Saturday, 21 April 2018

Fresh Fish - And Boquerones En Vinagre

About half an hour away, at the mouth of Christchurch Harbour is Mudeford Quay, on a spit of land with the Channel on one side and the harbour on the other. There’s a large car park, a pub, an RNLI station and a yacht club. Best of all though there is a fish stall selling fish landed that day as well as frozen packs put together from the fresh fish. I love fish and seafood of all kinds, so I was in my element when we drove down there yesterday to enjoy the warm, sunny weather sent up to us from Spain. We bought a couple of dressed crabs to eat last night, plus a pair of proper kippers and some genuine smoked haddock (none of your turmeric yellow ones). These are the kinds of fish I missed all the time we lived in Frigiliana, so I was well pleased.
There’s also one type of fish that I miss now that we don’t live in Frigiliana; boquerones en vinagre con ajo. But there at the other end of the stall were a selection of boquerones and so I just had to buy a couple of hundred grams of them as well.
As General MacArthur famously remarked, I shall return. - You have to be a good age to know about that.

Tuesday, 27 March 2018

Between A Rock And A Hard Place

I've explained previously that our reason for leaving Frigiliana was mainly to do with my health, especially the herniated disc and partial collapse of a vertebra at the base of my spine (disc L5/S1, vertebra L4 for the technically minded), which meant that most of the village was no longer accessible to me. Even so this reason meant that we were able to avoid Brexit-related anxieties; a 12% drop in the value of the pound against the euro effectively our state pensions meant that effectively the value was reduced by six weeks per year. We avoided other possible adverse consequences. Staying with pensions for a moment, as an EU member the UK is required to increase the pensions of UK citizens living elsewhere in the EU in line with increases to UK-resident pensioners. Outside the EU the government would be free to freeze those pensions at their current level; with austerity still the watchword, why would we not expect them to take advantage of that change? We went to Spain as retired people and have not worked in Spain, so the Spanish state is under no obligation to pay us a pension.
My health needs are now quite complex; I have an inactive thyroid so have to take thyroxin every day; I have T2 diabetes which requires a daily dose of metformin; I had a very mild TIA three years ago so must now take anticoagulants and vasodilators; I am in the fifth year of remission following radiotherapy for advanced prostate cancer, so am at risk of cancer returning in some form or another. So what? Well, as an EU member state the UK must make a monthly payment on my behalf to cover any treatment I need by the Spanish health services. As a third country it would no longer have that obligation and I could not afford either to pay for treatment out of my own pocket or to pay the premiums necessary for private health insurance - also I would no longer have the benefits of an EHIC. Of course the official UK attitude was "Don't worry. We'll sort all those things out." Well sixteen months later they still haven't done so; why would I believe them any longer?
Of course in June last year we returned to the UK and so these things don't need to concern us on our own behalf. One worry less.
But increasingly I find myself asking what kind of country I have returned to. There's the physical stuff to get used to obviously, like the variability and unpredictability of the weather; that's just a question of time. More disturbing to me is the general tone of debate and disagreement. Throughout the sixty odd years before I went off to Spain people disagreed on many subjects. But so far as I recall, there was a high degree of politeness and tolerance in these differences. Now though there is a level of hostility and aggression expressed towards anyone who does not accept the speaker's/writer's point of view without question. Holders of contrary opinions are too often insulted and stereotyped - do-gooders, lefties, fascists, snowflakes, gobshites are among the more mild labels, but twat, cunt and similar are also commonly bandied about.
So far as people presenting themselves at the UK border no distinction is made between refugees fleeing war zones (They could have found somewhere nearer home), economic migrants looking to a better future for themselves and their families (which after all is what took many Brits off to the various outposts of the Empire), people coming  to study at our universities, and seasonal workers doing essential agricultural or hospitality work which cannot be fully met by the available home-grown workers. All are lumped together as 'immigrants', the adjective 'illegal' implied if not expressed explicitly. This is problematic for me; my maternal great grandfather fled the famine in Ireland to start again from Angel Meadow in Manchester, the area described by Engels as 'the classic slum'. My paternal grandfather grew up on a farm in Shropshire but then moved to Manchester where he was able to benefit from the growth of the Industrial Revolution, so I'm from immigrant stock, though that apparently is 'not the same thing'.
When I was a magistrate many of my colleagues were Jews whose families had perished in the Holocaust, and several others were born and brought up in Britain to fathers who had answered the desperate call of post-war British governments for workers from the Indian sub-continent to keep the cotton and woollen mills operating. Good people, all of them and just as British as myself.
And the past seems to have come back with a vengeance. In my childhood, in Manchester and Liverpool and other port cities, dockers queued meekly at the dock gates in the hope of being chosen for a day's work. Now the zero hours contract is in vogue among many employers in too many industries; 'contract' is an obscenity; these people are casual day labourers to be used or not according to the whim of the employer.
There's so much more sticking in my craw, but that's enough for today.

Wednesday, 28 February 2018

Baby It's Cold Outside

We are promised a daytime high today of -1ยบ here in West Moors, but apart from a few flakes overnight we have so far been spared the heavy and prolonged snowfalls that have plagued the rest of the country, and the sun is shining. So from this relatively fortunate corner I have been amused to watch the reactions of public and utilities alike.
Airports have ground to a halt while snowploughs clear runways and taxiways; train companies cancel services for fear of frozen signals or points; motorways are down to a slithery crawl whilst other roads are awash with vehicles abandoned or sliding treacherously in any direction but the one planned by the driver; hundreds of schools across the land are closed for 'health and safety' reasons.
And what has happened to that characteristic phlegm and pragmatism in the face of adversity? Gone. Vanished. Buried under a mountain of outrage and indignation.
Vox pops on BBC news rage at the incompetence of rail companies curtailing services for snow that never arrives; parents demand to know how they are supposed to get to work if their kids can't go to school, and supermarkets rub their hands as people raid their shelves in case they should get snowed up. I, on the other hand, pressed technology into service; online, I have presented the weekly shopping list to Waitrose and booked a slot on Friday; let them fight through Siberian conditions to feed us, while I stay indoors keeping warm, and if they can't well that's what the fridge/freezer is for - the larder of last resort!
Meanwhile across snowbound, arctic France, Germany, Belgium and the rest - even the Spanish Meseta - people just carry on as usual.
It's ironic that the country that brought the world the Carry On films appears to be the one that can't.

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

A Long Overdue Update

Back in September I ran into serious problems when I upgraded the software on my iPad to IOS 11; it was no longer compatible with Blogger, so I switched to Wordpress which was OK up to a point, but I know my way around Blogger and Wordpress was less intuitive. Today as I'm sitting at my Macbook and just playing, lo and behold I find that Blogger works perfectly with OS High Sierra, the latest operating system for Apple laptops and desktops. So here I am back where I'm happy.
Much has changed over the past few months. We were with our daughter for much longer than we anticipated when we returned to England. Our initial thoughts had been to head back to Lancashire which we are familiar with - we lived there for close on forty years before moving to Spain - and where property is much cheaper than in the South. The trouble was, we had spent too long in the sun; Lancashire, to be precise Southport which we had decided upon, was too grey, windy, wet and cold. On top of that, Southport is no longer what it used to be. It has suffered the same fate as so many other British seaside resorts following the arrival of cheap holidays in good quality hotels along the Mediterranean. The once elegant, fashionable shopping and leisure area of Lord Street is now a mix of charity shops and empty units and the main catering outlets are fast food brands, pizzerias and fish and chip shops.
Back to the drawing board and a map of the South Coast and its hinterland. Everywhere we considered was out of our price range it seemed, the most promising destination being Dorset, but even that was more than we wanted to part with. One possibility was available; residential park homes did fall within our budget but a lot of research was called for before venturing down that path. So, much time was spent trawling the internet to learn more, and the more I learned the more it seemed that it was a safe option subject to certain precautions along the way. And that has led to where we now live, on a residential park on the outskirts of Ferndown in Dorset in the village of West Moors. We have the family around us; Mandy and the girls are about an hour and a half away, whilst Nicky is also less than two hours away; my sister-in-law and her partner are an hour away in Dorchester and we have nephews in Worthing and Waterlooville.
The area has lots to attract us - Poole, with the Jurassic Coast as well as ferries to the Channel Islands and Cherbourg, Portsmouth (home to Brittany Ferries with links to France and Spain) and the Isle of Wight, Christchurch, Bournemouth, Salisbury, Winchester and the New Forest. We have been in our new home since mid-January and have spent the past month taking a selfish pleasure in not being exposed to the gales, storms, snow and cold that Southport is enduring.
On a personal note, at the end of November I had surgery to remove the cataract in my right eye and marvelled at the huge improvement in my vision; I am promised treatment for my left eye some time around April and hopefully then I'll be able to return to painting which is something that I have missed since my eyesight got so bad.
One coincidence that brings an amused smile to my face is that the local Catholic church about half a mile away is dedicated to St Anthony of Padua - or San Antonio de Padua, as he is known in Frigiliana.

Friday, 15 September 2017

Next Steps

We are back in Surrey after our trip north. We are now much more focused in terms of what we are looking for, and one thing we are really clear on is that no matter how attractive the prices may be, we don't wish to return to Lancashire. The bulk of our family live in the south - West Sussex, Surrey, Berkshire, Hampshire and Dorset, and we are getting too long in the tooth to be looking at a five hour drive in UK motorway traffic. Southport we discovered, is not what it was. We did find one location that was appealing, as I wrote last time, but that on its own is not enough.

One of Mary’s work colleagues lives in a park home and is very happy with what it provides, so that is another avenue to explore at this end of the country, so it's back to Rightmove and a new property search.

Thursday, 7 September 2017

Latest

We are spending a week in Southport to begin our serious search for a new home. We arrived late on Tuesday afternoon and set off on Wednesday to view three properties. In the heart of Southport we found a three bed house on a very small, quiet development which ticked about all of our boxes. Then it was off to look at a couple of apartments each of which had problems that ruled them out. Not disheartened I was back on the phone in the afternoon and booked more viewings for tomorrow and Saturday.

Today we set aside to explore more areas around Southport and found one area that we absolutely love; Birkdale. The station is in the centre of the village with level access to the platforms, which is ideal for me. The shops, cafes and bars clustered in the centre had me salivating profusely. A local butcher, a fishmonger, a specialist cheese shop, greengrocer, deli, lots of tempting ‘shop local’ opportunities.

We will obviously need to come up again to continue the search so we are briefing local agents to fossil on properties in Birkdale. In the meantime we are enjoying ‘eat local’' fresh brown shrimps in butter, hand-dived king scallops. Southport is looking and feeling good.


Monday, 14 August 2017

Problems

There seems to be a bug in the latest update to my blog software. I get part way through writing up a post and it suddenly wipes clean. I'm working on it so hopefully I'll come up with a work around.