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Showing posts from November, 2009

Charity shops

I'm not sure that I've ever seen a Spanish Charity Shop before. There are a couple of British run ones in Pinoso so I suppose there are hundreds of others dotted around Malaga and Alicante but today, in Cartagena, we bumped into this shop called Obras son Amores y no Buenas Razones (Actions speak louder than words.) The profits seemed destined to support a residence for old people.

You will notice that they are tooled up for Christmas.

More on that goose

I was in Mercadona, one of the nationwide supermarket chains today. I go Mercadona most days; it adds spice to my existence. Normally, just before the message suggesting you buy three kilos of prawns for the price of two or explaining about the new system in the fruit and veg section, they play a little jingle that goes something like "Merk aaa doh nner, Merk aaa doh nner." Today the jingle was played on sleigh bells. It was normal yesterday.

Matorral and beach

It being Wednesday we went out on a jaunt. En route we had a puncture. Oddly, I notice that the car last punctured a tyre on 25 November 2008; twelve months ago to the day. It may say something about the different living costs in Salamanca and Murcia that last year's repair was 7.95€ whilst this year's cost 15€. Or it may just be that Murcianos are so much more used to dealing with Brits and have no scruples about overcharging.

But, as usual, I digress. After lunch we were going to go to one of the local Natural parks, Calblanque by name. We didn't know much about the place before we got there.

As we turned off the main road there was a good view over to the high rise hotels and holiday flats on La Manga strip so the contrast with the untouched Mediterranean landscape all around us as we bumped down the unmade track was quite marked. The young woman in the Visitors Centre was pleased to see us. The place wasn't exactly overwhelmed with other day trippers and she seeme…

The goose is getting fat

These council workmen are setting up the shelter that will house the Christmas nativity scene, the Belén or Pesebre. They seem to be using the roots of this rather large rubber tree as part of the scenery.

Imagine, getting ready for Christmas already!

The person on the Clapham omnibus

There aren't any to speak of in Culebrón or Pinoso and those in Santa Pola and Ciudad Rodrigo only went to other places. So, wherever we've lived so far, buses have only been an option for longer journeys - to Elche, to Salamanca or Jumilla. Here in Cartagena though the Number 2 goes past our door every 15 minutes from early morning till 11 at night.

All service buses in Spain, at least every one I've ever been on, have a flat rate fare. That makes it dead easy to ride buses without bumping into over helpful drivers, the sort who are determined to send you by the most effective, rather than the most scenic, route. In Spain, when people try to be helpful it can so easily fall apart because despite understanding what is said to me 95% of the time and having sufficient Spanish to make a cogent response 99% of the time that's not how it plays. It goes more like blubber, blubber, stammer, stutter, feel like a fathead.

Here, to get on a bus, you just pay your 95 centimos an…

On the telly

It's been warm here over the last couple of days. It was 29ºC and sunny in both Murcia and in Benidorm yesterday. Mind you up North they have snow and winds and down in the Canaries there was a huge downpour.

There's a programme on the telly that runs for a couple of hours in what we'd call the afternoon and you'd call the early evening - España Directo. It has reports, nearly all live, about a man in Zamora who's grown a giant melon or about the family in Motril who are being terrorised by their flamenco singing neighbours.

Yesterday they had a camera crew in Benidorm to compare and contrast the weather there to the storms in Cantabria, and as the anchor woman spoke to the reporter a group of people came into view wearing shorts and vests. Most people were wearing light clothing but not quite so summery. "Look, look, people in shorts and short sleeves," said the anchor, "talk to them!" The reporter ignored the group but the camera swung around …


I don't know whether British boats are having trouble with pirates or not. In Spain pirates are big news. Somalian pirates currently hold captive a tuna boat called the Alakrana which was captured just over six weeks ago. It's not the first time that a Spanish boat has been captured but this time there is an added complication in that the Spanish Navy caught a couple of the pirates and the Spanish courts had them brought here for possible trial. So now the pirates not only want their ransom they also want their pals back. Instead of it simply being a negotiation between the ship owners and the pirates it has become a tussle between the rule of law and buying the pirates off. The families of the hostages have been kicking up a fuss and complaining bitterly that the Spanish Government has been sitting on its hands and doing nothing.

The link with Cartagena is that the Spanish Government has now given the green light to the ship owners to employ private security firms to put merc…

Jazz on a Thursday evening

We have a Jazz Festival in Cartagena with ten concerts spread over a couple of weeks. It's held in a most unlikely looking theatre which seems to form the ground floor of a block of flats. As soon as the tickets went on sale I was dispatched to the box office to get some. My guess is that Maggie chose the two acts on the basis that one of them (Brad Mehldau) made an album with her hero Pat Metheny whilst the other Ryuichi Sakamoto had a brief period of fame along with David Sylvian, the one who painted his face white and had a band called Japan, around 1984. Sakamoto was also in the film Merry Christmas, Mr Lawrence along with David Bowie around the same time.

Now I don't mind jazz. It's an awful lot better than that Simply Red/Norah Jones stuff you have to put on otherwise when people come to eat at your house. In a boozer, with a cigar in one hand, a beer in the other (and with the music reduced to background noise), it's more or less perfect. Actually I suppose that…

Learning always learning

Yesterday, after the haircut I was wandering around town and I came across the army museum. It was free to go in so I did. Interesting spot.

There was a gun there that had been part of the town's port defences in the Spanish Civil War. The notice alongside said that particular gun had been involved in a duel between the shore batteries on opposite sides of the harbour in March 1939 (the end of the Spanish Civil War) and that it had sunk a ship called Castillo de Olite on the morning of 7 March killing 1476 people and injuring 342 - the largest loss of life in any Spanish Naval engagement. I didn't understand; why were the shore batteries shooting at each other? Cartagena had remained loyal to the Republican (Socialist) side right to the bitter end so far as I knew. So I checked. It seems that the various Republican factions within the city, Communists, Anarchists and what not, got to squabbling as General Franco's troops closed in on them and as the war moved towards its …

And anything for the weekend sir?

I have a rich store of deeply moving and well crafted tales about my life though, oddly, Maggie thinks otherwise!

At least two of those stories, anecdotes that have been served with alcohol for years and years, deal with my experiences with students. The knee on the chest, blood spilling from my mouth student dentist story and the trousers around my ankles, suit jacket and tie still in place, real doctor with his hand up my bottom and two young women student doctors watching story.

So my hair is a bit long. It's not been cut since the gay barber with the throat bandage and gravelly voice cut it back in Ciudad Rodrigo. I mentioned a possible haircut to one of my intercambios and she suggested I use one of the local hairdresser training school places. Maybe I should have pondered the dentist and bottom stories before putting myself in the hands of students again. However, I made the appointment yesterday and turned up for the trim today.

Now getting a haircut in Spain is like gett…

Full to overflowing

At the end of September I did a little item about the rain. The general idea is that this ditch takes the run off when it rains in Cartagena and channels it to the sea. Only, in September, the ditch, called the Rambla, couldn't keep up and helped to cut one part of the city off from the other.

It's not a small ditch, it's not a short ditch. It must be able to both hold and move a fair bit of water but, when push came to shove, it just wasn't up to the job.

Yoo Hoo! Mr Shifter

I've said before that Spaniards tend to live in flats. Even with a lift in the building shifting all the belongings in or out of a flat would be quite a painful process.

The removal firms use these things. Neat eh?

Grown under plastic

Years ago, wandering across Almeria we were shocked by the miles and miles of plastic sheeting that covered much of the agricultural land. From a distance the plastic sheeting shines like the sea or a snowy landscape. Close up it looks like what it is, a cheap way to build a greenhouse type controlled environment by spreading the sheeting across a frame.

It looks horrid, it scars the landscape and I've always presumed that it was a way of improving the already intensive market garden type crops produced in the Southern ends of Spain - tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, aubergines and the like.

We had a bit of a trip out today to the town of Aguilas at the Southern end of Murcia, just a stone's throw from the border with the province of Almeria in the region of Andalucia and, guess what? Lots of plastic.

It's odd. When I very first came to Spain some thirty or more years ago even I noticed the rough and ready looking veg. It was easy to think that those scarred and blemished tom…