Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Another week in August, a few days in Santa Pola, Elsa’s first walk, riots in England, Google buys Motorola and other things.

Eladio and I having lunch in the Port of Alicante last week

Hello again,

Today is Monday 15th August, the middle of the month but also a public holiday in Spain and many other countries in Europe to celebrate the Assumption.  It’s a religious holiday which benefits us all as it means a day off work for most of us whether we are religious or not.  On the note of religion, tomorrow the World Youth Days start in Madrid, presided over by the Pope.  I have mixed feelings about the visit and the event and sympathise really with those who think far too much money is spent on this pompous celebration which could be  a lot better spent on those dying of famine, for example, in Somalia. I also can’t equate with the hierarchy and wealth of the Catholic Church and the exaggerated veneration of its head, believing that that is not what Jesus preached when he said to Peter: “Upon this rock I will build my church”.  

Eladio’s brother, José Antonio and his wife, Dolores and grown up children Sara and Miguel travelled from León this morning bringing with them the “abuela” (my Mother-in-law) who will be staying with us for a while.  I commented on whatsapp to the girls that this week the house would be turning into a temporary old age pensioners’ residence, me being the only non pensioner except for Oli when she arrives. Olga is on holiday so Eladio and I will have to do the household chores whilst she is away.  There’ll be no fancy cooking though as I am back full swing into the Dukane regime after more excesses in Santa Pola. Their visit warranted a nice family lunch so, as soon as we knew they were coming, Eladio and I got started and made all the preparations necessary for a barbecue with all the trimmings.    They have now gone and everything has been cleared away and here I am writing at my desk with the air conditioning at full blast.  

It’s Monday but it feels like Sunday, oh so quiet and oh so hot.   Suzy and Oli have just finished their week’s holiday in Aguamar in Almería.  Oli is on her way home and Suzy will be going on to Cádiz to spend the second part of her holiday with Gaby and we won’t see her until next Sunday. I do miss her.

My girlies on the beach in Almería this weekend.

But let me regress to where I left off in my last post which was last Sunday.  The week has been another long week in August with stifling heat and not much action.  At times I wish the summer was over and I had more to do.  We went to Santa Pola as we always do in the second week of August but our time there was a little too quiet and I have to admit I was a bit bored on occasion.  Besides I find the flat a little cramped sometimes. After all it is mathematically 10 times smaller than our home in Madrid.  

Our little apartment in Gran Alacant near Santa Pola.  We've had it now for nearly 12 years.

The drive there on Tuesday was very quiet with few cars on the roads.  We stopped at the Parador in Albacete for lunch which is now becoming the norm when we drive to Alicante.  These days the road is a new dual carriageway and there is also a fast toll motorway if you choose.  In the old days there was just a single lane road going and a single lane road coming back and they were the most congested roads in Spain during the holiday season.  In the old days few of us had air conditioning and we would travel in our small Renault 5 with the windows open and the hot air coming in from outside. We would take sandwiches or eat cheaply at one of the village bars on the way.  The journey used to take 6 hours and now takes just under 4 to travel the 420km to our destination.  The way we travel now is a far cry from how we did it not so many years ago.  However I sometimes miss going through the quaint and dusty villages which you bypass today.

We reached our flat in Gran Alacant, near Santa Pola in the mid afternoon.  We were happy to see it spotless for a change after the recent visits of the girls and their friends; the cleanliness being mostly thanks to the visit of Gaby’s parents I suspect.  Eladio immediately set up the new 32” flat screened television we had bought in Media Markt in Madrid to replace the broken tube one and soon we were able to see all the channels perfectly, the signal being much better than the one at home. We then waited for the gas man who was coming to inspect our installation, before heading for the beach with our chairs, book and swimming gear.  Eladio prefers to go in the evening and I agree that you avoid the rush and the crowds but somehow the day is over and the sun has nearly gone and sometimes I just long to do like everyone else and pack food and spend the whole day on the beach. But Eladio is a hard nut to crack on this issue.  I had hoped the tan on my chest and arms would spread to the rest of the body, but I’m afraid it just didn’t happen as the sun was never strong enough at that time in the evening.  On the other hand, I know it is not good for me to sunbathe, as my skin is too delicate.  My brother died of melanoma and I have always been wary of the sun on my body since then.

Me coming out of the water on the first evening.  Just never got the neck and arm tan to spread haha

For the 4 days we were there we decided not to cook, mostly because I wanted to avoid going to the Mercadona supermarket which is always heaving with shirtless Brits filling their trolleys with enormous amounts of food and booze and it feels like you have to fight your way around to get anything.  So we went out for meals instead.  We opted this time for the cheap places across the road, so as not to take the car out in the evening, and even ended up going to a modest Chinese place nearby which was much better than I had expected.  The local Italian place, however, was a disappointment.

On Wednesday, the highlight of the day was watching Ryan’s Daughter, one of my all time favourite films.  It wasn’t planned and we started watching it at 4 in the afternoon little realizing it was 4 hours long!  If you haven’t seen it you must if you like a good period love story like I do.  Besides, the acting is superb and the film won two Oscars.  Thus we went to the beach at 8 for our usual walk and this time it was nearly empty of people and of course, not much sign of the sun. 

Thursday brought with it the visit of  our friends Jackie and John and they made my day.  They live in nearby Pinoso, being a British family who moved to Spain permanently a few years ago.  Jackie is a girl of all trades who sells houses, insurance policies, gives English lessons on and offline and even sells Avon products.  You name it, she can do it. Jackie and I go back a long way, from our years as children and teenagers in Bradford, West Yorkshire where we went to school.  Jackie was my best friend Amanda’s neighbour in Chellow Dean.  It was great to see another British woman like me living in Spain but with a past which strengthens the friendship which was only budding when we were children. Jackie is one of my most loyal readers so it was great to meet in the flesh rather than online for a change.  Her Father, Brian Eastwood, a doctor of renown in Bradford, aged 89 and still living there, was very ill when she came.  Jackie was expecting a phone call with bad news any moment from her sister Gillian who I reminded her was Simon, Amanda’s older brother’s first boyfriend, some 40 years ago of course.  We both laughed at the memory and I pointed out that at the time I was a little jealous.  Very unfortunately, later that evening, when they had gone home, I got a message from Jackie to tell me that her Father had passed away and that it had probably happened when we were sitting on the lawn by the swimming pool in Santa Pola.  I was very sorry to hear the news and will be thinking of Jackie and Gillian on the 22nd when the funeral takes place.  It seems a century ago when we were children and their parents, who were probably younger than we are now, led a social life I wished my parents had but never did.  Jackie’s parents and Amanda’s parents formed a group of middle aged couples who, it seemed to me, were always having cocktail parties, going out for expensive meals to places like the Box Tree in Ilkley or on the new package holidays.  My holidays were either reached on a train or in Aunty Masha’s battered old car.   I remember vividly travelling often from England on the latter to our house in Callosa in the mountains of Alicante and could probably write a book entitled: "travels with my aunt".  You never knew where you were going to sleep or eat and we travelled a bit like gypsies.  But I am digressing.  Another member of their group was Ken Morrison who went on to be the magnate.  I once attended one of the cocktail parties at Amanda’s house and we were allowed to try a sip of white wine but were rushed upstairs out of the way as soon as the guests arrived.  How times have changed and funny that I should say that as I seem to be echoing something my parents always used to say.  However they were right, although I didn’t know it at the time.

In any case we enjoyed the day, unaware of Dr. Eastwood’s fate later on.  We had promised our friends fish and chips at Derby’s chippy which, we found out the hard way, closes at lunch time except for the weekends.  The alternative was the Spanish local equivalent, “arroz a banda”, so we took them to the nearby Vistabella, a modest little Spanish place which I still think has the best fare in the area, although the staff are not particularly friendly.

It was great to spend the day with Jackie and John in Gran Alacant

Dinner that night was at El Varadero, more my style, at the end of the Varadero beach in Santa Pola.  

On Friday, Eladio suggested we go to Alicante and thus we did but realised later it was far too hot at midday.  We were surprised to see a replica of the Spanish ship which had fought in the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, the SantísimaTrinidad.  It doubled as a tourist bar, but I still found it quite attractive.

The replica of the Spanish Santísima Trinidad ship in Alicante was quite impressive. 

Lunch was in the port at a restaurant we have been to, many times over the years, El Porteño and afterwards dessert was one of Kiosko’s famous ice creams on the lovely Explanada overlooking the sea. 

Eladio and I at the Kiosko Peret on the Explanada in Alicante
At El Porteño, Eladio bought some lottery tickets from a gypsy, after a little persuasion from me.  I meant for him to buy just one ticket and he ended up buying about 6.  Luckily, in the draw yesterday, it seems we have at least won our money back with what is called “el reintegro”.

Eladio buying lottery tickets from a gypsy in Alicante.
After a much needed siesta, we ventured down to the beach again and went for an extra long walk and swim.  In the evening, our last one, we were determined not to go home without tasting Derby’s fish and chips, so had our last dinner there.  It was the best and the cheapest at 19 euros for the two of us.  Mr. Derby (if that is the name of the owner), who, by the way, is a reader of my blog, after having posted an entry on the establishment a couple of years ago when we first discovered it, rewarded our patronage with an extra special plate of his excellent Yorkshire fare, or should I say Scottish as he is from Scotland, yet the fish and chip equipment, I noticed, is from Leeds.  His welcome was the warmest and most appreciated as none of the other places I have mentioned above have ever even noticed our visits, despite having been to them all on countless times since we bought the apartment in 1999.  You can see just how wonderful the fish and chips and mushy peas were in this picture I took especially for this blog post.  Sorry Jackie that you missed them. But there’s always a next time you know.

Derby's chippy fish and chips in Gran Alacant Santa Pola are as good as the best you can find in Yorkshire.
On Saturday our stay came to an end, so after the usual cleaning and washing of the sheets, hung out to dry for our next visit, we were on the road just after 11.  We decided to visit Alarcón and have lunch at the Parador there on our way back and we were not disappointed.  Alarcón is a small medieval town in the province of Cuenca, overlooking the Júcar River and the Parador is housed in a three walled castle.  It was apparently the favourite enclave of past warriors wanting a bit of peace as they knew they would be safe there. 

The medieval town of Alarcón on the way back from Alicante is well worth the visit
We were home by 17.30 to a clean house and a fridge full of cooked food by Olga who that morning had left for her holidays.  It was good to see my Father again, for whom I had brought back a generous selection of chocolates from Quicksave, the British supermarket in Gran Alacant.  It was also good to see the dogs, Norah and Elsa who had grown in our absence and had reached 3 months of her life that very day.

The next day, she was to enjoy her first walk with us, as her vaccination period was finally over.  To mark the day, I took a series of photos of this lovely, lanky, naughty but sweet puppy which you can see here.  She is like a hurricane in the morning and doesn’t eat rather devours, but has become a firm companion of Norah who seems to have grown older overnight and is turning into her surrogate mother.  We have now taken her on two walks which have proven happy events, the best thing being that she does not pull on the lead like Norah.  We let her off the lead yesterday and most of the time all she wanted to do was to follow Norah.  Today I gave them both some oxtail bones and was a little worried when Elsa swallowed hers whole without even bothering to chew it.  Yes, she is a little rascal but we love her.  It’s amazing what an important role they play in our lives and I could not now imagine it without them.

Dear little Elsa turned 3 months old this week and was able to join us on the walk for the first time.
I have come to the end of this week’s story but could not finish this post without making a reference to the news that was most reported on this week.  I refer to the 4 nights of riots and sheer havoc, violence and looting which went on in London, in Tottenham, and spread to other big cities in the country.  The riots began after a peaceful demonstration against the shooting of Mark Duggan who I later read was a gangster.  It is not quite clear whether they were orchestrated via social media or whether gangs got on the band wagon to take advantage of the situation and start looting shops for luxury items or raid supermarkets.  The rioters and looters were not only the so called “chavs”, “hoodies” or the famous British “underclass” but supposedly included upright citizens and brilliant students who wanted an exciting night out. There were even offenders as young as 11 years old.  The riots resulted in over 3,100 people being arrested, of whom more than 1,000 have been charged and worse still, 5 deaths.  There yet has to be a toll on the damage done, including arson on many buildings, like the one in the picture below. All I can say after seeing this is that there must be something very wrong with British society.  I can understand many people’s needs if they are out of a job or cannot pay their mortgage, but the sheer criminality of what we have seen in those 4 ghastly nights, has no justification.  I would not like to be in David Cameron’s shoes today and wonder if he really will be able to mend Britain’s broken society as he promised yesterday in his Witney, his Oxfordshire constituency.

Just one sickening photo of the UK riots
And just before I finish, I must also mention a piece of news that surprised me yesterday and which also pulled a little tug at my heartstrings at the same time.  At around midday yesterday, Google announced they would be buying the Motorola mobility business.  Well I started my career in the telecommunications business with Motorola in 1990, over 20 years ago.  At the time Motorola was a rising star and in the early and mid 90’s was a bit like Apple today.  Then funnily enough, the next company I joined, Nokia, took Motorola’s space and the latter began to decline gradually until the news today.  Nokia was king of the sector until very recently and now there is talk after its agreement with Microsoft of it being bought up too by its new partner.  I wondered why Google would want to buy an ailing mobile phone manufacturer.  According to the analysts it’s all about their patents, something Google needs and which cause huge legal fights and can make or break a company in the US courts.  The same analysts also say that after taking the patents, Google will probably sell off the hardware business to a Chinese manufacturer.  Who knows?  All I know is that what has happened to Motorola and what is happening to Nokia, could happen to them all.  Companies do not stay still and hardly ever stay at the top.  The thing is, when they are at the top, a difficult enough place, to reach, the most difficult thing is to stay there.  And if you don’t believe me, ask Motorola or Nokia.  Meanwhile I’m watching the game being played with great interest if not a little nostalgia after my attachment to the company and where I forged a lot of the experience I have today.

And hereby ends this week’s blogpost which I have seem to have taken forever to write.  I hope you enjoy it.  Cheers till next week.
PS You can see the full set of the photos of our visit to Santa Pola and to Alarcón here.

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