Love in all its guises

I popped down to Benalmadena on Sunday afternoon.  I was supposed to meet a couple of friends at Elaineas in my square, but when I couldn’t see anyone around I headed off to catch two buses just so I could have a roast dinner.  It’s more than just a roast dinner.  There are seven different vegetables, carrots, roast parsnips, caramelised onion, red cabbage, cauliflower cheese and whole beans, and a choice of roast lamb, chicken or beef and roast and creamed potatoes, Yorkshire pudding and a jug of gravy as good as I make myself.

There was so much on my plate that I took a plastic container home and had that for dinner last night.

It was a wild and stormy day on Sunday after a night of torrential rain and thunder and lightning storms – not what you kind of expect when you conjour up an image an image of the Costa del Sol.    The storm had abated landwise as I set off but the seas were so high that the frothy foam was sweeping over the walkways adjacent to the beaches.

I walked up the road to catch the first bus that would take me as far as the bus station to catch the 120, which passed Benalmadena.   I checked carefully and I had just missed the No 1 but the number 4 was due in about ten minutes.   Chatted to an English woman who had failed to see the timetable but had watched me take note.  Well I didn’t take note carefully enough because the allotted ten minutes passed and no bus arrived.

I looked at the timetable again and sure enough the service was listed as Sundays and Bank Holidays.  Then I realised that it was highlighted in yellow and found that the yellow relates to summer season and summer we are not.

As the next bus was not due or fifty minutes according to the regular timetable I saved my 1.15 euro bus fare and walked to the main bus station.

I was just in time for the bus there and was glad to get out of the blustery weather.  Blustery was not what you could call the weather when I got off the bus in Benalmadena opposite McDonalds.  The weather was mad.  The huge waves rolling in were vicious and frightening with the force of their intensity.  I pressed the button to stop the traffic so I could cross the road and was almost thrown into the oncoming traffic.  Really scary stuff as I had to hold on to the lamppost to stay upright.  I would have loved to take a photograph but couldn’t risk getting my phone out of my handbag.  Goodness knows where it might have ended up.

McDonalds was devoid of people – well there were some customers I could see but it was a different story in Horizon which was packed.  Oliver – (he is the most unlikely Oliver as he is as Spanish as they come – put me at a table close to the door and the corner of the marquee that covers the front half of the restaurant – as I had not booked.

The gale was such it was lifting the weighted corners to the rear of me so I asked Oliver and one of the two beautiful waitresses could they move me further away from the door as soon as a seat became available.  Everyone who came in or out released another blast of cold air into the restaurant and even though all the indoor heaters were blasting out hot air they were not sufficient if you were sitting where I was.

A couple came in after me and were seated even closer to the entrance. He was tall and she was petite and slim.  Even though she had a jumper and scarf on within seconds of sitting down she was complaining she was cold.   He was well built and it would explain why initially he didn’t feel the cold, but eventually it penetrated and overhearing my request they followed suit.  I thought he was going to explode when a group of four walked out leaving the door wide open to the elements but in fairness I think a gust of wind blew the door ajar again as one of the women kindly came racing back to shut the door more firmly.

We were moved to the tables they had vacated and sat in comfort once more.  The lady continued to say it was not right and the man placated her and diverted her attention by asking what what she wanted to eat.  We soon were chatting amiably and it turned out that they had been travelling for some months and were to be in the ‘warmer climate’ and away from the cold of the UK for another six weeks.

By this time I had realised that the poor lady was suffering from senile dementia.  She was years younger than me, poor girl, and her husband covered up at times when she made some outlandish remark.  I heard all about what she had worked at and worked very hard and successfully at for years until she had become ill; about her children, all girls, who were wonderful to her and her beloved grandchildren.   She was a sweetheart and whilst the mind may have become confused I would like to think that what was left was the most loving and gentle nature and that she had been like that all her life.

She was certainly reaping the rewards of a life well led, as all the caring she had bestowed around her was being heaped on her tenfold.  Her husband, and it was a second marriage, explained about having to have her hair cut to tidy it up and the lady who usually came in to do it when they were at home in the UK would be annoyed that the Spanish hairdresser had changed the style.  The Spanish had made a good job of her hair and the style suited her elfin face – if you think of an Audrey Hepburn-shaped face.

We continued chatting, the lady smiling all the while and contributing to the conversation when she could.

As I got up to leave and head west along, she smiled at me and blew me a kiss and said, ‘You are beautiful.’   But she was the beautiful one, just a sweetheart of a woman.   Her husband has to cover up for her every day of their life and at least she is still as gentle and as loving as I expect she has always been.   Love does come in many guises and, thankfully, does overcome many obstacles.

 

Technical I am not!

I am not technical and although being told that this flat had wifi (weefee is how the beautiful agent pronounced it) – it does not.  It also has Spanish television which is becoming quite an education.  There’s a first date programme that I can’t believe is aired in this Catholic country.  It’s like nothing you would see in Ireland or the UK!  I have to learn Spanish and intend to work on that when I go home at the end of next month.

During my tour of the phone shops the day after I arrived in Fuengirola I encountered excellent salesmen, and disinterested salesgirls, as there are I suppose in every county.  Thankfully the friend with me was almost fluent in Spanish. And after being told I could not purchase wifi for two months only and being ignored by the girls in one shop, we tried the green branded Yoigo shop.

There was a queue with two men serving which was hopeful.  One of the men left shortly after and the remaining amiable salesman would smile at us periodically between serving a girl and her partner.  It was a lengthy purchase and when there was a need to complete some paperwork, the salesman dealt with the next person in the queue who was now in front of us.

The street door opened and a Spanish man entered, weighed up the opposition and manoeuvred himself for a central attack.   My friend and I whispered to each other that he was intent on pushing ahead of us.   But he didn’t have a chance as we edged forwards and sideways in a pincer movement to successfully block his access to the counter.

We had queued long enough.  But we had made the movement unnecessarily as the gentlemanly salesman asked how he could help us, ignoring the Spanish man who tried to get served ahead of us.   I explained that I needed wifi for two months for my laptop.  (I was in the process of adding greatly to my vodafone bill easily using up my data and non-European minutes)   I have since learned that my 64 euro purchase of a dongle which included 30 euros data was an expensive way to obtain wifi but purchase it I did and set off happily on my way.

However I just couldn’t get into the wifi on my laptop no matter which way I tried and next morning headed back to the green branded shop with my laptop and said dongle.  There were only two men in front of me (one of whom turned out to be my landlord and the other his friend who would complete the repairs I wanted done in the flat.  I couldn’t call his friend a workman because what workman arrives with a roll of insulating tape and uses a table and no means of cutting it.   The landlord got a knife from the kitchen drawer to cut the tape.  He couldn’t cut it so I gave him my nail scissors!)

I explained my problem to the smiling salesman and in a jiffy he had loaded the dongle and the wifi on to my laptop and  demonstrated how I could open it.

I had to make another visit as suddenly the wifi connection was very slow and as I have no patience gave it up.  Why does this always happen when the shops are closed on a Saturday evening?   I don’t know what the smiling salesman did but he did something with the laptop and dongle and it was soon whizzing away at a reasonable speed.   I have since topped up and each time this lovely man smiles and helps everyone who comes into his shop.  Some of the customers are obviously like me, not technical and don’t want to understand how things work, just want them to work.   He has so much patience with everyone and is such an asset to his company.

On my four day trip home for a unsuccessful hospital appointment which I had waited months for, (the consultant phoned in sick and the other person I could have seen was on a day off.  Well everyone is entitled to be sick and have a day off and the lady in CUH who explained and apologised was so kind and helped me to the bus stop for the Skibbereen bus.) I went to my saviour in the Vodafone shop.  John is brilliant and has sorted out my Vodafone with another package which has kicked in now but not before I have successfully notched up a mighty data bill.

However it is all a learning curve and I know now what I have to do when I come back here for the winter.

Happy Days!

 

 

 

The morning coffee gang

morning-coffee-gang

After being reliably informed on Wednesday that this was the worst Spanish winter since the 1950s, today, Friday, February 17th turned out to be a blistering hot day.   Too hot to sit out in the square as my sunglasses were in the flat and an hour or so over a tapas and freshly squeezed orange juice was enough for me.  I retreated to my welcome cool lounge with the balcony windows open.  There were different people sitting at different restaurants/ tapas bars during the day.  Farola Square is a very popular destination with its Andalusian tiered buildings.

This post was to be about Tatiana, the smiling waitress from Ecuador who serves us coffee and breakfast each morning in the café at the top of the road.   I did try to capture a photograph of Tatiana on her own but there was so much messing about – she tends to put rude hand signs up when she is posing for a photograph – so I couldn’t show you the photographs I took of her.  This photograph was taken by someone else she had enlisted and I am holding her hands to stop her fingers signalling rude words.

The whole episode caused much hilarity and sorry to Elaine and Terese who were watching my battle to hold the exuberant Tatiana down so we get at best, side views of them.  The others are David and Diane.

Tatiana is from Ecuador and one year ago, so the others tell me, had no English.   Her English is excellent now although the translation for a very small roll, half size, has gone beyond all of us and I have given up.  Today I had something else, a long pastry like a fluted finger.  A tub of honey is delivered to the table.  Squirt some honey on to your plate, dip the finger of pastry in the honey and it’s a delicious combination.

The café is popular, and I am told in the season there are queues along the street.  It is a family run concern save for one other and Tatiana.

Who could help but smile when this small dynamite of a woman weaves in and out the tables, clearing as she goes, taking orders from newcomers and all completed with a smile that reaches deep into her soul.  She is one very warm happy woman who keeps up with the banter from the customers and has such patience with newcomers like myself who really don’t know what they want.

She would lift your spirits on the dullest of days and works hard with a permanent beaming smile on her face.

La Farola restaurant, in the square which is my temporary abode, has been closed since before Christmas.  The owner wanted to spend time with his children and to play golf.  Perfectly understandable.  The food is reputed to be excellent so I am looking forward to them opening in the next week or so.  There has been activity over the past week or so with staff in and out, probably cleaning.  There’s another Spanish restaurant to my left as I come out my building and they are open in the morning, you can have a drink later in the day but they don’t serve food until 8 pm.  The next restaurant is more of a tapas bar and Elaina the waitress begins work early, around 8 am as the restaurant is busy with breakfasts.  They have square tables that seat four and green plastic chairs to sit on.  Elaina starts clearing tables and chairs away around 2 pm.  The restaurant next door to that has purple chairs and they serve more substantial meals and serve a bit later.  Then next going around clockwise is La Farola which is opening soon and beyond that a couple of doors further along Simon runs a tapas bar and specialises in paella.  His chairs are white with pink seat cushions.

You will understand why I have yet to turn the cooker on in this flat.

Stormy Day

I awakened to grey skies and the temperature had dropped to 17 degrees this morning.   Unusual for this part of Spain although a fount of knowledge enlightened me yesterday with the information that this was the worst winter Spain had experienced since the 1950s.

I’ve just come back from the sea front where it looks like an English resort on a summer’s day.  The white foaming waves beat their rhythmic drumming on the sea shore.  The walkers along the flat sea front are gamely braving the strong wind which brings a chill to the now 16 degree temperature at 8 pm.  They are wrapped up in anoraks and scarves, some with hats on their heads.

You can usually tell the newly arrived Brits from the Spaniards.  To the Spaniards this is the depth of winter and they wear padded coats and scarves, whilst the Brits sport shorts above pale white legs and sleeveless t-shirts, sometimes vests, but I have yet to see a string one.

It’s amazing the change in the weather because bright blue skies framed a balmy hot yesterday and we all thought this was the change in the Spanish weather.  At this time yesterday I was sitting outside in the square enjoying a cup of tea with a couple of friends  In fact I spent about four hours in the square yesterday chatting with various people enjoying the sunshine.

I’ve just eaten a delicious grilled chicken and vegetable meal in Sol y Mar.   I’ve eaten there before, a delightful concoction of tantalising tastes encased in a vol a vent.  The pastry is as light as air and heart shaped slices of apple and strawberry finish off this tapas.

It’s the first time I have eaten since I arrived that I have had to take shelter indoors, well only within a marquee-type canopy, with clear plastic sides.

What also is a shock to the system is the amount of people smoking, lots of young people.  And they smoke in restaurants and bars.

Three gorgeous girls were at one table.  I would estimate late teens early twenties and the trio were supping what looked like large wine glasses of coke-a-cola but I suspect there was something stronger adding to the watery look of the coke.  They each had long hair – so many Spanish girls do – and one was slightly blonder than the other two who had sleek dark tresses.   A handsome young man entered the restaurant and joined the trio.  He kissed the two dark haired girls on each cheek leaning over the glass-strewn table to reach the second girl, but only kissed the third blonde girl, once on the cheek – why was that?

There was a football match underway on the large flat screen tv behind the front bar.  Two young Spanish lads in front of me were drinking several beers, smoking enthusiastically and one comfortably facing the screen, the other twisting around in his chair to keep up with the game.

A group on the other side were noisily enjoying each other’s company and I would have loved to understand what they were saying.  I suspect they had been fuelling their enjoyment with liquid over a number of hours.  The craic sounded mighty.

I couldn’t finish my skewered chicken breast as there was just far too much for me -delicious though it was.  It was interspersed with skewered vegetables, mainly tomatoes, peppers, onions and courgette.   The restaurant brought me out a complementary dish, which had caramel wavy strips piped across the plate, a piped star-shaped cream centre and two tiny squares of creme caramel, the bottom layer soaked in some kind of liqueur.

This is the life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s not all Brexit and Trump

It’s times like last night that you realise there is more to life than Trump and Brexit.   Who and what are they anyway?   It has become too depressing to deal with either and in this last week when my oldest and bestest friend passed away, there has to be something better in life.

A Touch of Class put on a Valentine’s Day show in Lux Mundi last night.  My days of Valentine cards and Roses are long gone but as I arrived at the centre last night a kindly soul handed me a spray of pink carnations and red roses which are now centre place in the apartment I am renting.

The pretty fragrant spray was thrust into my hand ‘there’s one left and we’d like you to have it,’ which sort of set the tone for the evening.

There was a generosity of spirit as the five men and nine women entertained us for around three hours with a short interval for tapas, one each, and one glass of wine, a choice of red or white.  There was a raffle too which also raised much needed funds.

The show was just delightful.  Good generous people are the words which kept spinning around in my head.  The generosity of spirit was there as all were equal and each singer or musician had their opportunity to star and take a solo bow.   And they could sing and keep perfect timing with routines – something I for one of the Baltimore Singers have found great difficulty with.

The gowns at times were glittering swathes twirling as the nine songstresses animatedly added to the meaning of the words which were sung clearly and with much emphasis on ‘love’ as this was after all a Valentine’s Day concert.

The five men in dinner jacket and gleaming white shirts had a glitter all of their own with neat bow ties, two sparkling pink ones and three equally bright glittery red ones.

Two men, one who changed from sound control chief to musician for his numbers, with one of the other of the five, strummed guitars as they sang along.  There was humour as some standard lyrics were changed to suit the occasion and the medley of songs ranged from Lonnie Donnegan and that dreaded chewing gum on the bedpost overnight, to Elvis Presley’s ‘Will you love me tonight’,  a selection of Beatles’ songs,  and from the musicals a gun toting, Deadwood Stage .

When requested the audience sang along and two heroes from the audience, men of a certain era twisted and bopped their rear ends when commanded by Pauline, the group’s musical director.

Pauline’s smiling face set the tone for the evening, which was happy, innocent with a touch of mischief and who could help but smile back at such joy.   Pauline’s said to be strict in rehearsal and rehearsals have been long and hard.

One of the first lady aviators I had the privilege of interviewing in Castletownshend, Mrs Warren, wisely told me that if we give something we are actually doing it for ourselves. She was explaining why she had given the Boathouse to the village.   It takes a while but think of it and the pleasure you do get from giving something, whether it is a compliment or a gift that delights its recipient.

A Touch of Class were very much the givers and receivers last night as the pleasure they had in entertaining us was matched by the wonderful applause and reception they received, which brought much-deserved joy to them.  They were doubly giving because all profits raised from the concert and the raffle will help feed the 28/29 homeless people who are fed in Lux Mundi each day.

So there are the Brexiteers and there are the Trumps.  What value do they have?   Very little I would say.  They will disappear into history both blots on humanity whereas everyone who volunteered last night and A Touch of Class would have no truck with choosing what nationality would receive the food they had helped raise money for.

It’s great to know that there are still good people in this world.  The unsung heroes.

 

U3A

 

Today I joined the University of the Third Age.   I remember hearing of this over the years.  I also met the rudest, most arrogant man I have encountered in a very long time.

And I am afraid I told him he was.

Friends had mentioned that I should go into Lux Mundi which is only about fifty yards from my apartment.

They cater for all nationalities, but there were mostly English voices I heard today when I dropped in.  Luz Mundi is the venue and consists of spacious buildings, much larger than appears from the narrow entrance door, which is off a typical, for Fuengirola anyway, street, tiled and cobbled in places.  Once inside there is a reception desk to the right and some seating and a coffee table in front of the walls to the left which sport sheets of information.

I can’t remember the name of the very friendly man, with a wide welcoming smile, who took over from the rather worried looking Spanish lady.  He asked me to sit down and calm down, mistaking my asthmatic breathing for anxiety.

I was glad of the seat anyway and he patiently explained to me I would have to become a member of U3A before being allowed to participate in any of the classes which were run within the building.

There’s a coffee dock through from the reception and the whole open area must take over the back of three or four of the small houses along the street.  There is an outside area too with seating and, sorry to rub it in, but today the sun is shining and it is really hot again.

I was given a prospectus to read whilst the smiley man went off to attend to someone else who arrived.  I noticed he hugged and kissed some of the arrivals.

It was while I was reading through the prospectus and copying information on to my phone that a tall slim handsome chap with greying hair settled in one of the chairs on the other side of the coffee table.  He was accompanying his elderly mother who looked a sweetie pie of a woman, as short as he was tall.

He told me the booklet I had was a year out of date, which it was, but it contained information I wanted.  He told me there were all sorts of classes running, which was what I was trying to read about.  He told me he had attended the science meeting, which had been very informative and about black holes.  He said, ‘I was so surprised as some of the people there were actually intelligent and understood what was being talked about.’

I stopped what I was doing.  ‘That’s a very rude and arrogant comment to make about elderly people.’   I commented.   ‘Well they were all elderly so I was surprised.’ He countered.

‘Just because you see an old woman in front of you that doesn’t mean I have never achieved anything and I have probably achieved more than you have.’

‘Anyway you are not old,’ he replied.  ‘You are probably around the same age as me – 59.  I’m a Cambridge graduate!’ he exclaimed.

‘That does not give you the right to pigeon hole people you know nothing about in such a demeaning manner.   I could give you quite a few more years than that, but whatever age you are does not give you the right to speak about anyone like you have.’

‘You are quite defensive.’  He said.

I returned to reading through my prospectus and the graduate tried to involve me in other conversation, but his sweetie pie of a mother, told him that I was busy reading as if she could see what he could not.

The smiley man rescued me and asked if there were any of the classes I was interested in.  When I said choir and writing, he led me through beyond reception to the back area and introduced me to a group of ladies about my own age who are the writing group.

They got an up to date U3A booklet for me and a membership application form.  I have since completed this and paid my membership fee and will join the next writing group in two weeks’ time.

I’d overheard about a concert which is on tonight and asked smiley man about it.  So I am going to ‘a Touch of Class’ for their Valentine’s Day Concert tonight in Lux Mundi for all of five euros which includes one tapa and one drink.  Hola!

 

My favourite Hat and the wonderful Spanish Man

I nearly lost my favourite hat today – again.  You know the one I ‘lost’ last December, the turquoise one with sparkly beading on the front that I got from Violette’s in Main Street, Skibbereen.  I bought it over two years ago and people have begun to recognise me by the hat.

I was in Cork airport, yet again, on Sunday and one of the staff said he had recognised me by the hat.  It was cold enough on Sunday, a blistering biting wind and the hat, which is double lined, was an absolute necessity.

I thought I had lost it last December, and phoned every single person I had visited and each venue I had been in over that fateful weekend when my hat had disappeared, to no avail.  I have other hats but this one is pretty special, even though Hammond’s Jack Russell chewed a couple of the sparkly beads off before we noticed what she was doing.

I was reluctantly using some of my other hats for a couple of weeks last December when I returned to the hairdressers.  I asked if they had found my hat but they have a routine of placing what has been left in the salon on the coat hooks by the counter.  There was a heap of coats on the hooks and I pulled them around a bit but no hat was visible.

By the time I was leaving Hair Heaven, there were fewer coats on the hooks and there it was hiding underneath a couple of jackets – my precious and beloved hat.  I was so delighted and resolved not to let it out of my sight again.

Today, with a handbag slung over my shoulder and a bag of recycling in my hand I had a firm grip on the hat in case it rained.   It is 17 degrees in Fuengirola but it rained yesterday and it was threatening to rain today and I have no umbrella.

Here in Spain they have recycling set up really well.  At various points there are sleek shiny bins of different hues by the side of road.  I didn’t know what to do with my rubbish the first week I was here and only found out about the bins just before I was heading back home for a few days.   I though the bins at first glance looked kind of small but when you open the lid you realise there is a cavernous space below them underground.

I had recycled my organic (food) waste before I went home but had accumulated several bags of recycling.   I meet the same group of people each morning for coffee and today I headed up the road between the orange trees intending to deposit another bag of recycling and then meet the others in the café.

I don’t know where my head was – certainly not in the hat – which ended up on top of a heap of recycling papers and boxes fifteen feet or so below the ground and my bag of recycling still safely clutched in my hand.

What a clown and as I peered down to my yet again lost hat I wondered what on earth I could do – or had my beloved hat gone for ever this time and was it destined to end its life by contaminating a mountain of recycling.

Help was at hand in the form of a very handsome clean cut Spanish man who enquired what the problem was.  Well I think that was what he was asking as I have no Spanish and I didn’t understand what he was saying.  I expect it is not often he sees an old lady with a bag of recycling bag in hand staring despondently into the depths below the opened bin door.

I patted my head a few times and pointed into the recycling bin.  It took a while for him to catch on but catch on he did and my hero indicated ‘I’ll be Back!”   Not quite like Arnie but near enough to placate this damsel in distress.

Sure enough – whilst I stood guard on the open bin refusing to let anyone else put their recycling on top of my precious hat – my saviour hurried to a large grey porta cabin near the building site behind the bins.   He produced a pole about fifteen feet long and I could see him working at one end of it.  He had somehow inserted a hook and he returned triumphantly along the street brandishing the pole.

It was only on the second attempt that he secured my turquoise beaded hat and I was so thrilled and thanked him profusely.  I have a big box of Cadbury’s chocolates I am going to drop off to him tomorrow morning on my way to coffee in the café.

Aren’t Spanish men wonderful!    The young man who sold me a dongle two weeks ago was equally as sweet but that’s for another time.

Early morning

Friday 11th was the first day I have felt better for the past week so up far too early but strolled down to the beach before 6 am.

It was a delightful morning and the hotel staff were cleaning up the sand which runs from the hotel foyer to the sea.   I haven’t ventured the short distance down to the sea, and it is only yards, because the humidity has snookered my breathing.  However the week of Ayurvedic treatments has not got me right, but back on the track to being right, but a way to go yet.

There were four or five men on the beach, tourists, all clutching cameras, waiting for the sun to break through the misty clouds which looked light enough but they were not moving with any speed.   I walked along the beach at the water’s edge, past the next couple of hotels, but I much prefer this one which has been sensible enough not to shroud the view of the beach with trees and shrubs.  In fact as you walk into reception the vista is amazing. You look straight through to the infinity pool, the golden sands and the sea.  What more could you ask for?

I was a bit afraid to walk too far because I tend to run when I feel a bit better and suffer from the consequences.  I turned back, took the sandals off and tucked my mobile and room key in my bra, hoping I wouldn’t slip and fall in the waves.

It was delicious.  Warm frothy waves gently rolling back and forth.  I couldn’t see any great tidal affect and grew more confident.  Too confident of course because one wave had to be higher than the rest and my blue and white striped shorts (knee-length pyjamas but they are all I have with me) were soaked to a depth of about four inches.  But there was no harm really as they were soaked with warm water.   Really warm water.

I don’t know when I have paddled in water so warm or swum in water so warm.  Daren’t swim of course because that would be tempting Providence with my asthma as it is.

I sat down on one of the sun loungers and added a wet bottom to the wet knees but it doesn’t matter a jot.  The would-be sunrise photographers waited patiently and just as a tantalising crisp of fiery orange sun slipped out of a cloud, it slipped back again.  The photographers dashed off to snatch breakfast before their 6.30 am departure.

I had an early breakfast.  There were only a smattering of fellow guests.  Some children for a change and one gorgeous little Sri Lankan boy – too beautiful to be a boy really – was playing up mum and dad.   He swung a knife around that he had snatched off the table quick as a flash.  When the dad persuaded him to hand that back he snatched mum’s mobile phone in the blink of an eye.  I laughed as it is a scene played out in every other home these days.

However, dad, said, ‘Here’s Aunty.’  And the little lad looked at me in horror.  He expected me to tell him off and he quietened down immediately.  The whole breakfast time, I could hear the parents say, ‘Look out.   There’s Aunty.’  Or similar warnings.   The parents work in Saudi and are here on holiday but a touring holiday.

Later on, by the swimming pool and bribed by the Polo mints I always carry in my handbag, the little lad, two years five months, blew me kisses, and was carried away in dad’s arms calling, ‘I love you Aunty.  I love you Aunty.’  Amazing what a two or three sweets can do.

During breakfast there was a mum with an older boy who sat politely at the breakfast table with his father.  There were two little girls, one around four I would say and the other a bouncing ball of energy around 18 months to 2.   They were both gorgeously dressed and had been up and full of life when I was walking to the beach just before 6 am.

Mum was conscious of the other hotel guests and was patiently shepherding them from reception, back down the steps to the slatted wooden boardwalk.

As it was early all the housekeeping that you never see was being dealt with.  There are black cauldron like pots which flank each side of the boardwalk, probably nine feet apart along each side and they are staggered so there is one every four and a half feet one side or the other.  They are filled with yellow flower heads so arranged to encircle a white flower in the centre of each pot although some have white flowers in a heart shape surrounded by yellow flowers.

The girls were running ahead of mum when they stopped to look at the member of staff who was kneeling in front of each pot, one by one, carefully picking flower heads from the wicker basket on his arm, and completing his arrangement.

Suddenly he had two willing assistants whether he wished for them or not.  It says much for the patience of the workman as he explained what he was doing and handed flower heads to the little girls so they could help? him with his task.

It became a race for the girls as to who could complete one arrangement and run to the next.  The smaller girl could not keep up with her older sister and of course she was not to be beaten because she retraced her steps and rearranged flowers in already completed pots to her own satisfaction.  I would imagine she will go far in life.  I have never seen her walk, as she bounces in a half-run everywhere.  Remind you of anyone?

And as half the world goes mad, there’s a workman here, who has the patience and generosity of spirit to keep two little girls entertained for a while, and allow their mother a bit of respite time.  I am told from other would-be employees of Theme-Resorts that they are good and fair employers and the rate is better than most.

Maybe that is why I have found everyone so at peace with what they are doing, whether it is the waiting staff, cleaners, chefs.    There are no unhappy employees here which speaks for itself.

And as a footnote to the day as dusk started to fall around 5 pm there was an impromptu ball game on the beach with the players all members of staff.  I am going to ask for a job.

Steamed Chicken

On Tuesday I experienced what it must be like to be a steamed and roasted chicken covered in oil.  I am having some Ayurvedic sessions hoping to improve my health.  They  begin with an Indian head massage.

Sitting in companionable silence alongside a petite German lady, who had her Ethiopian holiday changed a week before she travelled, (considered too dangerous), we were both commencing our treatments with said head massage.  Starkers except for knickers and a huge orange bath towel, which just wrapped around me but the German lady could have wrapped it around herself twice!   We both sat in comfortable chairs in the open air, facing the ocean and watched the waves rise and froth and gently roll into the golden sandy shore.  There were only a couple of security guards around all week but a couple of dozen French holidaymakers arrived yesterday and they took to the waves this morning.

One of the security guards works for the Maalu Maalu Hotel and Spa and the other one works for the hotel next door.   I would stay here longer if I could.  It is just amazing and the food is brilliant too.

I got more than my German friend, as my masseuse chants softly each time she starts the head massage.   Off to one of the treatment rooms along the corridor of gaily painted doors and on to the high table to have my body pummelled and pulled and oiled.  When I am turned face down I find myself staring at lotus blossom floating in a bowl below the massage table.  There are yellow trumpet flower heads and dark green glossy leaves scattered here there and everywhere, even in the toilet which is at the end of the corridor.

All is open to the elements with a thatched vaulted roof above to protect you from the sun.  Coconut palms and bushes sway in the breeze alongside the Ayurvedic suite of rooms.  Coloured canvas blinds can be pulled down as protection from the sun and there is a huge piece of blue silk with an embroidered gold border along each side of the length of the piece of silk.  There are dots of gold all over the material which may have been a sari in an earlier life.  It is stretched on bamboo in line with the table and about five feet above.

You would almost dose off but for the request, ‘madam turn over, madam sit up, etc.’  Eventually madam is guided to a steam contraption in another room. The only way I can describe it is like a wooden clinker built version of the iron lungs we used to see polio victims in when I was a child.  It was like a huge clam shell open and waiting for me to climb in so it could snap shut!

I hoisted my oiled body up and lay on a thick towel above the slatted base.  The slip of a girl, always quiet, always serious, indicated I should move over a tad to my right otherwise my left arm would be caught in the door as it came down. I duly moved over and within seconds found myself encased in the wooden steamer with only my head protruding.

I didn’t see any dials so maybe the heat temperature was operated automatically.  I lay there growing hotter and hotter.  My girl went out of the room and I wondered what I would do if it got too hot. I thought of the large stainless steel domed barbecue my cousin in Penticton has out on his deck where he does most of the cooking, even in the winter.  I thought I knew just how these oil-basted lumps of chicken felt as he closes the domed cover so the meat can cook through.

But just before I was on the point of yelling for help she came back in and asked if I was okay – which I was and then she went off again!   Not wanting to appear a wimp or anything but I didn’t like being left on my own and with my overactive imagination I fancied scenarios of the whole thing blowing up and me being thrown like a large white oiled whale up into the air and landing somewhere out in the ocean.

Before I could lose my mind completely and I was really quite hot by this time, the gaoler came in and released me and I returned ensconced in yet another large orange bath towel to what has become ‘my treatment room.’

Unexpectedly one of the stretches of nerve pain I have had from the shingles, for eighteen months, has gone.  The doctor here believes it is because of an oil the masseuse used and left on me like a poultice.   The oil is one that the Ayurvedic doctors use to treat the chicken pox virus and of course shingles are related to the same virus.

They have since used the same oil in the same way on the two other stretches of shingle nerve pain I have had without success but are having another attempt today.  It would be worth this whole trip to be pain-free.   So here’s hoping.

The Missing Pelicans

I can’t remember ever having seen a pelican before.   The son was driving me down from Negombo to Pelawatta through the usual heavy traffic.  As per normal I was looking all around me at the shops, the colleges, the government departments and the people, trying to take everything in.

I glanced up at the long double row of street lights in the middle of the road and thought, ‘That’s a very strange place to put a model of a bird!’  I didn’t comment out loud as you don’t.  When you are a guest in someone else’s country it’s not your place to make any observation that might be received as a criticism, besides I didn’t want to appear stupid, but stupid I was.

As if reading my thoughts, the son asked if I had spotted the pelicans!   And on cue one beautiful large whitish bird with its handbag sized pouch rose into the air and swirled off to the adjoining lake.  I have since tried to take a photograph of this species and held the camera phone ready but the minute the phone went into sleep mode, a bird appeared in the air above me as if to say – catch me if  you can.

It was the same with the small chameleon like lizard yesterday which I must ask the driver about as I can’t precisely identify it on line.   It was at the side of the road as we were travelling to the Maalu Maalu resort but although we tried to park off the road we were causing a traffic problem and there were police everywhere on the journey up yesterday.  They were obviously checking credentials, licenses etc, the driver of one minibus which overtook us at a rate of knots  was obviously fined for speeding as he was pulled over by the police when we passed him a couple of miles later.

We had a projected six hour journey North from Pelawatta which lasted longer than that with a stop at the magnificent Aliya hotel for breakfast.  It will take a couple of blogs to report on yesterday’s sitings.

We passed Paddy Fields, and plantations of pineapple, tobacco, rubber, coconut, mango, and teak.   It was amazing as we drove through the dry area of the country and one place which was a distribution centre for the small growers   The driver explained that the paddy fields are owned by individuals or families – no corporation owns them.  I watched men working very hard in the fields and I am told the remuneration for this Sri Lankan staple is small.

There was a delay at one point because the road had collapsed and we edged around a makeshift roundabout to safety.  However there is a huge amount of road building here.  Everywhere you go there seems to be teams of workers dissecting the countryside.  Not a lot of heavy machinery in evidence, but lots of man power in the shape of teak-coloured skins, lean wiry men whose strength belies their frame.

We were on the road from 5.30 am so we would miss the worst of the Columbo rush hour traffic.  It brought back memories of leaving Kent at that hour to have a straight run into London and breakfast in the city before starting work.  The things we do!

My driver is just lovely. He drives an automatic car and he is the epitome of a gentleman.  He is kind, considerate and courteous and has guided me through the Aliya Hotel and Spa in Sigiriya, which deserves a blog of its own. He hardly toots the horn, stops at zebra crossings when no one else does, and uses the indicators in the car when again no one else does.  I felt completely safe with him.

I was completely lost when I arrived at the Aliya Hotel and he pointed me in the right direction and was waiting for me in the foyer when I had finished breakfast.   There was a misunderstanding at the Aliya Hotel and Spa as I didn’t pay for my breakfast. I had tried to but my attempts got lost in translation and I must sort that out with the relative connected to the hotel.

My driver was just the same when we arrived at Maalu Maalu Hotel and Spa, as I was like a lost soul not knowing which or where to go.  He made sure I was handed over to one of the managers.  I was met with a melon sorbet and another member of staff gave me a traditional local welcome with a red dot of colour applied to my forehead.

The view as you enter is just as per the website and I have a lovely bedroom, balcony and a maalu-maalubathroom big enough to party in.  I am level with the tops of the coconut trees and the only sound is the ocean and some birds whose home is in the vaulted thatched roof of my suite.