fosforito que ha degradado un paraíso ideal como el Campo de Gibraltar.”
He now tears everything to the East to shreds- but in a very funny way- in the event you don’t live East of the river :)
It ends with someone saying they’d rather rent than buy. I don’t get the fascination with other people’s house prices. Why in the world does it matter how much someone else’s home is worth?
Submitted on 2013/02/21 at 11:43 pm
I love your gazebo but if it were mine I think I’d build a second retaining wall around the first using local stone and then I’d fill it with those white flowing plants you mentioned – to tie the gazebo to the plants and the plants to the ‘natural’ surroundings.
In my business you need to have a filter- one that zones out what’s merely opinion and only lets through ideas that are well reasoned. Needless to say, when something didn’t cross my mind, but crossed someone else’s- I’m annoyed. Anyway, the local stone thing is too complicated because of the sprinklers and electricity that allows for light in the pergola- but yesterday we planted the whole thing with Stephanotis (Madagascan Jasmine). It does incredibly well in this part of Spain. Still deciding if I should plant something between them to cover up the brickwork that forms the base of the pergola. Or perhaps grow moss on the bricks (yoghurt method is quick and easy). Here’s how it looks with the ‘just planted’ jasmine. There’s one for each pillar.
We were back at VG (near Casares) today. The owner, Jesus (no relation to the one from Nazareth), sat with us on the terrace after lunch. The food was GLORIOUS. He asked me to stop calling it ‘lovely’. Something or another about it sounding condescending. I can assure the world no condescension is/was intended- at all. On the contrary. In this case the place is beautiful, unpretentious and the food is very carefully selected and prepared. I’ve been around (and I don’t mean just the block), so I have a bit of an idea of what’s good and what isn’t. They offer a three course menu for 12 euros. The house red is excellent. I had a sea-food soup, duck confit and instead of a dessert I had a café americano (because thin, pretty people, like me, don’t eat dessert).
The owner is what some people call A Gay. Which is rather disconcerting, since I’m pretty much the official gay of this entire area. I excuse him because he’s about 30 minutes outside of my designated territory. He’s considering re-doing the place and he’s just come back from NY where he stayed at the Soho Grand. He loved the style. I think it could easily be re-interpreted and adapted to this part of the world.
Afterwards we were invited to coffee at _____’s old country estate. Rather glorious. I’m 99.9% sure the wallpaper was de Gournay. I took pictures discreetly (I did have permission!). The gardens are particularly wonderful (see below).
I was given two bottles of champagne today for the new year. Over Christmas someone gave me a Nespresso machine- surely what I need is more alcohol and caffeine???? Really???? I drink PG Tips tea mostly. I only smoked three cigarettes- all of which were offered by other people and I accepted. Tomorrow I shall smoke 01 Dannemann cigarillos. First 3 pictures are of VG, the other six are of the estate…
The weather was cool today (10º C.), but the sun was out and the sky was bright blue. I bought bigger and more colourful tassels for the awning, they look quite nice. It’s going to rain tomorrow so we cancelled the shoot with the magazine photographer- which is wonderful, otherwise I’d still be cleaning now.
My study is small, it’s the smallest room in the house. Five by four metres. Just enough room for my desk & computer, a sofa, an armchair, a television and couple of book-lined walls. Tara knew this when she was around and acted as my personal bodyguard by blocking the door. Someone would approach, she’d get up and block. Irish wolfhounds can do that because of their size. Yesterday someone came at 5pm to pick up some pictures of furniture to take to a client in London. Then they called someone to say they were here and that person called another person and by 6pm there were people sitting everywhere, plus there were four more chairs pulled into the study. I considered panicking or trying to move them into another room, but poured myself a stiff drink instead. That usually works. They’d brought platters of food with them. It’s strange living in a place where people have food platters ready at a moment’s notice. There were actually some very nice cheeses. People were talking in little groups so it was a bit chaotic- and I kept going back and forth to the kitchen opening wine bottles. Not being warned, prepared and in control causes me tremendous anxiety; But I’m working on it. Or perhaps not since my solution seems to be to move somewhere where I don’t know anyone at all. I have to find a way of doing my work where no physical encounters are necessary. It should be easy because of the internet. To be honest there’s not even much reason to communicate with people by phone since writing is so much more clear and avoids misunderstandings, but people insist on real-life contact. I’ll never understand it.
Rudy has recovered from castration. He’s a Ratonero Bodeguero Andaluz. They’re similar to Japanese and Chilean terriers and known for their hunting skills. They were bred here in Andalucia to hunt mice/rats in the wine and sherry bodegas in Jerez (the birthplace of sherry). Long story short, Rudy’s discovered that down by the woods he can find the occasional mouse. When I woke up today he was guarding a dead one which he probably killed and placed proudly on the sofa that’s on the terrace. I screamed and Mike took care of it. Then I washed Rudy’s mouth. I hope this doesn’t become a habit. He and Morgan continue to be inseparable.
Yesterday it rained all day. An old friend came for tea. We had cucumber sandwiches and the tea was soon substituted by red wine for us and Pacharán for her. She has a company that makes luxury leather golf bags and other accessories. I’m not into golf (at all), but her stuff is gorgeous. We discussed the horror of how a man in Granada recently committed suicide on the day he was about to be evicted from his life-long home. Meanwhile the PP was making political appointments to the Cajas (banks). It apparently worked out so well in the past, they’re just going to keep doing it. It’s exactly what this country needs, giving politicians even easier access to other people’s money.
I went down to the woods today, at the bottom of the garden by the stream. I’ve been avoiding the area for a while since that’s where Tara is buried. Some animal tried to dig her up and a corner of the blanket in which she was buried was visible. I filled the hole back in and put logs over it. Quite a depressing experience. The nasturtiums and anemones I planted around there are doing very well. Today it’s 20º C and sunny. Doesn’t feel like autumn at all. I think I need to garden more regularly, it clears my mind. When I got back to the house Mike told me we were invited to lunch on Friday but he declined. I’m glad because I’m not in the mood for people.
I know, I’ve been away and quite quiet. We had expensive wine lady here for lunch on Friday and as my secret nickname for her suggests, she brought us ridiculously expensive wine. Saturday we had another wedding planner meeting. I did actually have to do some real work in the past week since I logged into our bank account and realized the balance was much lower than the last time I checked. The electricity bill also arrived, it’s expensive (to me).
Rather unpleasant, isn’t it? Our electricity bill is higher than the new Spanish unemployment allowance of 450 euros p/ month. I can’t begin to imagine how difficult it must be for a family to survive on 450 p/month; After all, we’re just two people and I’m pretty sure we spend around 450 a month on our food. That’s 7.50 euros per day each. I’ve sold a number of things in the past few days. That generally involves phone calls, lunches and being nice- none of it comes naturally to me. In fact, it wears me down. But there we are, back in the figures where we feel more ‘safe’. Whenever I close a big deal I come home, spin around and bow. Then I say: Thank you, fans. Mike laughs. As I closed four deals in the past few days, there was quite a bit of spinning and bowing- I might still be dizzy- or I just drank too much last night. The fan on my computer stopped working and it wouldn’t even start. Three laptops were promptly delivered by the inner circle. One wouldn’t boot, but I’ve fixed it because it was the best of the three and the one I wanted to use (and am using now). We had lunch at a beach restaurant on Sunday. There was a flying cart thing. I suggested we should buy one because the police can’t pull you over and breathalize you when you’re on one of those. I was reticent about going out because someone I didn’t know was also attending. I was assured I was going to like her, but I know people say things like that just so I don’t back out. This time they were right. She’s a German professor and doctor married to an Argentinian. Her name is Gesine (pronounced like the back end of magazine, but with an E- Gezine). She can fluctuate from English to Spanish to French seamlessly. Slightly annoying because that’s my trick. I asked her about her thoughts on the benefits of regular Cardus Marianus intake for heavy drinkers. She told me benefits were unclear but that it certainly wouldn’t hurt. I shouldn’t have asked professional questions on a social occasion. I hate it when people do that to me and it happens all the time. I get invited to dinner and suddenly I’m being led around a house being asked for valuations as if I were a presenter on Antiques Roadshow. Sometimes it’s worse and people ask me to handle the sale for them. Or even worse, they offer me a commission if I handle the sale. If I’m going to have to spend time researching, being nice and selling something, I don’t want a commission- I want the whole profit.
Yesterday I planted lots of things at the bottom edge of the garden. Red tulips, anemones and Jan Bos hyacinths. I’m in the mood for a lot of red this year. I feel rather fatigué.
In the hopes that my new internet friend/almost neighbour, RoughSeasIntheMed, doesn’t follow through with her threat of posing as a buyer to come see the house… here are more pictures. The first picture is from google maps. We’re the big arrow and the little arrow is Villa Trianon, which used to be our guest house until we started transforming it into a full blown house which we sold in April to a nice couple from Gib. The house has been three different colours. Now it’s a very light cream (as in picture 2). It’s hard to photograph and my new camera doesn’t have a wide angle lens, but the penultimate picture shows most of the building.
An agent called in August because he had a client to see the house. I told him no. Sorry, we have guests. They’re very private- no can do. Can I at least show them around the grounds? No. You can drive past the house slowly. That should be enough. Call back in October.
Well, it’s October and wouldn’t you know, the bastards flew in from London and wanted to see the house yesterday. I spent half the day cleaning glass doors. There are around 20, but it felt like a million. My leg muscles hurt. I also grilled the agent on the phone. Are you sure they want to see this house? Have you told them the price isn’t negotiable? They really want to buy a house now? Do they understand none of the furniture or art is included? Are you sure they can afford this house? Hmmmm, I’m not sure I trust you. None of it worked and they came at 6pm. After years in the business, you get a feeling for clients. I knew as they walked through the door they weren’t the sort of people that would buy this style of house. That thoroughly annoys me. They’re ‘tourist’ clients. They come because they’re curious to see what it looks like on the inside or what a house that costs _____ looks like.
Before they came, though, I was back on the mental roller coaster. Selling means leaving Spain where I’ve spent my entire adult life. I feel a bit like a traitor leaving now (in the event we sell in the near future). On the other hand I get to realize a lifelong dream which has always been to live in a chateau or an hôtel-particulier. Mike vetoed my chateau plans, so an hôtel particulier it is. I keep telling him that an hôtel-particulier without a chateau is rather pedestrian. He keeps telling me we’re not in the 18th century. Who knows, in a few months I might be waking up to rain, snow and gilt boiseries. I keep wondering what life will be like in a completely different environment. Not knowing anyone at all. I get to re-invent myself. I could be the guy that only wears black. I could join the Front de Gauche and smoke gitanes. Or I could start going to the gym again and have a nice body like I did in my 20′s. I could become a vegetarian and stop smoking and drinking -HA- not a chance! Our identities are so very much influenced by our environments. I wonder what total anonymity will be like? Will it last? Or after a few years will I have re-created a version of the life I have now, lunches, dinners and all? I doubt it. I’m anxious to try relative anonymity. I don’t invite you and you don’t invite me. Bonjour Madame, Bonjour Monsieur. That should be the extent of my conversations outside the house.
As chances are we won’t actually sell in the near future, our forays into event-land go on. We took advantage of the house being presentable and had a couple more meetings with wedding planners. Another one is coming at 3pm tomorrow. There were two we met today who we particularly liked. Heather and Tara. Their company is called Fiesta Sol and they do stunning work. Fantastically elegant and they understood the house. The idea is they get the entrance tower, the larger living room, the guest kitchen, guest suite and the two upstairs bedrooms are emptied and small sofas are put into each one so they become men’s/ladies’ rooms. They also get the gardens, obviously. I’m impressed at the prices they suggested we charge per event and at the quantity of events they do. We’ve set maximums. Two events per month max. 60 people for sit downs and 100 for stand-ups. We’ve had 100 sit-downs before, but it’s pushing it because you then have to put tables on the terraces and that interrupts the flow from inside to outside. Who knows, it might turn into a proper business.
A few months back I got a sofa at Ikea. It’s called Ektorp. It was for the guest wing, so we could have something there that would allow me not to get mad in case it was ruined. In the end I loved it and put it in the living room. It was only 300 euros (which is a bit funny because that’s less than the two Beauvais tapestry cushions I put on the sofa) and it comes with machine washable slip-covers. Depending on how the events thing goes we should probably remove some of the better furniture from the main living room and fill the place up with more Ikea Ektorp stuff. I just have to find a balance because I’m sure the style and furniture was factored into the rental prices they gave us.
I’m in the kitchen making dinner. There are speakers all around the house, so I’m listening to what’s on the television.
E: Mike, did you hear that? The EDL is protesting in Woh-saw. They’re so unpleasant. Why in the world are they in Woh-saw?
M: Why wouldn’t they be?
E: What’s Poland got to do with the EDL?
M: It’s not Woh-saw in Poland.
E: There’s a Woh-saw in England?
M: Not Woh-saw, Woh-sawlll. It’s near Birmingham.
Later on that evening
E: We should order one of those Spanish republican flags.
E: Like the ones the protesters are using in Madrid.
E: In case they invade.
M: Invade what?
M: They’re not going to invade Sotogrande.
E: They might. We should be prepared so they know we’re on their side. In case they invade we can hang it on the outside of the tower.
M: Why would they come here?
E: Because everybody knows the rich people in Spain are in Mallorca or Sotogrande; And Mallorca is an island, so here’s a better option.
M: That’s absurd.
E: I bet that’s what many French nobles were saying before the revolution. If we put the flag outside they won’t set fire to the house and kill us. I don’t want to be guillotined.
M: They say it’s a quick death. Practically painless.
E: I’ll tell them that _____ is a prince, they should start there. And _____ is a duke’s daughter.
M: Aren’t you a great friend to have during a revolution. Are you going to give them directions and the times they get home too?
E: No, I’ll just point. Why should I get killed first? I’m not even titled.
I mentioned our nature reserve earlier today, which has fortunately been saved. I’m not really very ‘nature’ inclined, I’m more of an air-conditioning, overstuffed upholstery, I’d like a gin & tonic sort of person- but anyway…
I was looking for pictures of the reserve and I ended up on a very amusing blog. A fellow wordpresser who wrote about the area and took some great pictures. Apparently we have some species of plants here that exist nowhere else in the world. I’ve never seen them personally because I don’t really have appropriate footwear to visit the area down the street from me- but anyway. WordPress guy made me laugh, spit my wine out laugh. In his words: “Para aquel que no conozca Sotogrande, y en menor medida la Alcaidesa, informarle que son urbanizaciones de superlujo, que cada vez que he ido por ahí me he dicho esta vez me paran y me multan por pobre. En fin, un buen lugar para observar e identificar esa rara avis del millonario.”- “For he who doesn’t know Sotogrande, and to a lesser degree Alcaidesa, I’d like to inform you it’s an über-luxury development. Every time I’ve been there I told myself, oh no, it’s going to be this time, they’re going to stop me and fine me for being poor. In any event, it’s a good place to identify and observe the rara avis that is the millionaire…” He says more than that, but I chose to suppress the rest
I’d like to reassure him that poor people aren’t fined in Sotogrande (except in August or if they come too close to one of the houses, or if they try to speak to the residents).
In other interesting news I heard an American on television saying they pay a lot of income tax there. Side-bar- Americans pay the lowest income tax rates of any developed country. An American who makes between 85 and 178K pays the same rate as a Spaniard who makes between 17 and 33 thousand euros. A Spaniard who makes more than 53,400 euros per year pays into the 47% tax bracket + property taxes + local taxes. Post war Britain had tax brackets that went all the way up to just over 80%. France has instituted a 75% tax bracket this year. Right wing republicans need to get a grip. People who have more can pay more, that’s the deal.
Everyone around here is up in arms about a recent article in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. A reporter with much too much time on his hands has written about Sotogrande and its residents. It’s titled ‘An Oasis in Andalusia’ and he begins with:
“Ganz Spanien ist ein Land der Arbeitslosen. Ganz Spanien? Nein. Ein von unbeugsamen Millionären bevölkertes Dorf in Andalusien trotzt der Krise. Und golft einfach weiter. Von Hendrik Ankenbrand Auf dem Weg ins spanische Sotogrande teilt die Autovia 7 die reisende Menschheit in Arm und Reich. Seats, Opel und Motorroller tuckern auf der kostenlosen, aber nicht mehr ganz taufrischen Autobahnvariante bei Tempo 70 über die Dörfer der andalusischen Costa del Sol. Range Rover und Porsche hingegen schnurren ab Málaga mit Höchstgeschwindigkeit über …”
Silly, to say the least. Inequality exists all over Europe. Germany is no exception. All major cities have their peripheries. You leave Paris and suddenly you go from Haussmanian buildings to entering a landscape that would be at home in a Charles Bronson movie. The same is true in London, Madrid and even Berlin. It’s the same all around the world. Favelas in Rio are directly behind luxury apartment blocks. Manhattan and its outskirts have people from all walks of life. Singling out Sotogrande is rather disingenuous and irresponsible. It also fails to address the history of this region of Spain, neglected and relegated to poverty by General Franco for decades. Andalusians were communists and left-wingers, that was something that didn’t please the regime. Were it not for Prince von Hohenlohe in Marbella and Mr. McMicking here in Sotogrande (and all the people who followed their lead), the region would never have been developed to the degree it has developed, becoming a major tourist centre in Spain that attracts millions of visitors every year and has become a premier retirement destination for people from all over Europe. All of the Spanish owned businesses in the area exist to provide services for these (now large) communities. The jobs in the hotels, clubs, polo-fields, restaurants, golf courses et al all depend on these communities. To flippantly make fun of it doesn’t do justice to the progress that has been made since the 50′s and 60′s.