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Sunday, January 29, 2012

Driving over Oranges

Oranges everywhere, but don't drive over them.

My family and I came to Spain in 1999, the same year that Chris Stewart published his book, "Driving over Lemons." This became required reading, but we read the book before actually arriving in Spain, and it made me feel like changing my mind. It is a wonderful story of a young English family who move to Spain and choose to live in the mountains and go back to nature. The Spanish, who have had quite enough of nature, are only too eager to sell their little plot to these crazy foreigners.

Reading the story from outside the country was a little terrifying, but I was assured it was not all like what was described in the book. When we arrived we looked for a home that was near to a town and a train and civilization, because the hardships suffered by the intrepid Stewart family was something we wanted to avoid at all costs.

One of the wonderful things the author describes was buying the house from Pepe, but Pepe doesn't actually leave. He just moves into the shed with his beasts, the name he gives to his dogs.

The book gets its name from the fact that driving in the dirt road to and from the house, which has no electricity nor indoor plumbing, lemons are everywhere, and trying to drive around them is impossible.

It is not in the DNA of an Englishman to disrespect food to the extent of allowing lemons and oranges to fall from the tree, and rot, and then to drive over them, and that brings us to where I am today.

Spain to day, is a country of great contrasts. On the upper end some Spanish have turned their orange, lemons, and olive groves into massive housing estates, and in the process they have reaped so much riches that they never even dreamed it was possible. The country has fabulous ribbons of road, great mansions and skyscrapers, wonderful public parks and buildings and theme parks to rival the most progressive nations. It also has homes in the interior without basic services, and people who live strictly from the land, and, of course everything in between.

We moved from our comfortable suburban house to the mountains amid a forest of orange trees. At the base of the mountain is the village of Pedralba, with the river Turia, an ancient town where everyone knows everyone else, and their business. Our home is well served by amenities, but we do have neighbours from hell, as well as those who are angels.

We also have a friend who's name is Pepe, and his wife Amparo. They adopted us when we first arrived, and Pepe has taught me how to be a Spainard. It has been thirteen years since we came here. Our Spanish experience has been entirely satisfactory, however, there have been two wars that have impacted upon the United States that have weakened the U.S. Dollar, and that has badly affected us as I earn my pension in that currency. Now, the Euro itself is on very shaky ground and we may all be about to go down the drain together, but as I write this, it is the 29th of January and the sun is shining brilliantly as though it were a Summer's day. Life is good!

For the past couple of months we have been living through harvest time of the oranges, a magical time of year. As far as the eye can see there are green trees with what seems like golden orbs hanging from branches simply waiting to be picked. I find it very difficult to come to grips with the fact that so many oranges simply fall to the ground and rot. It is such a shame that the hungry and starving cannot have access to so much wastage. During this past week I experienced my own eye watering moment of wastage when driving down the estate road I encountered a spillage of oranges from the farmer's truck. He was busily picking them up, but he ordered me to simply drive on, to drive over the oranges that were in my path.

I should have stopped and helped, but unfortunately I was in a hurry, so, with eyes closed I did as I was commanded. Now, I have my very own Driving over Oranges story to tell. I feel terrible!

Spain is a wonderful country with equally wonderful Spanish people. I came here because a Spanaird discovered my country, Bermuda, but the Spanish Crown decided it had no interest in such a small island and they walked away from it. I always wondered how different my life might have been had I grown up Spanish. Now I know!

I would have been very happy!

Copyright (c) 2012  Eugene Carmichael  

Sunday, January 22, 2012


Stephen Lawrence: Martyr for British Justice

Stephen Lawrence is dead: Long Live Stephen Lawrence

The name Stephen Lawrence is probably known around the world, but for all the wrong reasons. Stephen was a young black man who was waiting for the bus to go home. He was spotted by five white thugs, and like a pack of feral dogs they set upon him and plunged a butchers knife into him and then ran away.

I was close to his age one night while I was on my way to catch the bus in Watford, London. A gang of five white thugs spotted me and screamed "Get Him!" I ran as fast as I could go, and up ahead I saw the bus just starting to pull away from the stop. I put on a burst of speed , caught up with the bus, thereby saving my life.

Stephen was buried in his parent's homeland of Jamaica where his burial place is lovingly cared for, while his parents returned to England to see justice done for him. As horrible as was his death, what came next was a permanent stain on Great Britain, and rendered a lie that British Justice was the greatest in the world. From the moment the first policeperson arrived on the scene things went wrong, and for the next 18 years one disgraceful and unfortunate thing followed another.

The story is very long and convoluted. I'm sure it will be told in the form of a book and if anyone has the guts to do it, a film would be appropriate. The BBC program "Panorama" devoted one hour to tell the story in abridged version, but if not for the determination of the strongest woman in the world, Stephen's mother, even partial justice that was won by sending two of the five bastards to jail would not have happened. The other three are on notice, that the Law, and Doreen Lawrence, are coming to get you.

To reach the point at which the system has arrived at required a wholesale shake up within The Metropolitan Police /Scotland Yard. and the Justice System. The Service admits that nothing else has had such an impact on its thinking, but for one citizen to have to take on the role of conscience of Britain's Justice institutions is far too much to expect. But, Stephen's mother achieved that in the name of her son by not taking no for an answer. She was determined that his very premature death was not going to be in vain, and in fact it is not. The Hon. Jack Straw, former Home Secretary has said that in ordering an Inquiry was the single most Important Thing that he ever did. All of British society are better served because at the time of his death there was not even the Will to bring to justice white murderers of black and Asian people.

When a loved one dies under any other circumstance than natural causes we have the right to expect that the appropriate response be forthcoming. I lost someone and had to fight the government and medical establishment of my country to get justice. In that, I empathize with Stephen's parents, Neville and Doreen Lawrence, particularly with his mother, and with his whole story.

Copyright (c) 2012 Eugene Carmichael

Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Four-Year old Prostitute

This is what Four-year Old girls should be doing...simply being kids.

You won't like what I have to tell you in this blog. I make no apologies for that. This is real life!

From what we understand from crime writers, police stories, and real life, we know enough to realise that the underworld life of drug dealing and drug consumption is a nasty world indeed. When the man at the top tells an underling that should he disappoint, he will be killed, along with his family, that is taken seriously, and followed up on if necessary. However, sometimes when the killers come in they don't actually kill small children. They do something worse, and that is they abduct the children and feed them drugs, and they are offered to the drug lord's best customers for the purpose of entertainment.

Some of these children are very young, and anything that you or I would dare imagine is surely what takes place. But, that is different than being a young girl who is sold into sexual slavery at any age by your own mother, but especially when very young.

The director of the documentary, "Not My Life" was being interviewed on CNN about his film, and he mentioned the four-year old prostitute. That mention made me sit bolt upright, as though it were a strike of lightning. I had never heard of such a thing. The context in which she appears was when, in Cambodia a police raid was taking place, in front of the cameras, on a brothel that housed all young girls. They had to go up into the ceiling and under the stairs and from every nook and cranny to bring them out. They were a multitude of children, who were waiting for the customers who come every day.

Sick males who take the guise of being men, come to take children away with them for as long as they wish to treat them worse than if they were animals. My opinion of any and everybody who is found to be guilty of even thinking of doing these things is such that I cannot even find the words to express myself. They certainly embarrass me because they seem to have the same gender as mine.

A girl who is four won't even know that she is a prostitute, or even what that means. She will simply be used as though she were a toilet. Many respectable white males, who are businessmen from the West are seen entering Cambodia and making their way to the brothels where they turn into werewolves. So, why are they not simply stopped at the border? That would be simple enough, the authorities know why they are there, but the fact is that they represent foreign exchange income, so the Will is not there to stop them. Even if the foreigners were stopped, the trade would still take place because of the local desire for young girls. We are made to understand that to be able to deflower of child men pay high premiums, so the girls are deflowered over and over again by stitching them up again and again.

Life is one giant act of delicate balance, so as we know there to be acts of extreme kindness and generosity, on the other end there is undescribeable evil, such as that which we are talking about here. I would have liked to have done more in-depth research, but delving into this subject matter and calling it "research" might earn me suspicion of the sort that I am now condemming.

The subject of international slavery is so overwhelming it is difficult to know where to start in making a contribution to its downfall. We have to take little steps and focus on little things at a time. When we are offered a Rolex watch for $19.99, we know that it is not a Rolex. We also know that it was manufactured by slave labour. If we don't buy it, or any of the brand-name knockoffs, then, in the fullness of time those workers will be let go. They are only kept in bondage because there are customers willing to buy their products.

For me, I think of the Four-Year Old Prostitute everyday. I will always think of her as I consider my actions and ask myself the question: Am I helping the traffickers if I do this thing or that? The answers will continue to shape me as a moral person.

One day, I hope to have the opportunity of coming to the rescue of very young children who are kept in captivity and made to perform actions that would make decent people vomit.

Copyright (c) 2012 Eugene Carmichael

Sunday, January 8, 2012

A Very Funny Spanish Night!

Humour. A Great way to start the year!

I had planned all week to write a very serious piece today entitled "The Four-Year old Prostitute", but I experienced something on Saturday night that has put me in a good mood. I shall have to leave the serious piece until next week when I can do it justice.

My wife urged me to experience something that is truly Spanish, an evening of humour and comedy monologues. This took place in the town of L'Eliana, and was presented in four acts and called 100% Cadiz. The standup comedians were Ismael Beiro, an ex-Big Brother winner; Vincente Ruidos; Toni Rodriguez, and three friends who presented comedy in music who call themselves "Coplas de Mostrador."

I was reluctant to go because as an English person studying Spanish I knew my command was insufficient to appreciate fully the humour, but I went anyway. To really appreciate this you have to be Spanish because the material is presented at full speed, and is a mix of political and daily life experiences, using colloquialisms and street smart talk. At one point, one of the comedians asked, "are there any English people here?" That was met with a laugh. When my wife piped up, "Sí!" the people next to us said, " Joder!" We were the only English people there.

As is the custom here in Spain, whereever the parents go, so go their children. That put a bit of a damper on some of the material we might have heard, but I pride myself on having picked up on some of the jokes. For the student of Spanish the two last areas to conquer are the telephone and jokes.

It helped that this group's reputation preceeded them, because the audience was pumped up for a good evening. the only time that things got a little quiet was when reference was made to the two political parties, the PP and the PSOE, but the comedian made it clear he was only messing with us and the moment passed.

First up was Ismael who did a great job in opening the show, and he was followed by Los Coplas de Mostrador, who included a somewhat serious song to a Hambone. Only in Spain, where Jamon de Serrano is worshipped as a diety would that have happened. Then, after a half-hour break came Vicente Ruidos, who I credited with being a total professional. He was able to include his own created voice sound effects, delivered a great monologue complete with sound to underscore the point he was making, and he never laughed at any of his own jokes. That, I think is the hallmark of the true professional.

Toni Rodriguez, who calls himself "El Gaditano" acted as M.C. and after Vicente concluded his bit and Toni returned to the stage I thought it was to wrap up for the night. After all, it was one am
in the morning. No! Toni was there to entertain us in a 45 minute monologue that had the audience laughing continuously as he rapid-fired one joke after another. I have never seen that happen before, and most comedians would give their eye teeth for the ability to do that.

When finally it was over, I saw a group of very weary people whose face muscles were just to exhausted to even smile. I missed most of the actual material but I certainly appreciated the stagecraft and the oportunity to see a side of Spanish life that can only be understood with an adequate command of the language.

It wasn't supposed to be an incentive to spur me on to learn the language, but I can't wait to go back to class.

Copyright (c) 2012 Eugene Carmichael

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Have a Happy and Healthy 2012 !

Have a Happy and Prosperous New Year

As usual it is wonderful to watch countries around the world welcome in the new year. Australia leads the way with the most consistently superb display of fireworks. It is an exercise in pure optimism because no-one can foretell what the year will bring. If we knew, maybe we would be reluctant to step over the line into a new year that may hold in store even more and greater problems than we left behind.

I am an optimist! My hope for 2012 is that it will bring my family and myself good health, and more than a little wealth. These things I wish for you and your family as well. I'm certain that we will have to face challenges along the way. We will be tested and sometimes we will find that life appears not to be fair. However, I intend to continue my work helping other people because from these activities I find supreme satisfaction in knowing that from my actions today, (and the rest of the team) people who will be born 50 years from now will have the opportunity to
live their lives with dignity and grace.

To each and everyone, I sincerely wish that in 2012 you will find happiness and contentment.

I leave you with one question to ponder as the year begins: My wife entered our bathroom in the year 2011. When she came out it was the year 2012. Was this the longest time spent in a bathroom in recorded history?

Happy New Year !!!!!

Copyright (c) 2012 Eugene Carmichael