Friday, December 13, 2019

Rocking Your World: Week 50

Hi everyone. Thank you to all who took time to visit my blog last week, and leave a much appreciated comment.

I thought I would start this week with some pictures of the other decorations that I put up each Christmas. These are in the entrance hall. I have a high up book case and every year I lay along it a branch taken from a pine tree on the edge of the village. (It broke off in a fierce storm and I found it when I went to pick up fir cones). It is sprayed white and there is a strip of white lights threaded through it. In front sit two pairs of deer that I bought many years ago, and my 'JOY' candle holders that I have had for even longer. Of course, the candles are never lit as they almost touch the next book shelf, but it looks lovely when the hall is dark and the lights are twinkling.

I also like it in the day time.
Just below this shelf there is a table which is usually home to a large pottery urn, but for Christmas it is home to my white Mary and Joseph. I made these about twenty years ago after seeing some very elaborate ones at an NEC craft day. They were modelled around a wine bottle with a newspaper and chicken-wire head and arms. They were then draped with torn strips of cotton fabric dipped in polyfiller  (plaster). They dried white, and have survived for all this time. I once had ideas of making more characters, shepherds and kings, but I just don't have anywhere to display them. But I love these two and they always come out each year. This year I put my light filled star with them, just to make the hall a bit brighter at night.

So now to this week which has had some fun events in it. After I published my post last week I set off to the local campsite for our choir concert of Christmas music. I like this concert because it is much closer to home than any others we do, so lots of my friends come to it, and it is always nice to see some friendly faces in the audience. We wore the purple dresses that were bought for our Royal Albert hall concert last year, and the men wore their matching waist-coats etc, and I have to say, it all looked really smart and good.
The hall soon filled up and we sang to an almost capacity crowd.
We had a lovely programme of Christmas music and many of the pieces were unknown to our audience, which made a nice change from all the usual carols. I think we sang well. We gave it our all, and everyone was very complimentary and appreciative afterwards. The concert was organised by and for a local animal charity (we tell charities that if they organise a concert venue, advertising etc, we will turn up on the night and sing for free), and they raised over 700€ so it was very worthwhile.

On Wednesday it was the Christmas dinner for my sewing group. One of our members has her son over right now, and he likes photography so he came to take a group photo for us. We meet in a room used by the Turre Evangelical church, and because there was so many of us, we decided to line up outside for the photo. He did a good job don't you think? Unfortunately several of us have 'reactolite' lenses in our glasses so it looks as though we all had sunglasses on. It was a bright day, but not quite that bright!
We went on to have a lively sewing session, and then, at lunch time we moved on to a local restaurant  where we all enjoyed an excellent meal.
I was home by about 3.30, and hour later I was off to Vera for a dress rehearsal with my other choir, for our concert tonight. We have a very simple blue tabard to wear witch is so easy and really looks very effective. It is better when we all wear the same colour, and it is a lovely shade of blue. More about that concert next week.

Yesterday was a bit quieter. I popped to the shops in the morning though queues at the supermarket meant I was out for longer than I intended. In the afternoon we walked down to the slip road at the front of the village for the official opening of the "Espacio cultural", a small theatre, just across the road from us. It was one of the reasons we got the big roundabout there a couple of years ago. It was a dangerous crossing so the roundabout was a condition for the theatre to be allowed. However it has taken years to complete. I guess it is down to funding and each time the money runs out, the work stops until more is found. But at last it is finished and I was keen to see inside. It is a potential site for choir concerts in the future.
There was good turnout. When we got there the patio was filling up and the local youth band played the national anthem.
Then the mayor and representatives of the Cultural department in Almeria cut the ribbon. It was in the colours of the Spanish flag, and when he had cut it, the mayor then cut off small pieces and gave them to each of the people involved.
Then we all trooped inside. There were rows of comfortable seats, enough for 200 people, though yesterday they were standing at each side as well. The curtains were open to show the stage and at the back was a screen, with a projector room behind the back wall of the hall, so they have the ability to show films as well as plays and concerts. Yesterday the screen showed this which is our village coat of arms. I just thought 'excelentísimo' was such a lovely word. The accent over the small 'i' means you put the emphasis there. The other rather lengthy word 'Ayuntamiento' simply means Town Hall.
There were speeches from two people, which I couldn't follow very well, but I did get the gist of what they were saying. Then we were invited to stay and enjoy a 'merienda' which means a snack or tea-time. We left by the back door and found that there is a large patio out there, with views of the Cabrera mountains. It was surrounded by an artificial grass wall, and was quite private so it could be used for events. It was dusk by then so the photo is not very good.
Then we went round to the huge patio at the front, where small tables were laid out with plates of bread rolls and cakes.
As we were going out again in the evening we didn't stay for this, but hurried home to feed the animals and ourselves. From the back of our house we could hear the music and chattering from there.
For the evening we went to Simon's, our local bar. Every Thursday they have a quiz, followed by  card bingo for five games, with each game winner getting a share of the money taken, and then a game of 'last man standing'. There is also a raffle with all proceeds going to charity. Because it was the last one before Christmas, a local singing group came to start the evening off with some carols.
My friend Eileen had made a super Christmas cake and had left it in Simon's for three weeks to be raffled for ASADIS, the village charity for disabled children. She raised an amazing 290€ and Cati came to collect the money. The man who won the cake said it was too big for just him and his wife so he asked someone to cut it up and we all had a taste. It was very good!
It was a good evening altogether as I won 40€ in one of the card games, and we got a bottle of whisky and some ginger ales in the raffle.

In these busy couple of weeks leading up to Christmas I am always happy to have some evenings sitting in front of the fire, with the TV on and some crochet in my hands. Some nights we have barely needed the fire on, but we like a blanket over our knees to keep the draught out. My blanket is made from crocheted squares, but it is not one I made. My mother made it, probably forty years ago, and it is still going strong. The cats like it too and usually Tango jumps up as soon as I settle down, and just sleeps on me all evening. He is so warm I really only need the blanket to protect my clothes from his hair. This week Charlie decided to jump up too. I expected a growling match and for one to jump down, but although Tango doesn't look thrilled to have company, they actually settled down together and stayed on me for ages. I didn't get much crochet done, but that didn't matter.

When we were walking back from the theatre last night it was just getting dark and I remarked to Chris that there wasn't much colour in the sky and what there was, was over on the other side, away from where the sun sets, and then in a blink of an eye the sky was suddenly ablaze.
So as soon as we got home I hurried outside to take the photos. As the clouds moved, it looked to me like a big retriever type dogs face, or maybe a bear,  in the sky.
As the sky darkened it became clearer. Can you see it or is it just my imagination again?
You know how much I like to see a branch or tree in silhouette against a sunset, so I couldn't resist including this one.
Then the red and orange changed to pink and purple.
And over to my left there was another of those interesting cloud stacks.

And that is it for me this week. So I will link up with Annie's Friday Smiles and Rocking Your World, and I'll see you all again next week.

Friday, December 6, 2019

Rocking Your World 2019: Week 49

Well I am glad to say I am feeling much more cheerful this week. I am not completely free of the virus, but feel well enough to get into all my usual activities again.
My friend Margie, who is our lay reader at church, posts an encouraging message on our church facebook page most days. One day last week she posted this, and I thought it was very pertinent to the ethos of this post I do each week. So I am counting my blessings, happy that I am on the mend, and grateful that I can be involved in all the Christmas activities around here, and I am getting to spend time with my family this holiday too.

Christmas is in the air and that always lifts my spirits. It has been grey and rather wet this week, but on Monday the men were up a ladder outside our house and when they had left I went out to find we had a dear little angel light hanging from the telegraph pole. I am pretty sure this is the one we had last year too so maybe they have invested in a set for the village instead of renting different ones each year.

I was further surprised when I went up to the Farmacia this evening and found her already lit up. This is really unusual, as sometimes the lights don't get switched on until a few days before Christmas. I assumed this was because they stay on until after the Three Kings fiesta on 6th January. 
We also have very pretty rows of stars strung across our street at intervals. I really can't remember whether these are the same as last year, but either way they look lovely on a dark night. I also don't know whether this is just a try out, or whether they are on for the duration of the holiday. I guess I'll find out tomorrow.

We were warned that another 'gota fria' was heading our way. This more or less translates as a 'cold spell', and sure enough, on Monday the temperature dropped by 10º, and the sky was heavy with dark clouds. By night time heavy rain started, and persisted all night and then carried on all day on Tuesday. As it happened I was quite poorly again for one day on Tuesday. I had a stiff neck and sore throat, but it was gone again by the next day so that was good. Anyway, it was clear I wouldn't be going out anyway, so I spent the day finishing putting up my Christmas decorations.
I love my tree. Believe it or not I have had the same one for around 40 years. I remember we had just moved to Northolt, and my second son, then around 10 years old, came to South Harrow with me on the bus, to buy this from Woolworths, and he helped me balance it on the open platform that were the norm on buses in those days, all the way home! Could I get any more decorations on it? Some of them are as old as the tree, while other have been added over the years. Many are home made, others are mementos bought on holiday, such as Mary and Joseph bought in Arizona, and a silver wreath from Ireland. Almost all of them hold a story and that is why I love it so much.
Of course I found a space to again hang the bauble wreath I made a few years ago. Once again it needed a few repairs with my glue gun, but I had some spares left over, so it was soon put back together. It looks so cheerful, and I still love it.
Our son Tom has lived in Denmark for several years now and last year I visited him at this time so I brought back a few typically Danish decorations. These little creatures were in all the shops so I had to have some of them.
They are really rather cute.
There is even a tiny Danish flag amid the branches of the tree.
I remember I was rather shocked by the total lack of nativity characters or scenes in Denmark. But here in Spain it is completely the opposite. Most of the decorations depict a part of the Christmas story. Every village and city has at least one Belén. The word means Bethlehem but it used for the huge nativity scenes that are seen in marquees on town squares, in churches and on peoples porches outside their homes. They not only depict the stable, but cover all aspects of life at the time. The scenery expands over time, and the characters are often added to each year, while others are passed down from one generation to the next. Here is the one that is being prepared in the church up in Mojacar Pueblo.
If you look close enough you will see the stable in a cave.
And all around are the people getting on with their daily life, like this weaver, or a girl feeding the chickens, a man digging his vegetable patch. No-one is left out.
There is another character in there somewhere, but I'll tell you about him at the end.

I decided I would go to church on Sunday as I was feeling a bit better then, and it was looking lovely with the decorations up for the first Sunday in Advent. During the week, a small band from our congregation had been there to work together and they did a grand job. (Not my photos as I wasn't there!)

Today, for some more Christmas cheer, I went to a small Christmas market held at the local campsite. It is where I bought my 'hippy'shoes last year and I was hoping to get a blue pair, but sadly the lady wasn't there this year. However I talked to couple of stall holders who told me of another regular market that she often has a stall at, so I will try to get to that in the next couple of weeks.
It was still enjoyable to have a wander round today and look at the stalls. Many of them featured hand made items. There are some very talented folk around. Sadly I didn't see too many people buying them. So many of the folk in our community are getting on in years, and no longer bother with a tree or lots of decorations, especially if they are visiting family in UK for the holiday week, or going to spend a few nights in a hotel. We are more of a stay at home couple, so I like to decorate our house just like I always have done. But I wasn't really looking to buy more things to hang on my already well-loaded tree. However, I did buy pasties for our dinner tomorrow, and a bottle of very delicious, artisan chocolate mint liqueur. The menacing clouds put some people off I think, though it did just stay dry for the morning. The stalls were all outside so we needed warm clothes on, but there was still quite a good number of folk there.

And that is about it for me this week, but I am just going to share a little story that might interest you and make you smile. Our local radio station, also runs a Facebook page about local events, and this week they have shared each day the story behind one of the Spanish Christmas traditions. They love their traditions here, and some of them are quite strange, and for me, this is one of the strangest. I quote from their page: -

"The caganers or 'crappers' are a popular nativity scene decoration in Catalonia, where a defecating figure perched behind Mary and Joseph is said to symbolize fertilization, as well as bringing luck and prosperity for the year ahead.

Visit any Catalan home at Christmas and you will find what appears to be an interloper hiding among the traditional figures around the crib in the nativity scene.
Joseph and Mary will be in pride of place around the manger gazing adoringly at baby Jesus in the nativity scene or Belén that is traditionally set up in many homes at Christmas.
The three Kings will likely be in attendance, along with a group of shepherds and a set of traditional farmyard animals.
But look closer and you will spy a figure squatting with pants down, bare bottom raised over a little brown pile of poo – glance up at the face and chances are it's a figure you recognise.
Some families like to use the same figure year after year, often a character that has been passed down through the generations, and quite likely the traditional Catalan figure of a young peasant dressed in white sporting a red barretina and a pipe.
Traditional caganers are made from clay, fired in a kiln and then hand-painted.
But as the caganer has evolved into a huge industry and now all sorts are produced, both in design and material.
There is a growing trend to purchase a new figure each year – a trend that is proving profitable for a handful of artisans who produce the figures each year.
Modern crappers represent public figures of the moment, from politicians to sporting heroes.
Cartoon characters, literary figures, film icons can all be found on the shelves of stalls selling caganers.
No-one is above the cheeky satire that sees celebrities bare their bottoms and perform a call of nature from Queen Elizabeth II to Pope Francis.
Not surprisingly, the Donald Trump figure has been a best-seller for the last few years and is set to top the crapping charts again in 2019."

Although it says this is a Catalan tradition, these figures are often seen in Beléns locally here as well. Here is a picture of the traditional peasant, and one of a shelf in a Belén shop, where you can choose from a wide range of characters.

Isn't that just the most bizarre idea?!

So on that rather weird note I will go and link up with Rocking Your World on Virginia's blog, and Annie's Friday Smiles. 

Friday, November 29, 2019

Rocking Your World 2019: Week 48

Not much of a post this week folks. It has been a very quiet week here. The virus is proving hard to shake and I have little energy. What I have is used up coughing! Poor Chris is much the same. He started coughing before I did, but did not have the really bad days I had last week. But he too is finding it hard to shake the cough. But one of the blessings of being retired is that, if you don't feel like doing anything much, then you can curl up in your favourite chair and recouperate in your own time, so that is what we have done.
I did venture out to choir practice on Wednesday, but had to listen more than I sang. With only a couple of rehearsals left before our concert I thought I ought to be there. 
Yesterday we went together to do the monthly food shop. We were glad to get back home, but at least it is done.
Tonight is the last practice before our concert for my other choir, so I will be going to that too. We are to run through the whole programme, so it is an important one.
We have had bad news and good news this week. Two good friends have suffered major strokes, and another is in hospital with a serious chest infection. It is a part of living in a mainly retired, non-Spanish community, that your friends start to fail, but it is sad when it hits so many at the same time. Fortunately we have a good health service here, and for now at least, we have easy access to it, so they are all being well cared for.
The good news is that son number two, Michael, wrote to say he and his lovely partner Lucy are coming to spend two days with us immediately before Christmas. They each share custody of their children from previous marriages, but just occasionally they get a few days when it is just the two of them, enabling them to go off on one of their adventures. So it is lovely that they have decided to spend this time popping over to wish us Happy Christmas. 
And now our eldest son (Father Jim) and his wife Jo, have asked to come out to celebrate Three Kings, or Epiphany with us at the start of January. It is a long time since they were here, but with their three children all away at University, they are taking the opportunity to come. Jim has always wanted to find out more about how the festival is celebrated here, and they do it so well in our village. So that is lots to look forward to.
Now to get the house sorted out after a fortnight of neglect, ready for me to get the decorations out.

So I will leave you with my only photos for this week, which are of a very interesting sunset. It started off with just a nice patch of light low down on the horizon. Then plumes of clouds formed in lovely shapes which picked up the colours of the setting sun. I am sure you will like them as much as I do.

And now I will link up with Annie's Friday Smiles and Rocking Your World, and maybe I will have more photos for next week. 

Friday, November 22, 2019

Rocking Your World 2019: Week 47

There is not much to report this Friday as I have spent the best part of the week wrapped up in a blanket in front of the fire, having succumbed to the rather brutal virus that is doing the rounds here. I have to say I don't remember feeling this bad for a very long time. But I am hoping the worst has passed now and I will soon be on the mend.

But I still have some lovely photos to share, and the first one is my little mandarin tree. It was covered in blossom in late spring, but like most of the citrus trees, much of their flowers are lost in the high winds of March and April. I didn't actually think any had survived, but gradually I saw a few fruit forming and now they are turning orange , they can be plainly seen. I think it has fourteen fruit on it which I am delighted with as it is only a baby tree, and has never had any fruit on it so far. As soon as I am up on my feet again, I am looking forward to picking them.

Now to the main event as it were, my Advent Angels Project. Over the last month or two I have invited members of our three congregations to knit, crochet, or otherwise craft, small angels. The idea is to put each one into a cellophane bag together with a Christmas greeting, and information about all the services in the three churches in our Chaplaincy. I know I have told you most of that before, but here is the good bit, when I asked them all to be handed in last weekend, I ended up with a magnificent collection of 400 angels! isn't that a brilliant response? And considering we only average around thirty in each congregation, it is an awesome achievement.

There were a large number crafted from paper and card...
Some cute and colourful ones in felt, fabric and ribbon...
And a good number that were knitted or crocheted. It was good to see a few ethnic angels in the collection.
Here is a group, just a small selection to show them in more detail.
So, on Tuesday morning a group of friends met at my house to get them all bagged up ready to distribute. (By the end of the morning I knew I was 'going down' with something, so I hope I didn't repay their kindness by giving them the virus too!).
My first estimate was that I would get around 200 angels so I had sent for  pack of 200 small bags. But when I realised we were going past that number, I ordered a further 200 slightly larger ones. We divided the angels into two sets by size and I worked with three others to get the small ones done, while the other three worked with the larger ones, and within a couple of hours, they were all done!
We all enjoyed chatting and looking at the variety of work involved in making some of them.
And one last picture to share on this theme, at the bottom of the box I found two baby angels. how cute are they!
Fortunately my friends are used to my cats wandering in and out when they are there, and as soon as we emptied one box, Charlie jumped in. He sat there with our feet all around him, quite unconcerned. We did offer him his own angel but he wasn't interested.

What is it with cats and boxes? I had dozed off that afternoon and when I woke up, Tango had commandeered another box and with that grumpy face, I think he was just challenging me to make him get out. But I left him there and he curled up in it and had a snooze. They seem able to fit into the smallest spaces.

And that's it for this week. On Sunday the angels will be blessed in the three churches and given to the congregation to leave in random places around their communities, such as supermarket shelves, buses, bars and park benches, for folk to find and take home to enjoy. And hopefully some who find them, will even join us at one of our services. I am gutted that I will have to miss this last stage of my project, but I am not fit for public gatherings yet, but I am hoping someone will take some photos for me to share next week.
Until then, I will link up with Annie's Friday Smiles and Rocking your World.