Day 209: El Niño

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I was dragged from my excellent sleep by the continuous roaring of an electric generator which caused me at first to believe there was a tractor outside our caravan. Mary heard nothing as she was too busy teaching S3 boys a language she couldn’t speak in her pyjamas while Mr. Coton, her Headteacher, sat at the back of the room eating ice cream and sharpening a large kitchen knife.

The tractor turned out not to be one of John Deere’s finest but an electric pump which a worker was using to fiercely hose down the pathway below us. When I asked the rather alarmed looking Dane from the caravan directly below us what all the commotion was, he replied with one international word “Stink!” I at once checked myself for underarm freshness then realised he was alluding to the distinct odour of sewerage wafting through the caravans, borne on an ever-freshening wind.

The poor campers had woken up to find gallons of untreated waste matter wriggling past their pride and joy. Thankfully, the site workers were as usual quick to respond and prioritized clearing up the mess to letting folk sleep in peace. Hence the tractor noises.

But the event of the morning wasn’t the sudden stink and the sea of “merde”. It was the strengthening wind which started to test the fixings of awnings all over the park and toss all sorts of unfixed objects about like bits of paper. My large satellite was the first to topple over from the fence where I had propped it then my chair left the breakfast table before it was finished. Almost inevitably the smaller working satellite dish bit the dust with a crash despite my spare wheel weighing down the tripod stand.

The main concern of course was the awning itself which rippled violently every few seconds as gust after gust tore through the campsite. Even with a clear, blue sky and bright sunlight the temperature remained cooler than of late as we suffered for the first time from wind chill in Spain. I reckon it got down as low as 15º! Sorry, that was cruel of me. I therefore spent the morning working on the computer but inside the awning, keeping an eye on all the fixings and praying that the material wouldn’t just suddenly take off and float skywards, direction Barcelona.

Upon checking the views for my blog I was surprised to find 4 unknown people from different parts of the globe had checked out my most recent post. This I put down to beginning to use “tags”, a system of key words attached to each post which search engines read, making my blog readable by more folk around the world. One of them, a young Spanish guy, has decided to follow the blog and will receive an e-mail every time I update with a new post.

Mary and I spent some time today working on polishing up a letter of introduction, synopsis and brief biography for me to send to other publishing houses along with sample chapters from my book. We chose a couple of publishers based in Edinburgh who will be the next to give my work the once-over while we also found one further literary agent whom we will ask to represent me to the publishers. Let’s all keep our fingers crossed.

To change the scene a little, I strolled up to the spare ground outside the bar to watch the weekly “boules” tournament. OMG it was World War 3! The best player on the site, a Frenchman called Daniel, was teamed with a Dutchman and they were up against a British woman and a Swedish girl. To everyone’s amazement the two women moved into a 9-0 lead, sending our Gallic champion into a paroxysm of complaint about the length of game his opponents kept playing and claiming they were throwing the jack more than the permitted 10 metres. This struck me as pure gamesmanship and as usual it worked brilliantly as the two men incredibly reeled them in and won it 10-9!

At that, all hell was let loose. The Swede’s husband had a go at the Frenchman for moaning because he was losing, the Frenchman’s wife butted in with a few choice phrases I was lucky enough to understand, the Dutchman seemed embarrassed to have won in such a manner and Daniel himself just claimed innocence and accused the women of trying to upset his game.

Then it got worse as the judges decreed that the couple to take on Daniel and partner in the final would be…. The two women again! Instead of celebrating making the final, the English woman screamed, refused to move to the pitch, picked up her boules and marched off. The Swedish husband grabbed his wife by the arm and marched her away despite her protests. Daniel started to celebrate another victory, but the judges then announced that the tournament was null and void and no prizes would be handed out. The whole thing ended in chaos with claims, counter-claims, threats and sabre-rattling. I expected the heavy metal boules to become the weapon of choice but ill-feeling remained just that and no-one came to blows. Great entertainment!

By tea-time the wind had all but disappeared and we were able to sit outside the awning and enjoy our Frikadellen in the evening sunshine. The awning and Magic Caravan had survived El Niño and by eleven o’clock we were back watching the TV even if it was only “You’ve been Framed” …… in German!

Day 208: Good Friday

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Always expect the unexpected. Locked away in our Scots Catholic heads is a kind of mindset which kicks in automatically when Good Friday arrives. It tells us to only have one substantial meal, not to eat any meat and above all, to be in the church on the stroke of 3 p.m. to honour the moment of our Saviour’s human death. It’s not a big deal when you’ve been doing it more or less all your life, although having Type 2 diabetes means I personally have to be a wee bit careful with the “one substantial meal” part or it’ll be me keeling over at three o’clock.

The above explains why breakfast was simple and lunch even more so, consisting of a tin of sardines and half an avocado. That combination by the way works quite well and we’d recommend you give it a try. In between these two “snacks” we did a bit more planning for the next few weeks on the road and I went back to researching how and to whom I should send the manuscript of my book. I appear to have struck out with Black & White Publications who, eight months on, still tell me nothing (not even “Your book is rubbish!”) despite helpful intervention by Stevie Barnett’s associates at Liquorice Media. Thanks for your help, Graham and Susan and of course Stevie. Anyone else out there who can throw me a line, please do so.

So, back to today. At 2 p.m. we drove down to Vilanova and round to the district where Santa Maria church is. We found a parking spot and then walked a few hundred metres through a somewhat forlorn part of the town to the church on the square. When we got there, to our surprise, the place was deserted, except for four kids playing with a ball. The church was under lock and key. And that’s the point! It never occurred to us that what we do in Scotland might not be what they do in Spain.

I am writing this under the awning this morning and I can’t believe what I’ve just noticed. Socrates is here! He is on auto-suck on the inside of the left-hand wall, just below the horizontal support pole. How very wonderful! For all his fans, here’s a photo!

Buenos dias, Socrates!

Buenos dias, Socrates!

On our return to the campsite, which was necessitated by there being nothing at all open in the whole town and the streets utterly deserted, we stopped into the bar to have a coffee………. and that’s where we found the inhabitants of Vilanova! The place was absolutely crammed full of Spanish families all having some kind of celebration meal. All the tables outside were occupied as well, there was clearly no fast and abstinence going on here, catholic or otherwise, the children were all screaming their heads off as were many of their parents and the drink was flowing like the Dighty Burn in spate.

I asked Mihail, my friend the waiter, why all these people were eating at 3.30 in the afternoon but he just shrugged his shoulders, grimaced and said “George, they’re Spanish!” OK, so now we knew that things are very different here in Spain on Good Friday. No fasting, no abstinence (quite the opposite!), no conservative demeanour, no church at three o’clock. In fact it’s party time over here! Rejoice, rejoice, the Lord is dead! My mum always said it wouldn’t do if we were all the same.

Down at the site shop it was chaos. Before we even went in, there was a crowd of Spaniards loading a vast quantity of groceries and drink into the back of an overladen Honda Civic which they’d backed up almost into the shop. Inside, the assistants were all run off their feet serving the multitude of happy holidaymakers, while the sweetie counter was reminiscent of the Battle of Stirling Bridge with children’s bodies climbing over each other to get their share of the fiesta goodies. We bought a tin of tuna, a baguette and two avocados. Quite the party animals, eh?

As we ate our restrained meal back at the Magic Caravan, the air was filled with the throbbing beat of get-down-and-dirty music coming in from all directions as Spain threw off its dowdy coat and put on its glam suit! What a scene it was, with people of all ages having a good time while the children ran around screaming like Banshees or careering up and down the lanes on bicycles and scooters. In the end we opened a bottle of wine and put on some Led Zeppelin but frankly couldn’t compete with the Hispanic Hysteria.

At the back of ten, we wandered up to the bar in the rain (which had, fortunately or unfortunately, doused the celebrations) expecting to find the advertised disco in full swing. The bar was empty and the disco was cancelled. We’d forgotten that campsites usually have their entertainment outside as the weather is rarely unkind, but tonight was an exception.

However, we did get into conversation with a Scots lady and her English man friend. The woman kept us entertained for over an hour with tales of her past as a forensic scientist and her adventures in Saudi Arabia, Moscow and the United States. She’s been here now for the past 7 years and has bought a mobile home to live in permanently. Quite a character she is, coming from Glasgow although born in Stornoway.

Well, that was our Good Friday, not exactly how we had planned it but an amazing experience to add to the bucketfuls we have already had. How will they top that on Easter Sunday?

Day 207: Spaniards!

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What’s going on here? The campsite is suddenly full of Spaniards! Where did they come from? Of course I know they came from Spain, but what are they doing here? Vilanova Park has for the past 8 weeks been populated by Johnny Foreigner, Brits, Dutch, French, Germans and Danes, plus the odd Swede or Finn, but there certainly haven’t been more than a handful of Spaniards onsite.

Now as Easter approaches, they’re here by the barrow load, and a right proper noisy lot they are too! Another phenomenon to add to the ones we’ve already noticed on our adventure. The Spaniards aren’t the only ones who shout all the time though (although the women are particularly loud in comparison to other countries). In Germany the Turkish men tended to converse at high decibel while all Italian men sounded like they are about to have a fight! The Orientals in Oz were quite loud too come to think of it and I happened to notice in more than one country that West Indian and African men seem to really enjoy talking at the top of their voices into mobile phones.

That reminds me of my dearly departed father, Frank, who never quite got the hang of using the telephone. For a start he didn’t have one in the house until he was about sixty years old! But, God bless him, he clearly assumed that the further away the recipient of the call was, then the louder you had to speak into the mouthpiece (which, for some inexplicable reason, he tended to hold up near his forehead by the way). It used to reduce us to tears just watching him make a call to the family in Leeds, screaming his head off down the phone. Dear aunt Cissie is another who has compensated for long distance by raising her voice over the years, but it would be really nice to hear that voice again soon, loud or not! Renée, tell her I’ll call soon.

Everyone by the way gets very loud when they’ve had a few drinks, especially young folk from any country. The Danes over the wall from us are raising the roof as I write but that’s because they’ve been on the sauce since midday and that combination of alcohol, sun (and bacon!) seems to be absolutely lethal. I’m expecting a Viking raid at any moment!

We have a new friend in the old Welsh guy (whose name I’ve forgotten) whom we’ve met a couple of times up at the bar. He is a wonderfully interesting person with a thousand tales to tell and I have revelled in his company this week. By coincidence, on the day Uncle Gerard sent us information about the Picos region of North Spain, this guy recounted a string of adventures he’d had in that very area, walking from mountain refuge to mountain refuge. He highly recommended that we spend some time in the mountains which he described as some of the most beautiful in the world.

Well, I went for a walk this afternoon and bumped into him again. He was on his way to the bar for his teatime pint and invited me to join him for a quick one. I reluctantly agreed (stop grinning!) and sat in rapture for half an hour listening to his tales from the Pacific Islands where he was stationed with the R.A.F. in the 50’s. Mary must have thought I’d fallen down the pan, considering I’d told her I was just popping to the loo!

As you can guess, we didn’t do anything we’d planned to do today. However, while the normal excuse is the weather was poor, this time the weather was so good we just couldn’t prise ourselves out of the chairs outside the awning where we ate and read for most of the day. My head got a little burned too because I inadvertently left off my hat, never thinking it would be so hot at eleven in the morning. They tell me it peaked at 22 degrees today before the clouds came over and showers peppered the late afternoon.

We’re happy to report that the dongle is working quite well and we can have Internet access wherever and whenever we want. The signal can be a bit temperamental but in general it’s efficient and fast enough to cater for the things we download or browse most. As I said earlier, we have plenty news channels on the TV now in any one of seven different languages so we have no problem keeping up with what’s happening around the world. We were sad to hear that the wonderful Nelson Mandela may be nearing the end of his epic life, although he already appears to have lived several lifetimes. What an amazing person he is and a great example to us all.

Mary passed me a short story to read on the Kindle yesterday. It was actually a rant by someone encouraging the readers to get on and live life to the full as this is not a rehearsal and every single minute we waste is gone forever never to return. Although not all that well written, the essay made its point quite strongly and left Mary and me feeling very glad we have chosen to come away on this adventure. We have no regrets at all about what we’ve done because we realized we could if we wanted. So, dear friends, if the opportunity presents itself to you, remember the saying “Carpe Diem” seize the day and enjoy your life while you can, doing above all what you want to do and not what others want you to do.

Remember all you carnivores; it’s Fast and Abstinence tomorrow for Good Friday. Thank God for tuna!

Day 206: Simply the Best!

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Mary was the one up early and sickeningly busy this morning while I had myself a long lie and pondered on the fate of the world. Usually it’s the other way around so I enjoyed my all too infrequent cup of tea in bed and made no apologies for still being there at 11.30. Anyway it was dull and overcast so I didn’t fancy sitting outside with a big jersey on and staying indoors for meals is now quite naff!

We decided on a wee run into Vilanova after lunch today, especially as I wanted to try and get a month’s Internet on Orange España at 1 Euro per day unlimited. We spent an hour in the bar online first and got chatting to an elderly couple we’ve met two or three times lately. They told us their caravan got sideswiped by a Dutch Motorhome cutting the corner while leaving early this morning. The old guy jumped out of bed, grabbed his keys, got in his car and chased them up the road, eventually catching them at reception. He took their details and demanded some instant cash (50 Euro) which he got on the spot. Well done, mate!

Down in Vilanova we wandered up the Rambla Principal and found the Orange shop where the assistant helped us get our monthly subscription, so we’ll now have Internet connection from the Magic Caravan 24/7 for the next 4 weeks while we’re travelling. On impulse we then drove round to Simply, the big supermarket on the far side of town, where we spent an hour or so just checking out what was on offer but with no particular objective in mind. I was fascinated by the sumptuous fish counter and decided to learn how to best cook seafood so we could take advantage of the bargain prices on offer. We started with some fresh sardines which we’ll have tomorrow grilled with butter.

Simply is the best by the way. Its food is first class, its beer and wine section offers ridiculously cheap fare and it has large fancy goods and clothing departments. It sells TVs and computers, cameras and mobile phones and even has a 1 Euro section where everything costs……. 1 Euro!! We love going there because its huge and wide and there are always plenty check-outs open so you don’t have to wait until you grow a beard to get served. At least Mary doesn’t! You can also fill up cheaper than anywhere else in town and there is a 2 Euro self-service car wash with one of those fun power hoses to soak yourself with.

We had tuna cooked in dry Martini tonight, mine with pasta and Mary’s with avocado, both hitting the spot nicely. The evening was very, very quiet as we both did our own thing while listening to some mood music in the background. Although we didn’t see loads of the sun today it was still 20+ degrees and extremely pleasant and the forecast promises much of the same over the Easter weekend. What with it being Holy Week, the campsite has become really busy with lots of Spanish families coming in for a holiday. They’ve filled and opened the big outdoor pool in preparation for the season to begin at the weekend and everything has been suitably spruced up for the new visitors.

Interesting comment came from Mick the butcher last night. He told me he was a bit peeved at the prices of things here onsite, something that caused me to choke on my beer, as we consider this place cheap as chips. He explained that down towards Benidorm everything is half the price of here in Vilanova and some of the bargains he quoted were unbelievable. If that’s true then I can’t wait to get there! Don’t forget, we hit the road again on Tuesday and it’s South, South, South!

I think we’ll have a tourism day tomorrow. We’ll probably go to the Park Guell in Barcelona which I haven’t seen but Mum and Mary visited a few weeks ago, then we might just pop on the train and go to Tarragona for the afternoon. You’ll be the first to know!

Day 205: Chinese Laundry


Breakfast probably doesn’t come any better than mine did today. Picture the scene. I’m outside the awning in my comfy chair in front of the foldaway table. Before me is an array fit for a king: omega 3 margarine, una barra curta (Crusty bread), 2 boiled eggs (just over the 3 minutes) and a large mug of Tetley’s. I’m wearing a pair of Jesus sandals and a pair of shorts. Facing south, the warm sun is in my face and I resort to having breakfast with my hat and shades on. At 10 o’clock it’s so hot I have to retreat to the harbour of the awning for my second cup of tea while Lady Burton joins me for her first of the day. Is she really be missing Monday period 2 at Monifieth High School? Her face says No.

While I see today as a perfect excuse for farniente, Mary, influenced by her dear mother’s genes, sees it as a fine washing day! What is it about the Robertson girls and doing laundry? They view a full washing line blowing in the wind like I do a Champions’ League Semi-Final penalty shoot-out! And is their idea of misfortune having two correct numbers on a Lottery ticket or a holiday of a lifetime cancelled because of a far-off volcanic eruption or losing their wedding ring down the plug hole? No. Misfortune for the distaff side of the Robertson family is rain sweeping in just after the last virgin-white sheet has been hung on the line!

That’s exactly what happened here today! In my most supportive of roles, I sat with wife Mary until a washing machine became free (it’s devil take the hindmost up there in that wee room you know) then came back to the caravan and put up a lovely washing line round two trees and the awning. It was a thing of beauty, fit enough to support any selection of our smalls and delicates! While Lady Burton enthusiastically filled the extended drying screen with the smaller things, I, being that bit taller, hung the bulkier items between the trees, creating a kaleidoscope of colour rivalling the flags outside the UN building. That stuff will be dry in minutes, we thought.

But what was that? Did I just feel a drop of rain? Impossible on such a perfect day! We looked up to see angry black clouds blot out the Mediterranean sunshine and a worrying darkness fall upon the site. The clouds took one look at our washing hanging proudly outside the awning and emptied their contents on it in a sudden burst of unexpected wetness. Misfortune indeed! Mary, safely inside, bemoaned her bad luck while I, in an attack of pragmatism, unclipped the flags of all the nations and threw them inside. The drying screen followed in a flash and the day was saved. Lady Burton looked on admiringly.

You can’t beat class, can you!

That was our portion of sunshine for the day. The rest was cloud and annoyingly infrequent but still wet showers. As always on such days when confined to quarters, we retreated to our own personal pleasures, Mary to her Kindle and me to Mah-jong on the laptop. I’m glad to say that, in the middle of a particularly difficult board, I was taken with a strong desire to write some more Socrates which I did in an hour or so and that is why you will have received a surprisingly unexpected next chapter sometime in the afternoon. Hopefully you will have found the content equally unexpected!

It would take something special to rival the culinary delight of today’s breakfast as I said, but tonight’s mince and tatties were absolutely outstanding due in part to the tin of Heinz beans I found up at the campsite shop and added to the mince and onion. Delicious! We spent the evening apart. Mary cosied down with a DVD “The Black Swan” (starring Desmond Tutu!!) while I ensconced myself up at the unusually busy bar to watch France v Spain, a World Cup qualifier. I got chatting to a butcher from Lincolnshire called Mick (who was a cut above the rest!) and I endeared myself to the healthy number of French fans in the bar by starting up a resounding “Allez, les Bleus!” as our Gallic cousins strove to find an equaliser. Unfortunately they didn’t.

The Audi keeping cool.

I forgot to mention that the satellite is up and running again, only this time it’s tuned to Astra 19 as 28 is just too difficult to fix on. So, although we can keep up with things out there in the rest of the world via CNN, Sky News, France 24 and BBC World, we will have to be weaned off our diet of German soaps and Islamic prayer channels which populate 19 east. Both Russia Today and China Today look like they would be riveting, if only we were in any way interested in what’s going on in either of those two countries. Africa seems to be where it’s all happening these days, given the amount of programmes dedicated to analysis of events on that continent, and French TV is absolutely awash with documentaries, discussions, debates and anything else that begins with D about North Africa where its former colonies of Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco lie.

I haven’t seen “Casablanca” for years. I’ll have to play it again!




Day 204: Well, blow me down!

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It was sunny but windy when we woke up this morning, with unusual consequences. When I came back from my shower and shave, the satellite had blown over and so had the drying screen, except that the latter had had a basin full of clean dishes in it and they were now scattered all over the floor of the awning. In pieces. The damage came to two of our big plates, one small one and one mug but luckily none of the special mugs we particularly like. Nice start!

I gave up after half an hour of trying to regain Astra 28 on the dish even although I set it in the exact same position it had been previously. I know this because I marked the position of each of the 3 legs of the tripod stand in the earth. Sad I know, but the signal is extremely delicate here and the tolerance is about 1 millimetre in any one direction so losing the signal was quite a blow. As the wind got stronger I also had to peg the front of the awning, something I’m meant to do anyway but hadn’t as the weather for the past 7 days had been so very kind and gentle.

Mary was soon off to the bar, not for a morning snifter, but to access the internet and have a bit of a Skype with Scott to catch up on how he’d been since we’d left. It turned out he’d just been working every day, stacking up the wages for when he quits work and goes to New Zealand in about 4 weeks. Good on him! With plenty money behind him, we’re sure he’ll not feel restricted when it comes to paying for all the adventurous stuff he intends to do out there.

Lunch was taken under the awning, a frugal affair of pâté sandwiches and pineapple yoghurt then we struck out on a tour of the site paying particular notice to the other slightly larger caravans using this facility. This fits in with one of our future scenarios involving establishing a base here in Vilanova but in a bigger caravan with maybe a fixed bed and enough room to sleep four or six. In that way, we would be able to have you all out here whenever it suited and, from your point of view, it would cost you the price of the flight only. Attractive, eh?

Surprisingly, our walk took us back to the shop then the bar. Conversation was struck up with an old Welsh geezer whom we found quite entertaining in his tales of his youth in Bridgend (Welsh Wales) then we popped outside onto the sun terrace and quizzed two reps from one of the big companies about what life was like for them and how easy it might be to get a job out here. A couple of Sangrias later we were ready for our tea which Mary whipped up in no time, a sweet and sour chicken not to be sniffed at.

Our evening was spent at the caravan, listening to all our favourite songs including contributions from Harry Nilsson, Blur, Oasis and John Lennon. If you haven’t heard of the first guy your musical education is incomplete and you need to rectify that immediately: you may know some of his stuff from the film “Midnight Cowboy” with Jon Voight. We drifted off to John Lennon’s classic love song “Woman”. (Pause for deep sigh of regret).

Well then, as I reread this post, I am only too aware that we have given you all a sneaky glimpse into two of the possible ways that our lives may go in the next year or so. Let me emphasise however that they are ideas and not concrete plans. There’s an awful lot of thinking time out here, a luxury you guys back home probably don’t get too often, so please don’t be surprised to read that many future scenarios present themselves to us on a regular basis, sometimes right out of the blue. Our lives are a bit of a blank canvas these days so there’s nothing wrong in trying our hand at drawing something on them no matter how sketchy and unrealistic that might be. The only thing that is certain is being uncertain.

By the way, I should point out in response to Scott Gibson’s latest comment, that this post contains absolutely no reference to football. Ah no! It does now!

Day 203: Palms

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What a lovely day we had today. Breakfast was, unusually, bacon and eggs just because it was ages and ages since I’d had what used to be my staple diet. Then we were off into Vilanova to seek out the church of Santa Maria for Palm Sunday mass. We got there……. eventually!

Actually we found it quite quickly. It was the parking space that we couldn’t find. I drove up and down a hundred narrow streets around the church and failed to find the slightest corner of a space on which to leave the Audi. So the search area widened and widened until we must have been a fair distance away before we chanced upon a dead end with a couple of spaces just before the said dead end became a bomb site!

Fortunately the church had a very high tower attached to it on the suitably named Carrer de la Torre so even from our parking point we were still able to make out the location and walk fairly directly to it. We found ourselves 30 minutes too early for mass at 11.30, so spent some time giving the inside of the church the once over while choirs practised their sung mass and an organ and trombone kept them on key. Strange however that at 11.25 there were still only about 20 people in the church.

The congregation

The congregation

So I ventured back out into the Playa to see if there was a procession being organized. Nothing, except some folk having a cigarette and two women competing for the best begging spot with suitably bedraggled children there for effect. Convinced that something was amiss I asked the guy at the door in my best Catalan if the palms were being blessed: he pointed down the street to my right which was fine as I didn’t understand a word he said. I trotted round the corner to investigate and found the congregation, hundreds of them!

I quickly dashed back and dragged Mary from her study of another Black Madonna in one of the side chapels and we ran back to the square just in time to see the priest and his entourage arrive. We asked where we could get a palm but were told they could not be bought after Saturday. Bought? Now there’s a difference in religious habits! All the kids had beautiful ornate creations made up of palms which they raised and waved about as the priest blessed them and a band made up of two blokes with bagpipes blasted out some hymn or other. Then the procession took off back to the church.

"And wizna' he a roguie..." The piper o' Vilanova

“And wizna’ he a roguie…” The piper o’ Vilanova

We followed the mass with linguistic interest as it was entirely in Catalan and the responses were projected onto a screen just like at St. Mary’s Lochee! Funny bit was near the end when we came back from communion to discover an elderly couple had taken our seats! I was going to give them a sound beating but Mary forbade me! We shook our heads a bit outside when we remembered we had attended mass just last Sunday at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Melbourne Australia!

Inside Santa Maria

Inside Santa Maria

From the church we walked down to the Rambla Principal where we enjoyed a nice lunch in a wee café. Note this, dear readers: 2 cafés con leche, 2 bocadillos jamon y queso, 2 tortas chocolat: Total: 7 Euros! Now that’s the kind of eating out I really like! Afterwards we found the Playa Municipal and sat there for half an hour in the 20 degrees of sunshine watching all the families enjoying their Palm Sunday lunch and the kids playing on their scooters. Quite idyllic!

By comparison, the rest of the day was a bit of an anti-climax although we did spend some time up at the bar on the Internet (and having a couple of Sangrias!). I managed some Facetime with Gavin and Eve who stood sideways to let us see the ever-increasing bump in her tummy. She’s keeping well now and looks in the best of health again. I also got a few minutes with Greg on the phone and Mary spent ages and ages on Skype call, catching up with her Mum and her sister Alison. We watched TV in the evening, including the best of Top Gear, before fatigue got the better of us and we both tumbled into bed. Mary of course tried to read a bit, but she fell asleep sitting up within seconds!

We might take the train to Tarragona tomorrow. Or maybe not! Isn’t choice wonderful?

Day 202: Normal again


We knew we were back to normal when we woke at 8.30 this morning. Not waking in the middle of the night like some demented nocturnal creature clearly indicated that our bodies had at last checked the clock and readjusted to the time they found there. So now you know. Jet-lag, if you get it, will probably last 3 days give or take some You may have to put up with being wide awake while everyone else is in mid-dream but there’s always Jeremy Kyle in the dead of night! “I ‘m having my transsexual dad’s twins but my sister says they’re hers!”

We started the day with my absolutely signature mushroom omelette (see below)) and lashings and lashings of Tetley’s finest. What a start to the day! We then rather extended breakfast until it became lunch. I suppose that’s what our cousins over the Pond call Brunch. So comfortable were we under the awning with warm sunshine pouring in and plenty to eat and drink that we pretty much forgot the rest of the world and just bathed in the pleasure of being here in Vilanova and not in Scotland, BBC News 24 reinforced the point with bone-chilling wintry scenes from all over a UK slowly descending once again into chaos because of the weather.

Can you see my signature?

The thing is, we don’t feel guilty any more. Oh I admit, at first we did rather. But we’ve now met so many people who consider it a no-brainer when they have the choice between living in Spain and living in Britain that we now accept that here the weather is very much milder and kinder and the cost of living is about 60per cent of at home, so when you can choose between the two, Spain wins hands down. The rest is sentiment, missing people and places because you’re not there with them.

In the afternoon I took a drive down to Simply supermarket to stock up for the next few days and afterwards I gave the Audi a bit of a wash as it was covered in a light yellow dust (some kind of blossom) on our return. Back at the Magic Caravan, I put up the two front windows to seal us in the awning for the rest of the evening and, with the temperature dropping sharply after sunset, we switched on the fan heater to make our evening comfortable outside.

Just as day is awning!

So, by candlelight, we amused ourselves with books, puzzles and the Internet, while Squeeze, Bowie and 10cc played for us in the background before we allowed Michael Crawford and Sarah Brightman to take us to the Opera de Paris for Andrew Lloyd-Webber’s “Phantom of the Opera”. Absolutely outstanding! Crawford’s version of “The Music of the Night” still sends chills down my spine and makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up every time I hear it, especially when he avoids falsetto and goes for that high note.

E-mails by candlelight!

Planning wise, we now have a shape for our tour of Spain and Portugal and I’ve found the necessary campsites to get us as far as Sevilla. The future’s orange! We have a terrific sense of adventure again and really can’t wait to hit the road again. Valencia will be our first stop, then Cartagena, Granada, Cordoba, Marbella, Cadiz and Sevilla before we strike out for Lisbon. Any advice on these locations would be much appreciated, always remembering we are likely to be in each place for a maximum of 3 days.

No comment on last night’s results. I read the Herald’s top 5 Scottish footballers of all time – Dalglish, Law, Johnstone, Mackay, Baxter – names to be revered and pronounced in whispered tones. I saw Dalglish play for Liverpool in a testimonial game at Dens when he was about 40 and he was utterly sublime of touch. And what about Denis Law? The Lawman, so-called because his name was Law and he was a man!! Jim Baxter’s famous keepie-uppie against England, the then World Champions, defined the Scots word “gallus”.

I will never forget Joe Jordan’s diving header against Czechoslovakia in September 1973, a goal which sent us to Munich for the World Cup Finals the following summer. I watched the game in the Cite Universitaire district of Paris along with about 40 other Scots students. We celebrated the victory in style and every one of us ended up in the back of police vans where we were “persuaded” to stay calm and not be outrageous.

It was great to be a Scottish football fan in those days. Now it’ s a burden. Pity.




Day 201: A Space Odyssey

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Our day started just after five when we woke up together and sensed at once that our day was about to begin. There would be no going back to bed nor lying down again today; like yesterday, our bodies felt it was time to be active even though the darkness said otherwise. We were told we’d be over the jet-lag by Saturday so we had one day left to get ourselves back into a routine which matched the clock.

But we needed space. That meant that we would have to erect the awning at some point today to double the amount of room we would have available. Firstly we took advantage of the fine weather and ate breakfast and lunch outside, an excellent reminder of why we have travelled several thousand miles to this place. The sensation of sitting in the sun, bathing in its warmth and having a meal is undoubtedly one of the best things you can experience.

I really do have to say that we made rather a good job of putting up the awning in the afternoon. We had been given a tip about building the skeleton except the legs, hauling the canvas into place and then simply lifting the supports from underneath. That recipe worked a treat and we avoided swearing at each other and being hit on the head by loose poles. We also experimented with other techniques and found them very useful. In this way we created the space we sought and gave ourselves room for manoeuvre in both the physical and mental sense.

Although we installed the side doors and windows we left the front pair off, creating a great feeling of freedom and openness with something still over our heads. The table and chairs took their position under the awning and all was well. We had tea there and then caught up 3 days’ washing-up which we simply hadn’t had the energy or motivation to do.

As the evening wore on, I prepared to watch the Scotland v Wales game on my laptop on a live stream and for the first half I had a pretty good reception with very few freezes. I put this down to the new Orange internet I set up this morning so we could surf from the Magic Caravan. Unfortunately, I exceeded my 250 mb allowance and they slowed down my speed, ruining the live stream and forcing me to go watch the England game on the TV. So I saw England score a barrow load while I missed Wales’ 2 goals which won them the tie.

By eleven o’clock we were all done in and bed beckoned us in. I only just got my socks off before my lids closed. We’d had a 17 hour day again and that was beginning to take its toll on our stamina. On a positive note, Mary said she was feeling a lot better today so hopefully I will soon have my wife back and not the strange person I brought back from Australia!

Day 200: Double-Century!

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Both of us woke up with a start at just after six this morning and realised we were wide awake and ready to rock and roll! Now let me remind you, this is Mary and George we’re talking about here, and I’m sure you’re all aware that beginning the day at such an hour is a very unusual thing to happen in our world. We put it down to the jet-lag which made us go to sleep much earlier than usual last night. Mary was in bed and asleep by ten again while I sat on the side of the bed debating whether to read or not…… and fell asleep sitting up! Anyway, on a positive note, we saw the sun rise and beautiful it was.

After a breakfast of boiled eggs, Mary went off for a shower, giving me the room I needed to tidy away some stuff we are unlikely to use again now that the cold weather seems to have passed for this winter. So I said goodbye to heavy coats, scarves, woolly hats and gloves, bagging them up and stuffing them under one of the bench seats from where they are very unlikely to re-emerge. Other sundry items followed them out of sight and soon there was a fair bit more space available in the confines of our dear Magic Caravan.

I sat out in the warm sunshine doing a bit of planning while Mary went off to the shop and bought our lunch which we promptly ate al fresco. After that, delighted to discover that the Audi roared into life on the first turn of the key for three and a half weeks, we drove into Vilanova where we sought an Orange store and bought some credit for our dongle. That means we can use the Internet in the caravan if we don’t want to go up to the bar all the time. We were then irresistibly tempted by a cup of the amazing hot chocolate we shared with Mum and Kate down at the front a few weeks ago. The spirit is willing (only just!) but the flesh (and there’s plenty of it!) is weak. Who needs champagne?

Back at the campsite and once again seated at table outside, I resolved to celebrate our 200th day on the road by penning the next chapter of everyone’s favourite snail, Socrates. The Muse was with me on this occasion and the words came pouring out unhindered. Mary as usual checked the storyline for me and suggested a couple of changes which I readily agreed to, leaving us fairly satisfied with the content and structure of chapter 8. I’ll post it in the morning. I then had an hour’s shuteye while Mary watched Poirot on TV, little grey cells and all!

Having decided earlier in the day to dine out, we went up to the campsite restaurant in the evening and had a meal and a bottle of wine to celebrate the occasion of day 200. By nine o’clock however, Mary was on the brink of falling asleep with her head in the mince (spinach cannelloni actually!) so she went off to bed while I came back with the laptop and had a couple of beers. But even I couldn’t last longer than quarter to ten by which time I was pressing all the wrong buttons, so I joined her in bed where the lights quickly went out.

We think we know what jet-lag feels like now!

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