Mixed Feelings

Christmas Day once again. My wife and I went to Midnight Mass and the children enacted the Nativity as usual. It was good to see that some of the shepherds were girls, and Mary arrived with an immensely impressive cushion tucked under her top to add authenticity. Having said that, she had what must have been the shortest labour on record; she had hardly taken her seat in the stable before the cushion disappeared and baby Jesus began bawling lustily.
Then home to bed, and I've everything apparently under control (I don't like to tempt fate!), for lunch with friends who are coming round, good food, good wine, good company.
However, that is only one side of the story. Yesterday afternoon we received the news that Antonio López, a neighbour, had died. He was a lovely man, what the Spanish would call un buen hombre, he was in his eighties and we knew that he had not been at all well.
In accordance with the Spanish custom, Antonio's funeral and burial will be held this afternoon at four thirty.
Let light perpetual shine on him. May he rest in peace, to rise in glory.


Never Boring.

There are lots of things going on right now, but probably the most important one is yesterday's general election. Since the arrival of democracy in Spain forty years ago, national politics has been dominated by two parties, the Partido Popular (PP), broadly equivalent to Britain's Conservative Party, and the Partido Socialista y Obrera de España (PSOE) somewhat to the left of Britain's Labour Party. As in Britain power has passed from one to the other and back again, with the smaller, mainly regional parties lagging a long way behind. Yesterday PP went into the election with an overall majority and emerged without one; they secured only 123 of the possible 350 seats, 53 seats short of the 176 needed to have a majority over all the other parties. However, PSOE also emerged with fewer seats than in the retiring parliament, so they also have fallen well short of what was needed.
When a similar thing happened in the 2010 election in Britain, the main third party (the Lib Dems) was able to form a coalition with the Tories. Here, the figures don't add up. There have always been small parties here picking up the occasional seat, but they have never commanded enough support to threaten the big two, and nor did they yesterday. What has changed is the emergence of two new parties in response to the recent recession, and they drew significant support from those disenchanted enough with both PP and PSOE to move their vote.
To the left of PSOE is Podemos (We Can) a party which has evolved out of the anti-austerity street protests of Los Indignados. They won 69 seats yesterday. The centrist party Ciudadanos (Citizens) which started life as the anti-independence party of Cataluña, took 40 seats. A coalition is called for, of course, but even so, the figures still don't add up.
PP (123) and Ciudadanos (40) have a total of 163, 14 short of that elusive overall majority. On the other hand, PSOE (90) and Podemos (69) are 17 seats adrift. The only arithmetic that would work - PP plus Podemos - wouldn't work politically; it would be like the Tories forming a coalition with the Socialist Workers' Party.
Both groups will no doubt be looking to see who they could work with among the 28 seats held by the various minor parties, none of whom can offer enough seats from a single party. Under the Constitution they have two months to work something out. If they don't, then the King will have the authority to order fresh elections. We live in interesting times!


Ah, Well

The Ferrero Rocher result was announced last night and Frigiliana came second, but with over fourteen thousand votes. The town of Morella in Castellón is the chosen setting for FR's 25th Anniversary campaign. Even so we have already benefited enormously just from being shortlisted. The contest was backed extensively by Canal 5, one of Spain's national TV channels, and we were very effective in the way we spread the appeal for votes across social media and among friends, and via our friends to their friends. With the help of regional tourism groups the word spread throughout Andalucía and we became the Andalucían candidate.
All in all an enormous amount of awareness raising publicity on a scale that we could not have been able to buy, but which all came free of charge. Is it working yet? Well, all I can say is that the recent puente or public holiday saw a threefold increase in the number of visitors to the village compared to the same holiday in 2014.
And now to the serious business of Christmas, New Year and Three Kings celebrations. That started last night in the civic hall when a choir, two pastoral or traditional music groups, and a recorder septet from among the school pupils, played and sang villancicos, the Spanish equivalent of Christmas carols, and a flamenco group interpreted more villancicos in dance. The hall was packed.
Alongside all of this there is concern for others. Clothing is being collected and distributed to those in financial need, a 'stitch and bitch' group meets regularly knitting blankets, scarves and baby clothing for sending to Syrian refugees, whilst closer to home the Kilo campaign runs through December to provide food for all village residents facing hardship, and over and above that, the children are being asked to donate a toy or game they no longer use, but which is still in good condition, so that the Three Kings can ensure that every child in Frigiliana receives a present on January 6th.
Can you wonder that I love being a part of this community so much.
In case I don't post again before the day, Happy Christmas to you all.