Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Weather today

  • High 15 °C /59ºF

  • Low 12 °C/54ºF

  • Overcast with showers, heavier rain later in the day.

  • Light south-east wind 17 km/h.

  • Pressure 1021 mb. Snow above 2.300 m. Relative humidity 85 %.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

A traditional Spanish saying

As 2009 timidly approaches most of us are busy battening down the hatches in preparation for its arrival, having heard the pessimistic winds of economic gloom that precede it. A few are, rather unnervingly, going where no man has gone before and throwing caution to the wind while spending lots of dosh. What, I’m sure we are all asking, are we in for next year? The overall scenario is quite unnerving with shops shutting, airports empty, electricity bills poised to shoot up at one second past midnight on Thursday and newspapers scaremongering on a daily basis (ahem). I wonder, like many, where it will end but I try not to get too jumpy about it, sticking my head in a good novel at night, until it falls on my nose and I fall asleep.

And so, tonight as I wash and fuss 12 small green grapes into umpteen bits of uncooperative cellophane and ribbon, in preparation for the 12 chimes of midnight and our annual hamster-face impressions as we attempt to bolt them down almost all at once, I think of the coming year and remember one of my favourite Spanish sayings: Virgencita, déjame como estoy – Little virgin, let me be. Let me be healthy, wealthy and wise and you too of course.

That is what I wish, just for starters, but if possible I wish that 2009 be a truly magnificent year for you. And although I have a feeling that I may need a larger virgin to make this wish come true it is nonetheless straight-from-the-heart sincere -
May 2009 bring you health, happiness, peace of mind and even a few shekels.

Happy New Year

Monday, December 22, 2008

The fat one has touched me

EL GORDO, or Fat One was held today. Spain goes hysterical every December 22 when the annual Christmas lottery is drawn. No other lottery creates quite the same expectation, nor makes normally sceptical and sensible people, like me, buy lottery tickets – except at this time of year.

The night before, when the nation is tucked up in bed, the collective thought is how to spend tomorrow’s fortunes. I’m no exception. Last night I tiled the back garden, put a swimming pool in, and took a long, luxury trip abroad after settling my debts and mortgage and even put some shekels aside for the family and the kids’ education. Once you’ve worked out exactly how much you can win with your 22-euro ticket – 300,000 euros tops, although of course you can buy an infinite number of tickets – then the only restriction is your own imagination.

At 9 am, the sing-song voices of the children start to call out the numbers, creating a nationwide echo as ears are glued to radios, and eyes to TV and computer screens. Wherever you go, in and out of shops, offices, taxis, banks, past homes and bars, the continuous roll call goes on, non-stop – through the streets and in and out of the buildings, across the plazas and out into the countryside.

As the morning grows old and the numbers and prizes come up it, becomes clear that this year, like all the previous, isn’t going to be your lucky one when it comes to El Gordo. Although for the hysterically excited people that bob up and down in delirious crowds it is thumbs up as they gather round narrow lottery shops while the owners pop the cava bottles, spraying the happy crew. It’s never too clear how many have really won, and how many are just there to soak up the happy-clappy, feel good factor and appear on telly – but once you’ve seen this scene a few times, you begin to feel like the loser you are, and as all the TV stations go into the Fat One frenzy all you want to do is turn the box off before you see another idiotic grin.

And so, another December 22 ends, bringing to a close the most clichéd event of the year, with most of us trying to convince ourselves that we don’t mind not winning, brightly spurting out the same age-old sayings: “Well, it was shared out”; “I’m so glad it went to people who really need it”; “It’s only money, the important thing is to be healthy.”

But not me, not this year – because the Fat One has touched me – El Gordo me ha tocado – and I have won a whopping great 10 euros, of which The Artist takes half (an arrangement that has, until today given him four euros from my earnings and 100 euros for me from his).. Oooeee, I nearly won 100 euros – but the last number was a six instead of a five. As the saying goes, an inch is as good as a mile….

Anyway, the important thing is to be healthy…. Merry Christmas….

Monday, December 15, 2008

Beam me up Scottie

Ahhh bliss, nothing like being pummelled and abused by a physiotherapist. ‘My’Eli is only five foot nothing but she can pack a punch with those tiny hands and on a Monday, when she’s been resting for a couple of days, it's hell.

Still the up side is that whatever it is she does - when she pulls, hits and pummels my bulging calves, to stretch my short Achilles tendons - along with the exercises and stretching, it works and the pain in my foot gets marginally better.

My usual routine takes 40 minutes. After the massage bed battle, I’m left, tummy down – girth spreading out dangerously to the sides of the narrow trolley - and legs under an infra red lamp, set to fry me for ten minutes. It’s late in the evening, it’s warm and relaxing, and I have to make a real effort not to fall asleep, in case I dribble or snore – or worse.

On a good day, or rather a bad day when the foot hurts a lot, I get a session of ultrasound on the ball of my left hoof. I’m not sure what this does, but it feels nice at any rate. I try to make out that every day is a bad day, but I can’t be convincing enough because I don’t always get the jelly treatment.

After that it’s 10 minutes on the conveyor belt, learning to walk properly, ie heel down first and roll the foot (I have been seen doing this around the village, which just shows that I am of an age, as I don’t give a cucumber what anyone might think) before going to the ramp and stretching the calf muscles for 15 minutes. This is all done in front of large glass windows that reflect things you’d rather not see.

Then comes the best bit. I’m taken away to a small room, where hospital noises and nurses’ voices are reduced to a muted sleep-enhancing level. Here I get to lie down again (yawn, ‘scuse me) and my feet are zapped in a magnetotherapy thingy-ma-ging that is supposed to reduce inflammation.

It feels so modern, lying with my plates of meat tingling under this metallic arch while it works its invisible magic. When I am left by myself, after the nurse leaves, I mutter quietly in the hope of being tele-transported to a life of luxury, “Beam me up Scottie” but Scottie must be out to lunch with Lieutenant Uhura, in her tiny Starfleet dress, because so far he’s failed me and the session ends and I have to tumble out into the reality of a cold evening and a bathroom to clean…

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Red hat days

Well, the wind is still howling round the house and down the chimney, trying to get its chilly tendrils into our home, shaking the windows, pushing the doors and trying to squeeze in any cracks. It has been a howling day from dawn to dusk, and then some. At midday the bright sunshine made the temperatures go up a little, but now they’re creeping back down the Celsius scale. The cats are disgusted by it all and don’t want to go outside. Any jangling of keys and they hide in the hope that I won’t throw them out. Even Tom is curled up on a dining room chair, snug underneath the table in the hope that I might forget he exists.
So we’re in for our second polar blast already this autumn. The north of Spain is covered in snow and the mountains that tower over our bay are white-capped again. It’s definitely red hat weather, just like the nippy stuff we had in Madrid where this photo, definitely my best, was taken last month. At least today it’s been dry which is a plus.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The Darkling Thrush

This is one of my favourite poems - Thomas Hardy works his magic, portraying a truly wintery image. This marvellous photo of a thrush, puffed up to keep warm, reminded me of The Darkling Thrush especially tonight, as the wind howls outside and temperatures plummet to 5ºC, which for the south of Spain is very cold. There'll be lots of birds puffed up tonight, trying to shelter from the wind and frio.

I leant upon a coppice gate

When Frost was spectre-gray,

And Winter's dregs made desolate

The weakening eye of day.

The tangled bine-stems scored the sky

Like strings of broken lyres,

And all mankind that haunted nigh

Had sought their household fires.

The land's sharp features seemed to be

The Century's corpse outleant,

His crypt the cloudy canopy,

The wind his death-lament.

The ancient pulse of germ and birth

Was shrunken hard and dry,

And every spirit upon earth

Seemed fervourless as I.

At once a voice arose among

The bleak twigs overhead

In a full-hearted evensong

Of joy illimited;

An aged thrush, frail, gaunt, and small,

In blast-beruffled plume,

Had chosen thus to fling his soul

Upon the growing gloom.

So little cause for carolings

Of such ecstatic sound

Was written on terrestrial things

Afar or nigh around,

That I could think there trembled through

His happy good-night air

Some blessed Hope, whereof he knew

And I was unaware.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

To Christmas card or not?

Not. Definitely not. Take Bishop Stephen Cotteral for instance. What an intelligent chap to have written the book reviewed below…

Do nothing: Christmas is coming, says bishop

Do Nothing: Christmas is Coming by Stephen Cottrell
With just 31 praying days to Christmas, a Church of England bishop has penned a book which aims to be just the tonic for the frenetic activity of Advent – even suggesting cutting up the credit card, making friends a simple homemade gift, and pruning the Christmas card list to those you really care about.
It follows the success of Do Nothing to Change Your Life in 2007, when Bishop Stephen Cottrell, the Bishop of Reading, handed out egg-timers to commuters at his local train station to highlight the value of time spent in stillness.
His new book, Do Nothing: Christmas is Coming, is an ‘Advent calendar with a difference’ offering readers “another way of celebrating Christmas, where its joys and promises can help put life back together again” rather than risk it imploding with “all the conflicting demands and expectations” that the season can bring.
Far from a killjoy’s manifesto, the book’s brief, down-to-earth daily reflections take their cue from the trimmings and trappings of contemporary Christmas – from buying the turkey to the office Christmas party. Each ingredient of the modern Christmas is given a twist, encouraging readers to consider their preparations for Christmas in ‘slow motion’: to create time amid the Advent rush to rediscover the real joys of the festival by taking time to look afresh at how to prepare, and wait patiently, for the celebration of Christ’s birth.
Each day’s reflections, which serve as prompts for quiet periods of rest and contemplation, conclude with practical suggestions for further thought, prayer or action – ranging from reviewing your charitable giving, to creating homemade gifts, seeking out vulnerable people who might be alone this Christmas, or bringing back family mealtimes. This book offers a conversation between the imagined voice of the sort of frazzled and fragmented person that many of us become at Christmas, and my own reflections and suggestions on how to make sense of this and start sorting things out,” writes Bishop Stephen in his introduction.

The original article is at

Christmas puddy cat

One thing I have done is get out The Christmas quilt. It is so lovely and doesn’t get seen much so it’s coming on full display in the living room over the festive season. I can already hear my friends wowing and ooohing. I’m honoured to have it. It was the first quilt my mum made, which makes it even more special. Of course finding a free sofa here in the winter is impossible, and who should be sat posing by the quilt but Socki Boloski who must be getting old, ‘cos this is the first winter he has preferred to be inside rather than out. Well, I had best beetle along. Despite zenning Christmas I have Christmas lunch to prepare for Sunday. We’re celebrating early this year as we won’t all be around on the day.

I'm zenning Christmas

I can’t get that phrase out of my head – it’s going around like a limerick…

I’m zenning Christmas this year
And letting stress, its ugly head rear .....

Think that's enough - Go on you finish it. I’m hoping that this will cure my desire to talk in rhyming phrases…
So Christmas is coming and we took an executive company decision, the Hockey Star and I, and decided we were going to go for the minimalist bit. Lots of candles, the fire blazing and end of story, well alright maybe just one or two special festive pieces, like the tree.

I put the tree up this afternoon – As you can see from the snap shot - it's very special and it took me 30 seconds to put it up, and is fully decorated. As for the fairy lights, they can run along the dining room table when we devour the turkey.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Diet? Yes, diet, face lift, new body – everything…now

Aaaaaaarggghhh. I’ve just seen a vision of the future – me at 80. Three chins surrounded by bouffant streaked-blonde hair and wrinkles scratched like jet plane lines in the sky. Honest. In other words a woman of a certain age – and let’s not mention weight – even though we all know that the telly makes you fatter, my screen has just gone into overdrive. Never again will I let a TV camera film from the side, the swine.
The report was actually very good. Our football correspondent was an absolute star (no extra chins on her) and the clip was fun and informative but the blasted camerman certainly didn’t get my best side. Tomorrow I really am on the food straight and narrow.

I shall take my depression to bed, along with my dieting CD – which always sends me to sleep instantly, although the other night I did wake up to hear the old bat rattling away absolutely drivel – and to think I have been listening subconsciously to that every night.