Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The starter motor - Motor de arranque

Our vehicle problem this time. Not someone else's.

Idle partner decided to drive down to the beach - rather than walking. I suppose because it was late morning and hot.

So he got in - and discovered the starter motor was jammed. He did the usual stuff, whacked it kindly with a hammer, and put it into gear and rocked it backwards and forwards. No joy.

He took it out. Pretty quickly. And then had a beer. It was Sunday so he couldn't do any more.

Yesterday morning he put it on the back of the bike and cycled the 8 or 10k to the local town to get prices for a new one.

He went to the truck motor factor on the industrial estate that he had discovered when he was helping Bedford Truck Man. Cost 665€ plus IVA at 16%.

He cycled round the town. It's one of those spread-out sort-of towns with a few hills to add variety.

He managed to get a few more prices. One went up to 776€ plus IVA and transport. But the same shop had another dealer and got a price of 540€ all included.

Poor old Worn-Out Cycling Partner decided it wasn't a good idea to come home and tell me this. So he stopped at the auto-electrician on the way home. It happens to be opposite a good bar too.

The auto-electrician is a good old boy. When we first came we had problems with the alternator. He checked to see if it was beyond all repair and sadly it was, so we had to stump up for a new one. We've used him ever since and he's always seemed ok.

Anyway the jefe said he would take it apart and have a look - it would take half an hour or so. Best to wait at the bar opposite, thought Thirsty Partner.

What a poppet (the old boy). Turned out the starter motor was ok, might need new bushes in a while, but he would clean it up for us. The solenoid was stuffed though. But 55€ for a new solenoid is a lot better than 540€ for a new starter motor.

Very Fit Cycling Partner came happily back to pick up some money and went back to pick up the starter motor. The old boy wasn't there. Critical Partner went to the work bench and took a look at the insides of the starter motor. He stuck his finger on the suspicious-looking stuff. Oil.

"¿Qué pasa aquí?" One of the young urchins came to attention. We think it's the grandson working in his school holidays.

"I've cleaned it," he said, helpfully.

"Not with oil, you haven't. It will just chupa the polvo."

One of the not-so-young ones roared at him.

The jefe came back. He roared at the grandson even more. "It will chupa the polvo."

"That's what the foreigner said," (the young one was catching on fast).

"That's because the foreigner isn't an idiot. You are though."

Old jefe rolled his eyes, and said, "These young ones. They just don't understand. I'll clean it up properly for you. Sorry about that."

Another beer called for. It's pretty hot at the moment and cycling around with a heavy starter motor isn't really that much fun.

When he went back to pick it up, the jefe had left it apart so that Critical Partner could see it was cleaned up.

"I've used four litres of solvent to get rid of the oil. That would cost 40€." Sad Spanish face - this job had become not very cost-effective, even allowing for the exaggeration. Then he connected it to the power. And it worked.

Happy Partner handed over his money - no extra charge, obviously - and cycled back. New solenoid, cleaned-out starter motor, and a couple of beers and some chat.

And put it in this morning. Using a variety of props to support the motor while he screwed on the nuts. It worked when he turned the ignition too. Vrrrrm. In fact it starts up much better than before.

That's probably why he had problems with the starter motor last year when he drove back to the UK. The solenoid had been slowly dying. A good result though. Another electrical fix - but the cost is always in the mechanical work for taking out and putting back. Today - Smug Partner.

But the bad news was that he had to throw away his 21-year-old T-shirt from Laura Ashley. When he took it off it ripped. And it was his best mechanicking one too. Gutted.

Any queries about what to do though - please ask in comments.

Si tengas preguntas - escriba abajo en los "comments".

Sunday, July 29, 2007


Dogwalking Partner went out with Pippa.

And one of our sophisticated multi-house neighbours called to him.

"Pasa por aquí."

She wanted to give him a massive bag of aubergines, and then another massive bag of tomatoes.

Berenjenas fritters, or aubergine curries are on the menu.....More later (recipes, not berenjenas hopefully).

Saturday, July 28, 2007

The Bedford Story - the end as we know it

They picked up the radiator. And dropped it off down the beach.

They also went to check out the camp sites in town to see if there was space so Bedford Truck Man could avoid getting towed off the beach by the police.

En route they picked up the water pump to bring back here, and Helpful Partner welded a bolt on the front of it to prevent the fan flying off the water pump and going through the radiator again.

BTM walked down to the 'phone box to find out about the second-hand rad he was supposed to be getting from the UK.

He came back. We gave him another beer. And his water pump.

The rad from England seemed to have vanished into the aire.

Next day, Helpful Partner wandered down to the beach to see how things were going.

BTM had fitted the water pump and put back the broken radiator.

After all, he had driven from Tarifa to here without a functioning water pump. Good truck.

When the police turned up again, he showed them his booking for the camp site in town, so they knew he would be gone from the beach as soon as he was sorted. No jail. No court. No homeless woman and daughter.

BTM and his woman enjoyed the tomatoes we had given them. They liked the photos that we had printed off too.

He didn't seem bothered about the radiator any more. Although he had asked if he could use our address to get a radiator delivered from the UK, he seemed to have changed his mind. He could use the camp site address.

Next day, Helpful Partner went down the beach. They were gone. He went to the camp site. The snotty staff person wouldn't let him in (and he was on his very best expensive disc-braked bike!).

Partner peered through the fencing but couldn't see their truck.

We guess they got it going and just cleared off. They hadn't exactly had a lot of luck here, so in their place we wouldn't have stayed either.

Helpful Partner drove him round and tried to help. BTM offered 20€ - for diesel or welding or whatever help - but Partner refused. We've been helped in the past.

We hope they are ok - wherever they are.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Ten good things..........

............about having a sprained wrist.

Either you can describe this as reframing the issue if you are into management-speak - or you can call me Little Ms Sunshine. I have to say I prefer the MBA-speak.

This incidentally is about a right-handed person who has sprained her right wrist. It would apply equally to a left-handed person. But not someone who is ambidextrous like Irritating Partner.

  • You can't do the cleaning. (Not that you do much anyway)

  • You can't do the ironing. (That was OK, didn't mind doing that, suitably mindless task without too much effort)

  • You can't do the washing up. (You don't do that either normally)

  • Or the drying up.

  • Your finger nails grow very long and elegant because you aren't doing anything....

  • You don't walk the dog. (It was his fault anyway...when he went for the cat)

  • Your partner suddenly remembers how to cook. In fact he starts to do some things better than you can. Great roast pimientos.

  • At more than 40 years of age you suddenly learn how to use your left hand.

  • You can idle endlessly in a bath full of essential oils on the grounds that it is good for helping the swelling to go down, easing the bruising, relieving the stress, well, you get the idea...

  • You have an excuse for not doing what you don't want to do, and indulging in whatever you do want to do.

And the counter-side....

  • The house is dirtier than ever. (He doesn't like doing the cleaning either)

  • There are no wrinkle-free clothes, and you can't even find half of them because the pile on the ironing board is so huge.

  • You can't do the gardening with one hand.

  • You have a scruffy-looking bandage on your arm, and sometimes your arm hurts. More initially. Less now - but this is two months later.

  • You can't walk the dog - well the walking was nice - even if the cat-lusting dog was a bit of a nuisance. Walking too far (even without the dog) also makes your arm hurt.

  • You can't type fast. Or accurately. This is very irritating but it finally seems to be getting better.

  • And the biggie - you can't get on the bike. You can't grip the handlebar or use the right (rear-wheel) brake. Why is this a biggie?

Vanity. The calf muscles still look ok. The arms don't. And as for the sudden re-appearance of the cellulite that I thought had gone for ever....I'll buy an exercise bike if I can't get on a real bike any more after this incident.

So on balance there are more pros than cons. Idle life of leisure and brill cooking by Cocinero Partner. But this doesn't assign values to the points.

The downside is I'm less fit, I've no suntan ('cos I'm not out much), and the dreaded cellulite has reappeared. I'm counting the days to getting back on the bike.

So's the Cycling Partner 'cos he has no companion. And he's certainly sick of two months of cooking.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The Bedford Story - Part 2

So anyway, there's Helpful Partner traipsing round the local county town looking for tubo (hose) for this 50-year-old Bedford truck.

The local recambios place (spare parts, winch cables, hydraulic hoses among others) is pretty versatile, but it didn't have the right diameter hose. They are always helpful guys though - and they gave directions to a competing motor factor - even though they were risking losing some trade.

This was on the industrial estate, and full of mechanics buying parts on trade accounts. It was basically aimed at trucks. Small ones, large ones, but all trucks. And they had the tubo.

So Helpful Partner dropped Bedford Truck Man (BTM) off at the beach so he could replace the pipe between the air intake and the oil bath.

The next day, he went down the beach to see if BTM had sorted it and could get off on his travels.

Apparently he couldn't.

He had fired up the engine, it sounded good and the fan promptly flew off the end of the water pump and straight through the radiator.

This was not good. Helpful Partner had taken down a couple of beers so they had a drink and a chat.

Then BTM offered Helpful Partner some wine (neither of them had any beer left). Not being much of a wine-drinker he said no.

So then he offered him Tequila. The bottle was nearly empty so when they finished that they moved onto a bottle of Mezcal. Tequila-type stuff with a worm in the bottom. But Helpful Partner didn't know that until they had polished off that bottle too and BTM offered him the "worm". To eat.

Well, right-on vegetarians don't eat worms or any sort of similar grubs. They aren't too keen on polishing off nearly half a bottle of spirit and find it has been fermenting with some dead grub inside it. Drowned. Pickled. Whatever.

He politely refused and was secretly pleased he had started to pour some of his Mezcal into BTM's glass. Hence he was slightly less the worse for wear than he could have been. And he managed to walk home.

Somewhere in the midst of this grubby Mezcal story, they decided the next day they (ie Helpful Partner) would go and look for a rad at the local scrapyards.

That was worse than useless so then they asked about recoring the rad. And they were given directions to a workshop in the local market town again.

So when they eventually found it, the guys at the workshop promised to ring back later that day. This is Spain. When I rang, it turned out they were waiting for someone else to get back to them. The next day they rang. SEVEN HUNDRED EUROS.

BTM nearly died. Actually we all nearly died and it wasn't even our rad. They agreed to pick up the rad the next day. Unrepaired. BTM thought it would be cheaper to source one from the UK, including carriage. They both forgot the next day was Saturday.

Fast forward to Monday. BTM turned up at our house. The police were getting increasingly difficult about the fact that the truck was still parked at the beach. (Technically illegal although done all the time - especially at Spanish fiestas). The police told them to move on which is difficult with a broken-down truck. BTM wanted to collect his damaged-beyond-economic-repair rad from the market town. Immediately.

Helpful Partner was out on his bike though. I didn't know when he was coming back, and if he had stopped for a beer on his bike he wouldn't be driving when he returned. So I told BTM this and said he might want to think about getting on the bus. Less than a euro and five/ten mins walk from the bus station to the rad workshop.

Meanwhile, unknown to me, Helpful Partner had called down the beach to see what was going on. He spoke to Bedford Truck Woman, and then managed to catch up with BTM who was by now making a fruitless journey to what he thought was a scrapyard but is actually a builders' merchants that happens to use old trucks.

"Why don't you get the bus?" said the Helpful Partner, repeating my words telepathically like a parrot. He had stopped for a beer in town. BTM was not impressed, he did not want to get the bus, but he wanted his rad. He didn't want the police towing him off either. And taking him to court, leaving his 18-month-old daughter and his woman without a roof over their head.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

More books... nine down one to go

I have thought of another fave book.

Actually it's a cheat. It's not a book, it's an author. In fact it's a big cheat. It's three, or at least two authors. Now, coming from Yorkshire, how could I not include the Brontes? Or at least the ones who wrote Tenant of Wildfell Hall and Wuthering Heights. Not too keen on Jane Eyre I have to say.

I have just re-read Blue's tag challenge and it said five books. But Blue posted ten originally.

So I am going to go for ten too. The tenth one comes later.

Oh and the pix are the only Bronte book I have. Sadly, that martyrish Jane Eyre one. What a horrible pic to have at the front of the book. It would probably be banned these days. Miserable book anyway in my opinion. Although the other two I have mentioned are hardly the cheeriest books under the sun. I might read it again though. It cost 2/6, it says so at the front. I think my mum bought it.

The Bedford Story - Part 1

Wandering idly down the beach the other day, as you do on a Sunday morning, Excitable Partner spotted a Bedford 3-ton truck.

When he is not lusting after Forward Controls, or 101s (these are all Land Rovers) he wants a Bedford truck. Hmmm.

"Hi can I take a photo of your truck?"

"Yeah, course you can. No problem. Most people don't ask."

The guy was English. He and his woman and very young daughter told us they were travelling up the coast having spent some time in Portugal and Gibraltar.

Boring talk about truck then ensued.

Age: 50 (the truck this is)

History: museum, and two previous owners

Price seven years ago: £1200

Engine: 5.5 diesel out of a later Bedford truck

Problems: none really

Mileage: well low, 9000 when it came out of the museum

Cruising speed: 45mph

The woman finally appeared so we talked about other things. Glastonbury. Police. Travelling. Home births. Sign language for babies. I know little about these last two and am not planning to experience either. Actually I know nothing about the first two either.

Off we went after nearly an hour chatting in the increasingly hot sun.

A day or two later doing the Shopping Run in the Santana, Helpful Partner returned home with Bedford Truck Man (BTM). He'd met him in town where he was wandering round looking for hose that goes from the air intake to the oil bath.

It seemed his had exploded. His engine was overheating. He was struggling round town trying to find somewhere to buy the right hose. His Spanish was pretty minimal.

Unfortunately the local shopping town is not the buying-hose-for-trucks-town. Or EP90 as we have just found out. A guy in one of the garages was telling him that the next town, only a short walk away in the middle of the day (hah) would have the right hoses.

So Helpful Partner junked off the shopping and off they went in search of the elusive hose...........

...........More later......radiators, fans and water pumps...

Friday, July 20, 2007

What do I read?

I've been tagged about my ten fave books. Well I haven't, the dog has. But he doesn't read. So I'm posting.

In no particular order....

Land Rover Series III Parts Catalogue and Repair Operation Manual. Two separate books but they both save me a sh!tload of money. And it means I can sit outside, head in book, issuing instructions.

Mostly these days when I pick up something it's probably a superb second-hand three-volume set of Somerset Maugham short stories that I bought a few years ago in Malaga.

Anything (apart from Brighton Rock) by Graham Greene, especially Our Man In Havana

The Idiot - Dostoevsky

The Scarlet and the Black - Stendahl

Midnight's Children - Rushdie

Love in the time of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez - and his other books

Most stuff by Conrad, especially Nostromo

And that leaves me two more to think about as I go off to bed.

If anyone wants to play tag - you can do your ten favourite books - or a quickie - what are you reading now?

Tomorrow is the Story of the Bedford.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Road tax

The guy from the local council was wandering round yesterday.

He had a pile of envelopes.

"It's for him over there," shouted one of the neighbours. "The foreigner. The one with the dog. Look, he's there now."

So the guy hands the envelope to Bemused Partner.

"Eh, HOMBRE!" shouts Partner as the guy rapidly disappeared down the street. "ESPERATE. PARA."

Eventually the guy stopped and waited. Irritated Partner gave him back the envelope. "No es para mi."

It was actually for the woman who lived here before us. When she sold the house to us she promptly went out and bought a new 4x4 out of the profits. (As did the estate agent out of the commission.)

When we first moved in, a guy from the council came round asking for her. Seemed like she'd bought the car, but using the old address. It's common practice round here. Some neighbours also bought from an English-speaking couple who did exactly the same.

So every year when the road tax comes round - payable to the local council - it goes to an address where they don't live. Technically they are untraceable - unless they ever get pulled by the police on the road.

After two or three years the guy who came round in his official van, asking for - let's call her Jane - started to believe us and accepted she didn't live here.

Last year we just got a bill in the post for her car tax. No visit. In fact we started to get on good terms with the guy and we waved at him whenever he was driving round the village looking for car tax dodgers.

This year the council obviously has so many non-tax-payers it is worthwhile sending a guy out to deliver the demand (plus interest plus fine) rather than using the very efficient postie (who at least knows who lives where.)

"I paid my car tax when the demand first came out," said Smug Partner (it comes out in March and you get a couple of months to pay) just to make a point.

The guy walked back up the street. Obviously deciding the foreigner wasn't totally stupid.

He asked us about a couple of other names, and numbers. The house numbers around here have no logic to them, partly because of the way families build extra houses on the same plot, split houses into flats, do anything to home their older or younger relatives that isn't too expensive. We directed him to some neighbours just down from us.

Our immediate neighbours were hanging about outside, interested in the commotion.

"Oh, you remember when Jane sold us the house and bought a new coche," we explained....."well every year her road tax demand plus fines are sent to this address."

The neighbours tutted and sighed. We all looked virtuous and sanctimonious together. We discussed how Jane's Spanish boyfriend didn't like to work and lived and ate out of her money. (Unlike their exemplary son-in-law who hasn't worked for two years - apart from a couple of fiddle jobs - and lives off his wife's part-time cleaning job and her parent's pension).

Then the council guy called out another street number. He obviously thought we were so helpful and he still had a sheaf of bills in his hand.

There is no mistaking next-doors' house number. It is one of the few that has no duplicate. There is no mistaking their name either. Which the guy also called out.

He went to their gate. There was a bit of chat and then Jose reluctantly took the bills in.

We couldn't contain ourselves. We ran inside with a serious attack of hysterics. And the conversation had stopped.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Axles and diffs...Ejes y diffs

I have no idea what sort of axles and diffs I have on my Land Rover Santana 3.5 diesel 6 cylinder Station Wagon (DL Super).

No tengo la menor idea que tipo de ejes y diffs mi Santana teine.

They are not like any axles on any of the Land Rovers I have owned. They are not Rover, and they are not Salisbury. Could they be ENV? Both front and rear axles are very big and strong.

En mis Land Rovers que he tenido antes (LR Series ii, LR Series III, ambos 109 pulgados), no hay algo similar. Los de mi Santana no son de Rover, ni de Salisbury tanpoco. ¿Se pueden ser ENV? Pero, son muy grande y muy fuerte.

Can anyone shed any light on them for me?

¿Hay alguien que puede ayudarme distinguir que tipos de ejes y diffs teine mi coche?

Front axle........Eje delantero

Front axle........Eje delantero

Front axle........Eje delantero

Front axle number........Número de eje delantero

Rear axle........eje trasero

Rear axle........Eje trasero

Rear axle........Eje trasero

Rear axle number........Número de eje trasero

If you have any idea please comment below (anonymous usually works ok). Thanks.

Sí sabes algo, pon un mensaje abajo (normalmente anónimo funciona bien). Gracias.

Adrian, Catalina

Friday, July 13, 2007

Summertime......and gazpacho time

How many recipes for gazpacho are there on the Internet?

And how many English-speaking people can say they were taught how to make it by their 70+year-old Spanish neighbour?

Who grew up in the campo, and doesn't read and write (apart from her name), and who still cooks Andalucian peasant cooking - even though her family prefers fast food.

Anyway, the answer is - me.

Not long after we moved in, she asked me round to show me how to make gazpacho. And ajoblanco too.

It's coming to tomato glut time. We got a couple of kilos from next-doors the other day after Jose had visited his cuñado. (pronounced - around here - cun-yow)

That's his brother-in-law, ie his sister's husband. But why mention the woman when you can describe the relationship in terms of a man? I know this because my father once described me as his son-in-law's wife.

Back to tomatoes. Today we got a few more kilos. Not sure what the total is now. But the fridge is full. Not much in there apart from tomatoes, but that's a start.

Yesterday we had tomato pilaff. Very nice, spicy but not hot. The chillies - fresh and dried - went in the salad. That way the dog can have tasty rice for breakfast. And we get hot curry, courtesy of the salad.

And while I was making the pilaff, I remembered we had not yet had gazpacho this summer.

So take four or five large tomatoes. Say 1 lb or more. Peel them if you choose. I take out the cores, at least.

Put them in a blender or a batidora container. Add one or two reasonable-sized cloves of garlic. Some slurps of olive oil. Quite a few slurps, eg around 2 fl ozs. Definitely has to be extra virgin, cold-pressed.

If you have a favourite, use that. If you don't like a strong-tasting one, use one of the blander mainstream ones. I use an aceite verdial from Periana in the hills behind us. I doubt it is exported. It costs around 20-25€ for five litres and it is excellent. Droolerific in fact.

Add some wine vinegar. Not too much, less than the olive oil, but say around a couple of tablespoons. Ordinary wine vinegar is fine because you need the sharpness, so don't mess with any trendy vinegars. I use Vinagre de Jerez at any opportunity, but this is not one. Your average 40 cents a litre stuff from the local supermercado is fine.

Add a pinch of salt. I use rock salt. Today I had run out, so it was salt-free.

Blend or batidora it. Put it in the freezer for a short while unless you are organised and have left enough time for it to chill in the fridge.

Then, when it is nice and cold, re-whizz. Zzzzzz. Now this is actually the technical bit. Depending on how much oil you have added, or how juicy your tomatoes are, you may want/need to add some cold water. Bottled - I use Primavera.

The other adjustment to be made is the salt:vinegar ratio. Stick finger in (not while the machine is switched on - apparently one needs to include these sort of warnings because people are really dumb) and test for flavour. A few times obviously. I think I have just breached a few hygiene regs here.

Then pour it out. In our village it is served as a drink, so it comes in glasses or cups. You can add ice cubes if you want.

No, it doesn't include peppers, cucumber, onion, or anything else, either whizzed up, or served on the side. This is a village, not a restaurant.

Finally, Gazpacho Loving Partner was busy painting the house of a neighbour with another English guy. The woman - from Madrid - offered them gazpacho (the weather was well hot). "Yes," said Partner. And promptly had seconds. "Delicioso, muchas gracias."

"God, I hate that foreign slop," said the other guy, (he lived with a Spanish woman) and he didn't touch a drop.

So it's basically a refreshing drink round here. And when I have enough cheap tomatoes - like now - there is always some in my fridge. If you like tomatoes, garlic, olive oil and vinegar - it's for you - great stuff, at any time of day. But if, like Bob, you don't like foreign slop......

Edited to add (in view of the comments)
Note to British readers and others in unsunny unwarm climes - you need sunny grown tomatoes, not nice firm ones from Blackpool or whereever. It tastes much better on a warm day. It's not a cool weather drink. A bit like gin and tonic....

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Green eyes

Jealousy. I'm eminently qualified to write about this.

Like many women, I've been envious of the "prettier" women, the ones with more boyfriends, better exam grades, better job, affluent lifestyle, more money....I'm sure you know the list.

But I've got a bit better over the years and don't suffer any more. Well, not often.

Mainly because I've realised I'm doing what I want and that other people's lives aren't for me.

Still I always forget that people might be jealous of us.

It's easy to forget when you are tall and slim that other people might want to be too.

Or that they think you are clever. Or that you have a trendy job, or a good career.

Or that you are living the high life (I wish) on the shores of the Mediterranean in your 40s.

When a long-term friend came out to see me she looked at my graduation photo and said:"Oh, what a beautiful photo of you. Mine were rubbish."

I was a bit surprised, and then realised she meant it. She always seemed to consider herself a particularly adorable piece of work.

When we came here we wanted the olive grove dream, so it always surprises us that people are jealous of our small stone semi + very large corral in the village. With only a large terrace, and a small patio. And it is a five or ten minute walk to the beach.

But when Cycling Partner went to town yesterday, he was surprised to find he has a new nickname. Baron Rothschild. Does this guy fiddling with his bikes rescued from the skip look like he has anything?

He learnt this when he stopped for a drink. One of the other customers (the bar owners refused to tell him who) has decided they are both wealthy men. The bar owner apparently is Howard Hughes.

"I think I would rather be Rothschild," said Newly Ennobled Partner. "I thought Hughes was a bit off the wall."

I wish that he was Rothschild too. If only for the wine.

Neither of them felt aggrieved. They both thought it was funny. None of us are remotely rich. I think the correct word is careful.

But after laughing about it, they did talk seriously about people's perceptions. Since we bought here in Spain some years ago the price of property has gone up. It usually does. The prices have increased hugely in our village which suddenly seems to be desirable.

Lots of people in the area have sold up, and moved on. To cheaper places. Other parts of Spain, and other countries. And according to the bar owners, many of them spent a lot of money, in just a few years, all the time - leading a holiday life that just doesn't add up. Bars, restaurants, clothes, holidays....When you should be trying to make your money last out.

What people don't see is our cheap life-style. We buy our food from the travelling van or some of the local Spanish shops - rather than the help-yourself-supermarkets. If you are intimidated by going into small shops full of Spaniards, who rarely speak any English - supermarkets are for you. They are not for our food shopping, apart from the odd luxury like watercress.

We do not regularly go to the bar, maybe two drinks in a week, when we're on the bike. For some weeks/months, we don't go at all. Howard Hughes (sic) - the bar owner - would not be living out of us. We do not eat out. We do not smoke. We do not drink spirits. We probably should do these last two as they are both cheap here. They just don't suit us.

I no longer buy Cerrutti, (probably my very favourite designer). I rarely even buy from Zara. For half the year it is so warm that clothes are superfluous. For the other half I still have warm clothes from the UK.

We have no heating - apart from one fire - which we didn't light last year. We collect our timber. We have no air conditioning in summer.

Now we have no TV, after Ennobled Partner chucked it out when it stopped working. We never paid for satellite anyway. We didn't come here to watch British TV.

We don't go out in the Land Rover Santana every day. We cycle or walk. Sometimes we take the bus.

If this is the Rothschild lifestyle - fine. I doubt it.

Yeah, we have a small house in a nice place. But who would live the same life as us?

Almost forgot - my eyes are naturally green.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Internet mates

Some (ie quite a few years ago) when we used the Internet, there were very few personal conversations.

There were web sites and there was e-mail, but chat and forums were not widespread.

Now there is a forum for anything and everything.

And we have joined a selection. Mainly interest groups. Sometimes to share expertise and learn, sometimes to get help with problems.

We were naive at first. Didn't realise that some of the fun, wit and sarcasm visible to the whole world was posted because some of the people on various forums have actually met each other.

In fact a lot of people have met each other on some of the forums we visit. Which is a good thing - and something that may not have happened without the internet.

And we haven't met anyone from any forum.

But people have said they were coming to Spain and suggested meeting us.

Or on a number of forums - trips are proposed through, France, Spain, and sometimes on to Morocco - which we have followed with interest. And then they stop dead. In public anyway. Don't know if they ever happen or if they only happen for the In Crowd.

We clearly aren't the In Crowd. We aren't the norm. Once we did it for some years. Well, we had a mortgage and a couple of jobs, a semi-detached, etc etc....

But if we commit to something, over the Internet or in person, we try and hold to it. I would like to say we always do, but we all let some people down at some point. Sadly. And maybe we don't even know when we do.

So the big wide world of the Internet starts to shrink. If you don't fit in with the majority on a forum, you fade into the background. You certainly don't join in with the very in jokes.

People don't seem to care if they say they will do something and then they don't. They find a reason to back out. This is not a personal gripe - we have read about people saying they will help someone else out - and's all too difficult. And maybe it's easier when it is just a meaningless Internet offer of help to someone you don't know.

Some people want to charge for any sort of help. Others are looking for income generation for their business. And there are some people on the Internet who are willing to help for no obvious reward.

Others are just self-publicists and they are good at it too. "I have just posted some photos of this event - and here it is" on my website of course - you want to see the photos - you bring traffic to my website. "I'm not going to post them on a forum, I don't waste my time on here for nothing".

So if you get good help and advice, that's great. We hope we remember to say thanks when we get help from the ones who are genuinely helpful.

Because there are always the ones who seem to be really good Internet mates and who suddenly leave you high and dry.

No, they've changed their mind. No, they don't want to meet you (even though it was their idea). No, they don't want to do an expedition with you (they haven't met you, they can't be bothered). No, they can't even take the time to send you any info over the Net.

You get a cursory acknowledgement when you send them something they ask for. Did they even want it - or are they just checking us out?

They pick you up and drop you faster than anything you've known.

Who are these perfect guys? And why do they think an Internet commitment means nothing?

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Discovering naval history in Gib

Weekends in Gib are great. There are less people, less cars and it is quiet.

A good day to go for a walk and look at some naval heritage.

Here is a statue of Admiral Lord Nelson facing the Trafalgar cemetery. We pass it every day. The whole area is beautifully maintained with exotic sub-tropical gardens.

First stop the 100 ton gun, at Napier of Magdala Battery.

Closed. To revamp the exhibition. Sorry for the inconvenience.

The inconvenience was not huge. The walk was nice anyway. The views of Rosia Bay and the Bay of Algeciras are always interesting.

Pilot boat in Rosia Bay

Bahia de Algeciras

So off we went to Parson's Lodge, just round the corner.

Also closed.

The Gibraltar Heritage Trust won an international award for the excellent work that had been carried out restoring the gun battery so it is a shame to see it closed in the summer holiday season.

Everyone wants to go to the top of the Rock and see the apes. And that's what we did on our first trip.

But there is more to Gibraltar. The historical heritage is incredible. I say this as someone with my first degree in history and archaeology - and the place just oozes history. Love it.

It's one of the reasons we bought a flat there.

We have also joined the Heritage Trust to try and give our support. And if we can volunteer to do anything to promote Gibraltar's history and heritage we will.

Because it would be good to see tourists and travellers enjoying everything Gibraltar has to offer, as well as the apes and the top of the Rock.

Coast artillery searchlight and guns at Parson's Lodge

Drinking with the gitano

As usual Shopping Cycling Partner cleared off for the veg. After a few hours I figured he had either gone to Nerja for a bit of extra exercise or had been waylaid.

So I sent him a text. Asking if he had gone to Nerja. A few minutes later he appeared.

A few hours previously he had cycled round the corner to come up the street.

"Hola amigo" someone hollered at him from the bar.

"Hola" he waved back at whoever-it-was and attempted to cycle on home.

Not a chance. It was Juan the gitano. The guy who gave us the cockerel. And he insisted Non-Bar-Drinking Partner go for a drink.

"I don't go to the bar," said Partner. "I know," said Juan. "But I am paying. I invite you."

So Shopping Cycling Partner turned into Bar Drinking Partner.

One of the neighbours came up and shook hands. A few minutes later another one followed suit to pay his respects.

The guy from the finca over the road beamed and went over to chat with them.

Clearly Juan carries some weight.

Another young neighbour was sitting at the bar.

"He's often in here," gossiped Juan. "He drinks quite a lot." Juan was already drinking whisky and cokes with his beer.

"How are the chickens and the cockerel? Don't forget I'd still like to put my small cockerel with your little English one."

And by way of incentive, "Would you like a peacock?"

Well a peacock would be great. We don't really have the space though. And they are expensive. Accepting a peacock is not like accepting a hybrid cockerel.

Bar Drinking Partner played it safe. "Well, the little English chicken belongs to my woman, it would be up to her really....And sadly we haven't enough space for a peacock."

The unsuccessful business part of the conversation out of the way, Juan launched into his exploits with one of the prostitutes in one of the villages a few miles away. Juan does not have a partner, I should add. He is 48.

"It costs me €50," he said. "That's for as long as I can manage. Of course I usually keep going for an hour and a half."

Bar Drinking Partner murmured appreciatively. Not sure whether it was at Juan's alleged sexual athleticism or his fertile imagination.

Not everyone is impressed with Juan though. Clearly the fact that the English foreigner had been drinking with the gitano flew round the village and the next-door neighbours ignored us for a week.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Shopping in Gib

For some reason, that I have never really understood, lots of British people who live in Spain cheerfully drive miles to buy sliced white plastic bread, sausages, bacon and jars of sauce.

Invariably to Gibraltar where there is an excellent Morrisons (formerly Safeway). There is also a small Food Hall at Marks and Spencer in Main Street.

Part of the attraction of living abroad is that everything is different. So driving more than 200 miles for a round trip to buy a few items of British-style food strikes me as bizarre. Especially when Eroski and Dunnes Stores sell more and more "International" food.

There again, we don't smoke or drink spirits. Perhaps that has something to do with the shopping pilgrimage that others make to Gib. Although the duty-free limit for bringing goods back into Spain is only a litre of spirits and 200 cigarettes per person. Not that it stops people taking more across the border.

Smuggling I think it's called.

I would not like to be caught by the Guardia Civil exceeding my limit with a load of tabs and a few bottles of spirits. Still, if people think the rewards are worth the risk - that's up to them.

Anyway, when you are in Gib, there are some things worth buying. Sacarello's coffee. The firm was founded in 1888 and still roasts its own beans in Gib.

You can buy the coffee - beans or ground/molido - all over Gib. It is dearer than coffee in Spain - but it has a smooth and subtle flavour. One of the few coffees I have ever had that tastes as good as it smells.

Cheese is much cheaper in Gib than in Spain. Especially when Morrisons have a two for one offer. My favourite happens to be white Cheshire, but it would be - my parents (and me) spent years selling it on the market. Although not in plastic bags - it came from real Farmhouse cheeses. Still, cheese out of the plastic bags is better than nothing.

Gib Produce - fresh fruit and veg grown on the rock. Delicious raspberries - mmmm.

Other veg - cauliflowers - always cheaper than in Spain. Small new potatoes - can't get them in Spain where we live. And there is often some organic produce too - especially the beetroot. Yummy.

Vegetarian products - tofu, quorn products (now with free-range egg), veggie sausages, deli-slices for sandwiches. All much cheaper than in Spain. Although I've not seen tempeh and seitan which are easy to find in Spain.

Organic tinned tomatoes - not cheap, but delicious.

Morrison's also has an interesting selection of cider.

On your way out, don't forget to fill up. Diesel was 58p a litre on Monday this week, around 90 cents I think.

So those are my tips. I wouldn't make a specific trip to buy these things, but when I go I think they are worth buying. And if you drink spirits and smoke.....Try the shops in Main Street. Especially if you like Larios.

Oh, and the drive down is nice. Especially if someone else is behind the wheel.

The sea, and the beach....

Sohail castle at Fuengirola