Roses, beans, lemons and cabbages

‘You can’t eat roses,’ my neighbour Adelina snapped at her husband José. ‘Why do you keep growing more of them?’

‘I like them,’ he said obstinately, and off they ranted away at each other having one of their convivial spats.

In fact, it’s not the first time she’s said that, according to Partner, who heard a similar conversation a few weeks back. When money’s tight, and times are hard, why grow roses?

The fact that he used to work in a nursery propagating roses and carnations amongst other tasks, might explain it.

And the gripe about not being able to eat them was probably influenced by my broad beans, which I took the first harvest from at the weekend.


‘You’ve got a sackful there,’ said Adelina leaning over the wall admiringly. ‘Not quite,’ replied Partner, laughing.

‘But at least there is enough for a meal, so that’s good,’ she said. And in fact there was, around one and a half pounds. Along with some new potatoes from the 15kg sack we’d bought, I added half a pound of my beans to give to next doors. After all, if José didn’t water my garden and nip out the top of the beans to encourage the pods to set, I wouldn’t have any beans at all.

Partner had just walked in from handing over the goodies when he was called back to the wall by José. Ah, yes, four avocados and three lemons.

‘We had visitors yesterday and they brought avocados, the lemons are from my daughter’s,’ he explained. I hate buying lemons when the trees all around are full of them, so I was well pleased.

Then we decided to walk down to the beach. As we wandered around the circular loop, one of our neighbours who works in the field called us over. He was picking some beautiful cabbages to take to the local corrida (veg wholesaler). Because our village is the centre of an agricultural area – a lot of the land was previously sea – we have a very large corrida, which gets trucks buying and selling from all over Andalucía and further afield.

Joss (well actually he is another José but he reminds us of Joss out of Bonanza) asked us if we wanted some cabbage. Yes please. How many? One, two, three, four? I thought he was going to keep counting so we interrupted and said one would be fine. He looked most miffed, and said ‘Two or three?’ One clearly wasn’t the right answer. ‘OK, two.’ He cut three anyway.

Luckily we’d taken some shopping bags to call at the village supermarket on the way back. The golden rule in Spain is that you should always take a plastic bag with you, and preferably a knife in case you find something growing wild, eg wild asparagus, prickly pears, or even just veg that have fallen off the carts on the way to market. The trouble was, the cabbages (around two kilos each), filled the shopping bag, so as we approached the village, I took the cabbages in my arms and walked home up the stream bed, and he went on into the village. Six kilos of cabbage is ok to start with, but by the time I’d walked up the stream bed – uphill – they were getting pretty heavy.

Later on when Partner had returned, Adelina came to the wall to chat and asked why we had given them beans when we had muy poco (very few). Odd, earlier on it had been a sackful! We explained that we wouldn’t have any if it wasn’t for them. Sometimes the gesture is worth as much as the gift. We gave her a cabbage as well, we can’t really eat six kilos of cabbage that quickly. Expect a few cabbage recipes appearing on the recipe page here!

It’s impossible to give something to next doors and win the game though. Later on, José returned from his daughter’s garden with yet more lemons.

The next day on our walk – the same one, why walk another route when walking around the beach is peaceful and beautiful? – we met a couple of neighbours. No idea what he is called, probably José or Juan like the rest of the village, but we refer to him as Walking Man.

Hauling in the net after an early morning/night-time fishing session
Hauling in the net after an early morning/night-time fishing session

We’ve always chatted to him since we moved here, and some years ago, he told us he had gone to the village medico. Like a UK GP I suppose. The doc told him that his problem was that he spent all his time in his car and he should get out and walk more. So he did, and has been doing ever since. Each morning, around eight (earlier in summer), he sets off for a walk of at least an hour. Often with his wife, and sometimes with other neighbours or family.

When we met, we had come along the beach road whereas they had come in the opposite direction down the beach, a harder and longer walk than ours as they were walking on sand. We met them again as we approached the village, and they were still striding out energetically.

Contrast that with another neighbour who was given the same advice. He bought a bike and cycled off to visit relatives in the next village. The next we saw, he had ‘phoned his wife to walk to the village and meet him, so she could push it back for him, he was so exhausted. Hopefully he’ll throw the bike out at some point and we can rescue it for our free bike collection. He’s certainly never used it again after that first and fateful outing.

Next door, the two younger generations all weigh 90kgs plus. But, when we were chatting to the daughter and her husband on Saturday afternoon, they were going out for their daily walk too. ‘We try and do seven or eight kilometres,’ she said. which basically means walking into town and back. Do hope she doesn’t stop for an ice cream though when they get there.

The doctor who ‘prescribed’ exercise to the first two men was Peruvian, he’s gone from the village now, but what eminently sensible advice to give someone. No prescription for a silly gym. Just, get out of the car, and walk more. Of course, although people might well make a special effort to go for that walk, what they don’t do (with the exception of Walking Man) is build walking into their normal routine. Walk or cycle to the shops, don’t drive. My father would get the car out of the garage, pull out of the drive to go to the newsagent a couple of hundred yards down the street. You could have walked there faster. And all to buy a newspaper or a packet of fags. Honestly!

Meanwhile, as soon as I leave Gibraltar, chaos reigns. I received an email updating me about the dog’s Twitter account. No he doesn’t tweet either, but as neither of us log in, I’ve not got around to unsubscribing from the pesky emails.


Headline from the Daily Wail and full Daily Mail article here.

In summary, large Spanish warship decides to cruise into British/Gib waters and do some sabre-rattling. As you do when you have a country with nearly five million unemployed people and financial scandal surrounding the government about secret slush funds of £25M in Swiss bank funds.

According to the Gib Chron however, the figure in Spain unemployed is six mill, the highest since Spain returned to democracy following the Franco régime.

Over the border in La Linea, some 11,000 people are out of work in a town with a working population of 44,000. That’s an easy sum, 25%, slightly lower than the national average of 26%, but without Gibraltar it would be way higher.

Enough of politics however. Maybe next post. Time for some sunny Spanish pix from our beach walk. Our beach used to be a favourite location for wild camping by northern Europeans in campervans, but not any more. It seems there is a big clamp down. Given that there aren’t enough camp sites in winter, I see no reason for that.

There are a couple of chiringuitos (beach bars) down there, both run by the same people, but the one hasn’t been opened for some time. This time we went, it had been burned down. Doubt it was to claim on insurance as they probably don’t have any.

And the 48-hour vigil, which ended yesterday, by the Defenders of Gibraltar Group.

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61 comments on “Roses, beans, lemons and cabbages

      • Lemons make me think of Summer far more than anything else I can think of, apart of course from hot summer days. These days I’m more likely to be sipping pure tonic water with a slice of lemon bobbing about in it, but might add a little gin at a weekend if I have any in the house.

        You introduced me to beurre lemon as I remember. I now tend to mix white wine and lemon juice which produces a lovely sauce for so many things. The weather here right now, max 2 deg during the day, is so depressing I’ve set my phone to show me the weather in Gibraltar by default!!


        • I tend to add lemon to hot water, cold water, tonic water, and really any water, in terms of drinks.

          Ah, the wonderful lemon butter sauce. Sublime really in my opinion. If you skip down the comments to Phil Lanoe (US) you will see he is also a fan of the same combination. For me, it is perfect for veg, or whatever else really. Just one of those classics. French, old-fashioned, – and – delicious.

          I have my weather widgets set for a few UK places (always good for a laugh to see the freezing temps, snow, rain etc) and the Spanish ones I visit. I’m not sure how accurate they are, but they give an overall idea.

          Fifteen degrees here today? No idea. Chilly outside, cold breeze, but glorious in the sun. Clear blue skies. Partner is still wearing shorts, although I tend to be rather more togged up.


  1. The time has come the blogger said
    To write of many things
    Of beans and bikes, lemons and roses
    Of cabbages and (sabre) rattlings

    What an idyllic life you lead. Are you sure you don’t live in Wonderland?


    • Very witty. I like it.

      Don’t suppose you know about the rattling club in Hailsham (Kent)? Home to many expat Welsh miners working in Snowdon and Betteshanger. The rattlings comment reminded me.

      And you don’t lead an idyllic life either? Who? is just about to start work, might I ask and earn money? Not me. Now that would be wonderful land. Well the money would be wonderful. Not the work. In the meantime, I take the free veg happily.


      • I don’t know the Rattling Club, alas. Is it like the Wheeltappers & Shunters (affiliated)?

        It is an interesting debating point….. what constitutes an idyllic life? How important is money? I guess if you have too little it is very important. If you have enough then it isn’t. How much is enough? As much as it takes to live worry-free, not needing to think about paying the monthly bills. The challenge is always predicting your own mortality and few of us enjoy doing that. Much better I feel to live in Wonderland and play croquet with the flamingoes. Strangely the work came to me. I didn’t go looking for it. But it will pay for a few cabbages and possibly a little more. The real attraction is the intellectual renaissance. I shall have to give the little grey cells a squirt of WD40, put on my Hercule Poirot moustache, polish off my spats and voila! The mystery shall be solve-ed. And so, as Zebedee would say, its time for bed.


        • I don’t know the Rattlesnakes either, but apparently those of Welsh and mining origin do. Welsh miners club I’m guessing rather than WMC or WT&S (said wit’ northern accent).

          It’s no good debating and boinging off to bed Zebedee!

          How much is enough? Enough for now? Or? … The real challenge is predicting the financial market and government manipulation.

          Intellectual renaissance for cash would be cool. In the meantime, I take mine wherever it comes. As and when. Although I frequently go to bed.


          • Manipulation is rife, whether by governments or others. But the choices ahead are not pretty. There’s a decent chance we shall suffer prolonged periods of uncomfortably high inflation, eroding whatever savings we have monetary debasement is inevitable it seems as nobody can afford to repay their debts, Japan, US, GB……. We’re all doomed Capt. Mainwaring. Dig your own bunker. Hold bricks and mortar, buy a gun and stock up on baked beans. Or of course we may just muddle through. There are some nasty geopolitical risks out there to cheer us up and demographic time bombs from ageing populations at one end and massive youth unemployment at the other. I’m glad I’m in my last quartile rather than my first. And on that cheery note, boing.


          • I don’t mind inflation. It’s deflation I hate.

            I have no debts. So I have no probs, bring back inflation and the 80s. Bricks and mortar, check, beans, well, dried anyway, check, but gun no.

            Go on Zeb. You must be whacked, being so old and all that. (Of course it is nearly siesta time here too).


          • Surely t’other way round? Deflation increases the purchasing power of your cash. Inflation devalues your debt and eats away at your savings. With no debt you’d be in clover with deflation. Or do I mean Clovelly?


  2. LOL, I have said to my wife that it seems silly for her to grow things like Brassicas because in such a small veg garden they take up huge amounts of space for the relatively few meals they deliver. I’d prefer she concentrate on growing stuff that provides lots of meals from a small amount of space or for speciality veg that is very expensive to buy from the shops. Beans are a great veg to grow because we grow them on wires along the fence or in pyramids. They take up virtually no room and yet provide stacks of food. Sadly the french beans (my favourite) did poorly last year due to the poor weather but we got a decent crop of runners off. I think we need to convert more of our garden over to veg production instead of flowers and shrubs. I’m not so sure the children would be happy though if we converted the lawn to a veg plot too ;-)

    PS. Your broad beans look good :-)


    • I did well with scarlet runners in the UK, but rubbish with peas. Cabbage, spinach, kale all worked fine. The easy ones. And loads of salad greens. I think speciality food is a good idea. I’m actually thinking about putting artichokes in my veg wall as they are perennials, and maybe asparagus? Potatoes aren’t worth it because of the cheapness of a sack and the space they take up, much as I love them from the garden. It will be onions, and beets and maybe something else for my root veg rotation. Not sure what. As I’m doing the rotation atm, next up will be brassicas following the legumes, leaving the beans in to fix the soil with nitrogen etc. Although I may stick a load of salad crops in as an interim.

      All my lawns got some of their space taken away for veg. You can never have too much space for veg. Hell it’s cheap! There is no argument.

      They were great in paella and I have a few left. Dog enjoyed them raw too :)


  3. We’ve had to learn what grows here…and my broad beans made wonderful flowers…were watered and top nipped…but gave nothing. Runners likewise.
    French beans did well, though.
    Neighbours have given us all sorts of beans…one like a huge asparagus pea, one with a bean more like a lentil and one which has now grown into trees…reminds me of laburnum, but so far we have not been poisoned.

    We’re too low for onions and spuds, fine for tomatoes and peppers and have lemons coming out of our ears.

    Great discovery for the gin and tonic…an unripe lemon mandarina is better than lemon by about half!

    Give and accept is rife here too….and because of the differing microclimates it’s not like all having a glut of courgettes at the same time…

    Quite agree about walking as opposed to paying for time in a gym…..avoids those ghastly leotards too…


    • It’s a nightmare changing climates to work out what to grow when. Really screws with your head. I’m going to chop to the first lot down and see if they will come back with another crop. Who knows? I have learned that buying supermarket seeds is not a good idea!

      Neighbours gave us ordinary bean sees – habachuelas – never germinated though. Too old I guess. The beans I mean. I have a tale about a tree for a soonish post.

      They grow everything around here.

      A lemon mandarina? Pic please.

      We do have gluts in our areas, but that is because everyone is conditioned to grow the same thing.

      I never did like gyms. Pay to exercise? No. Just doesn’t suit.


      • How to post a pic i do not know…but this should show you what it is.
        If I haven’t cocked it up.

        There’s a tree just by the back door…so I can lock up the poultry, pick a fruit as I pass and head out tot he balcony for a G and T.


        • Clever posting a pic on here. Impressed, I know there is a way to do it, but not sure I have managed it. We don’t lock up the chickens these days, unless Jimena is broody. We used to years ago every night, but they manage anyway.


  4. I have to admit to a wee bit of envy. Where I am the weather over the past month has been making walking rather difficult. We still do get out but (a) avoiding going heels over head on the ice hidden under the snow (b) bundling up to avoid the cold wind and (c) avoiding the salty, slushy spray from the oncoming cars passing by much to close (the sidewalks are mostly unusable) makes the activity somewhat less than pleasant some times. At least reading of walks in better climes gives hope that spring will come…eventually :>)
    On the other far-more-serious item you mentioned I certainly hope that the incident you referenced, along with the local unrest surrounding the response to it, gets dealt with by those who understand the virtues of patience, knowledge and wisdom.


    • Thanks Y. I’ve lived in my Spanish village for a while now, so we are part of the scenery. We have become the token foreigners that are mostly accepted. We have always been lucky with our neighbours, we’ve never had bad ones, a couple of not brilliant ones, but for the most part they have been excellent.


      • Thanks for the reply. I am glad for you that your neighbors are good ones. Even if you are the token couple from Britian I’ll bet that they take kindly to both of you. Nice always goes a long way- that is in most situations. :-)


        • In the Uk, we don’t take the concept of neighbours to the same degree. Perhaps because so many of us move around so much. But in Spain, so many families remain in the place they were born, often even in the same house, so neighbours can be with your for life. It’s important to get on and to look after each other. Gifts are a much easier way of giving something to each other than money changing hands. We’ve also helped each other (by which I mean the men) with house renovations/repairs.


        • White wine was the first one that came to mind, I just thought I would see how many other white possibilities I could think of off the top of my head :D I think we are all the same with the comments, I do amend some of the ones on here, because people have asked me to, so if they ask once, I’ll do it automatically next time. But tbs, lemons, white wine, garlic, some stock – excellent combination, and either butter or olive oil, depending on choice.

          Had a lovely back browse through your blog catching up on posts I have missed. Some wonderful pix there.


          • I have a short list of words I will continuously spell wrong the first time including “alligaotrs” See? I just did it?! :D Happens almost every time and I usually know to go back and fix it.

            I usually use a little of both…olive oil first, then a bit of butter. :-)

            I greatly appreciate your interest in my photos, thanks much!


          • I did a class couple of mis-hits on the keyboard yesterday ‘se tress’ for ‘see trees’ – I cringed when it printed up. I tend to hit the keys faster than the letters come up so there is some dissonance with what’s going on in my head, on the keyboard, and on screen. Well that’s my excuse anyway :D


  5. Food and flowers make the world go around… and your posts certainly back up my theory.
    I do have an interest though in the Spanish sabre rattling… is it an exercise – naval or in being seen, or are they contemplating giving it legs I wonder…?
    I enjoy the food swap culture… it’s the essence of community. There’s always room for a few flowers. We only have 3-ish roses (one got hacked by persons unknown, possibly for a wedding bouquet of long stemmed reds, and has never been the same) but plan on adding a yellow climber. Our OAP neighbour wanders over frequently to add our yard’s donation to whatever bouquet she’s cobbled together for one friends. What can I say, there’s no consumerism involved.
    Same neighbours invariably jump in the car to travel the distance of 5 houses down to the pub for the newspaper or raffles. If timing requires one to go earlier the other walks down by necessity, but rarely.
    Great photos – I enjoy the vicarious peek into your world/s.


    • They would be very happy to give it legs I am sure. Primarily I think it is to distract the public from the dire situation of the Spanish economy and the alleged corruption within the current government.

      I think I have four roses. I would get rid of them because they are prickly. But – they are also beautiful, prolific bloomers, and I love the scent. So they are still there. They are quite old actually, but each year, they get cut back (early Jan this year as in a previous post) and just start new growth all over again.

      Although José has the key to our garden gate, he never takes anything. More likely to give, before we installed the water butt for him to use to water the garden, he would use his own water when our containers had run out. As for the roses, when he wants to use some cuttings to propagate, he always waits for us to return before taking them.

      Walking/cycling v driving is another aspect of consumerism. Somewhat like not using public transport. The unspoken question is ‘Are you too poor to drive/afford a car?’


      • We have issues with my car because I drive so little the battery is always dead. It’s too good a car to sell, handy for if I need to do things requiring a car when the G.O. is at work and because my Dad lives a couple of hours drive away. Also somewhere in the future it will be very handy as TA is 30 kms from town. Do you & A have the dead battery issue with the Landys?


  6. Always enjoy your walks – can almost smell the lemons. Your vegetable gathering and swaps sound like what the farm communities were like when I was growing up – everyone shared what they had – one could grow good corn, another peas, another green onions or some had a pecan or pear trees. You’d go “visiting” neighbors and take some extra produce to give them. And then you’d sit and talk. A much more grounded life.
    As for roses – they earn their spot because you enjoy them. Must feed the soul, too.
    Again with the Spanish warships – you would think there would be enough to do else where…or is it diversion from what needs to be done there?


    • The lemons are wonderful. And so fresh too. Your description of what used to happen does go on still around us, not everyone, but the older established families still do just that. And there is so much more conversation too. Everyone might be speaking at once, but they don’t lack things to talk about.

      ED above was asking the same question. It is sheer intimidation and, as you said, diversionary propaganda. I’ll be writing some more about it today.


      • You are right – everyone talks at once. That tradition used to wear my husband out. I guess it’s something you have to grow up with to think it’s “normal”
        Will check back in later – hope the day is nice…dreary rain again here…(but water is good – hot summer is coming)


        • I have been known to say to next doors ‘Uno habla!’ when too many are speaking at once. And they all crack up laughing.

          Few drops of rain earlier, sunshine and blue skies (cue for a song, nothing but blue skies) here now, although cold when I went out earlier on business.

          Need to pass by yours and sniff around. Tried to look when tired but found too many posts and fell asleep Pippa-ishly. Paws to Molly.


  7. Pippa on Twitter!

    Those beans look heavenly. Looking forward to the cabbage recipes. I love cabbage, to the disgust of our neighbor, who can’t abide the smell of them cooking. Can’t open my windows when I’m doing that.


    • He was on Twitter years ago, well before I went on. Some of his blog pals spent quite a lot of time on there, but he found it rather aimless and somewhat tiring as he had to keep barking/tweeting endlessly. Pippa is a quiet dog and really didn’t like making so much noise.

      The beans were great, just so fresh! Picked that morning and in paella at lunchtime. I’ve still got a few left, must use them up soon, they must be all of three days old now!

      I did the stuffed leaves last night, which I’ve posted about before, but forgot to include in the recipes. I think one of the others is with white wine, onion, maybe apple, celery seeds, I’ll have to look that up, but it is good.

      A neighbour said to us that we were always cooking! If breakfast/brunch and a main meal every day is always cooking then yes. Then we realised there are no other food smells in the block so goodness knows what everyone else eats.


  8. I grew some runner beans last year but it was a lot of effort for very little reward! Runner beans were much more successful so will concentrate on them this year. Just reading ‘Bitter Lemons of Cyprus’ by Lawrence Durrell!


    • Check those beans – which worked and which didn’t? I loved growing scarlet runners in the UK, although hated them as a kid.

      Have you read Driving over Lemons too? Do you always read travel books?


      • Haven’t read that but might add it to my reading list now. I read mostly travel books because it find it a good way to prepare for my own brief travels. I prefer older travel books because that satisfies my curiosity for history. I am reading ‘Voices of the Old Sea’ by Norman Lewis which is about a Catalonia that no longer exists but nevertheless provides fascinating background information. He writes about 1940s Spain which would be unrecognisable now but it reminds me why that even if I lived there that I could only ever be a visitor.


        • Opposite to me, I tend to read them when I have been there because I find it more meaningful. hemingway and lee on spain for example.

          Chris stewart, briefly a genesis drummer and bought a place in Andalucía – who doesn’t? But it was quite funny. However if you aren’t going to visit the alpujarras not much point reading it.

          Visiting, travelling, living – are all a state of mind. She says sagely.


  9. Such an idyllic life you both live there away from the rat race. I can see why you need to escape back whenever.
    The veggies look lovely, so fresh too.
    I know I’ve said before, but such lovely neighbours too :-)


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