Neighbourly tales from the campo

But first, the dreaded frontier queue. For some reason we’d set off later that morning. I’d decided to attempt the stairs by foot rather than the favoured and much easier backside bumpety bump.

With Partner in front to steady me in case I started to lose my balance – or alternatively, both tumble down together like Jack and Jill – I started the long descent. All of twenty steps. And to our mutual surprise, I made it in one piece.

As I negotiated the steps at the block entrance, a loud cheer and applause came from my neighbour over the road who was leaning out of his window watching.

Hobbling down the street, which is downhill, so tricky, Partner put his hand on my arm. ‘Wait, our neighbour’s coming out to speak to us.’

‘I don’t want to interfere,’ said our neighbour (which always means someone is going to do just that), ‘but I noticed you putting your bad leg first. My wife was told to put her good leg first.

‘The good go to heaven,’ he added. And then realised his mistake. Not literally about whether the good go to heaven or not, but rather, that he was confusing walking on the level with going up and down steps.

When I attended my last physio appointment I was informed I would be doing stairs and it was quite easy. I’m sure it is when you are in your late 30s and fit as a lop. But Mr Velvet Glove Steel Fist physio seems to have abandoned the velvet glove so there was no getting out of it. Sadly I have to report it was relatively easy in the gym up and down three steps, so he was right.

And he churned out their little mantra that they obviously say to all patients:

The good go to heaven, and the bad go to hell.

This is for the purpose of helping you to remember to lead with the good leg going upstairs and the bad one going down.

‘I’ll probably get it wrong, and think the good go to hell,’ I said to Mr Steel Fist. Gib is 80% Catholic so it will no doubt work for most of their patients. And in fact, back at the finca, I ended up going in and out of our front doorstep with the bad leg first both up and down, thereby proving the bad go to heaven too.

But back to the delay in the street outside our block. I could see us being stuck there for quite some time with Friendly Neighbour while all we wanted was to Get Off and avoid getting stuck in the frontier queue. After he’d recited the mantra, apologised for his error, chatted away some more, we were eventually allowed to slowly make our way to the Land Rover.

Those nice little ridgey ramps in the kerb for wheelchairs may be great for tyres but I didn’t fancy my chances with crutches. So I stepped down off the pavement and decided to walk in the road to avoid any more pesky steps. I’d had more than enough of them by now.

Partner was trying to lure me back onto the pavement. I glared at him. Then the penny dropped for him. The passenger side was on the road side, so I was going for the quickest shortest route. Hopefully not getting mown down in the process. After all, it was Sunday morning.

What should normally take five minutes, had taken nearer to twenty. But still, it was progress of sorts. And off we went. The good news was, no queue. The Guardia Civil stopped the two cars in front. We slowed down, and Partner put his hands out. He got a dismissive wave through. Maybe they are getting bored with opening the back and finding nothing but Pippa and Snowy.

Around the halfway point, at Marbella, I glanced at the frontier queue on Halphone. In less than an hour and a half it had suddenly gone from nothing to become a six-lane queue by midday.

Leaving the autovía, about fifteen minutes from our pueblo, we were confronted by heaving beaches full of Spaniards enjoying the scorching sun and cooling off in the cold sea. The roads were lined with cars parked bumper to bumper. Why people enjoy that is quite beyond me, but each to their own.

We arrived in the tranquility of our pueblo, to the usual friendly welcome from our neighbours. I was going to attempt the front steps by foot. I sat down instead and bumped my way up. A woman can have too many steps in one day.

Later that day, we received a welcome goody bag from next doors. The next day, a plate of figs. The following day, a plate of chumbos. Sadly, the gifts dried up by Wednesday.

Goodies from next door on our first day
Goodies from next door on our first day

As we unpacked, or as I sat on the terrace admiring the lettuces that José had bought, sown, and watered for me and Partner unpacked, he asked José for a hand getting the bike down off the roof rack. He’s not using it in Gib and the panniers are bigger so he can get more beers in them.

Lettuces, onions, garlic, rosemary, oregano
Lettuces, onions, garlic, rosemary, oregano

Because there is something of a money shortage, he didn’t fancy leaving it on the roof overnight here in Spain. It was padlocked and cable-tied on, but still…

Except, where was the padlock? Partner had tied it and secured it on the previous night thinking it would be safe in Gib. Maybe not. Maybe someone had seen it, checked it out, come back prepared and either someone had disturbed them (had to be them, too difficult to lift down for one), or they didn’t realise it was cable-tied on. Or maybe the padlock had undone itself, and fallen off en route.

It might have been a free bike – the panniers weren’t, we’d bought those – but it’s a good one and we wouldn’t want it nicked. You can never have too many bikes. ‘Are you going to set up a bike garage?’ asked Adelina drily when she saw the arrival of yet another one to join the fleet of four.

Partner decided to give José something for helping with the bike. Well, it was a good excuse to give something back, so he dived into his extensive tool repository and found some new drill bits. Always best to give something useful in my pueblo. To save embarrassment, Partner explained he had a friend who had given him lots of new bits, so it wasn’t as though it was an expensive gift. Pitching gifts right is quite difficult. Sometimes it’s time and/or labour to give a hand.

But whatever you do, in a village like mine, especially where I live in the midst of Spaniards in the original settlement, you look out for your neighbours.

Not long after we arrived here, Partner was talking to a Spanish woman (who has fluent English) and she was saying sadly, that she couldn’t use her chimney. Her neighbour had built some fancy porch extension and bashed it into the side of her chimney. ‘Report him!’ said Partner Britishly. ‘No,’ she said. ‘That’s not how it works around here.’

The Franco years have left their legacy. Back then, annoying your neighbours, or reporting them would invite retaliation. One quick word in the right ear, and a knock on the door – if they even bothered to knock – and a whole family could be wiped out.

Both my neighbours felt the Civil War. Her father was arrested and taken to prison in Northern Spain. She never saw him again. José’s younger brother was killed in a Civil War-related local shooting. Opposing sides, and bang! he was gone.

A few streets away, we have some English neighbours. Or perhaps I should say had because they are clearly no longer there. The house is abandoned, their car has gone. There is no sign or trace of them. It’s like they were never there. They were in their late seventies and arrived in our pueblo shortly after us. Before that they had run a bed and breakfast further up the coast. B and B were brother and sister. She’d been widowed young, and he was divorced. Apparently not good at keeping it in his pocket. So they came here together.

With old age comes ill health, so when she went into hospital, Partner took him to see his sister as B didn’t drive. He became frail too. He even gave up smoking. A lot of the time he said he didn’t like Spain, he wanted to go back to the UK. The house was on the market. She wanted to stay. He went back a couple of years ago for some family thing, wedding or christening or whatever.

‘Horrible place,’ he said on his return to Spain. ‘Filthy, dirty streets. Not like here.’

Our streets are swept six days a week. The communal rubbish bins are emptied every night – apart from when there is a strike of course, which sensibly (from the workers’ perspective) always happens in summer.

We would usually see B and B when they drove down our street, and they would slow down and, if we were on our terrace, we would have a quick chat over the wall and a catch up.

But now B and B have vanished into thin air. We haven’t asked anyone and it ain’t going to be good news.

It’s a fallacy to think all ex-pats live in each others’ pockets. Sure, we’d been round for a chat a couple of times and Partner had moved heavy things for them a few times, but that was it. We have more in common with our Spanish neighbours. It’s next doors who invite us in to watch the World Cup, next doors who shower us with free food, next doors who let me use their internet and telephone to contact Partner when I locked myself out of my mobile.

One of our other Spanish neighbours grows veg. If we walk past his plots, and he is cutting cabbages we invariably end up carrying three home with us.

Walking little Snowy, Partner met Cabbage Neighbour talking to Paco the Van Man, shooting the breeze together in the pueblo. He said ‘Hola’ to both of them. Paco looked surprised. ‘How do you know him?’ he said accusingly. ‘He’s been my neighbour for years,’ smirked CN. 1-0 to him.

An evening or so later, the same duo was there again. ‘Where’s your woman? I’ve not seen her,’ asked Paco. (Paco was the one who asked me to drinks at the beach bar, and at his little plot when I was staying here on my own waiting for Snowy’s vaccinations to be complete).

‘She’s broken her leg. All her neighbours know that.’ Ouch! 2-0 to Cabbage Neighbour.

Someone else cruised up on a bike. He couldn’t work out why two locals were talking to someone who was quite obviously a guiri. (Spanish impolite term for foreigner – think ‘wog’).

‘I don’t know you,’ said the bike man. ‘Are you new?’

Cabbage Neighbour was laughing his chuddies off. ‘He’s been here years. What is it now, thirteen?’

Hmm, pretty spot on. 3-0 to CN.

Foreigners often say they want to ‘integrate’ and become part of the ‘real Spain’. Probably the easiest way to do that is to find a Spanish partner, or send your kids to the local (probably not very good) school.

But integration doesn’t mean being invited into everyone’s home or everyone’s party. Or treating everyone you meet like your long-lost friend. Or taking part in local festivals, suddenly supporting a local Spanish football team, or taking up going to church and joining in the local religious processions. And definitely not supporting bull-fighting.

When you live abroad, you also need to be true to yourself. You bring your values with you. You keep them. What worked before will work elsewhere. It may take time. It is not only courteous but sensible to learn the local language, but I’m the sort of person who learned some Greek before I went to Greece, Portuguese before I went to Portugal, although I didn’t manage Thai when I went to Thailand.

But if people want to spend their life in a British ghetto, speaking English, eating fish and chips and drinking English beer that’s their choice. There is no right or wrong way to live in a country where you aren’t a national.

Wandering along the track with Little One, some woman picked up a stone and before Partner could stop her, she threw it at him. Snowy ducked and chased after it, barking happily at the game. She picked up another.

‘STOP,’ shouted Partner. ‘Oh,’ she said sulkily,’I thought he was going to bite. I thought he was abandoned.’

With a shit-expensive emerald green harness and a rabies tag? And someone walking five yards behind him? He wouldn’t be off the lead if he was going to bite anyone.

They were guiris. They weren’t from round here. On holiday. Maybe they were more guiri than us, in our pueblo. Our neighbours dismiss anyone not from the pueblo as ‘extranjeros’ usually from ‘el norte’. Which is probably anywhere north of La Axarquía.

Partner met Cabbage Neighbour down the arroyo on an early morning dog walk. He’d had to chuck his crops, it wasn’t worth what the corrida (wholesale veg market) would pay for them. I don’t understand this. Given that he has paid to plant them and water them, and crops them himself, why is it not worth the harvest?

The neighbours are short of money. We listened to the daughter telling her father not to buy a kilo of fruit, only half a kilo. He no longer goes to the shops on Saturday, the daughter goes instead. They no longer get bread every day from the local vans. A while ago, we heard the bread man asking when they were going to pay what they owed.

Ajo blanco, despite their shortage of money, a glass of cold soup for me from our neighbours on our last evening. More here about ajo blanco, including ingredients.

Ajo blanco
Ajo blanco

On our last morning Partner bumped into an English woman in the supermarket. People were working for three euros an hour, she told him. She couldn’t get any work, no one would employ her because there were so many Spaniards out of work. I can understand that, because that’s the attitude in Gib too. Well, it’s supposed to be, until a Rumanian or a Portuguese will work for less. Amor doesn’t vincit omnia, dinero vincit omnia. English woman asked Partner about working in Gib, she’s in her fifties, and after a mere five years in Spain, she’s beginning to worry about running out of money, so wondered about the honeypot of gold in Gib. Partner pointed out that unless she shares a flat, all her wages from bar work would go on rental.

I’m sorry for people who worry about money. I do too. And if you think about living abroad without a guaranteed income, do your net present value (NPV) calculations at least 20 times, and then quadruple it, and you still will fall short of what your life will cost.

I’m even sorrier for Spaniards though, struggling to live on meagre incomes. When they can get work, which is invariably black anyway. My neighbours, all six of them, are basically living out of two old peoples’ pensions, plus two or three mornings a week cleaning money that the daughter earns. How on earth will they cope when the two oldies die, and that pension money disappears?

Revolting Europe posted an excellent article about how the greedy Spanish banks and Rajoy’s Partido Popular government are truly shafting the people of Spain. It’s well worth a read.

And, the sun shines on the righteous. Highs around early 30s, dropping to early 20s at night. The bad go to heaven. Or maybe they burn in Spain not hell. Or maybe they hide inside like I do.


104 comments on “Neighbourly tales from the campo

  1. Glad to read that you are getting around in your own fashion.

    Your pueblo sounds similar to our hamlet, where people (sadly an ever-diminishing population, another one went to be a sunbeam on Sunday) share produce, and keep their lips sealed. There is one family that is highly undesirable and create a filthy mess everywhere and ill-treat their animals dreadfully. They are universally loathed, but nobody will complain about their behaviour. “On ne fait pas ça.”


    • Slowly, and not very surely, but my physio assures me I am making tiny progress…

      It’s a good pueblo and there is a strong sense of local identity. It’s a small centre but the boundary stretches way wide into the campo, but wherever you live, you are invariably regarded as a vecino/a by the older families.

      I’m trying to think how to translate that into Spanish. Works in English, but I can’t think of a literal Spanish swap. La gente no hace eso? No haga así? I just dont remember anyone saying anything as succinctly. Eso no sirve aquí maybe, in reference to robbing someone in.

      I like communities that look out for each other. And, the not so pleasant members will doubtless get their come-uppance.


  2. You’re making great progress with the leg be it walking or on the bum. I’m so pleased.
    It’s a shame that more Brits don’t make the effort to integrate into the community when they move to Spain. On the coast it must be like a mini-Blackpool with British Bars and Chip shops.It’s great that you’ve developed such a good relationship with your own community and are accepted. Despite their money worries, the people are still generous and appreciative that someone learns their language. You and the Welshman appear to have learned the trick of repaying the kindness without offending.
    Have a great time there and enjoy the healing powers of the sunshine.
    xxx Huge Hugs xxx


    • I think the leg is more desirable in the outer world.

      Each to their own as how to people approach living out of their home environment. We’re happy in a Gib and in Spain.

      We wouldn’t be speaking to a lot of people in our village if we didn’t speak Spanish. It might be the costa but it ain’t costa inglés.

      We’ve always been lucky with neighbours. Good neighbours are a treasure.


  3. So important to learn the language – or at least try to. Even a few phrases and the sincere attempt earns you undying affection, I think. My meager attempts at speaking Mandarin with my Taiwanese hosts was met with huge appreciation. Several favorite lines in this post but particularly smiled at ” a woman can have too many steps in one day.” Agreed.


    • Ha! Mandarin is impressive. I have tried Arabic but my local shopkeeper decided not to understand me so I boycotted him.

      Thanks for the fave lines comment. I suspect some may get lost in the overall, but it usually try and put in a few one liners that I like.


  4. I read the article…no wonder my lawyer advised me to open an account where he did…on the grounds that they were the best connected sharks in the business.

    On integration I could not agree more…stay yourself – it’s who you are!
    The more French than the French crowd used to get my goat when I lived there….interestingly enough they seemed not to have French friends, though…I prefer just to get on with my neighbours and let the local mores sink in bit by bit.

    I’m g;ad you are making progress – in whichever direction seems best to you – but it’s long haul, isn’t it!


    • I like Revolting Europe, it’s a good read. Covers everywhere and everything.

      When I worked for HSE one of my non-socialist colleagues always said how good he thought the Morning Star was in terms of factual reporting. I think Tom Gill (of RE) who worked for the star, carries on these values.

      Integration is a thorny topic. A bit like complaining about Indians and Asians in the UK keeping to themselves.

      It’s difficult moving to new areas anywhere. Swapping languages and cultures moreso. But we will quite happily say, bull-fighting is cruel (Adelina refuses to watch it on TV), Gibraltar is British, the Spanish govt is terrible and the British one is no better. We don’t need to be sucky sucky about everything.

      It’s too long a haul. Well pissed off today, but that’s for another post…


        • The civil war. It should’ve be such a strong lesson and it’s shoved under the carpet. My O level was European history from 1840 to 1960? And how much of the Spanish civil war did we cover? Exactly. Absolutamente fucking nada. Hitler and Getmany bad, easy to teach. The politics and reality of the Spanish civil war? Way too difficult.

          I’ve got Preston’s bio of Juan Carlos, translated from English into Spanish! Cheap book deal at the time. Cost a euro I think with el Pais or something. Interestingly, when they did Reina Sofia you couldn’t get your hands on that one, it was sold out on the cheap deal. I digress. I have a load of Spanish books yet to read, I still need to finish my Tia something or other. Years ago, the decent papers did great offers for good books. No idea what’s happening now. I also snaffled tat earrings and synthetic pashminas too. I have curbed such behaviour nowadays.


          • Tbh I so loathe the Rajoy government that I really don’t wish to drown in such mire. (Ie reading a newspaper. A quick glance at El Pais online is as much as I can manage. Zapatero might have been lightweight but he did put a few principles into action. I suppose you could say the same for Rajoy, sadly. Funnily in opposition, he never came across as so blatantly fascist. Makes Aznar look mild. Politics. Where would we be without politicians?…


  5. I’d have used my arse, but having said that… it would get tiring after a while. Sounds like you’re making progress… sloooowly. :D You were very understanding with the good/bad heaven/hell bit! I’d have got a bit narked, I think. But I probably wouldn’t show it.

    You’re neighbours, the way they talk and act and go about things remind me so much of my Mexican friends… It must be in the blood. After all they are distant cousins. Very similar.

    Of course mine have actually said to me, mi casa es tu casa.They’re ever so kind and also very giving… as long as you don’t cross them. (sound familiar? very much like your… we don’t do things that way…) I love the Mexican people. I really do. Of course you have your bad ones too… just as you do over in Spain. :)


    • I can’t spend the rest of my life bumping downstairs. Got to do the slow and painful route if I want to walk again. Our neighbours here in Gib are lovely. They’re older than us, like our Spanish ones, but even so, they always offer to help, have sent me flowers, cards, rung me in hospital…

      They don’t really say mi casa es tu casa round our way. They are quite phlegmatic. They could come from Yorkshire. But their actions speak loud enough. Facta non verba.


      • I envy you having such wonderful neighbours! :D

        Ours are terrible. (don’t like cats. I dislike them more) Can’t wait to move. Hopefully to have better neighbours… we’ll see.


        • We have always been really really lucky. We had one who told us to cut down a silver birch because it was a weed – wtf? – but his wife was lovely. She left him. Otherwise, not just nothing to complain about, they’ve all been great. As José says, we’re not just neighbours, we’re friends.

          Liked by 1 person

          • A silver birch, a weed… now that is funny. Palm trees are weeds, not silver birches. Palm trees are prehistoric weeds that survived. If you see how they sprout up just about everywhere in the sun and with such ferocity you’ll know what I mean. :D

            You can picture a Brontosaurus eating them back in the day.


          • I didnt know you were an expert on palm trees! We had palm tree disease here a while back. Lots of them got poorly and died. One at the finca over the road was cut right back. Think it’s still there though.


          • I’m an expert on lots of things… including palm trees! :D
            I had enough of them growing my my back garden in AZ. Not to mention the ones down the street and every bloody where else! I do like them, don’t get me wrong, but they are a bugger for your garden. The big ones are hosts of all kinds of creepy crawlies too. They have to be looked after, otherwise they can rot and start to stink… really bad. :)


  6. Sounds like you are making progress. And I never know to start with my good or bad leg. It’s not easy integrating into a new place, let alone country. We were lucky and moved to a place where we already spoke the language. We almost moved to Hong Kong and that would have been a completely different challenge. But a fun one, I think.


    • You’ve obv had your unfair share of crutches. Amazing how many people can’t get on with them. I am developing a theory that they were designed by men for men as it’s women who struggle with them.

      I was amazed when I visited HK. I couldn’t believe how Chinese it was. Probably moreso now, I visited before 1999.


  7. That dominant leg of yours is seriously dominant. It is hard to try and switch legs out of ordinary – it feels wrong and unsteady. Broke up my foot one time and stairs were such a challenge. Had to travel and work anyway – great job, bad bosses and didn’t want to lose it.
    Good neighbors do make all the difference. Our neighbors here are actually the ones we see walking and who walk dogs – none of us live on the same block, but we do keep up with each other anyway – easier when cooler and no mosquitoes so we can loll around chatting.
    What an annoying woman throwing tossing rocks at Snowy!
    Spain and Gib are supposed to be good places for expats – we do look around. But I keep saying we’d have to be happy living off savings – times are hard and jobs scarce.
    You have found a way to mesh into the existing fabric there. People generally have a lot in common. Spain always seemed welcoming, but I do know people who had difficulties – oddly, those people are the ones who don’t get along at home/work either. They just take their attitudes with them wherever they go and then blame others when they have problems?
    Anyway. glad you’ve got spare bikes and are getting stronger.
    I love the way you take us on visits around the neighborhood. You’re good at constructing portraits of people.


    • Before, the right leg was always the feeble one, one fracture, one ripped ligament, numerous sprains, but the left one has caught up admirably now, boasting two scars not a measly 17 stitch one.

      But they were all in my youth so didn’t affect job prospects. I’d be sacked by now had I been working for someone else. Thank goodness for editing from home.

      You need to live with your neighbours. No point courting trouble, and if you can all help each other, so much the better. Both Spain and Gib are good, depending on what people want. And easy for us, being British and European. People have shown us a lot of patience, persisted with our initially limited Spanish, why would we not get on with such people?

      People portraits? Hmm, one boss did describe me as an observer…


  8. The good/bad leg go to heaven thing would just confuse me, and I’d probably fall up or down… I’d be thinking so hard about it, and the G.O. will tell you I cannot focus on 2 tasks simultaneously, like patting my heaed and rubbing my stomach or vice versa.
    I had to look up “chumbos”. I’ve never tried them but apparently my mother was a fan. I did attempt to peel one once as a kid and ended up with fingers full of spines.
    But a truly entertaining post, because your descrption of local interactions could easily apply to us at Taylors Arm. Apart from your entertaining telling of it, it the universality always amuses me.
    Bad woman throwing the stone at Snowy. Partner was very polite, I would have been inclined to slap her.
    I’m pleased you’re somewhat out and about, but not in the scorching sun :)


    • Totally confuses me too. I got him to write it down and I still got it wrong. I proudly proved I could do bad go to heaven the other day but he wasn’t impressed. More physio tomorrow, surgeon today. Another escape is called for.

      Chumbos are ok. The cockerel got most of them. We like to look after him. He is adorably handsome.

      Isn’t the similarity fascinating. People really are the same the world over.

      Very bad woman. No idea why he was polite.

      ‘Twill soon be autumn. Maybe out and about a bit more by then.


  9. A lovely relaxing read, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

    You sound like you’re making good progress with your mobility. I’ve never heard the ‘Good go to heaven…..’ mantra, but like ED has said, I think I’d be trying so hard to remember it, I’d end up not thinking about what I should be doing.

    The beach pic looks quite empty and inviting compared to the photos I’ve seen of UK beaches recently, where there looks to be less than six feet between total strangers.

    I know I’ve said it before, but you do have lovely neighbours. Do you think it is it because you have integrated into Spanish life, unlike the Brits you mention who prefer to live in an British community.
    I’ve always followed the ‘When in Rome, do as the Romans do’, I think it is an insult to the locals not to, but that’s just me.
    Far from fluent in France, but on our many holidays there, I always attempted to speak French.
    On one occasion, when buying some shoes (T was waiting outside the shop), I told the shop assistant I wanted my husband’s opinion, but apparently I’d said marie, not mari. No wonder she looked at me oddly, telling her I wanted the mayor’s opinion.

    Has A grown a beard, or is it the light? he looks like an old salty seadog ;-)


    • You mean a mini novel? :D

      I found it confusing too. Plus it’s difficult depending whether there is a stair rail to grab or not…

      Spaniards are funny at the beach. They are all very close to each other, but no one takes the space at the back as they all want to be so near the sea. No tide probs moving backwards and forwards.

      I think all our neighbours have learned to suffer us :) we aren’t going anywhere so they might as well lump us.

      LOL at getting the mayor to decide on shoes. It’s marido here should you decide to buy shoes in Spain.

      He has and he does. Some of us think it softens up his hard features, others say it ages him. Who cares?


  10. So glad you’re making progress with your bad leg, Kate. Soon you’ll have two good legs, and be able to walk unaided into Heaven. :) How nice of your neighbour to shower you with gifts. (I have no clue what Chumbos are, but I suppose they must be edible.) People don’t tend to do that here, except of course my sister, when she has more avocados than she knows what to do with. It sounds like most old people in Spain have quite a hard life financially. That’s really sad, even if the streets are swept every day. :(


    • Thanks S. Surgeon seems to think I’m not running around quickly enough, meanwhile reminding me what a very bad fracture it was and how my bones are the worst quality he has ever seen.

      Chumos = prickly pears.

      Actually it’s the younger people who are stuffed. Out of Spain’s 25% unemployment rate (last time I checked) the youth unemployment rate is 50%. What hope do they have for the future?


  11. I read your recipe for ajo blanco and can’t figure out what makes it so blanco. It would seem, from the ingredients, that it would be more clear. Or beige.

    Fresh figs! Yum! We saw them in a store here for $1 each, which is ridiculous when I think that I can pop one into my mouth and have it finished in a second.


    • What’s interesting is that if you put it in the fridge overnight it separates so you end up with clear liquid on the bottom (water, vinegar) and the nuts and oil on the top. I assume it’s the nuts, they are off white but nearer to cream than beige (they are peeled first). And nuts give anything a thicker consistency eg almonds in a korma curry.

      We get figs twice a year. The main crop in summer and the early brevas in spring. Don’t think I’d be buying them at a dollar each.


  12. It is good to have good neighbours. Mine always puts my bins out for me when I am away.
    Bin men never get paid enough in any country. It is a crap job they should get more.
    Local jobs for local people I say.
    A dog will bite at any time without warning! Lead or no lead!


    • Yeah, we’ve had bin neighbours and done the same for neighbours too.

      Really? What’s the current UK rate for being a bin person? No one ever thinks they get paid enough.

      But what’s local? Local resident or a local national?

      A dog usually only bites extremely nasty horrible people. There are a lot of those but amazingly my dogs don’t seem to do that. However unnecessary aggression isn’t called for from people.


      • About £250 a week. Not very much to provide a very essential service!
        Local resident first, local national second. That’s fair isn’t it?
        A dog will bite anyone – you know that. A pensioner was killed recently in her own back garden after being bitten repeatedly by a police dog. A POLICE DOG! Surely a police dog can be controlled?


        • Gross or net? Including overtime or basic? For an unskilled job?

          Essential services:

          Doesn’t include rubbish, although I do agree that it is essential in terms of public hygiene.

          Actually, I was thinking local national first, and a (foreign) local resident second, which is the theory in Gib and Spain, although apparently not in the UK.

          Number of people killed by dogs in nearly ten years? 15 or 16. 1.5 deaths a year. Number of people killed by other people? More than 500 a year. (UK stats)

          If you want to save lives, which dogs also happen to do although you may not be aware of that, I would suggest you might point out all the murders committed by people. And if you want to talk about frail old people, I can talk about the old woman who was bashed over the head by a former lodger for 2/6 (or some such). I went to her funeral.

          There is such a thing as perspective. And your anti-dog bias doesn’t cut it. So please don’t scream at me in capitals and go off at a tangent. Write about Gaza if you wish to complain about deaths.


          • Gross! I wouldn’t do it for £250, skilled or unskilled. I have worked in the industry, I know what a hard job it is!

            Sorry for shouting!

            People always excuse dog attacks and canine murders by blaming the victims or by comparison with completely irrelevant statistics – you have just done exactly the same!

            In the UK you cannot keep an unlicensed gun or be in possession of unlicensed poison that can kill people but you can keep a dog. | know that you will never agree with me but dogs are dangerous animals and one day they too will have to be licensed again! Hopefully very soon. If I was Prime Minister blah blah blah…


  13. Your blog is great! I was hoping you could kindly visit my blog and comment or like anything you found interesting?


  14. I just love hearing about your lovely sounding: ‘the next doors’. We have new neighbours and they are quite nice so I have honoured them (for now, while they behave – after all we where here first) with the title, ‘the next doors’. Good neighbours are a blessing.


    • They are good. And while we have had good neighbours in the UK, our Spanish ones take it to another level. Having said that we’d only been there four months and they were returning the house and it started raining. Trouble was – the roof was off! So Partner jumped on the roof with the son-in-law to cover it with tarp and plastic.

      Hope your next doors continue to behave and prove to be OK.


    • Like many of us, I write a mix of what happens around me, the local and national impact of political decisions, and how it plays out. The blog has to adapt to my broken ankle right now, so it’s catch as catch can with whatever comes up. Could be Spain, could be Gib, could be writing, editing, and books. Plus I’m on the infamous Gibraltar summer hours = post if I want :D


        • Pre may first (date of broken ankle) may give a more accurate example of ‘normal’ blog. If that’s a possible description. But, I think you could be right. I have a few other blogs… Stick to rufty tinties for now.


          • I didn’t click yet, but was looking at the descriptions for some of your other blogs, several are up my alley.

            I will look back to some of your older posts. :)


          • The blog has changed a lot since I started it over on blogger. The basic premise is the same, Brit living abroad, but I guess I’ve broadened it out a bit. If you go into home page, the years should come up, purely for my reference as I can more or less remember when I wrote something, so you can dip in and out of the earlier years. I like the old posts :)


  15. glad to learn that your mobility is improving! way to go!
    my parents immigrated to Canada and so i was born here by default. the odd thing is that while i have always felt at home here, some people see me as being from the old country (Germany), yet when i am in Germany, people there see me as being from Canada.
    can’t win! :)
    i really appreciate that my parents encouraged me to keep up the German language, although it was never forced upon me, and at the same time they learned English. my mom (pronounced mum) was apparently the best student in Mrs Walker’s New Canadian class. (that’s what they called ESL in those days)
    my parents usually had great neighbours. when they retired to a hobby farm in the Fraser Valley, about 100 kilometers east of here, their neighbours were a retired couple originally from the Prairies who spent their retirement on a hobby farm in weather which had much milder winters than those found in Saskatchewan. they became good friends and they shared produce and home baking.
    when my mom retired from the hobby farm and moved back to Vancouver, she took up the sharing back and forth with the neighbours on the other side of the fence – both in the telling of stories as well as from the bounties of their respective gardens. not sure how common that is here, but i think it is nice to have such a comeraderie between neighbours.


    • Slowly. I can tell the difference, I doubt anyone else could apart from Partner.

      We knew a Dutchman in Aus. He quoted exactly the same. He was classed as a foreigner when he went back to Holland, but continued to be regarded as one in Aus. We are very much accepted by a lot of people in our village, and also in Gib, with some of the locals calling us Gibraltarian.

      Hobby farm is such a quaint term. I’ve never heard it used in the UK.

      Back in the UK, Partner would often chat over the fence to the bloke next door. The two men worked from home while the women went out to work – so they would be happily talking away while they hung out the washing in the mornings.


  16. I sure hope the good go to heaven. But what if you’re only good some of the time?
    Glad you are at least moving, and trying to walk and take stairs. It’s such a tough thing you’ve gone through.


  17. The Bible says “there is none on earth that doeth good and sinneth not”. You don’t have to be good for Jesus to save you from guilt, from death, from hell. He forgives all sins, gives eternal life, gives a free ticket to heaven to “whosoever believeth”.

    John 3:16, Romans 3:23, 6:23, 10:9-10.
    “I came not into the world to condemn, but to [save]…”


  18. Okay so you queered me out about not reading comments, and I came and read every one of them. I had a good time doing so lol :D

    I read that you were on crutches now and I know that’s a step forward in the healing process but I’m concerned. I was really awkward on crutches and I think they can be dangerous. Be cautious please because the last thing you need to experience is another fall.

    Wishing all the best for you always


    • Comments vary depending on the post, but they are usually a good read – I have some pretty articulate and thoughtful bloggers. I like the discussion type aspect. It can be slightly cliquey as a number of us visit each other’s blogs, but it’s also pretty friendly. Some blogs have the most boring comments ever. I groan when I scroll down them.

      I totally agree with you re the crutches. I can do a few very awkward steps without, and I’m trying to put less weight through them. One slip, eg on a wet or uneven surface and… another two weeks in hospital and more surgery, I can do without that.

      Thanks TT. And I wish you the same too.


    • It beats spending my life in a boring office. Thirteen years later, I still wake up pleased I don’t have to go into work :) Partner cycled into town last week (he avoids using the vehicle once we’ve got there and cycles everywhere) and met one of the neighbours as he was coming back up the river bed, well stream actually, so they walked back together, happily chatting about cycling. Shortage of money means a lot of the men have dusted off an old bike and suddenly got on it again. We were regarded as slightly loopy when we first started cycling, so hopefully our persistence has encouraged others that there’s nothing wrong with cycling, and at any age either :)

      Don’t know where we’ll end up. Don’t feel like the hassle of moving again though.


  19. I’m a creature of habit. To me, there’s something comforting in having more-or-less established habits and rituals. Of course, that’s not for everyone–we all have to figure out what works best for us, but, for me, that’s what works. Over the past few months things have been off kilter. No–nothing is wrong; in fact it’s quite the opposite. Several factors: the summer lazies, a new job, a vacation (first one in years really) have meant that most of my routines have been knocked asunder.
    Now, though, with fall coming on (OMG-parts of the province froze last night), I’m making my back to the things I like best.
    And that includes visiting favourite places on the Internet. So here I am, a nice cup of coffee just to the left of me. I’m starting here :-)
    I’m trying something new with comments. Far too often wordpress (or maybe it’s just the web browser–whatever) has let me down by bugging out and losing comments. Sp now I just have notepad open and am typing in it instead. When done I’ll just paste the comment. Hopefully that’ll work better. We’ll see.
    So the first thing that came to mind was the heaven/hell thing and, yes, I thought, as did you, that, all things considered in the classical sense Hell may just be the better place.
    Not that I put much stock in the afterlife, mind you. The one in the here and now suits me just fine and I have little interest in fairytales any more.
    That said, In turn I was caused to think of something said by the Buddist/Peace Activist Thích Nhất Hạnh a while back. I can’t quote him exactly but his thought was that if there is indeed a heaven he hopes it is not a place of eternal bliss as there’s no real point in that. It’s the constant struggle to overcome adversity that gives life its meaning.
    Heaven or Hell, afterlife or not, I do not care–that sentiment is most likely the most central thing to my whole being.
    Now, some further random notes:
    1–as for the beach; baking and then freezing. As far as I am concerned it is not about enjoyment but, rather, a symptom of people just following the crowd. To me the beach is a true joy, but not that way. Mornings or evenings, when the temps are better. Maybe a fire and a picnic. As for getting in the sea, all I can say (and recall I live on the northeast Atlantic in an area washed by the Labrador current, which is the return flow of the gulf stream) is “BLEEP!”
    2–That bit about reporting neighbours and retaliation was chilling. The “good old days” is such a lie.
    3–Integration. Again, with limits. Agreed, I think. My Mom, for example, always kept her very nice upscale Dublin accent, which was rather different from the local one (mind you, people in NL do NOT sound like most of Canada; we are a blend of Devon and Waterford) and my Dad constantly reminded me of being proud of who you are at the core. Yes, there’s always room for compromise (if your previous culture carried weapons in public, for example, then I expect you to change; likewise I do not appreciate expecting your wife to walk behind you on the streets of St. John’s, regardless of where you may have grown up).


    • Prize for the longest comment :)

      Routine, I don’t know. I like spontaneous and change. Not that I’m doing it!

      As for starting here, you must have got through a cafetiere full or a full filter jug.

      I’ve had a problem with losing text, so I use another programme too for long replies.

      I just don’t believe in life after death. Best to make the most of this life. If there is one, an added bonus. Doubt it though :D

      I’m beachy in winter. Quiet, nice temps and empty, perfect.

      Spanish Franco years aren’t so long ago. Perhaps as well, as younger generations learn the horror that went on.

      Cultural mix is indeed a compromise. But where does it start and stop? Who is to say carrying weapons is wrong, or a submissive wife is wrong while I proclaim bullfighting is wrong? The difference is probably religious and ethical but still, the two don’t meet.


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