Day 5/221: A Pinch of Tarragon

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Well, Scott, Keira and I went along to the Camp Nou that Wednesday (2 weeks ago) and saw an absolutely brilliant Barcelona totally dominate Sevilla, not a bad team themselves remember, and run out easy 3-0 winners. They scored all their goals in a wonderful 8-minute spell in the first half, including a super overhead-kick from Suarez and Scott was delighted when Messi scored the first of his double as it was the first time he’d seen Leo score a goal live.

But the score wasn’t the story of the day! Oh no, it was the thunderstorm that rolled in about 10 minutes before half-time! One tiny point of which to take note: the Camp Nou has no roof! Meaning that, after my gallant gesture of giving my weatherproof to Keira, I had to sit and get soaked until I could take no more then dash back underneath the terracing and sit out the half-time break with a thousand other very wet fans. Keira stuck it out as did my coat while Scott had a moment’s relief from the downpour fetching her a drink from inside. But it was Barcelona playing so out we both went to take up our seats again. Once completely drenched, we were able to forget the rain itself, but the flashes of jaggy lightning overhead when we’re sitting exposed a hundred feet or so off the ground meant I kept at least one eye on the sky for the rest of the match.

Keira and Scott at the Biker Bar

The kids flew back to Scotland the following day and I raced back from the airport to take part in a game of Walking Football which was a whole load of fun. Unfortunately, soon afterwards, my lower back/hip began to play up and I was to spend the next ten days or so hirpling around and getting other people to tie my shoelaces! Getting in and out of the car was agony, while Mary’s application of deep massage was that weird combination of pain and pleasure. By the grin on her face, she really enjoyed making me scream as she dug her elbow forcefully into my Gluteus Maximus. I’m glad to report that I’m a lot better now and managed a game of golf – minus full swing – with Joke last Thursday, scoring another 66 which is rapidly becoming my average score now.

I’ve got back into writing again so life has become a lot simpler here on the campsite, what with Mary still working. Our days are now much more ordinary, following a bit of a pattern and we no longer get as involved as we used to in the socializing with our friends, despite the fact that there’s still tons of dinners, parties, happy hours and general merriment going on. Mike and Het went to Portugal in the autumn, Fred and Jeanette are busy preparing for their wedding, Dick and Linda are unable to come out this year and Jeremy has gone back to Leeds.

One thing we did both attend last week (because Mary was on holiday) was the Wednesday dinner but this time it was not at the campsite restaurant as usual but down at the Wok which we’ve been to a couple of times. The food as always at a free buffet was copious and excellent and we all ate until we were bursting. To help the party digest their food, I provided them with a quiz all about Scots and that made up for Lise’s weekly quiz at the bar. I was a good boy and did the driving for Mary, Tom and Margaret, sticking to the “agua con gas” all evening.

It was great having Mary all to myself for a whole week over Easter and we made a point of being alone together as much as we could. Stop it now you lot: don’t get any silly ideas in those warped minds of yours! But we did make a decision to go to Tarragona for Good Friday and stay in a hotel, to give us the chance to attend the processions for which the town is famous. We drove down on Friday morning, left the Audi at the hotel just out of town and took the bus to the centre where we had lunch then went to the Placa del Rei to watch the Roman soldiers head off to escort the floats back up to the square. They would all be leaving from that same square at eight in the evening to parade through the streets of the old town.

Ecce milites romani!

While we were thrilled at the sight of the Roman escorts, we were even more taken by the floats themselves, although “floats” is a misnomer and in no way captures the reality of these objects. They are large heavy wooden platforms depicting the stations of the cross and they are carried around the town by volunteers from various “societies” – Brotherhoods and Sisterhoods – each person strapped to the platform by a sturdy leather belt. There are about 15 people visible carrying them, but I did manage to get a peek inside one and there was a group of big muscular types actually inside supporting the frames on their shoulders. As it was 25 degrees outside on that Friday, the carriers must have been grateful for the frequent pauses in the procession. Those on the outside all wear robes to denote their provenance and many of them wear quite sinister hoods, reputedly copied by the Klu Klux Klan!


The platforms themselves are beautifully ornate and have been sculpted by local master craftsmen. Their depiction of the passion of Christ is very accurate (not that I was there!) and they certainly make you turn your head.

The Last Supper

Having seen enough for one afternoon, we made our way back to the shops then sat down for a meal at about seven in the evening. An hour later we were back on the streets to see the main procession crawl its way through the narrow Roman vennels, this time by candlelight. The music to accompany all these was provided by all sorts of different kinds of bands, some mainly drums, some trumpet and flute, some bagpipes but all in uniform and sober-faced. There were lots of women and children in the procession and we even spotted a baby and a dog!

The night procession

Coming up the Rambla Nova

“We are the Romans …….”

As you can imagine we barely stayed awake on the ten o’clock bus back to the hotel and we were quickly in the Land of Nod. The following morning, we breakfasted at a McDonald’s, bought a 4-venue visitor pass and set about taking in all the main historic sites of Tarragona. These were the Praetorium, the Circus, the Muralla and the Forum. All gave us an insight into the establishment of this first Roman outpost in Iberia about the time of Jesus Christ and just how important the town came to be. I won’t bore you with stuff you can read up for yourselves but here are a couple of photos which include us enjoying ourselves.

Mary with a new friend

Shooting from the hip!

                 Lady Burton of Tarragona!

Tarragona old town

The inevitable selfie!

A shadow of our former selves!

On Easter Sunday we watched the Pope’s Mass from the Vatican, had breakfast then went down into Vilanova where we wandered around the front taking in the sight of the Spanish folk celebrating the Resurrection. The weather was once again quite beautiful and the afternoon went by in a flash, but not before we had taken advantage of the Sunday opening to go into the deep-water port for a closer look at the really big yachts which use this facility. I pointed out to lady Burton that my pension just wouldn’t stretch that far!

Yacht to see the others!

We also managed to find time to roll our eggs (cream egg size but hollow) down by the café at the beach so at least a wee bit of tradition was maintained. When we got home to the caravan, we had some FaceTime with Gavin and Ari but couldn’t contact the rest of the boys so they’ve been written out of the will! I told them this on Messenger and they are queuing up today to wish me a belated happy Easter, old man! Hmmmmmm!

The next post will probably be in a fortnight when we get back from our weekend in Madrid to celebrate our 19th wedding anniversary. My, how time flies. Don’t tell Mary, whatever you do, but I’ve loved every minute! (except that time she walked in front of the TV just as Germany scored in the World Cup Final!)


Day 5/208: Heat

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We have now left winter behind in Catalunya and can expect a daily dose of sunshine and warmth most days from now on. In fact the past 3 weeks have been pretty good if the truth be told, with sun from dawn until dusk amid increasing temperatures of 20+ now and only the odd thunderstorm crashing through from time to time, depositing enough to keep the plants alive for another week or two – but only just! It has always astonished us just how little rain there is around this part of the Spanish mainland and, while we obviously thought there would be less rain than in Scotland (that’s not difficult pretty much anywhere!), we have been genuinely surprised at how week after week can pass by without a single drop of rain. The trees and plants must be hard as nails to survive in this climate.

Winter was easily the worst we’ve had since we came out in 2013. The sun had very little heat in it and the evenings and nightimes were as cold as winter in Scotland except for the frost and snow. The heating in our caravan went on in mid-November and we’re only just now thinking about turning it off. Lady Burton would have it on all year round if she could! So it was only last week that the winter clothes were consigned to under the bench seats and the summer stuff was brought out for a good old airing prior to being washed then worn. The “just in case” clothes in the boot of the car are now a jersey or a cardigan, no coats or scarves, although I may make an exception tomorrow night when I once again return to the Camp Nou!


This time, the reason is the presence of youngest son Scott and girlfriend Keira who arrived on Saturday morning to spend 5 days with us out of their Easter holidays. They are staying in a Europarcs chalet only a couple of hundred meters from us. We managed a day out with them on Sunday, up to the Biker Bar then down to Roc Sant Gaieta where we take most visitors and they had a day by themselves in Vilanova yesterday. Today is an all-day trip to see the sights of Barcelona and we’ll meet up with them later after Mary has finished work. Tomorrow we head off to see Barcelona v Sevilla at tea time and they’ll be flying back to Scotland on Thursday morning. We considered flying back with them but all the airlines have tripled their prices for the Easter holidays as they usually do and we don’t like being ripped-off so it looks like our Easter will be spent improving our tans at the campsite or popping in and out of Barcelona if we feel like it.

Six of our closest Dutch friends have all returned to Vilanova after winter back at home. Dear Tom and Margareth are delighted to be back and although they have not had their health problems to seek, they are both in fine spirits and having a whale of a time. Hans and Marianne have come back fit and well and Hans even managed down to the walking-football game this morning, a game I attended as well after taking a family to the airport. Walt and Joke are back too and both are looking good, especially the lady of the pairing who is sporting a new hip. It clearly hasn’t affected her much as she produced a ripping 67 at the golf last week, her first game since her operation and her best ever score at the Portal del Roc. I of course kept her in place with a 66! These six Dutch friends are lovely people and a real example to us all, each one the wrong side of 65 but living life to the full.

On the tee, Jordi Burton.

Jeremy, my friend from Leeds, went back home a couple of weeks ago, bringing to an end our weekly golf challenge, a match-play contest of Jeremy and Fred v Darren and me. I’m pleased to say we won the challenge (5-2 I think) but the sport was excellent and always played in good humour, including a wee glass at the 19th hole! Add the golf to the football and throw in a weekly hike up to the watchtower (Thanks to Jeremy and wife Bernie for coming with me those few weeks) and you can see that I’m trying to keep the old body moving, as is Lady Burton in pursuit of a daily 10,000 steps recorded on her Fitbit.

Despite the cold winter, our health hasn’t really been too bad, although, with working in school with kids, Mary does tend to catch a few bugs and then pass them on to me out of admiration and total devotion! I think she’s missed one day of work only and has dragged herself out of bed a couple of times way beyond the call of duty. To help out, I now try to remember to put the water heater on so she has plenty hot water for doing the dishes when she gets home!

On the subject of work, there may be changes ahead next season. It all goes back to the sudden demise of our friend Annie which I reported in my last post. This shock caused us to reassess what we’re doing and consider travelling again while we still can, as it’s always better to see places while you’re still alive! The problem would of course be Mary’s work which starts at the beginning of September and goes through to the end of June. Opportunities to travel are therefore restricted to the peak holiday seasons just like they were back in Scotland when we were both teaching. So we are considering travelling around the bits of Europe we missed on the first adventure in 2012/13, not only while we have a pulse but also have the E111 European Health Card (Thank you Brexiteers!). I’ve suggested we do that in September of this year then fly off to the West coast of America in April 2018 to see San Francisco, Las Vegas, the Grand Canyon and the wonderful National Parks. I hope I get a glimpse of Yogi Bear!

Mary will soon have a meeting with her schools to organize next year’s allocations and hopefully she’ll be able to bash out a deal that allows her to travel at those aforementioned times but work for the six months in between. She doesn’t have to work however and that will be entirely up to her.  We’ll let you know when anything definite is agreed. Meanwhile she continues to do her classes, both with adults and children, Monday to Thursday and still works at the Prysmian factory on Wednesday mornings. She earns just enough to keep me in beer and wine and still have a little left over to pay for the shopping. Oh and don’t forget my weekly golf round! That’s 15 Euros a time, you know!

The news from the boys is all very positive. George’s family are all well and Benjamin is making good progress in P1 at SS Peter & Paul’s. Greg & Karen are both employed full-time now, Greg on the estate in Arbroath and Karen in The Casino in Dundee. They have settled in fine in our flat and seem as happy as they have ever been. Good luck to both of them! Scott is now living with Keira and he goes off to his gym each morning while she, bless her, heads for the Primary School where she has a P7 class at present. Gavin has just finished his Diploma in Legal Studies (he’ll pass of course) and won not one but two competitive mock court appearances during his course. He hopes to do some casual work now in Dundee or Edinburgh with the Courts before starting his apprenticeship year with the Procurator Fiscal’s office. I don’t know exactly where he’ll be working but I do know that 3 months is to be spent in The Hague in the Netherlands.

I continue to work on Monday evenings with Guillem although it won’t be long until his family have to move to the other side of Barcelona to facilitate Beti’s new dentist job. Guillem will be attending an English-speaking school next session as opposed to the French-speaking one he’s presently at (He speaks Spanish and Catalan at home!) but he takes it all in his stride and remains a lovely humble young lad. Lady Burton and I are, after 4 years, very fond of him and will be gutted when they have to move but I’m sure we’ll stay in touch. Maybe as a “sweetener”, his Dad Ramon has given him a pet dog whom they have named Balou and now as soon as we get back from school Guillem and I take the dog out for “Walkies”, well Caca and Pipi actually!


I should remind you all that our caravan and fittings no longer go into storage when we leave for home at the end of June. They stay exactly as they are right now. With a wooden floor in the awning (the benefit of which we have really appreciated over the winter) we now pay for the full twelve month deal so we don’t have to dismantle anything. This means we have accommodation here in Vilanova Park available for anyone who wants to hop on a flight out to Barcelona in July or August. We’re not greedy so the rent would be minimal to family and friends and we’d even consider giving the place for free to a family under the right circumstances. It’s got all the facilities including British TV and a washing machine, electricity and gas are included and the campsite has just about everything you could ever want for a holiday. Drop us an email or call if you’re interested. This is a genuine great offer so don’t be shy! Money will not be an issue.

There’s not much to report on the writing front this time. I’ve made progress with turning the Blog into a travel book and brother Joe has done his usual scalpel job on the editing side. Becky is finishing off the drawings for Socrates 2 so that should be out in the not-too-distant future. I’ve been uninspired all through the winter but hopefully writing this post will give me the urge to do more. I hope so! Bye! Bye!

The joys of Vilanova Park