Marigold at a gold mine

The  ‘Catalan problem .’

Marigold Says…

 

We do like the café life in Spain, and I start most days with a strong coffee  and twice a week I have a large fresh orange.  Don’t have anymore juice as don’t want to look like Donald Trump.

Thank you everybody for  enquiring about my fall, well only one person actually.  I do not need medical attention, and it looks much worse than it is, I am pleased to say.

G has sorted out the odd assortment of clobber he brought with him and chucked out into the bin a couple of  old moth eaten jumpers. Then, when we were out yesterday, we saw the local tramp wearing one and also  G’s old tee shirt which I had used to clean the car windows.  He did look quite fetching, except for his own trousers which were tied up with string and were multi coloured with  stains.  We have seen him over several years and apparently he is looked after by local cafes and allowed to shower at one.  Not a bad life and weather is good.  Would like to know his story, but a bit risky.

Went to Cabo De Gato, which is only  about 1 hr away. The low sun played havoc with windscreen view, but we managed. Sometimes you wish for cloud.  The run in is fab and one of our favourite places.  Met some friends on their way to Morocco in a van.  We ordered some tapas and took in the view of the sea.  We tried some Spanish wine they were promoting with fantastic labels.  That gets me every time, not the wine quality.  I always choose by the label.  Producers take note.

Went to one of my favourite shops which sells lovely knickknacks.  It was closed for Xmas!  Bit early I thought.  

Anyway, my dosh is safe for another day.

Went back to our friends’ camper van and had cake and coffee, set off back with the sun behaving itself.  Five minutes later I was asleep and very content.

 

 

G Says...

 

Yesterday, we treated ourselves to a run out into the National Park, one of Marigold’s favourite places. The sun was beating down, clear blue skies overhead and a sparkling sea. Perfect place to spend a November day. We walked up to look at the view of the sea from an abandoned gold mine. Many years ago, gold mining was big business here, but no longer.

 There’s  no real ‘industry’ in this desert region now, apart from tourism and a few dedicated farmers of aloe vera, one of the few plants that will survive in these arid conditions. Hotels are of the ‘off the beaten track’ variety and focus on walking, trecking and getting back to nature. The (few) roads are blissfully deserted, beaches are hard to find and even harder to get to, but well worth the effort and we’ve loved each of our trips through this virtually untouched region of Spain.     

When we stopped for tapas and a cool drink the view out to sea was stunning and a middle aged couple were  swimming. I remarked on the man wearing a white cap, but when he came ashore it soon became clear the cap was his only item of clothing. His female companion continued to splash around in the sea and was still there when we left. 

A young woman wearing Ugg boots, a very short skirt and a Barcelona football shirt was serving behind the bar. She  spoke perfect English and told us she had just taken delivery of a new batch of wine, so far only available in this tapas bar. 

‘Are you Spanish?’ Marigold asked as her English was so good.

‘No, I am Catalan,’ she replied, ‘I was born in Barcelona, but now I live here, in Spain. Please, come and see my wine.’ She took us to the back of the tapas bar and showed us some of the wine she was introducing to the area. They were from small unknown boutique vineyards and all featured labels she had designed herself. She has worked in England, hence the impeccable command of the language, in France and the USA, but has now decided to give up work to pursue her passion for wine. ‘I earn very little, but I am happy,’ she said. We heartily approved and approved of her wine even more. 

Marigold wanted to look in a shop window that never fails to interest her. It’s packed with ethnic jewellery and on the three occasions  we’ve been here in the past the shop has been closed. As it was today.

We had been warned. Marigold had mentioned she was going to look at the shop around the corner and the girl in the tapas bar said, ‘It’s never open. The owner has a frisky new boyfriend and she only opens up the shop when he gets tired’ and laughed.

The Catalonia ‘problem’ dominates the news here. Just about  everyone we talk to has an opinion and almost all regard the leaders of the Freedom for Catalonia movement as enemies of the state. This young woman held very firm opposing views and we could relate to her passion. Many years ago now, we moved into a house we had bought in the South of France close to the Mediterranean border between France and Spain. 

A neighbour came across to say hello. She sold flowers on market stalls and the front of her house was covered in them. We explained we spoke only fairly basic French and she said, ‘but you are not in France now. This is Catalonia and I am Catalan.’ 

Broadly speaking, many people living in the area between Perpignan, in France, and Barcelona, in Spain, consider themselves Catalonians, the Catalan language is widely used and despite the privations of General Franco’s brutal regime there’s a clear desire for Catalonia to be an independent nation once again amongst many. Others disagree, equally vehemently, but the Catalan ‘problem’ seems unlikely to be resolved any time soon. 

Catalonia was first recognised as a wholly autonomous region in the 8th century and, despite the best efforts of our flower selling former neighbour, the Roussillon area is now resolutely part of France, but, across  the border, Barcelona and Gironès remain hotbeds of revolution. Money, as much as an urge for autonomy, has prompted the recent strife. This is a prosperous area, far richer than most of the rest of Spain, and people are fed up of the Madrid government taking far more in taxes from the region than is ever returned in public services. Echoes of the pro Brexit lobby here.   

The Catalan dialect, whether based on French or Spanish, is very, very different. Our friends from that time have three children in school and their children are taught Catalan as a ‘first language’ with French and Spanish as ‘foreign’ languages.

This national obsession with all things Catalan reaches a peak at the summer solstice when thousands descend on Prades for the Festa de Sant Joan (Catalan Spelling). Thousands of people climb the mountain and remain there overnight, congregating around an enormous bonfire and watching the dozens of similar fires burning brightly on every hilltop for miles around.

Many years ago, we made our one and only ascent of Canigou for the Festa. We climbed past two ancient monasteries, recently restored after being damaged by an earthquake well over five hundred years ago, yet still accessible only by hiking up a brutally steep path. From the summit the lights of Barcelona were clearly visible and the feasting and drinking went on all night long.

It’s a long slog up the mountain, but not really hazardous and even quite young children make the ascent. Could we do it today and if we did would we notice the difference between now and almost twenty years ago? That’s no and yes, respectively.

None of us are what we once were, but that doesn’t mean we have to accept it without question. Age creeps upon us all. It’s inevitable. We’ll fight it though. Keep on ‘not acting our age’ as we’ve managed to do for most of our lives.  Very, very occasionally we still ask our  battered bodies and damaged knees to do things they don’t really want to do in the knowledge that the cardigan and slippers years cannot be deferred for ever. I hope it will be long time before that fateful day dawns. We’re still travelling. Meeting new friends and keeping up with old ones.  Keeping our wandering life going. Doing what we love to do. Having adventures, large and small, and trying hard to savour every minute of every day. Just don’t ask us to climb any mountains. It’s our sore knees, you see? The spirit may be willing, but the knees know best. Marigold’s recent fall has left a massive bruise. If she turns up on your television screen one day soon, you’ll know the enquiry to Embarrassing Bodies has been accepted.  

Writing this in a café, the flat screen TV on the wall is still dominated by protest marches in Barcelona. The recent referendum produced an overwhelming vote in favour of cessation from Spain and the heavy handed approach from Madrid and the Monarchy has only worsened the situation. As a woman cashier in a Motorway Services who gave me my change when we filled up with petrol in Figueres  said, ‘Madrid cannot put all of us in prison.’

Enough politics. The ten day forecast is for unbroken sunshine, temperatures more akin to summer than November and that’s exactly how we like it. Last night was warm and around midnight we went out to stand on the balcony overlooking a moonlit sea. The faint susurration of waves breaching the shore was the only sound we could hear. 

‘Not bad here, is it,’ Marigold said. No, indeed. 

 

    

Clean shaven G, many years ago outside neighbour’s house in France. Oops, sorry, in French Catalonia.

A gold miner, on his day off.

Our Morocco-bound friends woke up to this view today. Must look into getting a camper van again one day.

Marigold likes this one. Not many mod cons but looks capable of going just about anywhere. Not into St Ives though.

Could these chairs be any more blue?

This sounds intriguing. Shame we missed it.

Love the poster.  Even though ‘the best burger since 1980’ part is more than a little incongruous

This is crying out to be a diving platform. No, we didn’t.

Man wearing (just) a cap. His lady friend is to the right of the rowing boat.

Brilliant wine labels

Spanish dry stone wall. This one is ten feet high and stretches for about fifty yards along the sea front

There’s More...

 

We’re off on our travels again now. Just three hours or so away, but we like frequent changes of scenery. We’re trying out a new hotel, strongly recommended by a friend. Must have got the name wrong as the place is a bit of a shambles. Oh well, we remember the bad places for far longer than the good ones. 

Popped into Nerja and found a chaotic wedding party outside the church on the Balcony de Europa. Yes, throwing rice as the bride and groom leave the church is traditional. Only one drawback – every pigeon in Spain turns up to share in the feast. One ‘lady in red’ held on to her rice a bit too long and was enveloped in flapping pigeons. Felt sorry for her as she’d made a big effort and within ten seconds looked as if she’d been dragged through a hedge backwards. The groom wore a strange suit, trousers too short, no socks, very odd, but what do I know about fashion? I took a photo of the ‘outfit’, judge for yourselves. 

We had a fixed price lunch, which we normally avoid, on a terrace overlooking the sea. The view was gorgeous, the three courses for nine euros meal rather less so, but you get what you pay for and the view was worth the cost of the meal anyway. The dessert courses in particular, crème caramel and ice cream respectively, were stunningly mediocre. Did we eat them? Yes, of course we did. 

The Sunday Car Boot sale in Nerja rarely disappoints. We don’t need anything, struggling to store what little we have with us actually, but we still love eying up other people’s tat. I bought a book for fifty centimes, Marigold bought a leather bag for next to nothing and yet another pair of earrings. Total cost, less than a fixed price lunch and for that we spent a happy hour or so wandering around in the sunshine. Marigold’s earrings, hand made by the stall holder, a small, intense man who spoke fluent Spanish and French, but no English, were exquisite and while we browsed over his wares I noticed a vivid scar on his forearm. Seeing where my eyes rested, he said, ‘The other scars are worse, but they did me a favour by making me unfit for duty.’

He then told us about his former life as a soldier at the Legion base in the desert just outside Almeria which we had passed yesterday. This place has fascinated me every time we pass by. A friend in France served for three years as a Legionnaire, based in Algeria, and hated every moment. After hearing a similar tale this morning, I shall not be seeking a career in the Foreign Legion.

There’s been a big fuss here over someone collecting for ‘poppy day’ being thrown off the car boot sale grounds because she hadn’t paid for a ‘pitch.’ To add yet another farcical layer, the Lions Club, a well known charity, organise the car boot sale. You couldn’t make it up. 

Incidentally, I spoke to a Lions Club, Spanish Branch, member last night. Well, he sought us out, really. He left Carlisle thirty years ago, to get away from the rain, and has lived in Nerja for the past five years. His wife/partner was slumped in a plastic chair on the outside terrace wearing an Arsenal baseball cap, tilted askew and  giving every impression of having died several days ago. 

‘Look at the state of my good lady,’ he said, jabbing a thumb in her direction. ‘Can't even pop her into a taxi in that condition. Why they allow her to keep on ordering drinks, I’ll never know.’ 

We nodded, not exactly sympathetically. I’d accidentally brushed against his ‘good lady’ on the way in and had said ‘sorry, mate’ by way of apology. I looked at her again. No, the apparent corpse was utterly lacking in muliebrity. If I’d had cause to apologise again I would still have said, ‘sorry, mate.’ 

‘It’s a big part of my life, being a Lion,’ the good lady’s consort said, ‘it’s our century this year and many famous people are involved in this prestigious organisation. Ex President  Jimmy Carter to name just one.’ (I’ve tried to write his exact words, but reading them back, although they sound both stilted and pretentious, the reality of listening to  Nerja’s club bore was far more excruciating. Marigold only stood it for about ten seconds, wise woman as she is.)

Finally, he toddled off to the bar so I couldn’t hear any more. Later, I checked the Jimmy Carter claim (true) and also learnt the Lions Club has over 1.4 million members worldwide.

Maybe I should join!

Maybe not. At least the good citizens of Carlisle have been spared exposure to Europe’s most tedious man. 

Speaking of Brits, I watched the rugby that afternoon on a tv in a hotel nearby. Numerous British visitors, Union Jack shorts and sunburnt tattooed bodies to the fore, came in from basking by the pool to order yet more drinks. Nobody made the slightest attempt to say, ‘gracios’ or ‘por favor,’ they didn’t even bother with ‘please’ or ‘thank you,’but treated the barman like a dull servant who had to be shouted at before he understood what they wanted. Not unusual at all with summer visitors, but I would have hoped for better in November. Rudeness like this in a British Pub would have got them barred. I imagine many of Spain’s bar staff will be hoping for a speedy reconciliation of the Brexit negotiations. Takings may go down, but the level of politeness will increase tenfold.    

  

Harpist playing Beatles songs in Nerja. At least that’s what he said he was playing. We didn’t buy the CD.

Gorgeous colours.

No need to go the The Seychelles to see colours like this. Taken from the Balcony de Europa, Nerja

Perfect November day

Dull, boring shop.

Lunch time view from restaurant

The view was a lot better than the dessert selection

Scattering rice tends to attract pigeons

Lady in red just after the pigeon attack

Stylish groom or fashion victim? What do you think?

NOT Marigold

Oh, a man taking photographs, better strike a pose then!

Sunset over Nerja

Up bright and early the next morning.

Marigold asking the price of a stuffed wild boar head. Why? No idea.

Flamenco guitarists at car boot sale. Very, very talented.

Pool in hotel next door at midnight.