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Showing posts from February, 2010

Three jobs in one

We were just passing that rough looking bunch of houses, close to the "Open University" when my mobile phone went off. Being on the bus I was able to answer. It was SERVEF, the Employment people, the ones I'm registered as unemployed with. The bloke said they had a job offer for a teacher of English in Elche which is miles from here and a reasonable distance from Culebrón. He wasn't sure whether it was full time or part time or how much it paid but we both agreed it was worth going for an interview and taking it from there. He needed my CV and amazingly he not only seemed to understand my spelling of my email address but his message was waiting for me when I got home.

As I was dealing with his email I got a text message from the same SERVEF about a job so I added a little addendum to my message asking the SERVEF man if this was the same or a different job. He replied within minutes saying it was the same job. Nothing to do then. It was about 7.30pm.

This morning, ab…

Bye bye Norman

I like pork pies. I prefer the ones with less crust, more jelly and more meat. Branston's good too and that sweet chilli dip and Stilton though I don't think I've tasted Stilton for over four years now. I could go on, Maggie says I do. The nub though is that I manage perfectly well without Bombay mix and even Llagavulin. When they do come my way I enjoy them even more. If I were somewhere else the list might include Napolitanas, queso Manchego and chopitos.

Back in 1984 I got a new job and found myself going to meetings and visiting youth clubs. The habitual meeting time was 7.30. The 7pm Radio 4 News; Brighton Bombings and Tommy Cooper's last gag, on the car radio as I drove across the fens or into Cambridge. Then Dum-ti-dum-ti-dum-ti-dum dum-ti diddily dum - an everyday story of country folk - the Archers.

I still listen. I download the podcasts and usually listen over breakfast. Last Friday Phil Archer, the man who was at the heart of the story for so many years, di…

Home thoughts from home

Maggie is at work. The cat has stayed in Culebrón to take advantage of the outdoors life, the flat is clean. I've made an appointment at the doctor's and done the shopping and it's not time to cook yet so I thought I'd do a bit of reading.

I'm reading a book called Todo eso que tanto nos gusta - something like All that we like so by a bloke called Pedro Zarraluki. It's good, I'm enjoying it. It being a bit chilly in the unheated flat I've taken to popping over the road to the, much warmer, bar Fran and downing a couple of coffees as I plough through the pages. I need to get on with it as it's a library book due back next week. It's a relatively easy read so I can do without the dictionary which might make the process a bit unmanageable.

The first time I went in asking for a café americano caused the bar owner some consternation - a diluted espresso I explained, the second time he greeted me with the word americano and, today he just smiled and w…

Running on empty

Most of Spain has hard and heavy winters. The exception being the Mediterranean coast and Islands which is why so many Northern Europeans choose to make their home here.

Just now the country is being lashed by storms - snowstorms, heavy rain, floods and high winds. It's not like that here of course. It has been cool and we have had persistent rain the last few days, the sort that soaks through your shoes and leaves the bottom of your trousers sodden. Temperatures, though, have generally remained in double figures even overnight.

Spain has marked seasons with spring and autumn being usually sunny and warm whilst summer is roasting hot. However, as I've said before, winter is probably more comfortable in the UK than here because Spanish Mediterranean houses are designed for warmer weather. No cavity wall or roof insulation, no central heating, no carpets, no thick insualting curtains. It often feels warmer outside than it does inside.

When it rains keeping the house clean is alm…

Dancing in the streets

Carnaval wasn't cancelled today. There were a remarkable number of feathers and glitter and flesh coloured tights. It was like a mini version of Rio, or at least what I imagine the Rio Carnaval to be. In amongst the young, the teenagers and the middle aged were a significant number of groups of older people, or third age as they are euphemistically called here, and at least one group of people with physical and learning disabilities. Everyone dancing, most smiling and then the concerned mothers walking alongside and occasionally rushing into the midst of the parade to refasten a feather boa here or reapply some glitter there. It was all good fun. Still no free beer though.

Carnaval cancelled

I know that in the UK it's just a few pancake races, a big selling opportunity for Jif and then ashes on the forehead for religious folk. Meanwhile in Rio they're whooping it up to the beat of a samba drum and down in the Canaries or even in nearby Torrevieja some chap in huge high heels will be over the moon because he has been elected Carnaval Drag Queen.

Carnaval, the run up to Lent, is big in Spain. Last year, in Ciudad Rodrigo, we watched as everyone dressed up and ran around the streets chased by fighting bulls. This year we decided to stay in town for the weekend to see what the Cartageneros get up to. We had the programme and I was quite keen on the 12 noon event as it included free beer. It never happened. Neither did the big parade at 6pm.

The reason was because it was raining. True it was that heavy, persistent grey English rain and there was a lot of it but can you imagine an English village fete being cancelled because of a few drops of water? And how did everyon…

Direct Action

Outside the old Town Hall in Cartagena these four chaps were making their point. The problem was that I wasn't quite sure what their point was - so I asked.

From what they said and from a bit of Googling I think the story is this. Remember that Cartagena, even today, is a navy town. CIM, the initials on the placard, stand for Cuartel de Instrucción de Marinería or Naval Training Barracks. The core of the school consisted of a building put up in the mid 18th Century as a gaol. A gatehouse and external wall were added in 1911. In 1999 the barracks were closed.

At the start of this century the Town Hall and University came up with a plan to turn the, now empty, main building into the business studies faculty of the University and to open up the rest of the space, which fronts onto the harbour, for leisure use. To do that they had to knock down the 1911 walls but, bowing to local pressure, they left the gatehouse in place.

Whilst we've been in Cartagena the site has been surro…

Danny Blanchflower all over

Football isn't a strong point with me. Back in the UK, Jim once suggested that I could write all I know about football on the back of a postage stamp. He was wrong of course - postage stamps have glue and such on the back which makes it nearly impossible to write on them.

Today, whilst Maggie stalked the aisles of Primark in the Nueva Condomina Shopping Centre looking for pillows I had a look around and I took a few snaps of the Nueva Condomina Football Stadium next door. It's the home ground for Real Murcia Football Club.

Now Murcia had a brief blaze of glory when they were promoted to the First Division (that's the one with Real Madrid, Barcelona etc.) two or three years ago but they've had a couple of disastrous seasons and are currently languishing in 19th position, that's in the relegation zone, in the 2nd Division (A). So far they've picked up 23 points from 23 games whilst top placed club Hércules (from Alicante) have 44 points. Cartagena by the way are …

Community bus

I went into town today to visit a series of galleries that have on a joint photo exhibition. I travelled in and home on the No.9 bus which is one of the two minibus routes that run around the city.

Both of the minibuses never fail to provide an entertaining ride. Being minibuses everyone is close together so, obviously, people are going to chat - Spaniards do. The driver can't help but get mixed up with the passengers either, not that they ever seem to mind, and in fact the driver is often the lynch pin for the whole conversation. It's impossible to remain anonymous on the No.9 so much so that people even speak to me.

Today a woman who got on at Corte Inglés said she was only riding a couple of stops - she'd only got on because her shopping was heavy. Then she recognised the driver, Pedro, and decided she'd ride the whole of the circular route to catch up on his news.

On the way home the driver had the radio on in the background. When a song came on he liked he turne…

Digging deep

We went to Lorca on Wednesday. It's a big town by Murcian standards - 77,000 people. All we remembered of our last visit to Lorca was that there was a lot of dog shit on the pavements. There still is. We thought it was scruffy. Down at heel. It was also dug up but then the whole of Spain is dug up at the moment.

Construction was the motor of the economy before everything fell apart. Rodriguez Zapatero, our president and Mr. Bean look alike, decided to spend some state money to stop all the brickies and hod carriers ending up on the dole. He must be a bit of a fan of FDR New Deal type thinking. The money is channeled through a scheme called Plan E but everyone calls it Plan Zapatero. Local and regional governments have followed his lead.

It really is a plague, a friendly plague in the longer term I suppose. Everywhere roads are cut, streets are dug up, parks are being redesigned. Gangs of job creation youngsters are refurbishing old buildings and learning old skills. They wear bri…

The Book Club

For many years in the UK I worked in the Youth Service. It's odd how different the Youth Service here looks on the surface to the one I knew. In Cartagena, amongst other things, it acts as a "dating agency" for people who speak one language but want to learn another. By arranging appropriate pairings people get to hear and talk the other language with a native speaker.

Remarkably the Youth Service not only talks to me, as an old person, it also talks to the Library Service. Between them they have arranged a number of multilingual book clubs. You read a book in your target language and then turn up in a bar (how Spanish) to discuss it. The libraries provide the books.

I met the other people who are trying to learn Spanish and like reading yesterday when I was given my book Sabor a Chocolate (Chocolate flavoured) by José Carlos Carmona. There were Belgians and Germans and Austrians and most of them could have been my grandchildren.

It's a great book though. Dead easy, …