Tuesday, 20 March 2018

This morning we woke up to brilliant sunshine. I was told it was cold but by the time we went out it was very pleasant. We were hunting for a souvenir shop. My English sister wanted to take a t-shirt for her youngest granddaughter. Up til today all we had seem had been the kind of internationally-sold t-shirts with lots of English slogans printed on them. What she wanted, however, was something that was clearly from here, El Puerto de Santa María. The trouble is that many of the places that sell what is basically tourist tat remain closed until the tourist season starts. In the end, though, we found a toyshop that sold just what we wanted.

We stopped and had a quick drink before returning for lunch, in between time making a birthday cake (that’s my Spanish sister and I) for our older sister (the English one] who has her birthday on Thursday. And so, after lunch, we sang Happy Birthday and made her blow candles out. The youngest of the party refused to join in the family photo but, apart from that, all was well.

My Spanish sister had prepared chicken fillets for lunch, accompanied by spicy rice ... and a plate of chips for my English sister, who refuses to eat rice, and a bowl of quinoa for her daughter and the daughter’s partner. Both of these are following a bit of a special diet, explaining to me that quinoa is essential to this as it is a “superfood”. So the superfoods are a big thing here as well! I was happy to try it but I can”t say it really had me demanding a lot more!

Looking out later in the day I saw that the blue sky had clouded over. Not only was it raining and blowing another gale but my nephew. Stepped put onto the balcony and collected hailstones! So much for being in the south of Spain.

Skimming through the papers this morning I came across this article by Fran Lebowitz.  She sounds like a sensible lady. Among other things she said, “ The only people who live in Australia are those who came to Australia and couldn’t face the trip back – I’m actually one of those people.”

Her opinion of Donald Trump is interesting too. She thinks the biggest danger of Trump is that he is a moron. “Everyone says he is crazy – which maybe he is – but the scarier thing about him is that he is stupid. You do not know anyone as stupid as Donald Trump. You just don’t.”

She didn’t expect Trump to win. “I had zero belief he would win. I have never been so wrong in my life. And being right is something I cherish. It’s really important to me to be right.” But she lived in New York which probably has a sort of political microclimate, giving a false idea of how the man in the street was going to vote.

Talking about guns she said, “Of course I don’t have a gun! Who are these people that love guns? These people who love Trump and they love guns, these are the most frightened people I have ever seen in my life. Who’s after you? They live in the middle of nowhere. I live in New York city and I don’t have a gun. No one I know has a gun.
In the early 70s, when I was more vulnerable in every way, it was really dangerous. I could have gotten a gun but I never got one. I was an 18-year-old penniless girl in the middle of a dangerous city and I was never as afraid as these men in Texas, living in a state of terror.”

 Maybe she is right in her views. I hear there has been another school shooting this week.

Monday, 19 March 2018

Different ways of doing things. Fooling a Fitbit.

There used to be, probably still are, restaurants in the UK which did not have a licence to serve alcohol but which were happy for you to take a bottle of wine along. They would loan you glasses so that you could have a drink along with your meal. We went a couple of times to an Indian restaurant in Tooting where we took cans of beer along with us.

Yesterday we did things the other way around. We went to a bar that my Spanish sister and her family have frequented for years and years. Everyone in the party took along something to eat as the bar does not serve food any longer. The owner of the bar was quite happy with the arrangement, especially as we took paper plates and plastic forks. Tortilla española - the classic Spanish potato omelette, a rice omelette my sister had made - an interesting idea I had never come across before, using up leftover rice and adding chorizo and onion and garlic, slices of cheese, a variety of potato salads; we had quite a feast!

Later we walked into town for coffee and were served the inevitable pile of churros to go with them. I will eat almost anything, but churros just do nothing for me at all. I suppose it would not do for us all to love the same things.

I am not walking as far or as fast here as I do in other places. Maybe it’s the company I am keeping. My poor Fitbit is confused and keep reminding me to get up and move around to meet the target of so many steps an hour and such like. Mind you, the Fitbit is easy to fool. The other day I spent ten to fifteen minutes kicking a soft ball to and fro with my Spanish great-nephew and the Fitbit decided I had met my exercise target for the day. Poor confused gadget.

I read about a Fitbit wristband called Fitbit Ace which has been launched for children over eight. It will feature “reminders” for them to get active, undertake family step-challenges and also monitor sleep patterns. Do children really need a gadget to remind them to run around? And those who need reminding, will they take notice?

But apparently a third of children between two and fifteen in the UK are overweight or obese so maybe such a gadget for children is needed. How did we get to such a situation? However, as the writer of the article pointed out,

“ Children are already bombarded with harmful messages about body image. Overweight kids are teased. Normal-sized girls feel that they should be on strict diets. Even young boys are succumbing to anorexia.”

The writer concluded: “Do children need what amounts to a “fat-shaming toy”?”

There is even a new kind of anorexia called orthorexia, anorexia which hides behind an obsession with health and fitness.

Such are the problems of the modern age!

Sunday, 18 March 2018

Different views.

Snow in Saddleworth. (I had a weather report when I gave Phil a wake-up call this morning.) And other parts of the UK. My daughter is trapped in her square - the main road is clear but side roads are not treated by the snowploughs. My son has sent pictures of his little girl building a snowman.

Rain in El Puerto. And in other parts of Spain. However, we have not been blown away by Storm Gisele. Neither did Storm Gisele prevent thousands of people turning out on the streets of Spain’s big cities to protest about pensions, or rather the reduction and even lack of them.

We will go out later to meet friends of our sister and have lunch somewhere interesting, and eat something interesting, once again. Well, most of us will. My rather conservative elder sister may  ot participate fully.

This item I found some time ago reflects the attitude of my older sister who has consistently refused to try new things to eat during our stay here:

“The Sun recently reported on the findings of a survey from the Chilean Blueberry Committee, conducted via One Poll that set out to explore whether over-60s are embracing modern food fads.

Seeing as the results showed 1.3 per cent of over-60s have never had porridge, 3.8 per cent are yet to get around to trying garlic, 10.7 per cent haven’t eaten asparagus and 15.2 per cent remain unacquainted with the aubergine, it would seem that, on the whole, they are not.

The foodstuff given the biggest snub by the older generation is matcha, with 90 per cent admitting to never trying it. As it turns everything it comes into contact with a somewhat violent shade of green, we think they can be forgiven.”

I had never heard of matcha so I did a little investigation and found this:

 “Matcha is a special type of powdered green tea that is grown and produced in Japan (in most cases). The green tea leaves are shaded from the sun for the last few weeks of their growth, increasing the chlorophyll content and creating a gorgeous green color. Then, the leaves are carefully ground with stone grinding wheels to produce a fine powder.

The powder can then be used to brew an antioxidant rich frothy green tea or in recipes like smoothies or baking. Unlike other types of teas, the green tea powder is not strained out before consuming, so you are consuming the entire leaf, making Matcha more potent than other tea varieties. In fact, only 1/2 tsp is needed to brew a traditional cup of Matcha.”

So there you are! Who knew?

It would certainly not do for my big sister, who was quite mystified when I selected to drink a lemon and ginger infusion during our journey here!

It wouldn’t do for us all to be the same!

Saturday, 17 March 2018

Worse things than storm Gisele?

I was woken at about 2.00 or possibly 3.00 am my phone going ping! It was a request to phone Phil at 10.30am English time to ensure that he had got up to go to his chess match. I might be a lot further south in stormy Andalucía but I can still be useful.

I woke properly at somewhere around 8.00 to a grey and gloomy day. Storm Gisele was on her way in. I phoned Phil later as requested. It was snowing, he said, in Delph. Here in El Puerto de Santa María the wind was getting up and the rain was starting.

We were due to go over the bay to Cadiz for lunch with my younger sister’s Spanish in-laws. So we dodged the rain and piled into the car and off we went, across the elegant new bridge, a very high, cable-strung affair. So far so good.

Once over the water we collected various Spanish relatives and set off to find a place to lunch. All the likely places were full, largely because those who might have sat outdoors were inside because of the foul weather. My Spanish nephew suggested we looked for a place which served really bad food; they were bound to have room. Eventually, however, we found somewhere without having to go to such lengths.

The usual selection of tasty tapas followed. My English sister had egg and chips. Now I know where my middle granddaughter gets her refusal to try exotic food from!

After lunch we went elsewhere for coffee. This was a whole different adventure. We were heading for a place near the seafront and at one point were almost blown away, the wind was so strong! There they offered us a strange concoction of salted peanuts and chewy fruit sweets. Is this the latest trend? If so, it is not one I appreciate.

Coming home to my Spanish sister’s place in el Puerto, we avoided the very high new bridge and used the old bridge. We are not going out again this evening. Gisele is a storm too far!

On a different topic altogether, here is a story from yesterday’s Guardian:

“A Romanian court has rejected a man’s claim that he is alive, after he was officially registered as dead. A court spokeswoman said on Friday that 63-year-old Constantin Reliu lost his case in the north-east city of Vasului because he appealed too late. The ruling is final.

Media reported Reliu went to Turkey in 1992 for work and lost contact with his family in Romania. Hearing no news from her husband, his wife managed to get a death certificate for him in 2016. Turkish authorities located Reliu this year with expired papers and deported him.

When he arrived in Romania, he discovered he had been declared dead. He was quoted as saying: “I am officially dead, although I’m alive, I have no income and because I am listed dead, I can’t do anything.””

So there are worse things than Storm Gisele!

Meanwhile, I read that Finland has overtaken Norway to become the happiest nation on earth, according to a UN report.

“The 2018 World Happiness Report also charts the steady decline of the US as the world’s largest economy grapples with a crisis of obesity, substance abuse and depression.

The study reveals the US has slipped to 18th place, five places down on 2016. The top four places are taken by Nordic nations, with Finland followed by Norway, Denmark and Iceland.”

The UK is in the 19th place but al least we are ahead of France and Spain. So it goes!

Friday, 16 March 2018

Things I have found out recently!

According to my Spanish niece, here in Andalucía there is a relationship between the price of beer and the likelihood of your receiving free tapas. The more expensive the caña the less likely you are to get a freebie. Also according to my Spanish niece and her boyfriend it is far less common here than in Galicia for free food to arrive with your drink. They only know this from word of mouth and from stuff they have read and I do not have sufficient experience of bars around here to comment.

We went walkabout yesterday and stopped for coffee and homemade cake near the castle of El Puerto de Santa María, complete with stork’s nest on the tower. Photos will appear at some time soon, but maybe not until I return to England and have access to the computer. Unless, of course, I suddenly discover how to do it on my iPad.

When I first went to Galicia, lots of people went to great lengths to explain to me about “galerías”, the enclosed mini-balconies on the old traditional buildings. These act as insulation, keeping the building cool in summer and warm in winter. They always maintained this was a Galician specialty. Guess what? They have them on old buildings here as well. Once again, photos will appear at so e time in the near future.

This morning we woke to thunderstorms and a deluge. By 10.30 the sky was reasonably clear. We are going to eat out near the beach so we hope the clear skies will remain. Umbrellas in our handbags however.

Here is some odd stuff I found about certain English expressions:-

“They used to use urine to tan animal skins, so families used to all pee in a pot & then once a day it was taken & Sold to the tannery.......if you had to do this to survive you were "Piss Poor" 

But worse than that were the really poor folk who couldn't even afford to buy a pot......they "didn't have a pot to piss in" & were the lowest of the low The next time you are washing your hands and complain because the water temperature isn't just how you like it, think about how things used to be.

Here are some facts about the 1500s: Most people got married in June because they took their yearly bath in May, and they still smelled pretty good by June.. However, since they were starting to smell . ...... . Brides carried a bouquet of flowers to hide the body odor. Hence the custom today of carrying a bouquet when getting Married.

Baths consisted of a big tub filled with hot water. The man of the house had the privilege of the nice clean water, then all the other sons and men, then the women and finally the children. Last of all the babies. By then the water was so dirty you could actually lose someone in it.. Hence the saying, "Don't throw the baby out with the Bath water!"

Houses had thatched roofs-thick straw-piled high, with no wood underneath. It was the only place for animals to get warm, so all the cats and other small animals (mice, bugs) lived in the roof. When it rained it became slippery and sometimes the animals would slip and fall off the roof... Hence the saying "It's raining cats and dogs."

The floor was dirt. Only the wealthy had something other than dirt. Hence the saying, "Dirt poor." The wealthy had slate floors that would get slippery in the winter when wet, so they spread thresh (straw) on floor to help keep their footing. As the winter wore on, they added more thresh until, when you opened the door, it would all start slipping outside. A piece of wood was placed in the entrance-way. Hence: a thresh hold.

In those old days, they cooked in the kitchen with a big kettle that always hung over the fire.. Every day they lit the fire and added things to the pot. They ate mostly vegetables and did not get much meat. They would eat the stew for dinner, leaving leftovers in the pot to get cold overnight and then start over the next day. Sometimes stew had food in it that had been there for quite a while. Hence the rhyme: Peas porridge hot, peas porridge cold, peas porridge in the pot nine days old.

Sometimes they could obtain pork, which made them feel quite special. When visitors came over, they would hang up their bacon to show off. It was a sign of wealth that a man could, "bring home the bacon." They would cut off a little to share with guests and would all sit around and chew the fat. 

Bread was divided according to status. Workers got the burnt bottom of the loaf, the family got the middle, and guests got the top, or the upper crust.

Lead cups were used to drink ale or whisky. The combination would Sometimes knock the imbibers out for a couple of days. Someone walking along the road would take them for dead and prepare them for burial.. They were laid out on the kitchen table for a couple of days and the family would gather around and eat and drink and wait and see if they would wake up. Hence the custom of holding a wake.”

Isn’t language interesting!

Thursday, 15 March 2018

Trials and tribulations of reuniting sisters!

So here I am, back in Spain, in Andalucía this time. My older sister and I are visiting our younger sister. It’s the first time in a good while that the three sisters have been together. My daughter did suggest that the three of us should all sleep,in the same bedroom, recapturing our childhood! Fortunately there is no room large enough for three beds.

The journey was interesting to say the least. First there was my older sister not having understood that meeting at departures in Manchester airport meant before not after going through security. Consequently I was waiting for her and not getting through to her phone because she was already in the security queue and being yelled at to switch her phone off!!

We got that sorted and eventually met and found our way to the gate and then onto the plane, headed for Gibraltar. It’s the first time I have flown to Gibraltar.

Except that in the event I didn’t fly to Gibraltar.

We set off from a windy Manchester and the pilot did his usual talk about how nice it was to welcome us onto this EasyJet flight and so on and so forth. He went on, as usual, to talk about weather conditions in Gibraltar: windy, just on the edge of acceptable for landing there.

And then he told us about a rockfall on El Peñón in the last few days, a rockfall which had knocked out the radar system. This meant he would have to land on visuals, provided visibility was good enough. Which it was at that point but he would monitor the situation.

We continued on our rather bumpy way, the pilot explaining to us that the jet stream was really strong and he would have to fly above it if possible. On and off went to the fasten-seat-belts signs throughout the flight. You had to choose your moment to go for a pee!

Then he announced that there was a possibility of our being diverted to Malaga. Oops! But better a diversion than falling off the end of Gibraltar’s runway.

And so, forty minutes before our due landing time, he confirmed, Malaga it was. By now our niece would be on her way to meet us at Gibraltar. How annoying! But they did promise to provide us with transport to The Rock.

Once landed in Malaga, we had to sit on the plane a while until they had sorted some things with the ground crew. But now we were able to send messages to our driver, expecting to be in Gibraltar within a couple of hours.

What false expectations!

We finally got off the plane and stood around in baggage reclaim waiting for further information. Some three quarters of an hour later we all traipsed, in a gloomy kind of procession, into the bowels of the airport, where buses were supposedly waiting for us. Except that not enough buses were waiting. We were unfortunately at the tail end of the gloomy procession. Our bus went to the wrong bit of the underground bus park!

And at long last, after standing around for another two hours, we got onto a bus and made our way to Gibraltar!

And so several hours later than intended the three sisters got together to spend another hour or two reminiscing! Such is my life!

Monday, 12 March 2018

Bouncing back!

Yesterday I got myself up and ready to go for a run. I was halfway out of the door when I realised that I had not picked up my keys. So I popped back in, grabbed them from my handbag, stuffed them in the pocket of my bumbag and off I went.

En route I stopped to have a chat with Mike the dog-walker. That’s Mike who might also be Patrick or even possibly Dave, depending on who you talk to. I suspect, from things he has said about this Roman Catholic education, that he was probably christened Michael Patrick. Where the Dave comes from I have no idea. He had a little rant about obesity and doctors being unwilling to discuss it with their patients for fear of hurting their feelings!!!

Leaving Michael/Patrick/Dave behind, I continued on my way, past the snow drifts that still adorn the roadside, and into the Co-op store to buy the newspaper.

When I arrived home I fished my keys out of my bumbag pocket ... only to find that they were the keys to the flat in Vigo. I was sure I had put those away in a safe place already. Obviously not! So there I was, on the doorstep, without the correct keys. I rang the doorbell. No answer! I hammered on the door. No answer! I rang the landline! No answer and eventually on to messages! I rang Phil’s mobile. Straight to messages but it does that every time and I rang again to make it ring, which is one of the quirks of his mobile. Still no answer! This is what I expected, which is why I usually try to remember the keys. Phil claims to be a poor sleeper but he must sleep more deeply than he thinks because he never hears the phone or the doorbell. Of course, wearing earplugs to sleep in does not help. Eventually, after I had almost worn my fists out banging on the door, he came apologetically to my rescue. So it goes!

Later in the day the gang - our daughter and family - came to eat. I always enjoy a family meal. However, I have been reading more and more about what they term “boomerang children”. These are the offspring who leave home, most often in the UK to go and study at a fairly distant university, sometimes finding a job and establishing themselves in a place of their own, and then come bouncing back.

It’s one of the consequences of the cost of renting accommodation and the difficulty of saving up sufficient money to put down a deposit on a house or flat to buy. Another factor is the difficulty graduates have in finding a job that matches their newly acquired qualifications. So, having had a taste of freedom and independence, they have to return home to the parental home, not quite tail between their legs but feeling a bit miffed at not having got away permanently. After all, that is what most of our generation did: we went off to university, got a job and got on with our lives, returning to Mum and Dad for brief visits. Gaining your independence without tears! It was a good system! Our two followed something like the same trajectory, although our daughter did it in a rather roundabout manner.

The trouble with the boomerang children, it seems, is not only that the offspring feel that they have failed to some extent but also that the parents have got used to, and rather resent losing, their own newfound independence. Most have not gone as far as turning the offspring’s bedroom into a gym or office, or in some cases moving house, downsizing because they no longer needed the extra room. However, a large proportion of us/them have got used to being able to do whatever we/they like without taking the offspring into account. And suddenly the offspring are back, and the grocery bills go up, the washing machine gets more use once again and you have to bite your tongue not to complain about mess.

Problems of modern living! But then maybe the parents, who will live longer and longer according to all the theories, can eventually do a sort of reverse boomerang and go and live in their dotage with their offspring. Good grief! That generation could end up with boomerang children AND boomerang parents!