Nothing much happens at this time of year, so it can be difficult to think of something to blog about that I haven't touched on before. Well, nature has dished up a topic for me. Just before half past five this morning my wife and I were wakened by a pronounced shaking of the bed. This continued for only three or four seconds after we woke, but was unnerving to say the least. Anyway it quickly stopped without any perceptible damage. We agreed we had just had an earthquake and rolled over and went back to sleep. This morning it's the main item of news; a strong earthquake, currently described as 6.3 on the Richter scale had occurred with its epicentre just about 75 miles due south of here, just off the coast of Morocco. The main impact in terms of damage was felt in the Spanish enclave of Melilla on the Moroccan coast. Over here little if any damage and certainly no reports of any injuries. On reflection, the remarkable thing is that this should be unusual. Spain lies on the southern boundary of the European Plate, whilst the North African Plate's northern boundary meets it under the Mediterranean. Shifts at the junctions of tectonic plates are the norm rather than the exception, and that is what causes earthquakes. It's just that this boundary is more stable than many. More stable, yes; totally stable, no. Anyway, there you are - something different for a change.
I mentioned last time that the funeral of our neighbour, Antonio, would be held in the afternoon of Christmas Day. We had friends joining uo for lunch, but they felt as we did that we needed to show our respects to Antonio and his family, so the revised programme for the day became, nibbles and cava followed by the first course, butternut squash soup, then the main course of slow roasted shoulder of lamb with boulangere potatoes, brussels sprouts roasted with onion, and a rough puree of carrots, parsnips and cream. Then we went down to the main street to await the arrival of the funeral from the church. The custom here is that a requiem mass is held in church in the old village ending with the committal of Antonio's body to its grave. The coffin is then put back into the hearse which drives slowly through the old village and then through the new village to the cemetery. The family follow by car if the widowed spouse is elderly, and behind walk the men and women of the village who have been in the church, with others along the route joining in as the hearse passes. We fell in behind an already huge crowd of people in the centre of the village. It's not a procession as such; just everybody wanting to pay their respects who follow Antonio to the cemetery. This I think was the largest attendance that I have seen in the eight years we have been here, but when we arrived at the entrance to the cemetery there was another huge crowd - people who lived beyond the cemetery - waiting to pay their respects to this much loved and much respected man. The family went with the coffin to the niche that had been opened to receive his body while everyone else waited at the gates, chatting quietly among ourselves. Once Antonio was safely in his grave and the headstone had been put in place and securely plastered, the family came back to a small room just inside the cemetery gates which is reserved for these occasions. It has two doors, one at each end. The family line up behind a long heavy wooden table, and everyone files past them to express their condolences before leaving by the second door and returning to whatever they had been doing. In our case, that meant back home for the final course of our Christmas meal; homemade Christmas pudding ice cream. But one of the things that you have to get used to at my age is that we belong to the generation which provides the funerals. On New Year's Eve we lost two more friends, Mike in the early hours of the morning and Jennie in the late evening. So we are off to another funeral tomorrow and a third on Monday. One or two other friends died during the course of 2015. It's part of what my eldest daughter calls 'the new normal', a permanent change in the way life is. As you accept the new normal, I'm struck by how quickly it ceases to be scary. I don't know when it will be, but one day not that far away the funeral will be mine. So, Carpe Diem as they say. Seize the day. Whatever it is you dream of doing, do it now while you still can. So my New Year wish to you all is that this may be the year when you realise your dream