Sunday, 31 December 2017

A Christmas Message from Mr. and Mrs. Sánchez.

                                                    Calle Carmona, Álora 

Christmas greetings to everyone in the Turks and Caicos Islands. I'm glad to see that you are up and running again after the terrible storms. And a Christmas hello to the 268 page viewers in Russia - glad to have you back. I've no idea what you see in this blog but keep it up!
This is the first Christmas Man in Álora blog and the first from London Town where Mrs.Sánchez and and I are spending the festive season, as it's called, I believe, - and I'm going to try and do it on my phone.

We left Álora for our winter quarters in mid December- later than usual because I left it a little late to book a large dog kennel on the Santander to Portsmouth ferry. You wouldn't believe it. Large 'kennels' are scarcer than hen's teeth these days and if they're all booked when you try to buy a ticket 'on line' you get the 'bums' rush'. All we could manage was a much later sailing on the old Greek tub 'Cap Finisterre'. I've booked for next September already.

Our top quality raw unfiltered olive oil reached Birmingham more or less safely and cash rich Brummies couldn't wait to snap up bottles of the delicious delicacy  as fast as Sánchez Junior could stick labels on the bottles. Christmas madness I call it.

                     Mrs. Sánchez during a quiet spell at Moseley Farmers' Market.

I must say it was a relief to get back to Brum in one piece. We made the almost disasterous mistake of travelling towards Madrid on the same day that hundreds of thousands of suicidal Spanish car drivers were taking part in the annual December Puente Chicken Run (El Concurso Suicida del Puente de Diciembre). This year there were 26 road deaths, which must have spoiled somebody's Navidad no end. I'm surprised there weren't more.

There was an almost tangible festive atmosphere aboard the Cap Finisterre as it headed optimistically north from Bilbao to take on the infamous Bay of Biscay. We took a risk and tucked into a meal in the ship's 5 (Pirelli) star Restaurant du Port  It's bit of a risk at this time of the year - it gets a bit choppy out there and a quite expensive nosh can easily make a return visit especially what with Mrs.S's delicate stomach. The food is very good though, too good for seagulls and fish. Even on the 'Cap' it's tip top French cuisine.
The cabaret was excellent as always and we managed to sneak our Álora bought bottle of wine into the bar without incident (you should see the prices!). The bar staff were too busy keeping a Gallic eye on a drunken chap from Wigan ("I'm from Wigan") who insisted on showing everyone the new leather 'Peaky Blinders' cap  that he'd bought in the duty free shop.
We were too late to book a 'dog friendly' cabin so Tommy and Monty had to spend the 24 hour trip banged up in a cage ('kennel') on deck 10. They still haven't forgiven me.

Home, Sweet Home at last. Heating on. Fire lit. Kettle on. A cooker that has a functioning thermostat. Rain. Snow . Proper telly instead of having to rely on '' , a questionably legal website which freezes up on a whim, leaving you to stare at the screen for minutes on end on the off chance that service may be resumed. 
I don't know why we ever leave England. Drinkable water. Proper grass That astro turf they put on the traffic islands in Álora doesn't fool anybody except the stray dogs club which gathers there to bask in the sun, worry the car drivers and discuss the likelihood of 'Canine Park' ever opening. 
And then there's Christmas - the best example I know of hope triumphing over experience.

Mrs. Sánchez and I really do look forward to Christmas every year and try to get into the Christmas spirit. There was even snow on the ground when we pulled into the drive of our spacious winter residence. I went straight out and bought a Christmas tree.
Four days later we were all set - festive lights switched on indoors and out, Christmas cards bought, written and stamped, Christmas presents ordered on line (they all arrived in time. Well done all you girls and boys on starvation wages at A happy Christmas to you all).
By this time we were well and truly into the 'Christmas spirit', not to mention the supply of Ribera del Duero vino tinto we've  hauled back from Spain. Well, it's what Christmas is all about innit? Two Christmas markets later we were on the good old M42/M40 heading south into the darkling dawn.


Juanito Sanchez. December 31st 2017

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Don Juan, The Beast of Bonela and Spain's Deadly Domestic Heating.

Don Juan, The Beast of Bonela and Spain's Deadly Domestic Heating.


It feels like only yesterday that we were going around in shorts and t shirts and our woolly jumpers were still in the suitcase on top of the wardrobe. Today it was a bit chilly sitting up in the top square and my café con leche doble went cold in minutes. After a verano de membrillo (Indian summer) el invierno (winter)  has arrived in Álora. Women of all ages are going  round with scarves wrapped round their faces;  only the hardiest or foolhardiest of Brits are in shorts (the local youth went back to their chándals (trackies) months ago) and the shelves in the ferretería are full of electric braseros

           An elderly lady sizes up the latest newfangled electric braseros in 'El PIntor'

In  Álora braseros are still the calefacción (heating) method of choice, although the really traditional type of 'under the table' heating, using burning red hot coals, has almost died out following hundreds of years of fatal house fires, badly blistered  feet and a shortage of abuelas (grandmas). I bet the insurance premiums are pricey.

Another  elderly lady stokes up the fire in her 'under the table deathtrap' 'brasero´. That rug looks a bit flammable, not to mention the blanket.

It's no wonder that that the electric ones are catching on. Central heating hasn't really taken off here but wood burning stoves are popular, especially among the extrañeros (Brits etc.) who tend to go in for air conditioning too.

This lady, Tonia, still lights her brasero every evening in Calle Atrás using olive stones and charcoal. I took this picture last night. When the coals are good and hot, all the family sit round the table with the heavy flammable blanket over their knees. Everybody is lovely and snug and who knows what goes on under that blanket? You've got to be careful where you put your feet though.

The weather was ideal for the start  of the olive picking season  - not too hot, no strong winds to blow the nets around and only one day's rain.
The Sánchez family estate (Olivar Caicunes) yielded 2295 kgs.this year thanks to the impressive efforts of our 'team' of enthusiastic volunteers. Every single olive was picked lovingly by hand.   Special thanks go to:

Mrs. Sánchez 
Colin 'Netman' Laycock
Paul 'Yosser' Hughes
Ben 'The Vegan' Connolly
Bob 'Standard Lamps' Bailey
Geraldine and Ivan
Alan 'Runcorn' Radley and the lovely Julie.
Henry 'The Horse'. who provided organic fertiliser and kept the weeds down.

 From olives to liquid gold

If you fancy a taste of the best olive oil in the known world and know where Birmingham is, we shall be selling a limited amount of our raw, unfiltered, early harvest, cold press, first pressing, almost organic, low acidity (0.3%) olive oil at the MAC Christmas Food Market, Sunday December 17th.,Cannon Hill Park and at the Moseley Farmers' Market Saturday 23rd. December.

Avid and loyal readers of this informative and entertaining organ may remember that last year, whilst we were picking the olives our dinner was pinched, along with the cool bag by an unidentified felon. Suspicion fell on the short toed (snake) eagle that regularly patrols the sky above Olivar Caicunes. No trace of the bag or the sandwiches has ever been found. The latest theory is that an Iberian Lynx may have strayed from the not so nearby Coto Doñana and is living in the High Chaparral next to our finca in Casarabonela. Small dogs and cats have been reported missing by goatherds, shepherds and local farmers.

                                                 Iberian Lynx with dinner

This elusive and potentially dangerous feline food filcher has attracted so much attention and notoriety that it is being compared to the Hound of the Baskervilles, The Loch Ness Monster and The Beast of Bolsover. It is now referred to locally as The Beast of Bonela.

The Olive harvest and oil production (315 litres) has kept Los Sánchez pretty busy for the last few weeks so I've not been able to keep up with the regular programme of cultural and social events in the town. These are usually advertised on posters that are stuck up   willy-nilly on walls and windows in 'The Top Square'. It was only when I called in our little corner shop, that isn't on a corner, to buy una barra de pan that Antonio, who runs 'Lo Mas Natural' with Flores,told me that there was a concert in the Teatro Cervantes that same evening featuring a choir from Newcastle, a large town in the north of England. He showed me part of the poster on his phone. I could see 'Newcastle' and 'Choral'. He said it was free, too.
Our two guests didn't fancy it but Mrs. S and I were well up for it. A good old sing along to 'The Blaydon Races', 'Wor Geordie's Lost His Penka' and 'The Lampton Warm' seemed just the ticket (free) to round off a week of strenuous harvesting. A drink afterwards in Lo D'Antonio's, next to the theatre would be la guinda del pastel (the icing on the cake).

It turned out that the tickets were 6€ each and there was a play on too, called Don Juan Tenorio. It was too late to pull out so I bought the tickets and we went in. The Teatro Cervantes which holds up to 10,000 people was absolutely packed and we only just got a couple of seats at the back.

                                             A scene from Don Juan Tenorio

Two and a half hours later, with no interval, we collapsed into Lo D'Antonio's and ordered drinks. It was nearly midnight. We had hardly understood a word and we had no idea what had been going on. (I admit that I had a couple of naps during the performance) and the only sign of any singing was this:

You can just make out the Newcastle Chorale in the background lending a skillful and sombre soundtrack to this very moving graveyard scene towards the (mercifully) end of the play.

I Googled the play when we got home. Here's the main things I learnt:
  • Don Juan Tenorio is an extremely popular play that is performed all over Spain around El Día de Todos los Muertos (The day of all the dead) (November 2nd.)
  •  It is the longest play ever written in Spanish.
  •  It's about Don Juan who was a notorious womaniser and murderer.
  •  The kids love it.   
  • I won't be going again.
  • Not all Geordies sing 'The Blaydon Races', 'Wor Geordie's Lost His Penka' and The Lampton Warm'

Local Characters

I'd like to introduce you to a couple of local Álora characters.

  1. Paco Rumar

The jolly chap doing the bird impression is Paco. He used to own a traditional furniture factory and shop called Muebles Rumar down on the El Chorro road near the Guardia Civil Cuartel, so we've always called him Paco Rumar, which is not his real name.
For the last 17 years he has been doing this birdie act every time he sees me. It's funnier when he wiggles his fingers. You'll have to take my word for that. The man sitting down is called Rudolfo and is not in on the joke. Neither was I until a couple of years ago when I bit the bullet and asked him why he kept doing it.
In 1999 we bought quite a lot of furniture from him as all ours had been stolen (but that's another story). My good friend and then joint owner of what is now Casa Sánchez, Terry, tried to get a bit of discount on the bill. Paco wouldn't have any of it and good humouredly stood his ground for about half an hour of heavy haggling. Terry finally managed to get him to throw in a flimsy magazine rack and we all shook hands on it.

 Apparently the word 'pájaro' (bird) and the accompanying rib-tickling gesture also mean:

(fam) bad lot, nasty piece of work (colloq) an unpleasant character.
(Hist) A hired killer (in the pay of landowners).

NOW it all makes sense. It wasn't even me doing the haggling.

2. Cuca (Julia Gross)


Julie Gross (Cuca) is smiling because she has just had a very successful exhibition of her paintings in Málaga. She is an artist and a good friend who has lived in Álora  for many years but lived previously in Alhaurín el Grande with her family. Mrs.S and I met Cuca soon after we came to Álora. She speaks English very well but has always encouraged us to learn and speak to her in Spanish. Her paintings in those days were already much sought after and she is particularly known for her 'women' paintings. Her recent exhibition was entitled 'Mis Mujeres' (My Women). Mrs S and I are very proud of the magnificent painting of Cuca's we have here on our wall in Álora.

                                                           'Mujer 001' (2016)

Cuca moved to Álora in 1991 and lived here with her husband Keith Nicholson Pryce who was an author,('Omar, King of Andalusia.'  (Northumbria University, Newcastle upon Tyne UK. 2015) , painter, sculptor and craftsman, until his death in 2012.
After Keith died Cuca stopped painting for a time but I'm delighted to say that she is working very hard again now and is at the top of her form. Her exhibition in Málaga attracted a great deal of interest, gained very good reviews and resulted in a good number of sales.
Keith and Cuca were both very close to the famous Hispanist and author Gerald Brenan who wrote South From Granada, The Face of Spain and The Spanish Labyrinth.

                                                    Granada.  The River Darro

Mrs. S and I and our friend and olive 'netman', Colin have just been to Granada for a few days. It's getting a bit chilly up there but we took some warm clothing and spent as much time as possible in warm bars and restaurants, which is what cities are all about in my opinion.
The big attraction is the Alhambra, of course but it gets very crowded  round there and down in the Plaza Nueva at night, too. We tend to head down to the Plaza de la Trinidad area which is still pretty busy day and night. We had two great Menú del Día at La Chanterela on Calle Aguila. If I thought that a lot of people might read this and go to Granada and make it difficult for me to get a table I wouldn't have told you where it is. It's that good.
On Calle Tablas is the Hotel Reina Cristina which opens until quite late at night. Its cafetería is called El Rincón de Lorca.

I think they've got a bit of a cheek calling it after Federico García  Lorca seeing as how this is where the Granadian fascists grabbed him in 1936 when he was hiding from them in what was then the house of the Rosales brothers. He was already one of Spain's most famous poets and playwrights and not known for any strong political views but the fascist falanguistas hated him for his criticism of the Granada bourgeoisie and his open homosexuality.
They took him away to nearby Viznar and killed him in particularly cruel and disgusting way, Franco tried to cover his murder  up for years and Lorca's body has never been found. So when you're sitting in the warm bar of the Hotel Reina Cristina sipping a Cruzcampo beer or a G and T, spare a thought for Federico García Lorca and the other thousands of republicans murdered in Granada after the city was taken over by the falangists in 1936.

High on the south wall of Granada's cathedral you can still see inscribed the name of the founder of the Spanish Falange, José Antonio Primo de Rivera, even though it has been almost obliterated for some years by the red paint thrown at it by enthusiastic admirers.

Since the re-establishment of democracy in Spain in 1978 the dreadful atrocities of the Civil War and during the years of the Franco dictatorship were hardly talked about because of the Pacto de Olvido (The Pact of Forgetting). The current events in Catalunya, though, have stirred up a lot of long standing animosity between those who believe strongly in a united Spain, as did General Franco, and supporters of an independent Catalunya. Lots of Spanish flags have appeared on the balconies of apartments. Some people have taken this to signify a resurgence of Francoism.

Just round the corner from the cathedral, this piece of graffiti has recently appeared.

We'll see.

Pie News 

There's good news and bad news on the 'pie front' for pie lovers in Spain. Seasoned readers will know that is is almost impossibe to buy a decent pie in mainland Spain (try Mallorca). However, last week I was presented with an unexpected treat....a pack of four genuine Holland's Meat Pies, the Rolls Royce of the meat pie world. They were frozen, of course, and had been bought in Iceland, which is a shop in Fuenguirola (a famous holiday resort down on the Costa Del Sol.). They warmed up nicely and were delicious.

                               Holland's Meat Pies. Made in Baxenden, Lancashire.

I was also presented with what I took to be a Melton Mowbray Pork Pie, the Rolls Royce of the Pork Pie World. (There IS a difference). It was OK but on closer inspection it turned out to be a horse of an entirely different colour! (I am NOT implying anything about the pie recipe here). It's a metaphor.

                                    A Vale of Mowbray Pork Pie. Made in Yorkshire.

 All Melton Mowbray Pork Pies have Protected Geographical Indication status (PGI) and must have been made in Leicestershire around the delightful town of Melton Mowbray. Melton Mowbray Pork Pie.
This one was made in North Yorkshire.
An unwary pie shopper, and there must be hundreds of them in Fuengirola, could easily mistake the Vale of Mowbray pie for a genuine Melton Mowbray Pie, which it isn't.
I think all pie lovers who read this should take note. There is no charge for this advice.

Juanito Sánchez
November 29th. 2017

PS. Please excuse the possible lack of 'u' s in the text. My laptop compter is playing the giddy goat with me and not printing 'u's unless I really biff the key hard.


Tuesday, 24 October 2017

A Near Death Experience in Galicia and other anti-climaxes. Man in Álora gets the picture.

Buenas tardes (Good afternoon) from Álora where the sun is shining brightly and Casa Sánchez positively  throbs with excitement as preparation for this year's olive harvest takes shape. It looks like a bumper crop this year at Olivar Caicunes. Our tip-top quality early harvest, raw, unfiltered, first,cold press olive oil should be ready in time to hit the Christmas markets in the West Midlands, UK.
Readers of this venereal organ can pre pre pre-order a bottle or two to beat the rush by contacting our Marketing Manager UK, Paddy Chadderton at:

 I've just got back from caja de cartón  (cardboard box) scavenging round the town. It might be tempting fate but we've now got enough boxes for 2000 bottles of olive oil. Mrs. Sánchez wants to know where I'm going to put them all.

Mrs. S has been under the weather for the last few weeks with a nasty virus (virus) but I'm happy to say she's now back on form and ready for some olive picking. What?

She went down with the mysterious bug just after  El Día de las Sopas Perotas, Álora's annual invitation to locals and unsuspecting visitors alike to sample the town's signature dish. 27,000 free portions were distributed to the hot and hungry masses  congregating down here in La Plaza Baja de la Despedía. The poster says 'Bring your own spoon', but nobody does, so you get a free spoon too.

The Brits here who are aware that this event is taking place both insist on calling it 'Soups Day' so I'd like to clear that up here and now.
It's not soup. Does it look like soup? And why would they write 'soups' in the plural. Surely they're not going to make the same mistake every year. Someone would have told them by now - after 14 years.

                                Sopas Perotas (with a few local Manzanilla olives)

Granted that sopa translates as 'soup', but 'sopas' translates as 'pieces of bread soaked in soup'. Add some onion, garlic, potatoes, tomatoes, red peppers and olive oil and 'Bingo'.
Sopas Perotas.
Some Spanish words do not translate word for word and the nearest you could get to 'sopas' in English is 'Pobs'. (Google it. It doesn't sound very appetising).
Mrs.S has very fond memories of having 'pobs' (bread soaked in warm milk) as a special treat as a child, when she was ill. She regularly, even when not asked, recites a once popular, pertinent piece of poetry by Samuel Laycock the famous Lancashire dialect  poet who was born in Yorkshire, lived in Cheshire and died in Blackpool (Lancs.)

Tha'rt welcome little bonny brid
But should n't ha come just when tha did;
Toimes are bad.
We're short ´o pobbies for eawr Joe.
But that of course tha didn't know, 
Did ta, lad?

There are ten more verses if you've got a taste for it. Mrs.S will be happy to translate them for a small consideration.

Samuel Laycock 1826-1893 (no relation to Colin Laycock, olive picker and all round gent).

Unlike most festivals and fun days in Álora 'El día de las Sopas Perotas' has no religious theme. No misas (masses) are performed and no-one dies (so far).

We've been having problems with our water. It's a recurring worry. We used to collect our water from the old Roman fountain (La Fuente de la Canca) about a mile away until some 'enterprising' bastard dug a pozo (well) to irrigate his aguacates (avocados) and broke into the 2000 year old aquifer (allegedly). The other popular fountain, La Fuente de la Higuera (The Fountain of the Fig Tree) has been declared a health hazard by the ayuntamiento (town hall) because it isn't treated for parasites, harmful chemicals, deadly bacteria, faecal matter and all the other colourful country crap that has been leaking into the 'water table' for the last century at least.
You can't fool the Perotes (Álora people), though. They aren't having any of it, or more to the point, they can't get enough of it or they can't read or they should have gone to Specsavers which now has a branch in Fuengirola.
I pass by the fountain twice a day and there's usually someone filling plastic containers with the stuff. Those letters are about a foot (0.328metres) high at least.

I think that's clear enough.

But, no. Look how the whole problem has been solved by the stroke of a sharp object. All you have to do is scratch out the 'non' in 'non potable' (undrinkable) and it becomes 'potable' (drinkable).
                                                                  ¡ Ya 'ta !

Well, as tenacious followers of this organ you will know that Mrs.Sánchez sent a sample of our (fuente) water for analysis and we were devastated to to learn that it had the highest calcium content in the whole of Europe, including England.
We bought an expensive and impressive water filtration system only to find that our water bill went por las nubes (through the clouds). It seems that you need to use 25 litres (43.9938 pints) of water to get one litre (1.75975pints) of low calcium drinking water. So now we don't flush the toilet, only have a shower every two weeks and only drink wine, beer, gin and our own urine.. Drop round sometime for a drink or two. Cheers!

The cultural event of the month has been the, now annual art exhibition put on by 'The Independent Artists of Álora' in the Casa de Cultura (the Cultural Centre). It opened on Friday.
Mrs. Sánchez and I like to go to the opening because they put on  free nibbles and drinks (well just me) and lots of interesting people turn up to to praise the efforts of local artists. Most of the exhibits are for sale.
The ayuntamiento (town hall) used to turn its corporate nose up at the 'independent artists' but now it's fully involved. Our popular and handsome alcalde (mayor) José Sánchez Moreno (no relation), Epi to his friends, chaired the inauguration and, despite his rather unkempt or fashionable unshaven appearance, gave a convincing demonstration that he is back in the administrative saddle and in full health again. Welcome back, sir.
We bought a small painting, which only seemed fair considering the amount of wine I had knocked back. Epi's looking straight at it.

Speaking of inaugurations, I passed the Parque Canino (Doggy Park) again today. It's on the right as you navigate the interesting, picturesque Álora circulatory system, just past the big tiled sign that says AVENIDA PEÑON GORDO.

Dogs and dog owners were delighted when the ayuntamiento announced in March that they were spending  84,681 euros and 54 centimos on a special park for dog training and and it was ready in just a couple of months.

                                                         El Parque Canino

It's got a see-saw, a hoop to jump through, some old tyres to run through, a big list of rules for literate lapdogs and even a street lamp.  But it's still locked up. My parents drummed into me that you shouldn't tease 'dumb animals', which included, unfairly in my opinion, dogs. Never mind teasing, this is downright canine cruelty. 'How much longer do we have to wait?'  ask Monty and Tommy.

What do we want?


When do we want it?


 The list of rules:

No barking
No running
No bombing.
No petting
No smoking
No bum sniffing
No peeing on the lamp post.

Securely padlocked

The jolly woman in the town hall told me today that they can't open the Parque Canino until it's been inaugurado (inaugurated.)
I suspect the real reason is the same one that keeps the padlock on the Mirador in the Plaza Baja. They don't want the public going in for a pee.
 But what's the lamp post for then?

We have four florists in Álora that do all right most of the year selling pot plants that usually die off during the hot summers. They make a living, but next week they'll make 20% or more of their annual income selling cut flower bouquets. Whoopee!!
The Days of Death..

La Floresteriá del Ríncon

In Mexico they have 3 days for their 'Día de los muertos' (Day of the Dead) and they go completely over the top. In Spain the tradition has been to celebrate November 1st. El Día de Todos los Santos (All Saints' Day). It's a public holiday, masses will be held in the church and Mercadona will be closed for the day. On this day people come back to their villages and towns of origin to put flowers on the graves of their dead relatives.
But they don't have many graves here. Most dead people here are interred in banks of nichos (niches) which are usually rented by the families of the deceased.

               Andalusian Niche Graves

Álora's cemetery used to be in the  grounds of the castillo at the top of Calle Ancha and you would see people going up there on the days before November 1st. to tidy up the graves. Now they have to go nearly a mile away to the niches in the new cemetery on the hill opposite our back wall. The taxis make a lot of money around this time too. It's a niche market.

No hay mal que por bien no venga. (It's an ill wind that blows nobody any good /Every cloud has a silver lining)

                                      Álora' beautifully landscaped cemetery
                                                 (also the town's helipad)

I am told that people living within a 500 metre radius of the cemetery can't be interred there. That doesn't seem fair.
 The eve of Todos Los Santos has been an excuse for a party in Spain long before 'Halloween' became popular.
 In some parts of Spain 'All Souls' is marked by candlelit processions. These days Halloween has progressed from being a day when some parents let their children go from house to house in scary costumes hoping for handouts of caramelos (sweets).

Now the Ayuntamiento  has put on a party for the kids and the 'grown ups' have muscled in. They dress up as skeletons and vampires and sit outside the old peoples' day centre singing songs about death and drinking flavoured gin, just like in the old days!

I'm grateful to Peggy who use to live here for telling me about the village in Galicia that celebrates ......
The Day Of The Nearly Dead
Galicia, up in the north west of Spain is a murky place at the best of times and it has some of the strangest customs. It has provided Spain with Francisco Franco and Mariano Rajoy,  but the village of Las Nieves ( The Snows) has a fiesta which takes some beating. This is  where people who have had 'near death experiences' are paraded round in open coffins.

                                         The festival of Santamaria de Ribarteme

This takes place in July each year when there is a fair chance it might not be raining.
Needless to say there is a lot of drinking involved and up there and they're very fond of the cider which explains a lot. I've seen the effects of too much cider drinking at first hand, but even the regulars at The Bluebell in Earlswood didn't get up to this kind of nonsense.

I'm off now. Those olives won't pick themselves.

Juanito Sánchez October 24th. 2017

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Álora: where eagles dare and virgins are reflowered every year.

Álora; where eagles dare and virgins are reflowered every year.

Antes que nada I'd like to offer my sympathy and best wishes to the people of The Turks and Caicos Islands who have just suffered the ravages of Hurricane Irma. 

I bumped into a friend in town today who lives on a hill just outside Álora. He looked a bit down in the mouth. He told me that his cat had been eaten by an eagle. While I was struggling to find appropriate words of consolation I wondered if this was likely..

'Did you see the eagle catch the cat?'
'No, but it was definitely  an eagle or I'm a Dutchman.'

Fair enough!
Rudi, who is not usually prone to flights of fancy, was clearly upset so I decided that this was probably the wrong moment to press my friend, who incidentally IS from Holland, on the matter. I had just been been telling him that I had started taking our dogs,Tommy and Monty, for walks near where he lives. He was just giving me a warning about the dangers up there in the hills. 
I hope he recovers from his loss soon. I might suggest that he replaces his unlucky pet with the big tabby that keeps digging up our plants.

Watch this!         Eagles snaches baby 

There is no shortage of cats in Álora. A lot of people actually encourage them by putting food out. They say it keeps the rat and mouse population down.

We've got lots of eagles in Andalucía, including Golden Eagles which could easily snatch a moggie. In fact, a couple of years ago a lady called Suzanne Dodd (aged 43) had to fight off an eagle that was trying to grab one  of her Jack Russells, just outside Benalmádena.

"Suddenly this enormous bird swooped across the path. With one talon it grabbed her nose and the other her collar and I thought that was it for the dog but it struggled for a moment and I moved in," she told The Daily Telegraph by telephone from her home.
She seized it by a wing and prised the bird's claws from her terrier's head as it dragged the dog from the path towards a cliff edge. "I had just a moment to act and grabbed hold of its enormous wing. It turned and bit me but released the dog." 

The 'eagle' then chased her and the terrified terriers down the path towards  Torremolinos and 'swooped down twenty times'.

'It was a terrifying and surreal experience' (Miss Dodd).

'There once was a woman called Dodd
Who thought that her child came from God
It wasn't the Almighty
That lifted her nightie

Complete the limerick  to win this week's star prize, a two litre bottle of Dulce Zahira wine (13%vol). Mmmmm.

Answers, as usual, on the back of a 50€ note.
Box 501 Álora.

Blogger's query: Why does nobody ever enter  these top notch competitions?

I once saw a 'Short Toed (Snake) Eagle flying off with a snake in it's beak up near Casarabonela.

Come to think of it, we lost our bag of sandwiches up there last October while we were picking olives. It was a large pink cool bag and it just disappeared. We never found the bag or the sandwiches. And Christopher Moore has lost his specs.

Good to see that our popular and long sitting alcalde (mayor) Jose Sánchez (no relation) ('Epi' to his friends)  is back from sick leave and getting stuck into  the job. 
I saw him last week at Álora's annual  Romería pulling pints (cañas y tubos) in the PSOE's chiringuito.

                                                   'Epi' getting stuck in.

Mrs. Sánchez and I always try to get back here in time for the Romería which is really a pilgrimage in honour of la Patrona ( the Patron Virgin) of Álora, La Virgen de las Flores (The Virgin of the Flowers).  We have another 'spare' one called La Virgen de la Cabeza (The Virgin of the Head) but she only has a small romería down by the station in April.

  La Virgen de la Cabeza.

The big Romería starts off with a novena (nine days of masses) in la parroquía (the parish church) in La Plaza Baja (the Bottom Square).  Then we have The Day of the Virgin on September 8th. with a big procession and lots of celebrating and the following Sunday the actual 'pilgrimage' from La Plaza Baja to el Convento up on the Ardales road.

They used to send up cohetes (exploding rockets) on every one of the nine days, then on the Sunday there was an ear-splitting barrage at 8.00am. This was thought to be very entertaining and respectful until every dog owner from here to Pizarra complained and cracks started appearing in the houses on Calle Benito Suarez. Now we can all have a lie-in in prepartion for the hard day ahead.

          Getting the ox-cart and the virgin ready at the bottom of our street.

Regular readers may recognise the chap on the right who is helping to tie the oxen to the cart. Yes. It's Juan Mañoño, brother of Paco Mañoño, in a relatively sober moment.
Juan is our Centro de Medico's (Health Centre) best and most loved customer. 

Within two days he will be sporting another big bandage on his forehead after another  'accident'. (see above, five days later).It's about time they moved him into a bungalow - it could save the Spanish Health Service thousands of euros.

La Virgen de las Flores (she's been doing this since 1502 - Just gone 3.00pm).

The procession starts at 10.00am, going through the Plaza Baja up the very steep Calle Atrás pulled by two oxen which are encouraged by poles with sharp points. They reply by venting their voluminous bowels along the street. The scores of horses that follow need no such encouragement and follow suit. What a niff! 

                                                           Going up Atrás

Hundreds of enthusiastic 'pilgrims' bring up the rear, trying their best to avoid all the festive faeces. This year the official street sweeper vehicle was out doing the business, much to the disappointment of Mrs. S. who is a keen gardener and had a bucket and shovel at the ready. The driver was not open to negotiation either. And I thought that Spain was built on curruption! Load of crap!

                                             Our municipal 'clean machine'

Three hours later....

There are three big festivals in Álora every year and countless small ones. You´re never far away from a celebration here. The big difference between the two religious ones, Semana Santa (Easter) and La Romería is that the Romería is more fun. Everyone is smiling all day. And it NEVER rains. It fact, it was so hot last Sunday that a girl in front of me in the 'queue for the bar' keeled over in a 'swoon'. She soon recovered, but not before I'd managed to get my order in.  Come on!  It's every man for himself in those conditions.

The usual arrangement is that you have to queue up and buy tickets for the amount you're going to spend (like at a school fete) and then queue up again to 'buy' your drinks and food. It's anarchy out there, I can tell you. All the paella goes en dos por tres (like that) and you should see the size of the pan!

                                                     Anyone seen Paco?

  We usually start off at El Capirote, the big chirigito run by the Dolores Hermandad. The PSOE one is usually very big too. 
Paco Mañoño was helping behind the bar in El Capirote.This year he didn't go home in an ambulance. Must be off his beer.
By about 3.30pm. the dust starts blowing around and the horsemen get more drunk so it's safer to look for a 'private' party to gatecrash or a small chiringuito a bit out of the way. 

                                                      I am turning left

The only criticism I have of this wonderful event is the lamentable lack of latrines. Most people just wander off into the olive trees which could all do with a drink at this time of year, but those prepared to queue at the only official servicios may have to wait many excruciating minutes in the searing heat for a seat.

 Bar News.

Bar Adeli Blanco has opened on Calle Santa Ana. It is in the building that was the old post office, then Bar Correos, then Bar El Cirineo. The food is good and they do a good Menú del Día for 7.50€. Adeli is the owner and cook. It was shut today.

La Lonja de Mamely is tucked away on Avenida Cervantes, on the left. Its seafood is fantastic. We went today. Squid on toast, seafood croquettes.fried squid, tuna with guacamole on toast. Ice cold Cruzcampo cerveza.

The next big day (last weekend was The Day of the Pedal) will be El Día de las Sopas Perotas.(The Day of Sopas Perotas) on October 7th. Good fun for all with music, lots of stalls and a free plate of Álora's signature dish Sopas Perotas. Mmmmmm.
It's one of the few days in the year that Mocho's Bar in La Plaza Baja makes any money.

¡No te lo pierdes! (Don't miss it!).

                 (Our back wall is in the picture, just to the right of the spoon handle)

Juanito Sánchez 19th. September 2017 (Talk like a pirate day).