Thursday, January 28, 2010

Spring is in the air.

I am glad to say the storms are over, for now anyway. There was quite a lot of damage. I know people whose garden wall was broken through, and several instances of cars washed down streets and into the ramblas. The Los Gallardos mobile home park where I go for my Spanish lessons, was under water. All the occupants went to the bar/restaurant and Paco (My teacher who also works in the bar) told us he was serving meals with plastic bags tied over his feet because the kitchen and restaurant has several inches of water on the floor! But today the sky was blue and the sun had his hat on. It was chilly at first, but I sat outside all afternoon and it was lovely. We both sat out on the bench at the back to drink our 'elevenses' this morning and the little birds were singing their heads off. The almond blossom has suddenly appeared. This tree is in the green zone just below us. The sun was shining through the orange trees next door and it looked so beautiful.
The dogs always come and sit with us, just in case there is something in it for them. Whenever the cats are outside as well, Chico still appoints himself as their protector or tormentor, depending on how you look at it. They go over the fence and he runs up and down checking where they are. Destino stays on the other side. Here she is peeping through one of the holes the dogs have made pushing their heads through the railings to see what's going on below us. Paco, who is a good size cat now, sits on top of the fence until he deems it's safe to jump across to us. Chico doesn't give him much peace, but he is quite capable of defending himself if he needs to. Miki likes to sit beside me on the bench. They all stand on it as well to talk to me through the window when I am in my craft room. But lately they have all caught their feet between the slats on the benches, so they are a bit wary now. However Miki has discovered the rickety plastic table between the benches and she sits there now. We never feed them when we are eating, but she lives in hope! Foxy is a bit scatty, and never stays still for long, but she did settle down for a while so I managed a photo of her. She will be a year old in a couple of weeks which doesn't seem possible. The other two dogs and Paco are one the following month, and Destino at Easter. Destino is a funny little thing. She has a problem with her intestines and after many tests at the vets, and samples sent off to the lab, no real cause has been found. She couldn't tolerate any of the standard cat foods, so she now has a very exspensive hyperallogenic diet, but the prescribed portions are very small and the bag lasts all month so I don't mind paying for it. She seems happy enough and is quite playful, and very affectionate most of the time but she is very small and is not hardly gaining any weight. Sometimes I have to bath her and then she spits and growls and becomes a very angry little ball of fluff!
Another nice thing about the better weather is that the workmen are back, and today they paved the section of road outside our house. They have done a lovely job so far. There will still be a few dusty days while they cut the bricks to fill in all the gaps up to the wall and round the drains etc, but it really is nearly done at last. There is about 100 metres still to do down to where it joins with the older section of road. This runs right down to the edge of the village and it also had a trench dug down the centre of it for the new drainage. It was filled in with sand but much of this has washed away, so they will have to resurface that stretch as well sometime.
I also have one little bit of news from home to share today. Jonathan is in a band in Brighton that is starting to get recognition. They are called Blackstorm, and they are signed to a very small record label, and have released a demo EP. They have also nearly finished their first full album and will be releasing that soon.They have played several gigs in Brighton as well as some elsewhere, the most notable being at Nottingham Rock City last October. Anyway, this week they are featured in Kerrang magazine. There is a big photo of them and a nice write up. The magazine is read by a huge number of youngsters who have an interest in a 'heavier' style of music, (Our Michael says he has been reading it for the past twenty years!), so it will give the band some nationwide recognition. It is good to see him in print. He is sending me a copy of the magazine, but for now I have a scan of it. I am about to try and edit it and if I can I will post the photo here. so look again in a little while and it might be here.
Well here it is. The original was much better quality, but this is the best I could do. Jonathan is, of course, the one on the left, in the red-tinted shirt.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Down came the rain !!

I now know what Noah felt like on the first day of the flood, as he watched the land slowly disappearing under the water! I think there must have been lots of people praying for rain in Spain this week, because today it came with a vengence. We woke to the sound of it pouring off our roof and it had obviously been raining for several hours by then. Sometimes it stops at daybreak, but today it just got heavier and heavier. There was continuous thunder and lightening right above us. I had poor Miki in my room and she was quaking. We had to turn the computers off for a while to protect them, but it has eased a bit now so we have turned them back on. Chris took some very reluctant animals outside for five minutes and he was soaked to the skin, and had to get changed. Then I braved the elements to take a few quick photos, and I also got soaked. Our swimming pool almost overflowed. The water was right up to the top of the rim. Our little patch of garden at the front, and next door's orange grove were completely under water, and the road was a river. It would have been a raging torrent but as the top half of the street is now complete, some of the new flood drains came into use, and carried a lot of the water away. Our bit still has the new drains standing several centimeters proud of the road, so until it is paved, they are not very useful. (They have started the stretch of paving outside our neighbour's house, so had the weather been better, we might have got our bit done today!) Anyway, it is now 4.00 and the rain has finally stopped. I expect the floods will go down as fast as they came up, but the sky is still very dark so there could be more tonight. At least we are warm and dry in the house. I used the time to prepare the last of my seville oranges to make one more batch of marmalade. It is a shame to let them go to waste, and they won't keep for long. The fruit is cooked and I'm just about to go and boil it up now.
This morning I also sat under a bright light in my craft room and finished my fourth lace project - the square. It was much more difficult this time, and for ages I was stuck at a corner and couldn't see what to do. I spent two days undoing and redoing it, and I was getting really cross with it, then the penny suddenly dropped and I was able to carry on and eventually finish it. I didn't know I had so much patience, but perhaps it wasn't patience - more grim determination. Chris said I should leave it until I see my teacher again tomorrow, but I refused to be beaten by a few bobbins of thread, and in the end I got it, which was very satisfying.
I looked at my calendar at lunch time and realised that it is today I should have gone on another coach trip with my sewing group. This one was to a tiny village up in the hills to see local craftmen (and women), making lace, grass weaving, making pottery and cooking. It was a 'watch and have-a-go' day and we were all really looking forward to it, but it was cancelled at the last minute. Wasn't that fortunate? We couldn't have done much walking around a village in this weather. We are now going in a couple of months time when it should be much warmer and drier!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Ready, Steady Cook!

Yes, it is marmalade time of year again. Some of you may remember my efforts last year when I was still in our rented flat with no big pans, or other equipment to help me. Then I was given a bag of bitter oranges, so I couldn't resist the challenge to turn them into marmalade. This year I am better equipped with a new five ring hob, plus my pressure cooker and preserving pan so I set about finding some seville oranges. This proved much harder than I had expected. Any jam the Spanish make is very sweet, so they don't appreciate the use of bitter oranges to make orange jam or mermelada. I asked at all the market stalls in our village and at Turre, but none of them had any or were able to get any for me. I also asked at church and at my sewing group if anyone knew where I could get them, but to no avail. Two weeks ago I went back to a lady in our market called Josephina. I am beginning to get to know her because I buy most of my fruit and vegetables from her stall. She speaks no English so I dug deep in my head and found enough Spanish to ask her again for naranjas amargas (bitter oranges). She said 'No, no my oranges are very sweet' and proceeded to cut one up so I could taste it. I said how lovely it was and duly bought some of them, and then asked again for the bitter ones 'to make mermelada'. She shook her head, but at the time she was also talking with another lady who was speaking fluent Spanish, but I spoke to her in English and I realised she was actually English. I now know that she works as an interpreter. I told her that Josephina keeps giving me her oranges to taste how sweet they are, but I want bitter ones to make marmalade. They need to be bitter for the flavour, and to help it to set. So she then talked to Josephina again, and who tapped her head to show me she would try to remember to find some. I said I would come back the next week. So this Tuesday I again went to her stall, and she asked me 'Do you want oranges, yes?' I nodded and she went behind the stall and fetched me a carrier bag full of oranges. I couldn't tell if they were bitter ones but I thanked her profusely and asked 'How much?' She shook her head and said 'Nada. They are a gift. They are not good' I thanked her again and said I would take her some marmalade, but she scewed up her face. I think she thinks that will be bitter too! I weighed them when I got home and there were five kilos of them. So that afternoon I got on with making my marmalade. I only used three kilos and that filled my preserving pan to capacity. I pressure-cooked the fruit first which makes it very easy to shred the peel. This batch made twenty six pounds of marmalade. I shall be giving quite a bit away and selling some for our church funds, and of course keeping quite a bit for us. I may try using some more of the oranges to make a few jars of darker, thick, chunky cut marmalade for some friends at church who prefer it. I like mine shredded as fine as possible. At least if I ask Josephina again next year, she will have a better understanding of what I want and why.
I told you in my last blog about the new butcher in the village and the rather large chicken I bought from him. Well I roasted it on Sunday and it was beautiful. I stripped it down that night and put away five more meals for two people in the freezer, plus enough cold meat in the fridge for sandwiches the next night, and made a big pot of chicken and leek soup from the stock I made by boiling the carcass, so all in all it wasn't so expensive after all. At the same time as I bought the chicken I also asked him for some beef mince. There was none in view on the counter, but he leaned across and picked up some big lengths of very fat beef (probably from ribs), trimmed it up and minced it in front of me. It was a very coarse mincer and the fattest mince I have ever bought. It didn't look very appetizing, but I wasn't going to waste it so I put it in my slow-cooker with a little stock, added a chopped onion, and cooked it gently for a couple of hours. Then I strained it and left the juice to settle. I removed a whole cereal dishful of fat from this, and stirred the stock back into the meat. Again I froze three boxes of this for future use, and put the last portion in a dish with a suet pastry crust for our dinner and it was absolutely delicious and very, very tender. So although my first visit to the new butcher was not quite what I had expected, it turned out to be very worthwhile. Out here you just have to adapt, and not reject things because they are not like we had in England, and sometimes we are pleasantly surprised by the results.
While I was helping Chris to sweep up the yard this week, I saw this bug creeping across the path. As our dogs will eat anything that might possibly be food, I thought I had better move it in case it was poisonous to them, so I persuaded it to walk onto a stone, and tossed it over the back fence into the rambler. But first I took a photo of it. It was a handsome beastie with a black, segmented back and a pretty pink under belly. I have no idea what it is, but I think it must be larva for something.

Friday, January 15, 2010

A day out in Lorca

As most of you know, every Wednesday morning I go to a 'sewing' group in a little town called Turre, five minutes down the road from here. It is called a sewing group, but actually it is just a group of ladies from all over the area, who enjoy some sort of craft work. Some do cross-stitch, other embroidery, quilting or knitting, a few make cards and sometimes one or two make lace. I used to do my latest cross-stitch project but I now have my next lesson in lace-making each week. I have just finished my third project; a small lace circle that I can use to edge a cloth, or fix around a photo frame. I am quite pleased with it. It was a bit more complicted than the bookmarks, and I didn't do a fantastic job of joining it up, but hopefully I mastered the technique, and will do it better next time. Next week I am going to start on a square. I don't know yet whether this is a solid square, or a square edging, but Pam is bringing the pattern for me next time.
Anyway, this group also arranges a few social activities each year away from the hall where we meet. We had a lovely Christmas dinner together last month, and yesterday we went on a coach trip to Lorca market and shopping centre. We had a lovely little 23 seater coach. It was clean and comfortable, and had a huge front windscreen so we had a lovely view as we travelled along. Lorca is a town about an hour's drive down the motorway towards Murcia. It is renowned for it's large market just on the edge of the town. We had a couple of hours to wander around it. There were lots of clothes stalls. It looks a bit like a jumble sale in these pictures, but actually things were quite organised and it was just a case of rooting for the size you wanted. I love the line of 'legs' displaying thick tights and leggins. The Spanish, and some of the British, really feel the cold, and they wear these thick tights for much of the year. There were also quite a few jewellry stalls and I bought a triple string necklace purely to take apart and use the beads and 'dangles' as embellishments on my cards etc! It was only €4 and it would cost me a lot more than that to buy so many charms and beads. The fruit and vegetable stalls were well stocked with a much wider variety of goods than we get in our little market. It was s good day to be buying greens at this stall. Doesn't it look inviting, and it is all so lovely and fresh.
It was a bright sunny day but very, very windy, which made it rather cold. There was no shelter in the market so we sat at an outside stall and had hot chocolate with brandy in it to warm us up! These are my four friends, Yvonne (far left) who owns my local craft shop, Iris, Liz and Sylvia. I asked them all to pose for my blog. The wind got stronger and stronger during the morning and we were all glad we had decided not to leave our coats on the bus. We saw a big planter with a tree in it, blown across the sreet, and one group was caught in a whirlwind and their hair was full of dust and grit. But at least it wasn't raining!
At 1.00 we all got back on the coach and drove to the other side of Lorca to a new shopping mall that only opened about a year ago. Unfortunately this was just as the recession started to bite, so it was bad timing, and several units were unused. It was a lovely modern arrangement with rows of small shops in narrow alleys with wooden awnings to provide shade in the summer. Everything was bright colours and interesting shapes, unlike our long straight rows of shops in UK. There were stairs and escalators to an upper deck where there were mostly food outlets. (Needless to say there was a Burger King among them, but at least there was no McDonalds!) The floor was very shiny marble tiles, (they look wet in the photo but actually they are just highly polished), which must be quite slippery when it rains. Over it all there was a huge canvas awning on a long pole which waved back and forth in the wind in a rather alarming way. And beyond it all there was a beautiful vista of distant mountains. Our little group went into a Chinese restaurant for our lunch and I think it was the best Chinese I have ever had. There were fresh salads, eggs, prawns etc for starters, lots of ready cooked meats and vegetables in crispy batter, bowls of rice and noodles, and a huge choice of meats, fish and vegetables that they cooked for you in a wok or on the grill while you waited, so it was all piping hot. Then there were lots of fresh fruit and catalan creme for dessert. There was a sign that said 'You can come and chose as many times as wish, but please don't take food you cannot eat'. It was very quiet in there so there was no waiting around, and we had lots of little courses, and certainly ate our money's worth. It was also spotlessly clean and a very pleasant place to be. While we were in there, we watched all the tables and chairs outside get blown across the plazza and pile up outside the door. The manager had to try to stack them before anyone was injured. We had our meal from about 2.00 until 3.00, and as we were leaving, it was just starting to get busy. People eat at very odd times out here.
After lunch we went around the main shops to see what was in the sales. I bought a pretty top, and Yvonne bought some clothes and make-up. The whole centre was very very quiet. They must have been glad to see our little group arrive. I hope the economy picks up a bit soon. It would be a shame if now they are finally geting some more modern shops in the area, they all folded again from lack of trade. I really enjoyed the day, though I don't really miss having these sort of shops closer to home. Mostly I am happy to just go the supermarket and the little places in the village.
We have a new shop in Los Gallardos - a butcher - so I thought I would pay it a visit this morning. I knew it would be a bit dearer than the supermarket meat, but I like to support the village traders when I can. So I bought a whole chicken to roast on Sunday. It was a bit dearer than I had expected but when he gave it to me, it was also a bit heavier than I had expected. I looked at the ticket and found that it weighed 3.5 kg, that's about 7lbs! It's more like a small turkey. The chicken portions I buy out here are big, and one is always enough to do a dinner for both of us, but this time I think we'll be eating chicken all week, and all in all, it wasn't expensive at all!
And finally I can report a measure of progress on our road works. We have a new lamp right outside our house! It was on for the first time last night. It is brighter than the one we had before, but at the minute both lots are on. As you can see, we still have a set of paving blocks beside it, and the men are still about 100m up the road from us, but we live in hope that next week our paving will also be done.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Twelfth Day

There is a lot of controversy about the actual date of twelfth night, but I go with the train of thought that it falls on the 5th January, and is follwed by twelfth day on 6th. But either way, it is of course the time when we celebrate Epiphany, or the visit of the three kings to Baby Jesus. It is a very important time in Spain, and a much greater celebration for them than Christmas is. It is when the children receive their presents from the Three Kings, which is perhaps more pertinent to the true story of Christmas, than receiving gifts from a man in a red suit, usually known as Santa Claus. These gifts are given on Twelfth night, (I don't know how they get their children to go to bed after that!), and most towns and villages have some sort of parade then involving the arrival of the kings, who then distribute the presents, supplied by their parents, to the local children. Our village also has a fiesta throughout the next day, but we are an exception, and I don't know of any other places that do so just around here.
In my last blog I told you about the medieval market which opened on the morning of twelfth night.
Well in the evening we walked back into town to watch the arrival of the kings. They were all three on one huge float, with several helpers each, and they threw handfulls of confetti and sweets at the people lining the streets. When they reached the plazza they got down and went into the big marquee, set up on the car park there. Soon lots of families arrived and sat in rows in front of the platform, and the helpers started fetching parcels from a huge pile at the back of the stage. They took them to a girl at the microphone who called out the child's name and then took it to one of the kings. The child duly went to collect their gift, while cameras flashed and parents watched on. It was all rather fun. The kings took time to talk to each child, sat them on their knee, gave them a kiss and a handful of sweets on their present and sent them on their way. (There is a lot less political correctness here, and it is good to see adults interacting with children without fear of someone complaining or accusing them of inappropriate behaviour!). It was facinating to watch the children afterwards. Some just handed their gift to their parents and went back to playing with their friends, others were itching to open theirs, but had obviously been told to wait until they got home, so they were tearing back little corners of paper to get a peek. Some were running round showing everyone what they had, and others were just hugging them to themselves and smiling. We saw one little girl of about five who was ecstatic when she got a big, colourful rag doll. She was hugging and kissing it, and throwing it up and catching it. She was so happy. Some gifts were very elaborate. We saw a big scalectix set, electronic games, and one little boy had a very big bike! It was a lovely time enjoyed by all the village. Several elderly couples were there just to enjoy seeing the children. We met Antonio, a Spanish man in his late seventies who we often speak to in our local bar. Chris offered to buy him a drink but he said 'Oh no. I have come to watch the children' We hadn't realised how many small children there are in the village. It took well over an hour to distribute all the gifts. After that we went back out to the plazza and had a very tasty donner-kebab wrap for our supper.
The next day dawned bright and sunny. We heard the market open again as this was signalled by several loud fireworks firing off one after another. The poor dogs were shaking with fright and we had to sit with them to calm them down again. At around 11.00 we went across to the plazza in time to see the arrival of the kings. This time they were accompanied by real camels, and were preceeded by musicians, drummers and more children throwing copious amounts of confetti and sweets at the crowd. They then enacted the scene from King Herod's Palace when the kings ask where the new baby was. It was exactly the same as last year, and I gather it is every year, so it is a very strong tradition and important to them in the village. The costumes worn by the kings are very elaborate and beautiful. One King has plenty of boot-blacking on his face. (Again, no political correctness allowed to spoil the proceedings).
After the performance we sat on the plazza and watched the dancers and street entertainers, and all the children enjoying the rides. Around the corner there was a roped off square where 'soldiers' were practicing throwing axes at a target, giving archery lessons to young and old alike, having tug of wars and mock sword fights. Everywhere there was food and drink stalls. The vats of boiling octopus are not at all appealing to me, but the Spanish were buying loads of it. The stall holder just hoiks one out of the vat with a long hook and cuts it into hunks with scissors, and serves it on a tray with rough local bread. We shared a rack of ribs off the barbeque and they were very good. We have our own charity recently started in the village, to raise money for special treats, equipment and treatment for the ten or so disabled children in the village. They were running a raffle at the market and the prize was a barrow loaded with local produce including fruit and veg, cheese and sausages, and wine. The ticket sellers were gaining attention by giving out grapes that had been soaked in a very strong aniseed liquor. I imagine it was alcoholic but I'm not sure. It was very nice anyway! A lot of the stalls were run by local craft people selling coffee, cheese, bread, pies, pottery and jewellry. I bought two lots of cheese, and three pretty necklaces. At least, I bought two, and then Chris bought me another one. The Spanish wear lots of heavy jewellry and some is too chunky for me, but I love some of the pendants and it's nice to be able to match one to whatever you are wearing.
Meanwhile,next to the marquee on the main car park, there was a huge pan of food being cooked. On the programme this was just called comida popular, or popular food. I was hoping it was a paella but this year they made migas, another typical andalucian dish, often served alone, but also as a topping to a casserole, or as one dish on a loaded table of other traditional dishes at fiestas or family gatherings. When I asked my Spanish teacher about it he said, "Oh yes. We have migas on rainy days"!! He couldn't tell me why. He said "Oh we just say It is raining. We will have migas". Anyway, I tried to take a series of photos showing the stages of it being made. Unfortunately the batteries in my camera ran out just before the end, so I went home and charged them up for an hour, and just got back out again in time to collect a plateful of migas to give it a try. First a fire was lit using big logs, and a stand was placed over it to hold a huge shallow pan. This was half filled with water and left to boil. Several bags of salt were added and then two or three big bottles of what I think was oil, but it could have been concentrated stock. This was stirred and when it was well mixed, five sack of flour were added. It was all stirred and turned using sort of rakes and shovels, until it was all golden and resembled large breadcrumbs. Finally, and this is where my camera failed, lots of garlic was added in whole, unpeeled cloves, small spicy choritzo sausages, and strips of fatty pancetta which here is cured or uncured thin rashers of belly pork. Everyone started queuing up around the railings and big platefuls were served up, for free, to anyone from the village who wanted it. They then perched at the few tables provided by the barbeque stall, or on steps and kerb stones, wherever there was a space, to enjoy their lunch. They were given handfuls of green beans with their plate of food, and they broke them open and ate the beans raw with the migas. A Spanish lady told me that in the home it is often served covered with pomegranate seeds instead. Chris stayed home sunbathing in the garden, with the dogs who were still traumatised by the morning fireworks, and were glad of his company. But I went back down and had my dish of migas. The flavour was rather bland but quite pleasant, and it complemented the spicy taste of the sausages. I must admit, I much prefer paella, which is similar but uses rice rather than flour, and in general the English people did not like the migas. But they are not all very good at trying new things, and always want to find what they are used to in England. I don't always like the Spanish food but I'm game to try anything. I expect I'll have a go at the boiled octopus one day, but I'll wait until someone offers me a bite of theirs rather than spend out fiesta prices on a big plateful! I'm not looking forward to being offered pigs ears. They are a real delicacy out here and I'm told they have a consistancy similar to jellied eels!
Anyway, I went home for a while and in the evening we both went back down to the marquee where there was music and dancing from around 5.00. The Spanish do love to dance and before long there were couples of all ages on the dance floor. There was a live trio who sang some songs for the children, and they all went up on the stage and had hats on while they danced around, and then they sang some more dramatic numbers and a few, who presumably had had dancing lessons at some time, were doing a type of flemenco dancing. After that it was all sorts of popular songs, some Spanish and some English, and everyone 'did their own thing'. It was a really good day and what a blessing the weather was. The next day we woke up to heavy and persistant rain thet kept falling all day. I stayed home and got all the decorations down and packed them away in the garage until next year.
I have just realised that this is much too long. Sorry if I have rambled on a bit. To save making it too much longer I will just add a few photos here, but if you go to my gallery ( you will find a whole folder of photos. I've called it Los Tres Reyes to distinguish it from the Three Kings I put on there last year.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Hello 2010

Hello and a Happy New Year to you all. I thought I'd start today with a photo of Chris and I enjoying the New Year's Eve celebrations at our local bar El Naranjo. (The orange tree). It is run by an English lady and most of the folk who go there are English, but it was the only place open in the village for most of the evening. The Spanish bars opened at 12.30 a.m. by which time we were nearly ready to go home to bed! We did actually stay out until about 1.30, because having celebrated the arrival of 2010 at midnight our time, we then did it all over again at 1.00 which was midnight your time. We had Big Ben on the television and saw the fireworks etc, and raised a glass to family and friends across the channel in UK. Earlier in the evening we had enjoyed a very nice buffet supper and been entertained by a lady called Kim who has a wide repertoire of songs from the 60's, 70's and onwards, so just right for all us oldies to sing and dance to. At midnight we listened to the Spanish clock chiming (I don't know where it is) and with each chime we ate a grape and drank from our glass of bubbly. Apparently the locals gather up on the town square to do this and they then party all night. They didn't disturb us at all, though when I had to get up at around 6.00 I could still hear faint music coming from the marquee, so I guess some of them at least, really do keep going all night.
So now life is getting back to normal. We had a lot of heavy rain over Christmas as well as high winds, but that has mostly passed and it is now dry enough under foot to take the dogs for their run in the mornings again. After the rain, everywhere is looking much greener. We even saw a few blades of grass this morning. I am watching with interest as different plants start to appear. For a while there have been some shiny green leaves growing close to the ground. I did wonder if they were wild arum. But this week they have started to flower and it is a bit like a cobra rearing up with it's hood open and it's toungue out. I love this photo I took of one. It looks almost as though it is shouting! There also a lot of very tough long green leaves growing in clusters that look as though they should eventually have a flower in the centre, so I am keeping my eye on them. I love discovering the new plants out on the campo. There are so many I have never seen at home.
We gave ourselves a bit of a problem this morning, because when we unlocked the door to go out with the dogs, we forgot to remove the key, so when the door was closed it moved slightly and when we got back home we couldn't unlock it to get in! The house is very secure with rejas (metal grills) at all the windows, so there is no way to get in there, and a locked metal gate covering the porch door which is also locked. At the back the door is locked and inside is a full length sliding glass door that cannot be opened from the outside, so even if we had forced the lock we couldn't have got in, so we were well and truly stuck. We have a strong five barrel lock on the front door which we didn't want to damage as it would be very expensive to replace, as well as security bars on all the glass panels around the door. Normally so much security is very comforting, but today it was a real nuisance. In the end we went down to El Naranjo to collect a local paper and eventually we found an English speaking locksmith who came out and managed to open the front door for us. So we had wasted most of the morning, but at least we were in.
After a quick turnaround we went into the village to see the start of the Epiphany celebrations. There was medieval music and street dancers, local artisanal stalls selling cheese, teas, bread, plus ceramics and jewellry, and on the plaza there were a few children's fairground rides. I bought a pretty pendant for €5, and some yummy fresh cooked crisps, and Chris tried out the beer stall. I'm not a fan of beer but I had a shandy which washed the crisps down well. We watched a very good dancer who was accompanied by a man playing a short wind insrument that sounded a bit like the thing snake charmers play. The fair ground rides were fun. The medieval 'barca' relied on the girl at the front to pull the rope to rock it, while the poor man on the roundabout had to pedal his bike twenty to the dozen to turn it. In about an hour from now the three kings will arrive in the village and process round all the streets, giving out sweets to the children. They then all congregate at the Town Hall to recieve gifts from the kings, previously supplied by their parents of course. This is a much bigger celebration for them than Christmas, and tomorrow there will be lots happening all day, so no doubt I'll be telling you more after then.