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Showing posts from June, 2011

Creatures of habit

Julian told me that he had been busy on Thursday getting their house out on the coast ready for summer. He says that each year the family - mum, dad and two young children - abandon the town and head for a small house they own out at Los Nietos beside the Mar Menor where they will live until the children go back to full days at school in mid September. The San Juan celebrations are the trigger for them to start making preparations proper for the move because it is also the time, more or less, when children finish school for the summer. Some of my students had similar stories.

As we drove away from Cartagena today Maggie pointed out a family loading up the trailer on the back of their motor with lots of beach gear. Maybe they are off to La Manga. Lots of Cartaganeros seem to go there or to the resorts on the Mar Menor and nearby Med.

I've just been watching the nine-o-clock news. First heat wave of the summer, 40ºC all over Spain, here's some advice from a doctor. And some pict…

Moving on up

We're giving up our current flat in Cartagena on the last day of this month and we've just found a new flat for the next academic year.

We went to ask at an estate agent on Friday afternoon, saw four flats and tootled off to think about it. On Saturday we went back into town, strolled around looking at "To Rent" signs and eventually returned to the same estate agent and signed on the dotted for the first flat we'd seen.

The standard system here is that you pay three times the monthly rent when you take on a flat through an agent. The agent gets a third as a "finders fee," the landlord gets two thirds - made up of a month's rent and a returnable deposit. The finders fee is always a bit of a wrench, giving away money for nothing, but that's the way it is unless you can find a private deal.

So, from September, we'll be right in the heart of the town - about 100 metres from the High Street with an underground garage space for the car as a part of…

Blowing up the World

It's San Juan, the shortest night of the year. A night for setting fire to things, blowing up things,

We were set to go out to Cala Cortina, to an organised event with fireworks and Flamenco but we never got further than the streets around our house. Children, unsupervised, setting off bangers. Groups of older people sitting around, drinking it in. Ambulance sirens wailing. Family groups with dad setting the example. Fireworks bumping into buildings, bouncing off cars, exploding around our feet. More sirens wailing.

The city has certain advantages

In 1965 I was 21 and, for my birthday, my parents bought me an Omega Seamaster watch. It cost the enormous sum of £68 and it finally gave up the ghost in 2003. Luckily for me my 50th birthday was just around the corner and Maggie splashed out £500 to buy me a Tag Heuer which has been on my wrist, more or less without break, ever since.

I needed a new battery for the Tag just after we got here. We had to travel from Culebrón down to Alicante to get it. Not a lot of fancy jewellers in Culebrón. 120kms and a couple of hours travel on top of the time to replace the battery.

Today, as I was teaching, there was an exercise where the students had 10 seconds to complete a task. I glanced at my watch and the second hand was jerking rather than running smoothly.

On my way home I popped into el Corte Inglés to get the battery changed. It took fewer than 10 minutes.

It's peaceful in Culebrón, the garden is smashing, the furniture is ours - all in all a great place to live. But cities have ce…

Counting and spelling

I bought a new camera this week. I put my last one on a bench in the street and left it behind. I bought the new one with my Barclaycard from an online shop and it arrived in a couple of days without any fuss or mishap.

I only have one credit card here in Spain. The credit limit on it is pathetically low, not like the heady UK days when I had nearly twice my annual salary only a swipe away, but it does the job.

Every now and again Barclaycard block my card. I've noticed that it happens almost every time I use iTunes. The card people don't usually tell me and I find out when the card bounces at the supermarket or petrol station cash desk. This makes me feel stupid and I phone Barclaycard in a huff.

The people who work at Barclaycard customer services do not have a long working day. They like a late breakfast and an early evening meal. Their switchboard is routinely closed when I call the first time and this makes me huffier. During working hours they try to soften me up by pla…


My students tell me all sorts of interesting things.

Coffee spiced up with spirits is available in any Spanish bar. Just ask for a Carajillo and you will get your coffee, usually, with a dash of brandy. It's also very common to see a Carajillo made with rum or whisky. The coffee is usually the short, thick solo (the Italian espresso) but people ask for every possible mix.

Round these parts they are very proud of a coffee called Café Asiático. One of my students ended up fighting his corner that this particular variation on Carajillo had been invented in Cartagena, specifically in the village of Albujon. The traditional recipe involves coffee whitened with condensed milk. The main tipple added is brandy but it should also, apparently, have a a few drops of Licor Cuarenta y Tres added. Licor 43 is a locally made liqueur. If you're going to go the full hog an Asiático should also include a couple of floating coffee beans, cinnamon topping and some lemon rind.

It sounded to me lik…

Shall I stay or shall I go?

Potatoes and beer this weekend in Cartagena. "We're stocked up, we're ready to go, we've got in lots of Heineken." said the bar owner.

The US aircraft carrier, The George H.W. Bush, is due in Cartagena sometime this weekend after its tour of Libya. On board are 700 to 900 thirsty sailors. Shops and bars in Cartagena are waiting for them. The last time there was an aircraft carrier here the Americans were loose with their cash and apparently drank an average of four or five bottles of beer before they started on the  food.

In the countryside around Cartagena there are about 4,000 hectares of land given over to growing potatoes. Production is 200,000,000 kilos of the things each year. The growers are miffed about the low price they are getting for their crops. Their response is a potato festival. They hope to make the public aware of the quality of the local product, to show off the varieties and to cook up some tasty potato dishes.

As I drove home from work the na…