Keeping count

This has been an exciting week for people who love facts and figures - journalists among them - who need to pull a statistic out of their hats to support every argument or assertion. On Tuesday Spain's national statistics institute (INE) released the population figures for the province of Malaga at the beginning of 2018.

Yes, all those visits to the town hall last year to join the famous 'padrón' (a word that must come quite high up on the list of essential Spanish for new residents) resulted in another little number on the list sent by the local council to the INE. Those tedious forms, photocopies, boxes ticked have all contributed to the numbers on the graphs on page 2 of this edition.

So what do we know? The population is rising in general but the British are leaving. There it is. It's out there like a piece of meat, thrown by the INE for the hungry analysts to pounce on. These days Brexit comes up as a potential reason for every recent change in behaviour among the British, but we don't know to what extent the looming exit from the EU is scaring people out of Spain. Property purchases suggest it isn't. Or are people only disappearing on paper, and becoming invisible in the mountains behind the Costa del Sol?

Whatever the case, the 'padrón' figures are what we have to work with. Interpret them as you wish - and go and make friends with a Venezuelan. They're arriving in their droves.