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Now living in l'Olleria, south of Valencia

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Grand Day Out

Last Sunday, we had a lovely day out with some Spanish Biker friends.

We met at 8:30, expecting to go to either Ibi or Real Gandia. We set off, filled up, and then headed north on the CV60. Oh, I wonder where we're going then. Maybe Cullera? 20, 30 then 40 miles up the motorway and I wondered if we were going to the MotoGP at Aragon! But no - we then turned off and went to Naquera, in a beautiful area north of Valencia.

When we got there, there was a big bike meet (Matinal) with a marquee and hundreds of bikes. We paid 8 euros each, and got a T-shirt, breakfast baguette, slice of melon, drink, and nibbles. A little later, there was ham rolls and more nibbles, with a small glass of wine. Then, the tickets were all entered into a raffle, with a huge range of prizes, from childrens T-shirts, helmets and even holidays. Sadly, it wasn't our lucky day, but it was certainly a great day out. (And a very good opportunity for me to brush up on my Spanish!)

It's A Bug's Life

This year, we have had very few bugs around the house (thank goodness).

Last week, we had a visit from this handsome chappie.

I felt bad about it really, because Max heard the camera swith on, and came to see what I was taking a photo of. As soon as he saw it, he climbed up the wall, to investigate if this was something new that he could play with. Needless to say, big paws outdid the dainty feet. Poor thing.


Oh well, with some degree of inevitability, my bike has finally ended up something other than 'shiney side up'.

Went to meet some friends that live on a hill and parked outside their garage. Fully aware that you should NEVER park a motorbike facing downhill, I made the mistake of doing so. I got off, said 'hi' and within 10 seconds or so, it moved. I watched Paco's face change, and knew why, but as I turned around (in some mis-guided idea of catching it) I found myself laying on the floor, with the bike on top of me!

Oh well, if you're going to do it, do it in front of a load of chaps! At least they picked it back up quickly enough. It seemed to be ok, after losing a little water, so we all set off on a trip. However, when we got to our destination, there was oil on my left boot. Not good.

Close inspection the next day, revealed a hairline crack in the alternator casing, (and a broken indicator mounting) so it has gone off to Vincent's for repair.

I'm cross with myself for my stupidity, but greatful that it was only my bike that was involved. Plus, after 10 years accident free, it was about time I did something to make my mark on it!

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Fire Aftermath

Out of a (morbid) sense of curiosity, Ed and I drove towards Bocairent yesterday, to see the extent of the fire damage.

There were terrible patches of black on varous ridges, but not all of them. We then drove through the beautiful gorge, between Ontinyent and Bocairent and were shocked at the damage. It looked like a scene from a movie. Blackness and smoke on every turn. The smell was so prominent, it must have permeated everything last week. Thankfully, rains are expected fairly soon, and that will was the smell of ash and smoke away.

Everywhere we looked, the undergrowth was destroyed, but the tops of the trees were simply scorched. It was perfectly possible to comprehend how quickly the fire spread, and why it was so out of control. (The winds were very strong over those few days.) As the fire moved throught the valley, it simply burnt everything it touched, but moved so fast, it didn't stay to destroy completely.

I think, as soon as it has rained, the regeneration will start very quickly. Perhaps, even the trees will be ok, with just the needles of the pines damaged, but hopefully the trunks intact.

It must have been very frightening for those living nearby. The poor forestry workers, firemen and soldiers worked tirelessly to control something that was (aledgedly) started by one of their own. Dreadful.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Mountain Fires

On the last day of the fiesta's there is normally a huge firework display. This year, we walked down to where it is held and waited along with lots of others. After a while, one or two people left, which I thought was odd. Later, more people left, and someone told us that the display had been postponed. I asked why, and it was because the fire enfgine wasn't there. Oh well, time for a drink instead!

The next morning, we discovered that there were forest fires between Agullent and Ontinyent. During the day, these increased to Boccairent and Agres. This is about 15kms south of us. There were 5 planes called in as well as 7 helicopters to deal with the fires. We could see the planes dropping towards the reservoir, to fill up. Watching the news, we discovered that there was also a fire in Simat.

Late afternoon, I spotted a new pall of smoke, to the east of us. This turned out to be another fire, near Barxeta (Xativa direction) about 20 kms from us. Thankfully, the wind was carrying the smoke to the east, so we were safe. Late in the afternoon, when out visiting some friends, I saw another pall of smoke, but this was in the same direction as our house.

Ed and I drove back, but realised the this fare was on the other side of the tunnel. Deliberately, we drove towards Xativa. This fire was in the bottom of the valley, near Canals, but was not a forest/mountain fire, so the brigade could easily get to it.

This morning, it was confirmed that 3 of the fires had continued throughout the night. Someone we know had to evecuate, and in the space of 10 minutes, the fire had advanced by 1 km. He said it was terifying to watch. On returning to his burnt-out home today, he has discovered that his garden is destroyed, but inside the house is ok.

As soon as we can, we will be removing some more of the pine trees in our garden, especially the two that are closest to the house. We have already spoken to our neighbour, and he has no problem with this. (He won't denounce us for doing it!)

Tuesday, 7 September 2010


This year, I watched the men carefully, as they fired during the battle for the castle.

The muskets are provided by someone with a van parked just around the corner. If one of them breaks, they can go and get another one!

Everyone has a small leather bag, full of gunpowder. At the bottom of the bag, is a little 'drawer' which they can pull out, giving them a measured amount of poweder. They tip this into the barrel of the gun, and replace the measure. Then, they take a cap/charge from a separate pocket in the top of the bag, and place it on the hammer. When they pull the trigger, the hammer sparks the charge, and the spark ignites the gunpowder. BANG!

Sometimes, the powder flamed as it left the gun, which was very dramatic. If any was spilled onto the road, it could catch fire, so there was a man with a hosepipe, clearing the ground when needed.

Once, one of the men fired straight up, and the shockwave hit a balcony above him, and some render fell off, and hit him on the head!
I was covered in a combination of soot, and flakes of paint!

Now and then, they arranged to set of a series of charges at once, which was very dramatic.

I can recommend this event to everyone - but don't forget your earplugs!

Let the Battle Commence

One of my favourite days of the year... The storming of the castle.

There are two battles during the day (theoretically 600 years apart). Initially, the Moors capture the castle, and later, in the evening, the Christians capture it back.

At about 6pm, one by one, all of the filas arrive at the castle, first the moors, then the christians. They all sit down on the floor of the square, ready to cheer when appropriate. The Moor kings take the place inside the castle, an emissary from the Christians challenges the moors, and finally, the Christian kings arrive.

This year, the fila 'Pirates' were the leaders of all of the Christians. The costumes were quite stunning. King and Queen Pirates. (Totally different to the last two years.)

This year, as I listened, I was able to understand quite a lot of the Valencian speech at first, but as it got more dramatic and passionate, I no longer understood the words - not that you need to, to understand what is happening.

It was a delight this year, to know people in each camp too. I joined in the celebrations of each side, although, to be honest, I think they had both had enough 'spirits' to enjoy the day, whatever the outcome!

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Entra de Moros i Cristians

This year, we had to get to the main Saturday parade early, as Lorena was in the first fila. We drove into town, but couldn't find anywhere to park! All of the little streets were cut off, as the filas would be having parties later, so there were tables laid out in the streets. The main carparks were full, so we had to park at the back of town. I didn't know there were so many people in the town!

Apparently, you can hire chairs for the occasion from the town hall (at €5 each), but that puts you in a single spot for the entire event.

Our usual standing position was already busy, but Ed and I walked up the main street (with everyone watching us) and found a perfect spot with a wonderful view. It turned out, that this was some kind of throughfare, and we kept getting run over with pushchairs; however, as we are both tall, it wasn't a major problem.

A few minutes later, and the first fila came around the corner. (Iberes) I looked carefully, then spotted Lorena in the second row. She saw me too and smiled. We watched quite a few filas from there, then went to a bar for a drink, before the entry of the Moors.

Unknown to us, during this time, a large float, shaped like a tree, made it's way down the street, but as it got to the narrowest part, it didn't fit through! The whole parade was held up for 15 minutes, while some-one called a tree surgeon and felled a few branches!

As usual, the moors wore their lavish costumes. These, combined with the haunting, pulsing music certainly explain how they managed to conquer Spain all those years ago.

Apparently, the costumes cost around £150 to hire for the 2 hours that they are worn. They are very beautiful though, and the cost includes all of the accessories, such as the headresses, swords and cloaks.


Concurs de Paelles

On Thursday night, was a paella cook-off. This is sponsored by the town hall. You have to pay a nominal entry fee, and then you are allocated a spot to cook your paella. The firewood is provided, and the cost of the main ingredients is reimbursed. If you have a secret ingredient (ie, virgin saffron) then it is up to you to provide it!

Most people turned up at about 9:30pm, bringing chairs and tables (and nibbles) while the enthusiasts went to work.

The wood-smoke was terrible at times, but there was music playing and around 2,000 people, with everyone having a great time.

Our paella (cooked by Mark & Paul) didn't win, but at least the Brits put in an entry! A bit more practice required (cooking on wood) and maybe next year we will get a prize!

Entradetes de Filaes

On Wednesday and Thursday evening (midnight!) the moors and christian filas did their rehearsal parades. This year, they were split over 2 nights, with the moors doing one night and the christians the other.

I thought I saw one of my students in one troupe, but then I thought I saw him again later in another one! They all look the same in their nightgowns! However, when I spoke to him on Thursday, he confirmed to me that the first one had been him! At least I knew where to look for him in the main (Saturday) parade now.

On the Thursday night, we arrived a little late, but, as the parade is so slow, Ed and I raced through the bck streets, and managed to get ahead of the first fila. Perfect. Within just a few minutes, Ed said; "There's Lorena" and sure enough, I saw the one person I was loking for. She saw us too, and waved like mad! That won't be permitted on the Saturday.

When they had finished their parade, just outside the health centre, the band suddenly started up again, and then walked through the narrow streets, with everyone following (just like the Pied Piper), off to their Fila for another party.

Bous al Carrer

As part of the Spanish celebrations, we have 4 days of bulls in the streets.

In our case, they are not actually in the strets, but in a contrived bull ring. The stand on one side is permanent, along with the stabling for the bulls. The road is closed off at each end, and stands erected, and then the 3rd side has heavy wooden structures, to make an enclosed area.

This year, (thankfully) the final night did not have the flames attached to the horns of the bull.