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.