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Xmas and the New Year, Navidad y Nuevo Anos

Until recently the Spanish didnt know about Father Xmas in fact the Spanish used to celebrate Xmas in a completely different way altogether. But as we all get mixed up in the big European melting pot its all changing we see many a plastic Santa climbing many a chimney here in Pinar de Campoverde.

Here i try to describe the traditional Spanish Xmas as i know it (Many thanks to our Spanish teacher James). Should you know of anymore please let us know.

Greetings A greeting you may hear over the Xmas period is "Feliz Navidad y Prospero Ano Nuevo" beware your answer DO NOT SAY "Gracias" in response it will cause real offence the correct response is "Igualmente" which means equally, how ever if you do let Gracias slip out you can redeem yourself with Igualmente .... i think im going to stay indoors over the whole of xmas and new year!

Nochebuena - Xmas Eve Nochebuena is an important day in Spain its the only day that the Spanish play the rare instrument the Zambomba this is a tight drum with a stick through it. Its played by spitting on your hand gripping the stick and passing your hand up and down. This requires a copious amount of spit not just a polite cough. The instrument is now passed around to each member of the dinner party until you have all played! EUGH just EUGH you dont want to be last.

You have to eat Gambas on Nochebuena and this forces the price to spiral, every year the shocking price makes the evening news!

Dia de Navidad - Xmas Day Although this is a Red day there is nothing of any significance to the Spanish.

El Dia de Los Inocentes - April fools day This is the day when practical jokes are made its a very tricky day as it will catch you out as its in the middle of the festive period there have been many japes up to and including the scrapping of right hand drive cars! Noche Vieja - New Years Day New Years day is an important day in Spain one of the traditions is the 12 grapes at midnight everybody has to try to eat a grape for each toll of the bell!

There will be fireworks and and fizzy wine on offer much celebration in Spanish towns and villages but dont get caught out its going to start late and end late!

las horas de la suerte - The hours of lucklas horas de la suerte -The hours of luck It is also extremely bad luck not to wear red underwear on New Years Eve it will not be unusual to be asked.

Dia de Reyes - 6th January This is the day the Spanish give presents they leave shoes outside the door and the Los Reyes Magos - 3 kings will leave the presents in the shoes. Not Father Xmas - Papa Noel although the Spanish kids have soon cottoned on to Papa Noel and hope to get 2 lots of presents. A traditional cake to be eated at 16:30 is the Roscon its like a filled sliced doughnut. Inside this doughnut will be presents buy always a bean and a King, if you get the bean you have to pay for the Roscon if you get the King you get to be king for the day and everybody has to bend to your will.

Belen - Nativity ScenesBelen - Bethlehem (Nativity Scenes) are very popular in Spain all the villages and towns will have a Nativity scene varying in extravagance on how rich or large the town is!

But look out for the Cagon Man Every Belen will have a Cagon (Cagoner) and its very bad luck if you dont find him! The Cagoner is a man squatting to take a poo

Traditional cake and drink Polvorones cakes are snaffled up by the Spanish in their 1000's they are ground almonds held together with lard! They are notoriously dry and dusty. Tarron cake is lovely and come in Duro (nougat) or Blando (fudge), the traditional drink is Sidra (cider) which has the label of a man with bagpipes on, its only 5% alcohol and is very sweet you will be diabetic after 2 sips!

Cagener Zambomba

Noviembre 2019 - Having Lunch with the Dead

The beginning of November is beautiful with lovely days but chills in the evening which give you a hint as to what’s to come, this year the cold came in hard and quick. It saw us reaching for the footprisons and arm prisons for the first time since early May. It really got cold very quickly! The nights are drawing in but its still not dark until gone 18:00. The crickets have been silenced by the drop in temperatures and i miss them. The Bee Eaters have moved to warmer climbs i miss them congregating before they rest and the evening fly past. We now have starlings and many birds from the UK as for them it is warmer here now than in the UK and food is more plentiful.

Cycling: This saw a mix of days when we were riding with lightweight tops and shorts secretly patting ourselves on the back at having made such a great decision to move to Spain yet something in the weather meant we knew what was coming, let’s call it a shared secret not to be talked about like an alcoholic Uncle.

Oh but the infernal wind is back the seemingly never ending headwind which is so characteristic of living on a peninsular, no reward on the turnaround and strong gusts on the side.

When the cold came it came hard I found myself riding in 6c at 9am and was woefully under dressed really cold only to swing wildly to being over dressed the next day and roasting (even the Belgians are in longs now). However once we have got used to the new dress requirements the riding is good and the skies are blue with always the promise of some sun. We have to remind ourselves that its really much colder and wetter at home!

Campoverde Talk: The talk in the village is now of how much colder it is this year than last year. Attention is turned to Xmas and people are comparing notes on where they are eating on Xmas day and what the prices are, also whether it includes wine!
New Year parties are sold out and there is much disatisfaction about how the tickets were allocated.

November is also when the Spanish have lunch with the dead, they Spend the Saturday cleaning the gravestones to get them ready for the tomorrows lunch. This is a huge thing for the Spanish and not odd at all, huge swathes of land are set aside by the council for the parking.


Campoverde View

Bourganvilla - The source of all evil?

A subject in the village that is very divisive. This plant is not the indigenous to Spain but is indigenous to Spanish Urbanisations.

As beautiful as it is prickly fast growing and climbing seemingly never ending blooms of great beauty. But to let it get out of control and spill over to public property or worse still to your neighbours is courting disaster.

In Campoverde it has caused fights and fuelled denunciations. Residents have been forced to flee to the U.K. or other parts of the village.

Discarded blooms being lobbed back over garden walls (only to be blown back over by the next puff of wind). Bills being presented for clogged and broken pool pumps. Letterboxes being stuffed with unwanted blooms! Fights in bars! How something so beautiful can cause this chaos is beyond me.

Bourganvilla

Octubre 2019 - The gloating month

The first thing we noticed about October is the dew, almost at once every night everything is covered in a dew which in the U.K. would be frost.

A quick walk round the garden to look at the plants will reveal many small snails and insects that have come out to take advantage of the rare moisture. Indeed the big cactus is covered in snail trails and tiny white snails leaving me to wonder what they do the rest of the year round? Is this dew enough to sustain these desert dwelling plants and creatures? Do they yearn for the first day of October? As if in reply I can see serious attempts at growth on these plants as they continue the journey upwards!

October is the best month for gloating as the difference in the climate to Northern Europe is at its greatest. We experience regular temperatures of above 30c whilst the U.K. basks in 11c and is generally in its rainy season.

Village Talk: The talk in the village is of how awful it is in the UK and how lucky we are. However there is also the occasional nod to what is to come weather wise and villagers are getting the winter duvet cleaned and digging out trousers and socks. Most of the holidaymakers have made their way home and these are replaced by the Scans, Snowbirds who flee the harsher climates of the artic circle positively roasting as soon as we hit 24c and who can blame them? You can spot them a kilometre off as they are still living outside when a chilly 24c has driven us southern softies indoors.
The days are shorter now, are we going to regret complaining of the heat are we going to pledge to spend more time outside next year? I think we will.

Cycling: The Cycling is really at its peak now we are enjoying the relief from the heat and our bodies are loving the unusually (for us)warm climates. Its like a second Spring as we see all sorts of strange and colourful flora a fauna beging to appear. The fields are being prepped and planted for the next seasons crops which can mean quite strong smells on your journey.



The Garuchal

Man bags - (Man hand bags) Why o why?

At what point does an Englishman abroad feel the time is right to buy a hand bag? Is it a moment of singular clarity? Does he see some man with one and think to himself that looks great? Has he always been secretly jealous of his Wife’s? And how does he choose which Manbag to have? Is it based on size,style, durability or does it have to match a particular holiday outfit?
Does any of this sound familiar? It should do because it should do as it’s a decision that most females have gone through at some point.

What happens to the manbag when an Englishman gets home? Does it get packed away like a dirty guilty secret? It must do as we don’t see many men in the U.K. walking around with them. So if it is so handy why is it packed away in such a sneaky fashion on return to the UK? Why is it so acceptable in Europe and not the U.K.? Is this a cowardly act?

Could it be that these men have an alter ego where they become much more camp or metro when they visit foreign climes? There are many attempts by these guys to make them look more Macho or disguise them, wearing them across your chest, carrying them in your hand by the strap, fitting them to your belt at the side and of course the totally reprehensible fanny pack! The manbag is not the Spanish way in fact I see very few Spanish men wearing them it seems to be other visiting European nations that monopolise this particular trait.
Perhaps my dislike of ManBag s says more about me than it does them? Perhaps subconsciously I am jealous of them they do free up your pockets and allow you to carry more gadgets and I do like a gadget. It does no harm but does not look good IMHO but I have to say this is a strange hill for me to choose to die on!

Man Bag

Septiembre - Belongs to the weather gods (and the flies)



Village Talk: The Village abounds with “those flies are doing my head in”. The explanation for the outburst of flies is that all the non citrus fields have finished growing and the farmers have ploughed the fields, they will not spray them again until a month before planting.

The weather in September takes a turn for the better warm days some cloudy dreamy skies and even some rain, but in Spain there is rarely rain without lightening.

Cycling: Cycling in September is what dreams are made of but it does see the return of the interminable headwinds that seem to be permanent a small price to pay for perfection.
Village Talk:The village is emptying out and the kids are back to school It also belongs to the weather gods as the harshness has gone out of the heat and a little respite is found, it’s only 32c now so the Spanish have put the duvets back on and have got the jumpers out, all the shops are now selling winter wear. Spanish Cyclists are wearing hats, buffs and arm warmers ..... I kid you not.

Dont pick the snails

Gota Fria - A little bit of weather

These words are thrown around like confetti even heard the phrase of “false Gota Fria”. The weather forecast was for a Gota Fria over this week and very steadily the weather stations and the authorities have ramped up the angst to a fever pitch. “It never hits us here”, “ we have a microclimate” and other such horse shit is thrown around the village.
Well it did hit us and it was bad many people in the village had flowerpots knocked over and the swimming pools filled up for free I even saw a palm Frond in the road, we were unable to buy coffee!

To be fair it was the most spectacular storm I have ever seen over 24 hours of thunder and lightning and torrential rain howling winds plus one tornado with the promise of more to come. The battles going on in households played out to the sounds of shutters being closed and opened as we then boiled windows opening and closing TVs blasting as the power went off and on at regular intervals. but we heard surprisingly little from the local dog chorus so if you want to burgle do it during a Gota Fria!

To make light of it is unfair but we lucky up here at 200m above sea level it has been devastating for the local area and has been declared a national disaster. The main problem being that this area (now officially a desert )is now woefully inadequate in dealing with water of any great magnitude ever since Franco dried up the natural rivers to irrigate the land as part of his dream that everyone would have a plot of land and be self sufficient, part of every lame dictators dream.

The cheap land grab for tourist housing and hotels has also contributed heavily to the problem. So now the roads have become the rivers and channel the water very effectively through towns and down to the low points where it collects along with bobbing Skodas, Seats and more than the occasional turd. The sea is full of mud sewerage and the bloated corpses of animals you can see a clear delineation between the old sea and the new sea, swimming is banned as is fishing and any other activities. Many a local mayor is still losing his job in light of Francos folly! A Gota Fria can best be described as “air turbulence that lands” The Spanish are not phased by this and deal with this as easily as they order Vino Tinto, Spanish life just goes on.

Gota Fria

Agosto 2019- Belongs to the Cockroach

Village Talk: August.....belongs to the Cockroach, they are reaping the results of many months good work, it’s not that there many more of them it’s just that they have reached their peak completed the breeding cycle and are slowly dying (the oap’s), they have got slow and we see them more and are much more vulnerable to predators, sliders and flip flops. Conversation is abuzz in the village about various situations where they have been encountered Cockroaches Man, Women and children are universally terrified English and Spanish alike. Seeing one fly (the females) .....has been known to trigger a heart attack! Cures are talked about almost incessantly whether it be moth balls, Lavender or something that actual works like sprays called “Prevail” or out personal favourite of “Oro” our houses are as noxious as Chernobyl but at least we are Cockroach free. It’s not unusual to visit a house and find all the plugs in situ and the overflows in sinks blocked up with wine corks, we have followed suit but I am still unsure whether it’s true or Campoverde folklore. Once a year the council visit the village and lift up the drains to spray poison in doing this the cockroaches make their escape and scuttle for freedom then die ..... Wendy cut such a funny figure chasing them down the drain with the broom whilst simultaneously being terrified and shaking ..... she is a trooper my wife.

August also belongs to the Madridians who like the Parisians are reviled by the local Spanish. In Madrid everyone has to take 2 weeks off in August which makes madrid empty. They have to take the first 2 weeks or the last 2 weeks which leaves the roads saturated for the first 2 week period (they will close one of the motorway roads in and make another out lane) they do this on the last day of t he 4 weeks as well to create an extra inbound lane! But what do you do in the middle weekend when there is equally as many going in as out? Gridlock is what you get it’s madness and very sad that every year there are many fatalities as a result as the drivers refuse to drive safely. The madiridians fill the local beaches of lo pagan and la Manga and the Mar menor prices rise much to t he dismay of the Campoverdians.

Cycling: is almost impossible, but not quite. Club rides start much earlier and are shorter the rides are supplemented with Coke and litres of water. The scenery is stunning the roads are packed with cyclists enjoying the weather! It is now not unusual for me to see temperatures exceeding 38c on the local climbs where there is little wind. A headwind is viewed as a benefit hot wind is better than no wind at all. Everything is extreme, whatever you wear is wrong.

Cockroach

Julio 2019 - Belongs to the Sun

Belongs to the Sun it dominates your ever every waking and sleeping thought! Village Talk: The chat in the village turns to stuff of folklore “it never used to be this hot”. Many old wives tales abound for keeping cool in desperate attempts to at least sleep. Keep all the shutters down and close the windows, don’t open the doors for too long, wear wet sweat bands to bed around your wrists and so on......basically a prison. Conversations also turn to how much it costs to run an air conditioner / ceiling fans and whether they should be fitted? Of course they should be fitted, these are the same people who would not have blinked an eye before switching on the central heating on! Many of the people people in the village are now hostage to the weak pound and have very real concerns, some of these people are new and cannot see that they will ever have this concern which of course they will as the Euro marches on relentless as our hapless politicians look on in indifference as they are wealthy and able to move their significant funds to more lucrative areas to shelter from the crisis in the £. There are of course financial concerns for everyone which apparently don’t apply to their swimming pools!

The actual solution is to live more like the Spanish eat later in the evening (sorry you will missCorry and Eastenders). Put your air conditioners on at a temperature about 3 degrees lower than the outside temperature, close your blinds change your routines. The Spanish have outdoor kitchens which will be used throughout July and August exclusively it’s madness to cook in the house after all. The Crickets are now deafening and there is no break at night! The actual solution is to live more like the Spanish eat later in the evening (sorry you will miss Corry and Eastenders). Put your air conditioners on at a temperature about 3 degrees lower than the outside temperature, close your blinds change your routines.

Cycling: The weather is hot but cycling is still very much doable, we need to hydrate much more and reduce the distance. What a pleasure it is to get ready to ride so simple shorts shoes and a lightweight jersey pure freedom, the temperature being 20c at 08:00am. Riding is superb with the colours of the mountains and the contrasts making them so beautiful.

Sunsets over Campoverde

Junio 2019 - A Gemini of a month

Is a Gemini of a month, on the one hand some days are fabulous a 28c in the shade with a nice breeze, pleasant warm evenings and the sea starting to get warm. However there is also just a preview of what’s to come with the occasional 38c with no wind at all..... a scary prelude of what’s to come.

Village Talk: Talk in the village is of holiday makers. The village begins to fill up with Holiday makers who for my part at least add a little welcome variety to everyday life. It’s quite odd to see people walking our village streets carrying Unicorn Floaties, Giant inflatable melons , Spongebob and crop tops and bathers! Pink Skins and tan lines Geordie and Scouse accents can be heard, the Rusty Nail is packed with strangers taking advantage of cheap beer and cigarettes watching the football on wide screens from outside.

The ladies looking like they have been forced into their clothes under pressure making them look even more like lobsters as they knock back sangria and convince each other with a shriek that it’s healthy because of the fruit. The Restaurants soon adapt and many of them up the prices of a menu Del Dia or Del Noche, to be fair they have to make hay while the sunshine’s in order to stay in business but it’s a big peev with the locals who scoff and mutter under their breath.

Cycling: Cycling in June is amazing the views are almost 3d and nice days are almost guaranteed you finally say goodbye to arm warmers and medium layers. The days are longer and the temperature numbers are higher, there is a seemingly endless amount of riders cycling around the Orihuela Costa. The end of June is starting to get extreme i rode to Andalucia and experienced temperatures of 44c. The milage of 100 miles a day is now getting to be difficult as the roads take their toll.

Portman Fishing Cottages

The Spanish - Warm friendly, noisy and crazy

How do I begin to describe the Spanish? It’s not complicated at all, “Sensitive” yet “Not sensitive at all”. On the one hand please do not ignore the Spanish in any circumstances this can be the greatest insult. If you are in a Supermarket always say Hola! For sure you will get a Buenas Diaz in return or if you choose Buenas Diaz you will get an Hola in reply as the Spanish are taught never to repeat the greeting as it’s rude and ignorant.
The Hierarchy of the Spanish isn’t complicated it’s all about the Family , the Madre is in charge, the Ninos come a very close second children are to be marvelled at cooed over and regaled with your compliments at every possibility. They are a thing to behold!

Mothers are to be loved obeyed and respected, they in turn bestow comfort and love to all the children and grandchildren. The boys do not leave home until an average age of 32 is reached. Next in the order is friends who will be loved and treasured followed by food and religion and talking.

Religion (the Church in fact as an organisation) has tumbled down the order over the last 40 years after the death of Franco and his partnership with the Church, the new King separating the Church from the state and lawmaking being one of the bravest and greatest peacetime feats of any Royal.
Food is so important in Spain it has its own chapter.
Talking, : The Spanish are warm and friendly they take talking to a whole new level to witness this is a privilege indeed. Seemingly able to talk to several people simultaneously whilst being spoken to at the same time. Agreeing and disagreeing at the same-time with wild hand gesture that could land an incoming plane, all this whilst keeping an amiable manner and a friendly smile and of course using the phone, driving a car and smoking a cigarette!

Cartegena Roman ruins

Abril 2019 - belongs to the Festival

In Spain belongs to the Festival, the biggest festival of all is the Santa Semana which was initially confusing for me and many kids I am sure, a week of Santa what a thing. ! Of course Santa Semana means Saints week a week of Festivals (Easter) that only the Spanish will ever fully understand. These festivals are loved and are spectacular to watch and participate in.


whilst practising Catholicism has plummeted in Spain since the death of Franco the festivals and the traditions are much loved and the Spanish are proud of them. In the UK we have Saints and Crucifixes in our Churches and they are pretty static for hundreds of years gathering dust and pigeon shit hi up in the eves. In Spain they like to take them walkies at regular intervals. Carried along on the shoulders of the chosen parishioners painfully on huge platforms in a uniform march along preset routes, inevitably followed by a band or two. Even into the ocean I add. Very impressive it is too gathering huge crowds. Each route depicts a particular chapter in the life of a particular Saint long forgotten from my Sunday School days. It’s not just April that this happens there is the fantastic Moors and Christians weeks and the Day of the Dead all fascinating.

April weather can be a pretty mixed bag but there is promise of better to come still nippy in the evenings. I am still in Foot Prisons and wearing long sleeves. April is when you first hear the Crickets calling which usually starts at around 24C, its a sound that i have always loved as it means warmth. The Bee Eaters have returned and charm us with a nightly display of flying and the beautiful chirping, this is the sign of summer.

Village Talk: The talk in the village is of when will summer arrive? Its so much colder than last year, the chatter is also of "Red Days" and festivals.

Cycling: Cycling in April when the weather is fine it’s a joy, the heady smell of the orange and lemon blossom can be overwhelming but be aware that this will all to soon be replaced with the stench of shite as the non citrus crops are fertilised. The fields and meadows are full of wild flowers a real feast for the eyes and huge alien / Triffid like blooms of which kind I do not know fill the desert air as succulents and cacti take advantage of the milder climate. But don’t get caught out in the rain on your bike in Spain as it can be the coldest experience known to a cyclist, yes crazy I know but you have to experience it to believe it.

The Spanish Cyclists are still in full winter gear with hats, longs, Overshoes, balaclavas and gilets. The English holiday makers on training camps have of course have been caught out and are all pink noses, pink skin and chattering teeth as they are determined to make the best of it.

Santa Semana

Facebook - Use with caution

I have heard Facebook be referred to as “like a village”, on the whole I am not a fan but I do dabble. Part of the reason that I am not so much a fan is A book I read called the ‘undoing project’ which is a book that in a nutshell unravels how people make choices and take certain stances.

It seems that even the most intelligent and influential amongst us make our choices based on a bad mix of facts and what we like to believe (it fits in with a pre existing belief) and that then becomes our stance over any facts or figures. Now if this is the case for the highest and brightest amongst us what does that mean for the shit munchers like us?

You see it time and again on Facebook where people advice others or berate others for their opinions or statements spouting their opinions to be fact whereas in reality it’s just what they have come to believe and they actually don’t know (or care) why they believe it. The Expat Facebook groups in our area are particularly bad for this and I have witnessed some very bad bullying behaviours by keyboard warriors crouching over the keyboard just waiting for a slip up! In one particular incidence I saw that a man call a woman stupid for asking a question, on looking at his other posts I was amazed to see that he had only ever used Facebook to make comments like this and had never made a constructive post. I wish him well and hope that he wakes up and smells the coffee it must be a sad life to live it in a world of unkindness and I am hopeful that he would not speak to another human being face to face like that.
If Facebook is like a village it’s like a village where all the village idiots have been given a megaphone and a solid position on every topic imagine that.


So for fluffy kittens, crazy dogs and videos of giant turds choose Facebook but for humility, friendship and professional advice go to the actual village and speak to somebody nice!

Sunset over th sierras of Orihuela

Marzo 2019 - Strawberries!

Belongs to the strawberry it’s high season for locally grown strawberries and what a treat this is. I can only imagine in older times if the joy that the taste of strawberries would have of been after a winter of bland stews and rehydrates meats it must have of given hope for the summer to come and the end of the cold. These strawberries can be purchased in wicker baskets of a kilo for a euro or two "heaven".

Cycling:Always the wind, the infernal wind that seems to have no end, never a tailwind and always a strong sidewind!

Cycling can be difficult but usually blue sky’s, sky’s that can lure you into the wrong clothing choices as it’s surprisingly cold especially along the coastal roads. As you pass the more remote villages you will see many Spaniards sitting outside the houses in the sun under blankets as it’s warmer out then in the houses. If you see them always say Buenas Diaz and wave as they are very friendly and love to be acknowledged they will invariably say a greeting back (they don’t care that you are English). This is their country and we are guests passing through it is these proud agricultural people that were the backbone of Spain and managed to survive the Franco regime and gift us with the warm friendly nation that we love.
The houses are generally colder inside than out, this is when the folk of Campoverde will tell you that they are designed to lose heat in the summer, however this is not the case as in the summer they are like hot boxes .... they are just poorly built. Village Talk: The talk in the village is of how unusual wet the march has been which means a really good April.... lets see

Strawberries


San Javier

Fabulous Sights

San Javier

Wendy

Great Riding

Wendy Riding

Vista Bella Embalse

Spectacular Roads

Vista Bella

Road Sign

Great Weather

Most of the time lol

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