Day 5/138: It’s all happening

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As this title might just suggest, it’s been a busy old time out here just lately. The surprise is that the weather hasn’t actually improved much since I last reported on it and it remains overcast and rainy or clear and cold. The last few days have delivered an icy Siberian blast to Cataluña and, although we haven’t had any snow (yet), we have experienced single figures during daylight and less than 5°C once the sun has set, which is around 18.00. So coats, scarves and even woolly hats have been the order of the day but, once cosy inside them, you can still sit out when the sun is shining.

For the first time we can remember, the possibility of inclement weather has caused us a problem with our annual Burns celebration which is due to take place next Friday afternoon. At present the forecast is for heavy rain that day so we are considering moving it back a week even though preparations are well under way. We have the soup, the stovies ingredients and the haggis, our friend Jeanette is making shortbread and whisky sauce and another friend Elaine who did a poem for us last year is going to do a fruit salad. Mary is busy with the compilation of a music playlist including pipes for playing in the haggis and tunes to accompany the Gay Gordons and the Dashing White Sergeant. I’ll be addressing the haggis and reciting Tam O’Shanter while other guests will regale us with Burns’ poems. Scots Annie intends to sing “My Love is like a red, red Rose”.

Our weekly golf challenge has started up again although the rain scuppered it this week. Last week, Darren and I triumphed 5&3 against our rivals Fred and Jeremy but, if the truth be told, we only won because my partner played really well while the rest of us couldn’t hit ourselves over the head with our clubs! I personally scored my highest ever total (79) for the 18 par-3s while our opponents just couldn’t put it together at all so Darren’s 67 was easily good enough to see us home. The weather that day was excellent however and we thoroughly enjoyed our stroll around the course. My Fitbit clocked me 5000 steps for the round and, added to the 11000 on Wednesday when Jeremy and I went up the hill to the Watchtower, my waistline is ever-so slowly receding and my weight is staying in check. A hearty breakfast, a salad lunch and a medium-portion dinner seem to be leading me in the right direction and I must admit I feel pretty good. Take a look!

Cool, eh?

Cool, eh?

We have come back to discover that Scouser Dave, the guy who organizes the winter entertainment, has had to return to Blighty after a wee heart attack put him in hospital here during our absence. Long-term residents Chris & Lise have taken up the reins and we’re all hoping they’ll soon have the nightly events back up and running, especially the Monday Bingo which so many folk on the campsite like to play. Tuesday is cards night, Wednesday is the meal followed by the quiz, Thursday is live music and Friday is Fish ‘n’ Chips Night with a BOGOF bar.

Tuesday was the feast of Tres Tombs here in Vilanova, a celebration of St. Antoni Abat, the town patron. It’s just another excuse for the locals to have a day off, let off fireworks, dress up and prance around on horses. We’d seen it before but just couldn’t resist going to have another look. Those twirly fireworks are really scary and loud and, because of a total lack of H&S measures around here, you get showered with hundreds of big, white sparks as they pass. We did notice that they don’t appear to be hot however and nobody ever seems to get burned, although they do shelter their eyes when possible. I didn’t take any chances however and just ran away when the fiery dragon approached!



Not quite so scary!

Not quite so scary!

Thanks to one of our friends Jan, I have a new job! There’s a family from England onsite who have taken their kids out of school for 18 months so they can travel around and see a bit of Europe. They are home-schooled but their parents want them to learn Spanish while they’re here. That’s where I come in! Daisy & Annie are 7 and 8 respectively and both are as bright as buttons. Our first 2 hours have been excellent and they appear to really enjoy the way I do things so are looking forward to the lessons almost as much as I am. I of course give them homework for in between the lessons so I’m hoping to advance them fairly quickly to mastering the basics of Spanish. Jan also fixed me up with an English couple who needed a legal document in French checked over prior to the purchase of a house in France, so I did that for them but refused payment. They are however treating me to the dinner next Wednesday evening. Poor Mary’s working!

The big news on the television front is that I’ve finally cracked the satellite problem and can proudly boast to receiving UK Freeview on my television in the caravan. This is a major success for me and something I’ve been keen to do since I read about it a couple of years ago after they pulled the plug on reception of UK TV over here. The trick is to pinpoint a backup satellite they have at 27.5° West (most satellites are so many degrees East), download the channels and then install a code which does a job on the encryption and makes the channels viewable. I’m using Fred’s Technomate receiver which he bought for this very purpose but couldn’t get to work from his pitch: I’ll probably buy it off him now.

Now I can watch the Scottish weather!

Now I can watch the Scottish weather!

Things have been relatively quiet on the campsite itself, what with the bad weather and all, but we have managed a couple of drinks up at the bar now and again, plus a wee late session with Jeremy at Darren’s the other night when our host brought out a cheeky wee bottle of the Macallan! I don’t drink whisky very often but can be seriously tempted by a single malt of that quality. I do hope that wasn’t the only bottle he had in his cupboard!

So, the Donald is now President Trump. Whilst he might not be my personal preference for the man with the nuclear codes, there are plenty folk over here who think he’ll do a good job for USA citizens and industry. They like the Isolationist tone of his policies and think it’s about time the people of the country he governs were made a high priority. This point of view is similar to that of those who chose to vote for Brexit and, again although not my own opinion, the people have spoken and decided they don’t want to be quite so helpful to others elsewhere while there are so many needy at home. They may have a point but must beware of turning their philosophy into stark racism which would eventually endanger all of us. Populism and Nationalism in 1930s Germany grew into something we ought never to forget.

While President Trump is building his wall on the border with Mexico, the rest of us can get on with enjoying our lives and trying to bring a little happiness into the lives of others. The boys and their families do that for us and so they should after us putting up with 4 doses of “The Teenage Years”. They are now all human again and getting on with making a life for themselves and their families. Greg and Karen are settling down as tenants of our flat back in Dundee while Scott and Keira are doing well after moving in together just after Christmas. George is enjoying his new job in Dundee and Gavin has passed his latest exams in his Diploma of Legal Studies on the way to becoming a lawyer. Well done, boys, we are very proud of the four of you.

Our great friends Tom and Margareth still haven’t managed back to Vilanova yet due to health issues. We really miss them and hope they will soon bounce back and brighten our lives over here. The same goes for our other Dutch pals, Walt and Joke, who are still wintering in Rotterdam. Joke has had her hip operation and seems to be recovering well so hopes to be out on the golf course with me before long. I hope so too (Never seen anyone hit a drive so straight and true so regularly as our Joke. What a girl!). I also miss my philosophical chats over a bottle of San Miguel with Walt and I admire the way he conducts himself. Good luck to all four of our Dutch pals.

Prices are on the up in Spain, not as high as the sad lot from Marbella would have you believe, but rising nonetheless. Before Christmas, a litre of diesel was just under 1 Euro but it is now Euro 1.10 at the supermarkets and dearer elsewhere. We haven’t noticed the price-rises actually inside the supermarkets yet but we’re probably spending a wee bit more than we used to. Added to the Pound still lingering around the Euro 1.16 mark and it’s a fact my pension doesn’t go as far as it did pre-Brexit vote. Still, I can rely on Mary working extra classes now and again (she really does!) to keep the wolf away from the door and my new teaching role on the campsite won’t do any harm either.

Last Thursday, just after my lesson with Daisy & Annie, I took part in the first official game of Walking Football at Vilanova Park. There were 6 participants, five Brits and Dutch Norbert, and we managed a sedate 3-a-side which I settled with a cool slot into the corner – of my own goal! – giving Fred’s team a 6-5 victory. Unfortunately Fred will ensure I never hear the end of it so I’ll need to hope we’re on opposite sides until I can get my own back. Having canvassed about 100 caravans, I have promises of participation next Tuesday from 4 more guys, a Dane and 3 Dutchmen all called Henk! How strange is that?

Sorry for the lack of photos on this post. The opportunities just haven’t been coming, but here’s the goats playing on the logs in the woodyard opposite our pitch.

Billy, don't be a hero!

Billy, don’t be a hero!


Day 5/127: Christmas 2016

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Happy New Year to all my readers! It’s already 11 January and Lady Burton and I are back in Vilanova. We flew in last Friday, the feast of the Epiphany, which is the present-giving day here in Spain, precipitating parades and general fun all round. That’s two years in a row that we’ve flown back on the very day, thereby missing the spectacle both in Vilanova and in Barcelona. Mary has since suggested we try to return a couple of days earlier next year to ensure we can participate in the festival and not just hear how good it was.

The weather since we returned has been excellent with clear blue skies and lots of sun during the daytime, allowing the temperature to climb gradually up to 12, 13, 14 or even 15 degrees by mid-afternoon. But it’s a different story when the sun goes down, as the temperature plummets rapidly down into single figures between 4 and 8 degrees by bedtime. Yes there really is winter in Catalunya and we wouldn’t be all that surprised to see a drop of snow before the month’s out. The compensation is of course being able to sit out during daylight hours if we want, even taking off our jumpers if there’s no wind. The neighbours do this a lot but we seldom do as we’re not really sun worshippers to tell the truth.

So, how were the Christmas and New Year festivities for you? We hope you had a good time and enjoyed at least a few moments of genuine peace and tranquility. Ours was a tale of calm over here in the build-up to Christmas, what with Mary working so much and me back on the laptop working on my next project, but that all changed quickly once we were back in Scotland on the 23 December. We flew with Vueling this time, a budget airline owned by Iberia Airways and British Airways. Their prices are in line with Ryanair but they fly into and out of Barcelona El Prat at much more reasonable hours, leaving you feeling human at least.


This Christmas we decided to spend it in Falkirk with our youngest son Scott and it turned out to be a good choice. On Christmas Eve, we found a church not too far away and went to 7 p.m. Mass in a place we had never been before. As we entered the back door, one of the ushers turned round and said “George Burton, what are you doing here?” which rocked me back on my heels. He turned out to be Frank, a former friend of my former friend Abe Gallacher, and one of the original “Lofty Peakers” Munro-bagging group with whom I went out on the hills for several years in the 90s. What a ridiculous coincidence, eh?

After Mass, Scott drove us to a pub to meet up with his girlfriend Keira and her parents Gordon and Lorna. We had a lovely evening with them over a couple of drinks and they were kind enough to invite us over for Christmas breakfast in the morning. So, once presents had been opened on the big day, off we drove over to their house where we enjoyed a full Scottish breakfast, strangely minus the eggs which were somehow forgotten in their whirlwind of preparing both the breakfast and the Christmas meal for twelve I think. Anyway, thank you Keira’s parents for being so generous to us on such a busy day.

Back at Scott’s, I set about cooking the stuff I’d asked him in an email to order in advance for Christmas and Boxing Day. I emphasize “order” not “order and pay” as I found out when I went to pick up the items at his local butcher! Thanks for that, son, I’ll get back the £25 from the money-tree which grows on our pitch out here in Vilanova. At least the one I assume you think grows there. Joking apart though, we had a traditional Christmas meal of prawn cocktail, tomato soup, chicken with untraditional haggis and Mediterranean vegetables (I’ll do that again!), followed by trifle and mincemeat pies. As is always the case, we only had a couple of drinks with the meal as we don’t have the habit of having a bevvy at Christmas. After the meal, Scott went off to see Keira while we slumped on the couch in front of the TV. No games, no children, no sing-songs. Bliss!

Boxing Day turned out quite differently from what we had anticipated. We noted early on that Scott was quite anxious about moving house the next day so we got stuck in and blitzed his flat for hours, including a breakneck trip to our flat in Dundee to deposit items he couldn’t take with him. After a pause for our steak pie meal, we ferried boxes to the new place and pretty much cracked the whole thing by bedtime. Despite all of this, Scott was still a cat on hot bricks the following morning so thank God we were around to keep a lid on things. By 11 o’clock in the morning, Scott’s flat was empty and we were able to get our train to Dundee soon afterwards.

So that’s that. The last of our four ducklings has fled the nest and found someone to spend his time with. We both wish them well and it looks like they’re starting off in a much better situation than either Mary or I did all those years ago. When I think back to the first flat I ever had in 1976 at 150 Hilltown, well, it wasn’t exactly Buckingham Palace if you get my drift! Dark, damp, dingy, dull and loads of other words beginning with “D” would best describe it.

It was wonderful to get back into our present flat again after so long out. It looked and felt great and we were happy we hadn’t let it out again after the previous tenants had left at the end of September. Once again, we were amazed at the brilliant views from the windows of the flat, South over the River Tay to Fife, North round to the famous Dundee Law and East down over the entire city of Dundee to Broughty Ferry and beyond. The West aspect over Balgay Park and Hill is probably our favourite as the hundreds of trees keep changing their colours as the year advances, giving us a new panorama every few weeks. We will never regret buying our flat and have no intentions of ever selling it either.

Dundee Law from our bedroom

Dundee Law from our bedroom

Mary’s Mum was kind enough to invite us over for tea that night along with other members of the family and I was able to have a wee drink, the last one I would have for a while as, the following morning, I went into town to pick up the car I’d hired online. I got a brand-new Corsa 1.4 which served our purposes perfectly, although Lady Burton found the heated seats by far the most important part of the equipment. Making Mary a second driver would have doubled the cost of the hire so I decided I would go it alone this time. It sure kept me off the drink!

Thanks again to Scott, 29 December dawned as the day we had invited the whole Burton family over to the flat to celebrate Christmas together. They all dutifully trooped in from about midday onwards and by four in the afternoon every single member was draped around the sofa ready for the first ever photograph of George and Mary Burton, their 4 boys, their partners and their offspring. The head count was 13 and what a bonny bunch they made!

The Burtons

The Burtons

It was during a conversation with son Greg and his wife Karen that I suggested it might just be possible for them to rent the flat while we’re in Spain rather than us find a stranger to occupy it. I said this as I’d been worried about the place they had in Montrose, a nice enough ground-floor flat but in a quite dodgy neighbourhood. Well, to cut a long story short, we quickly came to an agreement on the details and they moved in the day we left to come back to Vilanova. The test was always going to be whether or not Greg could get to his work on the estate in Arbroath without undue hassle and I’m happy to report that his first journey yesterday went smoothly and took only 10 minutes longer than he’s been used to.

Back to that get-together of the Burton clan, I spent most of my time of course playing with the grandchildren Benjamin and Artemis. They absolutely exhausted me, especially with their appetite for bouncing games on Grandad George’s bed, but needless to say I was over the moon really and loved every single minute with them. I must have made an impression because both of them asked their parents if they could sleep at Grandad’s house (which lack of pyjamas and toothbrushes prevented) but I was secretly chuffed they had even asked!

Arry with Xmas present from Spanish Santa

Arry with Xmas present from Spanish Santa

A great highlight for me was on Hogmanay when 3 generations of loyal ‘Dee supporters (George, Ben and I) went to the Dundee v St. Johnstone football match at Dens Park. It was several years since I’d been there, other than for Amateur Cup Finals 5-10 years ago, so you can imagine how much I enjoyed the match in the company of my eldest son and my 5-year old grandson (and also because Dundee won 3-0.) We were seated in the west stand and I noted I was situated only metres from the spot (standing of course!) where, in the company of my late Dad Frank, I’d watched Dundee knock 8 goals past FC Cologne in the European Cup in the autumn of 1962. I was nine at the time and that match made me a fervent football fan for life.

Ben in coloured coat waiting for "Deewok"the mascot.

Ben in coloured coat waiting for “Deewok” the mascot.

Before we knew it, the Bells were striking midnight and for the second year in a row Mary and I celebrated the arrival of the next chapter alone in our flat watching the BBC Scotland programmes and getting all nostalgic. Somehow that’s ok these days and, as much as we loved the wonderful New Year spectacles down in the city square, the trooping from house to house often in the snow, the alcoholic haze and the tortuous sing-songs, it’s our personal preference to bring the New Year in quietly, now that all the boys are off doing their own thing. C’est la vie!

Dundee City Centre

Dundee City Centre

The New Year is traditionally a time to take stock of yourself and make loads of promises about getting fitter and healthier. We are no exception and, while Lady Burton has decided she has lots of nice clothes she needs to get into, so has abandoned the excesses of the Christmas period, I have pledged to eat healthily, take lots of exercise (I was up the watchtower with Jeremy at 10 this morning) and take all my tablets correctly after my latest blood sugar results were less than perfect. It seems that, just because I feel good, I mustn’t stop taking them! Duh!!

So 2017 came in like a lamb and we’ve no idea how it’s going to go out. One thing is for sure: we should expect the unexpected! Maybe there’ll be more than 13 of us next Hogmanay and it’s always possible there could even be fewer of us by the time the Bells strike. Maybe that’s the real reason why we all have to get on with living our lives and trying to bring a little happiness into this crazy old world we live in. If 2016 has taught us anything, it’s that things can change very, very quickly. Apart from wiping out half the greatest pop stars of yesteryear (Bowie, Prince, Parfitt etc), last year brought us two of the biggest voting surprises of all time, turning the predictions of so-called experts on their heads. Whether I agreed or not, the people of the UK and the USA spoke out and forced change away from the old regime. I just hope they know what they are doing.

Image result for parfitt status quo

R.I.P. Rick Parfitt

The rest of our trip to Dundee was a long list of visits, here, there and everywhere. We had lunch with Mary’s Mum on New Year’s Day, had an evening with Uncle Gerard next door, took Ben to see Renée and Stef, had dinner with Gavin, Artemis, Eve and her parents up in Arbroath and had a night out in the pub with Mary’s cousin Ann, the only time we were in a pub in the whole 2 weeks! The weather remained mild other than a couple of cold days, there was no snow whatsoever and it hardly rained at all, in sharp contrast to last year’s visit when it rained pretty much continuously.

On 6 January we made our way back to the campsite in Vilanova via a hired car, a train, a tram, an aeroplane, a bus and a friend’s car. The journey was faultless (it nearly always is) and in no time at all we were having our tea in the caravan. We discovered that, although the weather here is much warmer during daylight hours, the temperature tends to plummet rapidly as darkness falls and it doesn’t feel all that different from back home in Dundee. Today, 11 January, Mary is back at work and I’ve already done an evening with Guillem. Invitations are going out for our Burns’ Day/Night on Friday 27 January and I’m looking to start up a Walking Football Club among the residents of the campsite for those who love the game but can’t run any more, like me!

Well, that’s the Christmas update complete. We wish you all a happy and healthy 2017 for yourselves and your families and remember to only worry about things you can actually change. There’s no point in stressing over things beyond your influence. You’ll just get older quicker!

I leave you as I often do with my granddaughter.

The family Princess

The family Princess