We Have A Lodger!

The weather here continues unseasonably warm, to such a degree that the local English-language newspaper this week offered its readers a useful phrase with which to greet one's Spanish neighbours: Parece si todavía está verano (It feels as if it's still summer). But the end of the year is in sight. Last weekend the clocks went back, and so sunset is now just after 6 o'clock. Because it is still warm, we sit out on our balcony enjoying the symphony of colours from full sun to nightime.
That was how we came to discover that we have a house guest. A couple of nights ago, we heard a flutter and a bird took up a perch on the rail of our toldo. It took not the slightest notice of us, but just settled down to roost for the night. And it comes back each night and occupies almost precisely the same spot each time. When the sun comes up, it's off again for the day.
Last night I got my camera out and managed to get this shot. The flash didn't appear to disturb it in any way. Combing through my Larousse Field Guide to the Birds of Britain and Europe, I'm pretty certain it's a black redstart with its winter plumage, but to any ornithologists looking at this, I'd be grateful for your more knowledgable opinion.


Lazy Days

It's days like today that really bring home to me what it was that made me so determined to come and live here. Tonight, the clocks go back, so it will be dark early tomorrow. But that won't matter because it will still be warm in the evening, so people will still be out and about. And during the daytime? Well, what more could I ask - an afternoon spent lying in the sun up on my roof terrace, followed by a dip in the jacuzzi.
The very first time I came to Frigiliana in 1983, it was this time of year and I swam in the sea on my birthday. 26 years later, the years have taken their toll on my resilience, so that won't happen this year. We'll sit outside a restaurant instead and enjoy an al fresco dinner.


A Long Day, But Worth It.

The local Anglican church to which my wife belongs, organises trips out across the autumn and winter. Last Thursday we joined the visit to the towns of Baeza and Ubeda in the far northeast of Andalucia. This involved a total of nine hours of travelling in order to spend a couple of hours in each town.
Both of these towns reached their peak in the sixteenth century. As a result, they are considered to be gems of Renaissance architecture, a verdict that is especially justified in the case of Ubeda, the larger of the two, which has a much more extensive old quarter than Baeza. There were many palaces, churches and municipal buildings from this era, but I have chosen to show La Iglesia de San Pablo in Ubeda, built like so many others on the site of a mosque, and dating in part from the thirteenth century.
Ubeda's other distinction lies in it being the first town in Andalucia to be reconquered by the Christians in 1212. Interestingly, instead of pressing south from Ubeda towards the Nasrid seat of power in Granada, the Christian armies travelled west along the Guadalquivir, taking Jaen (1212), Córdoba (1236) and eventually Sevilla (1248). The Kingdom of Granada which stretched south from the Guadalquivir to the coast, and from Alemria in the east to Tarifa in the west survived, and indeed flourished, for some 250 years until the defeat of Boabdil by the armies of Ferninand and Isabel in 1492 - the 2nd of January, to be precise.


A Little Trip Out

Several years ago, the old municipal market in the centre of Nerja closed down. It stood empty for many years, then eventually it was restored to its former architectural glory and reopened - as an art gallery! Since then we have lacked that essential of Spanish living, the daily fresh food market. And so I have been having to make do with the fish counter at the hypermarket 20km down the road where we do the bulk of our shopping. More and more, though, the choice has been reduced to a few farmed species of 'wet' fish, avariety of different types of prawn, and an array of molluscs.
Recently I was talking to the chef in one of our local restaurants and praising his fish. "I buy it all from the market in Almuñecar," he told me. So today we took a drive down the motorway and went browsing around the meat, fish, greengrocery and bread stalls. I shall be back, and soon, with my cool box! Wonderful locally caught fish, vegetables brought in from la huerta (the local horticultural area), splendid carcasses of beef, lamb, rabbit, pork, as well as fat, free range chickens. A different kind of art gallery, but a feast for my eyes just the same.


Indian Summer

The holidaymakers departed a month ago now, but summer is still with us. We had a short, gentle wet spell just over a week ago, but today and for the rest of this week, Frigiliana temperatures are forecast to hit highs of 33 or 34, with lots of sun. Great weather for lounging on a half-empty beach and gazing at the sea. Not so good for sea swimming, however. From the highest water temperatures for 25 years in August, the water has now fallen back to a shivering 22 degrees!

Of course, there are still visitors around - empty nesters flying out to take advantage of lower prices; 'swallows' returning to their winter villas and apartments after a summer spent in northern Europe, and some longhaul exotic species blown in from the Americas or Japan.

And then there are all the feathered birds to watch! I'm promising myself a trip down to the southern tip of Spain one autumn or spring to witness the migrations between Europe and Africa. From what I've been told, they are spectacular, especially the sight of the big birds like eagles, vultures and storks endlessly circling on the thermals inland until they gain sufficient height to glide across the Straits of Gibraltar. Ah well, perhaps next year!