Monday, December 17, 2007


A little ahead of schedule Suzie has started on solids - and is growing rapidly - 4 months old and already growing out of her "3-6 month old" baby grows.
One innovation we found (since the other kids were babies) which has been a real boon to us are "grobags"; just right for our little tomato plant.

Cuarenta kilos de grasa fea

This has got to go!
No, not the Sammy, the piece of plastic I unwisely bought to go on top. I was "persuaded" (bulldozed) by my better half to get it to keep the weather off the baby.
Well, baby's never been for a ride since the roof was fitted, either being chauffeured about in the company car or my wife's car, both of which have a tin roof.
So I guess it's off to ebay with the bu**er.
Honestly, the plastic roof is no improvement over the techo lona I have stored away. It was a bastard to fit and reduces access to the rear of the Sammy, so getting baby and kids in and out is a pain in the backside.
Once I've swapped back and sold the plastic top, I'll see if I have enough spare cash for the exo cage on my wish list.

¡Qué asgo!

This is presumably what Suzie thinks of babysitters who prefer to watch TV than look after her!

She's very people oriented, thanks I'm sure to always being fawned over by all and sundry here in Spain. Always ready with a smile - she seems so different from her older siblings who should be in Spanish politics they argue that much.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Lavapiés olímpico

For those of you not familiar with Spain, Plaza Lavapiés in Madrid occupies the same spot on the Monopoly board as the Old Kent Road.

I wonder if anyone has a similar site for London?

Hugely entertaining in any language. I voted for the "Floor gymnastics with joint".

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

¡Por qué no te callas!

Humorous video of the Chavez - KJC encounter. KJC gets my vote.

Bonita chica

Susie is progressing very nicely at last. After a dodgy start and numerous visits to hospital in Marbella and Málaga she's doing well at home.
She's now more than doubled her birth weight and is gordita. She's also starting to smile and laugh (especially at me). She also, thankfully sleeps through the night. I don't recall the other three being so well-disposed, perhaps living in Spain is good for babies.

Por fin arreglado

I've finally managed to fix the Sammy after the rear propshaft parted company with the rest of the vehicle some weeks ago. Silly me didn't realise that the vibration caused by the incident had sheared two out of the three transfer box mountings (you can see one top right). This resulted in mucha vibración in low gears. 27 euro from the Suzuki dealership in Algeciras sorted it - Muchas gracias chicos.

Hace treinte años

I was watching TVE1 last night and they ran a video journal on what was in the news thirty years ago.

1977: King Juan Carlos renounced his dynastic rights over government, Spain's first democratic elections since 1936, the Communist party legalised, etc.

This might explain why this sign is inside the Casares Partida Andalucista offices (underground and well out of sight).

Friday, November 09, 2007

Ahorrar luz

The change in the appearnce of the blog was prompted by this. Again, worth a read.

Hechos Probados

A distinct lack of recent blogging by me due to work committments.

Even this news passed me by. Worth a read. Then worth some further thought.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

¡Enhorabuena Vadim y Fina!

This is the second wedding here that we've been invited to.

Oddly both have involved non-Spanish bridegrooms, one Moroccan (from Weymouth!) and Vadim hails from the Ukraine.

A lovely wedding followed by another blow-out reception. The organisers (Fina's family, our good neighbours) didn't seem to know where to put us, being the only English invited. We ended up on a table with Vadim's cousins who talked amongst themselves in Ukranian. We managed to communicate in Spanish from time to time. Lots of Vodka was consumed (though not by me), about 8 bottles between the 3 Ukranian tables.

Although we'd forgotten the rice for the ceremony itself, I didn't forget the most important thing - the cash for the reception. Most Spanish couples have their family and friends to buy the important wedding gifts - mostly furnishings for the home. The couple themselves seem to fund their own receptions, so contributing cash seems a good way of offsetting their costs.

Both receptions I've been to had about 250 guests at say 50 euro a head = 12,500 euro - that's a lot of money to find.

I wonder where they went for honeymoon.

¿Alguien puede explicarme esta cosa?

Perhaps the photo doesn't do it justice, but exactly why is there half a narrowboat lying next to the main Algeciras-Jerez road?
Along with other not-so-interesting steel sculptures.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Al hospital - ¡otra vez!

Suzie had to go back to hospital recently after a chest infection - this time for three weeks.

So far she's spent more than half her life there.

This time we didn't get such a good service from the Costa del Sol hospital, so we took her to the children's hospital in Málaga city. It may look a bit run down, but the quality of care there is the best around - just don't expect any English-speaking staff.

The doctor's have picked up on the amniosentesis report which shows Suzie has an extra 'marker' chromosone and wanted to do all sorts of test on her. So far everything has come back clear, but she'll need to go back again for more tests soon.

Nuevos proyectos

Now that the heat of summer is just a memory we can get going with insulating the roof and stairwell of the house which, because of its typically Spanish construction, has no insulation whatsoever.

On the ground floor this makes litle difference as the walls are 80cm thick, but the first floor was built only 50 years ago and so is just one single skin brick wall, in places as thin as 10cm.

In winter this makes for cold and damp, quickly followed by black mould - no place for young children. We've been very lucky and got a grant from the Junta to improve things. The original materials were ordered in May, and delivered to us (the bottom of our street that is) by three strong lads in their second truck (the first expired outside Benalmádena). The lads baulked at the last part of the journey - up the 42 steps to the house.

Full marks to the children who mucked in with me to break up the packages and move the lot up to the house in just three hours. Lulu even carried some of the 2m long beams.

Fin de verano, ya ha pasado

Casares seems quite lucky in that it has two ferias per year, one in early August and another just before the kids go back to school in September.

As usual there were the fairground attractions, music and fireworks.

The nice change this year was the inclusion of Russian dancing which got the local crowd very animado.

And as usual, when the kids go back to school it starts to rain. We've had some quite heavy storms, but nothing like the Costa Blanca

Adios amigo

The downside of buying a new family car has been having to sell the van.

This C15 has given me three years sterling service and was sold for only slightly less than I paid for it - in less than a week. They seem to be highly sought after here, probably because they're so reliable.

El tuning 2

These are the latest addition to the family car - just waiting for an opportunity to try them out with the Estepona 4x4 club. I hope to get some colleagues from work to come along too.

Monday, September 17, 2007

El primer paseo, part 2

And this is what happens - each child is presented to the Virgin by the priest.

El primer paseo

This was Susana's first outing - to church at the request of her godmother.

The occasion was a blessing of all children in the town born in the last year, so we just scraped in.

El Tuning

Why is it that most folk add the most useless things to their cars like fluffy dice in the UK or dreamcatchers here?

I prefer to see where I'm going, rather than block the view. Given the appalling illumination from the headlights, these fog/driving lamps have come in really handy now that the dawn is later and later (about 7.45am currently).

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Que orgullosa es

To round off the August catchup - I don't think this needs a caption.

Por fin a casa

Actually Susie came home on the 20th August, ten days old. After a few days at home she started to settle down. Her minor eye infection cleared up and she showed us she has blue eyes (though not as blue as mine).

Here she is about to enjoy another nappy change. She's a windy little beggar, always burping and farting. She poos so infrequently she's got her mum worried - and me relieved, except that I'm now going to have to give her suppositories.

She has a good, regular appetite. The neighbours are always chipping in with good advice, mainly ¡Dale al pecho!

Libro de familia

The day after Susie was released from hospital I went to the ayuntamiento to register the birth.

You can tell it's a small town as all the records going back to 1879 fit in one bookcase. From the photo you can see that 1884 and 1886 were bumper years for births here.

Once registered I got the libro de familia. Unlike the UK where you get one certificate for each child, here in Spain both births and deaths for each child is entered in the same book, so it's a vital document to get for any benefits that are available.

Since 'ZP' said back in July that each child born in Spain would get €2,500 we've applied for that. It turns out that when I applied at the end of last month the law had still not been published and is not due to see the light of day until November (assuming there's any money left in the governments coffers by then).

I also applied for paid paternity leave, which in Spain is 15 days (2 paid by the employer and 13 by the state). I'm happy to report that this was processed promptly once I had the libro, and I got the money in full this week. Hooray!

Three years ago we applied for familia numerosa, a benefit paid to families with three or more children. We are still waiting, but hopeful that having at least one child with a libro will break the logjam. Vamos a ver.

Curiously, although Susie is not Spanish she is counted as Andaluz and therefore entitled to full rights under the Andaluz constitution - such as "dignified" housing. This might come in handy when we start talking planning permission with the town hall.

Mil gracias

Six weeks away from the blogoshere can seem like ages, but at least I have a good reason.

Susie continues to do what normal babies do: eat, fill nappies and grow - with a little sleep on the side.

I've been bowled over by the presents (flowers included) and gifts from colleagues at work and neighbours.

Thank you everyone for your gifts and best wishes.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Como contar los muertos

One innovation on the roads this summer has been to put up multilingual messages on the Variable Message Panels above the road. Here in Andalucía they are in Spanish and English! The thrust of the summer campaign is to try and reduce the road death toll by policing speed in particular, although the message used is by having the road death toll from 1 January updated daily - it makes sobering reading:

Day 1 (Aug 10): 1658 dead

Day 2 (Aug 11): 1668 dead

Day 3 (Aug 12): 1682 dead

Day 4 (Aug 13): 1699 dead

Of course, speed in itself does not cause accidents, it's the nut behind the wheel that does, but also by driving too close behind, drink/drugs driving, suicidal overtaking manoevres. All of these can be seen several times a day here, and these go unpunished.

y las hermanas mayores

Susana's big sisters made this lovely painting whilst we're waiting for her to come home.

She's picked up a slight infection so probably won't be home this week. The hospital is allowing Carole to stay on even though she is fit to come home.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Hermanita nuestra

Finally Susana gets to meet her brother and sisters. The doctor on the neonatal ward waived the normal visiting rules and let them all in at once.

It looks as though Susana will be in the neonatal ward for most of the next week as she still has breathing difficulties after swallowing amniotic fluid.

At least she is feeding more or less normally now from Carole and is getting slowly stronger. Carole tells me that she has blue eyes just like the others. Another coinicidence is that although we did not conciously choose Susana as a name, she shares it with her great-grandmother.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Sigue mejorando

Little Susana continues to improve and is now out from the sun bed. She's still staying in the neonatal ward as the doctors want to monitor her breathing more.
She's on oxygen and is being fed through a shunt. She took a little milk by syringe today but wasn't able to suckle.
She opened her eyes today, but too briefly for us to gauge what colour they are.
Carole is improving too, but is plainly still in great discomfort. She can get to Susana only in a wheelchair as her bed is the other end of the building from the neonatal ward.
The children will have to wait until Susana leaves neonatal before they can see her.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Susana Isabel

The latest addition to the family arrived this morning at the 12th minute past the 11 hour on the 10th August.
At the time of the photo she was 15 minutes old.
The whole process took SO much less time than in the UK. 20 minutes from going into theatre to holding the little darling in my arms.
She was then whisked off to the neonatal ward and put on a sun bed (warming lamp). A great way to start your life in Spain.
Both mother and daughter are doing well (in separate wards), though I don't know when they'll be home. In the meantime I have three older kids to wrangle. They can't wait to meet their kid sister.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Nuevas vistas

One of the advantages I've found of having the Santana is that views like this are available without having to drag the family on foot through a hot and dry landscape.

At 1,479m even with the haze you can make out Gibraltar and Djebel Musa.

I'll be doing some more off-road exploration asap.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Seguridad vial

One of the problems with Spain is that they love their road signs so much they don't take them down when redundant - trouble is I don't know which one is older, they look like they were put up at the same time.


I eventually managed to track down a six-seater as a new family car. This is it in its natural environment. Seems I'm following the lead set by my other expat friends. At least this one should be cheaper to run than theirs, even with its petrol engine.

No han aprendido nada

Crazy driver behaviour still seems to abound in spite of points-based licences. Witness this little set-to in La Línea.

Escuela de verano

Summer school is great. They even teach you how to design websites - at the age of eight!

¡Que cara tiene!

I could hardly believe that one of our cats would pose so obligingly for this shot. They also make a good alarm clock when they want breakfast.


The kids are now getting involved in more grown-up activities: skating, swimming, Xbox etc. The parties with friends are also getting more grown up.

Lo importante es la salud

Whilst waiting for the Big Day to arrive we've been out and about and I've had little time for blogging. Lots of these so-called "fitness parks" have sprung up this year. Now the children are bigger, they find these more interesting than the play parks.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Aerofagia Verbal

This post from Guirilandia is so timely, and very amusing.

I wasn´t sure which Chaves he was referring to, Hugo or Manuel!

Of course, all the electioneering has started here in Casares too. I've decided that I'm going to vote the Spanish way. Since I actually know one of the candidates (I worked with him for a few months in a furniture business in Estepona some years back), I'll vote for him in the very Spanish expectation that this will buy me money / employment / planning consent etc.

¡Viva caciquismo!

Friday, March 23, 2007


Now you know the reason for the silence and lack of posts this year.

This little bundle of joy is due to arrive in August. We were due to have the first antenatal appointment at the beginning of February but not knowing the system here proved to be a major stumbling block and we were turned away a number of times due to misunderstandings. We were even booked in for a termination at one point by mistake! The staff assumed that because we already have three children and Carole is over 40 that we wanted one.

The birth rate in Spain to Spaniards continues to show a long term decline, though immigrant births are showing a sharp rise. The cynic in me thinks that given the paperwork and toing-and-froing to various health centres, doctor's surgeries and hospitals, it's enough to put most off the experience of wanting a baby here; of course us foreigners only find out about the system after the event.

At the scan this morning the nurse said it could be a girl, though our less scientific methods indicate a boy - as usual we disagree with the authorities.

Now all I have to do is save up for a bigger car (Oh, God! Not more paperwork!) and an extension to the house (our local builder says don't even go down the paperwork route for this).

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

La forma española o británica - tú decides

Law enforcement - English vs. Spanish (link repaired). No prizes for the version I prefer.

The Spanish version is the Policia Nacional in Seville. Interesting that they consider their machines fairly expendable in the pursuit of criminals.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

¿'abla Andalú?

This video on You Tube had me in stitches. I see the 'guy at the bus stop' every day here.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

316 fallecidos menos en 2006

Yesterday saw DGT publish the road safety statistics for Spain for 2006. As mentioned in previous posts the introduction of the points-based licence in July has had a significant effect in reducing road deaths (though slight injuries were up on last year).

The headlines of the report are:

  • The number of road deaths has fallen by 9.5%.
  • In 2006 there were 2,630 fatal traffic accidents in which 3,016 people died.
  • The number of deaths on Spanish roads is the lowest since 1969, when there was one-seventh the number of vehicles on the road.
  • Since the entry into force of points-based licensing, road deaths have fallen by 15%.
  • In the last three years the number of dead has fallen by more than 1,000, a 25% fall.
  • The number of deaths per million vehicles was 104, 56 less than in 2003.

This would translate into a road death index of 68 deaths per million population. Compare that figure to this chart (in pdf) of Europe for 2005.

All that progress with only 500 speed cameras in the entire country. Also, there are significantly more traffic police out there than in the UK where road deaths are rising in spite of 5,000+ speed cameras.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Numero cien - se vende

I had not intended this to be the subject of post number 100, but that just goes to show that life is never predictable.

My mother-in-law's partner is very ill now and she needs help with caring for him.

We have decided (in the same week that we've finally been notified that the ruina we own has its first escritura (title deed), that we will have to sell it.

The ruina used to be two one-up, one-down houses (hence the two doorways in the photo), and later became a chicken house, and finally a storeroom, which is what we also use it as. Our intention was to reform the property with a grant from the Junta, but we'll have to leave that to a new owner.

Offers invited; price €45,000.