Saturday, December 31, 2011

On the cusp of a New Year

Will we be sucking our Spanish lemons in 2012?
Well, I'm sat here at the kitchen table with a cold beer in front of me, Wagner playing faintly on the stereo and a chicken roasting in the oven. The rest of the family are in the lounge watching something unspeakable on the telly and, outside, darkness has fallen and the impatient are already letting off their fireworks.

So that was 2011 - I wonder what 2012 will bring. There are many worrying signs that a lot of the things most people take for granted will evaporate in a puff of pixie dust in the next few months and we all have our own pet worries about what will happen. My personal worry demon is that a euro (currency) crash will freeze up the banks and I won't be able to sell our house in Spain. If that happens it might mean that we need to move back into it - which would be no bad thing as it's a fantastically sited smallholding in a beautiful valley. But we're not finished paying off debts yet and, in my view, Spain isn't the most stable place to be when things go pear-shaped. To do so would mean that we may still be at the mercy of the increasingly merciless Spanish banks.

No, ideally we'd like to sell up and move on, 'investing' in some woodland and a another ramshackle ruin to do up in a place that's more aligned with our own culture i.e. England.

But a worse scenario would be that we do sell the house just before a bout of hyperinflation or a currency crash and end up holding a few peanuts rather than a piece of land with a house on it. One thing's for sure, Denmark isn't as immune to economic problems as it likes to think it is. With a new socialist government now in control of the country with the largest public sector (as a share of the economy) in the world it will certainly be worth keeping an eye on the next bond auction to see if the markets decide to inflict some punishment. Watch this space.

Nevertheless, I'm thankful that we have it as a bolt hole down in Spain in case things do turn nasty. We have a good network of friends and neighbours down there and people have been practising living on next to nothing for the past few years. At present our house is cared for by José, a Mexican immigrant, who is the ideal house sitter.

What's more, I'm more than grateful that we own a property somewhere and have a bit of land attached. To many, if not most, these kind of things are now beyond their reach. If only the UK property bubble would finally pop and planning restrictions would be relaxed to allow people who want to work the land the chance to actually live on it that would be a great step towards securing some tentative measure of self-sufficiency in that overcrowded island.

I will not, of course, be entertaining any fantasies of Mayan prophesies or any such thing in the coming year. Not that many people over here in Europe pay heed to such things, but the slight worry is that people who do believe the world will end in December next year will have a hard time adjusting to the fact that it hasn't - and if they are armed and dangerous then so much the worse. It will be 'interesting' to see how that one pans out.

This being New Year I do have a few resolutions to make. I'm not about to share all of them but the main gist is that I'll be giving up a couple of things that frankly I should have given up quite a while ago. The chicken that is in the oven is a farewell parting to a regular meat diet, and there will certainly be far fewer cold beers in front of me during the coming year as well. Another resolution is to publish the book I've been writing for two years - yes, publish.

It's about my time living in Spain, running an enviro newspaper and trying to live sustainably. I found a publisher (no easy task these days) but the more down the line we got the more they wanted me to make it more light-hearted and remove any mention of peak oil or any other 'conspiracy theories'. Well, the book is light-hearted enough but I've decided not to grace the publisher and will explore other options, including self-publishing. It's been more or less finished for about 9 months, living on a flash memory stick that is an advert for Hamburg Airport (complete with a plastic airplane in a liquid bubble). It's high time it came off the memory stick and into the real world.

My final resolution is to live more by the precepts that I've always felt drawn to - and that means being a bit more formally spiritual. As a first step I'm starting Tai Chi classes in January and want to get going with a daily meditation session. Aside from that I've been reading John Michael Greer's Druid Handbook, as well as downloading course material from a British druid order. I'm not sure it's for me - I come from a solidly atheist background - but my mother was a spiritualist and I'm pretty sure I've inherited her genes. I'll give it a try and see if it feels right.

Anyway, the chicken is starting to look crispy and the beer bottle is now empty so I'll bid any readers I have a Happy 2012 and hope that you have a peaceful New Year.

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