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A description of life in the village of Pruna, nestled in the Andalusian mountains of Seville

Village life in the Andalusian mountains

Village fiestas, so much fun. Starting on 21 August for five days, the Pruna Flamenco Festival is a hot date for your diaries.
10 August 2019

The Spanish love a party, and I have enjoyed many Ferias and Fiestas in the cities, when all the locals seemed to go loco for the local saint or the local festival. But it is in the villages that you see the true spirit of Feria.

Most villages have two main festivals, in late Spring, and in early Autumn. And in Pruna the August Feria is always Flamenco based.

Starting on the Wednesday night, the 21 August, in the large open air auditorium, Caseta Municipal, the acclaimed singer La Tana and Jose El Pechugita will be singing, the dancers will be Macarena Lopez and her group.

A specially invited guest is Maria Terremoto, a legend in her own lifetime. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vdr9DKmxlzA

the calibre of these artists is such that in Seville or Cadiz you would pay forty euros or more to see them, but here in Pruna, during the Flamenco festival it is free entry. The performers love appearing in local small venues in villages, 'keeping it true.

And night after night the flamenco vibe continues, dancing, guitar, singing, and partying as if there is no tomorrow. The bars are heaving with people, the streets alive with music, the children dressed to the nines and enjoying the fun fair and dancing. Daytime it is geared towards the kids, swim competitions, go carts, football, they get the chance to run around in front of benevolent adults.

 

Thursday evening all funfair rides are just 2 euros to allow all the children in the village to experience that carousel experience that we all remember from our childhoods.

However it is the nights that we adults get the chance to see the true spirit of the flamenco feria, spontaneous dancing, clapping, bursts of song, old couples dancing together, the youngsters combining salsa with flamenco.

You could join in! Pruna is very centrally based for most of southern Andalusia, ninety minutes from by car Malaga, ninety minutes from Seville, ninety minutes from Cadiz (you get my drift? It is an ideal stopping point along a journey!!) arrive with the in the afternoon and enjoy the rather lovely open air swimming pool, stroll along the high street to the fun fair and stalls, meander through the streets to see the bars with their outside tables ready for the late evening onslaught but now leisurely selling cold drinks and ice creams.

With every hour the party vibe increases, the streets fill with youngsters dressed to impress, often in costume, their parents, and grandparents, and probably their great grandparents watch them proudly and then the party begins.

It is not surprising that Pruna is very  Flamenco focussed, seeing as how a couple of internationally famous flamenco stars were born and raised here. Rubio de Pruna is a neighbour of mine, you can watch him on YouTube here.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T_RSou5HG4I I remember he said he was playing the following Saturday and I just said, 'oh, we must come and see you, where are you playing?' And he replied 'Madrid tomorrow, London next week'.



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The approach of Autumn in a village in Andalusia
08 October 2018

And so autumn begins 

In many villages there is a summer feria, a fiesta that lasts for days that involves dancing, music, performance, and drinking.

And in Pruna this fiesta, a Flamenco Fiesta, is the last week of August. Supposedly only a weekend affair, it actually started on the Tuesday, when, among other things, the open air swimming pool stayed open till 2am with lifeguards and music.

Wednesday was pe-pre-fiesta partying and drinks and music in several bars.

On Thursday the pre-fiesta vibe was reaching the kind of excitement a child feels on Christmas Eve. All the bars were filling, the fun fair was full blast, out of town vendors were selling outrageously exotic cuisine, such as burgers, kebabs, and waffles.

On Friday the flamenco performances, of guitar, music, and dance started and continued for three whole evenings and nights. All gratis!!. (Daytime was weirdly silent, spent recovering). Monday morning and the windows are still rattling with the music at 4am, and then, silence. On this Monday all the shops will be closed, this is the day of Cansado, the complete exhaustion of partying for too long.

And so, tired, both physically and financially broken, dehydrated and hung-over, Pruna does not glide into autumn head held high, smiling benignly at the children and old folks. No,it crawls into Autumn, dry heaving, eyes squinting against the sun, head throbbing.

September is a recuperating, and introspective, month.

The children go back to school in September, no more sleeping late, idle breakfasts, late siestas, then playing in the streets until it is cool enough to go indoors. No, now they have to wake early, still bleary eyed, and walk begrudgingly to school.

And many of the bars and restaurants, having worked for one week solid, (often 18 or more hours a day, no siesta), close for a couple of weeks to recuperate, or even to holiday in Palma or Teneriffe.

It is still hot and the days only draw slowly in. The council has no exercise classes for adults or other activities. For me it is a month of quiet reflection, long walks and lazy afternoons. The crops are in, the melons are cheap, the sky is couldless, we are all preparing for a long autumn and the winter that will follow.

And then October arrives, and all the bars and restaurants repen, another months wages have arrived to make up for the previous months extravagance of the families eating together in the restaurants, adults drinking at the flamenco performances, kids clutching tokens at the fun fair. At last there is money in the pockets again.

The school run becomes more organised, the feet drag less, the spirit lifts.

And now the dance classes start, flamenco, bachata, salsa, and zumba, the notices are all over the village. There is a lot of exterior decorating going on, skips outside houses as the houses get improvements now that the temperature has dropped. 

Usually there are two more good and sunny months to look forward to, and I stride out in t-shirt and shorts, but already the local Spanish are wearing jumpers, and by early December, when I am beginning to  think of putting a cardigan on they will be in quilted coats with scarves around their neck.

Amo el otoño 



Like 4        Published at 11:43   Comments (1)


My favourite public swimming pools near the Sierra del Tablon (Cadiz/Seville)
09 July 2018

Ahh, the swimming pools of Cadiz and Seville, mostly Municipal, owned by the councils and only open during the school holidays (July to August). They are such a bargain, usually 2.50 for adults weekdays, and 3 euros weekends, children always get a reduction, and pensioners often do. If you live by the pool and will go daily it will be worth your while to get a season ticket.

These are some of my local pools, in general my favourites, they make a circle around the epicenter of my Spanish life in Pruna.

All the Municipal pools have lifeguards, and I have never seen a dirty pool. However one of the reasons they are clean is because you have to shower before entering the pool to wash of dust and dirt, and this really helps keep the pools clean.

The google maps url for all the pools mentioned is below this blog

I have not put these pools in any order other than my favourites first, and of course I am bound to have left loads of great pools out so please post your preferred pools in the comments section.

 

Rio Corbone

​​​​​On the A384 between Olvera and Almargen is a large restaurant with large car park in front. The Rio Corbone, I often stop there because they do the most delicious food. This year they reopened their pool, and they have made it stunning. Unusually there is no toddlers pool, and children have to be accompanied by an adult. This makes for a very tranquil swimming experience.

Open seven days a week, from noon till 8pm. Free, yes that's right, free, of course you have to buy a meal or a few drinks, but there is no entrance fee.

: : 

 

Piscina Municipal Zahara de la Sierra

On the end of a side road on the drive up into the village of Zahara, this is a gem, a real find. Zahara has two pools, and both need a car to get to, so perhaps this is why it is so free of teenagers and children, (nothing against kids, but they do dive bomb, shriek, run around and have fun, how very dare they!) But this pool is a haven of peace and quiet.

Unusually it opens at 11am, and closes at 8pm weekends, and 7pm weekdays. There is a fantastic restaurant on a terrace so you can enjoy the spectacular views and look at the blue blue pool below.

Limited parking, but to be fair it was not hard to find a place due to the lack of customers.

 


 

Piscina Municipal Almargen

This is the pool with the salt in the water, reputed to have health benefits and to relieve arthritis and other aches and pains, and I certainly feel better after a couple of hours of swimming in it. It never gets too busy but there is a noticeable lull between 1p amd 3pm, when there only three or four other people swimming. It is always open on or before the 24 June, and also closes slightly later than the other pools, end of the first week of September usually.

Open seven days a week, from noon till 7pm

Easy parking in the car park by the entrance, or on the land next to it.

 

 

Moron de la Frontera

Well what can I say? This pool has it all, an Olympic sized pool, an ordinary sized pool, and two paddling pools, plus plenty of grass and a shaded playground for little ones. The restaurant is friendly and used by locals as well as pool customers. I usually combine with the Wednesday market and make a day of it.  You can get pensioner rates (I found this out realising they had given me a pensioner rate without my asking, the blow of looking elderly was softened by the saving of over one euro!)

Due to the number of pools there is always space to swim lengths or just pootle around.

Loads of parking both on the car park outside and on the waste land next to it.

Pool opens at 1pm, and is closed Mondays.

 

Algodonales 

On the outskirts of the rather lovely town of Algodonales is a delightful pool, easy parking right by the pool entrance. There is plenty of grass to lie on, and trees for shade. The pool is a decent size and particularly during siesta time (1pm to 3pm) not so busy that you cannot swim lanes. The restaurant is excellent. They appear to chop and change their opening times but in general noon till 7pm is the norm.


 

Pruna 

When I arrive by public transport for a holiday here I only ever go to the Pruna pool, and it is excellent. Loads of grass and trees for shade, a large clean pool, friendly lifeguards, a friendly restaurant/cafe. Parking is not too bad. The pool has two shallow ends, it dips in the middle! This tends to make both ends busier with children so it is easy to do widths even when the pool is busy. It tends to stay really quiet until about 3pm.

Open noon till 7pm, closed on Mondays


 

Olvera pool

I feel quite guilty, because I always thought of the Olvera pool as one of the dowdier Piscinas, but it has had a revamp and is now gorgeous. And something I have never seem before, a ramp going into the water so that you can push a wheelchair actually into the pool. There are gazebos up for shade and the Bar Piscina does some lovely food. But because I am from Pruna and Olvera is my neighbouring town, this forces me to have tribalesque enmity towards to everything Olveran, so I have to point out that some few patches of grass are a bit sparse. Go on Olvera, feel the burn.

 

Playita Zahara

If I were going to a pool with a lot of people, and wanted to have a picnic, and make a family day of it then this would be top of my list. It is an artificial lagoon fed by river water before it enters lake Zahara lagoon. Loads of lifeguards, and not too much deep water. The setting is stunning. There is a restaurant seemingly run on Eastern European catering standards of the 1950s. Set menu, queue, and be served by what looks suspiciously like my old dinner ladies. I could not fathom out how to pay, or where to pay, so decided that an ice cream was what I really wanted.

The water is river water, so it has a murkiness and the odd bit of vegetation floating through,but this does not stop the children and their families from enjoying themselves. They do close it occasionally to clean,

Huge car parks, but I would advise getting there early in order to be in a car park near the entrance. It is open seven days a week from 11am till 7pm

 

El Gastor pool

This is the furthest pool from Pruna, nice size, a bit frantic with children in the late afternoon. The three times I have visited the times had randomly altered so I advise assuming that it is open from 1pm, because hanging around waiting for a pool to open on a hot day is hell (first world problems, yes, I know, but really life is too short to bake while being able to see a clear blue pool)

 

Camping El Penon, Algamitas.

Up high in the mountains this is the swimming pool for the campsite that they let visitors use for a fee. It costs four euros and you have leave photo ID with the receptionist. The pool is round and had a 'slice' of it shallow for toddlers. There is a really nice cafe, but the restaurant is out of this world. It is a rotunda with the jaw dropping views from the balcony and a very reasonably priced menu that is really eclectic (I had never had smoked cod before).

This is a private pool and tends to open early June till late September.

Easy parking, I have been there at 11 am and it was open, so probably from 10am till late . Seven days a week.

 

Piscina Municipal Algamitas

I truly do hate to be rude, but this pool is only for locals, or for when you are driving through and just have to have a quick dip or you will die. Even the opening times are weird, sometimes it only opens at 4pm. To be fair this is probably because Camping El Penon is very much nicer and not too far away.

Set in the centre of town it is not too easy to find parking by the entrance, but you would not have to travel to far to park. (I have added this so that the whole article does not gush on about lovely views and clear water, it gives a bit of balance).

https://www.google.es/maps/search/piscina+el+gastor/@36.8584392,-5.3219307,17z/data=!3m1!4b1

Zahara playita

https://www.google.es/maps/place/Municipal+Recreation+Area+Playita/@36.8153933,-5.3772597,17z/data=!3m1!4b1!4m5!3m4!1s0xd0d14cfffffffff:0x8ac3fc037c030956!8m2!3d36.8153933!4d-5.375071

Camping el Penon Algamitas

https://www.google.es/maps/place/Camping+El+Penon/@37.018775,-5.1776853,17z/data=!3m1!4b1!4m5!3m4!1s0xd0d4e030283e135:0xf9f20fc5bbe4f79e!8m2!3d37.018775!4d-5.1754966

Google map url for Zahara Piscina Municipal: 

https://www.google.es/search?q=piscina%20municipal%20zahara&oq=piscina+municipal+zahara&aqs=chrome..69i57j0j69i60l3j0.7077j1j4&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8&npsic=0&rflfq=1&rlha=0&rllag=36860102,-5397222,2568&tbm=lcl&rldimm=2687165940086041764&ved=0ahUKEwiQhJvok43cAhVKsqQKHfTcBkoQvS4IOjAA&rldoc=1&tbs=lrf:!2m1!1e2!3sIAE,lf:1,lf_ui:2#rlfi=hd:;si:2687165940086041764;mv:!1m3!1d25072.571673876697!2d-5.35908175!3d36.86010255!2m3!1f0!2f0!3f0!3m2!1i517!2i377!4f13.1;tbs:lrf:!2m1!1e2!3sIAE,lf:1,lf_ui:2

Google map url for Piscina Municipal Algodonales

https://www.google.es/maps/place/Piscina+Municipal+de+Algodonales/@36.882869,-5.4001589,16z/data=!4m5!3m4!1s0xd0d6a79848dc01f:0xf44d7b701327ba06!8m2!3d36.882869!4d-5.3957815

Google map url for Almargen swimming pool

https://www.google.es/maps/place/Piscina+Municipal+Francisco+Morillo+Gonz%C3%A1lez/@37.007902,-5.0242039,17z/data=!3m1!4b1!4m5!3m4!1s0xd72b28895186045:0x373bd044818c945a!8m2!3d37.007902!4d-5.0220152

Google map for the Moron de la Frontera swimming pool

https://www.google.es/maps/place/Piscina+Municipal+Mor%C3%B3n+de+la+Frontera/@37.1199441,-5.4682342,17z/data=!3m1!4b1!4m5!3m4!1s0xd0d61705b808a91:0xafc6e2ec5dc79397!8m2!3d37.1199441!4d-5.4660455

Google map for the Pruna swimming pool 

https://www.google.es/maps/search/pruna+municipal+piscina/@36.9731751,-5.2259322,17z/data=!3m1!4b1

Google map for the Olvera swimming pool

https://www.google.es/search?q=bar+piscina+olvera+piscina+pool&npsic=0&rflfq=1&rlha=0&rllag=36933022,-5257604,20&tbm=lcl&ved=0ahUKEwjkytHzho3cAhXHPBQKHVs2CosQtgMIKw&tbs=lrf:!2m1!1e2!3sIAE,lf:1,lf_ui:2&rldoc=1#rlfi=hd:;si:;mv:!1m3!1d166.10495698517613!2d-5.25760495!3d36.93302285!2m3!1f0!2f0!3f0!3m2!1i8!2i10!4f13.1

Google map for the El Gastor pool

https://www.google.es/maps/search/piscina+el+gastor/@36.8584392,-5.3219307,17z/data=!3m1!4b1

Google map for the Zahara playita

https://www.google.es/maps/place/Municipal+Recreation+Area+Playita/@36.8153933,-5.3772597,17z/data=!3m1!4b1!4m5!3m4!1s0xd0d14cfffffffff:0x8ac3fc037c030956!8m2!3d36.8153933!4d-5.375071

Google map for the Algamitas Municipal pool

https://www.google.es/maps/place/Ayuntamiento+de+Algamitas/@37.0156409,-5.1517038,17z/data=!3m1!4b1!4m5!3m4!1s0xd0d51fc31636f17:0xe58dff6a768a0df3!8m2!3d37.0156409!4d-5.1495151

Google map for Camping el Penon Algamitas swimming pool

https://www.google.es/maps/place/Camping+El+Penon/@37.018775,-5.1776853,17z/data=!3m1!4b1!4m5!3m4!1s0xd0d4e030283e135:0xf9f20fc5bbe4f79e!8m2!3d37.018775!4d-5.1754966



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Wild swimming in lakes in Andalucia
03 July 2018

Every summer there is the usual scramble to the open air swimming pool (every village has one, open during the school holidays, Pruna has an excellent one!), but there are other options, and these are open all year round, and are free,: wild swimming in the many Andalucian lakes. I am using wild swimming to mean a place where you can swim but that will have no facilities such as changing rooms or lifeguards, so always be careful.

Close to Pruna are some of the best wild swimming lakes in all of Spain. Here are my favourites:

Cueva del Gato

Just a short drive from Ronda this pool and cave river has clear cool water and is set in a beautiful mountain setting, ideal for picnics. It is easy to access and reportedly can be popular on the weekends, but we have always had the place to ourselves on our week day visits. Leaving Ronda take the road to Seville, and turn off at the Benaojan-Montejaque signpost, four miles later you will see a sign for the Hotel Cueva del Gato, follow the sign and park there (I have never seen the hotel open), then cross the river on the wooden bridge and enjoy. A comment left below has made me check, and in fact there is now a charge of two euros to cross this bridge.

Embalsa de Zahara de la Sierra

A lake so blue that you would swear someone had photoshopped it! I tend to park at the Mogote sports center, at the beginning ot the bridge (or end if you are coming from Ronda) and have a drink and snack at the restaurant, then I walk down the slipway into the water. The water is warm and clear, sometimes you can see the fossilised trees from years ago before the reservoir was made.

Friends prefer the swimming from a point marked by a KM 8 sign further along the road, and walk down the footpath to the lake.

Lake Zahara also offers full moon kayacking! A fabulous night out! 956137072 / 653214666 / 603613468
descubre@discoveryaventura.com

The Malaga Embalses

there are three different reservoirs that offer excellent swimming in Malaga,  Embalse de Gaitanej; Embalse del Conde de Guadalhorce and the  Embalse del Gualdalteba-Guadalhorce. But my favourite is the biggest of the three, the Gualdateba Guadalhorce. The lake is mostly surrounded by pine trees which gives it a very Swiss look, surreal! the lake is calm, warm, and at the many entry spots is easy to get into the water. There are a couple of good and surprisingly cheap restaurants and this makes a wonderful day out.

Right by the town of Ardales, signposted as Embalses de Guadalhorce. Difficult to get parking weekends, but relatively quiet during the week.

Lakes further afield

I cannot write this piece without mentioning the Cascades de Hueznar, the waterfalls were made a national Monument in the year 2000. As the water falls it creates a number of small pools. All of them swimmable. The water is clear but icy, but all waterfalls cause currents, so keep small children away and be careful.

You can walk up to the top of the waterfall by using the steps, a long long trek upwards, not for the faint hearted.

A long way from Pruna, but worth the drive, Cascades de Hueznar is in the Sierra Norte, by the village of San Nicolas. Interestingly you can access it through the Sirra Nort Greenway, the old railway line that has been refurbished for walkers and cyclists. 

Embalse de los Bermejales

This is a huge reservoir and there are several places that you can stop at and swim from. Surrounded by trees with low mountains as the backdrop. The water is clear and clean and warm. Only the area around the beach restaurant and bar is busy, and has a small pier that children love to jump from, the rest of the lake is generally tranquil.

The nearest village is Alhama de Granada. Three roads take you there, the A334, GR4303 and the GR3307

The joy of wild swimming is that all these places are open all year round, the Spanish think anything less that 28C is too cold for swimming but we hardy northern Europeans can swim if the sun is out. Nothing is colder than the North Sea!

Any more places for wild swimming that you have found, that I have nor mentioned, please please put in the comments below. 



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Feral chickens, pondering murder, and so much gardening to do
27 March 2018

It has been a long hard winter, both in Spain and in the UK the weather has been awful. I had not seen my 'mojo' for so long that I don't think I would recognize it, even if it bumped into me at my local supermarket. January and February had been bleakly cold and I used up a whole winters worth of wood in just one month, leaving just enough olive wood for one fire on my March return.

So, we arrived late afternoon, sunny, still hours of daylight but the house felt cold. While my husband turned on the WiFi and opened the windows I decided to make a fire. I went into the courtyard and bent down to fetch the wood from the back of the wood store. A nightmare of wings and flurry came at me, and I fell back back and screamed. And screamed. And screamed.

I watched, dazed, as a chicken flew up the two stories it needed to achieve freedom, and waited for my caring other half to come to my aid. After a couple of minutes I realised I was being ignored so dusted myself off and went inside, on being asked if he had heard me, he replied that he 'thought I had seen a spider'. A spider! The scream I gave off would have indicated to anybody, who was sane, that I was being murdered . . . . . and he thought I had only seen a spider.

I told him about the chicken, and he looked at me, with that look that says, 'have you been at the gin again?' and said calmly and firmly 'Chickens can't fly'.

'Who Are You' I thought. Utterly aghast at his city ways, and lack of wing-feather-clipping knowledge.

I thought of murdering him, obviously nobody would react to a scream, but how to remove the body? You would never get away with it in a Spanish village. I would not be allowed to carry anything heavy, there is always someone around, a kind of organic CCTV. If we go for a walk for the rest of the day we will be regaled with 'Hola, my cousin saw you walk past his farm'. Or 'Did you enjoy the walk by the mill?' Outside of the house you are constantly observed even if you think you are completely alone, this is a great comfort if you start to worry about getting lost.

The weeks ahead are all mapped out. Tomorrow will be the market at Moron de la Fronetera, followed by breakfast in the old town and a trip out to the plant nursery Viveros Rey because I have a yen for an old fashioned red hibiscus, and also Spring is when I plant out the courtyard.

I had thought the evening wouldl be spent watching the Holy Wednesday Easter procession, (Holy Wednesday was the day that Judas went to the Sanhedrin and betrayed Jesus for money). There will be the usual silent procession, but this year the Venerable Hermandad de la Santa Vera Cruz y de la Pura y Limpia Concepción de María Santísima, are not arranging the street processions, they resigned en masse last year, and until an agreementi is reached it sadly looks as if the street processions may become a relic if the past. All the Easter celebrations will be held outside the beautiful Baroque church though, so it will still be spectacular.

Exhausted by my confrontations with chickens I will spend the Easter weekend gardening and tidying up the courtyards and terraces. On Monday a friend of a friend, an American, is coming to stay at a local Airbnb so I will be on call to show her the wonders of Pruna. She is thinking of moving to Pruna, so it will be interesting seeing her reaction. On Tuesday I will go the new Sevilliana flamenco class, twenty euros a month for a lesson a week, Sevilliana is a form of flamenco, set set steps in a set sequence, so it is ideal for beginners.

In between long walks with fellow hikers, having friends over for meals, swims at the indoor pool in the neighbouring town, decorating and sorting everything out, time will march along until just a couple of days before we leave when we will look at our now perfect house and garden and think 'well this is lovely', as we begin packing.

Having a foot in both camps has it's positives and negatives. For example if I lived in Pruna I could attend the councils dress making classes run for the villagers, free, if I lived in Brighton I could do the stained glass classes, expensive,, but because I dash between the two places I am unable to really join in the 'home' activities in either place. Brighton has wild swimming, Pruna has mountainous hikes. Pruna has fresher food, cheaper lifestyle, a laid back existance, but Brighton has libraries, cinemas, theatres, and Waitrose. I enjoy the contrasts.

Brighton has family and friends I have known for years, who I can trust. My fellow countrymen here in the village are a sublime mixture of the delightful and the dubious, however the 'saints' keep to themselves and the sinners use their alcohol fuelled boredom to promote bullying, weaponised gossip, and backbiting. This is not to say i have not made some fantastic friends, just to remind you that you should be friendly with everyone, but make friends slowly.

This morning I bought some ready made fresh dough (masa) from the local bakers, and am now off to bake a home made pizza on top of the wood burner. tomatoes, anchovies, cheese, and herbs. And will eat it watching a Spanish quiz show and drinking an ice cold beer. Pruna excels in the simple pleasures.

 



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December in a mountain village in Pruna
04 January 2018

I felt I had been away for too long, two whole months, and as I opened the doors to my house I mentally begged that all would be OK. And it was, there had been no catastrophes, no flooding (now you would think that flooding would not be a problem living, as I do, at the top of the village, but one big crisp wrapper over the drain during a downpour could wreak havoc, happened to me once in Brighton, total panic).

And straight up into the garden, where there were surprisingly few weeds which just shows what a thorough tidy up in early October could do. The hot winter sun making us glad to be alive. And then I noticed something in the Mahogany tree, a round papery globe thing, bit more than an inch across, as I am extremely allergic to wasp stings I did an immediate google on my kindle, and it was a preying mantis nest, and the text said that meant that 'mum' was somewhere close guarding it, another peer into the tree showed an enormous praying mantis, exactly the same colour as the leaves. She turned and looked at me, and as I felt I was intruding in her space I placed some plant pots strategically around the tree so no one would accidentally get too close and spook her.

It was much warmer in the garden than in the house, the thick thick walls hold in the cold as much as they protect from the heat in summer, so it was light the wood burner time. It is a great joy to play with a wood burner, to lay the fire lighters, the kindling, the logs, open the airway, light the fire, close the door and wait for the roaring and heat.

I layered onions, garlic, potatoes, and peppers, topped with chicken thighs, dusted with herbs and salt, and poured one glass of red wine over it, sealed with foil, and placed it in the top of the wood burner, it would be cooked when the aromas said it was cooked.

Checked the post, all bills paid by direct debit so no surprises there. While my husband pootled in the garden I called on the two neighbours on either side of with the small gifts of Terry's chocolate orange and jelly babies that I always bring. And I freely handed out toffees and sweets to the local children. Then back home, eat and to bed. The first night back in winter you need extra bedding, the heat from the wood burner takes a day or so to 'get into the walls' and that sleep, under those heavy blankets is the best of the year. 

Woke late, then started the winter turnaround, the dining table gets brought into the living room, and the dining room becomes the fourth bedroom again, also the spare sofa gets brought into the living room and is placed at right angles to the other sofa, making a seating area that faces both the wood burner and the TV. The warmest coziest room is now the living room, the heat from the fire rises to warm all the upstairs, but downstairs this is the heart of the house now.

I had arranged to go for a coffee and a walk with my new neighbour from over the road, Yvette, afterwards she collected her dog and we walked the back of the village to where her friend's horses where. The village is very proud of their horses and will use any excuse to ride them through the town, there were two young foals, both suckling, tails swishing in the sun. We handed over carrots and carried on walking. later on in Bar Chamsquina I was told all the gossip, most of which, outrageously ignored any sense of reality, or truth, the usual mass delusions continue, I despair of the childishness exemplified by village life and have now given up correcting the misinformation.

I walked down into the village and say Hola to everyone and asked about family and answered about family, and gave children toffees. I bought some pine nuts, garlic, and hard cheese because there was still some basil growing in the courtyard and tonight would be pesto linguine. I love cooking and do not think I will ever be fashionably thin, or even unfashionably thin. Arranged to go for a long walk to the Roman aquaduct a few miles outside Pruna along country lanes with Janine Davenport, a renowned dog rescuer with several dog rescue and re homing schemes to her credit. Ominously she will be teaching me how to walk with Nordic poles!

While eating that night there were several knocks on the door and no one there when we looked, This happened again and again, 'knock and run' we called it when I played it as a child. My husband however had never played it, and was getting very upset, and no one is allowed to upset my husband but me. So I girded my loins and at the next knocking went into the square outside the house and shouted really loudly 'Niños, no llamen a mi puerta, por favor, no es aceptable.' (Kids, do not knock on my door, it is not acceptable) I shouted this a couple of times until the adults looked out to see what was happening, in winter when it is dark and cold the streets are deserted, and then I loudly lamented, and carried on as they had disturbed a sleeping baby, or an ill Mother. Within minutes I was being Whatsapped apologies from parents who would ensure it didn't happen again. And it didn't. 

Spanish kids still play in the streets like I used to, they ride bikes around, run errands, it reminds me of my childhood. And all kids will be little monkies when they can get away with it. But just like my childhood you can complain about them, and you can tell them off, it will not be held against you.

The days pass with walks and talks, and meetings in Juan's bar where we sit and drink cerveza, or coffee (or coffee and brandy) with my women friends. If we sat at any of the other bars people would come up and join us, and soon there would be ten at the table, but sometimes you just want to sit and complain/brag about your families, pets, and life, in peace and quiet. At Juan's bar one cannot see in to check out the clientele, and the old Spanish men, the only other customers, watch us with both amusement and astonishment, as we gabble away. My husband is an unsociable creature, loath to go out, so I enjoy these sessions.

But now rain is forecast, heavy rain, and I worry about Mum and the nest in the garden, my husband has vetoed constructing a shelter over it, with the logic that if the winds got up it could damage the nest, and Mum, even more than the rain, and that the building of it would stress Mum, and nature will take its course. I hate it when he uses facts in an argument, it is very unfair.

The house is now toasty warm and as the rain lashes down I fall asleep with the burble of water from the gutters falling into the courtyard.

The next morning Mum is fine, the nest has survived and the the last remaining blossom from the bougainvillea, has fallen. So the day is spent cutting everything back for the new growth in the spring. The garden and courtyard begin to look quite bare as branch after branch, shrub after shrub, is cut back down to the trunk. I am not allowed near the grapes because one year I over enthusiastically pruned and the grape harvest was greatly reduced. During the day it so hot and sunny that after lunch we lie on the sun beds and snooze.

It is now mid December and a Christmas buzz is spreading the village, I notice that one or two Brit neighbours have put up lights, but the Spanish are just starting to think about it. (To it's credit Pruna council put up their decorations on 21 December! Wouldn't it be nice if we did that in the UK?). I however will have to spend Christmas in the UK with elderly relatives, a duty I no longer mind because at least now they let me cook so I can stay busy all the time. As I leave I give the neighbours a tin of Roses chocolates each, a regular Christmas gift, inexpensive and appreciated.

Photo by Dave Drury

 



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A surplus of basil? Make pesto, (and chutney up those tomatoes), ideas and recipes.
24 September 2017

The season of mellow fruitfulness is upon us and mu courtyard is filled with the aroma of basil. The plant itself has begun to go to seed and is looking straggly. But it would be a culinary crime to just compost it when making pesto is so easy.

The ingredients are:

olive oil
pine nuts
chopped garlic
basil leaves, washed
Parmesan/gran padano (or even the pasta polvo they sell here in Spain as mock Parmesan, it does the trick)
salt

Pick all the nice green leaves off the basil and wash. In the bottom of a tallish bowl (I find a cafetiere glass inner ideal) put in a huge glug of olive oil, add wet washed basil leaves, put pine nuts on top, chopped garlic, another glug of olive oil and then immediately blitz with a stick blender (you want the second layer of oil to still be on the top so that it mixes easily). Give it a quick stir to detect any unblitzed leaves, add salt, the Parmesan/padano/polvo. Place in airtight container and use within four to five days. (This freezes well if you have not added the cheese). I have not given quantities because it all depends on how much basil you have, and even when exactly following pesto recipes the outcome is always different, so experiment.

Glut of tomatoes?

The simplest recipe is soup, literally lightly fry a chopped onion in olive oil, add chopped garlic , keep frying (but do not brown, the dark flecks with make the soup unattractive), add tomatoes roughly chopped and unskinned. Add stock cube. Stir the pan (no need to add water) and on a very low heat cook for forty minutes stirring occasionally. Blitz until a thick soup consistency. They joy is that the colour is exactly that of Heinz tomato soup! It is a bright gutsy orange and sweet and luscious.

Another non recipe, just a way of making it, is to pruduce a chutney from your tomatoes.

In a large pan fry up chopped onions, garlic, (and apple, ginger, nfigs, or anything else to hand, go wild). Add the tomatoes and a couple of chillies, the dried ones are fine, the cook down until almost all the water has left the pan, a large panful can simmer down to just two jars of chutney!. Towards the end of the cooking add cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, or any other spices you think will add to it, plus salt to taste. Then bottle up in sterile jars. This will be best eaten at Christmas, but rarely does my chutney last more than a week, so that date is an optimistic stab in the dark

 



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Why I chose Pruna
03 August 2017

Village after lovely village, Andalusia is packed with beauty and places to buy. So what is so special about Pruna, why did I choose it above all the other places I visited and viewed?

I wanted 'real', I wanted a village where the locals did not speak English, where menus were not written in understandable English, where locals went about their daily lives and waved a greeting. I wanted views of mountains. I wanted great bus services, that the closest airports would heave with budget flights. I wanted a 24/7 medical center, great tapas, good food. I wanted authentic, I wanted donkeys.

And as soon as I saw Pruna I knew this was the place. It had come up time and time again in searches as being really low priced. (There are other 'cheap' areas to live in Andalusia, less mountainous, industrial scale agriculture, further North, no donkeys.)

I had been scheduled to view the properties in Pruna on the last day of my house search tour. But in fact it had so attracted me that we drove there the first morning, just as dawn was truly breaking (8am in winter!) and as I entered I got such a feeling of being home. We parked at the back of the church and walked around, eventually finding the square that we would, just eight short days later, buy a house on.

Everyone said Hola, buenas, yo, adio, or some other greeting, the children stood and stared. I saw a donkey with an old man sat on it laden up with veg in the side panniers, I went to take a photo, he shouted at me. Ah, grumpy old men, love em.

Everywhere else I looked at was dismissed, with my low budget the houses were too small, not enough outside space, locals unfriendly (in one village on the coast,the estate agents and I were loudly abused by a local Spaniard who was clearly unhappy about more Brits buying there). Many villages have too many Brits for my liking, the signs were: chalkboard menus in English, and posters for Bingo/quizzes/bisto gravy). Pther villages villages were inundated with industrial level pig farms, or surrounded by hundreds of acres of poly tunnels,or situated in mile after mile of unrelenting flatness.

On the day that Olvera Properties met up with me, we first viewed houses in Olvera, what a gem! But the places I was shown for my low budget were tiny with no outside space to speak of. But I did love Olvera! On the drive to Pruna from Olvera, just 4 miles, I was dumbstruck with the beauty of the mountains and within minutes we were parking up and walking into houses, large houses, but still not enough outside space.

And then I was shown my own true love. A four bed house in need of tlc (complete gutting more like lol) but, it had a garden, and a stables/workshop that could have the roof terraced, and it backed on to an olive grove. It ticked every box, but was, of course over budget. Funny how you can find the extra when you find the right one.

Before I made an offer I did some thorough research, bus services, population, percentage of Brits, authenticity, crime levels, anti social behaviour. To a large degree I trusted the opinion of the estate agents: befriend the neighbours, they will protect your house; there are three families to watch out for; and remenber, not all the dodgy charcters are Spanish, the only times I have been cheated or robbed it was by Brits!

But why so cheap? Well Spain has no real benefits system, the young tend to move away and then the houses that should have been passed down to them need to sold to pay for university fees, or weddings.

Other advantages to Pruna only became apparent after buying. It is ideally places for trips to Cadiz, Seville, Cordoba, Granada, and the Malaga coastline. It is great place to start from, and then to feel a warm glow as you return.

The Pruneans are very welcoming, they thrive on friendship and respect. When I arrived I could not count to ten in Spanish, but duolingo helped. Only watching Spanish TV (OK, I confess, in English but with Spanish subtitles!). And from day one reading the Spanish newspaper with a dictionary in hand every morning in a local bar along with my cafe con leche and tostado, means that I can prattle away and even make jokes. So you will get there! Do not be daunted.

And when I could speak enough then the barriers were really down, and I have had the pleasure of watching babies grow into children, teens into adulthood, young adults into parents, all on my doorstep. A pleasure and a privilege.



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Changes in Pruna over the past five years
18 May 2017

This is my sixth summer in Pruna and sometimes it seems hard to figure out what exactly has changed. Because just as in a love affair, it seems to get better every day, prettier, more attentive, more adorable, but I know there have been have been some big changes, so before I forget, let me do a re-cap.

The village itself

Physically the village has improved massively, in 2012 the newly elected council started a plan of improvements. Initially this was just landscaping the entrance and main road of the village. Putting in a bus stop so people no longer just mingled in a loose queue for the Seville bus. 

Then the bins were put underground, recycling became heavily promoted, projects to keep children in school and not joining their parents during migratory work in the resorts. Older people were given free exercise classes and afternoon cinema clubs.

New parks were built and older parks improved. Building regulations began to be enforced. The abandoned dogs collected and taken to pounds. Neglected corners cleaned up, vandalism publicised so public disapproval became apparent.

Now the big projects began, new water distribution and sewage pipes installed, so slowly every road was dug up, the old system replaced, and then a new road laid over. 

Subsidised music lessons for the children, 18 euros a month gives a child an instrument and and lessons, some deserving children get these free (and it is possible to sponsor a child and pay for their lessons).

The council organised jobs for the unemployed with wages and conditions arranged and enforced. The village is now obviously wealthier, and as a side effect, it does seem to me that crime, both serious and petty crime has dropped. 

The sports facilities have been upgraded, the swimming pool improved, the fiestas fully supportted by the council.

And the last finishing touch to my mind, last month (April 2017) the council welded plant holders on all the railings in the village and put in Geraniums, with a request that the neighbours water them. Sceptics scoffed, 'they will not water them, it is a waste' but my neighbours tend them with care, and not one has been vandalized.

The ex-pat community

Belgians, Dutch, American, Irish, German, Icelandic, Chilean, Argentinian, oh yes, and British, the majority, the expats form part of village life

When I first arrived I think I met all the new (and rare) new arrivals, I would find them blinking in the hot sun looking nervous, not so rare now!  I do not know quite how many now live here, (as I have never frequented the bars and restaurants where I would meet newcomers, if you have not contacted me here then I have no real idea who has arrived and who has left). Five years ago when i counted with friends we got to 29 full time ex-pat residents, and off hand I can immediately think of 14 extra who I have bumped into, so yes, I would say a doubling.

Six years ago there was no menus in English, also no Sunday Roasts, no English breakfasts, and these are now to be found in the Hostal restaurant on the outskirts of teh village. Some think it a pity, some want British home styled replica food, (and many don't eat out much anyway, so it does not matter).

In 'my' square at the top of the village, the number of ex-pat owned houses has risen from 22 to 41. Now this may seem quite shocking, but as the Spanish neighbours sit outside their houses, and we sit inside, it is really not noticeable. Also most of the newcomers are only part-time residents at the moment, though planning to live here full-time after their imminent retirement.

They are made very welcome, there is no anti-foreigner sentiment that I have detected. Of course they prefer friendly people, who acknowledge them, but who doesn't want pleasant neighbours?

The vast majority of the residents are Spanish, The ex pats don't even make up 2% of the village,. It is still an authentic rural Spanish village.

The shops and bars

Since moving to Pruna the big Cooperative on the old Moron Road is now fronted by a Coviron, a chain supermarket, with it's own brand goods. This has added to the diversity of shops in the village.

Some shops have actually taken the daring move to have signs above their entrance so that you know it is a shop. This may catch on, you never know.

The Miramar was a delightful cafe that got the morning sun and was a lovely place to have a morning cafe, sadly closed five years ago and is now a very overcrowded ladies dress shop, you can anything rom a bikini to a business suit here.

Antonios Bar, my first point of call in Pruna for a whole five years, run by the delightful Antonio and Carmen, closed last year and was replaced by Champosquina, run by the efficient and friendly Rosa (a whole spatch cocked quail 2.50 euros!)

Pruna has a posh cafe! Cafeteria Pruna! Comfy cairs, carpet, wood fire in winter, home made cakes! Evenings serves a cleintele drinking coffee and caramel vodka. And very well priced, you get change from three euros when you buy a cake and a coffee.

And there is also a new Pizza parlour, Moyi, that bakes the pizzas (fresh dough) in an olive wood fired oven, unbelievable (and I wouldn't like to be in that kitchen in August!). They do deliveries and take away as well.

You can see that the village is becoming more prosperous, and it is ertainly a lot more physically attractive than when I first moved here.

Social media

Remember Whatsapp? That is what I used five years ago for free mobile calls, otherwise calls to the UK, and even in Spain if you only had the one sim, were ridiculously expensive. Competition now means that several providers now have same price calls and texts throughout Europe.

Five years ago only a couple of bars had WiFi, and now it is not only available in most bars, but the council provides a free WiFi service afternoons in all the squares. 

Facebook messenger is becoming the new Whatsapp, with it's ability to make calls, send videos, and message for free, it is a no-brainer. Years ago when you wanted to 'message' someone you had to become their Facebook 'friend', but with messenger you can just message someone and they can accept or decline, there is no need to become 'friends.

I think messenger, and in particular, group messenger (when you combine interested parties into a group for discussions or plans) will take over from Facebook itself because of the way that that Facebook is becoming the medium of choice for fake news, innuendo, and outright lies. I have recently stopped using it after some serious trolling, slandering, and rather worrying online bullying from a local community group (the village has been plagued by trolls in the past year). Ptinterest, Instagram, and Snapchat are what my kids use, but I have yet to join their ranks.

I use an 8 euro a month internet account with Tierraplex, this is enough for emails, messenger, bbc iplayer radio, spotify, audiobooks, streaming tennis matches over wimbledon, and internet browsing, It would not really support Netflix, but I watch Spanish TV, often in English with Spanish subtitles and it is amazing how much Spanish you can pick up that way.

To re-cap

In five years I have retired, moved here full time, written three and a half absolutely awful books (two of them crime novels set in a quiet sleepy Spanish village), Crocheted fifteen big blankets and one bath mat., Learnt to speak enough Spanish to easily get by. Neither lost nor gained weight. Had 26 guests (including the Mayor of Brighton, Denise Cobb) Made several excellent friends in the village, and traveled throughout Andalusia. Six of my friends have bought houses in the village!

Having a house in Pruna has been one of my most prized achievements. It is wonderful place and the Spanish residents are a delight both to know and live with, it is an honour to be accepted as their neighbour. Yes there are problems, but I concentrate on the good things, a Spanish neighbours concern if you are ill, children calling your name as you get off the bus from Seville. meals on terraces with good friends, falling asleep in the sun on a January day, an ice cold beer on an August evening. 

 



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First Sunday, every May, the Romeria, unmissable
23 March 2017

Technically speaking a Romeria is a pilgrimage, the name stems from long pilgrimages going to Rome. In Andalusia it means a procession of carts, walkers, and people on horseback, in local costume, walking towards a hermitage or other sanctuary, while carrying an image of Mary, Mother of God. But this is Mary as a shepherdess, and a very young woman, not the image of Mary one usually thinks of.

Pruna goes wild for their Romeria.

The whole weekend is a riot of partying, dancing, flamenco, and drinking. The day itself, the Sunday, starts early at the church as the prepared float of Mary leaves the church, literally to fanfare.  There is then the very slow walk up through the winding roads, by the whole village, into the hills and evertually arriving at the hemitage. Mary is removed from the float (which is pulled by flower strewn oxen), and placed into the tiny church. There mass is performed, open air, and believers can take the eucharist. It is very very moving.

After the mass the party starts, an it will last all day. Families have tents, that were set up the night before or in teh early morning, and serve food. Spontaneous dancing, guitar playing, and flamenco singing ring through the air. As dusk falls many will walk back down to the village for more partying and mingling with family and friends. Mary will be brought back to the village late in the evening by the young people of the village.

Some of the Brits drive up early, before the procession, and make camp like the villagers, but apart from posing in the flamenco dresses, or passing round the beers, take little part in the actual procession or proceedings. But I am always torn, if I stayed my Spanish neighbours would insist I sat with them and I worry I would only get in the way on this very family themed day. So I stay for a sherry and walk down through the silent streets and wait for the fireworks that mark Mary's entrance to the village in the evening. Then I go back down and watch her being returned to the church and join in the fiesta spirit.

Be warned, on this day, during the day, only one bar is open!! Bar Campo in the morning, and Bar Rincon in the afternoon. In the evening the villagers return in drifts to the centre where there is a funfair and all the bars are open, staff in very good moods but a tad the worse for wear. Do not expect quick service.

Always on the first Sunday in May.

 



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