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Archive for October, 2012

As you will be aware I have been waffling on about the fact that it has finally rained, well ok, not waffling more like ecstatic boasting.  Well this weekend was the Agricultural Fira in Mora la’Nova.  We like this fira (yep that’s how its spelt here) it has lots to offer and plenty of rides and side shows for kids both young and old.  So whats this got to do with the weather? I’ll tell you.

On Wednesday it rained, not just any old rain but heavy English on and off showers through the night. I know that because I had some buckets outside and I measured the depth, 4inches a lot of water.  All through Thursday it was grey, dismal and wet, the cloud cover making it dark and feeling like evening.  It continued like this through the day and this was supposed to be the first day of the fira.  It was so damp and cold that we lit our first fire of the year.  If this is an indication of things to come we will be wooding for the next two weeks.  Anyway, Friday was, according to the weather people, supposed to be the last cloudy day till the middle of next week.  WRONG……

I had said to my wife that we would go and have a mooch round late afternoon on Friday, then go again Saturday night as we normally do.  We both looked at the sky and thought if we don’t go now we may not get there at all. So around 5pm we set off for the fira, arriving in time to get a parking spot.   Now this fira is spread around the upper streets of Mora la’Nova with everything a farmer needs to look at on display. Tractors, farm implements, plus cars, the latest in fires, plus the newest thing for burning in them. Not forgetting the cheeses, breads, and of course the wine section.  However, the first place we make for is the shed that containes the horses at one end and ducks, chickens, quail and ornimental birds at the other.  This year there in one of the pens was a foal with its mother, which looked as if it had not long arrived.  The horses looked well and would stick their heads out for a scratch or just to be stroked, I like horses.  Next we had a look at the birds but I am not a lover of chickens and such, mind you there were some really weird looking ones there and expensive.

When we came out of the shed we were opposite the  first rides which were for the youngsters. One was a line of bulls which you sat on then they were moved side to side in the hope you could not stay on, lots of squeals and laughter from those on board. Next to this was a very gentle ride called Formula 1 which took a gentle course up, down and around a small scenic track. We spent a few minutes just watching these two rides no we did not go on any too much pernill and cheese.

We strolled round the streets towards the top of the town where the bars and eating places are. Mind you there were plenty of places to sit and snack or have a coffee.  I say coffee as the place was crawling with Mossoss (state police) NO drinking and driving here.   At the top end there were plenty of smaller versions of the large rides for the children, most of the youngsters seemed to be after the bungy jumping ride. Here they were strapped into a harness then the elastic pulled taut, told jump! and they were away, well they liked it and some were quite acrobatic.

We continued to wander up and down the streets, saying hello to our Spanish friends when we met them, it was a nice evening a little breezy but not cold, and the rain stayed away.  We then bumped into an old Catalan school friend Thomas. Very nice to see him and catch up on things, he looked well and insisted that we sampled  wine, ham and cheese.  I was driving and tried to explain to Thomas that I could not drink – just as some policemen walked past – but he was insistant so I had a small glass whilst Tom and my wife finished the bottle – I was definately driving……

After leaving Tom we wandered over to look at the stalls by the large hall, we did not go in as it was full of building stalls and I have done all that.  But what I did notice was a stand with fires on burning away, but they were burning alternative fuel.   It seems the Co-operativas have found a good use for the husks, shells and olive residue – they have recycled it as fuel for the fires.  Good thinking you might say but they mixed the bits with diesel then press it into small pellets so I am not so sure.  What they were actually selling was a machine to make the fuel. So trying to go green and disposing of unwanted bits and pieces like this is the way to go but using diesel?ummm.  My wife picked up a sample of what was on offer it contained bits if almond and cob nut shells and grape stalks, mind you the fires threw out a lot of heat.  We are going to try something similar out on our existing fire and will keep you informed how we got on.  Isn´t science a wonderful thig.

We then made our way towards the wine area. Just before we got there we passed a bread oven where different types of bread were being baked so we bought a cheese and herb loaf, very tasty. Then we were in the little square were the local Cellers showing their wines. It was nice to see old friends, Masroig was there, as were Pascona, and one or two of the others.  I was able to catch up on things and arrange a couple of visits, the Pascona Celler under Vinter Toni Ripoll is one of my next visits they make purely Tinto vino, I really have to visit that..

On our way back to the car we stopped to watch two very large rides that took you high up then dropped you back down, all lit up with happy screaming young ladies on board, however I doubt if they will be working today.  This morning – Saturday –  dawned grey and dark. Where was the sunshine that was promised? I was beginning to think I would have to put the generator on to help charge the batteries but around midday the sun came out.  However, it is the wind that is so fierce.  It has been roaring down the barank, gusting round the house and generally sounding unpleasant. We did notice when we went out last night that a tree had fallen from the railway embankment so in the back of our car is a saw plus some chain and rope just incase we meet a tree across the track.

I really hope that the wind is not strong enough to spoil peoples fun this evening, this is quite a good fira.  I enjoy looking at the tractors and farm implements whilst my wife likes the artisans stalls plus seeing friends.  As I am writing the wind is whipping past the front door and rattling the shed roof, it’s good here!

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Wot No Chips??

Wot No Chips??.

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A while ago the Government decided to take more water from the Ebro by building a pumping station just above the weir north of Tortosa. There was a campaign to stop it, but never the less it got built. So now the river below the weir is basically just tidal, not a lot of fresh water reaches it, these days it looks as though there is no water flowing over the weir it is that little.

So what you ask.  Well last week litter bins were installed along the riverbank where social gatherings take place (picnics) along with large signs saying ‘do not throw rubbish into the river’.  The Spanish tend to throw allsorts into the river and apparently rubbish is blocking the pumphouse.

As you know, I play Petanca and as a result of the above the courts now have fine new rubbish bins next to them as well as the big sign.  Strange world isn’t it.

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I was tagged by Kiersten Rowland  http://www.kierstenrowland.com/2012/10/the-next-big-thing/ and asked if I would like to take part in a blog spot.  Up for most things I said yes then I saw the Huskies. Ah dogs thought I, well  although I do not own a dog now I am a dog lover so here is my dogie history:

As I said I am not a dog owner now, but for 30 years in two bouts of 15 we had a dog.  Jason was first, he was a labrador greyhound cross a fit as a flea and could smell a bitch on heat miles away, needless to say there were quite a few baby Jason’s. Mad as they came but he guarded the children well, so many happy memories of him that still make us cry with laughter just as they did then, it was really heartbreaking when he died.  We did not have another dog for a few years untill my wife rescued a ‘gone wrong’ bearded collie.  Dodgy (so named because of the following) was the size of a miniature collie, with a short smooth coat that curled when it rained,  foxy face, a lions mane of fur round his neck, curly tail, 4 spindly little legs, slightly curved spine and a dicky ticker.  But HE thought he was a Lion, came sailing with us, totally different to Jason but just as many funny memories, boy could he sulk.  Again it was such a loss when he died we will not have another dog it’s too painful when they go.   That’s my story of my dogs here are my answers:

What is the working title of your book?

A Loving Son

Where did the idea come from for the story?

It just came to me.  I had finished writing A Soldiers Wind and the story just came. Totally different to Jason’s (yep I did!) adventures, but still on an adult theme this time with love surrounded by murder and mayhem.

What genre does your story fall under?

Adult  romantic thriller.

Which actors/actresses would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

I thought Russell Tovey for Stanley, he looks innocent but can be cold, calculating and ruthless.  Carey Mulligan for Gillian and Helena Bonham Carter for Stanley’s mother, in the book these women are stunners but can be as ruthless as Stanley.  Two beautiful tallented actresses and one fresh-faced tallented actor.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book ?

In the East-end of London after the war, attitudes and acceptances that no longer exist were prevalent, all things were possible, even murder.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

It was self-published at first but badly. I have placed both the books on Kindle they have re-done, the good news is I now have an editor with a proper publisher interested in publishing them in paperback.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your story?

Around 6 months.

What other stories would you compare this article to within your genre?

Not 50 Shades of Grey, this has a love story in there.

Who or What inspired you to write this book?

I read an article in a Sunday paper written by a woman reviewer, who stated that although there was adventure there was not enough sex. So I thought why not give it a go.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

In the book I have written about life as it was at that time.  London was a hot spot of corrupt police, criminals, society, with murder an answer to most problems.  There are a lot of bodies holding up bridges etc., that’s a fact.  During these times and before the act came in stating that children of different sexes should have separate beds and rooms it was not unusual for several people to occupy one bed.  A peek back in time at attitudes is not only revealing but enlightening, things we frown on now were common place.  There are events too which I have put forward suggestions on the truth.  Obviously I will not say which ones,  when the books come out you will see, however I am ready for the Men In Black….

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For months now it has not rained, this has been a particularly bad year.  We provided a water bar for the birds so they had somewhere to go to drink and bathe.  The cisterna was getting low so we had a delivery of water for the house then bought two 1000,ltr cubes for the garden but even with all this it was a struggle.

We were not allowed to have a BBQ because of the fire risk, which unfortunately in our region was great. Three fires in total with others to the south and north which caused several deaths, not to mention the heat.

But we kept our eyes on the sky, got excited when the weather men predicted rain then disappointment set in when none appeared.  Whilst all this was going on, nothing grew.  The ground became rock hard, I needed a pick to break the soil, even the cacti were suffering all drooped over and saggy.  We did try to water as often as we could but the heat basically meant we were fighting a loosing battle.

We did have a small bit one day  wow what an exciting time but after about half an hour and only a few spots in the dust to show its passing that was it.

We looked at the UK  Drowning in rain, no let up anywhere, so much WHERE WAS OURS!!!!  Then this weekend we watched Country File and the weather map showed rain for Thursday.  By this time we had not only become philosophic about the rain but sarcastic as well.  ‘As if’ and ‘ oh yeh? which year?’ were remarks.  My wife had taken the cushions off the veranda settee just in case but they had been in and out so often Wednesday she left them out.

Wednesday dawned bright with a heavy dew prompting my wife to get on with the cacti garden.  By 10am it was getting warm and the wasps and black biting flies were out so she came in.  Nothing in the sky to give cause just a few white clouds wandering past towards the coast.  So as was our want we left home that afternoon, me to play petanca and my wife to do some research.  So when later after a conversation on-line with a friend, I met my wife for a coffee at Bar Turu, it came over cloudy we got a little bit curious.  This was not supposed to be  here!

A friend joined us for a drink and as most Brits do the conversation turned to the weather and how we ‘Campo’ dwellers were coping with the water situation.  Gardening was discussed along with the wildlife and birds, so of course water, or the lack of it, came up. Our friend looking at the sky said ‘I hope it’s not going to rain till tomorrow I’ve still got to put my guttering back up.’  then a few minutes later we felt two spots and he dashed off home.  We also left for home my wife saying ‘it may be dark but it always rains somewhere else it’s not fair.’  But then once we were on river road she noticed the lightning, ‘oh my god did you see that?’  she said with a slight jump as a large flash lit the sky followed by a rather loud roll of thunder.

Turning onto the forest track it started raining.  Large spots landed on the window screen whilst streaks and flashes of lightning lit the sky.  Rain at last the drought was broken!

When we arrived home it had only just started to rain but it began coming down hard and heavy, we managed to get the cushions in before there was a large flash and the storm announced its arrival with a window shaking clap of thunder.  It rained oh how it rained, all through the night we had rain as small storms rumbled their way past.

This morning we woke to a clear sky bit grey but we could see the moon, and the large puddle we always get when it rains for real.  Next minuet there was a slight breeze as a front came over followed by a small storm cloud which washed the trees, watered – as if we now needed it – the forest and garden and wandered off.  My wife had made a cup of tea so sitting in bed drinking, we watched as the sun began to transfer the olive tree.  Covered in rain drops water dripping from its leaves it twinkled and glittered as if covered with jewels.  As the sun rose higher and the clouds dispersed, water dripped from the tree making it seem as if a rainbow was sitting there the light on the bedroom wall shone with the colours.  Although this only lasted a few minutes it was fascinating, nature is wonderful.

So we have our cubes full, buckets full, cisterna full, lets hope it will fill up the underground rivers enough to get us through next summer.  We no longer look to the UK in envy  WE HAVE RAIN AT LAST!!!! and my wife who is normally scared of storms never complained once….

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I was discussing gardening with a friend and realised that gardening here is rather different from the UK.  For a start the growing season is from October – when it gets cooler and is supposed to rain – through to end April after that it begins to get far too hot.  My wife likes to grow things such as tomatoes, peppers and her herbs so we have been on a learning curve for some while.

Innovation comes to mind when water is not readily available, as in previous posts I have explained that Manel brings the house water up when needed 5000 lts to fill the cisterna.

Then we have three 1000 ltr cubes for the garden which we fill from rain water or get topped up plus a 8ltr tank for the ‘Water Bar’ which is so vital to wildlife up here.  So when thinking of planting this is how it goes.  First what do we eat a lot of, what takes the least amount of water and can it be grown in pots, tubs etc.? Then of course what tubs etc do we have what can re-recycle?

To answer these questions and explain why my wife grows them I shall start with the simples.  Over here it is not impossible to buy fruit and veg cheaply.  Most gardens grow their own food resulting in surplus which they take to a little shop on a share basis ie, they sell the goods and share the profit.  But most of the women here grow their own herbs or walk the country roads picking wild herbs for the kitchen, whilst keeping an eye open for the wild asparagus which will be available in spring or for the snails.  This is typical country people’s fare and they know where to look and find it.

The women make preserves and tomato fritto which doubles as a sauce, soup and additive to dishes, and my wife makes chutney and relish. So she grows her produce in various containers to keep the bugs at bay.  Here it is said when buying plants or sowing seeds one for the bugs one for us..

So my wife trawled through the various gardening magazines – surprising how many have perfectly good ideas but refuse to sell to Europe they really are short sighted – and then looked round for things to adapt.

The first was an old toilet which after it had been cleaned and the waste pipe end blocked,  I set up under the tree cemented it in place and filled the bottom  with stones for drainage then topped it with compost and we planted strawberries in it.  To assist with the watering I installed a self watering drip feed and the strawbs are now over hanging the loo and the fruit are large and sweet. Using things like old sinks & loo’s earns 5 *****.

For the tomatoes we tried two ways of planting.  One was in the garden against the wall of the generator house the other was in growbags. The result was that we had lots of big beef toms and a toad took up residence at the end so the role of growbags gets 4 ****’s.

Next came a very ingenious idea the use of unwanted guttering and drain pipes.  The guttering is simple and can either be set on a wall with brackets or on a  x—–x horse the ends caped off then filled with compost then planted with salad.  The drain pipe can be cut to short length and used to bring on celery.

Well that’s how far my wife has got this year, but next year I expect she will be better prepared. I have seen the cement and stones out but what is going on I am not sure…..  I can say however that off of the single butternut plant we have had several tasty fruit.

Nothing is un-usable you can find a use for most objects in the garden just make sure they have drainage holes and the rest is imagination, ingenuity and fun  but the results are fresh food wonderful.

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