Happy 2014 to all my regular readers and anyone else who chances upon this esoteric mix of life in Gib and Spain. Or perhaps that should be eclectic. Maybe both.
New Year’s Day was spent happily tidying up the finca, and returning to Gib. The reverse of Christmas Day which was spent happily tidying up the flat and returning to Spain.
On Christmas Day Gib was pretty flooded out. Not to be defeated, Partner dressed up in his orange condom suit of waterproofs and navigated the Land Rover around Gib in four wheel drive, past various abandoned cars, on a road that was later closed by the Royal Gib Police.
Eventually we set off and had a peaceful journey up to Spain.
It was equally peaceful when we arrived, poor weather so no sign of our neighbours. Turned out they were imprisoned inside because they both had bronchitis. Poor old dears. Our time in Spain isn’t the same without them leaning over the wall interfering with my gardening or chatting about nothing in particular. And even from their sick bed, one of the daughters was instructed to give us a food bag.
You can’t see the caquis (pronounced cacis). Caca (Spanish for shit) more like. Vile they are, I gave them to the cockerel, hope he enjoys them.
After a week of doing nothing (us), we finally saw our elderly neighbours, both in their late 80s, this morning before we left. It was good to see them, because one always worries about older people who are sick in winter – or even in the summer heat waves. Older people are the first to die in either olas de calor or olas de frío.
There is no central heating in our village (no mains gas), although some people have electric dual systems, air conditioning in summer/heating in winter, but for most of us in winter the warmest place is normally outside in the sun. But, next doors have this wonderful invention called chapas over their terrace to keep off the sun in summer. Chapas are sheets of corrugated steel that look like something out of shanty town. José has spent the last ten years trying to persuade me to have them and I have point blank refused.
Because although they keep off the sun in summer, they also keep it off in winter, which is when you really need the sun. So my poor neighbours are shivering inside in a house with a measly electric fire, and not enough warmth outside on the terrace. No wonder they have bronchitis.
So not seeing them for the past week was the down side of the break. Normally today on New Year’s Day we would stand together and drink anís and eat grapes soaked in anís. Might have done them some good actually as they were both very hoarse.
But I was in festive mood this year for once. Before we left Gib I put up my meagre decorations, which I had acquired last year. I did annex a tree but as I didn’t have ornaments it didn’t make it this time around. I did, however, put up a tree in the finca. Couldn’t find the base, so put it on a chair surrounded with paint pots to keep it straight. Partner had to interfere, and put it in a waste paper bin weighed down with paint pots. Regardless it looked jolly, if slightly at an angle.
But working much further backwards, how about a quick review of 2013? Last year’s was done by month in contrast to the previous themed year, so I’ll revert to themed again.
On a personal level, work ie the need for money, dominated the year. For the first part of the year, Partner could get no paid employment, nor did he get any self-employed jobs. It goes without saying that no-one wanted to employ me. But luckily there was a fair bit of maintenance work to do on our block, so that brought in a small crust for him, and no full-time paid work also meant the flat got a bit of attention. While I don’t get paid for my work chairing the block management committee, I have to say it is satisfying to be able to get necessary work done to a good standard. Nobody likes to walk into a scruffy building, and having the front door, hallway and staircase repainted certainly makes the place look better and makes it feel more like your own home.
Come July, he fell back onto the old firm who he worked for last year and it was back to the 8-5.30 grindstone of the construction industry, and me opening the sandwich bar at 6.30 am to prepare his food for work.
Luckily that didn’t last too long as I cleverly sprained my ankle in August, this was the second major event of the year, and the third of course, was the adoption of the rescue Podenco who appeared in August while I was still hobbling painfully.
Partner worked all hours under the hot Mediterranean sun while I limped around at the finca uselessly and looked after the tiny puppy. There is something about taking a new animal into your home that is very powerful and does change your life significantly, even when you already have one (or more). Pix & kardz has expressed similar thoughts after acquiring her cat Timmy this year.
So that was a riveting year on a personal level.
What about a little wider?
Well, anyone who has dipped in and out of these roughseas will know about border queues at the frontier with Spain and the fishing dispute where Spanish fishers want to ‘hoover up the fish’ in Gib/British waters – in the words of a Brit MP.
Constitutionally, the Treaty of Utrecht was signed 300 years ago where Spain ceded Gib to Great Britain in perpetuity – and has been trying to get it back ever since.
And in another British Overseas Territory, the Falkland Islanders unsurprisingly decided to remain British in a referendum in March, by 99.8%. I think that is fairly decisive, Ms Kirchner (of Argentina). Not that Spaniards or Argentinians respect self-determination when it goes against their ‘post-colonialist’ ambitions.
I do detest the attitude that says ‘these territories are still British colonies, and need to be decolonised by us taking them over.’ Er?????? And if I hear the alleged justification of territorial integrity once more I will go down and lie in a nice quiet corner. Because that is basically ‘might is right’. Or the biggest country takes over everywhere. So colonial don’t you think?
The Falklands leads me neatly onto La Thatcher, who died in April 2013. My first Thatcher post was also the one that got the most comments last year (77, but that includes mine obviously). Not surprising as many of my commenters are not just my age, but also British, so there are very few British people who didn’t live through Thatcher years without having a strong view about her.
Just to remind anyone who didn’t read the earlier posts (in April), my main gripe was her destruction of British industry, of trade unions, of the working class, selling off council housing right left and centre, attempting to privatise the health service and move to that ghastly American insurance-based system -aaagh! need I go on? And, as I said last year, I didn’t agree with the Falklands War. But with hindsight, I do now, very much so.
I thought she went to war to boost her electoral standings. I now think she genuinely wanted to defend the sovereign realm.
And from one controversial figure to a much-loved peace-maker. The former terrorist Nelson Mandela. Another famous death this year. I have read a lot of adulatory tributes, and a few criticisms saying perhaps he wasn’t quite so perfect. I have no strong view, he didn’t impact on my life and my knowledge of South African politics was, and still is, zilch.
As far as I can see, he joined the ANC, the South African Communist Party and co-founded the militant Umkhonto me Sizwe. However you look at it, he was involved in sabotage against the government, training in guerilla warfare, and broke the law. Sometimes people have to do that to get change in our society. Democracy doesn’t bring change, radical activity does.
So contrast the two, Thatcher and Mandela. One destroyed a large part of the country (working class, industry, unions, – all largely northern – while the southern part of the UK prospered), the other brought together a split nation. Thatcher defended the Falklands, Mandela sought peace and the end of cruel discrimination. His nation was threatened internally, hers was threatened externally. She has been vilified, he has been called a terrorist, and awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
Who would be a woman in politics?
Last century – not just last year – I remember reading a quote from an American president – but I don’t have the time or appetite to hunt down who said it: ‘you can be a good American president by doing blah blah blah, but to be a great one you have to go to war.’
Anyway to end on a lighter note, 2013 was a good year for freebies. Clothes (best jacket was from the street), dinner set, bread bin, pans, painting scuttle, mop buckets, roller pole, radios, timber, Land Rover roof rack, 70+ books, loads of fruit and veg from next doors – and – a free dog. Some of these were acquired from the street, others were given to us. A good year for recycling, if nothing else.
And the title? It refers to my schizophrenic life. The busy city life in Gib, and the peaceful life in Spain. The calm and tranquility of being time rich and money poor when out of work, and the busy-ness that returns when employment rears its head again – complete with regular income. Two very different lives, both with their pros and cons. It coincidentally happens to refer to a housing development in Gib on the eastern side called Both Worlds – one side is available for everyone, the other side is specifically for over 50s. While it’s right on the beach, it’s a bit of a hike from town.
Me, I love to live within the city walls when I’m not idling at the finca. The beach in Spain always makes for a fine walk.
Although the construction shut-down doesn’t end until Monday, we’re already back into that city life, and gearing up for work again. Well, I’m gearing up for getting up at 6am, taking out the little dog, and making breakfast and sandwiches. He’s already thinking about running up and down eight floors of scaffolding.
Hope you have all enjoyed a lovely Christmas and New Year break and that 2014 brings you whatever you desire. It’s been good to meet new blogging friends and retain old ones over the past year. Look forward to reading all your blogs – your thoughts, your stories, your photos, whatever it is that makes your blog uniquely personal.