Saturday, July 28, 2018

Rocking Your World 2018: Week 30

I am a bit late starting my blog this week as I was so busy making a run of Christmas cards, that I almost forgot it was Friday!
It is a run of twelve cards, but this is the only sneak peak I can give you as I will be using them for a challenge in a few week's time.

It hasn't been a particularly busy week, but it has been a very hot one. A friend of mine goes to the hospital in Almeria regularly, to translate for various British folk, and while she was there she took this photo of one of the thermometers that appear outside most Farmacias. While none of us believe these completely, as their sensors are often in an exposed position, plus it is a known fact that the many stone buildings in a city hold the heat, it is still and exceptionally high reading, and an example of how hot it has been. (If you are not used to the centigrade scale, 51ºC is around 123.8ºF!!)

Fortunately it was not quite that hot last Friday afternoon when we set off for our end of season social with my choir. We were at a small restaurant in a village house belonging to a couple who sponsor us. One of them used to sing with the choir until his business caused too many time conflicts. We had not been there before, but we knew it was up in the hills a bit, and we had had very good reports about it. It turned out that I was very glad Chris was doing the driving as it was a long slow climb, on winding roads with blind bends, and sheer drops at the side. We both decided that we might return for a lunch time meal one day, but not an evening one, as neither of us fancy doing the drive after dark. There is, of course, no street lighting away from the towns.
However, it was a quaint house, with lots of interesting nooks and crannies, and there was a lovely patio with a pool, and we had tables and chairs out there. We were just about at the top of the number they can accommodate, so there was not a lot of space to 'mingle', but we still had an enjoyable afternoon sitting chatting to those around us, and enjoying an excellent buffet.
It was a sun trap on the patio and we were glad to find some seats under one of the sunshades. Beyond the pool, you could see over the wall to a vista of agricultural land spreading below us. This photo doesn't do it justice. 

Aside from that, we have spent most of our time at home, having a much needed siesta through the hottest part of the afternoon and staying up late to compensate.
Last year I bought a new fan for my craft room which proved to be too strong for in there, as it blew my papers everywhere. So this week I bought a less fierce one which I am happy to have on, even this late into the evening. We have moved the strong one out onto the patio, where it is proving to be really useful. With that blowing on me I have been able to sit outside and do my crochet, or read, in comfort. It is lovely to have enough spare time to do some serious reading, and I have 'devoured' two books this week.

Our only other outing was last night when we went to Mojacar for Noche de Velos, or Night of Candles. This takes place up in the Pueblo, the little white village set on a hill above the playa or beach. Posters from the Town Hall warned that parking would not be allowed close to the village but a series of special buses would be leaving from stops along the playa to take people up. So we parked on the beach and found our way to one of the temporary bus stops. We got up there just before the sun went down. In fact we sat and watched as it disappeared behind the mountains.
We sat at a tiny bar and had a drink before we went any further into the village and we were glad we did, as there were long queues at the main places on the plazas. The bar tender told us that 23,000 people attended the night of candles last year! I don't know how many people were there last night, but they were all milling around, and though you had to hunt to find a seat or a step to rest on, it was still possible to walk around.
The first candles were lit before it was properly dark, but as the light faded, the whole place came to life. There were little candles strapped to all the railings. It took ages to light them all.
There were also small candles and tea-lights in paper bags, with some sand in them, all along the streets and on the plazas. (The Spanish have a more sensible approach to health and safety than other countries where it has often gone over the top in my opinion, but even so I was a bit alarmed to see long skirts swinging above these paper bags, and little children playing around them). But there were no fires that we saw anyway.
As we walked around the little streets and many plazas, we saw several stages prepared for musical events, though we knew these would not start much before midnight. This was a nice view looking down into the courtyard behind the ancient church, where instruments were being set up for a reggae session.
We sat on the steps of the main plaza and just 'people watched' for a while. There were people milling around everywhere.
Then we went to the upper plaza and dodged in and out of the candle bags, and just enjoyed the atmosphere.

Much later we sat and watched this couple. The lady was a great singer and excellent violinist, and her friend accompanied her on guitar. I had to smile though, as when she came out she did a long introduction in Spanish, and then broke into an Ed Sheeran song which she sang in flawless English!

As we walked passed the front of the church we saw lights inside and went in to look. The whole place was lit by many candles, which were reflected in highly polished marble, and it looked beautiful.

Just as we were making our way back down, to find our bus back to the beach and our car, we saw a group of people carrying various sizes of drums, collecting together, so we stayed to watch them. They were great, and at the same time, some men started juggling with lit torches. Note again that it was up to the crowd to keep a safe distance from them, and hold their children back.
I took a short video of them which I have uploaded to Youtube so I can share it. I didn't catch the best bit of their display, but it may give you a feel for what was going on. You can see it HERE.

When we got back down to the Playa at a bit after midnight, we suddenly remembered we had not had any tea, so we found a beach café that was still serving, and had tostadas with fries. It is a wonder either of could sleep after such a late meal, but we did!  It was a lovely night out, and something a bit different. Apparently it has only been running for four years, but has already become the most popular tourist attraction of the year.

Despite the days of unrelenting sun, the early mornings and most evenings have remained very warm, but have been quite cloudy. As a result we saw very little of the moon's eclipse tonight, and I thought I would have to settle for this picture of the almost full moon that I took last night!
However the clouds did thin out and I managed to get this set of the moon emerging from out the other side. It is probably fully visible again now, but I am not going out to take any more tonight, so I will leave you with these. They are not brilliant, but not too bad either seeing as I only use a 'point and shoot' camera on full zoom.

And that's it for today (in fact out here it is tomorrow now!). So I'll be off to link up with Annie's Friday Smiles and Rocking Your World, and then I shall find my bed. Good-night all.

Friday, July 20, 2018

Rocking your world 2018; Week 29

Not so much a hot-dog as a Hot Cat.
Charlie, like the rest of us, is struggling a bit with the relentless heat, so he finds the coolest bit of floor space and lays out in all his glory! I understand how he feels exactly!
But despite the heat we have had a lovely fiesta week, made even better because our son Jonathan and his wife Ella, came to share it with us. We collected them on Wednesday morning, and the fiesta really got started on Thursday when the street lights were turned on. They were very pretty this year.
We went over to the plaza in the evening and enjoyed watching the local dance schools do their show. Then at around 11.30, the main band comes on the stage and they play until around 7.30 the next morning. 
Needless to say, we don't stay that long, but there is a lovely atmosphere among the folk, all sitting around in family groups, under the lights and lanterns, with drinks and tapas from one of the temporary bars set up around the edge of the plaza, everyone chatting and laughing together, while the children run between them with their market stall toys. It's a very happy occasion.
Then some folk get up to dance. They like anything that that they can dance the paso doble to, and some of the older generation take it very seriously. But the younger folk just want to dance, and even Jon and Ella got up for a few numbers.
I had to smile at Ella in her flip flops and Jon in his ankle boots!
When we got home, I took this photo from our back yard. You can see how close to our house it all is. These lights are on the bumper cars and other fairground attractions. Fortunately the rides stop around 2.00 am, and the tall white building, which is a little supermarket, absorbs some of the sound from the all-night stage.

The most fun we had was probably on Sunday afternoon when we went to the foam party at Simon's bar. It starts off quite gently and all the children have fun in it, with a parent keeping watch to scoop up any little ones that get lost in it! Then a bit more is pumped in and Ella and I just had to join in. It is hard to describe, but it feels cool and soft, and just wonderful when the thermometers are showing just short of forty degrees. I am trying to keep a hand over my drink, while also holding a phone to take photos, but it was a lost cause!
Eventually we managed to drag Jon in as well. Once he accepted he was going to get as wet through as us, he enjoyed it too.  Every now and then the canon was turned off, and the foam soon died right down to a soapy stream down the street, but then he would fire it up again. The man operating it could swivel it to catch anyone he thought was trying to escape.
When the children had all had enough, there was a lady at the end to hose them down, and then the canon was moved progressively further and further into the bar area, and the foam is pumped out fast and furiously until it even covers the adults heads. Chris, Jon and Ella thought they had found a safe place to sit, but he saw them and they were soon swamped again.
At tea time we went home and rinsed it all off. It was a good afternoon.

The patron saint for our village is La Virgen del Carmen, and her saint's day was actually on Monday so we had an extra day of fiesta. That evening we had the traditional open air mass on the plaza. When we arrived the village choir were in full voice up on the stage, with the altar arranged just below them.
They sing with great gusto, accompanied by guitars, clapping and castanets, and I love to hear them.
Then a procession arrives from the church further up into the village, with our priest,  the altar boys, and some strong armed men carrying the statue of the virgen on a 'trono'.
Everyone is invited to come up and place their floral tributes around her, and on a trestle set up along side. Even tiny children come with their flowers, which are later taken up to the church. It must look like a flower shop in there the next day.
This is the main event of the fiesta, and adults and children alike, all wear their finest clothes, many of them in traditional flamenco style dresses. I love to see them all. Some of the dresses are beautiful, and the children look so cute.

We did opt to escape from fiesta madness one night, when we all went for a meal at our favourite Italian restaurant. The food was excellent as usual, and then we went down to Mojacar beach to walk it off before we went home.

Jonathan used to be a qualified tree surgeon, and he had promised to do a little bit of work for us while he was over. So one morning he set about cutting a tree down at the end of my washing line, that had grown too big and was becoming a nuisance. It would have taken ages for us to do, but he set about it like someone who knows what he is doing, and before long there was just a small square of earth left. We are going to build the wall around it a bit higher to make watering easier, and plant our little mandarin tree there. It is in the pot next to it, ready. As you can see, it is not thriving in a pot, and has not produced any fruit again this year.

He then tackled a similar tree growing in a corner of the main yard, that had burst its pot, and the roots had sneaked round the fence into next-door's water supply. As water is a valuable commodity out here, in the interests of good neighbourliness, it had to go. I was sad to lose that one, but my menfolk rolled our big orange tree into the corner to replace it, and it looks good there. That one does do well in a pot, but it is a very big pot!
After all his hard work, Jonathan had a rest on the settee and was immediately joined by his new best friend, Kim. His younger brother Ben was most put out when he saw this on Facebook, as he thinks he is Kim's best friend too! I guess it's whoever happens to be here at the time.
When Charlie is not spreadeagled on the floor, he likes to sit near the cat flap and watch what is going on outside. This week Tango joined him and they sat together for quite a while. They are all learning to be quite comfortable around one another.

The flowers in my tri-pot on the front porch, had all died off and I renewed them a couple of weeks ago. One of the new ones was a dark purple foliage plant, which rather took my fancy. It turned out to be very thirsty and needs to be watered nearly every day. Quite soon the leaves turned much greener and then the plant produced several spikes of purple flowers. It is really pretty now. It has aromatic leaves and I think is related to mint, and also has square stems which I believe makes it a member of the nettle family. I like it anyway.
On their last evening, the men were lost in a football match on TV, so Ella and I went for a walk with the dogs. It was cooling down a bit by then, and they enjoyed the outing. I took Ella round into the rambla and was surprised how much it has been tidied up since my last time down there. The first area, which used to be bare mud had become 'a desert in bloom'. There were several of these green shrubs with lots of big, white, upward facing trumpet flowers. I haven't had time to look them up, but I must find out what they are. They looked very beautiful.
It did the dogs good to have a long walk as they don't go far in the summer when the paths are often too hot to walk on. But they were slowing down (so were we) by the time we got to the last bit of the path. The sun had sunk behind the big rock cliff, and the light was fading.
I had to take one of my silhouette photos. These are tall reeds that grow abundantly in the ramble which is a dry river bed, so they can probably find water not too far below the surface.
Ella enjoyed seeing a bit of the village where she would not normally have gone. She is very fit, and put us all to shame by doing an hour of exercises in the mornings, despite the heat. And she was missing the long walks she does with their own dog, a seven month old staffy called Rudy.

Well I have finally run out of news and photos so I will close for this week. I am posting earlier than usual as we have a 'social' event to go to this afternoon. So that may be the photos you see next week.
So I'll just link up with Annie's Friday Smiles and Rocking Your World, and then I can go and tidy myself up to go out.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Rocking Your World 2018: Week 28

Another busy week has whizzed by. The children have all finished school so the village seems busier, and we are now in full fiesta mode. For the actual village it started last night, though the main events are over the weekend, ending with the big mass and floral display on Monday. But up at Llanos, where my church is, the fiesta was last Sunday. Our church was originally a little catholic chapel for the tiny village of Llanos del Peral, and the surrounding villages. They now only use it for 'funerals and fiestas', and I guess most are now mobile enough to go to the bigger towns around if they was a regular church service, so we now have regular use of the building, which also acts as a village hall and meeting place. But it is understood that that the local people have first use of it, so on the rare occasion that one of their fiestas lands on a Sunday, we do our best to keep out of their way. On Sunday we had been informed that there was a fiesta in the close-by village of Alfoquia and they would be arriving up by us around 1.00, so we made sure to finish our service in good time and had a very quick time of refreshments and chatter afterwards. My friend and I moved our cars a short distance away, and stayed around to take some photos.

The village folk had been in the day before and put beautiful flower arrangements in the church. They are especially nice as we rarely have 'real' flowers as they just don't last in the heat.    It was very hot standing waiting for the parade, but there are a few trees to give some shade. Before long we heard distant music and the first horse riders appeared, closely followed by a van pulling a decorated trailer.

The caballistas, or horsemen, love to dress in their traditional costumes, despite the fact it was around 35º, and it must have been so hot for them.
The trailer was carrying the statue of Virgen del Carmen, the patron saint of Alfoquia. This village is just too far away for the people to walk up to Llanos, so they arrived in a convoy of covered wagons, horse-drawn carriages, or else they came on horse-back. And as the modern meets the traditional, the last few were in cars!

In these more rural areas of Andalucía, horses are very important, and many children learn to sit on a horse as soon as they can sit up, and while still quite young, they are competent horse riders. So, for them, it is traditional to arrive at a fiesta on horses.

There was an air of fun and happiness as the folk called to one another, and the colourful wagons collected on our now empty car-park. 
When everyone had arrived, they again set off, this time to the local fuente - fresh water fountain, a kilometer or so further along the road, where they would enjoy their picnics, and then return to the church for the patronal mass in the afternoon before processing back to their own village, probably for more partying well into the night.

Meanwhile we have watched as lights have been strung across the streets in our home village, fair ground rides have rolled in on big lorries, and been erected on the flat land across the green zone from our back yard. The temporary bars have been set up around the main plaza, and today they will be building the stage on the plaza where the bands and singers perform from 11.30 at night, until around 7.30 the next morning. (It is the only time all year when we sleep with our windows firmly closed. Thank goodness for ceiling fans and air con!).

Following our usual adage of "If you can't beat them, join them", we will be wandering over each evening, to enjoy the dancing displays, and a drink on the plaza surrounded by our neighbours, all in fiesta mood, and when we have had enough, we will go home and sleep through the rest of it.
The worst part of fiestas for us are the loud, loud, rockets that are sent up in volleys at random times throughout the next four days. There have been four lots this morning as I sit writing this, and there is not even much going on yet. The dogs hate them, though I must say, Kim doesn't seem as bothered this year, but Foxy has spent all morning hiding behind the settee, and she will probably stay there all day.

During all this excitement we were again at the airport on Wednesday to pick up our son Jonathan and his wife Ella. It is four years since they were out here last, so it is really nice to have them here again. This is son number four who is a drummer in several heavy metal bands. He has been over in several European countries, including Spain, touring with his main band, but of course, they go to the major cities for their gigs so we have not seen him on those occasions. It is a year since we went to UK for their wedding. How times does fly!
They spent what was left of Wednesday, soaking up some sun and dipping in and out of the pool. Yesterday they walked along the beach in the morning and in the afternoon I drove them up to our municipal swimming pool at the top of the village. It is huge and deep, open air with lovely views of the mountains, and is always sparkling clean. And we were the only ones there!
How lucky are we? Sadly it is only open for July and August, as it is manned by students, and it will get a lost busier after the fiesta, but it is great facility to have, especially as most houses in the village do not have their own pool.
Today Jon and Ella have gone off to find a waterfall and some rock pools to swim in, but the walk down to them is not for the 'less-agile' and I needed to be here as tonight is the last choir practice before we stop for the summer, so I can't afford to miss that. But we will all be going over to the fiesta later tonight.
So next week, no doubt I will be posting fiesta photos again, but for now, that is all. So I am off to look for Rocking Your World, and Annie's Friday Smiles, so I can link up with them.