Sunday, 31 July 2011

Get Back.....

'Tis odd having UK television and - at last - radio on tap. It's been years since I watched telly, never had  much interest in it really, though my brother spent much of his working life as a specialist sports (soccer) producer and deputy editor on The Big Match and creator of The Saint & Greavsie some years ago with LWT among others. Still, since our Satdish now seems to be producing the goods, it's great to have Radio 4 again on stream without being at the mercy of variable internet speeds.

Last night, however, there was a 'Wallender' on one or other of the freeview channels, so I gave it a go. I was glad to see it was one I hadn't before seen up in Sweden and was, more to the point, from the Swedish production, rather than the Kenneth Branagh version. The Swedish edition is actually fairly good, albeit in Swedish. But I have a fundamental grasp of the language which is sufficient to follow it okay, although it is of course also subititled for English speaking audiences.  We have read all of Henning Mankell's novels, on which the character/series is based, and must say that the Swedish production and the actors seem to be close to those portrayed in the books.  I've never seen a Branagh version but J has and thinks it weak in comparison.

The problem with this is that it is difficult not to be distracted by reading the subtitles, though it's also interesting to note how much is actually edited out and not translated at all - a fair bit actually!

J is again back in London. She returns again on Friday, flying into Malaga where she has once more left the car in the car-park.  I must nip down to the bank tomorrow as I must pay our friend, Dorin,  for the Satdish and his sterling efforts - it took a fair time to set up - with the various Spanish authorities (electricity etc) and the Satellite stuff.

In addition, tomorrow will probably see the return of our old friends, from London on holiday, who used to live here in the village. They are apparently driving down, so assuming they left either Friday evening or Saturday some time, I'd expect them to make it here by tomorrow evening.  J and I did go down and clear up the entry passage/terrace into their place which was pretty overgrown with snaking tendrils of Jasmine, Vine etc., and Ivy that was secured to and virtually completely covering the front-door.

It seems that Summer is about to make a reappearance in the UK, well SE England at any rate! Doubt whether it'll make a great show up in the North of Scotland or the Hebrides. But who knows, fingers crossed maybe.

 I've been bitten by a Mozzie recently and find that although 'tis a nuisance I have developed a sort of immunity to this. I assume that's because I lived in northern Sweden for so long, where bites were numerous and colossal numbers of the sodding things were everywhere in Summer. I see from some blogs I follow and enjoy reading that the dreaded Midge is out in the northern reaches of Britain/Scotland. They are a prize pest but I'm now wondering if this new immunity to Mozzie bites might not also assist and apply itself to the Midges!  In Sweden, in June, we were inundated each year by enormous swarms of tiny black flies - gnats - which used to drive J bonkers. I was again largely immune to their efforts and found them a minor irritant at worst.

Last night, as I prepared to bed down for the night, I noticed a huge buggy thing on the bedroom floor. At first I thought it was something Charlie had caught and thoughtfully brought in to play with. Further investigation revealed it to be - I think - a type of flying (possibly a female cos of the smaller clawey bits) Stag Beetle (Lucanus cervus):

It was a fairly big booger, already belly-up, presumably after Charlie had taken an interest in it. These things make a loud, bumbling-buzzing noise in flight and are rather off-putting but are not a threat. Normally I scoop them into something and release them outdoors. But this one was already a gonner.  We always come across them in France and the biggest we encountered was almost as big as J's hand. This was in the French Pyrenees many years ago, a real monster of a thing! I was sad to find it dead but glad not to find it in bed, I suppose!

These beetles are usually bigger, with more obvious pincer thingies in France. Here's a couple of good (for me anyway) pix of one I prepared earlier - caught and released in the Charentes last summer:

Don't those clawey bits look menacing?!  More like a flying Lobster methinks than a harmless bug!  Our good French friend, Patrick, has a collection of these things, pinned professionally and exhibited on card etc., because he is a genuine eccentric and a Le Fabre enthusiast - a remarkable Frog who was a true Polymath, if ever there was one!

I asked a fellow blogger,,  a fine potter in Wales, if she could make me a mug;  not only has she done this incredibly quickly but it has already arrived in London and J will be bringing it out with her on Friday.  I'm looking forward to using it and to many years of use! Many thanks Gwynneth. It'll probably outlast me!

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Late In The Evening.....

Another hot - very hot - day yesterday. 47 degrees in sun, 34 in shade at 18:00. Stifling and unpleasantly warm!  Much the same on the cards for today. Beginning to dread the prospect of August, when temps reach their summer highs hereabouts!

Charlie seems to be on a roll right now. Each night he is out on the razzle hunting. And each morning there are the feathery or furry remains of his overnight snacking to be found in the bottom, downstairs bedroom where a window is left open for his exit and entry. Both he and Jack were Frontlined yesterday because both J and I had been bitten by, we assume, fleas!  So, time for a dose of anti-fleabie stuff. Not a problem with Jack but Charlie doesn't take to it well, struggling and writhing, making it an effort to ensure he has the full dose in the right place! Little booger!

The Norwegian madness is of course hard to ignore, especially as we used to pop in and out of the country from Sweden fairly regularly and know it fairly well.  It will no doubt have caused great trauma at a national level. Already, there is the usual hand-wringing and apparent shock and surprise that such a right-wing terrorist act could take place in such a reputedly liberal, stable society. Frankly, and I'm sure many will dislike this comment, I'm not enormously surprised. Weapons are easily obtained and kept (legally) in much of Scandinavia, and there is a general prevailing belief in
their national/regional superiority over others that is quite abhorrent at times.  Xenophobia is widely practised and the very idea of  liberalism is a sick joke largely limited to the common use of quaint Anglo Saxon language in public, on posters, TV, Radio and speech! Swedes are perhaps the worst exponents of the 'We're the best in the world' nonsense, but it prevails widely in the region. There is also a frightening and dreadful degree of State control certainly exercised by the governments of Sweden and Norway (and (I believe) Denmark) that encourages and permits the growth of a 'we're superior' mentality. A sort of undercurrent of 'Master-racism' can be seen and experienced throughout the region. It is, typically, an element of life in the region that is kept underground by the respective governments and only comes to notice when living (as an outsider) in the countries concerned. After about six years in Sweden, we were used to, and expected it. Our favourites were when asking for a much heralded internet phone service, we were refused on the grounds that, quote: 'You're not Swedish.'  When we complained to the oft trumpeted (and largely useless) Swedish Ombudsman system (in this case the Discrimination Ombudsman) they saw nothing wrong, discriminatory or abhorrent in this comment or behaviour!

We have a House Sparrow nest in the beams above the Azotea/Outside covered terrace. One of the young 'uns either decided to leave home early or was pushed out by its siblings. For a day or so it hid behind plant pots, appearing for food from its parents, before succumbing to some'at or other and passing on. Keeping Charlie clear of it was a bit of a trial in this heat,  and I can't help wondering if he resents my intrusion into his hunting territory. It would have saved him the effort and travel, if I'd simply left the door to the Azotea open for him, I suppose.  And he supposes, too!


Awaiting Tucker

Dorin arrived yesterday evening with the Satdish, which we think is huge - certainly bigger than anything we've had before up in Sweden. Unfortunately he had difficulty locking onto the signal so will be returning later today to complete the installation. We only want the Freeview channels and most importantly BBC Radio.  Hopefully it won't be much longer:

The veg on the terrace is coming along nicely: We have loads of Toms, Courgettes (is it possible not to have loads of these?  I ask myself), Peppers and Chillis and Aubergines. The Cucumbers have been less productive - following the journey down here from France -  but are once again doing well, with five or six rootling along nicely:

Dorin expressed surprise at the amount and variety we are producing in pots on the roof terrace.  It seems, he has never thought to try the same himself.

In the early evenings, usually about 19:00 or so, it cools down a bit to tolerable heat levels and we now use the other roof terrace for BBQs etc:

Being in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountain range, (the village is at about 4000 ft), it is a pleasant spot to sit in the cool of the evening with a glass or two (or three or....) of plonk and the sound of Crickets and Swallows,  House Martins and Swifts as they exuberantly duck and dive in the gloaming sky. We oft sit till about midnight in the still of the evening, with the occasional, welcome breeze.

The couple who live along from us and work the fields behind the house on the hill, are out from before 08:00 until 21:00, with the mandatory Spanish Siesta-time break in mid-afternoon, digging, weeding, messing around in their garden. We watch with interest and uncertainty as they toil. A day or so ago, J caught them playing with a bucket and a barrow. The woman was clearly doing the heavy, hard stuff, while the guy held the bucket above her and dropped/sprinkled something or other (God knows what - doesn't bear thinking about here in Spain) over her head (it seemed) and into the barrow:

We've no idea what they were up to or hoping to achieve. Perhaps all will be revealed in due course. We'll see.

Today we must go down to the house of old friends in the Village and tidy the entryway/terrace for them. They currently live and work in London but are coming out with their kids and grandsprog etc., on holiday, arriving early next week. Their potted plants and much else have withered and died and there is Ivy growing over the front door, after their absence of over a year. So, we thought it might be easier and nicer for them to arrive - especially if they arrive late - and be able to access the house without having to hack their tired way inside!

We'll just have to wait until it cools down a bit before venturing down to their place later this afternoon!

Friday, 22 July 2011

I'm Calling You.....

Each evening as i put down my book, say g'night to Jack & Charlie, and switch off the bedside light, a repeated sound keeps me awake for a while before I gradually drift off. I remember it well from our very first visits to the area: I's a Scops Owl with a clear, distinct whistle sort of sound:

It seems to go on for much of the night, as far as I can tell. I've tried tracking the sound from the roof terraces when it seems to move but can never manage to spot the reclusive bird. But today, I went for a wander down to the post office, bank and shop for some wine.

I took the camera with me and took some entirely random shots of the village as I walked. At one point I came across what are clearly the pellets of an owl, plus a load of feathers, all below a spreading Fig tree canopy. So, I reckon this is one of its favourite night fast-food joints, if nothing else:

Owl Pellets

Owl Roost/Fig Tree

Feathery Remains

I'll keep an eye out now that I think I know where it spends much of its time eating!

There are quite a few places where solar power is obviously being used. Strangely enough, save for a huge area of land covered in panels, to the South of Madrid, these are not as prevalent as they might/should be given the annual sunshine hours here:

For the most part the streets through the village are very narrow, steep and winding. Yet, remarkably perhaps, the locals bomb around them in their cars, vans and even trucks as if they were on a standard UK motorway. It can be quite disquieting at times, and is one of the challenges of living here - always a problem if meeting another vehicle and having to reverse in these ridiculously tight spaces:

Just behind the Fuente at the front of the house I spotted this tree, now bearing plenty of fruits:


I've no idea who might own or have the rights to this fruit but I'll be keeping an eye out and optimistically hoping for the odd fruit from a generous neighbour!

Last week, we went out for a meal one evening with friends from Yegen. En route to the bar/restaurant we passed what I initially took to be a couple of late night, wandering-free goats by the side of the road. When I mentioned it to John, who was driving at the time, he corrected me by assuring me they were more likely to be wild Ibex, a breed that is still fairly numerous here, generally on the higher ground but increasingly venturing down to easier pastures in the evenings. It's the first time I've seen these animals though I knew they were around.

When I got to the Post Office, I tendered a Euro piece for a stamp. They couldn't provide the full/correct change of 35 centimes, so I settled for 25 cents just to get my mail off today! It could only happen in Spain, I'd think!

Here is our village Barrio, Alto Barrio, seen from the lower past of the village by the church:

And our place, with the roof terrace tower to the far left of this shot:

The view back up the valley, above the village to the higher hills of the Sierra Nevada:

And the view down the valley, below the village:

And finally, I promise........the Town Hall/Ayuntamente:

A fair bit of cloud around today, but still hot.....and now also torpid, sweaty/steamy and heavy too!

J will be on her way back from Malaga Airport by now; she should be back in an hour or so. Just as well I had the foresight to get more plonk and some interesting looking Asturian Cider while out on my wanderings with Jack!  I'm still waiting for Dorin and the hoped-for Sat dish today!  Wish me luck.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, 21 July 2011

There's A Bright Side Somewhere.....

Another hot old day here in Spain. Although, we did have a bit of rain yesterday.....about two minutes worth of half-hearted downpouring but rain!  The problem with growing Veg in pots on roof terraces is that you must get water up to it all a few times a day  in the temps/sun here. As we do not (yet) have a tap on the roof, I have to lug it up a few flights of stairs in J's watering can - a tiring sort of business really. But with stuff now coming onstream one which is worth the effort!

The Nicotiana has burst into a few blooms, with more on the way. The scent is lovely in the cool of the evening:

More to come soon:

By around 19:00, the temps have reduced or moderated to a tolerable outdoor level, and the countryside has a softer, less sun-baked, look to it. It's possibly the best time of the day. Certainly a grand time to relax with some plonk, a book and maybe music in the background. These pix, in no particular order, were all taken yesterday evening at about 19:15, and sort of illustrate the feeling, I think/hope:

I caught the breadvan yesterday and, thankfully - maybe he read a previous entry here - he again has Dognuts! Yippeee......I do enjoy a morning Dognut!  Jack's rather fond of the odd crumb, too!  It may not be quite an ideal, healthy breakfast but a Dognut and a Hot Chocolate drink are just about perfik for my money! A habit largely picked up in France with a Pain Aux Raisin substituted for the Dognut.

Jack still - like me - finds the heat wearisome at times. He looks for the coolest, shadiest parts of the house and collapses in a heap, in the most inconvenient of places at times,  not unlike Bagpuss:

J returns from London tomorrow, flying into Malaga. So I'll have to make an effort to tidy the place a bit for her return. Our friend, Dorin, has just called to apologise for the delay but to confirm he will set up the Sat dish thingy either later today or tomorrow morning. So we will have BBC Radio on tap through the Sat/TV rather than only online. 

A cousin and his wife from Scotland is holidaying in Torremolinas in mid-August and has been in touch. They will be visiting for a few days while nearby. Which means, we must get out and buy a few sticks of furniture for them. Some of the rooms are looking a bit bare and spartan, but we've been reluctant to buy more cause we've got everything we need up in the Swedish house. The cost of moving the stuff from there to Spain will be Hellish!!  This was another potential advantage (marginal) of a move to the Northern Isles of Scotland: it's a shorter move and there used to be (I'm sure) ferry links with some of the outer Isles and Norway, links which would be particularly useful! Even a freight/shipping sort of job would probably be better and cheaper in the long run!

Our neighbour, Maria, throws out her food scraps to the stray/feral cat population, who are remarkably brave and forward. They evidently recognise the sound of the various dealers' vans and the horn-blasts that accompany their arrival, as they all appear as if from nowhere within seconds. Needless to say, the Fishvan is understandably  the most popular:

There's another Tabby just under the back bumper

The cats scuttle under the back of the van and around the local's feet with considerable optimism and dexterity. The van is almost as popular with the local ladies and does a good trade, it seems to me.

A few years back, I had the good fortune to meet one of my personal favourite US guitarists, following a suggestion made to me by another fine US ragtime player/friend, that I must go along and introduce myself to this guy when next our paths crossed in North Carolina, as they then did most years.  Jorma Kaukonen is probably best known as the guitarist with Jefferson Airplane back in the 1960s, when he played at Woodstock among other notable events. Nowadays he's a bit more laid back, running guitar workshops/camps from his farm in the Appalachian hills in Ohio, and playing mostly acoustic blues guitar with a great little outfit called 'Hot Tuna.' He's a genuinely nice guy and one Hell of a picker. And we've since met a few times, including up in Ohio:

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Trouble In Mind.....

Running at about 25 degrees in the shade today but there is a welcome light breeze. Charlie thumped me on the nose at about 06:30 this morning, indicating his thoughts on the imminent sunrise and a desire to have a bit of cream, I think! I, being (marginally) more sensible than a cat, turned over, thanked him for his consideration, and promptly dropped back off to sleep until Jack, too, decided it was time for movement on my part at about 08:15.

The sun was just about breaking through the light mist covering the surrounding hills and the promise was, as ever, of another hot day ahead.  I missed the bread van this morning, mistaking his horn-blasts for that of one of the fishvans. I therefore walked Jack along to the small shop/supermarcado in the old square and bought some bits and bobs for lunch and for Jack's tucker.

On returning home, I went into the sitting room to find a pair of swallows swanning around the room, while one of their offspring sat, perkily perched on the railings overlooking the Calle outside. The parents became quite agitated by my presence; one flew off out of the open door through the Azotea while the other fluttered, hovering, and loudly called a warning to its kid that it should take to the wing and follow it off, away from the evil man (me) who was trying to find a camera to photograph it! So, taking mummy's advice, it took off and I missed the piccy. (No change there, then!) Nevertheless, it was an unexpected and pleasant treat!

I saw the first Bee Eater since arriving back here a few days ago. Although its colours were not as spectacular as usual (or so it seemed to me, viewing it from behind) it was a nice sight, perched on a telegraph wire a few miles outside the village. There's usually a huge flock of them together on these wires each early evening after they come down from feeding up on the hillsides above the village. They nest down in the valley and spend much of the day in the lower mountain slopes, returning home each evening about 19:00 or so. They really are the most spectacularly beautiful and striking birds:

A real touch of the exotic

The area is quite popular with bird watchers - there are some interesting species about: Bee Eaters; Golden Orioles; Hoopoes; Scops Owls; Nightingales; Golden Eagles in the higher hills. It is also popular with keen walkers. Much of its popularity can be traced to the best selling books of Chris Stewart, who lives down towards Orgiva, a hippieish sort of town about thirty Kms to the South of us.

J pot-planted a load of Nicotiana seeds - with Hamish's help - some weeks ago when we were still in France.  Most have come up now, though some definitely need to be moved on and up, so to speak:

 They are lovely things when in bloom and have a rich, lingering aroma, as I recall from those we used to have in our garden in Herefordshire many moons ago. We have one pot with about six or seven plants which are all doing well and on the verge of bursting into flower:

Hamish is coming out with J on holiday in the last week or so of August, so he'll be pleased to see that his seed-planting efforts have come to fruition, I'm sure.

The Azotea (covered sort of terrace thingy) is wonderfully cool and tranquil. It has also proved a blessing for J and her house planty thingies, which are kept out there, directly off the sittingroom, in a pleasant shady but bright open terrace, out of reach of the baking sun: The Jasmine is rocketting away here, and has grown much since our arrival a few short weeks ago:

Ditto, the Lonicera (a name I know, though I know sod all about gardening!):

All in all, we're pleased we decided to have an Azotea built when we had the house renovated six or seven years ago. Originally, there was not one here but it seemed to us to be a worthwhile expense and addition:

There is a pair of House Sparrows nesting in the ceiling beams, and the racket the young 'uns make when feeding , and who must be about ready to take off, is extraordinary. Charlie sits below,  with those independently whirring, rotating cat ears, trying to figure out how he can get up to the beams and the potential feathery feast hidden behind them:

Bird shit shows nest site

The ceilings throughout the house are made in the same way, a traditional Alpujarranian style, from Chestnut beams. They are treated with a preservative, then lightly coated with a glaze mix based on the old Swedish favourite (ironically) of linseed oil and spirit. The end result is quite pleasing:

Sitting Room Ceiling Beams

Kitchen Ceiling Beams

The Beams being Chestnut means we have virtually no spiders in the house, which will no doubt please our daughter, LVP, when she visits in October. For some reason or other, she loathes them and flaps wildly whenever she spots one, and they apparently don't like chestnut much!  Me, I like them. They are genuinely interesting critters and generally of value, well worth having around!

Dorin, our Romanian friend, has yet to turn up with a Sat dish. So, again, I'm hoping for the best.

 I heard some English today in the little local shop. A couple, whom I've never before seen, were debating what to buy from its decidedly limited stocks. They seemed surprised when I responded to their greetings in English and then turned to address the shopkeeper in passable Spanish - though I do say it myself!  I must admit that each day I graze on a Spanish text book I borrowed from a friend in London before moving down here. And I'm coming to remember some of the stuff I learned way back when I attended a Spanish conversation course class in Newport, Gwent, over the course of  a few years, when I worked in the town as a lawyer. So I feel quietly (fatally) confident that as time passes, I'll recall more and more and my comprehension and spoken skills will improve. They couldn't get much worse, in other words!

Adios......or should that be, Hasta Luego!

Monday, 18 July 2011

There Was Something In The Air.....

Good old ABBA, one of the few good things to come out of Sweden. At least with them, you know where you are, sort of.  And while Sweden is like this for half the year:

In summer, it is oft more like this, with temps to match those we have here in Andalucia. An unexpected detail that always seems to surprise people wherever they are:

But apart from ABBA, the only Fernando we've come across so far is from the nearby town of Ugijar, where he is one of the local firewood sellers.

And in winter here in the Sierra Nevada, it gets chilly, so wood for the woodburner in the sitting room is a necessity.  Having come across his number in our phone book, we asked friends if he was still in business. To our surprise, we learn that not only is he still doing the rounds but that he has competition in the shape of at least two other vendors, one apparently a German who is said to be 'negotiable' on pricing and quantities. So perhaps, the Kraut will win out and Fernando's days are numbered, as far as we're concerned at least.

Today, we have a bit of light cloud, so temps are a more tolerable mid-twenties, 25 degrees in the shade, with a mild, most welcome breeze. J returns to London this afternoon. As she is only in the UK for three days or so, she has taken the car and will leave it at the Malaga airport car park until she returns on Friday, early afternoon. This obviously saves me the driving and the fuel and seems to be a sensible way to go. All being well, we'll repeat the process again through August, when she'll be over three times at least. Although travel/flight costs are running pretty high at this time of year, with peak holiday traffic and the Brits ongoing love of sun and sangria on the Costa del Sol. Hopefully, we expect these to dip to better levels thereafter for the rest of the year.

Many friends are already planning to visit. Spain seems to bring that out in people; too many TV travel/holiday shows over too many years, or something like that, I expect.  The place is a bit spartan though, as much of our stuff is still up in Sweden. However, I dare say we'll manage and cope with them whatever.

Here is the current state of play, in no particular order:

A busy village street

And Inside:

 Bedroom 1, in use, with an open window for Charlie!

Another bedroom 2, from each end:

Again with an open window for El Gato!



Calle Manzanos/House from side

House front/Fuente

House Front/side



Study/Spare Bedroom 3

House Side

Shower/WC 2

Roof Tower Access to Terraces

Storeroom/Bedroom 4

Apple Trees on Calle Manzanos (Apple Tree Street)  behind house

The lavadero/Fuente is actually still used by a few elderly locals who turn up with their washing and pummel and pound etc., in the fast flowing stream. The last one I saw using the facilities, a few days ago, had brought it along in a dirty old wheelbarrow!  I'd have thought it would need re-doing by the time they barrowed it home!

We are on a Calle/street called Calle Manzanos, (Apple Tree Street being a loose translation) and there are still about a dozen or so fruit bearing trees around, all looking heavy with fruit right now.

I was accosted by a local, previously unknown to me, this afternoon. He wanted to know who I was, where I was from, if I was on holiday or living here and much, much more. As I understood only a fraction of his fast-flowing outpourings, we had a rather stilted conversation. However, he did catch on to the fact I am a Scot and confirmed he'd seen programmes about Scotland on TV and told me there is a Medic practising nearby who is also a Scot. Might be worth tracking him down. I must make enquiries. Since having a TIA back in November of 2010, I need medication etc., on a regular basis, and he might be helpful. 'Twould certainly be useful on the language front, if nothing else!

We have had a few tomatos from the roof terrace, potted plants. They are delightfully sweet and luscious. Only one cucumber so far, which is a bit of a disappointment. The Chillis are doing fine and I've used two or three already for Prawn Pill Pill /Piri Piri. We've also had a fair few Courgettes and a couple of Aubergines and some Green Peppers. Indeed, we had a veggie curry based pretty exclusively round our own stuff, which is always gratifying, not to say tasty!

The village itself has improved radically since we were last here for any length of time, almost six years ago. No longer is the place shrouded in a sheath of builders dust and rubble, with dumper trucks and cement-mixers largely a thing of the past. It is also much quieter generally, though the Spanish are by nature/nurture a noisy breed.  In addition, it seems, many of the former Brit residents have returned to Blighty, or are trying to sell up and return. So instead of hearing English being spoken at every turn, in bars, shops and restaurants, we hear mostly Spanish!

Main Street

Main Street

Our Romanian friend has yet to fix up the Sat dish, so still no BBC Radio on tap, save for online. I'm keeping my fingers crossed and hoping he might show up later this afternoon/evening. He's usually pretty reliable and it would be nice to have it available without recourse to the internet. He's waiting for a dish to arrive from Granada, it seems. We have the rest of the necessary kit piled up in an untidy mess on the sitting room floor.

Time for a G&T in the shade of vines, in El Paseo, a local bar owned and run by Brits!