I have just realised that it is almost three weeks since my last post, so I thought I had better come and say 'Hello'. The main reason for my absence is that we have virtually 'No News'. August is the month when most of Spain just stands still, and this year we seem to have joined them. We have done very little except sleep and relax indoors. It has been a very hot summer. Folk who have been here for a lot longer than us, say it has been an exceptional summer weather-wise. There have been several occasions when we were well into the forties, though thankfully it is around 35º again now. We haven't had non-stop sunshine. There have been a few overcast days but then it is very humid and we are all longing for a good thunder storm to clear the air. We also had another Sirrocco wind which sweeps from the African dessert, laden with fine red dust that creates havoc in the house when you are trying to keep housework to a minimum. It also dries up your eyes, nose and everywhere else. One day the 'breeze' from our many fans was so hot, it was worse to have them on than off. For a couple of days we had to give in, shut all the windows and doors and have the aircon on. Even the dogs and cats were happy to come in and flop on the stone floor, and they were all too hot to bother with annoying one another, so it was quite peaceful.
Each night, about half an hour before bed time, we put the air con on in the bedroom, and while it is cooling down in there, we have a swim. One night I was lying on my back in the pool at 1.00 in the morning, trying to spot the meteor shower, but sadly we have too bright street lighting for this, and it stays on all night, so we didn't see any.
However I haven't been completely idle. One day I gave my larder yet another sort out and I changed the sticky cards that I keep attached to the underside of the shelves in my 'dry good' sections of the larder. They are specifically there to catch the little moths that like to lay their eggs in anything with a starchy content. As you can see, they are quite effective. You might be horrified but really this is just a hazard of living in a hot country. You can catch so many moths that you think you must have solved the problem, but it is easy to import more eggs or larvae in packets of food from the supermarket, and with the best will in the world, you can never eradicate them completely. Here they are nothing like as troublesome as they were in Cyprus. I keep any opened products in plastic, air tight boxes, and clean the shelves regularly so I am not worried about our food being contaminated. I haven't killed anyone with it yet anyway!
One day this week, in a fit of madness, I decided to make a big batch of my hot chilli and ginger jam. This is hugely popular with my customers and I could sell much more if I made it. It is a fairly time consuming process and not the pleasantest as you have to process several batches of garlic, root ginger and chilies together and pour them in to a steaming pot of cooked tomatoes and the fumes are quite 'heady'. So I have to be in the mood to do it. The first task is to open several cans of tomatoes (for some reason the recipe works much better with tinned tomatoes rather than fresh ones), rinse them under running water to remove all the pips and chop them ready to cook.
All the time my funny cat Baggins sat right by my feet begging for some. He can smell it as soon as I take any tomatoes from the fridge, or open a tin of them. It's an extraordinary thing but he really does love them. I gave in and offered him a little bit, and he nearly had my fingers off in his eagerness to get it. He must have had best part of a whole tomato by the end of the morning, but it doesn't seem to have any ill effect on him. The other cats all gathered round because they thought there was some food on offer, but they walked away in disgust when they saw what he was getting!
As I was clearing away the great big tomato tins, I was amused to see that the labels clearly stated 'Product of Spain', and the small print said 'from Murcia', but all the writing on the labels was in English. I can only think that they are actually produced here for the British market, but the local supermarket (which is not part of a chain), imports them back here, or intercepts them before they leave of course. I would have thought that in general the Spanish folk are more likely to use these big tins, than retired English couples are. There can't be too many mad English women making tomato based jam in the middle of summer!
We have had two exciting developments in the charity projects I have become involved in. Last month I showed a picture of Donna and I packing 203 sets of our jumpers and beanie hats for the 'Fish and chip' babies of Africa. These were duly taken to UK for us by a very kind local man who passed them to my son Ben in Birmingham. Ben then drove over to Chester and delivered them to Dawn, our contact there. They will be in the last shipment which goes to Africa in September. I then set about trying to find a new outlet for them as several folk are still knitting. I had an address to send them to in S.Africa, but the courier rates were so high, this was just not feasible. However, through a friend from my church in UK, I made contact with a man from Market Drayton who runs a charity called Greenfield Africa, and he has agreed to ship them for us. His courier can not get into S. Africa at the moment but he will send them to Uganda for distribution among communities there. He has asked for a contribution towards shipping cost but it is very reasonable - £10 for a banana box which he tells me will hold 60-65 sets. We can pay this via the donations page on his website, so there is no currency problems. He is happy to accept smaller parcels from individuals and small groups in UK as well, but again he would appreciate a small donation for shipping. Otherwise he too could end up with more than he can handle or afford to ship. I will put a link to our website at the end of this letter. The new address and other information is not on there yet, but by the end of next week it will be. So do check back regularly if you are interested in knowing more. We have almost 100 more sets ready to be shipped now, so I will be doing a parcel up for him very soon.
God is good. When one door closes He opens another!
(The web is such a powerful tool for international communication. This week I had a letter from a Member of Parliament in Australia, saying his constituents had knitted a hundred or so sets and had asked him to help them find an outlet in Australia for them, and could I help him?!)
Another very positive thing that happened was yesterday when our friends Julie and Robin came over to have lunch with us. Julie runs our choir Cantante, and when we give a concert it was decided that we would not charge an entrance fee, but we would have a charity donations box at each event. So we had some money collected over the summer concert season and we decided to share it between the branch of Help the Aged that is run in Spain, mainly to help older members of the British ex-pat community, and ASADIS which is the charity run in our village for the disabled children from this area. It is run almost entirely by a lovely lady called Cati who herself has a Downe's Syndrome daughter. There is very little government support for 'special' children, and Cati works tirelessly to raise funds for anything they need. So yesterday I arranged for her and her family to come to El Naranjo where we went for lunch, and I introduced her to Julie, who fortunately speaks fairly fluent Spanish. Julie was able to give her a substantial donation from the choir, and to learn more about the work they do with these children. We have also taken the first steps towards organising one of our Christmas concerts in the village which I am very excited about. Chris and I have to travel a good half hour each way to practice every week, and to most of the concert venues, so it will be nice if everyone travels to us for a change, and it will be good to forge stronger links between the families who benefit from Asadis, and the choir.
When I have just published this, I am going to bring my 365 photo project board up to date. It is quite a challenge to find a photo a day when you aren't really doing much, but no doubt I'll find something!
You can find out more about our Africa knitting project here.