To link with Words Visual Silent Sunday.
Day something in the great lock down and my place is tidier than a monk’s cell so while I’m thinking of what past travels to write about, I’m sorting half a lifetime’s accumulation of trivia, travel books, cards and pamphlets kept from the last great tidying session when I downsized six years ago. It’s been hard, but hey, I’ve managed to throw out two books, and at least five pamphlets I’ll never read again and I have put some of the postcards aside to send to friends! The rest will have to stay put until the next national crisis. More I cannot do!
So here are just a few pictures that remind me of happy times.
Sifting through my memory box I relive and recall trips which have slipped to the back of my mind. These in turn encourage me to look out photographs, some prints, some transparencies which I must get down to converting to digital images one of these days. Black and white prints, slides, then coloured prints and finally digital prints and computer discs. And then there are the old family photos and my husbands wartime photos in Burma to be sorted through one day.
It was the early sixties when we discovered a little village called Castel de Ferro when the son of the owner of the only hotel there jumped out in front of our car to stop us and invite us in to see the new swimming pool. Those were innocent days when we politely stopped and they actually thought it was a good way to get tourists to stay with them.
And stay we did, for two weeks or so, during which time the local boy-goatherds followed me around wherever I went. They had never seen a ‘foreigner’ before and when my husband took them all for a ride in the green Austin van we had in those days, their giddy pleasure knew no bounds. We spent many hours with them and we’d supply a picnic as they were on the mountains from dawn till dusk with only a few scraps to eat, caring for the skinny goats. On the day we left all the little boys were crying and it near broke my heart.
Spain opened to tourism sometime in the fifties, and those of us who went then were greeted with warmth and friendliness. Franco had kept Spain out of World War Two (it was a broken country after the Civil War 1936-39 anyway) but as he leaned heavily towards the Axis’ powers help was not forthcoming to re-structure the country. Until the advent of the Cold War and the West’s fear of Russia that is, when the need for strategic military basis and airports ushered in the Marshall Plan, and Spain, along with other countries in Europe received aid, mainly from the USA, which helped it get back on its feet again.
It took a long time though, for the infrastructure to get into place. For many years the roads throughout Spain bore the chalked message “Franco, Mas Arboles, Mas Agua, Mas Carreteras” (more trees, more water, more roads). Not only were the existing roads in dire states but there were few of them. The above photo of the car breakdown took place on the main road between Valencia and Granada. Our car hit a rock or stone in the middle of the road and combined with driving on many untarmacked roads throughout our trip, it brought us to a halt. Local farm-workers helped move it and we managed to limp on until we came to a repair shop/garage.
Nowadays Spain has some of the best roads in Europe.
The photo of Benidorm is of the town before it became the biggest thing in tourism and the Avenida Hotel (still there) was one of only a handful in 1959. We stayed there in a room where our balcony looked on to the open air cinema which showed mainly very old, heavily censored films, but with a cheap bottle of wine and some nibbles to enjoy, it made for a fun night. I say ‘night’ because the cinema didn’t start until midnight or later – no-one worried about the possibility of people not being able to sleep. You either slept or you went to the cinema. What? You want another option?
I think I’d better stop there as the post is getting too long. I’ve still got a bunch of photographs on the computer which I hope to downsize and caption and I’ll put a few more up after I’ve tussled with the garden where the weeds are in a defiant mood. I’ve got to get them under control before they master me.
On the principal that anything banned by a puritan like Oliver Cromwell has to be good, I should like Christmas Pudding: however, I find today’s offerings a bit too sweet and rich. When my mother was alive and cooked one for each member of the family (starting it in February and giving it time to mature instead of following tradition and making it on the Sunday before Advent) I used to love it, especially fried in butter on Christmas morning. I’m a lazy cook however and as I don’t like the store-bought versions, I usually serve something like a Pavlova for Christmas dessert.
I once had the idea of cooking a Christmas pudding by usng the original receipe but I gave up on that as a) finding the origins of the pudding wasn’t easy and b) when I delved deeper it sounded revolting. It seems that at the end of the winter solstice (or towards the time of the pagan festival which had been co-opted into the Christian festival of Christmas) all the good things from the recent harvest were poured into a huge cauldron and boiled up, things like hulled wheat, milk, apples, spices, honey and whatever was left in the barns and the larders. The resulting concoction was called a porridge.
The story has it that every member of the household had to stir the pudding to ensure good health in the coming year but I like to think that as stirring this enormous cauldron wasn’t easy for the cook of the house (always the woman) the ritual of everyone in the household from the youngest to the oldest, including servants, being required to stir the pot, was devised by her to reduce the work. This tradition is still adhered to in families where the pudding is still made – it certainly was in mine.
Over the centuries the mixture was improved by the addition of dried fruits, meat and alcoholic spirits, although I would argue that meat may not necessarily have improved it. When the Elizabethans added prunes (dried plums) it became plum porridge but no one can say for certain when plum porridge became plum pudding. It may well have been when meat was dropped from the recipe in the late 18th/early 19th century.
In its early incarnation it was boiled in a cloth dusted with flour which gave the pudding the traditional round ball shape, so familiar from Christmas card illustrations and Dickensian prints. Although my mother never baked one in a floured cloth, she always wrapped the pudding basin in a cloth which was loosely tied at the top to allow the pudding to rise and for the top to take on a round shape. Silver sixpences were always included in the pudding as a symbol of future wealth for the family, but we children were delighted with the ones we got in the here and now.
Charles Dickens immortalised it in A Christmas Carol the performance of which is now an essential part of Christmas: Queen Victoria and Prince Albert are said to have loved it: and along with Christmas cards, Christmas trees, tinsel and turkey, I think we can say that the Christmas pudding as part of the Christmas festivities, is here to stay.
Just to say that I’ve heard nothing from any of you lovely bloggers out there whose posts regularly pop into my Inbox to cheer me up. Finally, feeling both frustrated and cross, I approached WP for a reason as I knew you would all be posting and they suggested I check my Notifications page.
So I did. And guess what. A gremlin, or something, or somebody, had been in there an ticked the box to block all notifications. I am at a loss to account for this as I’ve never even seen this page to my knowledge.
But anyway, just so you know why you haven’t had any comments from me. I’m still here, not able to post due to pressure of things, but hoping to start soon, and meantime, I shall try and catch up with everyone’s recent posts.
Today I got a postcard from abroad! So what? you may think.
So absolutely fantastic that I did an impromptu jig in the hallway when I picked it up before reverently placing it in a prominent position so that I could look at it and admire it for a few more days.
Do you remember how exciting it was to receive a postcard in the days when people sent you postcards? Those mountain views, seascapes, hotels with the X placed just where the sender’s room was? The whiff of abroad that unsettled you as you sweltered in a stuffy office or maybe dreamed in your kitchen or garage as the evenings grew shorter and the winter light faded? You remember it now?
Next time you’re away from home, put away your smartphone, pack up the tablet, venture out and into the touristy gift shops and buy some postcards to send to your friends Postcards are physical things, things you hold, read and re-read, pass along to friends to read; they give rise to conversations “So-and-so is in Venice this week. I’ve had a card”. “Oh, does (s)he like it?” and so on. A whole conversation opens up in which you discuss former holidays, your bucket-list of places to see, the food you ate, the weather (always good) and how the children loved it. You don’t need to look down at your phone to check anything, it’s on the card, as is the view, not a blurred selfie taken and then hastily dispatched to all and sundry.
You can’t store the postcard in your Inbox only to have it deleted after the set time (in my case 30 days), you can’t Tweet it, upload it to Facebook, Instagram it or save it to your computer. But you can be cheered by it every time you look at it and think that someone has thought about you enough to go out and buy a card, then a stamp, then find a Post Office in which to post it. I know sometimes the shop will sell stamps and take them for posting, but not always.
So, what sort of Postcard are you going to send? One of those innuendo-laden Donald McGill cards that used to make everyone laugh, even the Vicar on a good day? Or a view of the sea/sand/mountains? A donkey, Flamenco dancer, famous painting, or two fluffy kittens in a basket? You have to think of the right card for the right person, and as you do, you’ll realise the pleasure it is going to give to whoever receives it, whether it be an aged aunt or a nine-year-old nephew.
Writing and sending postcards means time away from interfacing on Facebook, emailing the office, or poring over selfies of friends out on the town, but isn’t it a great excuse to ditch the technology for an hour or two?
I don’t mind what you send me. I just love that lift I get when I receive one, to know I’ve been remembered, and that you have spent time buying, writing and posting me a Wish you Were Here thought.
Wish You Were Here!
A poll among my friends this morning, leads me to think that I am the only one not to watch New Year’s Eve celebrations on TV last night. It’s not that I’m anti-TV, and I’m certainly not anti-New Year’s Eve celebrations, but I’ve been disenchanted with the programmes brought to us at this rather special time for the last few years, by those who schedule the night’s viewing.
After last year’s parade of people famous for merely being famous, fatuous comments from said celebs, frantic commenting from comperes striving too hard to convey a frenzy of excitement, and “stars” swanning around swanky venues, I decided that enough was enough. Even Jools Holland couldn’t do much to lift the gloom with his parade of guests, although at any other time I would have watched most of them with pleasure.
But I wanted something more for New Year’s Eve. Was that too much to ask? The fireworks last year were quite spectacular spoiled only by the voice-over, so this year I decided I’d give them a miss too. I opted instead to join some friends and watch the local firework display from a balcony and when that got too cold, from behind glass. And yes, they were good. And, no, I didn’t miss the TV version. And I did manage to catch up with a film I’d recorded some time ago which gave me two hours of very satisfactory drama.
Would it be too much for the cameras to roam outside London a bit more and spend a bit more time in Scotland. where the Hogmanay celebrations are usually worth watching? What did they do in Wales – and not just in Cardiff? What did they do in Dublin? In Belfast? In Liverpool? Even on the Isle of Man. And with so much accent on the EU nowadays, wouldn’t it have been nice to have a link-up with some European capitals?
Now all I’m left with is to make a few more resolutions. Last year I said “I’m not watching that again, ever” and I did just that. I can chalk up at least one resolution I’ve kept!
A VERY HAPPY NEW YEAR TO ALL