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Looking around


We went to have another look around our new city on Tuesday. The idea was that I'd push a few more CVs through a few more doors and that we'd find a Locutorio (places, usually linked with foreigners, for making phone calls "home" and using the Internet) where we could check some places for rent and go and scope out the districts, or barrios, of the city and nearby towns and villages.

By the way if any of you practice any powerful religions offering curses, hexes and what not I'd be pleased for any help you could give us with Telefonica. They still haven't installed the phone line. Not having the Internet is blighting our lives and the trips to the Locutorios don't really compensate.

Surprisingly whilst I was driving around Cartagena a language school called me to see if I was available for interview. I was a bit sweaty, a bit unshaven and a bit under dressed but I went anyway. It sounded like a decent place - fingers crossed - though I suspect I may be a little old and a little inexperienced for them.

The barrios have names like Cuatro Caminos, Los Barreros, El Peral and Ensanche. None of them were enchanting havens of trim gardens and neat housing; most were dusty gridirons of streets, chock-a-block with parked cars and towering flats adorned with that day's laundry. In short they looked like most working class districts of most of the larger towns in Spain. To be honest Ensanche which is on the fringes of the old city centre seemed much more ordered with wider streets more off road parking and a lot more greenery. It's also mid way between the town centre and Maggie's new school and it seemed, to us, to offer a good compromise. Pity we can't afford to live right in the centre of town in one of those restored "Victorian" places.

We also thought we'd go and see if there was anything on the coast - after all Cartagena is a port, at one time an incredibly important Naval Base, so the Med is there. A nice seaside town with cheap flats available out of season would serve us very well. We went to a place called Portús- lovely - a little cove down a windy country road with a nice sandy beach. We were amazed when it had no restaurant but it was very small with hardly any services of any sort, apart from a Naturist Camping Site, not a place to live, just a spot to visit in summer with your beach things and in winter with a thermos of Horlicks.

We tried the other side of the town driving through Escombreras and Gorguel on to Portman. There was a smoke belching, flame spitting oil refinery surrounded by rows and rows of white storage tanks. It was being extended and huge lorries were crawling everywhere. The workmen lived in those pre-fab huts sometimes piled high on top of each other and took their meals in Dining Room 1, 2 or 3. Dante would have been able to use it in one of his stories.

Further up the valley the devastation was historical. The old mine workings (lead and silver I think) had left the valley scarred with spoil heaps, ruined buildings and forlorn looking chimneys. It did have a certain charm though and the noise came from cicadas and birds rather than MAN trucks.

Our destination, Portman, seemed to be closed. Plenty of parked cars but no people. The house blinds were down, the sailing club was locked fast and the only movement was from the banana trees and sugar cane. It was quite the opposite when we went on to Playa Honda on the Mar Menor, the little lagoon enclosed by a spit of land from the Med. There the waters are warm and salty - perfect for messing about in boats, paddling or taking a dip. And hundreds of people were doing just that.

Playa Honda is a resort. Streets and streets of holiday bungalows and high rise tower blocks. I thought it would be all Brits and Germans but Maggie punted for Spaniards and she was right. The fat and the thin, the young and the old, the gorgeous and the gaudy flip flopped around in a mixture of swim wear, wraps, sunglasses, shorts and strange headgear. There was only the beach, the overpriced, understocked supermarkets and, of course, a smattering of bars. It was as we passed the bars - Thursday night Tequila and Karaoke - that we recognised our first compatriots sporting pink skin, a wide range of body decoration and silhouettes much like mine.

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