No Good News But No Bad News!

Not good news but no explicit bad news; just “it’s complicated”!

I had the MRI brain scan last Sunday (26th June) and the consultation with Dr. Hatfield today (28th June) because I emailed Kate Casey to tell her I didn’t have a scan follow up consultation appointment and she booked me into the very next clinic.

Because of the short period between the scan and the consultation the scan “has not been reported on “. Which seems to mean that the Consultant Radiologist has not scrutinised it thoroughly, nevertheless Dr. Hatfield said that nothing new had jumped out at him looking through it. The implied news being no new tumours!

Now for the “it’s complicated” bit. While there were/are no new tumours to treat they have now treated the two old areas twice. That is the original tumour excision site in the Cerebellum and the 10mm tumour in the Optic Chiasma that they found and treated in March when I mentioned the flashing stars that I first experienced in Costa Coffee in The County Hotel in Durham in Feb 2015.

The next scan was clear, and a good job too as I was in Chemotherapy March through August. The sites had shrunk more but the VMS or seizure as Dr. Hatfield has characterised it means I have been put on Keppra (Leviteracetam) for the duration.

The next scan in November at a nominal nine months wasn’t clear. And almost a year on two new tumours had appeared next to each of the previous tumour sites. As the Gamma Knife had been ‘refuelled’ and upgraded they could treat the two sites, when previously we had been told that the Gamma Knife was a one-shot treatment device. So within two weeks I was back in/under the Gamma Knife.

This three month checkup time around, this time being June, the results were not a qualified all clear. Actually this is where the quote “it’s a bit more complicated” came into play. The follow up consultation was just four days after the scan due to Kate the manager’s intervention when I raised the concern that while I’d had the scan appointment a month ahead in good time but I didn’t have a consultation letter. Dr. Hatfield opened by saying that the scan “had not been reported” but looking at it he did not seen any obvious sign of new tumours. But there is a “thickening” to one side of the original surgery site and changes in the optic site. This time Dr. Hatfield was adamant that this time re-treatment was absolutely not an option. So no obvious new tumours but changes around the original sites that are impossible to determine are due to new disease activity or due to scarring cum healing going on. Only time will tell, so its the start of another three month period of marking time and waiting.

In response to my feedback of the trend of headaches following the last treatment that receded and then increased again through late May into June Dr. Hatfield has put me onto a week of low dose steroids, Dexamethasone, and then ‘weaning off’ it over three weeks. Unfortunately over the next couple of days the low dose of steroid did not resolve the headaches.

2016 Spring Trip To Spain – The Final Day

We never sleep well the night before departure and last night was no exception. It wasn’t helped by the fact that my IBS went into overdrive. That stands for Irritable Bowel Syndrome but on days like this I suffer from BFBS – Bloody Furious Bowel Syndrome. I took some ibuprofen to calm down the bowel inflammation and that got me through the morning but didn’t take any with me. In retrospect I didn’t check the ingredients on the packet so if the tablets’ binder was wheat starch, I could well have made myself worse. Needless to say the day has not been easy because of it.

Packing and closing up the house was progressing nicely when the gardeners came in The Company Limo to spray all the aphid infested plants. The Company Limo is an ancient, once-upon-a-time red Toyota 4 x 4 with no back window. They are lovely lads and one is a seriously fit piece of eye candy. The other one wasn’t half bad either, they both had muscles on their spit. Sorry ladies, my camera was all packed away so I didn’t get any photos of them. Next trip perhaps! We gave them a jar of Mermelada Volcanica each and they were delighted.

Sadly The Company Limo would not start and because our drive is on a slope I got serious view of how those muscles worked as they tried to push it up the slope and out on to the road. All was to no avail but made very nice viewing. So they went across the road to our new French neighbour who has a tow bar on his vehicle, fortunately, and he towed them out on to the road so that they could bump start it. Time to pay for some maintenance on The Company Limo Perran.

Once all the packing was done it was time to load the car, load the dehumidifiers, put dust covers over all the furniture then do the rounds of neighbours to say our goodbyes and deliver jam and unused groceries. We got a delightful goodbye e-mail from Ula and Jürgen to wish us well on our journey but in the event we were able to say goodbye personally and deliver the jams and chutneys. We also gave jams and chutneys to the new French neighbour who helped tow The Company Limo out, and he too was delighted. He seems like a lovely chap and that has opened the way to a positive relationship. See, if you want to spread a little happiness, spread a little jam.

Next it was delivering unused groceries to Audrey and having a brief cuppa and chat with her and Keith, after which we said goodbye to Robert and Marijke. Audrey, Keith, Robert and Marijke already had their jams and chutneys. After all the deliveries we are down to 18 jars and a few sample jars from this trip’s production and way down on the chutney made last September. Recipients were grateful that it is ready for eating now. When I give it to them freshly made they have to wait at least three months do for it to mature and I tell them that it is even better after six months.

Jam delivery and goodbyes all done, we set off fro Alicante at around 13.00 and got to the car park in Alicante at around 14.00. After a brief sojourn into El Corte Inglés and on finding that their restaurant was closed for refurbishment, we went to a familiar venue, El Prego for lunch. I was feeling nauseous and didn’t eat much but Garrath enjoyed his pizza. After that we took a stroll down the promenade and stopped for more tea, water and toilet stops. The weather was gorgeous. In fact we had to move into the shade.

A gentle amble back to the car park was followed by driving to the airport via a route determined by Apple Maps. I took the wrong turning and as luck would have it, it turned out to be be a better route that the Apple Maps one because it allowed us to drive directly to the Victoria Rent A Car depot without having to pass it on the wrong side of the dual carriageway then double back at a later junction. I shall remember that one for a future trip.

Checking in luggage was quick and easy as was security. Waiting at the airport for your flight to be called is always monumentally tedious, but hey, they get you to and from your destination so it has to be tolerated with as much good grace as you can muster. They claim to have free wifi but it is always flaky, so I simply concentrated on writing this blog.

Earwigging provided little in the way of entertainment, just serial, fatuous prattle, which brings me back to and often repeated question, what can’t people say nothing when they have nothing to say? It did stimulate another verse though –

I think I’ve lost the art of conversation,
I think that I’ve forgotten all the rules,
I don’t know how to join in empty prattle,
I simply can’t communicate with fools.

I’d rather not go on about the weather,
The weather’s what it is and that is that,
And going on about it will not change it,
So I shut my mouth and wear a coat and hat.

I hate it when I hear people complaining
Whilst knowing that they’ll never, ever care
To rectify the problem that they’re blethering about,
But moan, creating wearisome hot air.

I haven’t any time for so-called small talk,
Small talk says the person’s mind is small,
I’d rather not engage with such a person,
I really don’t have time for them at all.

I’m glad I’ve lost the art of conversation,
By deliberately flouting all the rules,
I’m glad I won’t join in with empty prattle,
It means that I stay clear of moaning fools.


Ugh,throughout the flight and I felt absolutely dire! Somebody or something set my gut on fire and I don’t know how to put it out! Pleeeeeeeeeease, can this be over soon? In case you accuse me of pointless moaning, I called into WH Smith at the airport after getting through the baggage check and customs intending to buy some heavyweight Ibuprofen having first checked what kind of starch it contained, but it was shut. Thank goodness my glass half full attitude made me grateful that this didn’t happen while we were on holiday.

AA taxis were there in double quick time and after a small altercation with the exit gate, the charming driver got us home promptly. We now know exactly which speed cameras are live along Leeds road, always useful to kn2016 Spring Trip To Spain – The Final Day

We never sleep well the night before departure and last night was no exception. It wasn’t helped by the fact that my IBS went into overdrive. That stands for Irritable Bowel Syndrome but on days like this I suffer from BFBS – Bloody Furious Bowel Syndrome. I took some ibuprofen to calm down the bowel inflammation and that got me through the morning but didn’t take any with me. In retrospect I didn’t check the ingredients on the packet so if the tablets’ binder was wheat starch, I could well have made myself worse. Needless to say the day has not been easy because of it.

Packing and closing up the house was progressing nicely when the gardeners came in The Company Limo to spray all the aphid infested plants. The Company Limo is an ancient, once-upon-a-time red Toyota 4 x 4 with no back window. They are lovely lads and one is a seriously fit piece of eye candy. The other one wasn’t half bad either, they both had muscles on their spit. Sorry ladies, my camera was all packed away so I didn’t get any photos of them. Next trip perhaps! We gave them a jar of Mermelada Volcanica each and they were delighted.

Sadly The Company Limo would not start and because our drive is on a slope I got serious view of how those muscles worked as they tried to push it up the slope and out on to the road. All was to no avail but made very nice viewing. So they went across the road to our new French neighbour who has a tow bar on his vehicle, fortunately, and he towed them out on to the road so that they could bump start it. Time to pay for some maintenance on The Company Limo Perran.

Once all the packing was done it was time to load the car, load the dehumidifiers, put dust covers over all the furniture then do the rounds of neighbours to say our goodbyes and deliver jam and unused groceries. We got a delightful goodbye e-mail from Ula and Jürgen to wish us well on our journey but in the event we were able to say goodbye personally and deliver the jams and chutneys. We also gave jams and chutneys to the new French neighbour who helped tow The Company Limo out, and he too was delighted. He seems like a lovely chap and that has opened the way to a positive relationship. See, if you want to spread a little happiness, spread a little jam.

Next it was delivering unused groceries to Audrey and having a brief cuppa and chat with her and Keith, after which we said goodbye to Robert and Marijke. Audrey, Keith, Robert and Marijke already had their jams and chutneys. After all the deliveries we are down to 18 jars and a few sample jars from this trip’s production and way down on the chutney made last September. Recipients were grateful that it is ready for eating now. When I give it to them freshly made they have to wait at least three months do for it to mature and I tell them that it is even better after six months.

Jam delivery and goodbyes all done, we set off fro Alicante at around 13.00 and got to the car park in Alicante at around 14.00. After a brief sojourn into El Corte Inglés and on finding that their restaurant was closed for refurbishment, we went to a familiar venue, El Prego for lunch. I was feeling nauseous and didn’t eat much but Garrath enjoyed his pizza. After that we took a stroll down the promenade and stopped for more tea, water and toilet stops. The weather was gorgeous. In fact we had to move into the shade.

A gentle amble back to the car park was followed by driving to the airport via a route determined by Apple Maps. I took the wrong turning and as luck would have it, it turned out to be be a better route that the Apple Maps one because it allowed us to drive directly to the Victoria Rent A Car depot without having to pass it on the wrong side of the dual carriageway then double back at a later junction. I shall remember that one for a future trip.

Checking in luggage was quick and easy as was security. Waiting at the airport for your flight to be called is always monumentally tedious, but hey, they get you to and from your destination so it has to be tolerated with as much good grace as you can muster. They claim to have free wifi but it is always flaky, so I simply concentrated on writing this blog.

Earwigging provided little in the way of entertainment, just serial, fatuous prattle, which brings me back to an often repeated question, what can’t people say nothing when they have nothing to say? It did stimulate another verse though –

I think I’ve lost the art of conversation,
I think that I’ve forgotten all the rules,
I don’t know how to join in empty prattle,
I simply can’t communicate with fools.

I’d rather not go on about the weather,
The weather’s what it is and that is that,
And going on about it will not change it,
So I shut my mouth and wear a coat and hat.

I hate it when I hear people complaining
Whilst knowing that they’ll never, ever care
To rectify the problem that they’re blethering about,
But moan, creating wearisome hot air.

I haven’t any time for so-called small talk,
Small talk says the person’s mind is small,
I’d rather not engage with such a person,
I really don’t have time for them at all.

I’m pleased I’ve lost the art of conversation,
By deliberately flouting all the rules,
I’m glad I won’t join in with empty prattle,
It means that I stay clear of moaning fools.


Ugh,throughout the flight and I felt absolutely dire! Somebody or something set my gut on fire and I don’t know how to put it out! Pleeeeeeeeeease, can this be over soon? In case you accuse me of pointless moaning, I called into WH Smith at the airport after getting through the baggage check and customs intending to buy some heavyweight Ibuprofen having first checked what kind of starch it contained, but it was shut. Thank goodness my glass half full attitude made me grateful that this didn’t happen while we were on holiday.

AA taxis were there in double quick time and after a small altercation with the exit gate, the charming driver got us home promptly. We now know exactly which speed cameras are live along Leeds road, always useful to know, and I am sitting in bed, drinking very strong lemon & ginger tea in the hope that it helps to settle my gut which is still absolute agony. FIngers crossed. See how dedicated I am to my readers!ow, and I am sitting in bed, drinking very strong lemon & ginger tea in the hope that it helps to settle my gut which is still absolute agony. FIngers crossed. See how dedicated I am to my readers!

2016 Spring Trip To Spain – Day 16

2016 Spring Trip To Spain – Day 16

Today is our last full day in Spain so I expected Garrath to be on a bit of a downer, and indeed he was. I am a stoic, I accept the inevitable and I am determinedly positive, but Garrath is not. He is definitely of the glass half empty faction whereas I see an empty glass and declare,

“Wheeee, we have the potential for champagne.”

An easy going start to the day was followed by a slow meander down to The Chicken Shack for tea and free wifi before we repaired to La Viña De Calpé for a posh lunch. The young man who serves there had told me on a previous visit that he loves chillies so we took him half a dozen sample jars of chilli jam and hot chutney. He and the owner we’re delighted at the gesture. So you see, if you want to spread a little happiness, spread a little jam!

Lunch was delicious and very upmarket as usual with four starters, a main course, dessert, and for a change for me, a glass of wine. Starters (all very small) were beetroot gazpacho with Serrano ham, chicken strips with a sauce, prawns with sausage and chick peas then eel with curry sauce. We had a meat and vegetable paella for the main course and it was a delightful twist on traditional paella with added, luxury delights like artichokes which we love. Dessert was a wickedly indulgent chocolate mousse with ginger and orange adapted for me by substituting the biscuit crumbs with truffles. I think I got the best of the deal so I gave one of my truffles to Garrath.

After tea and coffee and saying our goodbyes it seemed like a good idea to take a long last walk along Playa De La Fossa. This we did in blazing sunshine and a brisk breeze. I had brought my camera trundly with me so I managed to get some beach and Peñon shots, and even though the beach was sparsely populated, I managed to get a few for a post dedicated to Lifesnapper.

We stopped for teas and wees at the end of the playa then made our way back just in time for beer and wine o’clock at The Chicken Shack. We were looking for a relaxed last evening, but then the ‘entertainment’ started up. They are English, they claim to be singers, but unfortunately they seem to regard notes as movable feasts and their idea of dynamic is spelled die-namic. Part way through their ‘act’ the male note drifter said,

“I think we ought to speed things up and cheer things up a bit” whereupon Garrath said to me,

“Them going home right now would help!” I think we are in for a continuation of their off note renditions of terminally tedious numbers, mainly 60’s and 70’s numbers that reminded us just how much rubbish made the hit parade in those days. Maybe the it performance will make Garrath feel better about going back to the UK tomorrow?

They are taking a 15 minute break now and guess what, they have prolonged the torture by putting one of their own CD’s. At least it is marginally better than their live performance but pleeeeeeeease, give us a break! As I suspected, their egos are much bigger than their talents.

The last day here is always hard, particularly for Garrath. He had hoped to be retired and living here by now but his cancers have taken that future away. I never thought that possible for reasons that some of you will know already so it is less of a disappointment for me. We both love the place and it would have been lovely if that had been possible, but the situation is what it is and we have to make the best of it.

In the circumstances we are very fortunate to live so close to the Bexley Wing of St James’ hospital in Leeds, the biggest oncology institute in Europe. Without the excellent treatment he has received there, he would not be alive now to regret not being able to live here.

Oh jeez the caterwauling nostalgics are back again! In view of the fact that Garrath has told me that sticking my fingers in my ears is very rude, I think a very large brandy is necessary to help me survive! Garrath has just come out with another gem,

“This set makes The Isle Of Wight seem bang up to date!” (Remember, I pointed out in a previous blog that going to The Isla Of Wight was like stepping back in time.) He also warned me that the ‘artistes ‘ are wandering round with radio mikes and said,

“If they come over here, do not make eye contact, do not engage!” Them wandering round and demanding that people join in with the chorus of ‘Delilah’ confirmed the wisdom of this instruction.

Tomorrow will be busy, packing, closing up the house, saying goodbyes them off to Alicante to spend some time in that delightful city before our flight departs at 20:20. I love Alicante, such an elegant city and the late flight allows us to spend some time there. The fact that my camera kit is in hand luggage will allow me to get some photographs too. I will probably write my blog on the plane and post it after we land, so it will be a late one Carol!

THE END – well almost!

2016 Spring Trip To Spain – Day 15

This is a post that I intended to start, finish and post much earlier, after our trip to Pedregeur in fact, but the Sofa Siesta cushion grabbed me, pinned me to the cushion and insisted that I leave the world of consciousness for a full hour, after which we had to repair to Keith and Audrey’s for an evening of drink and chat, and delivering condiments of course. After an evening of Audrey’s generosity with gin and meanness with tonic, I was in no fit state to complete it when we returned home. So sorry Carol, it is a retrospective blog today, written the morning after.

Back to the start of the day, the usual routine of me getting up a couple of hours earlier than Garrath was followed by him joining me, drinking tea then getting into the routine of bathing, dressing and preparing to go out to lunch, just Garrath and I, to the restaurant in Pedregeur.

This time the drive there was much better with no overloaded wagons blocking the road at a snail’s pace, no grandad drivers dithering in front of me (grandad drivers can be any age and either sex) and no hold ups so we got to Pedregeur early. In fact I was probably abuelo (grandfather in Spanish) to the local drivers who overtook me at high speed because I had the effrontery to stick to the speed limits. Machismo is alive and well and living behind the steering wheel in Spain!

When we arrived at the restaurant we were greeted warmly by the delightful lady server and shown to our reserved table. There was no need to show her my card, she remembered my dietary needs and we settled down to another excellent lunch. It started with a lovely salad, then came the most amazing platter of starters – tortilla de patatas, broad beans with sausage and fried quails eggs, pork stew and prawn skewers. Other diners got small, savoury vol au vents rather than the prawn skewers, so the dish was adapted for me. The broad bean dish and the pork stew each came in a mini paella pan and the rest on one of those trendy, long, rectangular plates. Everything was absolutely delicious.

I could make a main course of the broad bean dish alone and probably will when we get back home IF I can find a source of broad beans. They seem to be as easy to find as rocking horse droppings in the UK. Maybe, like our fish catch, we sell the whole crop to Spain.

In the absence of broad beans as a main course I chose the chicken with rice and Garrath chose the Cordon Bleu – a dish of meat (pork in this case) wrapped around ham and cheese, then breaded and pan-fried or deep-fried. Restaurants give him the opportunity for a gluten fest, something he never gets at home.

The chicken was delicious and the charming lady server explained with pride that the chicken was cooked with Coca Cola. That is another one that I will be replicating when I get back to the UK. Garrath ate every crumb off his plate including the peas cooked with bacon, so I am guessing that his too was delicious.

The chef at La Trador takes great pride in his work as does the naturally charming lady who greeted us. Her objective is to engage, to accommodate, to serve and to please her customers. We are so accustomed to the English styles of service, service with a snarl, ingratiating service or bolted on, corporate, customer care, that being served by attentive, charming staff who have a genuine desire to please comes as a shock.

OK, who has Irish relatives and who snitched the name and location of La Trador to them? Come on, own up! It must have been one of you! No matter, they sat on the table next to us made good earwigging material and I had a good enough view of the control-freak matriarch and her henpecked partner to illustrate them later. The two young women, one of them a loud, exhibitionist vegetarian, were just a mass of hair and noise from where I was seated. I was tempted to lean over and say,

“OK madam so you’re a vegetarian, but really, does the whole restaurant have to know about it, and if we do what do you expect of us? A round of applause?” However I restrained myself because if that was the only way she could wrest attention away from the control freak matriarch, fair enough.

Even though the multiple starters and main courses were substantial we ordered desserts working on what we refer to as ‘The trickle down theory.’ That is that desserts somehow manage to trickle down the gaps. I chose Fresas con Nata – strawberries with cream – while Garrath had the real, trickle down dessert, Helado Chocolate (pronounced chock oh lah tay) – Chocolate Ice Cream. After that we finished the repast with green tea for me and coffee for Garrath, paid the princely sum €20 and left.

While we were in the restaurant it rained, quite heavily too but not for long. I was relieved though that our reputation as rainmakers remains untarnished!

Garrath had consulted Apple maps and promised a new, interesting way home but in the event it was just one we knew already with a minor, uninteresting shortcut, so no photographs from yesterday. No matter, I am going to lug my camera kit with me to La Viña De Calpé today then take a troll down the promenade along Playa De La Fossa in order to collect material for a post dedicated to Lifesnapper! The two Carols, Colleen, Annette, Andrew and Kate will understand this.

When we got back from the restaurant all my good intentions were ruined by the Sofa Siesta cushion who grabbed me and had me dead to the world for an hour, after which it was time to gather the stuff necessary to visit Keith and Audrey, multiple jars of jams and chutneys, a bottle of gin and some cans of tonic.

The evening with them was, as ever, pleasant, filled with lively and interesting conversation and multiple gin and tonics, so the end of the evening was a wee bit fuzzy! When we came home I made futile attempt to write my blog but quickly realised that drinking gin and typing coherent sentences is an impossible combination so I retired to bed.

All in all another wonderful day filled with good food, good gin and good friendship.

2016 Spring Trip To Spain – Day 14

Yet another interesting day that started with me rising early and Garrath joining me a couple of hours later. He has always needed more sleep than me but now, with his anti seizure meds, he is knackered much of the time. Still, as I keep reminding him, it beats the hell out of being dead and as he keeps reminding everybody, he is still walking, talking and chewing gum – except for the fact that he doesn’t chew gum but hey, one should never let the facts get in the way of a good cliché!

I have almost forgiven him for posting the name and location of the restaurant we went to yesterday, but I reserve the right to berate him when we find it full of English expats. I think we will be safe when we go there tomorrow, but word travels like wildfire in the expat communities here, so we might not be safe in a week or so.

Once Garrath got up we went through the usual, lengthy breakfasting, ablutions, dressing and preparing routine ready for going out with our Dutch friends, Robert & Marijke to Moraira for lunch. We set off early so that I could call in to one of my favourite, glittery things shop, Onix Art, just near the restaurant. Needless to say I added to my collection with a very heavy, pure silver chain with huge links, the like of which would be impossible to purchase in the UK. It was expensive, but hey, there are no pockets in shrouds and if I am poverty stricken in my dotage I will be able to sell glittery stuff to sustain myself. I bought some silver earrings too. Garrath reckons that when I visit Moraira I sustain that shop’s accounts for a week. So be it. Being a socially and economically aware person, I feel a responsibility to support the local economy!!!

This time the restaurant venue was another favourite, Meson El Refugio. We are now known there to such a degree that we got the Spanish two kiss greeting on departure. Lunch was a lovely, relaxed affair and conversation was easy as always. All in all a lovely experience.

You will not be at all surprised when I tell you that the road to Moraira is yet another hairpin special with cliff side drops to the sea on one side and tall, retaining walls on the other in many sections. So many accidents have happened there because of drivers cutting corners and crossing the white line on bends that a lot of concrete barriers have been put in place along the centre of the road with pillars at the road edges. Sadly, on the bends without concrete barriers, lots of drivers still cross the white line so driving there is a road edge hugging, scary experience. Fortunately for us all, I made it both ways without incident. Today was one more reason to christen this holiday The Hairpin Holiday.

After driving back we went into the house to collect jams and chutneys for Robert and Marijke, then joined them at their house for tea, chat, and for Garrath to continue his new love affair with their new dog, Tikus 2. Tikus seems a singularly appropriate name since I found ticks on her when we were last at their house. Since then she has been groomed and treated so should be safe from the evil little bastards for a month! She is a delightful little dog and she absolutely adores Garrath.

On the way back from their house we stopped to share some important legal information with our Spanish/Canadian neighbours. We have known Marie and Pascual for many years and always got along with them well. Sadly Pascual, who is 87 now, is suffering serious dementia. Marie told us the other day that he is much better now that he is on new medication, much calmer and less violent, and he was certainly affable enough this evening, though obviously not with the level of awareness that he once had.

I feel for Marie and for anyone else in her situation having to deal with this. It is so sad when the mind goes but the body remains, for everybody concerned, not least for the sufferer. I do hope that my body packs in before my mind does and my greatest immediate fear is that Garrath’s recurring brain tumours affect his consciousness or lead to violent behaviours. But if they do, we just have to deal with it. Jeez, cheerful stuff. On to more positive things.

We are returning La Tardor in Pedregeur tomorrow for lunch, you know, THE ONE I INTENDED TO KEEP SECRET! We will take the N332 on the way there, an only moderately hairpin route, but we will return via a seriously hairpin, helter-skelter ride through the mountains, a last chance opportunity for wild flower and pretty view shots. The mountain road is a real delight with unexpected, dramatic shots around every bend. Stopping places are few and far between so it a pity that I can no longer be a passenger and take shots on the move because this is a new route to us. What the hell, I have a huge collection of in car shots from other hairpin jaunts so they will have to suffice.

After sharing info with Marie and Pascual we returned to the house to collect our iPads and walked down to The Chicken Shack, for me to write this blog and to avail ourselves of the free wifi so that I can post it and Garrath can chat to whoever he chats to. I hope I am not too late for Carol, but if I am, sincere apologies from Spain to Crete.

I shall hand this over to my editor (Garrath) post it and maybe, just maybe, have a drink to two more. After all, we have to sustain the economy around here too!

2016 Spring Trip To Spain – Day 13

Yet another interesting day and one that will, by necessity, contain secrets. More of that later. The day started with me waking and getting up earlier than Garrath , but this time I was much later than usual, 07.00. That is a looooooong lie in for me. After Garrath woke up there followed the usual routine of breakfast, bathing and getting ready.

The bathing and getting ready out here deserves explanation. While it is a relatively rapid procedure in the UK, here it takes much longer. Why, I hear you ask? Well at home it is just bathe and dress with the intervention of a hairdryer every other day. On the frequent NMU days (No Make Up) that’s it, ready to walk the dogs in hardly any time at all. Here we require a different routine altogether. After bathing and drying, plus the every other day hair drying (not for Garrath, there’s not enough hair to merit that) we have to blather ourselves in sunscreen. Garrath’s is factor 50 sticky stuff so after he dons his jockeys, there is a period of at least half an hour to let it dry. I have two lots, the easy peasy spray factor 15 that dries in a breath (I have much more Sun tolerant skin than Garrath) that has nearly run out and the factor 15 super moisturising creme that I bought to replace it. Unfortunately the creme too is monumentally sticky and requires drying time before I put clothes on. If I put them on too soon they get oily marks on them. I need to buy more of the easy peasy spray!

After we have dried out and put our clothes on it is on to the essential next step, applying insect repellant. Visitors to Spain please note, we have bought lots and lots of insect repellants from Farmacias in the past and have still been bitten by the devious little b*stards. But we have found one that works AT LAST. Where did we find this magical potion? At the DIY store where you can buy building and gardening supplies. It makes sense when you think about it, heavyweight work, heavyweight insect repellant.

I don’t have any NMU days here because we always go out, so slapping my phizzer on is always part of the routine as is choosing and putting on jewellery. So that makes it a rather lengthy routine after which we both need a sit down and a cuppa.

This morning we got a call from our last chance hippie gardener, Perran, and he arranged to come over to discuss future plans for the garden. I had asked him to do so because we have several old citrus trees that are producing no fruit so I want them removing. Also the Nispero (Loquat) tree has become very large and unproductive, so I want it cutting back severely.

We have two Hibiscus bushes in the front garden, one of which is thriving, the other doing very poorly in spite of them both receiving the same treatment. On examination Perran said that it was just a case of one of them being old and worn out, so out it has to go. Two of the fancy Hibiscus we bought and had planted have died so we discussed what should replace them and the old Hibiscus. To my delight he suggested Lantana. We have one that is thriving in a variety that produces lilac and lemon flowers in the bed beside the drive. Perran loves that variety but I like the more robust, red and yellow variety so we agreed that this is the variety that will replace the Hibiscus. I love it and have nicknamed it The Spanish Flag plant.

We agreed that the space created by removing the old, unproductive Citrus should be filled with a Grapefruit and in a rather barren part of the garden an Almond should be planted. (Almonds are tough buggers apparently.) The oldest of our existing Olive trees has been pruned into a weeping Pom Pom tree (unique in the area I am assured.) It looks wonderful and has opened up that part of the garden making it lighter and brighter. The Bay tree that was running rampant has been pruned into an enchanting wineglass shape so when the youngest of the Olive trees was discussed we agreed that it would be pruned into another wineglass.

The automatic watering system needs repairing and upgrading so much investment of time and money will be required. Since I have determined that, in spite of the difficulties, I do want to move to Spain, I love the house and its location, it will all be worth it eventually.

Gardener visit over, we prepared to go the restaurant that we had booked for lunch and set off in plenty of time. It was quite a long drive and a rather boring one since we determined to go there via the non scenic route and return via the scenic route. We arrived at the town, parked and walked to the restaurant where we had one of the best eating experiences of our stay.

We were the only English people in there, the rest were all Spanish. The service was good and the food was excellent. The lady who served us was a delight, she fully understood my needs, offered rice instead of pasta with the main courses which made a pleasant change because many places just take away gluten bearing food and offer no substitute. We had a lovely salad to share first, then a lovely Entremesas platter (charcuterie and cheese) as a starter. It was a really nice, thoughtful touch that they substituted the little glass of cream Gazpacho on Garrath’s platter with bacon wrapped round pineapple and grilled for me.

For main courses Garrath had chicken with a sauce and tagliatelle and I had fish with a sauce and perfectly cooked rice turned out from a star shaped mould. Unbelievably I actually had a choice for dessert, either strawberries with cream or ice cream. I chose lemon ice cream, Garrath had a three chocolate cheesecake. We finished with tea and coffee. It was all superb and I was really surprised at how cheap it was nineteen euros thirty cents in total.

The restaurant’s name and location must remain a closely guarded secret for fear of our English friends finding out about it and it being stuffed with English expats next time we go. We have learned our lesson from taking our English friends to the restaurant in Parcent. With this one our lips are sealed. We have booked a table for another day of our stay but I dare not say which day in case our English friends read this and follow us!

I drove back via the scenic route and stopped on a number of occasions to get my camera out and take a few shots. All in all it was a delightful trip.

When we got back to the house I intended to make a start on this blog but I only managed the title before the Sofa Siesta took over. I woke just before Campari o’clock for me, beer o’clock for Garrath, and we meandered down to The Chicken Shack, primarily for the free wifi so that I don’t disappoint Carol this evening. We have had to have a few drinks here of course. After all, it would be rude not to!

2016 Spring Trip – Day 12

YAY, I am feeling very pleased with myself – 21 large jars plus 12 sample jars (the size you get in hotels) of Mermelada Volcanica produced and bottled before 10 a.m. What is more, 13 of those jars are half litre jars, much bigger than my usual 12 sided jars. I had been up since 04.05 of course but I didn’t start the jam making until after 06.00 for fear of waking Garrath with the noise. The waiting time was pleasantly filled with a Facebook Messenger chat with Annette in Costa Rica.

The jam is a lovely colour, has achieved a good set and it tastes deeeeeelicious. Unfortunately, because we are flying, I won’t be able to take any back to the UK with me which is a shame because it is magic with cheese and charcuterie and a very useful cooking ingredient. All that was left to do was for Garrath to produce the labels and this he dutifully did later in the day.

I am never sure just how hot each batch will be because it is entirely dependent on what variety of chillies the gardener grows for me. One year he grew some tiny ones and the batch was so hot that I had to calm it down with loads of sweet peppers. Even then it was rocket fuel. The year after a slightly milder variety of chilli was grown so the jam was milder. That year Keith commented, with obvious regret, that it wasn’t as hot as the previous year’s batch.

That is a total of 39 large jars plus 12 sample jars this time. It is not my largest production here by a long way, but it is not bad and I am pleased. No doubt the neighbours and the gardeners will be pleased too when I uphold the tradition of giving them some jars on the understanding that they return the jars when empty. That is why we are often greeted by neighbours bearing empty jars and expectant faces when we arrive.

Each recipient has their favourite. Marie and Pascual like jams. Robert & Marijke adore Kumquat chutney. Keith likes Mermelada Volcanica as do the gardeners. Audrey prefers jams. Julian and his Peruvian wife like Mermelada Volcanica, the hotter the better. Distribution will probably be done on Sunday, the day before we fly back.

Jam production was followed by ablutions, breakfast and preparing to go out to lunch with our German friends, Ula and Jürgen. Jürgen is a cancer patient too and equally determined not to be defined or confined by the disease. The relationship with Ula goes back a long long way with me. My parents were friends with her parents and many years ago I was friends with her brother Hans and his wife Elvira. Hans no longer comes to Spain. He has heart problems, Elvira won’t drive or fly and the 2000 mile drive is too much for him now. It is a shame because he is wonderful company.

We had a splendid, relaxed lunch with Ula and Jürgen at Las Barcas at Calpé port. It could have been spoiled by some noisy Spanish school children parking themselves on the beach immediately adjacent to the restaurant, had it not been for the owner of the restaurant telling the teacher to quiet them down and us moving to the table furthest from them. That made conversation audible and as always, easy. The Paella was lovely and the kitchen took the trouble to make a special one just for me. All was consumed with abandoned gusto because this time I took the precaution of wearing a black outfit that doesn’t show splashes.

After lunch we had a series of sofa siestas, Garrath with his head nodding, me with my feet up. We understand the Spanish siesta now. They give the body permission to devote 100% of available energy to digesting huge lunches!

We returned to a semblance of consciousness at around 17.45, just in time to get down to The Chicken Shack for wine and beer o’clock. That is where we are now, drinking, relaxing, people watching and earwigging. To Garrath’s right and my left an English couple are adding irrefutable evidence to support Eleanor Roosevelt’s statement,

“Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.”

Needless to say the couple in question are not discussing either issues or events. I am trying to think of a way of capturing a sneaky candid shot of them, or maybe I’ll do a sketch. She is easy, a sphere with a disapproving expression wearing a festoon blind. He is not so easy. Maybe a foggy grey blob will suffice. It is a good thing that I don’t have to portray minds in my sketches. Procreate doesn’t have a pen tip that is small enough!

Garrath said I could write a comedy about the man alone. His level of conversation and banal, embarrassing posturing made watching paint dry an exciting alternative. It never ceases to amaze me that people with minds as small as theirs manage to dress in the morning!

Oh dear, they have gone now. My next objects of research for sketches and verses will probably be the enormous French foursome who keep asking people to take photos of them while they are shovelling spaghetti, pizza and bread down their necks. Jeez, I hope that camera has a very, very wide angle lens!

2016 Spring Trip To Spain – Day 11

Yaaaaaaaaaawn, what a busy day, it is 21.50 now, my feet are aching and I am only just starting my blog. Sorry Carol!

We were both up pretty early, Garrath was up by 07.15 because today was the day for freezer diving and jam making. I wanted to make chilli jam so we retrieved the chillies from the freezer plus the lemons necessary for sourness and pectin. It is best to take the green tops off chillies while they are still frozen (many years of experience here) so I set about that task immediately. The fact that I had sliced my thumb open the other day made the wearing of rubber gloves a necessity.

When I weighed the chillies I realised that I didn’t have enough for a big batch of jam and would need to acquire more somehow. I remembered that I had purchased some really good dried, whole chillies at the Cooperativa next to one of our favourite restaurants, El Riu, in the mountains.

Garrath was having another really bad, flat battery day so I proposed that we leave the lemons (4.7 kilos in total) to thaw in their own time, I would drive us to the Cooperativa to buy chillies and we would lunch at the restaurant. That got a very positive reaction from Garrath so we prepared accordingly. The prospect of Tarta De Nueces (Walnut Tart) enlivened Garrath so much that I am thinking of asking them to ship it to the UK to keep his spirits up.

The drive to El Riu is another hairpin bend ride, not quite so challenging as yesterday’s mountain run, but interesting nonetheless. I think I shall label this holiday (well holiday in part) The Hairpin Trip.

I purchased the necessary jars of chillies from the Cooperativa before we had lunch for fear of them selling out. Like everything sold there, they are extremely high quality.

Lunch was, as ever, a real delight. And for me a really messy delight. More of that later. We had the usual appetisers, aioli and a salsa with bread for Garrath and boiled potatoes for me, then Garrath chose Croquetas (a gluten fest) for starters while I had Embutidos (mountain sausages). We also ordered a salad to share. Garrath had Presa de Cerdo Iberico while I had Conejo Con Tomate (Rabbit in tomato and garlic sauce.) For dessert Garrath had his beloved Tarta De Nueces while I had Lemon Sorbet.

Back to the messy delight thing. I know me. I always and up wearing a significant portion of my food so this time I put the napkin across my chest and tucked the ends under my bra straps. That was a very good idea because once I had dressed the salad with oil and orange vinegar, and started on the oily, squirty sausages, nobody within three feet of me was safe from a clothes spoiling spraying. The Conejo Con Tomate was even more messy. Honestly, the only way to eat rabbit is with your fingers, and with the delicious, oil rich, garlicky, blood coloured tomato sauce, by the end of the main course I looked like a particularly greedy but clumsy vampire. Thank goodness for the precaution of the chest covering napkin!

We drove back from the restaurant and called into the Altea garden centre in search of a magical fertiliser that Marijke alerted us to some years ago but the local garden centre no longer sells. A charming man with that delicious, gravelly Spanish voice helped us and we got what we wanted.

After that it was a stop at the Chinese supermarket for jam jars and lids. They had just 24 of the size I wanted on the shelf so we bought all 24. Mrs Grumpy on the checkout (I have never ever seen her smile) organised a box for us and we proceeded on to Mercadona for sugar for the jam and other essentials like the whisky cream liqueur that we refer to as ‘pudding’ and the disposable rubber gloves to protect my recently sliced thumb.

When we got back to the house I set about doing the incredibly time consuming and laborious task of de-pipping and slicing the thawed lemons, rehydrating and chopping the dried chillies. That would have been agony without the rubber gloves. Thank you Mercadona for saving me pain.

Once the lemons and rehydrated chillies were done I pressure cooked them until they were very soft, then whizzed them with the stick blender. (Releasing the pressure on the pressure cooker perfumed the house deliciously.) I then softened the fresh chillies by steaming them in the microwave, whizzed them, added then to the lemon and rehydrated chilli mix and whizzed again. Then I added 5 kilos of sugar and stirred until it was dissolved, covered the mix in preparation for tomorrow’s boiling and bottling.

After doing the washing up I was then free to sit down, enjoy resting my weary feet and writing my blog – oh yes, and of course a whisky cream liqueur or two (sooooooo good for sore feet!)

2016 Spring Trip To Spain – Day 10

My word, what a Helter-Skelter ride of a day, and that was just the roads I drove on! After the usual slow start, ablutions, breakfast and slapping my phizzer on (putting on my make-up) we set off early to go to The Cooperativa Agricoles El Progrés in Parcent for lunch. It is one of our favourite places, a sort of local agricultural workers club, social centre and restaurant. They do a great menu del dia (menu of the day) for 9 euros, they know me and cater for me very well.

The reason for the early start – this was to be a photography day with frequent stops for such delights as ruins, wild flowers, town and mountain views. I had determined to capture a particular, Lupin like flower but every time I saw some on the way to Parcent there was nowhere to park and I don’t do the typically Spanish thing of just pulling up, putting the hazard warning lights on and sod the consequences.

We got to Parcent nice and early and Garrath suggested a wander around the town before lunch. That was very rewarding because in the ten years we have been going there we have seen nothing of the town. We found (and photographed of course) some lovely streets and squares, some Swallows’ nests and delighted in the fact that everyone we saw greeted us. Simple greetings like hello (Hola) how are you (Como esta) and it’s a lovely day (El tiempo es muy bien) make a stroll around a strange town such a welcoming pleasure. In England people only greet people whom they know. In Spain they greet anyone because it a pleasant and polite thing to do.

We got to The Cooperativa at around 13.30 only to find that our chosen main course menu items had already run out. Sadly, this could be our fault. We discovered the Cooperativa about ten years ago and at that time it’s clientele was exclusively Spanish – apart from us that is. Regrettably, in retrospect, we took our friends Keith and Audrey there, Keith and Audrey told all their friends about it and now the place is extremely popular with English expats. The English eat much earlier than the Spanish so the bloody English had already eaten Garrath’s pigs cheeks and my sausages!!!

I have learned from previous visits to The Cooperativa to listen to the recommendations of the large lady who always greets us. She is lovely and she understands my dietary requirements very well. She recommended the fish so I had the fish and it was deeeeeeelicious. I think it was a kind of Mackerel, but whatever the species, it was very well cooked and extremely tasty. I even got a pudding, the ubiquitous Spanish Flan (creme caramel) and very nice it was too.

After lunch Garrath was determined that we try a new mountain route in the hope of me getting the photographs I wanted. We followed said route and joy of joys, not only did I find stopping places, I also found the Lupin type flowers I wanted to capture plus species I didn’t even know existed before. I also found some of my favourite photographic subjects – ruins.

The mountain ride was hair raising, with scarily narrow roads, hairpin bends, precipitous drops and absolutely stunning views that made the Helter-Skelter drive 200% worth it. We found sufficient pulling off places for me to take loooooooooads of photos. Only time will tell whether they are good ones, but at least it has broken the photo curse of this trip.

The drive back from the last photo stop continued to be a navigation of hairpin bends, narrow roads and hair raising stops when we met something coming the other way. That was until we got to the main toad near Benissa. After that it was plain sailing. When we got to Calpé we had a quick stop at Mercadonna for essentials, them homeward bound.

During the drive we had a debate about whether to go freezer diving for tomorrow’s jam making session or to go to The Chicken Shack. I contended that we can go freezer diving tomorrow and thaw stuff in warm water so when we got back Garrath put stuff away and declared,

“Right, time for The Chicken Shack.” Well it would be rude not to go, wouldn’t it?

2016 Spring Trip To Spain – day 9

Yay, what a productive day, 18 jars of Mermelada Nirvana produced and bottled before breakfast. See, there are advantages to waking up at daft o’clock. Actually it wasn’t that daft for me because I was in bed and dead to the world at 09.45 and didn’t get up until 05.00 and that is a very long sleep for me.

Anyway, I didn’t want to lose the freshness of the fruit so I sieved that out, boiled the syrup down, added the fruit, sterilised the jars and lids, achieved a perfect setting point and bottled the jam. I haven’t yet lined up my jammy soldiers for a photograph, but I will!

Garrath made the labels, one with its name – Mermelada Nirvana – and one with the ingredients. Theoretically these were to be in Spanish and the were, mostly, except for the fact that he spelled strawberries the French way! What the hell, the house is in an international area, we have French neighbours, they will get it!

Inordinately pleased with myself (a.k.a. smug) I then had breakfast, ran the bath then promptly fell asleep on the sofa. It had been my intention to rest my aching feet but I went spark out for a full 45 minutes. That made eight hours sleep in total, unheard of for me. I must have needed it. My feet certainly did.

We bathed in leisurely fashion and eventually got ready to take our Dutch friends, Robert and Marijke, out to La Viña De Calpé for lunch. The table was booked for 14:00 and we arrived precisely on time. Lunch was a delight as usual there, very upmarket, and conversation was easy and entertaining.

Robert was born in Indonesia, spent part of his childhood in a Japanese prisoner of war camp with his mother while his father was a prisoner on the Burma railway. Though Dutch by nationality he has spent only eight years of his life in The Netherlands. The rest was spent travelling the world, first in the Dutch Navy, then all around the world working for a German International company. At one time as the company’s representative in Burma, then a closed country, he was an officer in the Burmese Army because that was the only thing that the Burmese government could think of to do with him to give him credibility and authority. Needless to say he is an endless source of stories and anecdotes.

Marijke is equally fascinating. She emigrated to Spain in 1979 and feels more Spanish than Dutch. This, she explains, is because she was escaping a horrendous marriage, and she was emotionally a mess but the Spanish neighbours and townspeople took her under their wings and as she puts it, rescued her. Wandering round Guadalest with her is fun because it is a constant series of meet, greet and gossip with her many, long standing Spanish friends.

Both Robert and Marijke are multilingual as are many Dutch people. They put we monolingual Brits to shame. But, as Frankie, a German friend, once said to me when I apologised for not speaking much German,

“Why bother? English is an international language. Who speaks German? Us, the Austrians and a few Swiss. Who gives a shit?” I still remember that comment every time I witness a stubborn Kraut in Spain ordering food and drink in loud German! No wonder said Krauts look offended, but I am giggling hysterically at my recollection of Frankie’s comment, not just at their boorish behaviour!

Just to make it clear that I do not discriminate against just boorish Germans, I am equally contemptuous at all nationalities who refuse to learn the very basics of the language of the country they are in, even if it is only for brief holiday visits. Upon taking responsibility for my mother’s wreck of a house we very quickly learned the essential basics and to this day we are fluent in all matters relating to building materials, plumbing equipment, electrical repairs, tree surgery, planning regulations, dealing with solicitors, the local authority, the police, architects, gardeners and the like, and we can order drinks, reserve tables at restaurants, explain problems with hire cars, and conduct a passable conversation about football. As for the Spanish for beach – haven’t a clue!!!

After lunch we went to have a cuppas and more chat at Robert and Marijke’s place and to share time with their new dog. Unfortunately I discovered Ticks on Tikus and had to do holding duty while Robert removed them. YUK, I loathe Ticks. They are one of the few creatures that I can see no useful purpose for whatever. Still, I suppose I proved my worth as a friend by doing this odious duty.

We arranged to go for lunch with Robert and Marijke again on Friday then said our goodbyes and walked down to guess where, the Chicken Shack, so that I could record my burblings in the form of this travel blog c/o their free wifi.

All in all, a thoroughly enjoyable day.

2016 Trip To Spain – Day 8

Yet another morning when my plan was thwarted. I was up at 04.55 and shortly thereafter I noticed that there was a spectacular full Moon set in progress, so I got dressed as hastily as I could without disturbing Garrath, got my camera and went out to capture it. Unfortunately Garrath had changed the lock on the gate and failed to inform me which colour coded key opened it and by the time I had gone through all the keys and found the right one, the Moon had gone behind the mountain. Grrrrrrrrr!

When I told Garrath about this he commented,

“Oh yes, I forgot to tell you, it’s the orange one.” Well that was helpful. I’ll hang around for another 28 days and get it next time!

It seems that this is not going to be a good photography trip what with changed locks, low cloud over the mountains and a road with fabulous wild flowers but no parking places. Of course, If I had brought only a compact camera with me instead of the full DSLR kit there would have been squillions of perfect opportunities! Such are the trials of the keen amateur clicker!

Today is a home based day, no multi course, elaborate lunches, just a light, salad lunch and light snacks, because tomorrow we are going to La Viña De Calpé for a really big posh nosh with our Dutch friends, Robert and Marijke. I think if we alternate between light eating in and eating out days I might, just might, fit into my clothes by the end of the trip.

We have done everyday business stuff, a trip to the garden centre to get a replacement gas bottle, a trip to Mercadona for a few small items and a midday stop at The Chicken Shack for free wifi. I am getting utterly pissed off with people making negative, judgemental comments about us being on our iPads though. This time It was an ancient German clown commenting to his mates sitting on the next table to us. So I deliberately embarrassed him by saying, loudly,

“It is amazing how much German I understand,” to Garrath and there followed a conversation between Garrath and I that included several insulting German words. It has a salutary effect. The Kraut Dummkopfs went very quiet and left shortly afterwards.

What is it with people though? Why do they feel free to be rude about what we choose to do. We don’t intrude into their space, we don’t fart loudly and produce disgusting smells, we are quiet, we don’t shout or make idiots of ourselves, we don’t interrupt their banal conversations with critical remarks, so why do they feel free to do so?

I suggested that they are technologically ignorant, Garrath countered by saying that they are technologically frightened. Whoever is right – and we might both be right – they are pig ignorant. My apologies for that last remark. It was very unkind to pigs. Pigs have much better manners.

While we were in The Chicken Shack a guy came around selling boxes of strawberries and after a little barter we bought a box. When we got back to the house I started the jam making marathon. This batch will be Strawberry and Seville Orange marmalade.

I hulled and weighed the strawberries, worked out the proportions of Sevilles and sugar needed, got the Sevilles out of the freezer, chopped the strawberries and mixed them with sugar, thawed the Sevilles (easily done in a bowl of warm water) then once that was done, started the really thankless task, de-pipping and shredding the Sevilles. It doesn’t sound too onerous to you I guess, but when I tell you that every Seville Orange has between thirty and forty pips all of which must be removed using the handle of a teaspoon, you might begin to understand. That took a considerable amount of time and patience and trust me, I am not strong on patience.

The Sevilles were cooked in the pressure cooker until very soft, and when we released the pressure valve we discovered the best house deodoriser ever. The smell was divine. I might well pressure cook Sevilles and release the pressure valve just before we next have house guests!

I added the requisite amount of sugar then set the Seville/sugar mix aside until I had heated the strawberries and their syrup until they reached a similar temperature. They were combined and boiled for ten minutes, Every time I leave this place I forget – then every time I do a jam or chutney making session I remember – these floors make my feet hurt like hell, so after the ten minute boil the mix was covered so that I can rest my feet, have a beer and resume the marathon tomorrow.

Tonight is our first staying in night. The reason is simple. Tonight is the Spain v Portugal football match and The Chicken Shack will be a Bear pit. Oops, I am guilty of speciesism again. Sorry Bears, you are much more civilised so let me correct that statement! Tonight The Chicken Shack will be a showcase for the loudest and worst kind of human tribalism! Frankly we can do without that so we are now settled in for an at home night of blog writing and expensive WiFi.

2016 Trip To Spain – Day 7

A day without plans turned out to be a day with plans that were thwarted. During the fairly relaxed start to the day we determined to go up into the mountains in search of photographic subjects because the wild flowers are in short supply in drought blighted Calpé. So, having decided that, and after I discovered that we had run out of honey in which to macerate the strawberries I picked from the garden, we decided to book lunch at El Riu because it is next to the Cooperativa that sells local honey. From there we planned to go up to Guadalest where I could capture both wild flowers and mountain views.

The drive to El Riu is always interesting because our route there involves scary, hairpin bends and some narrow parts of the road. It was made even more interesting because we got stuck behind a lorry that was going slooooooooooowly on a part of the road where it was impossible to overtake, but bless the driver, at the first possible opportunity he pulled over so that the queue of cars behind him could get past. After that it was pretty plain sailing, or swerving.

We got to the restaurant ten minutes early in spite of Garrath’s prediction that we were bound to be late. N.B. Garrath’s definition of ‘late’ is arriving on the same day as the appointment instead of his preferred time, the day before! We settled into the table, were greeted by the lady who has served us hundreds of times before and who remembers my dietary needs without having to be prompted.

Appetisers are always Aioli and salsa with bread for Garrath and boiled potatoes for me, and they succeeded in making us both very hungry. Garrath had Croquetas De Carne for his starter (Meat croquettes) while I had a special salad.

For the main course I had Conejo Al Ajillo (Rabbit with garlic) and Garrath had Secreto De Cerdo Iberico A La Brasa ( a Spanish cut of Iberico pork from the Pata Negra pig cooked over the wood fire.) To my delight I am always able to eat the Patatas Fritas (chips) there because they are home made and uncontaminated.

Desserts are as ever very limited for me, lemon ice cream or coconut ice cream but Garrath had his absolute favourite, Tarta De Nueces (Walnut tart). I confess to being seriously jealous at his freedom to eat this because it looks delectable and coconut ice cream is a very poor substitute.

The repast finished with green tea for me, cafe Americano for Garrath then a double helping of Moscatel for Garrath because I was driving.

At the end of the meal we were debating where to go next so we resorted to our phones to find maps to see if my desired destination, Tarbena, was easily accessible from there. that was when something quite shocking happened. An elderly English female expat who was leaving the restaurant leaned over our table and declared imperiously,

“You two have got a problem!” Sadly the arrogant bitch scooted off before I had the chance to retort, “Yes, we have a problem with judgemental, arrogant English busybodies,” but I confess to being shocked at the old bat. How dare she? I don’t know her, don’t want to know her, but would never, ever presume to interfere and shove my face into her space with a judgement like that. Can you see now why we don’t like the English expat community?

Tarbena proved to be too far via a too convoluted route so we went up to Guadalest. This is where the thwarted plans came in. Though it had been cloudy ever since we started climbing we had seen view of Guadalest through the clouds in sunshine and hoped that this would continue. Unfortunately when we got there, there was low, low cloud, wind and it was chilly too, so not a single photograph was taken.

The trip was not wasted though. I managed to find a beautiful, really high quality, all leather, back pack handbag in one of the shops there. A quick tea and wee stop at a local cafe enabled me to transfer the contents of the clapped out old handbag into the new one, then we found a waste bin to dispose of the old bag and I was off with new style and panache.

After Guadalest I drove back via the lengthier but easier new road that was built to accommodate the tourist buses from Benidorm (the route that has lots and lots of photogenic wild flowers but no stopping places) and came back to Calpé where it had been sunny ALL DAY! We did a few shopping stops for mundane stuff, then got back to the house, unloaded then repaired to guess where – The Chicken Shack. Here we met with the gardener and paid him, had a few drinks and I wrote this.

Thwarted plans, who cares? There will be another day for a mountain run and photographs. In the mean time I have a very stylish new handbag and a full stomach.

2016 Trip To Spain – Day 6

More business to do today so a relatively early start was needed. I say relatively because I was up at 06.55 but Garrath didn’t get up until 08.30. No matter, we got on with things well enough and got into town to pay Monasor for the electrical work. The final bill was three hundred and seventy euros but what astonished us was the part of the bill that was for the call out and emergency repair was only seventy six euros. Needless to say paying the bill took ages, so I entertained myself by looking at their kitchen and bathroom fittings and the huge range of ceramic tiles available. Such are the things that dreams are made of!

After Monasor we went to Kuxtabank to close all our accounts there. Much as we loved the care taken by the staff in Calpé, all the communications to us in the UK are in Spanish and now that we have given up hope of moving to Spain that made the management of the accounts too difficult. The delightful Luis was very understanding and made it into a very pleasant experience. Luis’s parting comment was to wish us well, hope that the health issues clear up and that we will be able to move there in a few years.

We walked down to Sabadell and deposited we cash we got back from our accounts at Kuxtabank into the account we use for business there. Amazingly there was no queue. Either they have got their act together and employed more staff or so many people have abandoned them that the two hour queues are a thing of the past. Whatever, depositing the money was quick, pleasant and painless.

A quick stop at the cosmetics shop for mascara (no, Garrath does NOT use it) then next door to Cafe Dany for tea and viewing my favourite Spanish TV cooking programme. Ironically they were demonstrating Chinese recipes today, which is fine because I have to make my own Chinese style food anyway. Tell a Chinese chef not to use soy sauce, black bean sauce or hoi sin sauce ? I don’t think so.

By the time we had done that lot it was lunch time so we drove to the port and our favourite restaurant there, Las Barcas, for a special salad and paella feast. This time it was Paella Valenciana, the meat one, and though I enjoyed it and Garrath prefers it (for some weird and wonderful reason he doesn’t like seafood) I much prefer Paella Mixta with the seafood. We do a deal when we have that. I eat the shellfish, Garrath eats the meat, so we get the best of both worlds.

We have a ritual when we go to Las Barcas. We play dominoes. One time we really confused the staff by taking a set of Lancashire dominoes – they go up to double nine. One by one all the staff came up to stare in wonder at these strange dominoes. It caused much conversation and consternation. This time, however, we took the ordinary dominoes and played after lunch. My luck was in for a change and I won the majority of the games – most unusual.

At around 17.00 the fishing boats started coming into harbour so I got the camera trundly (Lowepro wheeled camera case) and we went to meet them. While they were unloading their catches I took photos of the fish. Each boat seemed to have a reasonable catch and one in particular had a very good one and I got loads of photos.

Once unloaded the fish go straight into the fish auction. We have paid to go in there on a previous visit and it is fascinating but this time we passed on that in favour of going back to the house, parking the car and walking back down the hill to The Chicken Shack.

All in all a very satisfying day because we have got all of the business, other than paying the gardener, completed in less than a week. It should all be R&R from now on. Whoopee!

2016 Spring Trip To Spain – Day 5

Another early start, this time when Garrath woke early, woke me, made some tea then promptly went back to sleep again. I do so envy his ability to do that. Once I am awake I can’t get back to sleep again, so I went into the living room and started catching up with e-mails. When Garrath eventually resurrected it was after 08.15 so time for the normal routine of ablutions and breakfast.

Shortly after that the electrician arrived to fit a brand new junction box. We had guessed that when Abdellah said that it wouldn’t be yesterday, that meant that it would be the day after – that is today.

Monasor are astonishingly prompt. They are also incredibly accurate with their time estimates for jobs. The electrician said that the job would take an hour and indeed it did. When we had the really big work done converting the balcony into a secure room they told us that they would be finished at the end of July. Our experience of other builders both in Spain and the U.K. made us sceptical but sure enough we got a phone call to tell us we had to come out, inspect the work and pay up because the job would be finished on the last day of July. It was too.

House maintenance job over it was time to get ready to go out to lunch with our neighbours Keith & Audrey along with some friends of theirs. We took Audrey as the human satnav, Keith took their friends and we met at the restaurant, La Brisa at Teulada. I am always safe at La Brisa and whenever I show my explanatory card it is dismissed with a quick “Lo Sé” meaning “I know.” I even get gluten free toast there so lunch was no problem at all. It is a set menu with plenty of choice and all very well done. I can never have chips with a meal because they use the same fryers to fry the battered stuff so instead they provided me with a lovely array of grilled vegetables to go with the main course. I even got to have a dessert.

During lunch Garrath got a phone call from the kennels to tell us that Helga was poorly and receiving treatment from the vet. They thought she might have an abscess on her tooth and might need to be sedated for further treatment. We OK’d any further treatment needed but a couple of phone calls later ensured that if this is necessary they will take her to our vets rather than theirs because we know that she responds trickily to anaesthetics and our vets know her history. In a subsequent call to the kennels we found out that she is responding to the antibiotics so fingers crossed that she is OK. Bless the kennels staff, they are assiduous with their care. that is why we use them. A bottle of fizz to say thank you will be in order on the way back.

The drive back from the restaurant was easy enough, and we got to have a short, restful period before trolling down to the chicken shack for post chauffeuring and dog worry trauma therapy. So a short blog today after a relatively uneventful day.

2016 Spring Trip To Spain – Day 4

I was up at 04.55 this morning, just before the first indications of dawn, hoping for a sunrise that merited dashing down to the coastal viewpoint but alas, no luck. There were clouds but not terribly sunrise friendly clouds, so I just farted about on my iPad until Garrath woke up at around 08.00.

After that we did all the dreary getting up stuff, had breakfast, repaired to the chicken shack for tea & coffee and to fill in time until it was time to collect the laundry from Lavanderia Ana. Fresh and squeaky clean laundry collected we made our way into town to SUMA, the collection agency for the local authority, to change the bank account from which the property taxes are paid.

Surprisingly it was a very quick and pleasant experience. They have a ticket queueing system and we didn’t have to wait long to be seen. The member of staff had no English (why the hell should he, we are in Spain?) but with Garrath’s ability to speak rudimentary Spanish and my ability to understand the answers, we got through the process in about two minutes flat. Needless to say the transaction had to be completed with their theatrical application of a rubber stamp, always compulsory in Spain. Years ago when I had some redundancy money I should have invested in a Spanish rubber stamp company I would have been a wealthy woman by now!

After that we took a troll down town to find a Sabadell money machine, only to find that both of the ones on Gabriel Miro were not functioning. So another trek to the other branch in town was called for with a short break at Cafe Dany for tea, coffee, water and olives on the way. I am seriously addicted to olives but only when we are close to the Mediterranean. Somehow olives do not work in the grim, grey weather of the U.K. except when I make Tomato soup that is. Tomato soup with olive purée is delicious, whereas I find Heinz tomato soup disgusting.

That brings me to another culinary point, we eat entirely differently here to the way we eat in the UK, even though our eating preferences are far more continental than English when we are there. Here in Spain we enjoy local produce, local cooking methods and an altogether lighter diet. Spanish charcuterie is, to my mind, the finest in the world and there is a rich variety from which to choose.

Chorizo has gone world wide anyway, but here there are so many varieties of chorizo it is almost bewildering. Well it might be bewildering were it not for the fact that I am determined to try every single variety to find out which one I like best. By the time I have tried them all I will have forgotten what the first one tasted like so I will have to start all over again. (You have to admit that as an excuse, that one is a doozy!)

We eat lots of salads here especially in the warmer weather whereas in England it rarely gets warm enough to make salad appealing. We do pass on Spanish soups in restaurants though. Honestly, the average portion of Spanish soup, an incredibly robust and chunky affair that is usually served in a heap, would feed me for a week!

Meats and fish simply grilled on the plancha or cooked over a wood fire is simply delicious, as are slices of vegetable fruits cooked on the plancha. Salads in restaurants are beautifully prepared, very substantial and often served as a starter. Vegetables are normally served as a separate course and in consequence they star rather than taking second place to proteins.

After the short break at Cafe Dany we found the Sabadell bank machine that worked, got the required funds out, returned to the car and drove on to the chicken shack for more coffee, tea, water and free wifi then back to the house for a salad lunch and the ultimate in going native, a siesta!

The siesta almost thwarted my stated intention to go down to Las Salinas on a wildflower and bug hunt, but at 16.30 we went down, camera and macro lens in hand. The wildflower hunt was less than successful with not much of interest around, but the bug hunt was very successful – for the bugs that is. They hunted me, they found me and they bit me, again and again. Thank goodness for Fenergan, the magic cream that subdues the live volcanoes on your skin that mozzies and sand flies leave behind.

A brief rest at home for sore feet recovery then at 18.45 we were off again to guess where – The Chicken Shack. After all 18.45 is well after wine o’clock! I must not drink too much too soon though because Garrath has set me a challenge to do one of my Sun or Moon illustrations using the iPad Pro and Apple Pencil, so cheerio for now and look out for the illustration tomorrow.

Spring Trip To Spain – Day 3

Having responsibility for my mother’s house in Spain (all of the costs, none of the ownership) is onerous and expensive , particularly because the house was thrown up by cowboy builders in 1973 using shoddy, inadequate materials. Every year since 2003 we have made improvements starting with removing the tree that had breached the roof, having the roof repaired and having the cracking platform upon which the living accommodation rests supported with pillars. Since then we have completely replaced the sewage system, rendered and clad the powdering brick, had the balcony that burglars used to access the property and steal my stuff turned into a secure room, replaced all the windows, the front and garage door, had the lighting upgraded, the house exterior and walls painted, the interior of the house repainted and completely refurnished and the garden totally remodelled and maintained, including having a patio built and a herb garden created.

In doing this we have had to visit twice yearly to do maintenance and organise repairs Because of the leave time taken to do this we have lost the opportunity of having holidays for the last thirteen years. Make no mistake, it hasn’t all been odious. Yes it has been very sad that we have had to sacrifice going to places that we wanted to go to including giving up our promise to revisit the place where we married (Las Vegas) every five years, but along the way we have made many friends, established an excellent relationship with a cracking firm of builders and an excellent rapport with our lovely, last chance hippie gardener and his workers. We have also come to love the place.

Prior to the last few years’ visits we have said,

“This one will be a holiday,” but no, something has always cropped up. Four years ago it was a whacking five thousand euros bill for a new septic tank. This Christmas, after a freezing lesson in how one open fire is not adequate to heat the property, it was a three thousand five hundred euro bill to install climate control. It is a testament to the quality of building firm, Monasor, that we arrived to find the two climate control units installed and looking like they had been there forever – no evidence of the considerable amount of electrical channelling etc that had to be done.

This time we excelled ourselves. Business day one of the trip and we had to have the builders around with an electrical problem.

Bless them, we cannot fault Monasor. Garrath texted the delightful Abdellah at around 10.00, he came around in less than an hour and the electrician came shortly afterwards. We were anticipating the worst of news but were pleasantly surprised when the problem diagnosed was relatively simple. The master residual earth circuit breaker was very old and malfunctioning, so a quick trip into Calpé got a replacement and we had juice back. Garrath asked for an estimate on a complete replacement distribution box and we had that by the evening and agreed to the price. It will be done within days. Ahem, UK readers, would you get that speed and quality of service in the UK? I think not!

Electrical cut outs and the necessary repairs meant that we had to postpone our plans to go to SUMA the local authority office to change arrangements for the property taxes to be paid so we will have to do that tomorrow because we have an assurance from Abdellah that the electrician cannot come tomorrow. Holiday? What holiday?

Other business stuff we have to do this trip is closing bank accounts and transferring standing orders – all exciting stuff that is designed to make things simpler for me when Garrath dies. It is all about hoping for the best but preparing for the worst.

We are trying to make the best of the trip in between business stuff. Garrath had determined that we would lunch out every day but today I told him that I don’t want to feel obliged to stuff down far too many courses of food every day but would prefer to eat light and only lunch out as a treat. That agreed I went down to Mercadona (coeliac paradise, remember) to get light lunch materials while he awaited the return of the electrician.

The shopping was very funny. I dutifully got all my separate salad ingredients, took them to the weigh and label machine, labelled and sealed them and only then discovered that a ready made Insalada De Casa was there, ready prepared for two euros seventy five cents. DOH!

That shopping jaunt over I came back to the house where Garrath was plodding on with the moving standing orders stuff. After lunch and a brief discussion we decided to invite our friends and neighbours, Keith and Audrey, around for drinks and nibbles. So back to Mercadona for me to buy suitable nibbles and bottles of gin while Garrath plodded on with ‘hope for the best, prepare for the worst’ stuff.

When I got back I started preparing the nibble fest. I know Keith and Audrey’s tastes very well so it was a blue cheese dip for him, a chickpea and spinach dip for her, guacamole for us all, plus mortadella, cheese, pickles, crisps, maize dippy thingies and pickles.

Keith and Audrey arrived as agreed at 17.00 and a very pleasant evening was had by all. The food and drink all went down very well, but I confess to being impressed at Keith’s capacity for eating pickles. It almost rivals mine, but only almost!

Time for bed said Zebedee!!!

Spring Trip To Spain – Day 2

An early (05.30) start for me, less so for Garrath (08.00) but a slooooooooow morning for us both, just pottering really. I got the camera out to capture a cloudy sunrise, but after that it was just catching up with EPZ, doing routine household stuff then preparing to go out to lunch at 14.00.

Getting ready to go out proved to be more of a challenge than I had anticipated. ‘Why’ I hear you ask? Well After humanely evicting two spiders, bathing and dressing, my eyes were very sore and they started streaming big time. The last time I had a reaction like this was when I was in Nevada and Arizona in February 1995 and I turned out to be allergic to the wind pollinated scrub out there. What on earth I am allergic to here I know not but the reaction was dramatic and painful.

Fortunately I had some eye drops which seemed to help, but most effective was shutting the window, so the culprit, whatever it is, is outside. My right eye is much more sore than the left one. It might have something to do with having been punched in the eye by a stretching Helmut on the bed shortly before our trip. Anyway I managed to put a semblance of make up on so I look a little bit like me, not that anyone gives a damn. Women of my age are completely invisible so we are free to look as awful as we please, nobody cares.

Garrath had booked Sunday lunch at our favourite, posh restaurant, La Viña de Calpé, before we flew out. It is where we had Christmas lunch and New Year’s Eve dinner and it is magic. As we walked down there my eyes started to get sore again but fortunately I had taken the precaution of wearing waterproof mascara. Inside the sheltered terrace of the restaurant they settled down again.

The lunch experience did not disappoint. We had four starters (taster menu style) –

Carrot purée with ginger served with dates and peanuts
Quinoa risotto with baby veg
Prawns pil pil, followed by

Mint sorbet

Garrath’s main – Beef fricasee
My main – Sea bream with tomato concasse

The mains were accompanied by squeaky beans and sweet and sour red cabbage with cinnamon. Wonder of wonders for me, there was even a dessert-


We ended the feast with coffee for Garrath, green tea for me along with the Moscatel that is traditionally served at the end of a meal here. That lunch is not untypical for a Spanish Sunday lunch out. It helps one to understand the siesta. After a huge meal like that it is tempting to just collapse in a heap and sleep it off.

I would have been happy to do just that but Garrath had stated his intention to walk just a short way along the prom to work off a few calories. Inevitably we did the whole thing, right up to the furthermost cafe where we had coffee and tea before toddling back along the prom via a wee and tea stop. Several bottles of fizzy water over the afternoon do tend to make frequent stops like that necessary.

I was deeply disappointed not to have a camera with me, but Garrath hadn’t stated his intention to walk the prom until after our meal so I didn’t bring the kit with me. EPZ-ers will understand when I say that there were lots of candidates for a photo posting dedicated to Lifesnapper on the beach in bikinis from size 6 to size 30. For those of you of you who are not EPZ-ers, let me explain –

EPZ is the abbreviation for ePHOTOzine, the forum where I post some of my photographs. Lifesnapper is the handle of one of the photographers there. His favourite subjects are young, pretty, preferably scantily clad women. I have often suggested to him that he is missing something by failing to see the appeal of older, rounder women and I have previously posted sets of photos of such more mature, corpulent beauties and dedicated them to him. Today there were lots of suitable candidates plus lovely light but I didn’t have my camera with me. Damn! Later in the stay perhaps.

I had hoped to go out on a bug hunt with my camera today but for most of the day it has been cloudy and windy, not ideal bug hunting conditions at all. Later in the afternoon we had sun and saw a some cardinal beetles and few butterflies but as I have already explained, I left the camera behind. Whilst I disapprove completely with the self appointed, anally retentive Photo Mafia and their ridiculous, made-up ‘Rules’ there are a number of things about photography that I heave learned over the few years that I have been a keen clicker. Here they are –

1 The most magical shots always present themselves when you haven’t got your camera with you.
2 The lens you need is always the one you left at home.
3 That competition winning shot opens up in a very small time window when you have the wrong lens on and the wrong settings selected.
4 Some clown always walks into the middle of your very carefully prepared landscape or architectural shot.
5 Butterflies, flies, ladybirds and the like always fly off a nano second before you press the shutter release.
6 All animal life, including wildlife and pets, has an inbuilt sense of when a photographer is around and a full repertoire of hideous poses to employ at those times.
7 For every brilliant wildlife or pet shot you get with full eye contact you will get at least ten of the subject’s butt.
8 Even on a windless day a stiff breeze will spring up just as you press the shutter release for that flower shot.
9 No matter how many lens cleaning cloths you buy, you won’t be able to find one when your lens is dusty.
10 Even when you are meticulous about preparation, your spare battery will go flat just before you need it.
11 No amount of spare memory cards is ever enough.
12 The computer’s image download programme invariably crashes when the download is 98% complete.
13 No matter how much you love an image and how carefully you have followed ‘The Rules’ as dictated by The Photo Mafia, some fellow photographer will find fault with it.
14 Everybody blames you when your photographs reveal how ugly / fat / mean spirited / drunk the bride / groom / bride’s mother / bride’s father / groom’s mother / groom’s father / bridesmaid / best man / usher / guest is!
15 Portraits should never ever be released to the subject without being heavily edited / airbrushed.
16 Carefully set up shots of famous landmarks will invariably be invaded by some grinning moron who drapes him/herself across it so that their companion can take a picture of them with their Micky Mouse camera.
17 The only way to get pictures of famous places free of Japanese tourists is to be there at 4 a.m. on midsummer’s day.
18 If you dare to enhance your images in Photoshop you will be declared persona non grata by the self selected photography purists who are more interested in the process than in the image.
19 If you drop a lens it is never, ever on to a soft surface.
20 The printer always runs out of ink on Saturday night after the shops close when you are due to deliver your photos early on Monday morning.

No doubt fellow photographers will be able to add many more, but those are mine for now.

We are now (19.49 on the 15th of May) in the local watering hole enjoying our first recreational, alcoholic drinks. Garrath is struggling with visual seizures and with difficulty doing mental arithmetic, something at which he used to excel. It is hard to come to terms with but a combination of ageing and having your brain serially carved up is bound to take its toll. Let’s hope that it isn’t a sign of more aliens growing in his brain, but if it is, we just have to deal with it. In the mean time, R&R at the local bar.

2016 Spring Trip To Spain – Day 1

The alarm was set for 03.00, a time when I am often up and about but of course, because I had to get up at that ungodly hour, I could have slept for another six hours. Ah well, such is life!

Garrath was in his usual, relaxed traveller mode – not! Honestly he would have us at the airport the day before the flight if he could get away with it. As it was I ignored his high-anxiety haranguing, posted photos on ePHOTOzine, bathed and got ready in a very relaxed manner and was still ready fifteen minutes before the taxi arrived at 05.00.

The trip to the airport in the cab was good preparation for the flight because the driver was definitely in low flying mode. If you want to know which speed cameras are live and which are dummies, just get in a private hire vehicle. Those drivers know every single one and whenever they change them word goes round the private hire community in minutes. I have been in a cab when a radio message came through warning the drivers of a change.

Low flying mode aside, the driver was skilful and courteous and he got us to the airport in one piece. We were shocked at how busy it was. Several flights going out early morning meant that we had to join a very long queue to check in our suitcase, great material for my illustrated verses.

Getting through security was a game and a half. For whatever reason the guy on the scanner decided that my camera gear was suspicious so the bag had to be emptied, closely examined, rescanned and the bag repacked. Beware fellow EPZ-ers, The Canon 5D mark 2 and accompanying lenses are deeply suspicious. Nikon aficionados may be considered low risk, model citizens but we Canon users are potential terrorists. I think the clue is in the name!

Back to material for my illustrated verses, I have remarked many times before about people’s holiday wear and their behaviour when travelling but goodness me, what are they thinking? Most notable this time were the woman with HUGE feet drawing attention to them by wearing bright iridescent pumps covered in pearlescent sequins and the loudmouth Yummy Mummy who maintained a relentless, squawking dialogue with her daughter, both of whom screamed incredibly loudly with affected excitement when using the hand drier in the Ladies. It was all about attention seeking. I am guessing that the only remarkable thing that Yummy mummy has done in her life is have that daughter and she uses her to take centre stage – LOUDLY! I issued the atheist equivalent of a prayer that she would not be on our flight and thankfully, my prayer was answered. I pity the poor souls living and holidaying at their destination though. They will be irritated by Monday, deaf by Wednesday and homicidal by Thursday.

Earwigging is always a good way to alleviate boredom when in a long queue and I did lots of that. I had to really concentrate though because loudmouth Yummy Mummy was just in front of us. Immediately behind us was a couple who were indulging in England’s favourite pastime – moaning! Being in the long queue prompted them to recall every long queue they had ever been in, every bad airport experience that had ever had. I swear, it moaning were and Olympic sport, we would always win the gold medal. Sadly, because they were strangers I could not intervene with one of my favourite sarcastic quips,

“It is being so cheerful that keeps you going,” so instead I started to formulate words in my head for a new verse about moaners. Here it is –

I really can’t stand whiners,
Whingers drive me nuts
They complain about a matter
But won’t get off their butts
To do something about it
And get the problem sorted,
And if you offer them advice,
It is always thwarted.

They wallow in their misery,
They enjoy bitches and moans,
They share them if you’re near them,
If not they use their phones,
Or text to share their whining,
Or e-mails or a letter,
I really wish they’d occupy
Themselves with something better.

I have started telling whiners
“If you’re not prepared
To do something about it,
Keep your moany tales unaired.
Don’t give me all this ear ache,
Don’t bitch and moan to me,
Because I’m not prepared to listen to
Your negativity.”

I hear much less from whiners,
I think I drive them nuts
When I tell them that it’s time to
Get off their lazy butts,
Do something about it,
And get the problem sorted,
By giving them this sound advice,
Their endless moaning’s thwarted.



For the very first time we were at the front of the queue at the boarding gate and first on the plane. How we managed that I know not but it made finding seats and stowing hand baggage very easy. The waiting on the plane wasn’t too bad and take off was a breeze. Having seen some of the morbidly obese passengers in the queue I was very pleasantly surprised and greatly relieved to be sitting next to a slender, very nice lady. I recall with horror the journey spent next to a twenty stone monster with poor hygiene and the bladder capacity of a toddler. Ugh! Thank goodness we always choose aisle seats.

The flight was, as usual, boooooooooooooring, only punctuated by the trolley dollies serving food and drink then the same trolley dollies selling in flight goods. I refuse to comply with their description ‘Duty Free’ because it isn’t when you travel within the EU. Usually we pass on buying such goods but gadgetry always appeals so a memory addition widget for our iPhones could not be resisted. Neither could a perfume presented in a household cleaner spray style bottle. I don’t care if the perfume is crap, I just love visual wit. Remember, there are no pockets in shrouds!

Sadly there was only one memory addition widget for our iPhones on board so we will have to try and buy another on the journey back. If that isn’t successful, then the good old Internet will come to the rescue. Once a widget has been desired it must be had in our household!

Landing at Alicante followed quite a long time of being stacked over the sea, was a little bumpy on approach due to strong head winds but was fairly uneventful otherwise. Unusually we got a gate that was near baggage handling so no long trek needed. Our suitcase came (eventually) so we trolled off to find the shuttle bus to the Victoria car hire firm. While we were waiting another couple came to wait at the same stand. They were English, very sniffy and obviously considered themselves superior. They arrived at the stand well after we did but when the shuttle bus came they shoved past and loaded their baggage first. When we got to the car hire depot, again they shoved past and got to the desk first as if it was their right to do so. When they had completed their transactions they headed to the car that they had hired – to our amusement it was the smallest, cheapest car that Victoria hire out. I shall always remember them as Lord and Lady Snooty-Cheapskate!

The car hire official was pleased to tell us that we had been upgraded to an Opel Astra at no extra cost. After our experience of the gearbox in the last Opel we hired we expressed our disappointment so bless them, they reverted us to the Peugot 308 that we had asked for. It was exactly the same one as last time and true to form, it had the same, self depressing accelerator pedal, so we got to Calpé in a breath.

Opening up the house was quick and simple, then it was down to Calpé to find lunch at our favourite good value restaurant. As ever I didn’t realise that I was hungry until I started eating (a strange legacy from a strange childhood) but I did and consumed the repast with gusto. For the main course I had beef liver. I don’t like liver in the UK but the way that the Spanish cook it a la plancha makes it tender, succulent and delicious. I can’t have their chips because they fry floured foods in the same fryer so they always do verduras a la plancha for me and the plancha transforms thin slices of courgette and aubergine into something magical. I even got to have a dessert, arroz con leche y canela (rice pudding with cinnamon.) Again I can’t stand rice pudding at home but here they serve it ice cold and it is lovely. (Hot rice pudding, yuk!)

The arroz con leche y canela got me thinking. Who, in dim and distant pre history, thought of taking tree bark and adding it to food? Are we descended from tree nibblers? Come to think of it, who thought that digging up tubers and eating them was a good idea? Whatever possessed somebody to take grass seeds, grind them between stones, add water, leave the mix to ferment then add more ground up grass seeds, maul it around a bit then bake it? I could go on ——- and on ——- and on, but I won’t and you get the idea.

After lunch we went to the most coeliac friendly supermarket on the planet, Mercadona, to get in essential supplies. Essentially these were breakfast foods because Garrath has declared it a no cooking holiday for me so we will lunch out every day. Inevitably there will be jam and chutney making from the over full freezer, but other that that, no cooking. Whoopee do!

Back home to unload, plus a ten minute snooze for me, then you will never guess what we did next and where we are now. We walked down to the local where Garrath is enjoying a beer and I am being abstemiously saintly consuming only tea and water. Panic not readers, this won’t last. I can hear a gin and tonic calling to me!

The Tesco Moment!

Lynne and I have just named a moment! Earlier in the year we visited Philip and we always start our visits by diving into at least one G&T. This time we arrived with a bottle of Bombay Sapphire, which was just as well as the first round finished his Tesco gin. So we cracked open the blue bottle. The first sip provoked a loud exclamation in chorus from all three of us. Now Bombay Sapphire is the only gin we will choose. Tonight at the hotel bar Lynne asked for a G&T and got Gordons by default. The second she asked for Bombay Sapphire, and again there was the exclamation! So this is now the ‘Tesco Moment’

The Lanzarote Trip Day One 05.12.2015

That day started at around 02.20 for me, a not unusual occurrence that meant I could play pooters (occupy my self on my computer) for a few hours before the 04.45 alarm. Garrath would have us at the airport the day before the flight if I let him get away with it, but as it was he made do with us being at the airport by 07.00 for the 09.00 flight.

The taxi arrived early, the roads were quiet so the journey to the airport was speedy and uneventful, apart from the weather that is. Howling gales and driving rain (more of that later) made us glad that we were heading for warmer climes.

The usual airport routines followed smoothly and for once I didn’t set the alarm off when we were going through security. I won’t wear those huge, hoop earrings to travel again! Essential in flight necessities and emergency supplies were purchased ( a nail file and a neck cushion) the regulation cup of tea was consumed while we waited for the gate to be called, then the agonisingly slow and uncomfortable process involved in getting to and boarding the plane. No air bridge for cheapo peasants such as we. We had to walk through the deluge to the gate and get into the plane via steps.

All appeared to be going relatively well but no progress was made towards the runway. So we waited …………. and waited …………………….. and waited!

During the wait the captain explained that the delay was due to the “inclement weather,” This was the Captain’s genteel euphemism for it pissing down and blowing a hooley! We were also informed that our route had been changed. We were to fly first to Faro in Portugal where we there would be a 45 minute stop for refuelling then we would fly to Arrecife from there. It appears that flying in “Inclement weather” requires more fuel than flying in clement weather (Is there such a word as clement?)

After what seemed like an eternity and a change of take off direction we finally got off the ground at around 10.40. It was undoubtedly the rockiest, lumpiest take off that I have ever experienced, the start of a bumpy ride through the weather front that has caused severe weather warnings, but that is Winter and climate change for you! The chance of being able to enjoy part of the day in Puerto Del Carmen was blown away by the “inclement weather” and the refuelling stop in Faro. Hey ho, with luck we will be leaving the “inclement weather” behind.

I suppose that if I were one of those showy-offy pain in the arse women who tells everybody where they have travelled, usually with a pseudo posh accent delivered in patronising tones whilst looking down their noses, I could say that after our stop at Faro we have been to The Algarve. However, I am not one of those women so I will only say that if I meet one of them, wait for an uncomfortable few seconds of silence then tell them it was an enforced stop at Faro while flying to our cheap package holiday.

Three hours later we were sitting in the plane at Faro airport while the plane was refuelled. Oh deep joy, today we took the scenic route! The weather at Faro looked very promising and since we were on our way further South, it bode well for the holiday, once we got there of course.

The things you do to alleviate boredom. When refreshments came around I ordered a cup of tea and a bottle of water. It was Harrogate water. Typically pretentious, Harrogate (pronounced Herroooooow – geet) water comes in a mock cut glass, plastic bottle. Needless to say I had to photograph it but for some reason I can’t add the photo here.

During the brief refuelling stop at Faro airport we learned that the conditions at Leeds Bradford are now so bad that the return flight today will not be able to land there but will have to land at East Midlands instead. I think that we were very lucky indeed to get away at all.

There will be some very grumpy passengers on the return flight, probably the perpetual moaners who are too stupid and intransigent to accept that this is for their own safety. No doubt they will be coached back to Leeds Bradford. I really pity the staff on that plane and those coaches.

I guarantee that there will be people on the return flight who bitch on about it endlessly. It is a complete waste of time and energy. Nothing can be done about the weather in Leeds Bradford (except in the long term by taking climate change seriously) so what the hell is the point of bitching about it? Rant over for now.

That brings me to yet another reflection on the nature of many British people. I firmly believe that if moaning were an Olympic sport, we would always win gold. Make no mistake, I have no problem with legitimate complaint where someone has had poor service. That is right and proper and in many cases protects future users of the service from maltreatment. What I do have a very real and very big problem with is the pointless, futile whinging that so many Brits indulge in. We weren’t labelled ‘Whinging Poms’ by the Aussies for nothing.

I now have a strict rule about this. I tell people that if they are not prepared to do something about the issue they are moaning about, I am not prepared to listen to them moaning about it. It is a great rule and it protects me from those people who come around, bend your ear about their perceived troubles, demand sympathy, ask your advice which you give freely, then they go away, do bugger all about it then come back and bend your ear about it again. I have no time for that kind of negativity. It is futile and it is draining. I have told people about this rule and some have said,

“But what can you do?” Explain your rule, tell them to stop, if they won’t, walk away from the person, tell them to leave your home, if they are a passenger stop the car and tell them to get out, that’s what you can do! If you are a passenger in their car (always risky with a moaner) earphones come in very handy.I f they are earaching you on the phone, put the phone down. You do not have to listen

The refuelling stop at Faro was refreshingly brief, only about 20 minutes, then we were off on the second leg of our journey. That took about one and a half hours. I’m guessing really. By that time I was brain dead! Baggage collection was relatively painless as was the airport transfer to the hotel. We got to the hotel room at about 17.40, a mere ten hours after setting off, a breeeeeeeeze!

Now we are sitting at the hotel bar, I am drinking my second gin and avoiding eye contact with all the other English tourists. Anglophobic? Us? Too bloody right. We’re on holiday.

The Finale

This is it, the final blog from our Spanish trip. It is over, the travelogue ends here (until December with the Lanzarote trip and Christmas when we come back to Spain, then again in the Spring, all being well.)

This morning we went to the bank to conclude the business of opening bank accounts. Luis, the bank worker who has helped us throughout, was delightful. He has already transferred one of the direct debits and will complete the rest ASAP, which, since this is Spain, could be months away. No matter, the Kutxta Bank is small and friendly unlike Sabadell which we are leaving without conscience.
After the banking business we went to our favourite Spanish bar in Calpe town for tea and water and tapas and to bid a fond farewell to Candido, the guy who serves there and with whom we have developed a very affable relationship over the years that we have been restoring the house.

Back home and back to the depressing business of packing, tidying up the house, the last chutney deliveries, packing the car in preparation for departure. We had a scratch lunch with what was left in the fridge, and excesses were put in a carrier bag for Audrey. We hate waste so we have a caring, sharing relationship with Audrey to make sure that there isn’t any. Between her and the compost pit, most stuff is covered. I know that Keith will thoroughly enjoy my Honeyons (onions in vinegar and honey) and pickled chillies because his tastes are very similar to mine. He once had the cheek to complain that one year’s Mermelada Volcanica (chilli jam) wasn’t as hot as the previous year’s batch. That’s my boy Keith!

We left for the airport at 16.30 and had a great drive that ended at 17.35, a journey that we always estimate will take 1.5 hours. Hmmm, that self depressing accelerator pedal on the Peugot 308 was responsible, I’m convinced of it. When I commented to Garrath,

“Gosh that didn’t take long,” he replied drily, ” I’m not surprised, you were doing 140 k.p.h!” It was that pedal Garrath, not me! Fortunately the pedal doesn’t do automatic depression in radar controlled zones, a very smart design feature by Peugot.

Needless to say we reached the airport early and because of that we there was no queue at the check in desk. Bags through we were free to meander through the various checks on the way to the departure lounge. Cleverly they always make you walk through the airport shop first and there I purchased a perfume that I can only get at airports or on planes.

I resisted the urge to go into El Corte Inglés zapateria (shoe shop) first because there was no room in my hand luggage for shoes and second because I have filled my shoe buying quota for this holiday. I even had to leave a new pair behind, a delightfully frivolous pair in glitter and patent leather. They will do nicely for the Christmas trip.

What I failed to resist was the leather shop where I purchased a new wallet. I had determined that I would buy one on this trip but since we hadn’t been to any markets or done any shopping other than food shopping I had failed in that mission. No matter, I am now the proud possessor of a very flash, designer job that fulfils all my requirements.

We found a seat in a Tapas bar, got drinks, I rearranged my hand luggage to include the perfume, transferred all my vital cash and cards to the new wallet and then we waited for the gate to be called. Garrath is always anxious on travel days – he would have us at the airport the day before if I let him – so he took on the responsibility for jumping up and down every fifteen minutes to see if the gate had been called. Eventually it was so we proceeded there to find that a queue had formed even though the gate hadn’t opened. I fail to understand why people do this? The plane can’t leave until the last person is on board so why queue? Is it the Sheep tendency in people or is it a peculiar British addiction to queueing? I just don’t get it at all.

We sat and waited until boarding had commenced and got on the bus that was to take us to the plane. Because we hadn’t rushed to be the first in the queue we were among the last on the bus so very near the door and therefore early on to the plane while those who had rushed to be at the front of the queue were among the last. Makes sense doesn’t it?

The usual routines were followed, packing the bags in the overhead lockers, turning off electrical equipment (always traumatic for cyber junkies like Garrath and I) the safety check, taxiing to the runway, take off etc etc. Now it is time to settle into the flight, accept the fact that the holiday is over and for me to reconcile myself to returning to the wrong side of the Channel. No driving at the other end so a few G & T’s will ease the pain a little, but only a little.

Such is life!

Being Busy, Oily & Sweaty, Seaside Lunch, More Business.

I was up earlier than Garrath as usual (06.50) so I set upon a new preserving adventure, making Moroccan style preserved lemons and limes. It is simple enough. All you have to do is stuff the fruit with salt (posh, coarse sea salt) then stuff them hard (the more squashed in the better) into jars and topping the jar up with lemon/lime juice. You are supposed to turn the jars once a week but we can’t because we won’t be here, but we shall see. It it works it is the perfect, saleable comestible for the excess of lemons and limes that the trees are producing. Apparently you can preserve Kumquats in the same way which might be tempting but since Kumquat chutney is THE most delicious chutney ever, I doubt if I will do that.

Today was designated the clearing up and preparing to close the house day plus the changing of bank accounts day. The first job was to oil all the oak furniture, a tedious, oily, but very necessary task. We have learned from past experience that it is futile to bathe and get dressed before doing this because it is an intense, messy, sweat inducing-job so you have to bathe again after doing it. So the task was done whilst still wearing jim-jams (PJ’s to my American friends.) We have got it down to a fine art now so it only took one and a half hours, but we were knackered with aching backs afterwards so a hotter, longer bath than usual was called for. Consequently that is exactly what we had.

A few chores later – replacing table covers, seat cushions, books, ornaments; sorting out chutneys and jams to give away; printing out paperwork for the bank and the like – and we were ready to go to lunch. Thinking that this would be our last lunch in Calpe this trip we decided to eat at a restaurant on the Partida La Fossa so that we could enjoy views and sounds of the sea while eating.

Lunch was at La Terraza and it was delightful. I had anchovies with garlic to start while Garrath had a prawn omelette. For the main course I chose Lomo A La Plancha Con Huevo – pork loin with egg – and Garrath chose Albondigas Casera – meat balls house style – and we had a mixed salad to share. We even got a dessert, a chocolate layered ice cream though mine didn’t have the artistically squirted, caramel flavoured goo that Garrath’s had. Why can’t they make gluten free caramel flavoured goo I wonder?

After lunch we meandered along the prom, back to the car then back home to collect a gas bottle that we needed to swap for a full one at the local Ferreteria (hardware shop.) Garrath insisted on taking an alternate route c/o the satnav which involved twists and turns along single track roads with high walls. “It is much shorter,” he assured me but it took twice as long so I have flatly refused to use the stupid route ever again. The ‘discussion’ about it (Garrath always describes his argumentative nature as ‘discussion’ or ‘conversation’) with me bad grumpily declaring,

“Well I’m doing the f*cking driving so I’ll decide what f*cking route we take!” That was well below the belt because Garrath had had his license suspended because of the brain tumours, but sometimes one has to use below the belt tactics to end an argument.

Gas acquired we started distributing some of the chutneys, one lot to the French guys out back from whom we got an invitation to dinner next May, more to Julian and his family, also out back, then to Ula and Jurgen. Tomorrow we have to gift some more to Robert & Marijke and to Keith & Audrey. It is a tradition now. I make jams and chutneys from the garden produce and I give them to neighbours and friends.

The start of the tradition is interesting enough to note here. When first I took on responsibility for the falling down wreck that my mother had abandoned, there was considerable hostility from the neighbours. I was her daughter after all and she had upset most of them, not least by allowing the property to become the neighbourhood eyesore. I knew that I would have an uphill struggle trying to overcome their hostility so I made jam, lots of jam, from the garden produce. I labelled it carefully with the name of the property and at the end of the stay sent Garrath off to give jars to all the neighbours. He was bewildered but I told him to trust me and he did as I had asked. The very next stay the formerly hostile neighbours all came to thank me for the jam – a fine conversation opener – and thus the hostility was dispelled and a tradition established.

Making jams and chutneys is a bit of a bind during a break but sooooooooo worth it when the reception to that simple gesture is friendship, kindness and social interaction.

We had hoped to get into Alicante tomorrow but when we got to the bank we found that it was a typically Spanish long-winded, convoluted process that demands lots and lots of paperwork, some of which we had not predicted would be needed so we have to go in again tomorrow to complete the process. No wonder Luis is jealous of the UK process (see yesterday’s blog.) After one and a half hours we are only half way through opening the bank accounts and it will take three months to transfer the business from our current bank. Hmmmmm, this is Spain after all!

Post bank we had to walk back to the car through an unfamiliar area where the shops were now open and enticingly illuminated. They included a perfume shop. Let me explain. I am now relaxed enough to be able to have days where I don’t wear any make up. We call them NMU (no make up) days. But I describe myself without wearing perfume as being stark naked. I have a whole cupboard full of perfume and I need an equivalent here so it was my moral duty to go in and start the process, which indeed I did.

Bliss, they had all the best designer names and what is more THEY WERE DISCOUNTED! I walked out with two old standards (modern ones are too pink and sugary for my tastes) having enjoyed a significant saving. I’ll be the sweetest smelling old bat in Calpe. I even got freebies, a bit demoralising because it was anti wrinkle stuff but at least I made the saleslady laugh and think a little by saying that I had earned my wrinkles and wear them with pride.

After the drive home and putting goodies away guess what? We trundled down to the local watering hole for our final dose of Spanish anaesthesia.

Life is good!

Lousy night, Laundry Collection, Utility Shopping, and Lunch With Friends 14.10, 2015

Absolutely lousy night first of nightmares (temperature probably) then of non sleep, first waking at 12.50 then repeatedly trying to sleep, getting up, trying sleep again getting up again, etc etc – boooooooooooooring! I hate nights like that but whinging about it serves no useful purpose so I shall move on.

When I did finally give up on the idea of sleep and get up. Hoo-bloody-ray, the rain has stopped. Granted the skies were murky, the weather looked unpromising, BUT THERE WAS NO RAIN!

We got ready pretty sharpish and headed off to collect the laundry that we could not collect yesterday because of Las Lluvias (Spanish for a deluge) then did some basic, getting ready to go shopping, – dehumidifiers, oil for the oak furniture etc. This time we were able to call at the local watering hole for tea and water before heading back to meet up with Keith and Audrey to go out for lunch.

Bless Keith, on the three occasions that we have gone out to lunch together he has driven to give me a break from driving, a much appreciated, kind gesture. Speaking of driving, just as I have become accustomed to driving the Peugot 308 we are approaching the time when I have to hand it back. Still, I have that one last motorway ride to come – wheeeeeeee!

We went once more to the Cooperativa Agricoles de Progreso in Parcent and the meal was delightful. After being provided with gluten free toast with which to enjoy the pungent alioli (love it) I took the waitresses recommendation and had the soup as a starter as did Keith. Audrey and Garrath had their own selection and delicious as it looked, I fear that they missed out, big time. The soup consisted of whole lentils (the green kind, similar to Puy lentils) sausages, chorizo, potatoes and the most delicious stock ever. I can honestly say that it was the best soup I have ever had, ever, anywhere, and I have dined in Michelin starred restaurants.

After that I had the local sausages. Sausages? How dull you might say. Well let me remind you that English sausages are stuffed with ingredients that actually poison me, so getting sausages that don’t poison me is a real treat. What is more, most English sausages are dull, blandly, flavourlessly, dull and this is certainly not true of Spanish sausages. I had three, one a slice of black pudding style, spicy and well seasoned, another a conventional pork one but again well seasoned, moist and spicy, the last one a fresh Chorizo and all three were beautifully cooked and accompanied with contamination-free chips. Deep joy!

When it came to dessert I had only one choice – flan (caramel custard) but at least it was one choice more that I usually get. I was so preoccupied with the delicious comestibles that I had that I hardly noticed what the others had. Frankly I don’t care. They always have a vast array of choices, I don’t and I was thoroughly enjoying mine.

After lunch we repaired to Keith and Audrey’s house for tea and chat, always easy with them in spite of, or maybe because of out political differences, Garrath did his Dr Megabyte trick with Keith’s smartphone, and then we said fond farewells and we got back home to do dreary stuff like put away Lavaderia Ana’s sterling efforts.

It didn’t take long for us to determine that a visit to the local watering hole was long overdue (missed last night due to the ****ing rain) and here we are again.

While we were here Garrath was reading The Independent on line and delighting in Jeremy Corbyn’s exchange at Prime Minster’s Question Time today when he put down David Cameron . We delighted in this and celebrated Corbyn’s honesty and common decency as compared to Cameron’s thinly disguised, Thatcherist, support for the exploitative and self serving.

The male partner of an English couple who were sitting at the table next to us was earwigging and became stony faced, particularly when Garrath commented that Cameron’s ‘Starter Homes’ initiative would be beyond the range of him, even at his inflated salary. Ill disguised anger suffused his (Tory) face and he called for the bill.

When there was a problem with the ticket machine and the lady serving tried to explain what was wrong, Garrath tried to help, but incandescent Tory ignored Garrath with a fury that was palpable. It seemed to us the fact that Garrath obviously earns a salary that is way in excess of his and is still a Socialist was something that he was not, on his self appointed high horse, prepared to countenance.

After they had left Garrath asked,

“Did I upset them?’ And when I responded with, “Yes, seriously,” he responded with “Yay, Success!” It is great fun winding up the self-appointed Bourgeoisie.

I received a brilliant offer on a suite of software that expires before we get home so while we are here on free WIFI we decided that I should buy it and download it tonight. Sadly the download speed is nightmarishly slow so we are still waiting, and waiting, and waiting! It seems that I am going to have to sit here and drink wine until the long winded process is over.

Jeez, the sacrifices I have to make to be a cyber junkie, hic!!!

Back Off Thor!!! 13.10.2015

Today was designated a business day the first task being to go down to the bank to withdraw enough money to pay the gardener for the next half year’s maintenance and for all the ‘little extras’ that add up to a huge amount. It looked like a good day for a business day, dismal and cloudy with rain forecast, so after a much more rapid start that usual we went down into Calpe town.

It seemed that after the four day Fiestas with shops all closed, the world and her husband had headed into town to do catch up shopping so parking was an issue. Garrath needed some glue to fix the new lampshade that broke while he was putting it on the lamp so we went to Brico Aitana (the hardware part of the store where we have a discount card) and used their car park. Even there we were lucky to get a space.

Glue purchased plus three very cute mini capacos (builders buckets) for snacks we went to the bank. We used to love that bank when it was CAM (Caja Ahorra Mediterráneo) but CAM has since been gobbled up by Sabadell and we hate it now. CAM used to have a delightful Dutch lady, Cristina, who was incredibly helpful and fluent in many languages. As soon Sabadell gobbled up CAM she and all the other CAM staff disappeared, presumably hoofed unceremoniously, and were replaced by fewer, less helpful and less linguistically accomplished staff.

On a previous trip we had to wait two and a half hours just to pick up a bank card. When we finally got to speak to a staff member and said that the wait was unreasonable she urged us to complain to head office and say they were understaffed because she herself was paid from 08.00 to 14.00 but was expected to work until 18.00. So not only does their service stink, they bully and exploit their staff too.

Anyway, we went into the bank, took a queue ticket and waited – and waited – and waited! When we got to the desk the guy was pleasant enough and we got the cash OK, but I had already determined that we need to move all our business to another bank. The wait is bad enough but I refuse to support any company that exploits its staff so from there we went to the small, very friendly little bank where Garrath has his Spanish account and enquired about transferring accounts.

The lovely guy in there who speaks wonderful English explained that we have to open accounts, provide passport, NIE numbers (National Identification Numbers) utility bill details etc. then leave it to him to negotiate with Sabadell over a period of several weeks until the transfer is completed. I expressed disappointment that it is such a complex process and he said that he knew that in the UK it is a very simple process, a matter of pressing a few buttons and that he is very jealous! So yet another business day needed. Ugh!

While we were walking back to the car it started raining, not terribly heavily at first, but enough to need an umbrella and start to creat large puddles on the badly drained roads. We realised that it would be impossible to drive anywhere for lunch so we called in at Mercadona (the GF aware supermarket) to get some stuff for a light lunch in the hope that the weather would let up enough for us to go out to dinner.

Fat chance! When we got out of Mercadona the deluge was so dramatic that the roads were seriously flooded and I was very lucky to get the car through the deep water and home. Garrath had intended us to stop at the local watering hole for tea and free WIFI but I said, “F*ck that for a game of soldiers, I’m getting us straight home through this river if I can,” and that is exactly what I did, in spite of protests from the car with four danger warnings one of which ‘Take the car to the garage immediately!’ I only hope that it dries out by tomorrow, but looking at the weather it is another case of Fat Chance!

The rain abated a little during the afternoon giving false hope that we might be able to get out for a meal. Fat Chance again. The gardener, Perran, came to collect his cash at a time when the rain had actually stopped. Deep joy and yet more false hope. He too had ploughed through knee high puddles and actually had to go to the garage to get his car fixed.

Needless to say, once Perran left the bloody heavens opened and it hasn’t stopped since, We have thunder, we have lightning and we have rain, rain and more bloody rain, roof thumping, street bouncing, flood creating, going out preventing RAIN and if it carries on like this it will be sleep preventing, sitting inside a drum RAIN!!!

Back off Thor! I am thoroughly pissed off with your antics. You have robbed me of a day’s holiday and it is not the first one. You have scared me witless by making me drive through a river to get home. I am grumpy, hungry and thoroughly hacked off. You have robbed me of lunch, dinner and a day’s recreation. Enough is enough!

Recovering From Poorlies, Quiet Start, New Places, Old Friends

No blog yesterday because I was poorly, taken all strange, dizzy, nauseous and feverish so I had to come home and put myself to bed. Yuk, just what you don’t need on hollybags and just what you don’t need to read about so I shall pass swiftly on.

This morning we had a slow, steady start because I still felt grotty, but eventually I thought that I might survive so we set off on a jaunt on the understanding that if I started to feel dire again I would turn around and come back. This is one of the many down sides to being the only driver.

For some unfathomable reason I decided to drive to a town that we had seen the signposts for but never visited, Pedreguer. Garrath chose the route there and it was a visual delight, lovely winding roads through spectacular mountains, picturesque and interesting to drive, it took us through lovely villages but was always wide enough to drive comfortably.

A short circular detour enabled me to take pictures of a wonderful ruin that I have passed before but never stopped to photograph – another one off my ‘Must Capture’ list, and then we were off again.

When we got to Pedreguer we found a parking space easily then walked into the town centre where we found the remnants of some kind of celebratory parade (today is a National Fiesta.) Everybody was dressed up to the nines and to my delight The Guardia Civil were in dress uniform and that included those gorgeous, distinctive, patent leather hats with a folded up kepi at the back. Needless to say they were the focus of my photographic attention.

We had a cuppa and water at Centro La Musical, a lovely very Spanish cafe that boasts lots of photos of their bands from donkeys years back to the present day. The clientele were affable and noisy and the staff had a delightful manner that English serving staff would do well to emulate.

After that we moved to a restaurant recommended by Trip Advisor only to find that every table was reserved, not surprising because the food being served looked magical. Thwarted in our epicurean ambitions we went back to the car and drove to La Brisa in Teulada where we were welcomed and recognised, so much so that they brought me toasted gluten free bread to enjoy with the appetisers. Lunch was excellent and after it I felt a lot better.

Back to Calpe via a new-to me road, also bendy but wide enough to enjoy. I am now familiar enough with the car to fling it around bends, Spanish style, though not at the breakneck speed that they do it.

We called at the supermarket that only closes on Christmas day then called at the local watering hole for – well water actually. Whatever bug has got me requires me to rehydrate furiously, probably because I am pumping it out of my pores at a rate of knots. That done we headed home to prepare for the guests that we were expecting for the evening.

I have a very long history with Ula and Jurgen, our guests for the evening. When my parents moved here in 1973 they befriended Ula’s father, Karl Hoffstadt, who was their next door neighbour. Later I befriended Ula’s brother Hans and his wife Elvira. Ula has since inherited Karl’s house and we have befriended her and her husband Jurgen, a delightful, gentle man, a former university teacher whose skills are still so valued that he continues to be a guest lecturer all over the place.

We had a lovely evening of easy conversation that affirmed the bonds that already existed, bonds made even firmer by the fact that Jurgen is also a cancer survivor. It seems that there are lots of Swords of Damocles that people live under. We learned that they too have the ‘No Pockets In Shrouds’ philosophy firmly embedded in their lifestyle policy.

All in all a lovely day in spite of the fact that this blasted bug is still bugging me, though not so alarmingly as it was yesterday.

C’est la Guerre!

Phone Calls, Changed Plans, Glittery Things And Christmas 10.10.2015

The day started with the usual routine of getting ready and while I was in the bathroom I said to Garrath,

“I think we should come here for Christmas.” No response but he was obviously thinking about it. Having given it serious thought and after a brief discussion the statement was made,

“Why the hell not?”

Plans for the day were made, first some routine phone calls, two to change the lunch arrangements for tomorrow (our friends’ dog is poorly and they don’t want to travel far) and one to book lunch at El Riu on the way to Guadalest. The lunch arrangements were changed successfully but there was no response from El Riu (fiestas) so we decided to go to El Refugio in Moraira instead and booked that.

First some shopping for essentials then a call into the local watering hole to get some bank transfers done with their free wifi and an internet search to see if a Christmas trip was viable. Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, by doing the bank transfer bit, I learned that I had a silly amount of money in my current account. Mmmmmmm, itchy fingers on the debit card!!!

The internet search about the Christmas trip confirmed its viability and Garrath went on to book and pay for the flights expensive at that time of year but what the hell, here it comes again, THERE ARE NO POCKETS IN SHROUDS!

I phoned later and booked the dogs into kennels – job almost done. All we have to do now is book a hire car. Whoopeee! As one who normally hates Christmas with a passion, I am really looking forward to this one. We are bringing hand luggage only and any warm clothes we need for here will be purchased when we arrive.

After unloading the shopping we made our way to Moraira along the winding coast road. I am getting used to both the road and the car so Garrath only complained once – a record for him. When we got to Moraira we walked towards the restaurant in a leisurely fashion and when we came to my favourite art jewellery shop I had ten full minutes before they closed. In like a shot, I found their Ambar (Amber) and with a full three minutes to spare I had managed to buy a gorgeous shell carved pendant inset with a pearl, the chain that it was displayed with, a stunning, huge, uniquely designed ring in the same coloured Ambar and a pair of perfectly colour matched drop earrings with two huge chunks of Ambar hanging on exactly the same kind of chain that the pendant is on. Pockets, shrouds, banks – sod it, I will be the glitziest corpse in the grave .

We arrived at El Refugio three minutes late, early by Spanish standards, and went on to have a fabulous lunch. I ate so much beautifully cooked fish that I should have a brain the size of a planet tomorrow! El Refugio is undoubtedly the best restaurant we have ever come across when it comes to catering for me. Why? The boss’s daughter is coeliac. Best of all the food is to die for.

After lunch (during which I had taken off my jewellery and put on the new stuff) we went for a leisurely meander through the marina and the town, stopping for a cuppa on the way. The fish in the marina entertained as usual, still convinced that all humans at the marina side are bread providers, even though the regulations have changed and you are no longer allowed to feed the fish (such a shame.)

Then the drive back on the winding road, a brief stop at the Chinese sells everything cheap store (well it would be rude to drive past) then home just in time to put the camera away and repair to the local watering hole on foot, which is where we are now.

All in all a truly delightful day, not only for its contents but for the prospects for Christmas that it achieved.

Chutney, Burns And Visiting Friends 09.10.2015

A brief blog at the end of a very busy that was taken up mostly by chutney completion, a summary of which is here –

Turn hob on
Stir chutney regularly
Garrath up
Stir chutney regularly
Drink tea while stirring chutney regularly
Run bath
Stir chutney regularly
Garrath has bath and gets dressed while I stir
Garrath stirs while I have bath and get dressed
I take over chutney duty and stir chutney regularly
Get Garrath to take over stirring regularly
Put on make up
Take over chutney duty
Stir chutney (now volcanic) constantly
Turn off hob
Go to lunch
Stop at local watering hole for tea and coffee
Get back
Garrath goes to Rob & Marijke’s to play Dr Megabyte
Turn on hob
Stir volcanic chutney constantly
Burn arm with splashed volcanic chutney
Turn down hob
Go out to garden to get an aloe vera leaf to put on burn
Apply Aloe Vera juice to burn
Improvise dressing with wet kitchen towel and cling film (one handed)
Turn up hob
Stir volcanic chutney constantly
Test chutney for thickness
Stir volcanic chutney constantly
Garrath returns
Get Garrath to go down to freezer for ice while I stir chutney constantly
Turn hob down
Crush ice for improvised ice pack using freezer bag & cling film
Turn hob up
Stir volcanic chutney constantly
Get Garrath to stir volcanic chutney while I go to the loo
Don rubber glove to catch drips from improvised ice pack
Test chutney for thickness
Stir volcanic chutney constantly
Keep tuning hob up and down to avoid volcanic splashes whilst stirring constantly
During down hob phase select jars and lids and wash them
Rinse jars
Test chutney for thickness & determine it is ready for bottling
Prepare all kit for bottling
Get Garrath to design and print chutney labels
Sterilise jars and lids
Bottle chutney
Converse with gardener who has brought over his invoices while bottling chutney
Complete bottling
Smugly count the 20 jars over and over
Remove improvised ice pack & rubber glove
Join Garrath and gardener in discussion about fixing the drive
Give gardener jars of last year’s chutney
Return upstairs and smugly count the 20 jars over and over
Lock house
Walk down to Rob & Marijke’s house and spend a pleasant social evening with them
Come back to the house and write this brief blog
Feel very smug about completed chutney production.

So there you have it in brief, a day in my life here in Spain. When we return here in Spring today’s chutney will be matured and perfect for eating. Success!

Rain, Rain, More Rain and Chutney 08.0.2015

Rain, Rain, More Rain And Chutney 08.10.2015

I woke at 04.50 after a restless night characterised by disturbing dreams, none of which I can remember now. No worries, maybe my subconscious needed to rattle them around my sleeping consciousness. Who knows? I’m damned if I’m paying a dream therapist to try to make sense of them. That’s just another kind of hocus pocus and I have no time for hocus pocus of any kind.

From around 06.00 it rained and with a few short breaks it rained all day. Some of it was soft rain, some of it head numbing, roof drumming, heavy as hell rain that made mushroom splashes on the ground and turned Avenguda Jaime 1 Conquerador (James the First Conqueror Avenue in Valenciano) into Riu Jaime 1 Conquerador (River James the First Conqueror in Valenciano.)

We didn’t mind. We are not made of sugar to use a well worn phrase coined by former Councillor colleague John Prestage’s mother. We have waterproof clothing and what is more, after lunch I bought myself a pair of ankle wellies – sorted. Besides, we knew that today and tomorrow were going to be rainy, we also knew that the painter was going to come to paint the new bathroom ceiling, so we had already designated today and tomorrow as chutney days.

I woke Garrath at 07.40 because I knew that we had to be finished with the bathroom early because of the painter. He was as he describes himself, “A bit flat” which is hardly surprising in view of my crack up last night. That was enough to flatten anybody’s batteries, including mine. Nevertheless we got on with things.

As it happened the painter arrived at 09.20 and had his work done in an hour, a superb job done by a really meticulous professional. It transpired that it was the very same painter who had painted the entire interior of the house some years ago, a job that he did so well that it is still immaculate, and considering what a peeling, damp damaged wreck it was with layer upon layer of peeling, water stained, cheap paint, he is a painter of near genius. He is also a lovely man with a very cheerful, positive attitude. I am beginning to believe that all Monasor’s employees have to pass a good looks test (he was pretty) and be advanced graduates from Charm School.

After ablutions and breakfast and receiving the painter, I started the chutney preparations. The tomatoes, chillies and Seville Oranges had been thawed out overnight, the spices were ready, the vinegar and sugar at hand. All I had to was steam the lemons until they were soft, peel the onions, de-pip the Seville Oranges and lemons (therein lies a story) and chop everything.

When I use Seville oranges straight from the trees they have to be boiled or steamed until they are very soft before they can be used in either marmalade or chutney (They are tough buggers.) It is the same with lemons and limes (equally tough buggers.) Kumquats are not so difficult, apart from making you want you cut your own throat with boredom when preparing them. We have a deal with the gardeners. They harvest all the fruit, after taking what they need, bung it in plastic bags and stick it in the freezer for me. I am delighted to report that freezing Seville oranges renders them soft enough to be used without prior cooking – what a relief. I shall claim that I knew that all along and had them frozen deliberately!

I had already topped all the chillies and tiny cherry tomatoes last night (a straight 8 on The Kumquat Scale) so all that was needed was to steam the lemons and de-pip them and the Sevilles. There were 3 kilos of Sevilles and about a kilo of lemons. I started with the Sevilles while the lemons were steaming. I cut them in half across their equators and used the handle of a teaspoon to remove the pips.

I had previously thought that Kumquats were the champions of the citrus world for the production of pips but oh no, I was wrong. Sevilles are winning by a mile and are absolute champions in deviously, deliberately hiding them. Each orange has around twelve segments and each segment can have up to six pips lurking in there. Some have none just to fool you. Some have just two, some more so you can’t make an educated guess. You just have to prod and poke until you prise the reluctant bastards out and no matter how meticulous you are some will manage to evade your explorations. They score 9.75 on The Kumquat Scale and are only saved from being a 10 by the fact that they are big enough to hold, unlike those piddling, fiddly Kumquats!

Sevilles duly, and I confess, rather grumpily prepared, I moved on the the now soft, steamed lemons. They too presented challenges. I think that Perran planted a so-called seedless variety. For seedless read ‘ fiddly little annoying seeds that are really hard to get out.’ At times like this Marike’s words,

“Why do you make so much work for yourself?” springs readily to mind, but so does “I’ve started so I’ll finish.”

Sevilles and lemons de-pipped, it was time for the onions. Sadly Garrath didn’t respond to my comment,

“And now comes the job I hate most” by offering to peel the onions for me, so I plodded on while he recharged his batteries. Garrath recharges his batteries by relaxing and withdrawing into his own private world which is fine. Today my recharging has to be achieved in the way that I usually do it, like one of those bikes where you pedal like crazy to put more charge in, with lots of activity. T’was ever thus!

Onions peeled I then employed the new Food Processor. All electrical items have to have a name so that you can swear at them when they go wrong so we have decided to call the Food Processor Abdellah, because like Abdellah, it seems to be able to cope with just about anything without getting flustered. Anyway, Abdellah sliced the onions in a breath and then went on to chop the chillies, the Sevilles and the lemons.

I used the whizzy stick (stick blender) to whizz up the tomatoes then it was time for the easy bit, to chuck it all in the preserving pan along with the sugar, vinegar and spices gentle heat it all to boiling point, boil it for five minutes to ensure that everything was sterile then cover it so that we could go to lunch. Phew, what a breeze after the mental health threatening process of de-pipping!

It sounds tedious and laborious, which it is, but what we have to note here is the objective – the immense satisfaction I get from the production of delicious things that neightbours, friends, the gardeners and the builders this time, will get when I hand over truly delicious, home made, unique preserves that are given with genuine love and appreciation.

Lunch was had at the local cheapie and it was lovely, salad, a starter, a main course and a dessert along with a drink, and all for €9 each. Having navigated the torrent that was the road I remembered that it was at the shoe shop next door to the restaurant where I had seen the ankle wellies so I went in and bought them then had the pleasure of plodging through the puddles on the way back to the car. (Plodging, a peculiarly English entertainment borne out of having so much rainy weather, it consists of stamping heavily through puddles so that you cause maximum spray, noise and disruption. I love it!)

A brief call at the local GF aware supermarket later and we were back to both Garrath and I recharging our batteries in our own particular ways, him with whatever, me with the chutney boiling. He booked our restaurant for Sunday with Rob & Marijke and upon informing Rob of this became aware that he has to do his Dr Megabyte act with Rob tomorrow morning while I chutney boil again. (Deep joy, I have the unending joy of bottle and lid sterilising to do and then messy bottling with as little spillage and skin burning as possible.)

Come beer o’clock (I wish) we repaired to the local watering hole to imbibe the electrolytes that facilitate both our recharging systems, beer in Garath’s case, wine in mine.

Who said this was a holiday?

Fruit Gloop, Laundry, Lunch With Friends & The End Of A Dream 07.10.2015

The day started with one of my very few culinary duties this week, making the breakfast gloop. We have run out of strawberries so this time it was figs, lemons and limes from the garden. When zesting the lemons and limes I noted how much more oil I was getting out of them that I would with shop bought ones. Those expensive trees were worth the money, if only for that.

I haven’t a clue how I do this but again I got an exact amount, to the gramme, enough to fill two litre canisters and one half litre canister exactly. With luck that will be enough to see us right through this stay, if not I will have to make more, probably Nispero and lemon this time. Jeez, its a tough call!

It is laundry day two today, soooooo much work involved. Yesterday we delivered the bag of dirties to Lavanderia Ana, today we have to pick up the cleanies from there. Garrath loves laundry days in Spain because he doesn’t have to use the washing machine (I’m banned, the last time I touched it I broke it) hang out the laundry then take it down when dry and fold it. It is a real laundry holiday for him and if we won the lottery he would never touch a washing machine again.

We decided to go down to the local watering hole for half past elevenses then on to Lavanderia Ana to collect the cleanies. On the way down we were alerted to something being amiss by a commercial van driver. I pulled over and he told us what it was in Spanish delivered at a speed that would have done justice to machine gun fire. We were clueless of course, so by a series of gesticulations he showed us where the problem was. It turned out that one of the gardeners had left a pair of safety goggles on top of the car, I hadn’t noticed and had driven off with them still there. Well you don’t expect your hire car to be wearing safety goggles do you? Regardless of the language barrier it was a pleasant exchange accompanied by much laughter. It was very kind of him to alert us but unsurprising because the Spanish are, by nature, very kind people.

The extent of the gardeners’ work last night became fully apparent this morning. The pruning completed we now have a delightful weeping Olive tree. I had asked for it to be pruned into very popular pom pom topiary but in carrying out this very gradual process over the year that had seen the potential of a rather original weeping style tree. I was consulted of course and I agreed that it would be a lovely idea to follow that theme. Remaining vertical limbs lopped off and we now have a very stylish weeping Olive. I do believe that we might have started a trend!

All the weeds have been strimmed leaving a nice green carpet that could almost pass as a lawn if you squint. The gardeners used to rotivate the earth but that killed off my beloved wild flowers so now they wait until I have had time to photograph them all then strim them. Leaving the roots intact binds the soil together nicely and the strimmed weeds give us the faux lawn.

I do believe that we have extended the repertoire of our team of gardeners. They were accustomed to working for people who want easy maintenance, decorative gardens. I set the condition that is a plant doesn’t produce something edible, medicinal or for security protection it has no place in my garden. I think that they had to go back to the text books. Now we have a clearly defined herb garden, lots of healthy and productive fruit trees and chillies everywhere and I am now informed that we are developing a vegetable patch.

We keep finding plants that we don’t recognise beacause one of the gardeners, Willie (we call him Chilli Willie because of his success growing chillies) has taken on the edible plant mantle with enthusiasm. He keeps experimenting with new fruits to see if they will flourish. We currently have Physallis ripening and a very lush, as yet unidentified fruit ripening on a very healthy looking, very thorny bush with beautiful, eye-shaped, glossy leaves. That one is a rip roaring success Willie. Now can you tell us what it is please?

After collecting the laundry from Lavanderia Ana we made it home just in time to go down to Keith & Audrey’s house to get into Keith’s car and go to Parcent for lunch. We discovered the cafe restaurant at the Cooperativa Agrícola El Progreso several years ago when the restaurant we had intended to go to in Parcent was fully booked with a private party. I suppose the nearest English equivalent would be a working men’s club but with a restaurant, a lovely stage with a proscenium arch, beautifully, ornately tiled walls and a gorgeous wooden floor whose creaks remind everyone of long gone school days, church halls and youth clubs. When we discovered it its clientele was strictly Spanish and so the food was very typically Spanish, and very good value too.

Later we took Keith and Audrey there – big mistake. Keith is El Presidente of AFPO, the Association of Foreign Property Owners and since we took them there word has spread like wildfire among the expat communities and the place is always full of expats, especially English ones. So what was our safe retreat from expats is safe no longer! Next time we find an expat free retreat we are going to sneak off there in heavy disguise and keep our mouths firmly shut about it.

They have always been pretty good about dealing with my needs but this time they excelled themselves. I even got some gluten free bread to go with the aioli – wow – and they cooked my patatas fritas separately to avoid contamination. Whoopee, brilliant awareness and a portion of uncontaminated chips!

After lunch we went back to Keith & Audrey’s for tea and chat, always easy and enjoyable, an interlude that had to be curtailed because we had to go back to the house to wait for Peter and his fellow biker who were coming to take the Honda away.

When the time came Peter introduced us to Nigel, another bike fanatic, and what is even better, a mechanic. Peter admitted that when he came for the Kawasaki on Monday night he hadn’t checked out the Honda thoroughly and on seeing it tonight said that he had missed out on a great opportunity because it is “very tidy.” Nigel’s response was to say “Tough,” and express his delight at getting a very nice freebie. Both bikes will be treasured and even better, they will be ridden, something they haven’t been for several years.

I took parting photographs of course, for Garrath’s benefit I thought. I also thought that I would have to deal with his grief at having to part with the beloved Honda that he has owned since 1980, but guess who is the one who is grieving ? Me! Somehow seeing that bike go into the van and the van disappear out of the gate along with our dreams of moving to Spain and riding the fabulous biker roads out here opened the flood gates of grief and sadness that I have been suppressing since Garrath’s hospitalisation on January 3rd. I guess I’m just tired of having to be strong and always having to cope and see the positives. At some time the tears had to flow and tonight might as well be the night.

Pass the tissues guys. I need about six boxes, and then I’ll be back to the person of whom people say,

“Lynne is strong, she will cope, she doesn’t need any help.”

Gas, Gardeners and Hot Air. 06.10.2015

A day of mixed activities, some work, some leisure and pleasure, started with the usual routine getting ready stuff, then a trip to the local Ferreteria to get a new gas bottle. There is no mains gas or sewage here. Gas comes in bottles that have to be lugged from the Ferreteria, Sewage is dealt with by a septic tank – one that cost us €5,000.00 to replace just a few years ago, which considering that we don’t own the house was a bit of a squeeze. Still, gave up hoping that my mother (who does own the property) would take any responsibility for it long ago.

New gas bottle acquired we bumped down to the local supermarket for essential breakfast supplies then bumped back to the house again. I say bumped because the gas bottle rolls around rather alarmingly in the boot every time I take a roundabout or brake. Every time we come we say that we ought to get wedges to stop this and every time we forget!

Breakfast is the only meal where I have to do any food preparation and even that is minimal. It consists of me making breakfast gloop, a puree of fruit from the garden, to put on gluten free cereal along with yogurt. We lunch out every day, supper, if we have any, is just shop bought charcuterie, cheese and crisps. The deal is that I do the washing up, Garrath does the drying and putting away, but this is so minimal that it takes only minutes. Bliss!

After putting everything away, closing the shutters and the like, we made our way down to Partida La Fossa and gently perambulated to the restaurant of our choice, La Terraza, a Ristorante, Arrozeria y Marisceria. Roughly translated (and my translation is very rough) it means that they specialise in rice dishes and seafood. The staff were helpful and seemed to understand my issues well so I ordered a house salad for starters, Garrath ordered Croquettes for starters, and we ordered a sharing rice dish with rabbit and artichokes. When starters came Garrath had eight croquettes, and my salad was gargantuan. Hmmm, I’ll order that as a main course next time.

When the rice dish came we were surprised and delighted. Somewhere between a soup and a stew, the stock in which it was cooked was utterly delicious, there were lovely vegetables and the rabbit was divine. Unsurprisingly we couldn’t finish it all and didn’t have room for a pud, though there were plenty on offer for me. Next time ……

On the next table there were two Spanish couples with their small children. The twin boys who were immediately next to us started to get restless and wanted to engage with us. They were told gently not to disturb us while we were eating but they persisted. What followed was exemplary parenting on the part of both their parents. Distraction was tried, when that failed boundaries were were firmly set and when they failed to respect them they were placed in their buggy and moved away, effectively excluded from interaction. There was no violence, no harsh words, just firm boundary setting and enforcement. Why can’t more parents in the UK do that? I for one get sick and tired of being expected to tolerate the unruly, often seriously intrusive behaviour of out of control brats, brats who turn into monsters who think they are entitled to everything and responsible for nothing.

After that very pleasant repast we went for a meander to the end of Partida La Fossa with me taking photographs of Lifesnapper’s beach babes along the way and calling into a couple more cafes for tea, coffee and water. During one of those stops I saw the silliest of silly hats thus far. I managed to capture that in a sketch that will become a painting to illustrate my verse tomorrow.

We had some amusing times with our Apple watches. At several points while we were sitting at the same table mine had me in Teulada while Garrath’s had him where we were in Calpe, Garrath’s iPhone had a good signal with Orange and mine had a poor signal with YOIGO.

We had expected to have a visit from Peter’s mate who wants to take Garrath’s beloved Honda but when we got back there was a message to say that they couldn’t make it this evening but would come tomorrow, so guess what – down to the local watering hole. There we met our team of gardeners who were on their way to our place to Pom Pom the Olive tree, do some strimming and tidying up.

So here we are again, writing blogs, enjoying a wonderful evening temperature of 24C at my side of the table, 23C at Garrath’s side (Apple watches again) blissfully cool after the hot air of the day (29C) referred to in the title, being eaten alive by those miniature marauders, snickety, snackety horrible bitey things and indulging in whatever drink takes our fancy.

Life is tough!

A Sunless Scorcher, Denia and A Fond Farewell 05.10.2015

Today started cloudy and it stayed cloudy all day. When we are in the UK a cloudy day usually means a cooler day than a sunny one but here that certainly wasn’t the case. It was scorching, seriously hot and humid all day. Maybe the cloud trapped in the heat. Maybe the high humidity meant that we got none of the cooling benefits from sweating. Whatever, it was bloody hot, far to hot to do chutney as I had intended so we got into the air conditioned car and I drove us to Denia.

It is a few years since we have been to Denia. The last time we visited it was showing serious signs of decline as a result of the economic crash, known here as crisis econòmica. There were empty shops, closed restaurants and there was a general feeling of decline. It had a deeply sad, neglected feel about it which is why we haven’t been for so long. Well, we don’t know what the authorities in Denia have done to address this but whatever it was, it worked. The place was buzzing. Car parking was as easy to find as Rocking Horse droppings, the shops were vibrant and busy, the restaurants doing a roaring trade and the port had some seeeeeeeeeeeriously expensive, mega yachts in dock. It was lovely to see this transformation and we spent the day enjoying it.

We had checked out some of the restaurants’ offerings to see if they might be suitable for me and got them down to a shortlist of two. When we gave my explanatory card to a waiter at the first one he screwed his face up. That was enough, bad attitude – not going there. We have since memorised the Spanish for ‘I don’t like your attitude’ (no me gusta tu actitud) and we will use this next time we come across any establishment that sees me as the problem rather than someone who has a problem that needs to be catered for.

The second one was quite different, they laughed and said it was no problem and when we sat down the lady came across and explained what I could have on the cheapest menu del dia, suggesting adaptations that they could make. In the event we ordered from the a la carte menu – just Menu in Spanish – and we ordered a special salad each for a starter. She declared that it would be too much and suggested that we have one between us. I ordered grilled Sea Bass and she said that it came with salad and that would be too much salad, so when I suggested grilled vegetables instead she agreed and adapted the order accordingly. Garrath ordered Spaghetti Bolognese for his main course and all was well.

The food was delightful. The salad was indeed more than enough for two and that Sea Bass did not die in vain. It was perfectly cooked as were the grilled vegetables, and there was a lovely variety of vegetables too. Garrath polished off his spaghetti with gusto and they even managed to provide me with a gluten free dessert. Bliss!

I had already bought a pair of rather flash, patent leather boots and Garrath had spotted a pair of shoes in the same shop. The shop observes the Spanish working day and closes for lunch and a siesta between 14.00 and 17.30 so we had time to meander around the town and the port, stopping for teas and waters in cafes along the way. When we got to the port we saw some mega yachts harboured there – impressive machines but nobody should have so much conspicuous wealth when so many in the world live in poverty.

When the shoe shop opened again they didn’t have the shoes in his size. Deeply disappointing but it just means that we will have to go to the Pikolinos shop in Alicante.

Sadly, some time during the day Garrath lost the steel, titanium and diamond bracelet that I bought for him several years ago. He apologised profusely but there was no need. These things happen. At the end of the day it is only a bracelet. It can be replaced. It is a thing and ultimately things don’t matter. People matter, living things matter, inanimate things don’t. He is still around to lose a bracelet. That is much more important.

Immediately upon leaving the shoe shop he got a phone call from Peter, the guy who is taking the Kawasaki. He had managed to get a van to take the bike away and had been trying to get in contact via the land line all day. So we returned to the car park and I drove us back to the house in Calpe where we were joined by Peter, the van and his mate.

I did as my photographer friend Colleen suggested and took a lot of photos of the bike before it was taken away, then Garrath had to bid a sad but fond farewell to his big baby, the Kwakka. He will complete the paperwork when in the UK, but he retains visiting rights when in Spain!

Peter had already been in touch with another bike fanatic who might be interested in taking the old Honda. He is coming to the house tomorrow evening to have a look. I know that if he does hand over the Honda it will be an even bigger emotional wrench for him, so I have to be there with cuddles, tissues and a tough reality check if he wavers. I do understand but I do hope that he does take that big step. We shall see, but if it does go I will take lots of photographs.

Marijke came around with Tikkus to tell us that she had been to see another vet, that Tikkus has an enlarged heart and that she is on lots of medication to try to prolong her life. Tikkus still has a zest for life so it is worth a try, but we all know that it is only a matter of time before the hard decision has to be made. She is a lovely little dog and deserves every chance, but I think that this trip is the last time we will see her.

We are now in – yes, you’ve guessed it – the local watering hole that has free WIFI where I am reflecting on a busy, eventful and very hot day. It is 21:25 now and at Garrath’s side of the table it is 26C, on my side of the table a mere 25C. Such is life, such is technology. Time for another cooling drink methinks!

Bonding, Bikes, & Parting With Loved Ones

Today, for no apparent reason whatever, the MIFI widget started working again. Phew, what a relief, connectivity again, or so we thought. In fact it is functioning erratically, sometimes at a pace that makes a snail look like Formula One by comparison. Add to that the fact that our web site is behaving very erratically and I had a frustrating morning trying to post my blog and upload my latest verse. Whatever, it took most of the morning and involved a lot of swearing.

At 12.00 I had to give up and slap my face on because we were being taken out to lunch by our Dutch friends, Rob & Marijke. We got to choose the restaurant – El Riu on the road between Callosa d’en Sarria and Guadalest – and best of all, we were chauffeured.

El Riu is for those who appreciate truly Spanish restaurants and in the case of foreigners, those who accept the right of the Spanish to behave as they do in their own country. I have heard English people in there bitch and fratch because the place is noisy on Sunday. Their arrogance beggars belief. This is a Spanish restaurant populated mainly by Spanish people, and Spanish families get together for Sunday lunch to share food, affirm family bonds, catch up with each other’s gossip and they do it NOISILY. That is their way. It is their country and their way should be respected. The English people who bitch and fratch about it should either learn to shout or choose another country.

Most of the main courses are cooked over a wood fire on the huge, open barbecue outside. The cooking is simple and good, the ingredients excellent. For starters we both chose the special salad while Rob had Mountain Sausages and Marijke had grilled aubergines. Rob, Marijke and I chose Conecho Al Ajillo (Rabbit with garlic) while Garrath chose Secreto De Cerdo Iberico (a cut from the Pata Negra pig that is located between the bacon and pork shoulder in the inner region.) The Rabbit was delicious and I made a complete pig of myself by continuing to eat it long after I had satisfied my hunger, simply for pleasure. Judging by Garrath’s silent dedication to eating during the main course and the fact that there wasn’t a scrap left on his plate I’m guessing that his Secreto De Cerdo Iberico was delicious too. While the others had wicked looking cakes and cheesecakes for dessert, I had a simple Flan Con Almendros (caramel custard with almonds) but at least it was a proper dessert. Chat was as ever, easy and free flowing even though it had to be shouted, a lovely lunch time.

We returned straight home because their much loved dog, Tikkus, is not well. Later, while I was taking photographs in the garden, a very tearful Marijke told Garrath that she and Rob were in dispute about what to do. Tikkus is 13 and obviously sick but still has an enthusiasm for living so Rob wants her to have the expensive tests to see if there is a way of prolonging her life. Marijke who has, like we have done in the past, hung on way too long after her dog should have been given a dignified exit, wants to do that for Tikkus right now. It is the eternal dilemma when we hold the power of life and death over our much loved pets – when to let go. I can see both their points of view. They are equally valid. We will have to face the same choices with our two before long and it will be heartbreaking. All we can do with Rob & Marijke is support whatever decision they finally agree upon.

On to more partings, this time Garrath and his much loved motor bikes that have been sitting in the garage in Spain for the last few years. Now that he has lost his driving license and it is unlikely that he will get it back, they are just sitting there, reminders of what once was and now cannot be. Our gardener put us in touch with a bike enthusiast of his acquaintance and he has agreed to take the Kawasaki Z1000. Garrath will get on to the internet tomorrow to see if he can find a home for the Honda CB 500T. If not it will be consigned to the great scrap heap in the sky. That will be a huge emotional wrench for Garrath because he has had it since 1980, but it will be better than the constant reminder of the losses brought about by his brain tumour.

On to more cheerful things, we are now in the local watering hole, Garrath has bought me roses again, the wifi here is free and I will be able to upload my blog in good time to keep the readership happy so life isn’t all bad!

Chutney, Buggered MIFI & Entertaining 03.10.2015

The day started sloooooooooooowly because Garrath said those dangerous words,

“Shall we just have one more,” down at the local watering hole last night. I should have been sensible and said “No,” but after a couple of drinks when I start to say “No” it comes out of my mouth as “Why not?” What the hell, it was a great day followed by a very pleasant night.

That out of the way we found that the MIFI isn’t working – AAAAAAAAARGH! We admit it, we are techno junkies, addicts, saddos who can’t live without connectivity. It is seriously traumatic to be without it. We need therapy on occasions like this, but without wifi we couldn’t access an online therapy site.

Thwarted from doing my usual morning activity I needed a demanding distraction so after getting ablutions and hand washed laundry sorted I started on the chutney again. If I were to advise an aspiring jam or chutney maker my advice would be this –

*Buy every bit of preserving kit that Lakeland has in its catalogue. You will need it all.
*Never start on the boiling process without a reserve stirrer near at hand because the second you stop stirring is the second that the preserve will burn and be ruined.
*Never bother with the oven or boiling water methods for sterilising jars. Use the microwave. It will save you acres of time and effort, though you will have to use boiling water for the lids.
*WEAR AN APRON AND A LONG SLEEVED GARMENT. Trust me, I know and I have the burn scars to prove it.
*Buy pretty labels or print pretty, witty ones on your computer.
*Never give away your produce as gifts unless you are prepared to be accosted by people returning clean, empty jars and wearing expectant expressions.
*Always put extra labels on your produce with the exact ingredients. People have allergies and they need to know.

I have an uncanny knack for preparing things without measuring them then finding that they fit the containers I have prepared for them exactly, but this morning I excelled myself. After the chutney’s final boiling and reduction I had precisely the right amount to fill one five litre jar, three litre jars and one half litre jar. When I say precisely I mean exactly that, to the gramme and not a single gramme wasted. Let’s see if I can do the same with the next batch, cherry tomato, Seville orange and chilli methinks. Sounds weird? Well I’m willing to bet it will be deeeeeeeeeee-lish!

This afternoon, after a ‘just feed me’ lunch at the local cheapie. It is on a parade where we can watch the world go by. This along with Partida La Fossa provides me with much verse material, and this is the latest –

Silly hats In Calpe

I wonder what the age is
For wearing silly hats,
I see them all the time here
On preposterous old bats.

Bats of either gender,
And somewhere in between,
All wearing stupid headgear
In beige and pink and green.

Some like jockey’s helmets,
Have enormous peaks
Made of woven straw or plastic
They look like Mallard’s beaks.

Some caps once worn by Donovan
Are sported on the beach,
It seems good taste and discretion
Is way beyond their reach.

White flat caps are favoured
By ageing Belgian men
While Alpine caps on Germans say
Its World War 2 again.

I’ve worked out what the age is
For wearing silly hats,
It happens when you’re old enough
To become retired expats.

Lynne Joyce 03.10.2015

After lunch we had to do the shopping for an evening of entertaining out English and Dutch friends and neighbours. It is the easiest entertaining that we ever do. All we do is provide seating, drinks and nibbles and leave them to it. They obviously enjoy each others’ company immensely but never get together unless we invite them. We simply listen to the lively exchange of fascinating banter, refill glasses and plates and let them get on with it. Easy, peasy and very entertaining. We have given up trying to get a word in edgewise. Why bother? Our egos don’t need it and conversation is not a competition so we just sit back and enjoy.

All in all, a very satisfying day.

Hard Work Day (for Monasor) 02.10.2015

We slept very well ably assisted by our celebratory refreshments last night, then had to hurry up getting ready because the builders were coming. They arrived promptly at 09.00 and set about their task with vigour. Abdellah had decided that the poor light in the bathroom should be sorted by installing a new, lower ceiling below the level of the beam that obscured much of the existing light and setting four flush mounted spotlights into it. That was the first task. He said that he would try to get the electrician there in the afternoon to do the remaining jobs but couldn’t guarantee it.

The builders, two Moroccans by the sound of Abdellah’s conversation with them, worked solidly from 09.00 to 13.30 and installed the new ceiling with wiring set up for the spotlights. Where we had expected the standard, English style, suspended ceiling, what we got was a brand new, solid ceiling, immaculately plastered. I have been to Morocco and seen some of the amazing plasterwork over there so I can safely say that if you want brilliant plastering done, hire a Moroccan. The standard of their work is stunning and they cleaned up impeccably too.

I occupied my time while the builders were busy by boiling down the chutney stirring it constantly to prevent it burning. Since this is a task that reaches a dizzying 9.25 on The Kumquat Scale I occupied my mind by moving one of the computer chairs into the kitchen, setting up my iPad and typing the rest of yesterday’s blog with one hand. I did get caught out at one point because access to the toilet was blocked by the builders’ kit so I left Garrath on stirring duty while I hightailed it to Keith & Audrey’s house to use their loo!

When Abdellah arrived for the second time to pick up the builders he brought Candido with him. Candido is Andalusian, a delightful man, and the one who has the final say when it comes to building projects. An animated discussion followed but was curtailed because Candido was more interested in the chutney that I was making. We discussed what it was, the strength, the ingredients (I do very well with culinary Spanish) and he declared that it is good for making you strong, virile and manly. Hmmmm, the rest is fine but I’m not sure if I’m looking forward to growing that beard!

After they left we went for leisurely lunch at La Minarete. I had Salmon Carpaccio which was delicious and beautifully presented. Garrath had a goats cheese and caramelised onion salad. It looked delicious and he ate every scrap with relish. I had chosen Tuna a la Plancha so the lady came to ask me how I wanted it cooking. After a confusing exchange in my poor Spanglish

she cottoned on and gave a lovely demonstration that I will use from now on. She used the flat of her hand to represent the tuna steak, pressed it down and went ‘Psssssss’ flipped it over quickly and went ‘Pssssss’ again then lifted it up to indicate removal from the heat. Perfect, that’s just how I like my Tuna and that is just how it arrived, just seared on the outside, completely raw in the centre – deeeeeee-lish! It was beautifully presented and garnished with beautifully cooked grilled vegetables.

Garrath’s Merluza a la Romana was quite different to the Merluza a la Romana he has had elsewhere. It was in 4 cm chunks and in a saffron infused coating and cooked to perfection, again beautifully presented and garnished. Dessert was out of the question, we were so stuffed. Besides, Garrath didn’t want his hand stabbing again for eating a rich dessert when I could have none.

After lunch we decided to walk it off by perambulating to the end of Partida La Fossa and checking out possible restaurants on the way. I collected more photographs for my post that will be dedicated to Lifesnapper, the photographer who posts images of nubile young women. I am trying to persuade him to appreciate the beauty of older, rounder ladies and there are lots of them on Playa De La Fossa, so I am capturing them in the interests of his education and enlightenment.

The weather was gorgeous, 27C with bright sunshine and a cooling breeze so we enjoyed the seaside meander immensely. A La Coste backpack was waiting for me at a shop that sold high end designer gear (remember, there are no pockets in shrouds) but sadly they didn’t have the lovely matching La Coste shoes in my size. It will be a mission to find them elsewhere.

We found a cafe at the very end of Partida La Fossa with as lovely view and good, free wifi so rested ourselves there before the meander back to the car. While we were there a very flash motor yacht and a beautiful ketch moored nearby providing more photo opportunities for me – bliss. Eventually we wandered back taking note of restaurants on the way and got back to the car having had true, complete R & R.

When we got back to the house we were delighted to find that all the lighting had been completed. We now have a beautifully lit bathroom, kitchen and two bedrooms to add to the beautifully lit living room and dining room that they did before. The bathroom ceiling will be painted next week when the plaster has had chance to dry.

I never cease to be amazed at the quality of Monasor’s work or to be impressed at the skill of builders, plumbers, electricians, painters, plasterers and the like. I think that we in the UK have made a fundamental error in pushing kids to go through university, in many cases to get degrees that are of no use whatever in the world of employment. Bring back apprenticeships say I. When the toilet is broken the last thing I need is a PhD. I need a plumber and a good one at that. We don’t need more graduates. We need parity of esteem for all skilled work.

Strangely, almost spookily, when we got home it was pub o’clock so after a quick turnaround we wandered down to the local watering hole where I am writing this in a lovely evening temperature of 23C . Well it would be rude not to, wouldn’t it?

Builders, Buggered Computers, Chutney and a Mega Sulk 01.10.2015

We had a visit from our builders front man, Abdellah, this morning in response to a message that Garrath had left on his ansafone. Abdellah is a charming Moroccan man who started with the firm, Monasor, at the lowest level, worked his way up and when he injured his back and could no longer do heavy work the firm valued him so much that they kept him on as their chief negotiator.

We have had lots and lots of work done by Monasor and found them to be 100% reliable with both the quality of their work and their timekeeping. When we had a huge project done (converting the balcony to a room and having supporting structures built) they said that it would be completed by the end of July and Lo and behold, we got the phone call the week before telling us to come out because it would be finished on July 31st, which indeed it was.

We learned long ago that you never tell Abdellah what to do. You tell him what the objective is and he tells you the best way to achieve it. The thing is that he is always right. When we have the balcony enclosed and made into a room we had said that he should fill a window space with shelves. He took an executive decision and walled it in so that we can get furniture on both sides and he was right, so right.

This time the objective is to improve the lighting in the two bedrooms, the bathroom and the kitchen. We told him the objective and he gave us the solutions so we spent much of the day searching for and buying the necessary lights for the bedrooms and the kitchen. The bathroom light Monasor will provide and they will be embedded into the false ceiling that they are to build tomorrow. See, we hadn’t thought of that but Abdellah, bless him, did!

Garrath had promised to go down to Keith’s house to sort out a computer problem. It happens everywhere we go. As soon as they find out what Garrath does for a living, out come the computer problems and off he goes into the inner sanctum wherein lives the computer, guardian of all precious info and gateway to all valued personae, to try to solve it.

Garrath doesn’t mind sorting Keith’s stuff one bit. They have been very good friends to us keeping an eye on the house while we are away, taking photos of building works and sending them, giving invaluable advice and being fine company when we are here.

After the visit from Abdellah and Garrath’s Doctor Megabyte act, we assembled the new Food processor and I got on with preparing the Chuck It In Chutney. Actually this batch is fig, lemon and chilli – lots and lots of chilli so I think I will label it Salsa Volcanica. My Mermelada Volcanica (hot chilli jam) proved very popular so we will see how well the hot fruit & chilli chutney goes.

The new food processor is pure magic, very efficient and brilliantly designed. It finely sliced five onions in a breath and chopped half a kilo of chillies in seconds. Yes, you read that right, half a kilo of red chillies in this chutney. I don’t do bland! It’s assistance made the chutney preparation the easiest it has ever been because I have always had to do all the chopping by hand before. OK, taking the green tops off 1/2 a kilo of chillies was no fun, about 8 on The Kumquat Scale, but what the heck?

I can sense you asking

“What on Earth is The Kumquat Scale?” Well, I have done lots of boring tasks in my time but far and away the most boooooooooooooring is the preparation of Kumquats for preserving. They are tiny, ovoid citrus fruits and each fruit can contain up to seven pips, so they have to be cut in half across their equator and each all the seeds carefully extracted. When you have to prepare five kilos of Kumquats thus (a kindly, rather contradictory donation by the neighbour who always asks why I make so much work for myself by making preserves) you truly understand what boredom is all about. So when it comes to measuring how boring a task is we use the Kumquat scale. 0 is neutral, 1 mildly dull right up to 10 which is mind numbingly, excruciatingly boring. It is a useful scale to have, especially when it comes to preparing ingredients for chutney and attending Valuation Tribunal training days. Topping those chillies was a mere eight, preparing Nisperos (Loquats) a dreadfully dreary and hand staining task, is a nine, the last Valuation Tribunal training day was nine point five. Maybe for the next training day I should take along a few kilos of Kumquats to prepare then the training sessions will be fascinating by comparison?

I have yet to devise a scale for measuring how interesting something is. I am inclined to call it The Professor Brian Cox scale With Prof Cox as a rivetingly, fascinating ten and the Valuation Tribunal trainers as a big, fat zero! That’s it, I have devised it so if you note me describing somebody as an eight on the Professor Brian Cox scale you will know that they are worth spending time with.

Back to chutney! We cooked the lemons in a pressure cooker until really soft then I carefully removed all the pips – seven point five on The Kumquat Scale – and pureed them using the whizzy stick (stick blender.) All fresh ingredients were added to the preserving pan, sugar and vinegar added and the whole lot brought to the boil – about ten litres in all. It was lunch time so we switched off the induction hob , covered the unfinished chutney and went to the local cheapie that understands my needs very well and had a very satisfactory lunch. Grilled vegetables for me instead of French fries of course, I am the unwilling consumer of a healthy alternative. I did get a dessert though, Arroz Con Leche con Canela (chilled rice puddling with cinnamon) and that covered my need for carbohydrates.

On the way back Garrath insisted on calling in at the local watering hole so that he could top up the mifi. I was cross about this as we had previously agreed to go straight home. He compounded my annoyance by having a beer when I, as the driver, was stuck with having water, so I did what any reasonable woman would do, I sulked. You know, the classic, no eye contact, answer only in monosyllables, tight lipped kind of sulk. When he asked what was wrong I gave the standard woman-in-a-sulk answer,

“Nothing” issued in tone that would have done justice to Hitler. I don’t apologise for my classic sulk. I reserve the right to have one whenever Garrath pisses me off right royally. He can sulk for Britain when I piss him off so fair’s fair.

When we got back Garrath suggested that we stay in so that I could complete the chutney boiling. Gee thanks Garrath. My reacion was to say,

“F*ck that for a game of soldiers, it is too late,” so I simply brought it up to the boil to sterilise it, covered it with cling film and insisted on walking back down to the local watering hole.

I started writing this blog while we were there and fully intended to finish and post it from before we left, but our gardener, Perran, lately the father of a very, very new baby boy Aron, arrived so we just had to help him celebrate didn’t we? And we did, very assiduously. That’s why the blog is so late!

Good Sleep, Drug Therapy and Old Friends.

Whoopee, with the able assistance of Paracetamol and Ibuprofen I managed to get almost eight hours, fever free sleep. Bliss, and I feel so much better for it. I am still suffering some post poisoning symptoms, they will take ages to clear, but with judicious drug dosages they should settle down in a week or so.

On the positive side it is a salutary reminder that the gluten intolerance is severe and not my imagination as some people imply and even tell me from their position of verbal diarrhoea, non expertise. It beats me a) why would I want to imagine such severe reactions and b) who gives these shits the right to make such a judgement? These are the same kind of people who tell me that I can always have a banana instead of a meal (do I look like a chimpanzee? No don’t answer that!) Or they tell me that a little bit won’t matter, that I can take a day off now and again, that I am being difficult, or worse still give me a lecture about what I should eat. If ever you read a newspaper report about me committing murder or a serious assault, you will understand why!

The new restaurant didn’t poison me so we know we have a safe haven there, though they could use the lesson in desserts that Annette suggested I give them. I might just push my luck and do so.

We have decided that next time we go we will walk there. It will take about half an hour, then I can have wine with the meal, then we can perambulate back, call in at a few bar restaurants on the way to check out eating possibilities there then totter home having made a day of it. That will be fun.

We spent a very pleasant evening with our Dutch friends and neighbours last night. It was the kind of evening where revelations about our four equally traumatic pasts were shared because we have learned to trust each other and have made the next move in bonding. Robert and Marijke are both very interesting and Rob is a good raconteur. He is 75, Marijke is 77, and she is a living testament to the fact that that old age does not preclude glamour.

Robert was born in Indonesia when it was still the Dutch East Indies and he spent most of his adult life working all over the world. In fact he has only spent eight years of his entire life in The Netherlands. Thus he has an endless supply of fascinating stories to tell. Especially fascinating are the stories of when he was stationed in Burma at a time when it was still a closed country, so the only way officials could ensure that he was accepted was to make him a commissioned officer in the Burmese Army.

Robert’s house testifies to his love of the Far East, for it is full of Far Eastern antiquities. Marijke’s apartment testifies to her love of Dutch antique furniture and ornaments, all these in spite of the fact that she hates The Netherlands. Both their accommodation and their experiences help to make them interesting to spend time with. Their gardens evidence their Dutch heritage. They are lush and beautifully tended. We had a lovely, bonding evening there, one that we will no doubt repeat before the end of our stay.

Today we had lunch with our English friends and neighbours, Keith and Audrey. They come from Keighley, the town in England that I used to represent as a District Councillor, so that is always a good conversation starter. Keith is President of AFPO, The Association Of Foreign Property Owners, and he and his AFPO colleagues do a sterling job representing their members. There are always a whole host of anecdotes that come out of that every time we meet.

Keith, bless him, offered to do the driving and I gratefully accepted. They took us to a restaurant in Teulada via a route that I will never be able to replicate and because we have only ever been to Teulada via a more conventional main road route, I have no idea where in Teulada it is located. Thank goodness Garrath got one of their cards so that we can use satnav to locate it.

The people at the restaurant had been checked out by Keith & Audrey before to see if they could cater for me. They were true to their word, fully understood my needs and catered very well indeed. Patatas Fritas (French Fries) are a no-no for me when they fry battered and other floury things in the same fryer so when other people has Patatas Fritas with their main course, I had grilled vegetables. Even though I would sell my soul for an uncontaminated plate of Patats Fritas, I was content with the healthy alternative – well, sort of! Joy of joys, I actually got a dessert for a change, and a very nice dessert it was too, a light and very flavourful, home made chocolate mousse. I consider that part of my five a day. After all, chocolate is made of beans.

After lunch we returned to Keith & Audrey’s house for coffee, tea and liqueurs, and to catch up on the gossip. Keith and Audrey are from the opposite side of the political spectrum to us so there is always a very lively political debate, invariable conducted on their terrace. Unfortunately their terrace is a much favoured location for every possible variety of snickety, snackety, horrible bitey thing in Spain so the lively debate was punctuated by frequent applications of Fenergan, the magic cream that subdues the ferocity of insect bites.

We terminated the visit at 19.45, made our way back to the house and settled in for a quiet evening of blog writing and planning for tomorrow. Garrath has promised to sort a computer problem for Keith, I have to negotiate with the builder’s front man, Abdellah, to get some lighting improvements done and I have chutney to prepare. Lunch will be at the local cheapie that caters for me very well, again with grilled vegetables instead of Patatas Fritas, then who knows? Well actually I do, a jaunt down to the local watering hole. After all we haven’t been there for two days. Their profits must be well down!

Broken Sleep, Weird Dreams, New Eateries, Old Friends, 29.09.2015

Unsurprisingly in view of yesterday’s poisoning I had a troubled night’s sleep. I shall spare you the most gruesome details. Suffice to say that along with them I had weird and troubling dreams and woke in a fever at 04.10. I’m guessing that was when last night’s doses of liquid anaesthesia and ibuprofen wore off. After an hour or so of drinking tea and distracting myself on the internet I went back to bed and got a few more hours of feverish, dream punctuated sleep.

I wish that the jokers who cause these episodes had to go through all the pain and distress that they cause me. Maybe that way they would take the matter more seriously. Whatever, what can’t be cured must be endured so on with the day, albeit slowly and cautiously with the first of the day’s stops being the Farmacia to buy some Paracetamol to calm down the fevers and ease the pain.

The weather is looking a bit iffy and there is a 40% chance of rain between 14.00 and 16.00 and up to 50% chance of rain between 19.00 and midnight. I just love the weather app on my Apple watch! During the first rain risk period we will try out the new place for a leisurely lunch. Fingers crossed a) that they feed me safely and b) that we don’t lose the bloody umbrella again! In addition to my other duties I have to act as the external memory module for he who has a hole in his head, and as one who loses her cup of tea several times a day, and forgets to pick up the shopping list, I’m not very good at it. Inadequate as I am in that role, I am his sole supporter so he will just have to make do.

Speaking of rain I was most amused when perambulating down Partida La Fossa in the rain yesterday. The traders in the open fronted shops had replaced the mannequins with bikinis on with ones wearing plastic macs, then when the Sun came out again, whipped them in and put the bikinied mannequins out again. That’s marketing for you.

We bought Paracetamol tablets at the Farmacia then walked on to the restaurant only to find that I couldn’t take the damned tablets because they contain starch. It is a good thing that I read the micro writing before taking any or I would have made the effects of yesterday’s poisoning a lot worse. I discovered the danger of medicines after having had abdominal surgery in The Yorkshire clinic. They gave me Tramadol tablets and in addition to all the pain of the surgery I got the bloating, cramps and other nasty stuff from the tablets. It was only Garrath’s extensive research on the internet that revealed what the problem was. While food manufacturers are compelled to display exact details of ingredients, drug manufacturers are not. Most tablets contain binding ingredients one of which is starch and this can be wheat starch and that contains gluten.

The 40% chance of rain forecast between 14.00 and 16.00 came to pass while we were in the new-to-us restaurant. We think that the Spanish word lluvia means rain. It doesn’t. It means torrential downpour. As with many coastal Spanish restaurants the main eating area is outside under a roll out roof and with fabric & acrylic walls that can be rolled down or up as appropriate. These are fine but when subjected to a heavy downpour like today it is like sitting inside a snare drum played by Ginger Baker on speed.

The restaurant El Minarete is frequented by well to do Spaniards as well as the visitors and expats who can afford their prices. The menu is extensive and expensive but well worth it. The only down side, no dessert for me. They did offer me fruit but I declined politely, mainly because I don’t know the Spanish for “That is an ingredient, not a dessert.” So I did my usual spectator at the feast trick as Garrath waded his way through a spectacular three chocolate tart with fruit, chocolate sauce and chocolate ice cream.

We had parked the car quite a long walk away so walked along Partida La Fossa. Fortunately the Farmacia was still open so we were able to go in and explain the problem. The young pharmacist was very helpful, he researched until he found a brand of Paracetamol that contained maize starch and we bought that. Significantly the one that could poison me was €2.30 while the safe one was only 63 cents! See I’m cheap to keep – no expensive desserts and cheapie tablets.

After a brief sojourn to the supermarket for GF (gluten free) cornflakes, GF bread, Mediterranean yogurt and a GF dessert for me. Fortunately Mercadona (the supermarket chain) is the most GF aware retail venue that I have come across, ever, anywhere, so they cater for my needs very well, and it is just down the road from us.

Garrath declared that we were in need of post retail trauma therapy so I drove us to the local watering hole for tea, coffee and water. The stay was cut short when another bunch from Essex came it for a high volume, group squawk! Never was their a truer saying that this –

Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.

Eleanor Roosevelt

Guess what this bunch were talking about – people, LOUDLY, and sex of course. The conversation, such as it was, was very loud and competitive with everyone squawking at once and nobody listening. I am firmly of the belief that there is a correlation between the volume at which people converse and their intelligence. The dumber they are, the louder they are. We were glad to get out of there with our eardrums intact.

Back home and we got a phone call from our Dutch friends and neighbours so now we are off for a pleasant evening of catch-up conversation. We will defy the saying by talking about ideas, events and people!

Thunderstorms, Food Processors and Being Poisoned.

The day started rather spectacularly with another thunderstorm so we stood in our jim-jams and watched the free fireworks show in an enormous, classic Anvil-shaped cloud. I managed to get shots of the cloud but I am clueless about how some people manage to get shots of lightning. I’m guessing that it involves tripods and long exposures and since I didn’t bring the tripod that would be problematic. Ah well, I’ll leave it to those who can and just watch the show.

It was a blood Moon last night but here it happened between 02.00 and 06.00 when we were safely tucked up in bed, I missed getting shots of that. There was also another factor involved here – I am useless at Moon shots! Again, best to leave it to those who can.

I did get a few rare-as-rocking-horse-pooh shots though. After a rather unsatisfactory lunch (more of that later) we took a stroll down the Partida La Fossa. It was raining so I got a shot of the completely empty beach! We have been coming here to restore my mother’s property twice a year since 2005 and I have visited many times before that. Amazingly this is the first time that I have seen the beach totally empty, even at night, hence my describing the shots as rare-as-rocking-horse-pooh. A few seconds after the rain stopped and the Sun came out the beach babes were back, essential beach kit in tow, striving for the best bits of sand.

Our first morning venture out was to the local watering hole so that Garrath could use their free WIFI to top up the data sim in the MIFI widget (technophobes skip this bit.) We took the umbrella of course, because it was still raining. Anyway, two cups of tea later the mission was accomplished and we moved on to the supermarket, minus the shopping list that we had left behind! It later became obvious that we had left something else behind – the umbrella! Garrath justified this with

“I’ve got a hole in my head,” but I have no such excuse for leaving the shopping list behind.

This poor weather week is when I will be making chutney and with the amount of fruit we have in the freezer That will involve the chopping of lots of onions, not a task to relished (yes that pun was deliberate!) Rather than do that by hand I decided that I need a food processor so we went into town to find one. For some weird and wonderful reason food processors are a rarity in Spain so it was quiet a traipse to find one. We did of course, and a really brilliant one too. It has the usual processor bowl, a blender goblet, a centrifugal juicer, a citrus juicer, metal and plastic blades, a cream whipper, slicing and grating blades of various sizes. It has to be the most all-singing, all dancing food processor that I have ever come across, so much so that I will replace my current one in the UK with an identical model when I get home.

After purchasing that we returned home to unload all the purchased goodies then back to the local watering hole to see if the umbrella was still there and, because Garrath fancied a pizza, to see if they could accommodate my needs. The umbrella was still there exactly where Garrath had left it but when we asked about the possibility of a gluten free meal for me there was an obvious lack of understanding which is always a bad sign. The waitress did offer to provide me with a meal of grilled fish or grilled chicken and lettuce. Unfortunately I don’t know the Spanish for “Jeez, have you any idea how many times I get offered that shit?” Her lack of understanding was such that it was obvious that nobody would think to clean the grill before cooking my food so we politely declined and left.

Why oh why do so many caterers offer me dry grilled chicken or fish with lettuce? I really cannot think of many things that are less appetising and there are no carbohydrates in there at all. I ****ing despair!

Garrath was still determined to have a pizza so we went to the beach front Italian place and went through the same bloody pantomime. I was assured that I would be safe with Carpaccio which is a raw beef dish so I chose that. It comprised of paper thin slices of raw beef, tiny sprinklings of Parmesan and finely chopped celery, four thin slices of raw mushroom and a glaze that I took to be balsamic vinegar. Hmmmmm, pleasant enough but not a lot there so I ordered a side of grilled vegetables. That comprised four thin slices of aubergine, one mushroom and half a tomato. It was less than satisfactory and stupidly expensive for what it was. Garrath got his pizza but that too was very disappointing. Not going there again.

We went for a wander down Partida La Fossa where I got the empty beach shots, and it gradually became obvious that the restaurant had managed to poison me. Either they hadn’t bothered to check the glaze and that contained modified starch or they has grilled the vegetables on a plancha that hadn’t been cleaned after bread or something floury had been grilled on it. There is even a possibility that the raw beef wasn’t simply sliced beef after all but some kind of composite glued together with modified starch. All the usual symptoms that identify gluten ingestion came and as usual steadily got worse, so that by 17.00 I was in serious distress. Deep joy, this will take aaaaaaaaages to clear.

One good thing did come out of the trip along Partida La Fossa though. Garrath said that we ought to look for other restaurants to eat at and not far from the one that poisoned me we came across one with an extensive and interesting menu. The patron asked if we needed a table and we explained that we had already eaten but were just checking the menu. There was something about his manner that inspired confidence so I showed him my explanatory card in Spanish and asked if they could accommodate my needs. His response was perfect. Roughly translated –

“Sure, no problem, we will make sure that your food is prepared in a different part of the kitchen.” That showed a level of awareness that we haven’t come across since we went to the AIC (Italian Coeliac Society) registered restaurant in Venice. We live in hope.

The thunder clouds have now gone, the sky is bright blue, the Sun is shining and I feel crap! Time to go to the local watering hole for liquid anaesthesia!

Dominoes, Paella and Thunderstorms.

Dominoes, Paella and Thunderstorms.

A lovely, lazy Sunday was planned because the weather forecast predicted rain, but for most of the day the Sun managed to beat the clouds into submission. We are getting bored with the pantomimic ‘You choose, you choose’ conversation so we quickly agreed to go to Las Barcas in Calpe Port, play dominoes (it is a ritual with us there) then have lunch there.

This time we decided not to confuse the staff with our Lancashire dominoes set (they go up to double nine) or the bewildering triangular dominoes. Instead we took the standard set. Several cups of tea, glasses of water and games of doms later we moved into the restaurant for lunch.

Las Barcas is a favourite venue for Paella and the quality of the Paella is evidenced by the number of Spanish families who go there to eat it. Sometimes you can’t hear yourself think for the sound of the Paella pans being scraped to get the best bits off the bottom. It is a perfectly acceptable Spanish pastime and after consuming a lovely, healthy Special Salad each, we cheerfully joined in this charming Spanish ritual.

There are so many rules surrounding Paella it is mind boggling. Bomba rice must be used. Nothing else will do. It should never, ever be stirred. The pan must only be shaken. That way the rice sticks to the bottom to create the umami crunch of the socarrat, the black crust that sticks to the bottom of the pan, ‘Valencian caviar’ as it is jokingly referred to. That is why the Paella is cooked and served in the paella pan.

Paella is traditionally a Valencian Sunday picnic dish cooked over a wood fire in the open, but nowadays Spanish people are busy so they prefer to go to as restaurant to eat it. It is never eaten in the evening and having consumed it many times for Sunday lunch we now fully understand why it is a lunch time dish. You definitely need a siesta after eating it!

Most paellas are the classic summer variety, containing rabbit, chicken, snails when they are in season, Valencian tomatoes, flat green ferradura beans and lima beans, but we had Paella Mixta that contained seafood as well. Don’t tell the rule makers or we will be drummed out of Communidad Valencia!

Suffice to say, the paella pan was scraped clean, every single grain of saffron infused rice was greedily scoffed, every item of seafood prised open and eaten and those rabbits and chickens did not die in vain. Deeeee-bloody-licious.

Amazingly we even managed a pudding (postre in Spanish.) For me that is a rare and very special experience. This wasn’t the usual raw fruit that I get offered. Bugger that for a game of soldiers, that’s an ingredient, not a pudding. No this was a proper pudding. Granted, my choice was very limited but the Arroz Con Leche (rice pudding) was lovely. I don’t like English rice pudding at all but the Spanish serve rice pudding chilled with cinnamon and it is lovely. All in all, this was a delightful repast, but maybe the ‘light’ in ‘delightful’ didn’t really apply.

We had a few more games of dominoes, more tea and coffee then the sky turned into a foreboding shade of navy blue so we paid up and left, just in time for me to realise that I didn’t know where the windscreen wiper controls were. Oops! Much fumbling and experimentation later I worked it out and got home with them on full pelt. It was a good thing that I had remembered to put the umbrella in the boot or poor Garrath would have been soaked to the skin opening the gate.

When we got inside we turned off all the electrical gadgetry (momentary withdrawal symptoms only assuaged by the knowledge that the storm could have burned them all out) then had the privilege of witnessing the most spectacular thunderstorm either of us have ever seen. It was stunning! The lightning was fabulous, the thunder deafening. The rain drummed on the roof like the best orchestral percussion section we have ever heard. Have you guessed by now that we both adore thunderstorms.

I have managed to get some terrific photographs of the water features that appeared in our garden. What once were steps became a waterfall. The patio became a pool. The drainage channel by the gate directed water to a stone that then became a fountain, both roads, front and back, became rivers. It was wonderful, joyful, natural and ooooooh sooooooo welcome. You could almost hear the trees sucking up the moisture in blissful gratitude, and the softer plants revelling in this much needed source of sustenance after a two year drought.

Somehow it always rains when we are here. See here –

We don’t mind. The ground needs it, the reservoirs need it and we are not made of sugar so we won’t dissolve! Whatever, it is predicted to be a rainy week so this is the week when I will do the preserving.

After the thunderstorm we both had the much needed, post Paella siesta, then guess what – off to the local watering hole.

Life is good!

Obnoxious couple at Piazza de España

Illustration to follow

Why are some people obnoxious?
Why do some people have to be loud?
Why do they feel the need
To outdo and out speed
Everyone else in the crowd?

What’s the joy in being offensive?
What’s the pleasure in being rude?
What’s with their squawking,
Like third class street hawking,
Aggressive, offensive and crude?

Why do these people object when
They are properly told to be quiet?
Why do they resent
The message that’s sent
In order to calm down a riot?

Why oh why do they have to be English
And thus make me ashamed of my race?
Where’s the English reserve
That I’d like to conserve?
Why won’t they get out of my space?

But sadly these folk are obnoxious,
Offensive, aggressive and loud,
So I feel the need
To depart at great speed
And move on to a different crowd.

I suppose that I ought to feel sorry
For this horribly unpleasant pair,
When you’re ugly and fat
And as stupid as that,
Surely life cannot seem fair?


Pleasant Places Revisited, Saturday 26.09.2015

Pleasant Places Revisited Saturday 26.09.2015

After taking stunning sunrise shots, then the usual ablutions in slightly less muddy water than yesterday’s (no, my hair has not turned any browner) we had breakfast – gluten free cornflakes from Mercadona, strawberry puree from yesterday’s freezer raid and Greek yoghurt. Actually it is Spanish yoghurt but Greek style, but what the hell, lets call it Mediterranean yoghurt.

After breakfast there followed the usual question, ‘What shall we do today?’ This was followed by the customary verbal pantomime,

G – “Dunno, you decide.”
L – “No, you decide. ”
G – No, you decide.”
L -“No, you decide for a change.”
G – “No, I’ll only get it wrong.”
L – “Oh for f*ck’s sake, you decide for a change.”

After this wrangle I determined that we should go to Benissa, a lovely, very Spanish town just a few miles away. Preparations were made and just before we set off Garrath – “I’ve got a hole in my head” – asked,

“Where are we going?” I have a whole repertoire of growls for times like this, particularly since the whole scenario was repeated when the question, ‘Where shall we go for lunch came up.

We haven’t been to Benissa for several years and the changes since out last visit came as a series of pleasant surprises. Having found a parking space within reasonable walking distance of the centre we headed for the main square where there was a Knitted Yoghurt Market on. You know the kind of thing I mean, stalls set up by righteous vegans selling hand made soap, vegetarian artisanal cheese and vegan bolognese – not on the same plate of course. Garrath bought himself right-on wristband (for the prevention of RSI) and we moved on into the main square.

On the main square we found a local bar for teas and wees (one to drink the other to have) a really charming, old building with lovely staff. We went inside in order to avoid the crowd of English expats who were joining the gathering outside. We spent a lovely, short interlude in the proximity of Spanish staff and customers.

Over the ten years that we have been coming here to fix and maintain the house that my mother abandoned we have learned to avoid groups of English expats with the exception of a couple of neighbours who are now good friends. Many of the expats we have come across are eager to talk about the UK, bitch about it even though they no longer live there and blame everything on immigrants. When you say that it is a good thing that the Spanish don’t feel the same way about immigrants it goes completely over their heads, and if you do as I have done in the past, suggest that it is none of their business because they don’t live there, they get offended.

Some English tourists and expats want to create replication of English conditions in Spain – except for the weather, the price of booze and property taxes of course. We had a funny encounter with one such type in the local supermarket in Spain last year. A woman recognised Garrath as English and came over to ask him where the mint sauce was. His face was a picture, a mixture of disbelief and contempt. He answered,

“I don’t know. We don’t eat like that when we are in Spain.”

We have no time for racism or for little Englanders (or little anywhere-ers for that matter) so we steer clear.

We are not alone in avoiding our own Nationals. Many years ago I had two American friends, Claire and Jack, who lived in Altea. I well remember Claire’s exclamation to Jack on Altea market.

“For Christ’s sake Jack speak Spanish. The f*cking Yanks have hit town!” It wasn’t said as a joke or for effect, she really meant it and they did walk past the American contingent avoiding eye contact and speaking only Spanish.

After the brief stay in the cafe we took a further wander and found a delightful market in the town, one section with the usual market hard goods, another more interesting section with comestibles and very good quality comestibles at that. We will remember that for future trips when I do have to cook.

The second pantomimic discussion about where we were to have lunch was ended when I reminded Garrath that we had agreed to go to one of our favourite restaurants in Moraira, so I drove there along incredibly winding roads. All the free car parks were stuffed so Garrath was concerned that we would not find a car parking space. The one you pay for however, was half empty so no problem there.

The restaurant, Meson El Refugio, was up to its usual exceptionally high standard, including their matchless understanding of gluten free catering and we had a lovely, leisurely lunch. A wander around Moraira followed, including tea and coffe at a seaside bar then the return to Calpe on yet more winding roads. We had to stop at another cheap Chinese shop on the way – it would be rude not to – for yet more cables for gadgetry, then home and the compulsory repair to the local watering hole.

Sadly an otherwise pleasant day was spoiled by an obnoxious English couple who became aggressively noisy while watching the England v Wales game. They were reprimanded, quite rightly, by a gentleman whose enjoyment they were spoiling who told them “You are not at home.” They continued rumbling as if spoiling for a fight. Horrible people but I did feel a mite of sympathy for them. After all, life can’t be easy when you are as fat, ugly and ignorant as they were. They did make me ashamed to be English though.

Lets hope that they are not there when next we visit.

Diversions & Distractions, Friday 25.09.2015

Diversions and Distractions, Friday 25.09.2015

The day started inauspiciously when we ran the bath and the water was muddy, obviously the result of the road works going on nearby to repair a water leak. It was supposed to be a hair washing day but I decided it would be best to pass on that, though Garrath did suggest that it might add some brown to my greying locks. No thanks Garrath, just accept me as I am!

We have read all the adverts for microdermabrasion treatments, therapeutic mud baths and the like so we had a bath anyway. The silt around here is iron rich and red so I like to think that we emerged from the bath looking a little more sun-kissed. Sadly the muddy water didn’t do much for my wrinkles and saggy bits so those adverts are definitely a con trick.

There is very little ripe fruit in the garden because the gardeners harvested it and put it into the freezer in preparation for our arrival so we went down to the freezer to explore breakfast possibilities. Harvested indeed, our freezer is a big one and it is full, very very full! There are Chillies, Strawberries, Pomegranates, Loquats, Figs, Seville Oranges, Lemons and Limes – lots and lots of Chillies, Strawberries, Pomegranates, Loquats, Figs, Seville Oranges, Lemons and Limes!

In the past I have spent days making jam, a rather laborious process. Chutney, on the other hand, is much easier and it keeps better so when the predicted rains come next week I shall be making copious quantities of ‘Chuck It In Chutney.’ The cheap Chinese shop sells large glass jars at a reasonable price so bottling will be easier than usual. I will, of course, have to supply all our neighbours as I always do, but I will think of a more appealing title for the preserve to put on their labels. Ideas for a more appealing title are welcome.

The weather forecast for next week is rain, rain, thunder, lightning, and yet more rain so photography jaunts are out of the question and beach shots are unlikely. So a week devoted to preserving nature and the gardeners’ bounty will be good use of time. There has been a two year drought around here so the rains will be most welcome. I like the Chinese saying, ‘There is no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather.’ I’m just pleased that Garrath and I are still around to enjoy the rain, though a little concerned that we don’t have any wellies here. What is Spanish for Wellies and where can we buy some?

The first jaunt of the day was delayed because our exit road was closed by the guys who made our bath muddy. There followed the most convoluted alternative exit route done mainly by guess work, one that I forgot to repeat in reverse on the way back so yet another weird and wonderful alternate route had to be engaged in, via the supermarket. That water leak is really challenging my navigation and driving skills.

After the enforced diversion we got to the cheap Chinese shot to exchange a mistakenly purchased charger. That done we parked in Plaza Major, and got some tedious housekeeping tasks done. The mifi widget was topped up at Movistar so that we continue being in-touch techno junkies, Garrath went to his Spanish bank where the staff can give the world a lesson in helpfulness and charm, we went to the solicitors to arrange payment of the non resident taxes, I managed to pop into a shoe shop and buy some shoes, then to another shop to buy a matching handbag. We then had a cuppa at our favourite in-town where we discussed and decided on the big decision of the day – where to have lunch.

Garrath, working on the principle that there are no pockets in shrouds, has determined that no cooking will be done this trip (apart from me preserving a freezer full of fruit that is) and that we will lunch out every day. Mejias Tres was chosen and we got there just in time to beat the queues that characterise their lunch service. The food is simply cooked and good, the service quick and efficient, the price incredibly reasonable and they cater for me beautifully, bless them.

There used to be a common belief, usually among the sniffy English, that the Spanish are lazy. It is utter rubbish. I have never seen anyone work so hard, fast and efficiently as Angel, Eva, Danny and the new waitress whose name we do not yet know, and the work ethic generally here is very good. Our builders are exemplars of that. Every job they have done for us – and there have been some very, very big ones – has been done very well and exactly to the deadline they gave us. The Spanish can give the English a lesson in working hard.

After lunch we took a leisurely stroll in the bright sunshine down Playa De La Fossa again. This is where I started my photographic mission to take photographs that I will post and dedicate to Lifesnapper, a fellow photographer who posts images of scantily clad, pretty, slender young women all the time. I am constantly chiding him and suggesting that he should open his mind and learn to appreciate the charms of more mature and more rounded women, so my photographs are devoted giving him a lesson in this. It is fun to have a photographic mission and really focusses the mind.

Tea and sea at Spasso and photographing scantily clad, corpulent beach belles over, we meandered back home via the supermarket and yet another bewildering, convoluted alternate route only to find that they had opened the road again. AAAAARGH!

Then there was nothing for it but to repair to the local walk-to watering hole for liquid refreshment, sneaky candid photos via the iPad, sketching and people watching. There will be an illustrated verse to follow. Well refreshed we tottered home to a light supper and bed by 23.00.

Its a tough life out here!

Quiet Calpé Day

Today we decided that we would have a quiet Calpé day. We went into the Hiper Calp Chinese store and sorted out the bedside charger purchased yesterday that didn’t fit.

Then we went and parked in Plaza Mayor and used ‘shanks’s pony’ to get around the banks for cash and do some ‘messages’. These included calling into Linda Townsend’s and finding out what this year’s property tax is. Arranged to pay it via internet banking (and did while sitting in Spasso looking at a beautiful blue see). We then went to Blasco where Lynne bought some winter shoes for home before going into Cafe Dany’s for a cuppa and aceatunas. When we came ut of there we called into Galeria Aitana looking for a winter bag in blue for Lynne. I ended up buying two lovey leather bags. A larger US mail style one for home and a smaller ‘man bag’ style for here that will hold my iPad as well as wallets, etc.

We then headed to Mejias III for lunch, arriving around 13:45 and getting in just before the rush started. And it carried on till 3pm when we finally left. Digestion of lunch was aided by a stroll along the promenade to Spasso, where several cuppas were consumed. We love it, sitting looking at the sea and watching life walk by.

Relaxing! In Spain

Yesterday was a pleasantly easy journey day even though we were flying with Jet2, as we couldn’t get the ferry we wanted to Bilbao. In retrospect I’m glad as we cannot share the driving any more. Flying mid-week meant the majority of passengers were ‘mature’ with only one obvious Hen party, who all boarded sober. We had heard that Jet2 flights were now dry, but not in this case. The cabin crew leader told me that the “problem flights” are and there is a police presence on those flights too! It was calm and pleasant. Getting through the airport was easy too, as was getting to Victoria Rent-a-car. Lynne loves the Peugot 308 we hired, saying “I’ll go slow till I get used to it.” and doing 140kph on the 120kph motorway just 10km later. Opening up the house was good, we didn’t need to phone Monasor, even though its been a whole year. Did some shopping and had lunch at Mejias III, I had liver of course. Finished unpacking and had a lovely evening at the Chicken Shack, especially as we saw Perran our gardener.

Today was hard, taking laundry to Lavanderia Ana’s and then whiling away the time having a cuppa at the Chicken Shack, doing so more shopping at Mercadona, then going to Hiper Calp for stuff, before another cuppa at Megias III and collecting the laundary. We had a fabulous lunch at Las Barcas in the port. Lynne had Swordfish and I had Hake Basque style. Took everything home and put it away. After a short nap for Lynne we whiled away the evening at the Chicken Shack, incidentally being forced to listen to (loud) Essex bollocks. (The only drawback to the place.)

Laundry Day Spanish Style

Laundry Day Spanish Style

After a good, wine assisted sleep last night I got up at 06.00 knowing that we had a tough day ahead – laundry day. Ablutions, breakfast, bejewelling, perfuming and painting the face to make me recognisable completed, we were ready to face the daunting task. Its hard but it had to be done, principally because I had no clean, lightweight and light coloured LONG trousers to wear. Why long trousers you ask? Well the snickety snackety horrible bitey things

that are flourishing in the garden this year are doing so with me as the special item on their menu! Once again my legs are covered in bites and the Port wine stains that go with them and one ankle has a balloon like swelling. I love animals, I love all kinds of animals and birds, reptiles, insects I love them all, except for Cockroaches and these evil little bastards!

Back to the tedious task of laundry. We had collected it all, bagged it all, now it was time to face the evil deed. So I started – the car of course – drove down to Lavanderia Ana where Garrath handed it over, got the receipt slip and an instruction to collect it at 14.00. That part of the task over we repaired to the local bar to sip tea and coffee and take advantage of their free wifi. From there we went to our favourite supermarket for a few bits and bobs then to the Chinese shop for more essential gadgets for all our techno toys. From there I went to a Farmacia to buy – yes you’ve guessed – insect repellant! The Farmacia is very near to another favourite bar restaurant so we popped in there for tea & coffee and to wait until the 02.00 collection time at which point we collected the freshly laundered items from Lavanderia Ana.

Jeez, that was hard work and it is not over yet. We are now at the port where we had a splendid lunch at Las Barcas (house salad for us both then Swordfish with Salsa Verde for me, Hake Basque style for Garrath.) When we leave here we will have to go back to the house, run the gauntlet with those evil snickety snackety horrible bitey things to see if the repellant really works, then we have to unload the clean laundry and put it all away.

I have no doubt that we will need post laundry trauma therapy after that. They provide that service at the local bar at very reasonable hourly rates and they throw in wifi for free. All this and blistering sunshine to boot. How do we cope?

The Hire Car – ZZ Top

The Hire Car – ZZ Top.

Once we landed at Alicante we made our way to the coach pickup area and within a short time were picked up by Victoria rent A Car’s shuttle bus. Paperwork was sorted, payment made and one of their guys brought round the car we had hired – a Peugot 308 Diesel automatic. Garrath has had his driving license revoked so now for the first time in Spain all the driving is down to me. Last time we hired an Opel Corsa automatic that was so dreadful that I flatly refused to drive it. I called it the leapfrog machine because the gear changes were so clunky. So naturally I approached driving this unknown beast with some trepidation.

We can not have been more than a kilometre away from the hire centre when I said of the car,

“Garrath, I want one!” Honestly, it drives like a dream, especially on the motorway. Gear changes in the six speed gearbox are as smooth as silk, the gadgetry is easy and problem free, the aircon is fabulous, the seats are comfortable and the boot space more than adequate. It doesn’t quite have the capacity to be flung around tight corners at high speed like the Seat Ibiza Automatic that we have loved in the past (OK I admit it, it could so I did) but it is a wonderful ride.

There is only one problem with it and it is potentially a very serious one. Somehow, without you being aware of it, it manages to grab your accelerator foot and gently press it down so that before you know it you are doing 140 kph in a 120 kph limit. The sound insulation is so fabulous that you simply do not notice. Honest guv, it was the car, not me! This is why I have named it ZZ Top and anyone who has driven on a motorway whilst playing ZZ Top will understand why. I swear that Peugot must have employed the members of ZZ Top to help with the accelerator design and sound insulation.

I had thought that having to do all the driving would be a toil but I now know that it will be an absolute pleasure. Now all I have to do is get a guarantee from Garrath that because I am chauffeuring him, he will pay half of the speeding fines!

Spain Autumn Trip – day 1

Spain trip Autumn 2015 – Journal, day one.

After a very early night (20.30) I got up at 02.00 which is a pretty good sleep for me. It allowed me to post a series of 15 photos of stormy skies on ePHOTOzine, the kind I hope we will be leaving behind for three weeks and three days. What usually happens with the Autumn trip though is that the UK gets an Indian Summer while Calpé gets its first rains. Not that it matters much to us. After all, we are not beach types and it never rains in bars. It never rains in El Corte Ingles either!

Packing quintuple checked, house checked, paperwork checked, scrubbed clean, bejewelled and cosmetically enhanced, I left for the airport with Garrath at 05.15. The very pleasant AA cab driver punctuated the ride with just enough conversation to make it pleasant but not enough to be intrusive. I wonder how many racists ride in his cab, receive his excellent, polite service and still hang on to their ridiculous prejudices?

During the waiting time at the airport I finally managed to complete bizarrely complex the online banking registration process for my bank account. Once allowed into the hallowed grounds within their electric fence that surrounds my money, I found that the service I required wasn’t available there so I had to phone. I successfully overcame what seemed like a squillion automated voice obstacles and got through to a real person, a very charming Indian lady who informed me that my call was unnecessary as I no longer have to inform them when I go overseas. AAAAAAAAAAARGH! I hate banks!

The boring, boarding process proceeded unremarkably as did taxiing and take off. Typically, the weather was gorgeous! The airport and the plane provides masses of sketch book and acerbic verse material. The usual quota of garrulous airheads is scenting the cabin with the perfume of their freshly bleached hair, groups of ‘Us Lads’ are noisily anticipating a holiday of which they will remember very little, older women with cheap perms and badly fitting false teeth are trying to engage their disaffected husbands in facile small talk – same old same old.

Fortunately, this being Wednesday, there are none of the Stag and Hen parties that make Thursday and Friday flights miserable. Jet 2 have tightened their policies considerably thank goodness. They now have a police presence on the “troublesome flights” (air stewardess speak) and those flights are ‘dry’ – no alcohol served, so hopefully when we are forced by circumstance to take one of the “troublesome flights” it will be less obnoxious.

Make no mistake, I have no problem with men in tutus and wings carrying magic wands, men dressed as Nuns, or anyone sporting bizarre fancy dress. I wish all Jellys, Traceys and Kayleighs well with their forthcoming nuptials and if they want to dress up prior to the big event, good on them. To each their own say I. What I do have a problem with is drunken, airhead morons trying to involve me in their noisy idea of fun and completely denying me privacy and quiet during the flight. To my utter delight the complete absence of stag and hen dos has made the flight out bliss.

In one of our favourite beachside bars now, drinking tea and coffee I might add. We had lunch at Mejias Tres then instead of going shopping – it can wait – took a stroll down Playa De La Fossa. It is very warm and sunny but with a delightful off the sea breeze. Sunshine, green tea and sea, what more could I possibly want?

We will prise ourselves away from this idyllic setting eventually, do the necessary shopping, return to the house which is fresh smelling and leak proof, thankfully. Phew! Then after putting the shopping away we will, no doubt, meander down to the local neighbourhood bar to take in the atmosphere and the odd drop of alcoholic beverage. Its tough but somebody has to do it!

Post Adjuvant Chemotherapy

It seems odd now looking back to January and February and my thoughts and hopes for Remission 2.0 going forward. My attitude is that, despite the Chemo Oncologist’s stated reluctance to use the word ‘remission’ is that now I’m out of Chemo and the various follow ups have so far not detected any cancer in my head or my body, I am now in Remission 2.0 but no-one know how long that will last, there is just no way to tell. His plan is three monthly consultations with six mostly CT scans from throat to groin. And of course I have the nine month check up with the Gamma Knife Oncologist planned for November, I don’t have the date yet though.

And I have more stuff to worry about. Not just the visual disturbances but also the post-treatment CT scan showed a build up of about 9mm of fluid around the heart. The cause is unknown and it will need monitoring. If it builds up too much the heart will not be able to pump effectively and I could suffer from tachycardia and/or breathlessness. Deep joy!

Eventful Week!

Actually, this eventful week started last Friday (7th Aug) when I was walking upstairs to start work first thing in the morning. For the first time since the Serious episode just before the Gamma Knife Radiosurgery in February and the discovery of the second tumour in the optic nerve area I had a flashing lights episode serious enough to obtrusive. The big difference this time was I also experienced a mild headache in left frontal area of my head and that the episode lasted and lasted rather than stopping in just a few minutes as before.

After three hours the visual disturbances were still as bad, in fact worse with blurring of my vision making reading and working almost impossible. At this time Lynne and I hit the phone and started seeking advice and assistance.

My first port of call was Kate Casey at the Gamma Knife Centre, but I had to leave a voicemail on her answerphone service. Lynne tried Gill Newsome, the Chemotherapy Nurse working with Dr. Conn, but was transferred to Ward 1 as Gill was not in work. So I also rang Westcliffe Medical Practice to talk to Dr. Rehman. Very disappointed to learn that he has now left and gone Locus. Also Mary Cuthbert my responsible GP was not available either, so had to agree to a call back from Dr. Pickering instead.

While waiting I got a call from Dr. Bradley who works with Dr. Conn, as he was on holiday for the week. Although aware of my case notes he was leaning the migraine route. During my call from him Dr. Pickering called me back, so I put Dr. Bradley on hold and asked Dr. Pickering to call me back in a few minutes. Dr. Bradley then offered to speak to Dr. Pickering and keep him in the loop of events.

A while later I received a call back for Dr. Pickering, who updated me that he had spoken with Dr. Bradley and that Dr. Bradley had referred me to the Eye Casualty Dept. in Ward 18 at the BRI as he wanted to be sure there was nothing physical going on in my right eye retina that needed me to attend there at short notice.

A little later again I received a call from Dr. Adeeb from Eye Casualty and he did a detailed phone consultation. Towards the end he actually chuckled and told me I’d described a text book case of Migraine. So he did not ask me to go in but to monitor what was happening and to call immediately if things deteriorated. (In retrospect, this really was a risky course to take methinks.)

So it was with tremendous relief that I picked up a return call from Kate Casey. And she was truly wonderful, swinging into decisive action. She agreed it sounded like a migraine, but with my background the concern is what is the trigger, which is often intracranial swelling. She took a few minutes to make a couple of calls and then phoned me straight back. At which time she had an MRI slot booked and an agreement with Dr. Hatfield to squeeze me into his Tuesday morning clinic. I just had to get to St. James by 08:40.

In the meantime she wanted me to take 4mg of Dexamethasone and doses of Ibuprofen and paracetamol. That required arranging for Dr. Pickering to write me a prescription as I didn’t have any left as I’d first thought. I must have taken it in with other expired meds the last time I’d been to the pharmacy at Westcliffe. Lynne was a star and went and collected the steroids as soon as they were ready. The rest of Friday and the weekend were spent dosing with meds and simply waiting for the time to pass. The actual visual disturbances went on until around about Sunday lunchtime. So it was a relief when they finally calmed down and stabilised. Kate Casey was very attentive in checking up on me over the weekend to be sure all was okay.

Monday morning towards lunchtime I got a call from Dr. Conn’s medical secretary at the Yorkshire Clinic asking me to attend at 18:30. Lynne had the brilliant idea of taking the dogs to Sunnymede so that they are safe and cared for while we do that and for the long day ahead at St. James the following day.

The session with Dr. Conn held no surprises, he really needed to be sure there was a plan in place after the update he’d had from Dr. Bradley and to assess if it would impact the last Chemo cycle starting on Thursday. The conclusion was that we proceed as normal. But he fully expected Dr. Hatfield to put me on onto some sort of anti-seizure regime in response to what had happened.

We were early to the station on the Tuesday morning and got an earlier train than planned, which made getting a taxi up to the hospital from the station a relaxed process and we had time to sit and have a cuppa before heading into Radiology. The scan took about an hour and half overall, quite a lot of waiting but 35 mins in the machine itself. Then it was upstairs to the Gamma Knife Centre to wait for Dr. Hatfield to fit us in. Watching the staff, especially Kate Casey at work is an inspiring thing. They are so dedicated.

The scan itself was good news – at least that was a real plus thing. The surgery site and the optic tumour have continued to shrink and the wee shadow next to the optic tumour is unchanged. Dr. Hatfield confirmed his diagnosis of me having seizures, ‘mini-seizures’ as he calls them. I think that’s his label for non-motor function seizures. I have labelled them VMS’s (Visual Mini-Seizures). And sure enough, he has put me on an anti-seizure medication regime. A drug called Keppra, which has an unpronouncable pharma name. This is something I will have to take from now on for life. The trick is to find the right dose to hold the seizures at bay, and then after six months seizure free there’s a fighting chance I can have my driving licence back. Now that would be nice. In the meanwhile, Dr. Hatfield will see me again in November for a further three month follow up.

So Tuesday was a busy one, but with a nice break for lunch at 2 Oxford Place to make at least a small part of it for us. And Lynne pushed me and I finally gave in and got myself an Apple Watch. The mirroring of apps from my iPhone is a real bonus when it comes to reminders to take my meds, especially the new one, the Keppra. But it was a very traumatic day for sure. My hands were literally shaking with relief all afternoon.

Thursday of course was the first day of the final cycle of chemotherapy. So we had to pop up to the Yorkshire Clinic on Wednesday for Gill to take blood. She texted later to say all was okay to start the next morning. With the sense of relief from Tuesday and knowing this was the very last cycle, the session seemed to go very well indeed and we left the Yorkshire Clinic with me expecting this final cycle to be a bit of a breeze.