Saturday, August 20, 2011

Finca renovation - Part Whatever

The last two weeks have seen another blitz on the finca renovation project.

Part of the problem is that we have too much stuff. Not only do we have too much furniture for a small house, we managed to bring every single bag of paper insecurity with us to Spain so our cupboards were crammed full of papers dating back some 20 years.

After all, when I started in journalism, on my first day, I was told I MUST keep all my old shorthand notebooks. It turned out the company had an injunction against it by an unmentionable firm, due to some rather sloppy reporting and editing, so it was decreed ever afterwards that all notebooks should be kept for centuries.

I followed this faithfully in my private life until this last fortnight when I chucked away half my life in a desperate attempt to gain decent living space.

Anyway, project dining room - cupboards and bookshelves emptied - temporarily housed in sitting room.

Walls needed repainting big time. A combination of neglect (working in Gib), humidity, and dust, had left them looking very sad and dilapidated. Still, have painter as partner and it was all soon as good as new. Took less time to paint the walls than it did to sort the wretched papers, and dust off all the books.

The window frames and shutters were washed down with sugar soap, they had a zillion coats of varnish on when we first put them in, and they looked as good as new after their sparkling treatment.

All the furniture was washed down too, and then polished off with beeswax.

Sheeted up and ready to go

Bookshelf emptied and sitting room full of transposed junk books and papers

A closer look at some of the books piled up all over the sofa - poor dog had nowhere to lie

But a quick wave of the magic wand (only took a week) and the books have mysteriously disappeared from the sitting room ...

... and are back on their shelves

Paintings back, desk clean and tidy, and shutters looking like new

Finally, we ate at our dining room table for the first time in rather too many years than I care to remember - it had become habit just to drop things on there until it was piled high with junk.

And when we weren't working on the dining room we decided to give the terrace garden a good hose down. Moving nearly 100 plantpots from one side to the other and back again isn't a lot of fun.

But there were some bright moments.

Tea kept us going (this one is Assam).

Next doors helped too - one day they cooked us tortilla and made a salad for our lunch.

And after a hard day's work, we usually chilled out with some sort of salad mix - here with olive pate and vegetarian slices.

Next installment - the kitchen.

Sunday, August 07, 2011


We were too idle to wander down to the lunchtime rally of Harley Davidsons in Casemates yesterday.

It was the sixth international rally with hundreds of bikes gathering in Gib.

For the first time, the bikers left the square for a tour around the Rock - so we didn't need to go and see the rally - it virtually came past our front door.

The unmistakeable sound of not one but hundreds of Harleys came roaring up Main Street (the wrong way !!) so I shot out to get a few pix.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

APC - a caching tale

Flushed with the success of our First To Find, here, in spite of going via a rubbish dump, and Partner falling down a tree hole, we set off to hunt down another one which had been up for a month with no record of a find.

We figured we should be in with a good chance unless someone had found it just before we arrived. Unlikely. We set off bright and early before it got too hot and too busy on the roads.

The cache was located near to Lake Vinuela. This is the main water supply for the Costa del Sol east of Málaga, and was created in the 1980s when the valley of the River Guaro was flooded. It takes a really bad drought for the water level to drop in Vinuela, and it holds up to 170 million cubic metres of water whatever that signifies.

I don't like Lake Vinuela. It is outstandingly beautiful and outstandingly spooky. The water always looks cold and chilling, and deep. Very deep. Readers of this blog will know that I happily swim in the deep water of the Med near our village - but I wouldn't dip my big toe in Vinuela.

Anyway we drove past Vinuela - and away from it - in search of the cache. We had to turn off the main road - but which turn to take? When we thought we had spotted the correct turn-off, we drove slightly further on, turned round and headed off up the side road. As the road got narrower, and higher, and more vertiginous, I looked at the GPS and realised we were heading away from the cache. Ooops. A quick turn around in someone's drive was called for.

We parked up in a rather nice olive grove, said 'Hola, buenas dias,' to some workies and set off down the track. Nope. Wrong again.

Sigh. This was meant to be an easy drive-in cache. I gazed at the GPS. We were a kilometre away and heading in the wrong direction. It was just after 8am, so we decided to walk down the road rather than getting in the Landy again.

It was a pleasant morning and there was no traffic. We met a dog walker looking very British with two dogs on a lead. (Spanish people in the country never lead up their dogs). 'Morning,' said Partner in his best British ex-pat voice. 'Morning' she replied in the same tone of voice, and smiled Britishly.

We got to the cache location. We looked all around and about. For ages. It had to be there. Somewhere. But where? Of course. Hidden in a glass jar, in one of those holes for a meter box, just above a drain. Great. What was in there? Nada. Apart from the log book - which had been finally signed by someone about 12 hours previously. Damn!! It sits there for more than a month with no locals finding it, and it finally gets found the evening before we visit by a holidaymaker from Germany. Oh well, can't find them all first.

One of my friends refers to some caches as APCs. Another Pointless Cache. In his words: 'APCs are typically a magnetic nano on a waste bin in a lay-by with no views or anything of significance, beauty or anything whatsoever!!'

I have to say this was an APC. Not quite according to his description but it certainly struck me as pointless. It would even have been pointless had we been FTF. The views are ok but it's hard to go anywhere in La Axarquía and not have good views. And certainly hiding it just above a mosquito-ridden drain ranks with a nano on a waste bin in a lay-by in my opinion. It would have been better hidden under the rocks by the olive tree over the road.

The walk was good though. Had we actually managed to drive right up to it, it would have been even more pointless. Still I guess it is unlikely to be vandalised, unlike the caches we have hidden in local beauty spots.

Looking towards the northern ridge

Looking towards Comares, the white village perched on the top of the hill

Looking - er - in the other direction??

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Making bread and - pizza! pizza! pizza!

Shortcrust pastry - tick.

Puff pastry - tick.

Omelettes - tick.

Soufflees - tick.

Hollandaise sauce - tick.

Mayo - well this post isn't about mayo.

Bread though - I needed to tick bread off the list.

Naturally I started with croissants. I have to say that if you haven't made bread before, possibly croissants are not the most sensible place to start. I thought they were 'cos they sounded like the puff pastry stuff with a bit of yeast chucked in.

They were terrible. Disastrous. Inedible. I left yeast alone for many years.

Bread-making did not happen again until marital bliss involved my partner making wholemeal loaves for a good few years.

Even more years later, I was still annoyed by this failure to tick bread off the list. I had a week off work. I bought a bread book. (Actually I bought two but one was better than the other). Most importantly I had a Rayburn. I figured the problem had not been letting the stuff rise or prove or whatever for long enough.

I determined that I would cook bread every single day until I had produced at least one decent loaf. And dear reader, I did, and I produced more than one.

In fact, I don't know where I went wrong before, it is so easy!!

Anyway, I have to recommend making your own pizza. Seriously. By the time you have rung up the pizza place, got them to deliver some soggy stuff with not really the topping that you want - or you have wandered up to collect your own slightly less soggy pizza - you could have made your own for less than half the price.

Should say - cost of flour (Allinsons) less than 50p. Cost of dried yeast (also Allinsons) - minimal - a 125g container costs 70 or 80p. I used to use fresh yeast but haven't found any in Gib. People living in Spain can buy it from Mercadona for around 30/35 cents. That reminds me, I started to decrease the recommended amount of yeast, you can usually manage with less.

Ingredients/quantities courtesy of Paola Gavin - Italian Vegetarian Cookery

1/2 oz of dried yeast, I use two teaspoons
8oz water
14oz flour
2 tablespoons of olive oil, I pour in what feels like enough

Add yeast to water and let dissolve until it looks nice and cloudy and yeastyish

Add olive oil to yeast and water

Add liquid to approx 8oz of flour

Mix well, then add more flour to wherever you are going to knead and put (soft and wet) dough on there to start the kneading

Keep adding flour until it is springy but still soft without being wet

Then add to bowl to rise for max one hour (in warm weather or a warm place, half an hour may be enough)

Cover with clean tea towel

When risen, knock back, and roll out to pizza shape of choice, I prefer squarish - my tins are square .....


I use a mix of wholemeal and white strong flour, probably more white as it gives a crispier base

Add a drop of olive oil to the bowl before you put the dough in to rise

Another drop for the tin or tray you are going to cook it in

Cooking time in hot oven? About 15 mins. See? Half an hour or so to rise, 15 mins to cook, and it's ready. DO NOT forget to put it on a cooling tray immediately to ensure the base stays crisp.


I used to use a tomato based sauce, but I have recently decided it is far more successful to just chuck a load of stuff on top like they do in pizza places.

So instead of sauce - chop up as many tomatoes as you want and cover base (I need to buy some puree to smear over too), add onion, garlic, hot chillies of your choice, olives, capers - and anything else you want.

I really dislike cheese on my pizza nowadays, I like a hot sharp and tasty veg pizza. But if you like cheese, and whatever else, go ahead, add it.

As my partner said - 'I can manage without cheese on my pizza, I can't manage without olives'.