Day 7/133: I’m back!

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I almost cannot believe it’s nearly 3 months since I last posted here. That’s certainly the longest I’ve been away since I started this blog in August 2012. But it hasn’t been because nothing has happened nor because of lack of willpower or interest, believe me! The main reason for the long gap has been simply that I have yet again been visited by the Muse and have been writing my third memoir (George: the University Years). I started it sometime in November 2018 and apart from a fortnight over Christmas back in Dundee, I’ve been beavering away on the keyboard, putting down what I did at St. Andrews University 1971-76 with the middle year spent in Versailles as an English Language Assistant.

In order to get as many stories as possible for this memoir, I have taken the time to search for and contact some old pals from that era in the hope that they can help me with the memories of our time there. To that end, I tracked down my two closest girl-friends Janine and Sarah and from there got in contact with my first best man Gordon Langlands and ex-flatmate Julian Deahl who have already contributed loads of snippets I’ll be able to turn into adventures. I’m also getting help from pals I’d stayed in touch with like Robin, Bud and Jimmy Mac and I just hope they don’t expect a share of the royalties! I’ve put down more than 50,000 words so far, putting me about half-way through what would be my target, and as I’m writing about Christmas of 1973 at the moment, that would be chronologically half-way as well. It’s particularly exciting to have stories from my old friends about which I had completely forgotten and they have more than brought a smile to my face. Julian told me loads he remembers about spending The New Year at Auntie Mary’s in Coupar Angus (wearing a kilt he borrowed to blend in better!) and I can’t even remember inviting him!

Life goes on as normal here in Vilanova, with me doing my thing and Mary teaching English Monday-Thursday in the evenings. We had to move pitch however in December when the Park decided to update facilities on our Section F, starting just last week. So we and our neighbours had to up sticks on various dates and resettle on Section G, which is where we were when we first arrived here on 1 February 2013. Our temporary pitch was chosen from a list of available spots and we appear to have made a good decision as we have plenty sun, good facilities, a spot handy for the shop and the bar and not encircled by short-term residents. The one downside is that it is a bit further from the toilet block but that just means we use our own facilities slightly more often than previously.

The weather over here has made us aware of global warming more sharply as what we have experienced is nothing like what you might expect. While September was its usual warm and sunny self, October and November were incredibly rainy with several very violent thunderstorms which battered our caravan and awning and let us hear the loudest clap of thunder we have ever had the misfortune to be near to. Honest, we almost both had an accident! Then it decided not to rain for the entire month of December and since our return on 4 January it has been sunny but cold (maybe even as cold as back home) and as I write this post, it still hasn’t rained and there is none forecast in the next 2 weeks, giving a run of 10 weeks without so much as a single drop. Now that can’t be normal, can it?

We had 3 visitors over the October holidays. having returned just for a weekend to attend Ally and Dave’s Silver Wedding hootenanny in the Queen’s hotel in Dundee, second son Gavin decided to fly back with us for 3 or 4 days of a break and he met up with his big brother George plus partner Fiona and my grandson Ben who had checked in here the week before. The day Gavin left, Ally and Dave arrived for 5 days of further celebration of their happy event and they brought their son Stephen with them (so they could keep an eye on him! He’s 18 now!) All in all Mary and I had a brilliant couple of weeks with the family coming over to spend time with us and it truly was the best of times, especially with the wee man Ben. Among other things we did together, we had a day at Barcelona zoo which was filled with happy memories.

Adding another string to my bow, I’ve joined Sitges English Theatre Company and have already played a comedy sketch as a drunken Scot (that was very difficult for me!) and read “The Journey of the Magi” by T.S. Eliot at a Christmas celebration. I’ve been offered a part in an Alan Ayckbourn play due to take place around Easter 2019 and rehearsals will be starting soon. It’s not the first time I’ve been on the stage, but the other things were all musical so straight acting is a bit of a novelty for me. My first two performances were well-received so I’m motivated to keep going – until I bomb out and forget all my lines!

Christmas Day was excellent, having been invited over to Mary’s Mum’s along with Bruce and Jillian and the kids. On Boxing day we had the entire Burton family over at ours, all 4 boys plus partners/wives and children (except for poor Karen who had to work) and I dished up some of my favourite meals for them to sample. The Slimming World paella went down a treat! Cousins Renee and Stef came round for lunch too before we flew back to Spain and we even fitted in a party in Newcastle on 3 January to celebrate a joint 18/21 Birthday for nephew Andrew and niece Kate. That was great fun too!

Right, that’s a thousand words to get you all up-to-date with the continuing adventure. I’ve cut out a lot I was going to add, include Gavin’s back operation which went well but is proving a long recuperation and our evenings with Ramon, Beti and Guillem, whom I’m teaching again on Monday evenings. Mary and I also have a weekly spoken Spanish lesson in a café on the Rambla in Vilanova every Tuesday at 9.30 and I think we’re both improving our fluency although being old doesn’t help with remembering vocabulary!

No photos this time as I want to send this out immediately and the photos take another hour to add. Be good, enjoy life and don’t do anything I’d do! Love from George and Mary XX

 

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Day 7/50: The rain in Spain ……..

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Like pretty much everywhere in Europe this year, summer in Scotland was the best in a long time as I told you in my Munroamers post. This prompted our great friends from Kendal, Mike & Het, to pull their caravan North into Scotland and have a tour. They did really well too and we were delighted when they accepted our invitation to come and spend a few days with us in Dundee. It was a laugh from start to finish and included a visit to the Falkirk Wheel and a walk up West Lomond for me and Mike. They really are a splendid couple and we always feel totally at ease with them which is a huge bonus. We also visited a childhood haunt of Het’s (Anstruther) and of course had a fish & chips lunch at the famous chippie.

At the Kelpies

At the top of West Lomond

It was while we were visiting Anstruther that I suddenly received a missed call from the son of my Auntie Pat and I feared the worst. My fears were realised when I later received the bad news that Pat had passed away after suffering a stroke. Needless to say, Mary and I attended the funeral in Newcastle and met up with all the English relatives. I didn’t know I had so many cousins! We remember with great affection how Auntie Pat and Uncle Brian (not long departed himself) came to Vilanova Park for a few days at the end of a Mediterranean cruise and the absolute belter of a time they had with us and our friends. Now both are gone unfortunately, but they’ve left us with happy memories.

Pat & Brian at Montserrat

Brian & Pat at the Biker Bar

I should mention that we’ve done loads of work in the flat this summer and it now boasts a brand-new bathroom, a new living-room ceiling, wallpaper, lighting and carpet, so we’re quite happy to fly back for a short break anytime to enjoy what we’ve spent our money on. We also had our annual weekend away at the scout camp in Powburn with most of Mary’s family and once again Ben came along with us. This year he decided it would be much more fun to sleep in the dormitory with all the other kids rather than be cosy in a private room with Grandad George and Granny Mary. We also celebrated sister Claire’s husband’s 50th birthday and all dressed up in Blyth Spartans strips for the occasion. Mad, but a great laugh!

Claire, Ally, Bruce, Dot, Mary

Ben doing grass-sledging!

I saw plenty of the grandchildren this summer and had a terrific day with Artemis to myself which included a visit to see one of the 50 penguins Dundee City Council had spread around the town before auctioning them off. Well it wasn’t really much of a visit because the Council had positioned one of the flightless birds (named Chic!) right outside our window and at the entrance to the park opposite. It was a delight to see it there first thing in the morning and I’ll miss it now that it’s gone.

At the swings with Grandad George

Me and Arry with Chic

I’ve always thought that the beauty of living here is that it hardly ever rains, even though when it does it fair chucks it down! But this time around we’ve been left reeling by the utter monsoons that have swept through here on a fairly regular basis since our arrival back in Vilanova 7 weeks ago. Indeed, it was so bad the first evening we were here that the sheer weight of water brought down the partly-erected awning, snapping one of my new glass-fibre poles (you know, the ones that are virtually unbreakable!). Since that day we’ve been plagued by the notion that every time we leave the caravan unattended to go somewhere there is a chance we’ll return to find the awning lying on the ground and our possessions soaked if not ruined.

And it’s not only in the awning that we’ve had problems. That awful damp smell returned to the front of the caravan on my side of the bench seats and I had to go in with serious intent to track it down. I never did find out where it’s been coming in over the years but I found the results of the intrusion: the window shelf witnessed water penetration over a long period of time and I was forced to cut out a couple of feet of it and replace it with new wood. That seems to have done the trick and we’ve had no more bother since, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed and hoping that the rainstorms don’t find their way in and ruin things again.

On a happier note, we’ve had lots of family out to visit over the past 2 weeks as it has been the Scottish school holidays. George, Fiona and grandson Ben started the ball rolling when they flew in 2 Thursdays ago for a 2-week stay in Vilanova Park – just in time for Mary and I to fly back to Scotland the very next day! No. it’s not that we don’t get on, it’s just that we had arranged to fly home to attend sister-in-law Ally’s Silver Wedding Function in the Queen’s Hotel in Dundee. Everyone was going to be there and we really didn’t want to miss out on a good party, which is exactly what it turned out to be. The live band in particular were excellent and had a crowd on the dance-floor pretty much from the start, even chucking in a Gay Gordons and a dashing White Sergeant for good measure! Son Scott and his girl Keira were there too and they came with us the next morning to visit Dundee’s new top attraction the V & A Museum built in the town centre on the banks of the Tay. That was really impressive and we hope to visit the actual galleries when we’re home at Christmas.

Me, Mary and Scott

Exciting times for the City!

Second son Gavin came to the flat on the Sunday evening and at 3 in the morning we headed off to Edinburgh Airport in his car which he left there before joining us on the flight back to Barcelona where he spent four days with us and his brother getting in a bit of sunshine between the downpours! I was of course in my element with 2 of my sons and my grandson with me out here. We all had a trip to the Camp Nou to tour Barcelona’s stadium and trophy room and we all got the souvenir photos you can buy there. Here’s some from the collection.

The leader of the pack!

Just before going out onto the pitch

Ben with Leo

Gav flew away again on the Friday morning but we were back at the airport for a second time that day when Ally and Dave flew in late that evening fresh from their Silver Wedding celebration the previous weekend. George, Fiona and Ben stayed another week with us and we managed a few trips out to local spots including Roc de Sant Gaieta, Coma Ruga, Castellet, Tibidabo and Barcelona Zoo. Mary and I were quick to acknowledge that this place is heaven when the family are out here sharing quality time with us and it’s just a pity they can’t be here more often. Mary’s family have now returned home as well yesterday and that explains to a certain extent why I have now found the time to sit down and add to my blog. The previous 2 weeks have been full-on and I’m a bit worn-out although in a totally positive way. I’ve done a real lot of driving people around but it has been worth it and more!

Mary. Ben, Fiona and George at Roc de Sant Gaieta

George and family plus flamingoes!

Ben on Tibidabo

Ally, Stephen and Mary

As for Lady Burton, well she has returned to work for Global Connect, getting her job back as promised after a year off to go travelling with me again. She is presently doing 4 evenings a week Monday-Thursday plus one lunchtime class at the primary school Sant Jordi, although she might be offered more with the resignation of one of her colleagues to take up a full-time job in Sitges. Which brings me neatly to my new interest which is amateur dramatics! My pal Jeanette, Fred’s wife, has been involved with a group in Sitges for a couple of years now and had invited me before to give it a try, but she recently told me the group were short of one Scotsman for a sketch and I agreed to take the part. I have a final rehearsal tomorrow in Sitges and the performance will take place there next Saturday evening. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Fortunately I’ve been able to take up tutoring my wee pal Guillem again and have already done a couple of lessons with him. We had a day out with his parents Ramon and Beti at the Cubelles Wine Festival recently which was a fine event for all, although we were shocked to discover that they’ve been going through a rocky time in their relationship and are currently living apart. We hope that they are able to resolve their differences for Guillem’s sake as well. He came up to the campsite last week to play with Ben whom he has met during his two stays with us in Dundee and it was great to see them together again despite the age gap.

Guillem and Mary in Cubelles

Mary and I had a trip into Barcelona with her friend and colleague Heather to see an exhibition in the National Museum of Catalunya of the life and influence of Salvador Dali’s wife Gala. She was quite a woman and had previously been married to a famous French poet before marrying Dali and spending the rest of her life with him. It was a good day out and I think Heather particularly enjoyed herself. We even managed a tour of the roof, affording us spectacular views of the area around Placa Espanya and of course Montjuic and the Olympic Park to the south.

Heather and Mary looking out over Barcelona

You’ll remember our close friends Tom & Margareth Bakker whom we’ve visited in Holland and who have come to visit us in Dundee. Well, four weeks ago, they celebrated their Golden Wedding here in Vilanova alongside their entire immediate family and their friends from the campsite. We were invited to attend a special lunch with them and their family down at the Wok in town and then a street party here on Section F in the evening. Both events were brilliant and we had a wee singsong later on in the evening. I made a point of playing “The Wild Rover” which Margareth particularly enjoys as she has learned all the words since I sang it for them at a ceilidh in The Fisherman’s in Broughty Ferry when they were staying with us. It was a pleasure meeting their lovely daughters, their spouses and their children again, having been introduced to them during our visit to Petten in the summer of 2014.

The Bakker Family

There was a big day for eldest son George recently when he took part in the Great Scottish Run, a half-marathon through the streets of Glasgow and George’s first ever. He did really well too, coming home in just under 2 hours (1h 57m 34s to be precise!) and as the event was live on BBC2, Mary and I were able to watch it. We even caught a wee glimpse of George himself just after he crossed the finish line. The disappointment was that his wee brother Scott, who encouraged George to enter in the first place, wasn’t able to take part himself after rwisting his ankle at the football a couple of weeks earlier. Scott was of course gutted, especially as he had qualified to run with the elite group of runners who set off first. Chin up, Scotty! There’s always next year.

A happy George

I’m still having a game of golf once a week up at the local 18-hole par 3 course and I’m shooting some reasonable scores in the mid and low 60s although I still haven’t manage to hold it together all the way round and beat 60. Maybe soon though!! I’m going to take part in the annual handicap competition later in November so I’d better get practising for serious. I saw my second hole-in-one live the other day. This time it was my pal Steve who knocked it straight in off the first tee to move alongside Fred who holed out on the fifth hole a couple of years ago. That’s another bucket-list target for me, but whatever you do, don’t hold your breath! Here’s a photo of the only 2 people I’ve seen get a hole in one.

Fred & Steve, aka The Chuckle Brothers

My brother and his wife have finally gotten round to walking a part of the Camino de Sant Iago, starting in Portugal near Porto and walking for 10 days to finish (hopefully!) this Sunday at the pilgrims’ mass in Santiago de Compostella and getting their official certificates. Originally Mary and I were going to accompany them on the journey but it just didn’t work out in terms of mutually-convenient dates, given Mary’s work and so on. Never mind, I’m sure we’ll get round to it while we still have our legs!

Mary won’t love me for telling you this, but she managed to get out of the Audi outside the caravan the other week and walk away not having put the handbrake on! She had to look on in horror as the car sedately rolled away down the hill for 10 metres before taking out a wooden fence and ending up with one wheel hanging over a wee wall. The neighbours and I managed to rescue the car and I patched it up as best I could. Luckily it still runs perfectly so I’ll just have to drive around with the dents and scratches as I’m sure the insurers would make it a write-off and I don’t want that. At least it’ll blend in perfectly with all the Spanish dented cars! The most important thing is of course that Mary was uninjured although she was plenty embarrassed and didn’t hesitate in confessing to them up at reception about her mishap. They’ve now repaired the fence and thankfully haven’t sent me the bill!

The poor Audi!

The poor Fence!!

No news from Greg and Karen this time round so I’ll stop here and try to post once a week for the next wee while. You all stay bright and healthy and get on with preparing for Christmas!! We’ll maybe hang on a bit yet!

Here’s another big day in the family – Arry’s first day at school. She’s my granddaughter so obviously the most beautiful child ever to sit in a classroom. I hope she has her Daddy’s brains too!

Arry, School, Day 1

Day 5/281: It ain’t half hot!

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Over here, they’re still calling it “primavera” or to translate “spring”. Well, let me tell you right here and now that the weather at the moment certainly doesn’t fit the description “spring” nor indeed “summer”. This, to a Brit, is serious heatwave! The Spanish call it “Una Ola de Calor! “Yesterday I was out in it and it sure felt uncomfortable unless I was in the shade of a nice palm tree. Fortunately there are loads of them around here so it’s never too long before you find somewhere to protect your balding pate. Which is exactly what I did last Sunday when I made my way, along with a few friends, to Sitges for the annual Gay Pride march.

To allow us the opporchancity to enjoy a cool beer or five, we took the “MON” bus from the campsite down into Sitges where we strolled through the main streets before we were forced into one of our favourite café-bars by the unrelenting sun blasting 30+ degrees of heat our way. Ensconced in the garden at the back we enjoyed that said beer, seeking chair positions anywhere except in the direct sunshine. Refreshed again, we ventured forth towards the raised beach promenade where we took up position under one of the palm trees that line its entire kilometre and watched the gays make their way down to the spot where the floats were making ready.

Surprisingly for Spain and Sitges, the parade began almost exactly on time at 5 in the afternoon and made its colourful trek along the promenade, passing directly in front of our noses. For 90 minutes we watched with delight as floats, bands and individuals paraded past us, gay men, gay women, men dressed as women (I think!), women with beards like that guy who won Eurovision a couple of years ago, lots of sailors, lots of leather and lots of rainbow colours. We had a great time and those there for the first time admitted they were really glad they had decided to come along. As always, the whole thing was outrageous but it was a happy, safe experience and one I recommend if you’re ever fortunate enough to be in Sitges in June. Here are a selection of photos from our day out. Don’t look for Mary, she didn’t come with us this time after a friend in need gave her a call.

Let’s start with the weather

This year’s crowd

Trolley dollies et al

What a Gay Day!

We thought these guys were the best of show!

The very latest news from the boys is that Gavin got an email from the University this week confirming that he had passed his Diploma in Law. However it added that he had also won 4 prizes including the top accolade of Law Society for Scotland Best Student!! Naturally we are all very proud of Gavin’s achievements as he has done it in the face of a certain adversity (young daughter, living with in-laws, wife unwell for a time, not earning). However we hope that in future years as a Procurator Fiscal or equivalent he and his family will be more than adequately rewarded for their sacrifices over the past couple of years. His brothers are all very pleased at his success and we’ll all be meeting up with him after his graduation next Thursday which Mary and I are flying home to attend. I did however love brother Greg’s comment that Gavin may be the top Law student in Scotland but he can’t work a grain-dryer (Greg’s job)!!

So where are we all with British politics now? The General Election results were happily surprising except on two counts: the first being that Labour failed to win and the second being the return of the Tories in Scotland. This second point is the one that has most rankled with us because we can find no reason to vote Conservative other than self-interest and/or self-enhancement. In short, Greed. To turn your back on those in need and make the poorest in society pay for previous Banking errors makes you morally bankrupt in our opinion and, while we have no problem with disliking Jeremy Corbyn, Nicola Sturgeon, Brexit or Independence for Scotland we just cannot see how any of those can force you to vote for the Tories, especially when Labour offered a fully-costed Manifesto of Hope. Biggest joke was on Monday when a Tory MP used the phrase “strong & stable” to describe Teresa May post-election. The BBC interviewer actually laughed at him and told him the public would not be expecting to hear that phrase any time in the near future. The guy just didn’t seem to get it!

At this point I think it appropriate to add my sympathy and condolences to all the families affected by that awful tower fire in London. To put it into perspective, I started this post two days before the tragedy but have been delayed by the loss of Internet in our area of the campsite. Now it seems likely that dozens and dozens of people have lost their lives in a horrific fire in the very heart of the UK capital city. The horror of being caught up in such a thing is unimaginable and I keep thinking of that movie “The Towering Inferno” the boys and I watched so often in the 80s where the fire started and spread rapidly mainly due to sub-standard materials used to cut corners and save money at the point of construction. Fingers are already being pointed at the cladding and cosmetic covers. May all those involved take some consolation from whichever God or not they believe in.

On a happier note, I continue to play par-3 golf courses around the area and sometimes even manage the odd decent shot or two. The plaudits however have to go to my friend Darren who has been slowly improving his scores over the past year and has given warning that he is capable of producing something special. Well, that something special happened a couple of weeks ago when he played the round of his life, shooting a 56 (28/28), 10 shots better than his previous best! Since then he has returned to “human” with scores in the high 60s and low 70s but I’m sure he won’t forget his wonder round in a hurry.

I for my sins still haven’t beaten 60 yet although I stood on the eighteenth tee recently needing a par 3 for a 59. Needless to say, I found the greenside bunker, chipped on and 3-putted for a closing 5 and a round of 62. My golf pals and I have also tried a couple of other par-3 courses in the area and found them a pleasant change but maybe not quite as interesting as our local one at Portal del Roc. Over here, these courses are called “Pitch & Putt” but are far better than our pitch and putt courses in Scotland, looking and playing much more like short golf courses. I haven’t played this week because, quite frankly, it’s too hot out there and I’ve taken to going for a swim in the sea instead.

Both Mary and I went for a swim in the Med yesterday at about 3 in the afternoon when it got unbearably hot. I actually went to the site pool first for a swim and when I returned, Mary had finished her reports and was up for a splash in the briny. We went swimming down near the cow sculpture and were able to walk straight in without an “ouch!” moment. We tried a wee bit of sunbathing afterwards on the sand but I quickly started to burn and had to go back in. Hey, I got burned anyway! We had tea in town, listened to a brass band on the Rambla where the local Giants were on parade (remember those figures from “It’s a Knock-Out” and “Jeux sans Frontières?) returned to the car-park to discover we’d left the Audi’s passenger window full open for 6 hours (nothing missing thankfully) and Mary drove us home.

In mid-May, at the suggestion of Darren who wanted to surprise his Mum for her birthday, a group of us drove up to Andorra in the Pyrenees and had a night in a hotel there. Mary and I travelled up in a friend’s car (Barry and Margaret) so I didn’t even have to drive, giving me the freedom to sit back and enjoy the scenery for once. Our hotel was excellent as was the dinner and breakfast we all had there and in between we walked around Andorra-La-Vella checking out what there was to see. The answer was “not very much” and it quickly became clear that the town was just one giant tax-free supermarket, with goods priced lower than you could ever imagine. We hit the shops after breakfast on our second day before driving back to Vilanova with bottles of this and that, including a litre of good Cognac for 7 Euros and bottles of Malibu for Lady Burton at 6 Euros a piece. Darren and his sister bought what seemed like thousands of cigarettes and cigars but happily the customs officers were playing cards when we arrived and they just waved us all through!

The river on its way through the town

Our group at the Dali clock

Best “bird” I saw in Andorra!

Last month Karen and Greg came out again to visit and we had a lovely time with them. As it was their fifth or sixth visit we didn’t have to do much visiting, although we did have a couple of days out with them, including a Sunday morning trip to the big “Los Monjos” market. We also managed a swim in the sea down at Cubelles beach and they really had a laugh playing around in the water with our big inflatable tyre. The weather for them was really great this time and they dutifully went and got sunburn as usual but they just had to grit their teeth and bear/bare it! Karen was good fun again and impresses me by the cute little ways she looks after son Greg and makes him get organized. We like what we see. On the last day of their holiday, I treated them to a Menu del Dia at a wee restaurant recommended by lots of our friends. This turned into quite a feast and they couldn’t eat for the rest of the day. Neither could I actually!

At the Turtle café

They look tyred!

Ship ahoy!

It was as always sad to wave them farewell at the EasyJet departure gate at El Prat but at least this time we could genuinely say “See you in a couple of weeks!” Yes, we’ll be back in Dundee on Wednesday 21 June, Mary’s Mum’s 75th Birthday. The following day we’re all going to Gavin’s graduation in the Caird Hall followed by an early evening meal with the whole family (except Scott who has a previously arranged engagement). The rest of the evening will probably be spent in the pubs on the Perth Road if I’m not mistaken! Out of the blue I received an invitation from my old buddy Abe to attend his retiral “do” in his Bowling Club, guess what, on Friday 23 June, so I’ll be able to go to that as well. Mary’s going to be with her Mum and sisters on Saturday so if you’re having a party let me know and I’ll pencil it in. Not like me to have a drink two nights in a row of course!!

OK, bear with me. Only two more things to report! In mid-May we met up with Guillem and his parents and had the afternoon in Barcelona before dining at his uncle and aunt’s restaurant near the old cathedral in the Barrio Gotica. We were pleased to hear that they’ve settled in to their new home in Blanes north of Barcelona and that Guillem has a new school, although as is always the case, he wasn’t all that impressed with the first couple of weeks!

Was he happy to see us?

Our meal was first class and it was a pity we had to leave at 10.30 to catch the last train back to Vilanova while Ramon, Beti and Guillem drove back to Blanes. Maybe it was seeing Beti (dentist) again but I was soon signed up for 4 weeks of gum cleansing to cure my gingivitis. This she did despite my traditional reluctance to even turn up. I absolutely loathe those drills whether traditional or sonic and I always come out traumatized! On the plus side, the deep X-Ray revealed nothing wrong with my actual teeth.

Rear-Door action!

Now here’s a first! On the 16 of May I found myself in Barcelona with 2 pals, Barry and Darren, at the Motor Show of all things. I’d spotted it in the newspaper that week and noted the entry fee was only 12 Euros so the 3 of us took the Mon bus into Placa Espanya and paid in to the Fira de Barcelona where the Motor Show was being held. To tell the truth, I’m not a really big fan of fancy cars but I thought I’d give it a go and I’m glad I did, because we had really good fun. Of course we saw lots of wonderful machines including electric cars and driverless ones, but we also had the chance to try out some of the other stuff. After Darren had taken a test drive in ….. oops, I’ve forgotten what it was, we all went into a Simulator to bomb round a cross-country race track, then we got in a split-new Range Rover and drove up and down 30 degree gradients and finally I took on Darren round 5 laps of the Barcelona circuit strapped into an F1 cockpit and wearing Virtual Reality specs. That was fantastic and I very surprisingly won the race by driving carefully and far too slowly to Darren’s top speed at all times approach.

Mazda- the one I liked.

Right, I’ll let you go now friends. You’re up-to-date with our news. It’s a pity you don’t all do Blogs as well. Then we could keep up with your news as well. Hope you’ve enjoyed the post. I’ll report back when we get back from Scotland. God bless!

 

 

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!

Spooky!

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 5/170: Immortal

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Four weeks ago we celebrated Burns’ Night with an afternoon session a couple of days and one postponement after the traditional 25 January slot. The postponement was due to bad weather surprisingly, which doesn’t happen all that often out here, and the missing of the actual date was because Mary was working. However our event was really well-attended and we reckon it was a great success. We spent 36 hours getting the food prepared, which meant peeling a mountain of potatoes, buying 6 tins of corned beef, making a giant pot of lentil soup and of course using the half a dozen haggis we had brought back with us after Christmas. The food was very well-received and we managed to convert some more people to the delights of haggis, butternut squash and tatties as well as good old-fashioned stovies. I even found some pork dripping to cook them in!

I bring out the haggis

I bring out the haggis

Jeanette " Is there for honest poverty"

Jeanette ” Is there for honest poverty”

The entertainment was once again diverse and challenging. Geordie-born Vera next door recited “To a Mouse”, Teresa behind us did “To a daisy”, good friend Jeanette, dressed in tartan, took us through “A Man’s a Man for a’ that” quite brilliantly, I addressed the haggis, Scots Annie had us in tears singing “My Love is like a Red, Red Rose” and I finished the proceedings as I had done last year with “Tam O’Shanter”. We have now created an annual challenge for our friends to take on a Burns’ poem and be brave enough to perform it in public at our event. We’ve had people from London, Sheffield, Birmingham, Newcastle, Copenhagen, Cornwall and Great Yarmouth try their hand at Burns’ poetry and they’ve all given it their best shot. Well done to all of you!

The guests listening to Annie sing.

The guests listening to Annie sing.

Annie singing

Annie singing

In my last post I mentioned Scouser Dave the entertainments organizer who had been obliged to return to Liverpool at Christmas after suffering a heart attack here on site. Well I’m really sorry to say that poor Dave slipped into a coma back home and passed away quietly after it was decided to turn off the ventilator which was keeping him alive. Dave was a really lovely guy with a smile and a joke for everyone, so an evening was organized a couple of weeks ago on a Monday night where 50 friends of all nationalities turned up to honour his memory in song. The little karaoke, just like the one he used to do for us after the fish ‘n’ chips meal each Friday night, was a great success and had us all in tears of laughter. We also signed a book which we have sent to his widow along with some flowers.

I’ve been quite busy recently doing the teaching I’ve arranged on the site. My two wee girls, Annie and Daisy, are making excellent progress in Spanish and can now greet people, tell their names, ages, what they like and don’t like, and can identify animals and colours. They’re learning the time just now as well but generally speaking soak up what I teach them with seemingly no effort whatsoever. I’m also becoming quite good friends with their parents and have had one session of Spanish with Mum Claire. My other pupil Abi, a 30-year old former rep with Eurocamp, is also still doing her hour per week and making steady progress. Of course I still do Monday evenings with Guillem but he’s so good now at English that it sometimes doesn’t feel like I need to teach him anything more complicated. We’ve started trying to learn 10 expressions every week so he can now say things like “It’s up to you”, “It’s raining cats and dogs” or “It’s a no-brainer”. All very impressive when he uses them correctly in an appropriate context.

My sixty-fourth birthday was last weekend and we celebrated by having a Menu del Dia at our favourite Vilanova restaurant. In the evening we went back downtown, this time with close friends Fred and Jeanette, to a tapas bar near the Town Square. The food and beer were excellent and we had a great time waiting for the bell to ring which heralded the arrival of new trays of hot food. It wasn’t a late night however and we did manage a couple of swift ones in the campsite bar before closing time.

I had an airport run a couple of weeks ago to pick up my pal Jeremy’s wife Bernadette, fresh from a trip to Mexico. She spends a lot of time away teaching “hot” yoga which is yoga indoors in sweltering heat. She says it’s good for you! She comes from Dumfries originally but lives with Jeremy in his home town of Leeds when they’re not travelling (together or otherwise). They have however spent 20+ years in Sydney, Australia and both speak with strong Aussie accents. On the subject of friends, we’ve heard from Tom and Margareth who tell us they’re not in a position yet to return to Vilanova due to health issues. It’s a shame they can’t get back as they say it has been quite depressing spending the whole winter indoors in Holland.

Never lost it!

Never lost it!

The walking football is still taking place although it’s probably going down to just once a week as there are few who seem to be able to cope physically with Tuesday and Thursday. Those who pick up a twinge on Tuesday very rarely recover in time to take a game two days later. My other exercise is on Wednesday mornings once I’ve taken Mary to her work at the Prysmian factory at 09.00. That’s when Jeremy and I walk up to the tower where we have a short breakfast before walking back to the campsite. His wife Bernadette joined us last Wednesday and also two days ago when we took on the longer walk of 14 kms. This one is the one I went on with Joe and Mo when they were over and although it’s quite a bit further to walk, you get up onto the crest of the hills in a much more gradual way and then it’s a pleasure walking the tops back to the tower.

Bernadette & Jeremy

Bernadette & Jeremy

And now this post gets difficult. Last Saturday morning at 10.00, a gardener from the campsite saw our dear friend Scots Annie collapse on her decking. The ambulance was here promptly and Ann was taken to the local hospital at Sant Pere de Ribes with a suspected stroke. We drove over there to help as soon as we got the news but weren’t allowed to see our friend, and then a doctor told us that she was being transferred to Bellvitges Hospital in Barcelona. We followed on a couple of hours later and tracked her down to A&E where we were able to have a conversation with her although she was clearly paralyzed down her left side.

We were cheered up by being able to communicate with Annie but when the doctor came in, she explained that Ann had had a cerebral infarct and that it was very serious. I asked (in Spanish as Annie was only a few feet away) if we needed to contact her family in Scotland and the nod of the head told the full story. Annie’s sons got there that night and early on Sunday but her daughter was delayed due to lack of a valid passport. As you probably have guessed, Annie passed away on Monday morning. Her death has been a huge shock to all of us and we don’t quite believe she’s actually gone never to return.

Annie was cremated in Sitges today and we held a little send-off for her down at her bungalow at two o’clock, an event attended by a great crowd of people of several nationalities. Thankfully, Tayport Sandra, who had had dinner with Annie on Wednesday evening a couple of days before her stroke then drove up to Bilbao to get the ferry, made it back just in time. There were speeches, poems, songs Annie loved and more. The French community sang one of her favourite songs “La Vie en Rose” and I led an unaccompanied rendering of the song she sang at our Burns Supper “My Love is like a Red, Red Rose”.

Annie's porch today

Annie’s porch today

 

The crowd wave Annie off.

The crowd wave Annie off.

At 15.30 we all went up to the campsite entrance to wave “Cheerio” as the hearse took a detour up the hill to Vilanova Park then drove round the roundabout a couple of times so that all her friends would have the chance to say a last “Farewell” to one of the most amazing characters we have ever met.

The sash says "Cheerio!"

The sash says “Cheerio!”

After that, we drove some of her family to the crematorium in Sitges where we witnessed Annie take her leave of us. God bless.

Annie Gibb R.I.P.

Annie Gibb R.I.P.

Day 4/290: Nostalgia isn’t what it used to be

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After giving one of my classic explanations to illustrate a technical point of the French language (you know, the language that doesn’t have a word for “policing at football tournaments!), one of my first year pupils woke up with a start, saw me looking at him and decided to play the old “distracter” card by asking a question, whether connected to the lesson or not. Most of my pupils were well-versed in this technique and used it on me frequently, knowing full well that, if I was bored by the lesson myself, I would deliberately take the bait and answer things like “Sir, did you watch the Rangers game last night?” or “Mr. Burton, does your son work in Jamal’s store in Kirkton?”.

Anyway, I’d just finished what I assumed was an inspired explanation of the present tense of –ir verbs when Jordan shot his hand up immediately I caught his eye. I anticipated some deeply-thought analysis of the verb system and expected a question like “Sir, are there many exceptions to the basic paradigm?” but that’s not quite what I got. “Mr. Burton sir, sir, have you ever been abroad?” “No son, I’ve been a man all my life!” I quipped. A sea of puzzled faces stared at me and at each other, trying to fathom the hidden wit therein. No-one got it. So I had to explain it to them, by which time even I didn’t think it was very funny.

This classic tale of opposite perspectives within the classroom will hopefully illustrate that the chances of actually knowing what a pupil thinks of your lesson are close to nil for a million reasons. It’s best to think of it in terms of priorities. Where on that list in a teenager’s head lies my French lesson? : after “Can’t wait for the bell to ring”: after “I’m starving”: after “Hope Celtic win tonight”: or even after “God, I would love 5 minutes with Charlene Kerr”. You can see that your lesson would have to be awfully interesting to drag their hyperactive minds away from their stomachs or from below their waists.

As teachers, we never knew the half of what was happening in their lives outside the classroom and to be honest it’s maybe just as well. For example, I had been using memory training techniques with some success with a group of detached 4th years, struggling to keep them on track and to apply themselves in a disciplined manner, something they clearly weren’t used to. For all that, they genuinely appreciated my attempts at trying to interest them and a really good rapport had grown up between them and me. I continued to play the friendly-but-still-the-boss role and they knew I was their teacher and not their pal, so we got on well, as long as I worked them on Mondays and Thursdays but played language games with them last period on a Friday. Well you would, wouldn’t you?!

So, having taught them how to picture something in their minds to help remember what a word meant (Picture a fisherman peeing into a river = “pêcheur [the French for fisherman]), we stumbled upon the word for a lobster. I felt they were ready to try and conjure up their own images so proudly announced “OK guys, can someone come up with a picture to help remember that the word for a lobster is “homard” (pronounced OMAR)? Pandemonium! The whole class fell about roaring with laughter. I frantically searched my words to find out what I had said that was so funny. Nothing. I gave in and asked them what was making them laugh. No response but the hilarity continued. I asked again. Wee Kenny at the front sobered up long enough to say “Sorry, Mr. Burton, that’s dead funny but we just can’t tell you why!”

To get to the bottom of this, I resumed the lesson and waited for the class to dismiss at the bell before calling Kenny back just as he was leaving. Alone with him, I asked again what their secret was. Kenny repeated that he couldn’t possibly tell me what it was, but I pleaded with him and promised not to be angry or upset with the reason. “Alright, Mr. Burton, I trust you so here goes. You know some of us watch porn at home?” I nodded as if he had said “cartoons”. “Well, there’s this black guy with the biggest thingy ever on some of these films and his name is Omar! We were all imagining a lobster with its claws snapped shut tight on his most famous bit! Sorry, Mr. Burton, but you said you wouldn’t get angry or tell on me.” I reminded Kenny that we had a deal, we shook hands and he left the classroom still laughing to himself.

You know what, I bet you to this very day no-one in that class ever forget the French for “lobster”!!

People often ask “Did you have a lot of funny moments when you were a teacher?” and the obvious answer is “Of course, many, many crazy things happened.” So I’m going to tell you the funniest thing which occurred not that long before I retired in 2010.

One day I was in the school office at St. Saviour’s High School, filing some reports when an old man buzzed at the by-then-always-locked front door. I pressed the button to let him in and he came over slowly to the sliding hatch window of reception. He was accompanied by a little old lady whom I took to be his wife and they both looked upset if not quite devastated. “How can I help?” I asked. “We need to speak to Danny,” he replied “There’s been a tragedy!” “Danny who?” I asked. “Danny Martin in 4th year”. This set off the alarm bells in my head. Danny, a lovely boy of average ability, had lost his mother only 2 years previous and had required a lot of support to get him through what was for him a hugely difficult period in his life.

Quick as a flash I ushered the couple into the Administration corridor, sat them down in the thankfully empty Boardroom, offered them a cup of tea then excused myself and left in search of Danny’s Guidance teacher Frances. I caught up with her in the library and told her she would need to go and fetch Danny from class and bring him to the Boardroom where his grandparents, who now looked after him, were waiting with what purported to be bad news. I returned to the Boardroom and tried to get an idea of the level of the “tragedy” but neither of the two would say anything other than how horrendous it all was and how would Danny get over this second hammer-blow.

A knock on the door told us Frances had found Danny and brought him to us. In he came, face twisted in anguish even before he heard the news. “Grandad, grandad, what’s happened? Tell me what’s happened” he pleaded. “Oh Danny, Danny it’s awful. It’s a tragedy!” sobbed his grandmother. “Tell me, tell me” Danny repeated. “Oh son, son, “ said grandad. “we’re so sorry. The dog’s eaten the f***ing parrot!!”

Frances and I dived back out into the corridor and attempted to stifle the roars of laughter welling up from inside. I clapped my hand over my own mouth and rushed into my office throwing the door behind me. Frances unfortunately had to sober up at once and go back in to console the now weeping Danny and his distraught grandparents. She put on a good show but admitted later it had been a real struggle. By the time I had recovered enough to go back into the Boardroom, Danny had been led away to the toilet to dry his eyes. I tried my best to give words of consolation to the old couple and it was the Grandad who finished me off with “And it was a right good speaker as well!” I excused myself a second time, claiming I was urgently needed elsewhere and never actually managed to return to see them off the premises. Oh brother, were my sides sore by the end of the day!

You can tell from these two tales that school wasn’t all boring and repetitive, although don’t ask me to go back into the classroom now I’m retired. Oh no, I’ve done my stint, come out of it relatively intact with most of my marbles and have no intention of ever repeating the dose. I leave that to Lady Burton nowadays whose services are clearly much sought-after out here in Vilanova. Mary has done 3 different jobs this year, sometimes working long hours for little reward financially-speaking, but has really enjoyed the experience and is delighted that both the language school “Global Connect” and the Prysmian factory have asked her to continue for the next session starting in early September.

As you know, Greg is getting married to Karen on the second of September but Mary is due to start induction at Global Connect about the sixth so it looks like we’ll be setting off on the road back to Vilanova almost immediately after the wedding. A pity, but needs must! But before that we have the journey home via the Tunnel this time, staying in all sorts of places and circumstances (Falkirk, Tayport, Alyth to mention three) catching up with the family, doing a couple more Munroes with the boys, Greg’s Stag, Karen’s hen Party, Arry’s 3rd birthday then Greg’s wedding. I don’t think we’re going to have much time to catch our breath you know but better that than be bored.

For the last two weeks of July we’re hoping to stay in the Magic Caravan on a site in Alyth recommended by cousins Stef and Renée. This will mean giving the wee caravan a bit of a once-over to make it totally fit for habitation but we’re looking forward to that and can’t wait to get it back to the condition it was in when we were touring Europe3 years ago. Our wonderful “Magic” caravan has been having a rest for the past 2 years on a storage site at the back of Birkhill just north of Dundee. Every time we’re home, we pop in to check it is ok and just sit down for a few minutes to remember how fantastic that tour was. Will we ever do something like that again? Who knows? This is George and Mary after all!

The famous Magic Caravan

The famous Magic Caravan

Just in case I scared you all with tales of blood sugar levels off the charts last post, I should let you know that the regime seems to be working most of the time and I feel fine, although I still think my levels aren’t under control quite yet. But don’t worry, I intend to get a full set of bloods done as soon as I get back to Dundee and we’ll see what the results tell us needs done. In the meantime, I have little or no commitments apart from one more night with Guillem, so if I don’t feel up to anything in particular, I can just stay put and watch the footie which has so far been interesting if not actually enthralling. Events off the field seem to dominate at the moment but I have no intention of stating the bloody obvious as far as English hooligans are concerned. And let’s not forget the despicable behaviour of some Russian fans as well. Pathetic!

The weather is worthy of a mention at this point as it’s full-on typical Spanish Scorchio now with few clouds, blazing sun and ever-increasing temperatures. It’s really off-limits to be outside between 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. this month and factor 30 or stronger is a must. You should see the state of the Brits out here in force on holiday with kids who should be at school. Their massive amounts of skin get totally frazzled in this heat then they go and hide their sunburn under a football top. Can’t remember if I’ve told you this before but the Brits are the only people who wear football tops on holiday (other than the obvious kids wearing Barça tops with Messi 10 on the back). I saw a Dutchman with a colourful Feyenoord top the other day but in general it’s only Brits, predominantly English and Irish, who wear what their kids are wearing. How weird is that?

El Prat!

El Prat!

Friends Mike and Het are back home in the Lake District for the summer. I drove them to the airport last Thursday and we promised we’ll try to have a couple of nights with them on our way home at the beginning of July. If it’s as much fun as the last time, we’re in for a treat (but let’s not repeat the new Audi clutch for £1400. Ouch!). That leaves pretty much Mary & I and Walter & Joke as the only ones of our group of friends still here, although Darren, Bob & Sandra are still around as well. Scots Annie has moved in to Sandra’s caravan on F23 at the bottom of the road and we gave her a wee hand to settle in. Joke and I had our final game of golf last Thursday but neither of us played particularly well, probably because it was so very hot out there. We were on our knees by the end of the round which made my round of 66 seem not too bad actually, especially finishing with 5 consecutive 3s after hitting each green with my tee shot. Not a single birdie though.

As Mike was going home last Thursday, he finally persuaded me on the Saturday that Mary was away back in Scotland to give the “boules” tournament a go. I got paired with a Dutch woman and we lost all 3 games. He asked me to try again on the Wednesday and I ended up paired with our friend Kate from Stornoway. Would you believe it, we won all 3 games then won the final! Beginners luck of course. I tried again on Saturday past, got to the final again, mainly due to the other 2 in my team, but we got reamed 10-0! Back down to earth with a bang! Mary must be my lucky mascot as I’ve reached the final both times she has come to watch.

For the first time in her new career, Mary had a works’ night out on Saturday, spending the evening eating tapas and drinking outside in a wee square down in the old town. The whole thing was paid for by the Global Connect people and she had a really nice time with her colleagues. I was very happy for her and left her to finish the evening properly and get a taxi home rather than “queer her pitch” by going to collect her in the Audi.

She even got flowers!

She even got flowers!

Day 4/210: The return of the son!

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My intention in this post is not to get you right up-to-date with what’s been happening over here. That’s because there’s simply too much of it and I don’t think I could fit it all in to one letter from Spain. So I’m going to tell you some bits today and then more as the next few days go by. It’s Easter weekend now and the campsite is absolutely stuffed with holidaymakers, mostly Spanish families, so it’s a whole lot noisier than normal. Who needs an alarm clock when you have a wee Spanish baby not 10 metres away who can’t walk, can’t talk, can’t go a bike, can’t sing, can’t speak English but can cry louder and longer than almost any child I have ever heard! His parents make no effort whatsoever to prevent this continual screaming, probably convinced that eventually the child will pull itself together and open a good book. But we won’t hold our breath on that happening now, will we?

I recently googled “How to bring up a Spanish baby” and it said “Sticking your fingers down your throat will probably work, but best not to eat it in the first place!”

A fortnight ago today, Scott came out to visit, necessitating an early drive to El Prat airport to pick him up and bring him back to Vilanova Park where he was going to spend 5 days with us in the caravan. Scott being Scott, we were hardly in the ‘van when he announced he wanted to go for a walk somewhere, so, after a spot of breakfast, we drove down to the front at neighbouring Cubelles and repeated the walk Mary and I had described in our last blog post. The big difference was that Scott now has a “smart watch” which monitors every step he takes, so he wanted to try it out with us in attendance. Sometimes he just forgets we’re not 21 any more and there he was, striding along the front at about 6mph with his Mum and I struggling to keep apace. We visited the huge breakwater down by the desalination plant then retraced our (rather too quick) steps back to the car.

Mother and son

Mother and son

And Dad too!

And Dad too!

With the weather forecast predicting heavy rain for most of his visit (never buy any lucky white heather from Scott!) we decided to visit Montserrat the next day, Sunday, when the sun was going to be out. What a shock we got up in the mountain as we neared the parking places. We were faced with a queue of about 100 cars all going nowhere fast and we sat for about half-an-hour contemplating our fate. But as always Dad took the big decision, pulled out onto the wrong side of the road, overtook the entire line, crept between the line of cars on the other road at the junction and drove off down the mountain again. I intended to return in an hour or so after all those who had come to hear the Boys’ Choir would have left. But three corners down the mountain we spotted a parking place recently vacated and pulled in.

The classic pic

The classic pic

This now meant a long walk of about a mile up the mountain to the monastery area but your intrepid Burtons did just that, rather than miss out on a visit to one of our favourite places. Montserrat is a beautiful spot and Scott enjoyed the wonderful views to the north and east stretching from the Pyrenees to the Mediterranean Sea. We kept our time in the church to a minimum as that’s not entirely his cup of tea and spent a good two or three hours walking the hillside paths. Scott was particularly impressed by the funicular but strangely didn’t fancy a ride on it – Mary was very grateful!

Scott in front of that funicular.

Scott in front of that funicular.

Before we left the mountain Scott simply had to add a “Messi” to his worldwide collection of poses.

Couldn't really miss this opportunity

Couldn’t really miss this opportunity

As predicted, the rain came on Monday curtailing some of our plans but we did manage to get in a set of tennis in the morning while Mary was at work. I raced into a 3-1 lead but then the young one stepped up a gear and I crumbled, losing 5 on the trot to leave him champion. Scott came with us at 5 o’clock to pick up my pupil and wee pal Guillem from his school “Bel Air” but then he went off into town with Mum to do some shopping while I did my lessons. We all met up later on at the bar for a beer or two then we went back to the caravan where Scott showed off his recent purchases. The lad’s got style, y’know!

On Tuesday I had to take a customer to the airport and Mary was working most of the day so Scott came with me in the car and, after depositing the two travellers at El Prat, we returned via the main C32 road, allowing us to pull in at the Barnasud shopping centre in Gava. I had an unexpectedly brilliant time shopping with Scott and we both came home with some really nice new clothes. Mum wasn’t totally left out however as son bought her a lovely top and a cosy pair of pyjamas at my suggestion. Mary was typically delighted with her presents and we both got hugs and kisses.

After dropping Mary at the Prysmian factory on Wednesday morning, Scott and I headed up to the Portal del Roc golf course and managed a quick round of par 3s. This time the old man came out on top, shooting a steady round of 70 and leaving youngest son trailing in his wake! Then we met Mary after work at 13.30 and drove down the coast to visit Sant Roc de Gaieta and Coma Ruga where the fish nibble your feet. I’d rustled up a bit of a picnic salad and the sun came out for a while giving us a fine afternoon which was topped off by hot chocolate and churros in a café nearby.

Scott and his Mum at Roc de Gaieta

Scott and his Mum at Roc de Gaieta

As usual, before we knew it, it was time for Scott to leave. We’d managed 5 days and nights in the caravan together, had a brilliant time, hadn’t fallen out over anything and had done a wee bit of bonding together again. He left us confident that all was well in his world and that we needn’t worry too much about his future. I must say he did impress us with his grown-up attitude but I’m glad to say he still has his OCD tidiness thing which we find very amusing, given our complete lack of that social grace! We were sorry to say “Bye bye!” to our youngest but he keeps in close contact with us and phones regularly to let us know how he is (unlike some!)

Our Dutch friends, Tom and Margareth have just returned from their road trip down and back up from Seville, taking in all the best places to visit and enjoying a long break from Vilanova Park. They have clearly had a ball and they look all the better for their adventure, given that they are both the wrong side of 65 and even 70 in Tom’s case. As usual, he got himself into trouble in the cowboy town, got arrested

Hands up!

Hands up!

and spent a night in the cells!

Throw away the key!

Throw away the key!

A couple of weeks ago, we all had a bit of a barbecue round on “G” block. Fred, Jeanette, Dick and Linda were the hosts and Jeremy, being half-Australian, did the Barbie. Old Scouser Jimmy kept us well entertained with tales of old Liverpool, sang us old songs from that city including the original “Maggie May” and even got out the banjo to accompany his songs! What a laugh we had! Once people had had a few, I was requested to take over and lead the community singing on guitar which I did using the new one bought for Dick to learn on. The following day we were the talk of the campsite, our singing having been heard at the furthest corners of the site.

Food, glorious food!

Food, glorious food!

Some of the girls fancied a dance

Some of the girls fancied a dance

To bring you bang up-to-date, I’ve just come back from watching the cyclists in the Tour of Catalunya go flying past the entrance to the campsite, reminiscent of the twice we’ve seen the Tour de France go by on previous holidays. Spectacular, colourful and very, very quick! Sorry, I forgot to take a camera.

More news in the next day or two. Enjoy!

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