Tuesday, 15 December 2009

In the Garlic

Last Christmas I wrote about Spanish customs, based on the book In the Garlic. I've now discovered Theresa has her own website HERE with a bit more information about the Spanish Christmas and more on the caganer. I see I spelt it wrong on my two blogs below.....so slap my wrists.

Enjoy Theresa's site.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

More Spanish Christmas

I met a friend at El Farito restaurante today down at La Barrosa. The young proprietor was busy gathering greenery from the hedgerow and when I went inside, he was using it to trim the bottom of his artificial Christmas tree. (So sorry, Picasa is playing up and will not post my right-way-up picture, drat it. Just tilt your head to the left).

Now, this is a new phenomenon: northern Europeans Christmas-y stuff would not have been seen in this s.w. corner of Spain before a year or so ago. It crept in last year with lights in the town. Now you cannot move in the supermarkets and bazaars for sparkly balls, trimmings, Santas that can climb up walls, jingle bells, etc.....the whole nine yards.

So I was delighted when I went inside to see they also had the traditional Nativity. A lovely desert scene built inside a model boat.

No sign of a cagenar, the curious Catalan custom - see the post below. This Nativity is perfectly in keeping with the restaurant El Farito (little lighthouse) as it's all decked out with a nautical theme. The Christmas tree, to me, is a bit of an intrusion. It was a treat, however, to see the young man bringing all his creativity to the decorating of it.

Spanish Christmas

These are representative of Spanish humour - cageners (defecators). It's a custom from the 17th century in Catalonia, where - as a symbol of fertility for the earth - a little statue is tucked away somewhere in the Nativity model. The one with the red cap is said to be the traditional, original one but now you can find them of famous figures: sports stars (hundreds of footballers), political figures, celebs. Last year they introduced one of Barack Obama. Go take a look at this site if you're further interested HERE

I hope the link works. If not, Google cagener. I have included Queen Elizabeth II and Gordon Brown.

I did take a good look at the beautiful Nativity in a restaurant I went to today (see following post) but no sign of a cagener......what a pity - que pena.

Friday, 20 November 2009


Yeah......forgot I had blogs. This will explain it all:

with thanks to YouTube and all.

Monday, 19 October 2009

Tetuan trip

Recently, with 30-odd women from an international women's group, I set sail on the ferry across the Straits of Gibraltar for Ceuta and from there by coach across the Moroccan border. We weren't allowed in the country until a man in a white coat had pointed a gun-like instrument at our foreheads to determine whether we had a temperature, a symptom of swine flu. I don't know what would have happened if one of us had had a fever. I fantasised that the instrument was a memory-eraser and would get a fresh implant of memories on the way back!

We fetched up in Tetuan where, sadly, we saw little of the town as we were sped to the Casbah, to trawl up and down the rabbit-warren alleys selling fresh fish, vegetables and live chickens, killed to order. The most interesting part of the trip was at the Berber herbalist. We were given a half hour talk on the merits of different herbs, salves and creams with the offer of a 3 for 2 bargain at the end of a talk. I spent the most money in this shop as I wasn't interested in carpets, ceramics or kaftans. It would have been a different story if there'd been any beautiful Bedouin jewellery.

Moroccan women seem to be on a very short leash.....and so were we - no wandering off, all herded together. Most of us had set off at 6.30 that morning so by 1 p..m. our time (but only 11 a.m. Moroccan time) we were ready for our feast. We had to wait another 2 hours and were heartily fed with soup, couscous, shish kebabs, apples and date pastries, rounded off with Moroccan mint tea. No alcohol available.

Below is a little slide show to give you a flavour of what we saw.

Tetuan, Morocco

Tetuan, Morocco

Saturday, 26 September 2009


I used to have a terrific memory. My brain stored dozens of telephone numbers. Now I'm lucky if I can remember my own, so without the address book and stored numbers on the phone, I'd be lost. I like to think that my brain has accumulated so much knowledge over the years that it goes on overload. It's all there somewhere but scrambled up.

In my field of psychology, I used to be able to rattle off writers and concepts without thinking. Now that I've retired from work, that information is right at the back of my memory bank. I still have the books, notes of workshops, research etc. so can retrieve stuff when I want to, but I don't need to.

Learning Spanish has been a big hurdle and I fall regularly. The best times are when I can devote time and energy to nothing else, but how practical is that. Acquiring new knowledge keeps us on our toes, but I guess the old stuff has to move over to accommodate it.

I love my PC, learning what makes it tick, surfing the net, keeping my photo albums. Now I have a special notebook nearby called "Daily Doings and Reminders". I note if I've ordered something on the net, Bookmarks that require a lot of time to read, blogs to revisit. I tried the blogroll thingy and it clogged up by home page so much, it took for ever to load.

Yet, here's the curious thing: information gained in my childhood without my knowing it has stuck with me. If I watch old b/w American or British movies, I can name all the actors and useless stuff about their lives then. My Christmas pillow-case always contained a glossy Annual about the movies, along with books like The Secret Garden, Children of the New Forest, 1001 Things for Girls To Do. (I still have the latter so need never be stuck on how to crochet, knit, sew on a button!)

Thanks to Ronni at Time Goes By
who, timely as ever, reminds me of the idiosyncracies of my aging person.

Monday, 14 September 2009


I've been following Ronni's posts at Time Goes By HERE about attitudes towards older people and all the euphemisms used by the Press and public to stereotype them. Expressions like elders, senior citizens, pensioners, "you don't look your age", "act your age" - all designed to put people in little boxes.

People are living longer and those who want to look and behave as young as possible have greater expectations of what they are capable of. It's an attitude that drives the cosmetic surgery, beauty, fashion and keep-fit industries, all designed to hold back time......as if.

I left a comment on one of Ronni's posts about not caring about aging, yet owning up to my difficulty in relinquishing mascara. What is that vanity all about? In the nearly 7 years I've lived in Spain, I've pared down my use of make-up. I do use plenty of moisturisers and go days without my darkened lashes, but when a social get-together is on the cards, the full slap goes on. Why I feel better with it, I do not know but come the day I can give it all up, maybe I will truly have accepted my 68, looking at 69 or 70 years.

Let me end with a lovely phrase of Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) "As we grow old, the beauty steals inwards".

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Transformation in 6 years

I was standing halfway down our garden this week marvelling at all the greenery that now obscures the house: it provides little walkways within a walled section with shrubs, pots and flowers. The fountain tinkles and sometimes the smell is heavenly.

Above is what it looked like after the undergrowth had been cut down. Later a brick workshop was added, then a woooden shed with a pergola to connect the two. Standing half way down as I did, it was a great boost to my current lethargy to see all the things we'd built and created - pepper trees, cypresses, pampas grass, ngao trees: and the climbers - campsus radicans, bignonia, morning glory, honeysuckle.
Not a great picture, but it gives the idea. You can just see the chimney in the distance. Aint nature wonderful.

Oh dear, this should be on my gardening blog http://salamanderverde.blogspot.com and I forgot.

Monday, 7 September 2009

A Reading Meme

I was checking out Darlene's blog HERE and her interesting replies to the Kreativ Blogger award and came across a meme that Rain had sent her. Darlene urges us to participate if we're inclined, whether we've been specifically invited or not, so I am.

The meme is to turn to page 161, sentence 5 and blog it. I'm reading David Lodge's "Deaf Sentence" about a retired professor who has lost his hearing. It's both comic and sad when he writes about this and it's given me an insight into what my other half suffers with his poor hearing (and not a few guilty pangs about my insensitivity at times.) The professor's elderly father is struggling to maintain his independence and failing and the 5th sentence has relevance to anyone thinking of residential care homes for the elderly, where the cost is finely calibrated to the degree of comfort offered. (He is talking about the UK here):-

"At the lowest end of the scale you get a stale smell of cooking in the dining room, and of pungent air-freshener in the lounge, fumed oak furniture and faded floral wallpaper in the bedrooms: at the top end air conditioning and sleek modular furniture and tasteful decor."

I must go beyond this 5th sentence as it is so poignant and depressingly true of many of the places I visited in the course of my work aeons ago....

"But there is the same rather melancholy atmosphere in all of them, of lonely old people waiting stoically for death, deepened rather than relieved by the tinselly Christmas decorations in the common room".

At one time residential care homes were for people who were still ambulant and had all their faculties. Nursing homes were for people who were physically disabled and intermittently confused. As both of these could be paid for out of the public purse, there was always an argument about who should pay - Social Services or the Health Service. I don't know if it's changed. But whenever I came across homes as described by Lodge, the lowest end of the scale was always those financed by the State.

I saw a t.v. programme recently which was the exception to this run by the Mary Feilding Guild, a non-profit making Charity. They only take active older people, many of whom were in their 80s and 90s. They go out to concerts, galleries, do t'ai chi, play Scrabble and income is no bar to living there as they have financial help for those of lesser means. For those interested, look HERE .

In this part of Spain, there are very few homes for older people as the family take their responsibilities to their grandparents very seriously and are very involved. It's not uncommon to see grandchildren out with a grandparent, helping with shopping, doctors and dentists. At the traditional weekend lunch, there could be 4 generations sitting down together.

There are very active clubs for "jubilados" (pensioners) who have reduced-cost holidays, excursions, educational talks - including talks on sexuality for older people. Speaking of which taboo subject, I came across this wonderful website that's all about sex for older people. Now there's something that's rare to hear or read about, fitting into the myth that it's a non-existent activity in the over 60s. HERE it is, run by a very open woman called Joan Price (only in America!)

I've strayed far away from the meme theme, haven't I, and somehow got on to sex. Well, go take a look at Joan's site for more information.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

An award, part 2.

You know, it's quite stressful, this passing on the award lark: who to include, how much to say and the to-ing and fro-ing to obtain URLs and post the news to folk. Or is it me! Cannot multi-task so easily. I know some people hate these memes, so apologies in advance if you're one of them.

Darlene in Tucson, Arizona, is an inspiration and if I can be as feisty and politically committed when I reach her age, I shall be very content. Sprinkled through her blog are some great jokes and stories.
Di lives in Mallorca though she's over in UK at the moment for the Notting Hill Carnival banging the drums and having a ball. She writes about her life in Spain.

Karin is halfway up a mountain in Utah and has recently started blogging to lessen her isolation. She took a risk and reached out for company and was not disappointed when

Celeste popped up. An accomplished artist and bon-viveur, Celeste has escaped the heat of Madrid to Portugal but will soon be returning to her busy life.

Chaise-longue in France decamped from Wales. She blogs in French and English, grows her own veg and fruit and provides delicious Mediterranean recipes - as does

Juma in Portugal who combines her career in music with wonderful cooking. Juma has just battled with a serious illness and is on the mend. She can blog in Portuguese, Spanish and English.

Margaretha in Sweden is a dedicated reader and provides wonderful pictures to amplify her interests. Suffering from a rare debilitating illness, she makes the most of her time getting satisfaction on the internet.

So, gals, go get your award if you'd like it, choose 7 others to pass it on to, with links and write 7 facts about yourself on your blog. Here are my "interesting" facts....

To show me what a drudge working life would be if I didn't study, my father got me to work in the school summer holidays in a laundry shaking out hotel bedding, tablecloths and napkins and folding them, ready for the ironers. I was 16. It was gruelling, paid peanuts and being in factory conditions with a bunch of women was an eye-opener.

I also had a Saturday job in British Home Stores on the snack bar. I could eat and drink as much as I liked (and I did, discovering thick, cold Horlicks). The record counter was nearby and I bopped up and down the counter to Tommy Steel's "Singin' the Blues".

In Singapore, in the 1960s, I was an extra in Hayley Mills' film "Pretty Polly", strolling up and down a make-believe Bugis Street all night. Boring but lucrative.

On the Yemeni border in the 1980s, I stopped for mint tea at a roadside "cafe". The carpet was rushed out to sit on, tea tray and hubble-bubble pipe. Sat watching the eagles soaring in the valley - spectacular. To this day, I don't know what was in the pipe but I sure did feel strange afterwards.

I once had a traditional Arabic feast - lamb and rice, half a chicken, sitting on the floor, no cutlery - with eight men and was regarded as an honorary man, while the women slaved away in the kitchen: they had to wait for the men to finish eating before they got a chance at the leavings.
How could I have done it.

My real growing up started in my 50s, when my father, mother, grandmother all died within 6 months of one another. It was a strange time and even stranger feeling to be the grown up in the family.

And lastly, I met my 3rd husband on a American site for older people which had a poetry section. He lived in Portugal with a daughter who lived in Cornwall, where I lived, so we met up, sparks flew and the rest is history.

Monday, 31 August 2009

An award.

D of 60 going on 16 gave me this. Visit her wonderful site for the background. I once got an "Excellent Blogger" one and thought that was stretching credulity a bit far. I only had one blog - my Costa de la Luz Gardening - at that time and it hardly had mass appeal.

Now I need to come up with 7 interesting facts about myself and pass the prize on to others. So watch this space until I marshal all the stuff for the next phase.

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

La Tomatina festival, Valencia

Ooo, this looks like fun - I'm just in the mood for this. Every last Wednesday in August this festival takes place in Buñol, Valencia. Special, largely inedible, tomatoes are grown in Extramadura province and shipped over to Valencia province when they're over-ripe. A canon sounds to signal the start of the fight, special goggles are worn, the minimum of clothing, and the tomatoes must be squished before throwing to minimise harm. After an hour a canon sounds again, it all stops and the streets are hosed down.

All the pictures show hundreds of young men involved. Do you think they'd let "the oldies" participate. Oh yes, I'd have some of that.....maybe next year.

Sunday, 23 August 2009

Libyan Oil

There's been a great backlash about the decision to release the Lockerbie Bomber to go home to Libya to die. Here is an interesting article in The Times today dealing with the political and financial background to this decision. Whoever doubted that there was a hidden agenda behind all this will be sickened by the hypocrasy, lies and obfuscation if this article is to be believed.

It seems that while all the protest statements from the U.S. were being made, Senator John McCain " reported on Tuesday via Twitter, the instant internet messaging site, that he had met Gadaffi, whom he described as “an interesting man”. McCain was reported by the Libyan news agency to have praised Gadaffi’s peace-making efforts in Africa and to have called for expanded US ties with Libya. Exxon and Chevron, the American oil giants, are among companies vying for lucrative new exploration contracts".

The greed for oil, bloody oil, is responsible for so much death and suffering. Today, I've had it with the news. I'll go and tend to garden.

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Health Care Reform, again

By tomorrow on Time goes By, HERE, older bloggers who have written about the Health Care Reform will have sent Ronni their links. Earlier in the week, I read Saul's and Darlene's contributions: both are clear sighted and have a lot of life experience and I can't do half as well in writing about the topic. I'm not a US citizen and my limited experience of private medicine was in 1947 before the inception of the NHS in U.K. when I was a child and my grandmother had to find a couple of shillings to pay for the doctor's consultation when I had a sore throat.

Here in Spain, shortly after I arrived and before organising myself in the Spanish free health service for pensioners, I paid monthly at a private health clinic , which offered free g.p. consultations and half price specialist treatment. Prescriptions, however, had to be paid for. I remember having to fork out 180 euros for 5 tablets for shingles and was horrified. Now I'm slotted into the Spanish system. Because I'm eligible for free care and prescriptions in the UK, my Government has transferred that eligibility to Spain and I'm now enjoying a free service again.

I wish it could be so for the thousands of US citizens who have no health care and I back Obama all the way in trying to introduce a system that will be of benefit to all. People with money will always have greater choice.

Here is an article from the Financial Times about the reality of all health care systems in the face of spiralling costs.

Home truths about rationing healthcare

By Philip Stephens

Published: August 17 2009 19:53 | Last updated: August 17 2009 19:53

The brouhaha in the US about healthcare has generated in Britain bemusement and irritation. The British are not shy of complaining about the National Health Service. But to swap free-at-the-point-of-delivery healthcare for the US private insurance system would beggar belief. As David Cameron’s Conservatives know to their cost, to hint at privatisation is to invite political immolation.

Beneath the transatlantic waves lies an awkward truth; one that politicians of all shapes and sizes – conservative and progressive, European and American – would prefer not to discuss. Healthcare is rationed everywhere.

Second opinions

Join an FT debate on health care in US and UK as some Obama oppponents use the NHS as an example of how not to go with reform

Some countries, of course, choose to spend more on health than others, just as they set different priorities for education or defence. Some prefer direct state provision, others more plural arrangements – compare France’s devolved not-for-profit insurance with Britain’s monolithic NHS. But all the models, the American included, share one characteristic. They ration access, while pretending otherwise. In Britain, the state imposes the limits; in the US the market does much the same job. What separates them are questions of efficiency and equity.

The NHS stands condemned by US President Barack Obama’s opponents as an instrument of state-sponsored euthanasia. Its socialised medicine, Americans are asked to believe, would have deprived, on grounds of age, Senator Edward Kennedy of treatment for a brain tumour.

Such charges are palpable nonsense, serving only to unite British politicians in defence of the distinctly imperfect NHS. The Tories have been put on the defensive. Mr Cameron has spent years insisting his party cherishes the NHS. Now one or two discordant Tory voices are heard cheering on Republican attacks on Mr Obama’s proposals.

Mr Cameron’s discomfort will not deter Republicans. As my colleague Edward Luce has written in these pages, US conservatives sense a chance to re-ignite America’s culture wars. Defeating health reform might derail the Obama presidency. Facts cannot be allowed to get in the way of such political calculation.

European criticism of the US model tends to focus on its inequities – the 40m-plus uninsured Americans denied access to anything but emergency care. The more startling fact is the truly enormous cost.

I say “US model”; in reality, there are two. How many of Mr Obama’s critics, I wonder, realise that the 8 per cent of national income US taxpayers stump up for Medicare and Medicaid is only a fraction less than the proportion of its income that Britain spends on the entire NHS? By this measure, US healthcare is as “socialised” as any in Europe.

Overall, the 16 per cent of national income the US pours into health is nearly twice the 8.9 per cent average of members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. In per capita terms, as the OECD’s excellent Health Data 2009 shows, the gulf is wider. US spending was nearly $7,300 per head in 2007, against the OECD’s rich country average of just under $3,000.

What those Americans lucky enough to have top-flight private insurance get for this is care unmatched in terms of technological capabilities and expertise. The US leads the way in medical and pharmaceutical research. Facilities are modern, treatment is prompt.

The rationing is applied by the exclusions imposed by employers and insurance companies on all but the most expensive policies and, most obviously, by the fact that many working Americans simply cannot afford any insurance. To say everyone can get emergency care is little comfort to the diabetic or cancer sufferers denied ongoing care.

Yet all this money has failed to improve overall health outcomes. Life expectancy for Americans is a year below the rich country average of 79, while infant mortality is well above the average. Britain just beats the average on both scores.

True, there are other social and cultural factors to be taken into account. But that the world’s richest country can spend so much and still lag so far behind the best is an extraordinary indictment. On present trends, this hopelessly inefficient system will soon consume 20 per cent of national income, making it as unaffordable as it is inequitable. The challenge for all US politicians is surely to devise a system that spends less more efficiently and fairly.

Britain has a different problem. It needs to spend more. A sharp increase in NHS resources in recent years has eased the queues. But care is still restricted by waiting times or limited availability of some treatments. Given its demographics, Britain will need to devote a rising share of its income to health – at a time when a burgeoning government deficit requires public spending restraint. One way or another, patients are going to be asked to contribute directly to their care.

At least, though, the NHS is relatively efficient. Britain gets a lot more bang for its buck than the US. Rationing will always be unavoidable – on both sides of the Atlantic. And it is foolish to argue that state-run systems are always the most effective. But Mr Obama’s critics are throwing stones from a glass house in which the panes are already broken.


Friday, 14 August 2009

Health Care.

I've just watched the BBC news with pictures of the hysteria surrounding the reforms to U.S. health care: faces, body language, slogans - all filled with such hate. I just do not understand that people can turn their backs and ignore the fact that 46 million of the population have no health care coverage, and more have less coverage than is adequate.

It's true that those European countries with a universal health service are struggling with problems of how to fund the system. More and more people are living longer: there are such advances in medical technology, the high cost of pharmaceuticals, not to mention a mind-set of some who believe that whatever they want they should have for free, be it cosmetic surgery, IVF, gastric bands to reduce weight etc. It's difficult for any Government to keep up with demand but at least people do get treatment and care without the worry of being turned away because of an inability to pay.

I was reminded this morning of how fortunate I was to have grown up in a national health system in UK. My country has transferred my right to have free treatment and prescriptions to my adopted country, Spain so I have my medication, routine blood tests and ECG for my 2 year old condition, all without it costing a centimo. OK, I worked for 40-odd years and paid into the system (National Insurance) which guaranteed me a retirement pension at aged 60 and free health care and, boy, am I glad of it now at an age where I no longer work for my living.

Thursday, 13 August 2009


I've got my dander up again about American Politics: the rabid Right through lies, misinformation and praying on ignorance, have been trying to scupper any reform. They are also trying to discredit the UK's National Health Service to try and add weight to their argument against "socialised health care" . Here is an article from BBC news:

BBC article on US attack on NHS

Bloggers debate British healthcare

As the US healthcare debate hots up during Congress's summer recess, anti-reform campaigners have been directing criticisms across the Atlantic at the UK healthcare system.

The most recent row erupted after an editorial at the Investors Business Daily (IBD) launched an attack on the British National Health Service (NHS), as a warning against what could happen if the US adopted such a model.

"The controlling of medical costs in countries such as Britain through rationing, and the health consequences thereof are legendary," the article said. "The stories of people dying on a waiting list or being denied altogether read like a horror movie script."

The article's author went on to assert that "people such as scientist Stephen Hawking wouldn't have a chance in the UK, where the National Health Service would say the life of this brilliant man, because of his physical handicaps, is essentially worthless."

As the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Jay Bookman quickly pointed out, Prof Hawking was born in the UK, and has lived and worked there for his entire life.

And UK newspapers the Guardian and Daily Telegraph reported Prof Hawking as saying that he "wouldn't be here today if it were not for the NHS".

Basic stupidity

Washington Post blogger Ezra Klein said the IBD article was an example of conservatives "lying" about healthcare.

"It's not just that they didn't know that Stephen Hawking was born in England. It's that the underlying point was wrong, as you'll note from the continued existence of Stephen Hawking. They didn't choose an unfortunate example for an accurate point. They simply lied."

The New Republic's Jason Zengerle - while endorsing Mr Klein's objections to the IBD's article - was not convinced that the article's author should be given the credit for a conscious lie.

"The point the IBD writer was trying to make would have at least been theoretically plausible if, as the writer believed, Hawking was not British," Mr Zengerle wrote.

It's worth emphasizing, for those who remain confused and misled, that Democratic reform proposals would not create a British system

Steve Benen
Washington Monthly

"I'm just reluctant to credit the IBD writer with the sufficient smarts to concoct such a lie. Seems like basic stupidity is the easier explanation here."

The IBD's fundamental charge was that President Obama's healthcare plans would lead to the rationing of healthcare, and that rationing is a feature of the British system.

This point was echoed by conservative blogger Michelle Malkin , who warned that "the effects of socialised medicine in Britain - engineered by government-run cost-cutting panels on which Obamacare would be modelled - continue to wreak havoc on the elderly and infirm."

In making this point, Ms Malkin was explicitly re-affirming the assertion made by former Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin, that Mr Obama wanted to create a "death panel" to decide whether the elderly or disabled are "worthy of health care".

Top topic

Liberal bloggers in the US have rejected the accusations made by these prominent conservatives.

Washington Monthly's Steve Benen argued that the healthcare plans put forward by Mr Obama and his fellow Democrats bore no resemblance to the UK system.

"It's worth emphasizing, for those who remain confused and misled, that Democratic reform proposals would not create a British system. The comparison doesn't even make sense in any substantive way, and the very premise of the IBD attack, which has been widely parroted by the far-right, reflects a fundamental lack of intellectual honesty and seriousness."

Matthew Yglesias, blogger for the liberal Centre for American Progress, lamented the fact that Mr Obama was not planning to follow the British example.

"The NHS is a pretty great model and the British are on to something... if you were actually able to get British levels of care for British price levels [in the US] you could redirect [the savings] to trying to improve the social circumstances of the poor, trying to reduce exposure to health hazards, and building infrastructure (trains, sidewalks, bike paths, even the dread parks) suited to less sedentary lifestyles. We'd be much better off that way."

The American conservatives' criticisms of the NHS, and an appearance by British Conservative MEP Dan Hannan on Fox News, in which he bemoaned the state of healthcare in the UK, has prompted thousands of British Twitter users to rush to its defence.

By early Wednesday evening UK time, the #WeLoveTheNHS hashtag had become one of the top trending topics on the global site.

Some Twitter users, like Luke Richards, offered general words of support.

"I'm proud of our health service. It's one of this country's best achievements of the past century," he wrote.

Others, like Claire Thompson of Reading, highlighted the life-saving treatment that they or their friends and relatives have received.

"My father had heart surgery last year, and my husband's life was saved after a fall - not perfect, but great when it matters," she tweeted.

Most seemed to reflect the feeling that despite its shortcomings, the British remain defiantly proud of the health service in the face of transatlantic criticism.

Matthew Yglesias, above, makes a very good point if you were actually able to get British levels of care for British price levels [in the US] you could redirect [the savings] to trying to improve the social circumstances of the poor.

Maybe even something would be done about the US appalling infant mortality rate.

Ronni Bennett on Time Goes By, HERE is calling all elder bloggers to post something on 20th August to dispel the lies and misinformation circulating. Do read her article and add you weight if you agree.

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

3 Siamese

I'm amazed at our two, Yin and Yang, who seem quite comfortable allowing our visitor (Shanti) to share the cool of the patio. He does have a family about 10 minutes walk away, but prefers to spend time in our garden. I tried not feeding him but he won't go home and doesn't stop shouting until I give him something.

I've harvested the first of the bell peppers and aubergines today and spent the morning chopping them up, with our own onions, tomatoes and garlic to make something with pasta. In previous years I've done a cheese lasagne with the veg. mix above.

Meanwhile, one of the freezers is bulging with apricots and plums and there are jars of plums in syrup for later in the year. Next big crop will be the black figs. I read that they're good with goats cheese and rocket. If anyone has favourite fig dessert recipes, I'd appreciate hearing about them.

Gonzalo and Mathilde next door have been supplying us with huge bags of French beans....simply delicious. And as a special treat, turkeys' eggs. I've had duck's and geese eggs but never turkey. They're slightly richer and larger than a hen's egg.

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Bramley Apple Pie

I'd better move over in the kitchen and give D some space to experiment. Most of you know I'm not into making cakes, pastries, biscuits and the like, although I enjoy eating them when offered. D. offen feels deprived of such naughties and recently had a yen for an apple pie. A friend brought the Bramleys from Gibraltar (apparently, these are the only ones that will do) and away he went.....the kitchen was chaos - even with frozen pastry - but here is the result:

This is the man who said food was fuel when we met 7 years ago. Happily, he's learned that eating can be an enjoyable experience and now relishes a variety of dishes from around the world. Maybe with his baking success, I can persuade him to experiment in cooking other things.

Friday, 8 May 2009

super de-luxe Mercado in Chiclana.

When we arrived in the area 6 years ago , the central market for fruit, veg, meat and fish was a place where you'd need to gird you loins to get through it. The aisles were very narrow and queues 3 or 4 deep; often a group would just be standing, talking, with push chairs and gridlock was not uncommon. Above is the snail man, who has had a stall outside the old market for years; wild asparagus is sold there too when in season and strange looking herbs. Behind him there's a big gap where the market used to be and here is the brand-new one.....spacious, air-conditioned, set in a plaza with fountains, benches, lottery vendors and activist stalls.

Here's one of the butchers and cold meats
And here you can see the wider aisles, with one of the fish and seafood stalls in the far distance.
Fabulous-looking fruit and veg, all said to be locally grown. It continues to baffle me that you can't move at some stalls for the customers queuing, while others are empty. Yet the prices and produce look the same.
In the centre of the market is a brand-new mall, two floors, marble floors, all expensively kitted out, several bars, cafes and even the churros and chocolat place - sheer indulgence. One cafe offers menu del dia of 3 courses for 5€ - what a bargain.

And, finally, I couldn't resist this pic of two delightful puppies in a push chair out with their owner, whose friend had the grandchild in another pushchair. No-one was taking any notice of the grandchild.

Friday, 24 April 2009

Visiting Siamese, part 2.

Lourdes, who lives about 10 minutes' walk away, and her son, Ezekiel, came today to let us know that Shanti (my secret name for our visitor) is their cat. They call him Gato (cat) and took him home in their car. He hadn't been home for 3 days and I guess he'd found a nice little billet around our house so's he could wake me up by yowling at 7 a.m. for some breakfast. We've said that it's better if we don't give him any food, so that he'll return home, but he's most welcome to visit any time.

So, all's well that ends well, eh.

A couple of very good articles this week on older people and how they are perceived by younger
people. Take a look at Ronnie at Time goes by (click on title) and D at 60 going on 16. This is what it's really like getting older - or so some would hope. Give me the garden and the slow life any time.

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Grandma's Medicines.

And I thought it was the Guiness and a little bedtime tot of whisky that made Grandma Nellie so happy.

And to think she could have taken this instead. Sadly, at 90 she did need morphine just before she died. A few days before it happened, she sat up in bed suddenly, waved at my aunt and me, said "thank you very much for looking after me", laid down and there she remained until she died - in her own home, which was very important to her.

And as you can see, the children were not forgotten either.

I didn't see any ads for Laudanum, which delicate Victorian ladies needed frequently with a nice lie-down.

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Spare ribs recipe

I got this recipe for spare ribs from Video Jug HERE. A great site for getting ideas (there's a search button) and then seeing it cooked step-by-step.

I'm cooking the spare ribs for the second time and here's how it's done. I guarantee you won't be able to get enough of them.......simply scrumptilicious (is that a new word):

Take one and a half kilos (3 lbs) of spare ribs, put in saucepan with sliced up 5 cm ginger, cover with water, bring to the boil, and then simmer for 10 mins. Skim frequently.

Mix up

2 tbsp. each of BBQ sauce, sweet chilli sauce, soy sauce, crushed garlic, runny honey and brown sugar, plus 2 teasp. chopped ginger. Add 100 ml. dark sherry.

Drain the spare ribs and pat dry and into a pan with a little olive oil, brown the ribs on both sides.

Into a clean pan, put the spicy saucy mixture and simmer and stir for a minute or so. Transfer the ribs to this mixture and cook for 5 minutes....longer if you want, turning frequently. Personally, I didn't find that even cooking them for 15 minutes was long enough to make them succulent, so kept prodding them until I was satisfied. I guess it would depend on the quality of the ribs.

I'm serving them with noodles so that all those lovely juices can be soaked up. I'm not putting a picture up as they won't be on the plate long enough!

Friday, 17 April 2009

Siamese visitor

Those of you who read the gardening blog know that we have two brother and sister Siamese cats, Yin and Yang, who are 6 years old now. They are real characters and give us endless pleasure.

Well, here we have a visiting Siamese. He showed up about a fortnight ago, announcing his presence with the classic loud Siamese yowl. He came twice a day at mealtimes and for a while I wouldn't feed him, as he disappeared at night and I thought he must have an owner. He didn't look uncared for and was friendly enough, albeit a bit strange with half a tail and cross eyes!

You won't be surprised to learn that things escalated once I gave him breakfast. He's now taken up position on D's favourite chair on the patio and yowls in the evening for dinner when ours get fed. No, I'm not going to give him any until/unless I find out if he has an owner; so I'm ready to put a notice up locally on a telegraph pole.

Our two are tolerant of him, but get spooked when he tries to get in the house. Last night after creating a racket outside he got on his hind legs outside the sitting room window (which looks onto the patio) and banged with both front paws on the window. I think he's very determined to adopt us. Watch this space.......

Saturday, 28 March 2009

The smell of Cornwall

It doesn't look anything sitting there on the plate, does it? But if you could smell it as I do, you wouldn't be able to wait to get your teeth into it. Wendy from Redruth in West Cornwall has moved to our town and has started her Cornish Kitchen, selling these wonderful pasties, baked to order. I ordered a dozen and salivated all the way home as the car was suffused with the smell of pastry, potato, swede, onion and meat. If you've ever walked down the main street of any town in Cornwall at lunch time, you'll know what I mean.

They've been a vital part of the Cornish people's diet for over 200 years. There are hundreds of stories about the evolution of the pasty's shape, with the most popular being that the D-shape enabled tin miners to re-heat them underground as well as eat them safely. The crust (crimped edge) was used as a handle which was then discarded due to the high levels of arsenic in many of the tin mines. No chance of my discarding my crust....Wendy's pastry is divine.

The size of mine here is relatively modest, by Cornish standards. I've been in pubs where they fill the whole plate....too much for one person. Favourite way to eat them is straight from the bag, sauntering along the Prom - fighting off the seagulls.

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

A Marriage of Cultures

I've strained my brain for hours to figure out how to post videos. Here's a beauty of Irish and Spanish dance from River Dance, posted in error originally on my Gardening blog. (I've left it there for them to enjoy too). This is the full 8 min. video and there's a treat also for devotees of Jean Butler.

From my early days at school on the Country Dancing team in the 1940s, I've loved dance. Flamenco grabbed me in the 1950s when I saw Antonio at the Coliseum in London and hung around for hours, without success, at the stage door for an autograph. I drooled at the Albert Hall in the 90s when Joaquin Cortés appeared, more over his uncle's dancing to be honest. Now, I live right in the thick of it in Andalucia. How good is that.

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Silence broken

My, oh my, nearly the first quarter of the year over and nothing written. Now why is that, I wonder. I've done a lot of reading, been out and about, worked endlessly in the garden and, yet, have felt nothing of value or interest to say on here.

I know many bloggers do the odd paragraph almost daily. Others I visit regularly write so superbly and about such interesting things that I feel that sense of unworthiness of my efforts creeping in, so do nothing. I know it is ridiculous to have this self-judgement sitting on my shoulder, but I can't seem to shake it off. I have put my toe in the water on my gardening blog because I got all fired up about chillies but that was that.

I'm hoping that having given voice to these daft feelings, I can launch myself off again......we shall see.