A simple guide to how the bailout package works

It is a slow day in a little Greek Village.
The rain is beating down and the streets are deserted.
Times are tough, everybody is in debt, and everybody lives on credit.
On this particular day a rich German tourist is driving through the village, stops at the local hotel and lays a €100 note on the desk, telling the hotel owner he wants to inspect the rooms upstairs in order to pick one to spend the night.
The owner gives him some keys and, as soon as the visitor has walked upstairs, the hotelier grabs the €100 note and runs next door to pay his debt to the butcher.
The butcher takes the €100 note and runs down the street to repay his debt to the pig farmer. The pig farmer takes the €100 note and heads off to pay his bill at the supplier of feed and fuel.
The guy at the Farmers’ Co-op takes the €100 note and runs to pay his drinks bill at the taverna.
The tavern owner slips the money along to the local prostitute drinking at the bar, who has also been facing hard times and has had to offer him “services” on credit.
The hooker then rushes to the hotel and pays off her room bill to the hotel owner with the €100 note.
The hotel proprietor then places the €100 note back on the counter so the rich traveller will not suspect anything. At that moment the traveller comes down the stairs, picks up the €100 note, states that the rooms are not satisfactory, pockets the money, and leaves town.
No one produced anything. No one earned anything. However, the whole village is now out of debt and looking to the future with a lot more optimism.

And that, Ladies and Gentlemen, is how the bailout package works

Thanks to my mate Patrick Chapman for sharing that wisdom with me.

Spain is beautiful – but bust

Spain at it's best - sun, sea, sand, empty beaches and back to it's old laid back self
Spain at it’s best – sun, sea, sand, empty beaches and back to it’s old laid back self

I wrote a piece last year after I came back from a Spanish holiday, saying that Spain had sold it’s soul and gone against its own brand values of sun, sea and fun in favour of profit.

But my experience this year gave me a vague glimmer of hope.

Most of the prices seem to have dropped in the restaurants, the cabs and the beach bars. A meal for a family of four has fallen from €100 to nearer €80. Lunch in a beach bar can be easily taken for less than €40 and the people seem to have got friendlier again. Less in search of profit and far more able to smile. Perhaps they’re resigned to the fact that their business is on the verge of bust. There are hundreds upon hundreds either gone or clearly about to go.

New build apartments are still all empty, although the prices have fallen from €220k Euro last year to a little over €120k this year.

Local figures being quoted are that of the 4.5 million properties on the Costa del Sol, only around 20% are occupied at any time – and you can tell by how deathly quiet it is. The traffic is lighter, the beaches are quieter, even the shops are quieter.

But where they win is in the places that aren’t built up. Those that haven’t been built all over still have real charm and the most fantastic food. Yes, Puerto Banus is vile, showy, ludicrously expensive and not for me – it’s not a coincidence that it has the word anus in the middle of it you know –  but drive ten miles down the coast beyond Estepona and you are back into places where the Brits and Irish haven’t yet built all over and destroyed.

I genuinely think that Spain will do a ‘Greece’ and go bust, for the rest of Europe to bail out. But if you rent somewhere on the beach, buy the local food and wine and enjoy the sun and laid back atmosphere, there are still fewer places in the world I’d rather be.

This year, for the first time in many, many years, I didn’t want to come home – and that’s what Spain should be – and always used to be about.