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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.

Serendipity IV – a Cancellation, 2 TVs, Chateaubriand and the Palacio de Mondragón
Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Once again “serendipity” has intervened in the life of Joe King.

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.

 

The Ronda Reading Group

This newly formed group was due to meet for the second time last Saturday. However, the get-together, to discuss our first book choice, “Before We Were Yours” by Lisa Wingate, became the victim of a funeral, members away abroad, work commitments, illness and apathy. With only four of us left standing we decided to postpone until January.

Slightly peeved at this turn of events, this freed up my day, however, and gave me the unexpected chance to drive down to Casares Playa (Cádiz) to buy a couple of second-hand TVs I’d seen on Facebook Marketplace.

The missus and I decided to make an excursion out of this opportunity, so we programmed our satnav and off we set. Two hours later, Google Maps once again failed to deliver us to our destination*, so we had to resort to the use of old-fashioned communications technology, ie the vendor and I using our voices talking on our mobile phones!

*In recent times Google Maps has failed to get us to La Mezquita in Córdoba, our hotel in Toledo (Castilla-La Mancha), and Leroy Merlin in Mijas (Málaga). What is going on?

 

Two TVs

We wanted the TVs for our newly renovated holiday rental, Casa Real, as an extra hook to make our property stand out from the rest by offering a TV in each bedroom.

We viewed the TVs, both LGs. One big, one smaller; great pictures and sound and in good condition. We paid the man the money and squeezed the tellies in our car.

Loaded up we set off for Manilva Playa (Cádiz) where there’s a great chiringuito, El Garito de Juan, but it had closed up for the winter.

 

Chateaubriand

I’d spotted an Argentine grill, El Estribo, back on the main road, so we headed there. It looked a bit pricey, and the cars parked outside were all better than ours, but what the hell! The dining room was pleasingly full – of Spaniards – usually a good sign of the quality of a restaurant.

I quickly chose what I fancied until my better half talked me into sharing an ensalada de la casa followed by a chateaubriand.

I’m glad she did, for it was outstandingly good. The salad was fresh and well-dressed and the beef fillet, grilled poco hecho as we had requested, was amazing.

A couple of glasses of Argentinian Malbec from Mendoza and a coffee and we were good to go. No need for dinner that night!

Serendipity or what? Expensive serendipity at over 100€, but what a fabulous meal!

 

Palacio de Mondragón

Earlier in that week, I had become aware, quite by chance, of a concert of 16th Century music to be held that evening in the delightful surroundings of the newly re-furbished Palacio de Mondragón in Ronda. I had not been inside this magnificent Moorish palace since the wedding of my “step-daughter” there in 2006.

I applied for and got two tickets, so, despite being tired after our unplanned visit to the coast, off we went to the concert.

The group, Carmina Terrarum, which comprised: Aníbal Soriano, player of medieval stringed instruments (a lute and a precursor of the Spanish guitar); César Carazo, medieval viola and tenor voice; plus Álvaro Garrido, medieval percussion, was fabulous. They trawled us through a repertoire of 16th Century music from Portugal, France, Italy and Spain, interspersed with explanations and humour.

A thoroughly enjoyable 90 minutes, which capped our serendipitous day perfectly!

So, a day which began with disappointment turned out really well in the end. A couple of hundred euros poorer, because of lunch and the TVs (the concert was free); nevertheless we enjoyed a drive through the eastern part of Cádiz province. Down to the coast via Gaucín and Casares and back home via San Roque, Castellar de la Frontera, Jimena de la Frontera and Gaucín.

 

Factcheck:

Information about Restaurante El Estribo in Manilva is here [https://www.restaurante-elestribo.com/]

Information about chiringuito El Garito de Juan in Manilva is here [https://www.tripadvisor.es/ShowUserReviews-g1117141-d10299740-r510112159-El_Garito_De_Juan-San_Luis_de_Sabinillas_Manilva_Costa_del_Sol_Province_of_Mal.html]

 

 



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Alle guten Dinge sind drei!
Monday, December 13, 2021

My German wife is fond of using this expression, which roughly translated means: "Three is good".

She herself has put this into practice big-style. She has had three husbands (I’m number 3 and hopefully the last!). She has three surviving siblings, three children and three German grandchildren.

In my case I can’t compete. As regards the number 3, I had my first child aged 33 and I have three English grandchildren. And that’s it! Oh, and I experienced three major catastrophes in my annus horribilis, 2007: a nervous breakdown, the break-up of my marriage and redundancy.

Together, the current missus and I have three houses here in Spain and three cars. Why? you ask.

Why three houses?

Why not? Two are holiday rental properties and one is our home. My wife had a house here when I met her in 2008. In 2011. the year after we married, we bought a house for us. Then, last year I bought an old village house to do up as a post-pandemic project .

Why three cars?

Before Covid-19 came along we had planned to do several lengthy road trips so bought a seminuevo to do them in. Then, because of the obra on the afore-mentioned house, I purchased a VW Transporter to use as a delivery truck for building materials, furniture, etc. The added bonus is that it converts to a camper van with a double bed, something we had always wanted to try out.

My wife had her own car from before I met her – a Peugeot 206 CC convertible. When it exploded earlier this year and the engine compartment burned to a crisp, she insisted on getting a replacement, this time a Peugeot 207, the follow-on model. Not strictly necessary, but she needs to be independent and likes to drive open-topped.

And when all is said and done, we’re retired and deserve to indulge ourselves while we still can.

And in any case, we’re SKI-ing, ie Spending the Kids’ Inheritance!



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Serendipity III – Two Hungarians, Joan Manuel Serrat and Pasos Largos
Tuesday, November 30, 2021

It’s happened again – Joe King has fallen “victim” to Serendipity.

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.

 

Ronda Reading Group

The question was posed on Facebook: Does anybody know of a book group in Ronda? I replied that I didn’t think there was one, but I’d be interested in joining it if there were. I suggested to the author of the question, Krisztina, that she should start one. I offered to help her.

This got a few likes. I also had a few people in mind who I thought might be interested. Within a few hours we had 12 or so confirmations. Mainly British, but also three Poles, two Irish, two Hungarians and a South African.

Krisztina and I arranged to meet for a coffee to get to know each other and to share ideas. Remarkably our thoughts more or less coincided. We scheduled a preliminary meeting for those interested to get together, to lay down our modus operandi and to get going on our first book.

We also had acquired our first sponsor, RondaLingua, the language learning company, who had offered us a venue for our meetings. Krisztina is a teacher there.

 

Ronda Valley Hotel

After sorting out a few bits and pieces in Ronda, I popped into the Ronda Valley Hotel, formerly the Hotel Don Benito, on my way home. It’s actually my “local”, being just 500 metres from my house.

While I was chatting to Francesca, an Austrian ‘workaway’ at the hotel, I became aware of a lady at the bar who was talking about working in the hotel.

Shortly afterwards, when she had finished, I engaged her in conversation. Her name is Judit, she is Hungarian, and had just got a job at the hotel. But wait for it ….. she lives in Ronda with her daughter Krisztina! You couldn’t make it up, could you?

She told me her daughter had had a meeting that morning in Ronda with an English guy about setting up a book group.

That was me, I said.

We were both gobsmacked, to say the least.

Francesca took a photo of the pair of us and I WhatsApped it to Krisztina with the message: Guess what?

Judging by her reply, she was as taken aback as Judit and I.

Serendipity, you’re at it again!

 

Joan Manuel Serrat

That same evening I was in Ronda, returning to my car in the underground car park in Plaza del Socorro, when I could hear music coming from the Círculo de Artistas. It sounded like one of my favourite Spanish singers, Joan Manuel Serrat.

I approached the building and spoke to the security guard. It was a live concert by José María Tornay singing songs by the Catalan singer/songwriter.

The concert had only just started so I bought a ticket for 10€ and joined the audience.

José María, supported by other musicians, trawled through Serrat’s songbook and interspersed with chat and interaction with those people present, he entertained the 200 or so members of the audience right royally.

I discovered Serrat’s music when I was studying in San Sebastián, aged 21. His album Mediterráneo was published in 1971 and I was hooked. 50 years later I still listen to that LP on a fairly regular basis.

When I was teaching A-Level Spanish in the late 70s/early 80s I used some of his songs as the basis for lessons, in particular La mujer que yo quiero, Tío Alberto and Barquito de papel.

What a chance encounter! Serendipity at work once again!

 

Pasos Largos

The lady Judit was going to replace at the Ronda Valley Hotel, Carolina, had told me she was leaving for another job. It transpires that she is to be socia encargada of the recently opened Taberna Pasos Largos in Calle Nueva in Ronda. In other words Carolina is to be the co-owner and manager.

As my wife and I were going to a flamenco show by David Palomar in Ronda that coming Saturday night, I thought we could try out the restaurant afterwards, so asked Carolina to book a table.

The name of the restaurant is interesting. Pasos Largos was an infamous bandit (1873 – 1934), who preyed on travellers in the Serranía de Ronda in the early 20th Century.  

We tried Taberna Pasos Largos. The food was fairly standard fare, but well prepared and presented. Over-priced for the locality, however, so we shan’t be going there again.

Not serendipity on this accasion!

 

Note:

For more information about Joan Manuel Serrat, click https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joan_Manuel_Serrat

For more information about the bandit Pasos Largos click https://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pasos_Largos



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Serendipity II - Ana Belén, a car service and sushi
Monday, November 15, 2021

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. When Joe King rang his garage to book a service, little did he know that Serendipity was about to strike again.

While I was in Ronda on Friday last, I had to go to the cajero at my bank. I transacted my bank business and, since the bank is opposite Las Maravillas, one of my favourite places to eat and drink in town, I went for a coffee and to catch up on my phone calls.

 

Car Service

I rang my garage, Peugeot, but the number I used was declared non-existent! Humph! I tried another number – same story.

I googled the garage to find that it was permanentemente cerrado! Had they gone bankrupt? Surely not. I was there just two weeks ago.

Then I found another number. It rang. Phew! But nobody answered. I finished my coffee and tried again. This time the automatic menu answered. I pressed 1 for taller. Nobody in the workshop picked up.

 

Ana Belén

I happened to have the private mobile of the receptionist, Ana Belén, so I dialled that. Ana Belén answered: Hola, Joe, qué tal?

I said I needed to book a service. Oh I don’t work there any longer, she said. However, she confirmed that the garage was not bankrupt nor permanently closed.

When I said nobody was answering their phone, she said they were short-staffed (partly caused by her leaving, I guess!) Her brother, Sergio, the workshop manager, was still off sick following a hernia operation, but that I should persevere in ringing.

I asked where she worked now. I’m a waitress at the Japanese restaurant on Calle Jerez. Japanese restaurant?  In Ronda?  Blimey!  Whatever next?  An Indian?  (No chance; Indian or Bangladeshi food is too spicy for the Spanish, so, despite several attempts over the years, they’ve never taken off in Ronda).

On the spur of the moment I asked if they might have a table for that very evening. My wife and I were going to a Fashion Show, Ronda de Moda, that evening and were intending to eat dinner afterwards. We recently enjoyed a great Japanese meal in Germany, so I thought it would be a nice surprise for my other half.

Ana Belén was due to start work at the restaurant within the hour so she said she would check and call me back.

As I ordered a second coffee I was greeted by one of the owners of Las Maravillas, José María, my former vet. He is no longer a vet, but a restaurateur!

I rang the garage again and got through to a rough-voiced man in taller.

I need a service for my car.

Certainly, sir.

Hang on a minute; is that Sergio? I thought you were on the sick?

Hi, Joe. I am, but we’re short-staffed, so I came in today to help out. (Auto Sanz is a family firm, so that figures!) Next Monday at 9.00 am, ok?

Fine. I’ll be there on Monday.

I hung up. My mobile rang immediately. DHL. We have a packet for you but can’t find your address.

It was my long-awaited passport. After some verbal to-ing and fro-ing we arranged that my valuable document, for which I have to sign, will be delivered to me in Montejaque on Tuesday morning.

I paid for my coffee and left. I needed to go to the Casa de la Cultura to pick up tickets for a new play about refugees that we want to see. The Japanese restaurant is just across the road from there, so I decided to pop in and take a look.

 

Miyagi Express Sushi Bar

Ana Belén was there along with colleague Rafael. Then she told me something that took me completely by surprise. The joint owner of the sushi restaurant is none other than Marcos Marcell, the Ronda-born professional actor and director who runs the theatre school where I was a member, Proyecto Platea.

Another person who has diversified, similar to José María at Las Maravillas.

 

Fashion Show

Come 8.00 pm and it was time for Ronda de Moda at the Convento de Santo Domingo.

You’ll probably be the only bloke, said Rita.

Wrong, there were lots of men, some very pretty and camp, but other blokes of my age and younger. The place was heaving: women of all ages, men and children.

We found two seats in the third row from the pasarela (runway) and sat back to enjoy the display of fashions from local boutiques, including three of my wife’s favourites: Colette, El Diván de Frida and N de Nati.

My first time ever at a fashion show, I thoroughly enjoyed it. I didn’t yawn once during the whole of the two-hour presentation.

The models were stunning, by the way - the female ones too!

 

Sushi

Then it was off to the Miyagi Express Sushi Bar for dinner.

Small and intimate, the restaurant is at the bottom of Calle Jerez opposite the church.

We were welcomed by Ana Belén and sat in the comfortable reception area while our table was readied. Marcos Marcell came over to welcome us and to say hello. He hadn’t met the missus before.

He told us that his production of the play El Enfermo Imaginario (The Imaginary Invalid) by Moliere would be on at the Teatro Vicente Espinel in January. Out of interest I was in the running to play the lead role of the imaginary invalid, Argan, until I became a real invalid with Covid-19 during early rehearsals and had to pull out.

My wife was excited in anticipation of our meal. Me too. We’re both very inexperienced in Japanese cuisine, so we ordered two different kombos to share, which offered us practically all the different types of sushi on the menu.

We enjoyed hosomakis, nigiris, futomakis, uramakis, gyozas and ensalada wakame (seaweed). No idea what they all mean, but who cares, they were delicious.

I had two Japanese beers (brewed under licence in Bavaria, Germany) and the missus two glasses of verdejo. Just over 50 euros altogether.

We’ll be back!

 

Factcheck:

Miyagi Express Sushi Bar is open from Thursday to Sunday for lunch and dinner. They also offer a takeaway and a home delivery service.

Calle Jerez, 2, 29400 Ronda, Spain.

 

Serendipity

Oh! And should there be any doubt, Serendipity is alive and well in Ronda!

 

Editor’s note: Serendipity I – straw bales, double doors and a house for sale is available to read on EyeOnSpain.



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Serendipity I – straw bales, double doors and a house for sale
Sunday, November 14, 2021

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 experiences serendipitous events quite frequently. This happened a few weeks ago.

My English neighbour asked me if I could get him a dozen straw bales to rebuild a shelter for his four lambs, so off I went with my friend José to try and find some. The harvest was just in, so in theory there were plenty about.

We tried locally but the farmers had none spare – they needed them all for their own livestock.

So we tried further afield. We headed off towards Montecorto (Málaga) on the road to Sevilla. The fields were full of bales of straw, so we stopped at the gasolinera in Montecorto where there is a café that seems to be a meeting place for all and sundry.

“Anyone got any straw bales for sale?” I asked in my best andaluz accent. Immediately a huge guy who looked like the Native American mental patient in the film “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” piped up.

“Yep. How many do you need?”

“Just 12.”

Cristóbal was from Benaoján (also Málaga).

“Meet me tomorrow morning at Bar El Encuentro in Benaoján at 9.00 am and we can pick them up.”

The price was right, so we agreed.

As José and I drove off, we both acknowledged that that had all been rather serendipitous.

The following morning we met Cristóbal as agreed and he took us to his nave where he had stored his hay.

While José and Man Mountain were loading the van with the dozen bales, I had a nose around. There were rabbits and chickens and a pair of double doors.

They would be perfect for Casa Real, the house I’m doing up, I thought.

I asked Cristóbal if they were for sale. He said “yes, but they’re not mine. They belong to a friend. I’ll ask him.”

Over the next week or so I learned that they would cost me 450€. No way, I said, I was thinking of 150€. In the end we met somewhere near the middle and I paid 275€. I was happy and so was the vendor. Who says andaluces aren’t prepared to haggle?

The doors are fitted in my house already and look grand.

Talking to Cristóbal it emerged that he had a house for sale in Benaoján, so, in my role as corredor, unofficial estate agent, I went to see it. The house is now “on my books”.

Serendipity? I think you could say all three, the straw bales, the double doors and the house for sale fall into that category.

¡Viva la serendipitía!



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How to buy a car in Spain
Thursday, October 28, 2021

A few days ago Joe King explained how to sell a car here in Spain, or, at least, how he did it.

Today he tells us how to buy a car – at least the way he and his wife went about it last week.

In July my wife’s beloved Peugeot 206 cc cabriolet caught fire and exploded. It was a write-off. She was of course upset. She had bought the car new and had run it for 20 years without any major problems. She decided she wanted a similar model, so she started looking for a used 206 or a 207, the slightly larger model that replaced the 206.

She’s been trawling the internet ever since, looking at milanuncios.es, coche.net, Facebook Marketplace and similar sites in Germany.

The cars she found were either too expensive or already sold (why can’t vendors remove their ads when their car is no longer available?)

We’ll be going to Germany at some point in the future, so we were considering buying one there and driving it back (prices are significantly lower there than in Spain). However, by the time you add on fuel costs, tolls, two nights’ accommodation and re-matriculation, it works out more expensive than buying a car here.

*

Then, on Thursday of last week, the troube and strife spotted what looked like a good ‘un that had just been posted on milanuncios.es. A 207, 12 years’ old, low mileage, black with red leather seats. Wow! What a looker!

Uh, oh! It’s in Madrid. OK. I rang anyway and spoke to the owner, Mónica, from the Dominican Republic. The car was still available.

I said we’d be happy to come to Madrid (my missus has never been so we thought we could make it into a city mini-break) if Mónica would give us first refusal. She agreed and even promised to take the car off the market.

We immediately went online and booked single train tickets for Saturday, a hotel in Madrid city centre for two nights, plus a night in Toledo on the way back, on the assumption we would be driving back in my better half’s “new” car. We were all set.

 

Madrid – Saturday to Monday

On Saturday our train to Madrid was over an hour late on arrival so, under the terms of RENFE’s customer charter, we got 50% back! The car was getting cheaper by the minute!

In Madrid we checked in and went in search of food. The area around the Puerta del Sol was buzzing! What a great atmosphere!

We managed to find a table outside – it was still warm at 11.00 o’clock. We paid city prices, of course, 35€ for three small beers, two raciones and bread. But, what the hell! We were on holiday, sort of!

After a good night’s sleep I popped out for an early morning coffee while her indoors got herself ready. We had breakfast and then took a stroll around the area, found a branch of Unicaja (they recently bought Liberbank so now the former Andalusian savings bank has branches throughout Spain) and withdrew the cash for the car, which we secreted in various places about our persons before catching the metro to our pre-arranged meeting place in a rough area called San Cristóbal on the outskirts of the city.

We viewed the car, tested it and bought it!

We drove back into the city and parked in an underground car park near our hotel. It was going to stay put until we left on Monday morning, despite the 32.50€ overnight parking charge!

It was now mid-afternoon, so we took off to look at the Retiro park, the statue of Cibeles and to spend some time in the Prado Art Gallery.

After a wash and brush up we headed out for dinner in the Plaza Mayor. We stumbled on the Mercado de San Miguel.

The market has been turned into a massive food hall. The former market stalls have been turned into tapas and drinks bars. There were also speciality stalls selling cheeses and other local products, as well as a bakery and a coffee shop.

The idea is you buy whatever tapas you fancy and your drinks and then find a table anywhere to consume them. The place was heaving and it was all rather splendid. Serendipity at work once again.

Not cheap, but as I said earlier, “What the hell!”

 

Toledo – Monday to Tuesday

After an early coffee we paid our exhorbitant car parking charge and headed off to Toledo, Spain’s capital until 1561.

My wife took the wheel of her car for the first time. We travelled on ordinary roads to enjoy the scenery and stopped in the village of Illescas for breakfast. Back to sensible prices!

When we got to Toledo we were too early to check in at our hotel so we drove up to the Parador which sits on a hill overlooking the city and offers the best views of this medieval walled town. Stunning is not a strong enough word to describe what you can see. Monuments of Arabic, Jewish and Christian origin are all over.

Our hotel was really well located just inside the city wall at Puerta Bisagra.

We strolled up to the main square, Plaza de Zocodóver, and had a salad, did some relaxed shopping and strolled back to the hotel for a rest.

Then, we strolled back up again for dinner at La Abadía, a former abbey where they’ve been permitted to restore Roman caves under the building into dining niches. The food here was somewhat different and the range of draft locally-brewed craft beers was amazing!

Epilogue

On Tuesday we again left early after a coffee and chose ordinary roads as far as Córdoba. The car drove like a dream. We’ve decided to christen it Blackie, by the way – well, it’s black!

We stopped for lunch in the village of Monturque near the motorway between Córdoba and Antequera, and then a couple of hours later we were back home in Ronda, tired but happy.

*

I reckon the trip to Madrid, ie train ticket, hotels, food and drink, local transport, car parking and fuel, added around 700€ to the price of the car, but we had a great little holiday out of it.

I reacquainted myself with two cities I hadn’t been to in a couple of decades and my wife saw them for the first time. She thought Madrid was beautiful  - the nicest big city she’s ever been to and she’s travelled a fair bit. Toledo too, she thought was delightful, a bit like Carcassonne in France, but not, if you know what she means!

Clearly this was not the most conventional way of buying a second-hand car, but it was very agreeable and I recommend it highly!

 

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 prefers to fly under the radar. Hence his pseudonym and lack of photo.

Joe doesn’t take life too seriously, and enjoys doing things in an unconventional manner. He invariably sees the funny side of life.



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How to sell a car in Spain
Monday, October 25, 2021

Joe King recently sold his car. But he didn’t advertise anywhere! Here’s what happened.

The other week I decided to sell my Seat León, as it had become surplus to requirements. Which couple needs three cars for God’s sake? Or even two, for that matter, but that’s another story!

A bit of a shame, as I really loved that car. It was the 1.9 TDi Diesel version and drove like a dream with plenty of acceleration when you needed it. Yet it had great fuel consumption.

I’d had the car just over 10 years, having bought it from the vendor of our current home on the day we took possession of the house in February 2011.

In order to sell it I didn’t advertise on Mil Anuncios, nor on Facebook. I didn’t put a small ad in the newsagents or on a lamp post. Yet the car was gone within a few days.

What I did was this.

I contacted a friend who’d expressed interest in buying my car a few months back, to see if he still wanted it. Unbeknown to me Jordi then rang a car mechanic, whom we both know, to ask his advice. I found out when Antonio, the mechanic, whose workshop is four doors from me, came to tell me this and to say that, if Jordi decided he didn’t want it, he would buy it for his daughter.

Two days went by and I got no further with my Catalan friend, so I told Antonio his daughter could have it.

“I’ll come and see you after lunch”, said Antonio. At 4.00 pm he was there at my gate, we agreed a price which we were both happy with and we touched elbows on the deal.

He went off to get the cash and I went indoors for the car keys and documents. Five minutes later I had a wad of banknotes and a bill of sale in my hand and Antonio was driving my beloved car up the road and out of my life.

I’d never bought or sold a car that quickly in all my days! Amazing!

That was the way to do it! Spanish-style!

 

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 prefers to fly under the radar. Hence his pseudonym and lack of photo.

Joe doesn’t take life too seriously, and enjoys doing things in an unconventional manner. He invariably sees the funny side of life.

 



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Road Traffic Hazards in Spain
Friday, October 1, 2021

There are many more road traffic hazards in Spain than in the UK, contends long-time resident of the Serranía de Ronda Joe King.

Apart from the obvious road traffic hazards like drunk drivers, Sunday drivers and motorcyclists, there are many more here in southern Spain.

The latest hazard is posed by these ridiculous stand-on scooters, patinetes, which are not only a danger to their riders but also to other road users and pedestrians. They’re worse than the Sinclair C5, if you’re old enough to remember that folly!

 

People in/on vehicles

White van men – yes, they exist here too, and they are as bad and as inconsiderate as their British counterparts.

Delivery drivers – similar to the above, these drivers appear to stop wherever they fancy, irrespective of yellow lines, no parking signs, etc.

Fast drivers – the Spanish have a bit of a reputation for fast/dangerous driving. I’m sure they know what they’re doing, but it’s unnerving for other road users.

Drunk drivers – much more of a problem here than in the UK. The limit here is lower, yet driving above it is rife. Oddly, foreigners, who wouldn’t dream of drink driving in their home land, seem to think it’s ok here. It’s not!

Cyclists – particularly around the Serranía and especially at the weekends. They’re entitled to use the roads (although they don’t pay anything in the form of an annual road tax, like we users of motor vehicles), but why do they have to ride two and sometimes three-abreast?

Motorcyclists – my wife calls them “organ donors” because of the way they ride. Others have remarked that they seem to have a death wish. The number of accidents is very high on the mountain roads of the Serranía.

Coches sin permiso - these little pop-pops are a real threat. They’re so slow they are dangerous. Drivers of normal cars get frustrated being stuck behind them and often overtake where they shouldn’t.

Rogue parkers –drivers of 4 x 4s, or “Chelsea tractors”, seem to think they are immune from parking violations. Park where you like, including on pedestrian crossings, slap on the flashers and you’ll be ok.

Sudden stoppers – these are drivers who suddenly stop without warning to let their wives/sons/daughters get out of the car. They tend to favour pedestrian crossings too!

Patinete riders – as mentioned in the introduction, these are particularly dangerous. They ride on the wrong side of the road, on pavements, along pedestrianized streets. You don’t need a licence or any training to use one on the public roads. It’s not on.

 

People on foot

Jaywalkers – this is a problem throughout the world, although I don’t recommend it in the USA or Germany – you could get fined! In Ronda, where I live, they’re a menace.

Tourists – similar to jaywalkers, they seem to think they have right of way on the streets.

Legion joggers – near where I live, in the early morning, the roads and country lanes are full of joggers from the Spanish Foreign Legion, whose base is across the road. They take up a lot of space.

Cholesterol pilgrims – these are the good folk of Montejaque (Málaga) who regularly walk the five kilometres or so from the village to Venta La Vega (kilómetro 19 on the Seville road) in order to keep their cholesterol levels down. So they won’t die of cholesterol poisoning - they’re more likely to snuff it from being run over. In the summer they do this pilgrimage pre-dawn, when it’s cooler. Some wear gilets jaunes, yellow vests, but not all. And they’re the ones most at risk!

Dog walkers – especially if their dog is off the lead. My dog, Berti, albeit in the care of someone else at the time, was hit by a speeding driver while off the lead and was killed earlier this year.

Employees of conservación – these road maintenance guys don’t always set up a proper safety system when they’re trimming verges, so you come round a corner to be confronted by men at the roadside working and the road strewn with, for example, cut dried grass.

Waiters – some bars and restaurants have their terrace across the road from their premises. The waiters are back and forth in front of traffic. Potentially dangerous for the waiters.

Pretty women/men – a problem the world over. Drivers can be distracted by a thing of beauty by the side of the road, especially in summer when clothing is more sparse!

 

Animals

Sheep and goats – around the Serranía, you can often come across a flock of sheep or goats, although they are usually under the control of a shepherd/ goatherd and a dog. On some roads, wild goats just wander where they want. They don’t seem to be familiar with the highway code!

Wildlife – deer, in particular, but occasionally wild boar or even horses and cattle, can escape their enclosure and stand in the road. This is common at night.

Stray dogs – as above.

 

Static objects

Roundabouts – Spain has fallen in love with the roundabout. It’s like Milton Keynes in the UK! Problem is most Spanish drivers don’t have a clue about how to navigate them. Why is it ok to be in the outside lane when you plan to exit at 9 o’clock?

Bar terraces – In towns, they are simply in the way! They seem to make the street narrower.

Potholes – lots of these, especially after heavy rain or frosts. If you drive through them you can damage the suspension of your car. If you veer to avoid them you could cause an accident.

Roadside advertising – largely banned nowadays, those that remain are still a distraction.

Sleeping policemen – these traffic-calming humps are well-intentioned, of course, but some of them are really high and, quite frankly, a nuisance.

 

Other

Silly speed limits – why is the maximum speed limit on main roads 90kph? It’s too slow and therefore dangerous. The 120 on motorways is a bit slow too. Since almost everybody ignores the limits, why not raise them?

Fallen rocks after heavy rain – quite a problem on all roads around the Serranía. You just have to be on your guard and hope nothing lands on top of your car!

Fallen trees or branches after a storm – as above.

Roads with no barriers – there are still some roads without barriers, so if you come off the road you could be in for a nasty surprise – if you survive the drop, that is!

 

So, as you can see, it’s potentially pretty hazardous out there on the roads. Maybe we should just stay at home, lie on the sofa and watch TV.

Nah!



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Three Jamies in one day
Sunday, August 29, 2021

Joe King looks back to the day in 2009 when he met three Jamies, one of them the celebrity TV chef Jamie Oliver, who was filming in the Ronda area.

18 June 2009

My mobile phone rang one lunchtime in the middle of June. 

“Hi, Joe, this is Jamie...”.

“Hi, Jamie, how are you...?” I answered somewhat over-enthusiastically, especially since I didn’t know which Jamie it was who was calling me.

Could it be Jamie Oliver? I mused.  No, he doesn’t have my number.  And anyway I barely know Britain’s top TV chef, having spoken to him only once and then rather briefly, as he served me my dish of paella the evening before.

Perhaps it’s Jamie Boyd?  The artist, writer and son of the recently deceased Lord Kilmarnock, or, as he is better known, Alastair Boyd, artist, writer, environmental campaigner and hispanophile. The Jamie I’d met and spoken to for the first time on the same previous evening that I met his namesake, the chef.

Nope.  Not him either.

“I’m fine.  I’m just calling to say that I’m back home earlier than expected, so can meet up with you any time.”

Ah, that Jamie – Jamie Ewing.  The ‘green’ campaigner who had phoned The Olive Press office the day before to ask would we be interested in covering a story about a planned environmental outrage involving the electricity company Sevillana Endesa.

“I’m just finishing off lunch, so can we meet at, say 4.30?”

* * *

That sounded interesting, said my lunch companions, Serafina and Alison.

Yes, fancy coming across three Jamies all on the same day in the Serranía de Ronda!

My colleagues and I had been “staking out” Jamie Oliver for three days, while he was trying to secretly film a food documentary in the Ronda area.  We’d finally tracked him down – he was to be taught how to cook various dishes, including a giant paella, in the small village of Benaoján, near Ronda. 

I had got to the venue before the film crew and met, photographed and interviewed the local protagonists.  These were the paella chef, Salvador, who’s been making paellas for 1000 people for 18 years; the gazpacho cook, MarInés; the tortilla española expert, Juan; and Dolores, who was going to teach Jamie how to make borrachuelos, a local pastry made from flour, butter and lots of white wine.

Then the camera crew arrived and set up inside the houses of the neighbours, while Jamie waited in the minibus.  When he finally emerged and shuffled up the hill to the street where the filming was to take place, I managed to take two snaps before I was approached by the Channel 4 Production Manager and asked to stop and move away!  From a public street in a public village!  Not wishing to cause a scene, I withdrew and went to the bar for a beer.

Anyway, suffice to say that the filming took place and then it was paella time.

But first the 2.5 metre diameter paellera had to be transported from its store to the cooking area.  That was interesting, fitting it through the narrow streets on a dumper truck.  At least one freshly-painted house lost a coat or two!

It was at the fiesta that the positive-thinking mayoress of Benaoján, Soraya, - coincidentally the daughter of Salvador, the paella chef - had organised, that I saw Jamie Boyd and his lovely Spanish wife, Isa.  I knew her to talk to and him by sight from the memorial service to his dad in March.  I reacquainted myself with her and introduced myself to Jamie.

He’d been clearing out his dad’s study that day and had found some interesting diaries and manuscripts. Alastair Boyd had written two of the best books in English about the Serranía de Ronda, namely The Road to Ronda and South of the Sierras

I met the third Jamie at 4.30 pm as arranged.  Jamie Ewing invited me to his big house in the campo near Gaucín where he gave me the background to the environmental scandal about which he had contacted me.

Sevillana Endesa had had plans approved to erect a run of pylons right through the middle of a virgin valley which runs down towards Gibraltar on the coast, despite the fact that existing pylons tucked into the edge of woodland nearby could just as easily do the trick.

We spent a very pleasant couple of hours in searing heat, only partly assuaged by copious soft drinks and a refreshing swim in Jamie’s pool, during which I took detailed notes, before I set off back to the slightly cooler air of home and more drinks, this time containing alcohol, in my favourite local bar.

Three Jamies in one day? Wow!

 

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 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. Hence his pseudonym and lack of photo.



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Diary of a paper boy
Friday, August 27, 2021

Joe King gave up his part-time job as a paper boy when he was just 14.  Little did he think he would become one again 45 years later! 12 years on Joe recalls the day, back in 2009, when he really did start distributing newspapers throughout the Serranía de Ronda

June 2009

“DO YOU fancy delivering a few papers?” asked the editor. “Sure,” said I. 

Mug!  Six hours later and after a huge row with the missus, whom I’d foolishly taken with me for the ride, I began to question my sanity.

“Never mind,” I thought, “next time it won’t take as long...” Well, it took five hours second time round!

Now into my eighth such delivery, I’ve got it down to a fine art.  Now I’m only out for 10 to 12 hours on delivery day! 

Why?  Well, instead of rushing from drop-off point to drop-off point as quickly as possible, I now linger here and tarry there, accepting offers of a cup of coffee or a cold drink or even a free tapa and chatting to the people I meet along the way.

After an early morning coffee with Andy, Pauline or Paco at the delightful Hotel Molino del Santo in Benaoján Estación, I then squeeze my increasingly battered right-hand drive British car through the narrow streets of Benaoján proper and drive the pleasant 20 minutes to Jimena de Líbar and a second coffee with Synnøve or Paul at the Bar Allioli by the station.  Sometimes avid readers of the paper are waiting to ambush me to pick up their copy and to lavish praise on the paper.  Very good for morale.

A quick dash up to Cortes de la Frontera and several drops; Bar Acuarios and Bar Los Amigos followed by my regular natter with Mary Beker at the Estate Agents.  Then it’s off to Hotel Los Almendros where the lovely Belgian owner Ben offers you a drink and something from his kitchen that he’s preparing for lunch.  Last time it was berenjenas con miel, deep fried slices of aubergine drizzled with honey.  Mmmm!

Via the petrol station and a brief how-do-you-do with any folk sitting at the cafe there, and it’s on to Sarah and Alex at the tranquil Hostal el Gecko, down by the station, before the long but stunning climb up the mountain to the Algeciras road and gentle drop down to Gaucín, the balcony of the Serranía, and views to die for.  On a clear day, Gibraltar lies brooding off the coast in the distance and hints of Morocco beyond tantalise the viewer.

It’s now getting on for two o’clock, so after dropping papers at the petrol station and the Hotel Caballo Andaluz, where owner Mari Angeles is always up for a chat, it’s time for a visit to the bubbly Rosa at Pura Vida, the health food shop, and the multi-lingual catalana-vasca, Maria Luisa, at the newly-opened Bonassim Delicatessen. 

Quick drops at the two banks and it’s time to re-fuel - my starving body, not the car!  I have a choice of eating places.  There are three English-run restaurants, La Fuente, with Lisa and “Huggie”, La Casita, hosted by Darren and Julie, and Don Martin, run by Ginny and her stunning waitress, the 20-year-old Ellie.  Nice food at all three. 

Bar Paco Pepe in the little square with the fountain, is a good spot, too. Lots of ex-pats congregate here, so it’s a great place to meet the newspaper’s public.  Susie and Carl of Bar Otrolao, Murphy the organic gardener, Clive and Rosie, interesting characters all.  Not to mention the Spanish workmen and sundry tourists who assemble there for Paco’s reasonably priced and wholesome food. 

Casa Antonia in the main square is another must.  On my first visit there I corrected the English translation of a notice in the loo.  José Luis was happy to be rid of his Google-translated nonsense and I enjoyed the free beer I got in return!

After my leisurely lunch I amble down the windy road towards Jimena de la Frontera, where I call in to the gorgeous casas rurales at Cortijo Román to see Fiona and Maggie.  I leave a huge pile of papers for the Sunday market.  Rumour has it that people only go to pick up the paper, not to buy anything from the stallholders!

Another big pile gets left at the filling station, before I get into Jimena itself just as the shops are re-opening after the siesta.  The smiling Eva at Papelería Los Garabatos seems pleased to see me and there are always one or two ‘friends’ at Bar Cuenca for an early evening drink.  Regulars Andy and Wendy usually fill me in on the latest gossip. 

Now, I find a parking place in the square and go for a wander through the beautiful narrow and flower-bedecked streets of the old village, dropping off more papers at Bar La Tasca and Hostal El Anon before my final call at Bar Bistro La Oba.

It’s approaching 8 o’clock by now and time to knock off and enjoy myself at the weekly quiz run there by Simon and Iris.  Time too for a natter with the vivacious owner Caroline and her beautiful daughter Brogan, before taking on the locals in a battle of the brain cells. 

I play with anyone who’ll have me in their team.  So far played two, won one! The second time we were runners up – didn’t know our Sharon Stones from our Faye Dunaways or our Keira Knightleys from our Kate Winslets!  Great fun, though. 

A bite to eat, for example a selection of tapas or a tortilla wrap, and I’m fortified for the long climb back up the hill to Ronda, and a nightcap in one of my locals in the Barrio San Francisco, before going to bed and wondering why I’ve become a paper boy again so late in life.  Well, the answer’s obvious, isn’t it?

 

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 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. Hence his pseudonym and lack of photo.



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