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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 a la inglesa – Russian Rita, safety gates, sculptures in the mist and carrilladas English-style.
Wednesday, March 23, 2022 @ 5:18 AM

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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