Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Escargot and a peach juice, PLEASE

When Megan arrived in Mojácar, I took her up to see the old village which towers over our house. We walked up the hill then up some stairs, through a narrow passageway which led to the shop of one of our daughters, Peque: I guess you have to be from around here to understand the family relationship. Anyway while Megan enjoyed the wonders of Peque’s shop, I played with my granddaughter, Luz. Upon leaving, Luz said she wanted to go with me, Mima. Peque said she would only stay a few seconds and would then want to come straight back. Luz had just turned three years old. Well, not only did she not want to go back, she wanted to buy things in all of the shops that we visited. Finally exhausted, after swinging her in the air all around town, I took her back to her mom. The sneaky little girl let me intentionally walk right passed her mom’s shop and told me she couldn’t find it. I knew better and tried to return her to her mother, but no deal, she was staying with Mima. We ended up spending a lot of time at Pasha’s Moroccan shop, next to the Taberna, smelling all sorts of incense and little blocks in colored bags. Megan, Pasha and I were all speaking sign language so Luz zipped her mouth and just started moving her hands all around and didn’t utter another word until we went to the Taberna for a drink. This tiny tot, climbed onto a bar stool, ordered Escargot with garlic and parsley with a peach juice; please, then she zipped her mouth again and watched herself signing in the mirror. Megan said “what did she order’” when I told her she was shocked because for an American two amazing things happened; one a three year old felt comfortable enough in a bar to sit and order a drink and second that she ordered something that to an American, only rich French people eat. We had a short conversation with the cook and then convinced Luz that upside down mushrooms with garlic and parsley were giant snails and she was content. Luz went home with a bag full of presents for her mother and left a big impression on Megan. I had lots of fun with all of them.

Friday, 17 June 2011

Charlie and Ric

I was clearing out an old box of junk (anyone want to buy some pre-revolution Russian railway shares?) and came across this photo of Charlie Braun and Ric Davies. Charlie arrived in Mojácar in around 1969 after a brief career as a stunt-skier and later an actor in spaghetti westerns. He was German, although claimed Swiss nationality when confronted by my mother, and was born, he claimed, in Japan at the Second World War's end.
Ric originally came to the area, drafted in by the American Government after the events in Palomares in 1966 (a B52 crashed with four thermonuclear devices) when it was thought to be a good idea to build a desalination plant for the locals. Ric was the engineer but quit to start a new life as a layabout.
He took over the El Patio beach-bar and ran it for many years.
Both of them are dead now. We won't see their like again!

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Insects and Spiders

Spiders have a head and an abdomen with eight legs, while an insect has a head, thorax and abdomen with six legs. My husband has always been fascinated by bugs of all types and knows most everything about them. He has tried to pass this passion on to our children. Daniel caught on at a very early age and he and his father would spend hours in the garden looking at bugs. Daniel has maintained his interest and increased his understanding of these creepy-crawlies. He and his father still show each other bugs they have found. I use the word bugs so that I don’t have to keep differentiating between spiders and insects. When Daniel was in his twos he could tell the difference between a good spider and a bad one. We found this out one night when he came into our room, late at night, to tell us there was a bad bug under his bed. We were sure it was a Wolf Spider; they are very ugly and hairy but harmless. We went to look and sure enough he had a tarantula under his bed. How he knew the difference I will never know. When Lenox didn’t know what the bug was he would give it a name and it sounded very real and are called that to this day. Like one the girls found upside-down in the ash tray and asked daddy what it was, he said, without hesitation, that it was an ash bug and so it became. Lenox has named several bugs here: one of his favourites he says reminds him of me. It is the Golden Splendour beetle. When you touch it, it lets out a shriek, rolls over on its back and sticks its legs in the air. I have no idea how that reminds him of me or what the beetle is really called.

I don’t know if they have them everywhere but here we have Stink Bugs. They look like little beetles and come in three fragrances: pine, lemon and shit. This keeps any predator from eating more than one, so by preserving the species.

I can take bugs or leave them as long as they aren’t in my bedroom. Living in the country it is inevitable that you will get bugs in the house. That is one of the great things about geckos because they eat the bugs, until the little lizards get so fat that the stickers on their feet don’t work so well and they fall to the floor or onto the bed. They also shit like birds and it is very hard to clean. Geckos usually hide behind pictures or mirrors, and make a little screech noise during mating season. They are considered good luck to have in your house here in Spain. It even used to be the custom to bring a gecko to a house- warming to start the house on the right foot. Whenever I see a spider I ask my son or husband to please release it into the garden, which they do while having a long discussion on the wonders of the thing. My husband has a thing about mothers. A mother spider will carry hundreds of babies on her back until they are ready to go out on their own. Lenox has a strong feeling that they should be left alone until such time but all I can think about are the hundreds of new spiders I will have in my room.

Our daughter, Amber, suffers from severe arachnophobia. If she sees a spider, she becomes hysterical, can’t breath and has an instant panic attack. Insects don’t bother her so much. Our house is so big that the children lived on one side and we live on the other. One night she saw a spider. It was in her room, in the corner of the ceiling and she had a panic attack. She was screaming for an hour or so and couldn’t breathe. We couldn’t hear her. Finally she screwed up the courage to slide passed the spider and run to our room for comfort. Before we could comfort her we had to slap her a few time to get her to breathe and then came the cuddles. She said she had been screaming and crying for hours and why hadn’t we come to rescue her. We just hadn’t heard her. Our other daughter Jessica has a more normal take on them. They don’t bother her but she has no real interest in them. She will however gladly move one outside for you.

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Orgasm on Aisle Three

I was having lunch with some friends, long time Mojácar residents, when one started to recount her recent experiences in a new supermarket that has just opened. Having lived here for so long, she told us, she was at first amazed by the size and amount of well-known products that she hadn’t seen or thought about since her time in England. After having put her coin in the trolley, she had slowly started to wander aimlessly, her mouth wide open, just admiring and reminiscing over all of the goodies. The only problem with the giant store, she admitted to us, was that every time she touched the trolley she got an electrical shock. Not to be deterred from her adventure, she gingerly pushed the trolley around the shop, still getting a shock every time she touched it. A salesgirl came up and asked if there was a problem since she had heard my friend shriek several times. My friend explained about the little shock and was politely treated as the girl’s dotty grandmother. The typical middle-aged woman who probably lived alone and most assuredly had a dog that absorbed her world, the type of client you treat with respect but underneath it all are silently laughing about. My friend - I will call her Linda for the sake of the story – thanked the girl for her concern but bravely said she would continue, and began to carefully push the trolley around by just touching the little plastic pieces on the corners of the push-bar. When arriving on aisle three, just in front of the butchers’ stand, she leant over to look at some frozen goods in a glass top freezer when –ZAP- she got a shock to her nipples and, to her unalloyed pleasure, an instant and unexpected orgasm. Linda said that her nipples shot up like a chapel hat-peg as she shrieked in delight, much to the consternation of the butcher. The butcher for his part had just thought it was rather odd without knowing the real reason for the shriek. A dazed Linda tottered to the check-out stand having hardly bought anything; still in a dreamy smile over what she had just experienced. The salesgirl kindly asked if she had enjoyed her shopping and hoped that she would be back. Linda said that she had and would also tell all of her friends about her experience. Linda went straight home and e-mailed everyone she knew about her experience and told them that they must try it. On Linda’s return visit to the supermarket the following day she still had the same problem with the shock from the trolley. The manager noticed and came up to ask her what the problem seemed to be. As it happened, they were standing just in front of the butcher on the famous aisle three. Perhaps Linda had made her way there on purpose. She told the manager about the electric shock she kept receiving from the trolley and about the remarkable and invigorating experience served to her by the freezer on aisle three. He opened the freezer and nothing happened so he asked her to try; a little embarrassed about what might happen, and not wanting him to think she was just another dotty old woman, she opened the freezer; and –ZAP- another instant orgasm. The butcher was wetting himself with laughter, as the manager said he would get it fixed right away. Linda told him that there was no need for that and that she really loved his new shop. When arriving at the check-out again, the salesgirl asked once again if she had enjoyed her shopping. Linda replied “more than you will ever know”.
The girl said that they had attached ground wires to most of the trolleys and that on her next visit she should look for a trolley that had a long dangly bit that touched the ground, and politely said I hope you will return. Linda said “Oh! I don’t worry any more about dangly bits, but I will most certainly be back and I have told all of my friends about it”. I don’t think the sales-girl really quite knew what she meant as she started helping to put Linda’s shopping into a bag.

Monday, 2 May 2011

Another Boost for Mojácar

Barbara talks about therapeutic riding to the crowd

Loli poses with Wendy, a Dutch Miniature Shetland

Juan Carreño gets his bottle of wine from Lenox

Mojácar was represented at the 7th annual Horse and Wine Fair in Almería by the presentation of my new manual on the basics of therapeutic riding and the presentation to all of the promoters from the equestrian world, of the traditional, organic wine made by Miguel Egea. Miguel makes his own wine from grapes from his own vineyard near to the Rio Aguas. Miguel’s wine is called Alberquilla. He uses no pesticides and the fertilizers come from animals that only graze, and are not fed on ready-made pellets, which contain hormones. It’s a truly honest no-chemical brew. In my speech, together with Loli Berenguel Gálvez, from the equestrian center ALBERO in Almería, we pointed out the importance of working in a team to get the best benefits for your special-needs students; the importance of having a medical certificate and insurance. We also spoke about our eighteen-month investigation into how the horse can help improve the quality of life for people suffering from terminal illness or toxic medication and its side effects. Our Town Hall didn’t help (it never does), even though Mojácar, with its own National Association for Animal Assisted Therapy, ANIMO – a pioneer in Spain for the teaching, practice and investigation in all areas of AAT, which has been promoting on an international level for over twenty years – is based here. The Town Hall has never taken advantage of a few things that have been offered free, to them, that could have made a big difference to the whole community; like ANIMO, Burro Baseball, the arts, archaeology, geology and efforts, knowledge and experience that the international community has been willing to offer in so many ways.

Tunas in Mojácar

Recently, there was a competition of Tunas from all over. They were here for three days, brightening up the village with their song and friendly attitudes. Tunas are made up of university students from different fields; each field has its own group. They are usually men and they play mandolins and guitars and several other traditional instruments. They all dress in the same ancient outfit, of velvet bloomers and full sleeved jackets. The jackets are adorned with different colored ribbon to distinguish one group from the other. They didn’t just come from all over Spain to compete; there were groups from Mexico, Holland and many other countries. This year there was even an all girl group. On the night before the competition, they were all out serenading the bars and restaurants. Most of the bars were closed and the restaurants too. No one was about. It is something that the whole family can enjoy and what a shame, no one knew about it. Traditionally they were given tips and this would go to help with their university fees. Now I think it is just more for fun and tradition. Wherever they go they make fun, music and laughter. These are all events that could bring so much to the area but Mojácar seems unwilling to let people know what is happening.

While wandering the streets on the night of the competition, we bumped into Julia Hope. We happened to be sitting at the Taberna which, back in the sixties, was a disco run by Julia called the Zurri-Gurri. Julia was driving her electric wheelchair and we were commenting on how nice it would be if cars were removed from the village and only golf carts were allowed, that way she and her husband Russ, could ride together.

The roving Tunas, about 500 of them, is just one in a series of disastrous promotions that the Town Hall has made. So many talented artists, musicians and groups come through Mojácar yet go completely unknown to the community. Hands up those who knew about the Serón ham and Laujar wine tasting in the plaza of the Post Office yesterday! You see what I mean - not only did the residents miss out but the exhibitors went away feeling that Mojácar was not worth promoting.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Even Puppies Like Laundry

We have a problem with laundry here. The water is so hard that even with softener, clothes come out stiff. Then there is the sun, which fades the colors and eats the elastic. So where does one dry one’s laundry? I started with a clothes-line among the trees, only to find that snails love damp, wet laundry and leave a silvery trail across your clean clothes. Birds sit and nest in the trees, leaving their droppings all over your washing. I moved my drying to two clothes racks in the middle of a patio, only to find that the big black olive-eating birds fly by and leave huge purple stains that don’t come out. The puppy has just found a new friend to play tug-of-war with: my clothes on the rack. He doesn’t destroy them; he just drags the wet clothes through the dirt and the foxtails to bring them to me. Having finally taught the puppy that those are Mama’s clothes and not a toy, I moved the clothes rack under the cover of my patio; fine for the winter but in spring the swallows come back from Africa and build their mud nests in the beams under the terrace roof, to make matters worse, when the babies hatch, they automatically know to hang their back-sides over the edge of the nest to do their business, leaving huge piles on the terrace or smaller dabs on my laundry. So, ever ready to come to an arrangement with Mother Nature, I moved the clothes rack to a corner where the birds don’t nest. However, in life, nothing is perfect and our pet chicken, Valentina, she of the delicious morning eggs, must join this tale about now.
After an enjoyable forage about the garden, and a chase with the puppy through the flower beds, she will rest her feet and gossip with the sparrows while perched on our clothes rack. And, if the mood strikes her, she’ll poop.
Maybe it's time to get a dryer.

Monday, 21 March 2011

La Vieja Remanona and Other Picnics

Here in Mojácar, the weather is always good, so we used to take some food and drink, a few pets and friends and the kids would all trail up to the top of our mountain... or amble along the paths and off into a shaded part of the campo, for a good time with the family. Maybe it's time we did it again!

A Fun Day Out (1990)

Here are some pictures from a long-forgotten fiesta we had down at our stables; back in the days when we just had fun and there was no competition. See how many people you recognise.
Maria, Corey, Rudy and Charlotte. Didi's birthday fun ride. At the top, Swiss Michel and then Juanico from Bédar clears the jump.

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Ken and Sarah in Madrid

Ken and Sarah, great friends and Mojácar residents, accompanied me to Madrid in early February. We took the train from Murcia on Sunday morning so we could get in as much sight-seeing as possible on our two day trip. I wanted to try and show my gratitude to them for all that they have done for me, by giving them a look at the Madrid most tourists don’t see. Ken is a photographer and Sarah was complaining that she didn’t have any pictures of Ken, so he bought her a little camera of her own but the one thing they didn’t have were pictures of themselves together, so I made it my project to get a picture of them together at each place in Madrid. I know they felt I started getting a bit annoying, but after I figured out how to use Lenox’ camera, we got some great travel snaps. We started with the obvious like the famous post office, which is now the City Hall, fronting onto the Plaza de Cibeles; then on to the Puerta del Sol, the Plaza Mayor and some excellent draft beer and a few shrimps at Santa Barbara, the most famous beer house in Spain. The weather was beautiful and the streets and shops were full. The plazas were filled with musicians and actors.
We saw Spain’s oldest restaurant, the Casa Botín, the famous hat shops, the Gaudí building and the nearby renovated apartment block decorated in professional graffiti. There was color and activity everywhere: the atmosphere was wonderful. We were all exhausted by the time we got back to our hotel. The next morning was hospital for me and the huge Corte Ingles on the Castellana for them; we met for lunch on Serrano, and then continued shopping down Serrano and up Goya. The shopping was exhausting but we stopped for lots of drinks and tapas along the way. We had lots of laughs and fun, we couldn’t help to observe what a difference between the lively streets of Madrid and the dead streets of Mojácar. I wanted this trip to be something special I could do for them but it ended up that all my simple plans went awry and once again they were there to save the day. If they hadn’t come with me I would probably still be sitting in a street gutter crying with the frustration of the Spanish hospital system. Instead we had a great time. There were so many things that we didn’t have time for like a Pisco Sour at the Inca or the lamb at the Asador so we decided that the next time we should stay for a week, in a hotel near Colon, so that we could go out and see some of the jazz clubs, the famous Viva Madrid and Chicote bars, the Casa del Retiro (the large and busy park in the centre of Madrid) and get to see so much more that Spain’s capital city has to offer.

Monday, 7 February 2011

Alan Simpson

Alan wrote this himself.
Alan Geoffrey "One Wine" Simpson 1930 - 2011  A native of the leafy lanes of Hertfordshire, Alan Simpson traversed jungles and deserts on his way to his final home and resting place. He first came to Mojácar in 1968, when Bill Napier and old mayor Jacinto were beginning to put it on the map. A child in World War Two, he was machine-gunned in his village school playground by a cruising aircraft (The only casualty was a boy who ran into the road and was brushed by a passing car) and rendered homeless by a V2 rocket before he had finished his Sunday lunch, thereafter being probed for broken glass on top of a piano in a snowstorm. That is why the title of his on-going autobiography was "Naked in the Snow". {It was serialised in Talismán magazine and later printed as a book of "the-story-so-far". Each chapter was written to be a stand-alone, anectdotal tale, but together they form a fascinating and humourous account of a true adventurer.} An infantry commander in the Korean War, he was commended for his part in extricating  casualties and the dead from a minefield in No-Man's-Land. After the war he aided Malaya's path to independence, seeking out terrorists deep in the Malayan jungle. Travelling with headhunters for companions he explored distant headwaters in Sarawak by dugout canoe, sleeping at night beneath bundles of human heads.  He later sought out remote parts of tribal Africa and the Sahel before moving to West Africa, where he commanded part of a 650-strong  security force protecting the diamond fields, which later funded Sierra Leone's twenty year civil war; the setting for the film "Blood Diamonds". Still in West Africa, he became a chief of police in the diamond mining areas, and was later a miner of diamonds, gold and tin. His memoirs mention the Zanzibar bloodbath instigated by "General" John Okello, and the attempted overthrow of the Moroccan monarchy by General "Name of a Nightmare" Mohamed Oufkhir, both of which situations caused him some inconvenience. Alan Simpson was an occasional magazine contributor, and a talented photographer. An "honorary" Mojaquero since his first visit, Alan became the real thing when he settled into Mojácar Village in 1990. His partner, the artist and potter Janet Le Bretton, predeceased him in 2001.