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Now living in l'Olleria, south of Valencia

Thursday, 30 December 2010

Xativa Belen

The Bethlehem (Belen) nativity scene is on display in Xativa again at the moment.

Unfortunately, we picked a lunchtime, on the last day of school, to go and visit it. As we entered, there were lots of young children walking around, enthralled. A few minutes later, a group of 12 year-olds walk in, somewhat less enthralled. As I stand back, to allow them to pass, a group of teenagers enter. Evidently, the school outing was a requirement, not a choice! It was quite funny really, watching them go around as quickly as they possibly could, calling to their friends and not looking at anything at all.

The setting was the same as previous years, but before, I hadn't noticed the upside-down statue of king Filipe V near the entrance. This king ordered the burning of Xativa, and subsequently, his portrait hangs upside-down in the museum, as a mark of disrespect.

Axe Murderer

Ed has taken out a further 3 small trees from the front garden. After this, there is another small clump and then, I think, we are done.

He pushed them over very easily with the digger, and then dug out the tree roots, so that there is no trace of where they've been. This is to help with reversing the trailer, so he couldn't make mushrooms out of the tree stumps this time.

Having sharpened his axe (enough to shave with) he then proceeded to limb the trunk, removing all of the branches, ready to turn the trunk into logs. He waas very pleased with his progress, until the moment when he sliced the axe straight through his shoe and into his foot.

He gritted his teeth, and made his way to the patio, calling me on the way. Unfortunately, I didn't hear him at all. He struggled to the patio, and carefully removed his shoe. There was a perfectly clean cut through it, along with an equally clean cut through his sock. There was also a huge puddle of blood in his shoe.

I felt quite sick, when he told me that he had (possibly) cut his toe off. Carefully removing his sock, we discovered that the cut was on the upper part of his foot, missing the sides by very little, but was possibly right through to the bone.

Thankfully, Ed heals very quickly, and after changing the dressings several times, he now has a simple gash in his foot, rather than needing a visit to the local clinic for stitches.

Feliz Cumpleanos

Little Alessia has turned 3 already - I can't believe how quickly it's gone by. She moved up to 'big school' in September (they go in the September during the year in which they reach 3) although she is the youngest.

We were invited to celebrate with the family, which was lovely. I think we are surrogate grandparents!

Ed managed very well, as they have some understanding of English, but afterwards, I realised that I had spent the entire evening talking Spanish. After 3 years of lesson, I should think so!

A Bird in the Hand...

A few days ago, quite early, Ed heard a 'thud' in the house. He thought it was me, but I hadn't dropped anything. Closer investigation revealed that a small bird had flown straight into the big window - very odd, considering that it tis made up of lots of panels, not a single pane of glass.

I held the dogs, while Ed went to rescue it from Max, who would have found it a pleasant snack! The poor little thing was stunned, but not killed.

Ed looked after it for a while, and then it flew off, after a brief rest on the patio railings

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Going For Gold

This year, I have gone for the simple gold look on the Christmas tree. I think Ed thought I wasn't going to put one up, I had left it so late. Still, it was up before the 4th Sunday of Advent, so that was ok!

My thrill this year, is that Ed has made me a special metal frame that fits the curved mantlepiece. It has little feet on it, so I can decorate it in any way I like. I did plan to cover it with (fake) pine branches, but I left it rather late.

I have used the candles that are normally on the tree, and decorated them with tinsel, and hung a stocking on each end. The effect is very simple, but very traditional.

Ed is now planning to make me a wrought iron Christmas tree to go with it, but I guess that is a project to finish for next year, since I haven't even designed it yet!

Technology Conspiracy

What a week for IT!

First of all, I couldn't log on to the server at work - problem at their end. Then, my laptop thought it had a virus. I checked everything, but I think Ed had accidentally landed on one of those nasty 'you have a virus, click here to get rid of it' type of links. I didn't click (of course) but it certainly threw something out. I did a full check, and everything was OK, until the next morning, when it wouldn't start up!

A process of trial and error, and everything is working again. (I think I know just enought to keep me out of trouble.) I really must back-up my data!

The third thing was on Thursday, when all of the power went off, only in the study! No lights or power, but everything fine in the rest of the house. Mains fuses fine. On Friday, in the daylight, we discovered that the fuse inside the socket had blown. As the socket is also the light switch, we lost everything in that ring.

Off to the ironmongers for fuse wire. Hmmm. He didn't understand. Ed found a fuse, and showed him what he wanted. A-ha... he troted off and grabbed a length of random cable, and cut off a 10cm long piece. Pulling it apart, he showed Ed the bits of wire inside, and said to use one of those!

And what ampage is that meant to be? Oh well, Spanish electrics eh? Thankfully, I do have a surge protector on. Also, we discovered that the source of the overloading was the oil filled heater, so that has now been banished to the spare bedroom, where it can do no further damage.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Windy Miller

Brrrr. 8.9 degrees and time for another Sunday ride-out. A long time ago I promised myself that I wouldn't go out if it was 5 degrees or less (been there, done that) so wrapped up warm and off we went.

This time, we headed out towards Ontinyent and then turned off towards Fontanars on the CV-656. This is a valley famous for it's grapes and bodegas (wine making). The valley was quite pretty, but winter is not the best time for viewing vinyards! Along the left hand side of the valey, we could see where the terrible fires had been earlier in the year. Here, there were many houses that must have been terribly close to being set alight - very scarey for the owners.

We then jumped onto the A-31 towards Albacete for breakfast. Ed and I had been this way before, at a similar time of year. Yep - as we went along, it got colder and colder as we quickly rose to some 800m above sea level! My arms were a little cold by the time we stopped at Alpera, but poor Victoria was frozen - she vowed not to go out again until spring.

Breakfast turned out to be a very hearty meal, shared by all. Chops, sausages, peppers and fried potatoes, washed down with wine (coke) as usual. Yum. Even the toast was nice - baguette, cut in half lengthways, toasted and drizzled with olive oil.

We wrapped up again, and set off via the CV-590 back home. Not the shortest route, but definately the prettiest. As we climed higher, we encountered lots of windmills. Then I realised that we were going to ride right amongst them. I didn't know what to do... I couldn't take my gloves off, get the camera out and take a photo whilst riding along, but, equally, it is frowned on to stop at the side of the road. (Not that the road was wide enough to block with 5 bikes anyway.) Thankfully, as we neared the top of a crest, I saw Julian's indicator come on. We were able to park right next to the windmills, as they all had really good access roads leading to them. Evidently, this is a very popular spot, as while we had a break, another bunch of bikes came from the opposite direction and stopped for a while too, at another windmill.

As we dropped from 1000m, the temperature soon warmed up, and the remainder of the ride was much nicer. Good roads, beautiful views as well as great company. Next weekend the weather is due to be somewhat colder, and then it is Christmas, so it may be next year before we go out again. Ah well. Today was (yet) another one of those days that I was glad to have got the bike back on the road again, but roll on springtime, when I don't have to put so many layers on.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Bous Continued

A timely early dinner, and off to Ontinyent again to see the second day of the bulls on a rope. Start time 4pm, so leave home at 3ish. We got to our usual parking spot, and there were still a few spaces left. Perfect.

We strolled to the road where the bulls start, and took some pictures around the corral and leading to the old town centre. Strolling up the hill, I was impressed that there were so many people about so early. Yesterday, no one appeared until after the first bull had started. As we neared the main square (still in a narrow street) I suddenly became aware that there were actually a LOT of people in front of us, and they were all looking in the same direction. Ah. Obviously there us a bull just in front of us - this wasn't a part of the game plan. Sure enough, it had started at 3pm and we had walked into the midst of it all. When the bull finally went into the main square we followed it. At least now we had somewhere to escape, if we needed to.

We had a drink in a nearby bar during the interval. They have a TV on, which is showing the bull live. When the next one came out, we saw it on the TV, then looked out of the window as it ran past! After a few minutes, when we had both finished our drinks, we went back outside. All the people were running as I left the bar, so I headed the same way (towards the main square), but within a few feet, I realised that I was now actually being passed by the bull. He ran into the square ahead of me, but I was certainly glad to be out in the open again.

Once the 3rd (and final) bull went back through the arches for the last time, Ed and I followed, as our car was in that direction. When we were part way down the hill, to our suprise, the bull decided to come back up again. Hundreds of people running in such a narrow space was rather dangerous. Most of them are running one way, but looking another (at the bull) so everyone is bumped and pushed about. Finally, we broke into the square again. About 10 minutes later, it went down through the arches again, but this time it really was the final time!

We strolled down to the bottom and across the bridge. It was very pretty in the twilight, with the lights on everywhere. Then I realised... lots of people again, all looking in the same direction... sure enough, once again, we had managed to get between the bull and its destination. This time, instead of going uphill to the corall, it had gone downhill, and had to be brought back. When it came past us, it decided it didn't want to go up the hill and stopped and turned. This time, I was very unsure of which way to go. I looked for Ed, and he was trapped by a low wall, with a very large drop behind him. In front of him was a signpost which certainly wouldn't have protected him! Thankfully, they bull then decided to follow the crowds, and went back to the corral on it's own.

Everyone sang songs and cheered. Time to celebrate the end of another fiesta.

Bous en Corda

It is the weekend for the 'bulls on a rope' again in Ontinyent.

We went yesterday and this time, took Tracey, a bull 'virgin'. He husband Mark had been before but Tracey had always stod right at the back, away from all of the action. This time, she was right in the mix of it. At first, she was very scared and ran back to the pub, but with a bit of persuading, she was in the centre of things for the rest of the afternoon.

At one point, she had her back to the bull, and kept asking me, "which side is it coming past?" I didn't have the heart to tell her that it was heading in a straight line towards us, and was about to pass (on either side) by less than 6 inches. I just kept saying, stay there, stay there, untill it passed by! She was stunned. I coould feel her shaking as she gripped hold of my arm tightly. At one point, I had to ask her to let go, as she was hurting me! I'm not making fun of her at all. It is a very scarey thing. The people surge around and scream when the bull changes direction, and it is quite a thing to be in the middle of it all. The adrenaline buzz is amazing, and she will be feeling the effects for days.

Today (Sunday) the first bull runs at 4pm. Last year, we thought it was 3pm (as on the Saturday) but we had to wait around for an extra hour before it all started!

On the walk back to the car, we saw someone with blood all over their face and hands. I don't know what happened to him - it could have been the bull, but it was just as likely that he fell over. Nearly everyone seemed to have a drink in their hands. If you ask me, drink (and unsteady feet) don't mix very well with rampaging bulls!

Pat's Party

On Friday 3rd December, was Ed's cousin Pat's 60th Birthday. She lives in Ciudad Quesada, not far from where John was.

I made some cakes for her, as she was having a buffet in the local 'Country Club' but this was only savory dishes. A German cheesecake and my cherry crumble cake, along with an apple crumble cake. Typically, when you bake for someone else, the applecake decided to leak, so it looked a bit messy! Still, at least it tasted good. I thought it was a bit mean to bake so many cakes and Ed not get any, so I baked a fruitcake especially for him too!

On the way to Quesada, we pass one of the famous Osborne bulls (Toro de Osborne). These were erected from 1956, to advertise their 'Brandy de Jerez'. They were all meant to be removed in 1994, but by then everyone loved them, so, the name Osborne was blacked out and they were allowed to remain.

Ed and I stopped for lunch in a cafe before goinf to Pat's house, and we just laughed at the service. We asked for tea, and it came in a little teapot, along with a tiny milk-jug and cup and saucer. What's wrong with that? Well, in most of Spain, if you ask for tea, they assume you want a herbal one, and if you ask for the 'black' type, they still don't think you want milk. You then get funny looks. It was like being back in England. The staff and all of the customers were english. Even the owner admitted that she never spoke spanish at all (having studied it to A-level years ago).

Pad was pleased to see Ed, not having seen him for ages, but better still, just before we arrived, she was given a suprise present; her daughter turned up from the UK! Alan said he was 'going out to get her present' and came back with Dionne!

The buffet was held in a beautifully laid out room in the club, and in the main area, there was a singer on that night. The girl, Lucinda, had an excellent voice, and out of all the songs she sang, Ed and I only thought that one of them was not very good. She certainly had lots of confidence as well as lots of staying power!

We left at about midnight, ready for the long drive home. The roads were good as usual, but very quiet. In fact, for a 10 mile section, we only saw 2 cars on the road. In England, no matter what time of the day or night, there is always something else around!