Tag: Spain

More pasties in paradise

Our morning stroll takes us around the southern ‘ring road’ of Mijas. It’s a one way street, with just enough room for one car and a pavement. It begins at the eastern end of the town where the donkey taxis line up ready for their day of pulling fat Germans, badly dressed Brits and grinning Chinese. The donkeys are harnessed in colourful, er, ‘donkey stuff’, and stand, in the main, awaiting their fate with equanimity, patience and the odd fart. One of them attempts to bray but thinks better of it and flares its nostrils instead. Their thoughtful owners, in view of donkey effort required, have harnessed them to buggies just big enough for one and a half fat Germans, or a hen party from Birmingham or Shanghai. The sort of loads donkeys take in their strides. It beats carrying certain Jewish rabbis into Jerusalem, which although had started promisingly, ended up being a bit of a bother.

I catch the eye of one long suffering ‘burro’ and he looks at me as if to say “yes, mate I know, this is no life for an animal with the brain power of a Hawking, the stomach of a Pavarotti and a python sized penis”. I feel it’s pain, having to stoop so low as to have ferry around pork fed Bavarians with a BMI of a panzer tank. At least the donkey can satisfy itself that Spain can take some comfort in knowing that for half an hour at least, an equine arsehole is being shown to a German and the German is actually paying for the experience. Sometimes there is justice in the world. Sometimes.

Anyway. The road leaves this madness behind and in just a few short metres the hustle and bustle of tourists disappears. We have the road completely to ourselves. I guess a picturesque stroll, taking in huge vistas towards the sea, is not on the itineraries of the organised trip. This would require the expenditure of nothing but energy rather than euros. There are no market stalls, no bars and no seats on this road. Just a very calm walk right under the walls of the old fort as the rock rises up to the right and a vertiginous drop to the left. Just at the start however is a newish hotel/resort called ‘La Ermita’ run by MacDonalds hotels. Not the yellow arches MacDonalds but another UK based outfit. It is carved into the hillside and has of course breathtaking views out to the sea. We decide to have a nose and step into reception to ask for the tariff, a tour of a room and the facilities. A very nice lady obliges. Suffice to say, it is bloody marvellous. We end up down by the pool at the restaurant which is open to non residents and stop for a coffee and freshly squeezed orange juice. And a bit of banter with the locals.

The very friendly Argentinian chef is only to happy to chat and asks where we are from. I thought it obvious from our clothes, accents and superior attitude towards all foreigners. When we proffer ‘UK’, he of course accepts this but to our surprise wanted to know where in the UK. Now, in the past I have mentioned ‘Cornwall’ to the enquiring, patient, but also politely disinterested, native and have been greeted with a look that says “I hear your words, but I’ve no idea what they mean”. This look of bafflement continues even when I offer ‘far south west of England’ and wave my hands about in the general direction of 7 o’clock (from my perspective) or 5 o’clock (from theirs) which, now I think about it, means ‘South East’ to them and thus just adds to the confusion. Their mental maps of the UK are obviously not like ours. I can see in my mind’s eye the outline of the UK which takes in Scotland, Wales and the detail of Torbay including Anstey’s cove. They however see ‘London’, the Queen and racism. Not a good start when trying get our minds to meet in the middle. Usually I don’t have a pen and paper, otherwise I would only be too happy to provide an impromptu geography lesson. To think we once had an empire where we taught all of the world, and their wives and ‘piccaninnies’, democracy, how to speak properly and the value of a good forward drive to the covers. A world in which geography lessons about the whereabouts of Truro would be superfluous to the crowds in a crowded bazaar in Benghazi who would know instantly the difference between Redruth, Redcar and Richmond (upon Thames, you peasants).

To my delight the chef, has not only heard of Cornwall but also of the humble ‘pasty’. He has seen it on the Discovery channel and informs me how the pasty has travelled the world (true), should not have boiled beef (true) and the best are now to be found in…wait for it….Canada.

Canada.

Famed for Moose, and…er.

Either he had been at the sangria while watching the telly or someone at the Discovery channel was taking the piss. The former I can envisage easily. Perhaps he heard someone say the best pasties are in ‘Camborne’ and mistakenly thought they said ‘Canada’ being unfamiliar with both the English language and the old Cornish mining town and its inhabitants, some of whom indeed may resemble a moose. Hang around in the Tyacks on a Saturday night and you may spot a few, grazing on jäger bombs and hope, lowing loudly into the night air in search of a booze fuelled coupling and a kebab. The chef was sure the best pasty in the world is now to be found somewhere between St Johns in Newfoundland and Vancouver, British Colombia. A jolly chap no doubt, but he probably still thinks the Falklands are the Malvinas. We do agree however that ’empanadas’ is the Spanish word for a similar (but not the same) foodstuff.

We continue our morning constitutional which takes us to “Plaza de la Constitucion”, Calle Malaga and “Plaza de Jesus de Nazarone” (Translation: ‘Christs’ Square’ – see, not so good in English is it?). Calle Malaga is undergoing what they call “Obras” here, but a “fuck up” in Essex and other counties. The Mijas council and others decided that gas, water, sewerage works needed doing and so the whole street is a ‘men at work’ zone complete with JCBs, dust and procrastination. You can’t move for yellow helmets and “mañana”. It seems that one day they poured concrete and then went home thinking that no one would walk across this freshly and lovingly poured concrete. To the workmen this was art that the local boy, Picasso, would has been proud of. They did not foretell that if the shortest distance between Manuel and his cerveza was fresh concrete, then rather than put an extra 5 minutes walking around the works, Manuel, Jose and Maria would rather wade through ankle deep in fresh concrete than waste precious fiesta time. We watched as they newly chastened workmen had to fill in the 6 inch deep footsteps immortalised in homage to Hollywood’s avenue of fame.

Lunch. Decision was easy. Buy a chicken.

There is a shop whose business model is selling spit roast (no sniggering at the back please) chicken. That’s it. Nothing else. Nada Mas. It is the best chicken you may ever taste. It is probably battery reared and dies to the sound of Nazi marching music (I’m guessing). Ethical considerations aside, and this is why we as a species are fucked, ethics takes a very poor second place to taste. The chap takes the whole roast chicken off the spit, makes various cuts into its flesh so that it then sits in a foil tub, pours gravy….gravy, oh dear…..on top, places the lid on it and off we trot. The spit roast chicken has been prepared with lemon, garlic, onion and rosemary in generous quantities. The gravy is a mix of chicken fat and the above and tickles your tongue like a sexed up night nurse (again I’m guessing). It is moist. Very, very moist (a bit like the night nurse). Falls off the bone like a Camborne maid falls off the kerb outside the Spoons, easily and without too much prompting.

So, a bottle of yer fizz later it is siesta time.

I really can see the point of siesta. We should do it more often in the UK. Seriously. If it is good enough for their Lordships in the upper house it should be good enough for the rest of us.

Our last night in town finds us watching a glorious red sunset before heading back. We stop at a bar for a glass of that which pleases. This leads to tapas of croquettes de jamon Serrano and ‘Sandra’s empanadas’. In English in the menu it says ‘Sandra’s special Cornish pasties’. We have a go, and three perfectly crimped little pasties turn up. They are filled with lamb and the the pastry has been deep fried, and served with what looks like soy sauce. Delicious, and I’m not going to argue the toss. Suitably fortified we have a nightcap: Desarrono for Ann and Drambuie for me. poured into small barrels that pass for glasses. We sing our way home trying not to fall into freshly poured concrete.

Thankfully, there is no donkey poo on the pavement.

It’s a new dawn, Sophia Loren and Brigit Bardot

Nothing much happened today.

That, I think, is the point of a break, to let one’s mind wander around aimlessly achieving little. A bit like the Arsenal midfield right now who seem hell bent on sleepwalking into obscurity. For us, the day starts with dawn.

Most days do, but you have to be there when it happens or else it does not happen at all. Our bedroom has floor to ceiling patio doors which look straight out at Dragon mountain, due East, and to the rising sun. I’m usually awake an hour before sunrise, and can catch the rainbow colours behind the black silhouette of the Dragon. The sky at this time is a dark almost purple blue and then all the shades down to the green yellows and oranges of the awakening light over the horizon. The Dragon’s black nose dips into the sea affording a view of black mountain to the left and the deep blue sea to the right. Without a single cloud in the sky, the light becomes, and the colours glow. This is dawn happening, right before our eyes.

It does need a little help. For instance, being high up with an uninterrupted view to the East helps. As does the complete lack of cloud cover. High rise flats, power stations or brick walls are apt to detract from the experience and have been known to cancel sunrise. Dawn rarely occurs in certain countries I could name, due to the grey poly tunnel sky or the sheets of drizzle hanging in obscurantic obstinacy. When dawn does happen, it is well worth watching. The sun rises above the horizon behind Dragon’s nose, sending blue rays heavenward, but of course is obscured from sight until it reaches a certain height. Then like a diamond it sparkles just as it crests the mountain ridge until quite suddenly one is bathed in warmth and light as it invades the room chasing out the shadows of the night.

I lie in bed and think about the heavens and the myths and legends of old, of how Helios’ winged chariot chases across the sky, scattering the night gods before it while sister moon drifts below into the west of the fading night.

I might fart, or worse, if I don’t get up.

Enough reverie. I have an hour’s commute on a busy road/tube/train accompanied by the walking dead whose soulless eyes confirm that there is nothing on earth worth living for. All spirit has been drained, leaving dead carcasses adrift in a sea of melancholy and pointlessness. They aspire to ennui, anomie is their destination and alienation their carriage. They know not of colour, or joy, or spice. Just grey and the bitter, saline, drip, drip, drip of decay and desperation in the full knowledge that salvation is a lie, and heaven a myth.

Sorry. Apologies.

For a moment there I must have dreamt that I was on the A30 from Chiverton Cross to Treliske on a wet Monday morning. Must have nodded off and forgot I’m in Andalucia. The only commute here, is from bed to shower to fresh ground coffee and breakfast while overlooking the sparkling Mediterranean.

Phew.

The main task this morning is a stroll to the market in town to choose lunch. We choose the route that takes us around the rocky outcrop of old Mijas fort, the ‘Alcazaba’. The road winds around just below the old walls and has splendid views way down towards Malaga in the east, through to Benalmadena, Fuengirola, Porto Banus, and Marbella to the West. And there on the skyline across the sea, rise black mountains of Africa. My geography at this point is a bit loose, but I guess it may be Tunisia? There is clearly a sense that the land here is sweeping towards the tip of Spain at Algeciras and the Rock of Gibraltar but both are too far away to make out. I don’t know why but the sight of African mountains is thrilling, romantic even. Daft of course because we all know that North African countries are not to be romanticised as depicted in Boy’s Own fantasies. And yet the sight is magnificent.

We continue our mid morning constitutional and pass a large, battered and rusting, skip full of donkey poo. I know it to be donkey poo because I’ve seen the donkey that created it. Not that I watched the donkey actually lift its tail to make a deposit you understand. That would be weird and probably illegal. I get my kicks elsewhere nowadays. Mijas has lots of donkeys, and therefore has lots of poo, to transport coach loads of gawking (usually Asian) tourists around the town. I fool myself that I am above such nonsense. Donkey poo looks like straw. Don’t be fooled. If you should find yourself tempted to take a nap upon some warm straw, take a good look at it first. You might want to sniff it. That’s a dead give away. Don’t taste it. This stuff is as malodorously pungent and repellant as Donald Trump’s policies on Mexicans. Although I’d rather go face down into a skip of dung than face another of Trump’s speeches. Donkey poo is a metaphor for whatever you want it to be. It is partly digested crap, passing through arseholes, with no need to engage in thought. Just like current Tory party economic policy (boom boom). I thank you.

Prawns.

Fresh from the market. Big juicy and ready for the pan. Calamares, clams and white wine, cooked with shallots and garlic. Easy, quick and delicious with a fresh baguette. Serve with a Tomato salad and olive oil. Pan fry the prawns until they sizzle and pink, dip the Calamares in seasoned flour and add to the hot oil. Butter, garlic, shallots in a separate pan and then toss in the rinsed clams with a cup of white wine. Steam the little beauties and discard those that do not open. If you think it is necessary, pour a glass of wine for yourself as it all cooks. That’s lunch done.

Siesta time. Life is hard.

Henri (our host) has a car. A 1958 MGB, wire wheels and red upholstery. It has recently been resprayed and is now as cream as a tub of Rodda’s. It has a new chrome luggage rack on the boot. It sparkles and gleams in the sunlight. The roof is down. Sophia Loren is sitting in the passenger seat wearing Italian sunglasses and a headscarf. Her lips are painted as red as the car’s interior and her perfume is as heady as the smell of the engine is it starts up. Henri is only too willing to take me for a spin around the town. Sophia hands me her Martini as she makes to get out of the car, swinging her stocking clad legs out of the door. She waves as Henri and I zoom off, the tyres making little clouds of dust as the rubber sticks to the Tarmac.

I’m not dreaming this time. It is all true, except for the Martini.

We zip around town, dodging little parcels of donkey poo and trying not kill selfie taking tourists. The first we succeed in doing, whereas I did hear a whimper at one point, noting in the rear view mirror a selfie stick flying into the air in the dust, it’s owner nowhere to be seen although I suspect his Facebook post will be little more interesting tonight. Henri stops the car at a viewpoint high above the town to take a picture of the street. He tells of a film starring Brigit Bardot made in 1958, filmed in Mijas. His background in cinematography no doubt spurs his interest. The film is called ‘Les bijouteries de la Clare de Lune’. Probably some French art house movie where nothing happens, the dialogue is existential and the subplot is about someone who had sex once, who wants sex now and will think about sex tomorrow. Not with Donkeys though. I don’t think donkeys feature.

Well, tiz late. The Arsenal are probably making a fist of losing to Swansea and there is another glorious dawn happening, tomorrow morning I think it is. Look out for it.

A Pasty in Paradise

‘Driving over lemons’ is a great title for a book. It is also a very silly thing to do.

Lemons are not for driving over, even if one is in a rush to get to the supermercado before siesta time. Lemons are for Gin.

And a little tonic.

This I remember as I spot yet another tree bulging with the the little yellow parcels of delight. It is all I can do to stop myself reaching up and picking half a dozen which hang from the tree in the neighbour’s garden. Instead I do the tourist thing and take a picture, and then rush indoors, grab the nearest Bombay Sapphire, ice and some ‘shhh you know who’ to create. I remember then I have no lemons. Just a lime. Beggars can’t be sheep shaggers and so I ‘make do’. It’s a hard life in the Andalucian sun.

In February.

The sun this morning peeped over the shoulder of Dragon mountain instantly filling the room with warmth and light. This was following about an hour of dawn. No clouds, just blue sky with rainbow colours from the horizon upwards. We are cloaked in silence with just a hush of an occasional breeze. As it was too early for Gin, the sparkle of an ice cube is instead replaced by the sparkle of the Mediterranean Sea, diamonds are scattered across its surface as the wind and the sun work their magic. And men now abed in England will hold their manhood cheap, and curse the day they were not here. This Englishman, still in bed, can gaze in wonder under an Andalucian light and think of…breakfast.

And Dinner.

Preceded of course by lunch, a selection of ‘surtidos y quesos’, ensalada mixta (get yer own phrase book) and a glass of fizz.

Time was that ‘fizz’ was the preserve of Kings, their concubines and the landed Gentry. Thanks to a combination of rampant capitalism, and a pitchfork in the arse of the ruling classes, fizz has become far more accessible. Certainly in Spain it is. Franco may have won the Spanish civil war, but his fascist regime has proved powerless in stopping the great unwashed (i.e. me) from enjoying bubbles up my nose. Now, I’ve enjoyed all manner of things up my nose….the smell of roses, a pasty fresh from the oven and the Bonny Prince’s finest….and so I can tell you with confidence that not much is finer than the hint of champagne (or Cava) for eliciting ‘a la recherche du temps perdu’. Proust can send his Madeleines up his arse. No amount of cake can rival sparkle in a glass. I speak as a bloke. Women are free to demur at this judgement, fond as they seem to be of cake. The equivalent of your local spar sells fizz for about three euros. And a damn fine glass it is. I am willing to admit that sitting in a sun terrace overlooking Mijas, and the Mediterranean, in temperatures a Scotsman could only dream about – did I mention a cloudless blue sky – may temper my ability to judge the quality of fizz. All I can say to that is bollocks I don’t care, it tastes bloody good from where I’m sitting.

Dinner. Having had our fill earlier, we decided that just a plate of tapas would do. We had walked over 10 miles in total today and so ‘earned’ a glass of red. There is a restaurant called ‘The Secret Garden’, a phrase which I have always mistakenly took to meaning something a lesbian has access to in her ‘quiet moments’ of privacy enjoyed with a companion of similar tastes. Is that just me? Anyway, the place was a delight and even more so as we sat next to a Michael Fish lookalike. Momentarily excited, and the desire to ask about hurricanes suppressed, we sat down only to hear from “nothing to worry about” Fish, an American accent.

At the next table sat three companions also hailing from the ‘Land of Trump’. All in their late twenties. One a being a young man and his girlfriend, and her female ‘friend’ making up the third. Perhaps the two young ladies had enjoyed strolling in a ‘secret garden’ before coming out to dinner? Anyhoo…while we ate, the next table chatted. Fish and Fishwife (I assume) could not be heard because the two young ladies just went bang at it. Talking. Just talking. Just fucking talking. The bloke hardly said a word. He could not. There was no breath taken to leave a space for even an “er, perhaps….”. They discussed Trump’s success at the polls, the Catholic concept of enunciation and the ‘Hegelian dialectic and Marx’s revision in the Theses on Feuerbach’. The young man probably drifted into a private reverie of ‘remembrance of things past’ eating cake in a secret garden.

The menu held a surprise. Now, you may have heard of ’empanadas’, you may even have shoved one down your throat. Clue: pastry. There was ’empanadas’ on the menu but they called them ‘Cornish pasties’ Argentina style. I did not know whether to laugh, cry or soil myself. I settled for ordering Argentinian Cornish pasties, along with albondingas (meatballs), setas en aioli (mushrooms and garlic), and chorizos in red wine sauce. The ’empanadas’ were duly served. Denzil Penberthy would have wept in his Illogan grave (were he dead, and not a fictitious character) at the sight. For indeed they looked liked pasties. There were three of them, about the size of my mate Linus’s penis…which is to say small but somehow still curiously satisfying.

Such is life in Andalucia.

Homage to Andalucia

On the edge of the sea where the mountains touch the sky, and the warmth of the sun rises over Africa, a white village slowly awakens from its sleep. The mountain cradles and shelters the ‘una pueblo blanca’ from any harsh easterly, should it blow. Rising from the coast, the reclining dragon shaped hills, nose first into the sea, in mimicry of the ridged spine of a fire breathed but now sleeping giant, are outlined against the blue and the fluffy white. Steeply the land falls away, down 5 miles to the coast where the bright lights of ‘Funky Town’ sparkle, soon to fade as dawn strikes in golden red light across the scattering of buildings. Dragon mountain arcs around the village whose streets are scoured into its side in parallel. Grey limestone cliffs, cloaked with olive, pine and ‘other trees’ rise up defiantly against the erosion seeking rain. That is our morning view from the window on the first day in Andalucia.

Mijas clings to the slopes by its Rioja stained fingernails a thousand feet above the sea. Fuengirola looks like a tiny model city from up here. Funky Town it shall remain, as that is where all the action probably is. Mijas, however, sits aloof, offering a better class of shenanigans or so it might think but shenanigans all the same. If wine flows, then so shall excited talk, followed by hints of debauchery. This occurs regardless of social positioning or upbringing. Whether clad in Prada or Primark, wine facilitates the lowering of inhibitions, judgment and modesty. Twas ever thus.

We arrived last night on a late afternoon flight. Malaga airport has developed hugely from the one grass runway and biplane affair of 10 years ago. It is a beneficiary of the Spanish construction boom fueled by the optimism of a tipsy wine soaked Matador armed with a machete and braggadocio, facing a pink ribboned kitten who thinks its mummy has come to feed it warm milk. Turns out the machete was made in Taiwan and is as blunt as a witch’s tit, and thus only half as useful, while the kitten is a banker from Frankfurt demanding his money back with menaces and a panzer tank to support his claim. The Matador gets to keep his shiny suit, for so is the airport, and outward appearances are thus sustained. His dignity and future prospects however cling precariously to hope like a virgin in a brothel knowing that payment is due by being screwed by a scruple free, morally incontinent, fat, sweaty Bavarian with halitosis on holiday. All the vaseline in Andalucia is not going to be enough of an emollient.

There is a nice train though.

It runs from the new airport terminal into Malaga and Fuengirola. One only needs to follow the (badly) signposted walk from baggage reclaim and in 5 minutes the train slides into the station. It is quiet, clean and efficient. And cheap. There is no need for a quiet carriage. It is night by the time we arrive and can only then guess at the scenery as the train hums through Malaga Centro, Torremolinos, Benalmadena, Torreblanca, Los Colinos….. You get the picture. A short taxi ride from Fuengirola 5 miles up the road, and I mean ‘up’, and we arrived in Mijas.

I like stereotypes for they say as much about the stereotype user as they do the stereotyped. I like it better when the need for stereotypes becomes redundant because reality is actually better. And joy of joys within an hour I’m presented with four glorious examples of the stereotyper’s art. A Spanish taxi driver, an English owner of a bar, ex-pat bar fly and weed smoking old hippy from Holland. Honestly, this shit writes itself.

The road from Fuengirola to Mijas has to snake and weave up and around the mountain. Hairpin bends are a speciality. As are the ditches, just a wheel width away from death or a headache. The balding, portly taxi driver has done this journey a thousand times, blindfold and drunk no doubt. How else to explain gunning the engine and skimming the edge of the ditch with only millimeters to spare. I don’t think it was to impress us with his impression of Spanish F1 hero, Fernando Alonso. I think this is just the way he drives, probably with one eye on the road and the other on the Senoras he once woo’ed. In any case, fifteen minutes later and fifteen euros lighter, we arrive at Casa San Pablo, the home of Henri and Mary and our place of rest for the week.

Henri is a very, well there is only one word and that is sprightly, 76 year old. A retiree cinematographer who moved from Singapore to Mijas in 2000. His wife Mary is originally from Ireland and Coventry. How one can hail from the Emerald Isle and the armpit of England is another story no doubt. After scouring the earth for somewhere to settle, Andalucia worked its magic and here they are. The apartment is on the top of the main house with glorious views to Dragon mountain and the sea. Just. Breathtaking. Above the apartment which has to own terrazza del sol is another terrace with a 360 view over Mijas. We arrive in the dark and are treated to a brief electric storm over the Mediterranean and the briefest of rain storms over our heads. Time is not our friend at this hour as the bars and restaurants will soon be closing for food. So Henri bids us hurry into town.

The first two bars/restaurants are indeed closing for food as we arrive at their doors. It is nearly ten at night and in winter this is late enough for the locals. The third bar is thus our rest as we settle for a glass of wine. Or two as it turned out. The bar is called ‘The Village Bistro’, not you may note ‘El Bistro del Pueblo’ or something else suitably Spanish such as ‘Paella Plaza’ or ‘Cojones del Toro’. The name should have been a clue, for just as I was winding myself up to employ my refined in Asturias Spanish, the owner spoke in fluent Northern. I don’t mean northern Spain, but North as in Macclesfield for such was the town from whence she hailed. Food had just ceased being served and I, rather ponce like, asked for a ‘Ribera del Duero’. This is a rather fine Spanish wine. I soon realised that this was like asking for a Chateaunuef du Pape in the Spoons in Camborne, they hear the words but you might as well have asked for sausage in a synagogue in Arabic.

House Rioja it is then. Fair enough, and a damn fine glass or two they were. As for nibbles, on offer was Walker’s (yes Walker’s, we are in Spain) cheese and onion crisps. The restaurant side still had customers finishing their meals while we collapsed into a comfy sofa and soon tuned in to the gaggle of English voices all around us. The owner, a middle aged woman dressing like she was fifteen, was all tits and tattooes. Classy tattooes mind you, there was a butterfly trying to wing free from between her very well endowed cleavage. I had to take a second look to ensure I was just seeing things. Ann had not noticed the petite papillon in purple nestling between the underwired orbs of delight. A nicotine patch was stuck fast to her upper arm. I don’t know why I noticed that or what it means. you decide.

As we stood at the bar ready to pay up I noted a TV on the wall. Match of the day. Leicester v Norwich City. The BBC. A small group of ex pats, one guesses, stood around it no doubt discussing the up coming EU referendum and the butterfly. I made the mistake in engaging a gentleman at the bar in conversation regarding the match. Now this chap has been in Mijas for over 10 years, originally from East London, Wanstead. I guess he was over 60 now and had been practicing to be the poster boy for UKIP, representing England in a foreign country. Within 5 minutes the old cliches started about the ‘old country’.

He’ll never go back.

“It’s all changed”

“London is not the same” (has it ever been?).

“I want my country back” (so why are you here?).

There are too many of them over here (there, in England he means).

“You can’t even call them Paki’s any more” (So, I suppose ‘nig nog’ is right out as well).

“They don’t mix, they stick to themselves and they don’t speak the language”.

The bastards. Coming over there and working on minimum wage at jobs such as ‘shit poking with broken sticks’, ‘pea threading’ and ‘talking to people’.

I’m surprised he did not call for a wall to be built.

“I’d send them back” (…and where would you go?)

So this poured out without a trace of irony, in an English bar, owned and staffed by English people, surrounded by English people, watching English football on an English TV station, talking English. I doubt if he could spell Paella, let alone shit one. His grasp of Spanish is probably on a par with that of whizzed up Scotsman at a rave. Oh, and tomorrow the bar serves its speciality: a roast dinner. Reservations had been pouring in all day. Don’t get me wrong, it is a nice place for a late night glass of red, but it’s as Iberian as my ringpiece is open for business to a red hot poker.

So, hearts of oak can’t stand foreigners invading their country and mucking it up with their funny ways, so they have to move to another country, moan about it, and end up mixing in with the native Andalucians about as well as vindaloo and Guinness fueled fart at a funeral. So, come June 23rd will they be queuing up to move back once we leave the EU? Don’t mention the war.

Luckily ex pats don’t get to vote in the referendum. That would be like vegans voting for veal.

Asturias

Asturias

Never heard of it.

Thats because you are busy jetting much further south to the Costa del Sol or Costa Brava to burn your back, lose your wallet, dignity or virginity in the mediterranean sun.

Asturias is the northern region of Spain and can be found between Gallicia to the west and Cantabria to the East. Cantabria is home to Santander, the ferry destination and home of the eponymous bank, a seller of debt and false hope. This northern stretch is the Costa Verde, the ‘green coast’ running east west from the Pyrenees to the Atlantic. Its name is a give away. It rains here. A lot. It is also home to the the Picos mountains which rise up much less than an hours drive from the coast. In fact, they are visible from the coastal town of Gijon, shimmering blue in the late summer sun. The town has an alternative spelling; Xixon. Reading both gives you no clue as to its pronunciation. The first G is done by trying to clear your throat while also drawing up saliva onto the back of your tongue. Next, keep that saliva where it is, do not let it fly across the room as you proceed to the i, this is pronounced ‘hee’ and yes with a harsh ‘h’. The j is just to confuse you when in fact it should be another ‘h’. So far you should have a ball of spit at the back of your tongue as you expel a harsh ‘hee’ then a ‘hon’ with emphasis on the second syllable. The last ‘n’ is a soft n. Think of taking the piss out of the french accent by going ‘on he on hee on’, donkey like and you are nearly there. Saying ‘Santander’ is a piece of piss by comparison, and is the reason Brittany Ferries built a ferry port in Cantabria rather than Asturias. If you still have saliva in your throat “you may now swallow it” (as the Bishop said….).

The landscape is ‘undulating’, a bit like Devon and Cornwall but with menaces.The airport sits right on the coast, on top of a cliff, in a similar fashion to Newquay. This is because this is probably the only bit of flat land they could find. This is farming country, make no mistake about it, and very proud they are too of their produce. I’m in Asturias to do some teaching for the University of Oviedo, the main city in the region. Oviedo sits in a wide valley, upon hills, but between high mountains to the north and south. It takes about 50 minutes by bus, being 44 kms from the coast and right on the edge of where the geography begins to get really serious. A clue is that the few rail and major roads there are, hog the coastal stretch west to east and the odd valley north – south. The bus route takes an ‘autovia’, a two lane quiet motorway across river valleys on viaducts and through deep hillside cuttings. One minute you will be looking up at the fields, the next looking down to a tiny village in a valley. There is no rail link from the airport to Oviedo. You either take a taxi (mortgaging your wife first), blag a lift, steal a donkey or take the hourly bus which runs straight into the city. However, once in Oviedo, the railway happily skips back out to the coast to end at Gijon (pass the tissues).

Asturias is ‘famous’ (in Asturias) for cider, ‘fabada’ and rain. The King of Spain was the Prince of Asturias before acceding to the throne. Therefore it can be assumed that the rest of Spain has heard of the region. The Prince of Asturias title is akin to the UK’s ‘Prince of Wales’ but without the rabid overtones of English Imperialism snuffing out nascent Welsh independence through the vicious application of royal marriages. So, apart from Royalty we are left with booze and beans, for such is ‘fabada’.

The Cornish love a pasty and will duel to the death the right to establish who makes the best: ‘little Philps in Foundry’ or Rowes. Likewise, the Asturian fondness for fabada rivals the energy used by the most fanatical follower of Islamic State for zeal, single mindedness and sheer bloody loyalty to the cause. Take belly pork and cut it into chunks, likewise ‘morcilla’, i.e. spanish black sausage, and then some chopped chorizo and cook in a casserole with big white ‘fava’ beans stewing in a stock of cider. Serve with rustic crusty bread and more lashings of cider. Tiz simple, tiz filling, and makes you fart till your heart stops. They kill for it here. It is on every menu usually as ‘Fabada Asturiana’, just to remind you what region was responsible for letting you slip into farting orchestrations that would rival the brass sections, especially the trombones, of several colliery bands. The chorizo is spicely superlative, the morcilla a dark, black, devil’s penis of a sausage and the pork follows up the main act with the quiet confidence of a second chance virgin who knows how to tickle a scrotum. The beans have been wallowing in all of that meat and cider stock and have taken on the strength of a cuckolded dwarf at a piss up. What they lack in size they make up for in punch. This is not a dish for those of a nervous disposition. If you like your food to be robust, this little stew will stick around and kick your sorry arse until you faint. In short, it is bloody wonderful. The cider that goes with it is a Laurel to fabada’s Hardy. Cloudy and scrumpy in nature, this has the taste of…well, apples, what else? With a 6.5% alcohol rating, you need to be sat down, preferably near a wooden beer stained bucket, or an ambulance, just in case.

Food does not get any tastier than this.

This sums up Asturias in many ways. Rustic, simple, and warming. A comforting place to be, foreign but not strange, different but exactly the same. It is still Spain, but not as you know it. If you’d like a break and have a mind to try a different Spain, come and enjoy.

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