Friday, December 31, 2010

 

A Winter Visitor

My wife was making a lot of fuss the other day – some story about a snake in the house. She had seen it come through the back door and given it a wallop or two as it disappeared behind a bookcase. Nuts, I said, snakes don’t crawl about in the winter, they are cold-blooded animals.
She must have been seeing things. Women are always a bit peculiar about snakes and one has to humour them on these occasions. I took the bookcase apart – of course there was no nest of crazed serpents there plotting our downfall (although a few interesting books I hadn’t read for a while, plus a lot of dust).
Anyhow, yesterday afternoon, a snake came through the same door. I saw it and, having in the past watched all those shows made by the Australian naturalist Steve Whatwashisname, grabbed it by the tail and, as it hung there writhing energetically, I danced about shouting Snoike, what a beautiful Snoike.
It was a metre-long grass snake as far as I know, although and despite there not being any poisonous snakes around here, one never likes to be proved wrong – especially by some maddened viper.
Anyhow, I put him safely somewhere in the garden to cries coming from inside the house:
Now, can you have a proper look behind the goddamn bookcase?

Thursday, December 23, 2010

 

Radio Costa 105.6FM

Hey, a new local radio station for Mojácar and the surrounding area:



No disk jockeys, waffle, filler, joke telephone calls, yatter, piffle and tripe. Just a giant play-list of good music (for English and Spanish-speaking listeners).

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

 

Say 'No' to Egg Nog

There's nothing quite like flopping into one's favourite armchair at the end of a hard day's work, kicking off one's shoes, switching on the telly for some mind-numbing shite and opening a nice bottle of honey rum. Or perhaps cinnamon brandy. What say we all have a round of coconut nasty?
You get my point. There is almost no barman in Spain who knows how to make a cocktail, so instead, they dream up these sweet and sticky mixtures in the forlorn hope that someone will not only buy a bottle of some yellowish and glutinous krème, but will return, fresh-faced and smiling a few days later, and buy another.
I asked our local hostelier, an Italian, to make me a gin martini. I should have known better. I got served a large glass of Martini (e Bianco) with a cherry in it molto bene. Then he stood around, with an intrigued expression on his face, to watch me drink it. Could I have a glass of gin to go? I said.
Spain does have a cocktail (un coktel) which is the Cuba Libre. It's rum and coke. Known for short as 'una cubata', it now means any hootch with a fizzy mix. Gin and tonic, vodka and orangeade or even whisky and cola (uurrrp!). I have even been asked (I briefly barred) for a creme de menthe and lemon Fanta.
This may be why the Spanish are not known for public drunkenness - a couple of those babies and you just want to crawl off and die.
So there is an untold number of varieties of booze on the shelves behind a bar. Most may be for decoration - I assume you don't drink much Green Chartreuse or Triple Sec or Licor de Amor (it's purple - I think that's all you need to know) - while some of them are merely cheap imitations of better brands. Which explains the 'unfillable' tops to the bottles: which often need a smack on the bottom when opened fresh. You really don't need a shot of sticky coffee cream on your cuff.
So we come to a new drink, launched today in Cadiz. It comes from a Granada destiller and is called Licor de Crema de Turrón, a sort of Nut-Nougat Cream Liqueur. The photograph in today's paper showed a table with various half-filled glasses of the drink, a few bottles and whatever promotional material seemed appropriate, and a small number of youthful looking entrepreneurs with that slightly wistful look that people get when they know that - somewhere - they may have overlooked some small but vital point to their business plan.
I should just add here that I am grateful to my friends who have gathered round at this festive season and have kindly brought me a Christmas bottle or two of 'good cheer'. So far (and there's still a few days to go) I've been given four bottles of scotch and two of brandy. No 'hierbas' (lemony aguardiente which will lift your head off) , no Calisay, melon liquor or, thank goodness (and fingers crossed) nut-nougat cream liqueur.
To which I raise my glass to the good taste of my friends, neighbours and readers.
Feliz Navidad.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

 

Oldies but Goldies (a Rave from the Grave)

I saw that Captain Beefheart has died today. Don Van Vliet was a Frank Zappa collaborator and floated around in some of those peculiar albums in the mid sixties. He was pretty bonkers, but was remarked for being able to sing his way up and down four and a half octaves, a bit like Uma Sumac (What, you’ve never heard of Uma?). As Captain Beefheart, he made some records before turning to painting. He lived in the Mojave Desert for the rest of his life, spreading colours. I have one of his records – Mirror Man – and I’m listening to a cut on YouTube. (‘Tarot-Plane’). Bonkers.
Captain Beefheart was the inspiration for ‘The Head-bangers Show’ on Radio Indalo put out most evenings by Martin (or ‘Tino’): I think I’ll call him ‘a gentleman who had fallen by the wayside’. Heavy stuff and lots of vinyl, mix with some fine Moroccan hash and a roll-up. In those days you cut your terbacca and grass seeds or mixed your hash all on the cardboard cover of the record. Try that with an MP3.
I ran a Sunday afternoon show on the same radio, which was based in Mojácar in around 1988 to 1995 perhaps, and would bring up a load of albums and some cassettes, strategically wound to the right song, all in a large sack over my shoulder as I thundered up the Mojácar hill on my motorcycle with Arlo Guthrie sitting on the back. The regular crew would decamp, leaving the radio station at some considerable risk. The program was called ‘The Entertainer Show’ (for some reason) and had some good jingles, plus the occasional participation of Mike Connolly, another Mike, Ric (who did helicopter noises by bashing his chest while reading out fake traffic reports) and Brendon. Antonio, as well: a fan from Bédar who would bring a crate of beer for each show, plus a ham bocadillo for me, compliments of his mum. Sometimes I’d let him do dedications. Towards the end of each two hour show, it would get progressively harder remembering which side of the record to play, which lever to push and what on earth was going on.
The music would be – at the very least – a cracking mixture of oddities. None of that anodyne best-songs-ever crap which plugs up our ex-pat radios these days in turgid clichés. Horse with No Name, Life in the Fast Lane, Stairway to Heaven and Sugar Sugar. Spare me.
Old Cap’n Beefheart had the right idea.
And now he’s gone: will they let their hair down on Spectrum and play one of his tracks just this once?

L-R Mike Connolly, The old Entertainer Truck and me with a beard and a cigar.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

 

Name Calling

Taxi drivers always have trouble in countries where they change the names of things. Prithee take me to such and such on the 'General Mola' became the day after Franco keeled over, please take me to the 'Principe de Vergara'. The General was an old mate of the Spanish führer's and no one can remember who on earth the Prince was. Somebody nice, no doubt.
Name changes in Spanish streets, public buildings and so on are indescribably popular, especially when there's something better to do. No doubt President Zapatero is working hard on this. Well, we know he is.
In Mojácar, the absurdly named 'Centro de Artesanía' has now become 'Centro de Usos Multiples' (I think. I have to admit I still use the old name). The improbably called 'Avenida de Horizon' (after a soon-to-fail British tour-operator, which almost managed to take the town with them) has gone. What the avenida was called before, I simply can't remember, but it's nowdays... no wait... it'll come to me in a minute...
We just call it 'The Road up to the Village'.
So, you say to your taxi-driver 'it's in the road after the old purple church' and hope that he will understand. In Madrid, they often affect not to. 'Take me to the Plaza Mayor', said my father years ago, when there weren't many foreigners in the Spanish capital. My father was very tall, red-headed and covered in freckles, so it was an easy jump to suppose that my dad was an extranjero. It therefore followed that, since the taxi driver didn't speak extranjero, there wouldn't be much point in listening. 'Plaza Mayor' repeated my father several times, while uncomfortably bent in the back and trying to catch the driver's eye in the mirror.
Eventually, as the driver was nudged left, right and straight-on by his increasingly indignant passenger, they arrived in the most famous square in Spain. The taxi driver, pleased with his service, turned to my dad and said 'Señor, we call this Plaza Mayor'.
So we manage as we must, with street names and even statues falling out of favour (there's a warehouse full of caudillos somewhere). Back in Mojácar, apart from a couple of large roughly-fashioned rocks cemented on top of each other and known at the time as 'Pepe's Erection' (now sadly demolished), the statuary has been spared. We have bronze Mojacar maidens picking stones out of their shoe in various key locations (I think the artist had a buy-one, get-one-free deal going) and another one, in brick and ceramic, on the highway at Los Gallardos (no, that one's gone, knocked down in Bartolome's reign). Then there are the Indalos, including the one overlooking the modest roundabout at the fuente, a stainless steel one-legged and priapic monster with a space helmet (a fine justification for the local belief that they came from somewhere special).
But, back to streets. In Mojácar, we have streets named after every nation in Europe: Calle de Rumanía, Calle de Portugal, Calle de Francia and so on. Every nation except Britain, or the UK or the Reino Unido or however the hell we call the old place these days. England I might have said. Now, despite about 40% of the entire population being sons of the accursed Albion, we don't deserve a street. Not even a little alleyway. Not even, just for a few short months, between presidents of the diputación or something.
There are also no streets honouring the foreigners who 'discovered' or 'brought back from the brink' the small and humble town of Mojácar. Well, there's one - Pete Pages (a short, fat and merry 'antique' dealer from Brooklyn) put up a sign in the narrow lane next to his shop about thirty years ago for 'Calle de Pedro Barato'. Cheap Pete street.
A lane, I should point out, far too narrow for taxis.
Otherwise, there's nothing around to remind us of the great characters who moved here from other countries in the years gone by - bringing life, soul, a strong thirst for cheap brandy and tolerably bulging wallets.
So we are enthused to hear of a new name change. This one is going to be for a square, the one in front of the town hall with the big tree in the middle. Come to think of it, I'm not certain it even has a name. 'Town Hall Square' or something. Anyhow, it will soon be baptized with the rather foreign sounding 'Plaza de Walt Disney'.
Luckily, Wally was really a mojaquero (well, prove that he wasn't), so we are not breaking too many rules, beyond the one about 'good taste' perhaps.
But please, spare us a statue of Mickey Mouse.

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