Friday, 30 September 2011

Something In The Air.....

It's Fiesta week.

 I thought it was to be a weekend affair but instead it has become increasingly noisy and frenetic as the days have passed. As I plonk away here, the thundercracks fill the air.  Charlie refuses to go out, sleeping indoors most of the day and looking decidedly spooked at the racket echoing through the village. This morning he was still slumbering gently at the edge of the bed, on his cover thingy, when the village brass band struck up loudly - and it must be said, a trifle, dischordantly - just outside the bedroom window at about 09:00. He leapt into the air and raced off into the entrada/hallway.  Jack, on the other hand, slept though the entire thing, only surfacing after I had dressed, washed and headed onto the roof terrace to grab a piccy of the band as they drifted past the house:

Walking down through the lanes and alleyways towards the village centre, I passed many a house with these banner/flags draped on balconies and verandas, advertising, as it were, the occupants pride in the Fiesta of San Miguel the Archangel, the patron saint of the village:

The entire Fiesta is a family affair, with the local's kids and Grandkids all turning up en masse to participate. Noisily, of course, this being Spain. The church bells clang every hour, fireworks spray the sky and most of the local population dresses in its finery to attend the church services, village Paella eating celebrations and drink......plenty of beer and brandy. The band march through the village between the stalls selling toffee, sweets, soft-toys and a variety of, what can only be called, tat:

The local bars do a thriving trade and there are lots of smiles and friendly Spanish greetings, especially when old friends and family members meet up, in what is an annual reunion.  Seeing many dressed in suits, ties etc., is rather amusing. It makes a change from the normal work blues, scuffed shoes and battered hats. Even the kids dress to kill, from an early age, it seems:

As the light fades and the noise levels escalate, in direct proportion to the dipping levels of beer, the place comes alive and the lights sparkle in the clear evening air.  Luckily the temps are a healthy 28 to 30 degrees, so I was able to sit out on the bar-terrace in short-sleeves scoffing my Tapas and Beer until Jack decided it was time he went home for tucker and a bit of shut-eye:

So far, I've managed two days and nights of Fiesta, forced to drink copious amounts of beer - far more than I would normally scoff (I generally prefer Vin Rouge), easily the most I've drank since my uni/student days a long, long time ago!  Don't know how much more I can take. But this weekend promises to be the main days of the event, so who knows!?

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Slip Slidin' Away.....

A real short one here.

I found a tiny - well, two actually - gecko in the shower-room a few days ago.  One was marginally bigger than the other; both were pretty slow off the mark and seem unconcerned by my presence. Very ungeckolike!

I told them they were welcome but to keep a weather eye out for Charlie who was not likely to be so welcoming. I was right.

Last night I found the smallest of the pair (now christened Gladys)  on our bedroom's  shower-room floor. It didn't flinch when I approached, which is normal for these youngsters. But when I picked it up and placed it on the palm of my hand it twitched, so I thought it was still alive. With no visible signs of injury, blood or guts and gore, I slipped it behind the spare loo-rolls, and left it to sink or swim.

This morning it was out of sight and this afternoon it had resurfaced and was slithering around the floor as normal. I'm rather pleased with this outcome. They are harmless little critters and certainly beneficial here, in my view.  I only hope they manage to escape Charlie's predations long enough to take to climbing the walls to the beams where I'm sure they'll both be safe.

Big Brother/Sister (just how do you sex a Gecko?!):

Gladys: Minus a bit of tail - post-Charlie:

I took a walk into the village this evening to get some vino tinto and bread. I also hoped to catch some of the festivities from the Fiesta de San Miguel, the patron saint of the village. Sadly, however, apart from lots of lights - not alight at the early hour - and a small fairgroundy thing in the square in front of the town hall, there was nothing to see or hear of any interest.  Instead, I had to make do with a few beers in the evening sun and some tapas. I'm told by a neighbour that there will be a big procession through the village tomorrow and that it will pass the huse. So I'll keep an eye out for this in the morning. I might even manage a piccy or two. Who knows!?

The road to the bar........

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Even If We're Just Dancing In The Dark.....

Just a quickie. We walked down into the village centre this lunch-time to post some stuff off to Sweden, pick up a few postcards and have a few beers. Temps about perfect at about 25 degrees today, blue sky, light cloud and light breeze.

Sitting outside on the bar terrace, we noticed that something odd was afoot - literally afoot. The guy who runs the place, Moises/Moyses, is at times a bit taciturn but today he was positively glowing. Tripping the light fandango, or whatever:  each time he came to the table with beers, tapas, whatever, he was smiling, humming merrily and skipping along. When asked why he was so happy today, he explained that he is taking dancing lessons.

It was amusing to see and hear. At one point he departed with my lunch plate with a 'Cha, cha, cha...'  before whirling the plate in the air as he walked/shimmied back into the bar. As the terrace filled up for lunch at about 14:00, he continued in the same vein. He's obviously enjoying himself, and his mood was contagious. Great fun all round!

We have builders working on the next door house, replacing the roof. So Charlie kept a low profile until they had packed up for the night, before returning for a very late breakfast at about 22:00. I thought it best to keep him in overnight so closed all escape hatches, doors, windows etc. At 06:00 this morning, he told me he'd had enough and wanted out. A pitiful whinny was followed by his appearance alongside my pillow, a quick thump on the nose and loud purring. I resisted for a short while before getting up and letting him out. No doubt he'll be back later as the builders are again visible.

En-route down to the bar we took these pix of the village. They are in no particular order but give a fair picture of the pueblo today:

 There's a fiesta scheduled for this weekend, it seems!
J making hard weather of the return trip uphill!!

 A real beauty. What a size. Who said size doesn't matter?!


 ....'n Peppers.....

 'n sun-dried Toms, the traditional method!

 Grapes look good

 Peaches, too

And the Figs might still be developing, a bit small but luscious when ripe!  It's not all bad down hereabouts!  Maybe time to take some dancing lessons, a big of jigging and reeling might be just what we need!  And I discovered today that there are Flamenco lessons available locally too!!

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

These Days.....

I've been a bit lax of late with posting anything here. I blame the weather and the lassitude that takes control of everything here in Spain. Manana, manana,'s all too easy to fall into the local lifestyle here.

Well, yesterday was positively autumnal: cloud, greyish skies, a felling of rain (that never arrived) in the air and temps in the low twenties.  A not unwelcome change, and a reminder that we are in the Sierra Nevada, with the village tucked into the high hills of Andalucia.

Despite the high temps and blazing everyday sun of the past few months, the snow remains lodged in pockets on the side of the highest Spanish mainland peak, Mulhacen, some miles off above Granada:

Not a great shot but pretty normal for me, and an illustration of the point, taken from down towards the coast

The locals, many of whom have a bit of campo/country land in the hills around the village, are drying their Peppers now, generally hanging them outside to sun-dry. It always makes the houses seem very colourful and gay at this time of the year. These are the type used for the production of that Spanish favourite, Pimenton:

I cropped some of our Chilli plants a few days ago, and now have a significant number of fresh chillis in the freezer for future use. There's still two plants to clear and they are all still growing strongly up on the roof terrace (If anyone knows how long these might be nurtured along, indoors or outdoors, do let me know):

I'm really quite pleased with these - none of them died or suffered under my dubious care!

J arrived on Friday with yet another - hopefully the last - rental car from Malaga airport; her next trip out, after a week here, will be in early October when she comes over by ferry from Portsmouth to Santander with the Kangoo.  It will be handy having a car here again, though oddly enough I seldom have a great or pressing need for one. It's too hilly for sensible - ie enjoyably pleasant - cycling around here. And our bikes are still up in Sweden anyway!  

We are thinking about the need to return to Sweden and pack up and empty the house but the thought of the enormous journey South to Andalucia is daunting, to say the least. And expensive!  3500 kilometers with fuel, ferry costs from Sweden to Denmark, and tolls on the French and Spanish motorway system all come to an eye-watering  amount. And that's before factoring in van hire or removal costs themselves!

It's a chore that we really must undertake before the worst of winter sets in, which could be any time from here on in.  Generally, however, the area is clear of threatening snowfall until early December, although we have had it blanket everything in November.  Driving is tricky once the freeze and snow take hold, especially without proper studded/winter tyres etc on the vehicles!  We have a spare set of wheels with studded tyres up in the garage in Sweden but they are of course for our now defunct Honda CRV!

In addition, once the snow has fallen and lies for a few days, it is very difficult to drive up to the house itself - an essential when moving stuff around. Interestingly, for the Scots among us, the Swedish word for moving is 'flyttning'  (Vb  Flytta) - so it seems pretty clear (to me at any rate) that the old 'flitting' probably comes from the Norse, Viking invasion period.

Your options are limited when the house track/frontage is like this for almost 6 months!

I looked online at temps/weather in the region a few days ago and it was suggesting a minimum temp of 0 with a daily high of about 11 degrees. So winter is clearly creeping in up there. Our neighbour and friend, Monica, said they were still busy working outdoors on the farm, taking in hay/silage for winter cattle feed although with the hunting season now upon them, Håkan will no doubt be off in search of Älg (Moose) in his hunting grounds/forest.  So poor old Monica will be labouring on her own for a bit, I expect. She is used to it but we know it irritates her, though the amount of good quality meat to be had from a kill is splendid. Indeed, we think it one of the best meats available and used always to buy a side or whatever from the local hunters when they had a surplus.  It's not gamey like venison, but is a very lean, red beef-like meat. Absolutely wonderful for currying - even better than lamb, in our opinion.

The Swedish estate agent tells us there is quite a bit of interest in our house with his website recording over 1500 hits on it since we put it on the market. At present there are two lots of potential prospective buyers but, like everywhere else, the credit crunch is making it difficult to raise finance even up there, he says.   A confirmed buyer would force our hand in going back up, packing and moving the rest of our gear down here to Spain - if nothing else!  For now, we'll just keep our fingers crossed.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

You've Got Me Under Your Spell.....

Granada........hired a car from Avis at Granada rail station for a few days as I had to collect J from Almeria airport last Friday morning  but return her to Malaga airport for the return flight yesterday. Finding the rail station was a prize pain. For some reason - no doubt Ad revenue connected - Google Maps has changed and is now awkward to use and a bit of a pest. I therefore relied on my nose and stumbled around early morning, rising heat, waking Granada searching for the rail station.  It's not far from the Bull Ring (Plaza de Torros) , an impressive sort of place if you like that kind of thing - which I don't.

I forgot to take a camera with me, which was a pity. Maybe next time.  I had to rise at 05:30 to feed Charlie, water Jack and hustle down to the village centre for the 06:15 bus to the city. A three hour run took me through many small towns and villages I knew of but had never visited. So all in all it was an interesting trip and inexpensive at just over eight euros.

Granada is a city we've visited many times previously. It's vibrant, attractive in parts and has a definite feeling of youthful vitality. Or, at least, so it seemed to me as I wandered the streets, mostly around the central University district heading for the station. Or so I hoped!  I think we'll be revisiting it again in future.

I returned the hire car and came back on the evening bus yesterday, which shaved about 30 minutes off the morning run, thankfully!

The holiday season is now officially over here. Swimming pools have closed down for the year; tourists are not so numerous and locals are looking out their thick, heavy-duty dark clothes and Trilbies in readiness for the rigours of winter.  They don't know what it's really about, for my money!

The village, at about 1300 metres, does get a sprinkling of snow on accassion, and rain in winter - usually limited to a few days or so in January or November. After too many years in northern Scandinavia, I find it's still summery here - 34 degrees yesterday in Granada - and will stick to my usual outfit of shorts, short-sleeves, sunspex  and deck-shoes for a while yet.

To my surprise, I find myself beginning to appreciate life here. I'd expected to dislike it and want to move quickly. Instead, it's growing on me by the day. The weather, now we're beyond the hottest summer months of July and August, no doubt has something to do with this.  J retires in mid-December and has only about 30 working days  remaining. So she too is looking forward to getting out here and relaxing. She is a keen skier, and plans days out at Pradollano, ,the Spanish ski resort in the mountains above Granada - and above here. It's about 1.5 hours away by car and she's done it many times before.  She hopes to take both our daughter, LVP, and Grandsprog Hamish out there in February sometime.  I've never been taken by the idea of slithering around on bits of wood on a mountain in deepest winter, personally speaking.

The growing season is nearing its end, though we still have loads of Chillis to pick and the Aubergines are also doing well, still growing strongly together with a few Tomatoes. The Cucumbers were largely a waste of time and effort this year. The Peppers have been good and are also still growing.

A home-grown veggie curry thing, made with my own fair mitts!

The Med remains a tempting possibility at around 45 minutes drive from the house, and I expect we'll spend more time down at the coast once J has retired.  The villages within easy striking range are largely Spanish in nature with few outsiders - Brits, Germans or Dutch, in other words - visiting. There are also some decent markets and restaurants down there that we know of. 

There is also, of course, the extraordinary 'Alhambra' to visit just outside Granada. We'll leave that till winter as otherwise it can get a bit crowded and needs to be booked in advance etc. The city is also one of the strongholds of traditional Flamenco, which can still be found in a few - increasingly shrinking - places. It's my understanding that Seville, along the coast to the West, is a better bet for both Flamenco and great Tapas these days. So, again, we plan to take some time out there, probably early in the New Year. 

Tapas is of course a Spanish institution: in this area it's still usually provided automatically and free of charge when a beer or other booze is ordered in most local bars. It can be variable ranging from greasy belly porky things - that I refuse to eat - to delightful small, lightly sauteed/fried fishy bits that can be excellent. The olives that tend to accompany most Tapas are usually pretty good too. As is the home-cured Serrano ham.

J returns in only a few days, flying into Malaga again on Friday where car-hire has been arranged to get her up here into the hills. She will be coming out again in the first week of October with our new, used car - a Renault Kangoo, a van with windows, and hopefully a lot like the old Renault 4s which we had and still remember with rose-tinted pleasure.

If nothing else, it will be good for her to stop travelling. The costs alone are pretty horrendous, and it's tiring and time-consuming. Being an international commuter just ain't all it's cracked up to be!