Thursday, 27 February 2014

Welsh rehearsal up-country

This morning I had to drive to Coin to celebrate the Eucharist in the Iglesia de Cristo, but having forgotten to put by alb in the car, had to go via Los Boliches to pick it up. During the 35km journey I became aware of just how uncomfortable it to drive the car for any length of time, a tribute to their size and shape, sadly. Over coffe after the service, I was asked by Carol to teach her how to sing 'Mae hen wlad fy nhadau' as a choir she belongs to takes part in the St David's Day concert on Saturday evening at the Salon de Variete in Fuengirola.

All she had to guide her was a phonetic version from the internet. There are so many ways of pronouncing phonetics incorrectly, so it was quite difficult at first to get her to listen and repeat after me instead of struggling to read it. You wouldn't easily be able to get the phrasing from that as well. It would have been better to have the properly written script and learn how Welsh is pronounced. Anyway, it was rather hilarious being in a Spanish country restaurant singing the Welsh national anthem loudly, disregarded by all and sundry, even our companions at table.

When I returned, I pottered around the house, getting used to preparing meals in new kitchen, or playing with the dog in the garden, and taking her for a walk. We disturbed a pair of Hoopoes foraging on the track. Not much change of snapping them spontaneously with a dog in tow. Afterwards I walked downhill to the nearby Mercadona  supermarket to re-stock on food. I bought too many heavy things and had to work out how I carry them back without straining myself. It's not a bad exercise for an impatient man to have to walk slowly and stop to redistribute the load in order not to tire one side more than the other. No harm was done, and when I went for my evening appointment, Mogens Dahl the chiropracter was satisfied I'd sustained progress since Monday, so it'll be a week until my next visit.

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Saying nothing beautifully

After the move I enjoyed a good long sleep to recover, then headed back to Los Boliches to celebrate the Wednesday Eucharist and hang out with people at the coffee morning. Then, I returned to La Cala to take the dog for a walk through the pine woods below the house. As I arrived to park in the area outside the bottom of the garden, I saw my first Hoopoe in the grass ahead with its crest fully erect. It's a handsome bird, about the size of large pigeon, and took off very quickly when it saw me.

Eleanor isn't very big, so I had to bend over to attach her lead. It was quite a learning challenge to ascertain how best to make those moves without compromising my vulnerable still aching but improving back. We did a circuit of about a mile, and I started acquiring tiny insect bites. No wonder the birds love the woodland here so much.

The house has wifi, but its location in relation to the garden flat means that a signal can only be retained out in the garden. It was a pleasant evening, if a little cool, but I was able to Skype Clare and her friend Marion who was staying with her for half an hour nevertheless.

The garden flat has satellite TV, but no access to free BBC channels any longer. But I do have a range of news channels to follow current political developments in Ukraine. I while away time channel hopping to see what was available. Most of the free are re-runs of forty year old series of badly made films or soap operas, rubbish horror movies or sleazy showcases for chat-lines and porn channels. After a while I found the Travel channel and an old programme about French wines which was fairly interesting, but not well made by today's standards. 

It made me realise just how much the quality of TV presentation has improved over the past forty years. Nowadays the most banale content can be made to appear quite alluring.The art of televising nothing much beautifully is now the norm. You really have to hunt for decent content if you haven't got Radio 4 to listen to. I ended up going to bed early, silence being preferable.

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Moving to La Cala

I spent most of Monday recovering from Sunday. The highlight was my late afternoon visit to Mogens Dahl the chiropracter, who gave me more insights to match his therapeutic intervention. I came away feeling just that bit looser and freer, but also aware that I'll gave to work more consciously on keeping my shoulders free of tension that cumulates un-noticed as a result of using computers and mobile phones. The ailment of this present age, not just my age!

Tuesday morning I packed all my belongings, washed and dried the bed linen and towels, cleaned up, then carefully lugged everything across to the car, parked some 350 metres away. I couldn't load it outside either of the apartment entrances because street furniture and parking regulations make it difficult, and I had no way to access the underground garage, or shall we say, insufficent vocabulary to ask. Anyway, diligently paying attention to carrying posture left me none the worse for wear. 

By two o'clock I was on my way to La Cala de Mijas to my temporary abode in Peter and Linda's granny flat. It overlooks a beautiful well tended gaden with a swimming pool. The house is located on a hillside that overlooks woodland. They have a lovely, friendly and quite obedient cocker spaniel called Eleanor, and I'll get to look after her for a couple of days when Peter and Linda are away.
A great place to spend a few days bird watching in between duties, until the chaplain's new residence is ready. The only remaining obstacle to moving in is an electricity supply. The company's bureaucracy is being slow and stupid about a detail change in the client account identity number, and there seems to be nothing that will shift them for the time being. Without power, a few minor jobs cannot be done, such as fitting taps. Everything else is in place.

Late afternoon I met Val who has just returned from a weekend in Rome witnessing her huband's cousin being elevated to the rank of Cardinal in the same ceremony as Mgr Vincent Nicholls got his red hat. They were the only two Europeans out of the batch of ninteen. How times change.

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Surviving Sunday

Saturday I spent resting as much as my back injury would allow me. The past few days have been very tiring. The pain gradually diminishes, spasms and the threat of spasm are fewer and far between, but sitting for long is still uncomfortable, and when I get up, it takes a while to get moving. All of this makes sustained rest difficult to achieve. I just have to be patient with myself, and stay as loose as I can.

Sunday morning, having had a decent amount of sleep in two hour snatches,  Della kindly drove me to the service in Calahonda in the chaplaincy car. I realised I could have difficulties getting into the car without risking a spasm and was grateful for her support. Indeed, I found that getting into the car as a passenger was something of a challenge. It was nice to have someone there saying "Don´t worry, take your time" when you're conscious of the shortening gap between the end of one service and the start of another.

I was relieved to find I coped well with celebrating and preaching at Calahonda, though conscious of how tiring it was on the return journey. At St Andrew's I was fine too, although I could feel the beginning of a spasm towards the end of preaching, a symptom of tiredness. As any sitting arrangement posed problems I had to stay on my feet for both services, altogether two and a half hours. I couldn't have done that easily when I was much younger, but the training of Tai Chi and Chi Gung has been a blessing this past decade.

After Skyping the family, gathered in Kenilworth for this weekend's tenth birthday celebration for Rhiannon, I was certainly ready for an early night.

Friday, 21 February 2014

Consolations of recuperation

It´s great to be free of the trapped nerve and have more predictable general mobility. It now only takes me a minute or so to get from horizontal to vertical. There's no escaping pain from the consequential inflammation in my lower back, and I have to move carefully to avoid spasms.  During the night when I woke up and got out of bed I made sure to do a few Chi Gung exercises and walk around for a while to keep as loosened up as possible. The spasms are slowly becoming less intense and frequent, so I was able to put some washing through the machine and hang it to dry without incident. The weather is mild and sunny, a comfortable fiteen degrees. Pretty good for the last week in February.

The last few days of crisis management, have led to a complete break in personal routine. I have been unable to focus on formal prayer of any kind, even the habitual recitation of the Divine Office. Fragments of thoughts scriptural words and hymns drifted in and out of my mind like static on the telephone line. Despite my condition and circumstances, I felt quite safely held, free from fear. That was enough. Like when I had that debilitating 'flu the year before I retired, and was confined to bed for a week on my own over Christmas as I was too sick to travel to be wiht the family. Getting up today, being able to move and cope better, I returned to saying the Office, receiving once more that solace and refreshment routinely I take for granted.

After lunch I met with Churchwarden Bill for a drink and a chat in the stylish recently opened pasteleria near the covered market, then made for the office to prepare my Sunday sermon, developing the summary notes on the theme and readings which I prepared for the lay worship assistants to use in their Sunday assignments. I'm pleased to have this task to perform, as it opens up interesting conversations with them. It reminds me of tutoring seminarian preachers at St Michaels', and of helping the lay assistants in Costa Azahar chaplaincy. There's great pleasure to be had in mentoring and encouraging others to grow their enthusiasm for sharing the Gospel with others. I'd be happy to do a lot more of this.

Rehearsals were going on in church this afternoon for the annual Womens' World Day of Prayer in two weeks time. The Egyptian Church prepared the service and it uses John 4, Jesus and the Samaritan Woman at the Well. When I heard a couple of them practicing the dialogue I was taken back to my time as chaplain in Monaco when John 4 was used for an ecumenical service for Christian Unity there. The constant presence of scripture as a golden thread running through life connects wonderfully to memories of so many different times and places. Life would be so flat and dull, living entirely in the here and now without perspectives.

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Bare bones experience

I woke at four needing to go to the loo. It took me half an hour to get out of bed with no fixed furniture to cling to for support, managing painful spasms. Once vertical, I was apprehensive about returning to the horizontal, so I dressed and walked slowly to the church office to pick up some different medication left for me there by churchwarden Linda. Thankfully this eased the spasms and increased ease of movement. I sat on the far too soft sofa in a strange half sitting position and slept a further two hours. The pain of entrapment was a slightly easier to cope after sleep, and I didn´t completely seize up when I had to get up and move.

My phone calls to a locally reccomended chiropracter were fruitful. I was given a lunchtime appointment to which I was able to walk carefully, enjoying the warm air and sunshine. It must be half term down here, as there are more youngsters on the streets with their families by day, and more people on the beach. There was even someone out on a surf board, but no waves.

The chiropracter is a tall Danish man called Mogens (the 'g' is silent). His wife acts as his receptionist. They are a lovely charming couple. The treatment feels like tough love, but he administered it with careful attention to detail. We had some marvelously insightful conversation about the body and Tai Chi. His diagnostic tour of my mortal frame was informative and helpful as a wake up call. He observed from touching one spot between my shoulder blades, that I am an habitual fast eater. How true! Can change.

I walked home with the trapped nerve free. The pains of collateral damage will take a few days to subside, but the medication I've received can deal with that. I had lunch when I returned then slept in bed for another two hours. This time it only took a minute to get out of bed, although my right hip did try to go into spasm. It was just time for another dose of medication.

I'm coping reasonably, but have discovered through the experiences of the past forty eight hours just what it is like to live with infirmity or disability all the time, how vulnerable you can become very quickly, when your environment becomes unreliable for movement. Best of all, however, is how marvellously helpful people are - airline and airport staff, church members and the healing profession. I'm most fortunate that my experiences of debility and weakness have been few and far between for most of my life. It's no bad thing to be reminded of this once in a while. It'll educate me better in the art of looking out for the needs of others.

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Flying wounded

Monday morning, we drove over to Bristol to visit Amanda, somewhat worried that we hadn't recently heard from her. There was nobody at home when we called. A text message to James at school revealed she'd been taken into hospital and he's not got around to informing us. As the hospital in question wasn't her local one, but somewhere over in Bath, an impromptu visit was out of the question, so we returned home. 

There was plenty to do in the office, so I went in and worked there for the aftrernoon, as I won´t be around for a while and will have to work remotely. In the evening I packed my rucksack ready to fly. It was on the floor ready to carry downstairs. As I bent over to insert a book, I felt that lightning bolt sensation that heralds the nightmare of a trapped nerve. And it was in exactly the same position the pain hit as occurred when I was demolishing the old garden shed after Christmas. Oh dear, and a flight to take Tuesday evening.

There could be no late opportunity to book an appointment with a chiropracter. I just had to hope the pain could be managed until treatment in Spain was possible. It was pretty bad Tuesday afternoon, so much so that the only respite from agony was to be found in standing Tai Chi style with 'soft knees' and 'long neck'. I couldn't fold up enough to get in the car to be ferried direct to Cardiff airport, so Clare came with me on the 61 bus. I stood all the way. The wait for the airport shuttle bus was brief, and I was able to sit with grab handles close by to lift myself when discomfort escalated. 

At the airport terminal I registered for Special Assistance, and with a little care cleared security controls with out needing to do much lifting. I was two hours early, and the plane was 15 minutes late arriving. For most of the wait I just had to stand to manage the pain. I was surprised at how quickly time passed, being thus occupied. The airport staff were very kind and helpful and so were the charming Vueling flight attendants. There was room to move around on board, but my seat was so comfortable that I only got up three times during the flight - once as we flew over Madrid, which looked amazingly sci-fi from seven miles high. 

The plane made up time and arrived only five minutes late. I was escorted down the stairs, which thankfully I could cope with alone, to the invalid transport van where I was assigned a wheelchair for the journey to passport control. We had to wait around for quite a while, but the Special Assistance worker assigned to look after me wheeled me all the way to the RENFE station, and by ten forty I was Fuengirola bound. I hobbled into the apartment at quarter past eleven, and spent ages thawing a meal I prepared before going away and unpacking, so it was one before I lowered myself gingerly into bed.

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Opera with friends

How lovely, a rain free Sunday with added sunshine! 

We were up early to attend the Eucharist at St John's Canton, enabling us to visit the Riverside Market early and then get home to prepare lunch. Mike and Gail drove down from Worcester to eat with us before we went to an afternoon performance of Verdi's opera 'La Traviata' in the Wales Millennium Centre. We arrived with time to spare for a stroll along the waterside before taking our places.

It was the same production that we saw five years ago, as ever with fine singers and stirring chorus work. It doesn't seem quite that long since we saw this last. Time flies as you get older, for sure, but to my mind the reason it seems as if we saw it more recently is the enduring memory of the music and the quality of its performance. Being out in Spain this winter has meant missing out on our other opera bookings, so it was important to return this week for an outing with our oldest friends.

It was good to be home by half past seven, to enjoy supper and more conversation before they made their longer journey home.

Saturday, 15 February 2014

What you see isn't always what you get

On Friday there was more heavy rain and winds were high enough for us to abandon our planned visit to Bristol to see Amanda. We went into town instead and bought a new lighter vacuum cleaner in John Lewis'. As we were unpacking it when we got home we noticed that the specifications on the box were not those advertised on the stand where we bought it. A web trawl and phone call revealed a disparity between the Dyson Animal's 'battery life' (20mins) and the advertised 'cleaning run time' (26 mins) due to new special switching technology. This wasn't described in the display with any measure of understanding of the difference between the two, on a top of range model. We decided to take the machine back and seek an alternative, for which it's clearer that what you see is what you get and what you pay for.

It rained on Saturday too, but not enough to deter us from a return refund visit and a cup of tea in 'The Plan', Morgan Arcade's eternally stylish coffee and tea house, which I used to visit with my parents some sixty years ago, when it was Cardiff's one and only Sarsparilla Bar. The layout and furnishing look much the same as then, although absent from the servery counter is the large glass container for the American (BCC) soft drink (BCC = before Coca Cola) beloved of teetotallers in old Western movies. This was one of the few places known to us in Cardiff where it could be enjoyed in very interesting surroundings. The place is an acclaimed venue for gourmet coffee drinking. I can't go in there without thinking of my Mum and Dad.

Third episode of 'Salamander' tonight on BBC4. I missed the earlier two because of the BBC blackout afflicting Spain's satellite TV consumers, but caught up on them in the hours leading up to the broadcast. It's another bi-lingual drama in Flemish and and that nice clear Belgian French, so easy to follow. Entertaining, but no big twists and turns to surprise the crimmy weary viewer so far.

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Tech support

A day in the office setting up auxiliary displays to show radio location maps on our monitoring system. It was a lot less straightforward than I'd expected, and I had to go out and buy a display adaptor to link up a newly purchased display. I had to abandon the set up of the kit in our day time base to go and work on the kit in our night time base, as I couldn't get the software configuration to work. I had more success with the second set up, and when I returned to base, found the system had stopped misbehaving and was working almost as intended. It seemed to have sorted itself out while unattended! It's all beyond me, but I had a great sense of achievement when it all worked.

Our BCRP counterpart from Barry and his colleague came over to see us and discuss local collaboration, as our areas overlap. It was very useful and constructive, promising well for the future, and the upheavals that'll come when local authorities mergy in a few years time.

Owain came around in the evening and the three of us went out for supper in the re-opened restaurant in Romilly Crescent, now badged as 'Arbennig', where we had a pleasant meal washed down with a bottle of Tierra de Castillon vino tinto, which we followed with a bottle of Faustin VII Rioja, cheese and chocolate when we got home. Good cheer on a night with music of driving rain and hail out there in the dark.

Regional crime reduction pow-wow

After an early trip to the GP surgery for a prescription renewal, I pottered about for a couple of hours, then went into town, changed some Euros, horrified by the exchange rate, then went and bought a superzoom Sony HX50 camera that I could have bought in Malaga at the same price, had I not miscalculated the exchange rate and duped myself into thinking it would be cheaper to buy in the UK. I started out some months ago looking for a decent telephoto lens for my DSLR, but quickly gave up on the idea. A 30x zoom in a pocketable camera is a fifth of the price of a lens that would add weight and complexity I don't need for my kind of photography. Like everyone else I'd like to take good quality pictures, but don't need professional high quality output to satisfy my personal needs.

Ashley and I then met up at our new office in the Old Library and we travelled by train to Swansea for the Wales Against Business Crime quarterly meeting with other people working in Business Crime Partnerships across South East Wales. It's the first time I can recall travelling to Swansea by train and it was interesting to see the familiar landmarks along the M4 corridor from a different perspective.

I was the first meeting of this group I've been to, and I was impressed by the amount of ground we covered, ranging from confidential information sharing on identifiable shoplifters travelling between shopping centres along the M4, to discussion about the astonishing inconsistencies between local divisions of South Wales Police in implementing information sharing agreements with their Business Crime Reduction Partnership. Problems in Cardiff are reflected in nearly every area.

Because flooding, high winds and rain were imposing speed restrictions in some areas along the Swansea to Paddington line, there were delays in the schedule of trains that would get us back to Cardiff. It was seven o'clock by the time we got back and I was very lucky to get a bus home within minutes. Clare had arranged an outing to Chapter Arts Centre to hear a story teller accompanied by a fiddler and a guitarist tell tales from the Mabinogion. I scoffed half my supper in great haste before we set out and thankfully we were on time, and to our surprise ended up with a front row seat in an extra row placed on stage. A refreshing end to an interesting day. Now I must get that camera battery charged and ready for action.

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Homeward bound

I spent the morning working on a few things which now won't need doing when I get back, before heading to Malaga Airport on the one o'clock train. Three accordeon toting buskers from Eastern Europe paraded up and down the train playing so badly I would have almost given them money to shut up. The noise they made drowned the station announcements, which are not so easy to hear at the best of times. After a few stops a security guard boarded the train and herded them to a door near the far end of the train, and saw them off a few stops further on. Another guard met the train and seemed to be confiscating one of the accordeon, wheeling it off on its little trolley minus its owner. I guess this must be a regular feature of life in these parts, as train travel is relatively cheap, for someone hoping to recover the cost of their fare by busking through the journey - provided they don't get caught.

The plane was full. It left and arrived punctually. The weather in Cardiff was rainy but ten degrees colder than Malaga. As we dipped beneath the clouds on the final approach to Rhoose, I caught sight of Sully Island, then Barry Island and a slice of our marvellous Jurassic coastal cliffs, just before touching down. Despite the greyness it lifted my spirits, reminding me of flying down Lake Geneva past Nyon, Versiox and Genthod on the descent, crossing over the Bison herd that pastures in the field near the runway lights. That used to feel like arriving home. I'm glad that I can now feel that about flying into Cardiff Wales Airport. Thank you Vueling for the pleasure.

Monday, 10 February 2014

Ready to go

The wind howled around the apartment block throughout the night, and it rained, but by the time I emerged to go to the office mid-morning, the sun was out and the streets were dried by the breeze. I walked down to the Mercadonna at the near end of Los Pacos beach to stock up on their own brand dark chocolate to take home with them. It's one which Clare discovered when she was here, and Owain also approves of. 

After lunch I walked to Torreblanca and back before another visit to the office. Finally, I remembered that I needed to register a Gmail address to use with the Chaplain's Sony Experia smartphone for downloading apps, something that wasn't bothered with by previous phone users. I can now take the phone with me back to Wales, and call people here at no cost using Viber over wi-fi.

Tomorrow I'm travelling just with a rucksack for camera kit and laptop. Everything else I need is at home. It'll be a pleasure to fly without a suitcase. Having said that, the rucksack feels heavy enough. It´s packed to go already, and all the warmest clothes I have with me ready for the ten degree drop in temperature when I step off the ´plane the other end.

Sunday, 9 February 2014

A very wet Sunday

The coast and sierras of Andalucia were all shrouded in cloud and visited by heavy rain through last night and most of today. I drove up to Alhaurin on roads awash with water in many stretches. There's even some water in the normally dry river beds hereabouts today. Even so the usual twenty odd worshippers were present for the Eucharist, and half for them stayed for a coffee in the bar nearby after. Among the congregation was a retired priest and his wife from Felixstowe, near where Eddie and Anne live. They are staying for the next couple of months.

After a late lunch, Jim took me to visit 95 year old Peachy and give her Communion. She lives in a top floor apartment in Torreblanca, fifteen minutes walk from church. She's lived in this area for over forty years and remembers how it was before urbanisation, when there were sand dunes behind the beach at Los Boliches, not tower blocks. She's housebound now, but still spirited and alert, full of good humour and appreciative of a visit from someone other than her carers. 

Saturday, 8 February 2014

Different kinds of entertainment

The last couple of days were cloudy and intermittently rainy. Finally on Friday, I got around the buying a second hand guitar from the music school down in the car park basement level of the building that houses St Andrew's church. It's taken me a while to make up my mind, but on days when going out didn't seem like a congenial option, I fancied that I was missing having a guitar to pick up and play. Roy, a retired musician who attends church introduced me to the proprietor of the music school who showed me some instruments he had for sale. He didn't do hire, but there was one instrument I tried which had an attractive voice. So, after a week of indecision, I decided to buy, and I'm not regretting the outlay of 160 euros.

It's a proper classical Spanish guitar from Muro de Alcoy in Valencia Provice, made by a company whose brand name 'Alhambra' and its in immaculate condition. My original classical Spansh guitar bought for me by my father when I was eighteen is also of Valencian provenance, a Tatay. During the past dark couple of days, when not watching Olympic skiing on TV, I've been picking it up and playing. My hands are stiff, so I need all the practice I can manage to get my musical memory to re-connect with my fingers, but it's such a pleasure. It's a lovely instrument, and I was lucky to get it at such a reasonable price. The question is now, will I eventually take it back to Wales? And if so how will I transport it safely?

Over this weekend, the BBC channels have finally disappeared from the Sky satellite channel. It's been on the cards for many months and much moaned about by expatriates in southern Spain, all affected by change in the orientation of the Astra 2 satellite. Watching the Olympics with Spanish commentary was, in a way, quite educational. Watching Ireland thrash Wales in the Rugby international on the RTE channel was a cross cultural experience of another kind. The Irish gift of the gab isn't displayed in high emotion or hyperbole, but in a fluent, educated use of words, less irritating more listenable than common BBC sports spiel. It was a pleasant surprise, despite the result of the game.

Thursday, 6 February 2014


As the weather had taken a turn for the better, providing a blue sky mild sunny day, I took the train into Malaga at the end of the morning for some more sightseeing. I made my way through the old town to visit the Roman amphitheatre and the Alcazaba Palace, both of which I missed out on in my visit last November. 
There's a stylish new interpretation centre at one end giving easy access to the site for people on wheels, both at the lower and upper viewing levels. Impressive, also free entry!
The Alcazaba Palace dates from the time of the Moors, and is built into the hillside adjacent to the old town centre, with the Gibralfaro fortress on top of the hill above it.
Whilst it's not as large or majestic as the Alhambra Palace in Granada, it has many of the same environmental features - views out over the city, simple but elegant gateways, courtyard gardens, and running water at every level, pleasing the ear as well as the eye.
It's a place of tranquility and beauty, with a variety of beautiful ornate archways, tiled friezes and ceilings 
Best of all, as a pensioner, I paid just 60 centesimos for admission!
It's the kind of place worth re-visiting for a couple of relaxing hours with a picnic, as it contrasts so happily with the noise and bustle of the streets, crowded with people eating lunch outdoors even in mid winter.
On the way to Alcazaba I discovered a small plaza in which there was a traditional Adalusian courtyard building resembling an urban convent, but advertising itself as dedicated to the work of the Order of Hospitallers of St John of God.
In modern jargon it's a church social services centre, offering family care, crisis counselling, showers and clean clothes distribution. According to the banner on the building facade, recently a big group of martyrs belonging to the Order were beatified in Tarragona Cathedral in Catalunya.

I looked up St John of God and the Order when I got back to Fuengirola, and discovered a fragment of Christian history of which I was previously unaware. John of God died in 1550. His story is remarkable. He was born in Portugal, abducted from home at the age of eight, then abandoned, and lived by his wits until he was taken in by a Spanish farmer. In his late teens he became a soldier, and remained so until he was converted while he was in Granada in his forties. His vocation was to care for the sick and the poor and he established hospices in which this ministry could be exercised. After his death the Order was formed by people inspired by his example and since then its activities have multiplied and spread all over the world. 

The group of martyrs seventy one members of the Hospitaller community were all murdered during the Spanish Civil War. There's a church nearby which is dedicated to their memory. At this stage in my discovery I don't even know which side in the conflict made them victims, Republican or Royalist. It hardly matters, because their community's priorities are unequivocally clear - caring for the poor and suffering. Whoever shoots the gun at, or strings up the noose on such as these is pretty sick in soul and spirit, however they seek to justify their action. There's no way back to healing and reconciliation however, unless their courageous faith in times of conflict is honoured by all.

On my way back to the RENFE station, I hunted for the indoor Mercado Atarazanas, which I discovered back in November, hoping to re-acquaint myself with the delicious empaƱadas sold on a bakery stall therein. I couldn't recall how I'd reached it. I could navigate back to the station without a street map, but had no idea how to locate the market in relation to the station. Just after I'd given up looking, I caught sight of the distinctive Moorish ironwork decorative design covering the market exterior, and got to the stall in time to buy the last empaƱada on display. Next time I'll remember how near the market is to the arroyo close to the station. There are photos of Alcazaba and some other places of interest here.

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Cross cultural communiction

Today was cloudy and damp. I got up early and celebrated the Eucharist at St Andrews's, after lunch I took Communion in hospital to Fr David Wright, former Chaplain, living in retirement near his daughter in Calahonda. It was a lovely experience, ministering to a fellow priest, and we discovered we had in common a colleague from my Geneva days, Fr Hugh Pettingell. Apparently they were at Kings College Cambridge together.

As I was about to set out from the car park, I was accosted by a teenage girl called Ina, who'd popped out of a basement building for a smoke, from where some sort of social event or language class was going on. She  saw I was a priest and asked me if I believed in God. We had a conversation surrounding her opinion of the Finnish cleric who visited her granny at home. Both of them were convinced the cleric didn't believe in God. I suggested the real problem might be lack of a common means of expression to speak about things to do with God, just like the generational gap  or the cultural language gap between countries. Ina seemed to appreciate this and gave me a big hug before re-joining her friends. It made my day.

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Cheque in

Monday was a day of clouds and intermittent rain, and I got pretty damp during my afternoon paseo. Apart from that, I passed the day writing in the apartment and later in the office, mapping out Lent Study events I'm proposing to offer on the interpretation of Semana Santa tradition, and writing copy for the welcome page of the Chaplaincy website, which is finally getting an overdue update. I had an email from one of the wardens of the Costa Azahar Chaplaincy asking if I could help them out in March, which I can't because I'm here. It seems they are coping with another interregnum. Following the death of his wife last Autumn, Fr Clem has decided not to return. It's sad news all round, and another long wait in prospect to recruit a successor.

This morning, I walked into the centre of Fuengirola to the bank used by the church to cash an expenses cheque written, not to me personally, but to el portador (the bearer), without an account to pay it into. I had one of those from a funeral director when I was here in November, and the treasurer took care of it. It's many decades since I last handled one of this kind in Britain. Cashing a cheque rarely a different experience. It seems this practice is still common routine here.

From the bank, I walked up to El Corte Ingles, then back to the apartment, a round trip of about seven kilometres, calling at the huge open air market at the recinto feriale on the last stretch to get some more olives, as I ran out last night. I got a mix of back and green, straight from the big storage tubs, and they were so much more delicious than the canned ones that I've been getting for convenience, I'll make more effort in future. I stopped next at a big Chinese supermarket and bought a couple of small food storage containers just for this purpose. The other thing I'm enjoying at the moment is luscious ripe avocados, small ones the size of an apple and a larger variety the size of a big grapefruit. Together with olives, and a dressing of garlic, oil and lemon, this is a truly enduring comfort food! One of things I love about Spain.

Sunday, 2 February 2014

Candlemass, and news from home

I walked across Plaza san Rafael to get the car this morning just moments before the sun peeped over the horizon. I was a bit earlier than usual as I had to drive out to Mijas Golf village to collect Gordon the organist at Benalmadena, as Val, his usual lift, is up in Madrid this weekend. We arrived in Benalmadena in good time just minutes before we could get into the church. Gordon explained that the building complex was locked down with a timer overnight, so that even those who had keys couldn't get in before nine o'clock. This was a consequence of a break-in some time back. It gives the welcome team just half an hour to get everything ready before the service starts. 

Afterwards, Gordon guided me uphill to the nearest motorway exit, so that I could make haste on the motorway and take him back to Mijas Golf before going to St Andrews for the service there. It worked fine, and I arrived with eight minutes to spare. I imagine that in the holiday seasons the coastal trip back from Benalmadena would be slower, less predictable, and the added 20 minutes to take Gordon back to Mijas Golf would be out of the question. It doesn't happen all that often, however.

There were nearly sixty at Los Boliches, long stay visitors from Colorado and Belgium among them. As it´s Candlemass today, I preached about the ministry of old people in relation to children, and was surprised by the favourable comments I had afterwards. I stopped and chatted with people for a good while, so it was gone three by the time I sat down to lunch. The earlier morning start took its toll, and a siesta snooze was called for before I was ready to return to the office for a session on Skype with Clare and then Rachel.

I had an email from Archbishop Barry announcing the appointment of his Chaplain Fr. Gerwyn Capon as the new Dean of Llandaff. From his present role, there's nothing about the problems and difficulties of the past year that Gerwyn isn't aware of, and he's already a familiar figure to the Cathedral staff, Chapter and church members. Let's hope and pray that everyone will now pull together behind his leadership to restore the credibility of the place in the eyes of church people and Cardiffians, shocked and disconcerted by the events of the past nine months. That's vital if the institutuon is to recover from its financial difficulties.

Saturday, 1 February 2014

Match weekend

Apart from preparing a Candlemass sermon, and a trip to the covered market for fruit'n veg, Friday was a quiet uneventful overcast day with light rain to discourage me from venturing far. Today the breeze was just a little warmer and no rain, so I strolled down to the promenade as far as the town centre and back, having got bored with watching the Wales Italy rugby match by the end of the first half. It was nice to hear 'Mae hen wlad fy nhadau' sung by the crowd in the Millennium Stadium back in Cardiff. The roof was closed, as the weather has been awful. So many places in Britain are suffering from floods exacerbated by high Spring tides. The weather is so much kinder here. There are occasional torrential outbursts, but still less rainwater than is desirable for the good fortunes of agriculture.