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Only Joe King

A light-hearted look at life in Andalucía and Spain in general. Its good points and its bad. This blog doesn't pull any punches.

Hair Today; Gone Tomorrow – My Hair Care History in Spain
Monday, May 27, 2024

By Joe King

When I was a young lad my dad used to take me with him to his barber’s in Exeter (Devon) where we lived for a "short back and sides". When I was 14 or 15, I was allowed to go on my own. On that first occasion “flying solo”, as he was finishing up, Arthur asked me: “Something for the weekend, son?”. I didn’t know what he meant, so I politely declined. I later found out what he meant. Back then in the 60s, the barber’s was where men bought their “johnnies”; no blatant displays in the chemist’s like nowadays nor machines in pub toilets.

When I went away to university I grew my hair long and sported a rather splendid black beard, so no hairdresser required.


Early years

Before leaving for Spain for the first half of my year abroad, I got my hair cut short, then not again for ages, so I headed off to Germany for the second half once again with long hair.

After graduation, I went “smart” again for my PGCE in Sheffield, which included two teaching practices, so I thought I shouldn’t scare the natives.

So, my experience with barber’s is limited. As for Spain, where I spent a lot of time and where I now live, my visits to the peluqueria or barberia have been few and far between.






Iñaki - San Sebastián

My memory is hazy, after more than 50 years, but I’m pretty sure I had a haircut in the capital of Gipuzkoa back in the early 80s.

Then my wife took over.




From 2022 onwards I reverted to adolescence and grew a ponytail and a long beard and considered getting a tattoo and earrings (male menopause?), but I don’t like suffering pain, so rejected both.


Antonio - Frigiliana

50 years later I needed a trim, while I was on a mini-break in Frigiliana. My regular hairdresser, my wife, was away in Germany, so I popped into the only barber’s shop in the casco antiguo of this stunning pueblo blanco near Nerja (Malaga).

José did a good job of tidying my head up; I still had the ponytail, which I was keen to retain.









Lorena – Málaga

Last year we spent three days in the capital. It was the monthly dinner of the Club de Prensa Costa del Sol, of which I am a member, so we decided to make a mini-break out of it.


On the afternoon before the dinner, Rita announced that she wouldn’t be attending the dinner UNLESS I GOT MY HAIR CUT. I believed her threat, so off I went to the hairdresser around the corner from our hotel.

Lorena was a “looker” with tats and piercings and lots of chat. She did a great job, she even gave me my shorn ponytail, which had fused together, as a souvenir.


José – San Rafael, Ronda

I’d spotted this barberia in the San Rafael district and called in on the off chance, He had a gap right there and then before his next appointment. He was very attentive, kept checking exactly what I wanted and did a great job. Just 8€.  I gave him 10.

When I tried there again last Thursday evening he was fully booked, all day Friday also. He doesn’t open on a Saturday morning.




Hernán – Calle Lauria, Ronda

I needed a cut before a trip to Germany for Christmas. I tried a few places – all busy, but Hernán fitted me in. Great. Also 10€ with tip.








Vicki's Academia de Peluqueria y Belleza – Calle Pozo, Ronda

I had been invited to the confirmation of the son of a Spanish friend, so I wanted to be smart. I fancied being trimmed by a lady again, so went to Vicki’s hair salon. I didn’t get a lady, but Hugo, a young lad who turned out to be a trainee.

He was extremely diligent, even trimming my eyebrows, the tufts growing out of my ears and washing my hair to get rid of the hairs.

“¿Que te debo? I asked, after he finished “hairdrying” my shirt which had got wet during the washing.

“Nada”, he replied. You get a free haircut if it’s a trainee.

I tipped him generously instead (5€). He seemed surprised but was clearly grateful. Me too.



Hair care is not a problem in Spain. There are lots of salons in Ronda and also when we go away. And cheap!


© Only Joe King




Hey Joe

Paul Whitelock



Antonio. barber, barberia, barbero, Exeter, Frigiliana, Guipuzkoa, Hernan, Iñaki, Jose, Malaga, Paul Whitelock, peluqueria, Ronda, San Sebastian, short back and sides, Paul Whitelock, Vicki

Like 0        Published at 8:22 AM   Comments (0)

April Fool!
Monday, April 1, 2024

By Joe King

From Orson Welles’ infamous War of the Worlds radio broadcast to Richard Dimbleby's Panorama TV programme about spaghetti trees, we British have always been suckers for a good April Fool prank!

In this article, Joe King lists a selection of famous pranks that have hoodwinked the people over the years.







April Fools' Day or All Fools' Day is a holiday celebrated in a number of countries on April 1st, although not in Spain, where the equivalent is el Día de los Inocentes, celebrated on  December 28th, the date which somewhat bizarrely commemorates the slaughter of new-born male babies by King Herod following the birth of Christ.

April 1st is marked by the perpetration of hoaxes and other practical jokes of varying sophistication on friends, family members, enemies, and neighbours, or sending them on a fool's errand, the aim of which is to embarrass the gullible.

The earliest recorded association between April 1st and foolishness can be found in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales (1392).



Celebrated April Fools’ Day pranks         

•            Alabama Changes the Value of Pi: The April 1998 newsletter of New Mexicans for Science and Reason contained an article written by physicist Mark Boslough claiming that the Alabama Legislature had voted to change the value of the mathematical constant pi.

•            Left-Handed Whoppers: In 1998, Burger King ran an ad in USA Today, saying that people could get a Whopper for left-handed people whose condiments were designed to drip out of the right side.  Not only did customers order the new burgers, but some specifically requested the "old", right-handed burger.

•            Smell-o-vision: In 1965, the BBC purported to conduct a trial of a new technology allowing the transmission of odour over the airwaves to all viewers. Many viewers reportedly contacted the BBC to report the trial's success.  In 2007, the BBC website repeated an online version of the hoax.

•            Tower of Pisa: The Dutch television news reported in the 1950s that the Tower of Pisa had fallen over. Many shocked people contacted the station.

•            BBC Radio 4 (2005): The Today programme announced in the news that the long-running serial The Archers had changed its theme tune to an upbeat disco style.

•            Death of a mayor: In 1998, local WAAF shock jocks Opie and Anthony reported that Boston mayor Thomas Menino had been killed in a car accident. Menino happened to be on a flight at the time, lending credence to the prank as he could not be reached. The rumour spread quickly across the city, eventually causing news stations to issue alerts denying the hoax. The pair were fired shortly afterwards.

•            Phone call: In 1998, UK presenter Nic Tuff of West Midlands radio station Kix 96 pretended to be the British Prime Minister Tony Blair when he called the then South African President Nelson Mandela for a chat. It was only at the end of the call when Nic asked Nelson what he was doing for April Fools' Day that the line went dead.

•            Jovian-Plutonian gravitational effect: In 1976, British astronomer Sir Patrick Moore told listeners of BBC Radio 2 that unique alignment of two planets would result in an upward gravitational pull making people lighter at precisely 9:47 am that day. He invited his audience to jump in the air and experience "a strange floating sensation." Dozens of listeners phoned in to say the experiment had worked.

•            U2 Live on Rooftop in Cork: In 2009 hundreds of U2 fans were duped in an elaborate prank when they rushed to a shopping centre in Blackpool in Cork believing that the band were playing a surprise rooftop concert. The prank was organised by Cork radio station RedFM. The band were in fact just a tribute band called U2opia.

•            Cellphone Ban: In New Zealand the radio station the Edge's Morning Madhouse enlisted the help of the Prime Minister on April 1st to inform the entire country that mobile phones were to be banned in New Zealand. Hundreds of callers rang in disgruntled at the new law.

•            In 1962 the Swedish national television did a 5-minute special on how one could get colour TV by placing a nylon stocking in front of the TV. A rather in-depth description on the physics behind the phenomenon was included.

•            In 2004, British breakfast show GMTV presented a story claiming that Yorkshire Water were trialling a new 'diet tap water' that had already helped one customer lose a stone and a half in four months. After heralding the trial as successful, it was claimed that a third tap would be added to kitchen sinks, allowing customers easy access to the water. Following the story, Yorkshire Water received 10,000 enquiries from viewers.

•            In 2006, the BBC reported that the door to No. 10 Downing Street, the official residence of the Prime Minister of the UK, had been painted red. They showed footage of workmen carrying a red door. Red was the official colour of the political party which formed the government at the time. The same story was also reported in the British newspaper, The Daily Mail which credited the new design to someone called “April Fewell”. The door is in fact black.

•            In 2008, the BBC reported on a newly discovered colony of flying penguins. An elaborate video segment was even produced, featuring Terry Jones (of Monty Python fame) walking with the penguins in Antarctica, and following their flight to the Amazon rainforest.

•            Coldplay to back the Tories - On April 1st, 2006 the Guardian journalist "Olaf Priol" claimed that Chris Martin of rock band Coldplay had decided to publicly support the Conservative Party leader David Cameron due to his disillusionment with previous Labour Party prime minister Tony Blair, even going so far as to produce a fake song, "Talk to David", that could be downloaded via the Guardian website. Despite being an obvious hoax, the Labour Party's Media Monitoring Unit were concerned enough to circulate the story throughout "most of the government".

•            Google announces a joint project with the Virgin Group to establish a permanent human settlement on Mars - This operation has been named Project Virgle. The announcement includes videos of Richard Branson (founder of Virgin Group) as well as Larry Page and Sergey Brin (the founders of Google) on YouTube, talking about Virgle.

•            Assassination of Bill Gates: In 2003, many Chinese and South Korean websites claimed that CNN reported Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft, was assassinated, resulting in a 1.5% drop in the South Korean stock market.

•   does an annual bogus article. In 2006, it was "How Animated Tattoos Work"; in 2007 "How Phone Cell Implants Work"; in 2008 "How the Air Force One Hybrid Works"; in 2009 "How Rechargeable Gum Works".

But, my favourite of the lot was San Serriffe.  The Guardian printed a supplement in 1977 praising this fictional resort, its two main islands, Upper Caisse and Lower Caisse, its capital, Bodoni, and its leader, General Pica. Intrigued readers were later disappointed to learn that San Serriffe (sans serif) did not exist except as references to typeface terminology.





Have a nice day!  But watch out!  Pranksters are all over the place! 


© Joe King





Paul Whitelock






10 Downing Street, 2007, 2008, 2009, Alabama Changes the Value of Pi, Amazon, Amazon rainforest, April 1, April Fewell, April Fool, April Fools’ Day, Assassination of Bill Gates, BBC Radio 2, BBC Radio 4, Bodoni, breakfast show GMTV, Burger King, CNN, Canterbury Tales, Cellphone Ban, Chaaucer, Chris Martin, Coldplay, colony of flying penguins, Conservative Party, Daily Mail, David Cameron, Día de los Inocentes, diet tap water, Edge's Morning Madhouse, General Pica, Google, Guardian, "How Animated Tattoos Work", "How Phone Cell Implants Work", "How Rechargeable Gum Works", "How the Air Force One Hybrid Works", Joe King, Jovian-Plutonian gravitational effect, King Herod, Kix 96, Labour Party, Larry Page, Left-Handed Whoppers, Lower Caisse, Mark Boslough, Media Monitoring Unit, Microsoft, Monty Python, Nelson Mandela, New Mexicans for Science and Reason, New Zealand, Nic Tuff, Olaf Priol, Opie and Anthony, Orson Welles, Panorama, Pi, Project Virgle, RedFM, Richard Branson, Richard Dimbleby, sans serif, San Serriffe, Sergey Brin, Sir Patrick Moore, Smell-o-vision, South African President Nelson Mandela, spaghetti trees, Swedish national television, "Talk to David", Terry Jones, The Archers, The Today programme, Thomas Menino, Tony Blair, Tories, Tower of Pisa, U2 Live on Rooftop in Cork, U2opia, Upper Caisse, USA Today, Virgin group, WAAF, War of the Worlds, Whopper, Yorkshire Water, YouTube

Like 2        Published at 11:15 PM   Comments (0)

“The Rain in Spain …..”
Thursday, March 28, 2024

By Joe King

In the musical “My Fair Lady”, by Alan Jay Lerner and Friedrich Loewe, Professor Higgins, played by Rex Harrison, sang: “The rain in Spain stays mainly in the pl-ai-n”.

I’m not so sure whether that's the case at the moment, since it’s now raining big-style here in the mountains of the Serranía de Ronda in Andalucía. To be honest it’s raining everywhere in Spain, even in the Balearics and the Canary Islands.

But that’s good, as it hasn’t rained much round here in the last five years: the reservoirs are empty; rivers have dried up; crops have suffered; and, Heaven forbid, golf greens are turning brown.

That’s why the locals call this period of inclement weather “buen tiempo” (good weather). Why? Read on to find out.


Our Climate is Changing

We are all aware of climate change. We know that the Arctic and Antarctic ice is melting fast. Some forecasters have predicted that the Seychelles and other low-lying island groups will disappear as the ice cap melts. What about the Netherlands, where most of the country is below sea-level, protected from the sea by dykes?

We also know about desertification. Doom-mongers reckon that southern Spain will turn into a desert within 50 years. Blimey!

The climate here in Andalucía has certainly changed in the 15-plus years I have lived here. The largest Spanish region has lacked rainfall for the last five years, more or less. The embalses are nearly empty. There are hosepipe bans; water in some Costa del Sol towns is turned off at night; hotels along the coast have been banned from filling their swimming pools; and what about the golf courses that are abundant round here?

It's a real crisis: the latest olive harvest was poor and there are concerns about the quantity and quality of the 2023 vintage among the owners of the Ronda wine bodegas.






                                                                                                                    SUR in English


"Good" Wet Weather

So, the heavy rain we have been experiencing is more than welcome. Hence the description of the current weather as “good”.

Certainly, my fruit and veg are benefiting hugely, as are my lawns.

Shame about the Semana Santa (Easter) processions. Up to now only one of the nine scheduled pasos has managed to get out. The weather forecast for Good Friday doesn’t look promising for the processions either.                                                                                                                                              Secret Serrania


So, the rain in Spain?

At the moment it’s falling everywhere, on the plain and in the mountains. In some regions the rain is falling as snow or hail.

The high mountains around here are covered in snow, eg Sierra de las Nieves, Sierra de Grazalema and Sierra de Libar.

Yesterday in Montejaque (near Ronda), 960 metres above sea level, we had a hailstorm. ¡Vaya!


©  Joe King



The rain in Spain... (




Secret Serrania

SUR in English




Alan Jay Lerner, Antarctic, Arctic, Balearics, below sea-level, bodega, Canary Islands, climate change, desert, desertification, dykes, Easter, embalses, Friedrich Loewe, fruit and veg, hail, ice, ice cap, Joe King, lawns, Lerner and Lowe, Montejaque, My Fair Lady, Netherlands, olive harvest, Pinterest, Professor Higgins, rain in Spain, Rex Harrison, Ronda, Ronda wine bodegas, Secret Serrania, Semana Santa, Semana Santa processions, Serranía de Ronda, Seychelles, Sierra de las Nieves, Sierra de Grazalema, Sierra de Libar, snow, SUR in English, Wikipedia 

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Drinking by numbers
Friday, March 1, 2024

0,0; 1; 7; 10; 12; 18; 42; 43; 51; 56; 60; 70; 80; 103; 108; 501; 1615; 1866; 1885; 1888; 1895; 1906; and 1925

By Joe King

A surprising number of drinks, alcoholic and non-alcoholic, have a number in their name. From cerveza 0,0 (sin) via 7-UP lemonade to 1925 lager.

Here’s a light-hearted look at all the ones I can think of, mainly Spanish products, but also from the Caribbean, Chile, France, New Zealand, North America, Peru and Scotland.         

                                                                                                        Photo courtesy YouTube



This is cerveza sin (alcohol). These days, I guess all European brewers have this disgusting product in their repertoire. I hate the aftertaste, and the higher price, compared to beer WITH alcohol.


No. 1

Pimms No. 1, to be precise. Only for posh people in England, I reckon, although I have tried it and like it and I am NOT posh.



I guess we’ve all drunk 7-UP in our time. Produced by US giant PepsiCo, it’s similar to rival Coca Cola’s Sprite, a lemonade.

But they are not equivalent. When my son was quite young, he was diagnosed with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder), which caused him to lack concentration, to be anti-social and naughty. Our specialist informed us that it was a condition that was made worse by chemical additives in food and drink – E numbers.

By cutting out these colourings and additives from his diet, combined with brain exercises, we managed to hold the condition in check, until it largely disappeared in adulthood.

So, the only drinks possible for Tom as a child and a teenager were water, milk and 7-UP! which, back then, was advertised as containing no added preservatives. Sprite, on the other hand, is riddled with these “poisons”.

This caused a a problem whenever we came to Spain, as the Spanish regard the two drinks as equivalents. If the bar or restaurant sold Pepsi products, no problem, but if the establishment was contracted to Coca Cola, they just served Sprite.

Try explaining to a Spanish waiter about ADHD, at least back at the end of the 20th century. It’s a bit like trying to explain that vegans eat no animal products, yet they still used to serve my vegan stepson, Johannes, salads with tuna and boiled egg.


No. 7 is also a whiskey from the Jack Daniels stable in Tennessee (USA).



10; 12; 18

These numbers refer to the years a whisky is allowed to mature before release. I spotted an 18-year old single malt in a local wholesalers priced at 800-and-something euros a bottle!



42 Below is a vodka from New Zealand.



Cuarenta y tres is a Spanish liqueur with 43 natural ingredients which is produced in Cartagena (Murcia). I’ve never tried it, but it is everywhere. When I was a student living in Spain, my fellow female students used to like it. (I think it’s a girlie drink – am I allowed to say that?)





This number has been chosen for two completely different spirits from two different countries.

Firstly, it is a pastis, an anis-based aperitif from France. Distilled by the French company Pernod of Marseille, it refers to the alcoholic strength of this yellow-green liquid.

I have to confess to a liking for “un pastis”, a small amount of the spirit topped up with water. But I haven’t had one since the last time I was in France, some dozen years ago.


51 is also the name of a cachaça, a distilled spirit made from fermented sugarcane juice, originating from Madeira but transferred to Brazil. It is widely available in Spain. I’ve never tried it, and probably never shall.




Jägermeister is a German digestif made with 56 herbs and spices. Developed in 1934 by Wilhelm and Curt Mast, originally vinegar manufacturers, it has an alcohol by volume (ABV) of 35%. The recipe has not changed since its creation and continues to be served in its signature green glass bottle. It is the flagship product of Mast-Jägermeister SE, headquartered in Wolfenbuettel, Germany.

I always have a bottle in my drinks cabinet, although I haven’t personally drunk it since my twenties.


60, 70 and 80 Shilling

These are generic names for types of ale produced by many breweries in Scotland. The 'shilling' designation refers to the amount of duty paid on different strength beers. The higher the number, the stronger the beer.

Types include:

Scottish Light (60 Shilling): Although rare, this style is experiencing a bit of a renaissance. It’s often only available in casks. These beers are weaker, sweeter, and darker than modern-day English beers.

Scottish Heavy (70 Shilling): Also known as Scottish Heavy, this beer falls into the same category. It shares characteristics with the Scottish Light but has a slightly higher gravity. These beers are clean, malty, and finish dry, with occasional hints of peaty earthiness (smoke).

Scottish Export (80 Shilling): The Scottish Export is richer and stronger than the previous two. It boasts a deep amber colour, moderate bitterness, and a clean, neutral finish.

In summary, these Scottish ales are malt-forward, low in hops, and distinct from their English counterparts. Their unique flavours and historical context make them a delightful choice for beer enthusiasts.





Ciento tres is an economy coñac, brandy, in Spain, distilled from sherry by the Osborne group in Jerez de La Frontera (Cádiz). That too is available everywhere in Spain, like Guinness is in the UK and Ireland.




This is a non-alcoholic drink made by Seedlip. So, not for me!


1615; 1866; 1885; 1895; 1906; 1925

These are all alcoholic drinks that bear the date of first manufacture.

Pisco 1615 is a colourless or yellowish-to-amber coloured spirit produced in winemaking regions of Peru and Chile. Made by distilling fermented grape juice into a high-proof spirit, it was developed by 16th-century Spanish settlers as an alternative to orujo, a pomace brandy that was being imported from Spain.

1866 is a premium brandy from sherry producer Osborne in Jerez de La Frontera (Cádiz).

1885 is another premium brandy produced in Málaga by distilling DO Málaga wines. A bottle costs a mere 129 euros!

1888 is a premium rum distilled in the Dominican Republic by the company Brugal. Also out of my price range.

1895 is a whiskey from Jack Daniels of Tennessee (USA).

1906 appears on the labels on bottles and cans of a premium lager brewed by Estrella Galicia, up in the northwest of Spain. It refers to the year the brewery was established in La Coruña. A lovely drink.

1925 is the date which appears on a premium lager from the Alhambra brewery in Granada and is the year that the factory opened there. That too is a very drinkable beer.


© Joe King



Cervezas Alhambra (Granada)

Coca Cola

Estrella Galicia (La Coruña)

Osborne (Jerez de la Frontera)







7, 7-UP, 42, 43, 51, 60, 60 shilling, 70 shilling, 80 shilling, 103, 1906, 1925, ale, Alhambra, beer, brandy, Brazil,  cachaça, cerveza, Chile, Coca Cola, coñac, duty, Estrella Galicia, Gonzalez Byass, Granada, Jack Daniels, Jerez de la Frontera, Joe King, La Coruña, lager, Madeira, Marseille, New Zealand, orujo, pastis, PepsiCo, Pernod, Peru, Tennessee, whiskey

Like 1        Published at 11:14 AM   Comments (1)

Only Joe King has been "outed"!
Wednesday, January 3, 2024

By Only Joe King

Only Joe King is an alias for Paul Whitelock, but we reckon most EOS readers will have worked that out. After all, Paul hasn't really tried that hard to keep it a secret.

Paul has several other noms de plume on Eye On Spain, depending on the theme of the blog.



A light-hearted look at life in Andalucía and Spain in general; its good points and its bad. This blog doesn't pull any punches.

Only Joe King didn't really want anybody to know anything about him. That's just gone out of the window, BTW.

He's blogging because he thinks he has valid things to say. He hopes readers appreciate the pun in the name (Only joking!).



The coronavirus pandemic has hit the world hard, with over 120 million global victims.

I am British, married to a German and we live in Andalucía in the Serranía de Ronda.

This blog contains articles i've written since we both caught Covid-19 at the beginning of 2020. It was a weird life of curfews, lockdowns, masks, hand gel, rules and regulations and, for those of us who were affected directly, the vicious after-effects of the virus, long-covid, bereavement and financial ruin.

I started this blog in the aftermath of our personal experiences with the Coronavirus. Hopefully it has run its course, ie both Covid and this blog.



This blog is entitled "Spanish Matters", because it does!

Matter, that is.

If you have committed to living in Spain, in my opinion you should also make a commitment to learn some Spanish. Your life will be enhanced.

So this is a blog about matters Spanish, as well as promoting the notion that Spanish does indeed matter.

The blog contains articles in both English and Spanish. Don Pablo hopes it will be helpful to those learning the language.

The name Don Pablo betrays my origins as a former Spanish (and German) teacher in the UK.

This blog will continue to be added to from time to time.


HOW TO ..... ?

This blog is intended to be helpful to English-speaking foreign residents in Spain by explaining "how to ... " do certain things.

The Crazy Guy has lived in Spain full time since 2008. A fluent Spanish-speaker he reckons he knows his way round the bureaucracy, the indifference and sometimes downright rudeness of "funcionarios".

The Crazy Guy is known amongst the Spanish where he lives as "El Loco", largely because, despite his advanced age, he's always on the go, doing this and that. The Crazy Guy hopes his "How to ..." articles will be helpful to others.



Musings about Spain and Spanish life by Paul Whitelock, hispanophile of some 45 years and resident of Ronda in Andalucia for the last 15 years.

This is my main blog, indicated by the number of posts I have made, already in excess of 100.












This blog contains a selection of recipes from all over, in particular from Andalucía, Asia, England, Germany and the wider Mediterranean area.

Contributors include Rita Drechsler, Jovan Le Knorz, Madita Schröder, Carolyn Emmett, Simon Whitelock, Julie Wilkinson and Paul Whitelock, who are mostly members of the same extended Anglo-German family. Rita and Paul live in the Serranía de Ronda in Andalucía. Madita and Jovan live in Baden-Württemberg, near Heilbronn, Germany. Carolyn and Julie also live in the Serrania de Ronda and Simon lives near Bristol, UK.








The Crazy Guy is known amongst the Spanish people where he lives as "El Loco", largely because, despite his advanced age, he's always active, doing this and that. So, he's "The Crazy Guy".

This blog is about some of the things he's been getting up to lately.

The Crazy Guy (El Loco, according to his fellow villagers) likes to keep busy. He hopes readers of this blog find his experiences interesting. He has another blog on EOS called "How to .....?" which offers advice on how to do things here in Spain, based on his experiences.



A blog about cultural things: art, music, dance, literature, film and theatre.

The Culture Vulture enjoys the good things in life. These include art, music, dance, film, theatre, and books.






The Curmudgeon is a miserable sod. He likes to have a moan. He tackles subjects which many foreigners living in Spain agree with but are too polite to say anything about.

The Curmudgeon is now in his early 70s now and has lived in the Serrania de Ronda since he was 58.










This blog contains interesting facts about the history of Spain and things Spanish.

The History Man discovered Spain some 50-odd years ago and he fell in love with the place. He has been resident here for 15 years and takes a keen interest in all things historical, geographical and cultural. He is blogging because he hopes readers will find what he writes interesting.





The Spanish Fly is a nom de plume of Paul Whitelock who first visited Spain at the age of 20. Now more than 50 years later, he has been to most parts of the country, including nine of the 12 islands. He has owned property in Andalucía since 2001 and has lived in the region for the last 15 years. This blog is a travelogue about some of the places he has visited.

The Spanish Fly writes keenly about his travel experiences in Spain and beyond. He hopes you enjoy sharing his journeys and are inspired to make similar ones yourself.



So, now you know. All of these blogs are written by li'l ol' me, Paul Whitelock.

I hope you enjoy reading them. Please feel free to comment.


© Paul Whitelock


Tags: Andalucia, blog, blogger, Coronavirus, Covid-19, Crazy Guy, Culture Vulture, Curmudgeon, Don Pablo, El Loco, EOS, Eye on Spain, History Man, How to .....?, Joe King, noms de plume, Only Joe King, Paul Whitelock, Puntos de Vista, Serrania Kitchen, Spanish Fly, Spanish Matters

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Serendipity X - Ambushed on the bridge, accosted at the petrol station and mugged at the Olive Tree
Thursday, December 14, 2023

By Joe King

Serendipity seems to play a large part in my life. Unanticipated happenings that turn out to be very pleasurable. In the last two days, I’ve been ambushed, accosted, and mugged. Sounds terrible, doesn’t it? I assure you it wasn’t! Here in chronological order is what happened to me on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of this week.


A mugging at The Olive Tree

On Tuesday  evening my wife Rita and I and 15 others attended the Costa Press Club Christmas Party (CPCCP) in Cala de Mijas on the Costa del Sol.

The party/dinner was at the restaurant El Olivo (= Olive Tree).

On arrival we met two new people. Sabine von Reth, a German from Frankfurt, was a new member. Her husband René, from Essen, was her guest.

Rita is also German and I speak the language pretty well (very well, actually!), so the four of us decided to sit together at the dinner table.


It emerged that this German couple, with no experience of the hospitality industry, had opened three “Bavarian Beerhouses” in London, some 15 years ago, the first of their kind in the UK.

Together they had written a book, in English, about their experiences. It is called “Prost!” (Cheers!). They had brought one copy along to the dinner – I’d been mugged, as I felt compelled to buy it! No, not at all, I wanted to. I’m a sucker for books! I must own thousands and I find it hard to part with any of them.

I’ve already made a start on reading it.







Ambushed at the petrol station

After the CPC Christmas dinner, the Christmas Quiz and the Secret Santa exchange of gifts, we headed back to the nearby hotel we had pre-booked.


The following morning, up early as usual and in urgent need of a coffee, I headed out on foot. The only place serving caffeine-based drinks at this ungodly hour was the the local gasolinera de BP.

It was full of workers; astonishingly most of them were young British men.

After a while I got into conversation with Jordan, a 36-year-old from Liverpool, just finishing off a contract locally. Via his company “Abstract”, Jordan offers polished plaster, textured designs, bespoke walls and luxurious finishes to wealthy clients in the UK, Spain, Israel and Italy. And elsewhere too.

After establishing that we might have some common ground, better said, synergy, we eagerly exchanged telephone numbers, email addresses and website URLs.

We said our farewells; he needed to work and I needed to go back to our hotel for breakfast.


Accosted on the bridge

Today, as I was crossing the Puente Nuevo in Ronda on foot to visit an art exhibition at El Convento, I was accosted by a very attractive young lady.

My luck’s in! I thought.

Not at all. Sara Alés Ortega simply realised that, despite looking every inch a “guiri”, I was a fluent Spanish speaker and an avid reader!

Sara had just published a book, "La esencia de lo primitivo", describing her experience of walking the Camino de Santiago. This has been something ever present on my bucket list, but alas, I think it’s now unlikely, unless I do the motorised version!

Back to Sara. She was selling her books from her tote bag at 15€ a copy. I negotiated her down to 10€ on the grounds that I promised to write a favourable review on my website,, the independent “bible” for all things Ronda.


Deal done, we exchanged contact details, money and a kiss on each cheek, and I trotted off to my art exhibition, in a better mood than I had been in previously.







Serendipity of the highest quality. In three consecutive days I’d acquired two very interesting books, by Sabine and Sara, and a potentially lucrative contact in Jordan!

¡Feliz Navidad!


©  Joe King


Photographs: Paul Whitelock


Tags: "Abstract", Bavarian Beerhouse, bucket list, Cala de Mijas, Camino de Santiago, Christmas, Costa Press Club, CPC, CPCCP, El Convento, Essen, Frankfurt, gasolinera de BP, German, guiri, Joe King, "La esencia de lo primitivo", "Prost!", Puente Nuevo, René von Reth, Ronda, Sabine von Reth, Sara Alés Ortega, serendipity, synergy

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Serendipity IX - "Pink Floyd" at the Bar Dolar
Thursday, November 30, 2023

I finally got around to taking my car to get two new tyres fitted (see Serendipity VIII). The work was scheduled to take an hour, so I walked to a nearby cafe, Bar Dolar, to get breakfast and catch up with my accounts. This is what happened.


Bar Dolar

I walked in. There was a scattering of folk taking an early breakfast - it was just past 9.00 am.

I ordered my cafe con leche and rebañada de pan con aceite y tomate, settled at a table and got out my paperwork to do my accounts. I suddenly became aware of the sound of sublime guitar playing. When I glanced up at the TV, I saw Dave Gilmour (ex-Pink Floyd) playing in a live concert. Wow!




"Pink Floyd"

For me, Gilmour is one of the true great rock guitarists. When Sid Barrett went AWOL from the sixties group and Gilmour replaced him, this band got better overnight. Their Dark Side of the Moon LP is arguably one of the best albums in history. When keyboard player Roger Waters got jealous of Gilmour's playing and good looks, he took his bat and ball home and broke up the group.

Back to the concert. 

The band was playing new music to begin with, when all of a sudden the familiar opening chords of DSOTM started up. The quality of the live performance was as good as the original album. I didn't get much accounting done!





Rock memorabilia

The decor of Bar Dolar was intriguing. Take a look at the photos I took:

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Serendipity VIII - Things can only get better!
Sunday, November 26, 2023

Yesterday got off to a bad start. Turning into the polígono industrial in Ronda in the early hours of darkness, the kerb jumped out and hit my front nearside wheel! Here’s what happened next.


Early Morning Blues

Blimey! I thought. I’ve nudged kerbs before in the Ciudad Soñada, the streets being somewhat narrow, but this felt different; the drive became lumpy and didn’t feel right.

Rather than stop and risk getting stranded, I struggled on at snail’s pace to my regular petrol station about half a kilometre away. I pulled up and investigated the damage. Omigod! The tyre was in shreds with two gaping holes. It was as flat as the proverbial pancake! There was no point in trying to re-inflate it.





Then I remembered that this car, a Peugeot 2008, had a spare tyre, unlike my three previous cars, a SEAT Leon, a Ford Focus and a Mazda RX8.












Out with the jack

It was probably 45 years since I’d had to change a wheel, but, come on, changing a wheel is like riding a bike, isn’t it? You never forget how to do it.

Well, perhaps that’s not quite true, but I managed it in the end. Although, I have to say I shouldn’t really be doing jobs like this at my age, and certainly not in in a temperature of zero degrees Celsius!

Time for a coffee to calm my nerves, before heading to Casa 87, the house I am doing up for a Liverpool couple who contacted me out of the blue, after surfing my website,


Casa 87

I sorted out a few things at the house before heading off to Ronda to source some items of furniture from Solidarios en Ronda, the local charity for homeless people, and Pepe Mariscal, the second-hand dealer. I picked up some great stuff from both places, all at good prices.

Time was running out now to go to the tyre centre, so I decided to postpone until today, Saturday (mistake, they’re shut on Saturdays!)


Aussie serendipity

Back to Friday. At Pepe’s I met a couple from Australia. Kati, French, and David, English, were on extended furlough in Ronda, with a view to emigrating here. A much more pleasant encounter than my earlier encounter with the kerb!

Back at Casa 87, I spent the afternoon painting, before heading home to get ready for our dinner date. Rita and I had decided to spend the evening in Ronda tapeando.


De tapeo in Ronda

We got side-tracked by "Ene de Nati", a rather expensive boutique that the missus likes in Calle Remedios. I nipped to a nearby bar for a wee (and a tubo), where I was accosted by a rather stunning lady and her bloke. Liz was Mexican and Bernd was German. They were on holiday here from California, where they live.

After a pleasant interlude I returned to the missus who had managed to run up a sizeable bill for a woollen suit and a long winter overcoat. As we left the shop, we bumped into Lis and Bernd, I introduced Rita and we all went off for a drink together at one of the many bars on that very street.

Sat at a table outside – inside was full - my wife had a good old chinwag in German with Bernd, while Lis and I spoke Spanish and English. All of a sudden it was quite late, so we decided to break up. Bernd even picked up the bill.

They went back to their hotel, and we went in search of some tapas, which had been our original plan. The place we wanted to try out was closing, so we headed for our old favourite, Las Maravillas on Calle La Bola. It was heaving, but our waiter friend, José Luis found us a table for two.

So, we had a delicious light meal to round off the day, before heading home and to bed after a delightfully serendipitous day.







© Joe King


Tags: Casa 87, Ciudad Soñada, de tapeo, Ene de Nati, Ford Focus, Las Maravillas, Mazda RX8Pepe Mariscal, Peugeot 2008Ronda, SEAT Leon, Solidarios, tapa,

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“The Trial of the Lonesome Pine”
Friday, September 22, 2023

Older readers will remember fondly Laurel and Hardy’s version of “The Trail of the Lonesome Pine” (1937).

[Listen here].

This, however, is the story of the trial we have undergone of the lonesome pine tree in the garden next to mine, which for a dozen years has been threatening to fall on our house. Years of asking the owner of the abandoned finca to take it down, his inertia and the lack of progress made no difference at all.


Progress? - No

Then my neighbour died suddenly three years ago. His three heirs couldn’t agree on what to do with the property. Two wanted to sell it and one did not. The one who did not, the son, was meanwhile living at his majesty’s pleasure in Alhaurin de la Torre gaol, later transferred to the high security prison in Huelva. What had he done, I wonder?

So, the Will was frozen, and the matter ended up in the hands of lawyers. Nothing to be done, despite the patrulla verde (a section of the local police responsible for environmental matters) declaring the tree to be dangerous.  My hands appeared to be tied.

I tried to make a denuncia, but was told that I could not as the property and its Will were sub judice. My insurance company was not interested, as no damage had yet been caused. If the lonesome pine fell on my house and damaged it, then they would pay out! Doh!


Progress? – Yes!

Then, all of a sudden, at the end of August this year, I was informed that they would be felling the lonesome pine in the middle of September. Yay!

True enough - over the course of two mornings, the day before yesterday and yesterday, 20 and 21 September, two tree surgeons cut the pine down from the top a little at a time and cleared the branches that had fallen onto my land.

They repaired my damaged fence, I tidied up and put my garden back together, with the various plant pots in their rightful places.

A section of my garden was no longer in the shade. Maybe my vegetables will grow better from now on.

The trial of the lonesome pine was over, after more than 12 years!


© Only Joe King


Tags: Joe King, Laurel and Hardy, lonesome pine, next-door neighbour, patrulla verde, pine tree, sub judice, the trail of the lonesome pine, tree surgeon

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In the Family Way!
Wednesday, May 24, 2023

"In the family way" used to be a euphemism for being pregnant when the p-word was taboo. It was more often than not used to refer to a young unmarried girl, who had got herself "up the duff".

In Ireland the girl would have been forced to give the baby up for adoption, it has since been revealed to the eternal shame of the Roman Catholic Church.

Older readers will remember the 1966 British film "The Family Way" starring Hayley Mills.




Our family way

We were visited by family recently; my daughter and her two young sons - my grandsons - came for a short stay during half-term. And, boy, did we have a fun time!

It didn't start well, though - they missed their flight!

They had an early start and my daughter didn't have her contact lenses in. 

She mis-read the gate number for their flight. She read 5B, when it was actually 58! Both gates exist but at different ends of the airport, London Stansted, which is now huge.

What to do? She felt she couldn't disappoint the boys, aged six and three, who had been so looking forward to seeing Grandad and Oma (German for Gran - my wife Rita is German).

We all went online to search for flights later in the day: my daughter, her mother (my ex-wife), Rita and me.

We found one with easyJet, but when we tried to book, the last seats had been sold five minutes before!

We found another with Vueling from and to different airports: Gatwick to Sevilla instead of Stansted to Malaga, but that was no problem.

She booked at a staggering cost of 700 pounds Sterling for the three of them! Well, last-minute, half-term week .....

Next - how to get from Stansted in Essex to Gatwick in Sussex? Mum's taxi to the rescue!

So, instead of arriving in the middle of the day, they got to us late at night and 700 quid poorer!


Holiday with Grandad and Oma

Over the next few days, we packed in loads, chocolate con churros, ice creams, children's playgrounds, the beach, Belgian tapas, playing in my garden (Felix even helped me plant some seeds).

At the end, my daughter and grandsons had a lovely, if expensive, holiday.

The family way .....

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