I've borrowed today's title from a poem, Leisure, by the Welsh poet W H Davies. It just floated into my mind this morning, as things tend to do these days; I suppose it's a sign of old age. But it set me thinking because everybody seems to be in a constant rush these days whenever I stray out of the village. For me though, standing and staring comes very easily, as does sitting and staring. As a retired person I enjoy the luxury of rarely being in a rush to get somewhere, and so stopping and staring is an important part of my life. At this time of year it's usually still dark when I wake in the morning, although it is not yet cold and so I can get up quietly and go out and sit on the balcony. It's a beautiful, peaceful time of day. The ridges across the valley are black with no lights showing anywhere. The village street lights show you the essential shape of the old town, and nobody is yet on the move. Maybe - but only maybe - a distant dog will bark for a few moments, but then the silence returns. The apartment faces west and so I can experience the arrival of dawn as a gradual, lightening of the sky. Then shortly the street lights will go off. Colour comes into the landscape, dull, muted tones at first but then brightening. And then at last a sliver of sunlight appears on the topmost ridge, giving a slight orange tinge to the ground it falls upon, and I can then watch as it creeps down the slopes highlighting the second ridge, and then the third. Around that moment, the steep sides of the mountain will begin to receive their share of the light, a stark contrast between the east-facing sides of the gullies and their still inky-dark west facing partners. Then suddenly it's fully daylight. The daylight brings sound back into the picture. Off in the distance a couple of cockerels crow. The odd car can be heard setting off along the road down to Nerja, and very close to home, a neighbour's ancient, clapped-out scooter coughs and splutters into life with much revving of the engine until Antonio can be sure that it will not let him down as he sets off up the steep road that is the route to the rest of the village. In years gone by of course, none of this would have caught my attention, never mind, held it. Then I would have been washing, shaving, dressing, snatching breakfast and rushing off to work. There are many things to be said for retirement, and this is certainly one of them.
I'm aware that my previous post was rather downbeat, so let me assure you that not all is doom and gloom. We are fortunate in two respects. Despite the hit we have taken on our state pension, we are fortunate to have other sources of income paid in England, which allow us to still to enjoy a pleasant lifestyle over here. Added to that, Spain is still a much cheaper place to live than the UK, especially if you follow a mediterranean dit as we broadly do. I've mentioned before how well blessed we are with restaurants and recently a new one has opened in the main plaza. This time, we welcome the arrival of a marisquería or seafood restaurant. It is a sister retsaurant to a mainstream Spanish restaurant which has been around for many years in the smaller plaza opposite the parish church. Much time, thought and money has gone into providing and attractive, welcoming ambience with a menu to match. My wife and I have eaten there twice already and it has been open for less than a month! On our first visit we began with a really rich and flavoursome cream of lobster soup - not out of a can, that one. My wife had turbot with an orange sauce to follow whilst I opted for a tataki of tuna loin; a recipe can be foundhere. We were back there on Friday evening of last week. No starter, just a freshly cooked paella mixta with chicken, white fish, prawns, clams and mussels. We rose to the challenge but has to leave some in the pan. On both visits we found just the right wines to go with our food making a total cost last Friday of just £51. To give you and idea of how good it is, I'll be back there in three weeks to celebrate my birthday
Although I will readily admit to being a political animal, I am loth to bring politics into this blog which is about my life in Spain, and particularly here in Frigiliana. However, just now and then politics seems to elbow its way into my life, and as it affects my life here so I comment. A lot of people who voted 'leave' in the recent referendum tell me that I have nothing to worry about and that nothing has changed, the implication being that none of the things I fear will happen either. I have two things to say to that position; firstly if nothing has changed it is because Article 50 has not yet been triggered and so the UK is still a full member of the EU, and will continue to enjoy the benefits of membership until it actually does leave. My second point, however, is that they are wrong. Already certain things have changed. If you recall, back in February when David Cameron announced a referendum for 23rd June, I referred to we expat Brits as having had our lives put on hold for four months. Then the result was announced on 24th June - a narrow majority in favour of leaving - and the uncertainty was prolonged; the hypothetical questions I had set out in February became actual, important questions, the only honest answer to them being that no one knows what will eventually be agreed. You may be surprised to learn that between David Cameron's announcement in February and this morning, the pound has lost 18% of its value against the euro, which is almost a fifth and there are no signs that this decline will now stop. So what you may wonder; that makes Britain's exports cheaper. It also makes the raw materials imported to produce those goods to be exported that much more expensive. For me it means that my home in Spain, which as you know is on the market, is now much more expensive to any would-be British buyer. We have had to respond by substantially reducing the asking price, so that is one thing that has already changed, just as the stream of British property seekers has slowed to a trickle. How long will that prevent me from making the move back to the UK that I need to make? Of course, looking on the bright side that means that I can enjoy this lotus-eating lifestyle in the sun for that much longer. Except I'm not sure lotuses will remain on the menu. Since 24th June when the referendum result was announced, my UK state pension which is paid into my bank here in Spain in euros, has now dropped by €30 a week. My wife has suffered a similar reduction. Between us we have over €200 euros a month less to live on. You see what I mean when I say that politics has elbowed its way into our life.
My wife has just spent ten days in England on grandma duties and flew back on Tuesday. On this occasion her flight was scheduled to arrive late afternoon and so on the strength of that we decided it was a great opportunity to have a night in Malaga, something we like to do two or three times a year.
Previously we have always stayed at a hotel just around the corner from the cathedral, but on our last visit it had changed hands, and not for the better.Prices were significantly higher whilst service was significantly down. A friend had recommended a hotel in the same area which we had seen - hard to miss at fifteen stores and occupying a prominent corner position. It's an AC Marriott hotel, so we were pretty confident that it was worth a try. Indeed it was! Checking in, I was told "Oh, we've upgraded you to a junior suite." And what an eye opener that was! Nine floors up with a large bedroom with a king size bed and wardrobe space to match, plus a door out onto a private balcony looking out across the tree-lined Paseo del Parque; a separate lounge with sofa, arm chairs, enormous television and more spectacular views; and a bathroom you could get lost in.
I waited in the ground floor cocktail bar for my wife to arrive and then we went up to the room to chill out for a while.
I'd scanned Tripadvisor for possible places to eat, but suggested that we started by going up to the rooftop terrace which has a bar and a pool area, which we did. We sat, glasses of cava in front of us and soaked up the w
arm, evening sun as we gazed out across the port. The inner basin which was directly in front of us used to be a run-down, neglected area, but recent renovation work has transformed it into a leisure port flanked by attractive paseos, with a selection of bars, restaurants and shops. It is also home to Spain's very own outpost of the Pompidou Centre.
However, apart from the spectacular view there was an added bonus; alongside the terrace was a restaurant which also offered al fresco dining, not to mention outstanding food and wine - I chose a starter of spider crab pate, followed by a main course of roasted shoulder of kid. A magical night.
We will be staying there again, even though we will have to be satisfied with a standard double room.
Yesterday it was not as hot as it has been. Then yesterday evening the wind got up (usually a sign of a change on the way) and then we had a couple of hours of rain, not heavy but certainly more than drizzle, That was followed by a much cooler night. In fact it was the first time since early July when I didn't feel the need to switch on the aircon in the bedroom for a couple of hours before going to bed. Today is bright and sunny as usual with still quite a stiff breeze, and today's maximum temperature is forecast to be no more than 25°, and the next ten days are forecast to be similar, so it looks as if summer has finally relinquished its grasp and we can settle into autumn. In the UK I used to face the arrival of autumn with a tinge of sadness; here it's with a sense of relief. On Monday of last week the temperature, which had been settled in the mid-thirties, suddenly shot all the way up to 38° which in Fahrenheit is just over 100°. Summer which usually ends around the end of August, hung on an extra two weeks this year, which may not seem long, but after the continuous heat of early July through August, it leaves people longing for cooler weather to arrive. Even so, we can now look forward to a couple of months which would be considered summery back in England. And it will probably be another month before we see any serious rain. It's surprising to be reminded of the differences between Spain and Britain when it comes to changes in the vegetation. We were in England in March, for instance, and I had completely forgotten about bare trees. In Andalucia we have very few deciduous trees and so the species we have are in leaf all the year round. Moreover our trees which include olive, fig, avocado, mango as well as conifers, all tend to have dark green leaves, thick and glossy.When a leaf falls it will already have been replaced by a new leaf. The result is a uniformity of foliage colour no matter what time of the year. So another difference is that we never has those bright, fresh greens that typify a British spring. Nor do we get that burst of reds, browns and oranges of autumn. I speak of trees because the earth here bakes hard and dry across the summer giving open country a drab, brown appearance interspersed with herbs like thyme and rosemary which share a similar type of leaf to our trees.