Author: Ann Patras

I was born and raised a L*O*N*G time ago in Burton on Trent, England where my parents ran the family's busy corner grocery store and later a pub. I moved with my husband and 3 kids to Africa in 1989 where we lived for 32 years. We had many new, strange, exciting, frightening, weird, silly, sad, happy and amazing experiences during that time. After many years of procrastinating and moving to Spain in 2011 I completed the first book in my 'Africa Series' "Into Africa with 3 kids, 13 crates and a husband", in 2014. This only recounted the first year of our family’s somewhat unusual life in Africa. My second book, "More Into Africa with 3 kids, some dogs and a husband" which covers three further years, was released in 2016. I am currently in the mess of writing the third. I love writing about our daft experiences and hopefully making people laugh in the process. Finally, I am absolutely thrilled to to bits to tell you that INTO AFRICA received the Silver Award in the Wishing Shelf Book Awards 2016, (non-fiction category) in the UK.

ONE OF LIFE’S LITTLE IRRITATIONS

I had just finished my breakfast and was now trying to write.

While I’d been eating a flash of inspiration came to me and I needed to write it down quickly before it abandoned me.  The only trouble was, THE FLY.

It had been zipping around me for the past fifteen minutes and was now beginning to really piss me off.  Quietly whizzing around my head, it had been in my ear, my hair, got me in the eye twice and was constantly landing on the back of my hands.

As quickly as I tried to write the little bugger kept distracting me, both physically and mentally.  My arms were waving around like an octopus in overdrive. As much as I swiped and swatted, the only thing I achieved was two bruised fingers, very messy hair and a broken plate.

It even had the gall to land on my laptop and walk exactly over the words I was typing, knowing full well that I wouldn’t risk swatting the screen.

I was about to give up on the project and the fly when, as it flew right in front of me, purely by chance one quick CLOP resulted in one dead fly.

Yes!   Gocha, you little bastard.

Fly 0  : Ann 1

Now at last I could get on with my work. I picked up my tea for a celebratory slurp.

Thankfully I noticed it just in time, its shiny black body winking up at me from the brown liquid.

OK then, we’ll call it a draw!

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FOR SKIN AS SOFT AS A BABY’S…?

I’ve always thought I was pretty good with colours.   I mean, I know the difference between lilac and purple, red and maroon, green and blue obviously, as well as black and brown.  And I definitely know the difference between grey and blonde.   I just needed to make this perfectly clear before I continue.

I was born with blonde hair, but it turned brown somewhere between the age of 2 and 5 (there are photos missing from the album of the actual transition).  I then stayed with dark brown hair for many years, decades in fact, until the latter years when my hair began to fade.  The trouble was, it wasn’t fading very evenly, so I decided to let my hairdresser send it a fairly subtle shade of blonde instead.

But at the beginning of this year I got fed up with this dyeing lark and decided that it was time I admitted defeat and let nature take its course.

That was a couple of cuts ago, so I am now GREY all over.  This is the real me.  A happy grey person.

I am telling you all this because certain of you may want to dispute the issue of whether I’m a grey or blonde after I tell you about my latest little experience.

I am not one to lash out on fancy creams and lotions for my skin.  I might spend a couple of euro on a pot of face cream from Lidl, but as far as the rest of me is concerned, I have always found Johnson’s Baby Lotion quite adequate.  I mean, if it’s good enough for a new-born baby it’s got to be good enough for an old fart.

After a couple of years living in Spain I finished my SA-bought Johnson’s bottleful so have since purchased an equivalent at our local supermarket, which has its own store-brand called Hacendado.  I have always found products bearing the Hacendado label to be of excellent quality.

When I bought the latest bottle I noticed that it looked different as I grabbed it off the shelf but assumed they’d got a new label design.  On getting it home I put it away in the cupboard while I finished off the dregs in the bottom of the previous bottle (which I’d cut the top off to reach  – ever thrifty, me!).

So it was some time before I had occasion to make use of the new bottle for the first time.

I was a little surprised when the squirt of liquid from the pump came out clear instead of white, but figured it must have ‘settled’ while it had been standing in the cupboard, and the liquid had separated into two components.  I gave the bottle a shake and took another squirt but that too came out transparent.

No issue, I thought,  maybe they changed the composition of the substance, and proceeded to rub the moisturising lotion onto my shin.  At that point it turned white.  Ah, that’s novel, I also thought, and continued to rub it onto my leg, doing the other shin also.  Quite soon it absorbed into my skin.

This morning I made the momentous decision to cut my toenails.  I only mention this because during the clipping process my arms came into contact with my shins.  Please do not try to visualise this, it was not a pretty sight!

Anyway, I thought my shin skin felt different to usual, obviously the new baby lotion.

Later in the morning I once again applied some lotion to my legs, and again it came out clear and turned white after I rubbed it in.   I noticed that my skin felt different again and to be honest I wasn’t sure that I liked the feel.  It almost felt sticky.

About an hour ago I decided to rub some onto my arms, but I checked out the contents of the bottle first.  I gave it a good shake then unscrewed the top and withdrew the pumping device, which revealed that the liquid was in fact transparent all the way to the bottom of the container.

I screwed the pump back in place and then, and only then, looked at the writing on the bottle.  It said “Gel a Champu Pieles”.  It was Baby Soap/Shampoo!

No wonder my bloody skin felt sticky – even if it was ‘the most gentle of solutions for young and sensitive skin’ it shouldn’t have been plastered on and left there!

I have now purchased the correct Locion Corporal Hidratante which feels much better, thank you very much, and will soon have skin as soft as a baby’s bum.

Anyone want some baby shampoo?

An Interesting Monday

Well that was an interesting Monday.

Without going into a lot of background, Brad needed to go to a hospital in Benalmadena for a check-up on the surgery he’d had on his left knee.  I was pretty familiar with the route to that place, having had my taxi services called upon on several occasions.  One of the things I knew was that there is often up to a kilometre of stop-start traffic on the hard shoulder leading to the off-ramp we needed to take from the motorway.

So out of curiosity I’d checked out an alternative route on google maps to come in from the opposite direction, with hopefully less traffic.  But I found that this route ideally meant me taking a mountain road from our town to the said motorway.  Having travelled it several times I don’t particularly like that road as it’s full of bends with very few overtaking spots if you got stuck behind something slow, like a horse and trap, or a couple of bloody cyclists.

We stuck to our original route and as we drove the normal roads leading to the Xanet hospital noticed a few banners along one section of road, but thought nothing of it.

Brad’s appointment with his surgeon went extremely well.  She was delighted with his progress and on seeing how well his leg was doing, even suggested that he could start putting weight on it two weeks sooner than would normally be allowed, accompanied by appropriate physiotherapy.  But she went a bit too far for me when she said that she was happy to take this unusual step because Brad was clearly a very responsible person.

How I kept quiet I do not know.  I bit down on my tongue and tightly sealed my lips to stop myself from making any comment which might dispel her trust in her patient.  How I stopped myself from bursting out laughing I do not know.  Thank goodness my almost exploding face was hidden from her view by her computer screen, which she’d turned to one side when she showed Brad a video of the surgery on his knee.  (Can’t wait to watch that!  She gave him a dvd of it!!).

If I’d have told her all the things Brad was ‘responsible’ for she might have changed her mind about his proposed progress, which would then likely result in extra taxi services being required, so I kept ‘mum’.

We left the hospital in good spirits and headed for the car.  With air con on and refreshments suitably distributed we drove away from the parking area to the roundabout which led onto the road heading back towards the motorway.  Except some idiot had strung a shitload of tape across it.  “Road Closed”

“What now?”

“Just follow that car going straight.” Was Brad’s advice.  The bloke in front looked like he knew where he was going, so I did.

Brad soon managed to google a map and told me which way to go to head from then onwards.  It was pretty much part of the route that I had looked at, but coming from the opposite direction.

We drove through a villagey type suburb which was well festooned with colourful bunting and streamers and as we drove on to a more formal bit of road found barriers and taped areas, and progressively more people, in particular, police type people.  It was only then that Brad said,

“Oh, it must be for the Vuelta España.”

“Wonderful.  What the hell is that?”

“It’s a cycle race.  A biggy!  I’d forgotten it was today.  It must be coming along this route.”

“Terrific!”

As we drove along there were loads of barriers and police cars, police motor bikes, and police men. I made a point of not looking at them in case they tried to direct me off down any other strange roads. I was so busy trying to appear like I was determined in my route that I completely missed the turn which would have taken us up onto the motorway heading back the way we’d come.  Still that was now quite a long route from this point, so I wasn’t bothered.

Driving under the motorway we reached the spot we’d have come in at if I’d taken the way I’d Googled earlier.  So off we drove up ‘the pretty way’ to Mijas pueblo.  It looked like it was going to be a long drive as the mountain, which Mijas sat on the other side of, looked ages away.

As we drove along this unfamiliar mountain road I asked Brad if he’d noticed how there seemed to be quite a few people ‘just standing around’ outside buildings for no apparent reason.  There weren’t many settlements along the way, but what there were had bodies outside. (Not dead bodies, you understand!)

As we rounded one bend we came across a crowd of people standing on a wide verge which sat beside a sharp bend that traversed a gully.  I was about 20 metres away from reaching and taking this bend when all of a sudden a cavalcade of vehicles rounded a bend coming from the other side and they would reach the gully section before me.  It would have been too tight a squeeze for us to pass so I quickly pulled over to let them through.

There were loads of them and they were clearly all involved with the cycle race.  There were cars and vans with people packed in ‘em or on ‘em, shouting and waving at the crowd, who reciprocated similarly as they got bombarded with leaflets and flags and dog-knows-what other promotional material.

So we waited.  And waited.  It was only when an ambulance and a police car had gone past that we figured that was the end of ‘em and continued with our journey.

A few kilometres further on, as we rounded another bend, I could see the junction which entered Mijas pueblo (a beautiful touristy town) and it was seething with police and race vehicles and personnel.

But at least I was now in familiar territory

Another issue I have not mentioned thus far is that at the beginning of our excursion Brad had queried a condition with my vehicle, a Renault Kangoo.  Our conversation concluded with the realisation that the clutch on the vehicle was reaching the end of its lifespan.  As the journey progressed I could feel that I was becoming dangerously close to being clutchless.

As we reached the Mijas roundabout I hung a right to take the road back home where we were immediately faced with climbing a rather steep slope.   I drove up the initial section in second gear and only when the gradient decreased a little was I able to risk changing into third gear and eventually fourth.  This stretch of inclination running along the side of the mountain lasted for over a kilometre and wherever feasible was lined along the none-rock-face side with yet more people.

One thing which had long become apparent was that the route we were taking was remarkably free from other traffic.  After passing Mijas we didn’t come across anything in front (which was hardly surprising, given our speed) but similarly neither were we creating a build-up of traffic behind us.  In fact not one vehicle came up behind us.  And we had only encountered four vehicles coming from the opposite direction, which included the Alhaurin to Fuengirola bus which almost took me out on a shallow bend.  Thank goodness I was on the mountain side of the road!

I was actually a little concerned that when we’d met the cavalcade of promotional vehicles earlier, one of their banners had plastered itself to the front grid of the Kangoo, and the officials and police we had encountered since had thought we were part of the ‘crew’.

There were long stretches where there were no spectators, which wasn’t surprising since the road was lined by the rock face of the mountain on our right side and a steep drop to hell and beyond to our left.  But it seemed that the organisers didn’t want the cyclists to be despondent from lack of support, so had colourful banners lining the road instead.

As the road snaked its way along the side of the Sierra de Mijas it consisted of many sharp, blind bends between the banners.  Brad and I became increasingly concerned that on one of them we would suddenly come face to face with out-rider motorbikes carrying backward and forward facing cameramen, followed very closely by over two hundred speeding cyclists, who would be none too happy about our presence.

The journey home – click for video

We both breathed a huge sigh of relief when we reached the main pivotal “BP roundabout” on the outskirts of our home town of Alhaurin el Grande, where the Vuelta España paraphernalia turned onto the A-7053 heading towards Mijas Costa, which we later discovered was the starting point of the race.

We did a very quick shop before I dropped Brad off at his home which is only ten minutes’ drive from mine and by the time I had reached my wi-fi he had already sent me snap shots taken from his television, where he was watching the Vuelta España cyclists already hurtling halfway along the exact same mountain road we had oh so very recently vacated.

Talk about a close call.

What came next! – click for video

 

A Cup of Tea and Dog Farts

My morning began quite normally, with Ziggy bringing me a cup of tea in bed just before he watches the 08:00 news on the telly.  It is customary for me to take my daily medications with said tea before settling back down for another half hour’s kip, depending on what time I went to bed the night before.  In this instance it was 2:20am so at least another half an hour was called for.

Ziggy’s next move is to go down onto our plot to water his vegetables.  The instant he picks up the keys to the gate, which leads from our top garden,  JD and Marti, our Labrador and Mastin, will leap up to follow him down the steps.

They usually mosey around the plot for a while then go for a wander around the neighbours’ unfenced land, Marti to check out anything of interest and JD to go avocado scromping.

But today had an addition.  We’d had our son’s dog Choco staying with us for the night.   We think he’s a Staffie crossed with something a bit bigger, and he’s a youngster of about two years so is still very excitable.  However, he’s not yet as well trained as JD and Marti and we can’t rely on him to return when we call him.  As a result, when he tried to follow Ziggy and our dogs on their morning constitutional he wasn’t allowed to join in.  Ziggy shut the gate behind him to thwart the dog’s exit.

That was when the whining, crying and barking commenced at full volume.

Another change in our routine at the moment involves Leon.  He’s working down on the coast at a beach restaurant, 12 hour shifts which only see him return home just before 03:00.  By the time he’s unwound from all the excitement of working it only gives him a few hours to sleep before rising at 11:20 and leaving for work two hours later.  The last thing he needed was to be wakened by a yowling dog at eight in the morning.

So I leapt out of bed and dashed off down the garden to shut Choco up.  The only way to do that was to bring him inside the house, but then he’d be dashing back and forth between the door and windows with the same vocals.  So I was obliged to confine him to my bedroom.

I climbed back into bed to try and resume my slumbers.  I know.  Don’t say it.  I know what you’re thinking!

And I might as well have stayed up because the little bastard now started whining at the glass door which leads from the bedroom onto the pool area.  Various vocal commands on my part went unheeded so I tried to block out the noise by hunching my head down between my shoulders to keep out the noise.  Fail.  Then I tried wedging wadges of the bed sheet into my ears to act as earplugs, but that didn’t work either.

He eventually quietened down and I was just drifting off to sleep when he started up again. He’d heard the rattle of the gate indicating the return of his friends.  So I got out of bed and let him out.  Peace at last.

Well, for five minutes, then I could hear a scrape at the door.  I recognised it as Marti wanting to be let in.  I figured she’d give up if I didn’t respond so I ignored her, but she was having none of it.  Her keen sense of smell told her that Choco had been into that bedroom in her absence and being very protective of me, demanded entry.  I let her in.

NOW I could get some sleep.  Except you have to remember that this dog has been running around the countryside, culminating in a climb back up the 34 steep steps from the plot.  And she’s a very big dog, covered in a thick double coat (goes with the breed), and it’s a Spanish summer’s day.  She lay by the foot of my bed panting like a steam train.

Then Choco started pawing at the door too, so she moved even closer, to the side of my bed and continued with her huffing and puffing.  After five fruitless minutes of non-sleep I gave up.  I got up.

I should mention here that the bedroom is not very big.  There is not much space between the bed and the fitted wardrobes.  In fact, when Marti is lying with her back against the bed her toenails are touching the cupboard doors.  So when I got out of bed I only had a couple of feet (in both senses) in which to get dressed.

As I reached for my underwear the dog whispered.  So as I hopped around on one foot trying to put on my pants I found myself engulfed in dog fart.  I can’t remember the last time this dog farted.  She is not a frequently farting dog.  But she had to fart now, of all moments!

I couldn’t move away from the fart because the dog took up my exit route, and she was going no-where.  Putting on shorts requires a little bending forward, so that brought me in even closer proximity to the source.  It is not easy, if you’re an overweight almost-69-year-old, to get dressed in a two-foot cubicle when you’re trying not to breathe!

Consider yourself lucky (I do) that I’m still here to tell the tale.

 

 

 

 

 

Flat Water

Well what fun that was.

If I ever tell you that I’m going to go to the cinema, please ask me if I have sufficiently researched the film I’m going to see.  And if I say “Oh, yes, it’s won lots of Oscars”, just ask me “what is the shape of water?”.  That’ll bring me back down to earth and ensure I don’t make the same bloody mistake again.

What a load of CRAP.

The storyline has a mute falling in love with a sea-god and which, had I done any research at all, would have warned me off right from the very start.   As it turned out the movie covered just about every PC issue known to the Law Society, the Commission for Human Rights and the RSPCA put together.  And there were more holes in the storyline than my best colander and had more corn than Kelloggs!

To give you a clue:

  • The leading lady was unattractive
  • She was a mute
  • and her best friend at work was black and
  • They worked as cleaners, who were implied as unimportant workers
  • at a government establishment which carried out top secret work
  • yet they had unsupervised access to a highly sensitive area.

I haven’t decided who classified as the lead actor as there were three vying for that position –

  • Leading male 1 was a Merman (male mermaid) (good guy).
  • Leading male 2 was a male chauvinist pig (bad guy).
  • Leading male 3 was a balding, unemployed homosexual artist (wow a 4-in-1!) and was another good guy. He was also the l-lady’s other best friend and neighbour.
  • Supporting Actor was a Russian agent (very topical at the time of going to press).
  • The black cleaner and No.3 both had an excellent understanding of sign language.
  • 2 could be done for animal cruelty at the drop of a hat as he chained up No.1 in a pool and poked him with a taser rod, though he was able to reach over the open sided edge of this watery prison, which seemed a bit at-odds.
  • 2 was also partial to a bit of sexual harassment at work and at home
  • We didn’t have to wait long for the leading lady to indulge in nudity
  • and No.2 having the gratuitous sexual intercourse with his wife was quite athletic.
  • Then the owner of a café showed serious racial discrimination by refusing to serve a black couple who happened to walk into his empty bar
  • before he was sort of propositioned by No.3 which didn’t go down too well.
  • Then the Russian agent, who was actually quite a good guy offered to help the leading lady to set free the very scaly hunk, No.1
  • who it transpired had the most amazing healing hands (albeit big and scaly).
  • Unfortunately he also had a penchant for eating cat, which No.3 was amazingly tolerant of, given it was his
  • Everything had been going well with a dollop of bestiality for good measure between the leading lady and No.1 before his release into the wild
  • when we witnessed a spot of torture inflicted on the nice Russian by No.2 (he really is a nasty oke).
  • Then the chauvinistic, skiviing husband of the black cleaner grassed on the leading lady to No.2
  • He of course tracked down the unlikely lovers just as they were saying gesticulating their tearful goodbyes and shot the pair of ‘em. But of course Mr Hunky Healing Hands brought himself back to life and wiped out the bad guy
  • before jumping with his leading lady into his watery world where it appeared she also came back to life, and transformed into a watery wench, before fading into the credits.

So there you have it.  No need to cough up £15 for a cinema ticket in the UK now, though we were lucky as our cinema only charged €5.50 each for the privilege of having our intelligence insulted.

Now if Mel Brooks had directed the film, it would have been a whole different kettle of fish!

I wonder what’s showing next week…?

Bamboo Poles and Lollypop Sticks – A Christmas Tale

I’m sure most people reading this have experienced one of those days when things just don’t go right. Well it galls me to admit this, but I had an entire Christmas like that.

It started off fairly innocuously with my first faux pas (Number One) when I realised a few days before Christmas that I hadn’t actually bought any presents for one of my ‘kids’. I had sent out an email to all relevant parties in good time before Christmas recommending that in view of the (sad) financial status of the majority of players, the purchase of presents this year should be kept to an absolute minimum.  However that did not mean that one person should not get anything at all from his mother.

We have always been keen on getting surprises, but I figured no-presents wasn’t the sort of surprise Leon would be too happy about, so I hastened to purchase something.

I had organised a gammon and a big chicken for Christmas day.  We don’t do turkey as apart from the fact that we don’t much care for the darker meat, we’d probably find ourselves eating it for a fortnight afterwards. I finished off my main grocery shop on the Friday in order to avoid the last minute rush of Saturday.

On Christmas eve afternoon the second omission reared its ugly head.  As everyone knows, it is essential to have Brussels sprouts as part of the Christmas feast. And before you jump to conclusions, No, I hadn’t  forgotten to buy them.   We do know that lots of people do not like Brussels sprouts, but I had a nice recipe which made them more interesting for the less enthusiastic sprout eater.  They would be par-boiled then baked with fresh cream, blue cheese and walnuts.  Number Two.  I had forgotten to buy the blue cheese.

There being no Christmas eve shopping here in Spain on the Sunday, I was contemplating leaving out a slab of cheddar overnight in the hopes that it might go mouldy when Ziggy, in a rare fit of brilliance, said “Why don’t you try the BP Service Station shop, they sell all sorts of random things?”.

So when Leon tootled off in my Kangoo to collect Brad, Donė and Choco the dog who live ten minutes away, he called at the BP shop.  And sure as cheese is blue, this saved the day.

They had been invited to join us for some langoustines which Ziggy was cooking up. Well not the dog.  I mean he was invited, but not to eat langoustines; that would be ridiculous.

As Ziggy was about to cook them someone asked what I was serving with them.  What? Number Three!  It had never occurred to me that they needed something “with them”.  My thought (I won’t say plan, because that is not a word I am very familiar with) was that we would just place this huge platter of enormous prawns in the centre of the table and “tuck in”.

When I’d told my guests that we were having these on Christmas eve it never occurred to me that they would think this was a full on meal.  I didn’t even have the makings of a bloody salad (apart from a head of lettuce and small avocado pear I planned to use with a starter on Christmas day).

The best I could do was to throw two small half-baked French bread sticks in the oven and slice them up.  This was adequate and the langoustines were delicious.

Christmas day arrived and I’m delighted to report that this year I had remembered to bake the traditional shortbread the previous week and that it was actually my best batch ever. So we spent a leisurely couple of hours eating shortbread and unwrapping presents.  What happened to the “minimum presents” I had stipulated?

1 Tree and Prezzies 2017

Just a few presents

I had suggested that we might have our ‘Christmas dinner’ at about 7pm but given that I only put the bird in the oven at about five o’clock that clearly wasn’t going to happen, perhaps nearer to eight.  When the chicken was ready it had to sit down and rest for half an hour on Brad’s instructions (he’d been watching Jamie Oliver on tv) so I only put the potatoes in to roast when that came out.  The plan intention had been to have a prawn cocktail starter but as time drew close I figured that by the time we’d eaten that and ‘let it go down’ the bloody chicken would be stone cold, so suggested that we perhaps have it as a later instead of a starter.

This was agreed upon wholeheartedly and after much farting around with sliced green beans, broccoli and the infamous brussels sprouts in blue cheese sauce and Brad had made the gravy, we eventually sat down to our main Christmas repast at nine o’clock! The good news is that the chicken was NOT cold and everyone enjoyed their meal.  The bad news Number Four is that I had forgotten to buy Christmas Crackers so there were no flying keyrings /thimbles/puzzles, no wearing of silly hats nor reading pathetic cracker jokes.

We waited for another hour or so before having dessert which, rather than Christmas pudding which not everyone enjoys, consisted of homemade baklava.  I figured this was quite fitting as it is a Greek pastry and our surname is Greek (even though we’re not!).

During the course of the day we’d played assorted board games of varying levels of interest which, to my horror, included Monopoly which Vicki had brought with her.  We played until all the properties had been purchased then tallied up our gains before the game became tedious.  My favourite Christmas only game has to be the new one I found last year, Pass the Parcel with a difference.  It is played with pears pairs.  A pair of dice and a pair of oven gloves.

In case you’ve not yet come across this you really must try it, it’s hilarious.  A multi-wrapped gift of your choice is to be opened wearing oven gloves.  But instead of unwrapping when music stops, as in the kiddies’ game, a pair of dice is thrown and when a double shows up the unwrapper must stop IMMEDIATELY and pass the oven gloves to the next in line.  In the meantime the pair of dice is being passed around the table and tossed by each other player in turn until a double is thrown again and the unwrapper changes.  Sometimes you barely have time to get the gloves on before someone chucks a double and you have to pass them on to the next player.  I think Leon had four abortive turns before he even got to touch the parcel, never mind remove a layer of paper.

By the end of all this frivolity no-one was up for the prawn cocktail so we decided to all get together again on Boxing Day and have it for lunch. Well that was the plan but courtesy Vicki we got stuck into baked camembert and pickles first so it got delayed until dinner time.

I had already thawed out one pack of peeled prawns but realising that it would be a bit meagre for a complete lunch I had nipped into town to Mercadona (our main supermarket) and bought another pack.  Yes, they were open on Boxing Day, which the Spanish don’t recognise as a holiday.  Suitably thawed I threw them all into a bowl and smothered them with some special mayonnaise I’d made before sharing them out evenly over shredded lettuce and suitable accoutrements.

Brad was the first to take a bite.

“Mother, did you cook these?” he politely asked.

Number Five.  “Er, no.  I assumed they were already cooked,” I replied.

“Well they’re not.  And while I enjoy sushi as much as the next man, I’d rather not eat raw prawn salad.  But for ****s sake, mother, they don’t even look cooked!”

He was right of course.

I couldn’t believe I’d done that, I really couldn’t.  What a bloody dope!

Well that’s one way to get your name in the headlines “Author kills entire family by feeding them uncooked prawns at Christmas”.

Anyway someone said “Don’t worry, it can be salvaged, just take the prawns off the lettuce,  rinse them under the tap then cook ‘em.”

I’d used up about all the lettuce the first time so didn’t have much choice in the matter.  I carefully scooped the prawns off and into a colander and tossed them thoroughly under the cold water tap.  Once completely drained I was able to cook them quickly in some butter.  Of course I then had to wait a while for them to cool down before piling them back onto the lettuce.  There’s nothing worse than warm lettuce.  (Well there probably is but let’s not get pedantic.)

I returned all the plates to my patiently waiting diners and as they were passed around the table was asked,

“Did you use up all the mayo on the first batch as well then?”

No I hadn’t.  Number Six.  I had simply forgotten to put it on.

So the plates all got returned again to the kitchen where I tried to toss the prawns in the evenly distributed remaining half-jar of my delicious homemade mayonnaise without disturbing the lettuce.  It wasn’t easy.

At last we were able to eat. It’s a pity we didn’t have more crusty bread to accompany them but much of it had been consumed with the cheese earlier.  Number Seven?

Fortunately everyone eventually really enjoyed their meal and the evening advanced to another session of fun and games, though thankfully not Monopoly this time.

Before going to bed I actually remembered to load and switch on the dishwasher.  When Ziggy got up in the morning he started to unload it.  He hadn’t got far when I walked into the kitchen.

“I found this in the bottom shelf when I opened up,” he said, handing me a virgin dishwasher tablet.  WTF?  I know that when the machine has finished washing is flips open the tablet container.  I inspected the item curiously then lifted the boxful of them out of the cupboard.  Inside were loads more tablets just like it, all wrapped in cellophane.  Double WTF.    All dishwasher tablets I had bought previously came wrapped in plastic, which should be left on as it melted away when being used.  Number Eight.  It would seem not to be the case with this brand.

“I thought it hadn’t done a very good job of washing the plates,”  Ziggy said as he began returning the dishes to the machine.  The white, blue and red tablet was reinserted in its receptacle in the door, sans cellophane!

So that was our Christmas.  Let us just say that it was not the most successful I have ever conducted unless you allow the amount of laughter it generated to override the stuff-ups.

2 Family Xmas 2017

Ziggy, Brad, Done, Leon, Vicki and yours truly.

 

What?  What about the bamboo poles and lollypop sticks? Oh yes, I forgot about those.

After Christmas I was returning home after a stock-up session at Mercadona and noticed to my disgust that a recent batch of extremely strong winds had managed to dislodge the shade-cloth fastened to the wire fence bordering our garden.

3 Flapping Fence

Flapping in the wind

Something a little sturdier than twists of wire was obviously needed to prevent this from happening again.  Ziggy found some mangy bamboo poles on our plot (of land which contains our fruit trees and Ziggy’s attempts at cabbages and potatoes) so Leon and I set about a repair.  There weren’t enough bamboo canes so we used them in what we considered to be the most effective way and for the rest – well wire twists were reinforced with lollypop sticks. Simple as a pimple.

4 Fixed fence

One fixed fence

5 Fence fastenings

Bamboo pole and lollypop sticks!

And, No, I didn’t eat all the lollypops, Ziggy did!  (I prefer my ice-cream in a bowl.)

And that pretty much rounded off 2017.  It was not too bad a year, all things considered.

TELL YOUR FRIENDS

** TELL YOUR FRIENDS ** TELL YOUR FRIENDS ** TELL YOUR FRIENDS **

If they haven’t yet bought INTO AFRICA with 3 kids, 13 crates and a husband, the kindle version is still on SALE at a bargain price until 13 December.

OR  think about this.  You could even buy it for someone as a gift!  If you’ve never done this before, it’s dead easy, just follow the instructions on Amazon – Help: Purchase a Kindle Book as a Gift.