A Stroll Around the Brown

The idea of the Sahara Desert, with it’s evocative image of Bedhouins trailing their portable villages across vast open spaces on the back of an animal that is more renowned for its ability to spit at someone just for the hell of it than it’s quiet, completive disposition, may seem far removed from one of the Europe’s fastest golfing resort countries.

Now, golf courses sort of depend on grass. I’ve yet to see one that has a 100 metre hit, put, smack – whatever they call the thing they do with metal rod with a bend in it – that travels across acres of fine golden sand to land in a nice green patch…and then rolls off again, “Bugger,” says the bloke in the checked, Los Angles drug dealers trousers and two-tone shoes with that poncey frilly bit that hangs over the front, “Bugger”, he says, “I’m going to need my splashy dipstick,” or nobby lipstick, sloppy slapstick – they’ve all got some stupid bloody name, “to get myself out of this bloody beach.” He’d be wishing like mad for the water hazards that seemed so horrible at the time.

I’m told these sand-with-grass-patches do exist in those foreign countries with lots of oil and chaps who walk around in big frocks, and that’s what many of the ball smacking fraternity might get if they come to Spain for a stroll around a green hitting a defenceless little white ball while pretending they are indulging in is ‘sport’.

Before the almost total collapse of the construction industry in Spain over the last couple of years, virtually every municipality in the Valencian Community had been passing plans for golf courses, seeing it as the new way to pull the punters to their localities. Just by chance, the plans for these bits of grass that appeal to those with plenty of folding stuff in their pockets also include plans for plenty of golf-lovers residences with picturesque views of the green – or brown as may be the case in the near future. Before the disastrous effect on the property market of the current crisis, there were plans for some developments of up to 4,300 ‘little boxes’ with a fair handful of hotels, posh restaurants, shopping malls and caffs – for each course!

Spain may not be suffering the drought of the last few years, but it is still a very dry country. The central government, God bless ‘em, cancelled the previous government’s plans to supply overspill water from the River Ebro in the north to the bone dry regions in the east, and instead decided to build Lord knows how many desalination plants in Valencia and Murcia, all of which will produce more un-ecological waste than current systems can handle and have been proved to brake down at the turn of a tap. Fortunately, these plans appear to have been quietly hidden away, or at least aren’t as discussed openly as much as they were last year.

Until recently, the regional government was pushing golf courses as a way of bringing tourism to the rapidly drying region, to combat the drop in sun, sand and sunburned-gut-over-Union-Jack-shorts tourism. One local council resigned en mas in pique when the locals protested against their golf club plans. Not surprising really, when there are only 300 residents and the development company wanted to bung 4,000 more houses into the village without doing a great deal about piping in water to supply all the new families, which they couldn’t anyway because the local reservoir was at ten percent capacity, the lowest in its recorded history.

One of the niftiest bits of publicity was when one new development said that they would water the green by recycling water from their proposed hotel. Forgive me for asking, but how much piss can one hotel provide to keep the green well and truly – well, green! Another proudly announced that they would be buying recycled water from the local water authority so as not to use the limited supply that was available for local residents. Not bad, except no one considered the local farmers who, for decades, have been using this recycled water to irrigate the orange groves that give the locality its name, Costa Azahar, and which the new golf course uses as one of the incentives for buying a house on the golf course development (no houses, no course) – “enjoy life surrounded by the gorgeous smells of oranges” etc. Perhaps the best of all was one claim that water from the local prison would be used to irrigate the golf course. Can you imagine the weird things that would be growing in the posh green as a result of the waccy baccy that is almost freely available in these places. It would really be a case of the jailbirds taking the piss out of the rich!

Mark Twain was pretty well on the mark when he said, “Golf is a good walk spoiled.” Unfortunately, in the Valencian Community and other regions in Spain, the rich man’s trolley-trundleing pastime isn’t just going to spoil a walk, it is going to destroy the ancient infrastructure and agriculture, create desertification, dry out vast areas of a once fertile land and change the whole environment of a region which, in Moorish times, was known as the most productive in the then known world. Is smacking a little bit of white compressed rubber around really worth it?

It’s strange to think that the virtual collapse of the property industry in Spain might actually have done some good if it means that all these badly thought-out, money-grubbing schemes to use the country’s most precious natural resource are quietly shelved.

If you would like to know more about Spain, visit my web site, www.derekworkman-journalist.com , and Spain Uncovered


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