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Showing posts from December, 2011

The twenty second

It was lottery day here yesterday, well maybe the day before yesterday if I type as slowly as usual and I end up posting on Saturday. Thursday was the day of the  fat one; el Gordo. As usual the number singing children of San Ildefonso and who would carry away the new fatter than ever prize was the big news story for the morning news.

We have a new president though. Mariano Rajoy. Señor Rajoy and his new ministers had been sworn in the days before. The media stuttered but there was no doubt in my mind that the lottery ended up being relegated to second place. Something almost unheard of. The lottery here is huge.

What I found even more impressive though was the support for the new man. Not necessarily a political support but just the hope - the hope against hope - that this man and his new team can pull the country out of the deep hole that it's in. A hope that had the left leaning press pulling their punches. A hope that had hard bitten radio journalists finishing their intervie…

Spot the museum

This is the Byzantine Walls Museum in Cartagena. It's a small, unremarkable place but I've been in much worse. It has an impresive facade don't you think? Not at all easy to confuse with a slightly run down block of flats.

Do you see the sign that says museum or the board with the opening times? No, neither do I.

It could have closed down of course. I haven't tried to visit it recently but, then again, it always was a discrete little spot

Beltrí, nuns and a cemetery

Cartagena is loaded with Art Nouveau buildings and Victor Beltri was the architect behind a good number of the best ones. 2012 will be the 150th anniversary of his birth and there is a committee organising events to celebrate his life and works.

The cemetery or Cementerio de Nuestra Señora de los Remedios is on the outskirts of Cartagena. It was put there, far away from the town centre, so that the stench of rotting flesh didn't upset anyone important. I don't suppose that cemeteries are a hygiene risk anymore but if they were I suspect nobody would care too much as the neighbourhood closest to the cemetery looks like it's full of poor people. Poor people and drug dealers we were told.

There was a lot of mining money in Cartagena at the end of the 19th and the start of the 20th Century. Rich and powerful families were keen to have tombs that showed their wealth. Many of them employed Beltri to build their mausoleums. Then there was a bit of an economic crash and lots of t…

That wouldn't be right

The first time was in Santa Pola as I remember. We were new to Spain and I was in a shop that sold fishing tackle. I spent two or three euros. There were three of us. Despite turning up mob handed and the meaness of our purchase the shopkeeper pressed us to take a little something and to have a wee dram.

At Christmas it's not at all unusual for a shop, an office or even a bar to have a tray full of seasonal delicacies like turrón, mantecadós and polvorónes on offer for customers. Sometimes the offer runs to liquers or spirits. A touch of seasonal cheer.
I was in the dentist the other day. Lots of glistening packets. "Sugar free I suppose," I said, innocently. "Sweets wouldn't be sweets without sugar" said the receptionist.
Spain, still refreshingly unreformed and unrepentant.

An under-researched but interesting beer

Ventura is a pal of ours. He often turns up at the door of the flat bearing some local delicacy. Last week it was one of the traditional varieties of Cartagena Christmas buns, cordiales, and the week before it was piles and piles of toast. He's lived in Cartagena for a long time and he knows lots of people. They give him things and he hands on the excess to poor unfortunates like us.

We know Ventura, Buenaventura Albaladejo Meseguer, to give him his full name, because he taught at the school Maggie now teaches at. His past is intimately linked with the development of football in Cartagena.

He turned up at the door tonight to ask if I fancied a beer. He had a friend in tow. One of his old footballing pals. They were killing time before watching a footie match on the telly between Barcelona B and Almería. It didn't sound like a big match to me. More Halifax Town v Blyth Spartans than Espanyol v Atlético.

We had the beer outside "el Pani" a local bread and cake shop cu…


Slaughter - now there's a good word. Slaughter - spurting blood, severed limbs and sinew, shattered bones. Blood and guts. Matanza in Spanish.

The leaflet said come and see the traditional slaughter at the Fortress of the Sun; the Workshop in Time. Nice wording I thought. The copy writers must have burned the midnight oil to come up with those.

We knew what to expect, at least from the slaughter. Lots of pig products. We've lived in Salamanca province where gutting a squealing pig in the back yard is still a bit of a family event. It's no longer legal to slaughter animals away from properly licensed premises but the home slaughter of the pet pig at this time of year is such a strongly ingrained tradition in some parts of the country that the authorities continue to turn a blind eye.

So we weren't expecting the pig to die in front of us. We were just expecting lots of cholesterol rich food and that's what we got.

Lorca is the place that was hit by an earthquake back…