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¡Sólo cuatro semanas y Papá Noel estarán aquí con todos mis juguetes!
'What's that you say? There's Hurriphoons and Tornacains causing havoc all along the Spanish Coast!!!'
Oh don't be so silly, I got a sunburned nose yet again while having dinner outside on the terrace yesterday, so what was my ex colleague talking about in his 'e' mail message? Well, apparently there was a water spout seen off the coast of Majorca yesterday but sorry guys, it's warm, bright and sunny here with little danger of anything more than a shower expected perhaps sometime next week, anyway, as I've said a million times before, don't exaggerate!
'There's a cold wind doth blow down from the Trussocks' so the saying goes but not here though we do have to light the open log fire most evenings as the difference in temperatures, though still mild, is pretty drastic by some 20 degrees or so, enough to make you shiver after the heat of the day. But with work bringing plenty of wood in, we've free heat in these times of high fuel costs.
Anyway, it's four weeks to Christmas and I've been dusting off the lights ready for a Griswald family seasonal holiday. I've ordered the Turkey, (yes, they have them here in Spain as well though someone said they're not the same as English turkeys! No, that's right, they gobble in Spanish!) and Cortes Ingles have been loading up the shelves with British goods for the ex pats who still enjoy a 'Quality Street' or 'Pringle' after stuffing themselves with 'Spanish Turkey', and I'm no exception. But what of the good cheer and festive fun which people like me look forward to at this special time of the year. Well, thankfully for us it's going to be a pretty decent one with plenty for all without having to break the bank or borrow wildly, which is more than can be said, if the media are right, for a great number of people all over, especially in dear old Blighty.
I, like a number of ex pats over here, am thankful for what I've got and also thankful I'm not caught up in the broiling turmoil of the banks and markets which appear to be making so many peoples lives glum for the coming year. Don't get me wrong, even my own financial future can become unstable at the drop of a hat should the British economy declare bankruptcy, but at least we can eat, pay the bills and sleep in warmth and comfort which is sadly more than a lot of people can look forward to.
Times are hard and families suffer and, though not as bad here in Spain, there is a definite shift towards the more cautious side of life with prices dropping as people tighten their purse strings.
Ah well, soon be summer though I write this in shorts and 't' shirt out in the summer room with the temp around the 70s and a cloudless sky, but I can see clouds ahead building and not just in the weather. Aye, it's a cold wind indeed but I think it's going to freeze!
During the time of choosing, purchasing and embarking on a schedule of regular visits to the villa, was a time to discover the charm of the small mini markets and local shops which fulfilled our day to day needs. Anything larger or out of the ordinary was only available down at one of the newly opened outlets on the coast.
It was apparent however that a large complex structure of some sort was being built a little less than a kilometre away from our home on the road to Cartama which looked to be progressing quickly on every visit.
This structure was completed about the time we moved out here to live but it was only the early part of this year when everything opened completely and we could fully explore first hand the shopping outlet known simply as 'La Trocha'.
Now, imagine a town two thirds the area and population size of Portland which already has three new large hyper store supermarkets servicing a community not adept at readily accepting change, then you will begin to see and wonder how or why such a place was ever planned or built especially as I describe its features and services.
Firstly there's the 1000 plus duel covered and open car park complete with children's play area, taxi and bus park. There's a new BP Garage adjoining complete with the obligatory Venta/restaurant which actually sees customers filling up then going for a drink! Don't ask.
You can get into the main building either by a number of covered entrances direct from your car, or via the impressive frontage main doors adorned with a never ending water stream which runs down ceiling to floor glass windows, quite pretty really. But it's only when you're inside can you see the real scale of just how big the building is. We've had a number of family and friends over whom all agree it's something they would never have expected or experienced in such a small town or anywhere else for that matter.
The ground floor has a number of small outlets like phone and flower shops, but once up onto the mane thoroughfare and you can start shopping for just about anything. There's a huge Dunnes store, something like a M&S in England, then there's a number of clothes shops like Springfield, Clarkes type footwear, perfume, jewellery, toys and many others. Then there's the electrical warehouse which is like a giant Currys. In addition there's the 'Hyper core' food supermarket, I love this place as it has a fresh wet fish, fresh butcher and delicatessen counter which overall is around 30 meters long. It's about one and a half times the size of the Asda in Weymouth just to give you an idea.
Then after this there are more stalls which lead into a circular area which houses several eating outlets from pizza to steaks to tapas to all day breakfast to coffee and cakes, it really does spoil you for choice. Then up the escalator to the eight screen multiplex cinema, then round the balcony to the new Aqua fitness centre with rooftop spa baths and gym. The place is amazing, it's huge and is kept in pristine condition.
Oh, almost forgot, there is an eight lane bowling ally down in the basement area complete with gaming and amusement hall, and of course a bar! But do you know the most remarkable thing that we and everyone else notices first? It's the lack of people using it! The infrastructure of the area is such that the 'La Trocha' shopping complex was built to accommodate the growth in new housing which has, albeit in a reduced way, sprung up on the outskirts of the town. But there just isn't the volume of people here to be able to pack a place like this out. Now that may upset some people, but as a result, we can go shopping any night of the week except Sunday at around 7PM and be the only people in the Hypermarket! I swear it's true, it's happened on more than one occasion. This means Rose and I can leave a trolley at one end of the store and do a sort of ''supermarket sweep' while chatting to some of the staff we've got to know. I can leisurely choose my squid or langoustines, peruse the beef and pork steaks, meander up the fresh bread bakery cabinet, all with my own personal member of staff and no ticket queue!
It's great, and it's the same in a number of the shops in there, and with 14 checkout desks, it's annoying when there's one person in front of you because there's only one desk open! Ah well, at least I never get hit in the heel by one of the blue rinse brigade who believe it's their right to barge us young 'uns out the way in search of an isle to block for a chat with Mabel! And before you rant 'Ageism', I don' care, it's true, that and the trolley with three kids attached, all wanting to pull in different directions while you're struggling to find the trolley that Mable moved so she could get to the Sterident! Then to the checkout queue so long that the ice cream melts before you can even get to the car. No more! I'm sure it will change in the future, but by then I'll have the blue rinse and be able to run into Juan or Pedro's ankles and smile ignorantly, and until then, the weekly shopping trip is luxury.
But what of some of those quaint little shops and the people who we first befriended? Well, most are still there because even though the transition from 1960s shopping trends to present day has taken a fraction of that time to develop, people here still like that personal touch from someone they've dealt with for years, it's more of a social, needing a chat sort of thing than actual shopping but that's living in a 'Mañana' society for you.
As for the bigger stores? Well, their day will come, but for now I'll enjoy it, oh, and what about all the fresh food and out of date stock that no one buys, I mean there's tons of it. Well, unbeknown to many, the next time you're having dinner in a hotel or restaurant it's most probably been for sale in the supermarket first and I've possibly handled it!
Sometimes it can be a pain, as stated earlier, to sort out just a basic problem, I mean, there's a number of people who advertise their services like me, but it's finding the one you can trust, and after my brush with car buying incompetence on arrival, it's nice to have a friendly face and a good garage to look after what may be your biggest investment outside of your home.
Alhaurin Motors have been around for a number of years but have only recently in my opinion got it all right. Brian is a jovial chap, (far left in Pic) and knows about cars as do the rest of the team, and no, their smiling 'cos their happy, not drunk! They have now built a reputation for good service and reasonable prices, managing to continue with their success even in the hard times. They must be doing all right as they service a number of Spanish clients as well, not easy for immigrants as I said. So if ever you need anything to do with a motor, give me a call and I'll put you onto them or look them up in one of the local free papers.
Worth a visit
Carrying on from last week, crossing the border into Gibraltar or visiting by other means for the first time can be a strange experience, especially when you experience a 100 degree British day in summer, just wouldn't happen in the real Blighty! I first visited Gib during my first sea draft on HMS Bacchante back in '76 and can still remember the awe inspiring sight of this immense piece of rock sticking up out of nowhere before seeing the equally, now defunct, huge water catchment plates that once adorned one whole side of the rock.
Nowadays, the military influence is a fraction of what it used to be with the old naval base and sports grounds now turned over to re-development of much needed accommodation.
One of it's charms used to be the cheap goods that you could barter for from one of the many shops which make up Main street from the Angry Friar down to the lower casement area, which once a barrack area, now houses numerous eating houses and hostelries.
If you're approaching from the Spanish border by motor vehicle in the tourist months, then beware the long wait as queues form very early with waits of up to 2 hours not uncommon. We always park by the McDonalds fast food outlet or near the municipal park which is a stones throw from the gate before walking over to either catch a cab or one of the cheap double decker buses that run frequently. Either way, remember your passport as it is required just as if you were flying into another country, and beware trying to bring too many goodies out, there is a limit as Gib is still classed as a duty free enclave, and the Spanish Border police can be strict!
More about getting around the sights next week.
In this section
- Signing out in the sun
- Looking to the future
- ¡Si usted mira hacia atrás con demasiada frecuencia, usted no jamás puede adelantarse!
- Es el Lunes por la mañana, yo me desayuno en la terraza y el sol brill, qué
- Para que no olvidamos!
- That’s it, time to move further south!
- !Algunas cosas son enviados a tratarnos, aun el tiempo puede devolver aqui!
- ¡Aún jubilados necesitan para trabajar a veces, pero sólo por elección!
- Es siempre bueno volver en casa!
- Sólo ochenta más días de compras a Navidades!
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In August 2007, Allan Davies and his wife Rose, having lived most of their lives in their beloved Dorset, gave up their careers, left behind friends, family, acquaintances and all that was familiar to start a new life in Southern Spain.