We have an eccentric neighbour who insists on feeding all the strays in the area. Not surprisingly, word has spread in the cat world and 24 turn up for the daily free food bonanza. A minor difficulty for her is that she is only here for 2 months of the year, so what to do about the other 10 months when the poor dears would certainly starve to death without her? No problem. Cue Antonio our batty next-door neighbour. For the rest of the year she has persuaded this poor soul to trot over every day and feed them for her. How about that for low-maintenance conscience salving! He is so starved of company that he is more than glad to do it, after all it means he can talk to Herminia all the time she is here and she can't complain! (If he can get a word in edgewise that is – she does like to talk.)
As there is not really room for 24 cats in her garden, they tend to commandeer the houses on either side as well - though the house where Byron lives does not seem to have too much of a problem. I wonder why? After all he is only a playful 100lb rotweiler.
Not surprisingly, the neighbours get a smidgeon upset when they find a cat on the spare bed with its young. They got so upset this time she thought she may have to have them put down. (It didn't occur to her that the cats may well have a loving family home just around the corner!)
The cats didn't seem like this idea very much so they bit and clawed and scratched their way to freedom as her husband tried to capture them; they simply vanished until things settled down. Anyway, the cats are all still there, Herminia has toddled off to Barcelona until next Easter and Antonio is still feeding them for her – so nothing new there! She thinks the locals are ignorant brutes that hate all animals and that she is the one with a social conscience – me, I'm not quite so sure…Any bets on the number of cats that will be there next year?
I have often wondered why Continental brand names are not used more in the UK. I can quite understand why Paqui Supermarket (In Spanish it is the feminine diminutive for Francesca) may not be acceptable but Nestle Bonka coffee seems perfectly innocent to me.
As I no longer drink tea, I looked for an alternative herbal infusion locally and came up with poleo menta. It has a rich minty flavour and goes down very well. "I wonder what it is called in English?" It's pennyroyal. So then I looked at what pennyroyal is used for…to promote blood flow in the pelvic region, menstrual flow and self abortion. It doesn't seem to taste quite the same any more.
We were sat quietly in the only bar for miles, sipping our drinks, when hunger pangs struck. "Can you do us something to eat? "You can have an omelette sandwich." "OK." There was then much scurrying about when they realised they didn't actually have any bread so the son went round the corner to get a loaf. Eventually, with a flourish, the barman proudly stepped through the swing doors of the kitchen, which promptly swung back and knocked one of the sandwiches from his grasp. "I'll make you another one", he said. Now, we knew he didn't have any more bread and anyway it only took him a moment or two to reappear with the "new" sandwiches. Which one is the good one? We compromised and shared them both between us.
We have always thought that the Spanish were absolute philistines for keeping red wine in a chiller; after all red wine is supposed to be kept at room temperature, everybody knows that! This summer we realised that room temperature in Spain in the summer can be 30C which is a tad hot for any wine. It still feels a bit odd to drink red wine chilled to18C but when you think about it that is room temperature in the UK.
We have sampled two other new culinary delights! You take some stale bread, soak it over night, ring it out and then fry it in olive oil with garlic. You then proceed to eat it with fresh melon – lovely! Or you can savour the delights of freshly-made pork scratchings served as a delicacy. If you ever want to try it it's called cochifrito.
We tried these wondrous dishes on a trip through Extremadura and Castile y La Mancha. If you ever get to Spain, forget the costas and head inland. Mérida has the most wonderfully preserved Roman hippodrome, amphitheatre, theatre, and aqueducts plus a brilliant museum. In Trujillo the Moorish castle has an eerie timeless quality about it. You look out over a plain that has remained unchanged for two thousand years or more. Add to that Don Quixote's windmills and you have an exquisite mix of interest.
We went on the trip to avoid the village fiesta which is four days of non-stop noise from midnight to dawn. As we live in the main square, so we are close to the epicentre and the house quite literally shakes continuously to the beat of the music. We booked our hotels on the internet and most of them were excellent, though we did have a grumpy, unhelpful, receptionist in one of them so I took the opportunity to practice complaining in Spanish! A couple of the hotels had swimming pools so we took a dip. After a few moments we realised that you couldn't actually see the bottom clearly and the water had a funny taste. Then we looked at all the kids in the water and wondered if they had anything to do with it… We now look very carefully before dipping.
On our travels, strolling the streets of Salamanca we noticed an old guy in front of us with a step ladder, a small dog…and a goat. Suddenly he stopped, set up the step ladder in the middle of the pavement and the goat hopped up onto the small platform and proceeded to do pirouettes, with the old guy acting as ring master! It takes all sorts.
Pam decided it would be a good idea for us to paint the window bars and the garage door. For us read Rod! That's 360 fancy cast iron decorations and dozens of bars – upstairs - on the tiled, sloping roof or on a platform. Whilst doing this the local village idiot came along and stood for 1½ hours just watching me paint. (It's better than cuddling parked cars like his brother does, I suppose. Yep, really. Well, I've only seen him trying it on parked cars. Come to think of it I haven't seen him lately. You don't think…?) Rafael has a colourful turn of phrase, so we were treated to just about every swear word in the Spanish language as he passed the time of day with us – and watched paint dry.
The garage door proved quite a challenge as it is galvanised and paint doesn't stick too well. I rubbed down then undercoated and top coated. Victor came over and said "Do you know you have drips on the front?" Whoops. Quick as a flash I picked up the nearest rag and wiped it off – unfortunately the rag was soaked in paint stripper. So I stripped the four ruined panels back to bare metal and started again. Pam said "I like the different colour. Can we have it as a random pattern?" So we now have a garage door with some of the panels painted in a darker grey than the rest of the door. Still, it's a talking point. By the way the garage door took me five days using 5kg of paint – proper job.
We went out for a stroll recently, one hour down the road. I was all for coming back the same way but Pam had other ideas. "I'm sure that track over there will get us back the pretty way", she said. "It's the wrong side of the river", I said. "It'll be OK," she said. So we set off walking east, when home is north. There wasn't a bridge and we walked for 1½ hours in the wrong direction. When we got to Fuente Vaqueros, we found that the buses were only running every 2 hours instead of hourly. So we walked an hour to the next town and hoped for the best, we were (finally) in luck and caught a bus home. So much for a quiet stroll!
We looked out the window the other day and there were four workmen setting up a huge crane which needed tons of gravel in a hopper as ballast to stop it tipping over. They had a JCB but unfortunately only one shovel between them so it took quite a while to spread the gravel out. When I say four workmen I mean one doing the work and the other 3 supervising; come to think of it one of them did spread the gravel around a bit with his foot.
Poor Andrea fell victim to drinking with Pam. As the bar had no tonic, Pam suggested they use Martini Bianco as the mixer with their gin. Andrea drank three of these lethal cocktails and was doing fine until the landlord offered us all an extra free drink – I'm sure he only did it to see how Andrea would cope; badly as it happens. Andrea seemed to lose the plot a little (and probably a lot of brain cells). She rang the next day, from her bed, to ask if Pam was OK. She was, of course, fine! "I seem to have fallen over and cut my lip," Andrea said, "but I'm not sure when." She later remembered dancing in her front room and doing a rather too ambitious twirl… Rod
No, I did not run out of Spanish/Latin repertoire. But this week I fancy something completely different. Here it is, La Corrida de pueblo de Zaborovie by the all-girl ethno-punk-ska-rock band Iva Nova (spelled Ива Нова) from St. Petersburg. More of their music here.
I'd like to let you know that this term I will be teaching again at Newport. It's the year 3 course on Thursday night that, as you know, starts on the 21st of September. The course is divided in 1 and 1/2 weekly lessons. We will be following the Access Spanish book, and we will be looking at the daily routine. Anyone interested, please contact the college as usual. See you there. Elena