Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Olive Weekend

I had spent Thursday and Friday with my daughter and family, who live an hour down the motorway, celebrating first Thanksgiving (where one eats too much) followed the next day by my birthday (where one’s interests traditionally turn to drink). Coming into the weekend, and now safely home, I found myself in bed feeling dopey and with a lungy cough. My goodness! With fears of Covid, no one came close to see how I was doing. The best I got was a brief call from below. ‘You all right up there?’ 

They probably thought I was in the final agony of the virus and that their next sight of me would be a gloomy corpse staggering down the stairs and shouting 'brains!' 

Luckily I slept most of the time and had practically nothing to drink or eat except for a box of chocolates I had been planning to give to someone for Christmas.

There was no high-temperature as far as I could tell, but I suffered from lethargy and while not sleeping or dozing, I found reading to be too much of a bother.

I’ve had all my shots: corona and ’flu, so it could have been anything. In the old days, they’d have called it a ‘dreaded lurgy’.

By an agreeable coincidence, I missed the three days of intensive olive-picking down on the farm and, as I was house-bound on Tuesday, I also didn’t have to lug them down to the almazara for them to be turned into oil.

Think of it as a belated birthday present.

                                Just kidding, they got me on the second harvest. 😀


Sunday, November 21, 2021

Brexpat Day

It’s time that those of us who are British by birth (or passport) and have the good fortune to live in Spain, with papers allowing us to stay, wounded perhaps peripherally by Brexit (we suddenly went from second-class citizens of Spain to third class-residents of Europe, with the appropriate strictures that have been thrust upon us), should celebrate.

The tourist season (why do they call it that, if one is not allowed to shoot them?) is over for another six months or so, and we have the cooling beaches and emptied restaurants to ourselves. We need no longer need to queue to get into the health clinics and the bar-staff will once again greet us enthusiastically by name and, if there’s a karaoke, will even let us sing ‘My Way’ twice in a single evening.

Many of our brothers have fallen by the wayside in this heroic struggle between Europe and Stupidity. Those without the correct paperwork must now resign themselves to shortened visits to Shangri-La to avoid the British winter, and even entertain the possibility of having to sell their villa to a German or (irony alert), a Pole.

Other Brits have found that imports from the UK are a disaster, with even a Christmas card taking several weeks and being steamed open by the zealous Spanish aduana, before charging the mortified recipient a fortune for the time wasted.

We can’t vote in European elections any more, but then, which Spanish candidate ever did anything in Brussels – or elsewhere else for that matter - for the expats?

So, battered and bruised yet oddly triumphant, we British expats can now celebrate being able to stay here without many bothersome issues to worry us. We may not be immigrants (how many of us have taken out Spanish nationality?), yet we have – in our muddling way – won the ring.

There is, as any Spaniard will tell you, no time like the present, so I suggest that we invite the skeleton crew over from the British Government in Exile (it’s in the apartment upstairs from the English library), because Thursday, (Thanksgiving Day for the Americans) is upon us, and anyway, I’ve already ordered the turkey.

From this year onward, we who survived the horrors of Brexit must never forget: Brexpat Day – turkey, baked beans and a nice cup of tea.

Won’t you join us?


Sunday, November 07, 2021

Taking a Few Steps

I was reading one of those noble and irritatingly pious posts that often seem to pop up on Facebook, tenderly placed there by someone who, while short on original ideas, nevertheless feels the urge to receive a small number of 'likes' each morning with his breakfast cereal.

The subject was the number of steps one should profitably make during one's day to ward off heart-attacks, gout and boils on the ankles. This number, says those who know, is 8,000. Eight thousand steps, count 'em: one, two, three... and continue. 

I have a cheap mobile phone among my possessions. It has a direct link to Facebook so that I too can post those occasional inconsequentialities that catch one's attention, along with the kitty pictures.  The phone is of the Chinese persuasion (and none the worse for that) and it comes with a number of useless apps, like a direct link to Amazon (for Goodness' sake) and an alarm clock.

It also has a tiny bean-counter within, which counts the number of steps I make daily, saving me the trouble of doing so myself. It errs on the side of caution and reckons I need to manage at least ten thousand shuffles during my active hours rather than the eight thousand recommended by American doctors, or perhaps it's just that the orientals take shorter steps. 

In reality, while this is useful information indeed - after all, one doesn't want to keel over while one is raiding the fridge - this service only works when the phone is nestling in one's pocket. 

I have found myself more than once walking back to the house to get the phone - not because someone might be calling (I'm retired, and no one calls me any more) - but to allow it to rejoin the count. Plus the steps it evidently missed.

Now, with time on my hands and an empty day to face, it's a wonder indeed that I generally clock up as much as 16,000 paces. My empty day begins as the day-light begins to arrive through the bedroom window (which is why I don't need an alarm clock). I have learned to ignore most of the farm animals, who start their early morning bellow round about 4am, just as I am settling back into bed after the second nocturnal trip to the lavatory. But the dog gets going at dawn, with an endless series of high-pitched yips. She is locked in with the horses and she also needs a pee.

Since I'm soon there - it's around 200 paces away - I also water the horses (there are 35 of them), feed the chickens, the rabbit and the ducks. Then I help Alicia with the feed, the repairs and the usual chores of an active stables. Horses drink a lot, and so I must fill their buckets three times a day.    

The phone doesn't care how I get my paces done. I thought that I could perhaps put the phone into a saddle-pocket and let the students pattering around the ring all day help put my score up to stratospheric levels, which could impress the lower echelons of the Chinese Secret Service as they closely monitor my activities through the ether. I could be increasing my count while sitting in the kitchen and eating a sandwich.

Of course, I'm fooling no one but myself with these inventions. I think I'll take the dog (and the phone) and walk into the pueblo and have a beer and a tapa, maybe see how I'm doing. 

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Sober, for a Month

'Being sober on a bus is, like, totally different than being drunk on a bus'.
Ozzy Osbourne

I haven't had a drink since last September, well, this September if you want to split hairs. Because you see, it's the ghastly month of Sober October once again. I am sitting here wondering if a cerveza sin alcohol counts against the rule of zero booze! It may do, so I stick instead to a soft lemony drink from Lidl that I call Sucedáneo de Acuarius

In its favour, it's cheap. 

There's a jar of smoked herring in the fridge, the rollmops that the Norwegians do so well. I found it in the local shop yesterday and brought it home. But how do you have a rollmop-session without vodka? Huh?  A glass of goat's milk just doesn't cut it.

Sober October is an excuse to give the liver a rest. I once managed a whole year off the booze, following an attack of jaundice in Guatemala. The local curandero told me to keep away from the grog if I didn't want to keel over, so there it was. In those days, I could always smoke weed to keep me going, but I gave that up, along with terbaccy, much to the relief of my tubes, these many years ago. 

A WhatsApp friend has sent me an article which says that,despite the assurances of Spain's best and brightest advertising executives, booze - even in small quantities - is bad for you. Taking a glass of wine with your pork chop will not help your heart manage to keep the beat. But, can you cook with wine, does that count? How about a custard trifle with a spot of sherry in the jelly? No? I thought not. Not that I intend to stay on the wagon a moment past Halloween. I have a hankering for a real beer or two.

My parents, along with most of the foreign population of Mojácar back in the 'early days' (before it became bourgeois), were heavy drinkers - brandy for breakfast types. They all died young: inebriated and cheerful, and leaving a sizable bar bill between them. This experience kept me generally wary of the hard stuff, and I rarely drink anything strong (rollmops and vodka excepted). 

Perhaps the new campaigns on the TV for low-alcohol whisky and gin are aimed at people like me. Have you seen them? Drink Beefeater 20%, it'll make you feel good. The advert is legal because - apparently - there's a strength limit on advertising booze. Of course, the advert is to persuade people to drink the proper stuff, not the gnat's-piss version. It's a bit like non-alcoholic beer - what's the fun in that?  

I have a count-down next to the bed. Every day I cross off another number on the calendar, working my way slowly down. Will I have lost any weight after a month on the soda-pop? I shall let you know.


Somebody commented on this elsewhere:  'Interesting, although I always go by the mantra "if you give up booze, it doesn't make you live longer, it just seems like it"'

Thursday, September 30, 2021

Our Place in the Stats

Facts Don't Lie 

It's my pleasure here to write what I want, when I want. No advertiser tells me what to put and I don't produce a mishmash of rubbish culled from the Daily Express, the Sun and the local Spanish daily, shuffled into a bland and clueless mess. 

Unlike other blogs, this one is written by me. It's free, independent and sometimes moderately amusing. There is no limit to space or time on this blog, but there are also no puzzles. Nor crosswords. Nor pro-Brexiteer far-right comment on the UK for that matter. Here, I stick to the subject suggested in the title: Spain.

I also rarely use the word 'woke' (not sure what it means, really).

The result? Huge numbers of visitors!


From Blogs-R-US here:

Spanish Shilling  daily visits     10

All other blogs daily visits        * 5

*Excluding readers from Pakistan and Cornwall

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Food and Drink en España

 There's a mental gauge commonly employed by the British, who are used to their own starchy cooking, on Spanish food - as to how edible might it be. It starts at the bottom with chicken and chips and ends in the stratosphere with something like calf's brains or entrails of some description. Squid in its own ink, maybe. Most of us work our way up to around the three quarters mark, with some surprising and agreeable results. 

Only a courageous few of us will ever try the bull's testicles.

Towards the middle of my own standard of the Spanish cuisine, comes the leg of a young goat cooked in a rich sauce, or the blood sausage known as morcilla. I'm told there's not much blood in the morcilla - just enough to give it some taste.

I was drinking one evening with some low Spanish friends who persuaded me to try the morcilla, and I found it - to my surprise - to be very good. I can now even eat it sober. Encouraged, they then offered me a piece from an innocent-sounding tortilla de sacromonte (which I knew to be a beef brains omelette). Eww

The things one does when one's drunk.

There are one or two things towards the high-end on my gauge which I don't like at all - those little baby eels (angulas) that one is meant to eat with a wooden spoon. Chicken livers (although, turned into paté and relaxed a bit, I suppose that they aren't so bad). Partridge en escabeche, a kind of vinegary sauce popular with hunters and (less so) with their patient families, peppered as they are with bits of lead pellet from the shotgun blast distributed unevenly among the slivers of breast.

My dad used to want to clear the house every now and again. He would put an operatic record on in the sitting room and then fry up some kidneys. Between the ghastly noise and the foul smell, we would quickly agree to leave him in peace for a time. 

Back to the blood sausage - my wife Alicia tells me that at the matanza, the pig-killing, they boil up an entire sack of onions, mix it with a slew of spices and some minced pig, and them wash it sparingly with blood. Too much blood, apparently, makes it go hard. 

Having explained the wonders of the traditionally abrupt demise of the family pig, she moved to the subject of goats. We should get a baby one and then feed it up to be milked every day (by whom?). We would go and talk with the shepherd who lives just down the road together with his large and scruffy flock. The plan was that I should drink goats' milk. Perhaps build me up, I don't know. 

While the goat itself - at least a young one - is more or less edible, and its cheese is first-rate, I've never been able to bring myself to quaff a glass of goats' milk. I somehow imagine it's full of bits of stringy hair. 

There's currently a brick of it in the fridge, unopened, and waiting for my attention. Me, I'm waiting for the expiry date to come around, so I can say - well, I had to throw it away, it would have been off.

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Tapas with the Police

Working hard at the stables - there are always extra jobs need doing beyond the thrice-daily watering and feeding - we were pleased to be invited by a client's parents to the opening of their new bar in downtown Almería. 

One thing and another - a sick horse and a lorry-load of hay -  and we were a day late. 

This afternoon, we dropped by the bar which has the intriguing name of K9, suggesting both dogs and the Boys in Blue - not a bad idea since it's located in front of the city's police station. We found they had a table waiting for us. The other table, in reality five tables pulled together, was for a large party due to arrive imminently. 

The bar soon filled with policemen, in special Policía Nacional tee-shirts. Cadets, maybe. We weren't sure whether to feel very safe with the twenty or so cops sitting down beside us, or perhaps a little nervous instead. A looky looky man was the next person through the door. His expression as he took in the company was almost worth the visit.

We were served tapas and drinks. Almería is famous for its tapas, and any three of them are enough for a full meal. Turkey meat balls, patatas bravas and a yummy shrimpy thing. The owner then sent over a tray of home-made sweet puddings and I almost went into a sugar narcolepsy (never a good thing in front of The Law). I asked about the K9 deal and he told me that he used to be a member of the police canine squad.

A nice change from home, and no washing up to do...