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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!