Thursday, August 23, 2007

So why don't you just go back to Spain,
and I'll stay
and we'll
both get what we want!

[Miguel in The Road to Eldorado.]

Iain Dale starts one of today's entries in a suitably patriotic tone:
I think it was Churchill who said that to be born an Englishman is to win first prize in the lottery of life. The ensuing decades have not proved him wrong, despite huge changes in the social and demographic makeup of the country. So why are 200,000 people a year leaving these islands for a life elsewhere in the world?
Well, as Dale adds, the simple answer is: because they can. And also because vast sums of advertising expenditure go on selling lifestyles abroad. They're all at it: estate agents, property developers, television programmes ...

On the other hand, Malcolm would recommend a cold shower from Giles Tremlett's book, Ghosts of Spain. And notably Chapter 4: How the Bikini Saved Spain, where Tremlett is particularly scathing:
Although 1.2 million people formally live on the Costa del Sol, there are actually believed to be some 3 million residents. Many are foreigners with few interests beyond their own house, the golf course and a handful of friends of the same nationality. There is something very American about this car-dependent ribbon of growth... If it continues adding, as it currently does, almost fifty thousand houses and apartments a year, it will double its population once more in fifteen to twenty years. There are even predictions that the Costa de Sol megalopolis will, eventually, become Spain's largest city. Unfortunately, as the traffic jams show, it is not something that has been planned for ...

Figures for the amount of black cash being laundered in the costas' on-off construction booms are impossible to calculate. It includes not just 'white' cocaine and hashish money, but also the 'grey' money of small European businessmen who buy houses with cash never declared to their own tax authorities. It would be nice to think that all this money, wherever it came from, trickled down to the people of the Costa del Sol. But it circulates, instead, in the upper spheres of developers, construction magnates and the comparatively rich, northern European buyers ...

And a couple of pages later:
The money that changes hands often does not come to Spain or pay a tax to help build the roads or water recycling plants. The urbanizaciones, some expensive, some full of hurriedly put up, shoddy 'villas', are spouting from Majorca to Marbella, from Torremolinos to Torrevieja. Many are ghost towns in winter, their restaurants and shops closed and their houses barred up.

In Benidorm, the editor of the English-language daily newspaper, the Costa Blanca News, told me that a friend of his had gone house-hunting to a new urbanizaciĆ³n in a nearby town. He saw a man working in his garden and stopped to talk to him. The man turned out to be English. 'Are there many foreigners here, then?' the friend asked. 'No, not really. There is one Norwegian, but the rest of us are British,' came the answer.
Malcolm guarantees that Tremlett is the instant remedy to any tendency to succomb to sales patter.

But that was not Malcolm's intended point: instead he reflected on that citation of Churchill as the author of the "lottery of life" bon mot. Churchill is, of course, the attribution of last resort for such utterances.

Malcolm has also seen it awarded to Rudyard Kipling, for similar reasons.

Even so, Malcolm thinks its recent currency may stem from Peter Ustinov in Dear Me of 1977, who in turn put it in the mouth of Cecil Rhodes. Refer to page 64 (of the paperback edition), where it is quoted as Rhodes's advice to a "nervous young officer" going off to police a distant quarter of the Empire. College essays and blogs repeatedly employ the "quotation", where it is usually and vaguely footnoted as "Rhodes to a young friend" (which itself says a lot about the thieving tendencies found on the Net). Still, Malcolm feels it sounds very much like a Ustinov witticism.

So here's the problem: is there a definite sighting pre-dating Ustinov?
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