A Travellerspoint blog

24 Hours From Preston - part one

24 Hours From Preston

Day One – Wednesday 7/4

In my early twenties my pride and joy was my new Ford Escort 1.6L. One night the police called. They said my bright red escort had been ‘spotted’ in Preston!

“Preston?” I asked, “Where’s that?”

“Up north. Lancashire,” they said.

I’m a London gal; they might as well have said the moon. I hadn’t been further than the Watford Gap, way back then. They believed me. Later I discovered some low lives had cloned my number. They’d ‘done’ a post office. My Escort then had notoriety and I lost any desire I might have had to go to Preston.

Twenty nine years and numerous cars later, Paul and I are living in northern Spain. The Preston instant was long forgotten. Paul’s dad is in a care home in Chorley, a neighbour of Preston. The care home manager phoned.

“Can to come over for a chat?” she enquires.

“To Preston?” Paul asks back, nodding.

“Yes,” she says. Paul doesn’t know what to say and the woman understands his hesitancy. Seemingly, he has a woman friend who wants his money rather than his friendship. Perhaps it would be a good idea if Paul sought advice from a solicitor.

“I think I need to go,” Paul says, nodding again. He is good at nodding.

“OK, I’ll go too,” I reply, nodding. It’s catching.

We go. Tickets booked. Taxi arranged.

The cats go on holiday to the cattery. They go the night before. We can pack in peace but we miss them ‘helping’. The house is far too quiet and peaceful.

The taxi arrives early. We don’t mind; we’d be kicking our feet otherwise. It’s just after midday when we arrive at Asturias Airport. Check in opens at one o’clock so we have a coffee. Asturias airport isn’t a shopper’s paradise and what there is can be seen in two blinks. We check in and then have a glass of wine and a chicken pincho. The flight is on time. There is a party of Spanish teenagers on their first overseas flight. Ugh, I thought they’d be unruly, like their compatriots back home. No, they made enjoyable travelling companions. They shrieked on takeoff and landing; shrieks of delight at something new. Their life is just starting. We practice our Spanish; they reply in English. We laugh. Friends for a moment in time.

We land at Stansted. It’s raining and cold but this is England. I can never understand why the rain seems wetter in England. The cold is always colder too!

We’ve booked a night at the Radisson. It’s a two minute walk from the airport. It’s room only at £105 per night. The Travelodge is cheaper but then that involves a £14 taxi ride each way so doesn’t work out that much cheaper. The Radisson is a touch of class. The staff know what you want before you do and discreetly provide it. The only class the Travelodge offers is what the local Essex girls can. We stayed there once and asked for extra milk cartons.

“Ain’t yer got none?” the girl whined as she chewed hard on her gum and carried on talking to her friend. Thank goodness I wasn’t having a heart attack.

We arrive at the Radisson just after 5 o’clock. We check out our room; it’s so comfy and welcoming. We are tired and don’t want to go out to eat. We do need to get tickets for the National Express coach the next morning so take a stroll to the ticket office in the terminal building. As we cross the grassed forecourt a family of wild rabbits go hoppity split towards a thick cluster of shrubs. Paul isn’t the only touch of wild in this hive of mayhem. Tickets bought, we visit the Spar shop close by. We buy ‘dinner’ – a beef salad baguette (we’ll have half each) and a tub of chicken pasta which we’ll also share. A couple of bags of crisps, a bottle of wine complete our dinner menu. A banquet fit for two weary travellers. Thank goodness I packed the melamine plates and the plastic cutlery. Paul had scoffed when he saw me packing them.

“Why do girls always pack everything including the kitchen sink?” he’d snorted. He didn’t nod that time.

“I was a Girl Guide. We’re always prepared,” I tell him.

He’d just looked. Words failed him. As I serve our dinner that evening, he smiles. I can tell he is glad I was one of Baden Powell’s girls. We relish the money we saved which will go well towards feeding us for several more nights. We relax on the bed and enjoy our feast. Heaven on earth.

Man U are playing Bayen Munich.

“Mind if I watch?” Paul asks although he knows I won’t. It means I can compute. I am tired well before the footie finishes. I lie down and sleep. Paul says I had something in common with Fergie’s boys. That is a different story.

Day Two – Thursday 8/4

Our body clocks wake us an hour early. We haven’t adapted to the time change yet, albeit it an hour. We potter and enjoy the room. A room with breakfast was £30 more; £15 each. I suggest we grab a BLT sarnie from the Spar shop. Paul nods. We gather up our possessions whilst watching Jeremy Kyle. He is the only ‘thing’ I miss from English TV; the best at what he does. The sad thing is that there are so many degenerates in England!!!

In the terminal we discover O’Neils, the Irish bar. We look at the breakfast menu. Paul chooses the full English breakfast. I choose the vegetarian breakfast. With coffee, we pay £16. Two breakfasts, in effect, for the price of one. That can’t be bad. I’m renowned for being canny where money is concerned. The proof of the pudding and all that.... We still buy the aforesaid sarnie and an apple to aid us on our journey. A couple of magazines and the Daily Mail will help while away the hours too.

The National Express leaves at 1pm. It’s full. Everyone wants to go to London. We get seats across the aisle so are still able to chat. The country bordered motorway gives way to the suburbs of the capital. Forty shades of brick blend with posters boasting pointless slogans advertising products with equally pointless uses. Boarded up flats secrete an air of dubious mystery. Sky rise flats with handkerchief lawns and not a soul in sight. The empty bleakness gives way to the capital at its best.

We arrive at Victoria. Congestion reigns. Paul stands guard over our luggage whilst I go to the loo. I remind him to beware the low lives out for what they can get. He reminds me of Barcelona and I know he’ll beware. I pay 20p for the privilege of having a wee. There isn’t even any soap. I feel robbed. Paul says afterwards there was soap in the gents. I wonder if this is an indication they perhaps think perfumed soap is sissy but decide not to follow that line of thought. I shudder and look forward to the journey instead.

Our connecting coach whose ultimate destination is Blackpool, leaves at 3.30. It pulls out of London through a similar route to which we arrived. It’s only a third full. I look around and wonder how many people are ‘going all the way’. I remember Blackpool – capital of sleaze and tack. I shudder. I’ve never thought of myself as a snob but I am grateful that our journey terminates somewhere to the north east of this den of iniquity.

In a blink we have left the metropolis. We’re on the motorway whose direction boards tell us we are heading ‘to the north’. I remember when I was small I wondered where this mysterious ‘north’ was. How many miles did you have to travel before you got there? How did you know when you got there? So many questions. I don’t think I know the answers even now. As a southerner, I don’t think I’ll ever know. I still find the direction just as mystifying.

A Jamaican gentleman sits behind us. His mobile is constantly in use. It rings three times and then he answers. He tells the caller he isn’t unavailable; doesn’t explain. He does tell the caller, though, he can’t get ‘it’ to them for a couple of days. He hangs up. This is repeated another two or three times. Then he has a solution. He tells the now frantic caller that he’ll get ‘his boy’ to force the door to his room and the caller can have ‘it’ in a couple of hours. A bank is also mentioned. This conversation is repeated through umpteen calls. Then we learn that the caller is talking bullshit according to our travel companion. The caller is reminded that the bank is now closed and the figure of twelve hundred is mentioned. My imagination goes into overtime and I invent a series of plots to explain this one sided conversation we are privy too. The Jamaican leaves the coach at Coventry.

Coventry is an ugly monster of a city and Birmingham isn’t any more attractive. I am grateful I’ve no need to live in either. I shiver at the thought of what might have been. We’d stopped at Birmingham bus station for fifteen minutes which was a quarter of an hour too long but took the chance to take a pee in a proper non moving toilet. At thirty pence the experience at Victoria was cheaper. Here they had soap but nothing with which to dry ones hands.

“Have we reached the north yet?” I ask wearily.

“Not yet,” he replies.

Does he know when we will? He shakes his head. Well, it’s different from a nod!! I see signs for Preston – eeeekkkk. Paul assures me that we won’t be going through THAT place.

“Phew,” I think.

We turn off the motorway just after the sky has turned indigo. Pink fingers bleed through the night clouds before fading into obscurity. Twinkle, twinkle little star; one, two, three and then there are ten. They light our way into Leigh. I can tell it’s countryside but it’s too dark too appreciate and I’m too tired anyway. Leigh village is radiated in neon and I can tell it’s quaint. I think it’s my kind of place. I hope Chorley is its twin.

“Night time can be deceptive,” Paul says.

I ignore him.

“Chorley is next,” he continues as if he has read my mind.

Cement city looms and he responds to my expression.

“It must be after Wigan, not before,” he states the obvious.

My turn to nod.

“Ah, there’s the pier,” he announces as if I’m supposed to be excited. I don’t see anything that resembles a pier. Besides, it’s not by the sea. I grunt. I’m too tired to question his statement.

The coach finally rolls into Chorley. I peer through the night and decide I’m not sure what to think. Thinking can wait ‘til the morning. The bus station is empty; we didn’t think it would be anything else. We can get a taxi if we knew where we could get one. The information desk looks as if it’s still manned. Maybe he is about to go home; if we hurry we can just about catch him.

“I can call you a taxi,” he says, his Lancashire eyes smiling, “but why not take bus route 125? It leaves in nine minutes and stops right outside.”

Sounds good to us and we wait. The 125 arrives right on cue and leaves nine minutes later as predicted. Lancashire buses run like clockwork. Twenty minutes later we stand outside the Hartwood Hall pub with rooms. We are weary and the barmen deal with our registration jovially and I’m even willing to take a bunk in a car bay. We have room nine in the coach house. It’s a small room; rustic and cosy; the kind of decor I’d have chosen. We dump our cases and with energy I thought we’d lost somewhere south of Birmingham we hot foot to the bar. There is twenty minutes left til last orders. A large red wine hits the spot. We retire and rest in peace.

Day Three – Friday 9/4

We awake before the alarm goes off. We can take our time and enjoy doing so. Breakfast is a leisurely affair. I relish in the crackle and pop of Rice Crispies. It’s the inconsequential things I miss. We have a cooked breakfast. No one can make or cook sausages like the English.

“Ah, baked beans,” Paul drools.

I spy the sachets of Marmite. My turn to drool. I take two and thickly cover my toast. We’re in Heaven. Who’d have thought we’d feel that way in Chorley. We ask the ‘breakfast’ lady for directions to the care home where Paul’s dad is resident. It’s too far to walk. We get a taxi. It’s £7.90 for a twenty minute ride. The manager is waiting for us and says she knew Paul was Vinnie’s son straight away. She takes us to Vinnie’s room. He doesn’t know we are coming; it’s a surprise. He can’t believe his eyes. It’s so touching. The manager wipes tears from her eyes. I’m in the background and the emotion bypasses me. I’ve noticed already, though, how alike father and son are. Fifty years separate these peas in a pod yet they could be one. I see the future of Paul but I’m not afraid. It doesn’t put me off! This is the thing they call love. The manager leaves us to talk. We sit in Vinnie’s room. They haven’t seen each other for some twenty years although they recently started talking on the phone; Paul phones him once a week. It’s as if the years have fallen away.

The manager asks to speak to Paul regarding a second will Vinnie has, apparently, had drafted. It would appear a woman neighbour of his has being helping Vinnie for her own gains. The care home manager, quite rightly, sought legal advice from an independent solicitor. As a result, the second will is no longer in existence. We leave things with the care home manager and his father’s own solicitor.

The manager suggests that Vinnie might like to take us out to lunch. She drives us to a nearby pub ‘The White Crow’ and leaves us to take lunch and chat, It’s such a lovely ‘family’ affair. I have creamy chicken and ham pasta whilst Paul opts for chicken masala and Vinnie chooses steak and chips. The conversation continues to flow. Whilst Paul is ordering our meals, Vinnie tells me he wants Paul to have the bulk of his estate which bears out the first will. I just smile and tell him the solicitor will honour his wishes. The comment came from the blue after which the conversation took a different route.

We bid our farewells around 4pm and this time we take the bus. The manager has enlightened us into the delights of the local bus service. We take the 362 hoppa to Chorley bus station. Time for a short walk around the town. We are pleasantly surprised as to how pleasing the town is. I’m in my element as there is a variety of charity shops. I never shop anywhere else. Yes, I’m a cheap girl who loves the element of surprise; I never know what I’ll find to buy. Why should I buy something at full price when I can buy something just as good for a fraction of the price? Gives me more money for travel – hey, ho! My treasure on this trip is a navy and grey scarf come wrap threaded with silver. I paid the princely price of £1.75. They had a similar one in pink but that was £2. I’ve 25p now towards my next bargain. I’m a happy bunny. We buy a packet of muffins for supper. Back at the bus station we catch the 125 double decker to the Hartwood Hotel. The bar beckons. We respond. It would be churlish to refuse. Paul has a pint of local beer. I have a large red wine. We retire to our room. Muffins and coffee in bed....... What a way to end the day.

Day Four – Saturday 10/4

We decide to skip the hotels breakfast, good as it may be. We are full from the day before and decide to walk into town. It’s an easy walk and takes around twenty five minutes. The market calls and I respond. There’s a coffee stall that boasts a range of breakfast fayre, Paul opts for a full breakfast whilst I choose a cheese and bacon omelette. We’re pleased with our choices and the price. Satisfied, we visit a couple of charity shops. Lo and behold, we find a photo frame suitable for the photo Paul has brought up for his father. The frame costs the princely sum of £1 – a bargain.

We stroll towards the church, St. Mary’s. St Mary's Parish was founded in 1847, the present building dates around 1872, with the eight peel Bell Tower added in 1894. St Mary's Church is often described as the "gem" of the Archdiocese of Liverpool. There is a window dedicated to St. Lawrence, the patron saint of Chorley. Lawrence is said to have been martyred on a gridiron as a part of Valerian's persecution. During his torture Lawrence cried out "This side’s done, turn me over and have a bite." This is the legend often quoted explaining why Lawrence is the Patron Saint of Comedians, butchers and roasters.

There is an air of tranquillity in the church. The silence is absolute. I feel the love of Christ caressing my body. There is an old, grey headed man kneeling, his knarled hands clasped in prayer. His patience deserves an answer. We leave him with God and head back towards the bus station.

We arrive at the care home just after 11am. Vinnie had asked us to let him have a lie in. I think he had become emotionally drained the previous day.

“He never was an early riser,” Paul said, reminiscing. We respect his wish. He greets Paul as if the years have fallen away.

The suspected gold digger’s boyfriend turns up. We think he is taken aback that we are there. We don’t say anything detrimental; just politely pass the time of day. Vinnie lets slip that we had been out to lunch the previous day. It doesn’t matter; it’s not a secret. I say that the manager had taken us but omit to say that she’d just provided the lift. I let him think she dined with us. I add that we had a good ol’ natter. Let him make of that what he will. He doesn’t stay long, slinking off to tell the woman! Our ears will be burning throughout the week, no doubt.

“Are we bovvered?” I ask myself.

“We don’t think so!” I answer my own question.

It’s almost 1 o’clock; he is tiring. We think it’s best if we leave. He thanks us for visiting and we feel so humbled. He hugs us both. It’s such a warm and genuine moment. Paul feels so thankful that he has visited.

We have seen most of Chorley town and don’t want to kick our heels for the rest of the afternoon. It’s too early to go back to the Hartwood Hall.

“Let’s go to Preston,” I say.

What the heck. Perhaps I should see this den of infamy where the number plate of an innocent can be cloned. Has the offender paid the price? Is he still in the area or was he just passing through? Who knows?

The 125 bus goes to Preston and stops close to the Hartwood pub. Convenient for coming home. We go.

Paul engages in a conversation with a portly, retired gentleman across the gangway who is eager to chat. He lives in sheltered accommodation he says. Every so often he spends the day riding the buses.

“I have a bus pass. It makes for a good day out. Weatherspoons have some good lunch deals too,” he explains, chuckling. Seemingly he likes his food especially if accompanied by a pint.

“Good for you,” Paul says, nodding again. He asks him about Fleetwood and Leyland, places from his youth. Leyland Motors is now a housing estate. The gates are still there, the aged gent tells Paul.

“If only we had more time,” Paul says and I’m glad we don’t. I’m happy just to hear about his motor making days from him. I don‘t have to visit the site.

Large greying colonnade buildings that have seen better days loom above Preston bus station looms. Buses from Bolton, Blackpool and the surrounds converge here, bringing shoppers to this busy shopping centre. We walk to the market. A huge book stall invites me to browse. Literally hundreds of second hand books. If I had the money and luggage allowance, I could do serious damage to my bank balance. I don’t leave empty handed so am a happy bunny. We walk through the main shopping centre. It’s busy. It’s a long time since I’ve seen so many people. I feel claustrophobic. I endure as I know it’s just an afternoon. We feel it’s time for coffee. Our eye is caught by one particular cafe. The atmosphere is very nineteen twenties. There are black and white photos around the walls showing famous people from over the decades. A young Margaret Thatcher is there as is Mohammed Ali in his prime. A smug Diana beams her naive smile and Frank grins knowingly as he does it his way. The coffee is good. Paul has cake too; he says that is good too. Paul doesn’t remember the cafe from his youth. He asks the lady how long it’s been there.

“Sixty years although it’s changed hands several times,” the waitress says. Paul nods again.

Paul has forgotten his sweatshirt and shorts he wears when we visit my mum. He needs to protect his modesty. I suggest that maybe we’ll see a Matalan but we spy a Primark. We go in. They have offers. We find him a hooded sweatshirt for £3 and some shorts for £2.50. Definitely the bargain of a life time; we’re pleased. His modesty is protected.

We need a few bits for supper and to sustain our appetites on the coach journey the next day. We find an Iceland. We buy a selection of goodies and come away pleased. That evening we pay the bill at the Hartwood and book a taxi for 7.15am the next morning. We pack and sup. Sleep comes easily despite the residents of the next room coming in just after eleven. I hear them unlock their door and walk across the floorboards. I fear a sleepless night but all goes quiet after some five minutes. I breathe a sigh of relief and fall asleep.

Day Five – Sunday 11/4

The alarm sings out at 6am and we rise without a grumble. Showered and dressed we throw the final bits into our cases and throw our keys through the pub letterbox. We wait in the car park in the cool of the early morning. The peacock and its mate strut their stuff in front of the box windows. The taxi arrives on time and in a blink of an eye we are down at the bus station. Local buses don’t start running until 8am. The bus station radiates a ghostly mood. The surrounding streets are silent. Sunday morning in Chorley is a nonentity. Locals prefer to lay in than walk the streets on a Sunday morning. We check our tickets just to be on the safe side. Yes, we have the right time. Two other couples arrive and we figure we have the right time. Minutes later the Birmingham National Express rolls in. Very few people have opted to travel this service and who can blame them.

The scenery passes by, pleasing to the eye. Constable country northern style. Two and a half hours later the scenery changes. Industrialisation develops. Ugliness reigns. My soul dies. I could never live in a grimy atmosphere such as Birmingham. Perhaps the Brummies would disagree but to me there are a thousand better places to live.

We have an hours’ wait at the coach station. Time for a cup of coffee. The queue is long and I fear we’ll be standing there the whole hour; there is only one girl serving and no apology for the wait. I wouldn’t have minded just a smile. Customer service is lost. I wonder if it were ever there.

Our connection is on time. It’s one of the newer coaches and the seats are leather. My bottom slides with the motion of the bus. The seat belt saves me from sitting on the floor! I can’t be bothered to keep righting myself. Slipped, I’m comfortable despite the beached whale look!

We continue spotting Eddie Stobarts’ along the way. Since we left Stansted, we’ve reached nineteen. We pas a depot containing at least fifty.

“A depot doesn’t count,” Paul says. He doesn’t nod this time.

“You just have to spot them.” I retort. I get no reply.

Two more pass and I’m up to some seventy one! I wonder what the record is.

We pull into Heathrow on time. We see the 504 service boarding for Penzance and are glad we’re not booked on that service. Cornwall is in the past and I’ve moved on. Just a two minute wait and the 285 pulls in. It leaves with a full load. I’ve never seen so much luggage on this route before. I’m soon on my home ground. You can take the girl out of London but you can’t take London out of the girl. The rainbow of skin colours and ethnic tongues remind me I am home. They’re like a cloak of comfort. Kingston looms and my heart lurches. I’m thrilled to be back home. Cromwell bus station and an array of red London buses tugs the heart strings. We get off the bus just as the 213 pulls up. Perfect timing and we’re almost home. My home. Wherever I go, London will always be my home; it’s where my heart is. Twenty minutes later, we’re at Orme Road. My heart leaps.

Day Six - Monday 12/4

Mum didn’t have too much in her cupboard. She has Wiltshire Farm Foods delivered. Ranji, her carer, gets her any extras she wants plus her household shopping. Paul and I decided that we’d take Mum in her wheelchair to the Triangle. I figured we could take her in the Tesco Express and she could help us ‘choose’ our shopping. That worked out very well. She enjoyed that. Beverley and David had phoned to say that they’d come up in the afternoon. In Tesco we saw that strawberries were on offer – two large punnets for £3. Strawberries and double cream for tea sounded good to us!

Pat – my mother’s so called friend – phoned. You’ll see why I say ‘so called’. She said the Day Centre had phoned her! Why, I think. She answers without being asked. She says they couldn’t get hold of me as I was travelling. Hang on, I think. The brain ticks into action. They didn’t know I was travelling to Mums. That proves they hadn’t attempted to contact me! Obvious. So this friend says the Day Centre says my mum is incontinent and they have a problem with it. They have had this ‘problem’ for several minutes. I hang up abruptly. None of this makes sense.

a. They didn’t know I was travelling until they phoned Pat. That proves they didn’t make any attempt to contact me.
b. If, as they say, I was unavailable then how come I spoke to Ranji on the phone?
c. Did they try to e mail me? No, there was no e mail asking me to phone them? I had my laptop with me so was able to e mail regularly with people.
d. My mobile was on 24/7. My mum was able to contact me. Why couldn’t they?

Many questions. No answers. There seems to be some sneakiness but I can’t quite prove it. There are things that don’t ring true here. This ‘friend’ says they say my mum is incontinent. This upsets me and my mum. I am upset they’ve not made any real effort to contact me. They’ve lied. Mum is upset that Pat hasn’t spoken to her about it. We’re both upset as we know this incontinence business is a lie. I phoned the Day Centre to ask about this. Their manager can’t explain why they didn’t bother to contact me first other than to say I was travelling. I tell them they didn’t know before they called this person. I tell them it’s funny as I was able to be contacted.

I tell them she isn’t incontinent. They argue the fact. I chat with her carer who confirms she isn’t! The carer keeps her washed and clean; probably more than necessary!! She sends her to the Day Centre in clean clothes so she can’t possibly smell first thing in the morning. Her clothes are dry at the end of the day and her bed is dry in the morning. I wonder what the hell they are talking about. As I speak to the day centre my mum asks me what the call is about. I have no alternative but to tell her.

She asks why they are lying. She asks why they are being so horrible. I have no answers.

“I’m a damned nuisance. I wish I was dead,” she says. I tell the centre manager and she has nothing to say.

“I don’t want to go again,” she says. I tell her she doesn’t have too.

I am furious with their attitude. I cry as I don’t know how to fight them. I KNOW I’m right. I feel the only thing I can do is stay with Mum myself. Live with her. But as Paul points out, Ranji is an ideal substitute. Ranji knows my mother almost as well as I do. I have almost two thousand percent faith in her, or more. She and I sing from the same hymn sheet.

Even if my mum was in favour of going back to the Day Centre, I wouldn’t have the faith for her to attend there. Paul says that maybe Mum is better off at home than at a place where they breed lies. I agree with him.
Beverley and David come later than we expected. The traffic was horrendous. We chat. As they are late they’ll be later home so I suggest we have fish and chips from the Triangle. Appetites satiated, we still found space for strawberries and cream. The evening is good although soured by the lies of the Day Centre.

Posted by SpanishRos 06:54 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged family_travel Comments (0)

The Secret of Tox

Paul & Ros have a day out...........

I’ve lost faith in guide books. I read them, now, purely for the history. Historical facts are specifics. They can’t be changed, except perhaps in Hollywood. A writer in the guide I have to hand tells me his first impressions of Puerto de Vega are always good. The first time we visited was a few days after we’d moved into our house. A neighbour said she’d show us around the area. Newly arrived in Asturias, we‘d accepted graciously. Turning off the main N-632 we followed the narrower NV-7 towards the harbour town. The scenery was veiled by a thick sea mist that tossed in the swirling wind. Arriving by the harbour, the mist had lifted only to be replaced by heavy rain. The wind was stronger. We parked near the harbour and grabbed a glance over the harbour wall. The angry waves lashed against the rocks. We beat a hasty retreat to the car and places inland.

A couple of years later, Easter Thursday was a perfect spring day. The sun was shining and the flowers blooming. It was one of those ‘where shall we go today’ days. Not far, we thought.

“How about Puerto de Vega?” Paul suggested. I nodded. I’d done a little more research. Indications were, we could pass a couple of interesting hours there.

“Hit the road, Jack,” I sang as Paul revved the car into action. We meandered along the village lanes with the greatest of ease. Village gents have no time for leisurely drives. They don’t understand ‘days out’. They rise at the crack of dawn to tend the crops and feed the cattle. Only when the work is done and the day has died will they fiesta.

Leaving the country lanes behind us, we join the autopista. The traffic is heavy and comes to a standstill. It creeps and crawls. No one toots. No one looses patience.

“Perhaps this wasn’t a good idea,” Paul says as we sit and wait, unable to do anything else. I nod; at least we are ‘out’ but then so is everyone else. Ah, but the sun is shining. We smile. The autopista ends and we join the old road; three lanes have become one. As suddenly as the traffic stopped, it starts again. The Madonna smiles from above; after all its Easter.

We take the NV7 as we’d done some two years previously. The narrow lane twists its short course seaward. No one else has followed. We smile. We drive through a small cluster of trees and a small area of field land. Perhaps we’ve lost the crowds. The sun shines and we smile. Then we’re in Puerto de Vega. The first thing we notice is that the streets are all lined with cars. Every available space has been taken by a car.

“What was that about a good idea?” I ask with a hint of sarcasm. Paul doesn’t answer. He doesn’t need to.

“Maybe we can park by the harbour,” he says. He’s right. There is plenty of space.

“I could murder a cup of coffee,” I say. Paul nods.

“We go in the first bar we pass. It’s full and the air is filled with the buzz of conversation. Two walnut faced gents, each with a beaker of red wine, stand to one side so we can get served. They chatter; we smile and nod appropriately. Their wizened faces delight in a new friendship. Downing their wine, they bid us adios and disappear into the multitude. We order our coffees and huddle together with the other bar hugging drinkers. The tables are full. I think its cosy and I soak up the atmosphere. In the corner is a large tank full of live lobsters and crabs. They stare; their whiskery hairs twitch as they attempt their fruitless escape. The menu doesn’t come any fresher. Sugar sachets and cigarette butts litter the floor, indicating the bar has been busy since first thing. The coffee is the proving.

We decide to brave the crowds and see what makes up this historic fishing port that has its birth in whale hunting times. We pass the museum that boasts being the home of a series of artesian collections. From my understanding of the Spanish information board, it’s here that you can learn about the art of weaving fishing nets as well as shoe making and carpentry. It’s closed but at least we learnt the basis of the villages’ economy of years gone by.

On a stone nearby are carved the words that declare the town was awarded the title ‘Example town of Asturias’ (an annual award) by Prince Felipe in 1995. I raise my eyebrows. I’ve seen other villages I consider more worthy of such an award but who am I to question the judgement of the heir to the Spanish throne.

Nearby is the ubiquitous village square. Seats and box hedged beds prevail. A marquee sits to one side. Of course we feel the need to investigate. Like lemmings we follow those already heading to the flapping canvas entrance. It’s not long before the whiff of fish drifts in the air. A sign confirms the pungent smells. Portions of pulpo and mejillones are being sold for nine and four euros respectively. Paul twitches his nose in distaste and I know better than to suggest we challenge our taste buds.

Wherever we go we always visit the church. It’s the soul of the place; to me, it links the past with the present. We see the church on a hilltop overlooking the harbour. It’s a gentle slope and we leave the madding crowds behind. Despite it being Easter, the worship of stomach fulfilment has overtaken that of the Spirit. Arriving at the entrance we discover that we have crossed into the next village of Santa Marina and this is the church dedicated to Maria. Sadly, the locking of church doors has reached Spain. I’m bothered that I can’t go in but God is in my soul wherever I go. There is an information board close by and I don’t have to struggle with my Spanish; there is an English translation. It tells me this church is listed as one of cultural interest. It’s considered a cathedral of the Baroque style. We’re told it’s a work by Jose Gonzalez Muniz and Jose Menendez Camina; that it was built between 1730 and 1749, funded by popular contributions. What are popular contributions? I wonder at the translation. Perhaps the money came from donations sought from the parish? I don’t know and guess I never will. It was built on the ground of a Gothic temple and earlier monastery. God has lived her for many centuries, then. There was much information about the interior but without seeing it for myself, it meant nothing. The altar pieces, it said, were mainly the work of Jose Bernado de la Meana, one of the most outstanding sculptors of Asturias. If this be so, then his work will also be found elsewhere. A name to remember on our future outings. We are also told a visit to the church is made even more memorable by the sight of the sixteenth century organ on which an annual recital is played. Maybe we can go one day and take the chance to see inside but then we’re told the dates change each year. Ah well, perhaps one day chance will be on our side.

We walk around the outside and see the Stations of the Cross, all in a sad state of repair. Limbs of the cross lay scattered in the hedgerow. The limbless crosses show the ravages of time partially covered by a cloak of soft, velvet moss. The graveyard beckons and we answer the call. Vaults of families long forgotten carry old Spanish names and vases of frayed cotton flowers still managing to fight the elements. How long for, nobody knows. Tucked to one side a hooded stone monk kneels as he reads his bible held in one hand whilst with the other he leans on his staff. A Rosary hangs from his belt. The once white stone has greyed with the centuries. One side of his face has blackened from the salty sea winds. Still he prays, waiting for the answers. Surely his centuries old penance will be rewarded at the end of time. A frail grey haired, black clad widow enters the graveyard, clutching a bunch of wild flowers. One departed soul is not forgotten. I wonder how long she has been regularly visiting her much loved departed. I look at her face and stature. I don’t think it’ll be long before they are joined together again. We leave her in peace.

We take a different route back into Puerto de Vega. The guide book had told me of the whiter than usual houses. I feel he has been talking of a different village. I see a host of typically Asturian houses in all shapes, sizes and colours but none that I would call whiter than usual. No matter, I find them pleasing to the eye. Finding ourselves back by the harbour we see a car has moved revealing a wooden town plan. We see the church of Puerto de Vega is some way away. The crowds and parked have increased in number. We find it very cloying and decide to beat a hasty retreat. The harbour car park is full and it’s a nightmare of a drive to leave the village. More cars are entering and no one wants to give way. We hadn’t envisaged playing dodgems. We finally leave the mayhem behind. Will we go back? Yes, but on a wet and windy winters day when everyone else is waiting for a balmy Easter Thursday.

The route out of Puerto de Vega takes us through the old pueblo of Tox. An everyday hamlet where everyday families have led the same rural life for centuries past. The land of Tox has always provided and there is no reason for it not to in the years to come. Old houses with peeling paint and crumbling stone circle a deserted, turreted building. Its cracking stonework is cloaked with moss and ivy. Was it a palace? A fort? Who knows? There’s nothing to say. Just another secret. Asturias is full of them and we have the time to ferret away. We may never find the answers but I have imagination...........................

Posted by SpanishRos 08:00 Archived in Spain Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

A Day For All Seasons

all seasons in one day

Thomas Moore gave us a man for all seasons. Asturias gives us a day for all seasons.

“Let’s have a day out,” I told Paul after a heavy conversation. We’d been lamenting the fact that our travelling days had temporarily been put on hold. Finances dictate we’re unable, momentarily, to book that two week holiday in Sri Lanka we’d been dreaming of. Hey ho, we can’t even afford a weekend away in Galicia, a hundred miles away.

Paul looked somewhat sober.

“A day out doesn’t break the bank,” I said emphatically. He still looked as if he didn’t believe me.

“Make me a quiche,” I demanded as I started making some coleslaw; my speciality. Paul nodded.

He checks the weather online. It’s going to be mixed with a chance of showers.

“We’ll take layers. Chuck things on the back seat. The umbrella is still in the boot,” I reply, anxious to be top dog and not be put off. He nods.

We get the atlas out.

“We’ll head towards Tineo,” I say, “then down towards Cangas De Narcea.”

Paul nods. Goody, he is still listening.

“We’ll have coffee there and decide what to do next. Depends on what the time is and what the weather is like,” I say as I have his full attention at last. He nods yet again. I smile.

Eight o’clock in the morning sees us driving into the horizon. Paul is feeling the same sense of adventure that I am. The temperature gauge in the car reads five degrees centigrade. The sky is overcast but the sun is struggling through with the promise of a joy to come. I shiver.

“Cold?” Paul asks.

“No, just excited,” I reply, smiling dreamlike. Paul is good at nodding.

We stop at the local garage.

“Lleno,” Paul says to the pump attendant and he fills the tank up. So we have a tank of gas, a picnic lunch, my mobile, a handful of euros, clothes for all weathers and an atlas.

“We’re on the road again,” we sing as we pull out of the forecourt.

We drive towards La Espina. The N634 winds upwards through the wooded hills. We look out over valleys of farmland; a tapestry of spring greens, browns and yellows. The sun is breaking through the trees. The pink and white blossom glistens. The yellow and purple flowers in the hedgerow sway in the gentle breeze. Spring has arrived.

Languid hamlets perch haphazardly on the sloping hills under lazily leaning trees. We pass solitary houses, standing derelict. Their presence radiates eerie shadows over the sun lit pools that fall through the angry branches onto the rain splattered road.

On the road we passed a ramshackle house that boasted a roughly painted slogan declaring ‘out with the assassinating Guardia’. The ‘motto’, I suspect, refers back to the Civil War days. Franco ruled with an iron fist. I remember our dear neighbour telling us the common man was shot by Franco’s supporters with no regard; whole families were destroyed. Their houses and land left forgotten. A stone wall here or a rocky boundary there; all are over shadowed by a sense of eerie nostalgia. We pass many dilapidated houses shrouded in capes of ivy and other sombre foliage. Roofs have become lost in time along with walls that have crumbled just as the bones of their owners have. What stories they could tell. If only they could speak.

La Espina loomed ahead of us some forty minute slater. It’s a nondescript town; colourless in soul. It’s a town that travellers bypass. They blink and miss it. We stop. It’s sunny and chilly. The sky is blue and its four degrees. The Cafe Bar Cavadonga is open for business. We haven’t had breakfast and our stomachs cry to be filled. We each have a large coffee and a ham roll. The town is as quiet as a cemetery. Just a couple of black clad widows’ step irregularly along the street towards the grocers. It’s probably the only time in the week they get to gossip about times gone by. I’d love to listen but it’d be irreverent. Franco’s time was brutal but personal. It doesn’t seem right to listen.

A young lad sweeps the road. He’s wearing headphones that take him to a world he’ll never visit nor understand. He wants no other world than La Espina and desires no other future.

We leave La Espina and then Tineo, the scenery changes from gentle rolling hills swathed in soft greens and placid yellows. The mountains become stark. The dark heathery looking moss reveals in places the bleak multi coloured strata shaped from a million years of elements. Stone walls suggest a bygone age. No roofs remain and doors are a thing of the past. The families are gone. Their memories remain, swathed in a terror penetrated by a fanatical dictator. We drive through pueblos whose names don’t even appear on the best of maps. Their souls sing in the wind.

We reach Cangas del Narcea, a modern town with old fashioned charm. Side streets are tucked away shielding the hidden stories of the decades gone by. By then it’s nine degrees.
There are flats with fancy geranium clad balustrades overlooking the main thoroughfare. I can imagine us sitting there, drinking a glass or three of Don Mendo as we while away the days. City life here is as lethargic as it comes.

Overlooking the town are tiers of vine groves. The wine produced in the many bodegas of the area are famed throughout the region. A museum brags of a long and interesting history of winemaking.

We take coffee in the bar of the Hotel El Molinon amongst the shoppers indulging in their favourite pastime - socialising. Cigarette butts and empty sugar sachets litter the floor, tossed there by early morning patrons on their way to work. Many a deal has been signed over a pre office coffee and pincho.

It’s 11.20 and the day is young. The map indicates a scenic route south of the town. The route follows some severe bends along some apparently scenic roads; some very narrow. The map says that at their peak these roads are some 4,200 feet in height. From Cangas del Narcea we’d could see mountains crowned in virgin snow.

“Let’s go,” I tell him. He nods again.

True to the map, the road snakes higher and higher. There’s no other traffic. The temperature drops as dramatically as the sides of the roads. It begins to rain. No, it’s snowing and the whiteness inhibits the views over the valley.

“Gosh; it’s the end of March and they are in the throes of winter,” I declare to Paul.

“They forecast snow yesterday,” he replies.

“This looks as if it’s been here all winter,” I say. Paul says it’s a new fall but as we grow higher the snow looks dirtier. I feel sure I’m right but decide not to say anything. Out of nowhere we see a ski station and several dozen ski lifts head into the peaks that are even higher than the road. Several brave souls are heading to the cloud laden tips to follow the already grey and icy routes back down to a quiet and bleak hamlet that consists of a drab looking hotel settled amongst half a dozen miserable looking houses. Such is the love of skiing. The snow is falling thickly by now and the car registers 0 degrees centigrade. Paul turns the heater up and the car struggles to reach three degrees and I can’t get into third gear. The falling snow thickens. I’m driving at this time and I can hardly see feet in front of me. We look around. The mountains don’t get any higher. We have to start going down again soon, surely? As if by magic, the road descends with no warning. It’s narrow and it curves sharply but we’re alone. The falling snow lessens and the mountains turn from a silvery grey to emerald green. The hedgerows turn a sunny yellow as a mass of primroses turn their smiling heads upwards. The car registers six degrees, then seven and suddenly its eight degrees centigrade. I tease Paul that we have a heat wave.

Two hours later and a further three degrees we are back in Cangas del Narcea having done a circle. We park by the river and it’s hot. It is twelve degrees. The sun is hot. Winding the windows down we enjoy our picnic lunch. The riverside trees sway in the gentle breeze. I have to walk by the river for several minutes to cool myself down. A woman probably in her fifties is learning to drive. Her instructor has her reverse into a space large enough for a forty eight ton articulated lorry. The woman can’t quite grasp the technique of reversing the small Seat. Three times see her taking the car into angles never imagined. As we left she sat, elbow resting on the wheel and chin in hand pondering the Everest task of passing her test.

“Buen suerte,” I murmur as we leave the car park. I fear she needs all the good luck she can get.

Suitably refreshed and cooled we head back towards Tineo following the banks of the River Narcea. Somewhere along the route the temperature gauge says thirteen degrees. The trees show the imminent birth of spring. The cerulean blue river flows sufficiently to radiate a series of moderate white horses. Heavily budded branches bow towards the water as if to catche a wave. We see a cafe in the middle of nowhere, where the river has widened giving the impression of a lake. The golden sun reflects onto the glass like water. Thirst tells us to stop. The bar is empty; they’re in the middle of cleaning. Abundant bowls of hot soapy water lay around the shelves. A young girl bobs up from behind the bar and serves us our requested large white coffees and then returns to her floor cleaning with the utmost of ease. She is scrubbing away with one hand and holds a glass of wine in the other. I like her style.

Paul asks for the key of the outside toilet. He has made use of a clump of trees by the river in Cangas Del Narcea. It’s not so easy for ladies! I don’t want to go bit figure I might as well use the facilities before I do! I’m ready to hold my nose as I unlock the door. I hate to admit knowing Spanish toilets. My bottle of hand wash is secreted in my pocket. I have a wad of toilet paper from home in the other pocket. I’m surprised. The toilet is spotless; I could eat my lunch off the floor. The basin is hygienically clean with fresh soap and paper towels available. I mistakenly think I’m in the Hilton. The coffee is amongst the best we’ve tasted. This is a fishing area we decide. Why else would the bar sell sturdy, good quality fishing rods? Piles of boxes behind the bar boast a variety of bait. Hanging from the ceiling is an array of carved wooden fish. Window ledges are crammed with dozens of mock pottery jugs. We wonder if this is reflective of the mining industry we’ve seen in the area. Every so often we’d seen dark heaps of we know not what surrounded by a myriad of (to us) unknown equipment. We recall the statue in Cangas del Narcea of two miners. I remind myself that I’ll find out one day what is mined around this area.

As we left the bar, there is chilling breeze coming from the river. My hat and scarf were lobbed onto the back seat. I retrieve them. The day is closing and the temperature dropping. We turn towards Tineo. The day is dying. Our house calls. We have some picnic left for supper – washed down by the obligatory bottle of Don Mendo. Yes a day for all seasons indeed.

Posted by SpanishRos 07:17 Comments (0)

What price a petunia?

rain

Bugger, I thought to myself, looking out the kitchen window. The heavens had opened. A heavy curtain of grey rain hung outside. I needed to go Trevias and ditch a few chores.

“You’ll need to wear your rain coat,” Paul, always the practical, tells me. I sigh. He’s right, I admit, as I put on my quilted black anorak. There’s a chill in the air and I feel the height of rural fashion.

Somewhere over the motley collection of dilapidated farm buildings and rusting implements, the rain stops and the indigo sky turns cerulean. The temperature gauge in the car shows seventeen degrees. I sweat; it’s Paul’s fault.

In Trevias I try to look inconspicuous but how subtle can I look, dressed as a Michelin girl amongst my compatriots in an array of floral prints.

Letters posted and computer paper bought, I suggest coffee. Paul nods in agreement. He knows not to. Bar Esva beckons and we sit at the bar sipping our large frothy coffees and nibble our complimentary biscuits. Our ‘coffee chat’ covers a multitude of subjects bith deep and frivolous. An hour later we head for home.

Along our single lane track we meet Marie Cruz coming the other way. We sneak into a neighbours drive to let her through. She stops.

She’s going to the annual flower market in Aviles that afternoon, she tells us in Spanish. I’d gone with her last year and she invites me to tag along again. I accept.

“Chicas solo,” she tells Paul. That’s OK; he’s adept at occupying himself.

“A las tres,” she says, driving off. I can be ready by three o’clock.

Back at the house we have lunch. Salmon in a white wine sauce and a jacket potato. I freshen myself and change. Paul walks with me the hundred yards to my neighbour’s house. Minutes later we’re on the road. We collect Angeles, wife of Paco the postman. Marie Cruz drives like the demon and it’s not long before we’re in the village of Quintana to pick up two other ladies. Quintana is quaint and sleepy giving the impression it could be a Spanish Brigadoon. It well could be. I had been along the Querias road on many occasions, never notincing the turn off.

Like a bat out of hell, Marie Cruz heads for the autopista. It’s a dull glass and metal building. It’s raining again and dirty streaks stain the large windows. We pay our one euro admission and step into a mass of colour. A rainbow of blooms are cloaked by a dazzling array of greens. Our eyes are mesmerized. Our fingers gently caress the leaves and petals; a thousand different textures and shapes. Our noses delight in a fusion of aromas that float through the air. None of us resist. We leave with less euros than we started with and there is less space in the car boot than when we started. Marie Cruz knows a garden centre nearby and off we go.

I had meant to make note of the route but we are all chattering ten to the dozen. The rain is pouring down the windscreen and the wipers are ticking like a metronome. I’m lost. I don’t care. I’m not driving and I can’t navigate in Spanish. I’m just here for the ride

Another secret side turn leads us to the entrance. Everything is outside. We soon get cold and wet. It crosses my mind that sometimes Paul is right. I’d have welcomed my bulky anorak by then. I’m not going to tell him though. I’d never live it down. After some forty minutes our purses weigh even less. Their till is fuller and more room has been found in the boot of Marie Cruz’ car.

We’re weary and back in the car.

“El Corte Ingles o ParqueAstur?” Marie Cruz asks. Evidently it’s time for coffee. I don’t mind where we go. I’m just along for the fun of it and as long as there is a cup of coffee at the end of it. I just smile.

“ParqueAstur,” Angeles chirps from the back seat. Paco has asked her to change a shirt he’d bought there.

Alonso hits the road. Did I say Alonso? Sorry, I forgot its Marie Cruz driving.

The mall is busy but no one is in a hurry. I wonder why busy malls aren’t like this back in England. Here, shopping is a family affair and a social event. As with everything else Spanish, shopping is done with all the time in the world. We meander and window shop. Angeles swaps Paco’s shirt. Marie Cruz buys a pair of rat faced earings.

“For Eva,” she says. I wonder what made her buy them for her daughter. I daren’t ask.

We find a cafe and take coffee. The conversation flows. I’m two steps behind everything that is said as I try to understand all that is said and formulate my reply. They don’t mind. I’m trying. Many would agree with that!!

Energy restored we ‘do’ Carrefor. They have their spring line in and we all dream of what we’d like to purchase to furnish our terraces. I buy 2 packets of seeds. I’m tired. I want to go home. I can see Marie Cruz is tired too.

“Vanos,” she says and we go.

Its dark by now and the rain is heavier than it’s been all day. She heads back to the autopista Her right foot rests steadily on the accelerator. The needle stays on 120 kilometres. Her mobile rings. She answers. Her foot and speed never waiver. We steadily close on an oil tanker in front of us. She continues chatting to Eva. I stare ahead as if in a dream. We’re within two feet. With a practised ease, she goes into overtake. Still catching up with her daughter’s gossip, she stays with her overtake as we negotiate the juggernaut in front of the oil tanker. The autopista is curving too. I feel as if I’m in a bad dream yet I feel safe. The needle stays on 120 kilometres. Back in lane one, I let my eyes wander to the side. The whole of Aviles is lit up beneath us and I see the lights of the airport in the distance. Am I in heaven or is it just fairyland? It doesn’t matter. It’s beautiful. My mind wanders to similar scenes on trips gone by.

I see a signpost that says Quintana and realise we are almost home. For once Mary Cruz’ speed drops to a moderate five. She is admiring the frogs on the track; their gaudy colours are illuminated in her headlights. Then Carcedo. Angeles is home. I phone Paul. I ask if he can walk to Marie Cruz’ house. He does. We bid our farewells to our neighbour and friend as we head back along the track with our arms filled with horticultural delights.

It’s 9.20. I’m worn out. My eyelids are drooping. I want to go to sleep.

I must remember to ask Marie Cruz if we are going next year.

Posted by SpanishRos 08:20 Comments (0)

How long is a long day?

sunny

I don´t know,

Pepe arrived on our doorstep promptly at nine thirty. We’re all going to the weekly market in Luarca. Pepe wants to buy socks. He wants to drop some papers into the Town Hall too. Doesn’t sound too complicated. The pharmacia in Brieves has just opened. Can we stop? As we are passing we can hardly refuse. Tablets collected we continue to Luarca. We have to pass the bank in Trevias, can we stop there too? OK; that suits us too. We need to check and see if the plumber is calling to fix our gas boiler that afternoon. Respective chores completed, we finally arrive in Luarca. Papers are duly delivered. Pepe decides to take us for coffee. I’m gasping. His favourite haunt is the bus station bar. Fine by me; their coffee is good. As chance would have it he spies a fellow gaita player he hasn’t seen for some time. The gaita is the Asturian bagpipe; its melodies remind me of a tomcat having a good time. After a glass or two of the local sidra I admit to thinking it sounds something like Vivaldi.

“Quieres vino?” the fellow asks Pepe who nods enthusiastically.Much gossip ensues along with another glass of vino. Several cigarettes later they feel the need to oil the vocal chords once more. The friend knows of a restaurant who wants a couple of bagpipe players to serenade the diners the following Saturday. Is Pepe interested? Of course he is! Another couple of wines are required to seal the deal. Paul and I are caffeined out and decide we’ll wander around the market.

Twenty minutes later we return, prepared to gently break up the party. No need. The friend has to go.

“Hurrah,” my head cries.

As sober as the proverbial Judge, the fellow gaita players continue chatting as they follow us. I ask about the socks. There’s always another day, I’m told. I wonder if the socks money became the wine money somewhere along the line.

“Do you think we’re giving the friend a lift?” I ask Paul under my breath.

“Seems like it,” he murmurs.

My prayers are answered; the friend crosses the road, waving as he goes. I breathe a sigh of relief.

Back at the car, an invitation to lunch hits us like a bolt of lightning.

“In a restaurant. My invitation. For helping me paint the cowshed,” Pepe explains. We humbly nod. Seemingly he has received his compensation for the slaughter of his cows. The amount has to last him as long as it can but he wants to share his luck and thank us. We are touched. We accept.

Close by is a restaurant standing on its own in the centre of a large car park full of lorries; an indication the food is good and cheap. Parking near a group of five or six smaller trucks, Pepe tells us to listen. We hear the sound of hooves kicking. The odour of stained straw lingers in the air. These are the wagons that have collected animals from local farmers wanting to sell them. They’re brought here and transferred to larger articulated vehicles that’ll take them to towns hundreds of miles away. We know not to be squeamish. This is the cycle of life.

The dining room is almost full. The waitress shows us to a table in the corner. Burly, Latinos come and go punctuated by short, wiry drivers with equal dexterity. For the most part, these drivers are Spanish but there are many French and Portuguese too. Very few other nationalities pass this way, Pepe says..

The restaurant serves authentic Spanish cuisine. We follow Pepe’s choices. For the starter we have a typical dish that is a hearty soup of chickpeas, callos, chorizo and potato in a stock.

“What are callos?” I ask.

“The lining of a cow’s stomach,” Pepe says. I’ll try anything once. Paul says he’ll try it too. I’m proud of him.

“Que rico,” Pepe says and he is right; it’s tasty and we all have thirds.

The second course is cerdo; Spanish pig stuffed with mushrooms accompanied by chips. The sauce is saffron based. Again, seconds are a must. Pepe and I share a large carafe of red wine to aid our digestion. Paul opts for sparkling water. It’s his turn to drive. Pepe and I choose ice cream with a chocolate sauce for desert whilst Paul plumped for cream caramel. Our insatiable appetites have been satisfied and we adjourn to the bar. Our Spanish friend ends his meal with a Baileys. Paul & I order a small cafe solo. The barman sports a T shirt that boasts he is Luis ‘el rapido’ and that is no lie.

“No supper tonight,” we declare, heading for home.

Along our track we pass our neighbours house. Umi waves to us. The plumber has arrived but is in her house. He’ll mosey on to us after he has looked at her gas boiler. I need to go to teleCentro. Paul tells Umi he’ll be back in fifteen minutes. It’s almost half past five and I have some quality time to do what I need to. Just before eight o’clock I finish and phone Paul. No answer. He is on his way to pick me up. I rest against the warm radiator; the chillness of the evening is just setting in. Through the dark of the evening I see headlights of our car lighten the lane.

“OK we need to go to Trevias,” Paul says. The plumber has fixed the boiler. Antonio paid the bill. We need to visit the cash machine. The plumber had done a good job and Paul explains all the technicalities. All I need to know is can I have a shower and wash my hair when we get home. Paul nods; he understands these important issues. He has lived with me long enough.

We park outside Umi and Antonio’s house, just fifty yards from our house. I tell Paul I’ll come in with him to see Antonio. I’d like to thank him too. He didn’t have to pay the plumber on our behalf. Umi’s kitchen is full. Her daughter has just arrived from Galicia. Her nephew from Trevias is also visiting.

“Stay for supper,” they beg in unison. Spanish hospitality is second to none. We look at each other and nod. It’s churlish to refuse. The daughter and nephew have a smattering of English and we develop our own version of Spanglish. Laughter abounds. Bottles of Antonio’s homemade red wine are opened. Supper is served and we indulge. More food is found and more bottles are opened. We eat and drink as little as is we see sociably fit. Laughter fills the air. A multitude of subjects are covered and we each wonder if we really did understand the other. None of us think it really mattered. It’s the fellowship that counted.

Close to midnight we beg our farewells and walk the few yards to home; bloated and bleary eyed. We fall into bed and talk into the early hours as we wonder how much Spanish hospitality we can cope with in a life time. Somewhere around two o’clock in the morning we figure we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Posted by SpanishRos 07:16 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

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