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Archive for the ‘Not walking’ Category

How on earth we can ever expect a smooth withdrawal from the EU?  I have no idea.

We only have to look at the complications found at local council level to see that the task is quite impossible.

Where we live, we have to pay our local council for a permit to park on the road outside our house. This ‘tax’ was introduced a couple of years ago. During that time, we have not moved house and have not changed our car (readers may need to remember these two facts).

permit-holders

Our own street allows non-permit holders to park for up to 1 hour

If we had done either, the parking permit we had paid for would become invalid. So far so good?

About be same time that the council implemented the new parking charge we bought the house (under dwelling) beneath us.

So, to clarify: we live at #XX and the flat/apartment below us is #XXa.  Still with me?

Whenever you own a property, you have to pay council tax – that’s not a problem, that’s a fact of life.  So, until the home below us was occupied by tenants, Sharon registered herself for council tax there and, being thoughtful for the prospective tenants, she applied for a non-specific resident visitor-parking pass.  Unlike our own, these are free as the pass is for visitors to the house and not for any specific car.

Before being issued with any car-specific pass, the applicant is cross-referenced to council tax records and has to provide proof of car registration/insurance/mot etc. at the required address. We obviously did this for our #XX application but had no need to do so for the #XXa application as (at that time), no car was involved at that address.

Still with me?

Once the new tenants moved in, bought and registered their own car, our own interest in #XXa ceased. The tenants have changed the car since their first permit and have therefore paid the £15 charge twice.

Last week, we came home to find a parking ticket on our own car’s windscreen!

parking ticket

Bearing in mind the fact that we haven’t changed any of our details we (obviously?) appealed against this fine, online.

The appeal was turned down – so you can imagine the ensuing phone call to the council!!

It turns out that when Sharon applied for the initial visitor pass for #XXa, some numpty at the council changed OUR #XX car permit registration to #XXa. This is something that should not have happened as they had not been provided with (because they didn’t ask for) proof of car registration/insurance/mot at the new address. Had they asked then, we would not have had the problem now.

So, for two years our pass has been (in their eyes) invalid and so we have been parked illegally. Outside our own house.

Needless to say, this has now been sorted out after some discussion and a new permit is being prepared.

But Brexit?  Really? FFS!!!

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Sadly, I forgot to take photographs of all the ‘free’ food we were presented with in Spain this year.  Furthermore, I only remembered to photograph some of the food we ‘paid’ for.

However, all of the food was delicious.

picture of tuna steak - a la plancha

Sharon’s tuna steak

Whilst holidaying on the Costa Tropical, in the Granada region of Andalucía, we encountered much in the way of free food; we’d buy a drink … and we’d get a free tapa! This doesn’t happen everywhere in Spain, but where it does happen, you feel welcomed and that your custom is valued.

We’ve had such tapas before further inland, and there the price of drinks compares well (often cheaper) with those prices charged on the big ‘no-tapas’ Costas.  In Salobreña and thereabouts, the prices for beer and wine were ever so slightly dearer (perhaps €1.70 – €2.00 each as opposed to €1.40 – €1.70), but every drink came with food.

Your first drink would come along and be accompanied by a particular tapa, e.g. Spanish cheese and olives. Then the subsequent order(s) would each be accompanied by different tapa, e.g. Croquetta with salad leaves or a small plate of jamón.  Even when we went somewhere for a meal, some small thing would be presented to us with our first drink.

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There are a couple of places too in Los Boliches (near Fuengirola), where such treats can be had – the difference here being that the drink doesn’t always come with a tapa. But, there are deals to be had.  A caña (small beer 15cl, 20cl, 25cl) can be had without food, but you can also order a tapa (of your own choice, not just presented to you) to accompany the drink for a combined price of (e.g.) €1.40 or €1.60. 

Often, this will be for the smaller beer, but not always.

Other cafes locally (Los Boliches) sell tapa separately for anything from €2.00 (these are usually slightly larger portions and – for me – often big enough to be called lunch) and in the main they are home-cooked and delicious. So far, our favourite is Bar Pepe in the Plaza Carmen.

We’re learning to avoid the places where cheap frozen ‘stuff’ is served.

I guess that all of this illustrates some of the differences between the Spanish and UK drinking cultures. In Spain, food and drink are inextricably bound together, whereas we see them as two different entities. In Spain, a workman will finish his day (or begin his midday break) with a beer and a tapa, whereas here in the UK I see all the local bars full of workmen finishing their day by quaffing pints and eating nothing more than a packet of crisps.

picture of tomatoes cut and placed on a plate

A simple ‘starter’ of tomato, oil and garlic.

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What is it about a cup of tea that separates the ‘Englishman/English woman’ from the rest of the world?

[Beware – there are some extreme personal tastes and opinions below.]

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Sharon and I have spent some time in the past, driving around the U.S.A. 

We would end each day desperate for a cup of tea, after driving for hours on end. Or, having woken in the morning needing our ‘morning cuppa’, we would find the only thing available to us was coffee. For those of you who have not travelled there, what I mean is ‘there is no kettle!’, only a coffee machine of some kind or another is provided, along with coffee creamer (yuk).

640px-Mug_of_TeaHere in Spain, it is a similar situation, as hotels do not provide cups or mugs, or indeed any means of making water hot at all.  At least in France you can boil water.  It’s of no use either, trying a nearby restaurant or café as there is nowhere else in the world that knows how make a ‘decent cup of tea’.

So, the trick in those places where hot water can be had, is to take your own teabags.  The ones available locally might say ‘English Breakfast’ or some similar untruth, but they will not have the strength or depth of colour I (we) expect.

There is nothing like a good cup of tea. (I hear both sisters in law suggesting the opposite however.)

Having said all of that, when I am out drinking coffee, I’d rather be in any other place than the U.K. because the coffee we serve at home is nasty.  Nuff said.

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I appear to be becoming a curmudgeon.

It is not a position I’ve ever aimed at or asked for, simply one that I am growing into now that I am not working full time. You might think that it takes hard graft to develop the skills a curmudgeon requires, but most have just appeared naturally as I grow steadily older and pass through the various qualification phases.

When I first realised that I had achieved my current status, as grouch, I’d hoped I would not follow the natural progression; after all who ‘wants’ to be a curmudgeon! I’d already been ‘Mr. Grumpy’ for quite a while, so I thought that perhaps being a grouch might last a lot longer.

Not so. Not as far as I can see.

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The reason I’m afraid that curmudgeonliness is around the corner is that I’m happy to regale anyone who asks, with what’s wrong with the world; whether they are interested or not.

BREXIT.
Who knew an entire nation could be so stupid as to commit national hari-kari in this way!

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Of course, as one of the <48% that voted to stay with Europe, I am now branded as a ‘remoaner’. So, for now, I’m a curmudgeon-remoaner and so to finish my Brexit curmoan (Ooo, a new word), I need to say that (in my opinion) leaving the EU with less than a 4% majority will always be folly (after all, if a General Election showed such a small majority it would be sure to be re-held before five years maximum).

giphy

NHS
I have many views on the state of the NHS and not just because I am at the threshold of an age where I will need to use it more and more.  When it began back in 1948:

The central principles [were] clear: the health service [would] be available to all and financed entirely from taxation, which means that people pay into it according to their means.1

I have paid taxes and National Insurance throughout my working life and continue to do so.  Yet, the services that were once available to me, whilst still there, are dangerously hard pressed, hard to access and often costly.

My own town’s A & E department, like many others, is due to move over to the next town’s A & E in due course, leaving thousands of potential patients with longer journey and wait times to be seen by doctors/nursing staff.  This is not because the local A & E has a bad record or is underused – but simply because the Government (in my curmudgeonly opinion) will not fund two hospitals less than eight miles apart, when one is part of a PFI scheme (not ours!).

Nevermind the population affected!

And while I’m at it …

VAPING

Why?

POLICING

Does anyone remember when the police were interested and responded to phone calls reporting anti-social behaviour?

ROADS

When was the last time you managed to drive to work (or anywhere) without having to avoid massive potholes in the road?

FOOD and DRINK

Why is the quality of pub restaurant food and general service so bad in this country? ….. And, don’t mention the coffee!

So, to anyone who cares, I’m sorry – to everyone else Bah Humbug!

1 – https://www.nhs.uk/NHSEngland/thenhs/nhshistory/Pages/NHShistory1948.aspx

Credit where credit is due for the Euro pic – it’s not mine but I don’t know whose it is. So thank you anyway.

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Sharon and I are fairly well travelled and over the years we’ve stayed in a wide variety of apartments, Gites, B & Bs, private homes and hotels in Europe, Australia and the U.S.A.  In Spain, we’ve usually stayed in hotels, but for our recent holiday with friends, we stayed in a 6-7 berth villa near Salobreña on the Costa Tropical, east of Malaga.

Sadly, on balance, I cannot say that the accommodation was one of the best I’ve ever stayed in. I decided not to put this review on Trip Advisor as it really is NOT very good. However, if anyone searches for Villa Maeve, Salobreña – they may find this report and make up their own minds.

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First of all, some good bits; Villa Maeve has fabulous, commanding views down along the Costa Tropical on the southern coast, east of Malaga.  The view takes in Salobreña, with its white painted houses and hill top castle, as well as the coastline down beyond Motril.  From some points of the terrace, we could even see the snow-capped mountains of the Sierra Nevada.

We had arranged for the pool to be heated, so that we could swim when we got here, but soon noted that the cost for that was going to be prohibitive¹. So, we had the pool-heating turned off fairly early. That’s a lesson learned for using pools out of season.

The WiFi was good, efficient and reliable, and there was U.K. T.V., but we didn’t turn that on, so cannot comment².

The wood fire in the living room was a life-saver.  It burned fuel efficiently and kept us warm on an evening.

The house is heated by solid wall heaters or warm air machines, but as the lounge/living area is an open space with single-glazed windows and an outside door that is draughty and which has no curtain – we chose to burn wood rather than electricity.  Each bag cost between €4.45 and €4.95 and we burned oak, pine and olive wood.  The olive burned best I think, but without the means of chopping the logs smaller, we got very little chance of using only olive.  We had to use pine to get a blaze going before adding the huge olive logs and then we had to turn the olive constantly to get it to burn through.

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In spring and summer, this could be a fabulous place to stay, but now, in a wintery January, it’s just quite chilly up on the hillside. Also, because of the time of year all of the eateries we’d planned to use were closed, which meant we had to eat-in most of the time. Which meant we HAD to use the house.

The house itself was a huge disappointment. We wouldn’t normally bother about the odd cracked tile, faulty light bulb or missing door knob but this place needs a good bit of TLC.  Doors and windows rattled and didn’t close efficiently; and, along with tired, worn and dusty wall hangings and decorations, gave the place a ‘used’ feel.  The floors and surfaces were clean, probably part of a pre-guest-arrival routine, but the pictures and ornaments (statuary) were very dirty/dusty.

The electric points were many, but many didn’t work.  I suspect that the circuitry is original and that it has not has not been updated – ever.  My EU/Spanish extension cable (brought to use for charging phones etc.) did not fit in any of the sockets as the pins were too fat.  The water boiler wasn’t wired directly into anything; it was plugged into an extension cable. The ceiling lights were all very dull and we had to keep moving the upright standard lamps for better lighting.

All very slapdash.

The cooker-timer could not be turned off, so there was a constant tick, tick, tick from the kitchen. The lights in every room were hit and miss – some worked and some didn’t.

On the plus side, the twin and double beds were comfortable and warm enough, even though the rooms were cold and some of the bedding was worn.  The master room had another double bed that couldn’t be used because there was no quilt for it.  We were told that this bed is never made up with a quilt!

Yet, I would defy anyone to sleep in this house, in January, without a quilt.  As I said above, January in this area is fairly chilly.

Notes:

1 – We hadn’t known about extra electricity charges until a deposit had been taken and then didn’t know about the pool being ‘un’ heated, and having to ‘heat’ it until a week or so before our visit.
2 – They also had a German T.V. receiver – which we also didn’t use.

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They say that if you keep your brain active and alert, it will slow down or prevent the onset of dementia.  

As a retiree, I find the eventual possibility and onset of dementia worrying.  I therefore keep as active as I can, I read copiously, I undertake puzzles and games on my iPad and I complete jig-saw puzzles.

All of this (hopefully) helps to prevent my memory from deteriorating too quickly.

It is also suggested that learning a new language can help to slow down the process of age related memory loss – or brain ageing.

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Well, bully for me – because I am desperately trying to learn Spanish.

However, I’ve never been good with language classes.

At secondary school, French was a subject only accessible to the top class (class ‘A’).  It took me a few years to reach that level and once I started to move up through ‘B’ and finally to the ‘A’ class, it was not accessible to me because I’d missed those early years. Later, at catering college, French Language was offered on Friday afternoons but it was not interesting and made no sense to my sixteen-year-old self.  Yet, the ‘kitchen’ French I learned in normal catering classes WAS interesting and I devoured that. I have always been able to decipher menus during the (roughly) thirty consecutive years I have visited France.

As a young adult, I attended evening classes, to learn German. I enjoyed those as they were aimed at grown-ups and Jill, the teacher, was fabulous.  I passed my Institute of Linguists ‘preliminary’ exam – no worries. The second year didn’t take off however and my interest lapsed.

I picked up French again when I began teaching, but by now it just seemed very hard and my progress was very slow.  I tried lunchtime courses, evening courses and – just a few years ago I attended an inclusive course in Sancerre.  I can get by in French. I can get by in German. But I cannot converse in either language.  Anything other than travel requisites (food, drink, fuel, rooms, tables, directions) and I begin to flounder.

I do not want that to happen with my Spanish. 

se habla español

I want to communicate socially and conversationally. 

To be fair, I am probably already at the stage it took me thirty years to reach in French, but it seems to be SO DIFFICULT.

And yet, I’m still avoiding formal classes.

Formal classes haven’t worked for me so far, so I’m undertaking some self-directed learning for now.  I’m using Duolingo as my base and have just recently completed ninety consecutive days of learning.  Each ‘day’ has a minimum of 10 minutes – I set that up at the beginning. I often do far more than that, but on busy days the minimum is 10 minutes.  I’ve found that online learning works ok for me, but that it does still lead to some confusion.  I therefore back up my learning on other sites and dictionaries. Google Translate is a Godsend.

750px-Flag_map_of_Spain.svgBecause Duolingo is available on the computer, as well as on my iPhone and iPad, it is constantly available.  If I stop for a coffee, instead of simply reading Facebook posts, I can complete a five-minute lesson on Duolingo, or its sister App Tinycards.  As time passes I find myself going over lessons more and more because the new words are taking much longer for me to process.

And that’s the thing:  How much more vocabulary do I need (do we need, as Sharon is also trying to learn Spanish) before I start to think in Spanish?  Some words and phrases come immediately to mind, without thinking what I need to say and, to be more fluent/competent, this needs to happen more often.

I have recently been given some children’s crime/adventure books, in Spanish, which I am beginning to wade through just now.  I know about 20% of the words on the page and understand about 40% of what is going on – but I have to stop and translate whole sentences to get the full gist.  I’m enjoying doing that – so perhaps all is not as bad as I think.

After all I studied for and achieved a Masters Degree – how hard can this be?

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For a few years now, I have had an inclination to grow a Movember moustache but could never quite be bothered.

This year however, that changed and on October 31st, I set out to grow a grand moustache on behalf this worthwhile charity.

But I’ve shaved it off now.  It’s all gone. I have a clean top lip and it’s only 13th November.

IMG_9248Why have I done that?

Well, despite all the hype, Facebook posts and the convenience of a Just Giving page, I have only managed to drum up my own starting contribution.  What’s more, I am told (by people I regard as friends – and family) that it (the moustache) makes me look:

  • ‘old’ (well, I am getting on that way), or …
  • ‘angry’ (I’m not!) or …
  • ‘a twat’ (a matter of opinion?), and …
  • I was offered money to shave it off.

I took the money and feel clean again.

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