The Beer Run and a Bomb Shelter

With the beer shelf of the fridge looking sadly empty we interrupted our morning to take a quick trip to Adra and our current favourite shop for essentials –  Lidl.

We timed it right as there was 50% off the second bottle of most of the ‘nice’ beer labels, so we threw Belgium, the Czech Republic, and Germany into the trolley with some of their Italian range of food and headed back.

“Fancy a look at the museum while we’re here?” asked Museum Man Stan. (I wish he felt the same about the beach)

I did, so… we did.

Entering the museum, the nice chap at reception turned on the lights and gave us a few pointers for looking around – then asked where we were from. “Ireland  – piped up Museum Man Stan – he almost always refuses to admit to his Queen and country – Er, Alpujarras, we live in the Alpujarras.”

Nice chap: “Which part?”

Stan: “Murtas”.

Nice Man: “Ah Murtaaaa  – a big smile – (it’s always the same reaction). My family were from there in the 1800’s….There’s also another foreigner there, an Englishman, a photographer, do you know him?”

Soy yo, (That would be me)” admitted the Honorary Irishman.

Apparently, they had met years ago, when Nice Chap visited the village and he purchased one of Stan’s photographs that was displayed in the bar – giving him his contact details and asking for more, explaining that Nice Chap was in fact the tecnico cultural for Adra, and he wanted to do an exhibition of the Honorary Irishman’s work. Yay.

Except the Honorary Eeejit lost the details and never followed it up.

So, fast forward to this morning.  Nice Chap turned out to be Javier Sanchez Real, author of Farua, that annual cultural book on Adra, in addition to his tourism/cultural role, and a mine of info on Adra.

We promised to come back armed with camera and notebook – because the museum is seriously good,  and I’ll cover more on it in another post, but do go – and he gave Hon Eejit all the details again, as unbelievably he is still interested. He’s also love me to write some info in English 🙂

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Photo from http://www.adraturismo.com/en/quehacer/visitas-guiadas.html

Javier then directed us down the street to the ancient town walls, and instructed us to claim a key from a bar, saying he sent us 🙂 which would enable us to have a private look inside the Civil War bomb shelter, which we duly did. It was fascinating, and was also used to shelter those who walked the route from Málaga to Almería as detailed in the book The Crime on the Road by Norman Bethune. Paul Read  – Forgotten Stories From Spain: The Ambulance Man And The Spanish Civil War is another great read on the same subject.

So that was our rather interesting morning…yours?

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? 🙂

British Territory allows ‘Swarm’ of Migrants through.

In fact, they were welcomed with open arms just this weekend.  You didn’t know?  Where have you been?

Crowds pushed through and sailed through passport control, welcomed with gusto. They crossed a busy border strait, with two different oceans on either side, and didn’t even have to get their toes wet.  Lost children were safely plucked from the sea of people at various times during the day, and handed safely back to their designer-clad parents.

The crowd carried few belongings, mostly fresh drinking water, and a few snacks for the long queue ahead, as well as their documentation. They were identifiable once inside the fenced secure compound by their wristbands and entry papers.

But this was no war, no running for your life, no sweat.  The migrants were of many nationalities, three different passport holders in our little group of five.

Where was I?

It was Gibraltar Music Festival – where the migrants carried money – lots of it – and we all went safely home at the end of the two day festival.

A cashless event – the wristbands, or smartbands,  were ‘loaded’ up so no money was exchanged at the many food and drink outlets.

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Copyright David Johnston

Driving home – I idly wondered allowed whether any of us had money (non-refundable) left over on our smartbands.  Oddly, we all had a quid or two (maybe not so strange, as the drinks were not a rounded up price)

Hmm, so if we all had an average of £2 left, and there were 15,000 revellers….well,you do the maths. Perhaps a timely donation to the real refugee crisis?  No that would be smart marketing.

Spanish Dreams? Reality Bites

“Are you mad?  Ah – go for it – lucky ba$tar*s.  Can we have your furniture?”

I admit most of our friends took the realistic approach when we shared the fact we were decamping from our very normal life to a leaking shack/money pit 1115 metres up a Spanish mountain.

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But, wait, stay right there.  This is not a “Hey look at us, didn’t we do well” lifestyle post.

It’s been, well, great – and almost 10 years on we are happy enough with our lot – although it has not always been easy.

Especially the cold and hard winters we have endured since we arrived with boxes of linen and cotton clothes, and a selection of flip-flops – our woolies and 15 tog quilts gaily abandoned in a Newport skip.

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©Carol Byrne

 

But –  this is the middle of summer.  Spanish summer.  The sun has got his sombrero on. Woop – right?

The expectation

Calls from home – wet and windy Ireland calling…

“You must have a great colour”

“How blue is the sky?” (This last one usually asked through gritted teeth, as in Ireland we wear the sky as a grey bobble hat)

“You’re off for dinner? Oh imagine, sitting OUT”

“Saw your area on A Place In The Sun – it looked FABULOUS.”   Er, no, you didn’t.  Just Christopher Columbus and us made it this far up a blasted mountain.  Maybe Mallory if he was lost.

Image of a glossy highway sign on blue sky

The reality

Actually no.  I’m a faded brown, sort of sludge colour.

Why? Well, since our day (note the singular) on the beach this year, when we overdid the idea of a day off and turned deep Gamba pink, we haven’t sunbathed.

I did buy a relaxer-lounger garden chair, but haven’t managed to sink my bum in it once.

Why?

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Wiki commons

 

 

It’s too bloody hot.

So, envy-filled friends and family, imagine a different picture.

Closed shutters, drawn curtains.

The fan whirring and pushing hot air around.  Re-runs of A Place In The Sun on TV.

Flies.  Big flies.  Flies that might normally be indicative of a dead body in close proximity.

Little flies.  No-Sees.  They salsa through the mozzie nets, laughing at us, and with needle precision torment us all night.

We eat out – sure we do.  At 11 or 12 in the darkness when it’s cool enough, the mosquitoes have us for postre as we sit there sweating and heavy breathing.

Entertainment is mostly checking the dogs for ticks.  And then checking us for ticks. *Shudder*

So, dear friends and family, look fondly at that ‘soft weather’ – and be bloody grateful.

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9 signs you’ve settled in

Moving to Spain means a transition in mindset and lifestyle as well as geographical relocation.  You might be immediately comfortable, or wonder if you’ll ever settle in.

But watch out.  There are signs that will show if you do – so here are 9 to look out for:   🙂

1. Flat feet. Wide feet.  Feet 2 whole sizes larger than the ones that first excitedly entered Spain.  Your flip-flops are your best friend.  No longer do you breathlessly lust over Blahniks – your high arches and post-party foot aches are a thing of the distant past.

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2. It becomes perfectly normal – indeed absolutely necessary –  to shout loudly “Who was last?” as you walk through the door of anywhere with a queue.  The medico, the bank, anywhere.

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3. Although there are 20 impatient people huffing behind you, the bank counter seems like the ideal spot to discuss  your impending operation in full detail, with gusto.

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4. Slippers are as important in winter as flip-flops in summer.  The perfect footwear to go shopping in.  Team them with that furry housecoat and you will set off your outfit perfectly. Go for the full village experience and buy them from the travelling van with the megaphone.

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5. Market clothes start to look like an attractive possibility. Elastic is a definite possibility.  Big knickers a complete necessity.

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6. The neighbours have started to actually eat the food you bring to gatherings.  Of course they do, you’re using their recipes.  You have banished all manner of spice and stopped hankering for a Jalfrezi. The only Naan in your life is the one that sends you a birthday card.

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7. You fully accept that inviting the neighbours round for a dinner party results in their bringing the entire clan.  Granny in the corner sucking on a bit of Jamón, 20 kids eating something lurid and staining, whilst jumping all over your white Bauhaus sofa.  Get over it.

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8. Brandy or Anis and coffee sounds perfectly reasonable at 8am.

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9. You have developed an interest in the Spanish TV soaps, but only at full volume. and the quiz shows, the word games.  But just to improve your vocabulary, right?  And wearing that slipper and housecoat ensemble.

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Don’t say I didn’t warn you.  As soon as these signs appear, it’s too late – you’re already done for.

24 things about love and marriage… …no horse, no carriage

Shoes

On Food

He dislikes celery, tarragon, mustard and yoghurt.  I like everything except innards.  But I do like Callos, which is essentially a bowlful of pig’s innards.

We love Middle Eastern flavours – no meal is ever complete without the magic of spice.

We both love to cook and hate to be criticized on our efforts.

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On heated discussions

I shout.  He sulks.

I throw.  He ducks.

I have a smart mouth – he has a patient(ish) nature and knows when to shut up.

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On the arts

We love art – our first date was Warhol at the South Bank.  It was shite so we went for a pint. That was better.

We once went to Paris on the proceeds of something very dodgy and spent all our money on cheap Left Bank food and a very expensive book on Dali – there was an exhibition on in a fancy hotel where all the guests smelled of money.

We love music.  All music.  The Kindle might actually be fused to his left hand.

On family

Our kids have (perhaps unfortunately for them) a mixture of our looks and personalities – but are like chalk and cheese.

The best noise in the world is a houseful of our kids and their mates having a great time.  No matter how many or how loud.  Spanish kids are LOUD.

Both of us are hopelessly disorganised – it’s lovely.  Our kids at all ages and past times jump out from the most unexpected places – pictures in drawers and boxes. We’ve never had a photo album except our wedding album.  And I’m not actually sure I know where that is.

On growing up

Still not managed it.  Despite the bigger numbers – it doesn’t seem likely in the near future.

We love a party, and always will.

We drive everyone mad because we speak at the same time.  Wear earplugs to our house.

On work

These days?  A little role-reversal.  Work to live – never live to work.

He’s my cha-cha.  We have all realised I was always rubbish at housework.

But I can spell. He can’t do that – uh-uh.

On Social Media

He doesn’t even know his own telephone number.  Nope.  Not happening.

I, well…you know that already.

On Spain

We have a mutual dislike of bingo playing, fish and chip eating, and chavvy twat expats.  But we enjoy finding the other kind and spending time with them.

We love it here – after 9+ years we’re still discovering something new in every day.

But…

The one thing we do miss about England…is Sunday morning and the papers in bed.  And gigs.  Live music.

Strange but true

I once walked him to Peckham station in the early hours and went home to bed. An hour or so later, I  got up, showered, breakfasted, caught a number 63 bus, then a train and went down to Victoria to catch a tube one more stop to work at Sloane Sq.  As the doors opened he was sitting there.  He had fallen asleep and, well…ever seen that movie Sliding Doors?

The difference between Spanish and Expat parents

kids calm

Well, can you spot the differences?  An example.

Idling around a quiet hotel pool recently, the only sound to break the idyll was a gentle murmuring from other guests, and just the scrape of a sun-bed being positioned, or the ppffft aerosol of more SPF applied and of course the laughter of happy kids in the water.

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The low wail that led to a screech like a fire engine, sudden and LOUD, made us all sit up and focus towards one end of the pool, as the lifeguard jumped in with a panicked splash and emerged with a girl of about 7, hands to her face and blood gushing forth.

Her parents were next to us, Padre slowly levered himself up putting down his book and Madre walked with no particular hurry to the shower area where the lifeguard was sluicing the kid down.

She had smashed her front tooth – and was inconsolable.  Wails of “I want to go home” and “I miss my friends”, “I’m ugly now” mingled with snot, sobs, tears and big shuddering intakes of breath.  Madre placated, cuddled and crooned, and after 5 minutes pushed her off and told her to shut the F**k up. Padre went back to his book.

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Which is about typical.  I had to giggle – she was pushing for the underage Oscars.  Everyone nodded, smiled and went back to sunbed arranging and SPF application  The kid shut up.  She forgot about her tooth and went back in the pool.

I turned over to face the sun and spied an expat couple who sat at the side of the kids pool (about 1 foot deep) whilst their kids played. Constant cries with loudly projected voices of “Play nicely Thomas”  “Be careful Jake” “No splashing your brother” accompanied them.  When they left, flustered, anything but relaxed, with their equipment and kitchen sink, kids in all-in-one suits and Tintin-type swim hats – it was only about 22 degrees –  Mum and Dad fussed and held their hands and instructed not to walk too close to the pool. They were just short of a lead.

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What if they had fallen in?  Well, I guess someone might have fished them out.

Have we become fussier?  What happened to risks and tough love? When I fell over as a kid  – most days – I got a splash of iodine, a sugar sandwich, and was sent back out to play, the blood hastily wiped as it ran and congealed into my once-white sock. A lovely big knee scab afterwards that would itch and beg to be picked along the edges as it healed.  Like a big fruit pastille.  I still have the lumps and marks today. My mother was right about the picking.

So, can you spot the difference?