Nothing Much Happens Here

Nothing much happens here so it has been quiet and there has been nothing to write about.

All the usual celebrations have taken place – Easter, the Cherry Festival, the Corpus-Christi procession, etc.

Here is a video of the Corpus Christi event filmed by us:

just in case you haven’t seen it already.


At this time of the year when it has been hot and sunny for a while, of course, everything has dried out and there is a very real risk of fires.  There had been a couple already, of which we had only become aware later.  Thursday evening, the Alcalá la Real fire-brigade were called out again, this time to a fire up near the pass on the old Ruta del Caliphato (N432a).  Although there was a little breeze, there wasn’t enough to carry it far.  We haven’t yet been up that way to see what the total damage is like.




Most people who have taken the slightest interest in geography will be aware that the layout of the land-masses has changed over time as the various tectonic plates on which the countries we know today are sited, move in relation to one another. Africa has been pushing northwards into Spain and in the process, valleys become mountains and vice versa.  The sea in some depressions evaporates and other depressions flood to make new seas.  Those that evaporate often leave salt behind.

Alejandra has been going on walks with Trini, the daughter of one of our neighbours.  Trini is very knowledgeable and has been introducing Alejandra to many interesting places.  One of these is a place where a spring passes through a bed of salt and then comes to the surface into a pond where it evaporates leaving salt behind.


One of the evaporation ponds. The overflow exits at lower right.

The overflow

The overflow

The flecks of white are the sun reflecting off the salt crystals

Pictures above and below:  The flecks of bright white are the sun reflecting off the salt crystals


Ever wondered…

What happens to the aqueous matter from the olives when they are extracting the oil, and the water used for washing the olives?  It is taken to settling ‘tanks’ such as this and the resultant fatty matter is skimmed off and sold to the manufacturers of olive oil soaps and creams.  No we didn’t know that either!


A land of fruitfulness

We get lots of fruit and vegetables here.  Apart from all the cherries there are peppers, aubergines, potatoes, tomatoes, lettuces, onions, apples, kaquis, plums (including greengages and Victoria plums), courgettes, oranges, lemons, quinces, peaches, pomegranates, almonds, walnuts and much, much more.  Currently we are into the fig season and the green frying peppers and aubergines and…:

OK so we've eaten most of them but here will be another lot along soon.

OK so we’ve eaten most of them but here will be another lot along soon.

The North wind doth blow…

Actually I wanted to entitle this “The North West wind doth blow…”  but, unfortunately WordPress won’t let me use ‘strikethrough’ in the title.  The wind, here, isn’t coming from the North but from the West although it feels cold enough to be a North wind and is in fact from the North out over the Atlantic but then turns East to come over the Iberian peninsular as a West wind while retaining its Northern chill.

Yes, we have snow.  Not a lot and not down at our level.  The snow level is down to between 750 and 800 metres.  We are at 723 metres.  What does this mean?  It means that any form of precipitation will land as snow if it is above the snow level.  This includes the moisture in the clouds so that if a cloud comes down to ground level, then instead of there just being fog, it will be freezing fog and anything it comes into contact with becomes coated in snow.



The North wind doth blow and we shall have snow,
And what will poor robin do then, poor thing?
He’ll sit in a barn and keep himself warm
and hide his head under his wing, poor thing.


I apologise to the purists if I use a picture of an American robin with its head under its wing to go with a British poem, but I couldn’t find a British robin in the same position.

’Twas a cold and frosty morning…

'Twas a cold and frosty morning...

‘Twas a cold and frosty morning…

We’re back from our winter break having spent the festive season in the Natural Park of the Sierras de Cazorla, Segura and las Villas.  It was cold overnight – the car needed de-icing every morning (not something we are used to, any more) – but with sunshine and blue skies during the day, on most days it warmed up enough to go out for walks.

a walk on the wild side

a walk on the wild side beside the Guadalquivir river

It was nice to be in accommodation with central heating.  We stayed in the same apartment as last year in Arroyo Frío and the weather was a little kinder to us with neither the torrential downpours nor the frequent tripping of the power-supply.  We took our own dvd player and a good supply of movies, plus we had cards, other games and a jigsaw to amuse us when we were back at base.  By using our own halogen oven and slow cooker plus the built-in two-ring stove-top we were able to cater for all our inner needs including dinner on the 25th.

Apartamentos Martin.  Ours is on the ground floor halfway along

Apartamentos Martin. Ours is on the ground floor halfway along

Our gift to ourselves, as last year, was to take a guided trip in a 4×4 through some of the restricted areas and this year we went to the source of the Guadalquivir River which runs entirely within Andalucía, all 657 km of it on its way to the Atlantic Ocean!  It gets used for drinking-water purposes, producing electricity, fishing, transport and at one time for much more, such as driving mills at Córdoba in Roman and Moorish times and as a “log-run” from the Sierra de Cazorla to the railhead at Jódar as recently as 1948 (more on this later).

The source of the Guadalquivir

The source of the Guadalquivir

Our route took us via a few patches of snow

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and an observation point for seeing Griffon Vultures both flying and on their nest in a hole in a rock face.

The close up view of the bird on the nest is through a telescope

The close up view of the bird on the nest is through a telescope

In flight

In flight

A picture in the visitor centre showing the bird better.  Typically it is 1 metre long and has a 2.75 metre wingspan.

A picture in the visitor centre showing the bird better. Typically it is 1 metre long and has a 2.75 metre wingspan and is not to be meddled with.

As on our previous 4×4 trip into the restricted areas, the foxes (they aren’t called crafty for nothing) are aware of what times, the park rangers are likely to be passing and they hang around hoping for titbits.


bacon and ham offcuts are on the menu

bacon and ham offcuts are on the menu

party trick

party trick

Street numbering
Many who have lived in or been to towns and cities where the streets are on a grid system will be familiar with the roads being numbered, sometimes with a distinction being made between roads running North/South being called Carreras, e.g. Cra. 3, 5, 8, etc and those running East/West being called Calles, e.g. C/ 1, 4, 8, etc  (or some other names to divide the roads of differing orientations).  We came across an oddity in Arroyo Frío, where we stayed, of a short dead-end street (not much more than an alleyway): Calle ½

Calle ½

Calle ½

More next time

Christmas is coming…

December gets under way with two public holidays quite early on: the 6th is Constitution Day and the 8th is Immaculate Conception and, with Sunday in between, it is a nice long weekend.

Looking a little ahead, next June will see the end of compulsory schooling for a number of children and for them it will be a time of “school trips” maybe abroad, maybe…  These trips cost money and it is the responsibility of those children to raise some of the cost, themselves.  We think that this is a good introduction to the idea that from now on, you can’t just depend on your parents to pay for everything and you have to put in some effort yourself.

In addition to producing olives, olive oil, ham, sausages and many, many other things, in common with other parts of Spain, there are factories turning out sweets which are exported to other countries.  In addition to being sold in shops, supermarkets and other retailers, one factory produces a catalogue that the aforementioned children can use to sell sweets for Christmas and they get a reasonable mark-up which goes towards the school trips.



No added sugar!


This is also the time for the run-up to the famous big lottery – “El Gordo” – The Fat One.  This 2,240,000,000 € lottery is drawn on the 22nd December.  The sellers of lottery tickets get a commission so some of the children sell lottery tickets to raise money towards the school trips.

In addition to buying sweets from the children, we also visit several of the factories and get some of their specialities which are not normally on retail sale.

Micro Climates

Because we are located amid mountains and we are in a sort of scoop-shaped “depression” we tend to have something of a micro-climate.  Many of the mountains around our depression are in excess of 3,000 feet high with the highest being 1129 m (3703 ft).  ‘Depression’ is not really the correct term since we are at 723 m (2371 ft) but it is a sort of closed-ended valley.

surrounded by mountains

surrounded by mountains

Rain and storm clouds (depending on the wind direction) tend to remain outside our depression, held back by the mountains and we often see heavy showers and even storms going past outside our “wall”.

clouds held back by the mountains

clouds held back by the mountains

That way we avoid the worst of the weather until, that is, something such as a very high wind manages to force the weather into our cosy nook.

The Storm – a continuing story

Further on the last post – the builder came and took stock of the situation.  Later on Monday, the insurance assessor came and took pictures.  The builder was asked to supply estimates, which he did and then we forwarded them to the insurance assessor.

His research says that the maximum wind-speed in nearby Martos was 93kph and he says that a number of places have suffered damage, so he sees no reason for the company not to pay.

More was to come.  Thursday night/Friday morning, we got another dose and there was a huge crash.  The power was on and off all night.  Daytime and we could see to establish what new damage had been caused.  Some of the tiles that were loose on the roof had blown off and the cause of the loud noise was obvious.  One of the gutters still with some tiles attached had blown off the roof and landed on the roof of the outbuilding (belonging to the house round the corner) which abuts our dining room.

Gutter from dining room window

Gutter from dining room window

view from terrace

view from terrace

the recovered gutter in our lounge

the recovered gutter in our lounge, still with one tile attached

On Friday (yesterday) afternoon, where the tiles at the edge of the roof had been blown off, the roof started to leak.  The builder was called and he came by and saw the situation and promised to be here today.  The other pieces of gutter and the loose tiles have been removed; repairs have been made to the roofs with new tiles.  The gutters will take a few more days since they are made by people who are not local.

The other gutter brought down from the roof by the builder

The other gutter brought down from the roof by the builder

It was a Dark and Stormy Night…

Last night, the wind howled like a wolf at the moon and screamed like a banshee as it squeezed its way through those little chinks that exist wherever there are old wooden windows and doors (and some, of a more modern design).  There was much rattling and banging of everything that was not firmly battened down, with an occasional louder bang or rattle from an unknown source to unnerve one, just as the sleep reflex was managing to get the better of the disturbance.

Alejandra went out (against my advice – it can be dangerous when bits of debris are flying around) and moved plant-pots to places of greater safety (too late for one glazed pot).  We had been forecast gusts of 70 kph but, from experience, some of these were quite a bit greater than 70.  It was, therefore, with some trepidation that we ventured out this morning to assess the damage.  There is a square slab of concrete (probably weighs several kilos) resting on the solar panel and if that had hit Alejandra on the head, the result would have been certain death.  This slab, we are pretty sure, is the cap stone from on top of next-door’s now-disused chimney.

Cap-stone from chimney

Cap-stone from chimney

However, worse was to be revealed.  Not so long ago we had a completely new roof fitted to the house.  In addition, we also had new gutters fitted.  The gutters are aluminium and are made to size.  They are attached to the roof by small brackets that are attached to the edge-tiles.  The house is located almost at the top of an incline
Quite high up

Quite high up

with no other properties of a similar height intervening (great for uninterrupted views but not for breaking the wind-flow) so the wind is forced upwards.  The wind, therefore was not only blowing with strong gusts, it was being forced up under the gutters with the inevitable result that the aluminium gutters were pushed and bent upwards taking the edge-tiles with them.

Gutter brackets attached to edge-tiles

Gutter brackets attached to edge-tiles

gutter lifts edge-tiles

gutter lifts edge-tiles

Anyone who has visited Spain will recall that many (if not most) houses have what are known as persianas at the windows to keep out the summer sun and heat; they also deflect the rain.  Some persianas are built-in but many, if not, most, just hang by a couple of hooks positioned above the window and literally “hang” (although, possibly tethered to a hook at the bottom).

This type is quite light in weight (being made of slats of wood or plastic wired together) so they tend to blow about in strong winds or even come adrift, and when they do, they become ‘unguided’ missiles.  It is not unusual after a night of winds to find a few persianas in the street.  One of ours, from the front of the house, was in the street outside, but the one from the first-floor bathroom was at a neighbour’s house around the corner in the next street.

So now we await the arrival of the builder – due 8.30am tomorrow.  Many properties seem to have suffered some kind of damage and the builder was out early this morning with a crew clearing debris from a street.

All Hallows et al

Last weekend was All Hallows or the day for honouring the deceased.  I was always under the impression that All Souls Day was 1st November and not the, now, generally accepted 2nd and I wondered why that should be.

It transpires that the day for venerating all the deceased, especially one’s ancestors was on 1st November (formerly the old festival Samhain when all the dead were honoured).

There is evidence that a festival was, at one time, held 13th May to celebrate the holy martyrs and Pope Gregory III decided back in the early eighth century that the celebration should be moved to the existing pagan festival day 1st November.  This seems to have been, in part, because the large number of festivals around the April to May/June period meant that Rome was having difficulty coping with the huge influx of visitors.

However, it is always a problem when the Church latches on to a traditional pagan festival and tweaks it to suit its own purposes.  The Church couldn’t let the honouring of its own martyrs be mixed in with those of the proletariat so the day for the hoi-polloi was moved to the 2nd and the 1st became, eventually, named All Saints’ Day.

Right on time, I had a Blog from a friend, the author Daniel Reveles, on the Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead):

“November 2nd is Memorial Day in Mexico, celebrating the life of the departed. Arrangements such as these with skulls, candles, fruit and marigolds are usually placed on the sideboard in the dining room. The table is laid with the favorite foods of the honored guests. Dia de los Muertos is not a solemn occasion. It is the joyous celebration of the life of the departed for family and friends gathered round the table and remember the absent with stories, funny anecdotes that give life to those no longer here. There is much laughter at table and the occasional tear. Following dinner pan de muerto is served, a delicious sweet bread laced with cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger. At the cemetery the displays can be more elaborate with singing and dancing and that sweet melancholy music of mariachis. November 1st is called Dia de los Angelitos and is dedicated exclusively to children.”

If you haven’t already read any of Daniel’s books, we can thoroughly recommend them but be prepared to laugh out loud as he describes life in and around the little town of Tecate on the Mexican/U.S. border:

  • Salsa and Chips,
  • Enchiladas Rice and Beans,
  • Tequila Lemon and Salt,
  • Guacamole Dip,
  • Love Potion and the latest,
  • Play, Mariachis, Play!
    They are available on Amazon and some are available on Kindle

If you want to subscribe to Daniel’s blog it is at: and the archives go way back.

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.



SAM_1258 SAM_1257

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:


Mum and Dad tried to do a “selfie”!


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.


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.


A small sample

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


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:, 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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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 


Un aljibe


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: