Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Bits and Pieces

Bizarre

We had met a couple in Wyndham’s one day and that is the sort of place that you get chatting, it’s a very friendly place full of locals and campsite people, mainly English.  The ice was broken a few days before when France were playing England at rugby and everyone was supporting France (because if they won then England would win the Six Nations) but the lady was supporting Ireland – because she was Irish of course, so there was some banter to be had.

A few days later we got chatting to them and it turned out that they lived in Broadstairs which is the town in which I grew up.  It turned out that Greg had lived in the area as a child and that he went to the same school as Iain but was a couple of years older than us.  We swapped names of brothers etc (all our brothers went to the same school as well, as did the ex Prime Minister, Ted Heath) but there was no connection. Suddenly Greg said that he thought he knew Iain.  Well we thought it would just be some vague recollection from  school when he said – “You used to work for a freight forwarding company at Ramsgate Hoverport” – so he did know him after all.  What a memory – that must have been in about 1978. It turned out that they still drink regularly with an old friend of Iain’s.  Well what a small world it is.

Morning Brandy

You must be thinking that we are just on one big round of partying and boozing by now – well you are not far wrong, however now that we are almost here alone – the campsite is emptying, friends have moved on and the Dutch are going home to check their tulips (it’s an Iain joke that not many people get) - we are trying to have some much drier days (that’s drier in drink rather than the weather which has been great).
There is a real cafĂ©/bar culture here and we have got into the habit of going shopping late morning and then stopping at a bar for a coffee (me) and pint before going back for lunch – I’m not much of a day-time drinker and only drink before 6pm on special occasions – of which there have been too many lately.  But Morning Brandy is something else.  While we are walking to the supermarket, it is not unusual to see people sitting outside bars drinking pints, however we are still stunned to see brandy drinking in the morning.  Here you can often buy coffee and cake or coffee and brandy, the latter is usually cheaper than the former so it is sooooo easy (check out the El Cisne photos).  So on the way up the main street  we go brandy spotting. The earliest we have seen brandy drinking is 11.30 am but the search goes on for an earlier time.

Weather

The weather has been very good ever since we arrived with only a couple of days having rain and even at night the temperature very rarely getting below 10C .  However they do seem to have some very strong winds here and it’s been very blustery although warm.  A couple of days ago we had a very strange sand storm.  I know that it has been reported in the UK but here it actually rained sand and it started in the early evening.  Firstly the clouds were a strange red colour, you could actually see it coming in.  We were out and the cars were becoming covered, it was like snow but very, very fine sand and just a fine mist of rain.  Strangely you add sand to paint to make it non-slip, but when mixed with water and dropping onto marble it was very slippery walking home. This was followed by  some heavy rain during the night and by the morning everything was covered in a layer of very fine red sand dust.

This stuff is a nightmare to get rid of, couldn’t be brushed off and  had to be washed off. By 8 am most of the Dutch were out cleaning their vans and cars.  Luckily our end of the campsite is nearly empty so we only had to share the hose pipes with a few others.  There was a lot of complaining about water pressure but hey, there were a lot of hose pipes being used and they were climbing on their roofs to wash them.  We just sat and watched everyone else and then when they had all finished we set about cleaning our van and furniture.
Poor Hannah and Tomas had only cleaned their van a few days before in readiness for their departure.  We did smile however that after they had again cleaned their van, their neighbour brushed off the sand from the roof of his van and we could see it picked up in the wind and dumped again onto Tomas and Hannah’s.  

Later in the week we have experienced some weird sea mists.  A mist cloud that can come in within 5 minutes and then you are literally walking in the cloud - a bit like December in the UK.  The other day there was a band of it across Altea, whilst in Albir we were experiencing great weather.  It was so bad in Altea that the buses had to stop running.  The other evening we came out of the restaurant and it was warm then only 50 metres away it was cold because of the sea mist - more strange weather.

Neighbours

Firstly I’d like to say that we have been very lucky with our immediate long-stay neighbours.  Hank and Jenny were very friendly, spoke very good English (which came in useful at times) and they had their dog Monty with them.  The other side we had Nol and Meerke who we also got along very well with.  You will probably have already read about our short Sunday when we invited Nol and Meerke to join us. 

In the week before Nol and Meerke left we had a few drinks with them and they took us into Benidorm for a meal.  There are some advantages to having a caravan in that you have a car so at least you are mobile.  It was nice to go out in a car to somewhere else for a change.

We went to a hotel in Benidorm and we saw more of what it was like to be on a package holiday there.  The hotel had about 250 rooms and as I’ve said before overshadowed the side roads.  There was a nice big pool, but I would suspect that most of that would be in the shade for some of the day.

The food was a pretty good buffet service and the dining room could seat up to 700 people.
Afterwards we went to a bar not far away for coffee (and brandy of course).  Now I would liken this bar to a northern working men’s club.  Very little in the way of decoration to soak up the noise and bench seats all round.  It was just what it purported to be “The Cheap and Cheerful Bar”. As you may have gathered by now we are certainly not on the “Cultural” phase of our travelling!!!!!! It sounds like we are constantly in bars – but then when you are over 3 months in a place you can’t do sight-seeing all the time.  And one for Nick, who likes a bargain – the beer was only 1euro a pint – the cheapest we’ve seen anywhere.

We had lovely company however one evening in Benidorm was enough. We came back to the campsite and joined them for another drink – Nol however was being very good, just drinking a couple of beers  as he had to drive in a couple of days.  I’m sure we will keep in touch with Meerke and Nol and hope to see them here again next year.

However………………… as I’ve said before this campsite is 80% Dutch and some of them were less than friendly towards us – we didn’t mind this but some of the short-term stayers near to us did give me a bit of a downer.  We had a couple behind us and another couple next to us who were friends – however we learned that one couple had been here before and no one liked them.  Anyway they seemed to have a problem with our dog, as did some other Dutch on the campsite.  Now dogs will be dogs and dogs pee and poo where they want to.  We never leave the dog outside on her own, always watch her, make sure she doesn’t stray onto anyone else’s pitch  and are fastidious about clearing up after her and straight away. This is a dog-friendly campsite and whilst we take her for regular walks she is a little sh*t machine and there will always be a time when she will pee or poo on our pitch.

Well I had a couple of run-ins with our neighbours,  I was sitting outside when she squatted for a pee.  The next thing I knew the window of our neighbours van was thrust open and heads came out looking at where she had been.  I promptly took her inside. Then the man came out of the van and walked all around and I saw him shaking he head at the occupants as if to say he hadn’t found anything – I knew he wouldn’t.  Iain was out and the neighbour didn’t say anything to me but I could see the looks and feel the vibes!!!!! A couple of days later we were walking to the entrance when she squatted for a pee in the roadway.  Now this is tarmac and although it’s still on the campsite she thinks it’s a road so she thinks it’s ok.  Well this Dutch woman started yelling at me and gesticulating wildly “Off the camping, off the camping”.  By now I was starting to get paranoid.  It’s a long way to the entrance of the campsite and there’s no way my dog is going to get there before doing what dogs do.  Iain said I should tell them to go away in no uncertain terms but I don’t like confrontation so I just scuttle away.

I do understand and respect that not everyone has or indeed likes dogs, however this is a campsite which allows dogs and dogs will do what dogs do, so really if they have that much of a problem then they should choose a campsite which doesn’t allow them.  Legally it is not fouling if you pick up.

Luckily one couple moved off a few days later and the other moved further up the campsite.

Now the campsite is very empty in the run up to Easter and we have no close neighbours, in fact there are only 5 vans on about 25 pitches up our end.  Whilst I wanted to move down the other end at the beginning because they get more sun in the morning, I’m actually happy up our end of the campsite even though it’s a long way from the “Servicios”.

Family

Having dealt with neighbours, I’ll do family next.

A lot of people who winter in Spain have a big pull on the heart-strings to see grandchildren back home.  Often one partner doesn’t want to come until after Christmas or wants to go home early which can cause some problems.   Regretfully,  we don’t have that problem.  I don’t have any children and sadly Iain’s daughter passed away in January and his son is severely mentally disabled and lives in a care home.  He is very well looked after and we will visit him often when we are at home although he probably doesn’t know that we do.

We do both have siblings but they are of course adults and whilst we worry about them all they can take care of themselves.

Both our mothers are deceased, mine 20 years ago this year and Iain’s mum last March.  But we do have two dads who are like chalk and cheese.

Mine – has his own life (and a wife) and having emailed our plan for when we return to England, refuses to see us even if we are in the area – I haven’t seen him for about 9 years now – well that’s his decision.

On the other hand Iain’s dad is 80 this year and I dropped him an email this week to see if he was ok as we hadn’t heard from him for about a month.  The response we received basically said – sorry my internet has been down, I’m fine, see you Sunday, arriving in Alicante at 20.15.  How fantastic is that!   I had emailed in January to say that as we’d be here until the end of April why not come out for a couple of weeks of sunshine which would do him good,  but I didn’t want to push it in case he didn’t want to.  Then suddenly he’s coming with only 5 days notice.  Having nursed Iain’s mum for many years he seems to be getting out and about as much as possible and making the most of things – long may it last.

We’ve booked him into one of the “Log cabins” on site and as the weather is now quite warm I’m sure he will be fine – it was 18c last night.  These are basically a shed but they are fully equipped – I think that’s what is now called “Glamping” – camping in a shed instead of a tent or caravan.

We’re looking forward to seeing him and have planned some days out and a visit to El Cisne again next week. 

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