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Showing posts from September, 2011

Beer and ragamuffins

Cartagena has been celebrating its annual Carthaginians and Romans festival over the past week. There have been various re-enactments of key events in the story including weddings, seaborne landings, a pitch battle and lots of parades.
Yesterday evening we saw the parade of thousands of people from the various troops dressed in their outfits and we also went on to the big camp where each of the groups sets up a bar cum restaurant to raise money for the next year's event.
It's all pretty impressive but, at the same time, it's also old hat; we've seen it before. Alongside the camp there is a market. The traders who spend most of the year selling their overpriced sweets, jewellery and cakes dressed in medieval costume, at medieval markets, don togas for this one. We wandered around, we drank spiced "Roman wine" we ate garum but the stall that impressed me most was one selling a microbrewery beer called Icue. 
There's a little statue in one of the main street…

Keys and boxes

Little things. We still notice the small differences though more and more the Spanish way has become our normal way.

We're still settling in to the new flat.
There are a series of letter boxes in the entrance way to our block each with a lock. For some reason the boxes don't have a label assigning each box to each flat. On the front of the building there is a separate lockable post box. I presumed that somebody must collect the mail from the exterior box and then sort it into each interior box. So we set about finding out how to get hold of our mail.
The estate agent told me that the President of the Community (each block of flats has an annual President and there are meetings to decide things of communal interest) had the keys. When I asked him for our key today I was told that we do not have an individual box. I can get the key from him any time and go through the post in the external box. Strange system I think but so Spanish.
We're also trying to get a phone installe…

Off caps. Shun!

I always think the Spanish National Anthem sounds a lot like the tune from the old advert for Standard Fireworks. That probably doesn't help anyone much under the age of 40 as I suspect that attempting to advertise fireworks in the UK nowadays is akin to organising a kiddie porn site. Capital crime.

Anyway, I'm on my way to get my paper before setting off to teach English. It's just before eight in the morning. I hear the anthem, a tinny version, drifting down the street. The flag is being raised outside the Naval Headquarters by two sailors, one in whites, the other in combat gear. I realise that nearly everyone has stopped. Years and years of training at the Odeon, standing, as She was sent happy and glorious long to reign over us, kick in. I stand and wait. Less than half a minute.

I've never seen Spanish people take much notice of their wordless but tuneful anthem before. Interesting.

Post script: It is now December and this evening I saw the flag being taken down…

It's odd what's odd

When I started this series of blogs I didn't really want to write a diary of our daily lives in Spain. The idea was to comment on the things that happened to us and around us. I know the difference is subtle but, at least in my mind, there is a difference and I have tried to maintain that difference over the years.

I've just bought a takeaway lunch from "El Fogón de San Francisco." San Francisco is the name of the square where the takeaway is located and fogón means something like stove or gas burner. Maybe the San Francisco kitchens would give the correct sort of idea.

One of my students told me that this place existed just a few hundred metres from the new flat so I went to have a look. They have a daily takeaway menu. I got a salad, curry and rice with raisins, dates and other dried fruit and a spongy, trifly sort of pudding called pan de Calatrava for 6€, just over a fiver. The menu was pretty extensive.

Whilst I was waiting in the shop I thought that this littl…

Going about

I went to the Naval Museum soon after we came to Cartagena. I remember having to ring the bell to get in. I remember the piles of artefacts without sufficient labelling. I remember it as being an interesting visit.

When the University took over and converted the Cuartel de Instrucción de Marinería de Cartagena, the old Naval Training Barracks,  into its Business Faculty they left space for a new Naval Museum in the building. I'm not sure whether it's a replacement for the old museum or an addition to the cultural offer in Cartagena. Either way it's now open, I wasn't working today so I walked down and had a look.

I was mightily disappointed. It didn't have the charm of the old place - where a scrap yard quality submarine battery would be displayed next to a model of some un-named 19th Century man of war - and neither did it have the whizz bangs of a modern museum. The rooms were a bit bare too and didn't show the building off to its best. Possibly though it…

Nice little idea

The one place that offers general Spanish for foreigners courses in Cartagena - the Fundación de Cartagena para la Enseñanza de la Lengua y la Cultura Española - has an annoying habit of putting on its courses when we're working.

Maggie has never managed to find a course that has fitted in with her timetable but, just once in three years of trying, I did. We're an unreliable lot though, we foreigners, and after a few months my course fizzled out through lack of numbers. Shame.

The Fundación had organised something for this afternoon  - a sort of club for foreigners to get together and speak Spanish. We met at the language school and then headed off for a local bar, the one in the photo. About a dozen of us all told: Dutch, Irish and Brits as well as the two Spanish teachers. Not an Earth shattering experience but not bad at all and all for 2€ per person.


The first time I saw a Land Rover Freelander piled high with medical kit and set up as a rapid response vehicle I was impressed. It was in Huntingdon. Someone had obviously thought about a problem and found a solution. It wasn't the carrying capacity of a traditional sized ambulance that was important it was getting there quickly with trained, properly equipped, people.

Now that we live in the centre of Cartagena we have shops, bars, restaurants, museums and offices a stone's throw away. It's brilliant. However some services, like the cinema, big supermarkets and libraries are now further away than they were from our last flat. I checked on the library website to confirm that the nearest branch was, as I suspected, in the Cultural Centre about two kilometres from home but I found that there was a tiny library set up in a stall in the Santa Florentina Market. The market is a five minute walk away.

Now it's not exactly revolutionary but I did think it was pretty innovati…