Saturday, December 18, 2010

A Busy Week

Today I have plenty to tell you about, so I will try very hard not to use six words where one would do, but you know me ... I also have quite a few photos of my day out in Granada so I will share them out through the later paragraph which has no pictures of its own.

Well, I'll start with Tuesday which was our church Christmas Fayre at the Palms, - the bar/restaurant where we used to hold our services. This went very well. There was a good turnout, with a mixture of friends from the church, and folk who live in Urcal and use the Palms as their 'local'. Rain threatened to put an end to the table-top sale, but fortunately it just about stayed away for us. For my contribution I had made ten Christmas tree decorations on bangles, using bobbin lace. They were pretty and I was quite pleased with them. I used all different coloured threads and displayed them on my lace-making pillow, and I'm pleased to say that I sold all but one (which is now hanging on my tree!). They took me a day to make each one, but the worst part was that, after the lace was done, every one had an average of twenty ends to sew in! After the sale we gathered in the restaurant to sing carols and Christmas songs. Julie, the lady in red on the right, (not the one playing the piano), has come recently to our church. She is a trained singer and still has a very powerful voice. (Family might like to know that she told me she knew Sir Malcom Sargent quite well and had sung with/for him several times). She had gathered a group of her neighbours and others from the church, to form a singing group, and they led us on Tuesday. They had only had time for a couple of practices but they did everso well. Julie's husband accompanied the singing on his guitar (which he made himself!), and he was joined by one of their neighbours who played both a clarinet and a violin. Julie herself sang one of my favourite Christmas songs, 'Oh Holy Night', as a solo with the singers joining in the chorus, and it was beautiful. After the singing most of us stayed in the restaurant and we enjoyed a traditional Christmas dinner together. It was lovely day, especially as Chris came with me, and I think he enjoyed it too.

The next day I was up at dawn, ready to get the bus to Granada. Fortunately there was a pick-up point at the edge of the village so I didn't have far to go. Granada is quite a long drive, about three hours, so we made an early start. This was our annual outing for my Wednesday craft group. On the way we could see the distant slopes of the Sierra Nevada, white with snow, and the air was decidedly colder than we are used to. As we approached the city centre there were a lot of Guadia in evidence and they wouldn't let us go any further because of a 'manisfestación'. We took this to be a demonstration or political rally, but our driver soon found a route around it and dropped us in the main street. There were an aweful lot of people around and masses of police too, and they seemed to be centred around a small theatre, where there were several television cameras. It turned out to be the funeral of a very famous and popular flemenco singer. They say there were about five thousand people there. We couldn't get through the crowd and had to cross the main street and edge our way through the people on the other side, who were standing on walls and benches trying to get a better view. We had a lovely leisurely wander around the shops which is quite a novelty for me these days. I think it is the first time I have been in a departmental store since I came out here! When we arrived the sun was shining, and the glare made it quite difficult to keep track of where everyone was. I was with Yvonne who runs our local craft shop, and we were with a group of eight others who all tried to stay more or less together. One of them knew her way around so it seemed like a good idea to keep her in view! We came to an open plaza where the sun was making a rainbow in the fountain. There was a big nativity made out of white lights wound on a metal frame.It didn't look much in daylight but we were looking forward to seeing it lit up later. At lunch time we went to Corte Ingles, which is one of a growing chain of departmental stores in Andalucia. We had a very nice 'menu del dia' in their restaurant and then we walked around a craft market in the plaza in front of the cathedral. As we came round one corner we were greeted by this beautiful view of snowy mountains in the distance and lovely old street lamps and a church spire in front of them. We got chilly so we went into a hotel and had a lovely drink. It was hot chocolate so thick and rich that you could almost stand the spoon up in it, with a good measure of brandy in it, and it cost all of 2€ each. That was a nice surprise in a city centre hotel. We were expecting to pay nearer to five euros. We walked up through all the little alleys of Morrocan style bazaars that surround the cathedral area, and saw shops whose windows were entirely filled with the characters that the Spanish use to make their nativity scenes. These bear no resmblance at all to our traditional stable with Mary and Joseph and the baby Jesus, a few shepherds and the kings. In Spain their nativity scene, which is called a Belén, can take up the space of a large dining table, and it includes people from all aspects of village life. I took a few photos of the shop windows so you can see the detail of these figurines. In the centre of the craft market there was a public Belén in a big tent, so we went in to see it. I took several photos but they are a bit dark, and far too many to show here, so I'll just put on the one of the actual stable, to show it really was there, but there was everything else as well from the orange groves to the goat herd with his animals, to the children playing in the street and somewhat bizarely a figure refered to as the 'crapper' who has just relieved himself in the river. Apparently a traditional Belén is not complete without him! As it began to get dark, we walked back through the streets to see the lights which were very pretty. We saw the white-light stable lit up, and there were lights in the fountain with strings of blue lights in all the trees atround it. At seven o'clock we were all back on the coach and heading for home. It was a lovely day out.

I couldn't have much of a lie in on Thursday though I would have liked one, as I had an appointment at the hospital with the eye specialists. He was pleased with the condition of my eye after the cataract operation, but he gave me a very perfunctory sight test, and then handed me a prescription to take to an optician. We went straight on to one, and fortunately she tested me again. She said that the doctors are too busy, and she always retests people before making them new glasses. It's a good thing she did. She put together the lenses on the prescription to show me, and I couldn't see hardly anything through them. Anyway, I am going to keep the same frames that I had before. Last time I paid out for very expensive flexible frames, and I am so clumsy that I thought it would be a good idea to continue using them. While they are being made I am using my older glasses which are less than useful, so I am even more blind than usual. I particularly can't focus on the distance between me and my computer screen so if I have missed any spelling mistakes, I apologise. You know what I am like about spelling and grammar, but I really can't see what I am doing here.

Having recieved some more last-minute orders, I had one more mince-pie session today and made another seven dozen. I bought the last jars of mincemeat in the shop to make them, so when they were done I took my table down off its stilts, put away the scales, cutters and rolling pin, and said definitely no more! I have made a total of 51 dozen. Forty of those were ordered and the rest were given away, or broken which we will eat, and I did actually make a couple of dozen for our own use. I expect some people think I am mad, and perhaps I am, but even more so because I actually quite enjoy making them. I have got a sort of a rhythm to it now, and with my music on, and the cooker warming up the kitchen, it passes quite an enjoyable morning! When I ran out of mincemeat I still had a small ball of pastry left, and again I heard Mum's voice in my ear saying "I'll just make a kill-me-quick for dad's tea" as she rolled out the pastry remnant and spread it with jam, then rolled it up and popped it in the oven with whatever it was she had made the pastry for. Why it's called a kill-me-quick I have no idea. I don't even know if it was a generally used term or just one of mum's, but I do know that I never throw my end bit away. I make a kill-me-quick too. Today I used my marmalade with a few pieces of the ginger I preserved. Jean was asking me about that as I had forgotten to say how successful it was. Actually it worked very well. It was a bit tedious, taking over a week to make but the resulting preserved ginger in syrup is very good, though if I continue to eat a few cubes every time I go to the fridge, it isn't going to last very long. It is a pity that I have such a sweet tooth, but I was pleased at my monthy diabetic checkup last week, to find that my blood-sugar count is the lowest is has been since I came out here, so I must be doing something right. I was also quite pleased today because I wore last year's trousers for the first time this year, and all day I have been hitching them up, so a little of the weight I have lost, must have come off the right places!!

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