Small Village, Big Heart

I went to a meeting this morning. A very special meeting. For some time now a group of village women have been meeting on a regular basis to knit blankets to be given to Syrian refugees. All of these have been Spanish women, but today's meeting was to encourage women from among the foreigners' population to get involved in a new venture of solidarity. The new initiative, Frigiliana Solidaria, has chosen two charities to support, both based in Málaga. One works to help young single mothers struggling to cope, especially financially; the other works with children, old people and others who find themselves socially excluded, or at risk of social exclusion. Our new group will be knitting to provide them not just with blankets for babies, children and adults, but also clothing items such as jumpers, cardigans, gloves, scarves, shawls and the like which will help people to keep warm across the winter months. In addition, soft toys will be knitted for the younger children. And also we appeal for clothing in good condition to be donated for distribution to those served by the two charities. Today's meeting followed a similar meeting about ten days ago to launch the project to Spanish women. Today though seven members of our expat population came to offer their participation, and at least five more who were unable to attend today have also expressed interest. A handbill is being prepared and we shall have a small stall at the weekly market next Thursday where we will hand out the fliers and answer questions.
But that is not all that the village does for others. December will see the annual Kilo Appeal. Despite the fact that the Spanish economy is recovering there are still very many families where unemployment and poverty is an issue. In December each year, those who have are invited to help those who don't by including in their grocery shopping an extra kilo of non-perishable food to donate for the provision of food parcels to help people at Christmas time.
Christmas is obviously a major celebration here in Spain, as in other countries. However, for the children Los Reyes, the coming of the Wise Men on January 6th is the day that they receive their presents - assuming that their parents can afford a visit, of course. So there is going to be another opportunity to demonstrate solidarity; it is planned to hold a toy service in the church which will be geared to the children, and the children will be asked to bring with them a toy or game which is still in good condition, but which they no longer play with, and these can then be found new homes on 6th January.
The 'Big Society' is alive and thriving in this small Spanish village!


What Happens Now?

Partido Andalucista, the political party that has had my support since my arrival in Frigiliana, is no more. An exraordinary congress held on 12th September voted by an overwhelming majority to wind up the party. It now exists simply as a legal entity offering protection to its 391 consejales sitting in local government across Andalucia. After fifty years of existence, it has gone.
So where now can I ally myself to a political cause?
Partido Andalucista, as is implicit in its name, existed as a party seeking always to secure just and equal treatment for Andalucía within Spain. It did not seek independence like some regional parties. It supported a single, federalist Spanish state within which Andalucía could progress as one of the seventeen autonomous communities which make up Spain. Geographically the largest communidad, Andalucía has shared with its neighbour, Extremadura, a continuing historic poverty even as the rest of Spain flourished until the economic crisis of 2009. 
The current national government (the right-wing Partido Popular, led by Mariano Rajoy) is mired in corruption, as is the left-wing main opposition party, PSOE. There will be a general election before the end of the year, and the widely held expectation is that one of these two parties will form the next government. Not because the mass of Spanish voters think that would be a good thing, but because in a similar attitude to that in the UK, the question is which is the least worst option? Do you vote PSOE to get rid of PP, or do you vote PP to stop PSOE; negative politics with low expectations.
On the other hand, three new parties have come onto the scene and sparked interest in the possibility of positive change. The longest-established is seven year old UPyD, which stands for union (a single Spanish state), a progressive stance, and democracy. It began life in the Basque region to challenge the separatist movement of which ETA was a prominent feature. Ciudadanos (Citizens) likewise began life as a regional party, Ciutadans, opposing the Catalan independence movement, but more recently has been finding support across Spain. And finally there is Podemos (We Can) which is the offspring of the Indignados movement, which elsewhere became Occupy. Podemos is a left-wing party which aims for citizen democracy. It is well to the left of PSOE, and probably has its true roots in anarchism which has always had a small but vocal following in Spain. It's not for me.
In the UK, where I am still registered to vote in national and European elections, I am a paid up member of the Liberal Democrat Party, which in Europe is a member of the ALDE (Association of Liberals and Democrats in Europe) group. Both UPyD and Ciudadans MEPs belong to this grouping, so one of those two would seem a logical choice. Though both describe themselves as centre parties, Ciudadans tends to take a right of centre stance, whereas UPyD is to the left of centre.
More investigation will be called for, but my gut feeling is that my new Spanish political home will be with UPyD.


Something New On The Menu

Cooking is one of my great pleasures and my bookshelves are sagging under the weight of cookbooks I have collected over the years. Some are mainly of nostalgic value, tastes in food generally having moved on, and our tastes too. For instance we have all seventy two volumes of the part-work "Cordon Bleu Cookery", bought week by week back in 1972. There are three or four dishes from there that I occasionally cook, but overall a quick glance at the week's menu plans on the back covers is enough to raise my cholesterol level to dangerous heights. How those who aspired to middle class status were supposed to eat!
Others (any of Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall's River Cottage books) are my staple references, and then there are books that I bought and mean to use. One such, bought about six months ago is the Hummus Bros book. I love hummus, make my own and have always thought of it as a dish that simply needed pittas or flatbreads and a sprinkling of smoked hot paprika to provide a meal. This book though sees it having the ancillary role of the carbs in a meal where some other dish takes the star role. So this evening we sit down to spicy chicken in a tomato, onion and garlic sauce, to be piled in the centre of the dish, with a generous ring of hummus surrounding it. And of course, flatbreads to mop it all up. It's very nearly ready to be served up, so that's what I'm away to do right now.


A Very Welcome Visitor

We have two daughters and when we go England we usually stay with our older daughter and her two children. This way we can help with child care. Our younger daughter lives about an hour's drive from her sister and always comes over to see us at least once during our visit. She is single and a police officer working irregular hours, so we don't get to see as much of her as we would like. Also, when we see her in England it's virtually always as part of a family group.
So it was sheer delight to be at Málaga airport yesterday afternoon to meet her off a flight from Gatwick. Rest days have fallen both sides of the weekend so she is here for a long weekend, with us until Tuesday. And this time, it's just the three of us which is an added bonus.