Farewell Thoughts

Nine years has seen many changes in Frigiliana, including new apartment blocks and a consequent small increase in population. The previous administration at the town hall put a great deal of effort into promoting the cultural heritage of the village, as well as ensuring that the beauty of our village is promoted nationally and more widely bringing increased tourism revenue to the community. At the moment an extensive program me of work is under way to improve the visual appeal of what I might call the old part of the new village, especially renewing and improving worn out, pot holed road surfaces, but also taking the opportunity of upgrading upgrading infrastructure - electricity and water supplies, drainage and sewerage. Telefonica, the Spanish equivalent of BT, has also brought the benefits of fibre optic telephony to the community.
Over and above all this, the completion of the Plaza de las Tres Culturas in 2008 is now rapidly coming to full fruition. After a painfully slow start following the financial crash of that same year, almost all the ground level units have been fitted out and contribute more restaurants to the already impressive total. Indeed, few if any villages in the area can offer such a wide, high quality selection. You can eat traditional and contemporary Spanish food, including food typical of other regions of Spain, especially northern Spain. But even more varied is the range of international cuisine - Polish, Italian, Indian as well as Asian/Japanese, North African/Middle Eastern and Street food from around the world, especially Mexican. Nor are these simply local franchises of branded chains, but the inspiration of a number of talented and passionate chef-proprietors.
So my parting gift to all those inspired to visit (or better still, make their home in) Frigiliana is the prospect of lots of good eating all at very reasonable prices. I fear that my wife and I will be eating out much less frequently on our return to England. But then again, I'm a keen home cook, so that's not all bad news.
Thank you for following my ramblings over the years. Watch this space; shortly I'll post a link to my new blog, whatever that turns out to be.


Milk In The Bidet

The removal company completed their work yesterday morning and so in the afternoon we checked into the hotel for the remainder of our time in Spain. It's a large room with two large single beds but still lots of space. We have a large balcony facing west, so good for sitting out in the mornings and after sunset. It's too hot during the afternoon to use it with the sun on it, especially as yesterday the first heatwave of the year arrived. However the double glazed doors are super effective and the air conditioning is impressive. We are in the centre of things with everything we want within my restricted walking distance. Unfortunately the bar and restaurant are closed on  Wednesday and we have invited friends to drop by the bar next Wednesday evening for a farewell drink, so we have had to switch the venue and hope that an alert on Facebook reaches everyone directly or by sharing.
We had some cartons of juice in the fridge at home, along with a litre bottle of fresh milk. The only trouble is that there is no fridge or minibar in the room. A solution was swiftly found by my wife; fill the bidet with cold water and stand the milk in it!


That Time Of Year - Again.

I didn't sleep at all well last night, nor the night before. Not only that but I don't expect to sleep well tonight or tomorrow niight. Back problems contribute, of course, but there is a more fundamental cause. And it marks another significant difference between British and Spanish culture.
Churches in Britain of the Anglican, Roman Catholic and Orthodox denominations are usually dedicated to one of the saints, technically the patron saint of that parish. All saints have their feast day and on the day of their patron saint, there will be a special act of worship, usually a Eucharist. And that's it. In Spain, on the other hand the village church is the church for all the people in the village. In other words the Saint is patron not just of the church, but of the entire village. His or her feast day is celebrated with enthusiasm by the entire village.
Tuesday 13th June is la fiesta (the feast day) of San Antonio de Padua, to whom our church is dedicated. The celebrations are spread over a number of days, and a fairground is set up for the duration. There is a caseta, a huge marquee to host bands, concerts and the nightly disco. On the final day (Tuesday) there is a romeria which is a combination of pilgrimage, picnic and piss-up (Pardon my French). Out come the fiesta outfits - colorful dresses that you also see in flamenco for the girls and women, gleaming white, frilled shirts for the men, teamed with tight black trousers, cummerbund and wide-brimmed, black hats for the boys and men. Horses groomed and dressed to within an inch of their lives provide the transport for many, whilst others are aboard carriages drawn by horses, mules or oxen. The procession begins with Mass in the church and then makes its slow, noisy way right through the village and on to a suitable piece of land out in the local countryside. Eventually everyone returns to the village where an extravagant firework display closes the fiesta for another year.
All very exciting and enjoyable, except for the one fly in the ointment for us oldies; the nightly discos kick off at midnight and keep right on until six o'clock in the morning. There are no side panels on the caseta and so the sound radiates outwards and then ricochets around the surrounding hills. Audible everywhere is the intrusive, insistent thump of the sound system's bass note.
This year, the end of fiesta also marks our last night in the apartment which has been our home for the last eight and a half years. The removal company arrives at eight o'clock on Wednesday morning and we move into the hotel for the final days of the dream we have been so fortunate to live.


The Home Straight

The past few weeks have a been time of much activity. The apartment is being sold furnished, so I had to draw up an inventory of the furniture items that are included in the sale. Having signed up a removal company to collect the stuff we want and take it to England, I had a second inventory to draw up for that. That meant that between us we could now identify those items which were not on either inventory; in other words, we weren't leaving them for our buyers but we don't want them in England. Fortunately, my wife volunteers in one of the local charity shops so several loads of clothes, books and assorted bric a brac made their way to Nerja. That task, I'm afraid fell entirely on my wife's shoulders as my back prevents me from doing any meaningful lifting and carrying.
Then there was the little matter of my paintings. Having had the space afforded by a staircase with four flights and two landings, plus a living room and three bedrooms, there has been ample space to hang them all. That's unlikely to be the case in our next home! Savage pruning of the 'portfolio' to a handful of special favourites left sixteen pictures to dispose of. Fortunately this is a Spanish village so there was a simple solution; line them all up propped against the wall out in the street with a notice inviting people to help themselves if they saw something they liked, and within a few hours everything had been carried off to a new home.
The other daunting prospect was cancelling utilities and our mobile phone contracts. The Spanish property transfer procedure works in our favour here. Apparently the utilities change over is done by the buyer's lawyer. The phone contract, I discovered can be dealt with easily by phone and selecting English as the language I want to use. Health care doesn't need anything to be done here. I simply speak to the International Section of the Dept of Health on an English phone number. A meeting with the bank this past Tuesday has clarified the onward transmission of the payment for the apartment to our UK bank account. We go to the gestor on the 15th to formally sell our car to some friends, and then to the Notary on the 20th to complete the sale. We have booked into the big hotel in the village from 14th when the removal company come to pack everything and set it off on its journey to England. We will be there until the 26th, so tomorrow I shall book our flight and then book a taxi from Gatwick to our daughter's home - and flop in a heap!
It was daunting in prospect; it was daunting in the process; now though the great bulk of the hassle is behind us and we can see the light at the end of the tunnel. What kind of Britain are we returning to? Well hopefully next Thursday will answer that question.



There are many memories that I shall take with me when I leave Spain and in particular when I leave Andalucía, which despite being the largest Comunidad Autonoma and forming the basis for most foreigners' image of Spain, is only one part of the country. Galicia , El País Vasco and Cataluña for instance are very different culturally and gastronomically from the popular image.
Some memories, however, I can have close to hand thanks to You Tube - the wonderful female singers which Andalucía has produced. These clips below introduce you to my three favourites, all heavily influenced by the all-pervasive music of the south, flamenco, but presenting a much more accessible music. The only comparable female British singers who spring to mind are Barbara Dickson whose roots are in folk music, and Elkie Brooks who began her professional career in jazz, but moved far beyond it.
Anyway, enough of the musicology; have a listen to these three You Tube clips. I hope you enjoy them.


Getting There

When we came to Spain nine years ago we brought a lot of personal possessions with us, as you would expect, especially books, video tapes and, because I find it difficult to just consign stuff that I value to the tip, three sets of course books and assorted other materials from my OU Spanish courses, plus two years of OU books and materials for two German courses. Most these things have lain there unused for the whole time we have been here. Also novels I enjoyed by South American authors, as well as a number of maps and guide books and even - would you believe it - text books and manuals bought during my days as a hypnotherapist back in the late seventies and early eighties!
With some difficulty I came to see that if all of this had just sat there idly for so long then there was absolutely no justification for taking them back to the UK. So those that can be sold have gone to the charity shop where my wife works as a volunteer; the rest went for recycling. Likewise, clothes in the wardrobe which belong firmly to my slimmer days have gone to the shop. So that has been a chore but a productive one. When we first decided to move back, my wife began collecting cardboard boxes for packing things, but the state of my back now means that we have put the whole job of packing in the hands of the removal company and their people will bring their own packing materials, so several trips to recycling have now disposed of all the cardboard. This clear out, which was daunting in prospect, is now behind us, floor space has reappeared and we can draw breath.
Today I finished drawing up an inventory and taking photos of items where appropriate for the removal people and emailed all that to them.
Next comes the 'bureaucracy'. We need an appointment with our tax advisor to calculate our Spanish income taxes due as we leave. We need to surrender our tax residency and our 'residencia'. We have to talk to the bank about clearing the funds from the sale when we receive them, so that we can arrange to move the money back to the UK and close our Spanish bank account, and we need to sell the car, notify the Traffic Dept of the Policía Nacional, cancel our contract with Orange and make some interim arrangement for phones and Internet access, sort out any upcoming utility bills. All of this is daunting in prospect.
We have a completion date of 20th June and the removal company booked for either the 14th or 15th June, so that means we shall have to book into a hotel locally (just as the start of the tourist season is getting into gear), but can't yet say for how long, just as we don't yet know what date we should book our flights for.
Fortunately, at the other end we shall be staying with our daughter for a while, so all of the resettlement hassle can be put on hold until we get there. It will be good to have all of this behind us and take a breather before beginning the search for a new home in England.


All Good Things.......

In June of 2015, having decided that it was no longer practical for me to continue living half way up a mountain, we put the apartment on the market with the intention of returning to the UK. Over the following eighteen months we had a few, very sporadic viewings but no one biting. Talking to people over hare, there seemed to be consensus that the British are not buying, but the Scandinavians are. So at the beginning of March we switched to a Swedish agency with a local office in Nerja. Nothing happened for a couple of weeks but then we had four viewings in  a week, followed by two more in a single day on Monday of last week. On Tuesday we received an offer - less than we would have liked, but realistic; we accepted and today a substantial reservation fee arrived in the agency's bank account and next week we'll fix a meeting to draft a timetable. Assuming nothing goes pear-shaped, we aim to be on our way back to England around the middle of June. Everybody reading this, please immediately cross your fingers that all goes smoothly, and keep them that way until I tell you I've got our air tickets.
What about this blog? Well, I was already struggling to come up with truly fresh content, so I suspect its days are numbered. I'll post occasionally over the next couple of months and then that will be a natural ending.
Will I blog from England as we begin living our next dream? I honestly don't know, but I'll let you know when I know myself. I've enjoyed this past nine years, and I'm delighted that so many people found what I wrote worth reading. Thank you to each and every one of you.


It's Been A Long, Slow Start To The Year.

Back around the middle of January my back went - badly. The pain then got progressively worse and so I booked an appointment with a physiotherapist who made things worse rather than better, but suggested I see her colleague, a highly respected osteopath of whom I hade heard many very good reports. He examined me and concluded that the degree of tension and inflammation in the muscles of my lower back made his kind of treatment/ He sent me immediately to the walk-in emergency centre where I was x-rayed, given a cocktail of drugs - pain killers and anti-inflammatories - by injection, together with a prescription for a course of six daily injections which were done by the practice nurse. I also saw my own doctor who gave me prescriptions for tramadol and ibuprofen. As I had an appointment the following week with the orthopedic consultant who was monitoring the progress of recovery from the fractured humerus caused by my fall in Germany last May, she wrote a report for me to give to him about my back problems. He put in a request for an MR scan on my lower back and a further appointment for when he had the results. That appointment was last week, when I  finally learned what was behind the pain; two things, the disc between by lowest lumbar vertebra and the sacrum has collapsed, whilst the next vertebra going up has suffered a number of stress fracture cracks. I will be seeing him again in a couple of months with new x-rays to see whether the anatomical situation is stable, or whether there is further deterioration.
In the meantime, I must wear a lumbar support belt to take some of the load off my spine, and instead of my walking stick, which had caused to bend forward and lean a little to one side, I must now use crutches which will encourage me to hold myself erect, and balance the wieight more evenly onto both legs. A week of doing this, and already I have felt a tremendous improvement.
The trouble is that it never rains but it pours, as the saying goes. The pain my back meant it was impossible for me to lie down in a bed, and so for over two months I have been sleeping (not terribly well) propped up in a sitting position on a high-back sofa, with my feet either down on the floor or resting on a couple of cushions in one of our wicker chairs normally used at the table on the balcony. Which is all very well except that the blood is not flowing properly through my feet and lower legs and so they have become sore and inflamed, further restricting my mobility.
the result of all this is that I have become pretty much house-bound except for struggling to medical appointments.
By good fortune, there is an English chiropodist, Sue, who has been visiting at home every six weeks to deal with my toe nails and just keep an eye things generally. - I am al diabetic so foot health is very important. She was here on Monday, examined my feet and legs and went to work on improving my circulation. She gave  me a number of simple exercises to do diligently which will assist the process of pumping the blood up the veins in my legs to improve circulation. I'm doing them as directed and again within just a couple of days I can feel a difference, also for a while she will come every two weeks to work on the circulation, using a combination of massage and reflexology/
So, at last, though slowly, I feel that I have turned the corner to get back to something more resembling a normal life.It has brought home to me, though, the need to find a buyer and move to a less demanding environment halfway up the side of a mountain.
I was going to deal with how to make a proper Spanish omelette, but that will have to wait until next time.


Why Chorizo?

First of all an apology for another lengthy delay in following up my last posting. A string of medical appointments with which I shan't bore you, kept me from my keyboard.
Why do I begin a food focus with a recipe for making your own chorizo? After all, there's no shortage of places to buy it at a reasonable price. Apart from allowing you to choose the amount of spiciness that suits you, though, it has much to teach us about the history of 'typical' Spanish food.
Spain until the death of Franco in 1975 was a country with an economic chasm between rich and poor.  Especially in the south there was the system referred to as 'latifundia', which is to say that the rich - mainly absentee - landowners possessed vast estates relying on day labourers to do the work. The work such as it was, was was seasonal, casual and poorly paid. Families lived in cramped properties on a small plot of land which had to supply everything they needed. Maybe a few olive trees, a vegetable garden providing potatoes, onions, garlic, root vegetables, maybe tomatoes, peppers and beans - eaten green in the summer or dried for eating over the winter. Meat was either by chicken or by a pig. The chickens also provided eggs, but the most important meat was pork, and every family had its pig, bought young in the spring, fattened by whatever it found and by kitchen scraps. Then in November came La Matanza, the slaughter. The animal was slaughtered at home and the hard work began; the throat was slit and the blood drained into a large cooking pot where it was mixed with some form of cereal and then boiled to be spiced and packed into gut and made into black pudding to be dried and eaten through the winter. The loin was for early eating while still fresh. The belly provided bacon. The hind quarters were packed in salt, then hung in a cold, dry atmosphere to produce what we now refer to as Serrano ham. Just about every part was preserved so that it could be used as necessary right through the winter.
That then left the bits and pieces which couldn't be used in any of these ways. Some could go into stews with vegetables and pulses to be eaten pretty much straight away. Then there were the remains bits. They were ground down along with garlic, smoked paprika, maybe chilli, and packed into intestines. And there you have chorizo!
In Britain sausage is sausage; you can eat it with mashed potato, with a batter for toad in the hole, or with flaky pastry as sausage rolls, and that's about it. 
Chorizo, on the other hand can be used in a huge variety of stews and casseroles - peppers, tomatoes, potatoes, chickpeas; it is not so much a product in its own right so much as a preserved ingredient providing a source of protein in the winter diet. When you live on or below the poverty line such sources of protein are vital to survival; chorizo serves a much wider and more fundamental purpose than today's British banger.


A Long Look Back

It's hard to believe that more than thirty years have passed since I first set foot in Frigiliana and was immediately entranced. It was one of those actions to which the word 'serendipity' may be genuinely applied. I was forty two years old and apart from going to an unsuccessful job interview in Dublin, had never travelled outside the United Kingdom. Moreover the packages offered in the travel brochures had never tempted me; high-rise hotels accommodating hundreds of guests were for me the stuff of nightmares. But we had a pair of very good friends, running a bar/restaurant in the fishing village of Portpatrick. They decided to buy themselves a holiday home in southern Spain for use when the Scottish season ended each year. A house was recommended to them which they were happy to buy unseen. The vendor, however, was insistent that they should inspect it and make sure it was what they wanted, so Judy and their youngest daughter went to look. Once they got there it became clear that it was they who were being vetted as suitable buyers!on
Anyway, we were invited to come and stay with them and to this day I am delighted that we accepted.
It was a very different place back in the early eighties. For a start it was much more isolated.It was many years before the motorway would be built, so from the airport you drove through the centre of Málaga before setting off along the N340 coast road through a succession of small towns, consisting typically of single storey homes strung out along the main road. When finally you arrived on the outskirts of Nerja, you turned onto a narrow, potholed road with crumbling edges to drive the final 5km up the mountain to the village, praying all the while that you would not meet the bus  or a truck coming in the opposite direction. Indeed, many of the visitors we got into conversation with down on the beach at Burriana, had set off for Frigilana, but their nerve failed and they turned round and retreated to Nerja..
Foreign residents in the village amounted to a mere handful of middle class professionals who used their village property as a holiday home to be visited as and when they had time. No tour operators brought holiday makers up to the village, so if you lacked the courage to drive you had to rely on the local bus - which ran to exactly the same timetable as it does today.
So this was a much smaller, wholly Spanish village, which brings me to the food! Typically Andalucian, home cooking which catered entirely to Spanish tastes. In the intervening years, as the number of foreign residents and visitors has expanded exponentially, so the dishes have changed into blander, less challenging offerings, one of the main changes being the humble chorizo that classic pork sausage rich in garlic and smoked paprika. My favourite was chorizo al infierno - sausage from hell. it threatened to blow the top of your head off!
Fortunately Judy had a wonderful cook book ("The Food And Wines Of Spain", by Penelope Casas an American writer married to a Spaniard) I devoured it at the time and it was the first Spanish cook bookI bought when I got back to England.  I's Old and falling apart nowadays but there are still half a dozen recipes that I return to; one of which is for chorizo. In the beginning this meant hand grinding the meat in a Spong mincer and the somehow stuffing it into casings ordered from my local butcher. Nowadays it is much simpler. I buy packs of collagen casings online from Lakeland, and I have a food processor which lets me produce the texture I want easily. Also online, I tracked down a delightfully simple sausage stuffer from the United States.  The website is and their sausage maker accommodates about 1kg of meat which is basically pushed cleanly into the casings making cleaning up afterwards simplicity itself. Depending on your skill, you either form links every four inches, or use butchers' twine to tie them off every four inches; I'll be honest, I'm a twine man.
Which brings us to the recipe.
1.5kg lean pork loin
50gm diced pork fat
50gm minced pork fat
2tbs smoked mild paprika (I much prefer Chinata brand if you can get, but the main thing is that it must be smoked paprika)
1tsp smoked hot paprika - this is one of your key 'to taste' ingredients; add as much as suits your palate.
2 tsp coarse sea salt
1/4 tsp coarsely ground black pepper
1tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander
2 cloves of garlic, crushed. this can also be adjusted to suit your tastes.

put everything into the food processor and blitz it down to a fairly coarse paste
transfer to a bowl and seal with cling film, then pu it into the fridge overnight.
the following day stuff the casings twisting or tying every four inches.
hang it up somewhere cool and dry to firm up, the wrap in greaseproof paper ans store in thr fridge to use as required.

Well that's the recipe I got from Penelope Casas's book. The next question is how to use it. This post is quite long enough already, so that will be the subject of my next post.


Change of Tack? Change of Topic?

There  is a structure to the year in Frigiliana. A yearly cycle which repeats itself in a predictable fashion. Each year the same festivals and fiestas come and go, and are each celebrated in its customary manner. Of course, other things happen too. A bar closes or changes hands, a new restaurant opens, usually nowadays more up market than hitherto, so that the village more and more becomes a 'foodie' destination. Babies are born; older people die and are given a respectful send-off.
But the very predictably creates its own problems for the blogger. It becomes more and more difficult to think  of something new. I love my blog, and I love the act of writing it, but I wonder if perhaps we have reached a natural end. I had hoped, as many of you know, that by now we would have said our  goodbyes and moved back to England from where I could find a new lease of blogging life telling of a new dream to live. So far that hasn't happened.
So I turn to you my readers for your thoughts. A growing passion over the past forty odd years has been developing and honing my love of cooking. I have amassed an impressive collection of cook books covering a wide range of cuisines, and I thought that if anyone were interested I could begin to share favourites, old and new - fully crediting the sources of course, so that you might find ideas for your own planning. Looking back, it's amazing to see how fashions have changed. Who now remembers a classic starter from the late sixties, half a grapefruit generously dredged with Demerara sugar and caramelised under the grill, for instance? And who, in all honesty would dream of dishing it up now?
Anyway, I ask a favour. Please let me know what you think about this idea to hold the fort until I can start to regale you with tales of life on the Isle of Wight.


Horses For Courses

I write this in a much happier frame of mind, and for a number of reasons. First and foremost, my back is so much better. I didn't risk the bed last night, but I got a straight eight hours sleep last night without discomfort, and this morning I stood and moved around relatively easily.
Also yesterday I had my appointment with the osteopath. To be honest in view of my suffering at the hand of the physiotherapist on Wednesday, I was dreading the encounter . And yes there was a lot of pain involved. The difference was that my pain responses were incorporated into the assessment of my condition, rather than being seen as being what needed intervention. The conclusion was that the muscles of my lower back were so inflamed and so liable to go into spasm, that he could not do what was needed without inflicting unacceptable levels of pain, and so he recommended that I go straight away to the ambulatorio.
Here, a couple of digressions. The ambulatorio is the emergency ambulance station, and it is located alongside the health centre in Nerja. In addition to the paramedics there is always at least one emergency doctor in attendance. You walk in, explain your problem and you will be seen by the appropriate professional, in my case a doctor who examined my back, immediately called in one of the paramedics to administer cortisone injections into the affected muscles, and then sent me by wheelchair next door for X-rays. These showed problems with my two lowest lumbar vertebrae (L4/L5 for the technically minded). Another injection followed, a cocktail of pain killers, prescriptions for a course of tramadol and diazepam, a report for my doctor and instructions to her for daily injections over the coming week. A visit which took only three hours, largely because the doctor had to leap into an ambulance and go out on an emergency call. Today I am already well on the way to recovery, with no need to head for A & E, nor to seek an emergency appointment with my own doctor.
I later had time to compare this service with what would have happened if I still lived in the UK. The local NHS Trust has just announced the closure of two walk-in centres originally opened to relieve the pressure on the local A & E Dept. Cuts to their budget mean a counterproductive saving has to be made, with no thought for the needs of the patient.
The second digression relates to the osteopath. I trained as a psychologist and worked for many years in the fields of psychotherapy and hypnotherapy. People sometimes asked me which school of therapy I subscribed to. I told them that I thought of myself as eclectic; that is to say I read widely on the basis that no one had a monopoly on truth, and so my task was to nick the good bits from wherever I found them. But also I needed to be aware of when the client's problem fell outside my competence. So I was pleased rather than disappointed when my osteopath was honest and confident enough to say, "I can't help you with this. You need chemical intervention to resolve the immediate problem. He apologized for charging his full fee while not able to do more than examine me. As I shall tell him when I return for him to treat the underlying cause of this flare up, I value treatment by its quality, not by the quantity. He knew his limitations, knew where I needed to go, and sent me off in the right direction. I couldn't have asked for more than that.
If you're one of my local readers, I'm talking about Mark Shurey who works two days a week at Fisioterapia Holandesa in c/ Almirante Ferrandiz, Nerja.


Waiting For Amazon

I'm sitting here feeling sorry for myself. Just about a week ago I did something to my back - what, I don't know - and things have got progressively worse ever since. I've been taking paracetamol and using an ibuprofen gel, but neither has really helped. The last four nights I have slept sitting up on the sofa, which has a nice high back, elegantly draped in a duvet, as if I lie down, I get an excruciating stab of pain whenever I try to turn over.
Anyway, eventually I managed to get an appointment with a local physio, who worked on my back for three quarters of an hour yesterday to no avail, except to leave me feeling worse rather than better. Tomorrow I have an appointment with her colleague,,an extremely well-regarded osteopath, to see if my spine needs one of his therapeutic nudges. Today I shall spend with a hot water bottle on my lower back.
I have occasionally had low back pain in the past but not on this scale, so I've decided that prevention would be better than cure; I have ordered myself a lumbar support belt from Amazon. I now impatiently await its arrival. Meanwhile, just to top things off, right now we are having our coldest spell for over ten years.
Moan over - for the moment!


Blogger's Block

I've spent the past few days telling myself that I ought to write something. That's always a bad sign because it means that I haven't got anything in mind. I've gone with the flow as long as I can, but it's time to write again, so that's what I'm doing. I don't know whether it will lead anywhere, but let's see. One piece of news which is always welcome to receive came in an email from our eldest daughter yesterday to tell us that she has booked flights for herself and our granddaughters to come out and see us at the beginning of April. Something to look forward to in the next two or three months. At the same time, I have mixed feelings because it means accepting that we're still going to be here in the spring. Viewings are still few and far between, and although people make the right noises and ask the right questions, so far that is as far as it has gone. We console ourselves with the thought that there are far worse places to sit out the selling process. So what, I wonder, does 2017 promise us. AS I look back over more years than perhaps I care to, one thing has become clear; things never turn out the way you had expected. The unpredictables creep in, some welcome, others less so. Last Sunday was a case in point. A mutual friend had posted some photos of a meal she had enjoyed at a local restaurant. They came as quite a surprise because the restaurant in question is a pretty standard, traditional Spanish menu which does well from the tourist and holidaymaker market. The food in the photos was not what you would expect. My wife and I decided it merited a visit. Then I got a text message from another friend suggesting meeting up for a drink one evening. I replied that we were going to give Bentomiz a try in view of the photos, and suggested they might like to join us. I got a reply almost immediately saying that the four of them were booked in for a five course lunch with wine pairing on New Year's Day; would we like to join them? Yes, we said. The day before I got joining instructions for the following day, which came as a shock. It seemed odd that we should 'meet us at the roundabout and follow us up, as the turn off the main road can be a bit tricky'. That didn't fit with where we thought we were going.That's when we discovered that our destination wasn't Bentomiz in the village, but Bodegas Bentomiz, a winery in the mountains about forty minutes drive from home. So a stroll up into the village transformed into a drive out to lovely country and some high end food served in the winery restaurant looking out over the valley and mountains between Sayalonga and Cómpeta. A totally unexpected way to celebrate the start of the year. I looked forward to whatever else the new year might have in store. I didn't have long to wait. Wednesday I woke to a tight chest, a hacking, dry cough that hurt my ribs and the father and mother of all colds. Ah well. You win some; you lose some. Happy New Year.