Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Evening walk - the other view

I wrote about my Sunday evening walk over on Itchy Feet. Well, actually I didn't so much write about it as post up some photos. It was a pleasant walk and I didn't feel like adding my moans to that post. So here they are instead. After leaving the gardens I turned down to go down past some blocks of flats. On the one side of the road was a pleasant leafy green shady spot, that seemed to be the local rubbish dump. Two complaints here: 1) Obviously. Why are people so disrespectful of their environment that they just thrown things over the fence for it to sit there endlessly. 2) What's wrong with the government clearing it up? Oh. I know. It's not on the tourist route. So if the residents choose to make their own environment into an urban rubbish dump, they have to live with it. Going further down the road, I noticed an overgrown cemetery. I've been down the road before, just never noticed the cemetery. Even I can't blame scruffy locals for this, so it is just a shame that whoever does have responsibility for the burial ground lacks either the resources or the motivation to keep it tidy.

Wednesday, 13 August 2008


Writing about the bus strike and the prospect of possibly having to get a bus at 7.15am from La Linea brought another thought to mind. There is something about getting older that seems to result in needing to allow more time for getting moving in the morning. For waking up. For drinking enough cups of coffee for the caffeine to kick in. For actually getting the brain half engaged, let alone totally. This is the woman who would merrily fall out of bed at any given hour, rush round, take a shower/bath, have a coffee or two, maybe make something light to eat, put make-up on, and rush out of the door. All in half an hour if necessary. I can't even remember what time I used to get up to get the 5.30am train to London so that I could get there for a 9.30am start. Invariably meeting a load of other work colleagues on the train - no need for breakfast at home on those days as a meal ticket was included. Or alternatively, I could grab some food quickly at home, skip breakfast on the train, but have dinner on the way back. Total day - 16 or 17 hours usually. Nor can I remember what time I kicked into gear for the drive to Birmingham for a similar start. But I remember enjoying setting off on the empty roads somewhere between 5.15 and 5.45am. Listening to a mix of quiet music, well, noisy music played quietly, and Radio Four. As I moved down through the country I would swap to local radio stations, partly for the traffic updates as I started to meet everyone else who was rushing to work. The adrenalin was buzzing all the way. And then there was the journey back in the late afternoon. Around 700kms return trip. But since I have dropped out of the rat race, I have truly learned to slow down. To the point of stagnation I think sometimes. And I am really not sure whether it is an age thing or because my lifestyle has changed so much, and I am no longer pressurised to rush around like a blue-arsed fly. When Partner started work again, he originally got up around 6am or 6.30am. I thought that was shockingly early for a job that started at 8am and was five minutes walk away. He always got there early and would spend a few minutes chatting with his colleagues before they started. Since then, he has changed jobs and now starts at 7.30am. He gets up around 5.30am or sometimes 5ish. Walks the dog, has coffee, has breakfast, and generally wakes up. When he gets to work he starts immediately. When some of his colleagues get to work - assuming they arrive on time which isn't always the case - they stand around having a coffee, chatting, smoking, and finally pick up a tool sometime after 8am. When I get my idle arse out of bed, I drink the leftovers of the coffee that amazingly do not taste stewed (coffee machines have improved over the years), and flick on a few blogs to see what is happening in the strange world of people/dogs I will never meet but like to read about. Then I decide what to eat. But this is no longer that fast half an hour job that young me did. This takes a couple of hours before I feel awake. So I can see why Partner gets up early so that he has enough time to start functioning clearly - especially when he works manually and has to be alert all the time. Yesterday I had a conversation with a woman in a book shop. We spoke about where the year had gone and that it would soon be September. And then did the usual philosophising about life and how it went quickly. She said even her children were saying that too. And she suggested that maybe because life was so instant these days - flick of a finger on a button - that it seemed to be moving too fast for everyone. When I was in the rat race, one of my bosses told me that lack of money wasn't a problem, but lack of time was. Now I know what he meant. Time. Where on earth did it go? I don't think it is on my side any more.

Friday, 8 August 2008

The complacency factor

I am doomed not to eat out in the near future. Why, when you find a decent restaurant and go there more than a couple of times, do they get complacent and treat you as though you are a money-loaded piece of rubbish? Usually with vastly over-the-top obsequiousness for further insult. Restaurant 1 - Quattro Stagioni Italian restaurant. Reasonable prices, good pizza, dog friendly (sitting outside) - always bringing water for the dog, olives with drinks, nice views. Having finished our food, well almost finished - I left some for the dog for the morning after - we asked for a bill and the doggy bag. An hour or so later, the waiter came out shame-facedly to tell us that they had put the left-over food in the bin. I had left that food very carefully so that Pippa would have some tasty food with his breakfast. I can't bear waste at the best of times and I think throwing food out is verging on criminal. I am not interested in what anyone thinks about my request for a doggy bag, I have paid for the food and I want to take it home. Thank you. Then we had to wait another half an hour for the bill. Restaurant 2 - Waterfront International cuisine on the waterfront. Good choice - four options can be regarded as a good choice - of vegetarian main courses. Potato and Carrot Tarte Tatin, Pepper Coulis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . £12.95     Mushroom Stroganoff, Rice . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . £12.95     Vegetable Wellington, Red Wine Mushroom Jus (contains cheese) . £13.95     Potato Cake, White Rice, Sweet Chilli Dip . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . £12.95   Note, the potato cake and mushroom stroganoff are both accompanied with rice. According to the menu. As part of the main course. Note also: All main courses served with either Chipped potatoes or Potato of the day. Vegetables, Rice or Salad can be served instead of Potatoes So for example, if you have the vegetable wellington, you can choose between, potatoes or vegetables or rice or salad. But equally, when choosing mushroom stroganoff and rice, or potato cake, rice and dip, one should also receive something else, eg potatoes, vegetables, rice or salad. Because the rice is described as a part of the main course. So I asked for vegetables with my mushroom stroganoff. The very pretty and totally dateless waitress - who had already brought ice in my drink when I asked for it without ice - came back and told me that wasn't possible. Well, I wasn't happy with that so I called out the manager. I didn't think it was too difficult to understand. I was ordering a main course which included rice. And I also wanted one of the extras that are served with all main courses. No, he was adamant, if I wanted vegetables I would have to pay extra. So I said no. Well, guess what? The vegetables arrived anyway. So I sent them back. Guess what again? Instead of being charged out at £12.95, the stroganoff had mysteriously escalated to £14.50. So, I pointed out the bill was wrong and got it reduced to the correct price. Bye bye Waterfront, you won't be seeing us again for a while. Restaurant 3 - Maharajah When all else fails, go to the Indian. Great choice of vegetarian curries, freshly cooked, inexpensive. But when there is only a handful of people in, why do we have to wait over an hour after we have made our order? And no, we didn't want another drink while we were waiting. And no, we didn't want any poppadums or anything else you suggested we stuff ourselves with. Eventually Partner stormed in and said we would have the food as a take-away as we were both falling asleep waiting for it. Then two hot plates appeared while we were waiting for the take-away. The plates went cold. Nothing appeared. Not a take-away or any food. At which point I went in and told them to forget it. I didn't want the food in any form, either on the table or in bags. Sad waiter pointed to the bags sitting ready for us to take out. Tough shit. I really didn't care and had sat there so fucking long I had totally lost my appetite. It was a nice gesture though not to charge us for the glass of wine and the bottle of beer that we toyed with while waiting for the non-appearance of the food. And I am sure the delay was nothing to do with the fact that you had a take-away customer who ordered lots of food for six people and spent far more than us. So I hope that there is a sudden flurry of new restaurants opening in Gib, otherwise I will run out of places to go if the complacency factor creeps in after two visits, which seems to be par for the course based on the above three experiences.

Thursday, 7 August 2008

The price of fruit

I staggered on the bus with three very heavy shopping bags. Fortunately one of the front seats was empty and I could dump the bags in the luggage spot which avoids putting them on the floor and having stuff rolling out of the bags and down the bus. Which has happened before. I heard some bloke wittering away and suddenly realised he was talking at me. He was jabbering on about the price of fruit. Obviously a variant on the price of fish. He seemed to be telling me how expensive fruit was in Morrisons and was smugly telling me about his shopping expedition to Spain that morning. Apparently he had bought four grapefruit for two euros. What did I think to that? Very little, in all honesty, but I did ask if they were white ones. No, they weren't, they were red. Well, Mr Cheapskate FruitShopper, I don't happen to like red ones, I like white ones. And I know how difficult they are to buy in Spain. And if you think I am traipsing over to La Linea to buy red grapefruit that I don't want for 50 cents each when I can get white ones that I do want for 39p in Gib, you can think again. Oh, I didn't say all that. Just that I didn't like red ones. Arguing about the price of grapefruit seemed somewhat tortuous. Then he got onto the price of grapes. Well, I don't usually buy grapes so that was of no relevance to me. It turned out his shopping expedition had taken four hours to go round three supermarkets and spend one and a half hours to get back in across the border because the Police Nacionale are still checking everyone's papers as part of their work-to-rule. I do not wish to spend four hours on a shopping expedition driving to three separate supermarkets followed by a boring wait in a queue. I prefer to walk for 20 minutes to one supermarket, and if I have lots of stuff, I can then jump on a bus to come home. If I don't have much, I walk back. Or I walk down the road to one of the local veg shops. Depends what I want to buy. Then he started bragging about his place in Portugal with 3,000 square metres of ground. He wished he was there, lots of space, no parking problems, cheaper, but his wife was here in hospital. So he was staying at his flat in Gib. People really irritate me when they moan about the price of everything in Gib, spend ages going shopping in Spain, and yet they are quite happy to take advantage of things in Gib that they do want, in this case the health care. I know lots of people do cross the border to shop in Spain, but I would have thought someone with a place in Portugal and a flat here could afford to support the local economy. Good thing not all of us choose to spend our money outside Gib.