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The scene in Benidorm on Sunday night - a sea of red
The scene across Spain on Sunday night was one of eager anticipation. Thousands sat huddled in front of television screens to watch Spain thrash Italy in the Euro final... and every time a goal was scored the fireworks went off. Thousands of kilos of gunpowder must have been ignited over the course of the match - it is somewhat of a mystery to me the Spanish obsession with fireworks and masclettas (fire crackers). From a very young age children are seen throwing them in the street at fiesta time - encouraged by their parents... a very peculiar tradition to me and fellow Brits. They do not seem to be aware of the potential dangers of throwing these things and even show their off spring how to - I have witnessed children as young as 4 and 5 being handed a lighter and mascletta by an adult to applause.

Common site - half built estates left abandoned
The Spanish are still celebrating, savouring the victory of their national football team. But what happens afterwards .... does the country sink back into doom and gloom as is reported daily in the national press. Yes Spain are the European football champions but they are also the European champions of unemployment - 25% of the population is officially unemployed and that rises to a staggering 50% for under 25´s.... the highest in any other Euro country. The banks are so in debt after years of reckless borrowing to sustain the building boom that they are now in crisis looking for handouts. The construction industry is at a standstill with half built properties left abandoned as the banks refuse to lend any more money to complete projects. Even if they did so, who would buy anyway?

The health and education services are facing cutbacks as never witnessed before in the country. Staff are being cut back and salaries slashed ... as they are across the whole of Europe though. As Mrs Merkel keeps repeating parrot fashion the all important phrase "Austerity measures" in exchange for bailing out yet another country. But the Spanish do not help themselves either....take schools as an example. The local council will provide a free bus service to school if you live more than 3 km away - the bus collects at ap 8.30am in the morning then back home at 12 for lunch, then back to school again at 3pm and home again at 4.30pm. That is 4 journeys per day - but what makes me really laugh when I look at the bus stops is that 95% of the parents DRIVE to the bus stop so why not just drive them to school. None live further than about 6 km from the school anyway. You have to remember never ever to be on the roads near a school between 4.30 and 5pm as you will be stuck in one almighty bus jam. However, the councils that run the bus service haven´t got the money to pay the bus companies... I know one Town Hall that owes the local bus company over 80,000 euros for school pick ups - the boss was in real turmoil as to what to do. He said he couldn´t just not turn up as children would be missing out but at the same time couldn´t continue to foot the diesel bill and drivers wages himself either.

Busy Old Town last week at 10pm
But the saving grace of the economy is tourism ... which thankfully is rising. Take a walk in the Old Town and you will see bars and restaurants jammed packed with people, ordering beers, wine and food like there is no tomorrow - the waiters barely able to keep up with demand. Every Sunday you will see extended Spanish families eating out and not ordering menu del dia but expensive a la carte.... family is extremely important in Spain - its what Britain use to be like in the 50´s and 60´s with extended families living virtually next door to one another. Head towards the Rincon area and you will find it awash with Brits enjoying the cheap booze and entertainment at the many clubs and bars.

Even back when the economy was booming in Spain, say 6 years ago, unemployment was still the highest by far in Europe - standing at around 10%. Yet immigrants continued to flocked to Spain from South America and Africa and found work in the Black economy. That is one thing that is certainly ripe here - many people work for cash and pay no taxes, some have said that up to 20% of the "official" unemployed could fall into this category.
But exports are rising ... Inditex the company that owns Zara is the biggest clothing company in the world and this year came in at number 49 of the worlds top retailers. The Spanish must be doing something right....

Many Spaniards are fairly optimistic about the future... you certainly can´t pop their bubble at the moment, but see another few years of hardship ahead. So long as the Brits and Germans keep coming to holiday here then there is light at the end of the tunnel - the Spanish are a tough bunch and will flourish like the national football team through hard work and determination. Viva Espana!

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