An explanation of the title of this blog...

Thursday, January 31, 2008


A friend is trying to declutter her house, and found inspiration on Swapbot to "Get rid of 100 items in 10 days". It sounds like a good idea, and this house certainly needs a little gentle tidying, so I thought I would give it a try. Throughout the month of February, I shall try to remove 10 items a day, for at least ten days of the month. To make the challenge a little more difficult, I shall only remove each group of ten from one particular room at a time. I have ten rooms on this floor, so if I make it through each of them, I can always start downstairs as well.

The rules of the game say that things removed can be taken to a charity shop, jumble sale, sold in a car boot sale, taken to a recycling point, composted or just plain binned.

My friend Chris posted pictures of her discards on Flickr. I think I'll post here, then I will be more inclined to really throw things away, knowing that eagle-eyed visitors will be checking up on me the next time they visit.

Watch this space....

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

My Fake Baby

I meant to write about this yesterday, but life got in the way. On Monday evening I picked up the TV remote and flashed through the channels. When I reached Ch4, it was in time to see a young woman with a baby carrier on her supermarket trolley asking an older woman if she would like to buy a baby...

I watched the rest of the programme; the young woman makes a living painting vinyl dolls to look like human babies. The programme focused mainly on three women. One, Mary I think she was called, came across as a doll collector, pure and simple. She had a wide range of dolls from many different re-borners, and proudly displayed the different types and sizes to Christine, who was thinking about commissioning a doll. The third woman, her name escaped me, had half a dozen or so "babies", and bought expensive prams and designer outfits for them. She and her husband seemed to treat them as accessories to their lifestyle rather than substitute children. She said that she couldn't cope with a child that made a mess or got dirty, and she could only contemplate having a real child if she could be guaranteed one that behaved. The programme followed her on a trip to Washington USA to collect her latest baby. Having flown all that way, I had expected to at least see her turn up at the home of the artist that produced the doll, but no; She and her mother sat in an hotel bedroom nervously awaiting the delivery. It came in a cardboard box on a luggage trolley pushed by a porter. It was quite a relief when she found a flaw a couple of days later, and the doll got sent back to its maker....just try doing that with a real baby.

The saddest part of the programme had to be the story of Christine. She had brought up her grandson Harry from birth while her daughter battled and won a fight with cancer. Her daughter had now taken Harry to live in New Zealand, and she was struggling to cope with his loss. Having thought about it for some time, she commissions a baby from Jaime, who uses photographs of the baby Harry to produce as near to a replica as she can. Christine takes it home to her husband, who says "I don't like it looks like something on a mortuary slab."

I think I agree with him.

Edit: Richard and Judy talking about the programme.

Friday, January 25, 2008


What is it about cashew nuts that I find so irresistible? Once I open the packet, I just have to keep on eating until they are all gone, or somebody takes them away from me. EG tried, of course, but had to settle for licking out the bag. I wonder why I am so thirsty? It must be the heat...

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Spring is in the air

The nights are still cold, but there is more heat in the sun during the day. Wandering around the garden when I went to pick oranges this afternoon, I was surprised just how much colour was around. I went back inside to get my camera, and these are a few of the better shots. I am finding it very difficult to hold the camera steady. I'll have to start using the tripod and the timer button I think.

We had another trip to the hospital on Monday, this time to see Dr Pacios, the Haematologist. He reviewed all Bossman's blood tests for the last three years, and he is fairly certain that the high level of platelets is entirely due to the loss of his spleen. He said that the spleen filtered out the old platelets and that kept the levels down. Unless levels start reaching the 600's, he doesn't propose any further treatment as long as his blood pressure is controlled, and there are no other indications that he is at risk of thrombosis. That is good news, and should make the Gastrologo happy as well, as he was inclined to think that the Adiro prescribed by the GP triggered, or was contributing to, Bossman's stomach problems. Dr Pacios did say that he should be vaccinated on a regular basis, and that if our GP was unable to arrange it, he would arrange it through the hospital. Until I had read the page I have linked to, I had no idea just how vulnerable the lack of a spleen could leave a body! Maybe Bossman is the exception that proves the rule?

Friday, January 18, 2008

It was the prawns...

...we think. Bossman and I spent the morning at the hospital, waiting around for an endoscopy, then waiting even longer to make a follow up appointment. The good news is that the guapo who performed the procedure said that he had found nothing untoward, just a little gastritis, so that is a big relief. By now it was 11.30 am, and Bossman took himself off to the cafe to break his fast, while I took a number and waited my turn to make an appointment. Twenty minutes later, a second window opened and things began to move a little faster. When my number finally came up, I took the opportunity to make an appointment in the eye clinic as well, even though the earliest available was for October. We shall be back at the hospital again on Monday, this time to see the Haematologist. The only outstanding appointment then is the kidney echo graph, and when that comes through, we can get on with life for another few months.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Postscript to Paperwork

I didn't find the photos I had taken for my driving licence, so I used a couple left over from my passport application two years ago. This morning I found the photos; in my purse between my Consum Supermarket Loyalty card and my DRZ Petrol Loyalty card. What does this say about me? That I am a completely dis-loyal person? That I don't use a lot of petrol and find Consum Supermarkets over-priced? Or that I need new spectacles?

Thursday, January 03, 2008


On the 17th January, my old driving licence runs out. My renewal form arrived on Christmas Eve, so on Boxing Day, (a non-event in Spain) I took advantage of the fact that I had taken a little more care over my Christmas hair-do than is usual for me, and took myself off to the photographers. If you are wondering why I didn't use the photo machine, there is a simple explanation. The machine leaves an artistic scratch across the chin area of all four photos, and the photographer uses a digital camera and happily snaps away until he has something that both you and he are happy with, then prints up four carnets for only 4€ rather than the 3.50€ charged by the machine. The trick is to put these photos somewhere that you can find them on the day that you decide to do the paperwork...

A puppy may be for life, but a Spanish driving licence is only for five years once you pass the threshold of 50. It is not just a simple process of sending in the old one and getting a new one with an up-to-date photo on it; Medical Certificates are required. This morning was cold and wet, so instead of bowling, I headed into town with the intention of completing five tasks; calling in at the bank to collect my new card and fill my purse, having my medical, calling in at the Gestor to see if the car transfer papers had arrived, visiting the Casa de Cultura to see an exhibitions of old photographs of Calpe taken in the early part of the last century and then crossing the road to the Pensioners' Palace and checking in the office just what I needed to get my free Bus Pass.

My first port of call was the Post Office, just in case the bank card had been sent to my box there. I then walked up the Gabriel Miro. With justification, this is known locally as Cardiac Hill. For once there wasn't a queue in the bank, so with a new card and some cash, I continued the climb to the top of the hill. The Clinic is only on the second floor, so I ignored the lift and walked up. The first part of the check is to have one's blood pressure taken. I managed a reasonable 140 over 80. The second part of the test is the hardest part. An infernal machine with a screen and two handles sticking out of a box below it. On the screen are two separate "roads" that wander on differing paths up the screen. On each track is an oval blob just slightly narrower than the track. These blobs are controlled by the handles. The task is to keep the blobs on the roads, and seems to entail trying to persuade the two halves of one's body to work independently. Left hand responding to left eye as it follows left blob's progress, and vice versa. There is a loud bleep each and every time a blob leaves the track. It's just as well the blood pressure test doesn't come after this bit! The next stage is a fairly straightforward eye test; cover each eye in turn and read the letters off the light-box. If I made mistakes on guessing the bottom line, she didn't tell me, but led me off to the desk to complete the paperwork.....stamping the certificate and relieving me of 50€. When she asked for the photos to stick on the form, I had to admit that I had mislaid them for the time being. She gave me a pitying look. Maybe memory testing will become part of the check in the future...

The Gestor is on the other downward slope of Cardiac Hill. The girl on the front desk rummaged in a cupboard and produced my car papers without interrupting her telephone conversation; task number two completed.

My next stop was the Pensioners' Palace to read the paper, drink a coffee, and chat with friends. Afterwards I went down to the office to ask about the Bus Pass. It seems I need one photo, a certificate to prove I am a resident of Calpe, a photocopy of my Residents card, and a letter from the bank to say that I am in receipt of a Social Security Pension. I can't get this until the DSS actually gets round to sending some money in my direction, so that can wait for another day. The sweetheart then told me that I was also entitled to get a rebate on the rubbish collection tax that is paid in March. This was 150€ last year and will probably be more this year. She said that I had to pay this year's, then bring in the bill for a refund and in future years I shall only have to pay 3€ admin. charge. Life as a Pensioner is looking up!

I made it across the road to the photo exhibition. These were blown up plates from the archives of a local photographer. The earliest was dated 1910 and the later ones were from the 50's. Long vistas of deserted beaches with the occasional fishing boat. Behind the beaches were sand dunes and vineyards, then fields with olive and almond trees, and the odd carob. There was not a single building on the hillside where we now live, just cultivated terraces all the way to Pedramala. School photos; girls separate from boys, the first car in Calpe, the construction of the harbour, the grand opening of the first hotel, a donkey walking round in circles to power the pump that lifted evaporating sea water from one level of the salt pans to the next. The rail system that carried the salt from the pans to the roadside was the same as those used to move coal from the mines in England. The buckets tipped up sideways to deposit their load. I remember how pink the salt appeared in its glistening piles. Production stopped a few years after we came here. The huge mechanised plant in Santa Pola took over producing the road salt used by the rest of Europe. The buildings and machinery slowly disintegrated, and eventually the Salinas were taken over by the Valencian Government and became part of a National Park; a stop-over point for migrating Flamingoes and assorted water birds. I walked around a second time, then made my way home, with the feeling that I had actually accomplished something for a change.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Climate change and the Death's Head Hawk Moth

Bossman brought me a present this morning. He was raking leaves beneath the Mastic tree and found this poor beastie. According to my book, they are usually Summer visitors from Africa that sometimes overwinter here in the pupal stage. According to this site, they are common throughout Europe, so take your pick. I am guessing that this specimen had been fooled by the temperature being in the high 20's for a couple of days, followed by a sharp drop to only 5ÂșC. It had struggled out of its underground cocoon, but had not been able to plump up it's wings.
This is the first time I have seen one close up. They are usually night flyers, large enough to be mistaken for a bat. They have every opportunity to breed in the garden, as we are well stocked with Bignonia and Lantana as well as numerous cultivated and wild plants of the potato family. My only worry is that Ivan the Bulgarian intends to lay black membrane under the gravel he and Bossman have planned for the area between the almond and the barbecue. The mesh fencing there is covered in Bignonia and Blue Potato Vine. If any more moths are pupating underground, they may never see the light of day. Not to mention the Spiranthes spiralis and the Anacamsis Coriophora that come up every year....Bugger these men and their need for tidy gardens!