Rubio and Scruffy’s Column

We went on holiday with Mum, Dad and Grandma to some place they called a desert.  There were so many different smells but it was very dusty and that got up our noses whenever we tried to take in all the unusual odours.  Some of the roads and tracks were very rough, just sand, rocks and gravel which got caught between the pads of our feet.

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The place we stayed was quite nice and comfortable although Mum said that the double bed looked too short for Dad so they ended up in the twin room.

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Here is Grandma standing in the doorway:

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Mum and Dad tried to do a “selfie”!

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Our Holiday in Almería

As usual, we took our ‘summer holiday’ in September.  Again we opted for one of the National or Natural Parks.  This time it was the Parque Natural del Cabo de Gata-Nijar, a wild and isolated landscape with some of Europe’s most original geological features.  It is the only region in Europe with a “warm-desert” climate, having an average annual rainfall of less than 20cm and is, thus, the driest place in Europe.

The Cabo de Gata (nothing to do with a female cat, it is named after the agate that was mined there) mountain range is Spain’s largest volcanic rock formation with sharp peaks and crags in red/ochre-hues.  It falls steeply to the Mediterranean Sea creating jagged 100-metre (330 ft) high cliffs, which are split by gullies leading to hidden coves with sandy beaches.

Walking the dogs

Walking the dogs

Offshore are numerous tiny rocky islands and underwater, extensive coral reefs teeming with marine life and the wreckage of long past shipping disasters.  One can easily imagine the easy pickings that the corsairs from the Barbary Coast might gain by driving other vessels towards the rocks of this shore where they might be wrecked with their cargoes being thrown up onto the adjacent sandy beaches to be collected at leisure by the pirates.

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Next to the lighthouse on the very south-eastern tip of the Iberian Peninsula are jagged rocks known as Las Sirenas (the Sirens) which many an unsuspecting vessel must have immolated itself in the dark and it is easy to understand how such disasters might have been attributed to the call of those mythical creatures.

Las Sirenas

Las Sirenas

Much of what might have offered pleasant vistas has, unfortunately, been covered with plastic in the form of greenhouses growing vegetables and salad stuffs, a lot of which goes to satisfy demands from northern European countries.  They also provide employment but not, as one might suppose, for Spaniards but, more often than not, for immigrants from North Africa who seem to be better able to tolerate the inhospitable temperatures within the plant houses.

Plastic

A small sample

We rented a two-bedroomed ‘cottage’ near the village of Los Albaricoques for a week.

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Los Albaricoques SAM_1219

Any movie buff will recognise Los Albaricoques as being the pueblo of Agua Caliente in the seminal films of Sergio Leone.  The final shoot out in the film “For a Few Dollars More” took place in the centre of Los Albaricoques.  The economy of the village relies heavily on the agriculture that surrounds the village and arguably some of the best tomatoes from Spain are grown in this area, notably the ‘Raff’.  There is only one shop and two bars in Los Albaricoques.  One of these bars Hostal Alba, is a mecca for film buffs and a tribute to the village’s cinematic history. Not far from the pueblo of Los Albaricoques is the infamous Cortijo del Fraile, the backdrop for Federico Garcia Lorca’s seminal play, Bodas de Sangre (Blood Weddings – for a résumé go to: http://www.wikisummaries.org/Bodas_de_Sangre_(english)), which features a crime of passion that took place close by.  Again, film buffs will recognise the XVII century Cortijo del Fraile as the location for “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly”, among a number of other films.

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Cortijo del Fraile

On the southern coast of Almería are salt marshes where sea salt is gathered.  The salt marshes are a haven for birds, among them, flamingoes.

Wading flamingoes

Wading flamingoes

Nearby is the Torreon de San Miguel constructed in 1756 on the orders of Fernando VI to replace an earlier one that had been destroyed.

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Unfortunately the coastal ‘road’ is little more than a track northwards from Cabo de Gata, so some diversions inland were necessary and we missed a good part of what would have liked to see.

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Moving up the coast in a roughly northerly direction we found more sheltered coves and Los Escullos a habitation that dates back some 10,000 years and with a castle – Castillo de San Felipe.  The castle was built in 1771 in the reign of Carlos III.

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Further north is Rodalquilar a nice little town, marred only by the former gold mine workings and the uninhabited semi ruined barrio of the former mine workers.  Good little tourist info shop, managed to get pics of the newspaper reporting the murder near the Cortijo del Fraile (see above).  The town is a haven for artists and there are many galleries showing off paintings, photography, pottery and ceramics.  The town also gives its name to a rare mineral: Rodalquilarite which, typically, occurs as stout green prisms and encrustations.

Rodalquilarite

The road from Rodalquilar back to our accommodation was horrendous, being, in many places, little more than rock strewn rubble through the mine workings.

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This is part of the better stretch.  We went to the desert – it rained!

While it may not rain often, there is, nevertheless, water – much of it underground.

The Moors brought much to Spain, especially in the form of agricultural practices which of course required water, so they introduced irrigation and means of lifting the water from the underground sources.  They also devised storage facilities, not just simple wells or pozos, but more complex and larger stores such as the Aljibe 

Aljibe

Un aljibe

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Key:
1. the aljibe;  2. Basins;  3. Drinking trough;  4. Door;  5. Sediment tank;
6. Source;  7, Overflow

We did go to other places but didn’t get much in the way of pictures.

Next will be Rubio and Scruffy’s column.

One closing picture:

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Sunset

Long time – no post.

Yes, I agree it has been a long time since I posted anything.

So what happened to the Cherry festival and the Corpus Christi procession? I was unwell so could not get out to gather news and pictures. To make up for it I will post in a separate posting, some pictures from past years just so that those who haven’t seen them before can get a flavour of some of the things that this village does well.
We have now moved into summer with maximum temperatures getting into the mid to upper 30s Celsius (that’s 95° – 100°F) a.k.a. serious air-con weather. Taking the dogs for their lunchtime walk means shadow-hopping, trying to stay out of the sun which, although by the clock it is about 11.30am, by the sun it is only 9.30am and starting to get hot. By 12 noon UTC (sun-time) it is seriously unwise to be out in the sun, unprotected. Every lunchtime all the household precautions are put into place – persianas down, windows closed, make like a cave house and move into siesta mode.

Cherries

As is often the case, we are over-run with the produce of this fertile land.  The first ones we had were sort of bog-standard and nothing much to write home about; then we had some “Sweetheart” – so named because of their heart-shape: (please note that the photos are not to scale)

 

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Then we were introduced to “Starky” which are about 3-4 times the size of the standard with the Starky being 15-16 gm each as opposed to the standard ones at about 4-5gm, followed by “Lamper” which are similar to those that we used to call (when I was young) ‘Whiteheart’ except that these are much sweeter

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At the weekend we were invited to some friends to pick more cherries and we got some bigger Sweetheart (these are about 1 inch [25 mm] in diameter) and some about the same size but much darker in colour and sweeter.  Unfortunately we didn’t quite catch the name of this variety.

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You will be aware that, from our village and our province, we export tons of olives and olive oil but you may not realise that we also export cherries.  The normal eating varieties go to countries such as Germany and UK but an even bigger surprise is that the Lamper variety is not so popular for eating in Spain because of their pale colour which, it is assumed, means they are less sweet, however they are exported to Ferrero to make their “Mon Cheri” chocolates which contain a cherry in cherry brandy (this does not apply to the USA where most of the “Mon Cheri” chocolates are non-alcoholic and have a nut centre).

 

 

 

“Ne’er cast a Clout”

“Ne’er cast a clout till May be out” is a well known saying for most people brought up in Britain.  However, it has often been a source of disagreement as to whether the word “May” refers to the month or to the familiar maytree.  The fact that it is usually capitalised might suggest that it relates to the month but the capitalisation might just be an accidental error.  The problem is not helped by the fact that there can often be sharp frosts in the month of May so the weather provides no clue, despite the fact that the saying relates to one’s keeping warm.Image

Although the saying is common in Britain, it is worth looking at what sayings (often of peasant origin or usage), there might be elsewhere.  In France, they have ‘En avril, ne te découvre pas d’un fil; en mai, fais ce qui te plaît‘   This translates as ‘In April, do not shed a single thread; in May, do as you please‘, which is not quite same meaning as ‘ne’er cast a clout…’. 

There are, however, home-grown versions that support the ‘month’ theory – a fuller version of the rhyme, which goes:

“Button to chin, till May be in,
Cast not a clout till May be out”

Or from the Whitby Gazette, 1855:

“The wind at North and East
Was never good for man nor beast
So never think to cast a clout
Until the month of May be out”

In Spain, They are much more specific: ‘Hasta el cuarenta de mayo no te quites el sayo‘, that is, ‘Don’t leave off your coat till May 40th‘!  So that settles it, we live in Spain and it is quite clear that it is the month that is being referred to, but when is the 40th of May?  May has 31 days so I guess it is the 9th or 10th June.

I’ll keep wearing my cardigan for a little longer.

First Communions

This is the season of First Communions when the children who have been studying and preparing for some time, ceremonially take their first communion.  This, of course, takes place in the parish church and is usually followed by a celebration attended by family members and invited friends.  On Sunday (25th) 13 young persons took their First Communion.  There are two bars-cum-restaurants in the park and each catered for two parties.  Seven parties went to the Salón de Bodas (where they hold wedding receptions) in the Polígono (Industrial estate).  (Where the other two parties had their celebration we don’t know).

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One can dine out, under the canopy or one can dine in, in the restaurant.

We were invited by one of the village gestores and his wife.  There will be a subsequent post about what a gestor/a is and what his/her role might be in the lives of people here.

Girls will often be found wearing a white (or off-white/cream) dress.  Boys may wear a suit or tuxedo, or their Sunday best and, in some cases they may wear military-style dress uniforms with gold-braided aiguilettes and epaulettes.

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Yvonne with our hosts, Puri and Antonio  with  their son Juan Javier.

To add to the entertainment, there was a “Bouncy Castle” which I thought was intended for the children.

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Anybody for canapés?         The children are BIG around here.

We will probably encounter the “First Communicants” again in the procession for Corpus Christi in June.

Patio Plants

We have just managed to find a Plumbago auriculata (see picture, inset shows a flower head in close-up) to join our other plants on the patio.

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So now, we have a lemon tree, a Clementine tree, a wisteria, two grape vines, several aloe vera, a fig, a white oleander (from a cutting at the Fortaleza de la Mota in Alcalá la Real), two yellow jasmine, a hibiscus and various others. There could soon be a case for having a bigger patio.

Rubio and Scruffy’s column

Nothing much has been happening with us lately, except that we have now been shorn ready for the warmer weather.  It was getting a little too warm for us but, according to Dad, it is going to turn cool next week and we are already shivering.

 Pics of us showing the traditional “Before” and “After”

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