Spain, its institutions and its people are fed up with corruption at the highest levels. The husband of one of the king’s sisters was told to report to a prison of his choice (please, your loftiness…) to sit out a jail term of nearly six years for fraud and abuse of power. The ruling party, tainted by several scandals, was brought down in a vote of no confidence in which improbable allies managed to get a majority together. The party’s implacable leader, who as prime minister of the country had already lost credit for his lack of creativity in responding to the Catalonian crisis, announced he would quit politics. And finally, a minister in the caretaker cabinet that was subsequently formed was forced to resign after only six days in office over a difference of opinion with the tax department, for which he had already paid a hefty fine.

All that in just two weeks.

Meanwhile, on a more grass-roots level, I am witnessing how parents are preparing their children for life in the new Spain.

In Almería, where a pedestrian boulevard is separated from a bicycle lane by no more than a line painted on the ground, I heard a parent warn a child: don’t go onto the bicycle lane. And indeed, once you start crossing lines, where do you stop?

More recently, I overheard part of a conversation that went on between a young woman and a small boy. ‘This is why we work’, she was saying, ‘so we can buy you things. Not so that you can go and break them!’ She went on for a while, and all the time, as they walked in front of me, I could see the boy’s face turned up to hers, tears flowing down his cheeks. I heard him say he was sorry. But the educational session was not over yet. ‘What were you thinking when you did that???’ And again, she went on for a while. Clearly, saying sorry is not enough. When you break things, you pay. One way or another.

Later the same day, I passed two adults with a stroller. One of the adults, a woman wearing sunglasses, squatted in front of the somewhat terrified-looking child in the stroller and asked, with some insistence, ‘Who am I? Who am I?’ This could be a more traditional exercise, in which children are taught from an early age to recognise people without seeing their eyes. This can be useful in a country in which some are rumoured to leave their sunglasses on even when they sleep. Imagine not recognising your own parents, right? But since wearing sunglasses is also a way in which crooks and bad cops tend to intimidate their victims as well as stay anonymous, the ability to recognise people without seeing their eyes could well turn out to be a very useful skill in battling crime.

The media are also taking their responsibility. ‘La Embajada’ is a tv-series about corruption in the Spanish embassy in Bangkok. It can be watched on Netflix (at least in Spain). The bad guy, the one who epitomises high-level badness, is a sly, scheming, cold-hearted man who never smiles. The message: keep an eye on sly, scheming, cold-hearted men who never smile. Ah, if only life could be that simple!

Travel update.

We visited Ronda and met up with several friends, and then Charlotte flew to the Netherlands for a few weeks. I headed north to Castellón, where a company that specialises in converting vans to campers had said confidently that they had solutions for all the problems we were having with our systems.

In the park in Castellón. This one: Singer with Microphone.

Europe (2018), bark on bark.

Well… I dropped the car off on Monday afternoon. On Thursday morning, the mechanic called me, sounding very depressed, to ask me a few questions about the car, to which I did not know the answers (such as: where is the heater unit hidden, and are you sure it is a Webasto?). On Friday afternoon, half an hour before closing time, he called me again and said, listen, I have replaced the solar panel and wired its battery to the alternator so it always gets charged, but getting to where the heater unit may be is going to take a lot of work because the whole interior will have to be taken apart and I’ll just end up looking for dropped screws and I am not even sure etc. etc. Water tank: same thing, lot of work, not sure that the leak will be found. In fact, there are two water tanks underneath the car, one of which is no longer in use. Everywhere, there are water hoses and electrical wires that are no longer connected to anything. It’s a mess.

I took the hint, went to pick up the car and drove off, heading northwest with a vague idea of maybe going hiking in the Picos de Europa.

On the way there, I decided to dedicate a day to having a look at the interior of the car myself. Pleased in advance with the prospect of doing this right (enough light, pleasant temperature to work in, calm state of mind, no distractions, methodically laying out tools and parts as I progressed, slow, deliberate movements and so on, you know: zen and the art of fiddling with your car), I set to work. It took half a day to disassemble the interior until I came to a point where I could not for the life of me see how to carry on without taking everything apart and then it took the rest of the day to put it back together, making a few mistakes along the way and learning from them. A bit less zen towards the end of the day, yes.

Having been unable to get to where the heating unit can be expected to be, the outcome of the day consisted of two things that could be considered a succes. One was a better understanding of the way some things are built. The other was… retrieving the 220V power cord of the refrigerator.

The mechanic had told me that with the new electrical setup, the refrigerator was working on 12V, and he had added that it was currently only on 12V. I had not asked him why it no longer had a 220V connection, but later, I had seen the 220V power cord run through a slot in the cupboards with the plug not visible. Why would that be? It turned out that the plug, much bigger than the cord, was not connected to anything and could not be taken back through the slot. It could be retrieved only by taking the cupboards apart. When he had finished working on the electrical system and had put everything back together, he must have realised, on Friday afternoon, that the plug was not where it should be and the only way to get it out would to be to once again disassemble everything. He must have thought, f… it.

Venerable, venerated olive tree.

Wide, colourful plains.

Foreground: artichoke plants. Background: bombed-out church. I happened to drive past this and turned around to have a closer look.

The church belongs to a village (Belchite) that was destroyed during the Spanish civil war. General Franco gave orders for the ruins to remain untouched, so they could bear witness to the evil that The Others were capable of. Franco was a cynical man.

I drove. Through Spanish landscapes I could not have imagined. Through dry steppes, fertile plains, lush hills, impressive mountains. Through variations of green, swathes of red and purple, combinations of earth tones, shades of grey. Past areas where every electricity pole, every communications tower, every chimney harboured storks’ nests that were full to capacity. Past forests where eagles and kites glided overhead, fields where kestrels hovered. And I arrived at the Picos de Europa. Oh… this is something else… I’ll add two photos here, but nothing can do justice to the beauty of the entire area. This has to be seen and experienced.