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Now living in l'Olleria, south of Valencia

Monday, 25 February 2013

Shopping Time

While we were in Germany, my poor brother had the task of taking Jess and I shopping. As we went inside a big supermarket, he stayed outside and apparently took the opportunity to have his car cleaned and polished!

Jess and I had great fun admiring all of the wares, but, as we had hand luggage only, it was a 'look but don't buy' occasion. I did buy a few small bits and bobs, as did Jess, but it was shame we didn't have a suitcase between us.

One thing I did buy, was a jar of special plum preserve. No - it's really not the same as jam. More like a mousse, but nicer! I really wasn't sure what to do. It wasn't a liquid, so would it be ok at airport security? It wasn't a cream, so did I have to declare it? Either way, I was going to try and take it home.

As it happens, security at Berlin is a little different. Suitcases as well as hand luggage are scanned before check-in. As my carry-on went through, the chap asked whose case it was. Ah. This is for check-in he asked. No - carry-on. No, it has to be checked in, there is a liquid in here. Hmmm. Well, there is a jar of plum mousse, but it's not really a liquid, I offered hopefully! No chance. You can go back out, buy some bread and eat it, the guard suggested. Sadly, having eaten it every day, I didn't want to do that! I offered him the jar to keep, but he had to refuse - he did say that his wife would be cross (pointing at his tummy), but really it was obviously policy.

So, what to do with the jar? As it happened, a young girl was just passing security, and she saw the jar. I offered it to her and she laughed. I would love it, she said, but I don't have the space in my suitcase. Then I have to throw it away I said. She looked quite horrified. (It was a good plum mousse - I promise you!) She asked if we were travelling to Dublin - sadly not. She would have taken it for us, and handed it it back after landing. Meanwhile, we had now attracted the attention of more security guards. Thankfully, they could see that the source of great debate was not anything more scandalous than a jar of plum mousse. (But even they made some sarcastic comment!) Bless her, the girl took the jar and crossed her fingers that she wasn't over weight. (She was a little, but a jar of jam wasn't going to make much difference.)

We then passed through the normal airport security with flying colours and waited in the departure lounge for the flight. Whilst waiting, the girl re-appeared and confirmed that she had been able to take the jar after all, and was very thankful for it.

Much later, I had a terrible thought. I had given some stranger a jar of something to take on board a plane. Who was the most stupid? Me, for doing it in full view of the security staff, or her, for taking it? There could have been anything inside that jar. She didn't open it to check. It just goes to show how easily people can be led astray. I know I won't succumb to such an undertaking, if I were on the receiving end at some point in the future.

Sunday, 24 February 2013

Geocaching in Germany

While we were in Zeitz, we had the chance to do a geocache that I had researched. Andreas took us to the church we needed and parked up.

It was an old, ruined church, which had been damaged during the war and never been repaired. Over the intervening years, it had fallen into further disrepair and was now dangerous. The place was fenced off and no one was allowed in. So... I squeezed through the fence and walked through the grass to the church. Jess happily followed, and poor Andreas, not happy, followed too. There was no door, so we went inside. It was a lovely building, but well beyond any repair. No-one would be willing to spend the money needed. We soon found the spot where the cache was hidden, but Andreas was not happy to be there. Jess found the cache, which was magnetically attached to the inside ceiling of a broken safe. As soon as I had signed the log, Andreas wanted us out again!

Jess and I happily obliged, thrilled with our first German cache. Andreas was less happy. He would never have gone inside! He thought we were quite mad.

I had checked out 2 others nearby, but thought it better not to mention them. I'll save them for next time I am there.

Four Generations

It was wonderful to see my Grandmother for the first time in a few years.

She is now living in a wonderful retirement home. It is several floors high, giving her a wonderful outlook over a nursery and park area, with huge trees. Each day gives her a new outlook, as the children play outside and the leaves on the tree change with the seasons. Even in winter, when the tree is bare, this gives her the chance to see through the canopy into the area behind. She can see the car park, so she often knows when visitors are on their way and she can wave them off as they leave.

In spite of her alzheimers, she seemed to know who I was, although she had no idea who Jessica was. She was delighted when we explained. She is such a wonderful happy person, I am proud to be a part of her.

Come Fly With Me

Everyone moans about Ryanair, but in November, I was privvy to insider experience, that showed the problem is not necessarily with the airline, but also with the passengers.

In Alicante, on leaving the terminal, a cabin-crew member passed down the aisle selling 'El Pais', the national newspaper. A man in my row commented "why on earth are they selling foreign papers?". Had I been quick enough, I would have bought one and read it in front of him. A few days later, leaving East Midlands for Berlin, the flight was so civilised and the passengers so well dressed, I thought I was on a BA flight!

Without any problem, I picked up a hire car (Zafira), and drove to Drossig. The motorway is literally next to the airport, so no problems about getting lost. I left Jessica to deal with the controls (putting them into English, showing me how to set the cruise control) and I just pointed the car!

Breakfast in the UK and dinner in Drossig. Perfect. We had a lovely meal in the restaurant next to the castle, which was guarded by a rather large dog.

Roller Derby

On my last visit to the UK, Jessica took me to see a Roller Derby match. This is her latest hobby.

I'm all for any hobby that gives you some form of exercise, whether it's walking a dog, or fell running. Skating, of course, works out the legs, hips, and bum, as well as being an aerobic exercise. Add to that, that you are fighting off the competition, and it brings in a whole load of other benefits (including working off aggression!).

This was the first time I had actually watched a proper bout and I found it very interesting. Watching the referees was as entertaining at watching the teams. Their hand signals were as clear as a those of a top rugby ref! No misunderstandings here. Everyone obeyed the rules and when the ref gave a time out in the sin-bin, the culprit went immediately. (After all, the longer you argue before hand, the longer it takes before you are back in the game.)

Sadly, there was one major injury during the bout. There had been a few nasty falls, and I noticed that everyone stopped, and kneeled facing away from the incident. In this case, the level of respect shown was outstanding. Not only did everyone turn away (excluding those dealing with it of course), but the whole hall fell into silence, allowing the incident to be dealt with as efficiently as possible. It was soon realised that it was serious, and all of the players and officials moved to their respective benches, facing away from the track, while the first aiders did their job. In the end, the girl was able to walk to the ambulance with what seemed to be a dislocated arm. Very painful.

After the girls completed their bout, there was another one with some boys. This, needless to say, was much more aggressive. There is a line, some distance from the track, which it is recommended you do not cross. It was in the right place. One lad crashed and nearly ended up in my lap. Had I been just 1 foot further forward, he could have shared my lunch.

Very interesting afternoon. If there was something like that in our town, I would be the first in-line to enroll.

Cocentaina Fayre

My favourite time of year.

This year, instead of us going in the car, in the late afternoon, we went on the bikes, along with the usual crowd, in the morning. As we were getting ready to leave, I managed to explain to Julian about his message the night before. (He had been dressed as the Grim Reaper, and told me "9am tomorrow morning".) When he realised what I meant, he found it very funny. He said, I should have told the Grim Reaper, "no, that's no good, I already have another appointment".

We got to Cocentaina quite early, but it was already very busy. We managed to squeeze the bikes onto a spot of pavement. I expected the police to move us on, but they weren't bothered. In fact, as we parked, I noticed a rubbish container of fire. I told Julian and he went and told a policeman that was controlling the traffic - as it happened, the fire engine was already on it's way and arrived a few minutes later.

We had a great time wondering around. Having been so many times before, it made a change to see it with some spanish people. They were just as much in awe of everything as we are each year. Although it is basically the same, there is so much to see, it is truly a full day out. We had breakfast in a small cafe, then walked around. I was most impressed that we manged to stay together.

In one of the back streets, I saw a balcony full of peppers drying out. It looked very pretty. It looked very interesting, when I noticed that there was also a branch of cannabis drying out alongside the peppers! You would have thought they would have taken that down, with tens of thousands of people visiting the town over the festival period.

This is Hallowe'en

Yes - I know I'm posting a load of stuff really late!

This year, in spite of constantly claiming that they had no money, the council managed to organise a lovely night of entertainment.

We walked into town and encountered lots of children dressed up, all 'trick-or-treating'. I don't think it was a Spanish tradition at all, but since everyone has heard of it, why not encompass it into the days activities? Some of the costumes were wonderful and the children were all very excited.

I freaked out a bit, when the Grim Reaper walked up to me and said "9am tomorrow morning". WHAT???? Was this my time to go? What on earth??? But then I realised that it was actually Julian (our friend) dressed up, and he was just confirming the time to meet up for our ride out the next morning.

The main parade of fireworks was due to start, but there was a car parked in the square, in the way. (When there is an event on, there are signs put up before hand, saying when the road is closed and why.) To everyone's amusement, the local police organised it's removal with a tow truck. The officer then stuck a note on the floor (where the car had been) saying that it had been towed. I don't think it would have occurred to me to look at the floor, if my car disappeared, but then, I tend to park in sensible places!

The fireworks were excellent - as long as you ignore any H&S issues. I don't know how Spain gets away with events like this. People had fireworks attached to themselves, or were swinging them around, as they sparkled, hissed and fizzed, whilst walking up and down the street, with onlookers standing on the pavements just feet away. I'm not complaining. If you are uncomfortable with the concept, you have the option of moving away, or not going.

After lots of parading up and down, the event was to move to the main square. We knew this, so we went the back way and got into a good position before they all arrived. There were loads of activities in the main square, culminating in an overhead display, which showered everyone nearby. All good fun.

We then went to a local bar for a drink and met some friends that had missed it all by a few minutes. They were very cross. They have children at school, but none of their children had mentioned it! Hopefully they will be able to see it next time.

Bike Run

Each year, there is an Antique Bike Run from the village, which does a tour around all of the villages in the area, stopping for breakfast en-route and returning near lunchtime.

Having 'new' bikes, we have never entered this, but this year we managed to get into town in time to see everyone arriving and setting off on the tour. To our surprise, there were bikes and cars of all ages and types. I'm sure we would have been made most welcome. It was 8 euros to enter, and everyone received a goody-bag. As we were in the car, we took the bags of two people we knew for safe keeping. Seriously - why would you give a person riding a bike a big box with a mug and plate in it, along with another box with a tacky glass vase? Not very bike friendly! I suspect they were left-overs from one of the factory closures.

Everyone set off in good time, with the police blocking the road to all other traffic, to ensure a safe get-away. The cavalcade took ages to go, as there were so many of them. I was most amused by the last vehicle. No, it wasn't a police escort... it was a breakdown truck - following them throughout the route, just-in-case!

l'Olleria Fair

This year, they moved the fair from it's normal location behind the main supermarket, to the wasteground beside the big park.

The normal stalls still filled up the main road through town as usual, but the top of the high street was closed off to traffic too, as the stall went up as far as the post office. This was quite odd, an it meant that all traffic going out of town now had to divert around the narrow residential streets at the back of the post office. Quite bizarre. Admittedly, heavy traffic tends to use the main CV60, but it still caused quite a bit of confusion.

We had a nice evening wandering around, meeting lots of people we knew. This is one of those nights, were everyone goes, to see and be seen! If you want to buy a handbag (copy) or a scarf, then there were plenty of stalls to chose from. However, if you wanted something nice, you would be hard pushed to find anything!

As we wondered around the fun-fair, I noticed how the poor fairground people had had to support the rides on the steeply sloped ground. There were stacks of sleepers under every attraction. The dodgems looked pretty dodgy to me, and I certainly didn't fancy a go on the aerial rides. Still, the candy floss stall looked safe enough, so I gave that a go!

Cuevas de Canelobre

There was a special geocaching 'Earth Day', where you were challenged to visit an 'earth cache'. This is not a normal hidden object, but rather a natural phenomenon which you needed to visit, and answer questions to show that you had really been there.

There are lots of these around the world, but few of them near us. We had already done one, and the next nearest was some way off. Still, we agreed on a day out, so set off for a lovely (hopefully) cave system. Having set off late, and misjudged the time it took to get there, we actually arrived 5 minutes after the final entry time. Thankfully, my spanish is now good enough to plead our case, and we were allowed to go in.

The guide had already entered the cave with the last group of tourists and was right down the bottom of the cave when we entered. Not wanting to be rude, we simply tip-toed around the cave ourselves, slowly catching up with the guided tour.

As we entered, the open space was spectacular. Looking up into the vaulted ceiling, I almost fell over backwards. Impressive enough as this was, I did it again several times! It was a wonderful sight. There was plenty to see at every turn.

The guide explained the history of the caves, from their formation, right through to their use during the Spanish Civil War. It was very interesting, and I understood most of it. For those that didn't, there were very informative posters on the way in and out of the cave, in several languages.

Sadly, it was prohibited to take photos inside the caves (buy a postcard instead) but it is certainly worth a visit.

As we left, we were practically chased off the premises, as the guides wanted to go home and had to lock the gates behind them! It was quite funny - not very often the Spanish rush to do anything.

As we were so near to the coast, we went to Vilajoyosa for our tea. This was a laugh. We managed to find somewhere to park, right by the sea front, but, as it was 'winter season' not many of the cafes were open. We finally found one and had a very mediocre meal. Won't bother going there again for a while!

Look at me

Bless them.

No matter where he goes, the dogs have to know what Ed is up to. When he is out for the day, they spend most of there time by the gate, waiting for him to get back.

When he is working around the house, they help him, by taking his tools and running away with them. More than once, he has had to chase Max around the garden to retrieve his hammer or screwdriver.

Finishing Touch

Well, we finally got the pool tiled and filled with water, an even managed to get the chemicals sorted out, but, in real terms, the pool still wasn't quite finished.

From the outside, the pool surround was still a rough combination of blocks, bricks and broken cement.

We had been debating for the last few years on how to finish it off. Do we tile it, render it, clad it, or what? I was always happy to simply render it, as that would match the wall beside the pool, but Ed wanted a nicer finish. However, the cladding would probably look bitty, as it was such a small area. Tiling would be expensive, and might also look odd, as the height varies around the pool, due to the necessary fall on the patio. In the end, Ed decided to render it.

It took him a couple of days, due to the weather, but it looks fabulous. Now, I just need to wait for spring, so I can paint it to match the wall.