Sunday, 21 February 2010

Rain stops play

Written 18th february 

We had hoped for some nice mountain driving in the sierra nevadas south of granada, so stopped in an undistinguished service station for the night, but with the rain lashing down the next morning, it was clear it wasn't to be, so we stuck to the motorway and fled south to the coast. 

Where we found what would have been a great coast road, sandwiched between mountains and sea,

but which was made somewhat hideous by the sea of hotels and polytunnels squashed up cheek by jowl on every flat, sort of flat, 'look its flat really', or clearly 'hillock bulldozed flat' space.  I think that most of europe's tomatoes come from this little corner of spain, certainly there were lots of billboards advertising the merits of various varieties of tomato to the farmers, and I imagine that 20 years ago, before the advent of polytunnels when apparently this land was still farmed using the irrigation methods passed down by the original roman and arab settlers, it was all rather picturesque, like the cork forests, olive groves and orange  orchards we have passed through so far.  Unfortunately, now it is horrible but probaby much more productive - such is the price of progress.  

Anxious to escape, we pressed on through flooded towns, campaigning for a bypass and  found ourselves eventually in the Parque National de Cabo Gata-Nijar, circled on our atlas by Laura and Cedric, and it was sunny and lovely. 

An arid, near-desert landscape of scrubby hills and cactus filled valleys, it has an excellent information and interpretation centre which informs and interprets for you through nice displays, buttons to push, flashy lights and quizzes with buzzers - all very nicely done.  The beaches and sand dunes of the park are apparently fed by sands blown off the Sahara and such is the deserty-ness of the lanscape that Lawrence of Arabia and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade were filmed here - so there you go!  It also reminded us a lot of the wilds of Texas as it is what that landscape probably looked like before it was horribly overgrazed and became the desert it now is.

We journied to the salt basins where we saw more flamingos!

and the lighthouse at the cape on one side then back round to the

recommended beaches of Gennovese

and Monsul. 

It was a bit windy but we climbed to the top of the Monsul sand dune (not a patch on pilat!) and decided we liked it so much we would stop for the night for a spot of beach fettling.  

The next morning started fine so Will fettled and I started daisies but then rain stopped play - only we could go to a desert and inadvertently manage some sort of successful rain dance! - so I read the papers and did the codeword puzzle, the word search, the target word puzzle and all three crosswords.

The papers gave us a great insight into what expats find time in their busy holdaying lives to be concerned about, namely:

The criminal way in which Gordon Brown has destroyed the UK economy and the value of the pound against the euro.  In the english version of the spanish paper, this was written up as being an cunning plot to destroy the spanish economy as brits now have less money to spend here.  In the ex-pat paper, this was written as a cunning plot to destroy the lives of the ex-pat community living in spain as they now have less money to spend here.  One would think, that as Gordon Brown is Prime Minister of the UK his job is surely to ensure that money of british origin is spent there not in spain... but there you go.  the spanish papers had dire predicitons of mass exoduses of up to 75% of all british ex-pats back to england (based on a survey of 250 ex-pats across the whole of europe!), whereas the ex-pat paper reported that they rather liked it here thank you very much, the weather in england is horrible and they would just go out less.  Who can say.

Either way, travel to and from the UK over easter is in jeopardy as the air traffic controllers are apparently planning strikes.  Their current pay deal comes to an end on 31st March and because there is this little thing called an economic crisis, the goverment is in talks to negociate a pay drop of up to 40%.  Sounds harsh, you think, until you read on that some of them earn up to €800,000 per annum.  yes EIGHT HUNDRED THOUSAND EUROS PER ANNUM!!!  I am going to retrain when I get home!

There are apparently hundreds of high-rise apartment blocks in Malaga, many owned by Brits, which the local council has now decided were illegally built so is talking about pulling down (with no compensation for the owners) in order to regain the beauty of the coastline - bit late now I say!

Officials in Italy, Greece, Morocco and Spain are campaigning for the mediterranean diet to be added to the UNESCO Intangible World Heritage List.  Intangible World Heritage List?? Who knew there was such a thing!  Paper doesn't elaborate on what the mediterranean diet is, just says it is very healthy - Spaniards apparently have the lowest incidences of heart disease - and bemoans the fact that fewer and fewer spanish people actually eat that way nowadays as they are ordering less nutritious meals in bars and restaurants.

In addition to easting badly these days, Spain also apparently has one of the least productive work forces in europe as, despite having the longest working hours, they spend so long on coffee, lunch and siesta breaks they don't get much done.  The 'National Commission for the Rationalisation of Timetables' (!?!) is apparently campaigning to move to working patterns more in line with northern europe, ie a more concentrated working day with shorter breaks and earlier finish time, and also changing the clocks to be on GMT to encourage increased work effort and "improve the quality of life of citizens".  Not sure how well that will go down!  They also reckon that this will decrease unemployment but surely people working harder will mean they need to employ fewer people to get the job done - how is that going to help matters??? :)

It is apparently the warmest but wettest winter since records began - or some such thing - typical, we get the rain and it didn't feel warm in Burgos... and there was also an article by the british consulate trying to set the record straight that their job isn't just about getting people out of foreign prisons!  Apparently they can't even do that... ;)

And a councillor in Jerez has said that he doesn't want english tourists who just sit around and drink coming his town anymore - he only wants tourists who will "enrich the area".  A councillor in the spanish capital of sherry doesn't want english tourists who drink???  Who does he think is the main market for sherry!!  Needless to state, the Andalucian regional government and tourist board, who have just formally identified english tourists as being vital to stimulate the area's economy are trying to hush him up PDQ!

So there you go - it is another world.

I am also stuck on the following:

cryptic 1
1) Have doubts about club's upsets (7)  S------

2) Choose the Spanish city's temperature (5) E----

3) Prepare to be shot? (5) --I--  (first letter is third letter of 1) above, last letter is third letter of 2) above)

4) A long letter, sleep it off (7) --I---E (first letter is fifth letter of 1) above, fifth letter is last letter of 2) above)

5) Waver first the entire evening's terrible entertainment roster (6)  --E-E- (first letter is last letter of 1) above

cryptic 2

1) Inability to stand on one's own two feet through being thin? (8)  -E-N-E-S

2) Where the head is religious (6) -E-P-E

1) Give out (5) I---E

2) Fit (6) B-L-N-

3) Timid (6) -O-S-Y

4)US march king (5) --U-A  (first letter is 3rd letter of 1) above)

they are bugging me - answers on a postcard please, if only to put my mind at rest!

Will is nearly finished fettling now - hopefully - so we are going to head off in a bit, assuming it all goes back together... ;)

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