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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.

Working for free? Why? Er… why not?
Tuesday, May 31, 2022

In these difficult economic times, money is short, so why not work for free? writes Joe King. It could be an answer for people struggling to make ends meet.  Joe has been working for free on and off for more than fifteen years and loves it.  Is he nuts? Read on and see what you think…



Ever thought of working for free?  Lots of people do. They give their services voluntarily, for example as counsellors for the Samaritans, as advisers for the Citizen’s Advice Bureaux, helping out at hospitals, charity shops, and in a range of other organisations.

Such volunteers provide a valuable service and are fortunate that they have sufficient private means, such as a pension, to enable them to do so.

Payment in kind

But, what about those of us who cannot afford to give of our services for nothing?  Do we really need to be paid money for our work?

After all, if we are paid, we must give some of it to the government in the form of income tax and other stoppages. So, why not work for payment in kind?  This can end up being quite valuable and also great fun.

Since I retired in 2005, I have pretty much only worked ‘for nothing’.

First of all, I renovated a house in Ronda for an English lady in return for free board and lodging and other treats. In actual fact, she was my girlfriend at the time.

I repeated the exercise in summer 2008 for a friend from my student days who lives in LuxembourgAn entire summer decorating a large house from top to bottom was rewarded by board and lodging, slap-up meals out, trips to the opera, concerts, and a summer romance! 

I regularly did odd jobs for an American lady who lived in Ronda.  In return she kept an eye on my apartment, when I was away, checked my post and welcomed my paying guests on my behalf.

Once I taught two classes of Spanish (the regular teacher was sick) to expatriates in Ronda in exchange for ….. whoops!  I only got a free cup of coffee?!  Oh, well, I enjoyed it (the teaching AND the coffee), so no pasa nada.

From time to time I’ve helped friends out with a bit of interpreting, eg phone calls, or tricky meetings. That often brings a free breakfast.

Lately I’ve translated two different restaurant menus for free. In one place I’ve not paid for a beer since! The other restaurateur is not so generous. However, I’m hoping he will give me the job of translating his website into English. ¡Ojalá!


In many fields of work, it is expected that, as a young person fresh from university, you work for free. In some careers it’s the only way to get on. Never mind a good degree, a Masters and a PhD, you need to be able to show significant work experience on your CV.

On graduation my daughter, Amy, did two internships, one in Brussels at the European Parliament and one at Westminster as a senior researcher for a British MP.

That managed to put her off a career in politics, although she was a Labour councillor in Tower Hamlets for eight years. Instead, for her career, she opted for the charity sector, where she worked for MIND, Young Women's Trust, The Children’s Society and Unicef UK. She is currently Chief Executive at Birthrights – a charity championing human rights in pregnancy and childbirth.

Probably the most famous intern of all time was Monica Lewinsky, who “worked” at the White House in Washington DC in the mid-1990s and, although she wasn’t paid, evidently enjoyed fringe benefits from President Bill Clinton.


The best example of the barter system working to the advantage of everybody concerned occurred earlier this year.

A German family of six, mum (Lily), dad (Oliver) and four children, lived free of charge in my reforma house in exchange for their labour, or specifically Oliver’s. He’s a joiner and so he fitted the banisters to my stairs, created a delightful shelving unit from a reclaimed door and window shutters, re-hung doors and completed other odd jobs. He also did some kitchen modifications in our two other houses. What a great deal for both them and us!

Other unpaid but well-rewarded work has included translating restaurant menus, one in exchange for a patio table and four chairs (I needed the furniture; he didn’t!).  The other menus were done in exchange for slap-up meals for two.  

I have also written articles for a newspaper, The Olive Press, and for a local website, , in exchange for free advertising space.

Before I emigrated to Spain I spent a half-day doing odd jobs for a lady paid for by a nice meal out and did some remedial work in a kitchen for another lady in exchange for a rather fine coffee table.

The “Workaway” scheme

Workaway is a platform that allows members to arrange homestays and cultural exchanges. Volunteers, or "Workawayers", are expected to contribute a pre-agreed amount of time per day in exchange for lodging and food, which is provided by their host.

Hosts register at and are expected to provide information about themselves, the type of help they require to be performed, the accommodation they offer and the sort of person they are expecting.

Workawayers create an online profile including personal details and any specific skills they might have, after which they can contact hosts through the website and discuss a possible exchange.

Workaway is aimed at budget travellers and language learners looking to become more immersed in the country and culture they are journeying through, while allowing local hosts to meet like-minded people who can provide the help they require. It has been described as a useful way to improve foreign language skills, as well as an opportunity to develop new talents and learn about local traditions.

The opportunities on offer are varied and based in a wide range of countries around the world. Some types of volunteering available include gardening, animal-care, cooking and farming, as well as more specialist and niche help requests.

Workaway charges the “Workawayer” a yearly membership fee to connect to hosts but does not charge the host a fee to list. The duration of an exchange can range from as little as a few days to over a year.

I’ve had the pleasure of meeting a number of Workawayers over the last few years. They have hailed from Argentina, Austria, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Peru, Russia, Slovenia, Spain, UK, Uruguay, USA.

They have almost invariably been very nice people, mostly young, 18 or 19 on a gap year before university, or older, in their 30s.

One Dutchwoman “did it” constantly, moving from “job” to “job”.

Most of the ones I have met were doing bar/hotel work (says a lot about how I spend my time!), but I’ve also met a good few who were working on the land or in construction. Almost all were positive about their experience.

Whilst there is no requirement for the host to pay the Workaway anything at all, some do. The Hotel Ronda Valley, near where I live, pays their Workaways 600€ per week, on top of free board and lodging. Not bad, I reckon.

If I had my time over again, I would certainly have taken part in the scheme at least once.


Working for free?  It makes a lot of sense, especially in a recession or post-COVID-19 lockdown. However, if people want to pay me instead, that’s OK too!


This is an updated version of an article that first appeared in Olive Country Life Magazine (Jaén) in 2009 and subsequently on in 2020.

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"Doppelgänger" in Andalucía: Robert de Niro, Rick Wakeman, Cheryl Cole, Dennis Taylor and reincarnated Sir Lawrence Olivier, Leonid Brezhnev and Arthur Askey
Friday, May 20, 2022

You’ve probably all heard the rather wacky theory that John F Kennedy, Elvis, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Princess Diana et al aren’t dead at all and are living on a remote island somewhere in the Pacific Ocean. Well, Joe King thinks that Andalucía is also a hiding place for the rich and famous…

WE’VE all heard these theories about JFK, Elvis, Princess Diana and the rest and we probably dismiss them as rather crazy. However, I can vouch for the fact that a number of doppelgänger and lookalikes are alive and well and living here in the Serranía de Ronda, including some reincarnated dead people.

I first noticed back in 2001 that Leonid Brezhnev, the late Russian president, was living in the small village of Montejaque (Málaga). He still does, and remarkably, has learned to speak fluent Spanish.

A couple of years later I noticed that Robert De Niro spends a lot of time in the Barrio San Francisco in Ronda. His Spanish is pretty good too!

Around that time a dead-ringer for World Champion snooker player Dennis Taylor was sitting across from us on our easyJet flight from Liverpool to Málaga. Nope! He turned out to be the real thing!

In 2005 I went to a modern flamenco concert in the Palacio Mondragón in Ronda to find that Lech Walesa, erstwhile president of Poland (1990 -1995), was on flute, Garth Crooks, former Spurs footballer and now BBC football reporter, was playing bass guitar, and the drummer was Ray French, the rugby league commentator and former player. I knew Ray, for he was an English teacher in St Helens, Merseyside, where I used to work. Funny thing, however, when I approached Ray in the interval he didn’t recognise me and had lost the ability to speak English!

Lech was definitely the star, though, as he also demonstrated his abilities on guitar and saxophone, as well as playing the flute.

Who was that in the queue behind me at Málaga airport in 2008? A Rick Wakeman lookalike. Whoops! No, it actually was him. Rick was the keyboard player in the progrock group Yes! back in the 1970s.

In 2009 we came across a guy cooking a massive paella in the village of Benaoján (Málaga). Funny – he looked just like Jamie Oliver – well, that’s cos he was!

Cheryl Cole had been living and working in Ronda for years, though she called herself Claire Conway for some reason. Now married with a young daughter she spends her time between Montejaque and the Balearics.

It’s a while since I’ve seen anyone else famous, dead or alive, down here in Andalucía, although I see Leonid and Robert from time to time to pass the time of day. It must be the recession keeping others away – or COVID-19.

Just after lockdown was eased and people were allowed to fly into Spain again, Brian Moore, the former England Rugby Union prop and now commentator, turned up at the hotel next to our house, speaking in a Huddersfield accent and, blimey ol’ Riley, Arthur Askey was spotted in a village near here. Strange, I thought he was dead!

And you’ll never guess who really runs the Secret Serranía website down here – none other than Phil Spencer from Channel 4’s Location, Location, Location!

¡El mundo es un pañuelo! Small world.

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Rebel With a Cause
Saturday, May 7, 2022

Joe King has always been a conformist, until recently. He was raised by his parents to be so and throughout school, university and his two careers he remained largely unrebellious. For the first 15 years of his retirement also. But now, since the massive turning point that was Covid-19, that’s all changed. Joe explains.

I was born in 1950 when the austerity of the post-war years was still making life difficult. I even had a ration card!

I was the elder of two sons born into a working class family in Devon. My brother and I were the grandsons of a Welsh coal miner. My Dad luckily avoided being sent down the pit, moved to England and had a number of fairly menial jobs before settling in North Devon where he met my mother, a young widow.

Her circumstances were hardly any better. Her father died when she was an infant and her widowed mother was pregnant. With a total of three young children my Gran couldn’t go out to work, so I don’t really know how they survived.

Mum passed the 11-plus to go to grammar school, but they couldn’t afford the uniform, so she went to the local secondary mod and left school at 14. She was a clerk for most of her life.

Despite their humble beginnings my parents had aspirations for us and also for themselves. They brought us up to be good citizens, to do what we were told and to study hard. We did just that.

Dad also bettered himself. He was a navvy with the GPO digging ditches and climbing telegraph poles to install telephone lines. But he went to night school, gained extra qualifications and ended up with a more comfortable office job.

Mum ended up as a shop-owner selling children’s clothes. 

My parents became homeowners, and for the next couple of decades I suppose they were what we now call property developers, albeit part-time and on an amateur basis. We lived in five different houses in 15 years.

So back to my conformist life. I was head boy of my primary school, did well at grammar school and went to my first-choice university to study languages.

I rebelled a bit as a student, grew a beard, let my hair grow long and lost my virginity. I developed a taste for beer, rather too much, I suspect, and cut lectures. I came to my senses in time, studied hard in my final year and left with a good degree.

I became a teacher. As such, I had to be a role model for my pupils and students. Dress smartly and behave myself. I did that for 15 years.

Then I was a school adviser and OfSTED inspector for 15 years. Again I had to be a role model, this time for teachers. What was worse, I had to conform and to implement Tory government education policy, much of which I disagreed with. Remember Kenneth Baker?

We did rebel a little bit, in the late 70s/early 80s, when my then wife and I, at the time childless, discovered the joys of naturism in Greece.

A long way from pupils and colleagues ….. or so we thought! Imagine my surprise, many years later in Portugal I came out of the sea after a skinny-dip to find a deputy head from one of my schools in St Helens sitting on the beach – not naked! Oh, well ….. at least he was a bloke!

I also rebelled a bit in that I had a series of sports cars in my fifties, eg a Toyota Celica, Mazda RX7, Mazda RX8, Toyota MR2, but that was about it as far as being a rebel was concerned.

When I was made redundant and had the chance to retire early, I still remained fairly conventional. Law-abiding, didn’t cause a fuss ….

After a nervous breakdown, the redundancy and divorce I could have gone off the rails, but my upbringing didn’t allow that to happen.

Then, in January 2020, Covid-19 entered our lives and changed my attitude to life completely. I nearly lost my wife to the bicho Coronavirus and from that point on I decided that any of us could snuff it at any time, so we should make the most of our twilight years.

Since that time I’ve become a bit of a rebel. I bought an old house to do up which blew most of my savings, and I started "SKI-ing" (spending the kids·inheritance). I dress inappropriately; scruffy in the day cos I’ve been renovating that house and doing lots of gardening; at other times I dress far too young for my age and my figure.

I write a lot for websites and on social media. I shoot from the hip and sometimes get online abuse. Do I care? Not a jot!

I’m growing a ponytail and a month ago had my ears pierced.

I’m a rebel with a cause …..


PS I don’t know what that cause is, but I’m enjoying myself nevertheless!

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St George’s Day – 23 April
Saturday, April 23, 2022

St George’s Day – 23 April

"St George" is the nickname I’ve given to my builder, and now good friend, Jorge. This 49-year-old gallego, born in the same town, El Ferrol, as the infamous Spanish dictator who ruled over Spain for 36 years, following  the Spanish Civil War, first entered my life last year.

I’ve had a few builders in my time, both in the UK and in Spain, but they’ve always disappointed. Not Jorge. He is outstanding in every respect.

When he first showed up last summer to dig me a ditch, I thought this quiet little man with the goatee beard was just a peón. He didn’t say much, just got on with the job and did it to my satisfaction.

I asked whether he could paint all my iron gates and fences. He did that conscientiously over the next few days, rubbing the metal down properly and wire-brushing the rusty bits before applying Hammerite.

I asked if he could lay bricks and render and finish off with capa fina so you couldn’t see the join.

“¡Soy albañil, coño!” was his slightly miffed reply.

Did he like gardening? Over recent months he has felled and pruned trees, built raised beds, constructed a superb jardinera on our private terrace and moved two cubas of topsoil from where it was dropped on the road outside my house.

Electrical work? He installed an exterior socket for me in no time at all. At the house I am renovating in Montejaque (Málaga) he has cut all the channels in the walls and ceilings for the re-wire and installed the cajetines, sockets and switches.

He has knocked down walls, built walls, replaced the rotten wooden beams in the kitchen ceiling with concrete ones, without the room above collapsing on top of us. In the fullness of time he will replace two roofs.

He doesn’t like carpentry, but he has hung new doors and installed windows. They’re perfect.

He even changed the wheel on my car when I had a puncture, something he had never done in his life, as he has never owned nor driven a car.

What he doesn’t like is water. He won’t do plumbing, so José or I do that.

In fact, he hates water so much, he left damp and rainy Galicia at the age of 17 to come and join the Spanish Foreign Legion in Ronda, looking for a better climate. After his 15 years’ service as a legionario, he stayed in the area, re-trained as a chef and later as an albañil (bricklayer).

Jorge has told others that I am his guiri friend, which makes me feel good, because I like him a lot too.

He even baby-sits my dog, Berti, on occasion, including overnight. The guy truly is a saint.

He is quite fiery and very opinionated. He is well-informed and has, as far as he is concerned, valid views about the disastrous politics of Spain.

St George and Joe King having a drink after work

As for my reforma, if he disagrees with what I want to do, he says so. The guy has style. He has come up with some much better ideas and solutions to problems than I have.

I’m the boss, as I pay the bills, but he’s the jefe really.

Jorge does not drive, so I have to collect him and take him home. He doesn’t like my driving.

“He sobrevivido cinco guerras; no quiero morir en un accidente de tráfico. Más despacio, coño, porfa.”

“I’ve fought in five wars (the Gulf – twice, Afghanistan, the Balkans and Iraq) and I’ve survived. I don’t want to die in a banal road accident. Will you please slow down.” Fair enough.

That’s San Jorge.


Note: The real St George, patron saint of England, and Spain’s dragon slayer, also have stories behind their legends. I just thought my St George is a more interesting character and you can’t look him up on Wikipedia.

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April Fool!
Monday, March 28, 2022

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).

Other well-known pranks include:         

•            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 cellphones 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 phenomena 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! 

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Serendipity a la inglesa – Russian Rita, safety gates, sculptures in the mist and carrilladas English-style.
Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Serendipity not only happens to Joe King in Spain. When he spent a fortnight in England recently, several serendipities happened to him in no time at all.


Russian Rita

When I picked up my hire car at Gatwick Airport on a recent visit to the UK to visit family, I was intrigued to discover that it was a Ford Puma, not a model I was familiar with.

I was sort of ‘tickled pink’ since puma is the Cyrillic representation of the name Rita. It´s true! Honestly! Ask a Russian on the Costa del Sol (if there are any left after (Ras)Putin’s malicious invasion of Ukraine!)

When my young family visited the former Soviet Union in 1990 our hosts were Sergei and Rita, spelt puma.

Coincidentally, my wife´s name is Rita, so our hire car was actually a Ford Rita. I wonder if they sell that model in Russia, and what it’s called…..?


Safety gates

For the first part of my visit I was helping my son Tom and his wife Su get their Victorian terraced do-er up-er ready for them to move into with their 2-year-old son, Wilbur. My grandson.

The house has three floors and needs four safety gates for the stairs. I bought them one as a present, my brother donated two that he no longer needed and Su found one on Facebook Marketplace for a tenner.

“We also need a gate in the garden to stop Wilbur falling down the concrete steps from the lawn to the yard. Could you make one? We’ve plenty of recycled timber. Or you could use a pallet.”

I looked at the recycled timber. It wasn’t really suitable. Wonder where I can get a pallet, I thought.

The next day, as I headed into town, there was an almighty traffic jam, so I dived up a side street ….. and guess what was there discarded near a building site?

A pile of pallets in good nick. I picked the best two, loaded them in the boot and off I went.

By that evening I’d converted them into a pretty damn good garden gate. The following morning I stained them with outdoor paint and bob was your uncle!

Good old serendipity!


Sculpture park

After my stint of DIY and a few days in Bow, East London, with daughter Amy, son-in-law Carlo and grandsons Felix and Jude and it was off to deepest Cornwall with Rita, who flew in to join me. We had been invited to spend a week with my brother Simon and his wife Marilyn in their luxury lodge in the quaintly named village of Praze-an-Beeble, near Camborne. We drove their in my hired Ford Rita, naturally.

During our stay we visited St Ives, where we did the Tate Gallery and dined on fish and chips; walked across the causeway at low tide to St Michael’s Mount, in Marazion, and feasted afterwards on a traditional Cornish pasty; and visited the National Trust Gardens at Trelissick.

But the highlight had to be the Sculpture Park at Coverack, which we stumbled on by chance – serendipity. The three meadows of open-air sculptures by Terence Coventry (1938 – 2017) are really impressive.

Although he trained as an artist in London, Coventry moved to South Cornwall to be a farmer and not until he’d spent 25 years farming did he return to his first love, sculpture. 



After a super week with fantastic Mediterranean-type weather, we packed up the Ford Rita and set off on the long journey back to Gatwick for our flight to Málaga. Passing through Devon, Somerset, Wiltshire, Hampshire and the two Sussexes, we had to fill the Rita’s tank twice with fuel heading towards 2€ a litre.

We stopped for lunch at the Red Lion pub in Babcory, near Yeovil, and guess what was on the menu? Crispy pig cheek (carrillada to you and me).

I just had to try it! I was not disappointed. Different but delicious. A truly serendipitous meal!

On to Gatwick where we were very early for our flight, so we went in search of the JD Wetherspoons pub.

It was also called the Red Lion.

No big coincidence really. It´s the most common pub name in the UK. At the last count there were 384 Red Lions.


Further reading:

Joe King has written seven previous articles about serendipitous events in his life. You can read them on this blog.


Serendipity I - straw bales, double doors and a house for sale

Serendipity II - Ana Belén, a car service and sushi

Serendipity III - Two Hungarians, Joan Manuel Serrat and Pasos Largos

Serendipity IV - A Cancellation, 2 TVs, Chateaubriand and the Palacio de Mondragón

Serendipity V - Molletes antequeranos, Karst rocks and buñuelos

Serendipity on a Sunday -  Rilke, Winter Seedlings and a Pasta Treat

Serendipity on a Wednesday - a Thermomix, an Eco-Village and Moron Art

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St Michael – Who was he?
Friday, March 18, 2022

The saint who has given his name to the products sold by an British chain store, a Spanish beer, an island in Cornwall, UK, another island in Normandy, France, as well as umpteen English churches and place names in the English-speaking world.



Marks & Spencer have used the name St Michael to brand their products since the company was founded in 1884. The company recently axed the brand and saw a drop in clothing sales and an increase in food sales.

San Miguel beer originated in the Philippines in 1890 when the island group was still a Spanish colony. Established in Spain in 1953, it now forms part of a major beer group which includes San Miguel, Mahou (Madrid) and Alhambra (Granada). San Miguel is now a major beer brand throughout Spain and the world. There are breweries in Barcelona, Burgos, Madrid and Málaga.



St Michael´s Mount is an island off the coast of southern Cornwall at Marazion. It can only be reached by walking across a causeway at low tide, or by boat. It is managed by the National Trust, and the castle and chapel have been the home of the St Aubyn family since approximately 1650.

Mont St Michel in Normandy, France, is uncannily similar in appearance to St Michael´s Mount. 1 kilometre offshore, it too is reached by a causeway. It is much smaller than its Cornish sister.



Cathedral Church of St Michael, Coventry, UK

The Church of StMichael is a parish church in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York, USA

Church of St Michael, Crewe, UK

St Michael, Cornhill, is a medieval parish church in the City of London, UK

St Michael and All Angels' Church, Whittington, Lancashire, UK

St. Michael's Church, Mumbai, India

Church of StMichael, Štip, Republic of Macedonia

And last, but by no means least, St. Michael's Golden-Domed Monastery, Kiev, Ukraine


Place names in the UK

Barford St Michael, Oxfordshire

Creech St Michael, Somerset

Gussage St Michael, Dorset

Kington St Michael, Chippenham, Wiltshire

Ormesby St Michael, Norfolk

Seavington St Michael, Somerset

St Michael Caerhays, Cornwall

St Michael Penkevil, Cornwall

St Michael's Hamlet, Merseyside

St Michael's on Wyre, Lancashire

St Michaels, Kent

Stoke St Michael, Somerset

St. Michael Urban is a municipal borough of St Alban‘s, Hertfordshire, UK


Place names throughout the world

StMichael is a hamlet in central Alberta, Canada

The parish of StMichael is one of eleven parishes of Barbados

Saint Michael's Basilica, Bordeaux, France

St. Michael´s Church, Slagelse, Denmark

Saint Michael, Austria, a village in lower Austria

St. Michael's Cave, Gibraltar

St. Michaels, in County Cork, County Kildare and County Wexford, civil parishes of Ireland

St. Michael, in Alaska, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota and Pennsylvania

St. Michaels in Arizona, Maryland, Wisconsin and the US Virgin Islands

Oh, and who was St Michael?

St Michael, also called Saint Michael the Archangel or Saint Michael the Taxiarch in Orthodoxy and Archangel Michael is an archangel in JudaismChristianity, and Islam.

The earliest surviving mentions of his name are in 3rd- and 2nd-century BCE Jewish works, often but not always apocalyptic, where he is the chief of the angels and archangels and responsible for the care of Israel. 

Christianity adopted nearly all the Jewish traditions concerning him, and he is mentioned explicitly in Revelation 12:7–12, where he does battle with Satan, and in the Epistle of Jude, where the author denounces heretics by contrasting them with Michael. He is also mentioned in surah 2:98 of the Quran, where the Jews of Medina challenge Muhammed to tell them the name of the angel from whom he received revelation, and when told that it was Gabriel they reply that revelations came from Michael.



Catholics often refer to Michael as "Holy Michael, the Archangel" or "Saint Michael", a title that does not indicate canonisation. He is generally referred to in Christian litanies as "Saint Michael", as in the Litany of the Saints. In the shortened version of this litany used in the Easter Vigil, he alone of the angels and archangels is mentioned by name, omitting saints Gabriel and Raphael.

In Roman Catholic teachings, Saint Michael has four main roles or offices. His first role is the leader of the Army of God and the leader of heaven's forces in their triumph over the powers of hell. In his second role, Michael is the angel of death, carrying the souls of all the deceased to heaven. In his third role, he weighs souls on his perfectly balanced scales. For this reason, Michael is often depicted holding scales. In his fourth role, Saint Michael, the special patron of the Chosen People in the Old Testament, is also the guardian of the Church. Saint Michael was revered by the military orders of knights during the Middle Ages.

Protestant denominations recognize Michael as an archangel. Within Protestantism, the Anglican and Methodist tradition recognizes four angels as archangels: Michael, RaphaelGabriel, and Uriel.

The Eastern Orthodox Church accord Michael the title Archistrategos, or "Supreme Commander of the Heavenly Hosts". The Eastern Orthodox pray to their guardian angels and above all to Michael and Gabriel.

Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (also known informally as Latter-day Saints or Mormons) believe that Michael is Adam, the Ancient of Days (Dan. 7), a prince, and the patriarch of the human family. They also hold that Michael assisted Jehovah (the pre-mortal form of Jesus) in the creation of the world under the direction of God the Father (Elohim); under the direction of the Father, Michael also cast Satan out of heaven.

Seventh-day Adventists believe that "Michael" is but one of the many titles applied to Jesus

Jehovah's Witnesses believe Michael to be another name for Jesus in heaven, in his pre-human and post-resurrection existence. They say the definite article at Jude 9—referring to "Michael the archangel"—identifies Michael as the only archangel. 



In Islam, Michael, or Mīkāʾīl, is the angel said to effectuate God's providence as well as natural phenomena, such as rain. He is one of the four archangels along with Jebreel (Gabriel, whom he is often paired with), ʾIsrāfīl (trumpeter angel) and ʿAzrāʾīl (angel of death).

Michael in Islam is tasked with providing nourishment for bodies and souls and is also responsible for universal or environmental events and is often depicted as the archangel of mercy. He is said to be friendly, asking God for mercy toward humans and is, according to Muslim legends, one of the first to obey God's orders to bow before Adam. He is also responsible for the rewards doled out to good persons in this life. From the tears of Michael, angels are created as his helpers.



According to rabbinic tradition, Michael acted as the advocate of Israel, and sometimes had to fight with the princes of the other nations (Daniel 10:13) and particularly with the angel Samael, Israel's accuser. Michael's enmity against Samael dates from the time when the latter was thrown down from heaven. Samael took hold of the wings of Michael, whom he wished to bring down with him in his fall; but Michael was saved by God. Michael said, "May The Lord rebuke you" to Satan for attempting to claim the body of Moses.


So, there you have it. The history and tradition of St Michael and the uses of his name throughout the world.

However, I think the clothing, beer and island stories are much more entertaining! But I’m only Joe King.


With acknowledgements to Wikipedia


About Joe King

Joe, not his real name, is a bit of an enigma. He has lived in the Serranía de Ronda for many years, but sometimes prefers to fly under the radar. He doesn’t take life too seriously, except in the case of Covid-19, but even there he can see the funny side.

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¡Salud! – A guide to drinks in Spain
Thursday, March 3, 2022

Spain has drinks, alcoholic and non-alcoholic, which are unique to the country. World-famous are sherry, sangría and cavaSan Miguel beer is recognised the world over, yet it originated in the Philippines, when the island group was a Spanish colony.

Joe King likes a drink. Here’s his run-down of the drinks that are truly Spanish. We think he’s probably tried most of them in the last 50 years!

Spain has its world-famous drinks, as well as others that you never see in other countries, except in a specialist wine merchant.

The most famous is probably jerez (sherry), a fortified wine that has to be produced in the Sherry Triangle, an area formed by the towns of Jerez de la Frontera, Sanlucar de Barrameda and El Puerto de Santa María in the province of Cádiz, Andalucía. The name sherry is a corruption of the Spanish word for this drink, jerez. Sherry became popular with the British to the extent that British wine merchants invested in the bodegas which produce the sherry. Names like Osborne and Sandeman are two examples of British sherry producers based in Jerez de la Frontera.

There are several different types of sherry, ranging from the dry fino of Jerez and its cousin manzanilla from Sanlúcar, through medium amontillado to the sweet olorosoPedro Ximénez is another style based on the Pedro Ximénez grape. The most famous fino is , of course, Tío Pepe from the house of González Byass. Tío Pepe (in English, “Uncle Joe”) was named after one of the founders’ uncles.

Almost as famous is sangría, particularly popular with British tourists on the costas and/or in the island resorts of the Balearics and the Canaries. This is a potentially lethal cocktail of red wine, brandy and citrus fruits topped up with lemonade and lots of ice cubes. Very thirst-quenching but with a high alcohol content.

Cava, the Spanish equivalent of champagne, and in my opinion much nicer to drink than the over-priced French vino espumante, is also famous. One brand in particular, Freixenet, is sold throughout Europe, if not the world.

San Miguel beer is probably the most famous of the Spanish lagers. Originating in the former Spanish colony of the Philippines, it is now manufactured in a number of places in Spain, as well as under licence in other countries.

The cuba libre, brandy and coke, is also famous, but arguably originated in Cuba, hence its name.

Remaining with alcoholic drinks, a couple are numbers-based. Cuarenta y tres (43) is a licor, much loved by the ladies, and Ciento tres (103) is a brand of Spanish coñac.

Amongst wines, the name immediately recognised and associated with Spain is rioja, named after the tiny region in northern Spain where it originates. Riojatinto or blanco is still very popular, especially abroad, but in Spain it is being marginalised more and more by wines from Ribera del Duero in the area around the Duero River in northern Spain close to Portugal.

Here in the Serranía de Ronda, there are more than 20 small bodegas which produce high quality wines, many of which have been awarded the coveted Sierras de Málaga denominación de origen (appellation, as we say in English and French). Where we live is right in the middle of this wine zone.

A slightly sparkling white wine unique to the Basque Country is chacolí. It is delicious, so you need to watch out you don’t overindulge. Also from the north of Spain, but further west in Asturias, there is sidra (cider). I’m from cider country in Devon and scrumpy was the tipple of my youth, but I can honestly say that sidra natural de Asturias is better.

Some Spaniards who want to show off like to order an expensive single malt whisky, like Glenfiddich 18 years or Cardhu 12 años and drown it in coke. Excuse me! What’s that all about? If that were my kind of drink it’d be a large dash of whisky DYC with coke for me. You’d save a fortune and I bet you couldn’t tell the difference.

Coffee is the dominant hot beverage, although you can get infusiones (teas) too. One is manzanilla (the same name as the dry sherry from Sanlúcar). I kid you not, but a few years ago in the local hotel I ordered “una manzanilla, porfa” (I prefer it to fino). Imagine my surprise when I was served a cup of hot water with a teabag in it!

Un café con leche, un café solo, un cafelito, un cortado, un sol y sombra, un manchado, even sin cafeína are some of the different styles of coffee available. And so cheap, between 1€ and 1.50€ round these parts. More expensive on the coast, of course. You can read more about coffee here.

Many a Spaniard likes a shot of alcohol with his coffee, even in the mornings! Anything is available, but the most popular are anís, coñac, pacharán, miura or orujo. At breakfast time most opt for a small version, un chupito, which costs the same as the coffee.

Have you come across horchata and granizadoHorchata de chufa (tigernut) looks like milk but isn’t. You drink it cold and it’s rather delicious. La chufa is a superfood containing a huge quantity of minerals such as calcium, magnesium, potassium, sodium, phosphorous and zinc. La horchata contains neither phosphates nor glucose. It is rich in vitamins C and E. And it’s vegan!

Granizado is a drink of crushed ice flavoured with concentrated fruit syrup. We discovered it after we’d toured the film studios in the Almería desert many years ago and got a bit of sunstroke. It was the only drink that got anywhere near quenching our raging thirsts and re-hydrating us.

And cacalao? It’s a chocolate drink much loved by kids. You can drink it cold or hot.

The ladies who lunch and don’t want to get sozzled on gin tónica have discovered a non-alcoholic gin called Gin Sin.

What’s the correct way of ordering una cerveza? Depending on how much you want, draught beer is ordered, in rising order of size: una caña, un tubo, una copa, un tanque, una pinta. Bottled beers come as un botellín (25cl) or un tercio (33cl).

Wine is ordered by the copa, or una botella, if you want that much.

Coñacs y licores are ordered by the copa, or if you want a shot, it’s un chupito.

So, that’s my journey through the drinks unique to Spain that I’ve come across in my life. I’m sure to have missed some. Sorry!

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Serendipity on Wednesday - A Thermomix, an eco-village and Morón art
Friday, February 25, 2022

Joe King and his wife have just had a serendipitous Wednesday.

According to the Cambridge English Dictionary, serendipity is the fact of finding interesting or valuable things by chance. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary goes for the faculty or phenomenon of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for.



Up early as usual and working on my computer, up popped an ad quite randomly on Facebook Marketplace for a second-hand Thermomix. This electrodoméstico, manufactured by German company Vorwerk, is an all-singing, all-dancing kitchen machine that renders all other kitchen appliances redundant.

Very popular in Germany where many a Hausfrau has one (and the rest aspire to own one), the Thermomix is only sold directly through agents. You cannot buy one in a shop. And they are very expensive. Around 2100 euros new for a top-of-the-range model.

This one was advertised as FREE, but clearly it wasn’t going to be. The asking price was 275 euros.

My wife, a German, already has a Thermomix, but a very old one and a couple of functions no longer work properly.

What do you think? I asked.

To cut a long story short, via Facebook Messenger I negotiated with the vendor Rocío and we agreed on 250€.

How serendipitous was that!

We arranged to travel to collect it that very afternoon. In Morón de la Frontera (Sevilla), somewhere we´d never been.


Eco village/hotel

Later that morning I took Lily, my German physiotherapist friend, to her first appointment, to treat the lady owner at a local hotel.

At the same time, Ollie, her joiner partner, priced up the repair of kitchen cupboards in the owners´ apartment which had been ruined in a recent flood.

That´s when Serendipity hit!

The lady, Susan, took us on a tour of the hotel, which is in a delightful spot beside the Guadiaro river in Benaoján (Málaga). It’s for sale.

Lily, Ollie and I looked at each other and all three of us smiled.

My German friends are investigating taking part in setting up an eco-village (eco-aldea), whereby like-minded people who want to opt out of the “system” and create their own environmentally friendly village which will eventually be self-sufficient.

They have already investigated several existing eco-aldeas in Spain on their way down from Germany (they travelled by road) and another which is in the process of being set up near Málaga.

In this latter case the participants would invest a sum of money in the project and would live in their camper vans until they had built the infrastructure, houses, shops, etc. It´s a 7-year project in the first instance.

When we discussed it later we all agreed that the Hotel Molino de Cuatro Paradas could be a great starting point, with existing hotel accommodation, which could be adapted to provide living quarters, spaces for activities such as yoga, craft workshops, a language school, etc. The list of possibilities is endless.

Most existing eco-aldeas build their own school. In this case there would be no need, as there are existing primary schools in Benaoján and Montejaque, both villages just up the road, and secondary schools in nearby Ronda.

The only problem would be how to fund the purchase or lease of the hotel. 900k is lot of dinero! Although good value for what you would get.

Food for thought and many a sleepless night.


Morón de la Frontera

At 5.00 pm we set off for Morón de la Frontera to collect the aforementioned Thermomix. Neither of us had been to Morón before.

After an hour and 20 minutes we fetched up at the house of the vendor Rocío. The house didn’t look like much from outside, but when you went in, it opened up into a huge internal patio with a garden and swimming pool at the back and rooms leading off. Upstairs more rooms and on top a 300 square metre roof terrace. Wow! An absolute delight.

I digress. We transacted the deal for the Thermomix, which, despite its 10 years of age, was in excellent condition. For the price we paid it was an absolute bargain.

Then came our third example of serendipity that day.

We decided to explore the town a bit while we were there. We trotted off to the square - a delightful spot with trees and benches, several cafés and shops.

As we were leaving the plaza we spotted that there was an exhibition of local art in the information centre. In we went, it was free, and we witnessed some really interesting paintings and sculptures using a variety of paints, materials and techniques.

A very pleasant way to close the day before heading back home.

That’s the thing about serendipity, it can crop up at any time. This was a Wednesday, the previous set were on a Sunday and other instances have been on different days.


Further reading

For a brilliant article about Spanish towns with “ … de la Frontera” in their names, check out this piece by Lenox:

Spain´s frontier towns – near no modern borders



Serendipity I - straw bales, double doors and a house for sale

Serendipity II - Ana Belén, a car service and sushi

Serendipity III - Two Hungarians, Joan Manuel Serrat and Pasos Largos

Serendipity IV - A Cancellation, 2 TVs, Chateaubriand and the Palacio de Mondragón

Serendipity V – Molletes antequeranos, Karst rocks  and buñuelos

Serendipity on a Sunday -  Rilke, Winter Seedlings and a Pasta Treat


For information about eco-aldeas go to:

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Serendipity on a Sunday – Rilke, Winter Seedlings and a Pasta Treat
Monday, February 21, 2022

According to the Cambridge English Dictionary, Serendipity is the fact of finding interesting or valuable things by chance. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary goes for the faculty or phenomenon of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for.

Joe King tells us what happened yesterday in Serendipity on a Sunday.


Rilke on a Sunday morning

I’ve written about Sundays before, most recently about how I hated Sundays for most of my life but now love them. I also wrote last year about the revival of Sunday lunch.

This Sunday I drove into Ronda to start my Sunday morning ritual, ie buy the Spanish Sunday paper SUR and go for a coffee to read it.

This was when the first gust of serendipity blew across my bows. There in the window of the Librería Dumas was a copy of a collection of poems by my favourite poet Rainer María Rilke, the Prague-born German poet who lived in Ronda for a time and coined the phrase Ciudad Sonada to describe the town.

I’d not seen this collection before, Versos de un joven poeta. And at only 4.95€ less 5% discount for having been a teacher (this is available throughout Spain to current and former teachers) I snapped it up.

So, as well as my paper I had some poetry to read, as I sat in the sun at the café on the market and sipped two cups of café con leche and a chupito of Miura.


Viveros Gómez

After my coffee break I headed off to the garden centre to have a look around. Quite unexpectedly and serendipitously they had just taken a delivery of tomato and cucumber seedlings. After checking and finding out that with night time temperatures around zero at the moment, that I needed and an invernadero (greenhouse).

Don’t have one of those so, much to the disgust of her indoors, I put them in the dining room. Them being two types of beef tomato and those funny little pepinos they grow here.


The Summers

Later that afternoon Ollie Doehring, Lily Summers and their four children, visitors to Montejaque from German twin town Knittlingen, popped in for coffee.

The kids were happy playing in the garden, while we adults tried various drinks including a taste comparison between two ciders: Ladrón de Manzanas, a highly marketed and expensive pasteurized “alcopop” and a natural cider from Asturias. Pretty obvious which one came out on top. So much so that Ollie and I polished off two litres and the LdM was poured down the sink.

The ladies glugged their way through a bottle of Cava Extra Brut.

By this time it was getting late and we were all hungry, so, despite not having been shopping, Rita conjured up a magnificent vegan spag bol. Serendipity pure!


Then it was time to call it a day. Ollie and Lily packed their brood into their Renault Trafic and headed off back to Montejaque, while Rita and I cleared up the debris and put on the dishwasher.

Rita went to bed and I fell asleep to Match of the Day.

Next thing I knew, it was 4.00 am and, refreshed with two cups of tea, I was writing this.



To read the follwing, simply click on the link:

Rilke. Who?

Sunday, Bloody Sunday!

Sunday Lunch


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