Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Getting back into novel reading

Time slips by quickly. I'm getting right back into a routine that entails a daily visit to the CBS office wedged in between domestic and personal tasks. On Monday after work, I had a replacement screen fitted to my Samsung Galaxy Ace II. Only when I was on my way home on the bus did I discover that although the touch screen itself worked fine, the touch area and home button at the bottom of the screen didn't work. That meant a trip back to the shop on Tuesday morning to get it fixed. The tech guys were charming and apologetic. They were in a rush and I was in a rush at the end of Monday, so neither of us had tested it thoroughly before parting company.

While I was waiting for the second repair I popped into W H Smith, and impulse bought a couple of novels to read - Patricia Cornwell's 'Dust' and John Le Carre's 'A delicate truth', both of which hit my curiosity button, and were a discount bundle. I started the former to kill time, and was soon hooked. Over the past few years I haven't read many books. I simply lost interest. I read a lot of news on line, and get doses of fiction from watching telly, and on Monday that meant the first Episode of the acclaimed 'Hinterland' on BBC Four, which was first produced on S4C, and is gloriously bi-lingual, and for once it's not Danish or Swedish and English, it's Cymraeg - Ardderchog bechgyn

Blessed or cursed with a strongly visual way of engaging, I get a lot from well crafted authentic film drama. If you're interested in storyline and its messages, concentration of narrative in visual images saves lots of time. It's another way of saying that I'm impatient with slow convoluted descriptive narrative. If I want that sort of imaginative pleasure from words, I'd choose poetry to conjure with. Now, I like Cornwell's complex story lines, but tend to speed read terse descriptive passages she uses to evoke mood and atmosphere. In this respect, 'Dust' portrays the world in much the same way as in novels she wrote a dozen years ago - wintry, dank and grey for the most part.

I wondered if I still had enough patience and concentration not to get bored with reading a novel. I now realise that when I'm abroad or on holiday I have little taste for reading because there's so much to see take an interest in and take pictures of. Yet, leisure reading is a major industry, and every expatriate community I know of has some kind of book exchange facility, if not a library, so many if not most people do read. When I get stuck into a book, I shut the world out completely and read every spare moment of the day and evening until I fall asleep. That's easy when the world outside resembles the backdrop of a Patricia Cornwell novel, as it has done here lately.

Wednesday morning, I acquired a new office chair for home. It'll do me no end of good, as it sits tall enough at my desk to allow correct typing posture. I should have done this years ago. Ashley and I drove to the PMR offices in Chepstow in the afternoon, to sort out some issues with several radios. The weather had cleared up sufficiently by then to make it a very pleasant drive, with the deciduous trees along the route glamorous with fresh growth of leaves.  

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Paternal pride

A damp grey Low Sunday. We went to the Parish Eucharist at St Catherine's. The regular clergy were away and there was a retired priest on duty I didn't know. It was so good to be on the receiving end for a change, and to hear a good sermon. I always enjoy Low Sunday, whether I'm working or resting. The great intensity of the Holy Triduum is released into joyful celebration, and what follows is a calm contemplative period of realisation, absorbing living the eternal mystery. The challenge is to stay like that for the rest of Eastertide. 

Before lunch  we went to Riverside Market to get fruit, veggies and cheese for the week - Caerphilly Cheese of course, soon to have its own unique apellation controlle status label. So nice to come home to tastes as special as any good thing one can find in Spain.

The afternoon floated by, writing, uploading photos to Picasaweb and labelling them. We heard from a chirpy Rachel on Skype, delighted to hear she's getting more singing gigs and recognition over in Arizona, to the point where her songs are getting air time now on a local radio station. Kath told us when we were in Spain that her small company has got Arts Council funding to take their dance show for children on another Wriggledance Theatre national tour. That's a major professional achievement for her and her partners. She'll be working hard in the coming months, and we'll get to look after Rhiannon when they're on tour.
Owain came around in the evening and shared a bottle of wine, some olives and chorizo, and chatted about jobs he was pursuing. How he copes with the daunting experience of being short listed so often and not selected, is hard to imagine. It's fortunate his creative side is so strong. Making music and writing about the techno scene on his music and arts blog are channels in which he continues to develop his experience, skills and gifts personally. He's philosophical about his trials and tribulations, except for the occasional panic. He doesn't give up and that makes me as proud of him as his sisters.

Saturday, 26 April 2014

Tulips at Dyffryn

After pottering around all morning, we drove out to Dyffryn Gardens for our first visit of the Spring. The weather was overcast grey, but the spectacular brilliance of the displays of tulips wherever we went gave us plenty to lift the spirit. 
 We ended up in the tea room, as we usually do just before closing time, and were served with a smile while the staff were packing up for the day. From our window seat we has a good view of the bird table outside - a solitary robin, a pair of chaffinches amd these blue tits.
I took my Sony Alpha 55 DSLR to use instead of my more portable Sony HX50. I should have taken and used both in order to compare quality in the results. Certainly the Alpha's telephoto lens has but a quarter of the power of the HX50's built in lens, so I know I could have done better with the birdie closeup pictures with the smaller camera. I can see that in expert hands a DSLR can produce fine results, but for the average joe, I wonder if the expense, bulk and hassle of a DSLR are justified, now that pocket cameras have become so very sophisticated and useable.

It was pleasant to have a relaxed evening in front of the TV without sermon or other duties to prepare for tomorrow. My first weekend free in two months. The latest batch of pictures can be viewed here.

Friday, 25 April 2014

Easter gifts

How lovely to wake up after a comfortable night's sleep in a familiar bed and bedroom once again! After a quick breakfast I walked to the GP surgery to get the appointment everyone's been nagging me about, to get my chesty cough due to chronic bronchial catarrh these past few months checked out. I'll have to wait two weeks. Either that or it's 'book on the day', queuing or phoning in to a busy surgery line at twenty past eight in the morning in competition with dozens of others who want to be seen sooner rather than later. Today was already fully booked. It's too much of an effort to compete with so many others who may or may not be sick needier or worse than I. All I know is, I'm improving very slowly, and a change of environment is already influencing the daily progress of the catarrh slightly for the better. I feel sure it was the totally different range of pollen varieties as well as dust and other urban pollutants that I was reacting to in Spain. The next few days will show if there's a sustainable difference.

On the way into town to rendezvous at the National Museum for a chat with Dr Laura Ciobanu visiting once again from Bucharest, I called into Constantinou's at Canton Cross for a hair cut, to look respectable for a driving license photo. Stavros was out of the shop when I arrived, so I was welcomed by his son Stefan who cut my hair. Dad returned before I left so I was able to greet him with 'Christos Anesti' before leaving. There was no bus in sight to catch, on what's normally a busy road, and being a little behind time, I walked in to the Museum, which was probably much quicker. It only took me fifteen minutes. 

Laura was waiting for me and we spent an hour and a half chatting in the Museum entrance hall about Christian historic art and faith. It's a place she's fond of, and always makes a point of visiting the exhibition of stone Celtic crosses. She brought me a Romanian Easter loaf she'd baked, brioche, laced with chocolate and pears, also a jar of rose petal confiture, with the most delicate aroma and flavour, another Romanian speciality. It was a lovely meeting, which ended with me praying over her and giving her a blessing right there. I no longer have inhibitions about doing things like this in public, especially when I know that the faith of the other person shields them from any sense of embarrassment.

As I was leaving, Clare called to say she was in town, so we met up in Marks and Spencer and had a snack lunch together before I make my way to the main Post Office to get my driving license photo card application processed. There's now a special counter queue called 'Identity Services' where you present your form, get a digital photo taken, and a digital signature, which are then processed electonically. The DVLC then mail the license and photo card back to one's home address. It'll be interesting to see how long it takes.

Several more hours in the office followed, preparing for a meeting with new senior staff in Cardiff Council and South Wales Police in the coming weeks. And after supper, several hours more work needed to be done on the CBS company constitution, that separately defines our structures and way of working as a not for profit social enterprise. I started this task last December, and this is the first chance I've had to resume. I had almost completed it, but it needed careful going over. Nice to be fresh enough to return to this with fresh eyes after a long break. I was quite pleased with the result. 

Thursday, 24 April 2014

A homecoming to quiet

We got up at five and breakfasted, then Peter arrived at six to take us to the airport. By six twenty we were waiting for our check-in to open, as the Vueling desks were coping with an influx of late arrivals for their Amsterdam flight. By a quarter to seven we were through security and having a second breakfast on the long walk to Departure Gate 18, few of the shops were open, so there wasn't much to do except sit and doze. We took off punctually, and landed ahead of schedule in Rhoose, ten degrees cooler than Malaga. The bag handling crew can't have been prepared for the early arrival, as it took half an hour from landing to retrieve our luggage, but we only had five minutes to wait before the Airport Shuttle arrived to take us to Cardiff. By half past eleven we were home, six and a half hours from door to door.

Being away for two months, there was a huge pile of mail for me, which I sorted and selected stuff requiring a prompt response, like renewing my driver's license photo card, and information about road resurfacing in our neighbourhood. Late afternoon, I went into town to get some fruit and fish for supper from the market, and visit the office to catch up on what needs to be done next. I stayed for a couple of hours. My first job, to update computers which have not been regularly used in my absence, but need to be instantly usable if they are required - the usual boring stuff to get out of the way as soon as possible, to make office life easier.

It's amazing to return to Meadow Street and realise just how quiet it is compared to all the places I've lived in the past four months. Being an urban area, the background noise of traffic, or of people socialising is usually present to some extent wherever you are. So it's been a quiet enjoyable evening, updating home PCs and reading back numbers of Linux Format, a pleasant re-adjustment to a different place and way of life. 

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Getting ready for the return home

I celebrated the Eucharist for seven people this morning, and then took my leave of people and went back to pack up, clean the house and clear the office computer of all my personal data. This was less easy than I imagined, as the machine was set up using Windows Vista in Spanish. Figuring out exactly how to get rid of all the bookmarks and browsing history would have been easier with an English machine with the Chrome browser as a crib sheet. If there is a Big Red Button to get rid of everything in one fell swoop, I didn't find it.

Peter and Linda came around for lunch, and we had a valuable chat, that will help ensure continuity when my replacement arrives this Friday. With most of the household jobs done, we sat in the front porch and supped on leftovers by the light of the setting sun, enjoying the changing colours of the Sierra de Mijas. A fitting way to conclude our stay as first occupants of the new chaplaincy house. 

Whether we return for another tour of locum duty in the autumn will depend entirely upon the outcome of the appointment interviews a month from now. I was just getting used to dressing for warmer spring weather, and am wondering how I'll cope with it being ten degrees cooler in Cardiff, and whether there'll be any improvement in the chronic hay fever I've been suffering this past few months, once my body has only native pollens my body is accustomed to contending with.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Back to life

I got Owain to the airport by six, in good time for his flight, and was back in the house by six fifteen. It was still pitch dark, so I went back to bed for a few hours. It didn't seem to make much difference, however, as later in the day I kept nodding off, and had to surrender to a siesta after an afternoon visit to El Corte Ingles for a new battery for my Lumix DMS-LX5 camera. After a couple of months of non-use, sitting in my suitcase while I got used to my new Sony HX50, it was re-chargeable no longer. I've only had the camera ten months, but got it at a third of its list price because it had been a display model. I daresay the battery was worked very hard and not looked after properly in the year or so it was on show, so I'm not surprised really. A new battery cost €31.80 and after charging, the camera is as beautiful to use as it ever was.

Bill and Susanna came around for supper. I cooked a paella to honour the occasion. It's only my second effort using the largest frying pan the kitchen has to offer, something of a challenge catering for four. The state of the art cooker top with touch controls has only three hobs, one of which is too large for any of the existing cooking pots. Clearly it was designed with a big skillet or paella pan in mind. I must put this on the wish list for the house. It's one of the few things that's lacking in a marvellously equipped residence for a soon to be appointed chaplain (we hope). I'm due to return at the end of August to cover the time until the new priest is ready to move in and take over. At the moment there's no idea as to whether that's going to be a couple of weeks or months.

Monday, 21 April 2014

A wet non-bank holiday

It's not a bank holiday here, but a normal working day today, and time for Kath, Anto and Rhiannon to leave us. After a long slow breakfast I took them to Malaga Airport to pick up their holiday hire car from Goldcar at noon. I was there and back again in half an hour, despite the rain. Unexpectedly, they had to queue for two hours to collect the car before setting out north on the A7/N340 in the direction of Almeria, and then inland to Lorca, where they were due to spend the night at the Parador hotel. Mid afternoon we had a photo of them enjoying a picnic lunch on the Balcon de Europa in Nerja, a place well familiar to Clare and I from previous locum stints. Early evening we had a photo of the wonderful view from the hotel room at their destination. Tomorrow they travel to Sta Pola for their second week.

Despite the rain and heavy cloud, we drove with Owain up to Mijas pueblo, enjoyed a tapas lunch at the Secret Garden Restaurant, and did the obligatory tour of the shops and viewpoints. It was quite cold up there because of the rain. I was disappointed it wasn't conducive to a longer stroll, but Owain was glad to have been there. After our return, I went down to church to meet up with Jim and then we took Peachy her Easter Communion. As we left, the rain poured on us, so we dashed up the street and caught a bus back to Los Boliches to save getting any wetter. Fortunately I'd driven down to church and succeeded in finding a parking space close by the church, so I didn't get went tramping back up the hill to the house.

Owain cooked us some delicious fresh filleted sardinas for supper, with a tomato salad, washed down with a bottle of Ribera del Duero, a wine for which he has enquired a fresh enthusiasm. It originates in the region south of the Rioja zone in northern Spain and has a fine character of its own. It's the vino de casa at la Vieja Escuela restaurant, and I've noticed a lot more of it on sale around here than I've seen in other areas.

There was no alternative to early bed, as Owain's early return to Cardiff with Vueling tomorrow demands a five o'clock wake up call.

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Hallelujah anyhow - Christ is risen indeed!

I woke up early, buzzing gently with the prospect of the day's celebrations, then got up and went out to watch the Easter sunrise with clouds promising a rainy day to follow.
Val ferried me to Benalmadena for the nine thirty Eucharist, then back to Los Boliches for the second service, to ensure I could arrive and not have time wasting parking hassles. It was wonderfully relaxing to be driven in such a situation of potential pressure. There were twenty five of us at Benalmadena, and we sang the service unaccompanied, as the organist was in the UK attending the christening of his grandson. Then there were eighty of us at St Andrews, almost a full house. 

It rained during most of the service and for several hours afterwards, and afterwards the family gathered and we dodged showers all the way to La Vieja Escuela restaurant where we were booked in for a festive lunch. It was an amazing meal, accompanied by excellent Ribera de Duero red wine, and a starter of air dried jamon cut from the bone. I had a dish containing three different kinds of tomatoes, flavored with black rock salt, followed by rice and  chicken fillets cooked in a subtle cream and saffron sauce, with strawberries to follow, poached in a black pepper sauce. All new and memorable tastes to savour. The others were equally delighted with their choices too, and afterwards we walked along the still wet promenade to Torreblanca for a drink, before strolling home.

Sadly the rain meant the curtailment of the local processions of the image of Cristo resucitado so the streets were extra quiet where one would have expected them to be full of people waiting for the procession to pass. Late in the evening I happened on a Fuengirola TV broadcast, which showed the bedraggled procession arriving at the Parish Church of our Lady in Plaza del Carmen, where all the processionistas, civic officials took refuge, along with the trono of Cristo resucitado and its bearers.
Thanks to this excellent broadcast service I was also able to capture a few inside views which timing and location would have otherwise denied me.
The band reassembled in the gallery and played, and the trono moved around in a restricted area that had been hastily cleared of its bench pews to create a space. Every now and then, at a signal, all the hand bells used in procession to signal between the different sections of walkers would be rung together and the trono exalted up at arms length by its bearers in celebration - women as well as men included, I noted.
Rain must have been a disappointment for those who'd put so much time and effort into preparing for this crowning event of such a remarkable week in the life of the Andalusian faithful, but even so they made the best they could of a very damp occasion. As they say in the Caribbean - Hallelujah anyhow.

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Holy Saturday and the Virgen de Soledad

A quiet day, time to rest and prepare an Easter sermon. The family took themselves off to Fuengirola Zoo for the afternoon, and I stayed at home, and watched yesterday's late night Semana Santa Good Friday footage from both Malaga and on the local TV channel, from Fuengirola itself. There's such a lot to reflect upon in sight of large communities of people supporting those processing with the tronas belonging to their local barrio

Someone I was speaking to remarked that there were many atheists as well as believers among the hombres de trono, as respect for tradition motivated many to play their part, just as witnessing to their faith motivated others. I wonder if there's any dialogue between them? An exercise in collaboration  on this scale, involving a hundred to two hundred and fifty people is hardly a seasonal effort. It requires practice and discipline throughout the year to walk together bearing a heavy burden for hours on end, and ensure there's a rising generation of recruits the right size, fit and strong enough to take part.

It's interesting to see that there are tronos carried by teams from military regiments, police and fire brigade. Every outfit has its crowd of supporters, and are applauded for their efforts when they stop or negotiate obstacles. The TV footage shows that many if not most of the tronos pass through the Cathedral, where they are blessed as part of their journey. 

The tronos paraded on Good Friday portray the last hour of Christ's life, his death, taking down from the cross and burial. The crowd is less exuberant, and on occasions stands silent. I was told that the street lights are dimmed or extinguished at a certain moment, although this wasn't a feature of the TV re-runs that I saw. Every procession features an image from the passion of Christ and an image of the Virgin Mary under one of her many names and functions, characteristic of Spanish Catholic devotion. Understanding the distinctions for someone not raised in this spiritual tradition is an quite exercise in interpretation. 

After watching the Malaga processions and then later those of Fuengirola, there was one image of Mary I saw that stood out among the others for me: Nuestra Senora de Soledad our Lady of Solitude. Mart stands at the foot of the empty cross her arms open downwards in a gesture of abandonment and desolation. There are ornate versions and occasionally one that's relatively simple. It's the gesture that speaks however, no matter how much the image is dressed up or dressed down.

On my way to collect Clare from the zoo visit, I noticed the Los Boliches casa hermanidad was open and the image of Cristo resucitado was in the process of being decorated for tomorrow's procession. It hadn't been there last time I passed by, so it was a surprise to see it squeezed in between the other two tronos housed there.
It was lovely to see the care and attention being lavished on the decoration of the trono, and the obvious pleasure this gave to the cofradia hermanos, working together.
I couldn't find much useful information about celebrations of the Easter Vigil in Fuengirola. Maybe it's not made as much of in this part of the world as in others. Disappointing for me, as this is one of my favourite moments of the entire Christian year. I found the Pope's Easter Vigil Mass at St Peter's Rome, streaming live on You Yube, but it was nearly over when I discovered it, the service having started earlier in the evening than I would have expected. Later I read the Paschal Vigil scripture readings on iBreviary, the best I could do in the circumstances.

Friday, 18 April 2014

Good Friday

The processional images created in Andalusia are often evocative and powerful, despite the embellishments, so it's good to reflect on the many sides to the story portrayed in the words of the evangelists, and remember that Christ wasn't crucified between candles on a golden trono, but in a brutal squalid unjust execution 'on a hill far away ...'. Preaching the Passion, especially on Good Friday is for me one of the things I most value about the ministry I still have, where it's for many or for few.

So, I parted company with the family and they went off to the beach. I headed for St Andrew's for the three hour Vigil at the Cross. I had three addresses to give and Linda the lay reader had two, and between us  we led different sections of the service. 

Numbers attending varied between eighteen and a dozen. I guess some people would have gone into Malaga to watch the processions, and I know a coach load will go up to Rio Gordo tomorrow to a passion play performance in the village. I didn't think I could commit myself to go with them, be apart from the family all day, and spend several tiring hours travelling by coach as well. when I have Easter services to prepare for. Besides, for me Good Friday is the day to recall the Passion, and Holy Saturday meant to be an empty day of waiting and preparing. It's time I know I'll need after the day's preaching.

I got home before anyone else and watched some of the re-runs of last night's processions on Canal Sur 2. I don't event want to go out and watch local processions tonight, but be home with the family. Then I set to work preparing paella and a lentil tapas dish for our first evening meal together plus pasta for Rhiannon. It was warm enough to sit outside and eat, looking at the evening sun setting on the sierra de Mijas. A lovely place to be together.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Maundy Thursday reunion

Eighteen of us celebrated the Eucharist of the Last Supper at six this evening, then I went to catch the train to Malaga. I was surprised at the increased number of people waiting on the platform and the queues at the one remaining working ticket machine. As a result I missed one train, and by the time the next one arrived the platform was again full. After a couple of stops the train was so packed it was was almost impossible to take on additional passengers unless someone got off with a destination some way before Malaga Centro.

Coming out of the station subway at the other end the increased density of the crowd on the streets was immediately noticeable, people were compelled to move slowly in every direction and did so with good humour. Being an hour later, there was less good light to take photographs, and only occasionally was I able to get a good line of sight to the processions from the street, where the crowd was ten deep, as opposed to three deep on previous occasions. 

In an effort to catch up with the trona of Jesus carrying his own cross in Lario, one the main fashion retail high street destinations, I took a long detour through side streets thronged with slow moving pedestrians and flanked by evening diners sitting outside the abundance of restaurants and bars which characterise the area. Every street was just as crowded.
Mission accomplished, I turned around and made my way back to Alameda Principal and started heading for the RENFE station, realising that I'd need to be careful about the timing of the return journey, as Owain's flight was due in around eleven, and he'd need picking up. The plan for me to rendezvous with him at the airport and return by train had to be abandoned, once I got some idea of the crowds of people travelling to and from town.

The first snag I encountered was a huge crowd at a standstill because of a passing procession. I attempted a detour by following the line of the procession, which had entered the district from a river bridge lower down. As I got to the river bank the procession was still passing. There was a platoon of soldiers accompanying the procession as a guard of honour, and they were juggling with their rifles in formation as they marched. It seemed an odd spectacle, but one which was greeted with appreciative applause from the crowd. 
Earlier I'd heard a regiment of soldierly voices singing a hymn of devotion to Mary as they marched with their trono of the Virgin, their dress uniformed officers up front. I was told that it's only since the time of General Franco that the church permitted military units to join the procession. 
The second via Crucis trono of the evening crosses the bridge.

I descended steps to the walkway above the dry river bed, passed under the procession crossing the bridge and ascended on the right side to get to the station entrance a short distance away. I was dismayed to see a hundred metre queue of people waiting to be admitted to the escalator by a security guard. I struck me as a sensible move even though I worried about being there a long time and having my departure delayed, but it was only a matter of minutes before we were moving. The platform was expertly packed by security guards directing people traffic. I had missed the ten to ten train I was aiming at, but another pulled in at five past, and took five minutes to pack in all the passengers, like boquerones in a tin.

I stood for the first half of the journey, packed in with scores of others, including several small children being taken home at a sensible time to bed, and a mild mannered labrador. The atmosphere was genial and patient, without a hint of tension, complaint or grumpiness. Spanish people like being close together in large numbers in a way Northern Europeans are less comfortable with. It's one of the things I like about being here, even if it means having to go slower from time to time.

I reached home at five past eleven. Kath and I were quickly on our way to the airport, arriving just as Owain came out of the arrivals gate, so by quarter to midnight were were all together at home, tucking in to a late supper snack and a bottle of wine to celebrate. The photos I took of the evening can be seen here.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Holy Wednesday - Passover Supper & Parish Procession

Midweek Eucharist at St Andrew's this morning, just nine of us. There wasn't a coffee morning to follow, because of it being Holy Week, so I was able to join the family for coffee and then spend an hour in the sun with them on the beach, about as much as I could take without feeling scorched all over. For these few days I'm in self protect mode to make sure I get through my duties unhindered. I returned to the house for lunch and wrote tomorrow's sermon, then at six, as the family were returning from town, I set out to walk to the Lux Mundi centre, in a side street near the Plaza de España at the other end of town, taking me the best part of an hour.
I'd been invited there to participate in a Christian version of the Passover Seder supper, using the Jewish prayers and rituals together with mainly Johannine passages from the Gospels. It didn't want the hassle of car parking. Everywhere was bound be congested and busy as later on, it would be Los Boliches cofradia's turn to process through the streets with its images of Jesús Cautivo and Nuestra Señora de Dolores - our Lady of Sorrows. Just walking there on busy streets was a challenge to maintain a pace, as there were so many people out and about, enjoying the evening.
I arrived in good time, and was amazed to find that ninety people were sitting down for supper. It was a truly ecumenical occasion, with representatives of all the Scandinavian, Dutch and German chaplaincies as well as a dozen Anglicans present, many of them centre volunteers.
The liturgy booklet was nicely printed in Spanish and English - I was told that only ten of the ninety were native Spanish speakers anyway, so most of it was done in English, with the exception of several passages of scripture and psalms. I had the pleasure of sitting next to the Jesuit priest who is the Lux Mundi pastor, with the new Swedish pastor, the Norwegian and Scottish pastors sitting opposite (in the photo above). Mind you I had to sing for my supper, given the role of the father of the household, explaining the meaning to the youngest son - a lad from the Calahonda congregation whose grandpa Fr David Wright is a retired priest and former chaplain. It was a truly lovely experience. We ate delicious paschal lamb with rice and almonds.

I walked back as briskly as I could, and heard the distant sounds of processional bands playing on the move. I had a text message to say that the family had all descended into the barrio and were eating supper in a restaurant on the route. I'd forgotten my camera, so I had to walk home to collect it. It was ten by the time I got back and I was tired enough to give in and take the car back down the hill, but parking, even in the car park where the church has privileges, was impossible. After circulating the vicinity for ten minutes I found a doubtful place in a back street, and rushed in the direction from which I could hear music and drums. I caught up with the second procession of Nuestra Señora as it was about the cross under the railway viaduct to go down to the avenida de los Boliches.
The trono had to pass beneath a five metre high girder. When shoulder mounted it's about six metres high. The hombres de trono gently lowered it on to its supports and dragged it under, to an enthusiastic round of applause from the surrounding crowd. I'd noticed on my visit to the casa hermanidad that these particular tronos stood not on stilts but on large wheels, like on large mobile scaffolds. Now I understood why.

Then, I doubled back up the road to the barrio Parish Church of Our Lady and Sta Fe, to make contact with the first procession of Jesús Cautivo. The leading processional cross had just arrived in the church plaza and the rest of the procession was strung out down the avenida de los Boliches for half a kilometre.
It meant I had time to wander back along the street and take more of the photos I'd hoped for.
Finally satisfied, I went in search of my car, hoping not to have a late night parking ticket, and return home, feeling pretty tired after walking the best part of ten miles today. On my way back up the hill, I finally caught up with the family and was able to taxi them the last kilometre of the day. You can see the photos I took here

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Tales of droppings

I fell asleep in front of the Semana Santa TV broadcast l
ast night and woke up at three thirty to retire to bed. It was nearly ten by the time we were all up and eating breakfast. I had a rendezvous at the office at eleven to pick up a cheque and then go and cash it at the bank. On the way back I noticed that the Casa Hermanidad of the local Parish cofradia was open to the public to view its treasures, and returned on foot to visit and take photos.
You can see the rest of them here It was great to see children there welcoming visitors as well as adults. These are real community places.

By midday we were all re-united for an hour on the beach in Los Boliches. Then I drove everyone up to Mijas for lunch at Pepe Mauros restaurant where I took Eddie and Ann a couple of weeks ago, and had a great meal together. A brief introductory tour of the main sights and shops of Mijas followed, then we drove back down the hill to Los Boliches RENFE station, so that I could take the train into Malage for the Tuesday evening Semana Santa processions. This time I positioned myself at the other end of the Alameda Principal, where processions turn into Larios, the main shopping street. I wonder if this central retailing thoroughfare does any business at all during Semana Santa.

What caught my attention this evening was the activity of children, not in the processions themselves (and there are many hundreds of children participating), but out with parents and grandparents occupying a hired seat in one of the stands. They play around, for the most part unhindered. I noticed that several had what looked like a multi coloured lollypop on a stick. It looked as if it would taste horrible. After I while I realised that I was correct in this because what was on the stick being carried by the children was a ball of candle wax, which each had acquired by collecting the drips from candles being burned by passing Nazarenos.
There was an element of competition to see who could grow the largest ball of wax. I observed small children moving through the processions entreating candle bearers to drip some wax for them. I observed that the children dressed up as Nazarenos (of whom there are many), who were most willing to join in the game and tip their candles.

As soon as dark descended, the temperature dropped so I headed for the train, and benefited from the extra services scheduled for Holy Week. I was back in the house by ten to eleven with another ninety photos to look at and upload. Not only that, there's such a lot to think about - so many people making so much effort to pull together in a public act of witness. The Police and the Fire Service (Los Bomberos) turned out their leaders in full dress uniform, half a dozen of them were riding magnificent horses. They were followed by a Council workman in his Cleansing Department fatigues with a bright new green brush and a red bin, there to collect up the horse droppings, and marching proudly to do so. Talking of which, in the afternoon up in Mijas I noticed that donkeys and horses wear canvas bags over their tails and rear ends to catch any droppings and keep the streets clean. An interesting contrast.

Monday, 14 April 2014

Semana Santa televised

I spent the morning giving the house a clean through, before driving to the airport to collect Kath, Anto and Rhiannon from their flight. After lunch we took them down to Los Boliches to show them around, and visit the beach. At supper I was presented with a belated birthday cake, which we drank with a bottle of Cava. Going into Malaga to watch the processions wasn't practicable. The newspapers reckoned that it was being broadcast live and on the web by Malaga TV, but I couldn't find the transmission. Then I received a text message from Peter to say that the live broadcast was on Cana Sur 2, and so we had it on in the background for the rest of the evening. It's an impressive local broadcast contribution to an important public event.
This photo of the screen hardly does the broadcast justice as it's in effect a copy of a copy. It's not nearly as compelling to watch on telly as one's field of view is narrowed greatly. Also there are no scents and only a sample of the surrounding sounds. You do get privileged perspectives from remote high up cameras which are interesting, but you rely entirely on the director to choose shots that hold the attention. All in all, I'd prefer to be there. All that standing around on the streets is pretty taxing, but the live experience is far superior.

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Semana Santa begins

We had a quiet Saturday, shopping, getting ready for the arrival of Kath, Anto and Rhiannon on Monday. I also spent time on preparing Good Friday sermons, hoping to get as much ready in advance, for what will be a busy week.

We went to Alhaurin this morning for the Palm Sunday Eucharist. Members of the congregation brought palm and olive branches from their gardens for the procession, and we had the individual palm crosses which were weaved by the craft group members last Monday. As we arrived, there was a still crowd around the grounds of the cemetery chapel, dispersing slowly from an earlier funeral. I blessed and then distributed palm crosses in church, then we went outside for the Palm Gospel reading and procession singing 'All Glory Laud and Honour' We stood next to a shallow ornamental pont in the grounds, reminiscent of a baptismal pool, except for the conversation of frogs which accompanied the reading. We circled around the chapel exterior and then made our grand entrance, perfectly timed so that we only had to sing the hymn through once. Lay preacher Gareth Marsh narrated the St Matthew Passion reading with vigour, and a congregation of two dozen joined in the responses with enthusiasm.

After a coffee and chat in the local bar, we headed for home and lunch. Then in the evening, I took the train into Malaga to watch and photograph the evening processions. I was greatly impressed by their size and scale. Half a dozen cofradias paraded their tronos - usually one of the Blessed Virgin Mary and another depicting a scene from the passion of Christ. Each throne requires fifty or more people to carry it. They are ornate and very heavy and frequent rest stops are necessary. 

Each cofridia procession is accompanied by a wind band with 50-100 musicians, and scores of hooded Nazarenos, or penitentes of all ages and robed servers of both sexes. It's a whole community activity in every respect, with each cofridia needing several hundred people for each trono, not to mention supporters in the crowd to achieve its pupose. Participants are disguised in their robes for the purposes of anonymity. There is nothing sinister about this. Those engaged are not there to parade their own egos, but to harmonise them and work together to uphold the subjects of their faith. There's no threatening body language, no weapons or shields, only religous banners and staves bearing emblems. Uniformed police are noticeably absent from the steeets. The entire atmosphere is serious and peaceful. Children not taking part are carried in arms or wander around with their parents, enjoying the festive character of the occasion. 

I stood at the end of Alamada Principal, one of two large thoroughfares closed off and equipped with stands and seating for hire for spectators, and wanderd around the side streets as processions approached. I saw only half of the cofridias processing during the evening,  but these included 'Peter's denial', 'Jesus meeting the women of Jerusalem', and 'The Expiration' Jesus' death on the cross, each was followed by a trono with a sorrowful Blessed Virgin of equal grandeur. I didn't stay long once the sun had set, aware that I'd had a long day. It was fortunate that the train station is so near the processional route and the trains so frequent. I was home for supper just after ten, after an moving unforgettable evening. You can see the photos I took here. There's rather a lot of them.

Friday, 11 April 2014

Birthday treat

After a lazy morning start, we set out on my sixty ninth birthday excursion to the lake of Fuente de Piedra, not far from Antequera, in the highland plains west of Malaga, about a hundred kilometres from Fuengirola. It's one of those Iberian ecological specialities, a shallow water containing basin with no outflow. Over the millennia, it has collected water which evaporates in the heat of summer, concentrating the minerals leached from the surrounding bedrock into a briny lake. This means it has developed similar ecosystems to marine salt marshes, and so it attracts the same kind of bird life as you'd find on an estuary. Most notable are the tens of thousands of flamencos which come to the lake each year to breed. It's one of six such breeding sites in Spain, and with this visit we've been to half of them.
The area around the lake is remarkable for its variety of different coloured soils - white, pale yellow, dark red, providing a variety of environments for the thousands of olive groves characteristic of the region. It's a place of great beauty, made even more intriguing by hosts of flamingos roosting all across the lake surface, as well as around the edges. It's six and a half kilometres long and two and a half kilometres wide. Below the water surface the terrain is virtually flat, allowing birds to feed off-shore as well as in-shore. In some years, much the water evaporates, leaving just salty mud flats littered with stones. It's an area where salt harvesting was once a key industry, but this has given way to the strategic task of wild life conservation, providing a truly wonderful experience for visitors.
The modern visitor center, with spectacular views and a shop where one can hire binoculars and bikes gives the main access to the reserve and is situated just a kilometre outside the village of Fuente de Piedra. It's dedicated to the memory of naturalist José Antonio Valverde, one of the reserve's key advocates. We walked in both directions from the centre, and were delighted by the birds we were able to see close up. As it was the breeding season however, there was no access to the foreshore, and I had to rely on the Sony HX50's telephoto lens to give us the few flamingo pictures of the day, but lots of others in addition, mostly stints and stilts (I think), and some yet to be identified. 
You can see all the photos I took here.  Three hours in the open air on a bright and sunny day was enough for both of us, so we were back home by six. Clare cooked me a lovely birthday supper to crown a day of unforgettable beauty and fascination. The last time I saw this many birds up close was in the Delta del'Ebre two years ago. Those pictures are here.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Midweek ministry movements

We remembered the martyrdom of Dietrich Boenhoffer at yesterday morning's Eucharist. For me as a young man his testimony in words and deed was challenging and influential. It was also the birthday of St Andrew's Lay Reader Linda's, and ouple of false startsof Peachy, one of the church's founding members, still going strong at ninety four, and living here over sixty years. After singing Happy Birthday to Linda, Jim and I went and visited Peachy, sang her Happy Birthday along with her carers, then gave her Holy Communion.

There was a table and a pair of chairs for the kitchen to bring home at lunchtime. The table had to be assembled, and the assembly instructions unclear, but after a couple of  false starts I succeeded. It occupies the space just right and gives us an extra work-space, as well as a convenient place to eat breakfast. We're now getting into a habit of walking on the beach in the early evening. Each day there are a few more holidaymakers sitting out on the sand, a few more youngsters playing, enjoying freedom from school somewhere else in Europe. Schools here haven't broken up yet.

Today, I made my last trip up to Coin for the time being, to celebrate the Eucharist for half a dozen faithful and drink coffee together afterwards in the Cruz de Piedra restaurant nearby. Then, back home to cook lunch, and start work on addresses for the Good Friday Vigil at the Cross in St Andrew's. Co-incidentally, as I started work, I received an email from Linda with the first drafts of her addresses for the service. Yesterday I received Caroline´s draft addresses for the Good Friday service she'll be conducting up at Alhaurin. Me, I'd love to be in all places at the same time, but the next best thing is to be part of a team with a real feel for what they are engaged with, and knowing the Gospel is being served by our shared efforts.

There was a ministry team meeting at six, so Clare and I walked down to town at four, did some shopping and walked on the beach beforehand. It was my last meeting with the team before I leave, two weeks today. They have continued to meet throughout the interregnum, recognising the importance of doing something more personal than exchanging emails about rota assignments and lectionary changes. If the chaplaincy remains in good heart it's because of their willingness to share the oversight, and ensure everyone involved understands what is happening. I hope that whoever is appointed as Chaplain understands how fortunate he is to inherit this quality of status quo on which to establish a ministry.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Diagnostic odessy

Clare has been bothered about the pain and stiffness of her shoulder since she fell on it last week, so this morning we went to the Los Boliches Urgencia to get it examined. After an hour's wait, she was seen by a doctor and sent to get her shoulder X-rayed at the Centro de Salud in the neighbouring barrio Las Lagunas ten minutes drive away.

She was seen quite speedily and we were on our way back to the Los Boliches Urgencia in less than an hour. Unfortunately I got a parking ticket for not noticing a restricted parking notice outside a bank, thinking myself lucky to find a spot at all having circulated surrounding streets for ten minutes. The two medics who examined the X-ray photo couldn't come to a conclusion about how to interpret it, so we were sent off to Marbella, to the regional hospital for the Costa del Sol.

By now it was three o'clock, and we were both hungry, so we went home and I cooked lunch for us before we set out on the twenty mile journey in search of a diagnosis. It was twenty past five by the time I delivered Clare to the entrance and went in search of parking. By six she'd been processed and sent to a traumatology consultant who questioned and examined her, and the X-ray photo. No broken bones, we were delighted to hear, but a lot of inflammation of the tendons and the joint. The remedy? Lots of rest and wearing an arm sling for a week or so. We then had to wait another hour the see a nurse who provided the sling in just a few minutes. There'd been a queue of half a dozen people ahead of us needing urgent attention, so it was gone seven when we left for Fuengirola, but it was a pleasant enough evening drive.

We stopped in Los Boliches, bought a big slice of apple tart for Clare to eat, then walked down to the beach to sit in the last patch of sun on the sand to eat it before heading up the hill for another late supper, relieved that it wasn't as bad an injury as we feared it might be. All the places we visited were very busy, also well organised with staff that coped with the difficulties of a patient speaking about their complain in a language not their own. There was a voluntary interpretor on duty at the first place, and at the main hospital, some of the medics who dealt with us spoke good English. All were most kind and sympathetic. A good if rather challenging experience, and good evidence that the EHIC reciprocal basic health care arrangements really do work, no problemo - just remember to take your passport or your driving license along with you.

Monday, 7 April 2014

On line at last

This morning I went to meet the lawyer who deals with church property affairs from an office at the boundary of the boundaries of Los Boliches and Torreblanca barrios. From her, I obtained the key to the basement room of our urbanizacion housing the vital telecoms control unit. I went home straight away and started composing a text message to the Telefonica/Movistar engineer who had kindly given me his mobile number to contact him when I could give him access. Before I could press the send button, he was ringing the door bell! Is this telepathica? I thought and later tweeted. 

Within ten minutes the line was connected, phone and broadband working perfectly. Such excellent service, delivered cheerfully. Before he departed he put me on to his trouble-shooting supervisor, who spoke excellent English, so I congratulated him on the concientous delivery of this service, far superior to anything I have ever experienced from British Telecoms or TalkTalk back in the U.K. He seemed bemused to be thanked profusely. It seems handling 'complaints' was his primary role. 

So now we have our internet enabled devices attached and working without glitches or peak time outages. Why can't it be like this in Britain, I ask myself. The answer lies in reluctance to invest big time in infrastructure upgrading when it was needed, a decade ago. It may be happening now, but here and there, not everywhere. Mind you, it may well be the same in Spain if you live out in the remote campo. Grand plans, beloved of politicians, can be devilishly difficult to implement on the ground. We live in an age of breakthrough technical achievements, but vision and imagination can easily outstrip the practicalities for implementation, even with the most capable people on the job.

After lunch I went down to St Andrew's to join the church Craft Group, assembled to make Palm Crosses, with fresh palm leaves taken from someone's garden. The last time I weaved Palm Crosses was when I was Chaplain in Monaco, thirteen years ago. There was a variety of palm tree in the church garden which produced useable leaves, and a handful of us, including octogenarian sacristan France Ametis, made our crosses ahead of the Sunday service. France was the one who remembered how to weave the crosses. She'd been doing it for sixty years, most of them with her late husband who'd inherited the sacristan job from his father.

It took me a few fumbling efforts to weave my first palm cross. I had to be showed by two kind patient neighbours on the production table. Then it was as if my fingers remembered what my brain had failed to, and took over. I managed to weave about ten crosses to add to the couple of hundred to be given out at the five chaplaincy centres of worship next Sunday. It was a happy experience that reconnected me to another period in ministry among the expatriates of Europe.


Sunday, 6 April 2014

Sunset surprise

I left the house and was driving along the coast road in bright sunshine on my way to Benalmadena five minutes later than usual this morning, thanks to our new location, and still arrived on time to help prepare for the nine thirty Eucharist. Just nineteen people present today, perhaps because of the seasonal resident turnover. Getting back to Los Boliches afterwards was without delay, with less traffic than my last visit a fortnight ago. You just have to be ready for anything. There were just forty at St Andrew's and at the end some made their farewells, as they'll be on their way home during the week. Such is the nature of ministry this chaplaincy offers around the year.

When we got back, I cooked lunch. After eating, we were both pretty dozy and wasted a couple of hours snoozing before we finally went down to the beach for a walk as the sun was setting. We saw two paragliders descending several kilometres down the beach to the west of us, the evening sun illuminating their canopies as they turned. I hadn't brought my proper camera, but used my Samsung phone to grab a few pictures on their return run - not the usual quality, but even so ...
As they slowly approached us I started to be impressed at their skill in staying aloft for a long period when they only seemed to be a hundred metres up in the air. It was only when they were about two hundred metres away from where we were seated, having a drink in a beach bar that the sound of engines became audible.
Both pilots wore a small propellor engine pack, requiring a different kind of flying skill to the glide only version, not so reliant on evening thermal air currents. An unusual sight at Sunday sundown.

Saturday, 5 April 2014

Chaplaincy landmark day

It was a big day for the Chaplaincy today, in every respect. The Annual General Meeting took place this morning and Acting Archdeacon Geoff Johnston came down from Nerja to preside, and his wife Carol came with him. I went into church early and prepared everything for him to celebrate the Eucharist before the meeting, read the Gospel and served for him. Then while he conducted the meeting Carol and I went off to a pasteleria nearby to drink coffee and catch up until the meeting was over. Clare stayed behind, preparing to welcome everyone after the meeting, as two thirds of those attending came up the hill afterwards to witness Fr Geoff bless the new parsonage in style, have a look around and partake of a glass of pink Catalunian Cava and nibbles.
It was a lovely occasion. The sun shone and the wind blew, hopefully to represent the presence of the Spirit. I think everyone was satisfied with the house and delighted at the way it has all worked out so well. The new chaplain's accommodation will have had most of the teething troubles sorted by the time an appointment is made and a new priest moves in, hopefully, by autumn this year.

After the crowd departed, Geoff and Carol stayed on for lunch with Clare and I before making their way back to Nerja to get ready for Sunday. He's had a busy week, as his duties took him over to Portugal for the few days preceding his visit to us. There are an unusual number of vacancies in the Archdeaconry of Spain at the moment. When he took over, there were almost none, and now the making of new appointments is occupying a great deal of his spare time. I admire his energy and am delighted to see him taking such pleasure in the additional challenges of his temporary post.

The wind continued to blow hard right into the evening, revealing some unexpected gaps in the fitting of some window frames as well as doors, which started emitting some curious high pitched wheezing noises, making the house sound well, not so much ghostly, but like an old asthma sufferer trying to catch their breath. And oh yes, there was another check up call from Telefonica about the vital key to the telecoms box. So conscientious! Here's hoping it will be retrievable on Monday.

Friday, 4 April 2014

Home making, Quiet Day and getting connected

A second day with rain, yesterday, albeit more intermittent. I spent several hours finishing off the preparation for the planned Quiet Day at Cortijo Carranque tomorrow. Then, after lunch, we went to the big El Corte Ingles to look for a few small kitchen items, a sieve, some wooden spoons, a peeler, plus a plastic spatula, a fish slice. We have some excellent stainless steel pans spatulas and fish slice. We also have two fine non-stick frying pans. These would be ruined very quickly if used with any metallic implements. We were't all that successful, but we had tea there to make a fruitless search seem more worthwhile. We would have been better off going to one of the many Chinese hardware supermarkets, which seem to stock everything you can think of, even if the quality may sometimes leave something to be desired. I was amazed to receive a phone call from the Telefonica engineer enquiring if we'd yet acquired a key to the local telecoms distribution box. Sadly the answer was no. Tracking one down is the problem and contacting the keyholder is the problem. 

Today started with driving Clare down to Mogens Dahl, the chiropracter who has worked wonders on my back this past month. She fell and hurt her shoulder a couple of days ago. We were fairly certain it wasn't broken, but out of alignment in its socket. I succeeded in getting an emergency appointment, and the delay wasn't a disadvantage as the initial injury trauma subsided, making the joint a little easier to work on. It meant I had delay departure for Cortijo Carranque for an hour and arrive late, after dropping Clare off in Los Boliches to go on a Chinese supermarket shopping expedition. 

Being late hardly mattered however. It turned out nobody had booked in to attend the quiet day. I enjoyed doing the preparation for this as well as the poorly attended Lent Course. It kept my mind active and focussed on things that matter to me. If few were interested in the offer to share these things, inshallah. I still made the hour's trip up into the Rio Grande Valley for lunch in the open air, with a warm breeze fragrant with orange blossom, and enjoyed good conversation with Angela and Martin, followed by a siesta. We then strolled down through the orchards to the river, plucked some roots of wild mint from the water's edge, to carry back for potting and eventual installation in the yet to be created chaplaincy house garden. Angela picked some orange blossom and half a dozen oranges for me to take home to Clare. The fragrance of the spring sierras now fills our dining room, and fresh oranges were served up for pudding.

And yes, the Telefonica man, bless him, phoned again in the morning to ask about the key. I had to tell him that I expected to obtain a contact number later in day, but couldn't say when that would mean I'd have a key. I hope he understood my careful slow English. Indeed when I got back to Los Boliches, just before six, I tried ringing the contact numbers received during the day, but only found office answering machine messages, barely decipherable. The resident key holder's house, just down the street still appears as if the occupants are away. 

Ah well, the world still has the Chaplaincy mobile phone number, but few callers seem to let it ring for long enough for me to find and unlock it to take the call. Then the auto answering service cuts in with a series of nags and a robotic voice in Spanish which is simply too fast (and often too crackly) for a learner to decipher. Still, I am much comforted by the diligence of the engineer who calls daily for a progress report so that he can get on with hooking us up. I can't imagine getting that quality of service from British Telecom.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Everything but the right key

We woke up in our comfy new bed after a good quiet night's sleep to find it was raining. Low cloud shrouded the Sierra de Mijas for most of the day and the rain came and went.
There were just nine of us for the midweek Eucharist at St Andrew's and apart from the helpers there weren't many more visitors to the Coffee Morning afterwards either. So we spent most of the rest of the day at home, checking out which keys did what, unpacking, organising the kitchen, learning how to use a new electric stove with touch sensitive controls, and a state of the art set of kitchen pans.

An engineer from Telefonica came to activate the phone line and broadband link. I was able to let him into the garage area to access the telecoms cabinet, but it was locked with a special key held only by the president of the urbanizacion and/or property estate manager. Neither were contactable, so his mission was aborted. I wonder how long it will take to obtain the key? Meanwhile I have my local mobile phone tethered to the computer for period access to tide me over.

This was the view from the same study window after the cloud lifted, late afternoon.
 One way or another, it's a pretty nice view to stare at out of the study window. In the morning lots of different birds feed on the patch of open ground across the road, awaiting a rise in demand for new build houses when the economy improves.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

On the move again

Finally the new chaplain´s house, on the outskirts of Los Boliches is ready. An enormous amount of work has been invested in acquiring and preparing the house of occupation, and there are so many amazing stories behind the extreaordinary provision mof som many things that were needed to make it ready to become a home for a new priest.

After a morning spent packing our bags and tidying Peter and Linda's apartment, we enjoyed a final lunch and then set out with them to take charge of the new parsonage. It's located just beyond the two motorways, which pass through the periphery of Fuengirola, about a hundred and fifty feet above sea level, so it enjoys lots of fresh air and a magnificent view of the Sierra de Mijas from the back bedroom and the study window. The noise from the road isn't intrusive, and in any case, the house is well sound-proofed. It sits on a corner of the urbanizacion with direct street acces and access to the shared garden and swimming pool of the complex. The house is spacious and most suitable for hospitality, with an enviable new kitchen!
This is the nearest you'll get to a selfie of me snapping the house entrance - casa de la esperanza is a very nice name for an inspirational home making project to provide an attractive place for a new chaplain.

We're here for the next three weeks, and looking forward to a visit from Kath, Anto and Rhiannon for Semana Santa, with the added delight of a visit from Owain for the Holy Triduum. On Saturday, my old friend Fr Geoff Johnston, now acting Archdeacon of Spain is coming for the Chaplaincy AGM, and a house blessing celebration for the comunity that's worked so hard to make it all happen. One way or another, Clare and I get to test the capacity and usability of the new house, and attend to the details of shaping it into a new functional parsonage. 

The first time we did this was in 1971, when we installed ourselves in the newly built St Andrew's curate's house in the Parish of Caerphilly, during my first curacy. It was the home into which we brought our first born daughter Katherine. The next time we made our home in a new priest's residence was in Geneva in 1993. In fact we did this twice. The first time was in a house in Versoix Port, then five years later, in a penthouse apartment overlooking the Place des Nations in Montbrillant. All hard work, all wonderful experiences in their different ways. And here we are again, albeit now in retirement, after living in three other apartments during my sojourn on the Costa del Sol.

I consider myself most fortunate to have had such varied experiences of home making as a priest over the last forty five years of ministry. Mind you, adventure notwithstanding, I'm not so sure Clare would say the same!