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Now living in l'Olleria, south of Valencia

Saturday, 31 December 2011

Pelota Sculpture

At the base of the stunning Xativa Castle, within the historic grounds, is this lovely sculpture of two hands holding a pelota ball. I had no idea this was even there until recently, when I came across a picture of it, and had to ask a resident where it was.

The view from here is wonderful, as it is well below the castle, but still above the town itself. You can see all of the town laid out below you, yet it all seems to be close enough to touch.

For the uninitiated, pelota is a ball game, where no bats are used, but the ball is hit with the hand (hence the strapping) up and down a long, thin court. There are two players on each side, but I have no idea how the points are scored!

Sadly, the sculpture has lots of writing on it, but, as Ed pointed out, in England, with it being made of bronze, it would be lucky to still be standing!

Thursday, 29 December 2011

What's happening?

I'm sure we've missed loads of activities in and around the town this Christmas.

Previously, there have been lots of ways to discover what is happening. Chatting with others is an obvious source, but, as it is winter, people are more inclined to stay at home, rather than sit outside bars. Another source of information used to be a free newspaper, delivered to everyone in town. Although we never saw it, if there was anything special on, someone always let us know. Sadly, as a result of 'the crisis', this has now been discontinued.

The Adult school tries to keep everybody informed of what is happening, but even that has slipped lately. Previously, there were always posters advertising forthcoming events, but, as publicity is expensive, even the posters have not appeared. Verbal notices in class sometimes happen, but it is easy to forget, or misunderstand what is actually taking place.

The Town Crier is the best source of gossip! There is actually a tannoy system in town, where someone plays some music, and then makes announcements of any news. Football matches to be played, dances in the park, parades of children to visit the Three Kings, and even the death of residents is announced at full volume throughout the town. This is a double edged thing though; if you live in town, it is noisy and irritating, but if you live in the countryside, you can't hear it.

A little while ago, an English couple spotted a road being closed off with the yellow barriers, but had no idea why, as they too live outside of town. Having missed so many activities in the past, they wanted to see what was happening here. Quickly, they raced back home and got their camera, in the hope of photographing another traditional Spanish event. The drove back to town, parked up, and dashed back to the barriers, hoping to get a good view of these wonderous activities. When they got there, they discovered... the electricity board digging a hole to make some repairs.

Monday, 26 December 2011

Stash a cache

As there are so few caches anywhere near here, I decided to stash 2 more.

I planted a tupperware box near to a lovely camping/picnic area on the outskirts of the village. I thought this one would be fairly easy to find, and I was right. As it happened, the person that checks and activates the new caches was working as I was uploading my new caches, and he published them straight away. To my suprise, within 2 days, someone had found the one near the picnic area.

However, the second one is obviously harder to find. This is a tiny, magnetic log holder, near to the wonderful glass blower roundabout on the industrial side of town. Although it is located along a pavement, so very safe, it is very well hidden. True geocachers will be cautious about being spotted, and, as this is next to the entrance to the industrial estate, it will be hard not to be seen! Maybe it will be found over the Christmas break, while there is less traffic around. Maybe I will have to put in a more helpful clue. I will have to wait and see.

Cena de Navidad

I was persuaded to go to the Adult School Christmas dinner again this year - having missed the last 2 years.

My dilema - do I sit with the Spanish and Valencian classes and spend most of the night not understanding what is going on, or do I sit with the foreigners and upset my new classmates? In the end, the decision was made for me - a place was reserved for me with the foreigners!

I was quite happy with this, as it meant that I was able to chat with the others and catch up with them all. I also managed to wave to the other classes, so that they realised I was there. Several of them came across to wish us all a merry Christmas, which we were all able to reciprocate.

The Christmas meal consisted of the usual selection of nibbles, followed by a baguette of our choice (previously chosen from a list of 3 options!). We then got a glass of bubbly, as well as a sweet biscuit.

The class next to ours on the table, was the class of sewers / embroiderers. After the meal, they all put santa hats on, and went onto the stage to sing a song. It was very clever. Someone had written new words to a spanish carol, the verses of which related to the different classes in the school. Everyone applauded, and made them sing it again. Then there was music and dancing, during which I made my escape. Not having started until 10pm, it was well past my bedtime.

Sunrise / Sunset

This month, we have been treated to a series of spectacular sunrises and sunsets. Several times, the whole sky has turned an amazing colour, in various shades of pink, purple, lavender and mauve.

One day, a friend that works in a factory, and only has very high windows, thought there was a fire outside, as the facory ceiling turned shades of red.

Splitting Image

While I was away, Ed managed to split a lot of the wood we had, ready for the fireplace. However, there was still a lot to do. Then, he had a brainwave - use the digger! He put the breaker on, and spent some time splitting the logs mechanically.

It did work, and he finished them all, but he also admitted that it wasn't as satisfactory as wielding an axe, and doing it by hand. We won't have to buy any wood this year, and thankfully it has been quite mild so far. Already, the nights are getting longer, and, theoretically at least, spring is on it's way!

Bous en Corda

This year, the weather was very mild for the Ontinyent Bulls on a rope. We only went on the Sunday, as I was in England until late on the Saturday night!

Of the 3 bulls, there was only 1 which was very enthusiastic. The first bull worked his way to the town centre fairly quickly, but then only roamed a little, barely returning to the main square before going back. Something of a disappointment. The second bull was even worse. He didn't want to go anywhere, and spent much of his time stnading still, while the crew tried to pull him around. They didn't stand much of a chance. He would have been quite safe in a china shop - I'm certain nothing would have been broken!

After a boring couple of hours, the third bull made up for it. This one was very active and happy to run up and down the streets for a long time. We got much more involved this time, following him to different parts of the arena and encountering him several times.

There was one man, who spent all of his time with the bull (he must have been fit) with a camera, filming the crowd as much as the bull. At one point, as I was with a crowd hiding in a large doorway, he coaxed the bull up the steps where we were. Everyone screamed and ran out of the way, leaving me as the next person in line for the bull. Within seconds, I realised that the bull didn't want to go up the stairs, and laughed with relief - but then I noticed that the cameraman had filmed everyone's panic (including mine) and was laughing his head off. I'm probably on Youtube somewhere, looking terrified.

When the bull was in the main square, Ed and I stay near a large street fixture, giving us the opportunity to evade the bul, whichever way it goes. However, I got caught out... The bull came down the road, and then turned into a small street next to us. I had avoided the bull, but the rope attached to it was now on the wrong side of me. I realised straight away, but some other fool panicked, and grabbed my leg, shouting 'the rope the rope'. Having moved me the wrong way, I now found myself having to get my leg back off/over the rope which was now several feet in the air. Thank goodness I have long legs. When Ed got to me again, he was quite relieved - he had seen me with one leg right up in the air and wondered what on earth I was doing!

A little later, I sat down on a doorstep for a break. As I put my hand down, it was instantly very cold... then I realised that it was not the marble floor, it was wet, not cold. Yuck. Someone had dropped a drink and I had just sat in it. I had to spend the following 1/2 hour with a cold wet behind! Thank goodness it was dark, so nobody noticed!

Bale Out

Driving towards Stafford, we spotted a police car rushing to some sort of emergency. A few minutes later, and we discovered what it was.

In the centre of Weston, a lorry had lost it's load of hay bales. Thankfully, nobody was hurt and at that time, the traffic wasn't too bad, so it was funny, rather than serious. There was enough room for traffic to pass in turn, under the direction of the policeman.

Jess managed to get the best picture though - just as she was about to take it, an ambulance with flashing lights came over the hill, making it look like a very dramatic incident. As the ambulance passed us, we saw the crew laughing at the poor lorry driver's misfortune. Goodness knows how they managed to get the bales back on, but most of the mess had gone by the time we went back home.


Hmmmm. There's nothing so yummy as a hot chocolate, with cream and marshmallows...

Jess and I went to a rather nice cafe in Uttoxeter, where they have the latest style of hot chocolate. Did you even know there was a new style?

We ordered the drinks and then sat upstairs, where the girl bought our indulgences. Oh my! A steaming mug of milk, a bowl of whipped cream, a bowl of baby marshmallows, and a special stick of stirring chocolate. This is just like a giant lollipop of chocolate, and you simply pop the square of chocolate into the hot milk, and stir until the chocolate has melted. Then, you can add your own cream and mallows as you wish.

Yummy (but don't count the calories)

Geocaching with Jess

Jess and I had a fun day out around the local countryside searching for some more caches. There are now about 70 in the Uttoxeter area alone.

Thankfully, mum has a pair of wellies at her house that fit me, as I had to take them on and off several times. The ground was rather mucky in some places after the rain, although it could have been worse. Technology is wonderful. With the latest phones, Jess is simply able to access the internet on the move, so we were able to check out random caches as we went from place to place.

We actually logged 8 during the day. Some of them were re-visits for each of us (but new to the other one of us) but it was great fun. We even went to the Geocache shop near Ashbourne, which was a delight. Some of the things they have made for hiding logs in, is quite astonishing. They even had a tiny acorn, where the top screwed off! I bought some microcaches and a Help4Heros geo-coin, which I plan to launch quite soon.

Happy Birthday

In November, it was my Mum's birthday, so I went back for a visit to help celebrate.

The usual family gathering was expanded with a visit from an aunt and uncle from Germany, which was lovely although a cause of concern for my foreign speaking abilities. Mixing up german, french and spanish does not work, when trying to chat to people! Still, a couple of hours, and the mixups became fewer, even though they were never eliminated.

We decided to do a Christmas dinner, which was great fun. John and I spent much of the time in the kitchen, shouting 'yes chef' to each other, when checking how we were each getting on.

As usual, there was far too much food. John took his Red Cross food parcel back home with him, but we didn't need to cook anything for the rest of the week!


My Uncle Heinz wished to visit a proper 'pub' while he was in the UK, so I took him to Abbots Bromley for a bit of historic culture, as well as a drink.

Trying to explain the intricacies of the Abbots Bromley Horn Dance to an English person is hard enough, but trying to explain it in a foreign language, to a foreigner is almost impossible. We parked in the village, and walked to the church, where the horns are on constant display. By a stroke of luck, one of the church wardens came in as were were there, and found a leaflet about the church, written in German. As we stood in front of the horns, I managed to translate the history of the Horn Dance, explaining something about their age, and the family connections over the years.

Thankfully, many countries have their own quirky passtimes and they understood the concept, likening it to their 'schutzenfest' celebrations.

We then called in the famous Goats Head (Dick Turpin was 'ere) [www.thegoatshead.co.uk] but our timing was terrible. A huge group of walkers arrived just before us. The bar was packed, but we managed to find a table for a drink. The funniest part, was that the walkers had the decency to take off their dirty boots before going into the bar. My aunty and uncle had never seen anybody do that before and were most impressed.

It was rather noisy, and the menu a bit ott, so we had just one drink, before moving on to a (short) guided tour of Uttoxeter.

JCB Lake

Having lived in and around Uttoxeter for some 27 years, to my shame, I had never walked around JCB lake.

Yes, like every other mother, I have been there many times to feed the ducks with my children, but never bothered to venture around the paths nearby. A recent visit of some relatives from Germany gave me the opportunity to put this right. We had a trip out, and I showed them some of our lovely Staffordshire countryside. We managed to park up at the lake, and, as normal, we were soon surrounded by ducks and geese. Unbeknown to my relatives, I had some slices of bread with me! We had great fun feeding the fowl, even though some of them were a bit enthusiastic with their pecking. One of them kept pecking at my jeans, but most of them were quite civilised (although my fingers were rather pink from being pecked).

As we started our walk around the lake, my aunt was being followed by a line of white ducks - it was very funny. They, however, knew where to stay for the best feeding opportunities, so gave up after a short walk, and returned to the parking spots. As it turned out, we were walking around at lunchtime, and we found ourselves being overtaken by lots of people in suits, talking business as they took their lunchbreaks and stretched their legs. It was quite funny, with us all wrapped up, and them all smart and professional looking.

As we returned to the car, that were a foreign visitor taking pictures of the ducks, so my uncle took his cameraphone, and I gave him a bit of bread, enabling him to get a picture of himself actually feding them. If he has children at home, I'm sure they would have found his tales very funny.

To my delight, a car drove over the water as we were there - (those that have been there will know what I mean) my visitors were completely stunned, then laughed as they figured it out.

Pub Quiz

Well, I was only in the UK for a short while (that was the plan anyway) and I managed to do a couple of pub quizes.

Isn't it odd, when you think you are quite knowledgable in the ways of the world, but suddenly find yourself wanting? What fun! How dim am I?! I know that I can never answer the football questions, not many of the sport ones, but this quiz showed me where I had serious gaps in my knowledge! To be fair, having been out of the country for 4 years, I wasn't going to know much about the latest 'soap' goings on, not what the latest 'wannabe' has been up to, but 70 points out of a possible 120 left me a bit embarrassed.

A nominal fee, and a team as big as you like, still left us in the dark. The photo page was fun. We even made up names, in the hope that maybe we'd be lucky. One question about the American police force in the 20's got our answer 'Keystone Cops' (yes - it was a joke answer) resulted in the correct answer of 'The Untouchables'. Simple really, since there is a new movie about them! I did manage to answer the question; what is the latin for an unwanted person, which Jess was very amused by. How on earth did I know any latin? I did get some other random answers too, but mostly I had to leave it to the youngsters.

We even managed to get the correct answer to 'guess the year', which gave us the chance to win £5, but sadly we were unlucky in the draw.

It was great fun though. The pub was packed. Everyone had a really good time, and we didn't get too much stick for our silly answers. The boobie prize was a packet of pork scratchings and thankfully, we were never bad enough to win them!

Saturday, 19 November 2011

MotoGP (Sunday)

With such fantastic parking, we didn't need to leave at 5am, however, what we did need, was every bit of water and wind proof clothing we owned. The day didn't dawn bright and sunny, nor was the forecast. Brrr. Go on the bikes? Not this year, thank you.

Having sussed out the grandstand the day before, we realised that this was not numbered seating, so, if we moved, we would (probably) not be able to sit down again. A few other people had done the same, and arrived early, with blankets and picnics to hand. We never though of blankets, but they turned out to be a good idea. It was really windy. My hat even blew off, and I had to run down to the back of the grandstand and retrieve it! Everyone that sat beside us gave up after a short time, to try and find somewhere warmer to watch the racing. Being such hardy bikers, we sat put for the full 6 hours! (A multitude of layers and hot tea helped)

Practice was pretty uneventful, but gave us the chance to chat with the other (fool)hardy fans that were there to watch. After the practice, there was a wonderful tribute to Marco Simoncelli, as the was the first race after his death in Malaysia. There was a great presentastion on the grid, preceded by all of the bikes from all of the categories doing a lap of honour. A huge banner was unfurled (which we couldn't see) and there was a lovely firework display right in front of us. I cried. Although it was a tribute to one person, it represented the spirit of all bikers, (and those that pursue other adventurous sports) and seemed to be a tribute to all those that have been lost. It was very touching.

The racing itself was great, but, as well as no screen, we also had no speaker system in our area. Who on earth put up a grandstand where not only coulnd't you see, but nor could you hear? Rubbish seats! Thank goodness we didn't pay full price for them. To be honest, not being sycophantic, we would rather have paid the extra £20 and had really good grandstand seats. (Maybe next year.)

The main race was a disaster to watch. Four riders fell at the first corner (which we couldn't see) then it was pretty boring for the next 20 minutes. The final few laps were exciting, then the very end was a real thrill, but, as we had no screen or tannoy, we had to wait until we got home before we knew the result. Hilarious. Ah well, we watched it all again later on the telly with our feet up and a roaring fire.

MotoGP (Sat)

This year, we were given the opportunity to see the MotoGP for the first time in a few years. One of Ed's friends had won some tickets, and offered them to us at a reasonable price. We didn't really know what they were for, but they were 'Premium Paddock' passes, along with a Paddock parking pass.

We duly stuck the parking pass to the windscreen (I finally took out the 4 year old tax disk) and we were waved through to the front of the circuit, parking practically outside the main gate. Even better parking than the VIPs! We wandered around for quite a while, before were were able to figure what our pass did and didn't get us!

Entry to the restaurant overlooking the circuit - yes
Entry to the paddock, including nearly getting run over by Dani Pedrosa (twice) - yes
Entry to the pit lane - no
Entry to the VIP suite - no (we are not worthy)
Entry to the general area - yes (but not to the nicer toilets, unless you chat up the pretty spanish girl guarding them!)
Entry to the flash grandstands - no
Entry to the windswept freezing one - yes (with awesome view of the final bend, but not of the rest of the circuit!)
Entry to the top hospitality zone - yes
Entry into any of the hospitality suits - no!!

Having finally figured it all out, we had a great snack in the restaurant and then watched the practice sessions, before walking around the general area and looking at all of the stands.

There was a huge tribute wall to Marco Simoncelli, which we both signed, as well as the usual stands. We watched people pulling wheelies on special bikes, and tried to enter a few competitions, but gave up on the BMW one. We met up with someone we knew, then watched some of the qualifying, before scurrying home to escape the rain. That turned out to be a good move, as it then rained so hard, hardly anyone bothered to more than one lap, leaving the spectators watching just 1 bike go around in the rain for the best part of an hour.

Cocentiana Fayre 2011

I can't believe this is our 5th visit to the annual Medieval Fayre at Concentaina. This year, as the morning was spent felling trees, and the afternoon limbing and logging, we didn't even set out until 7pm or so. As we drove towards the town, we noticed lots of traffic comming the other way.

The late visit turned out to be a great idea. Having been so many times before, a simple stroll around was perfectly ok, rather than a long visit to every stall! As it turned out, there weren't many people about at that time, most of them (presumably) having visited earlier in the day, and now on their way home for the evening meal. We had a lovely time wandering around, able to see everyting without being jostled.

No - I'm not expecting Ed to carve anything like this from our trees...

As we entered the Arabic quarter, I noticed a long queue of people at a stall. Curious, I wanted to know what was so good that the people waited in line for it - the spanish don't queue for anything. We got to the stall, and there was nothing there. Just a stall of empty baskets. The people seemed content to wait, so I waited too. Shortly, a man and a woman appeared, carrying a very heavy tub. They heaved it onto a counter and out poured a huge amount of dough. Ah - a fresh bread stall. The lady then began cutting the dough into loaf sized portions, as the man checked the bread already baking in the oven, to make sure the bottoms weren't burnt. We din't want any bread so we moved on, but, from the number of people there, I think that maybe next year we ought to try a loaf.

We did have tea 'on the hoof'. Tuna empanyadas, and a wonderful pie, just like a cornish pasty. It was quite late by the time we left, and many stalls were already dismantling, which was quite a shock. I was hoping to buy an ice-cream or something, but I guess they too had had enough after several days.


One of our neighbour's pine trees had died, due to an infestation of beetles of some sort. He often said that he wanted to cut it down, but had waited until burning season before doing so. (We are not allowed to have any fires in July, August or September, unless we get special permission from the authorities.)

Ed had recommended that the tree be felled into our garden, so that it didn't fall on their house, or into their pool! It was certainly tall enough to do some serious damage. Ed and Jordi (the neighbour) took down some of the fancing, then fixed a strap between 2 of our trees, to guide theirs into a safe spot. Ed strapped the tree to the digger to pull it in the right direction, while Jordi did the cutting. What fun to watch. Jordi was terrified - he had never felled such a tall tree, and Ed was chilled out, as it wasn't his tree, nor his house! As usual, all went well, and the tree was soon down and out.

The pair of them worked well together, removing up the brash and making everything safe. Two more to go, but it was late in the evening, so it was agreed to leave them for the next day. Jordi said it would be ok for Max and Paddy to run around in his garden overnight, but Ed was worried about the pool and the chickens, so they put the fence back. Good move...

Next morning, the fence came down again, then I heard shouting and a commotion. Max had managed to get into the chicken run, and all of the chickens were now running around, being chased by Max, Paddy, Ed, Jordi and little Julian. I watched from a window crying with laughter as they all raced around the garden. Then, Max managed to get a chicken cornered, and bit it. A flurry of feathers, and lots of squawking, but he let it go. Finally, Ed managed to grab him. (Max that is, not the chicken.) He dragged both dogs back into our garden, and I locked them safely in the house. The poor chicken meanwhile, was returned to the run, along with the others.

Within a short time, the 2 remaining trees were felled and the fence re-instated. As soon as Max and Paddy were let out of the house, they raced to get back to the chickens. Max did his best to get under the fence, but everyone had made sure it was secure. Jordi left at lunchtime, so Ed sliced up his logs, enabling us to take down the remaining trees of ours that were too close to their house.

For those that are concerned, the chicken lived to lay another day.

This is Hallowe'en

Once again, we are into autumn, and it is time for Hallowe'en.

I was hoping to do a pumpkin, but, as no one passes our house and we don't have anywhere outside the gate to park a pumpkin, I didn't do one. Also, one of Jessicas friends does such stunning one's, that I would be put to shame!

This year, there was an historical firework celebration in the town square.

The fireworks from the display in the museum were lit, with accompanying music and explanations. At 2pm, there was a mascleta, with the remainder being lit at 8pm. We duly trekked down for the 2pm display, arriving at 5 minutes to 2 - proper spanish style. (We are almost locals now.) The style of the display was like any other mascleta, with wonderful bangs and booms which we could watch from the safety of the archway under the old town hall. It seemed a bit daft to go all this way for a 5 minute display, but it was nice to see the old fireworks in a traditional location. (Where they were held many years ago.)

Later, we set out to watch the evening display. Arrived a few minutes before it was due to start... disaster. The square was absolutely packed and we couldn't see anything at all. Being tall, both of us are usually ok to stand at the back, but this time, we were 2 streets away (not really, but we might as well have been). We tried to wriggle through the crowd, but there was no chance of seeing much. Then the show began. A man explained everything in a quiet valenciano voice, which I could barely hear, let alone understand. Then came music and the first fireworks were lit. Stunning. From such an old version of something, the effects were simply amazing. I know chemistry is chemistry, and if something fizzes when reacting with something else, that will always be the case, but the effects were really glorious. The colours were very simple, mainly just reds and whites, but the showers of sparks and light were excellent. People standing in the square were shrieking to get away from the cascades of sparks.

We weren't able to see any of the displays fixed to the old town hall wall from where we were, but the taller displays in the square were easily visible. The 'ooos' and 'ahhhs' from everyone showed how good it all was. Fireworks now, tend to be mainly rocket (aerial) displays, so it was good to see such a fantastic display at close quarters. However, it must be said, some of them were at very close quarters, and many people literally ran out of the square on occasions. Maybe we were in the safest spot after all!

Saturday, 29 October 2011


We had some business to attend to, in the Jalon valley, and decided to go in person (rather than doing it electronically) for a day out. Business over in about 15 minutes, so we decided to have lunch in Calpe.

After 4 years here, it was about time we visited one of the most famous landmarks on the Costa Blanca, the Penyal d'Ifac. The weather looked decidedly dodgy when we set out, and black clouds loomed overhead as we go there. We strolled along the beach, braving strong winds, hoping to find a nice restaurant before the skies opened. In fact, the wind was so strong, we were able to walk quite far before choosing a restaurant based on it's appearance, rather than on the rain!

We sat in a nice place, with a pleasant sea view and were given our menus. Now, maybe it's just me, but, after 4 years of trying very hard to learn the language, I feel very insulted when I am presented with a menu of photo's with prices stuck on them. Chips and egg 4 euros, chips and sausage 4.50 euros, chips and hamburger 4.50 euros etc. No thank you. In Spanish, I asked if we were too late for the Menu Del Dia, no, he admitted, and bought us a proper Spanish menu. That's more like it. (I had seen it on the blackboard outside.) Nice dinner ordered, 3 courses plus drinks, for a sensible price. Nicely cooked too!

Outside, as we approached the beach again, I felt a drop of rain on my cheek. Oh dear, it was quite a walk back to the car. But, in fact, the strong wind had blown most of the clouds out to sea, and the few drops we felt were the sum total! The wind had dropped too, so we had a lovely stroll along the seafront, right up to the harbour.

En route, we discovered that there were lots of roman ruins right by the coast, with several notice boards giving information about the excavations. Those Romans got everywhere. One thing was certain - their pathways lasted a lot longer than the Spanish ones.

Although it was a grey day, one chap decided it was still warm enough in the sea to go for a swim. Fair enough, but he took his little daughter (about 7 years old) in with him. I'm not convinced that she was going to thank him afterwards. I wouldn't even go for a paddle (although I did think about it).

As we walked along the narrow sea wall around the harbour, another couple came up behind us, walking a little quicker than us. In Spanish, I asked if they would like to pass, as I cautiously stood on the edge to make room, and she thanked us in English. I apologised - Oh, sorry, you are English - she laughed - only the English would be mad enough to walk along here. So true.

I think we have got things worked out here. Stay at home in the summer, and explore the tourist things in the winter, when there are empty, and looking their best.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

School Trip

During my Castellano class on Monday, the teacher explained that at 5pm, we would all be going to the local museum (Casa Santonja) to hear a talk on the history of fireworks. We duly trekked off, along with several other folk, to the museum (at the end of the road the school is on).

Inside, were lots of photos, collections of parafinalia and old-fashioned fireworks. Extremely interesting. The chappie started to talk, and, as I suspected, he was talking in Valencio, rather quietly, and I couldn't really understand him. One other English person was there too, so, we sneaked a look at everything, and then crept out! Shhh.

On Wednesday, I opted to go again on my own, and have a proper look. In the end, I actually went with some English people from another class. The museum was open from 18:00 to 20:00 and we got there at about 18:15. There was a mother and son waiting, along with another gentleman. We all stood there for a while, and I commented the it was the normal Spanish timekeeping (they did smile, but looked rather embarassed). Then, a policeman came. He called the people that were meant to be inside, and it transpired that they were in the cafe next door, so they had locked up. A few minutes later, and we all went inside.

I don't know why, but once again I ended up being the interpreter. Outside (on the back terrace), was a layout of a typical firework factory from centuries ago, and the guides explained everything, allowing me to translate for the other three. They showed us exactly how the fireworks were made, with what chemicals, and even how they made the fuses. It was actually very interesting, and I'm sure my interest inspired them, as they then took me around everything, bit by bit, leaving the other Spanish visitors to read everything for themselves. We even managed to ask a few questions, which they were more than happy to answer.

There were fantistic frameworks that fireworks were attached to. One was even an animated snake, chasing after a butterfly. As the firework burned, the butterfly and snake moved around in a three leaved clover shape. Incredible. Other catherine wheel shapes were easy to understand, but they also had a copy of the first firework with moving parts - a dove, whose wings flapped, as it progressed along a rope, driven by the force of the fireworks themselves. The original was created in 1350. It was used in a cathederal, so represent the rising of Christ, and had 12 fireworks underneath, to represent each of the 12 apostles.

Many of the exhibition components were from Italy, Germany and England, as well as Spain. Needless to say, the biggest ones were from Valencia.

Red Tape, taped up

It has taken a while, but we finally have Spanish number plates for both cars! The story is a long one, with frustrations over time and money spent on rip-off merchants, who ought to be (insert suitable verb here).

It is the only thing that we were financially ripped-off with, so we have done better than some people.

Still, we finally found a genuine person who did the job, for a honest amount of money. Ed's was still a fiasco, as the Spanish won't import any right-hand-drive commercial vehicles. Somehow,we have managed to get it through. Subsequently, we have done the same, with much greater ease, for my car. Being left-hand-drive, we knew it shouldn't have been a problem anyway.

Even without the rip-off conmen, it has cost a lot of money, but at least we will now be able to drive around without any fear of punishment from the Gardia Civil. Apparently, if they stop you, they will give you 10 days to get it sorted, otherwise they will impound your car. (This is usually after 1 stop and a warning.) I have no idea how that is meant to work, because the process is so drawn out.

First, get a report from a technician. Then get some special paperwork from Trafico. Next, get a proper legal MOT (HOW MUCH did that cost???!!!!). Strangely, the MOT has to be held in their office for 10 days. At this point, your local council will come up with a (random) amount of import tax to pay. Then, take the MOT document to Trafico, and get issued with a number. Now, you have hit a sticky part... technically, your car is now on the new number, but you haven't actually got it yet, and therefore can't change the insurance. Still, I guess the chances of being in an accident in that short period is fairly unlikely. Next, the numberplate has to be made up. Then, change the insurance over to the new number. Of course, you then have to attach the new plates. Phew. I'm glad we paid someone to do the dirty work for us. Money well spent - once we'd found the right person.

For anyone wanting to import a car, I would seriously advise them to consider buying one here. It may seem to be more expensive, but in the long run, it probably isn't.

Well done Mum, who spotted that my letters (sort of) spell HUGS. I like that.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Palm Beetle (part 2)

Well, today the top has dropped even more. To be expected I guess. We now have 3 leaves that are vertical and all of the others are on the wane. The really sad part is, not long ago, Iwas thinking how lovely and full it was looking, and how well the one in the back gaarden has taken after it transplant.

Today, we managed to buy the special insecticide. We went to 3 different co-operativas before we found one open. How crazy is it, to only open 1 or 2 days a week?! Really bizzarely, the one that was open, was the one in l'Olleria. It is the first time we have ever seen the door open. (We weren't quite certain where it was until now.) The lady was very helpful. She sold me the product I wanted (25 euros) plus, she explained that on different months, you treat it with a different chemical. I bought that too, as it was only another 4 euros. I was a bit concerned, when I paid her, and then she walked off without giving me anything... the stock is kept in another warehouse nearby! She also gave me a piece of paper, with instructions on what to treat it with and when. I'm not certain about 1 sentence though, so need to get someone to translate the Valenciano for me!

As soon as we got back, we poured the treatment into the crown, Ed standing on the roof of the truck, in order to get to the centre. Fingers crossed. I know it will look worse before it gets better, but hopefully we will be able to save it.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Devastated Palm (Dreaded Palm Beetle)

Yesterday, our palm tree looked a bit odd. Ed noticed, when he came into the drive, that the middle seemed to have lessened and that somehow the leaves had fallen.

It was hard to see last night, but today I had to agree with him. The middle was much less full than normal, and one side had fallen a lot.

Thankfully, we have a friend that works for the council, so I sent him a message, and (hero that he is) he turned up tonight to have a look. He had a smell and a listen and then confirmed the worst. We have been affected by the dreaded palm beetle.

The beetles (or maye the larvae) omit an odour, which, when you are close to the tree, you can smell. Also, if you listen very closely, you can actually hear them munching away at the insides of the trunk. Horrible things.

The whole area around here has been very badly affected over the last few months. The council have been treating all of their trees, and have only lost 4 out of all of them.

Thankfully, our hero had a bottle of treatment with him, and, since we called him so quickly, he thinks we might be able to save it. I need to buy a bottle of the insecticide (imidacloprid 20%) which will be about 30 euros, but he thinks the bottle will last us for 2 years, as we only have a few palms.

We have to treat all of them, not just the 'pineapple' ones, to ensure that the bugs don't swap from one to another.

Fingers crossed. Watch this space!

Sunday Lunch

We were invited to Sunday lunch at The Olive Branch by one of our friends.

We had heard it was very good before, but had never gone. If we are not out on the bikes, then I am perfectly capable of cooking a decent meal myself!

However, it was Laeticia's birthday, so off we went. Parking the car, we noticed how low the reservior was. No real rain since May has taken it's toll. It was a lovely day, so we sat in the garden having drinks, before going in for lunch. There were 6 of us, and the food was excellent. Ed had a mixture of beef and pork, whereas I had chosed turkey braised in gravy. Yum yum. Mine came in a teracotta pot, and there was no room for the veggies (again). The table was groaning with food, all of it beautifully cooked.

I had some 'happy birthday' confetti and sprinked them over the table. Laeticia was thrilled and took them home with her afterwards (I didn't tell her that I had re-used them lots of times and still had a load in my bag).

After pudding (warm Bakewell tart with ice cream) we went outside for coffees. When we asked for the bill, we discovered that Laeticia had already paid it, and sworn the landlord to secrecy. With some persuasion, I managed to get the figure out of her, and we all chipped in. How can Sunday lunch last for 4 1/2 hours!

Fira de l'Olleria

Once again, it was time for our annual fair.
The funfair arrived on Thursday, and the fair was inaugurated on Friday night. We got there just as the dancers and human towers were working their way up the High Street. The music is lovely, although it is done by quite a small band. As this was an opening ceremony, the were all dressed very smartly in dark suits (unlike on the practice nights for the processions, when they wear shorts and t-shirts).

The High Street was the usual mix of stalls selling handbags, scarves or toys. There were a few food stalls too, with olives, almonds and hams. Each year there seem to be the same things, just the style of the handbags changes a little!

We went to one of the local bars and had a drink with an English couple who are returning to the UK so didn't go around the whole fair.

On Saturday, we returned, expecting to see people we knew. From last year, we learned that Saturday is the day to see and be seen! Sure enough, we bumped into severl people. In fact, we bumped into Paco and Emy about 5 times. They spent more time chatting with different people than looking at the displays!

This time, we also walked around the fair itself. The usual rides were there, including a new one.
Floating hamster balls! Great fun. Sadly, these were a little too small for adults. I did think about having a go, but, as they are zipped up tight enough to be waterproof, then, they must also be airproof - ie, the person inside must use up lots of energy and oxygen trying to move around on the water. It must be horrible and smelly inside! The balls were on long pieces of string, so that the operator can pull them back again at the end (or when the customer passes out?).

By about 11pm, we had had enough - thankfully. Apparently, at about 1am, there were a series of fights in town, and a lot of people were hurt. I understand that some of them were even taken to hospital. The gardia civil turned up in great force to restore order. Shocking! We always miss the exciting things!

Friday, 14 October 2011

Family Time

After some persuasion, I booked Ed a break in the UK with his family. In reality, it is the first holiday he has had in four years. Other trips to the UK have been out of necessity, not choice.

He spent time with each of the children, as well as with many friends, which was really nice for him. Having deliberately including 3 weekends in the trip, he even managed to include some bike racing.

Hopefully it won't be so long before he sees them all again.

Sola en Casa

Ed scooted off to the UK for a couple of weeks, leaving me 'home alone'. As it happened, John was here for a few of the days, and then Tim and his friends for a week, so I was only alone for a short time.

On the Sunday, I had the opportunity to go to another matinal with the spanish bikers. There were only four of us in total this time, Julian, Paco, Emy and I. This was much easier for me, as I didn't have to spend my time translating for Ed, and I could have a proper chat with Emy.

Julian was in cracking form, winding me up nicely, but I even managed to understand the innuendo's and fell about laughing along with everyone else.

We only went to Denia, but we went the scenic route there. I was a little dubious, as Muro de Alcoy tends to be about 10 degrees colder than everywhere else and I was only wearing jeans and an airflow jacket. Sure enough, at one point, I had to switch my heated grips on (for about 5 minutes). The scenery was gorgeous. There were rivers of clouds sitting amongst crags in the mountains, but it was impossible to stop and take photos. We went up and up, through the clouds, (which was just like being in the UK on a foggy November day) emerging into the sunshine amongst the cherry orchards. This is a valley I really do need to visit again when the blossom is out.

Finally, we reached the coastal zone, near the Montgo mountain, and the lads were lost! Julian wanted to go one way, and Paco another. As it happened, I knew roughly where we were, and Julian was right. We pootled off again and soon found our way into Denia, finding the coloured arrows for 'motos' and parking up with everyone else.

I did see an English couple I know, and chatted for a while, but they had their own agenda, trotting off for lunch elsewhere. We did catch up again before leaving, which was nice.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Boys on Tour

Mum, can I come over for my birthday with some mates?
Yes, if you like.

I can't come, I haven't got enough holiday left.
Oh, ok.

We're all coming, they've let me have an extra day. There'll be 4 of us.

Uh, oh. Where on earth am I going to put them all?! In the end, it was ok. With a combination of double and single beds and airbeds, everyone had somewhere to sleep. And so it was... four twentysomethings to trash the house. Which they didn't, as I knew they wouldn't.

We had such a laugh. One of my students came on the first night, so they were all tasked with a game for her. The poor thing. It was actually her birthday and she didn't get away from here until after 8pm, not knowing that her friends were all hiding in her flat, ready to shout 'suprise' when she got home.

On the Tuesday, we climbed up to the cross on the hill. Stupid idea! It was actually 38 degrees out in the sun. Then, in the afternoon, we all went to Xativa Castle.

Wednesday, they were meant to go to Aqualandia in Benidorm, but their hire-car broke down. Thankfully, it died in the garden, rather than leave them stranded in the middle of no-where. The recovery man wasn't very happy, but at least they got a replacement car pretty quickly. In the end, they went to Benidorm anyway and chilled on the beach, going to the waterpark the next day.

They were also brave enough to go swimming in the pools at Pau Clar (near Ontinyent). Not suprisingly, the water was cold, but really clear and deep. Two of them even jumped off the cliff into the pools.

As is often the way, when you only have one week, there were several wet days, but, there were also enough sunny ones for them to enjoy themselves. I think Paddy and Max missed them just as much as I did, when they finally went home.

Just Chillin'

While John was over here in September, the weather was still wonderful, so we went to Javea for a couple of hours.

The beach was fairly desserted as the schools were back and most people had returned to work. The water was somewhat calmer than last time Ed and I were there, but it was still really warm.

We stopped at a supermarket and bought a picnic lunch. John was very impressed with the tools I keep in the car; teatowel, sharp knife, knife, fork and spoon! I must have learned something useful from Mum after all!