January 7, 2009


The first Spanish class after the Christmas break and Jesús was in buoyant mood. Ecstatic almost. In fact, after his depressive state towards the end of last year, his mood swings - at times verging on the extreme - would bring to mind, in anyone else, thoughts of bi-polar illness. But Jesús has, after all, been through the mill recently - financially as well as emotionally - so wouldn’t that test anyone’s strength of character, resilience, not to mention mental state?

What he was specifically pleased about was the way he’d been feted by his home town during their annual los Reyes Magos celebrations. Chosen as one of the Three Kings - a huge honour - he laughingly described how, with the help of dancers, magicians and musicians, he'd paraded on his beautifully decorated float through the streets on Monday evening in long processions tossing out handfuls of traditional sweets to the hundreds of assembled children lining the route. When he was a child, he recalled, he’d been glad to catch a sweet or two. Yesterday though all the kids were holding out outsize carrier bags and holdalls to increase their takings. Yet another sign of the credit crunch beginning to bite here?

Another factor that had, somewhat surprisingly, cheered him up was an article he showed us from a local newspaper. It recounted the well-worn stories about town hall corruption, coupled with administrative incompetence, leading to tens of thousands of illegal properties having been built in Spain during the recent boom – 19,000 in Marbella alone. Thousands have been bought by unwitting homeowners, who now live under threat of demolition and are trapped because they can’t sell. One elderly couple even had their Andalusian home demolished before their eyes last January, despite having planning permission from the town hall. And, have been denied any compensation, are still living in a garage without water or electricity.

We all looked at Jesús speculatively. What on earth was there about this news that made him so cheerful?

Well, he replied, at least I’m not trapped for the rest of the year in that illegal apartment under threat of demolition. At least all I lost was my deposit… I’m one of the lucky ones. Yes, this new year is going to be a good one for me. The best ever. I can sense it already…

As we left, none of us spoke. We were all probably having the same thought. About Jesús’s true state of mind.

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