7 signs of Spanish springtime

For the rest of the world, springtime and the definition of any season is officially marked by  the Astronomical or Meteorological seasons.

The science behind the seasons

What’s the difference?  Astronomical seasons refer to the position of Earth’s orbit in relation to the sun (taking into account equinoxes and solstices). Meteorological seasons are based on the yearly temperature cycle and calculate the meteorological state as well as timing with the calendar to determine a clear and definitive transition between the seasons.

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Spain is different

Got that? No, nor me. It’s far simpler in Spain – and as we all know: Spain is Different. 😉

There are 7 clear signs that Spring and warmer weather have arrived – Spanish style. It’s like the flick of a giant imaginary switch. Perhaps you recognise these signs, or perhaps you know a few more? Let’s see…

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Changes afoot

The floor tiles INSIDE the house change from icy polar old to reasonably warm overnight. You’re no longer in danger of losing your toes from severe frostbite for misplacing your slippers. Hey, bring on the flip-flops. Ah, I see, you never took them off… Time to paint those toenails.

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Raising the Parasols

Parasol – the clue is in the name of course. Into storage go the patio heaters, up go the parasols. Bars look alive with busy terraces. Yes, hold that comment,  I know they have outside terraces all year round down there on the coast, but we’re at the top of a mountain 🙂

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Hearty stews be-gone

Bowls of spicy, tasty Callos and pig’s innards are whisked away, and tapas is replaced by little mounds of Russian Salad (which incidentally can be either a soft and creamy delight or a splendid saucer of cat vomit).

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You ate THAT?!

Wash that down

Red wine? No Camarero, mine is a Tinto Verano – ropey red over ice topped up with lemonade and splash of Martini if you’re lucky. Very refreshing it is too…

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The smiling Cura

Ah yes, the Vatican’s best envoy, the Parish Priest, has a noticeable spring in his step, and he’s wearing a slightly creepy benign smile. Why? It’s the start of fiesta season – which means a substantial leap in the number of congregates, and a louder jangle of coins in the collection basket.

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Step talk

A better gathering than Mass. The scrubbing of front steps and the scraping of chairs means the start of ‘doorstepping’ season. From the plaza to our front door is a 3 minute walk but it can take 3 hours with a delicious stop or twenty to sip the proffered wine and (literally) chew the fat. . politics, religion, football, farming and family are discussed at length.

Besides, how on earth would anyone know anything without the front step gossip? Sheesh. Yep, that’s my step. 🙂

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The Birds and the Bees

Big blue carpenter bees, chatty and fat Swallows, busy Housemartins, they all back, and they’re all keen to start a new family. Sit back, pour another Tinto Verano (don’t wait for summer) and just enjoy springtime, in fact ANY time, in Spain.

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The 10 commandments for expats in Spain

Thinking of a move to sunny Spain and wondering where to start? Once you have all the travel arrangements and new home sorted out, and finally unpacked, you should then find out how best to fit in. Confused? Then follow some simple rules, and feel more at home in Spain. After a decade here in the Alpujarra region of southern Spain, we have fallen foul of at least a few of these ‘rules’ – so be prepared!

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Commandment 1.

Thou shalt give blood, sweat, tears – and another Xerox copy.

When you go to finalise paperwork (a bit of an oxymoron as there is always more, and never a ‘final’ ream of paper to get through) always remember to bring many, many copies of absolutely everything that pertains to the subject at hand. A vial of blood may also be handy. Add approx one ton of patience and you’re almost there.

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Commandment 2.

Thou shalt punish the liver – an evil organ.

Party etiquette. Your child  – settled in school and lisping like a local – has been invited to a friend’s birthday. Yay – a couple of free hours. Wrong. Forget pinning the tail on the mulo, or birthday games of any sort. You will also be expected to attend. The kids will be kicked into the street to play (whatever the weather) while the adults eat Russian Salad and get completely sloshed on home-made wine. There will be many of these – prepare your liver now.

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Commandment 3.

Thou shalt not poison thy neighbour’s wife.

Foreign food. Never bring a non-Spanish dish to a party. It may as well be labelled ‘radioactive polonium’. Everyone will ask you to explain what it is, what’s in it, how did you make it – but NO-ONE will eat it. You’ll be encouraged to bring it home again, where it can sit in the fridge looking reproachfully at you for 3 days before being slung in the bin. As for curry – ha.

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Commandment 4.

Thou shalt not get frustrated.

Never assume a free morning is the ideal time for popping to the bank, the doctor and the Town Hall. One thing at a time. Always. Listen to everyone’s aches and pains in line at the bank, their marital troubles in the doctor’s, and be prepare to be surprised at the Town Hall – Ayuntamiento – where you’ll be presented with another bill or ten you hadn’t known about.

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Commandment 5.

Thou shalt not arrange anything in August.

Never attempt to get anything at all done in August. Spain is closed. The roofer, gynaecologist and lawyer you desperately need to speak with are all at the beach.

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Commandment 6.

Thou shalt stay pale and interesting.

Oh no. Never go to the beach in August. In addition to it being packed out with all of the above  – see Commandment 5 – you’ll feel hopelessly, pathetically under qualified when you take out your sandwiches. Mama and extended familia next to you will have salad, wood fire cooked Paella and cold beers, coffee and cakes, and a tablecloth on a table to seat 20.

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Commandment 7.

Thou shalt be assertive.

STOP being so polite. Please and Thank You gets you nowhere. If you want another drink, bang your glass hard on the counter. Shout louder, harder, stronger.

No, we still can’t do it either.

©carolmbyrne.com

©carolmbyrne.com

Commandment 8.

Thou shalt become a supergrass.

Be prepared to tell everyone in a room how much you earn, how much you owe to the bank, how much you weigh, and the details of your sex life. In detail. Ya Está…

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Commandment 9.

Thou shalt honour the little people.

Never expect to find somewhere to eat a quiet, romantic meal, with all kids tucked up in bed. Noooo, kids stay up as late as everyone else, and are happily ignored as they scream and run in close proximity to your prawn cocktail. Grin and bear it. Tell one off at your peril. That might be a hanging offence, I’ll have to check…

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Commandment 10.

Thou shalt remain smug.

Enjoy yourself, turn your face to the sun, and your back on stress and worry. Never worriedly say “but what if…” instead wait until it might happen. Have a healthy respect for football and local fiestas, take the generous gifts of fruit and vegetables with gratitude, and you’ll soon settle into your new life in Spain.

Good choice, by the way 😉

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Photographs author’s own, Google free images and from Pixabay.

 

A Tale of a Princess

Once upon a time, in a land far, far away, on December 2nd at 16:16, a Princess was born, with golden hair and bright green eyes. (Okay, blue eyes, but they eventually turned green).

She lived with her mother, father and brother in a big, big house at the top of a big, big hill, in a strange country where the sun never shone and it always rained, and the people spoke a strange language, without vowels. (Come on, cwtch??)

This was where she learned to torment her brother mercilessly, and wrap her father around her little finger. The Evil Queen was a little harder to manipulate, but succumbed eventually.

The Princess went to school where she learned to write all her ‘d’s and ‘b’s back to front perfectly, and where she met her BFF.

She led a charmed life, stuffed her pockets with slugs and spiders, and made the Queen terrified of laundry and pockets. She wore her shoes on the wrong feet, and her favourite colour was blue. She liked to decapitate her dolls and save them for the health visitor who came to see her brother.

She went to ballet (think elephant) art (she was, and is, very arty) and made everyone very, very happy. She prayed once a week at the high altar of the Pick ‘n’ Mix counter of Woolworths. (She actually cried when she heard it closed down).

Once, she went to see a real Queen, and insisted on dressing herself and putting her shoes on the right feet. She gave the real Queen and Prince an eyeful as their car passed. Later, the Evil Queen discovered that the Princess had forgotten to wear her knickers.

One day, the family decided to move their Kingdom to a land where the sun always shone and where it never, ever rained. The Princess told her teachers and they all cried. She told her BFF, who howled and broke all our hearts. The BFF’s parents were extremely angry and stamped their feet, but were happy enough with a pilfered light fitting and a few bottles of left-over booze from the abdicating King and Queen.

The BFF was inconsolable. The Princess moved anyway. She learned a new language  – with far too many vowels – and grew even more tall and beautiful. She still tormented her brother, but loved him a bit more as time went on.

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She found new BF’s – but there’ll only ever be one BFF, L.G. x – and discovered that boys are way less complicated than girls. Except when the Princess fell in love – then boys became really complicated.

She learned to dream and think in her new language, and swear profusely. She grew up to be kind, willing, very untidy, love all creatures (2 legged and 4 legged) however mangy, and bring them home, and she still keeps the King wrapped around her little finger. She’s not terribly keen on the Queen these days, but that’ll pass, and they love each other really.

They might, possibly, all live happily ever after.

Happy Birthday

Today, as it happens, she’s 17, her lucky number, and her lucky year. Happy birthday Smelly, have a great one. xxx

 

Witchery Pokery in Spain

I am aware Hallowe’en has passed, yes.

I can hardly believe its December already though, the curse of growing older and watching time speed past me. If anyone speaks fluent Fly please let them know to buzz off for winter – we appear to have an entire grist upon us, despite living at altitude here in the Alpujarra.

Back to the witchery pokery of the title…Have you heard of the Sabia, or white witch, often found in these little white, rural villages? We have, she lives right next door in fact.

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The Sabia

Traditions and superstitions abound in the pueblos of Andalucia . The story of the Sabia or white witch is one that still endures.

Known to have powers that could cure where the village doctor failed, known to be good with nature, and often with a history of spectacular healing where traditional medicine has failed, she is regarded with esteem and never extorts money. (Although I think her palm is often crossed with silver 🙂 )

Busier than any local bar, her door is opened with regularity, especially at the weekend or during the holidays as folk from far and near – often travelling great distance – come and see her. Asking around, I’m told she once brought a child – a little girl –  from death’s door back to the here and now – the doctor’s couldn’t help her, there rests her ‘proof’, and her good reputation.

Have you heard of the Sabia before? Do you have one in your pueblo?

The Yays and Nays of UK (V Spain, of course!)

Last weekend, when I should have been attending the wonderful idea-forming WABAS conference in Antequera, we instead flew to Wet Wales to visit Uni-based son in Bangor. The clash of dates occurred due to uni reading week, in fact the same problem as I had last year.

I don’t often ‘go home’, which is, of course, Dublin. We lived in Wales prior to upping sticks to our Spanish mountain, and despite various old neighbours and friends visiting US, I have not returned to Wales in almost 10 years.  Bangor has been the boy’s choice of home for over a year now, so I thought I had better make the effort and see where he has chosen to study. Hmm, Study. Loose term, that 🙂

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So with flights booked, car hire arranged, Travelodges paid, dog-sitter cajoled, off we set last week, stopping for the night in Nerja at possibly the best value hostel in the world 🙂 If Carlsberg made hostels, well, here are the details of Hostal Abril if you wish to see for yourself.

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The weekend went swimmingly, no delays, no problems, the Boy is doing great because he’s happy and has a great bunch of totally mad and lovely mates. But, I did that old expat thing of asking myself whether I could/would ever live there again. I’ve come up with a few Yays and a smatter of Nays, do you agree?

Yay! 🙂

Sunday papers

Specifically, the Times, and the supplements to provide us with loo and bed reading for the rest of the week. I really miss Sunday Morning in bed with AA Gill.

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Autumn Colours

A leafy, tree-lined lane with the smell of rain, and woolly mittens grasping the dog lead. The views of North Wales are unbeatable. Well, if it wasn’t for THAT entry on the Nay list.

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Beer

Remember Noddy Holder “Save your thank(es), I’ll have a pit of Banks(es) “? No? Well, we were living in Wolverhampton at the time. Nothing like a decent pint, in a warm pub, with convivial company and no blasted strip lights, bullfights on telly, or Pipa mountains to trip over.

Thirsty?  Here’s a list of 24 cracking Welsh breweries to sample as soon as you can.

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Greggs Sausage Rolls

Yeah, council house trash, me. But really, you have to admit – they are the best 🙂 And Boy would simply not survive without them.

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Polite service industry

Yes please, Thank you, No problem. Friendly, smiley people at Hertz Liverpool, Llandudno and Bangor Travelodge, shops, pubs, restaurants.  Zara need to send their staff over to Blighty for a weekend’s Smile Course.

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Poundland/stretcher

It’s that common gene again. I cannot help it. Fill your boots.

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Driving

Drivers who know what to do at a roundabout.  Folk giving way and waving. Using a Zebra crossing without risk of immediate death.

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Happy dogs

I’m not saying they’re aren’t any, but I didn’t see one miserable looking starved canine all weekend.

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Nay 😦

It’s bloody filthy

I’m no Martha Stewart, in fact I’m a bit of a slob, and prefer dog hair and comfort to Febreze-ing the casa any day, but by God sticky tables and carpets seem to breed in the UK. Wet weather and carpets do not go together. The streets, public loos, the airport, they all need a power wash.

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Bouncers

More bouncers than clientèle in Wetherspoons these days. Everyone seems to like a fight to wash down their Speckled Hen. And where are kids after Gin O’Clock?  They’re all banished to make way for the gunfight at the local OK Corral. Odd.

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Drunks

Yep, the UK needs a Tapas revolution. Mucho throwing back and throwing up – seems to be something of a weekend thing. As is wearing as little as possible on a night out. Oh hang on, I did that once.

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Yeah, well, the Weather

Horizontal rain, wind, ALL the time gets a little bit boring. Those attractive leaves aren’t so great when they’re slippery and soggy, blocked drains and puddles, and view-spoilers are a big no-no for me. Hate to be so boring and regular about it, but yes, I prefer walking on sunshine. I mean, if I cannot wear Flipflops in November there’s just no point.

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Laziness

As in attitude towards day to day stuff.  Do it for me, click a button, have it delivered. NHS, Banks, even shopping. Is it because we have to do everything the long and tiresome way here in Spain that it was so obvious to me? The British tourists ‘stranded’ in Sharm el-Sheikh as a prime example. Whining and whinging over the media about having to stay a few extra days in what is now, probably, the safest place on earth. You chose a cheap holiday in what is essentially a guarded compound between war zones – so accept the risks. Don’t engage in the media sport of destroying their tourist industry just because your fortnight was cut short.  You all have it a bit easy in the UK – you should appreciate what you have and harden up a little.

Apologies for the rant, kind of slipped in. So…What’s on your Yay/Nay list? 🙂