The other side

Just as the odd driver will brave the traffic coming up Market Street, Skibbereen, so they can cross from Drinagh Hardware to Drinagh supermarket – the odd Spanish driver will ignore no entry signs.

I have only seen a couple of incidents here to be fair.  And both were female.  Maybe they had children to collect or had some other reason.  I wondered why heads were turned yesterday as I came out of the square at the driver of a large black car gamely trying to reverse into a space far too small having come up the street the wrong way.  Maybe they were visitors and didn’t know where they were going.

The narrow streets here are mostly one way and some even have a notice saying only permitted vehicles allowed.  Permitted vehicles mean vehicles owned by residents in the street.  There are cameras which record the vehicles using these streets and there’s a fine of €70 for vehicles not recorded as permitted to use them.

I had wondered when waiting for the bus at the stop across from the police station where all the people were coming from out of a half glass building.  I asked a girl the other day and she indicated that there was an underground parking area.  There seem to be several of these around the town and there is an underground car parking area underneath the building I am in.

I noticed a Garda van as I crossed Church Square yesterday.  Then as I walked down to the seafront a police car raced past me at much more than the speed limit, with all lights flashing and sirens screaming.  I stopped and waited as I didn’t know what I was walking into.   The police car stopped in the narrow one-way street, blocking any further access.  There was a woman, dark haired, slim, mid-forties shouting at the top of her voice and gesticulating towards the narrow road which ran at right angles to the left of the street I was on.  She was terribly upset, sitting on one of the wrought-iron benches which are liberally set around this central part of Fuengirola and along the beach front.

The policeman stood by her listening – well the whole street couldn’t help but listen to her and her language was Spanish.   I noticed she didn’t have a handbag.

By the time I passed the policeman and the woman there was a queue of cars behind the stationary police vehicle which still had its lights flashing.  Eventually one driver beeped his horn (rather bravely I thought) but the driver of the police car moved off and parked half way across the pavement at the entrance to another side street.

This whole town centre is like a grid with a criss-cross of streets which I am told means you cannot get lost.  I have managed to get ‘lost’ a couple of times, but have kept going and have soon found myself on the right road again.  With the beach to the south side and the main road through town to the north everywhere I need to be is somewhere between the two.

There’s an Italian ice cream shop which serves delicious but expensive ice cream.  There I sat in the shade enjoying a double vanilla cone watching the world go by.   Lovely to see all the families enjoying the sand and the sea.   Scott or Scottie has Scoffers restaurant/cafe right next door to the ice cream parlour.  He was closing up as at this time of the year he only opens from 10 am to 4 pm.   He’s from near Livingstone, (between Edinburgh and Glasgow) an ex-Arsenal player and was a footballer for about five years until injuries put him out of the game.   I asked Scott what was going on as there were other police cars patrolling the sea front road.

‘There’s been a spate of handbags stolen today,’ he explained.  ‘There was a young French girl sitting there,’ nodding to the chair beside me, ‘and she was breaking her heart earlier today.’

Every time I go to any of the markets the stall holders have warned me to hold on to my handbag and I have the habit now of closing my hand over the zipped opening.

So yesterday was like paradise.  Lovely blue skies and it was really hot – a bit too hot for some.  Children were playing in the sand and others swimming in the sea and the whole image was idyllic.  But for some it was such a distressing day.  The Finnish lady I met at Jesus’s told me she had a shopping bag which she laid beside her whilst she picked up a shoe in a shop to check the size – for only a second or so – and when she turned her shopping bag had gone.

Now I have left my purse with credit cards and notes on the counter by the window in Skibbereen Post Office and driven around town before I have realised it was missing.  Racing back to the Post Office and parking on a double yellow line I ran up the steps as fast as I could, and there it was waiting for me.  No one had touched it.   How lucky am I?  I know my experience is not unique and many others have benefitted from the honesty of people in West Cork yet some will have experienced the other side.

Off to Tangiers in the morning for a very special reunion.   So excited!

 

 

Little Marias

I am learning so much about this culture.  Little Marias are the elderly women, mostly those who have very little, but these are the saintly women who donate to those who beg on the streets.

Begging sounds the wrong word as the women stand at a street corner, perhaps, with their empty palm in front of them.  Some say a few words to a passerby but I have never felt pressured to give to any of them, male or female.

I have seen a Little Maria give a plastic carrier bag of food and others give a few coins.  Their reasoning I am told is that these women have nothing but they have children to feed and care for.

There’s a man who sleeps in a sleeping bag under the cover of one of the entrances to my square.  I am told he is Scottish and also that he has a dog.  I have never seen the dog because the dog is asleep with his master under the orange and grey quilt.   Local cafe owners place food, wrapped in tinfoil by the sleeping man and sometimes there is coffee or tea, I assume, in a polystyrene cup.

There’s a very well-dressed lady who begs near Dunnes or the main road on the way to the bus station.  One wonders what has reduced her to this as she is so neatly dressed one would expect she worked in an office or something similar.

I don’t give to any of them as I never have money in my hand and won’t open my handbag or purse in the street.  My way of giving is going into Lux Mundi and buying a coffee or something in there as all profits from any involvement goes to feeding the thirty or so homeless people they care for every day.  Going on an outing with the U3A, a coffee morning, a social night, a quiz, a concert – all profits are donated to Luz Mundi to carry on their good work.

The group, who have kindly included me, have a lunch in Danny’s pub on the first Monday of each month.   One of the ladies who is health and safety qualified prepares all the dishes and we pay the princely sum of €3 for a main course and €2 if we want seconds.  There’s a good number turn up for this and last Monday was so hot I was glad to sit inside the pub. There were a crowd of Danish people outside the pub enjoying the clear blue sky and sunshine.   There is always a raffle afterwards and almost €100 was raised which is to be split between a local charity for children with disabilities and a connection in Africa.

There are people doing good everywhere but they don’t make the headlines.

 

I am now on the countdown to leaving this lovely place and heading home.  It’s been a traumatic time as over a couple of weeks I lost two of my oldest friends and that has been hard to come to terms with.  It’s easy to say remember the good times and we did have many good times.  But the sense of loss is hard at times.

Forty years ago we were so full of energy and the party spirit when we arrived at one of the late friend’s house in Edinburgh, her nine year old Catholic-educated daughter would open the door and say, ‘You’re here again!  It’s not fair!  I will never get to school!’  And she never did whilst we were there partying the days and nights away.  Happy memories.

 

Andalucia Day

Andalucia Day started on the Costa for some on the Thursday night as offices and businesses closed their doors gearing up for the celebrations which were planned for the run up to the day itself on February 28th.

This is as I understand the meaning of the day – The Day of Andalucía (Día de Andalucía), also known as Andalucía Day, marks the anniversary of a referendum held on February 28, 1980. A large majority of voters supported this referendum for Andalucía to become an autonomous community in Spain.  (It continues by saying that people spend it quietly with their family and friends – there was nothing quiet about the celebrations we encountered. – It was party time all the way.)

The celebrations started on 24th and there definitely was a party atmosphere around town.   Lots of children were dressed in the costumes of their heroes and for an evening the whole square reverberated with the happy noise of children playing.  Boys running non-stop and the little girls playing happily away.

We came across a stage set up on Church Square as we made our way to the Salon Varietes Theatre for the Sinatra/Buble tribute concert.   Obviously we had missed a major event.  Then another day there was music playing in the park across the road, near the town hall and the police station, with lots of families out for the day.  There was some kind of graded race going on with traffic cones used to divide the lanes for racing.  There was a party atmosphere and everyone good-naturedly enjoying the festivities in the sunshine.

Is it the sunshine that makes people so happy here?   There are some disgruntled people we have come across, but to be fair they are way in the minority.   One of the older bus drivers was a not a happy chappy the other day we were waiting at the bus square.  I expect he is tired of explaining the same thing to the tourists time and time and again.   He sounded really frustrated.

But you have to weigh that poor man with the other drivers who patiently wait whilst you extract the right coins, or wait for you run to the ticket office to buy your bus ticket.   One of the younger drivers keeps a bag of sweets by his side and will offer a sweet to any children who are passengers, when he gets the parent’s approval.   We didn’t have parents with us so we approved for ourselves to have a sweet, much to the amusement of the driver.

I was so impressed with the transport service arrangements for people with disabilities.  Again at the bus square there are lots of travellers going in all directions.  One lady’s husband was in a wheelchair as he had no legs.  She called to the driver of the regular Fuengirola to Benalmadena bus to lower the bus ramp.  The driver did better than that as he motioned for her to step back and wait.  It is a busy street but he maneuvered the bus to align at a right angle to the pavement and then operated the ramp which provided a flat access for the lady to push the wheelchair.  I was still on the bus when they left and he repeated the procedure calmly and efficiently.

The group who have kindly included me had organised a lunch in one of the pubs up the road for Andalucia Day.   It was timed for 2 pm and everyone but myself and a couple of others was seated at the long white paper covered table when I arrived on time.   There must have been a score of us, all nationalities sitting eating together to celebrate this national day.

We started with salad and there were chunks of fresh white crusty bread in wicker bowls on the table.   I can’t remember all the dishes, but there was a steel bowl with sizzling prawns, delicious altogether and cooked to perfection, calamari, a beef stew, small round balls of pork flavoured with parmesan, a local white fish, and peppers in a flavoured oil so tasty.  The dishes were passed along the table until everyone had their fill.  It was a wonderful way to sample the local delicacies and the meal stretched over a couple of hours as old acquaintances were renewed and new friends made.

Everyone saw to their own drinks, or rather whoever was nearest the bar ended up as the barman and the princely sum of ten euros each covered this meal which sum allowed a huge tip for the staff.

And last Sunday we celebrated Wyona’s birthday in style in the square at Elainea’s in brilliant sunshine.  The group meet for coffee at lunch time on Sundays and as the coffee glasses were drained, a dozen or more plastic champagne flutes were put together and filled with Cava.   We’re celebrating another special birthday this Sunday – so you know where I will be on Sunday afternoon and what I will be drinking.

 

 

A week on the Costas

Life gets in the way of keeping up the blog and what a busy week it has been.  But today I met a remarkable Irish woman in her 90s who is blessed with beautiful skin, wit, and a mischievous twinkle in her dark brown eyes.

She has not long given up cycling and her bike, although passed into another’s ownership, sits in what I now consider ‘my square’ as a reminder of her adventures of not too long ago.   She is well loved and well cared for and her two carers, one Polish and the other Rumanian treat her with respect and gentleness.   To the amusement of her carers, they can ask a question in Spanish to which she might reply in English and when asked a question in English might reply in Spanish.  She is fluent in both and the Irish Gaelic.

We are forecast heavy rain tomorrow and there was some rain today, just enough to keep the dust down.  Other than that it has been a blissful week with clear blue skies and many enjoying the beach, families swimming and building sandcastles and others boarding – is that what you call it when you propel yourself along on a board? – and more just enjoying the rays.

The boardwalk along the sea front is traversed by every man and his brother.  As well as people of all nationalities and shapes and sizes, gear and garb, there are dogs of all shapes and sizes too.  The Spanish do love their dogs and their four legged friends are walked each morning and evening.

You would see ‘designer’ dogs too, and yesterday I even spotted an enormous black great Dane, poor fellow, plodding along in the heat of the midday sun.

Spaniards are extremely well dressed.  Mostly they wear highly polished shoes, tights or stockings on the ladies, dresses, skirts and smart jackets and coats and leather handbags.  Their personal grooming is exact with polished and painted nails, obviously professionally manicured, and hair and make-up done to a standard which would have Marion Creedon Hegarty’s approval.

The men predominately seem to be good looking but before anyone makes any smart comment I haven’t really been looking at the men and neither am I looking for one.

I love ‘my square’ and today ate at Jesus’s.  His son is an opera singer and has just gone off to France where he is booked for about six weeks.   The coffee in Jesus’s is sublime and I think the best in the square.   I had his home made pate today and it was divine and came so artistically presented with tiny slivers of fresh orange and strawberry, cumberland sauce, onion and cucumber, and a basket of miniature toasties.

From what I understand and it was a tripartite conversation he has cooked either for the president of Finland or someone terribly important in Finland.  There was a Finnish couple who have a home here and a Dutch woman who like me is escaping the worst of the winter at home.  The Finnish couple were terribly impressed with the photograph Jesus showed them of the person he had cooked for.

The Dutch lady had pre-ordered her vegetarian paella.  Jesus insists on having at least one day’s notice so he can prepare it properly.   It looked to be an absolute feast and the Dutch lady had half of it to take home for tomorrow’s lunch.

Everything is cooked fresh and to order so you might have to wait a spell, but as Jesus demonstrates, he doesn’t need to go to the gym to keep fit.  He does enough exercise just working.  He was especially busy today as usually he has a son who helps him but was on his own as a number of regulars arrived for lunch.  You could tell they were regulars as  he kissed the women on each cheek and shook hands with the men.  (I am not considered a regular).  Jesus has developed his own lasagne, which doesn’t have any lasagne pasta but is layers of vegetables interspersed with salmon and a mushroom and cheese sauce, all prepared with his own fair hand.

He cooked a chicken curry for the Finnish lady and a different dish which consisted of potatoes, vegetables and fish in a bowl shaped pan which doubled as a serving dish from which the Finnish man helped himself.

He was out of apple cake so offered tiramisu which he said would be better tomorrow as he has just made it.  It was wonderful and the Scots, Dutch and Fins made short work of it.

 

 

La Farola & Miramar

La Farola restaurant opened its doors yesterday after a week or more of activity.  Chairs and tables have been stacked in the square in the open.  Workmen have arrived each morning and have sat outside smoking and chatting until someone arrived with a key.  It has not been a frenzy of activity at least for observers but with the numbers through the doors there has been a great deal achieved.

It’s been a mixed up week weatherwise.  We haven’t had snow or ice but just about everything else that you can imagine.   It keeps you alert, I remember being told, the erratic weather.

Wednesday was a beautiful day, perfect for the Malaga open topped tour bus.  But we had a night of thunder and lightning and heavy showers.  Yesterday’s rain sent us and half the tourist population to the huge Miramar shopping centre.  Thankfully we declined the offer to be directed to Miramar along the beach as if I had been fit enough for the walk we would have been drenched half way there as huge dollops of rain arrived out of nowhere.

The bus took us to the centre and we huddled with half the other passengers under the bus stop canopies whilst the brave and foolhardy raced for the entrance.    Those who entered through the car park had to wade through the gathering water at the entrance as drains failed.

Whilst we waited in shelter, we spoke to a couple from Toronto, Canada, who were from Glasgow originally and had gone for two years to Toronto 53 years ago and only returned to Scotland to visit.

Eventually the rain abated sufficiently for us to cross over the road, ignoring the designated crossing areas and choosing the quickest path we could.

Miramar is huge, reminds me of Dubai airport with its spacious halls, gleaming floors and light fittings and hordes of people.  It is mostly upmarket designer stores although there is a Penneys and there is a discount supermarket.

Buses were equally packed on the return journey home and our bus was filled to standing capacity before we left the first stop.

We had watched the activity all week in front of us and realise now that La Farola own the whole ground floor of the square opposite.  We were told it was to open for the first time last night and we were not sure if they were actually open for business.  The stacked tables outside were as they had been all week.  We called over to discover behind the bougainvillea covered arches there is an inside restaurant with seating for sixty or more.  We were asked if we had booked and the waiter looked disappointed when we replied in the negative but he did find us a table.

What a treat was in store.  The food was simply excellent.  I had home made chicken liver pate, smooth and rich, with melba toast and cumberland sauce.  There were another three side dishes, capers, sweetcorn mixture and onion.  Margaret’s prawn cocktail was a very generous portion and both dishes were beautifully presented.

My grilled sole with plain boiled potatoes and vegetables was cooked to perfection but Margaret faced an upward climb with the huge size of her grilled sea bass which was again accompanied by potatoes and vegetables.  Steadily we ploughed through the food, too delicious to leave more than the skeletal remains.

I chose the creme caramel for dessert ducking out on the blueberry cheesecake as I had by then eaten more at one sitting than I have for a long time. Margaret had the tiramisu.   Half a bottle of wine was included with each set menu.  Margaret had the red and I opted for sangria believing I would be charged for it and for the bottle of water I also ordered.  The bill was €18.95 each, just the charge for a meal from the set menu with no extras charged.    I should add the set menu has more choices on it than I have ever seen on a set menu.

The setting in the restaurant is what I would imagine is traditional Spanish decorated in deep colours.  The seating is very comfortable and at no time did we feel we were being hurried.   The musicians who played were traditionally dressed, in superb quality local costumes and livened up the atmosphere in the restaurant although it was never dull or quiet as there were around 50 diners inside and some of the tables were re-set to accommodate later arrivals.

La Farola is open as I write at almost 3 pm our time and there are groups of people at the outside tables enjoying lunch in the open air and in the sunshine.  Some have huge linen sun parasols giving them shade from the sun which has come out into its own beating down from a clear blue sky.

Happy days and how lucky am I.

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 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 has no means of cutting it.   The landlord got a knife from the kitchen drawer to cut the tape.  He couldn’t cut with that knife 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.