Mariano, the President of Spain, which is a Kingdom, was having a hard time deflecting the widespread criticisms against his economic policy of destruction of social services and extremely high unemployment, as well his party's moral collapse into corruption.
Worse, Mariano, the President of the Sunny Kingdom, had that day to speak before Congress. The opposition does not understand his phobia to multitudes and had forced him to face his worst fear: other people. Strange that someone like him would choose to become politician but you know: Spain is different.
Not so different anyhow: politicians lie like everywhere else. Just that a lot more, especially Mariano, who never understood that the best lies are the ones camouflaged among many truths.
Whatever the case Mariano was feeling very bad that day. Nobody noticed because he's a good poker player and even a sympathetic tabloid declared he "won" the next day. It was the only one however.
Before his second turn as speaker he was however recorded¹ talking to his minister, Fátima Báñez:
-- This is getting unbearable, Fátima-- said the President --, we have been months already sleeping in separate rooms.
-- This year there is no football, nor Olympic Games... there are some swimming pools but those are Catalan... I believe we can only resort to more extreme measures.
-- An extreme measure? Which one? -- asked the minister.
-- The Malvinas² measure, of course -- replied Mariano.
-- What do you mean?
-- I don't know: Ceuta and Melilla, The Rock³, Perejil Island⁴... -- he replied --. Let the assessors deal with the details.
A few days later Spain imposed restrictions to the only land access to Gibraltar, charging 50 euros per car and submitting them to extreme police controls. The pretext? A recent fishing rights dispute and accusations of money laundering and tax evasion.
Sadly for Mariano, every single Spaniard asked on TV was apparently aware that it was a distraction maneuver. The locals even protested because of some of the most harmed were Spaniards working in The Rock.
But there is a place where Spanish media never properly reports. In a quiet tavern of Bilbao's Old Quarter the feeling was very different.
-- I know for a fact that the Spanish Navy is about 2/3 of the British one-- said Txomin, whose extense background as antimilitarist activist provided him with a deep knowledge of everything military, somewhat ironically.
-- Then they can perfectly invade Gibraltar unopposed if they want-- concluded Patxi --. By the time the English arrive, The Rock has been secured and there's nothing they can do other than shower Madrid with nukes.
-- They won't do that-- argued Esteban --. If they did not use them against Argentina, much less they will in Europe.
-- True-- agreed Txomin --. Another one?
The jars were quickly refilled and paid.
-- Would I be Cameron, I'd invade Bilbao instead-- suggested Patxi.
-- What?-- replied both drinking buddies at the same time.
-- Sure: it's the most logical thing to do-- insisted Patxi --. While the Spanish fleet is pinned in the Strait defending their new conquest, the Royal Navy lands here and gives us weapons, a lot of them. And we fight their war with their air and naval support. It's a sure bet.
As his friends were looking with some disbelief he continued:
-- Catalonia only borders the Mediterranean and France, which will surely not collaborate with London. Anyhow they are a bunch of pansies. They could land in places like Galicia or Canary Islands but the natives may not collaborate too much, unsure. So their best bet is to arm the Basques... and also get Morocco to invade Ceuta and Melilla.
-- Seen like that... -- agreed Txomin a bit reluctantly.
-- Actually it may well be the best thing that can happens to us Basques -- concluded Patxi --: the NATO solidarity would be broken and we would have a decent chance to break free from Spain, for a change.
-- You may well be right -- conceded Esteban --. Now I really hope that Rajoy is as dumb as to invade Gibraltar.
-- I drink for it -- said then Txomin, raising his half-empty jar --. "Gibraltar Español!"
The jars converged in the air among laughs.
¹ The conversation between Mariano Rajoy and Fátima Báñez is an Internet rumor (source). Allegedly the original video, recorded in August 1st, was posted by some media and then retired without any explanation but I could not get any confirmation. It still inspired me, together with other anecdotes, this story that I hope you enjoyed.
² Malvinas Islands, more often known in English as the Falklands. There was a war between Britain and Argentina back in the 1980s if you recall.
³ The Rock: nickname of Gibraltar, disputed by Spain and Britain.
⁴ Perejil Island: Spanish name of an islet known in Berber as Tura and in Arabic as Jazirat Tura. Located off the coast of Ceuta it was the subject of a brief and bloodless military dispute between Spain and Morocco in 2002.