Percy Moo as Einstein

Percy Moo as Einstein
Dog=Einstein2

Saturday, 25 April 2020

Coronavirus, My Dogs and the First Gulf War

Working up a hunger to finish
off the sofa
Discussing the plight of our cosseted canines in a post-COVID world - if such a thing will indeed exist in the short- to medium-term, a friend of mine commented that if the lockdown is lifted in various steps, it will give our doggies and moggies time to get used to our prolonged absences again, instead of just one day our getting up early getting ready and shutting them in for what for them must be an eternity. It might even prevent them from eating a sofa or two mightn't it, Blas? My  friend talked about "preparing them for the eventual restoration of 'normality"'.  Please excuse the proliferation of apostrophes - anyone would think I'm a grocer.

Having eaten the sofa, what's
  next on the menu?
But, Dear Reader, a grocer I most definitely am not. More of a jobbing linguist than a professional purveyor of vegetable viands to victual the culinary consumer. Anyhow, back to business. The word normality, is a good, solid, legacy word that has stood us in good stead for many a century. During the First Gulf War, I heard for the first time the somewhat mangled, rather ugly neologism (at least for me, although The OED states it originated in the mid-19th Century) of normalcy. No prizes for guessing from which ex-colony that one came from, y'all. I first heard it fall from the lips of General Norman Schwarzkopf. indeed it fell on my ears with all the euphonious grace and subtlety of one of his bunker-busting bombs. Come to think of it, it's a pity they didn't have any bunkum-busting bombs to shatter the lies, half-truths and sheer warlust that led Tony Blair and his cronies to back George W Bush's second Iraqi adventure. 

Long after both conflicts, the BBC - probably on R4's excellent Word of Mouth, hosted by the genial, witty, entertaining and all-round good egg, Michael Rosen -  brought to my attention that normality is what life is/was like before epoch-defining catastrophes, such as the EU, COVID or a Labour government, and normalcy is the post-cataclysmic semblance of relative normality - at least in British English. Iraq, therefore is a great example of what seems to be an eternal state of normalcy.

I could now go on to rant about how the Americans mangle our language, have no idea of grammar and can't even spell correctly, This is probably a manifestation of most Americans' inability to think clearly and rationally, but as we already know all of this is true, why bother? Sometimes, however, they do produce some quite wonderful creations. I might even write a blog about it, but, Dear Reader, that would be a whole nother thing. 

Tuesday, 21 April 2020

Rock Ferry, Rock Ferry, Rah. Rah. Raaaah!


This entry was inspired by Silver Tiger's own blog entry, Avoiding the Ball

Rock Ferry Birkenhead, Wirral, September 1973. A poke in my back. A grunt.
Him: “Orrahunsel?”
Me (very politely – I had been brought up to be courteous and to never say Yer what?): “Sorry, could you repeat that please?”.
Him: “Orrahucken nunsel?”
Me: “I’m sorry, I don’t understand”
Him, trembling with the effort of not gobbing me there and then and wrestling with the difficulties of pronunciation: “Ave yer gorra fucken pencil yer fucken posh c*nt?”

All the while, our orthdontically-challenged form master, Mr. Snailsson, whose jumpers stank of maturing slobber, dribbled yeasty saliva onto his jumper from his ship’s prow incisors, slurping noisily as he attempted to arrest the flow. He was so preoccupied with this Canute-like effort that he never had time, or the inclination, to maintain discipline in his class. Bullying was rife. I suppose it was easier for him that way.

My home was two miles away from this now-demolished august seat of learning whose gates were at the end of Ravenswood Avenue, but it might as well have been in a different country. I suddenly realised that I was in Apache country – and would be for the next 6 years.

This was the introduction to the brutality and random violence that characterised my secondary school education – a brutality practised by schoolmates and the majority of teachers alike. I never quite understood how the school could forgive, nay adulate, the rebels and bullies, provided they were good at sports, yet despise the academic achievers if they weren’t. I sure as hell am glad that my children didn't have to run the guantlet of the English education system.

I hated sports. A PE teacher, let’s call him Mr Fiddling, tried to teach us how to do neck springs. I and many of my classmates, clumsy or otherwise, regarded this particular manoeuvre as life-threatening: either you did it correctly, or you were in a wheelchair for the rest of your life. After the class – after every class – this same PE teacher, would join his pupils in the shower lathering his wedding tackle extravagantly while exhorting us to keep our manhoods clean. His bits must have been squeaky clean, considering that he gave at least 2 PE classes a day. What happened to this pervert? Nothing, that I know of. Remember this was the Jimmy Savile era.  

This Mr Fiddling, along with another two sports teachers one that we shall call Mr. Brian (what else?) Ewer and a certain Mr. R.N. “Wogga” Williams (real name,.Thankfully he’s dead and I hope it was a particularly painful death) beat up a rather belligerent student and then claimed self-defence. Yeah, right. BTW, Ewer is a good pseudonym as a ewer can also be called a crock and as our American cousins know, crocks are usually full of shit.

The school sport was rugger. God, I hate that word. I hate the “sport” even more. Not wanting to achieve a set of false teeth before the age of 18 and preferring to keep all of my bones intact, I would collapse scrums, fumble balls, run away from people whom I should tackle, etc. On one occasion Mr. Ewer asked me if I was a coward. I answered without hesitation that I was. This led to me being banished to the library and ignominiously stripped of the “privilege” of practising any sports for the rest of my time in the school. You can imagine the depths of my anguish, dear reader. This final “punishment” however did not come before I had received several unwarranted kickings – one to unconsciousness – on the rugby field.

Another teacher, known as Spadger, actually did get tried and condemned for kiddie fiddling in the local swimming baths where he was a volunteer instructor. In his defence, he had the hypocritical impertinence to state that he had never betrayed the scared trust placed upon him as a teacher and that he had never fiddled with any of his pupils at work. I'm sure that that was a reilef to our parents, who I think never got to hear of Mr Fiddling's soapy exhibitionism. 

Discipline was based on physical violence and humiliation – preferably both. I remember at the age of 18 (in other words I was now an adult) being punched on the arm with such violence by my form master (an ex-Regimental boxing champion) that the whole of my upper arm was purple for over a week. From that moment on I refused to be the victim of physical punishment and as a result got sent home.

Curiously enough, most of these Fascists had fought in WWII. Recently I have begun to wonder on which side and if, indeed, they had washed up at RFHS via Argentina or Brazil.

There was, however, light among the darkness. The languages teachers tended to be younger and more human. And, thanks to the English Literature teachers, my love of English in all its forms was fed and encouraged. I would like to give all of them a heartfelt thanks, while I bleatedly celebrate the demolition of Rock Ferry High School.






Saturday, 18 April 2020

Plip Plop Cod

Or in Spanish, Bacalao pilpil. This is an onomatopaeic  dish, pilpil, being the Basque equivalent of plop plop.

In Spain, as in GB, we are all in lockdown. Some of us with doggies can still go for walks, while those of us with "gardens", ie untended wildernesses, can go out and enjoy a bit of fresh - and with every passing day fresher - air.

But we all need to feed the inner man (for the PC among you, read person, or human unit, just in case AI has caught up on us) and so today I raided the freezer and came up with ingredients for the famous Basque recipe mentioned above, Bacalao pilpil.

1) Thaw your frozen cod steaks, but keep the meltwater. If you have a huge slab of frozen cod, about four inches per person is sufficient. Many a lady friend has told me that, but I digress. Bring the cod pieces (no double entendre intended. As Kenneth Horne used to say about such things: if I see a double entendre, I whip it out immediately) up to room temperature. 

2) Peel and thinly slice about 2 cloves of garlic per human unit and fry slowly in Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO) - the Hojiblanca variety is best - until golden, then remove the garlic and set aside. The oil should NEVER smoke. That spoils the oil and ruins the whole dish. 

3) Place skin up (the cod - this is not an imperative) and fry slowly until the cod begins to brown a bit. If you want to, now is indeed a good time to skin up or open a bottle of Cava (Juve & Camps, if you can get it) - I prefer the latter.  By now the cod will be sweating out lovely, coddy juices. Carfefully, very carefully turn the steaks over with a pair of spatulas and add in the meltwater and loads of chopped or dried parsley. continue to cook. If you're rich and faddy, you can brown the cod later with a fancy kitchen blowtorch. If not, heigh ho, it's just as good without browning. As well as the cod, you should now have a mixture of olive oil, parsley and a load of what looks like a lot of cream bobbling about the frying pan. when the cod is cooked through, remove it and using a fine mesh strainer as a whip, emulsify the liquid in the pan. Voilà you have your sauce.

4) I usually serve this on a bed of al dente spinach pasta nests with the fried garlic sprinkeld over the cod and, perhaps, another dash of EVOO. For the more adventurous, some chili flakes may be sprinkled over the cod fillet. 

A good bottle of Rioja white (the Cava is the cook's prerogative only), crusty bread, Manchega cheese and some good old English Apple Crumble for pudding will make the lockdown slightly more than bearable. For a couple of hours at least.


Tuesday, 27 August 2019

Send for A Doctor!!!

Dear NHS-consuming readers let me tell you a tale: Last week I had to go to the A&E department of my district hospital, the Hospital Comarcal de Río Tinto, Huelva, Spain. I was admitted and seen by a doctor in less than ten minutes. Was I spouting gouts of blood? Was I about to pass out from an asthma attack? Was I carried in on a stretcher with broken bones various and innards become outards?

No. I needed a copy of a piece of paper from a previous visit that, stupidly, I had misplaced.

Was I given a justifiably long, hard, stare by an overworked doctor and overstretched auxiliary staff for wasting their valuable time with trivia while having to attend to more deserving patients?

No. I was treated with the utmost courtesy and civility and informed that the only person who could give me the said document was my GP (whose receptionist had told me I needed to go to A&E). 

Rather frustrated with having had to make a futile 80+-km round trip and cursing the GP's receptionist, I stumped off back to my car parked in the (free) hospital car park. Back in the car, remembering, and easing myself upon, the freshests[1] of the receptionist and waiting for the air/con. to kick in, I realised, however, that I'd be back home and having a cup of tea long before anyone would have seen me in an NHS trust hospital.

So, why the rapid attention for such a pettifogging reason? The answer is quite simple: here in Andalusia, the regionally-run health service is, compared with the NHS, "inefficient". In other words, there is still slack in the system - as yet, it hasn't suffered the reforms that has brought the NHS and its overworked, overexploited staff to their knees.  Each hospital, for example has an A&E department, as do many local clinics. Some misguided Brits I know over here still regard the Public Health System with suspicion - one idiot even badgered his heavily pregnant wife to fly to GB to have their baby there at a time when premature babies were being shunted around the UK in under-equipped ambulances searching for a space in an ICU, some even dying en route. This is something that would never be allowed to happen - at least in Andalusia.

Please don't think I'm in the business of bashing the NHS - I come not to judge the NHS, but to praise the devolved Spanish system. Too many politicians and bureaucrats have meddled with the NHS. They should be ashamed of themselves and of what they have done to that noble institution. 

My aim here is quite simple: to thank the professionals of the Servicio Andaluz de Salud (Andalusian Health Service) for their commitment to good service delivered with courtesy and good humour, both last week and every time I or my family have had need of their kind, good-humoured service.





[1] A rather strong Spanish insult, translated literally, just for the fun of it, however, I should really have been doing all of this to myself. I lost the paper, not her.


Monday, 17 September 2018

In Search of The Source of The ... Odiel.


  That's right, chief. He means
little old
moi.
Courtesy: Wikipedia
Not me, boyo, the other one.
Courtesy: Wikpedia

As the title suggests, today's offering is about how I (and thousands before me) reached the source of the Río Odiel, only (for me) to discover that, like the Nile, it has more than one source. Unlike Richard Burton (☚not that one!the 19th-century explorer ☛  and translator of saucy literature, I decided not to press on to find its ultimate source, I wrote to the Andalusian Cartographical Service instead - and got a very nice reply from one of its chief cartographers solving the mystery.



But what mystery? I hear you cry in your, er, thousands?

Pery Moo & Carmelo on Mastiff patrol.
Well, in a nutshell the mystery is thus: near my mountain fastness there is a campsite, Camping Aracena, and a park and picnic area called Marimateos. It's a great place to go with the family, or with the dogs and let them all off their leashes. They have a right good larf chasing each other or playing with the campsite's friendly mastiff. Imagine, two Teckels (aka Dachsunds) and a Bodeguero (Spanish rat catcher) chasing a mastiff and trying to jump up and bite his tail.

A rather source-y claim, I must say.
By the side of this litter-strewn beauty spot (why are people so inconsiderate?) there runs a babbling brook which the dogs adore. Yet further upstream there is a spring which gushes tooth-numbingly cold, potable water all year round into said stream. Above this spring is the legend "Nacimiento del Río Odiel" or source of the River Odiel.

Carmelo inspects the source of the Odiel















Yes! The eagle-eyed will already have noticed! If the spring gushes into an already-existing stream, how can it be the source of the River Odiel?

... Yes, but Percy, is it really  the source?
This has given me more than one sleepless night over the last few months.



I have asked far and wide, yet to a man even the experts in local lore, legend, dream and pun in Higuera de la Sierra's Bar Manolete (great tapas!) can only give this concise, expert opinion: ni puta idea, or in English; this is indeed  a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside  an enigma.                                                                                                  



Blas the Infant ponders this and 
other Andalusian questions
So I emailed Agustín, a friend (and former student of mine) in the Andalusian Cartographical Service and received a very simple reply - convention. In the past someone said it was the source and thus it will remain until another, more intrepid explorer, or indeed John Mills himself comes pluckily along with with his sleds and ponies to prove that the source is to be found elsewhere and that no challenge is too much for The British Exploring Man. So now I have my homework and Agustín his revenge! 
Conclusion? Naaaaaah.

  
I, however, am not going to be like Agustín and conscientiously do my homework. No, no! I am going to take the dogs to Marimateo and smugly watch people as they fill their bottles with spring water from the source of the Odiel, while I all the time know it isn't the source. Crikey, what a smashing secret! Would I be the killjoy who turns this spring into just another spring and, by doing so, remove a small part of the pleasure of visiting this place of non-religious pilgrimage and imbibing its waters? No. Not I. We already have more than enough petty-minded killjoys spoiling things for us.

And now, before the rather bitter footnote, some more photos of Marimteos, all taken at about 20.30 on 19/09/2018:










Tuesday, 5 June 2018

Depression Is Rather Poo


Near Corteconcepción, Huelva
Well, it has certainly been quite a while since I trundled through this part of my digital demesne. Depression is an insidious thing. It creeps up on you and wraps its tendrils around your being like a fog in a story by HP Lovecraft. And like Lovecraft’s charaters, there’s little you can do. At first you are unaware of this existentially threatening animophage, then you’re paralysed and tend, at leat at first, to
surrender as the abyss claims you.
Percy Moo, the Foundling Teckel




Then you go to the GP, get your Prozac and wait for three weeks until the meds kick in and you’re your jaunty old self again. But… are you the same? Is your animus free of the tendrils? Or, have their bonds been loosened just enough for you not to feel them?
Carmelo, the Cheeky Chappie

Probably this latter, for as you get used to the med.s, the corners start to get dusty and the dark begins to gather, thicken and congeal in them once more. 


Solution? Different, stronger, depression-inducing drugs to alleviate your depression (WTF????). I shit you not . High-octane homeopathy - a bit cheaper and less quackery involved, however. 


Please don't get me started on homeopaths and their willing victims - they're as despicable as cyclists. Both tribes tend to sneer at the rest of humanity for not belonging to their particular brand of holier-than-thou New Age misanthropy.  As the late, great Terry Pratchett said about the bi-wheeled hordes: "My experience in Amsterdam is that cyclists ride where the hell they like and aim in a state of rage at all pedestrians while ringing their bell loudly, the concept of avoiding people being foreign to them. My dream holiday would be: a) a ticket to Amsterdam, b) immunity from prosecution and c) a baseball bat". For Amsterdam, read: "the cycle-friendly, pedestrian-persecuting town that it's my misfortune to be in at this moment".

But I digress. 

Percy Moo
If the pills don’t induce depression, they turn you into an emotionless zombie at the very least - all fine and dandy if you fancy a job in the meat trade, Guild of Assassins or want to cut a dash at your local suicide bombers' open day and gala. So one day, against the advice on the packet, and, indeed against your doctor's advice, you chuck the pills in the bin, start to come down/come up and cold turkey it out. This is not considered medical advice I 'm giving here, I haven't got a reputation for talking (and occasionally doing) bollocks for nothing. This is just what I did.  Except the bit about binning the pills. I was environmentally responsible - I took them along to the local chemist's.


Holy Prozac Batman!!! You stop
taking the pills???
I also cold turkeyed my ciggie habit a couple of years ago, but I'm not really sure it's such a good idea when it comes to psychoactive drugs. As Batman used to say on the 1960s TV show, "Kids, don't try this at home". 



"Life" begins to get even worse for a while, but one day you take your dog for a walk and you realise that you are both smiling and that perhaps the best type of chemical aids are your own endorphins.

Carmelo & My Dark Lady

You realise that not only has living with yourself been rather poo, it’s also been poo for those around you and you can’t but thank your Dark Lady, your children and your dogs for putting up with you while you’ve been morosely wallowing around in figurative poo for months. So thank you all for putting up with me and for dragging me along with you when all I wanted to do was sit on the sofa drink tea and listen to Radio 4 – which I hasten to add are all noble, legitimate pastimes per se, but  when indulged in, forsaking all others, can be quite debilitating.  

The Churchill car insurance
dog. I think he looks more like
Jeremy Clarkson. And on that
bombshell, ladies and gentlemen...
And fattening.

Indeed, as Sir Winston Churchill, all-time number one Englishman and self-confessed depressive once said "If your'e going through Hell, keep going", Oh yes. 

 It helps enormously, though, to be surrounded by people to help you keep on the track. Oh yes.







A footnote: A while ago I got some feedback about my Nutbrown Elephant Pie Funnel post from Peter Craig in Australia, also a victim of the Melancholia. Strange how these things happen. Here's his take on the pie funnel. Thanks, Pete for granting me permission to use it. 



Peter Craig's rendition of the Nutbrown Elephant Pie Funnel





Thursday, 24 March 2016

SHADOWS


In Spain they say that before you die, you should have a child, plant a tree, and write a book. Of children, I have three; of trees I have several and of books I have written none – I do have a couple of blogs, though, even if they are rather less well cared-for than the children or trees.

The starting point for today’s ramblings is one of my trees. I spend a lot of time in my “garden” – a better term, I suppose, would be managed wilderness – just gazing at the trees. It is the most relaxing activity that I know of.


One day this winter I was admiring my unpruned, 20+-foot high almond tree –  my favourite – when I noticed that the branches on one side formed a concavity, as if they were embracing something, something immaterial. Continuing my contemplation, my eyes fell upon an olive tree some four or five yards to the east of the almond tree and about two yards further down the slope that forms my garden. I then realised that what the almond tree was embracing was the shadow of the olive tree.

Compared to the almond tree, the venerable olive is small – yet its almost imperceptible shadow had conditioned the growth of the mighty almond tree. Probably you can now see where this is going, and it’s probably nothing more than a commonplace, but let’s continue anyway.  

How many times have we heard or used the expressions ‘to live in someone’s shadow’, or ‘X’s genius overshadows that of his/her contemporaries’? This is an obviously negative observation regarding those in the shadow – indeed, what is a shadow but a certain absence of light? The best example that springs to my mind is the fact that George Harrison was definitely overshadowed by the genius of Lennon and McCartney. If you listen to the songs he was allowed to record for the Beatles albums up to, and including the White Album, you can almost always detect a plaintive, perhaps whining, tone to his voice and his songs tend to be rather sanctimonious criticisms of the listener. Yet listen to the songs on the Beatles’ last two albums and you will hear his skills as a composer and lyricist flower. As the colossus of Lennon/McCartney’s influence began to crumble and its shadow to wane, George Harrison began to flourish and gain confidence.

But a shadow can be more than just an absence of light. It can mean shelter; it can mean safety. It can be a benign, nurturing space in which to develop and grow. Here in Andalusia, finding yourself in the harsh, blinding, burning summer sunlight can be less than agreeable. In fact, it can literally be dangerous. In summer, I tend to seek out the shade as I walk in the streets to avoid heat exhaustion and/or sunstroke.

As children, we find ourselves under the protection of our parents, other family members and teachers. If we are fortunate, their love, wisdom and kindness will nurture us physically, emotionally and intellectually. If the opposite is true, we will become emotionally, intellectually and even, perhaps,  physically stunted. These imperceptible, yet powerful, influences will shape us, for good or ill, for the rest of our lives, just as my olive tree has shaped the almond tree.

Just like shadows, human relationships condition us and those that surround us without our realising it. Let us take care, therefore, of the emotional shadows that we cast. May they always be of the positive, nuturing kind and never of the kind that leads to the withering of others because even when we are dead and nothing but a memory, the shadows that we cast will still linger in the minds and hearts of others.

Saturday, 11 April 2015

A Trip to Cuenca - Homeward Bound

Wednesday was the day we returned to Sanlu. As teachers, both of us had the whole of Easter off and as such were able to travel in the first half of the week when prices were lower. Still, it was with a heavy heart that we packed and left La Antigua Vaquería.

Our first stop, as already advanced in my previous post, was the Restaurante Isis
The restaurant. Image from the Hostal Isis website
for brekky. It was rather disappointing - perhaps due to a lack of communication, as different terms have different meanings in different parts of Spain. In (at least) Andalusia a café cortado is an expresso with a mere dribble of milk. It would appear that in the Restaurante Isis café cortado seems to mean an expresso with a whole udderful of warm, caramelised milk. The toast, however, was excellent and the owner's wife's pyjamas and fluffy slippers up to snuff. At least standards hadn't slipped there, then!

We breakfasted outside on the deserted terrace. In my first post on Cuenca, I mused whether plants were sentient beings. I sincerely hope not. We subjected the nearby potted plants to unbearably exquisite torture by pouring the undrinkable coffee into their pots, à la Mr Bean. I doubt if El Ocejón would have survived a millenium on such a nauseating diet.  The sufferings of sentient vegetables were, however, soon forgotten as we were treated to yet another display of eccentricity. 
The terrace.  Image from the Hostal Isis website. unfortunately for the
owner, the pyramid's ratios are not those of Gizeh.

As we sat, minding our own business and quietly killing the plants with the Isis' own particular interpretation of Agent Orange, my Dark Lady decided to have a cigarette. Our table did not have an ashtray, so she went to the next one along and got the (used) ashtray from there. Among the detritus of the burnt offerings to the goddess Nicotiniana was a rumpled 1.5-inch stub of a slim cigar. We had been at our table for about 20 minutes, drinking black coffee and in the Dark Lady's case, smoking, when a couple of families emerged from the hostal and sat around the pyramid. The father of one of them took a seemingly nonchcalant stroll around the terrace and then took his place back at the pyramid.

After a while, he started to steal shifty glances towards us and after a bit of scratching, fidgeting and leg-crossing and re-crossing, he stood up and sidled past us again, muttering to himself. I began to get worried. Was he an axe murderer? Did he think that one of us was someone famous and was coming over to ask for an autograph? Was he a jealous husband who thought I, or indeed my Dark Lady, had been rootling around with his wife? Or, quite simply, did he have The Fear? He had The Fear. His mind was made up. Purposefully, he approached and, towering over our table, he muttered "Good day", snatched up the cigar stub, retreated a couple of metres, straightened it out and started to smoke enthusiastically, if somewhat defiantly.

WTF???

Unanswered questions still pullulate in my mind:
1) He didn't exactly look like a tramp, so why pick up a second-mouth cigar?
2) If it was his own cigar, why had he left it in the first place? It had the concertina shape of having been put out dliberately.
3) How long had it been there?
4) Why didn't he just light up a new cigar and save himself the embarrassment?
5) If he had The Fear and was so in need of a nicotine hit, and had no more cigars, why didn't he just buy a packet of ciggies from the machine, or ask for one from my Dark Lady? 
6) Did he realise that he was making a spectacle of himself in front of his family and an appreciative public?

Before he came back to eat what was left on our breakfast plates and lick the Agent Orange from the potted plants' fast wilting leaves, we paid and departed. 

A nice church, Almodóvar del
Pinar.
Our plan now was to return home via Úbeda and Baeza, two historic cities in the province of Jaén, Andalusia. This time the idea was to avoid motorways, which we did most of the time. Indeed, in one case we unwillingly avoided a motorway, of which more anon. 

First stop on the way back was a little town called Almodóvar del Pinar where we bought a packet of fine pork scratchings and a loaf of disappointing bread. Curiously, it must be the only town in the whole of Spain that doesn't sell lottery tickets. We found  this out because it's a tradition in my Dark Lady's family to buy such a ticket in one of the places visited when on a journey. We gleaned this information from the ciggy shop lady, who was unable to give us an explanation as to why no-one sells lottery tickets there. It's not even as if the locals don't play the lottery - they go to the next town along to get the tickets. 



A typical street, Úbeda
This was the last stop before Úbeda, a couple of hours later. During the journey the Google Maps Witch managed to direct us off a motorway, take us on a route in more or less a figure of 8, through a couple of post-apocolyptic industrial estates and in sneering triumph, deposit us back on the initial motorway about three exits further down. We had asked her to take us to Úbeda avoiding all toll roads and I think that this was her final hissy fit before we switched her off. Obviously, if you'll pardon the pun the journey had been taking its toll on her, too!
Façade, Hospital de Santiago,
Úbeda.

Úbeda. Hooray! We arrived at about 15.00 and the city's shops - including all of the chains - were closed for lunch, as were the churches and historic buildings. Unfortunately we had very little time to see anything. Anyway as the Easter processions were also about to recommence, we got back into Mr. Bubbles and drove off to Baeza for an ice cream in the main square before the final couple of hundred km back to Sanlu.

Thus ended our trip. We had, as the Spanish saying goes, been left with with honey on our lips. In other words what we had seen and experienced in Cuenca and Jaén had less than scratched the surface of what was to be enjoyed there. As the great thespian and politician Arnie has so expressively declaimed on several occasions, "We will be back".


Friday, 10 April 2015

A Trip to Cuenca. Day 2. The Second Waterfall and Meetings with Remarkably-clad Individuals.

And so we left Tragacete, but not without driving along a river bed that was also officially part of a road.

A question: When is a Citroën not a Citroën? Answer: When it Fords a river. Oh, what scintillating wit!

Next on our list of to-dos was a visit to the Ciudad Encantada, or literally Enchanted City. To get there we had to growl up a narrow mountain road behind a pair of camper vans. Still, it gave us time to admire the view. When we arrived, our enchantment dissipated like dew-laden gossamer in a gusty gale. You had to pay to get in. We didn't, so we didn't. 

Climbing back into trusty Mr. Bubbles, we began the drive back and I had plenty of time to admire El Salto hydroelectric power station. Its architecture is breathtaking - more like a monastery than a power plant. Unfortunately, the road is so tortuous and narrow that my Dark Lady was unable to park, so we took no photos. Luckily however, the job had been done magnificently by JR Regaldie for his blog. This link is definitely worth following!

By now, camera fatigue had also set in, so by the time we got to our next port of call, a trail leading to the source of the river Cuervo, few photos were taken, but here they are. 

On the way up, we passed a family who clearly took this outdoor adventuring lark seriously. The degrees of seriousness were, moreover, reflected in the dress of the individuals. The teenage daughter was in jeans, a T-shirt and a pair of trainers and the mother in a nice tracksuit and trainers. The father, however, was a man on a mission. He had a determined look on his face and obviously meant to out-Livingstone Livingstone in the exploring game. He sported tight-fitting lycra leggings (he was definitely nowhere near being in the Linford Christie league), fluorescent walking shoes, technical T-shirt and jacket, a torch, whistle, compass and mapholder hanging off his belt and all of those little pockety things in his backpack bulging with energy bars. Perhaps that's what Linford Christie... No, let's not follow that particular train of thought!

The waterfall with a secret...
My Dark Lady, myself and most of our fellow walkers were as irresponsibly dressed as the daughter and with our recklessly rash attitude towards the correct garb for survival in the great outdoors, richly would we have deserved any natural disaster that might have befallen us. To this day, I don't know how we survived or found our way along the well-kept and clearly signposted wooden walkways. When I look back on my foolishness, I tremble to think what might have happened. Anyhow, in the best traditions of Mallory, Hillary (no, not Clinton, the other one!) Tensing and The British Climbing Man, we persevered and were rewarded with a sight and sound that made the 1-km walk worthwhile. The photo is merely a taster of the experience. The sound of the water cascading over moss-clad rocks into crystalline pools was entrancing. Hats off to the Dark Lady for her choice of Easter holiday destination! 
And the waterfall's secret? next to a viewing balcony I spotted a water company manhole and, following its orientation, espied a line of younger trees and undegrowth marching up the hill in a straight line. My conclusion? In times of drought, water is piped to the fall to preserve its flora and fauna. What a wonderful idea!

It was now getting late and time to head back - we had about 100 km to travel to get back to La Vaquería, or about 250 if we took any notice of the Wicked Witch that had possessed my Google Maps app.

Back in La Melgosa, a very friendly old lady told us how to get to the village's ghost restaurant ("you can't miss it!"), or to another one in a nearby village. We decided to try the other one, as we had passed the place where the locals claimed the village restaurant was several times and had seen no sign of an eaterie.

To get to the other village we had to drive down a - yes, you've guessed it - rutted farm track in the dark. 

And promptly we got lost.

We could have gone the long way round on proper roads, but where's the fun in that? 

Luckily, it turned out - as even hypereconomical Citroën C4s need diesel occasionally and My Dark Lady's was down to its last 8km - we found a petrol station whose manager rather cautiously directed us to the Restaurante Isis. We, however, found the food to be good, plentiful and cheap, although the hostal itself seems to get mixed reviews.

And so ended our second day in Cuenca - with a delicious meal served by the owner, a Ray Liotta lookalike whose pj-clad wife held sway at the bar. These (eminently respectable, non-revealing) pyjamas are a constant in tripadvisor reviews. Indeed, she was still wearing them the following day when we stopped there for brekky, although swanning around the place in pjs in the morning somehow seems more natural to me than holding a soirée in them with dining clients at about 9 at night.   

The best of company, beautiful countryside, adventure, both on foot and at the wheel, good food, friendly locals, plus the occasional eccentric. Who could ask for more? A perfect day, indeedy.