Day 3/51: Whirlwind!

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With the return of Fred’s Jeanette from Copenhagen, we “the crowd” had decided to hold a belated surprise party to celebrate her 50th birthday. To ensure the best of situations, we were asked if it could be held on our pitch as it gets the winter sun all day and we naturally agreed to host the event. Mary went in search of bunting, balloons and other stuff beginning with “B” while Fred coughed up the readies which Mike and I spent down at the supermarkets. We decorated the pitch a treat, prepared all the nibbles, chilled the drinks and fixed up the music via a long extension and my i-pod.

The Crowd

The Crowd

Jeanette hadn’t worked out why no-one had called to say hello since her return and she was equally puzzled by Fred’s refusal to pop round and see his pals. So when he asked her to come down for a chat with Mike and Het on F block she was both relieved and delighted, finding nothing sinister in the further suggestion that they should all go down to George and Mary’s. Surprise, surprise! I love people’s faces when they get a nice surprise out of the blue (I know you hate that, mum) and this was no exception. Jeanette was genuinely shocked at seeing all the old friends in attendance on a pitch decorated in grand style. We were off and running!

"Happy Birthday, my darling!" said Fred

“Happy Birthday, my darling!” said Fred

That particular Monday, the weather was cloudy with sunny spells so we kept our jumpers on but, four hours later, as darkness was falling, we felt it better to move into our awning. We squeezed 12 people in there, put on the halogen heater and just kept partying. What an evening we had! Tom was elected Burgermeister of F Block, I was DJ for the night, some seriously awful singing took place, more people joined in late on and I won over their stomachs with an impromptu pan of frankfurters heated in dry Martini!

Sometime later....

Sometime later….

The cake

The cake

My next door neighbour was less than his usual smiling self the next morning but, as he’d insisted that he and his wife weren’t “party people” I guess he just had to put up with the noise and use cotton wool in his ears. Once we had suitably recovered, we headed out into the hills to try to find the bodega where Fred had bought the previous evening’s red wine, a sumptuous nectar of a wine from a giant oak barrel , going for an extortionate 1€75 per litre! We found it, in a village called St. Pere de rude Beatles or something similar. Having, as usual, gone shopping at the absolutely wrong time, we ended up a further 20 kms away in the small town of Igualada where we passed the time in a lovely wee café and with a stroll along the equivalent of their Rambla.

The old station, Igualda

The old station, Igualda

Back at rude Beatles village, we found the bodega open and conservatively bought a mere 15 litres of a wine which makes Californian Blossom Hill seem like watered-down beer! I must be turning into an old fuddy-duddy because, a week and a half later, we still have 12 litres left! Thursday was my second night with Guillem and that went well again. Then, the following evening, Jeanette had us all round to hers for dinner, 9 of us in all, Mary being the absentee as she appeared to have picked up a cold and stayed in bed. In truth, she spent the whole weekend there.

I forgot to mention another interesting trip to the Biker Bar, this time with newcomers Mike and Het and Tom and Greeta. Amazingly, old Tom stuck to a promise he’d made at Mike and Het’s Anniversary party the previous Thursday and went up to the Biker bar on the back of Fred’s motorbike! Rather him than me, let me tell you. The Farringtons’ wedding anniversary party was a huge success but as it was on a Thursday, Mary and I didn’t join in until after 9 o’clock by which time the other guests were in full flow and it felt really weird being totally sober in their midst. We did try to catch them up but quickly gave up!

 

Mary helping Greeta get home!

Mary helping Greeta get home!

Mike and I finally found the time to renew our combat over the table-tennis table outside the restaurant on a beautiful, calm afternoon. 4 games later, the Copa Vilanova was back on the blue chest of drawers in our awning, Mike having found me in particularly unforgiving form and succumbing to a relentless onslaught of attacking play which even his ridiculously good defending couldn’t resist. I wish I could play like that every match. No doubt he’ll claim it off me shortly because that’s what our matches are like. We both truly love competing against each other and there is no quarter given or expected.

Dundee Sandra has replaced her friend Amanda with another pal, Carol, plus her 90 year old mother Erica who shares her Motorhome with her after leaving an Edinburgh Nursing Home “to see a bit of Europe!” Another example of the wonderful people we meet out here. They joined in with the gang last Sunday at Mike and Het’s for a game of “Settlers” that lasted more than 10 hours outdoors when the weather was kind. I for once declined the invitation as the Muse had taken me and I was busy at the keyword tapping out a couple of thousand words for my novel about campsite life in Spain.

Settlers champions, Greeta and Carol

Settlers champions, Greeta and Carol

It was great to hear from Waterstones again, this time telling me my 60 copies of “Wee Georgie” had sold out and asking me to send them another box of 30. Uncle Gerard came to the rescue there, getting the books to them the next day as requested. I also asked for a box to be sent to a friend in England who was to bring them over at the weekend but Hermes screwed up and I’m a bit annoyed at their failure to keep me informed as to the progress of my parcel. Caroline Lindsay, the Features editor at the Courier, has also approved another article I have written for her and I think it will be in next weekend’s magazine under the title of “Firsts and Lasts”. Greeta did a photo shoot for me with her expensive camera to ensure we could send Caroline a truly high-resolution photo for the magazine.

Hi-Res me!

Hi-Res me!

A strange thing happened on Monday morning when Mr. Bladder chased me from my bed at 7.30 a.m. There I was, sitting meditating in the first booth, when there was a sudden clattering and a man’s head appeared under the toilet door! He was spark out! I made myself decent then opened the door to give him assistance, assuming he had slipped as he turned the corner. He had on one slipper and the other was several metres away. Anyway, as I stood over him, he opened his eyes, moaned something incomprehensible, then jumped to his feet and assumed a very defensive stance. It dawned on me at once that he now believed I had knocked him out from behind!

Why do things like that always happen to me? I tried several languages to communicate my innocence to him but all he said was “Toilet!” in an accent I failed to recognize then he hurried into a cubicle and locked the door noisily behind him. I kept asking if he was ok but he absolutely refused to answer me so I eventually had to leave him and go back to my bed. I still don’t know who he was or how he managed to knock himself out, but hey! that’s what I get for going for a pee in the early hours.

This week we’ve helped Mike down at the Nissan garage with a problem with the EMS of his X-Trail and I’ve managed to install French TV in the chalet where our friend Chantal lives. She is the lady whose husband died here earlier this year and whom we helped with the arrangements for the cremation. She’s back on her own (at least, with her dog) and we think she is very brave indeed. I did Aquagym with Mary on Monday and on Tuesday Mike and I had an early morning walk for a couple of miles before he went off to Sitges with Sandra and her friends.

Today was wonderful! It started with the expected torrential downpour we had been promised, and we weren’t disappointed! It clattered down for about 2 hours, nearly flooding the place out. At one point I was trapped with a couple of others up at the toilet block even though I had the big brolly with me. The problem was that, with the block being on a hill, a river of water was cascading by, cutting me off from our access road with a torrent of rainwater 4 or 5 inches deep! Fortunately, the storm eventually abated and we were able to catch the 11.40 bus to Barcelona, the Placa Espanya to be precise, where we met up with our great old friends Liz and Ed Pardoe, fresh off the Norwegian Spirit cruise liner after a 12-day trip around the Med.

Liz, Ed and Mary at the dancing fountains

Liz, Ed and Mary at the dancing fountains

We took the show-lift to the top of the old Bullring and had a brilliant mediadia meal in one of the restaurants up there before climbing to the top of Montjuic to show them the Olympic Stadium and the other magnificent structures from the 1982 Games. The weather by then was being really nice to us and we had the best of times, especially when the sun came back out. We left them back on Espanya, just as the light was fading and we were back onsite by half past seven. We have settled down in the caravan now and I am writing this post while watching a Champions’ League game on German TV.

This weekend promises no parties, no lunches, no dinners and no get-togethers. If it stays like that, I might even finish Socrates 2!

The Burtons

The Burtons

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Day 3/34: Party City!

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Life began to settle down to something approaching normal once Ally and Dave and the kids were safely deposited back at El Prat airport for their return flight to Scotland. To be fair, the weather had been particularly kind to them during their week here at Vilanova Park and we were pretty sure they were taking away a good impression of life out here. We really enjoyed their visit to us and are now hoping to complete the set by getting Dot and David and the kids plus Bruce and Gillian and their children to pay us a visit. It would be wonderful if Mum could be persuaded to come back out as well.

En Garde!

En Garde!

The closing week of October saw the arrival of the rest of our friends including Mike and Het and Tom and Margaret from Holland, the couple we spent such a lovely week with back in September. In no time at all Mike and I were back at it on the table-tennis table and it was quickly obvious that nothing had changed as regards our ability or our rivalry. After I had stolen the first 2 matches off him, Mike resolved to put the situation straight as soon as the trophy was up for grabs and he proceeded to give me a lesson in patience and defending as he wiped the floor with me. I duly handed over the Cup and left him in no doubt that I intend to have it back on our chest of drawers at the earliest opportunity.

Scary Biker gang?

Scary Biker gang?

Two Sundays ago we drove Walter and his wife Joke up to the Biker Bar as they’d heard loads about it but had never been there. We had a grand time sitting with a large group of friends in the sunshine watching the bikers roll in displaying the loves of their lives, their machines that is. Walter was clearly delighted with the novelty of the place, having seen similar things in the USA and vowed to get himself a Harley Davidson T-shirt for his next visit. Fred and Chris were there on their new bikes fitting in well with the whole Biker thing that goes on there and I even persuaded Fred to pose for us on his new and very imposing Aprilia.

Easy Rider!

Easy Rider!

The following Wednesday, Walter and Joke returned the favour by taking us to a local restaurant for lunch followed by a glass of wine down on the nearby golf course which adjoins the path leading to the watchtower. We were all in our element up there as the weather continued to be unusually sunny and warm for this time of year, creating a truly idyllic setting on the terrace alongside the course in the late afternoon. We continued our hedonism back at their place, resulting in us retiring very early to our bed with a lovely warm glow not created solely by the sunshine.

I love golf!

I love golf!

But by 9 o’clock the next morning I was down in St. Anthony Abat hospital casualty department asking them to find out what was hanging down at the back of my throat and making me gag continually! It felt like a large blister just behind my epiglottis but it was quite sore and making me feel like I was going to vomit. Typically, they found nothing, gave me a prescription for a gel to put on it (How in the name of the wee man was I going to do that?!) and sent me on my way. Fortunately the “thing”, whatever it was, had disappeared by the afternoon and the panic was over. The gel was never used!

That meant we were still able to go ahead with our Halloween Party, a repeat of last year’s successful event, but with no Scott making a surprise appearance. This turned out to be a brilliant evening of spooky fun with all our guests (and there were lots of them!) coming in costume and taking part in the carry-on like little kids. As an extra bonus, Guillem and his parents, Ramon and Beti, managed along after nine and stayed for a couple of hours. We gave our guests the chance to do dooking for apples which was a hilarious and chaotic affair, especially when neighbour Elaine took cramp as she bent over to plunge her face in the basin. I was particularly impressed with the standard of masks worn by the party-goers and some of them left you feeling quite scared. Our friend Het had on a black wig which, given her ginger hair, made her unrecognizable and for a second Mary thought I’d repeated the great surprise and got her sister Dorothy over. Mid-way through the evening, a Welsh family came a-guising and their young daughter was persuaded to give us a song. She struck up with a song from “Cats” and brought the house down, bagging herself sweets and a free copy of “Socrates”. Wonderful!

Mary, just before she put on her costume!

Mary, just before she put on her costume!

I welcome Scouser Carol

I welcome Scouser Carol

One of these guests is Norwegian!

Two of the better-looking guests!

Joke's first ever dooking!

Joke’s first ever dooking!

Saturday was naturally a bit quiet as recovery days often have to be, but on Sunday we were down at Ramon and Beti’s for a meal which as usual was wonderful. We even enjoyed the main course which was black spaghetti with eels! Our conversation almost inevitably turned to Guillem’s tuition but it took little effort for me to agree to teach him again this year, only on Thursdays instead of Tuesdays. I will also be picking him up in the car from school to save using the school bus. This arrangement led to me copying Mary who the previous week had enrolled at the library in town and now we can both take out books, CDs, DVDs and use the facilities to prepare work.

Fred’s girlfriend Jeanette has gone back to Copenhagen again for a few weeks and we took her to the airport before heading off with Fred up Tibidabo hill to the west of Barcelona. It was another gorgeously sunny and warm day and we were treated to breathtaking views of the city down at our feet with the Mediterranean beyond. It was quite a change from the first time we’d tried to see this before the summer when Scott was out here: just our luck that we chose the foggiest day in history to drive up the hill to see ……… nada!

Barcelona from Tibidabo

Barcelona from Tibidabo

After a couple of nights of Champions League Tuesday and Wednesday, I had my first night with Guillem on Thursday and it went very well, with Mary coming to the house after working in the library and both of us ending up getting our tea! We were up early on Friday to drive an Irish couple to Terminal 1 (a business arrangement this time) and then we carried on into Barcelona in search of the famous Poble Nou cemetery which we found without having to resort to Victoria’s help. As the weather continued to be sunny but much, much cooler we strolled around for a couple of hours admiring the wonderful array of different styles of sepulchres as well as the long walls filled with the graves of dear ones. We finished at a famous gravestone called “El Beso de la Muerte”, the Kiss of Death, depicting the Grim Reaper sucking the life out of a dying man. Yeuuchh! Chilling that was!

Death becomes him

Death becomes him

View of the Cemetery

Multi-storey graves!

As soon as we got back from Barcelona it was next door to Peter and Elaine who were throwing a big party for the husband’s 75th birthday. Guess what? Yes, we had a brilliant afternoon and early evening, the convivial atmosphere eliciting the appearance of the guitar for me to lead the communal singing.  All the favourites were reeled off with a particularly enthusiastic response to “The Wild Rover”, “Stand by your Man” and the classic “Ernie”.

Peter's Party

Peter’s Party

I keep referring to the weather so I should advise you that it has turned quite chilly of late, necessitating real cosy clothes, trousers instead of shorts, jumpers and hoodies, while we have had to invest in a halogen heater to keep the temperature up in the awning. The gas heating in the caravan itself is very efficient and we’ve had it on twice to test it out. We were very impressed.

There is little news from the boys of late. George’s family have been on holiday in Florida, Greg has had the appeal against his dismissal and awaits news of the outcome, Gav’s family have had little to report and Scott is finding his Primary Teaching course every bit as taxing as he was warned it would be, but he seems to be coping, if not a little grumpy at having so much work to do. Joe and Mo are off to Sicily to get some winter sun and brush up on their already rather good Italian. Molto bene!

Guess who rolled up to the pitch diagonally opposite us last week? Sandra Mitchell, from Scotland, Dundee in fact, Charleston to be honest, Gourdie Road to be exact! Needless to say, I foisted a copy of “Wee Georgie” on her and she was delighted to read about places she knows so well. She told me she really liked the book, as did my friend Mike who loved it despite not being impressed with the chapter about the rabbit! It gives me pride to tell you that I have received my first payment from Waterstones for the sale of 50 copies of my memoir. That hits the spot for me if the truth be told.

OK that’s us up-to-date, readers. We’re having a quiet Sunday after a delightful surprise dinner with Mike, Het and Dundee Sandra last night, followed by a hilarious game of Trivial Pursuits, the TV version. Mary won! We’re heading home on 18 December and staying until the 8 January so we hope you’ll find time to share a cuppa with us during the festive period.