You will be sent to Ballydehob!

‘You will be sent to Ballydehob Branch!’ was the bandied threat at a British branch of a well-known Irish Bank many years ago.   The bank’s senior staff would ‘threaten’ their underlings with being sent to the small West Cork branch at the ‘back of beyond.’

Not that there’s any bank in Ballydehob these days, but anyone being sent to Ballydehob now might consider themselves extremely lucky.   Ballydehob is a hive of entrepreneurship and social industry.

Joanne’s shop opened on Monday and we initially queued outside her closed doors and accepted drinks from the beautiful Susie.   I noticed people were waiting, wine glasses in hand on the opposite side of the street and soon discovered why.   There was a stiff chill breeze funnelling its way up the right side of the street so I decamped and joined those sensible people on the left hand side which was bathed in brilliant sunshine.

Plates of nibbles were handed around on the right hand side of the street so a quick dash across the road was required for those of us enjoying the sunny evening.

My friend had arranged to meet me, but despite the chill wind was swimming in a local bay with her dogs.  She was delayed arriving for the opening having been stopped by the village photographer who was ferrying a beautiful dark haired Italian girl in his car.  There was no space in the B&B the girl had booked so my friend agreed to accommodate Flora for the duration of the Jazz Festival.

Back to the shop opening which Joanne conducted with her usual decorum and her decision to invite Bridie, the postmistress, to cut the pink ribbon was warmly welcomed by all present.

The shop contains an interesting collection of gifts, jewellery, cards, games and even bicycle clips which I was sorely tempted to buy for the youngest son, but there were no prices on anything in the shop.  People were writing lists of what they had ‘purchased’ and for which they would pay next time they were in the shop.   Joanne has very good taste, as one can see from her Porcelain Room restaurant and her new business, The Copper Merchant, definitely has her stylish stamp on it.

My next visit to Ballydehob was Thursday night which was All Ireland Poetry Day and there were readings in The Bank building.   It’s the first time I have been in this brightly painted former AIB Bank and progress on developing the premises for a variety of uses for the local community is ongoing.   Huge tribute must be made to those in the community who had the foresight to purchase this building, the loan being paid off by the profit from local lottery tickets.

The poetry readings were in three languages, English, as Gaeilge and French.    Readers were allocated a maximum of ten minutes each to read their work or the work of others.

The poetry reading theme was connections and one poem, the reader’s grandfather’s poem, had only been emailed over from the US shortly before the readings commenced.   A Frenchman, who had only arrived in Ireland that day,  read a favourite poem of his.

The poetry was as mixed as the variety of people packed into the front room of the bank.  We were all shapes, sizes and ages, and even one tall chap who was barefoot but I didn’t have the courage to ask him why he did not have shoes on.

Writer and poet, and former teacher, Patrick Deeley, read from his own work and introduced Seamus Hogan, whom I had never heard of before. (I am such a Philistine.)  Seamus read two brief poems and they were only a couple of lines, but such is his mastery of words that each word conveys what others would need a sentence to do so.  ‘Grey Smoke against a Grey Sky’ is Seamus’s latest book and his words tell so much about the man himself.   There’s all the care and love and passion there.

The official launch of Seamus’s book was further down the village and across the road so we all trooped into Ina Daly’s Bar.  It’s small with a highly polished counter and I wondered how we would all manage to cram into this space.  However a door opened off the bar to reveal a flight of stairs and we trooped down to what was essentially the cellar or basement of the house.  The doors opened off to ground level at the rear with a garden and some of the Hogan fans were already outside.  Too cold for me and most of us took advantage of the medley of seating arranged around the walls rather than stand outside.  Food again was brought downstairs from the kitchen above, and soon we were munching sandwiches, pate on brown bread, and a variety of nibbles.

Patrick Deeley spoke about his long time friend, Seamus Hogan, with great affection and obviously there is great camaraderie between the pair.   Brushing his blushes aside, Seamus read more from his new work and in some instances explained why or how a particular poem had evolved.

The Jazz Festival started yesterday and there is a mighty programme underway, something for everyone and all ages, including dance classes over the bank holiday weekend, as well as a street market on Sunday, weather permitting.



The Wedding

Saturday dawned clear and fine and it had the promises of being a perfect day.  I had a good start as I even managed to put on a pair of tights and not shred them before I got out of the house.

I hate tights with a vengeance but my Spanish outfit was only just to my knee so for once I would not get away with my usual knee highs.   With arrangements and timings being changed at the last minute I worked out I would have to change into my wedding clothes in the hairdressers and meet my family in town.

The parking fairy answered my prayers as I even got parked not too far from the hairdressers.  I had organised two bags for the day, one for the hairdressers and the other with silver sandals, in case my new silver shoes proved to be too tight later in the day (which they were), and top up make up, perfume etc and a spare pair of tights as I was sure I would snag them somewhere along the way.

I had ordered some organic steak mince from Madeline McKeever and received a text only minutes before I was due to have my face painted that her daughter Holly had my mince in the market.  ‘You have three minutes!’ warned Kelly Ann.  I made it back in time too despite Madeline’s place at the top of the market not her place any more.  Caroline pointed me to Mad’s new position where her daughter Holly was manning the stall.  Quick weigh and money exchanged, I put the mince in the boot of my car and made it back to the hairdresser in time.


Honey Bee (formerly Hair Heaven) is where I was about to be transformed into someone I didn’t really recognise in the mirror.  Pamela did my make up and successfully covered up the deep bags below my eyes.  (Marion has suggested I have an eye lift but for the time being I will stick with the paint!)

Next it was Kelly Ann who tackled my hair.  It’s quite long at the moment, deliberately so that it could be put up for the wedding, and I had been instructed to wash it a couple of days before Saturday.   Dress on and zipped up with one of the young girls who was having a well-earned break for lunch and then I was set to go.

I felt like a celebrity as everyone was commenting on how well I looked.  It’s amazing what cover up makeup and hair spray and a box and a half of grips can do.

Dashed to the Church Restaurant to get a sandwich and bottle of water which I would consume on my way down west in daughter-in-law’s car with the little granddaughter who would be a flower girl.   The cars had been swapped over and son was driving the bridesmaids in his brother-in-law’s car, whose wife was driving son’s car but it was all a bit confusing although I think I was the only one who was confused.

First stop was the bride’s home place for photographs and the little granddaughter was needed for that as was her little cousin, around fourteen months and so dotey and so smiley and sweet.  Both held a single silver stem which had a silver heart with a beautiful pink rose in full bloom in front of the heart.

I stayed in the car and ate my lunch and watched all the comings and goings.   The photographer was a great guy, running here, there and everywhere and snapping right left and centre.  I think he must have taken hundreds and hundreds of photographs during the day.

My granddaughter, three and three-quarters, held her little cousin’s hand all the way up the long aisle and the 8 year old grandson followed at a decent space apart.  He had the very important task of carrying the wedding rings.

The grandson had a brilliant wedding seeing lots of relatives and friends.  The little granddaughter danced the legs off both her parents.  She was out there dancing for every tune the band played.  Said parents only got off the floor when the band went off for a break and the little girl fell asleep on her mother’s lap.  She stirred as soon as the disco started but was whisked off to bed before she could don the dancing shoes again.

It was a wonderful wedding, a brilliant day altogether and the bride and groom take with them scores and scores of good wishes for their future happiness.  You can tell how thoughtful they are because the whole day was so well organised, from the details in the order of service to the packs my grandchildren found in their places at the dinner table. They both had an activity pack labelled with their names which would keep them amused through the breaks for the speeches.  And there were no wedding favours as the bridal couple had chosen to make a donation to West Cork Animal Welfare Group instead.

I would say the bride and groom are set for a long and happy life together.

My son had to help me walk to my car as the silver sandals were not comfortable at all and I would have been better had I kept the new silver shoes on although my feet were so swollen I might have needed a tin opener to get the shoes off.

I got home close to midnight and it took me a while to clean off all the makeup, then de-grip the hair. It was sticking out like the straight bristles of a brush but at odd angles to my head.  My mother would have said I looked like the wreck of the Hesperus.   I truly did look as if my hair had been through a hurricane.  It would have been my mother’s hundredth birthday the day of the wedding.  She was always annoyed at the fuss made of Queen Elizabeth II, who has her birthday the day before, saying she felt just as important as the Queen.

I felt a bit like Cinderella as I did not look a bit like the person who had looked back at me that morning in the hairdressers’ mirror.

And there is no Prince Charming around but if there had been he would have run a mile!

D Day – Minus One

She looked at me with her big blue eyes, pushed her blonde curls out of her face and declared, ‘Mum said you had to paint my nails with sparkles.’   She passed me the red nail polish complete with sparkling specs she had spotted on a shelf in my wardrobe and looked me steadfastly in the eyes as she lied.

But it was a beautiful balmy sunny West Cork day so that is just what I did as we sat outside on the swinging hammock in the afternoon sunshine.  I painted my little granddaughter’s fingernails and then her toenails.

Bumble bees and butterflies enjoyed the newly planted flowers and plants in the tubs along the back of the house.  Apart from the soft buzzing of the bees our world was silent.  Aeroplanes left their vapour trails as white crisscrosses in the sky – the only colour to mar the clear blue.

It was not a completely perfect day.  The granddaughter accepted my foolhardy invitation to paint.   I busied her with a variety of acrylic paints.  She chose the colours and I squirted those designated into a series of small plastic bowls.   Being the tidy creature she is and one who is totally averse to anything sticking to her fingers or hands, there was a great deal of hand washing and drying interspersed with colouring the A4 sheets of paper.

I had covered the large kitchen table with blank A4 sheets and she happily dabbed away until she decided it was time for a change of colour.  Point of action then shifted to the kitchen sink where she happily washed out the plastic bowls and instructed me on how to clean her paintbrush.  Interestingly she did not want to mix any of the colours.  The white pages are covered in different shaped splats and individually in white, red, blue or green.   And she washed up everything she had used, except the dark blue stains on the wooden kitchen table which were easily cleaned off later.

Other dramas of the day included the lack of a sunhat small enough to fit her and my difficulty fitting on the dark blue canopy for the swinging hammock although being directed on how to do so by a not yet four year old.

The canopy did its work and the three of us swung happily for a while under the shade. Left to their own devices for a few minutes, resulted in some kind of sibling rivalry.  Such was the lack of accord, her older brother required a cold compress where his eye had come in contact with a tight little fist.  Hopefully the compress has done its job and there will be no telltale black eye for the wedding photographs tomorrow.

I have everything ready, even vacuumed my car and had it washed yesterday although a blasted cat has left its sandy paw prints in a delicate pattern all over the bonnet and windscreen.

From the day I bought my wedding outfit in Spain I knew I had the perfect matching handbag in my silver clutch.   I looked for it today in the wardrobe where I keep my other handbags.  But the silver clutch bag is no longer there although I seem to have a handbag in every other shape and colour except the small neat oblong bag I had intended to use tomorrow.

Maybe it has gone the same way as the hat and the pashmina.

I have another silver handbag, but my friend who has now stepped in as my voluntary style consultant, tells me that only the clutch will do and my other silver bag with the shoulder strap is not suitable for my outfit.

Would that missing handbags and hats were all that we had to worry about in life.

A UK election, still no agreement in the North, no cannabis oil for Ava, a maternity home in the hands of the Nuns who owe so much to Irish women and children,

Then there is Rory McIllroy’s wedding to Erica Stoll at Ashford Castle.

But we have our own wedding tomorrow and the sun is going to shine as promised.


‘That sounds very West Cork’

The Customs House, Baltimore, opened its doors, on Friday of the Easter weekend.  It opens for weekends until the summer season starts when it will be open five or six days a week.  Opening hours are from 11 to 5 pm, which elicited the remark, ‘That sounds very West Cork.’   Busy mum of three, knitwear designer Sharon Rose McKeever is the driving force behind this enterprise which consists of three rooms devoted to local crafts, art, knitwear, jewellery, and of course some pieces.

Sharon Rose is also the driving force behind ‘Happy in Baltimore 4’ and there were crowds in the Square on Sunday afternoon as the final preparations for filming were underway.  The 2017 Happy in Baltimore theme is ‘No Borders’ – everyone welcome, whatever nationality or age and the completed film should be ready in the coming weeks.  Watch this spot.

Inish Beg also opened their cafe on FrIday and in addition to the beautiful grounds and gardens, there’s a pirate trail too.   Many of the fairies who have been evicted from local Coillte woodlands have now been rehoused on the Inish Beg estate.  Fairies with refugee status are declared as being more than welcome.

Skibbereen Market last Saturday was almost as busy as a summer’s day.  The holiday weekend brought crowds and visitors out in force and hopefully the stallholders did very well.

The wedding is now less than a week away.  I tried both the shoe shops in Skibbereen for silver shoes.  There was one pair in Kevin O’Regan’s Fuchsia shoe shop that I was unsure of.   They were a bit tight so I left them behind.  But a friend encouraged me to try them on again and gave her approval.  I was still unsure so the assistant in the shop suggested I take them home, try them on with the outfit and if they suited pay for them next time I was in town.

Where else would you be allowed to take a very expensive (for me anyway) pair of shoes home to try on and not leave a deposit or payment?  I am still practising with the shoes around the house and hopefully they will be fine on the day.

All the family talk is of the wedding, and already plans are being made for things that have to be dealt with as being delayed to ‘after the wedding’ or ‘when the wedding is over’,

The small granddaughter, who has a passion for the colour purple, is suffering as she is not allowed to wear purple shoes to the wedding.  Her outfit is dreamy and just beautiful. She showed me her ‘wedding’ shoes yesterday and screwed up her face as she said, ‘but they’re cream.’   They are very pretty girlie shoes with a neat little strap and a leather flower embossed on the front.  But they are not purple!

So the Ballydehob Jazz Festival is on the week after the wedding and the Baltimore Fddle Fair only days after that and then West Cork festivals start in earnest.

I joined a book reading group the other week and the designated book is Night Train to Lisbon.  I tried to download it to my Sony book reader completely unsuccessfully again.  I must see if there is a youtube video that will teach me how to use the book reader.

Meantime I popped into Skibbereen Library and discovered my library card was now extinct, or at least I don’t exist on the Cork County Council list of library members.  But I discovered a new service that is available only since the past two or three weeks.  Thanks to a very helpful library assistant, I now have a new card with a designated new fourteen digit number, which together with my password enables me to download either audio books or  ebooks to my iphone or ipad, although  don’t have an ipad – yet.  It doesn’t seem to work for my laptop.   Added to which my enquiry for a hard copy of The Night Train to Lisbon on Wednesday afternoon resulted in the nearest copy which was in Schull library being delivered to Skibbereen library first thing Thursday morning.  How’s that for service and all free!






The Old Labrador

I was driving through Ballydehob last night, late for the promised supper before the Schull play.   There were cars parked on each side of the road as I drove up the less steep hill of the two roads.  I slowed down to make room for an elderly golden labrador ambling up the road, plodding head on into the oncoming traffic, his golden face, faded, almost white with age, his walk slow and laborious.   The downward traffic slowed accordingly accommodating the elderly dog.  Like myself he had added on pounds with age.

I felt a lot like the elderly lab as it has been a rough week health wise.  But like the old dog I have been accommodated and cared for, ferried about, and my frailties considered and made allowances for with great patience.

Caleb Cairns excelled as the lead in the Schull play which now heads to the All Irelands.  Like most plays that make the All Irelands, they always have an undercurrent of a message, mostly which makes me at least uncomfortable.  Maybe I am a Philistine but I think there is enough drama and sadness in real life and around the world these days, especially this past week, that when you go out for a night out you want to forget your troubles, ails and ailments and have an enjoyable fun night out.

It was too painful to watch the results of last week’s chemical attack and there is a belief that the Third World War has already started, at least according to John Pilger.  It all seems to be about commodities and all the posturing and facing off will not bring peace to anyone.

I have long since given up taking on board what is reported on the screens in front of me, small and large.  I am well aware of how news and incidents can be rejigged and manipulated to suit the deliverer of the ‘news’.

At the United World Youth Council opening ceremony in 2004, one of the speakers from the United Nations encouraged the teenagers to change their own corner.  I believe that’s all that is within our grasp, and that we should all change our own corners and do the little we can for others within our reach.    It’s not ducking out of reality – it is enabling and making a meaningful change.

A book I have proof read for someone is to be published.  I am delighted as it has been ten years in incubation.   The thrill and excitement of the writer who struggled to get through this, was infectious.   I was as excited and as thrilled as she was.

Babysitting the grandchildren during the week turned into a techie event as the boy took over my laptop (minecraft) and the little girl had an ipad (pawpatrol).

A friend called in, a friend the little girl had not seen before and suddenly she was hiding behind me with her hand firmly clapsed in mine   Such a treat to have this little girl treat me with such trust.  Her lack of confidence soon evaporated when the friend entertained the two children with a magic trick.   The boy, at age 8, soon spotted the ‘magic’ but the little girl is a firm fan forever and now has a new friend.

Camilla Griehsel’s MA performance at Curtis Hall, CIT, Cork, was simply amazing.  Her voice is incredible and she took us on a journey around the world, songs from different countries in a variety of languages.  What a treat this event was, with the gorgeous Maurice Seezer on piano, Niwel Tsumbu on guitar and Eric Mingus on base.  I realised I had interviewed Eric and his wife a number of years ago and reintroduced myself to him.  He remembered me and had just moved back to West Cork and in fact now lives in the same parish as myself.

Was thrilled to see Ayoola Smart in Vera last week.  She was not the lead, but certainly one of the main characters and played her part so admirably.  She is a gorgeous girl and I am so thrilled with the success she has had – in the Globe last year and making inroads into tv this year.   I did a piece for her years ago when she won a beauty contest in the UK.   I found her so polite, unassuming and grounded.  Such a great credit to her wonderful mum Sally.

We are truly privileged to live here with all the beauty of the scenery and the huge musical and artistic talent on our doorstep.  The Ballydehob Jazz Festival has a great line up and on the back of that is the Baltimore Fiddle Fair.  Before all that there is a gig in Inishbeg with two great traditional musicians.

Summer appears to have arrived in West Cork and there is a bursting energy and positivity that is almost palpable.  Happy in Baltimore No 4 will take place on the Square on Easter Sunday and it should be as amazing as all the other performances – a great community working together.

The hat and pashmina are gone for ever I think.  It remains a mystery as to where they disappeared.  But it is the small things that matter.  I am so grateful thats I have got someone who will come and cut the almost one foot high grass on the lawn.  And that I have a lovely lady who is going to come and help with the weeding and tidying and replanting all the tubs, planters and containers.

All I need now are silver shoes for the wedding in a couple of weeks’ time.  I bought grey silver shoes in TK-Max but they are too dark and don’t suit my outfit.  I have silver sandals but I think silver shoes would suit the beautiful dress and jacket I bought in Fuengirola.  I was going to wear a bright pink cashmere coat that I got at a terribly reduced price in Spain.  However, one of my fashion conscious friends scolded me saying what I was planning was totally wrong and wouldn’t do at all.  She is lending me a wrap so I will be all glammed up for a change.

Happy days!


Boomerang Hat

Has my boomerang hat lost its magic?   I lost it again on Monday between the doctor’s on the Cork Road, Cleary’s Pharmacy, Main Street, and the West Cork Hotel, Skibbereen.  It’s a deep turquoise with sparkling beading on the front and a double layer of the softest warmest material.  I also lost a brand new fine pashmina.  The pashmina was lovely but the hat has become my signature.  I have been recognised in the strangest of places by my wonderful hat.    I bought it two or three years ago in Violette’s, Skibbereen, and have bought another hat in the same shop in a different colour but nothing has matched the original turquoise one.

I have mislaid it before and each time it has found its way back to me.  I even dropped it in the huge cavernous recycling bin in Fueengirola, standing there one morning to find my recycling still in my hand and the hat on top of a heap of newspapers about 15 feet below me.   Thankfully a lovely Spanish workman came to my rescue with a 15 foot pole to which he fixed a hook and lo and behold he rescued my hat.

It’s become like an old friend.   And I can’t imagine or work out where I left it this time.  The weather has picked up and I don’t really need to wear it these days but it is like losing a good friend,

The last few days in Fuengirola were dampened by me catching stomach bug.  Drinking only water for a couple of days resolved the problem plus shifted another bit of excess weight.  The weather was divine and I wandered down to the beach as often as I could to savour the rays, the air and the scenery.  Time was spent saying farewell to friends I have made and promises of catching up with them in October when i am planning to return to ‘my square’.  There was also a major clean up of the flat and then a decision about what I could not squeeze into my two suitcases in the hold and the third one in the cabin.  The surplus has been very well distributed by a friend in Fuegirola who must have blessed me when she saw the amount of stuff I was discarding.   (it’s just that I am a very good shopper with an eye for bargain.)

Being picked up at Cork airport by a dear friend was a joy and we caught up with each other’s adventures on the journey west along.  We stopped off at a bustling Celtic Ross Hotel, for lunch, where we were very well looked after by the staff, who remained cheerful and efficient despite the huge numbers the hotel was catering for.  It was Mothering Sunday and mums and supporters were out in force enjoying the food and the nurturing.

Of course the reason I was in Spain was my deteriorating health and it has continued to deteriorate since I got back with two visits to the doctor within six days.  The latest prescription drugs have kept me upright and able to enjoy life.

Went to a fab circus with the daughter-in-law and the two grandchildren on Saturday.  I think it was Gerbola Circus and it was pretty impressive.

Met friends everywhere, went to Skibbeereen Women’s Group, and their newly set up book group, (looking forward to reading ‘Night Train to Lisbon), and then to the first night of choir wth the Baltimore singers.  Have the precious grandchildren for a couple of hours Thursday pm following a catch up with another dear friend and then being taken to Camilla Griehsel’s MA performance in Cork on Friday, wth some retail therapy sandwiched in between.   Schull Drama Group’s latest offering is on the menu for Saturday night and then Happy in Baltimore dance rehearsal on Sunday at 11 am at Glebe Gardens, but have doubts about managing the dancing.

So it’s all full on again in West Cork as I step back into the West Cork way of life but sadly without my precious hat.


The Last Time

This is a week when everything is being done for the last time.  The weeks have flown and I can’t believe that I am counting down the days now until I return home.   Poor weather is forecast from Friday for a few days so it perhaps will make this parting a bit easier.

Some faces have begun to disappear over the past few weeks and farewells are being said all over the place with promises of “I’ll be be back in October/November.”  Apartments for next winter’s escape from the weather are being viewed, bartered for and booked in some cases.

So Sunday was the last time I will be going to the Fuengirola market that runs parallel with the beach and is in sight of Miramar.  The last time that it is until later in the year hopefully when I might think again about my negative response to the stall-holder who wanted to meet me for a coffee.   It’s not too far a walk to the Sunday market from my apartment but then nothing seems to be too far from my apartment in this busy square.

We met the others in the square on Sunday, which was full of Spaniards, lots of families and lots of children who were all lunching out together in the brilliant sunshine.  Umbrellas were set up for shade and even La Farola’s was open for lunch when they normally close on Sundays.  Enquiries elicited the information that it was Father’s Day here which was being celebrated in style.

Our group for coffee was smaller than usual but it was another bubbly day as two friends were departing for Madrid next day en route to their home.    So their remaining Cava was consumed by all in the clear plastic champagne flutes which have made a regular appearance the past three Sundays.  Elainea happily chilled the Cava in her cafe’s fridge.  How many businesses would do that I wondered?

The Salon Varietes Theatre are presenting ten days of Joseph & The Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat.  I went along Sunday night to the lovely little theatre, which in days gone past was a cinema.  The plush red seating is just okay but what was more than okay was the performance which was simply excellent.  The narrator, I think, has been a professional actor at some time in his life, and some of the others too, but this was mainly an amateur cast which belied the standard of the show they put on.

I am told they make everything themselves, all the backdrops, all the costumes, as like all theatres these days, funds are tight and they depend on local support.  I loved every minute of this show and could not single out anyone as being above anyone else.  They were simply delightful and excellent.

There’s another F.O.T.A. here, but so different from Fota in Cork.  Here the letters stand for “Friends of the Theatre Association” and I will definitely become a member when I come back later in the year.   Their forthcoming social events include a monthly lunch, a four day trip to Donana Park and Jerez de la Frontera, a Fashion Show in La Farola Restaurant, with lunch, and a Valparaiso Summer Ball.

I wandered along as far along as the marina yesterday.  It was another beautiful cloudless day.   I watched huge dumper trucks depositing load after load of sand, replenishing what has been eroded by this winter’s storms, the worst winter since 1952.   It has not all been wall to wall sunshine and when it rains it definitely knows how to rain.  You could not call it “a soft day.”  Locals hope that the weather has settled after each stormy day but it does not appear to have settled yet, although when the skies open up to a clear pristine blue, and the few feathery clouds have evaporated, like childbirth, you forget what it is to have an inclement day.

Later as I walked up from the beach following the signpost for Dunn-es Stor-es, so I could find my way back to my square, for the first time I encountered the local refuse service in operation, so I was able to see how the system worked.  The tiny bins that are dotted strategically around this town hide cavernous bins underground.  They are electronically raised and operated much like a remote control car to be emptied.   The bin lorry stands alongside as one of the men controls the elevation of the bins and they are then emptied into the lorry.

Such an efficient way of coping with refuse.  The small bins at street level each have a different purpose.  And there is no charge to the person depositing the refuse, which is all sorted out whether it is paper, plastic or organic waste.  So there is no dumping of rubbish anywhere around the town.  The streets are cleaned regularly as are the pathways and squares.  Residents wash the pavements outside their homes. (This used to happen when I lived in Edinburgh).  And the beach is regularly cleaned by a large squad of men and women as they sift through the sand removing what has been discarded by the previous day’s sun worshippers and what has been washed up overnight.

What “Last time” will today bring?



Taxis and Security

Moroccan taxis are in different colours.  The yellow taxis can take no more than three passengers and a small child counts as a passenger.  The method of hailing a taxi is standing at the corner of a road as the traffic is flying past and attempting to get a taxi to stop and pick you up.  This can take an awfully long time.   There are also white taxis and white and blue taxis.  They generally differ in that they have more seating and four of us hopped into a blue and white taxi which had three other passengers plus the driver.  We were allocated the back three seats and the grand-daughter happily sat on her mother’s lap, chatting away to the two women in front of us.

There was an elderly robed man in the front seat adjacent to the driver and he asked to be dropped off in the middle of a town.  We got dropped off parallel to the beach at Martil a popular holiday resort which was bereft of its usual throngs of holiday makers.  The golden beach at Martil is long, straight and flat .  This particular day, by the time we had eaten in one of the local cafes, dark clouds were rolling in across the Mediterranean and the waves were huge frothy mountains crashing on to the beach.  The grand-daughter was content with a thirty second run across the sands with her mama.  We retraced our footsteps to return to another cafe as the storm and heavy rain grew closer.

My journey to the airport yesterday in the taxi which picked me up in good time at the hotel, was different from the other times I had travelled to Tangier airport from Tetouan.   The plan was that the taxi driver would take me to bid farewell to the grand-daughter and family but I realised that we were going in the wrong direction.  A quick phone call to the daughter-in-law, who then phoned the taxi driver, sorted that out and we made a circular loop around a roundabout and headed back up the other side of the dual carriageway.

Farewells said, the taxi driver headed along the same route and soon we were on the other side of Tetouan.  It was the speed of the vehicle that alerted me to the fact that there were hairpin bends on the first range of mountains.  I had never noticed them before and I can only assume at the speed the taxi was driven, that the driver had another customer to pick up as I was in fine time for my flight.

There was same tent that I had seen on my arrival at Tangiers airport (incidentally spelled Tanger on the roadsigns) and I was asked for my passport and tickets but the tickets were on my phone.  The uniformed security man must have considered me as not a terrorist as I was allowed to go into the airport without showing him the details on my phone.  There was even heavier security in the airport.

Air Arabia are the first low cost airline to service Middle Eastern countries but they weigh and measure every bit of luggage.  Some passengers had to pay at the check in desks to put their overweight hand luggage in the hold.

From there we went through more x-ray machines, and handed over passports, boarding card and the completed information slips with our personal details.  I joined the shortest queue in front of two booths which were both manned but the other queues with only one booth manned still moved quicker.  There were police and what turned out to be non-uniformed officers everywhere and some people were questioned and taken off I don’t know where.  I would say it would be a hard job to get anything illegal through Tangiers airport which is really reassuring.

What I didn’t expect when we landed at Malaga airport, over an hour late with no explanation, was that the same level of security would be there.   Of course I was forgetting that I was travelling from a non-EU country and there were the same plethora of checks and x-rays and a separate sectioned area for people coming from outside the EU.

Brexit yes voters remember that when you are travelling into Spain in future.  You won’t just stroll through as an EU citizen with nothing to declare.

There was even a large beautiful Alsatian dog, a lovely fellow, who I stupidly went to pet. I suddenly remembered my days when I worked in a place where peers of the realm were regular visitors and that these dogs were doing a job.  You should not pet them.

Luckily I had no illegal substances on me.   As we arrived so late I missed a great lunch with the others which ended with caramel vodka.  But I am sure there will be other opportunities to get together.




I certainly am as I find myself saying ‘Hola ‘ and ‘Gratias’ in Chams Hotel, Tetouan, Morocco.
The waiter asked me at breakfast if I was Spanish.  I replied, ‘No.  I am Scottish. Ireland is my home but I am staying in Spain at the moment.’   He shook his head and looked confused.   I am too.
I have no Arabic and my little grand-daughter has little English  but I am now referred to as ‘Mimam Nanny Carol’.
She is a gorgeous little girl, as bright as a button and is already almost there with, “One, Two, Three, Four, Five; Once I caught a fish alive.”
I thought security was tight at Tangiers airport.  It is equally as tight at Chams Hotel.  I, and everyone who enters the hotel, have to walk through an x-ray machine, the same as you walk through at airports.  There is security outside the hotel too as there is always a man pacing up and down with security written in capital letters on the back of his jacket. He watches the cars that park in the hotel’s parking area immediately in front of the hotel.
The hotel reception area overlooks a very busy road. I am so confused I was trying to work out if the traffic went in the same direction as in Ireland.  The clue is the steering wheel of the car I am sitting in whilst writing this.  It’s on the wrong side for Ireland. The others have gone into the phone shop as the grand-daughter is a mobile phone wrecker.  I would not be surprised if she was on commission from the mobile phone shop or has shares in one of the companies.  The daughter-in-law’s sister, whose car this is, will be glad that I chose to stay in the car as the driver of the car that was parked immediately in front is as good at reversing as I am and was on the point of front-ending this car   I beeped the horn when it got too close for comfort so no damage done there.  Almost like being back in Sri Lanka again where tooting was as common as breathing.
Chams hotel have very amiable staff. My mattress was too hard.   It was akin to sleeping on a wooden board.  So they changed not only the mattress but the whole bed.  This second mattress is still an orthopaedic one, made for younger bones than mine, but only another night to go and I am back to my latex memory foam mattress in Fuengirola.  I really appreciate the comfort of it.
The hotel has not been conducive to a full night’s sleep.   I was wakened at 4.3o am the first morning by the sound of someone falling out of bed on to a wooden floor in another room. Then there was a toilet  being flushed and someone had a shower and finally there was the sound of doors closing. I could only assume someone had an early start so went back to sleep.  The phone beside my bed woke me again at 7.30 and as soon as I uttered a sleepy ‘Hello’ the voice at the other end said ‘Sorry’ about half a dozen times.  I turned over but only for fifteen minutes or so as there is a building site to one side of the hotel – the side my neat little balcony looks out on.  Work starts on site at 8 am so I gave up and switched the mobile on and started my day.
The cleaning ladies in the hotel are dressed as if they are entering an operating theatre. Complete with white trousers and white coats similar to doctors’ coats, they even have their hair covered in white too.  They are mostly middle aged women and terribly pleasant and we smile a lot and I say ‘thank you’ or ‘gratias’ as they go about their chores.
The waiting staff in the restaurant are all men, neatly clad in white shirts and black trousers.   I got a flask of boiling water this morning. They have one of these new gadgets that you can fit adjacent to a sink which have made kettles redundant.
I tried to use this myself and get a cup of boiling water for my Lipton’s teabag but what came out of the tap was a funny colour for boiling water.  One of the waiters rescued me and with a flourish discarded my cup with the pale orange liquid – goodness knows which button I had pressed – and he headed to the kitchen.  He returned triumphantly with an insulated jug full of clean boiled water that looked just like water when he poured it out.
There are no kettles in the bedrooms in Moroccan hotels, no teabags, coffee sachets, or milk and sugar and no complimentary biscuits.  So I savour the morning cuppas in the restaurant.   I do like my tea to be made with boiled water.  I still can’t work out what the pale orange liquid was – confused?   I am every bit of that.

My flight left 15 minutes early

My flight from Malaga to Tangiers left fifteen minutes early yesterday.  There was only one man left to board after I had settled in my aisle seat.  As soon as he had his seat belt secured we were taxi-ing down the runway.  I hurriedly checked my watch as we were due to depart at 16.10 and it as only 15.55 and thought my watch was wrong, but I noticed other passengers doing the same thing.  It is only a 45 minute flight and we landed early too.

Really as soon as we were up in the air we seemed to be coming down, or maybe that was because I was sitting beside the most interesting pair of friends.  Both had permanent homes in Spain, one only a year or more and the other for about 20 years.  The lady sitting next to me was very well travelled and indeed had been taken to Morocco as a chid of six years.  Her love of the country was evident as she had furnished her Spanish home with many hand made treasures secured during her time living there.  She was on a trip to find more such items.  She said she didn’t really ‘need’ any more things but ‘want’ was a different matter and she had booked a 30 kg case in the hold for her return trip.

Tangiers is a small airport and I had forgotten about the form you have to complete as soon as you enter the airport and had no pen in my handbag.  I must remember to have one on me for the return journey as you have to complete another form on exiting the country.   There were many other people like me and thankfully those who came equipped with a writing implement waited patiently whilst the borrower had completed his or her form.  It is only personal details, name, name at birth, passport number, destination and where you are staying and reason for the visit.

When you go through security the official checks the form and stamps your passport.  (I am running out of pages on mine and I only renewed it two years ago so I will have to stay home a bit more.)  Next you collect your luggage and everything has to go through another security x-ray system.

The currency is dirhams and I changed money straight away although the girl at the exchange counter tried to sell me a credit card so I could get a better rate.  Apparently you get a better rate if you use one of the exchange shops in the cities or so I have been advised.  I really don’t know.

There were very few people when I got through to the area where there are cafes and shops which was strange and different from my last visit.  Two years ago there were lots of people waiting for family and friends.   Luckily I walked outside to sit on a bench.  On the other side of an open area I could see small white marquees and people standing.  Vehicles were parked along the road and officials were guarding an entrance to what was the previous car parking area and drop off point.

I didn’t expect my daughter-in-law or cab driver to be there as we had landed about thirty minutes earlier than the expected time.  However the cab driver is a wise and experienced man and had insisted on collecting my daughter-in-law earlier than she planned.  He knew this flight often lands ahead of time.  Have you ever heard of a flight leaving early?

I was busy taking photographs when I heard my name called and realised they were waiting for me.  Security is so tight that no-one is allowed to enter the open area beyond the road other than people who are actually travelling.

So we set off on our hour’s trip across the mountains to Tetouan.   It was a beautiful evening and the Moroccans were out in force making the most of it. They were sitting on grassy knolls in the sunshine on the mountain sides and on grass covered areas as we got closer to the city.  Families were walking along the roads as whole families and everyone seemed to be out enjoying the sunshine.

I haven’t seen my granddaughter here since she was one and she was three last October so I had a lot of time to make up.  I came armed with a beautiful pink princess dress determined to make a lasting impression.  And I did, but more of that another time.