On A Serious Note

Yesterday notices went up around the village appealing for information about a missing person. A Dutch holidaymaker left her hotel on the morning of 17th June and was seen in Frigiliana the same day. She never returned to her hotel and for the past ten days nothing has been heard of or from her. She has drawn no money from any ATMs; she has not used her credit card; nor has she spoken to her family. She should now be back home in Holland with her family. Instead, her family is here in Spain desperate to know what has happened to her.
Today the Guardia Civil helicopter spent close on two hours overflying the open country of the Natural Park which lies to the east of the village. It has gone now. Whether the crew had any succes in their search or not, I do not know.
Of course for so long as she remains unlocated any speculation as to what might have befallen her is exactly that; speculation. Nevertheless it set me thinking. As I described in a recent post, El Parque Natural de las Sierras deTejeda, Almijara y Alhama is a wonderful area of mountains, narrow, steep-sided valleys, springs and rivers. It is on the doorstep of Frigiliana. It is close to Nerja, ten or fifteen minutes from the beaches. At this time of year the sky is an amazing blue, the sun shines from dawn till dusk. You could be in paradise.
You are not in paradise, though. Close as it is to the coast and to ‘civilisation’ the Natural Park is a wild and empty mountain region. For those of you who know the northwest of England and the Lake District here is a point of comparison; the altitude above sea level of my roof terrace is 67 feet higher than Shap Summit on the M6 motorway, and we aren’t even properly into the mountains yet.
Speaking of the Lake District, in my travels to different parts of the world I have yet to find maps that are as detailed, accurate and easy to follow as the Ordnance Survey 1:25,000 Explorer range. Maps of this area are not in the same league. Nor are the books and pamphlets of walks in the sierras sufficient in themselves. To explore this area - well worth doing, by the way - you need to be properly prepared. You need adequate footwear, particularly for ankle protection; on steep, uneven ground with loose rock and stone it’s all too easy to put a foot wrong. So you are also well-advised to carry at least one walking pole to aid balance and stability. You need appropriate clothing, including at this time of the year, a broad-brimmed hat that will protect you from the power of the sun’s rays (so don’t forget your factor 20, either!). You will sweat, often profusely, and so you need a good supply of water with you, as well as some high-calorie snacks. Hand-held GPS and a mobile phone are useful, though in many places you won’t get a signal, so don’t rely on them.
Finally, it is a very bad idea to go alone into the mountains unless you are extremely familiar with the area. And if you go in a group, one at least should have that familiarity. If that sounds an impossible ask, then you have two options. Either stay out of the mountains, or sign up with one of the guided groups which are available. That’s for your safety, but it’s also a useful plug for a fellow expat, John Keogh. A link to his website is part of this blog.
After all that, let us hope and pray that Mary Ann Goosens is found soon and that she is safe and well.



The feria has gone. The romería is over.And spring now turns smoothly into summer. Cloudless skies, blazing sun and the annual influx of visitors who will hopefully provide the village shops, bars and restaurants with the level of income that they need at this time of the year if they are to survive the quiet winter months. To my wife and I the arrival of summer calls for a change to the daily routine. No more waking late, lounging in bed with a mug of coffee then on to a late breakfast. We wake around seven, breakfast by eight, and are out before nine to do whatever we have too. With maximum daytime (shade) temperatures now up into the mid-thirties, the aim is to be back indoors by eleven at the latest, to take refuge in the shade of drawn blinds and later, after a leisurely lunch to settle into that classic Spanish invention, the siesta. Later, a cup of tea - we are still English, after all - and then about seven we can venture up to the roof terrace for half an hour in the jacuzzi. And sometime after eight then maybe out for an evening stroll and a drink outside a bar before eating late.


All Over Bar The Swearing-In

Well, the negotiations are at an end it seems. The new alcalde (mayor) who will be sworn in on Saturday morning at 11 am is the old alcalde, Javier López Ruiz of the Partido Andalucista. The outcome predicted from the start by ‘those who ‘know’ has come to pass; the two Partido Popular councillors have formed a coalition with the outgoing party to ensure another four years of power, making a total of 20 in all.
I had read yesterday in Sur, the Andalucian daily paper that this was about to happen, but it has been confirmed by the arrival under the door today of a leaflet from PSOE, the socialists, who you may recall had the majority of the votes but lacked the killer sixth seat to take power. I shan’t bore you with the details, but they not happy bunnies today So the make-up of the new ayuntamiento is Partido Andalucista/Partido popular 6 seats; PSOE 5 seats. Will this turn out to be a good thing or a bad thing? God willing, I’ll let you know in 2015.


A Suggestion For Andrew Lansley

My late father in law used to love coming on holiday with us to Frigiliana, but would never have wanted to move out permanently because he was worried about health care. And before we moved here ourselves it was not uncommon for people we knew who clearly perceived us to be 'of advancing years' to ask how we would feel if we needed medical treatment in Spain. Well, let me set your minds at rest with a couple of personal examples.
Because I have two separate chronic conditions I need regular, daily medication. Both conditions are stable and so my prescription doesn't change. This enables my doctor to write an annual prescription which is stored on my computerised medical records. I have a compact plastic card with an electronic chip. Whenever I am running short I drop into a handy pharmacy - it can be anywhere in Andalucía - and hand my card to the assistant who places it into a reader and dispenses my next allocation of whichever drug it is that I need. And the drugs are free because of my age.
I also need to have an annual blood test, which was due round about now. So on Tuesday morning about 10 o'clock I dropped into the local health centre in the village and asked the receptionist for an appointment with my doctor. She gave me an appointment for midday that same day. My doctor issued the necessary form for a fasting blood test, and on the way out I spoke to the receptionist again, who booked me an appointment with the nurse for 9 o'clock the following morning; in fact as I walked out of the health centre on Wednesday morning, the church clock was just striking nine! So from request for an appointment to completed test, twenty three hours.
Mr Lansley, before proceeding with your wholesale shake up of the NHS might I suggest you come out here and spend some time finding out how this level of service is achieved in Spain; then on the way back, you might have a chat with the French authorities. There was absolutely no comparison between the treatment my brother received in a French hospital during his final days and what I saw delivered by UK hospitals before coming here.