It’s a hacienda – sort of

Is it a house? Only just by the look of it.  Are those really gates? Are they ever! Contributor Chris Horan snapped the  Spanish hacienda of sorts when he stayed there,  discovering that it would be unthinkable in  the country  to put a house on the market without such daunting  security. He  found it a  an accepted  characteristic of many Spanish homes and apartments in Calypso.

‘What a way to live!’ he wrote.

“In apartments,  they have similar walls and an even bigger gate. But people (gypsies) sneak in behind cars.  Despite burglar bars  they   hook handbags or trousers – hopefully with money inside – from outside open windows”.

Even though the wall and gate prevents you from seeing the burglar bars on the windows and doors and the remote controlled steel shutters that encase the house in darkness, you will be mistaken in thinking this is a Mongrel Mob pad. No, it’s the home of a friend of mine in Spain.

These security measures remind me of South Africa’s in the 1960s when all Europeans’ homes  were equipped with burglar bars. By now I expect they too, will have steel shutters. Urban or rural, South Africa or Spain, the security measures are the same.

But my friend’s house is in Calypso on the balmy Mediterranean, magnet for retired Brits and northern Europeans. On the surface the place seems safe. On my admittedly short visits I saw no evidence of criminal behaviour. And Spain is supposed to have one of Europe’s lower crime rates (according to Spanish figures) But even if the Spanish statistics can be believed, we know they are not low on the corruption stables.

Once Franco was deposed an official policy of ‘forgetting’ the atrocities committed during the civil war was deemed the best way forward. Thus Franco’s reign and the policy of ‘forgetting’ has almost certainly inhibited open and honest communication.

Nevertheless questions remain, for me at least. Are the burglar bars traditional? A decorative touch? Spain’s bloody periods of history suggest there’s more to it than that. Yet walking around in Spain’s sunshine the place really does feel safe, like Wanaka in fact. Unfortunately the many victims of pickpockets, muggers and bag snatchers tell a different story.

Where I live there is still a tendency to leave doors and windows open when leaving the house.  But a week or two ago one of my neighbours came home to discover an intruder had been in her house. She was able to work out from what had been moved and opened that the intruder had been looking for money. This news came as a shock. More than that, it created, for a day or two, a new sense of insecurity.

My friend in Spain has lost the freedom that security brings but does not seem aware it’s gone. If he was shown a house to rent that had no bars on the window it would put him off. If I saw bars on a window I’d look for a house in another area.

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Chris Horan

Chris is a former social worker, probation officer and Family Court counsellor, living in Hawea in the South Island.