Tuesday, 30 November 2021

From snow and ice to drizzle and mud. And lack of compassion.

 What a difference a day makes! From a good couple of inches of snow crunching underfoot yesterday to just the odd bit drifted against dry stone walls on the hillside and a lonely abandoned snowman in the corner of a garden this morning. The rain washed it away overnight. The mill pond was still partly frozen this morning but otherwise we seem to be back to just averagely cold rather than absolutely freezing! I was more at risk of slipping on mud than on ice when I ran this morning and, for the first time in a while, I returned home with wet feet. 


Several people I met said how pleased they were to see the back of the snow. That reaction always surprises me. There’s something exciting and uplifting about a walk in the snow. Maybe we need to learn to adapt to the weather in this country, make sure we are all dressed for the weather and that roads and the like are cleared. For example, my daughter arrived for work at a local primary school to find that the carpark was still deep in snow, as was the playground. They share a caretaker with another school and he had been unable to deal with both sites. The children weren’t allowed out to play, although one might have thought that provided they had decent footwear, building snowmen and throwing snowballs would have done them no harm. As it was they were confined indoors all day and just got slightly more and more hyper as the day went on. 


As she told me this, her five-year-old chimed in with the announcement that she had played out two times. Her school’s caretaker had made sure the playgrounds were safe to run around in. And they are fortunate enough to have a big grassy area where those who wanted to experience snow could do so. 


Today is just grey and drizzly. The drizzle started while I was out running and has continued ever since. I don’t suppose this drizzly weather is any more welcome than snow to those in tents on the French coast. Those interviewed by news reporters say they are still trying to get to the UK - some have relatives here they are trying to reunite with - and are prepared to risk that Channel crossing.


I read a report about people trying to block a RNLI lifeboat from setting out to sea from Hastings. Apparently they were shouting, “don’t bring any more of those home, we’re full up, that’s why we stopped our donations”. The police were called and the lifeboat successfully launched. This was a week or more ago, when 27 people had already been lost in the Channel. When did we become such a hardhearted country that we could deny rescue to people in the icy water of the Channel in November?


It’s time the politicians brought their supposed diplomacy to work on finding an international solution. For it seems as though the problem is just going to get worse as time goes by. 


Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone! 

Monday, 29 November 2021

Christmas lights!

Three houses just a little bit further up and across the road from us have attached small Christmas trees to the front of their houses. They’re lit up every afternoon as it goes dark - a bit of (too) early Christmas cheer! They’re the sort of trees that all the shops and cafes and so on in the village centre will be adorned with over the next week, ready for the big switch on, organised by the “Light Up Delph Committee”. I’ve no idea when the lights will be switched on but I guess illumination is imminent.


They were busy putting up lights in Dobcross centre the other day when we walked through. Dobcross is always very picturesque. It’s one of the advantages of having the main square on the top of the hill - small but very picturesque with some buildings still confusing labelled as the establishments they used to be - the bank and the butcher’s shop, whichh even goes so far as to have a model pig and model sides of beef and strings of sausages in the window. They always do the Dobcross Christmas lights very well, though: a veritable fairyland!


In Barcelona I understand that residents are getting a bit cross about a huge star being added to one of the spires of Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia church. Read all about it hereThe church has always been a bit of a controversial thing, especially as nobody really knows quite how Gaudi planned to complete it. Personally I really like it. Those who live near it must find all the tourists a bit of a pain though. It’s a.ways hard to live close to a tourist attraction. 


As for us, we won’t be decorating the exterior of the house for Christmas. I often wonder what the electricity bills are like for those who cover their homes with flashing lights. Our Christmas tree, small and modest, lives in a pot in the garden. Assuming we can dig it our from under the snow, it will come inside in a few weeks time, ready for the smallest grandchildren to help me decorate it.


There has been no more snow but a lot is lying around making pavements a bit tricky. Nothing daunted, we have been out and about admiring the views. 


Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!

Sunday, 28 November 2021

Deep cold! Wearing masks … or not! Vaccination. And role models.

Well, the wind has dropped. I looked out first thing and decided the pavement looked dry enough for running. So In donned my running gear, plus on an extra layer for the cold, and off I went. On the whole it was fine but the ice patch on the lane down to the millpond was bigger and thicker than ever. I had to pick my way round the edges. Apparently at least one of the residents there has complained to the local council about it. One lady steps out of her front door into a puddle which was never there before the resurfacing took place. And her garden is permanently soggy to boot. I know that I wouldn’t like to drive a car out of their driveway and over the ice floe to get to the main road. But will the council send workers quickly? That is the question.


The millpond is almost frozen over - deep cold has begun! Seagulls were skating and the ducks were confined to one corner where they could swim freely. The water barrel in our garden - almost empty at the end of August and into September but almost full after recent rainfall - has a thick layer of ice on the top of it. And my little Christmas tree, growing nicely in it’s pot, has been blown over and is leaning against a larger bush. I am not going out to stand it up as it has now been snowing for the last hour. It began with very thin stuff but it’s got heavier and is sticking. Pavements are looking quite treacherous now but our garden looks rather Christmassy!


I think it’s a day for working in the kitchen, baking cakes and making hearty stews and soups, keeping warm by keeping busy. The family might be coming for tea later today but I think we need to do a weather check this afternoon. Hibernation sounds like an attractive option. 


Meanwhile, in the wider world, steps are being taken to protect us from the latest mutation of the virus. Masks are to be worn in shops and supermarkets and on public transport. I am not exactly sure when this comes into force. My instinctive reaction is to say AT ONCE. However, in the local coop store this morning there was me and an old chap wearing our masks and everyone else continuing as ever. None of the staff wore masks. But then, the messages being sent out by the government are unclear. What a surprise! It would seem that you can catch Covid on the bus or in the supermarket but not in a crowded pub.


Next weekend we go to receive our booster vaccination. Trying to stay safe! Here’s a link to an article about a small place in Sicily where they are 104% vaccinated. Palazzo Adriano is the town where much of the film “Cinema Paradiso” was filmed, one of my favourite Italian films. I wonder if we could visit next time we go to Sicily - assuming we can continue to travel. They have a museum dedicated to the making of the film. I wonder, though, how they managed to get over 100% vaccination.


Some fuss, indeed quite a bit of fuss, is being made by some people about casting women in TV and film roles previously given to me. A female Doctor Who stirred things up. Could a Time Lord really be Time Lady? And then there have been suggestions that agent 007, James Bond, could be recast as a s would not be so easy as changing the gender of Doctor Who, as the Doctor regularly regenerates. Mind you James Bond has gone through the same process with different actors playing the role. Somehow, though, making 007 a woman would be to create a different story altogether. 


Anyway, the fuss is all about role models for boys:-


“Casting women in TV and film roles previously given to men, such as in Doctor Who or the James Bond franchise, risks leading young males into crime because the only cultural role models left for them are criminals, a Conservative MP has argued.

Leading a Westminster Hall debate about international men’s day, Nick Fletcher said discussions about women’s safety, such as after the murder of Sarah Everard, risked achieving nothing because of a focus on the idea of toxic masculinity.


Citing statistics showing poor male outcomes in areas such as school attainment, employment, suicide and rough sleeping, the Don Valley MP said men and boys needed better role models, including male teachers.”


Here’s a female journalist’s opinion on that question.


The old question of the power of the media to influence young people’s behaviour has popped up again then.


Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!

Saturday, 27 November 2021

Stormy weather - stormy times.

Storm Arwen raged all night. She was still blowing when I woke up this morning but at least she’d stopped raining and snowing on us. It all looked very picturesque from our attic window. 


I don’t remember storms having names when I was a child. Come to that I don’t remember as many storms as we seem to have nowadays.


It crossed my mind that maybe we give the storms names to appease the Storm God, to make that deity think we have adopted its offspring. That’s rather like naming the Cape of Good Hope in a positive way to try to reduce the chances of ships foundering as they went round the cape. 


I went and did a bit of research. It seems the Americans started naming storms and hurricanes in the 1950s. Before that they were tracked by year and the order in which they occurred. This caused confusion if two occurred in different places at the same time and in the end names were easier to remember. Of course, the first names were all male names but in 1978 equality arrived and female storms were allowed to exist.


It seems that in the UK we started naming storms in 2015 when an organisation called Name our Storms was launched, with a new list of names issued each September.


“The list runs from early September to late August the following year. This coincides with the start of autumn when the likelihood of low pressure systems and the potential for named storms increase.

The naming of storms using a single authoritative system should aid the communication of approaching severe weather through media partners and other government agencies. In this way the public will be better placed to keep themselves, their property and businesses safe.”


There you go.


I decided to forego my run this morning, not fancying being blown over, but later in the morning I set off to walk to Tesco in Greenfield. There were sticks and small branches all over the surface of the Donkey Line. I was very glad not to be on my bike as it would have been a serious hazard. At one point there was half a tree beside the path - okay, I exaggerate - and further along my route a tree was blown down on Den Lane, above Uppermill. 



I did get some nice pictures of snowy hills though.



 

 

As I stepped out into the bright but blustery weather, all wrapped up in my fleecy-lined winter coat, I thought of the desperate people trying to cross the channel in unsuitable boats. I had read this article about those lost in the Channel, most of whom have not been identified. 

 

In our safe lives it’s hard to imagine using your savings to send your son away on a dangerous journey, in order to avoid his having to join the army of a regime he disagrees with. It’s hard to imagine being in touch with your son by phone and being able to pinpoint by satellite exactly where he was in the Channel, up to the point when the boat went down and his phone went with it. There are mothers hoping that their sons have made it into a detention centre, even a prison and that that is why they are not in touch. That’s easier to accept than believing they were lost in the Channel. It’s hard to imagine the sadness of simply not knowing.


Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!

Friday, 26 November 2021

Avoiding the rain. Getting lost. Successful shopping and no mention of Black Friday.

In the night it rained - copiously! I fully expected it to be raining this morning but, no, it was fine; there was even some blue in the sky. So I got up and organised myself for a run, putting on my running raincoat just in case. I hesitated about following the route that takes me past the duckpond and into the wooded area. The path there gets very squelchy when it rains. Yesterday it was hardened by the frost but today there was no frost. Did I really want wet feet? In the end I decided to risk it.


Half way down the woodland path I came across a group of people standing quietly, pointing out something on the hillside. They were talking very quietly. I realised that they had spotted deer. Loads of people have told me about deer in the valley but I’ve not seen them there before. Usually one of my nodding acquaintances says, “Look out for the deer in such and such a place”. But by the time I get there the deer have moved on. They don’t hang around for long. Today, however, I managed to see them! Splendid!




When I got home my daughter rang me. Yesterday afternoon we had discussed a possible shopping trip today. Now she wanted to know if I could meet her in Uppermill at around 11.00. She was taking her littlest one to Boomting, one of those activity sessions for toddlers where they “experience” music, banging drums and singing along, and incidentally learning to follow instructions while apparently playing. All good! She and the little fellow would meet me in a cafe after their musical adventures. We would be joined by her second eldest daughter who would get there by bus. 


I arrived just after 11.00, thinking I might be late. No sign of anyone. My phone rang. It was granddaughter number two, who had just got off the bus and was managing to get lost looking for the cafe. Twice I redirected her, preventing her from heading up the hillside behind Uppermill, and eventually found her. One of the problems of being accustomed to go everywhere by car is that you never really take note of where places are and can get mildly lost in places which should be familiar to you!


After my daughter joined us, we had some refreshments and finally got on our way to IKEA, looking for this and that on our respective shopping lists. I now have supplies of biscuits, as well as a couple more Christmas presents sorted out. Oh, and I got us a new doormat for the front hall. Last time I went to IKEA I bought a new doormat for back door as the old one was becoming a health hazard, so frayed that it was tripping everyone up. We decided a while ago that the doormat in the front hall was seriously inadequate, altogether too thin and flimsy, less than useless in fact. So now we have a fine new, very scratchy doormat in the front hall! Result!


We collected the second smallest child from school on our way home. Everyone came in for coffee (not for the small people) and biscuits and a bit of a craft session, mostly drawing unicorns and rainbows. Even the small boy joined in, looking intently at what his five-year-old sister was colouring and declaring seriously, “Wow! Rainbow!” Another bit of vocabulary we were unaware he had! 


In the midst of all my comings and goings today came the negative result of our CPR tests. We didn't think we had Covid but it's good to make it official. 

 

Tomorrow rain and wind are forecast, possibly snow!


Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!

Thursday, 25 November 2021

Winter is coming! But the sun is shining. Finding Roman remains.

It’s another crisp, bright day. The weathermen are suggesting that we might have snow by the weekend, or at any rate cold rain. Not so good. Crisp cold can be dealt with. Wet cold is just miserable. 


There’s a section of my running route (when I run round the village rather than along the Donkey Line) where they resurfaced the lane a couple of months back. Maybe as a consequence, or maybe not, ever since then there has been water flowing from a driveway and across the roadway, just waiting for the cold weather so it can freeze. And this week it has been partially frozen. The edges are just piles of soggy leaves, quite safe to run through, but anyone running down the middle might inadvertently end up skating! We went to a walk in the sunshine in the late morning and the ice was still there. 


And what I think of as deep cold has not arrived yet. The millponds are not frozen and the ducks are not skating. That’s what happens in deep cold. But the muddy paths through he wooded area is hardening up nicely.  


Ever since reading this article about the discovery of a Roman mosaic floor under a farmer’s field in Rutland, I have decided to keep my eyes open for odd bits of pottery. After all, we have Roman remains around here, with Castleshaw fort just up the road. Just think, if it had not been for lockdown, the people who discovered the mosaic might not have gone for a walk and spotted odd pottery. If the farmer’s son had not had the IT skills necessary to investigate the area they might not have looked any further. A lockdown benefit!? How amazing! Somehow I expect to hear about new discoveries of Roman remains in Spain and Italy but I had rather thought we had found all our own British Roman stuff. 


Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!

Wednesday, 24 November 2021

Normality? Testing times. The power of caffeine.,

Getting back to something like normal, I got up this morning snd cycled to the market in Uppermill. It’s much the same as ever. So now we have supplies of the oat biscuits we can offer to my brother-in-law as they are gluten-free. Also some Coxes orange pippin apples, excellent olives and sundried tomatoes, as well as some interesting cheese.


It was a cold ride but not as cold as Monday, when we had quite a heavy frost, but I was glad to have my extra warm cycling gloves. 


After breakfast (I always have breakfast with Phil when I return from Uppermill) we spotted a bit of sunshine and decided to go for a walk while it was there. It didn’t last long but we had a good walk anyway.With some fine views, as ever.






On the way to Dobcross there’s a wall which fell (or was knocked) down a good two years ago. It just remained with a council barrier around it and a “Footpath Closed” sign. About 5 or 6 weeks ago they finally started to fix it but it was still only half done when we went to Portugal. Today we walked past it without noticing it was all finished and had to go back to take a photo. 


We returned home in time to do our Covid test ready for posting. I can’t say poking a swab to the back of your throat is pleasant. Not an experience I want to repeat in the near future. Perhaps the hardest part was putting together the boxes to post the tests off in. First folding left them looking as though the contents could slide out. We won the box battle however and I made coffee to drink before we go to post the things and keep our fingers crossed for a negative result!


I read recently that drinking coffee or tea may be linked with a lower risk of stroke and dementia. They’ve been doing studies on this. “Researchers found that people who drank two to three cups of coffee or three to five cups of tea a day, or a combination of four to six cups of coffee and tea, had the lowest risk of stroke or dementia.

Those who drank two to three cups of coffee and two to three cups of tea daily had a 32% lower risk of stroke. These people had a 28% lower risk of dementia compared with those who did not drink tea or coffee.”


It’s nice to find that something you like is good for you. We need some reports on wine and chocolate now!


Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!

Tuesday, 23 November 2021

Venturing out. Returning home. Trying (without success) to meet Testa and Trace deadlines. Tomorrow is another day!

I ventured into Manchester centre today. Because I was setting off before 9.30 I had to pay for my bus ride to Oldham Mumps where I was catching the tram. £4.50 it cost me! For a 15 minute bus ride! Goodness! No wonder people complain about the cost of public transport! The bus was fairly empty, as was the tram, for which I didn’t have to pay as by the time ai reached the interchange I was no longer a “twirly” (too early to use my bus pass). Most of the bus users were older people and most of them wore masks. On the tram platform was a notice saying you could be fined £200 for travelling unmasked. Most of us wore our masks. 


Central Manchester was not terribly busy when I arrived there. It was relatively early on a Tuesday morning, after all. I was going to the hairdresser’s and I wanted to visit a couple of shops before my appointment.


I was quite pleased to discover one of my favourite stationers, PaperChase, which closed many of its premises during lockdown, has resurrected in the Arndale Centre, on the spot where Thornton’s, who also closed down during lockdown, used to have one of their shops. This PaperChase was a pale copy of its larger predecessor but it was nice to see it trying to get going again. My daughter and granddaughters and I have often enjoyed visiting the store - we are stationery freaks!


On Sunday, when the gang came round for coffee, Phil distributed his over-large collection of notebooks - small ones, slightly larger ones, lined and squared - to the girls. Delight and excitement ensued. As I said already, stationery freaks!


My hairdressing appointment completed, a certain amount of shopping done, I headed for home. We had Covid 19 tests to complete and post, following the test and trace call we had received on Sunday. The tests had arrived on Monday but I had a zoom Italian conversation class which prevented us completing the tests and getting them to the post office in time. The  today I had my hairdressing appointment, but i was trying hard to get home in tIme. Test and Trace have been sending us reminders! 


The tram was full, with few mask wearers, despite the threat of fines. For once the tram and bus connection worked out well. As a rule the bus leaves just as I get off the tram, leaving me with a half hour wait, but today I just had to wait a few minutes. The bus was full of secondary school children, mostly maskless but almost all busy on their phones 


In the end, when I got home, we registered our intention to test but decided we could not get to the post office in time today. So we have stated our intention to complete the tests at 1.00pm tomorrow. I hope it all goes well. I can barely see my tonsils, so swabbing them without swabbing my tongue in the process is not going to be easy. We shall see. Such are modern times!


Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!

Monday, 22 November 2021

In praise of paella. Packet foods and ready meals. Explosive tins of beans!

Just the other day I read that paella is being given protected cultural status on the grounds that a proper paella celebrates the “art of unity and sharing”.


“Paella is an icon of the Mediterranean diet, because of both its ingredients and its characteristics as a representation of Valencian culture,” read the declaration of protected status. 


“All the ingredients used in its preparation – such as fish, meat, vegetables, the justly famous and healthy olive oil and the complete grain that is rice – are part of the Mediterranean diet.”


I’ve never seen anyone make a big thing about “wood-fired paella”, as they do for “wood-fired pizza”, but one thing the article I read did say was that “Heat sources are important: although orange tree wood abounds in Valencia “and gives the dish a special character and aroma”, the main thing is to ensure your fire’s not too smoky, or, if cooking on an indoor stove, to check the hob distributes the heat evenly, it said.”


There you go. I have a “paellera”, a paella pan, like a very wide flat-bottomed frying pan with two handles. I’ve not used it for years because I’ve just not made paella, goodness knows why! It’s better than a wok because of its flat bottom which gives an even distribution of rice. That’s an important factor. The article went on to say, “ Perhaps the most important rule of all is to never stir the rice while it is cooking. Any spatula incursions will release too much starch from the rice and leave you with a sticky paella.”


Long ago, on holiday in France with some French friends, I was persuaded to make a paella, even though we didn’t really have a suitable pan. We used the largest, widest saucepan we could find to avoid too great a depth of content, but, even so, the moment came when my friend’s mother said to us, out of concern for her good saucepan I think, “Ça brule au fond, les enfants!” - “It’s burning at the bottom, kids!” The mixture was too deep and really needed stirring to prevent it sticking but we didn’t want to mess up the paella. The final result was surprisingly good, as I remember but my memory may be playing tricks on me as it’s well over 40 years ago now.


There was  o way we could eat communally out of the saucepan, as you can do from a big paella pan, placing the pan traditionally in the middle of the table and everyone dipping in with a spoon, ideally a wooden spoon! And we avoided digging too deep so as not to eat burnt rice. And the pan needed a good soak before we could clean it to my friend’s mother’s satisfaction. We enjoyed our paella though. 


In Galicia we have eaten “arroz con bogavante”, which is almost a Galician version of paella. For me paella has always meant a mix of chicken and shellfish (No, Jamie Oliver, chorizo is not a good addition!) whereas “arroz con bogavante” is all lobster and eaters need to be provided with gadgets like nutcrackers to break into the lobster claws and get the meat. Both are tasty but on the whole I prefer the Valencian paella.


Before I found an authentic recipe and bought myself a paellera, for a brief period we tried Vesta packet paella. Like Vesta packet curry it was a poor substitute but for a while, back in the 1970s it was relatively hard find the spices and other ingredients needed for what was then rather exotic food. In France we discovered a superior form of the ready meals, similar to Vesta but much, much better. For the life of me I cannot remember the brand name but rather than dehydrated packets of stuff, these packs contained tins, giving a better flavour to the resulting dish. Their best was probably couscous.


On the subject of tinned food, we always have a supply of baked beans in the house. This is largely because Phil has a long held belief that of you run out of other ideas for a quick meal, you can always have beans. And in fact baked beans on wholemeal toast make a well balanced meal - just not one to have every day! Even in Vigo we sought out supplies of Heinz baked beans. 


As we emptied our cupboards prior to leaving our Vigo flat we discovered two tins of beans we had squirrelled away for emergencies. They looked a little odd and misshapen. Maybe they had been banged slightly out of shape. But we had always been given to understand that canned goods lasted more or less for ever. Not too many years ago they investigated canned goods people had kept in old family store cupboards for decades. Some dated back to the second world war. All the ones they opened were fine and were judged to be edible. So much for sell-by and use-by dates! 


So we decided to eat one of our cans of beans. After all, we had sought them out at some point in Spanish supermarkets. But I had some difficulty  opening the can. It had one of those pull-back openings rather than requiring a can-opener. Phil came to my assistance. The next thing we knew was the can opening with an enormous BANG! Positively explosive! It’s a wonder we didn’t have a shower of beans all over the kitchen! But no, they stayed in the can, in a rather coagulated tomato sauce. Sorry, Mr Heinz, your beans ended up in the bin!


Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone! 

Sunday, 21 November 2021

Further adventures with test and trace.

Further to our fun and games with Covid tests the other day, here’s what happened next, not directly related but in the same sort of topic area. 


Sitting having breakfast this morning, we were disturbed by my phone giving me a little ping to say a message had come in. I was expecting a message of some kind from my daughter or granddaughter as we were organising meeting for coffee but all of that had been done by Facebook messenger. So what was this?


It was the NHS Test and Trace App telling me I had been in contact with someone who had tested positive for Covid and would possibly need to self-isolate. Hmm!? So Phil went to find his phone as he had undoubtedly received the same text message. Any time we’ve been in contact with people recently we’ve been together. Yes, there it was. So we followed the steps to register with the relevant people and fill in a million and one details:


Name

Address

Email

NHS number

Covid vaccination details

And on

And on


In the end it told us we don’t need to self-isolate but will we please send for a PCR test. So we followed the link to do that and filled in almost all the same details over again as clearly none of these bits of the organisation talk to each other. 


Well, that’s another chunk of time I won’t get back again. It’s a good job we keep all those details handy. 


I was quite relieved not to have to self isolate. I have plans: family and friends to see, a visit to my hairdresser, Christmas shopping. 


So somebody on our plane back from Portugal has done their lateral flow test and had a positive result. I could almost hope,it was the silly young person sitting behind me who sang annoyingly most of the way home on the flight. But, no, I’m not really that vindictive.


However, if this would seem to be the new normal, I can’t say I’m impressed.


But hey! it’s a fine day. The sun is shining and the sky is blue. The family is coming round for coffee. We’ll get out for a walk maybe. It’s all good!


Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!

Saturday, 20 November 2021

Testing times!

 Modern technology is amazing, smartphones doing stuff that whole rooms of computers couldn’t do half a century ago. Who would have thought it possible? Apart from science fiction writers, Woody Allen in his film “Sleeper” and , of course, Star Trek with their “communicators” as forerunners of mobile phones.


I am prompted to say this as we had to struggle with QR codes and our iPhones and using them to upload stuff onto websites yesterday.


Earlier in the day we had been waiting for the delivery of our post-travel-from-Portugal covid tests. We’d ordered them from Boots the Chemist. When I say “we”, I really mean Phil as he does the bulk of the technology-related stuff. At some point while we were still away we were given a delivery date, by text message, for said tests. Unfortunately it was four days before we were due home and so we (Phil) had to work out rescheduling delivery, arranging for them to arrive AFTER we arrived home. Somewhere between 9.40 and 1.40 on Friday, they said the amended delivery would be.


Also earlier in the morning I’d been talking to a neighbour who has just been on a cruise in the Mediterranean with her son and his family. During her cruise, she told me, they had all had to have rapid flow tests every morning before leaving their cabins. Security overload or what? However, they got used it and knew each day that they were not going to be confined to quarters and not allowed to go ashore on visits. They still had to test on their return to the UK though. She had been surprised that her test and her grandson’s test had had to be posted off to Newcastle while others in the party had had to send theirs to Liverpool. Quirks of the system, sharing the work out. Happily they all came back negative. 


So I was expecting to have to post ours off to somewhere and was working out timing accordingly. I didn’t want to miss the post. When we opened up the packets, though, we discovered that everything would be done online, placing our completed tests on a special form with our order number and photographing everything in order to upload it. Okay! 


I admit to being a little apprehensive about the test itself. As we’d barely left our area since lockdown prior to heading off for Iberia, we had never had occasion to carry out a test. Consequently I had never had to poke a swab up my nose and twirl it around. Just think, we spend all that watching toddlers to ensure they don’t stick things up their noses, not even fingers to pick their noses, and now we are being told to poke swabs up our noses and swivel them. But, you know, in the end it’s no big deal. It feels odd and slightly tickly or tingly but that’s all. 


The chemistry side of things was straightforward too, swirling the aforementioned swabs in a little container of liquid of some time, removing said swab carefully, dropping precisely 4 drops of the resulting brew onto the test gadget and timing every stage precisely. It was father like being back in the science lab with Miss France when I was 14! Easy peasy!


Then came the technology. It took quite a bit of careful working out (even for Phil) to deal with QR codes and uploading photographic evidence, waiting for confirmation, almost throwing everything away too soon. It’s a good job I had Phil to work it all out for us. I could feel the tension mounting in me. I had to consciously relax my shoulders. I was transported back to those IT training sessions I had endured as a teacher, when everyone else seemed to have reached stage 12 in the procedure but I was still on stage 3 and was about ready to storm out of the room in a bad temper. It was very frustrating to know I was an intelligent person and yet to find this stuff supremely incompressible on the first go. I always grasped the new knowledge eventually, following written instructions step by cautious step in my own time. No doubt some expert would have comments to make on my “learning style”!


Anyway, we completed the task successfully. We both tested negative, which was, of course, a relief. The added complication of a positive test might have tipped me over the edge! 


That’s that little adventure completed. All I need to do now is put away all the stuff we brought back from Vigo - a new challenge!


But we’ve even got a bit of blue sky today. We shall go for a walk. The organising and putting away will wait. It’s not going anywhere. 


Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!

Friday, 19 November 2021

Strange days!

Yesterday was a strange day.


For one thing, instead of ordinary, standard meals, we had breakfast three times: once in the normal way in the flat in Vigo, coffee and nice fresh bread from my good bakery; secondly a coffee and croissant in the airport at Porto, the timing of luggage drop-off, going through security and eventually boarding the plane rather inconveniently getting in the way of sitting down to a proper lunch; and finally tea with toast and marmalade in the mid- to late-evening when we finally got home, it being a little late to start buying ingredients and then cooking proper food. 

 

Breakfast x three.

 

I don’t suppose it did us any harm!


Then there was the discovery that the two rival bus companies ALSA and AUTNA, who both run services between Vigo and Porto, can actually cooperate - with each other if not with passengers! We had booked tickets on the AUTNA website for a bus at midday. Arriving at the bus station, we spotted a big yellow bus in the usual bus bay. (Confusingly both companies use big yellow buses!) It was an ALSA bus. We were supposedly travelling with AUTNA. Perhaps this one left earlier? Or later? No, at 12.00. We sought information, in case our bus was leaving from a different bay. The information screens were dead. The information booth upstairs in the bus station said bay 3! Where the ALSA was waiting! Eventually I was able to speak to the bus driver. This was the correct bus. Despite this being an ALSA bus, our AUTNA tickets were valid. The bus companies had come to an agreement. Someone should have told the passengers who bought their tickets online through AUTNA, a much easier website to deal with than the ALSA one.


It’s a good job I was able to speak to the driver. Based on our previous experience of these two companies, we might have stood waiting for an AUTNA bus to arrive as the ALSA bus departed, leaving us stranded! 


And finally there’s the nastiness of wearing a mask just about all day. We donned our masks to travel to the bus station by taxi. In the bus station and on the bus, we wore masks. For a few minutes, as we collected our suitcases from the bus outside the airport we breathed freely. Inside the airport, apart from when consuming coffee and croissants, we wore masks. And Ryanair reminded us again and again during the flight that we had to wear our masks all the time, unless eating or drinking. It probably drove some people to drink. That might explain the young woman behind us who sang, yes, sang, intermittently throughout the two and a half hour flight!


So, indeed, a rather unusual day! Not one to repeat in a hurry!


Today dawned cloudy but moderately bright. I resumed my usual running route. The swans were still there on the millpond, or they were there again. I haven’t managed to see anyone to ask about that. 



And now I suppose I need to start thinking about Christmas. They’re selling Christmas trees in the local Tesco!


Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!

Wednesday, 17 November 2021

Shopping stories!

We’ve been carefully eking our groceries during this brief last stay in the flat here on Calle Aragón. There has been little point in buying value multi-packs of anything as stuff that we don’t use and can’t donate to charity will have to be thrown away. 


Yesterday morning I just about scraped enough coffee out of the packet to put on our usual moka coffee pot for breakfast. So I needed to get some more, reluctantly! I had already been to the Mercadona supermarket next door for milk and a couple of other items. There I had semi-grumpily given way to a stressed woman clutching a pizza and a jar of hotdog sausages who pleaded to go in front of me as she had to go to work. I let her scuttle through, graciously accepting her thanks.


It’s a good job she wasn’t in the Eroski supermarket, that’s all I can say. 


Because my coffee purchasing involved a trip down to the Eroski supermarket on Travesía de Vigo. We don’t much like the coffee they sell in Mercadona but Eroski sells quite acceptable ground coffee. And it seems to me that it’s worth going slightly out of your way to get decent coffee. And it’s only a short walk, and besides, the sun was still shining.


However, I had forgotten how slow they are in Eroski compared to the brisk efficiency of Mercadona. Only two out of five tills were operating. I chose the one which had the shorter queue, a queue of people with baskets rather than huge trolley loads of stuff. Mistake! The customer at the till, all her goods already in her wheelie shopping bag, was having a long conversation about her Eroski card and whether she could redeem the points on it and goodness knows what else. As ever, this involved much pressing of buttons on the cash desk, a consultation with an under-manager and about a ream of paper being printed off. 


Eroski still has special offers on kitchenware that you can save up for by collecting points or stamps if you have their loyalty card. I still have at home in England some very nice supposedly Wedgewood coffee cups, tasteful white with a pale yellow flower design, which I saved for during our first year of living more or less permanently in Spain. The current offer is some rather tacky-looking melamine mugs and bowls. Standards have clearly fallen. 


After that blockage had cleared, the queue started moving. The lady with the most purchases got through in record time. Then the elderly lady ahead of me, having placed her few goods on the belt, remembered something she needed desperately to buy and scuttled off. I was about to suggest to the cashier that she put my single purchase of a packet of ground coffee through the till while we waited but the elderly lady returned. She had selected some kind of beauty product which came in a sealed sturdy plastic container from which the cashier had to release it, the kind of thing you get on expensive bottles of whisky. Another little delay.


The elderly lady paid with a twenty euro note. So her face cream was not so extortionate in price as to merit such security measures but that’s how it is. The cashier then put the twenty euro note through one of those little machines that check the validity of the folding money being offered. 


I swear I spent longer in the queue than it took me to walk there and back again!


The people who live of Travesía de Vigo must be a bunch of scoundrels, that’s all I can say, if so many security measures need to be put in place. It’s not as if the elderly lady had proffered a fifty euro note, and even those are not exactly uncommon these days.


Goodness! I remember some years ago being in a small supermarket in Sanxenxo where a very elegantly dressed elderly lady bought about fifteen euros’ worth of stuff and proceeded to pay with a five hundred euro note (yes, that’s €500)! You can imagine the fluster and flurry at the till! I think it’s the only time I’ve seen a five hundred euro note. And even so I didn’t get much of a look at it. 


Do we even have £500 notes? I’ve certainly never even seen anyone offering a £50 note in a supermarket in the UK. Different strokes for different folks, as somebody I once knew used to say. 


Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!


Tuesday, 16 November 2021

Confusing stations. Silly developments - in my opinion!

During the years before the whole Covid mess started, when we could still travel freely, before the Brexit mess restricted how much time we can spend in Europe, we came to and fro between Manchester and Vigo on a regular basis. And also in the few years immediately before the crisis, we watched with interest what was going on with the railway stations here in Vigo. 


For a while the station at Urzáiz was closed and a new one opened at the end of Arenal, the Guixar station. Then eventually the new Urzáiz station opened but the Guixar station remained operational. So if you wanted to travel between Vigo and Pontevedra, or indeed all stations along the way to La Coruña, you had to check which station the train was leaving from.

A young friend of mine, a former student, whose boyfriend is a Gallego, Vigo born and bred, whose parents have a house near the beach at Samil, came with his boyfriend on the train from Madrid to Vigo to visit his parents and go to the beach. This was during the period when Urzáiz station was closed, knocked down, under reconstruction. Their train therefore arrived at Guixar. The boyfriend was totally freaked out by this. He had absolutely no idea where they were! I suspect he was not the only one!


During that time, I saw someone arrive at what was left of the old station, expecting to catch a train from there, only to discover that there was no station. His train was due to leave in 15 minutes from a station a good fifteen minutes or more walk away. After Urzáiz reopened, on more than one occasion I saw quite a few very confused people at the wrong station for their train. 


But people adapt. Trains to and from Urzáiz were faster than those from Guixar, and still are. There is a slight difference in price, as my friend Colin has written about. You pay more for a faster journey. 


Last time we were here, before the pandemic caused international chaos, we also watched with interest the developments around the new Urzáiz station. It looked like a huge construction site and you had to walk what seemed like miles to get to the trains themselves. As you walked along Via del Norte, the road overlooking the building site, you would see groups of people, mostly old blokes, leaning on the wall, looking down at what was going on. It was impossible to work out quite what was going on but everyone had an opinion and it seemed there were plans afoot for a new shopping centre there. 


While we have been here this week we have had no occasion to visit this new development - Vialia is its name - but from our balcony we can see the huge blue letters spelling out PRIMARK. So Primark has arrived in Vigo, cheap clothing made in sweatshops in the Indian subcontinent for the most part by workers who are paid a pittance. 


Anyway, yesterday we had lunch with our friend Colin from Pontevdra. We all had the chipirones encebollados that I had promised myself. Very good they were too. 


After lunch he was catching the train back to Ponters. So we accompanied him to Urzáiz to take a look at the new development. It is large and bright and confusing, as is the Arndale Centre in Manchester. I’ve grown used to the fact that Piccadilly station in Manchester has a lot of shops, including a small Boots the Chemist and a small Sainsbury’s, as well as a selection of fast food outlets and coffee places. But it’s hardly a shopping mall. Similarly, Euston Station in London is something of a shopping mall, rather like an airport duty free section. Bigger than Manchester Piccadilly but then Euston is a rather more important station. 


But this Vialia place is enormous. It seems as if the trains are a kind of afterthought. Heaven help you if you are in a hurry to catch your train! 


I can’t say I was impressed. I accept that shopping is a leisure activity for a lot of people but I would prefer to keep my shopping and travelling separate. A little bit of airport shopping may be all right, as a way of killing time while waiting for your plane. But having to plough through a huge complex with cinemas and food halls to get to train platforms seems a little over the top to me. 


Here are a couple of pictures, one of which shows what turns out to be a Christmas tree made of huge sparkly letters. I had to look hard to work out that letters spell out XMAS and LOVE, good Spanish words!!

 





Maybe I’m just getting old and grumpy! Hey ho!


Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!