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Litter, car parks, PR stunts, jacuzzis and more…Puerto issues once again in the news 

Did you know September 15th was International Coastal Clean-up day?

I didn’t, at least, not at the time, in fact not until four days later while walking along Playa Jardin early in morning and I came across a work party combing the beach.

Nothing new there, I have seen it many times before; employees of the company that manages the beach are often litter-picking and on the whole the beach areas are kept reasonably clean.

Only this morning it was different, this was not a work party, these were volunteers, and not the usual bunch of tree hugging, save the planet, eco-warriors. These were much more organised, a large group, 50 plus, all in matching t shirts and sporting bright yellow plastic bin bags, albeit with very little litter in them. (As I said previously the beach is kept quite clean.)

By now, of course, I was beginning to smell a rat, figuratively speaking that is (rats basking in the sun have not been spotted on Playa Jardin for a while, not since they put the poison down, but under the cover of darkness who knows).

Yes, this had all the makings of a PR exercise. Sure enough, by the time I had walked to Punta Brava and back, litter picking had been abandoned and they were all assembled in a group huddle having their photos taken. However, something was still missing or, to be more exact, someone, no better make that two people, as there was no sign of either the mayor or his sidekick who though not actually conjoined to him never strays far from his side in public.

I am referring to the councillor for photo opportunities, he or she, I’ll let you make up your own minds as to identity, is never usually one to shy away once a photo lens appears.

Anyway, it was all something of nothing, barely enough to pique my interest whilst on my morning walk, I soon forgot all about it, moved on to something else, until later in the day that is.

That afternoon while having my daily troll through the local social media pages, something I like to think of as a comedy half hour as there is usually something amusing, and there it was Puerto de la Cruz’s International Beach Clean-up day. Only four days later than the official day, but then that was a Saturday and weekends are sacred and a subtle change in the name which wasn’t lost on me, I think it give the day an entirely different agenda.

As you have probably guessed by now, who should be there front and centre in the photos only the self same two people who I had missed earlier. They must have made a flying visit, either before I had arrived or after I had left. Either way one thing is almost certain they didn’t get stuck in or get their hands dirty, but then by the looks of things neither did anyone else.

Not that I am taken anything away from the volunteers, it was good of them to give up their time, it was not their fault that the whole thing has an air of being orchestrated, yet even here things were not quite as they originally seemed.

The litter pickers were not just volunteers from all walks of life, they were staff from the local hotels, which begs the question, well, it does to cynical old me, were they volunteers in the truest sense of the word or had they been press ganged into it?

Perhaps though that is too strong a suggestion, it does conjure up images of them being cudgelled or at the very least having their arms twisted up their backs. I am sure they weren’t, but there might have be some gentle persuasion. Still it was very good of them all to give up a couple of hours of their day off; assuming of course it was their day off and they weren’t getting paid for it.

Still they all got a good bit of PR out of it, they did their good deed , could tick off another box, been there, done that, got the t shirt, literally, but if only the day had been International Car Park Cleanup day, then they could have accomplished something truly worthwhile and gone home with a real sense of achievement.

Of course if no one dropped litter then there wouldn’t have been any need for any of this and I wouldn’t have just spent over 700 words belittling their efforts, but then that would be seen as an ideal world, a world none of us live in.

Lago Martianez

While I am in such a cynical mood there is another recent news story which caught my eye. When am I ever not? It’s true; I never take things at face value these days! When exactly was it that news and media stopped telling the whole truth? I look at everything and think there is a true story in there somewhere you just have to get rid of the spin and read between the lines. What follows is in my opinion a pretty good example.

The Ayuntamiento ann-ounced that it is spending over €1 million on the pump room of the Lago Martiánez complex and for once they didn’t really make a song and dance over it. This is money from the council’s own coffers, almost unheard of that they haven’t gone to Cabildo with their begging bowl pleading poverty.

It all sounds a bit suspicious to me and I was surprised that for once the announcement was treated kindly on social media by the resident council bashing brigade. It is a significant amount of money so what are they spending it on. New pipe work, electrical installations, some demolition and rebuilding, waterproofing and health and safety issues. Bringing the pump room up to 21st century standards, which makes you wonder how much has been spent on it in recent years, very little I guess.

When the Ayuntamiento talks of pump rooms it brings back memories of the last time, when a pump room failure through lack of investment saw to the death of the municipal swimming pool and we are still waiting for the replacement.

Jacuzzi repairs?

There seems to be a strange idea locally where maintenance is concerned. My interpretation of the word is that regular checks and remedial work is carried out to maintain peak per-formance. Whereas, here the word maintenance appears to mean repair, a practise only undertaken if and when something breaks down. They don’t like spending money ‘unnecessarily’. The jacuzzi pool in the Lago is a prime example, go there and you will see a sign apologising that it is not working today, the same sign that has now been displayed for months.

Why now? Is the pump room in danger of failing or do they think this investment in the next six months will win votes for them in May 2019? No, I think the pressing need to spend this money is due to the fact that the Lago complex technically belongs to Costa (not the coffee shop owners, the Coastal department within central government in Madrid) and is only managed by Puerto’s Ayuntamiento on a renewable concession.

This concession was due for renewal in July, but it hasn’t been and is unlikely to be until this work is completed, hence the urgency. It is such a shame this complex isn’t managed by a private company, one who would use it to its full potential, who would run it at a profit. Instead the Ayuntamiento seem to be content to let it plod along, barely ticking over , to them it is a cost centre rather than a profit centre, but it does keep about 70 local people in employment, so that’s ok then.

Bus station

Next, the new bus station, they may still be pouring concrete, lots of it, but there is daily evidence of progress being made and on the site there seems to be, from a bystander’s point of view, a work effect which, ok, it might not be a sense of urgency, but rather a sense of getting the job done. There is still a lot to do and the constructors might have gone out on a limb by announcing it will be finished in April (2019 in case you were wondering) but I hope they do it. It would be good to see something finished on time for a change; however, that depends on how much it rains in the intervening months.

Tree puzzle

And finally, because I am getting a bit bored with this, we come to the Calle San Juan (and adjoining streets) Project. This project got off to an inauspicious start when on day one of the heavy equipment on site one of the trees which were to be preserved suddenly shed a large bough. As you would expect there was a bit of a hue and cry about it and an investigation was launched to ascertain the facts of what happened. The findings were that this bough had a hollow centre and the verdict was it was death by natural causes. Are you telling me that this tree which had stood quite happily for years would suddenly drop a large branch in the close proximity to a giant excavators swinging arm, not that I am trying to cast aspersions, but it is a bit of a coincidence .