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28 November 2012

Manchester a better place to live than Spain? Don't talk wet!

Raining champions - a typical Manchester day
By the time you read this, I’ll be in England. Not that I want to be. In fact, I can think of few places I would less like to relocate to in November than over-populated, rain-sodden, ice cold, traffic-polluted London.
So I’m going instead to over-populated, rain-sodden, ice cold, traffic-polluted Manchester, the city which was my adopted home for nearly 40 years before I came to Spain.
I am going to the capital of the north for one reason only – to spend the build-up to Christmas with my two daughters and their families. My intention is to remain there until the New Year but I already have doubts whether I’ll stay the pace.
The rain may be wetter and the football better in Manchester than it is in London. But the Spanish lifestyle offers another dimension to life – and I am enjoying it more than I could ever have hoped.
Instead of suffering Capital Punishment or Northern Frights at the hands of England’s rapidly-growing scum society, I’ve got the seaside holiday heaven of Guardamar (Guardamarvellous to me)  virtually on my doorstep.
I have literally miles sandy Mediterranean beach just down the road. I can drive the 10km to the office at any time of day in less than 10 minutes – and forget about being caught in rush-hour or school-run traffic. Ever.
I have enough bars and restaurants within a few kilometres of my home to dine out every night for the next 20 years without ever going to the same place twice.
And I’ve made more friends since leaving Britain, both English and Spanish speaking, than I did in half a lifetime back home.
If I develop this any further, I can see me missing the plane to Manchester after all and breaking down in an uncontrollable flood of tears as I count the cost. Never mind the family, I paid over 50 quid for that ticket!
To be serious, for some reason I no longer feel any pull toward the land of my birth.
I’ve been living in Spain on and off for nearly seven years – and more or less fulltime since the beginning of 2011. And my first words to myself when I wake every morning is ‘’Every day’s a holiday’’.
For much of my adult life, my family and I spent our holidays predominantly in Spain, I would greet every day of those vacaciones with a special feeling – that wonderful sense of difference. Of being in a foreign land where the sun shines every day. Of freedom from the everyday grind of work and household chores.
Now I live the dream of those two or three weeks a year virtually every day of my life…even though I am arguably working harder than I have ever done.
There is something surreal about waking up almost every day of the year and squinting into the sun blazing through the bedroom window. About peering out into a leafy garden that resembles a sea of colour and tranquillity …spoilt only by the cat churning up a mound of gravel and doing an impression of a Real Madrid footballer (Kaka).
I have a confession to make. I had no idea where this article was going when I started writing it. All I know is that I am going to the home of the English football champions.
And I fear I’ll find myself up to my neck in Kaka…
Published in The Courier (www.thecourier.es) November 16, 2012

12 November 2012

Halloween? Just give the Brits knives and Fawkes

I’m not doing Halloween any more. I’ll stick to the  Spanish version in future...or I fear I’ll be heading for  the Old Fawkes Home pretty pronto.
It  seems to me that the concept of dressing up on All Hallows Eve hasn’t got through to the older generation of Brits, as I discovered to my embarrassment on October 31.
They always said I look like a witch
 I suspect that most of them, like me, still find Guy Fawkes more interesting company than ghosts and vampires. But a Halloween party is a Halloween party, so I and three friends  invested in some suitably demonic  attire and eventually arrived at Retaurante St Joan in El Altet in full scary mode.
The  other 32 guests got there before us – which wouldn’t have been difficult. Because only ONE person had made more than a token effort to join in the mood of the occasion.
It was all such a letdown…a ‘theme’ evening devoid of a theme. And the evening  was only salvaged by the enthusiastic  participation of the local Spanish community of all ages.
I can in a way understand the apathy of older Brits because when I was a kid, Halloween  was an irrelevance. We were too busy celebrating the failure of Guy Fawkes and his boys to blow up the Houses of Parliament in 1605.
 How weird…now had the Gunpowder Plot  succeeded, that WOULD have been a  reason to celebrate.
Back in the mid-20th century, we DID celebrate by hoisting effigies  of the aforesaid Fawkes atop our bonfires on November 5 as  fireworks lit up the sky.
Nowhere did we see ‘Trick or treat’ extortionists frightening grannies to death as they answered a ring on the doorbell. Instead, we con-kids would gently request a ‘Penny for the Guy’ from householders – and treat them to scowls and curses if they didn’t give us at least ten times that amount.
Every witch way but fancy dress (apart from my quartet)
Those of us with a work ethic made an effort to create a Guy worth investing in. The lazy ones just shoved a mask on the smallest urchin in the gang and wheeled him from door to door in a battered dolls pram.
In Bonfire Night,  we used to have a jolly good November celebration in the UK ...a celebration the whole family could enjoy..
But  at some point, the Americans all emerged from Macdonald’s,  put their fat mitts into the mix (yes, there were Mitts before Romney put on the election gloves) and shunted the Gunpowder Plot into oblivion.
As for selling Guy Fawkes to them, forget it. They say cutlery made specifically for men will never catch on in Albuquerque.

Published in The Courier (www.thecourier.es) November 9, 2012