So what did you do at Christmas?

Not being religious, nor having family, and not exactly a big turkey-eater as a vegetarian, our Christmas is hardly traditional.

There’s no opening presents by the tree, twinkling with the tiny lights as there was when I was a kid and there’s no overeating (which I didn’t particularly do even then).

And while childhood Christmases were lovely, there’s no point harking back to the past and trying to recreate it.

I did put up nice large trees in the UK, and at one point, we bought some artificial trees. They may have been plastic (or whatever) but at least it didn’t involve indiscriminate chopping down of real trees.

For a few years I kept putting up small ones in Spain, but eventually I was ordered to consign them to the bin as they looked raggier and raggier each year I got them out. So despite having boxes of ornaments and lights – I am treeless now. I don’t have space in Gibflat either.

So my nine Christmas cards are the only concession to the ‘festive season’ in our home.

What I love about Christmas in Gibraltar is the peace and tranquility. It is always quiet at weekends, but Christmas Day is even quieter.

On the Sunday before Christmas I was lured out to go visit a new supermarket in Gib. Me, the hater of shopping, having a walk to look at a supermarket. Eroski, on the far side (ie north) of the runway.

The only reason I agreed to go was because there were a couple of geocaches en route in the centre of the city, and Sunday was a good quiet day to stealthily acquire them.

Arriving in Casemates, where I confidently expected the cache to be (I have no idea why as the cache was called ‘Main Street’) I announced the clue. ‘Time for a rest?’

I figured it must refer to one of the many restaurants in the square.

Partner looked at me and immediately said ‘It must be on a bench.’ What a smart-arse. Trust him to spot the obvious.

I looked at the co-ordinates on the GPS. We had gone past the cache. It wasn’t one of these benches. We headed back up Main Street, looking for the likely bench.

There were two possible candidates together. When the occupants moved away, I took the first bench and he took the second. I felt all around the bench. Nothing. I looked at the GPS. I figured it was his bench. Rats.

‘It’s not on my bench,’ he piped up. ‘Yes, it is,’ I said assertively. I wandered over and adopted his trick of dropping down to pretend to do up my shoelace. Bingo! There it was underneath one side of the bench. I went and sat next to him and reached underneath to retrieve it and smirk.

Main Street - relatively quiet
Main Street – relatively quiet

We cleared off elsewhere to sign the log and then I put it back. He didn’t think I had put it back sufficiently well so promptly interfered. I wandered over to a shop window and then turned round to ensure it was suitably hidden. It was.

Off we went to try and find the next cache. This was in one of Gib’s old fortifications. Here is the quote from the cache site, which gives the history.

The North Bastion, formerly the Baluarte San Pablo (St. Paul’s Bastion) was part of the fortifications of Gibraltar, in the north of the peninsula, protecting the town against attack from the mainland of Spain. The bastion was based on the older Giralda tower, built in 1309. The bastion, with a mole that extended into the Bay of Gibraltar to the west and a curtain wall stretching to the Rock of Gibraltar on its east, was a key element in the defenses of the peninsula. After the British took Gibraltar in 1704 they further strengthened these fortifications, flooding the land in front and turning the curtain wall into the Grand Battery.

Today, the bastion is surrounded by reclaimed land to the west and north. Glacis Road runs along the base of the bastion’s former glacis. Smith Dorrien Avenue separates the bastion from the curtain wall, which is still largely intact. The bastion is occupied by the Giralda Gardens and a pétanque club. The government has plans to rehabilitate the site as part of a plan to develop the old fortifications as tourist attractions.

North Bastion
North Bastion

The clue was ‘at eye level’ so at least we didn’t need to bend down endlessly tying up our shoelaces and looking even more suspicious and furtive than we already were.

For a street away from the shops and on a Sunday morning, there was an annoying number of people walking around. We didn’t seem to be getting anywhere.

‘It could be over the road,’ he said. ‘No, it’s not,’ I snapped. Just to prove my point, we walked over anyway, and the GPS promptly said we were going away from it. Back we went nonchalantly gazing at the wall again. He thought it might be hidden behind a cigarette packet. Stupid idea. Everyone knows that stones are the most popular ways to conceal a cache. So I was looking for a crevice in the wall, with a loose stone. It had to be in the old part of the wall because the new part was too smooth. And then I found it. Extremely neatly hidden and slightly obscured by a plant. Two finds in one morning by ME!

We skipped over the road to sign the log on what looked like a former fountain with an inscription saying ‘For the animals 1934.’ I wonder what the history of that was?

Off we went to Eroski, about which I have nothing to say except that it is cheaper than Morrisons although further away and not as convenient for buses. Unless you wish to pay to jump on the frontier bus which we didn’t, it means a walk across the runway to get to the nearest free bus stops at Referendum House or opposite Glacis Estate.

Walking across the runway, Eroski on one side, Sleazyjet and the new airport on the other
Walking across the runway, Eroski on one side, Sleazyjet and the new airport on the other
White poinsettia en route - with someone's scruffy litter chucked away
White poinsettia en route – with someone’s scruffy litter chucked away

Christmas Eve started off as a nice lazy day, we curled up with a book and did very little until I got a sudden urge to clean the bathroom tiles. In fact I got so engrossed with this exciting task that before I knew it, Partner had made a seitan and tofu casserole, and put on the potatoes. Excellent.

On Christmas Day we’d planned another geocaching adventure to Rosia and Europa Point, but woke up to rain, thunder and lightning. So instead, it was curl up on the sofa with book again. This time, I used the left-over casserole and added some more goodies to it, while he cooked lots of pasta twists (extra so I could make pasta salad later).

I mention our totally normal meals in case anyone is wondering ‘What does a vegetarian eat for Christmas?’ – in our case, what we eat seven days of the week.

My boxing day breakfast - cauliflower soup and pasta salad!
My boxing day breakfast – cauliflower soup and pasta salad!

In the past I have cooked fancy meals, invariably a nut roast, or steamed hazlenut pudding, or something with pastry. If I was entertaining that’s what I would do. But I don’t entertain. So that’s easy. [More on ‘entertaining‘ on Clouds]

I discovered a long time ago, that good Christmases can be the simple ones. Many years back, he bought me a Peter Carey novel (probably The Taxman). We lit a fire in the sitting room and I happily lay on the sofa reading all day. Lunch was spaghetti and tomato sauce. It’s one of the most memorable Christmases I’ve had just because it was sheer indulgent luxury to do nothing (apart from read).

This Christmas Day was pretty similar – without the fire.

And on Boxing Day, we started Operation Bedroom. Well, he did. I was still on Operation Bathroom.

Clean the walls with a fungicidal bleach to get rid of the damp spores, let dry for 24 hours, and the following day, coat up with Dulux Mouldshield Fungicidal Matt. No idea what the UK price is, but here in Gib it is nearly fifty quid. It covers well, and looks good, so fingers crossed it will keep back the mould for a year or so before it is time for another repaint.

Applying the bleach, wearing a mask for safety
Applying the bleach, wearing a mask for safety
Next, the first coat of paint - hat to prevent eyes getting any spatters
Next, the first coat of paint – hat to prevent eyes getting any spatters

Having shown everyone the inside and linings of my curtains, I thought a pic of them drawn might be helpful. The background is slightly crazed and shaded, the main design is the unicorns on the twirly pattern. There is a feng shui belief that it is good to have some type of animal representation in your decorations.

Curtains in bedroom
Curtains in bedroom

Back on the walls are the mirror (the only decent thing the previous owner left behind) and our Hockney print (of which more later on an art post). In the mirror you can see the furniture piled up in the middle of the room and covered with dust sheets. Part of my helpful contribution to the task as painter’s assistant. In fact, Operation Bathroom didn’t get a look in yesterday.

Mirror and Hockney
Mirror and Hockney

And to end with, the inevitable curry. If the shops in the UK don’t stock up between Christmas and New Year, it’s even worse here in Gib. I went to the market yesterday and the only stall open was a meat one! Not much use to me, so I said ‘Hola,’ asked if they were the only stall, and turned round and walked out.

In which case curry comes in extremely handy. Spicy red lentil dal, bombay style potatoes, mushrooms and turmeric with roasted cumin seeds and rice, and a raita (Yeo organic yoghurt, salt, black pepper, lemon juice, paprika, cayenne, tomato, cucumber, red onion, and green chilli). Recipe for the red lentil dal and potatoes are under Channa dal on the recipe page. I’ll add the other two later.



41 comments on “So what did you do at Christmas?

    • Have to confess, despite my initial cynicism about geocaching – having to buy a GPS for starters – it can be good fun, take you to places you don’t know about, or in the case of North Bastion teach you some new history. We’re far from addicts though.

      Curry is just so handy when there is nothing else in the fridge. Same goes for pasta. In olden days people had tins (well during WW2 anyway). Me I have a load of dried goods and absolutely no tinned food!

      I’ll be adding to the recipe pages on here shortly.


    • I guess it depends on your preferences. Life is so hectic wherever you are (you just take your rat race with your or join a different one) that for me it is a time to take some time out and be indulgent doing whatever you choose to do.

      Thank you, and to you and yours.


  1. Now that is what I call an alternative Christmas! I had to do a little bit of DIY on account of the heavy rain and a leaking roof I was obliged to shore up a crack in the roof tiles – but not too bad or difficult as I was able to do it from the inside!


    • Well, you know I don’t have kids or grandkids so the whole Santa thing is hardly relevant. So both the secular and the religious aspects are totally irrelevant to me. Best to make the most of a couple of days break in whatever way we choose. I think there is a lot of pressure on people to ‘enjoy’ Christmas in the same way, and all I am pointing out is that there is no need.

      And as it’s the construction shut-down for Christmas, it’s a good time to do a little home decorating. I always think it is unfair for my partner to come in from work after five or six long days painting and expect him to start on the flat in his spare time.


  2. Hi! :)
    What a nice and entertaining post … I really enjoyed reading it, this morning, as the winter storm is howling…
    Geocaching is something I’ve been wanting to pick up, but not yet gotten around to. Now that I have a good phone, I think I’ll make a point of doing it! A good way to get out and about, if for nothing else.
    Would be interesting to find out what that was from 1934 ‘for the animals’ :)
    One thing you mentioned, about the food, was nut roast. Me, NOT being a vegetarian, had a lot of vegetarian food in England on my one trip there … Nut roast is the one thing that stands out in my memory because I found it scrumptious! We were visiting friends of David’s in Ashford, Kent … she made lots of food, but this thing was really delicious.

    Our Christmas was partly similar to yours, apart from the painting and bathroom project :lol:


    • Winter storm eh? Bright sunshine here. I would quite like a winter storm!

      GC is ok, and like you say, for getting out. People you seem to meet are ok too.

      I remember your David tales! He does sound cool. Nut roasts and other nut dishes are to me, one of the best of the veg repertoires.

      Bedroom is now finished but sadly the bathroom cleaning is still on. For another day :D


  3. As the tribe from Belgium are here I’ve had and am having an utterly relaxing time.
    They shop, they cook, they wash up, they chat to my husband, they take him out….I can’t thank them enough!


  4. What a beautiful peaceful Christmas you’ve had, slightly different to mine for one reason or another.
    I can’t say I have any yearning for the flamboyant Christmases of my childhood. I plan to escape totally next year :-)
    Your food looks delicious, especially the curry….yummy!
    My youngest and I shared a ‘Tesco special’ nut roast, which was extremely tasty. I didn’t fancy what the rest of the family were eating.

    The photo of the North Bastion Wall gives an unusual perspective, initially the wall looks smallish, until I saw the road signs…….it’s enormous!!

    Do paintings of animals count in the feng shui animal decor thing?

    Fingers crossed the new anti mould paint lasts, it sounds quite expensive.


    • I wrote on another blog about how I think we should stop looking back to the Christmases of our past. We need to make our own Christmas – and mine is about peace and tranquility with my mate and my dogs. Simple really.

      I do love nut roasts, but I prefer to make them rather than a tesco job – not that we have a tesco here!

      I used a couple of different photos for the wall. I wanted to give the name in the header photo and then use the bigger pic for later. Was that a major fail? :D

      Anything of animals counts in feng shui. We have two ducks together in the bedroom which is a good sign too :)

      But beware of fierce ones, need to choose where to put those eg tigers. In Gibflat we have a few soft toys A has collected (!) in the sitting room :)

      Yup, it’s expensive. One of the downsides of a warm subtropical life is damp :)


      • In my mind the photo of the wall could have been a street corner wall with the street name painted on, then suddenly it became probably ten times bigger, it was just a wow moment ;-)
        Ah! No fierce animals here, just dogs a horse and sheep in the lounge (pictures/paintings that is)


        • Perspective huh? Don’t forget the Rock in the background ;) gives a clue to the size..

          If it made you go wow that will do me :D I was trying to capture the name, but the name photo didn’t do the scale, hence using the other one, complete with boring old street lights, bus shelters etc – but it did add the size of the wall.

          Should have said we had a couple of teal coloured ducks in the bedroom for ages, then think they got moved to the sitting room during a redec. I think they are really symbolic. I don’t know what happened to my two china horses from childhood (Frisky and Frolic) or the little pig my head teacher gave me when I was in hospital with appendicitis.

          Animals can be on the walls, in the furnishings, ornaments, – or even under the table or on the sofa ;)


          • I didn’t realise it was the rock.
            Haha, I’ve a cuddly polar bear in the bedroom (no not T), two china horses in the spare room and pottery teddies and woolly sheep in Hal’s room.


          • A picks up stray animals – not just Pippa! – and I’ll make a post about it. We have a monkey, an elephant and a tiger (a smiley one though) sitting in Gibflat. He missed some the other day – they were gone by the time he got back.


  5. So, do you buy into the Feng Shui stuff then, or just adopt the bits you like? I have a book on a shelf in Tavira but never got around to putting it into practise, though setting up a new home would have been the ideal opportunity.
    Geocaching? My criminal ignorance kicks in again. How? What? Who puts the stuff there in the first place? Happy New Year to you.


    • FS? To some extent I do. Not sure whether I’ve just got the one book too, or maybe a couple. I think the idea of letting qi through your home – but not rushing out of the door so you lose it is interesting. Having something safe behind you, but definitely not water. The colours depending on where you live, because that just goes with natural lighting anyway. Not the need to buy new furniture because that rules out antiques and recycling! Not the need to have a crystal chandelier either. A mirror in the dining room is nice, except the wall we had ours on got damp so it now resides in the sitting room :D And we also have Luk, Fuk and Suk (or whatever they are called) which I wrote about on a previous art post (included the sepia photo of Brid, which you commented on).

      Geocaching. Join website (free). Buy GPS (annoying to have to buy a gadget). Choose a nearby easy cache to go and look for and off you go. Anybody can hide a cache, but best to find a few first to get the feel of how and where to hide. You either buy specific containers from geocaching, or tightwads like me use old film canisters (so do lots of others) or a tupperware type box. You put tiny bits of tat treasure in, which you exchange for other tat treasure, or you just sign your name. Up to you. It’s fun finding them, but the best bit is really getting out, going to new places, and/or learning something about places.

      Here is a good one I did in Gib:

      and following that, I then wrote about this:

      I wouldn’t have had a clue about that had I not gone geocaching and had my interest aroused about the mysterious death of the Polish prime minister just off Gib. Although I did wonder why there was a strong Polish presence and connection here. You may be interested!


  6. So i had the most unusual Christmas of my life. Alone. I am not going to deny it was not fun And I who usually prefer to be alone. How odd. But Christmas is different in my mind and heart I thought plans were made and they changed so fast before my eyes my head was spinning over it until Christmas evening. Then a friendly little melt down was in order. Felt so much better after

    I can do it again now that my first experience is over & done with. And next time with no silly expectations. Maybe looking forward to next time, there is a lot to be said about no family near.

    A late gift or actually finally a follow through. I hope you did not think we forgot about you. Just could not happen ms. ~ Enjoy & Happy thrills to you for 2013


    • I think because I’ve got out of doing the ‘Christmas thing’ I no longer have expectations about it – presents, company, family, friendship – or feel pressurised to do something that others do. Changed plans and quickly is often upsetting whenever it happens, so I can understand the meltdown at what can be an emotive time of year.

      I think it is important as we get older to make our chistmases what we want them to be and without feeling guilty that we aren’t doing what the rest of the (nominally) Christian world is doing. In the UK, there are invariably loads of jokes about what a pain it is having family around all the time, and how many arguments there are over christmas. Statistically it is one of the peak times of the year for family arguments and people using voluntary agencies because they are so stressed. That doesn’t sound like a fun-filled christmas to me.

      Of course I didn’t think you would forget about me. I ask for too many records anyway, so I’m quite content to wait when others pop up with a request and it is fun to see what people ask for. There’s never any rush when I ask for something, but thank you for finding a chrissie hynde song for me. I’ll be over to have a look and a listen when I’ve finished replying to comments and checking out a few other new posts.


    • It is a good way to get out and about locally. Lots of people drive miles and seem to go in the middle of the night in an attempt to be first to find a new cache. That’s not quite me! We tend to stick to local ones – a different walk, and sometimes a bit of history or local knowledge that we didn’t know. That’s the real attraction of it.


  7. This year’s holiday was a good test for me on how I will need to “re-vamp” how I spend the day. My children are young adults and I never want them to feel obligated to spend holidays with me. While there were a few down moments (it does take getting used to being alone) overall it was quite nice.. Your holiday seemed to be very productive yet relaxing and yes I agree with the others, the food looked to be delicious.
    You are so right, Christmas time should be a time of reflection not commercialism..

    Happy New Years to you and partner!!!!


    • I think it must be harder for those of you with children to have an empty home. I found it hard to lose the memories of my childhood christmases. That’s one of the reasons I think it is important to redefine christmas for ourselves as we get older.

      I liked your unselfish idea of visiting or helping elsewhere. And yes, our holiday did combine both productivity and a break. Now we are collapsing :D the down from the high!

      HNY to you L, and best of luck with your new life in NOLA.


  8. It was so great to hear from you (Cat Mandu)! We had a very low key Christmas. I brought in a pine cone tree I keep in the 2nd bathroom all year, and plopped it on the bedroom table. Mandu inherited a couple of boxes things came in. (No, I didn’t wrap the boxes.) Our real Christmas present was a re-visit to the Andes in October/November.
    Have a happy and healthy 2013!


    • Finally got around to starting to visit some of Pippa’s pals to see if they were still around!

      Andes sounds wonderful. The last I saw of your blog you were recounting your Aus trip. Must pop over and look, maybe you aren’t coming up on my WP notifications. HNY


  9. I’m hoping it’s ok to comment on Christmas posts a few days before Valentines Day… mind you once the Christmas decorations left the shops, we were inundated witrh Australia Day paraphernalia made in China, and now red hearts & flowers. I will get around to cobbling together my own blog post shortly but I’ve enjoying my catching up moments which have been of varying durations. Your words describing Christmas Day just oozed the peace and simplicity I crave, but ours was good – quiet morning of coffee on the verandah, opening simple gifts under the tree, church because it was there, a few family telephone calls, simple lunch out of the fridge, snooze, visit the MIL etc in town as they decided to stay put and make their own arrangements for the day, walk on the beach, wine on the verandah, simple dinner out of the fridge, early night… We couldn’t have asked for better and have set it as our benchmark. True to my word, any prep I did was the same as I would have for guests, only less quantity except for dessert which we delivered to town.
    I’m going to refrain from commenting on the delicious food you’ve showcased other than to say mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm because I wanted use my commenting allowance to say I love the bedroom curtains [Did you ever readl Alan Garner’s Elidor?]. I’m a casual follower of Feng Shui… for the positive energy but I hadn’t realised, although when I think about it, it’s kind of obvious, how significant the animal representations are, and thinking about it I realise we have an abundant representation of cats and birds… but like you & A, we gather whatever comes to us needing a home.
    We did our own version of geocaching on beach walks where we look for and mostly discard prize shells – any we take home are only borrowed & returned later.
    Actually, it’s nice re-visiting this with hindsight… as you say, simple and own style was the key to one of the nicest holiday breaks we’ve had in a while.


    • Of course :)

      I ignore most things apart from Gibraltar Day flags. Certainly Christmas, Valentines or anything else don’t figure highly on my shopping list. But to be fair we don’t get much mass marketing here, too small :D

      Your Christmas sounds equally perfect. Isn’t it all about some time off, to relax and chill out and spend with whoever you choose? and however you choose?

      You know me and food, there is always some sort of salad in there!

      Thanks for the curtain comments, I think you are the first one to mention them. I love the animals, and the twirly design. In fact they were in our sitting room in two UK houses and now we have one in the bedroom and one in the sitting room. Gives continuity in the box>flat at any rate.

      My feng shui is equally casual and practical. I take what I want out of it, isn’t that they best way to do with anything?

      I have shells in my Spanish bathroom :) And some pebbles. I like to retain the feel of water and the beach in a water area.

      So pleased you enjoyed your break, the photos were certainly beautiful.


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