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Tuesday, 31 January 2012

The case of the missing mantis

Here it is folks, evidence of our weekly multi-national cycling jaunts into uncharted territory. We join fellow campers in unco-ordinated, fluorescent cycling gear to explore local villages and places of interest. At the last count it was thirty plus like-minded campers and Molly (a perky Yorkshire Terrier) who is expert at avoiding the wheels of our bikes and the many guard dogs along the way. Our weekly expedition is advertised in the site activity sheet as "I biki bike" (will never understand that one) and the group is led by the un-fazed Mr S. He is an ex-army chappie so each outing is along well-researched, cycle-friendly routes and includes a toilet and cafe stop.  We utilise a system of hazard-warnings through the medium of mime, whistle blasts and manic hand signals. We salute you Mr S and your designated rear guard / sweeper :) 

On one jaunt Mr H snapped this town square in the small town of Cox. Only in rural Spain can you enjoy the January sunshine through perfectly manicured trees while listening to a tinkling fountain and the local church bells whilst sipping strong coffee with a gang of non-english speaking mates, bliss :))

We feel that the locals are mildly entertained by our invasions and very tolerant of our badly-parked bikes and cafe orders of twenty-something cafe con leche although we could be wrong. 

A crisis developed during the week! When drawing back the blinds one sunny morning I noticed that Posh was not in her usual observation post. Posh had taken to sitting in the tree with a view directly opposite Mr H's computing chair, she gazes at him adoringly for hours as he goes about his business. A quick search of the tree confirmed she was missing, only time and a possible ransom note would solve this mystery. We coped with our loss that day in true British style by keeping busy. To avert a potential major locker sorting episode I bravely suggested a radical rearrangement of our windbreaks and external sun lounge. Following a sharp intake of breath, extensive head scratching, random tool selection and planning with a pencil behind his ear, Mr H began the task by removing the wind break posts which by now had become welded in position. That's when he found Posh sunning herself upon a post. 

She posed happily for the camera and I'm sure she smiled when Mr H scooped her up (without safety gear) and placed her back on her favorite tree branch.

Despite the cold winds this week, Mr H has managed to land a fish at last, a small but perfectly formed common carp from a local irrigation channel, whoop whoop!  

He and big Nige refuse to give up on their endeavour to catch the big one or indeed anything that lives in water with a pulse!

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Back in the groove

On our return we were looking forward to catching up with our fellow campers only to find our German neighbours next door had disappeared and this beast had moved in!

We'll miss our previous neighbours, their jolly banter and offers of free Schnapps every morning but we Googled the beast and found our new neighbour is a female European Praying Mantis no less. She doesn't move much, needs no walking or cleaning up after and costs nothing to feed. She poses happily for snaps and doesn't object to being prompted to change her position with the sweeping brush, I've called her Posh. Who needs a dog?

Mr H and I are soon back in the post-christmas, camper-type groove and have been cycling, dancing, swimming and shopping all accompanied by daily sunshine and gentle breezes so far. Mr H was well chuffed as he collected a hire car on our return and received a free upgrade to a new Ford Focus, very nice and very reasonable. We're starting to travel further afield in this and a visit to a highly recommended Fish and Chip shop at Quesada was quite a treat, certainly better than any we've had here so far and better than many back home. 

During our jaunts we recently visited the Church of San Roque at Callossa de Segura, situated at the foot of an impressive mountain range.  

Peace, fresh air and panoramic views did not disappoint following a short but steep climb to this pretty church

and apparantly the Church has been visited by other travellers on peregrinations ... spooky or what!!!

Since our return to camp we have been visited by members of the Almafra brotherhood on different occassions. On our return from a routine shopping trip I discovered my slippers had been pegged to the door of the RV! Many culprits came to mind but I decided to play it cool by not mentioning the event to see who cracked under pressure first with a full confession. They returned later and banged on our door in the manner of bailiffs on piece work then proceeded to torture us with loud and off key Christmas carols!
Oh how we miss them all. 

The second group had an enjoyable meal in the resturant then inspected the site with the professionalism of health and safety executives and attempted to negotiate a vastly reduced price to stay! Basically in true geezer style they made an offer nobody could understand! Hugs, air kisses, giggles and handshakes all round. Seasoned Brits abroad, brilliant!!

Mr H and big Nige have been out fishing twice at the Embassament de la Pedrera. 

On his return from their first trip Mr H dramatically recounted his 3 'storming runs' (a technical term I'm informed) although he caught bugger all. On the second trip he managed to land a large plastic bag which, he said, gave a bloody good fight before capture.

If you look on a map you'll see that this reservoir is enormous and you would think you could find a peg to yourself but oh no. Mr H and Nige found a nice little spot on a headland relatively free of snags (of which there are many) and got settled for a nice sit down and a bit of peace and quiet. One hour later three locals arrived and with the whole reservoir at their disposal proceeded to set up right next to them with what appeared to be heavy duty sea fishing gear and an old radio badly tuned to a Spanish station at volume 11. Language was initially a barrier but they all ended the day sharing their luncheon meat, cans of coke and a giggle.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

A Happy New Year to all our readers!

Happy new year to one and all. May 2012 bring you all you hope for.

We're back in Spain now after two weeks of manic activity, visiting family and friends in Blighty over Christmas and New Year. It is hard to capture the delight of once again being with our precious family and valued friends in the customary Christmas wind and rain but here goes.

We prepared for our flight by packing with our usual bickering over the contents and weight of our cases. Men will never appreciate the security provided by a well stuffed case full of underwear, PJ's, perfume and makeup. Mr H travels light these days, a three item toilet bag, a cleverley calculated clean pants to each day ratio, crisp white cotton hankies, his Kindle and chewing gum.

We were greeted by tears and hugs from family as we arrived at the airport and the excitement soon kicked in as we discussed our plan of action and daily itinery while being driven on the wrong side of the road to our billet for the next 6 days! Must mention the ecstatic greeting we received from our daughters dog Lucy, once she realised it actually was us walking into the kitchen she crashed around crying loudly while gathering every toy she possesed as gifts for us and did a little wee in her excitement, just magic.

We joined up with family to do battle with fellow Christmas shoppers in the grey drizzle, howling winds and the endless queues at the tills with a strange sense of excitement. Maybe it's because we had escaped the stressful build up to Christmas in sunny Spain but in our previous life Christmas shopping started in early June and ended in the January sales!  

I would spend weeks putting up my lovingly collected christmas decorations and four themed trees;
1 black and white glass baubles, beads, fabric bits and feathers
2 chocolates and candy canes
3 miniature plain and glitter baubles
4 my show stopper covered in blue/green feathers, all manner of tiny shoe decorations (slingbacks and stilletos included) sequin encrusted handbags, miles of blue/purple and green beads all lit up with retina burning neon blue LED lights.

Bear in mind that this was all to the dismay of Mr H who would be more than happy with a solitary sprig of fresh holly from the local graveyard in his freshly baked christmas sausage roll thank you very much.
So this was a first for us. We completed all our Christmas shopping in one day (23rd December) without tears, mental breakdown or a cross word.

Mr H took on a personal challenge, he had accepted the mission of taking a parcel for a fellow camper in Spain back to England to be posted. The parcel contained lovingly knitted garments for family pets no less! Imagine the scene; Mr H tucks the precious parcel under his arm and leans into the wind and rain determined to complete the task and honour his promise to our friends. Off he limps (yes he had a gammy leg at the time due to a swollen achilles tendon) to join the long queue at the post office, no concessions were made for his predicament as he awaited his turn but this just made him more determined to get the job done. When asked at the desk by the tired and bored post office technician "is there anything of value in the parcel?" Mr H choked back his tears and replied "very little monetary value Miss but the contents were hand-made with love and care"; the response.... " will that be first or second class post then?"
Whatever happened to the true spirit of Christmas! 

In contrast I have experienced the noisy pleasures of the pantomine Cinderella at a local theatre with my mother, at 82 she was as verbal and rowdy as the children, we giggled at the jokes and ate toffee until a little nauseous, a special memory day to treasure for us both. I also experienced for the first time Imax 3D cinema, and a Boxing day visit to Anfield to watch Liverpool play with my two fast-growing-up grandchildren and son-in-law.

During our visit I realised that suprise attacks were now required before hugging and smelling (only a woman will understand this need to inhale their scent!) my lovely grandsons to avoid major embarrassment in front of their friends as they are far to cool to be seen hugging Nan these days. Although one did spend an hour or two playing with an empty box whilst wearing impossible layers of gifted designer clothing and holding every present both he and the dog received. 

We were treated to endless home-made and Mr Blumenthal-created festive fare throughout. Being with close family and friends again back in the UK provided some reassurance for us that we have all survived the initial major transitions of our chosen adventure. So we returned to Spain having thoroughly enjoyed our visit and looking forward to catching up with our friends at camp and donning our shorts and tees to chill out in the sun.