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John Lennon, Brigitte Bardot and Gerald Brenan: the crazy years of Spain’s Costa del Sol | Culture

Voice Of EU



Brigitte Bardot, in Torremolinos in 1957.
Brigitte Bardot, in Torremolinos in 1957.Colección La Térmica

There was a time in Spain’s Costa del Sol when you could see French actress Brigitte Bardot having a drink in a restaurant with a donkey by her side. You might spot John Lennon and The Beatles manager Brian Epstein at a café, or find notorious art forger Elmyr de Hory heading to the beach with a hamper. You could see Scottish actor Sean Connery in a public cinema watching one of his James Bond movies, French director Jean Cocteau making ceramics, or English crime bosses the Kray twins pulling out a gun at the slightest provocation.

With the southern Spanish city of Marbella starting to grow and the literary circle of British writer and hispanist Gerald Brenan and American poet Gamel Woolsey bringing life to the Malageñan town of Churriana, the municipality of Torremolinos became the epicenter of the golden years of the Costa del Sol – all at a time when the area was just a handful of villages with white-painted houses. Visitors from across the world traveled there to enjoy themselves away from prying eyes. They hung out at the beach, but also in watering holes such as Pedro’s Bar, The Blue Note and Betty’s Bar. The British owner of the latter, Betty Pope, remembers entertaining Frank Sinatra while his wife Ava Gardner was seen with bullfighter Luis Miguel Dominguín.

Gerald Brenan, in Churriana.
Gerald Brenan, in Churriana.Col. Familia Pranger

The list of celebrities who visited the Costa del Sol in the second half of the last century seems endless, especially in the 1970s and 1980s. As many as 150 famous figures are named in the new book Excéntricos en la Costa de Sol (or, Eccentrics on the Costa del Sol), written by José Luis Cabrera and Carlos G. Pranger, with illustrations by Cintia Gutiérrez. The work, recently published in Spanish by La Térmica Cultural Center publishing house in Málaga, brings together real-life stories that are stranger than fiction. It is filled with anecdotes, surprising friendships and prints that offer a glimpse into this corner of freedom in Spain while the country was in the grip of the Franco dictatorship.

Torremolinos was the stage of an epoch that was a “vaudeville, a party that seemed to have no end and no beginning,” the authors write in the book, which took two years to complete.

The volume covers the stories of the famous visitors, but also includes historical details, such as the sale of contraceptives in a pharmacy in Torremolinos, where the streets smelled of hashish from the hippies and beatniks, who would mix with local women in mourning and the families of fishermen. At the time, however, alcohol – not hashish – was the drug of choice. Novelist and playwright William P. McGivern wrote that in this paradise “servants and liquor” were amazingly cheap.

Several writers from the influential group of poets known as the Generation of ‘27, as well as Spanish artist Salvador Dalí and muse Gala Éluard, who was reportedly the first woman to sunbathe topless in the Costa del Sol, also flocked to this corner of Spain before the Spanish Civil War. They stayed in the Santa Clara Hotel, which was bought by wealthy British heir George Langworthy.

But Torremolinos really took off in 1958, following the end of the Spanish protectorate of Morocco, when the inhabitants of the former Tangier International Zone decided to cross to the other side of the Mediterranean. The 1960 earthquake in the Moroccan city of Agadir pushed many others to do the same. Through word of mouth, Torremolinos ended up bringing together the paths of an eccentric group of people at a moment when the idea of rampant development along the Malagueñan coast was nothing but a bad dream.

George Langworthy at the Santa Clara Hotel in Torremolinos.
George Langworthy at the Santa Clara Hotel in Torremolinos.Col. Remi Fernández Campoy

“We used to sit at a café in Torremolinos looking at all the guys and I would ask him, ‘Do you like this one? What about that one?’,” John Lennon recounts of his experience visiting the town in 1963 with Brian Epstein. Epstein would return two years later to visit the famous flamenco tavern La Bodega Andaluz, where he saw legendary dancer Carrete perform. At the beginning of the 1970s, the first English pub opened up in Málaga: Shelagh’s Bar. Another popular joint was the Fat Black Pussy Cat, owned by singer John Mitchell, who was once seen entering a bank on the back of his horse, and Pedro’s Bar, where Henri Charrière, the author of Papillon, used to have an aperitif alongside the pet of the bar: a parrot named Captain Morgan. War veteran Dave Black also used to go to the Three Barrels Bar with a parrot on his shoulder. He would order a beer for himself and a rum and coke for the bird.

Gerald Brenan had already been in Churriana for more than two decades, after buying a house in the area from the Heredia family in 1943. Today this district in Málaga is a residential area next to the airport, but back then, it was a lush meadow that was one of the most important literary hubs in the world. Brenan and his wife, Gamel Woolsey, invited several generations of writers to their home. These guests would also visit La Cónsula, a house bought by US couple Bill and Annie Davies. Literary critic Cyril Connolly, polymath Bertrand Russell, actor Laurence Olivier, director Orson Welles, actress Vivien Leigh, painter Lars Pranger and poet Lynda Nicholson were just some of the notable figures to pass through its doors. Writer Ernest Hemingway even celebrated his 60th birthday in the house. But Brenan was not overly impressed by Hemingway, describing him in his memoirs as “a kind of sea captain with a white beard who only talks about bullfighting.”

Freddy Wildman and Lars Pranger in Alhaurín el Grande.
Freddy Wildman and Lars Pranger in Alhaurín el Grande.Col. Familia Pranger

In his final years in Málaga, Brenan opened his home to youngsters from the beatnik generation who arrived in droves to Torremolinos. Those were also the days of gangsters Reginald and Ronald Kray, popularly known as the Kray Twins, who were celebrities of the London crime underworld in the 1970s. This was when hustler Donald Munson would come to town in his Ford Taurus with a Greek license plate and a bullet hole in the windshield; when New York photographer and filmmaker Ira Cohen would visit, and sex symbol Bob Reed would give swimming lessons. Those were the days when Torremolinos received visits from a diverse range of personalities: from LSD guru Timothy Leary and writer Thomas Bernhard to glam pioneer Arthur Brown and Hollywood stars Judy Garland and Kirk Douglas.

It was also a golden age for Marbella. This was the era that gave birth to the Marbella Club Hotel – which continues to drive tourism in the city to this day – and the residential estate La Virginia, which remains an oasis among the concrete jungle. La Virginia was designed by architects Donald Gray and Juan Manuel Figueras and was home to a colorful array of residents including the dukes of Windsor, Formula 1 driver James Hunt and Vic Grubby, who filmed advertisements in the mansions and, when finished with work, took advantage of the space to record porn movies. Spanish writer Ana de Pombo stirred the city’s social life at her tea salon La Maroma, which featured panels made by Jean Cocteau. Welsh actor Stanley Baker even bought a house in Marbella after appearing in the film The Guns of Navarone. Meanwhile, Northern Irish soccer player George Best was partying and drinking carajillo – a type of alcoholic coffee – with retired Spaniards to the dismay of his team Manchester United. No eccentric personality escaped the influence of the Costa del Sol.

English version by Melissa Kitson.

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Paschal Donohoe plans bank levy extension but lower haul

Voice Of EU



Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe will continue the Irish banking levy beyond its scheduled conclusion date at the end of this year, but plans to lower the targeted annual haul from the current €150 million as overseas lenders Ulster Bank and KBC Bank Ireland retreat from the market, according to sources.

Reducing the industry overall levy target will avoid the remaining three banks facing higher levy bills at a time when the Government is seeking to lower its stakes in the bailed-out lenders.

AIB, Bank of Ireland and Permanent TSB paid a combined €93 million levy in each of the last two years, according to their latest annual reports. A decision on the new targeted yield, currently linked to deposit interest retention tax (DIRT) collected by banks on customers’ savings, will be announced at the unveiling of Budget 2022 on October 12th.

Originally introduced in 2014 by then minister for finance Michael Noonan for three years to ensure banks made a “contribution” to a recovering economy after the sector’s multibillion-euro taxpayer bailout, the annual banking levy has since been extended to the end of 2021.

A further extension of the levy has largely been expected by the banks and industry analysts, as the sector has been able to use multibillion euro losses racked up during the financial crisis to reduce their tax bills. A spokesman for the Department of Finance declined to comment on the future status of the banking levy as planning for Budget 2022 continues.

AIB, Bank of Ireland and Permanent TSB (PTSB) alone have utilised almost €500 million of tax losses against their corporation tax bills between 2017 and 2019, according to Department of Finance figures.

Sources said that the Government will be keen not to land a levy increase on the three lenders at a time when it is currently selling down its stake in Bank of Ireland and plotting a course for the reduction of its positions in AIB and PTSB in time.

The Ireland Strategic Investment Fund (ISIF), which holds the Bank of Ireland stake on behalf of the Minister for Finance, sold 2 percentage points of holding in the market between July and August, reducing its interest to just below 12 per cent.

Meanwhile, it has been reported in recent days that the UK government is planning to lower an 8 per cent surcharge that it has applied to bank profits since the start of 2016. It comes as the general UK corporation tax is set to rise from 19 per cent to 25 per cent in 2023.

“The optics of reducing the surcharge might still be bad politically, but it would signal the partial rehabilitation for the nation’s banking sector,” said Eamonn Hughes, an analyst with Goodbody Stockbrokers, in a note to clients on Tuesday, adding that he continues to factor in a retention of the Irish banking levy in his financial estimates for banks over the medium term.

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‘Covid light’: How to get Switzerland’s data-safe Covid certificate

Voice Of EU



One of the major concerns surrounding Switzerland’s Covid certificate, as with other Covid passports, has been privacy. 

In order to respond to these concerns, Switzerland in summer launched the ‘Covid light’ certificate. 

Unlike the Covid certificate itself, which displays which vaccine they had, the date on which they were vaccinated, whether they have recovered from the virus or whether they tested negative, the Covid light certificate simply shows whether or not a person’s credentials are valid. 

As noted directly by the government “the certificate light does not contain any health data; it merely shows that the holder has a valid COVID certificate.”

More information about the certificate itself can be found at the following link. 

UPDATE: What is Switzerland’s data-safe ‘light’ Covid certificate?

Importantly, the Covid light certificate only works in Switzerland, i.e. it cannot be used for travel purposes or in other countries. 

What exactly is the certificate light and is it in digital form? 

The ‘certificate light’ might sound like a separate document from the main Covid certificate, but in reality is effectively a data-safe function of the app itself. 

This function can be switched on, from which point the certificate only provides minimal data, including your name, date of birth, electronic signature and whether the certificate is valid or not. 

While this is done in the app, it can also be printed out. 

How do I get the certificate light?

If you go into your Covid certificate app, you can see there is an option to get a ‘certificate light’ if you tap on the certificate itself. 

Once the certificate is activated, it will be valid for 48 hours. After that 48 hour period, it must be activated again. 

UPDATED: A step-by-step guide to getting the Swiss Covid certificate

If you need to show your actual Covid certificate after you have activated certificate light (for instance for travel), you will need to deactivate it. 

The certificate light can be activated and deactivated again and again at no cost. 

The following diagram, produced by the Swiss government, shows how the certificate can be activated and deactivated (albeit in relatively shabby resolution). 

Switzerland’s Covid light certificate. Image: FOPH.

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The macro pig farm threatening a historical gem in northern Spain | Culture

Voice Of EU



Christians and Muslims fought over the castle of Gormaz in Soria in the Spanish region of Castilla y León for two centuries. Now, after a lapse of hundreds of years, it is once again under threat – this time, from a macro pig farm for 4,200 animals. The proposed farm is within two kilometers of the fortress, and will be visible from its impressive caliphal gate, which is one of the biggest tourist attractions of the medieval site.

Environmental and neighborhood associations, architecture and restoration professionals, as well as the town councils of Recuerda, a village of 70 inhabitants, and Gormaz, a village of 20, call the plans an “attack” on one of the most impressive Islamic fortresses on the peninsula. With a perimeter measuring more than one kilometer, the castle of Gormaz was once the largest in Europe. It was this fortress that the Caliph of Córdoba, Al-Hakam II, ordered to be reinforced and expanded at the end of the 10th century to stop the Christian advance from the north.

Meanwhile, the company behind the project, Agro Peñaranda Esteban, insists it will comply “strictly with the law” and that if the permits are not issued, it will go elsewhere. “It’s great to eat torreznos [a kind of fried bacon snack] from Soria in a good restaurant in a big capital city,” says one of the shareholders, who is from the area. “People must think that they fall from the sky.”

The castle of Gormaz was built in the 9th century to strategically support Medinaceli, the capital of the so-called Muslim Middle Frontier. Divided into two large areas separated by a moat, there is the fortress with the tower of Almanzor and the caliphal quarters, and then the area for the troops, where the main entrance is located. Altogether, it has 28 towers with battlements and arrowslits.

The Soria fortress defended the routes to the north of the peninsula that followed the banks of the Duero river and was coveted by a number of figures, including Count García Fernández, Sancho II of Pamplona, Ramiro III of León, Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar and the de facto ruler of Islamic Iberia, Almanzor. And so it passed from one side to the other until, in 1060, Fernando I of León seized it once and for all. During the reign of Spain’s Catholic Monarchs, it was turned into a prison as it no longer had any strategic value.

But now it is administrative forces that are advancing on the castle. On June 29, the Castilla y León regional government published “the announcement of a pig farm of 4,200 pigs in plot 20114 of industrial estate 1 of the municipality of Recuerda,” which backs onto Gormaz. August 10 was the deadline for anyone wishing to take issue with the environmental impact assessment, which states that the farm would not alter the surrounding landscape. “It is a landscape altered by human activity, due to its agricultural use, with no dominant variations or striking contrasts,” claims the report.

This contradicts the regional plan for the Duero Valley, approved by the Castilla y León regional authorities in 2010, which mentions a series of Landscape Management Areas (AOP) needing a specific regime of protection, management and planning. One such area includes the castle of Gormaz and the surrounding area where the farm would be located.

View of the San Miguel hermitage from the caliphal gate of the castle of Gormaz.
View of the San Miguel hermitage from the caliphal gate of the castle of Gormaz.José Francisco Yusta

Luis Morales, architect and member of the Soria Association for the Defense of Nature (Aseden), points out that the castle’s environment is “totally agricultural – fields and forests – and very similar to what it might have been in the Middle Ages, when Gormaz was built. To put an industrial complex of enormous dimensions to house more than 4,000 pigs, which is what they intend, is barbaric,” he adds. “It breaks up the landscape from the same caliphal gate, the one that is so often photographed for tourism purposes.”

Morales also believes that the municipalities have the means to stop the project, “because the land is rustic and can therefore be classified as protected, which would prevent the livestock complex from being built.” Meanwhile, the Aseden association points out that the regional authorities were responsible for the White Paper of the Territorial Enclaves of Cultural Interest (ETIC), which selected 111 locations of cultural or heritage interest, one of which was Gormaz.

According to the NGO Ecologists in Action, in this type of facility whose surface area would be 4,000 square meters plus another 2,000 for slurry, “the problem of odor emissions is very important because of its proximity and orientation with respect to inhabited areas and other places of interest.” It explains: “In this case, the farm would be to the west, 1.3 kilometers from Recuerda and two kilometers from the castle of Gormaz. According to data from [Spain’s national weather agency] Aemet, the prevailing winds are from the west. In other words, it would bring unhealthy smells for most of the year to Recuerda. Surprisingly, the project says that the prevailing winds are from the northeast.”

Consuelo Barrio, mayor of Recuerda, agrees. “It is not only the visual impact, which is very important, but also the environmental impact due to the possible contamination of the water from the slurry as we are in an area of aquifers; this is in addition to the smell that would come our way as we are barely a kilometer from it.”

Meanwhile, the company behind the project considers it is under “unjustified attack.” According to one 38-year-old businessman involved in the project, “in this part of Soria there are at least three farms: Quintanar, Gormaz…. And if ours smells, it means they all smell. It’s not like years ago, when pigs were thrown into the Duero – some of which I have seen floating – or the slurry was dumped down drains. No. There are strict environmental laws and we will comply with them. It is easy to talk about ‘deserted’ Spain and all the things the politicians are saying, but when you try to create wealth, obstacles are thrown up because you can be seen from the castle two kilometers away. If they don’t let us set up here, we’ll go somewhere else,” he adds angrily.

Marisa Revilla, president of Amigos del Museo Numantino, is particularly upset by the visual effect of the pig farm. “The impact report does not take into account the horizontal impact. It only states that they are going to put up some hedges to hide the farm. But the installation will not only affect the castle, it will also affect the nearby Romanesque San Miguel hermitage.” This hermitage was inspected in the 1990s by architect José Francisco Yusta, who specializes in historical monuments and also opposes the construction of the farm. “There is no justification for breaking up the landscape,” says Yusta, who has worked on such architectural gems as the cathedral of Burgo de Osma, the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela and castle of Gormaz itself.

“I believe it is not worth destroying our landscape for the two jobs that the macro-farm will provide, which are those proposed by the promoters,” says architect Luis Morales. “If there were only 200 for deserted Spain….”

English version by Heather Galloway.

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