Sunday, December 26, 2010

Happy Christmas Everyone!!

Well Christmas day has been and gone. I hope you enjoyed yours as much as we did. It was quiet, and I did miss the family, but it was a lovely relaxing day, and I managed to talk to all the boys at some stage. Skype is a wonderful thing at such times. Some of the boys were out and about at their respective partners homes, so I had to use my mobile to talk to them, but later I 'skyped' Mike and Jim and was able to talk to the grandchildren as well. Then I did a video call to Jean where she had three of my sisters, Grace, Brenda and Dorothy, with their husbands, and a friend of Brenda's, so we had a good old family chat face to face which made my day. Here the dogs got us up at our usual winter time of 8.00, so while Chris sorted them out, I fed the cats, put our meat in the oven and prepared as much of the dinner as I could. By then the sun was out and we sat out by the pool drinking an aperitif, with the dogs impatiently waiting for the biscuits they knew I had in my hand. We then walked down to the bar just down the road to wish all our local friends a Happy Christmas. By the time we got back our dinner was almost ready. We had a full traditional Christmas dinner which we much prefer to the Spanish custom of eating fish on Christmas Day. The emphasis is on big family get-togethers with copious amounts of food at Christmas. As well as fish, they cook huge soup/stews and of course, paellas.

In our bid to try to integrate into the Spanish community more, I am trying to make better use of the village shops. I tend to only use the farmacia and corrreos (post office), and one of the general stores when I run out of something, but on Christmas Eve we went into the local butchers and spent an interesting hour watching little Spanish ladies ordering 50-70€ worth of meat, and each one gave specific instructions as to how they wanted it butchered. Then Chris had to hand the bags down to them because the counter was too high! The only turkey we saw bought was cut into joints and each one was chopped into big chunks, so they obviously stew rather than roast it. The special meat that they don't have in the shop anywhen else, was cabrita or 'little goat', presumably what we would call kid. They were whole in the glass counter, and each one was cut in half and the legs chopped into about three inch pieces. Then he deftly gouged out the eye balls before chopping the head and adding it to the pile of meat! He used his slicer to separate the ribs, and anything that was left was chopped. We also saw whole rabbits chopped in a similar way. This meat is often used in paellas.They don't roast much except on a spit, as many houses don't have an oven. When it was eventually our turn, we bought a few cabrita chops to try, two fat chicken crowns and some beautiful fillet steak, which is also fairly rare out here. Most of the cows are up in northern Spain. It took a lot of our time but it was quite an education, and the meat is excellent, much better than supermaket meat!

Once we knew we had our meat sorted out for the next day we went down to Garrucha to browse the Christmas market. It was lovely wa
lking along Garrucha promenade. The wind was 'brisk' and I was glad of my jacket, but the sun was out, the sky was blue and it was so beautiful. But as you can see, there were not many people about, and even the market was quieter than it is other weeks. I think for many of the local people, the families were already gathering, and their shopping was probably done earlier. I didn't want much but I bought fresh peas, a few sprouts (probably imported for the British because they don't grow here) and the most delicious, fat and juicy dried dates that I have ever tasted. I asked for 'un pocito' which means 'just a very little' and the man on the stall insisted that I tried one. I think he knew I'd buy more if I tasted them, and I did! I didn't need to buy oranges although the market stalls had loads. This seems to be a very good year for them. The little orange grove next door is dripping with fruit, and soon they will be falling and rotting which greives me to see. The owner lives in Murcia, and she doesn't come here to pick the fruit although she hires men to keep the trees in good order. When I talked to her on her last visit, she told me I was welcome to go in and pick some. A lady comes in most weeks to water her patio plants, and sweep up, and she has a key to the main gates, but this year I think I can reach enough across the fence to supply our needs. And now she has told me to pick them I shan't feel guilty if I do! Here is just one of her trees by our fence, and there are loads more like that.

The green zone at the back of or house has come alive with birds these last few weeks. Last Friday, we had some rain and the noise out there the next morning was amazing. There must be a host of insects down there for them to feed on, and we were visited by a huge flock of starling-type birds. I don't know if they actually were starlings, but they sounded and behaved very like them. Every tree and bush was full of them, and every now and then they would all take off and fly around a bit, and then all settle again. They only stayed for a couple of days and then moved on. Maybe they were refuelling before flying north. When I was quite a little girl, although mum never bought fizzy pop for us, and the only soft drink we had was orange squash, I somehow managed to collect enough Vimto labels to send for a little book called 'The Vimto book of Knowledge'. I can see it now. It was just a flimsy little pink paper book with blue writing on it, and it contained lists and random facts and for some reason I loved it. One list was 'collective nouns' and the one that has always stuck in my mind was 'A murmuration of starlings'. I loved the sound of it, and it describes perfectly what we had out the back of us last week.

My Christmas really started last Sunday with a lovely carol service at church, and then on Wednesday when my craft group had their Christmas party. We met in the hall as usual and the organisers had bought champagne and crisps and ordered four dozen mince pies from me. So we had our break early and then spent a hilarious half hour trying to get everyone to sing the twelve days of Christmas with actions for each day. At 1.30 we went to a local bar/restaurant and had a lovely meal together. These folk have become very good friends, especially the ones at the 'front' end of the table where I was also sitting. The first lady on the right owns my local craft shop and I go to a scrapbook club there once a month. The others sitting closest to us, also go to the shop classes.

Also, I am glad to report that I now have my new glasses. I was a bit taken aback when I first put them on and couldn't read anything on the card she showed me. It was very blurred and I could see everything twice. The two eyes just couldn't focus together. She told me to persevere for a few days and go back if I still wasn't happy with them, but I am pleased to say that I can now see quite well. As Chris said to me, I have been one-eyed for so long, the muscles needed time to start working properly again. The optician did tell me that she had done 'the best she could' for me but I would only have 60 % vision in my right eye (not the one I had surgery on) and that probably I have a cataract growing on that one. I was surprised as, when I asked at the hospital, they had told me that it was fine. However I can now see a very distinct diference in the colour vision with each eye, the newly operated one being clear and bright, and the right one being much yellower, so I sure she is right, but hopefully I will get a year or so out of these glasses before I have to do anything about it!

And finally here are three picture that I have made using individual photos of our animals. With the addition of clip-art headgear, and a bit of help from my photo editing programme paint-shop-pro, I made these pictures and used them on some of my Christmas cards. So I didn't put them on my bog until I knew every one had had their cards. Happy Christmas from the Perry Zoo!

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