Sunday, August 26, 2007


Who would have chickens?

I went in to change the two water drinkers, add some corn to the feeder, and chuck some greens down.

Of course, it's not helped by having to negotiate past a Land Rover, a Land Rover roof on its side, and a bucket of sand strategically placed between the two.

Anyway on the last trip I was busy pouring water from a watering can into the difficult drinker when I suddenly realised I had forgotten to put on - Wellingtons.

I was standing there in flip flops. In chicken shit and straw, and then water when the drinker slowly fell over.

And now the gas won't work for a hot shower. My shoes, feet, trousers and hands are covered in chicken shit.

Still it's hot enough anyway here so a tepid one is no bad thing.

Must go.

Saturday, August 25, 2007


We missed the local village fair this year. It happens around the end of June.

Sometimes it coincides with our birthdays, this year it didn't - fortunately, and we cleared off to Gib for the weekend of the feria to avoid the noise.

Spanish fairs are quite a novelty to start with. But after a few nights with music (always the sort you don't like) blaring out until 3 or 4am, the attraction soon fades.

And to be honest - there is nothing to do. I used to like fairs when I was a kid, I would happily wander round and go on the rides with my dad while my mum stood there with a long-suffering face. (There were usually quite a few nice lads hanging around too...)

Regarding fairs, I married someone like my mum. So going to the fair is not the prime choice for an evening out for this couple. Maybe I've also realised that cocks and horses aren't really for 40-somethings without a child in tow.

As for the Málaga feria, we have only ever been to the daytime one. Nothing seemed to happen there either. And being early-to-bed and early-to-rise types we have never been to the mega night-time event. But here are pix from the bus window of the night-time fairground, the closest either of us has got. It is meant to be spectacular. Who knows?

Málaga feria is in August and is pretty big. It has finished now. But why lots of people congregate to do nothing much in the middle of the night is beyond me.

Sadly it's also feria in Gib at the moment. The music is not as loud as it is in our village so it doesn't stop you sleeping. So I've no idea how long it goes on for every night.

To all those of you who like ferias - great - and enjoy them while you can. Either I'm far too old now, or I've spent too many years living with someone who doesn't like them.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Picante picante

We like olives. We have tried lots of types and I have even done my own. Didn't put enough salt in if I have to be honest. Not for the flavour - but the preservation - so they weren't firm enough.

Adelina unhelpfully told me this after the event when I moaned saying mine had gone soft whereas hers were still very firm and juicy.

When we buy them - which is most of the time now, after the above failure - we like the ones marinated (aliñada) in herbs, preferably with a couple of chillies thrown in too.

I went to the nice Moroccan man down the street where I buy my veg and sometimes Moroccan bread.

"I'll have some aceitunas," I said mixing my languages like everyone else.

"Yes madam. What sort madam?"

"Tiene picante?"

"Yes madam. These are picante madam.

"That will be 50 pence madam."

Very good they are too. When we buy them in Spain, we get the marinade. But these were just dry in a dinky little plastic bag, with more of a paste.

Yummy. I managed to make the bag last two days, but I was back the day after for more.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Embarrassing photos

Being a considerate sort of woman, I always try and stop and take photos of Land Rovers for Land Rover Obsessed Partner to see.

Naturally there are lots in Gibraltar. Usually with an MOD reg.

So I took a couple of snaps as I was walking towards the frontier.


I looked round. I couldn't see anyone else not walking. Perhaps they meant me. I tried to look nonchalant. Bit difficult in the circumstances.

A guy waiting at the gate grinned and said "You're OK now." Maybe they were talking to me. It was only a brief pause to zoom in on the Landy. And I was hardly straggling at the back.

I stayed and took photos of the plane that was due to take off (hence the rush to get rid of the pedestrians....). Thought I might as well make the most of the embarrassing incident.

Neighbours ........ Gibstyle

The great thing about having two places is that I have two lots of neighbours to gossip about.

And in a block of flats there are lots of them. Like the guy upstairs who decided to start partying at 6am one Sunday morning with some fairly grotty music. It's not always the loudness of the music that matters, it's also whether it is to your personal taste. This wasn't to mine.

Anyway Early Rising Partner didn't give two hoots. He was thinking of getting up anyway, not for him an nice idle lie-in on Sunday. Not for anyone on this particular Sunday.

Our neighbour opposite shouted down to us about it. We shouted back up. We discussed very loudly and unsubtly how noisy it was. It had no impact.

Next she collared one of the other residents in our building, who does a bit of co-ordination in the block, and a few jobs. He clearly didn't want to know and walked off.

It got to about lunchtime, and although we'd had a brief respite, the row started up again. Suddenly, Calm Relaxed Partner who was not remotely bothered at 6am, suddenly decided He Had Heard Enough.

So off he went upstairs and pointed out that this was a quiet block, the noise was too loud, and it would be really good if said tenant could turn it down.

"After all, you are only renting, aren't you?" he said just before he came back down.

There was no more noise that day. We went back to Spain for a few weeks. On our return to Gib, our neighbour opposite beamed and said there had been no more noise.

A few days later Responsible Partner met the guy who owns the lease for the block. "Oh, I heard about you. You are the guy who asked the tenant upstairs to turn down the music." I should imagine most of Gibraltar knew about it.

While they were chatting they spoke about the charges for the block. There is a list in the hall and it shows who hasn't paid and by how much. Not us, I might add.

The guy who does some of the jobs, and the cleaning ("You will be lucky if it gets done once a month," added the leaseholder) owes money. He owes far less money than he has had in payments. These charges are not huge. They are a few hundred pounds a year.

I think it is grossly inconsiderate and disrespectful to your neighbours not to pay your share of the charges. Apart from anything else, it means there are delays to any other maintenance work - and delays just mean the cost will end up being more. Selfish toerags.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Gibraltar - or Alcatraz?

Here is another Gibpic. I mean Alcatraz.

I am slightly racked off. A friend of many years sent me a postcard. She had been to Alcatraz and said it reminded her of Gibraltar.

"Rocks, military buildings, guns etc," she wrote.

I haven't been to Alcatraz. As far as I am aware it is an island. Gibraltar is not an island. Alcatraz was discovered in the eighteenth century. Gibraltar's heritage is far older than that. It has been British for more than 300 years. Before that it was Spanish and Moorish. It is truly multi-cultural.

They are both called The Rock. That is a fair point. They both have military buildings and guns - as do a lot of other places. Gibraltar was a garrison, but not a military prison. It has certainly never been a high-security prison - for which Alcatraz is best known.

I write and tell her I have bought a small flat in - to me, a nice location - and the next thing I get is a snotty comment telling me it is like the best-known high-security prison in the world.

Friends. Huh.

Oh, it was cloudy in Gib today - although sunny on the other side of the frontier in Spain.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Postcard from Gib

On hols. Back later. Weather nice.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Summer paella - with asparagus

When we first arrived here, Adelina next-door would regularly give us tasty samplings of the local food.

She is not a brilliant international chef, but she is a great local cook and wherever possible cooks using seasonal produce and as cheaply as possible. I've learned a lot from her.

So one Sunday, after we had been here a while, she gave us two huge plates of paella.

The rice was great. The peas were frozen (out of season at the time), and we don't eat prawns. The dogs liked them though.

Paella is not one of the things I have learned to cook from her. But I have learned to cook paella while I have been here. How can you live in Spain and not cook paella?

Tip 1
A good pan.

Mine is cast iron and cost a fortune when I indulged myself buying pans for our Rayburn in the UK (to be the subject of another post in itself...).

Tip 2
Find the right rice.

I use a Spanish rice from the Ebro delta. It's organic and it is redondo (round). It works well but other cheaper rices are just as good. But they need to be for paella.

I made paella a few times in the UK with all manner of things in it. Chicken, rabbit, prawns, fish.... far too many conflicting ingredients. Like a lot of things in Spanish cooking the simpler the better.

So today we had a summer paella. I was lacking imagination and the good thing about it is that it is one-pan cooking so Washing-Up Partner doesn't moan.

I cheated on the local ingredients. The asparagus is imported. There is a bit of a hungry gap here in summer (hot and dry), so inspiration flags a bit and the asparagus is a nice change.

The fresh onions are local, the garlic is from Málaga, as is the saffron, the tomatoes (not in pic) were from a neighbour, and the basil and parsley are out of the garden.

This is enough for two people for a meal, or four as a side dish/starter/intermediary course. With a bit left over for the dog's breakfast because he likes rice and veggies.

Fry garlic, onion, (I used leek too), and basil briefly on a low heat.

Then add the asparagus, chopped into small pieces, obviously leaving the tips intact. If the heat is too high add a drop of water.

Otherwise add the rice and fry briefly before adding more water. I use bottled. I also boiled the trimmings of the stalks in bottled water and used that as a vegetable stock. The chickens then get the remaining cooked stalks.

You can use any sort of stock, but because this is based on asparagus I wouldn't recommend anything too strong or it will detract from the flavour. A very light chicken stock would be the most I would suggest.

I use a mix of a risotto/paella method. That's partly because the bottled gas here has a fierce heat, so adding cold water occasionally stops the rice burning or sticking. If I put all boiling water in straightaway it would be a disaster. Different fuels need different methods. I don't use a sofrito ie frying the tomato with the onion. I add it later after the rice and water as I think it gives a cleaner taste.

Saffron. Azafran.
I discovered after a while that Adelina used food colouring which was why her rice was violently yellow. I have no idea whether I can really tell the difference but I snobbily stick to saffron.

I am not very economical with it either. But I can say after trying various methods of trying to impregnate a golden colour into the rice that adding 3 strands to boiling water in a jug does not work for me.

Far better to put a sprinkling into the pan at an early stage of the frying and later on the rice just suddenly turns a sunkissed colour. I don't really want it to look like I have put in three tablespoons of turmeric, but I want some colour.

Finally - on the risotto line - I think this is equally good without tomato, but with a sprinkling of Parmesan or a similar hard cheese of choice. Again not too much to drown the asparagus.

I've still got a fridge full of berenjenas - but I really don't think they go with asparagus. Berenjenas recipes to follow.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Queues..and keys

Whenever you enter somewhere in Spain - shop, bank, water office, even the local bus stop - there is always a queue.

It's not obvious of course. Oh no. It's not one of those British taily things (Spanish for queue is una cola - a tail), it's an imperceptible thing.

After all, why would you stand in a line when you want to catch up on the local gossip with Maria or Reme, Paco or Juan, who are just a bit further away from you.

So, when you enter - somewhere, you politely ask "¿Quien es el último?"

Remember to notice who this person is. You are always stuffed though if they clear off because they can't be bothered to wait and you don't know who they were behind. That's a minor point - it doesn't happen too often.

When you find out who the last person is, you go to chat to your mates while you are waiting. This works well for paying bills.

The local supermarket is slightly different. The main one in town just has your average boring queue. So that doesn't count.

Here in the village people live in the past. They go in, grab a basket, put a couple of things in and then plonk it in front of the counter to book a place. Then they go round the shop for more things. I joke not. Sometimes there is a melee of people and baskets, none of whom are actually queuing, just chatting.

But when you are standing there dutifully queuing, with for example, a bottle of olive oil and a bottle of water, some old dear will cheerfully walk up to the empty basket in front of you with an arm full of goodies to take up the place that she has booked. In front of you and six other people. And no-one says anything. Apart from "¿Quien es el último?" and it obviously isn't the old dear.

The times must be a-changing somewhat though. Shopping Partner went down the other week and a woman in front of him had quite a few items. No pre-booked place, it was a proper queue, but she decided she wanted some other things. So she told the cashier she was just going to get them.

"NO way," said the cashier. And unkeyed every single item from the till and put everything to one side. "Go to the back of the queue." Then she beamed at Shopping Partner, who after all is A Man, and therefore Worth Something - in economic terms, and rolled her eyes and muttered some obscenity about the previous punter.

Fast forward a few days, and he's down there again. One of the other optional customs is to let someone go in front of you if they have one or two items and you have more. Of course, you only ever get to go in front if you are A Man.

You can be a woman with a bottle of water and the person in front (usually another woman) has shopping piled up on the check-out for the next week, catering for her distant family who has just descended on her, but you will have to wait for every single 175 items to be keyed in.

Anyway, Shopping Partner spotted the neighbour with the proverbial bottle of water.

"Pasa, Jose, pasa." It was Shopping Partner's turn next so he thought he would let Jose in front. SP only had two or three items as well. But this was a total conspiracy. Behind was Skinny Legs. She lives down the street - in the biggest plot of the whole street - and is vaguely related to Jose through various marriages. She is a miserable old cow. Normally lives in Seville but turns up from time to time to take up residence in the shared family plot which has four houses. Possibly five now. One loses track.

She was not pleased. Jose and Shopping Partner were sniggering away like naughty schoolboys. Jose beamed. "Gracias, amigo." Off he went.

It came back on Jose though. The next day he arrived home after his walk. His woman was not home. She had gone to the shop (it's a daily ritual here). He didn't have his keys, after all when he left, she was at home. He stomped up and down his terrace.

Eventually she came back with the eldest daughter. Adelina (like many round here) can't read and write so she needs one of the daughters to go with her. Much shouting ensued.

"¡Coño!" each called the other. "Why didn't you take your keys?" each asked the other. "I didn't need them, you had them," they both said simultaneously.

When the daughter could finally stop laughing she managed to produce her set of house keys (fortunately). After all, every member of the extended family always has a key to the house. Whether they always have it with them is another matter. Luckily she did.