2018.12.09 All quiet on the fairground

We once took our grandchildren to the fair. It was a walk of about 20 minutes so we bribed them by promising a sorpresa (a surprise). Unfortunately the fair wasn’t due until five o’clock and we arrived at four. It took some persuasion and two bouncing balls to make the dissapointment go off the boys faces.

Our timing was a miscalculation that derived from our Dutch experience. In Holland fairs start at one in the afternoon and end around midnight. Here they start at 12:00 hours, end at 14:00 hours, and start again at 17:00 hours. If you’re lucky.

Today we arrived at the fair at 17:45 hours and exerienced a déjà vu. Nothing was happening. A few parents with their kids strolled between utterly silent attractions. So we decided to walk to the city center, to arrive there just in time to see Eulalia disappear in the church again. After she was feasted with fireworks that made all present deaf for at least the rest of the night.

That indeed was our luck, because when we arrived at the fair again – we just wanted to be sure the fair actually was genuine – the cacophony of the music from the various attractions sounded like balm to our ears. It was an interesting way to get to know our new hometown. We’re in it for more.

^tvo

2018.12.08 Inversión

This is Lorca. Almost 100.000 people live here. We’ve been there once before during the feria at the end of September. The old city is nice to walk through with small streets and high Renaissance buildings.

But that’s not what this picture is about. It’s about the haze that is to be seen just under the mountains at the horizon. In the picture the haze is white, but most of the time it’s brown. This doesn’t look good and originates from several sources:

  • These last couple of weeks there has hardly been any wind. The sun is shining during the day time and the temperatures were rather high for the time of year. This kind of weather is called Veroño. This is nice for us, but it also produces a drought that causes unused farmlands to turn into dust. Since people who live in Spain like to drive like ‘devils’, particularly on dustroads, the dust is all around.
  • On top of the Veroño there is inversión. This means that there is a higher layer of air that is warmer and which prevents the relatively lower, and polluted colder air from getting up.
  • The next cause is the highway A7 which follows the length of the valley in which Lorca, Totana and Murcia are situated. The A7 is the artery which connects the agricultural areas around Almeria with the east coast cities such as Alicante, Valencia and Barcelona, and of course with the rest of Europe. So it’s a busy road.
  • Seventy percent of the family cars in Spain are diesels.
  • The valley between Lorca and Murcia is a mix of an industrial and agricultural area. The factories fume 24/7 and the farmers are allowed to burn their harvest residues from October onward.
  • Spaniards smoke a lot of cigarettes, eat much meat, have many pets, like cats and dogs, and breed chickens, pigs, goats, donkeys, horses and cattle that also contaminate the air with dust and methane gasses.

Although we hope the wind will soon settle in again, a change of winds will also announce a change in the weather. If this will be for the better, is an open question.

^tvo

2018.12.05 Día de la Constitución

At almost the end of October, when I wrote about Santa Eulalia de Mérida, no one knew we would come to live in Totana. What a way to celebrate our arrival in this very Spanish city.

For the next month there will be festivities about every weekend, except for Christmas. Most festivities are of a religious kind. Which is logical since Eulalia is a Saint. But there is also a large fair and a market.

And if this wasn’t enough, tomorrow is the Día de la Constitución (the Day of the Constitution). On the 6th of December 1978 the Spanish people, with an overwhelming majority of 93%, voted in favor of the new constitution which was written after Franco died. From 1983 forward this day is commemorated in Spain. All Spaniards have a day off.

To be honest, I am more thrilled by the commemoration of the constitution, than by Eulalia. Although many a Spaniard in Totana will disagree with me, considering all the posters of her that are exposed in the shops.

^tvo

2018.11.23 Black Friday

“Tomorrow it’s Black Friday.” Our daughter in law warned us. This morning we had forgotten all about it: “Let’s go shopping in the mall.”

After  a nice walk in the sun, passing the full parking lot and approaching the entrance of the mall, ignoring all the panting and running women, we still had no clue.

Inside the crowd hit us like a wall. “Oh, oh, we forgot …” The panting and running mustered to a degree we had never encountered before. Everywhere women in groups of two to four, fully loaded with stuffed shopping bags ran from one shop to the other. Endless rows in front of the registers.

In total shock we tried to find a coffee corner to recover. This one full, that one also and in the next one people stood in line to get seated. Finally all at the back of the mall we could sit down and relax from a totally new experience. Realizing that we never visit shopping malls during that kind of days, moreover, we hardly ever went shopping in city centers during ‘rush hour’.

We decided to take it easy and minimize our shopping to the absolute essentials, succeeded and left as soon as possible. No more Black Fridays for us. Last year it took our daughter in law one hour and a half to get of the parking lot on Black Friday. Lucky us, we were on foot.

^tvo

2018.11.20

This is a prison. Like most prisons it’s a special prison.

During the past twelve months my books were incarcerated here. They were convicted of having been unable to go to Spain by themselves.
A long interior investigation disclosed that they were innocent and had to be released immediately.

Today was the day of their liberation. When they heard my voice they joyfully started ruffling their pages. At least as far as the warden had given them some space.

If all goes well, they will arrive in Spain during next week. What will they be happy when one by one they will be replaced in good order by caring hands.
All’s well that ends well.

^tvo

2018.11.18 Smugglers Route

The black pencil lines are the only evidence that there is ice on the water. It was a freezing cold day today, so we decided to walk one of our famous hikes: The Smugglers’ Route. Half of the route is in Holland, the other half in Belgium. It’s a walk of about two hours.

The woods are in late autumn colors. A combination of yellow, brown, green and some patches of red. Because the summer and early autumn have been extremely dry, there are hardly any mushrooms. But the air is fresh and the sun was shining most of the time. Many people shared our hike, so it was really cosey. There were even some horses and hounds.

With a fresh nose and warm from a stiff walk we took a cup of hot cocoa with a high tower of whipped cream on top. Winter in Holland. Not a thing to get your nose up for.

^tvo

2018.11.16 Merry Sinterklaas … euh Christmas

Fortunately this is a papercup. Because otherwise it would never have given me the Merry Christmas Feeling. Which I never have, but that’s another story.

What is interesting, is that restaurants start to celebrate Christmas way before Christmas. When I was young there usually were a lot of different other days to celebrate before it was Christmas. Such as Sinterklaas, Saint Nicolas. With Sinterklaas I always got way more presents then with Christmas. Christmas was a time to eat and drink.

At present Sinterklaas is a highly controversial event in Holland. That’s because he has a Black Piet who features like Sinterklaas help. The story of the Black Piet is that he started to be Sinterklaas’s help in the Middle Ages when he still was a slave. Although most modern Black Piet’s are just painted white labour ‘slaves’, this old slave business still warms a lot of the hearts of the remnants of the Black Slave Piet. They oppose the existance of the Black Piet as part of a celebration.

In honor of the 40 million slaves that still wonder around in this modern world it’s admirable that people still support their slave’ relatives from the Middle Ages. Before I forget, lets not make an issue of the black paper cup. Because there is not any relation. For those that still cherish, have some nice days.

^tvo

2018.11.14 Chest hair

Whether it’s the time of the year or we didn’t pay enough attention, at certain parts of the beach there are huge piles of brown seaweed. Probably the stormy weather of the last few days pushed the weed up shore.

This doesn’t explain for the origins of the seaweed. There is a story that goes back to the zenith of global sailing. When sailors past the equator for the first time, they had to appear before Neptune, the King of the Seven Seas. Since sailing vessels passed the equator at the same time, there are many Neptunes. A phenomenon that can be compared with the appearance of Saint Nicolas and Papa Noël in so many houses at the same time.

All these Neptunes do not only have a wild bush of hair on their head, but they also have a long beard to camouflage the thick wood of small hairs that grows from their chest. Since it’s always very warm near the equator and Neptune is used to live under water, specifically these smaller hairs on his chest itch like crazy. Consequently Neptune scratches his chest all the time he is on deck.

When Neptune was gone, the deck was littered with thick chest hair and the ‘all hens on deck’ was given to sweep the hairs away because in those days sailors had nothing better to do then clean the ship all day. For years now these hairs appear as seaweed on our shores.

This story is as true as the deer with the ‘little red nose’ and the promise of Saint Nicolas to take you with him to Spain if you had been naughty. Up until this day I always had to go myself.

^tvo

2018.11.11 Shit

Here at the coast, there are at least three beaches that are playas de canina (dog beaches). Not that there are no dogs at the other beaches. Far from it. Dog owners love their dogs and can’t part from them. Lucky dogs.

Less lucky are we, who have to watch where we walk all the time. Free roaming dogs are not very picky if it comes to the places where they leave the shit they produce. The owners are mostly occupied by the fabulous sea views and hence overlook the freshly produce of their beloved four-footed friends. Since there are many fabulous sea views from everywhere in town, this explains for our surprise that we find dog shit everywhere in town.

Lucky for us, there is a dog-friendly beach. This does not mean that these friendly dogs do not leave their turds on this beach, but it means that the dogs are friendly. They don’t bark and bite.

^tvo