I was gently chided by an anonymous reader after my last post, as you can read in the comments. My immediate response was to say that there are always things to stop and stare at. My mind went back to one of my favourite spots on the ridge above the village. Sadly my legs won't carry me up there these days so I can only visit it in my memory. Behind the village is the steep-sided valley of the Rio Higuerón, and beyond that the mountains. On the ridge, below the spot where the castle used to stand, is a low wall which I could sit down on in comfort and take in the view. It's a peaceful, quiet spot and you are usually alone, the only sounds being the wind and the occasional bird. If I was very lucky, I would sometimes see an eagle come gliding down from the high peaks and silently by, on down the river valley. If there was an odd cloud or two, and often there wasn't, I could watch the shadows move across the folds of the mountain. A beautiful, peaceful seat to sit for twenty minutes or so before descending once again to the village. I suppose these are the kinds of things that we think of when we consider stopping and staring, but you don't need solitude. Have you ever stopped and stared in a shopping mall? Every week we go to the hypermarket about twenty minutes from home to do our grocery shopping. And then we go along to an icecream stall with tables where we sit and enjoy a cup of coffee. People are passing the whole time, arriving or leaving. I love people watching. A couple of weeks ago, it struck me how much there was to see if you just watched them walking by. We all know about walking; it's where you put one foot in front of the other, over and over, to take you from A to B. But if you stop and stare, it's amazing just how many different ways people find to accomplish this simple activity. Some stride out, others shuffle. Some are hunched over as they trudge along, whilst others are standing so tall and straight and walk in such an energetic manner that they could almost be puppets suspended from invisible strings. Some know exactly where they want to be and head there looking neither to right nor left, whereas others pause and turn and turn again and go a bit further, then look back. There is always something to stop and stare at, wherever you are. It's just a matter of taking the time to do it.
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.