Saturday, May 01, 2010

Trip to Santa Pola, robbed, reunion with Jackie, two birthdays, Gordon Brown’s faux pas, the British elections, Mislit and a new addiction.

Eladio walking on the new wooden path to our beach in Santa Pola.
Hello again

I haven’t written for 2 weeks and feel guilty about it. It’s mostly because we were away last weekend and the week has been too busy to find the right moment (more like 2 or 3 hours) but here I am now at my pc this quiet and sunny Saturday afternoon, the 1st May and Labour Day, sitting outside by the as yet unused swimming pool. Eladio is having a siesta, like my Father and the girls are away, yet again. They have gone with some friends to what Olivia termed “The Claps”, meaning Las Palmas in the Canary Islands. What a lovely life they lead but I wonder if they realise.

So what have I got to tell you this time? Many things really and the only way to start is at the beginning. When I last wrote we were in the throes of the Volcanic ash crisis which thankfully is now over. Last week was quiet at least for us and on the Sunday Eladio and I went out to dinner to one of our favourites, La Vaca Argentina in Las Rozas. I have their loyalty card and probably unsurprisingly that dinner was paid for by the points.

Of note during that week was lunch with my colleague Juan. We went to Enriich in La Moraleja near the office where the cuisine is splendid. He heads up customer care and is one of the people I work with quite closely as lots of enquiries come through communications especially on the newly launched social network fan pages.
My friend and colleague Juan enjoying his steak tartare at Enriich in La Moraleja
And that brings me to our family trip to Santa Pola. The girls were attending a hen party for their friend Mercedes who lives in Yecla which is about an hour away and we decided to go along to be their chauffeurs, to do some spring cleaning at the flat and of course to enjoy the beach. I had also arranged with my Facebook friend Jackie from my childhood in Yorkshire (don’t mention Bradford hahaha) to meet up with her and her family in the rural village they live in near Yecla.

We went by car and were joined by Oli who flew into to Alicante airport on Saturday morning as she could not get time off work. Of course we took my Father along and even though he is not as mobile as he was, he still enjoyed the journey and lunch on the way which was on him as it nearly always is (Thanks Daddy!). We stopped at a little place in the province of Cuenca called Asador Marchena where we’ve been before and which we can highly recommend if you are ever in the vicinity.

Suzy and Eladio on our way to Santa Pola
The drive to Santa Pola, some 15km south of Alicante and 420km from Madrid, was very smooth and usually takes about 4 hours. We arrived to find the renovation of the white apartments overlooking the sea still going on. They had though finished the front of the side overlooking the garden but the other side was ongoing and producing a lot of dust of course.

The finished side of the apartments

The side of the apartments still undergoing renovation
The apartment was in dire need of exhaustive spring cleaning, not least because the girls had been a lot recently. Sheets and towels had been left to mold in a huge pile on top of the dusty washing machine which of course put me in a great mood. So we put our hands to work and within 3 hours everything was spick and span. Thus we got ready to go out and drove to our favourite restaurant in the area, Maria Picola on the road to Elche. We love the place, so Mediterranean, peaceful and well decorated and surrounded by exotic flowers and then of course the food is out of this world. Suzy and I couldn’t choose so shared lots of starter dishes.

The weather was verging on rain at times and the thermometer did not rise above 20ºc. However that did not stop us going for long walks on the beach and we were pleased to see that in our absence (we hadn’t been for a year) the town hall had built some lovely wooden paths which make access to our virgin and un-spoilt beaches much easier.

Eladio on our walk on the beach
Suzy and Oli preferred sunbathing in the dunes and were lucky the sun always shined in the middle of the day.
The girls sunbathing in the dunes. 
Soon it was Saturday, the big day, our up day too and the day Oli was coming, the day we were taking them to Yecla for the hen party and the day we were meeting Jackie and her family. We crammed a lot of things into last Saturday and I remember posting a comment in Facebook to say that it was going to be a great day. Oli was arriving at 11.30 which gave us just enough time to go to the Santa Pola market to buy Eladio his annual new pair of shoes as well as freshly picked vegetables and fruit to take home.
Eladio buying his annual pair of brown Mocassins from Santa Pola market (always the same stall too)
Later I would wish we hadn’t gone as it turned out my purse was robbed and pick pocketed out of my handbag whilst I was busy choosing tomatoes, something I didn’t realise until later that day. My purse contained hardly any money but of course all my cards and, worst of all, my passport, my driving licence and my residency card. However I was determined this would not spoil the rest of the day and after having cancelled all the cards I decided to put it out of my mind until I could deal with it on Monday morning in Madrid.
The Arroz abanda (rice and fish dish) we ordered for lunch from Vista Bella
Meanwhile and with the robbery still unnoticed we rushed to pick Oli up at the airport. Her Ryan Air plane was a bit late (but who is going to complain when she only paid or rather I only paid 50 euros for the trip?) and landed at a different terminal, but soon she was in the car and we were on our way to the beach before picking up an arroz abanda (a rice and fish dish typical of the area) for lunch from another favourite little place called Vista Bella which as you can see from the photo above was truly magnificent.

Then it was time to leave after hurried preparations to get dolled up for our evenings. My 90 year old Father stayed behind. Armed with his English newspaper, cup of tea and chocolates from the English Quicksave supermarket across the road, he prepared to enjoy his peace in the afternoon breeze from our terrace whilst we were away and later the dinner I had left for him on a tray.
The view from our terrace at Santa Pola
Within an hour we had reached Yecla and dropped the girls off at meeting point from where the hen party would leave for Gandia on the Valencian coast. They had a great time sending off Merce, their friend from the Santa Pola summers in their teens. They were out all night and were having breakfast at 9 am on Sunday morning before retiring to sleep off the night’s excesses and were not up until 3 in the afternoon.

Meanwhile we made our way to Jackie and John’s house in a remote village nearby called Casas de los Frailes where they live with their sons, Rafi and Tal and John’s aging Mother. I hadn’t seen Jackie since I was young. We calculated it could well have been nearly 30 years since we last met. Jackie and her sister Gill were the neighbours of my best friend from school, Amanda. I was their friend too but hadn’t kept up over the years until we found each other on Facebook.
Jackie and John
Jackie and John have lived all over the place. As she is an avid reader of my blog I have to think carefully what I write here. They started in England where they met and then cycled (don’t ask me how) to Israel where they lived for a few years and where their boys were born. They even lived in the desert there. From Israel they moved to Cyprus, then back to the UK and some 6 years ago moved to Spain looking to build a new sort of life and they have certainly done that. They live in a house which they are renovating and which overlooks fields planted with almond trees and is very rural but extremely peaceful. John writes and cares for his Mother and does the cooking and Jackie translates, teaches English and of course helps to run the house. The boys who look completely English speak perfect Spanish of course as they go to school locally and seem to have blended in very well.

John cooked a lovely English meal for us all and I think Jackie and I, at least, could have talked all night we had so much to say to each other. Luckily we will be seeing each other again when we next go down to Santa Pola and Eladio and I are really looking forward to that. Jackie, it was a pleasure.
Dinner at Jackies, from left to right: Jackie, John, Tal, Rafi and Eladio
And very soon our weekend was over. We spent the morning cleaning and doing more washing as well as packing to leave but of course had to go to the police before we left to report my stolen purse. Our intention was to go for a last walk on the beach but there was a local marathon on and all the roads were blocked! After a quick lunch and a last visit to Quicksave we drove to Yecla to pick up our very tired girls and make our way home to Madrid. A good time was had by all of course the only black point being the robbery of my purse.
Quicksave, the English supermarket across the way which we are very fond of
Monday of course was spent trying to get new identification. Suddenly I was an unidentified person who couldn’t drive, travel abroad or spend money and I had to do something about it quick. It wasn’t easy I can tell you. The whole morning felt quite Kafkian and I was very grateful to have my patient husband drive me from place to place.

My first port of call was to General Pardiñas Police Station to get my residency card. There I was given by a policewoman on the street a photocopied piece of paper with instructions on how to do so. Things had changed since I last renewed my card and it was no longer issued here. I had to ring a number, get an appointment and then download some paper on a website called So I rang and got given the date of 29th June at 9 am and was told that without my passport they would not issue me the new Certificate of belonging to a European Union country which replaces the old Residence Card.

From General Pardiñas we rushed to the British Consulate in Recoletos, except that it had changed addresses and was now the other side of town in Torre Espacio but of course their website didn’t warn you. I arrived at Torre Espacio and was asked for my identification which of course I didn’t have. All I had was my police report. Eventually I was allowed in and made my way up to floor 38 where I had to switch off and hand in my mobile phones and camera and go through yet another body check only to find I needed the passport form and photo to be countersigned by a British subject who knew me. It was 12.30 and they were closing at 13.30. So I rushed to the office and thankfully a colleague and only English person I know in Madrid, Tony, did the countersigning and certifying that my photo was a true likeness. Thanks Tony. I got back to the Consulate in time only to find I didn’t have 148 euros on me, I was 5 short. Time was running out and I had to go outside to get my phone back to ring Eladio to come up and pay the rest. Finally I got the receipt for a new passport which I will hopefully receive by post in 10 days time. That was one hell of a stressful experience.

From the Consulate we rushed to the Traffic Directorate to see what we could do about getting a duplicate driving licence. Here we were in luck. I did not go into the very bureaucratic Traffic Directorate but to an agency across the road which, for 50 euros, did it for you in a jiffy. Luckily I had copies of my stolen passport and residency card and the lady very quickly issued me a provisional licence whilst the new one was being issued. I could have given her a kiss for her efficiency and total lack of bureaucracy.

Monday morning was indeed Kafkian but I got most things done. The highlight was a well deserved lunch together at Hollywood after getting the provisional licence.

Monday brought with it too the good weather and in fact we have had a heat wave for most of the week which prompted Eladio to bring out the rest of the garden and terrace furniture.

My eldest daughter Suzy who celebrated her 26th birthday last week. 
Wednesday was Suzy’s 26th birthday. Gosh, 26! Where have the years gone? We could only celebrate it with her in the evening as she had a course during the day. It was one of those few family birthdays when we weren’t all together. Susana of course will be celebrating it in Las Palmas this weekend too no doubt. There is always a standing joke in our family that Susana’s birthdays are like Indian weddings, they go on for more than a week.

On Friday, yesterday, after the girls had left for Las Palmas and after our daily walk, Eladio and I decided to go out to dinner. We went to a favourite of ours recently, the Portuguese restaurant called Lisboa Antiga in Majadahonda which I swear makes the best bacalhau à bras I’ve ever had and it’s one of my best liked dishes. It’s made of salted cod, egg and potatoes. That together with the white sparkling wine called Vinho Verde is heaven on a Friday night.
What bacalhau à brás looks like, a delicious Portuguese dish made of cod, egg and potatoes.
The other birthday this week is of course my Father’s. He is 91 today, 1st May, and going strong. All birthdays in our family have to have 3 basic ingredients: a card signed and dedicated by us all, a cake and presents. So of course all three were ready for him today. We bought him a gigantic box of chocolates and a cd of Zarzuela music (Spanish operetta) which I know he loves.
My Father this morning opening his presents on his 91st birthday.  I hope I have inherited his genes!
The cake was home-made by me this morning and is his favourite: Victoria sponge in 2 thin layers with jam and whipped cream in the middle and white icing on the top. Here is the photo. I am quite proud of the creation.
The cake I made for my father's 91st birthday.  Victoria Sponge with jam and cream filling, his favourite.
Who will probably not be celebrating 1st May is Gordon Brown, the outgoing Labour Prime Minister for the UK but rather regretting his faux pas of last week in Rochdale. He is in a fight with David Cameron for the Conservatives and the dark horse Nick Clegg representing the Liberal Party to win the general elections on 6th May next week. Labour has been in power for over 13 years and Gordon Brown, ex Chancellor of the Exchequer under Tony Blair, is fast losing popularity. He had a very unfortunate incident whilst canvassing for votes in Rochdale in the North of England last week. He spoke to a Labour voting pensioner called Jillian Duffy who spoke out against immigrants in Britain from Northern Europe, i.e. Poland. Once in his car, Gordon Brown fumed against his staff for having put him in front of her and called her a “bigot”. He was overheard saying this and has had to apologise in person to Jillian Duffy. The case is now known as Bigot Gate and will undoubtedly lose many votes for the already unpopular Gordon Brown including of course Jillian Duffy’s
Gordon Brown talking to Gillian Duffy, the pensioner he later called a Bigot.
Whilst we were away, my new order from had arrived, my 4 books about abuse of children in Ireland by the church in the middle of the last century. I was spurred on to order them after having done the translation for Olivia about Colm O’Gorman who is now the head of Amnisty International in Ireland but was a victim of child sex abuse from his parish priest. He wrote Beyond Belief which I have left for last. Any free moments of this last week have been spent reading these books: The God Squad by Paddy Doyle, Fear of the Collar by Patrick Touher and Suffer the little children by Frances Reilly. This is clear Mislet, a genre of literature that fascinates me. I think it attracts me not because of the sadness but because most of these people are fighters and survivors. It also makes me realise just how fortunate I am. In any case it seems to attract an awful lot of people as you can read here.
The book I am reading at the moment.  I have a fascination for mislit.
A  lot of my spare time this week was spent reading but I also must mention my recent addiction called Foursquare. Foursquare is a new social network used on mobile phones which is based on geolocalization. Basically you check into places, add tips or see tips about them and add places. You can see where your friends are but best of all you get points and badges and mayorships and compete with your friends to get them, a bit like the scouts. Naturally you can link Four Square to both Facebook and Twitter, so no need to repeat statuses. Of course I have more points than anyone and am always stopping to check into places, even if it’s only the local supermarkets. I wonder what will come next? Meanwhile I am enjoying my new addiction.
Foursquare, my latest internet addiction: a new social network used on mobile phones which is based on geolocalization.
What I haven’t got addicted to, yet, is the series Lost which is so popular these days. Suzy’s seen them all but was kind enough to watch the first episode with me whilst we were in Santa Pola. Did I like it? I think I did and may now well watch more, with Eladio, if I can persuade him to as I have seen Olivia has the DVD collection of the first series. For those of you not in the know Lost is about the survivors of a plane that crashes on a mysterious tropical island.

But meanwhile I will continue with my Mislit and carry on with Colm O’Gorman’s Beyond Belief. And now I have to come to the end of my blog post covering the last 2 weeks of my life or should I say our life? Eladio always tell me this isn’t my blog but our blog and of course he is right.

And that’s it folks until next week. I promise it won’t be two weeks till I write next time.

PS You can see the full collection of photos of our trip to Santa Pola here.

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