Sunday, December 21, 2008

Happy Christmas

Well we should really say Feliz Navidad shouldn't we. Its wonderful weather here just before the big day. Not as big as Three Kings here of course. We had a lovely Christmas dinner with Bec and Joaquin last night, Rocky had some too of course. Introduced Joaquin to a few Brit traditions in the food line, pigs in blankets, bread sauce (homemade of course)sage and onion stuffing, christmas pud and mince pies. Joaquin loved them all! We had the early celebration because we are off to UK on Monday to work, same gig as last two years. We wanted to say a very merry Christmas and a blessed New Year to you all. If we do not get time to post over the festive season we will "see" you all when we get back.
Footnote: Look out for next months personality of the month: JOAQUIN

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Personality of the Month

Thought it might be a good idea to introduce you to a few of the neighbours. Of course first on the list has to our mate Lil accompanied here by the loopy Jack, also know as jumping jack flash.
Lil is an avid motorbike enthusiast, well know for her love, no make that obsession, with the colour pink. This lady has even been know to colour her hair pink, and very good it looks.
As president of her community, that lot across the street from us, she is a busy lady. Just recently she has also been responsible for starting a bread making craze which has us all piling on the pounds. A committed shopper with an endless capacity for a nice cuppa tea she makes a mean meat amd potato pie.
Whats she doing in Spain? She bought her appartment having only viewed it on line by the way. Well she's here taking a well earned rest from bringing up her large family, running youth clubs, taking care of lots of lucky kids as a childminder/foster Parent and generally running around doing some good whenever and wherever she could.
Always fun to be around Lil is our first and well deserved " personality of the Month"

Sunday, December 14, 2008

New laws for drivers

The law is changeing for drivers on a couple of points, firstly where you used to have to carry documentary proof of insurance to show to the police on demand, now it is the responsibility of the police to check through the insurance database, i know i will still carry some proof though!
Secondly, the need to carry a spare set of car light bulbs and tools to change them has been scrapped, this is because on most modern cars the job needs to be done with specialised tools and by a mechanic.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Did you know?

My mate Lil was over yesterday and we showed her the days posting. " did you spot the little man on the toilet" she asked. We were somewhat mystified and asked what the heck she was talking about. Well its seems that every Belen has a little man with his pants down and bum on show. To tell the truth we thought it was wind up, but no Lil insisted it was true. Well of course off we went to see if this was true, it was! He took some spotting, and that's part of the fun, find the man. We stayed for a mulled wine from one of the international stalls set up around the Belen and very nice too.

Friday, December 12, 2008


What a treat the Belen is set up again in the middle of Rojales by the river, best view at night time when its lit up. It must be a mammoth task to set this up every year. A "Belén" is a nativity scene by the way. Nativities are very popular in Spain. Many homes will have them,its something we always did when our children were young. We would make all the figures ourselves all part of the build up to Chritmas.Here you can buy an amazing variety at all different prices. If you are looking for a bargain there's a shop with a sale near the big electrical store on the Calle De Las Valencianas in Rojales. In some towns you find very elaborate nativities in the town square. In most towns they depict not only the scene in the manger but also scenes leading up to and after the birth of Jesus. This is the case with the Rojales one. Some places go the whole hog and use real actors. One town in Spain shows 25 different scenes and uses 180 actors! People walk throughout the town visiting the different scenes. They have become very popular tourist attractions. It is very common for a nativity scene showing the manger to have stream or brook. And in addition to the traditional animals shown at the manger, such as pigs, sheep and donkeys, you might also see that symbol of Spain, the bull. In rojales you will see about every animal you can think of including snakes, which is appropriate as we watched a whopper of a snake swimming in the river the other day.
If you not here for Christmas take a look at the link and enjoy the Belen online. By the way Belen is also a popular name for girls here in Spain, lovely isn't it.

The Yule Wreath pictured was made by our daughter Bec

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Back To Nature

We need another election, I know after the long drawn out USA presidential one you may think I'm wrong. Though what a good result there, congratulations to President Elect Obama. We had some elections here of course and prior to these elections there was flurry of activity in the Town. Roads where resurfaced in Los Palacios and a lovely job was made of the park alongside the river walk. This is a area with lots of specimen trees, pathways to pleasant seating areas. Well it was when it was spruced up before the last local council elections. They also put in lots on trees alongside the river and renewed fencing.
So why do we need another election? Well since the last one nothing seems to have been done to these areas. They are now totally overgrown, some bright spark has dumped rubbish in at least one of the seating areas. Whats more the fences have been vandalised. The whole area is now a sorry sight. Its also obvious that the watering system to the trees along the river has malfunctioned, many of them have now died.
Call me an old cynic, well not so much of the old maybe, but I really cannot help but see the original work as just a vote grabbing ploy. I know the local council will be suffering from the present economic climate just as much as anyone else but really a stitch in time would have helped. They do keep a lot of the parks and flower beds in lovely condition, i just wish this particular park could get some TLC. When its usable its a wonderful resource.
Like they say every cloud has a silver lining though, the wild life is flourishing in this undisturbed plot. In particular the great Shrike commonly know as the Butcher Bird seems to love the place. We always see at least two hanging out there as they wait to pounce on small mammals and other tasty snacks. In case you are wondering the Shrike is also called the butcher bird because of it habit on storing its catch on thorny trees and bushes. I know it sounds yuck but it makes you realize just how amazing animals can be doesn't it.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Games sans frontieres

Johns Spanish has really improve since he has spent time speaking to Becs partner Joaquin. However sometimes you just do not need words. It is perfectly possible to enjoy a game like dominoes without speaking the same language. The game of dominoes is often played in bars in Spain in much the same way as it is played in pubs in UK.

Although domino tiles are most likely of Chinese inheritance, there is argument over whether the game arrived in Europe in the eighteenth century from China or was in fact,invented independently. European dominoes are shorter than Chinese ones and there is a single tile for each permutation of the throw of two dice or a blank making a total of twenty-eight tiles. This is the standard or "double-six" set and, as in China, various games can be played with it. Double-twelve sets (91 tiles) are popular in America and Double-nine sets (55 tiles) also exist.
The game appears to have arrived in Britain in the late 18th Century from France (it is thought via French prisoners of war)It quickly become popular in inns and taverns at the time. The word "Domino" is French for a black and white hood worn by Christian priests in winter which is probably where the name of the game derives from.
There are no references to them in Western Literature before the middle of the 18th century, when domino games were first played in Italy and France. Later they spread over Europe and to England and America.
Wherever and when ever it came from it is still very much enjoyed here and in UK. There are leagues in Both countries, thought I don't think this pair will be playing in them anytime soon. Still a great way to over come the language barrier.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Red Sky at Night

We have had some more than spectacular skies recently. The sun setting over the Vega Baja is pretty much what sold us on our apartment and it still gives us a lot of pleasure to stand on the solarium and watch the wonderful changing colours at close of day. This week we also has a special treat with a startling display of the Moon in conjunction with Jupiter and Venus. So special was it we rang daughter Bec and Joaquin to ensure they did not miss it. They said it was an amazing sight from their roof top to, in fact they got pretty cold up there as they watched for so long. Check out the BBC site to get an idea of what I mean
Last night was more than a red sky at night , well words fail me and that's a first. True to the old saying that red sky has been a Shepherd's delight today. It has been dry hot and bright with temperatures in the 20s this afternoon. Ah now you know why we are here, is this really December.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Up Dates

Tree Trimming: nice job now done on the swimming pool square in Los Palacios. Bunch of workman spent yesterday tidying around the pool to so its all looking pretty neat and tidy.
Rocky the rescue dog: Is growing into a lovely young dog. Always looks like he's smiling with that great big wirehair terrier mouth. Very well behaved around the table at meal times. Of course one look at my mate Lil and hes as mad as her dog Jack.
Jumping Jack: Comes to visit now and then, Stands at the gate at the foot of our stairs barking like the loony he he is. Our cat Suzi is not impressed.
Suzi the "I'm a celebrity get out of here" cat: Who will not share her home with any other animal. We have to pop her into the bedroom when Rocky calls. Not that she minds that shes a lazy moo, loves nothing better than to lie around on the bed.Last night I could not get off to sleep so you'll never guess what I caught her doing. I always take a drink of water into the bedroom last thing. I have so many books etc. on the bedside table I stand the glass on the floor, easier to reach in the night to. Last night I was reading pretty late on and Suzi the cheeky minx strolled in and proceeded to drink from my glass! Oh yuck! how often has she done this, will now take water in a bottle. She does have a bowl of water in the living room by the way, go figure?
San Fulgencia: Your guess is a good as mine, local accused politician did suggest La Marina become a separate town though,presumably with himself as Mayor.
Petrol: Wow price yesterday was 84.7 cents a litre at Eroski. great. Topped up the car for 14 euros.
Brit TV:Lots of solutions but it seems to me the best one is a 1.9 metre dish and free sat box. No ongoing payments no chance of a switch off. With other solutions there do seem to be some very dodgy and unreliable suppliers around. Handle with care!
Lost and Found You will recall our surpirse and delight at the rteturn of my lost phone well it sems that such honesty is more the norm here. My mate Lil has just had a pair of new shoes she left on the bus returned by the driver. Whats more another driver has returned her shopping trolley left on another Bus a while ago. I know we're not letting her on the bus without supervision agian, we're afraid we might lose her!
Water: well we've had a bit more rain, makes everything nice and green. Still WE LIVE IN A DESERT. Please take care do not waste water, ditch the hose don't run water into the ditch. Save two precious resources, water and money.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Gizza Job

Last month figures showed that Spains unemployment was the highest in Europe. The knock on effects of the collapse of the construction industry are really making themselves felt here. The unemployment rate here now affects 11.3% of the active population, compared to 8.3% just a year ago.
The average rate across the European Union comes in at just 7.5%
The numbers come from Eurostat which names Spain as the EU country with the highest unemployment rate, followed by Slovakia at 9,9%. The Spanish government has taken measures to help those who lose their jobs and have mortgages under 170000 euros. Of course official figures are only part of the story,we cannot ignore the black economy and those caught up in it.
The real struggle is for those already at the bottom of the pile. That includes an awful lot of expats who have been pushed to work without a legal contract by employers wanting to save money. Without doubt there are some expats who would not have taken a contract if they could have one, the employers are still breaking the law by allowing employees to work without a contract of course. For what ever reasons we have a lot of desperate and often frightened people around who have no idea where there next penny is coming from. Its is worrying to see how easy it is to reach this stage, how so much has depended on the continuing prosperity of one industry.
I have heard quite a few expats,usually retired or working, who say we did the Spanish some sort of favour by coming here. For myself I cannot see that. To believe that you would have to buy into the idea that only our, north European, way of life is the correct one. If I may quote one expat "they were all peasants growing oranges". Well a lot of the oranges groves are now built over with houses that no one lives in. I know its been Spanish companies who built them and took a lot of the wealth but once again that means a few have benefited while a large number have worked hard but now are on the scrapheap. The bubble has most surely burst and an awful lot on locals and expats are now caught in the downpour. You can bet quite a lot would rather be peasants with an orange grove.