Christmas Day

To be absolutely honest, this is a Christmas that I had hoped would be spent in a new home back in England. Sadly, with the current state of the property market, that was not to be. Our home remains on the market and we hope that a buyer will appear in the coming twelve months.
It's not because we no longer like it here. If you have to be stranded anywhere there are few better places to be. It's just that with increasing age and decreasing stamina, living on the side of a mountain gets more challenging. Going up to the car park behind us involves climbing thirty seven steep steps, whilst returning from the Centre of the village involves thirty five steps to get to the front door, followed by a further twenty eight up to our floor.
On the benefit side this is a beautiful place to spend Christmas. Outside it's cold but sunny with a clear blue sky. We are just the two of us this year, which is a lovely change. It's so easy to be sociable in this village that we tend to forget that sometimes it's nice to be unsociable and just enjoy each other's company.
In Spain the main Christmas meal is held on Christmas Eve, and everywhere closes around six o'clock so that staff can get home to their families. So for us Christmas began on Friday with a visit to one of our favourite restaurants, a fish restaurant. Cream of lobster soup followed by grilled turbot in a citrus sauce, accompanied by a very good bottle of red wine from the Ribera del Duero region. I've said it before, but to repeat myself, when you're looking for a good Spanish red, look for Ribera del Duero on the label rather than Rioja. On a pound for pound basis you'll do far better.
Last night we went to Midnight Mass in the seventeenth century village church (extended and converted from the earlier mosque). It was a 'proper' Midnight Mass; the priest appeared at midnight, so we were already celebrating Christmas, and what a celebration. One of Frigiliana's groups of traditional singers and musicians was in attendance and what they may lack in polish they more than compensate with enthusiasm. After the gospel reading, the children presented their Nativity play with equal verve. Latin countries do emotion so much more uninhibitedly than we Brits.
So here I am, all the bits and pieces I need are ready in the kitchen for a lunch that will stretch across the afternoon and into the evening, and I can pause for a while to wish you all a Happy Christmas.


On The Other Hand......

So here we are once agin in the week before Christmas soon to be followed by New Year's Eve, and then the start of 2017. It's the time of year when the media look back and review what happened. As usual, I suspect it's going to make for a miserable message. Yemen and Syria continue to be devastated by wars which are killing countless civilian and and forcing millions more to grab what they can carry and leave. Traffickers continue to despatch thousands to the mercy of the Mediterranean, where regularly they drown. Those that get as far as Europe find a very cool welcome awaits them.
There have been the usual number of suicide bombers. Authoritarian populism seems to be on the increase across Europe and the USA. One celebrity after another has gone to meet their maker. All in all, a pretty grim year. In the words of Tina Turner, I found myself asking Is that all there is?
So I decided to look at the other side of the coin. Amid the carnage of Syria and Yemen are medical and aid workers, putting their own lives at risk in order to save others, and living in the same impossible conditions, showing that solidarity and humanity are not dead.
Right here in Frigiliana there's a different story to be told, too. A story of two groups of women, one Spanish, one British, who have been getting together for most of this year to knit blankets, scarves, mittens and bonnets for the refugees crowded into camps in Europe, as well as bonnets for children in Málaga suffering hair loss as they undergo chemotherapy. Or the story of this past weekend, when over 500kg of food were donated for the benefit of those who are in dire need this Christmas, as well as more than €750 which will go to the local branch of Cáritas. Alongside this there is the campaign, No Child Without A Toy, to which people donate gifts for the Feast of the Magi, so that no child will be left out of the celebration.
Having started down this path, other things come to mind. I had two bad falls this year. In one I broke my arm badly. In the other it was my watch and my glasses that bore the brunt, though I managed to repaint my face with bruises fit to scare young children. On both occasions people rushed to help me, total strangers who saw someone in trouble and got involved. Two girls I never got a chance to thank, who rolled their jumpers into a pillow as I lay on the floor waiting for the ambulance, the fellow member of our tour group, German by birth, who insisted on coming to the hospital with Mary to act as interpreter. In Winchester, I was taken in hand by two members of the nearby station staff who took me to their staff room, provided me with paper towels to clean up the blood, gave me water to drink and then escorted me across to the platform to catch the train home.
I thought of the warm and caring attitude of hospital staff as I struggled to resurrect my schoolboy German, of the continuing concern and little acts of practical help offered by our friends here in the village, of the locum chaplain at my wife's church who came to the house to see me and stayed chatting for a couple of hours.
I think, too, of the evident humanity and compassion for others that I encounter every day among my Facebook friends.
And I think of all these things being repeated always and everywhere by ordinary people who will never attract media attention.
My conclusion? That there is far, far more good in this world than evil, and if I focus my attention on that, 2017 is going to be a wonderful year. I hope yours is, too.



Yesterday we went into Málaga as we usually do each year to grab some of the Christmas spirit. The Christmas lights on Calle Larios are always something to look forward to, and this year was no exception. I took a couple of photos but they were nothing special; this video clip does them justice. It shows the switch on which happens every evening at half past six, when it has just gone dark.


Some Familiar, Others Not

Villancicos Navideñas are The Christmas songs of Spain. For something a little different, why not play these this year.



Our stay in England ended with a flight back yesterday afternoon, an experience I was not looking forward to. As if I hadn't enough discomforts already I managed to put my back out on Friday; I don't know how, but that night I didn't sleep too well as whenever I moved I was aware of pain in the muscle of my lower back. All day Saturday was a day of shuffling around timidly, and Saturday night was worse, an almost sleepless night with a violent jab of pain whenever I tried to adjust my position. So by Sunday morning I feared I would have to extend my stay, but with the help of paracetamol, ibuprofen and an adhesive heat pad I made it to Gatwick where I had a wheelchair from bag drop to the door of the plane, and then  by wheelchair from the plane to our waiting village taxi at Málaga - and finally we were home with just the twenty eight steps from the front door up to the living room to contend with. The relief just to be home is hard to describe. I'm beginning to think I should just stop travelling (first Dresden, then Winchester, now this), but I probably won't.