Saturday, November 29, 2008

Thermal Weather

The Benidorm Council may have beaches on there minds but the weather lately has us all hunting out our woollies. Spain has had some very very cold weather, we may have escaped the worst here but its still a little on the chilly side. We read that Malaga had the lowest temperatures since 1969 and saw news reports of snow in other parts of the Alicante region. We could see snow over on the mountains on Friday ,thought we were back in Scotland for a minute. Suzi the cat has become a recluse, she hates the cold wet weather and the snow has been falling as rain here as they say. We have been looking at installing solar panels but John is yearning for a wood burning stove after sitting in front of Becs log fire. Trouble is we have no where to put one in our wee flat. You can get some nice little stoves for outside that burn wood, I can see us now out on the Solarium huddled around the stove. You know it would be quite nostalgic, a bit like being back on the picket line, ah happy days. Cheers comrades

Benidorm Beach Clamp Down

Benidorm City council have introduced new legislation that is going to affect most people in one way or another, so make sure you know the new laws or you could end up well out of pocket.
1 You cannot enter the beach between Midnight and 07:00hrs. Penalty 750 Euros
2 You must not place parasols and towels to reserve space. Penalty 150 Euros
3 No playing ball games outside designated areas. Penalty 120 Euros
4 Swimming when red flag is flying. Penalty 1000 Euros
5 Peeing in the sea. Penalty 120 Euros (beware there maybe frogmen swimming round testing the water near you!)
6 Building Sandcastles. Penalty 150 Euros
7 Fishing with a rod, net or harpoon. Penalty 750-1100 euros
8 Drinking alcohol on the beach. Penalty 750 Euros
9 Sex on the beach. Penalty 750 Euros.
I agree with the swimming penalty, as quite often others lives are put at risk to rescue people who get into difficulty. but the some of the others seem over the top.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Food Glorious Food

It was Becs birthday on Saturday and Jochin made us all a meal. I am telling you his Paella is just second to none. He was taught to cook this famous Spanish dish by an elderly lady many years ago. Jochin prefers to cook the traditional dish over a wood fire, but however he does it its a real treat. Sitting in one of the house's cave rooms in front of an open fire made the occasion a birthday not to be forgotten.
We all seem to get even more interested in food when the weather cools down, guess you don't really feel like eating so much when the temperatures 40 degrees. Well its not 40 degrees now so as I said in an earlier post we do love our soup. I also like the fact that you can get lentils, chickpeas and all sorts of beans precooked in jars, very convenient and not expensive. We always get ours from Inter Marche now as their prices are best. Of course fresh vegetables come from the street market. At our house we have whats called our Wednesday soup. That's when I try to use up any remaining vegetables before the market the next day. So here's the basic recipe you can adapt to use any veg as necessary. The only vegetable I would say is essential are onions, you can manage with leeks at a pinch, if you only have them and not the afore mentioned.
Dice all your vegetables. Typically I would use the following
Onions,courgettes,aubergine,leeks,carrots,turnip,parsnip,tomatoes.You not not need masses of any particular type.
Saute the onions, do not brown, add the rest of your ingredients in order of hardness. For example, from this list carrots and other root veg next ending with courgettes, then tomatoes. You do not let the veg brown at all just "sweat" untill they are quite soft. Now you add fresh or dried chili to taste, (when my sisters here its big chili time!) You now add cartons or tins of tomato frito. You can get away with other tomato products but we like the intensity of the fried tomato puree. If I have a good large pan full I would use two 350-400 gram containers of frito. You need enough room in the pan to add stock or water of roughly half the volume of the mixture. Bring to boil, then turn down and simmer, by the time the soup has reduced to a nice thickness it will be ready. You can liquidise for a smooth soup if you prefer. Season to taste, eat or cool and freeze. By the way if you have an apple or two languishing in the fruit bowl, core and chop and add at the sauteing stage. Remember chili gets hotter if you are reheating. This is a good basic recipe that can be changed by omitting the chilli and adding Basil or lots of garlic. You can add lentils or chickpeas or any kind of bean for a really hearty meal. It can also be further reduced, poured over pasta or used in a Lasagna.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Over the Hills and Far away

Well not so far as it happens. Hands up if you have great view of the mountains that almost seem to encircle the Vega Baja. It really was this view as the sun set behind the mountains that sold us on our apartment. At anytime of of year the ever changing sunset is a sight to behold. However we have really only just started to explore the mountains and hills we have admired for so long from our roof solarium. Today we took a trip to Crevillent, and what an interesting town it is, Very different from the Spanglish feel of places near the coast. Lovely church and that usual mixture of new, old well persevered and crumbling building you find in Spain, even in the capital Madrid. After a look around a coffee and a bargain buy,( more of that in another blog! ) we headed for the Sierra de Crevillente . It was hard to believe we were only a little over 30KM from home. Not a soul in sight very very quite, only the bird song. John saw a Rock Thrush almost a soon as he got out of the car. It was heaven to have a peaceful walk along paths bordered with wild herbs and flowers. We will be going back to explore more of the marked paths amongst these hills. Stouter foot wear and a compass are called for the tracks are rough and it would be easy to stray so you need to be able to get your bearings. We hope to see some birds of prey next time and given the terrain I am sure we will.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Games People Play

In his thoughts for the millennium the Dalai Lama said "Remember, that not getting what you want, is sometimes a wonderful stroke of luck." It always reminds me of another favorite line of mine "You can't always get what want, but if you try sometimes, you just might find you get what you need". Rolling Stones released on their 1969 album Let It Bleed, Written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. Very different sources, but I think the same sentiment.
Anyway why I am telling you this? Well I was reminded of these two quotes in connection with the lack of Brit TV. Many many ex pats have definitely not got what they want in this respect. It maybe, just maybe, however that some have got what they need. We have spent many a fun evening with TV exiles playing board games, cards, domino's, looking at family albums that had been gathering dust, sharing a home cooked meal and sharing lots of chat and laughter. And guess what, despite the fact that Brit TV is once again accessible, to some extent anyway, the fun continues. Tomorrow its meat and tattie pie with a few games of rummy cup. We don't know how to play yet, but we're sure it will be fun learning.

Short back and sides

The days are so much shorter now we really try to make the most of the sunny afternoons. Its this time of year that makes you appreciate living here, Still plenty of warmth in the sun, though the early mornings and evening can have a bit of a chill. Its not winter or even Autumn as we knew it back in UK though. One thing that does always happen around now is the trees in the towns get what we call one of there regular hair cuts. We have yet to discover where the tradition for the shape comes from, but to keep it they need a few cuts during the year. So last week the cherry picker appeared around the corner from us and what seemed like a large number of workmen arrived to do the job. There were numerous breaks for refreshments and discussion before they achieved the desired results. Meanwhile most plants do not seem to take a break for winter and continue to grow here. We are planting some spring bulbs this year as are our neighbors and look forward to seeing them bloom next year. It really makes a big difference to an area when people take the time and trouble to garden. Its not just our own efforts we enjoy but the show that the others put on too,and at least at this time of year we do not have to water the containers quite as often. When you have going on for a hundred pots it can be quite job.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Results of the poll

If you cannot have English TV

Leave Spain = 4 people, Might be thinking about getting air tickets.
Watch Spanish TV instead = 8 voters, will soon be able to understand if not speak Spanish fairly well in the near future.
Watch DVD´s instead = 3 voters, theres a car boot sale this weekend at La Marina you may get good second hand DVD´s there.
Not bothered about it = 8 people who voted have obviously got better things to do --nudge, nudge, wink, wink.
Get drunk instead = 4 voters are going to spend the subcription fees onthe Vino -nice choice.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Fortuna - thermal

The Church at Banos De Fortuna
Yesterday we had a trip to Fortuna, which about 15 kilometres west of Orihuela situated in a quite mountainous area, it is a large town with mainly narrow streets and has a nice unspoilt feel to it, with some lovely architecture.
3.5 Kilometres along the road is the Banos De Fortuna, a small village with several luxurious looking hotels, a church and other facilities, The main attraction is the open air thermal pools and swimming pools where entrance is included if you stay at one of the hotels, but 10€ for the day otherwise. Other health treatments are available including mudbaths and massages. The Hotels are all brightly coloured and fresh looking and you can have a 7 night stay all inclusive for about €450 this includes several free treatments, and wine and water with your meals.
It is a very popular health resort, and it is quite normal for people to wander around the village in their bathrobes.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Pretty and Practical

Although the Carnation is the national flower of Spain the Lantana camara, which is in flower now. is more commonly know as the Spanish flag. Its a wonderfully colourful bush which is native to tropical regions in Central and South America.It is very hardy and invasive, which is probably why you see it on road side and central reservations. It seems to survive any sort of treatment or conditions here. This Shrub can cope with minimum amounts of water, tolerates high temperatures and is not affected by most pests. It is also attractive to butterflies. You do see various colours but the one that gave it it common name is of course yellow and red.There are some wonderful examples in flower beds near the river. Such is the survival rate of this shrub in many countries a whole host of uses have been found for it. As you can see from the photo it has a very pretty flower it also produces a blackberry looking fruit. There are reports that children have died from eating unripe berries though I have read the berries are edible when ripe.
All the parts of this plant have been used traditionally for several ailments throughout the world. The root of this plant is used for the treatment of malaria, rheumatism and skin rashes according to some sources,it has also been said that it has properties which help in the treatment of cancer.In some parts of the world Some communities have found alternate uses for Lantana, because it is so difficult to eradicate. Some household furniture, such as tables and chairs are made from the stalks, or the small branches are bundled together to make brooms. I am not sure I will risk trying the berries maybe just stick to admiring its beauty

Friday, November 14, 2008

Its In the Bag

We are getting some lovely afternoon weather right now, just great for a stroll around Rojales or Formentera. We opted for Rojales yesterday, I was hoping for a browse around the secondhand shop that's appeared in the main street but it was closed. That being the case we decided to walk up to the river to see if there was much water running, not bad as it happens. Lots of wild fowl too and something in the murky depths with a jaws size fin, well OK maybe not that big.
Now I have always made a bit of a joke of the "dog dirt" on the pavement brigade, you know every parish council and local newspaper from here to eternity has this on the agenda at several points in any one year. Not that i advocate leaving behind your pooches leavings so to speak. In fact having just fostered friend Lil's dog Jack I cannot seem to leave the house without a plastic bag in my pocket. Which brings me to the point of this post. I was so pleased to see a plastic bag dispenser for the offending materiel in Rojales, are there more I do hope so. They are a common site in Australia wherever more than one dog walker gathers. Good on ya Rojales council. Now all we have to do is get the owners to use them. So if your an irresponsible dog owner, and remember what your pet leaves behind has the potential to cause blindness in a child, beware you may find me chases you down the street waving a plastic bag. And just for the record it wouldn't be the first time.

Monday, November 10, 2008

That Sinking Feeling

Do you think it’s a slog getting the Laundry done, think again. How about if you had to carry it out to the nearest irrigation ditch and scrub away at it. According to the Author of the classic The Root and the Flower, John A Crow, it was still a common site in the 1960s. Can you imagine in the 40 degrees heat we sometimes get. I recall the big washing day my mother did every Monday before washing machines were a common household item in UK. We had copper boiler, worked by gas, a mangle and a lot of elbow grease. That said we did have running water and we could work inside the house.
I have not seen anyone washing in this way though I read only this year that the river Segura was being used for washing of clothes by poor immigrants. It’s hard to imagine what everyday existence must be like when the Segura is your only source of water.
As I say I have not seen anyone washing their clothes in the irrigation channels here or in the several stone sinks you come across in the campo. The picture here is of oneof those sinks along the track near the Royal Thai restaurant. The sink is next to a well that has just been renovated so thought I had better get a record of this ancient artefact before that to disappeared too. Just imagine for a moment the harshness of most women’s lives here within living memory, remember also such conditions still exist within a stone throw of where we live.
So next time you open the automatic washer say a big thank you and a may be a little pray for the fortunate.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

The Red Squirrels of Guardamar

Is there any more lovely small wild animal than the Red Squirrel or to give it its Spanish name the La Ardilla roja. Red squirrels are the only type you will see in spain.You may have seen them and not realised they are the red variety as in the winter they can lose the bright colouration that gives them their name. During the cooler weather they become browner and darker and develop prominent ear tufts. There is also a lot of variation in their general colour right across their range in Europe, from quite pale to reddish to almost black. The ones we see in Guardarmar are looking very very red at present though and have lovely almost white faces and fronts. We have read that you do not get them in southern Spain but I have seen postings on the WWW about the squirrels in Granada. Maybe they where on a cultural visit! If you want to see theses lovely creatures take yourself off for a coffee at the cafe in the Parque Reina Sofia. On a week day when its little quieter you have a good chance of spotting a few playing in the trees, If you are as fortunate as we were the other day you may get to see one taking a drink by the pools in the middle of the park

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

TKO is a KO OK

I have always listened to Local Radio, in Leicestershire, Cornwall, Highlands and Scotland and now here. Station of choice here is TKO. What I like about local radio is that it’s so accessible. You can get an almost instant request and that makes you feel part of it, that’s what promotes brand loyalty I suppose. What ever it’s nice to be able to email or call in a request and hear it sometimes minutes later. They have a good range of music based programmes. Also though it is local you can, should you wish, listen to it anywhere in the world on the PC. You can find TKO at FM 91.9 and 87.5 FM
Website is .

So if you want music, light chat, competitions, local charity and Job info give it a try.
Now as far as radio goes I would love to be able to get a talk based station too. I listen to Radio 4 online but a more local based “intelligent speech” station would be excellent. Mean while I shall carry on enjoying TKO.
If your wondering TKO stands for The Knock Out

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

By The People For The People?

Maybe not my business as its San fulgencia, but had to make a general comment on recent events there. Not about corruption, let me make that clear, no comment on rights or wrongs, who done it and who didn’t. I prefer to leave that to the courts. However something did seem worthy of a posting, see what you think out there.
You will all no doubt have seen the story of British councillors take the reins, if only for a day. Even the good old BBC took a moments rest from the Brand/Ross story to take a look. The details seem a little fuzzy with at least one British guy saying that he had not been Mayor for a day. The one point that does seem to be clear is the fact that these two representatives of the people who do not speak much Spanish at all. Now I would have thought to be effective as a politician in any country you would need a very good command of the language. I know I would never give my vote to someone who in reality would not know what the heck was going on. May be that’s why one of them was made councillor for animals, do dogs bark in Spanish?
No joking a side, it maybe very noble and not a little brave to stand for election to represent your community, isn’t it just a little short sighted to do so if you cannot understand what is going on in the meeting you will attend.

What surprises me is that there is not some sort of ruling about competency in the official language of the country in which you are standing. Surely that would make sense.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Souper Time of year

Even here in sunny Spain soup is high on our family meal menu. The vegetables in season and available on the markets are perfect for a variety of hearty, tasty and of course healthy soups. Loads of root veg about now, mushrooms* are good, pumpkins of course, lovely fleshy ones. Any slightly squishy tomatoes can be used in soup.
My fresh herbs are still doing well, even the annual basil is holding out. All in all a really “souper” time of year for those who like to cook. A family favourite with us in a fish soup which makes good use of the marvellously fresh and flavoursome leeks you can buy at present. Here’s the recipe enjoy!

For each person

1 potatoes peeled and chopped into large chunks
Half a leek chopped
Half an onion diced
259-300grams of fish in bite size pieces
Fish Stock (freshly made from fish trimmings or from stock cube, if using stock be careful when salting the soup)
Olive oil
Lemon juice
Garlic to taste
Plain flour
Black pepper
In a large heavy base saucepan sauté the vegetables adding in this order:
Onions, potatoes, garlic crushed, leeks. Sauté the Vegetables carefully but do not allow to brown. When the onions and leeks are looking transparent stir in a dessert spoon of flour per person, do this of the heat. Return to stove cook for a minute then slowly add enough stock to well cover the mixture ( add a little more during cooking as required while veg is cooking) reduce heat and simmer until veg are cooked. Season to taste. Just before serving heat the soup and add the fish a little at as time. Fish will cook in a very short time. To serve, liquor should be first with crusty bread followed by fish and veg topped with a mixture of oil. Lemon juice and parsley. If preferred you can serve all together.
*a lot of these are grown in the area La Manchuela area if you’ve ever been up to Cuenca you will have seen the special growing buildings.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Lost and Found

We read so much about crime these days I wanted to tell you all about something that happened to us the other day. We had been out taking a friends dog for a walk. We went all around Rojales and came back through the fields and then out to the road by the Thai Royal Gardens Restaurant. When we got in John noticed that the clip that held my mobile phone was still around my neck but the phone was missing. There seemed nothing for it but to retrace our steps and search, I had just got a new sim and put a lot of cash onto the phone so I was really spitting feathers! Not holding out much hope I nipped into the friends to make sure it was not there, no luck. In the mean time John tried ringing the phone, I was just about to tell him not to fearing that if it was lying somewhere ringing might attract attention to it and it would be picked up and gone. However what happened next proved me wrong. The phone was answered, a local farmer we had seen working in his artichoke field had found the phone, He told John to meet him at the Dia supermarket in half and hour to collect the phone. What a nice, honest faith restoring individual Thank you again Senor and muchas gracias

Angels Trumpets

The Datura Tree
It’s always amazing to see these trees in flower at this time of year. The huge trumpet shape flowers give the tree its other name angel’s trumpets; however you might think devils trumpets more suitable. The tree is very toxic, despite that it has been used as a medicine plant in the past. Most especially by the curandero (or curandera for a female) shaman of Hispanic South American countries, Shamans are healers who uses all types of natural methods. When we lived in Cornwall there was a major problem with people eating this plant, so much so that all the trees where removed form public parks. It is very dangerous and causes all sorts of problems including hallucinations. The effects can be long lasting in some rare instances.
Never the less if you look and don’t touch it’s a dramatic and attractive plant seen in may places around Formentera

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Clear Horizon Empty Pockets

It was a cold day yesterday but bright with a clear up on the roof terrace there was a clear view over the Vega Baja. As I stood up there taking in the view I realized something was missing, I was so astounded I shouted John to take a look. We have taken in this view many many times over the last four years but never ever have we seen a sight like this. Wait for it! There is not a single crane in sight, no I don’t mean birds I mean the Grua, those hugh cranes we see on building sites here, well you used to. What’s the story behind this? Quite simply the building industry has hone into freefall. Hard times maybe for the promoters, developers the agents harder indeed for the poor, now quite literally, workers