Friday, 20 September 2013

Reaping the mountain harvest


My friends up in the mountains of Spain are custodians of this rare and ancient 'threshing table', and because it is perfectly circular and flat, they tell their 8 year-old son that it is a UFO landing pad.

They don't know how old it is (I promised to do some research on them but have not done so yet), but since there is no crop within miles that requires threshing these days, I am guessing that it is extremely old.

It was pointed out to me when we went walking to pick figs. Their land up there is absolutely covered with figs, almonds, prickly pears, olives etc., and within five minutes, we had picked a bagful of delicious figs which would set you back about £40 in any British supermarket.

The last time we were there, many wild boar wandered around the hillsides (and came to drink at night from their swimming-pool), together with hares and rabbits, but the extreme poverty in the area means that most have now been shot by the locals who are struggling to put food on the tables for their families.

A few weeks before we arrived, a much-loved man in the hamlet had hanged himself because he had lost his job, could not meet his mortgage, and his wife had left him along with their children. A few weeks before that, another man hanged himself for similar reasons. Both had been paying off their contributions for about 20 years on houses bought at boom-time (at inflated rates for British and German buyers), but because they had failed to do so for one week only, they were told to get out of their homes by the bank.

I met a young, jobless man up there who subsisted by growing and selling marijuana. He had left school at 15, and had gone straight into the burgeoning construction industry. When the crash came, he found himself without a job and unqualified. He now plans - when he can afford it - to put himself back into school for a year in order to qualify for a course in teaching English as a foreign language - a process which will take about 4 years, if he is lucky.

He said that if he were sent to prison for selling weed, he would go with his head held high and would ask the judge if he should have gone down into town to steal to stay alive, as many other young people now do. There is no state benefit system for anyone who has been out of a job for 3 years, and to get any money at all from the government, you have to work for 1 year to qualify for it. There are - as I said - no jobs.

Down in town, many menial jobs - as all over Europe - are taken by Eastern European migrants. My young friend does not resent them for this, but only says that they should be paid the same rate as the locals, not the pittance they get in preference to Spanish workers. That, at least, would put everyone on an equal footing so that the job market would be truly level - like that threshing-table.

I know I keep saying this, but those global banks have so much to answer for, even to the tragic deaths of countless people around the world.

34 comments:

  1. This is very sad (and a very beautiful threshing table, thanks for that.)
    It reminds me to stop whining about the small stuff. I'm so lucky, even while my heart is breaking just a little bit.

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    1. I feel lucky - and also a little burdened - to get this sort of inside knowledge which mosts tourists simply miss.

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  2. This is a truly heart-breaking account of what life is like for people in these countries. As is so often the case, at the end of the day, governments consider the poor and disadvantage to be 'expendable'. At one time I was naive enough to think that the EU would never let this happen...

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    1. As much as I dislike UKIP, the EU was - as I always said - a massive economic carve-up at the expense of ordinary people. The 'free-market' was sold in the same way that robots and computers were sold about 40 years ago - they said they would free us all up to enjoy our leisure time, but did not mention that all we would be left with is leisure time, once the robots were doing our work for a millionth of the cost that we need in order to survive.

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  3. It's not all wine, paella and petro Almodovar is it?
    Recession reality bites
    Very sad

    ( promise me you will do a waspish, funny and irreverent post tomorrow)

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  4. I'm afraid that there was a spate of 'agricultural' suicides here too a while back, including two young sons of very good farming friends. Terrible to be that desperate; especially in a place that to most of us seems so ideal.

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    1. It is truly awful in such tight communities - or anywhere else for that matter.

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  5. I was about to say what John said { only because I'm a 'bury my head in the sand' type of girl when it comes to these really sad subjects } I'm afraid that a little bit of it goes on over here as well ..... I know of two men { one time very successful dad's of children that went to our children's school } who lost their jobs, got into serious debt and ended up laying on the local railway line to finish it all because they couldn't cope.
    Can we get back to candlesticks, glasses and dayglo arse cheeks ?!! .... although, I do realise that these serious subjects should be mentioned and recognised Tom. XXXX

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    1. Dayglo arse cheeks

      A cracking statement

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    2. I'm afraid that I can't claim it as my own John ..... Tom used it a couple of posts ago !! XXXX

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  6. What a very depressing, if highly interesting and eloquent post. I feel very lucky, even if we are struggling. It's so easy to let the news of economic hardship wash over us but your brush with the reality makes me think about it properly.

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    1. I am lucky to have some sort of recognised skill in late age, even if I do owe thousands to banks. It's the young I feel sorry for.

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  7. I'm wondering about the eight-year-old... He's not afraid of UFOs landing nearby?

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    1. Actually, I think he was delivered by them.

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  8. Well, you cannot have highs without lows, can you?

    Up there, nobody will starve, except for other things than meat.

    Sorry if I depressed you all, but we still had a good time, and so do they, on the whole. The young man's attitude is that he would rather be in the mountains living as good a life as possible, than down in London where he has been offered work, struggling even further and missing the lifestyle.

    Come on, Blogland is NOT Blogtopia, no matter how pink it seems.

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  9. To lighten it up just a tad, there is always the weed.
    The banks still own this country, too, and I know people who "bought high." It's sad, it's a mess, recovery is slow and painful, if you're not a banker. On Wall Street.
    There's always the weed.

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    1. I bet that's what your gardening kids tell you all the time, Joanne, but I can't see how it lightens things up.

      I came across the same thing in Egypt around 30 years ago, and it wouldn't surprise me if Spain goes down the same, destructive road.

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    2. Spain's been there once! We'll see. More history lessons.

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  10. Property all over the USA is now selling at about 50% below what people paid for it just a few years ago.... imagine that in the UK.

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    1. And yet all those lakeside houses in Florida that us Brits were buying for very little have now doubled in price. Strange.

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    2. That was true a few years ago, but real estate in much of the US has bounced back to the inflated prices they were before the recession.

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    3. Oh. Ii has been years since I was in Florida.

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  11. It can take 4 years for a property to foreclose and get to auction in Florida. They have just passed a bill to speed this up to one year. There are vacant houses all over the place that are now full of mold, termites, rats and homeless people (next door to ours). By the time the banks get a court approval to sell them they need to be torn down. Investors are buying 5 at a time and holding onto them to sell for property value only once he market picks up. The vacant house next door to us sold for $78,000 nine months ago. We tried many times to contact the bank to see if we could make a deal with the owners to buy it, but red tape forced them not to even contact the owner and dump it at auction. Now it sits in it's spooky decrepid state while the owner (a radio show host) lets us put up with the vermin until he decides to flip it.

    The situation for youth in Europe sounds awful. No wonder we are seeing so many young people moving to Canada.

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    1. I know quite a few who have moved to Australia, but Australia will only take highly qualified entrants who have a job lined up in advance.

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  12. I think part of the problem is that our society offers dreams that are almost exclusively connected with buying things. How can you manage if you are constantly told that happiness can be bought while you cannot even get a job.

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