Sunday, 30 December 2012

Dreaming of a warm Christmas

So we stayed in La Fresneda, our village in Spain, for Christmas – and what happened? Not a lot.

The long term weather forecast predicted cold but sunny for us all over the Christmas period. It was wrong. I was working happily in my Tshirt on the Sunday before Christmas and on  Christmas Eve (my woman’s birthday) we sat drinking coffee on the terrace of a lovely hotel located in the depths of the countryside near here drenched in sun and in temperatures approaching twenty degrees (that’s sixty-eight for Fahrenheit folk).

The hotel is called Torre del Visco and locally pronounced with awe. Our friend Jet, who now owns a camp site nearby, used to be the receptionist at the place and was actually instructed to ask potential customers if they were aware of the prices before accepting a reservation – simply to avoid heart stopping moments when the bill was presented. But La Crisis (the Spanish name for their current financial condition) reaches everywhere and we, as the only people for lunch, were shown around the place by the manageress and treated so gushingly by her overly enthusiastic  Swedish assistant that I really believed that I could ask for anything. Yes anything.

After a siesta we set out at eleven or so that night for a pub tour of our village. This didn’t take long since there are only two bars and it was a little disappointing. The promised music and dancing in the second bar did not materialise. There was music, but just recorded stuff, and no dancing. In fact all seemed much as usual in Lo Coscoll except for two things: first of all most people seemed to be companionably drunk, and second everybody was smoking (yes they do have a smoking ban in Spain, hence the surprise).

Christmas day was cloudy but warm. We went to the bar again only to find it virtually empty and Raul, the barman, keen to close up and celebrate Christmas with his girlfriend’s family – then return in the evening to open the bar again - so we strolled around the seemingly empty, completely silent village. We did meet one person, Carlos, but he is Swiss and has obviously taken an assumed name and can therefore be discounted. Then home for the Christmas dinner which featured turkey with a pop up. Margaret had already told me about the pop up and I was intrigued. In my imagination I thought of the first Alien film: the scene where the alien pops out of an astronaut’s stomach. The reality was a little disappointing: the pop up is a white plastic tube with a red end which rises when the inside of the turkey has reached a certain temperature. I experimented with it afterwards. It works like a car thermostat I believe - based on wax. It could be placed in old people’s ears to indicate when they have been sitting for too long in front of the fire. I’m saving mine.

Boxing days I usually take a long walk. In England it is cold so I dress up well. Here it was warm and sunny. Mostly I walked in shirt sleeves.  I used the time to trace the origins of the asequias (aquifers?) that keep our land supplied with water, but didn’t reach the place where they are diverted from the main river. Next year I will find the source. For most people here the day is a normal working day and thankfully the bar was open as I trudged tiredly back into the village for a well deserved pint (half litre of Heineken actually, but when in Rome).

In the evening friends came round. We drank a lot (beer,wine, cava, port), ate a lot, sang carols, played poker dice, talked a lot and went to bed late. Usual Christmas really, but warm outside and in.

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