19/05/2017

Discoveries

There are many memories that I shall take with me when I leave Spain and in particular when I leave Andalucía, which despite being the largest Comunidad Autonoma and forming the basis for most foreigners' image of Spain, is only one part of the country. Galicia , El País Vasco and Cataluña for instance are very different culturally and gastronomically from the popular image.
Some memories, however, I can have close to hand thanks to You Tube - the wonderful female singers which Andalucía has produced. These clips below introduce you to my three favourites, all heavily influenced by the all-pervasive music of the south, flamenco, but presenting a much more accessible music. The only comparable female British singers who spring to mind are Barbara Dickson whose roots are in folk music, and Elkie Brooks who began her professional career in jazz, but moved far beyond it.
Anyway, enough of the musicology; have a listen to these three You Tube clips. I hope you enjoy them.
https://youtu.be/qTw21b9qB4I

29/04/2017

Getting There

When we came to Spain nine years ago we brought a lot of personal possessions with us, as you would expect, especially books, video tapes and, because I find it difficult to just consign stuff that I value to the tip, three sets of course books and assorted other materials from my OU Spanish courses, plus two years of OU books and materials for two German courses. Most these things have lain there unused for the whole time we have been here. Also novels I enjoyed by South American authors, as well as a number of maps and guide books and even - would you believe it - text books and manuals bought during my days as a hypnotherapist back in the late seventies and early eighties!
With some difficulty I came to see that if all of this had just sat there idly for so long then there was absolutely no justification for taking them back to the UK. So those that can be sold have gone to the charity shop where my wife works as a volunteer; the rest went for recycling. Likewise, clothes in the wardrobe which belong firmly to my slimmer days have gone to the shop. So that has been a chore but a productive one. When we first decided to move back, my wife began collecting cardboard boxes for packing things, but the state of my back now means that we have put the whole job of packing in the hands of the removal company and their people will bring their own packing materials, so several trips to recycling have now disposed of all the cardboard. This clear out, which was daunting in prospect, is now behind us, floor space has reappeared and we can draw breath.
Today I finished drawing up an inventory and taking photos of items where appropriate for the removal people and emailed all that to them.
Next comes the 'bureaucracy'. We need an appointment with our tax advisor to calculate our Spanish income taxes due as we leave. We need to surrender our tax residency and our 'residencia'. We have to talk to the bank about clearing the funds from the sale when we receive them, so that we can arrange to move the money back to the UK and close our Spanish bank account, and we need to sell the car, notify the Traffic Dept of the Policía Nacional, cancel our contract with Orange and make some interim arrangement for phones and Internet access, sort out any upcoming utility bills. All of this is daunting in prospect.
We have a completion date of 20th June and the removal company booked for either the 14th or 15th June, so that means we shall have to book into a hotel locally (just as the start of the tourist season is getting into gear), but can't yet say for how long, just as we don't yet know what date we should book our flights for.
Fortunately, at the other end we shall be staying with our daughter for a while, so all of the resettlement hassle can be put on hold until we get there. It will be good to have all of this behind us and take a breather before beginning the search for a new home in England.

12/04/2017

All Good Things.......

In June of 2015, having decided that it was no longer practical for me to continue living half way up a mountain, we put the apartment on the market with the intention of returning to the UK. Over the following eighteen months we had a few, very sporadic viewings but no one biting. Talking to people over hare, there seemed to be consensus that the British are not buying, but the Scandinavians are. So at the beginning of March we switched to a Swedish agency with a local office in Nerja. Nothing happened for a couple of weeks but then we had four viewings in  a week, followed by two more in a single day on Monday of last week. On Tuesday we received an offer - less than we would have liked, but realistic; we accepted and today a substantial reservation fee arrived in the agency's bank account and next week we'll fix a meeting to draft a timetable. Assuming nothing goes pear-shaped, we aim to be on our way back to England around the middle of June. Everybody reading this, please immediately cross your fingers that all goes smoothly, and keep them that way until I tell you I've got our air tickets.
What about this blog? Well, I was already struggling to come up with truly fresh content, so I suspect its days are numbered. I'll post occasionally over the next couple of months and then that will be a natural ending.
Will I blog from England as we begin living our next dream? I honestly don't know, but I'll let you know when I know myself. I've enjoyed this past nine years, and I'm delighted that so many people found what I wrote worth reading. Thank you to each and every one of you.

29/03/2017

It's Been A Long, Slow Start To The Year.

Back around the middle of January my back went - badly. The pain then got progressively worse and so I booked an appointment with a physiotherapist who made things worse rather than better, but suggested I see her colleague, a highly respected osteopath of whom I hade heard many very good reports. He examined me and concluded that the degree of tension and inflammation in the muscles of my lower back made his kind of treatment/ He sent me immediately to the walk-in emergency centre where I was x-rayed, given a cocktail of drugs - pain killers and anti-inflammatories - by injection, together with a prescription for a course of six daily injections which were done by the practice nurse. I also saw my own doctor who gave me prescriptions for tramadol and ibuprofen. As I had an appointment the following week with the orthopedic consultant who was monitoring the progress of recovery from the fractured humerus caused by my fall in Germany last May, she wrote a report for me to give to him about my back problems. He put in a request for an MR scan on my lower back and a further appointment for when he had the results. That appointment was last week, when I  finally learned what was behind the pain; two things, the disc between by lowest lumbar vertebra and the sacrum has collapsed, whilst the next vertebra going up has suffered a number of stress fracture cracks. I will be seeing him again in a couple of months with new x-rays to see whether the anatomical situation is stable, or whether there is further deterioration.
In the meantime, I must wear a lumbar support belt to take some of the load off my spine, and instead of my walking stick, which had caused to bend forward and lean a little to one side, I must now use crutches which will encourage me to hold myself erect, and balance the wieight more evenly onto both legs. A week of doing this, and already I have felt a tremendous improvement.
The trouble is that it never rains but it pours, as the saying goes. The pain my back meant it was impossible for me to lie down in a bed, and so for over two months I have been sleeping (not terribly well) propped up in a sitting position on a high-back sofa, with my feet either down on the floor or resting on a couple of cushions in one of our wicker chairs normally used at the table on the balcony. Which is all very well except that the blood is not flowing properly through my feet and lower legs and so they have become sore and inflamed, further restricting my mobility.
the result of all this is that I have become pretty much house-bound except for struggling to medical appointments.
By good fortune, there is an English chiropodist, Sue, who has been visiting at home every six weeks to deal with my toe nails and just keep an eye things generally. - I am al diabetic so foot health is very important. She was here on Monday, examined my feet and legs and went to work on improving my circulation. She gave  me a number of simple exercises to do diligently which will assist the process of pumping the blood up the veins in my legs to improve circulation. I'm doing them as directed and again within just a couple of days I can feel a difference, also for a while she will come every two weeks to work on the circulation, using a combination of massage and reflexology/
So, at last, though slowly, I feel that I have turned the corner to get back to something more resembling a normal life.It has brought home to me, though, the need to find a buyer and move to a less demanding environment halfway up the side of a mountain.
I was going to deal with how to make a proper Spanish omelette, but that will have to wait until next time.

25/02/2017

Why Chorizo?

First of all an apology for another lengthy delay in following up my last posting. A string of medical appointments with which I shan't bore you, kept me from my keyboard.
Why do I begin a food focus with a recipe for making your own chorizo? After all, there's no shortage of places to buy it at a reasonable price. Apart from allowing you to choose the amount of spiciness that suits you, though, it has much to teach us about the history of 'typical' Spanish food.
Spain until the death of Franco in 1975 was a country with an economic chasm between rich and poor.  Especially in the south there was the system referred to as 'latifundia', which is to say that the rich - mainly absentee - landowners possessed vast estates relying on day labourers to do the work. The work such as it was, was was seasonal, casual and poorly paid. Families lived in cramped properties on a small plot of land which had to supply everything they needed. Maybe a few olive trees, a vegetable garden providing potatoes, onions, garlic, root vegetables, maybe tomatoes, peppers and beans - eaten green in the summer or dried for eating over the winter. Meat was either by chicken or by a pig. The chickens also provided eggs, but the most important meat was pork, and every family had its pig, bought young in the spring, fattened by whatever it found and by kitchen scraps. Then in November came La Matanza, the slaughter. The animal was slaughtered at home and the hard work began; the throat was slit and the blood drained into a large cooking pot where it was mixed with some form of cereal and then boiled to be spiced and packed into gut and made into black pudding to be dried and eaten through the winter. The loin was for early eating while still fresh. The belly provided bacon. The hind quarters were packed in salt, then hung in a cold, dry atmosphere to produce what we now refer to as Serrano ham. Just about every part was preserved so that it could be used as necessary right through the winter.
That then left the bits and pieces which couldn't be used in any of these ways. Some could go into stews with vegetables and pulses to be eaten pretty much straight away. Then there were the remains bits. They were ground down along with garlic, smoked paprika, maybe chilli, and packed into intestines. And there you have chorizo!
In Britain sausage is sausage; you can eat it with mashed potato, with a batter for toad in the hole, or with flaky pastry as sausage rolls, and that's about it. 
Chorizo, on the other hand can be used in a huge variety of stews and casseroles - peppers, tomatoes, potatoes, chickpeas; it is not so much a product in its own right so much as a preserved ingredient providing a source of protein in the winter diet. When you live on or below the poverty line such sources of protein are vital to survival; chorizo serves a much wider and more fundamental purpose than today's British banger.