Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Those "Other" Beached Whales

The other day, in a not very rare moment of snarkdom, Señor Gatito Gringo pointed out a rather flabby, flaccid and pasty individual on the beach at Catalan Bay and mumbled to me, "Look! A beached whale." After I averted my eyes from the blinding glare, I put on my sunglasses and saw that Señor G.G. was in fact correct. Flabby, flaccid and pasty, he was spread out on the sand for all to recoil in horror admire, soaking up every degree of the day's soaring temperature.

He was not a pretty sight.

Now, I have a certain amount of sympathy for the Beached Whales (BW's) we see shored up along Andalucía's coastline - although I do wish that those BW's whose body mass index exceeds 25 kg/m2 would refrain from sunbathing topless or strutting about in speedos. There is enough gratuitous evil in this world as it is. Like me, many of these BW's are escaping winter or winter-like climes and just want to experience more than 6 hours of sunlight a day and feel the sun penetrating their skins. After all, that's why I came to Spain. And after all, that's why I left Madrid for the Costa de la Luz.

But the reality is that these BW's - many of whom have snatched up relatively cheap real estate in the south - have become a bit of a
liability on the Spanish health care system. These "residential tourists", as they are now called, account for 33% of the skin cancer operations conducted in the Costa del Sol alone. Mostly Brits and Germans, they are more prone to the sun's harmful rays because of their age, lifestyle and their natural fair skins (i.e., flabby, flaccid and pasty) and a natural propensity for eating sausage. (I lied about the last one - that would be colorectal cancer).

Truth be told, I am a wee bit jealous. I don't wish myself skin cancer of course (because I don't)but I often wonder what it would be like to enjoy the BW-lifestyle: owning a fabulous townhouse or villa unaffordable back home, being able to draw on your pensions far removed from any snowblowers or salt trucks, lying on the beach or on one's private terrace all day until you have to meet other BW-expats at the club for drinks, a few rounds of golf, having jars of marmite flown into Spain, never having to learn the native language ...

Of course the downside includes looking like a veritable beached whale until one develops that orangey-yellow crusty hide that passes for a "healthy" tan among BW-expats. And incurring the resentment of the locals who can't possibly afford the homes they're building at break-neck speed. And incurring the resentment of the locals because the extent of one's Spanish is hola and gracias. And incurring the resentment of the locals for having driven up the cost of health care because you have developed skin cancer.

Perhaps there's a happy medium in all of this. If I promise not to microwave myself so that I look like a desiccated tangerine, promise to work on my Spanish (I already have a vocabulary of plus 2 words), and forego the membership at the marina, can I have the townhouse?


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