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Posts Tagged ‘2016’

It’s now early February and I’m nearing the end of my sixty fifth birthday celebrations. After the UK celebrations, I decided I would spend two months in Spain. That time is almost up.

It’s been a fabulous stay, with friends popping in from time to time and a break (a big break) from the UK winter weather.

Following the celebrations at home, we set off on 12th December to stay in the Premier Inn at Heald Green, close to Manchester Airport. We arrived here in Torreblanca on the 13th https://dsugdenholidays.wordpress.com/2016/12/21/winter-201617/ and spent the Christmas and New Year period on our own, mainly just Sharon and me. Early on, she took me for a great day out in Malaga, on a food tour https://saturdaywalks.wordpress.com/2016/12/24/malaga-food-tour/ . See also: http://devourmalagafoodtours.com/

We also went for lots of walks. For example: up and down the hill lots of times; to and from Fuengirola, Los Boliches or Torreblanca (quite often!). We also caught the train to Torremolinos and walked back to Benalmadena a couple of times.

I’ve written elsewhere about our walks up and around the hills behind the apartment for exploration. See:

fullsizerender-3Michelle came up from Gibraltar one day before Christmas and we took her up to Mijas before deciding it was too cold up there and coming back down to Los Boliches and eating in Mason Salvador. She came up to see us again early in the New Year and we took her for a day out in Malaga. As in all the subsequent visits (with JT, DT and Tony, as well as with Martin and Lin), we visited the marina, the castle (Castillo de Gibralfaro) and the city itself, sampling some of the places Sharon and I had enjoyed on the food tour.

Sharon had to return to the UK for a couple of weeks on 12th January and while she was away, friends came over and stayed with me.

3-amigosJohn (JT) came out to visit first and we went more or less straight down to Gibraltar to see Michelle (his daughter) and we spent the day there with friends and shopping. Michelle cooked a delightful Pork Fillet Wellington for dinner – splendid.  John’s brother David (DT) came out on the Sunday to stay in 916 and Tony (TT) flew in on the Tuesday; so, there was quite a crossover of friends whilst Sharon was back in the UK. We ‘did’ Malaga again and walked up to Mijas (twice, once with JT and Dt and again then, with TT – we also walked back – which nearly broke me J )

Most evenings we ate out, but one rainy evening, the weather was so bad that we decided to come straight back and ‘eat in’. This was probably the best meal of their stay; we had all sorts of food, DT cooked steak, I cooked Tortilla and we emptied our fridges of other cold foods and salads (and beer).

three-amigos

Sharon arrived back the same day that Lin and Martin arrived to stay with us for a week. During that week, we had trips to Mijas, to Malaga and to Gibraltar where Michelle, again did us proud. She drove us onto The Rock and gave us a magnificent tour, showing us viewing points and time to see the marching re-enactment of the ceremony of the keys. http://www.visitgibraltar.gi/event/re-enactment-association-saturday-march/187. We had a late lunch in La Linea before setting off back before it was too dark.

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So that’s it. All visitors arrived home safely and we depart on Sunday.  Back again soon.

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As I said in a previous post, this is my birthday month.

Sharon’s ‘surprise’ gift to me was a Food, wine and history walking tour of Malaga (seeing as we’re down here for Christmas anyway). It was a surprise inasmuch as I only knew that on a particular day we had to catch a particular train from Torreblanca, to be able to present ourselves in the Plaza de la Constitución at 10:30am prompt.  31467462750_82c0fe75d0_n

We were met by Susanne, our guide and were joined by Mike from Manchester.

So just the three of us on the tour – which made it so much better than it might have been with lots more people. Sharon had booked with a company called Devour Spain – they also do tours of Madrid, Seville and Barcelona.

The trip starts with a short history of Malaga’s varying population from the ancient Phoenicians through Romans, Moors and the current Christian occupation. This was then used to pin the different dishes and tastes we went through during our 3½ – 4-hour tour.

We started with (slightly late for me) breakfast at Café Central, just on the corner of the square.

coffee-cupWe were told about the owner’s history and how he came to serve 10 (ten!) different sizes and styles of coffee. We had Pitufo con tomate and churros with our coffee. I had largo. All the coffees come in cups or glasses marked with a percentage – to show that you have been served exactly what you ordered.

Following breakfast we took a stroll to Malaga’s main market: Mercado de Atarazanas where we visited two stalls for extended tastings and more history. Our first tasting stop was the Cristóbal Rios olive stall (stand 241-248).  We tasted three types of olive (but I cannot remember their names – sorry), all varying in strength and taste, along with fried  marcona almonds and locally dried moscatel raisins. These were all delicious.

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Our next stop was at El Niño, still inside the market (stand 187-189). Here we were given a taste of sweet Malaga muscatel wine and a plate of cold cutsJ  There was a tasty, hard goats cheese, Iberian ham, Serrano ham, chorizo and salchichón. It was great to actually have both hams on the same plate, so I could see and taste the difference – and THERE IS a difference! Serrano ham is a much milder flavour and has much less fat than the prized Iberian product. Iberian ham is much fattier, tastier and deeper in flavour – as it should be given the way the pigs are bred. Often known as pata negra, these hams can be seen as different from serrano simply by having black feet. The two sausages were ok, but tend to be much nicer  when cooked.

market_platter

Having had our fill of market produce we took a fairly good stroll to the other side of town to Mainake, a specialist wine merchant. Here we tasted three local Andalusian wines that were unusually dry (rather than the more normal sweet Malaga wines). One white was to Sharon’s taste but too Retsina-ish for me, and then two very young red wines which were, once again, not to my taste.

Lunch was taken at Mesón Mariano in the city centre. We were presented with an amuse bouche of sorts, which was then followed by four entirely different tapas and a single sweet. The restaurant specialises in artichoke dishes and so we started with an artichoke dish: Alcachofas en salsa (it actually had a different name, but looked like this), then we had Boquerones simply coated in seasoned flour and fried. Boquerones are a small white anchovy local to Malaga. Someone from Malaga might be known as a Boquerón.

We then had a tuna dish that was delicious, but what it was called and what the sauce was made of is now beyond me as I was too engrossed with the previous two dishes. Our final tapa was a plate of Albondigas in a local almond sauce.  I like the sauce, but the meatballs were too big and the texture too doughy for my taste.  Our postres (dessert) was a local speciality: Leche frito. This is condensed milk that is friend and topped with a nougat (turrón) ice cream. That was DIFFERENT.

That was it – our tour was over, but it had been a delight. Excellently led by Susanne.

We stayed over in Malaga and had breakfast once again at Café Central. This time we were able to order our own food and coffee (and agua del grifo – tap water J)

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I was sixty-five this month.

To celebrate a lifetime of learning and working, I invited six of my closest chums to join Sharon and me for dinner at The Watermill in Slaithwaite. John R, I met during my first week at secondary school (I met his wife Sandy, when they married). John T, I met when playing rugby and after my family had moved from Sheepridge to Deighton. I met Carol later in life when we all met up again a few years later. Tony and I met in mid-life, when we attended teacher training college. We followed that up by working together in a catering business/franchise, which is when I met Gill, his wife.  We have all done all sorts of things, together and apart.  We had a great meal, followed by dessert at home (Sharon had made cake and Carol had made us tub of her bombe 🙂 ).

img_7450Prior to this, we held open house on the Saturday before my birthday.  Almost forty friends from various parts of my life (and life line) came along to this and we all had a great time chatting and reminiscing.

I had decided to provide a selection of Spanish dishes, tapas size, with beer and cava brought back from Spain in October. Sharon decorated the house in a pseudo Spanish style with a big flag, an inflatable beer island, an inflatable cactus and lots of streamers.

I prepared:

  • EMPANADILLAs, made from potatoes, swede, cheese and onion (baked not fried).
  • I sliced some Spanish Sheep (oveja) cheese. We’d probably call it MANCHEGO.
  • I cooked TORTILLA. Each filled with six eggs, potato and onion. 12 portions each.
  • PATATAS BRAVAS – roast potatoes with spicy tomato sauce.
  • ALBONDIGAS – mixed pork and beef meatballs in a tomato sauce.
  • I also made my version of the Spanish SALAD RUSSE with lots of potato and vegetables (and a little tuna in some).
  • and .. Sharon made a wonderful BEETROOT HUMOUS

I had also made my own focaccia bread to go with all this. As it didn’t turn out quite right, I toasted small pieces of this in the oven – which made it perfect. People pretty much helped themselves while I sliced the main act, SERRANO HAM, off the bone as required.  Thank you for this Aldi!

Emma and family had not been able to make the open house as it was Amy’s birthday, but they came around the following week for a meal. I invited my mum and dad to this too as I wouldn’t see them for the best part of two months afterwards.

So, I’ve had a great birthday month. I’m in Spain now and will receive my birthday gift from Sharon on Tuesday when she takes me on a surprise ‘something’ in Malaga. I’m looking forward to that.

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I hate this time of year.

The clocks have now gone back one hour and the days seem much shorter, darker and so very much colder. It has been the same every year, for all of my life; but now I don’t have to be up early and off to work. Now, I can do the work I get, online, so I don’t have to leave the house.

Perhaps in those ‘leave the house’ days I appreciated the slightly lighter mornings in November, but never the very much darker drive home – THAT was ALWAYS horrendous, no matter where I was working.

I understand the reasons behind the original implementation; we had considerably more rural areas back then and there was a war to fight (the Germans implemented daylight saving time in 1916 – so we did too!). I guess the long hours worked by factory/mill workers during the Industrial Revolution meant that it didn’t affect them much (no matter what time the sun came up in November-January, they wouldn’t see it), so only over time, as working hours were reduced, did it ‘matter’.

I can see why those living in more northerly climes would want an extra hour of daylight in the morning as it could stay dark for an awful long time – but there really is just an exact amount of daylight available, there’s nothing we can do about that. So if it’s lighter in the morning, it’s depressingly darker in the early evening.

For those of us who hate winter, and who have the chance to ‘see’ some the day, it is very depressing to be pulling on the curtains at 4:30pm and closing down for the day. Especially when, as usual, the day has been overcast and (often) damp.

As I say …. I hate this time of year.

 

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I feel disenfranchised.

I really do. And so, I have to get this off my chest and put it somewhere to reflect on some years down the line.

I lost the 2010 election, because the Liberal party I voted for decided to aid and abet the Tory party I especially didn’t (and would never) vote for. I lost the 2015 election because the Labour party I voted for on this occasion, were, after five years in opposition, so weak and namby pamby that they didn’t have a chance!  Well, they sort of had a chance but were seen for what they are in Scotland and lost all their historic seats to an emergent Scottish national party – leaving the Tory ‘winners’ with a clear majority (on a 66% turnout) and free to wreak havoc on the NHS and our position in Europe.

The labour party; the one I voted for in 2015, were and are still in turmoil. The liberal party (the one I had traditionally voted for and whose social policies most closely matched my own views) were almost completely obliterated; their decision to back a vicious evil-banker-supporting, common-people-hating Tory party for five years – coupled with the fact that they dropped the most important policies they had campaigned for, made them factio non grata (or something like that).

Because Scotland had returned so many Scottish Nationalists (SNP) in 2015, it would seem that Labour have no chance of forming any government, at any time in the future, without the support of various Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish nationalist parties. Fair enough, that’s politics.

However, I even lost the IN v OUT referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union (EU).

[A referendum on such an important matter should NEVER have been put to the populace. Never. Unlike a general election – where once we’ve cast our votes the successful party has five years to prove itself. Then at least, whether they like it or not, we get another chance to tell them what we think – this referendum result however, is permanent.]

Just less than 52% of my UK compatriots voted for OUT (on a 73% turnout). I was one of the just more than 48% to vote REMAIN. The fallout since that historic vote on June 23rd 2016 has been astonishing. Despite all of the information and (mostly) misinformation, from both sides, we are faced with a new regime, as the prime minister (who backed REMAIN) immediately resigned and left the celebrants to sort out the mess they had created.

AND what a mess!!!!

Just over one week later, leaders of the OUT campaign had failed to agree on a way forward and many had resigned (Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage). Some were even heard to retract the lies they had spouted during the long and windy campaign. Really? They hadn’t a clue what to do now!

So, the time between then and now (late July 2016) has been spent choosing (anointing) a new Tory Prime Minister, with vicious in-fighting in the labour party and with what to do with Article 50 (and when).

But events and decisions around those three issues are just too stagering to comment on, so just a few highlights:

  • Teresa May is P.M.
    • She appointed Boris Johnson as foreign secretary (!!!!!)
    • She sacked Michael Gove (yeah!)
    • She scares me
  • Jeremy Corbyn is labour leader (just)
    • He was balmed by media for the ‘out’ vote despite campaigning against his personal beliefs for ‘in’
    • There is a leadership battle within the labour party which seems to falling into Parliamentary Labour Party versus Members, and everything possible is being done by the PLP to prevent members voting for Corbyn. [I have thoughts on that too but not here and now]
  • Scotland, Gibraltar, London and Northern Ireland are all looking for ways to stay in Europe when/if (and ‘if’ is just as likely) Britain leaves.
  • Article 50 is a hot potato no one wants to be invoke or be responsible for.

REMAIN

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/brexit-news-second-eu-referendum-leave-voters-regret-bregret-choice-in-millions-a7113336.html

 

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Come what may

Come what may; within 36-40 hours we will know whether or not the United Kingdom has taken a giant leap into the unknown or voted to stay in the European Union. As I said in my previous post, I will be voting to ‘REMAIN’ – but that last poll I saw showed the vote at 44% to leave and 44% to remain.

It will be (have been?) tight then.

Either way, I’m sure that life will go on – although at what cost remains to be seen.  Neither result will be seen as a good thing and the wrangling will go on for months, or even years. I’ve even read this week (something I vaguely remember from when we first referendum’d in 1975) that the government is not obliged to ratify the decision and could, if it so wished, go on as if nothing had happened.

Well – WHY THEN have the bloody referendum in the first place!

It will not silence the Tory ‘Euro-haters’, it will not lead to a general election (oh if all general elections could generate this much interest….) and it will not be good for the country – or Europe as a whole.

I despair of it all now and just hope for the best. Whatever that might be.

 

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I decided several years ago that my opinions counted for nothing when it comes to politics. After all, I only voted Liberal in the 2010 election because they (the Liberals) had promised electoral reform AND to see that student fees would not be increased. Both promises were reneged on once they were given the chance to share a harsh Tory-led coalition, which saw poor and working class folks bear the brunt of re-paying evil bankers for their unforgiven thievery.

I have survived, one way or another, all of the political crap thrown at me (and mine) over almost forty years of working life.  I’ve been lucky. Yet, after six years of an uncaring, banker-loving Tory government many others have been less lucky. However ….

however, after those many years of ups and downs, fuel crises, recessions and occasional years of plenty I’m now being asked to vote on something so inconceivably important that it amazes me we have (need?) a government at all. I am still not clear WHY David Cameron decided to make the EU referendum a manifesto promise (which less than 37% of those bothered to vote (66% turnout), voted for) but here it is – we go to the polls on 23d June. See http://www.parliament.uk/eu-referendum

The question we’re asked is ‘Europe: in or out?’.  We are never asked questions like:

  1. a) ‘Syria, Libya, Iraq: bomb or not bomb?’,
  2. b) ‘Bankers: give them all our money or let them sink?’ or
  3. c) ‘NHS: kill it or not kill it?’ – but yet we’re being asked whether we should remain part of the EU or not.

This is the most horrendous plebiscite you could imagine. The populace is ill-informed and lied to by self serving politicians, who are similarly ill-informed about a future outside Europe.

And yet, this would appear to me to be the most important issue – if we vote ‘out’, what will change? No one knows!

So, because no one really knows what would happen should we vote to leave, issues have revolved around the current state of immigration and the economy, both of which seem to have become ‘European’ matters, rather than ‘all-world’ problems – which they are.

This country was on its knees when we joined the common market, or whatever it was called back then; we’d just had a three-day week and Jim Callaghan was about to face a Winter of Discontent – only working together with partners and some sound Euro-management by Margaret Thatcher (hate her legacy as I do, I cannot deny that she knew how to deal with the EU) did we become the economic power we now seem to be.

For whatever reason, our economy is currently as good as if not better than most in Europe, but I don’t see that as a reason to leave the club we have nurtured and been nurtured by over the last forty years.

I’m staying in.

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