People in plastic houses

tommies 1FEW observers have kind words to say about the plastic greenhouses that crowd the coastline between Almeria and Malaga. Apparently, they constitute the largest concentration of greenhouses on the planet, providing out-of-season vegetables for the supermarkets of northern Europe . . .

It would be easy to brand them an unsightly intrusion along an otherwise unspoilt and dramatic coastline – which is what most people do. But the industry provides work for thousands of locals and migrants, and ensures the shelves are heavily stocked with blushing tomatoes and tender courgettes the whole year round.

tommies 2 tommies 3 tommies 4I was brought up in a village hemmed in by pit spoilheaps and ironworks slagbanks, so I can do ugly environments if I have to. I suppose it’s a matter of taste and familiarity. If flimsy, semi-permanent structures are unsightly, what’s beautiful about those chokingly drab industrial parks that have entrenched themselves on the outskirts of every British town?

Still, so long as there are shrink-wrapped cucumbers and a bag of Tesco mixed-leaf salad in the fridge, does it really matter?

tommies 6

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36 thoughts on “People in plastic houses

  1. I have a soft spot for these less than picturesque environments. There’s an authenticity to them, which sounds like poetic claptrap, but there are real people down there with real families to look after, and some would have it all metaphorically swept under the carpet so that they can have yet another view to photograph for their Facebook page.

    Leave it all there, it’s part of real life. Not sure I’d like to live next door to a slagbank though. Would that be HSBC?

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    1. I agree entirely, Chris. There is nothing wrong with a bit of industry to add interest to a view.
      On the slag bank thing, the people who lived closest to them used to run their washing lines from their backdoors to the top of the banks, taking full advantage of the sea breeze. Now there’s a housing development and doctor’s surgery on the top of the “Slaggy”, making it look like it was almost purpose built. Funny how things go around. No HSBC though.
      Cheers, Alen

      Liked by 1 person

  2. And perhaps slightly less lethal than glass in a high wind? (Having once seen next door’s large greenhouse come to bits and hurtle horizontally across my back garden, like a formation of low-flying guillotines.)

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    1. That’s a very scary scenario. Once one pane has gone and the wind gets inside, more are sure to follow. Death by greenhouse is probably more common than we think.
      Cheers, Alen

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  3. It’s only like when you drive up the A9 through Scotland past Perth and the ‘Carse of Gowrie’ where all the lovely raspberries and strawberries are grown. The whole area is a sea of polythene but I don’t mind as those Scottish fruits are just about my favourite fruit and I buy loads. Much rather buy them from our home islands too. So I don’t blame them growing like that over there. Everyone wants a wide range of fresh fruit and veg and that’s the best way to do it. Blackpool area has very similar all around the airport too.

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    1. Hi Carol. I’d forgotten about that area of Scotland where the soft fruit is grown, and like you I’ve driven through it many times on my way to the Cairngorms. In fact, the red and black currant bushes I had on my allotment came from that area. Also, it’s quite common to see entire fields covered with strips of polythene these days, placed, presumably, to give tender plants a better start.
      All the best, Alen

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  4. We’ve got to get our food from somewhere!
    I rather like all sorts of industrial environments, I’m afraid. And abandoned, ruined ones have absolutely oodles of atmosphere. Great for photos…..
    And having been brought up in Hartlepool, I even have a soft spot for the old slag heaps that I used to see nearly every day.
    Life isn’t all chocolate box and sanitised. Living has to be done.

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    1. Hi Chrissie. I know Hartlepool very well, and that area around the mouth of the Tees (North and South Gare), is very dear to me. Industrial landscapes can be very dramatic, and they certainly are on Teesside and in the Cleveland Hills.
      All the best, Alen

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  5. Wow, that’s an interesting sight, Alen! I agree with your comparison. It’s not damaging the planet and it’s helping to keep people in work. I can’t help wishing we grew more of our own food at this end, but we’d never get tomatoes in February!

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    1. Hi Jo. I have 32 tomato plants on the go inside the cage we brought the cats to Spain in (cage is covered in polythene). They looked good until last night – when it started snowing. But I don’t think it’s quite as cold as Scotland.
      Cheers, Alen

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    2. What people forget as part of the equation is water. Whilst the crops here aren’t using as much electric as their counterparts in the Netherlands – drive across Holland and you go through miles of grow lighted greenhousing; what they are doing is exporting water. Remember SE Spain is just shy of being a desert. With spring just about to start, Almeria’s reservoirs are barely 10 % full. Ground water levels along the Mediterranean as far north as Catalunya have plummeted and salt water has ruined many aquifers.

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  6. That’s very interesting information and pictures. I don’t think the Google Car have been around in this area but maybe I’m wrong 🙂
    All the best,
    Hanna
    PS Need ski?

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    1. Does Google just have the one car or lots of them? That would be a good job, just driving round all day long taking pictures. I could do that. My old van wouldn’t get up some of those narrow roads though.
      Cheers, Alen

      Liked by 1 person

  7. One car, I like that idea 🙂 I wonder if you know the story of old horses declared as pensioners (on a lush meadow) for long faithful service?
    So while your old car stands on the meadow you have the opportunity to map the mountains of Andalusia:
    “The portable backpack has a mounted camera system on top, and enables us to gather images while maneuvering through tight, narrow spaces or locations only accessible by foot. The first collection of photos that were taken with this camera technology, the rough, rocky terrain of Arizona’s Grand Canyon.” *https://www.google.com/maps/streetview/understand/
    All the best,
    Hanna

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    1. I like that idea. Maps of this area – certainly walkers’ maps – are very few and far between. I might be able to get a job doing the Google footpath map of the Sierra Nevada. Wonder if anyone has thought of that? A mule would be handy.

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  8. I tend to err on the eyesore, why don’t we just eat in season food view most of the time. On the other hand you are spot on about the work they provide, plus they are relatively low impact compared to heavy industry.

    When we headed to the Cabo de Gata National Park in late May in 2009 we drove for miles through plastic like this. We also saw lots of skips full to overflowing with tomatoes and their plants, all going to waste, I did start to pull over to photograph one, but was put off by a group of dusty looking men and women who appeared to be living in a rather derelict looking hut with a plastic lean-to. They looked pretty unhappy and the scene left me feeling rather uncomfortable at not knowing what really happens when I enjoy a tomato during the winter.

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    1. I grew 80 per cent of my own veg in the UK and hope to replicate that here in Spain, but unfortunately commercial growers and supermarkets have conditioned people to expect a vast array of vegetables all the year round. I don’t know whether this is progress or not. I suppose it’s a step backwards so far as climate change and managing the Earth’s resources are concerned.
      Perhaps the answer lies in raising people’s awareness of where their food comes from, which I suppose is what we are doing here in this discussion. And that’s not a bad thing.
      Shame about the skips full of tomatoes and plants. It’s the same at the other end of the process, with supermarkets chucking out thousands of tonnes of unsold food every year.

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      1. Yes it makes me so angry when I walk round the supermarket and see the bulging shelves of vegetables and fruit out of our season, that don’t get purchased and presumably are eventually thrown away. There is an obvious answer – only shop at smaller outlets stocking locally sourced products. It’s not that easy but I do try. Maybe I should grow my own like you.

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        1. Some of it goes to foodbanks, but there was a story in the press last week about Asda scrapping its foodbank donation points in its stores nationwide, and then reintroducing them in a hurry after a storm of public protest.
          But there are still hundreds of thousands of tonnes of food wasted every year, and that’s not including the fruit and veg rejected by the supermarkets because it doesn’t look pretty enough (carrots too curly, that sort of thing).
          Get some seeds and have a go.

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          1. I’m not happy about the relationships between supermarkets and food banks, all is not as transparent as they would like you to believe. It’s all part of the marketing strategy, as shown by Asda.
            I’m not that certain about food banks either [he says from his middle class chair] I happened to be walking through a dodgy pedestrian underpass in Stretford the other day, amongst the debris of alcohol bottles and needles there were the remains of obvious food bank handouts. All the discarded sandwich and crisp packets were empty but tins of beans, soup and fruit [inaccessible without an opener] were just dumped, what a waste.

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            1. The thing is, you can’t change things much without a completely new political and economical approach. Now I’m all for that. Turn everything on its head. Then the election comes along and people vote for tax cuts and a few pence on the pension.

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              1. I’m all for that too. Tax cuts [as much as the banks] are the problem behind the decline of our education system, health service, libraries, bus services……………..
                Can see why you have chosen to live in Spain.
                Have you still a vote in the European referendum? Just wondered.
                Must get back to writing about walking.

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                    1. Right. I’ve completed the process and this is what happens. The website asks for the last address you were registered at, I would assume as a means of identification and to update the electoral roll. So you reregister with your previous local authority. When an election or referendum comes round, you apply for a postal vote with that local authority. So although I no longer live within the Richmondshire District Council area, I still have to vote through its electoral office.

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