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Puntos de vista - a personal Spain blog

Musings about Spain and Spanish life by Paul Whitelock, hispanophile of 40 years and now resident of Ronda in Andalucía .

Lovely Rita, Meter Maid
Friday, September 2, 2022

When yet another relationship ended, the second one since his divorce in 2005, Pablo de Ronda came to Ronda at the beginning of September 2008 to drown his sorrows. Pablo owned a flat in the Barrio de San Francisco on the southern edge of the City of Dreams, as Ronda is known (see here), so he had somewhere to stay. If not he would have had to sleep on the streets, for his visit coincided with La Feria y Fiestas de Pedro Romero, and there was not a bed to be had neither in a posh hotel, a two-star hostal nor in a fonda. Pablo takes up the story …..

The afternoon I arrived I met up with my pal Michael, back then a Ronda resident already for about eight years (he’s still here, by the way, and has now clocked up over 20 years). Michael suggested going to the Recinto Ferial (showground) on the Friday night.

“Nah! I’m not keen. I went last year and found it rather overwhelming. Very crowded, loud and I drank too much alcohol.”

“Shush! You’re coming and that’s that!” insisted my friend.

So, somewhat reluctantly, off we trotted. Literally, it’s a long walk from Ronda town centre out to the showground!

On arrival we went into a caseta which was occupied by a dozen or so “guiris” (click here). I knew a few but not all, so I had to be introduced to everybody. Amongst the strangers to me was a pretty lady, who had a funny accent. She was German and living in Montejaque, a village in the mountains 20 kilometres from Ronda. Her name was Rita.

I’m a German speaker, so I chatted to her at length, and then heard myself inviting myself for coffee at her house.

“Well,” I thought, “take the risk”. She said yes, so on the Sunday evening I went for Kaffee mit Kuchen at 4.00 pm, a tradition in Germany.

Guess what happened next? She invited me to stay for dinner! Her sister Birgid from Hamburg was visiting and an English couple, Bill and Jill, neighbours of Rita in Montejaque, had also been invited.

What a smashing evening we had. Because Rita was so pretty and so nice, I christened her Lovely Rita, after the Beatles’ song of the same name.

When I left that night – I was flying back to Liverpool the following day – we agreed to keep in touch. We did so, chiefly by email. Before long I came out again to visit Rita. During that autumn she came to visit me twice in Warrington, where I had bought a Victorian villa to do up, and we also went to Germany to attend the christening of her grandson Anton, where I met Birgid again, her husband, Uwe, Rita’s other sister, Irmhild, her brother-in-law, Egon, her daughter, Katrin, son-in-law, Gero, her two sons, Johannes and Jonathan, two nieces, Silke and Bianca, and Rita’s first husband, Joachim, with new wife Julia.

Sounds overwhelming, doesn’t it? But it wasn’t. They were delightful and seemed to take to me, Rita’s new official “beau”.

Another visit to Germany, as it happens to Knittlingen, the twin town of Montejaque, for the 40th birthday of niece Bianca and I met the rest of Rita’s large extended family.

By Christmas of that year, 2008, I had packed my bags and emigrated from the UK to live with Rita in Montejaque.

In July 2010, we got married in the beautiful Maulbronn Abbey, near Heilbronn in South Germany. My 92-year-old mum, Vera, managed to get over and stole the show with her dry wit. She was very happy that I was settled again. Sadly, she died three years later. However,she was pleased that she outlived Nelson Mandela, who was born in the same year as Mum, 1918, who died a few days earlier than she in December 2013.

The rest is history. We moved to a large villa with pool and gardens just outside of Ronda in 2011. Over the years she acquired three more grandchildren. My children, Amy and Tom, provided me with three of my own. I bought an old house in 2020 which I have been renovating over the last two years. We both got Covid-19 in 2021, Rita so badly that we nearly lost her. But we’re more or less fine again now, although long-Covid has left us both with issues. I became very active after that and, apart from the house renovation I’ve taken up gardening in earnest once again.

We’re both over 70 now but are quite active. We’re off to Mijas and Nerja for a short break soon, then my children and their families are coming to visit. In October two student friends of Rita from Detmold are coming also and then It’s off to Germany for Christmas and New Year.

Today is our anniversary of meeting on that fateful day in 2008. Here’s something I posted on Facebook this morning:

FERIA Y FIESTAS DE PEDRO ROMERO
El viernes de la Feria de 2008 es cuando Pablo de Ronda conoció a Rita Drechsler, residente de Montejaque, en una caseta en el Recinto Ferial de Ronda. Se enamoraron en seguida y dentro de tres meses emigró Pablo para estar con su “Meter Maid” (el nombre viene de una canción de los Beatles – “Lovely Rita” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v… 

YOUTUBE.COM

Lovely Rita (Remastered 2009)

Provided to YouTube by Universal Music GroupLovely Rita (Remastered 2009) · The BeatlesSgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band℗ 2009 Calderstone Productions Li...

 

 



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A Day Out in Ronda - City of Dreams
Friday, September 2, 2022

A day out in Ronda, one of the most stunning towns in Spain. Pablo de Ronda gives his suggestion for a walking tour of this beautiful pueblo blanco.

Approaching this most impressive of the white towns in Andalucía from either the Costa del Sol or from Algeciras and Gibraltar is to marvel at its location and to be impressed by the ingenuity of the Moors who first established a settlement here 13 centuries ago. 

Small wonder then that Ronda is part of the Grand Tour of Andalucía, along with Granada, Sevilla and Córdoba.  Small wonder too that Ronda numbers amongst its 33 000 inhabitants as many as 650 foreign residents, according to the most recent census.  As a resident myself now, it somehow doesn’t seem that many.  Expats are there if you want them, but they are easily avoided.

The popularity of this town is demonstrated by the groups of day-trippers from the coast who wander the streets in their shorts and sandals, marvelling at the stunning architecture in the Old Moorish Quarter, staring unbelievingly into the deep gorge, el Tajo, that divides old Ronda from the new, and taking advantage of the wide range of shops at their disposal.  Occasionally, these visitors may wish they’d donned something warmer for Ronda is 723 metres above sea level and can be chilly and wet out of season.  On such days the enterprising proprietors of the tourist shops do good business selling plastic macs and umbrellas.

Arriving at the Almocábar Gate on the southern edge of town you are in what was the old Moorish cemetery, now the up and coming San Francisco quarter.  Walk through the gate and up the cobbled street via a short visit to the bell tower of the church of the Holy Spirit, Espíritu Santo, continue up the vehicle road for 100 metres before climbing the steps into Duquesa de la Parcent square, which is home to the delightful Town Hall and the intriguing architectural mix of the Cathedral Church of Santa María la Mayor

Head for the back right corner of the square and wander at random through the old Arab quarter with its magnificent mansions, palaces and tiny squares full of orange and lemon trees.  Do not miss the Palacio de Mondragón with its delightful patios and gardens, which also houses the Municipal Museum. 

Also worth a visit is the Casa de Don Bosco, in honour of the canonised Italian priest St John Bosco, who never actually visited Ronda!

Emerging from the old quarter and turning left you find yourself on the 18th Century Puente Nuevo, the newest of three bridges joining the two halves of the town.  The view from either side of the bridge is spectacular: to the west a fertile valley with a distant backdrop of brooding mountains; to the east deep cliff walls topped by hanging houses.  A trickle of water runs through the bottom of the gorge 130 metres below whilst hundreds of birds nest in the cliff faces.  At dusk these rise into the air; among them Crag Martins, Pallid Swifts, Black Redstarts, Blue Rock Thrushes, Choughs, Griffon Vultures, Rock Doves and Blackcaps.

Beyond the modern and stylish Parador de Ronda, a luxury four-star hotel, you find yourself at one of the oldest and most beautiful of Spain’s bullrings, the Plaza de Toros. Ronda is the home of modern bullfighting, with the torero operating on foot instead of on horseback. This style was developed by Pedro Romero born in 1754 in the town.  Built in 1785 the Plaza de Toros boasts the largest bullfighting arena in the world, yet has one of the smallest crowd capacities.  Tickets for the infrequent bullfights held here are very difficult to come by.  Nevertheless, it is open to the public and houses an interesting museum about bullfighting.

Away from the bullring and back down the northern side of the Tajo you come to the Fountain of the Eight Spouts, Fuente de los Ocho Caños, before crossing the Roman bridge back to the other side, and climbing through the Arco de Felipe V, the Arch of Philip V. 

This whole area was used as the location for the 1984 film of the opera Carmen, starring a very young and slender Plácido Domingo

A brief detour down the hill takes the visitor to the Arab Baths, Baños Árabes, which are a delight.  Restored a few years ago the tour includes a film presentation (also in English) about the history of Ronda dating back to Roman times. 

Back up the hill and you come to the Casa del Rey Moro and the Water Mines.  Climb down 365 steps hewn from the interior of the cliff to the bottom of the gorge to see where the Arabs used to ‘mine’ their water and transport it up to the town above.  On resurfacing you can get your breath back in the beautiful gardens and/or have a refreshing drink in the café there.

After all this sightseeing it’s time for something to eat and drink; the choice is amazing.  There are innumerable bars and restaurants where you can nibble on the wide variety of tapas, sit down for a reasonably priced and wholesome three-course menu of the day for about £10 sterling, or, if you want to, splash out on an a-la-carte meal. 

Specialities of the region include cured ham, bull’s tail, suckling pig, wild boar, rabbit, goat and other game dishes.  For vegetarians there are interesting choices such as fried aubergines in honey, wild asparagus and a wide range of tasty salads.

Despite the tourists Ronda is traditional Spain at its best.  As a taxi driver in another part of Spain once told me: “Aaa, Ronda, un sitio para volver” – a place to return to over and over again.  That’s what I did for a decade and Ronda never disappointed. Now I live here full time, but that’s another story ...

***

Pablo de Ronda is a retired former languages teacher, school inspector and translator, who emigrated to the Serranía de Ronda in 2008, where he lives with his second wife, Rita. He spends his time between Montejaque and Ronda doing DIY, gardening, writing and managing his portfolio of holiday rentals.

www.a1-holidays.net



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La Familia Real de visita en Montejaque.
Thursday, July 28, 2022

La familia Real (Pepe, Francisca, Cristóbal y Armando) fueron invitados esta semana como huéspedes de honor a su antigua casa de familia en el pueblo blanco más bonito de la Serranía de Ronda.

El británico Pablo de Ronda, que lleva 14 años viviendo en esta parte de Andalucía, compró la casa a la familia, los herederos de la casa, en octubre de 2020.

Pablo acaba de terminar la reforma y quería enseñar la casa a los antiguos dueños.

La casa, llamado Casa Real por Pablo en honor de los vendedores, cuyo apellido es Real, es una vivienda rural oficial y está disponible para alquilar a un precio económico.

El día del estreno ofreció Pablo a sus invitados un aperitivo, cerveza, vino y pacharán y unas tapas mientras echaron un vistazo a la casa.

En el ultimo momento ocurrió algo y la familia Real no pudo venir.

Sin embargo los otros invitados lo pasaron bien, entre ellos británicos, holandeses, canadienses, un sudafricano, una danesa y una alemana.

Francisca Real, que había visto fotos de la casa reformada, comentó: “Mi antiguo dormitorio se ha transformado completamente. Me encanta.”

Su hermano menor, Armando Real, ex-albañil, que también había visto fotos, cumplimentó a Pablo en particular por la calidad de los dos cuartos de baño, que éste había instalado.

“¿Has hecho todo? ¿La solería, el alicatado y la fontanería?” pregunta Armando. Pablo responde: “Me ayudó José ‘El Suave’ con la fontanería, pero lo demás hice yo.”

Desde el principio del proyecto Pablo decidió crear una casa tradicional, pero con toques modernos. “He retenido las lozas tradicionales de los dos dormitorios y del salón-comedor y todas las sevillanas en el corredor, el patio y la escalera. También abrimos muchas vigas de madera.”

“Quitamos dos tabiques en la planta baja para hacer un especio abierto en forma de “L” que contiene salón, comedor y cocina.”

Pablo quería también una casa ecológica. Ha instalado una estufa de pellets y ventanas de doble acristalamiento. Los electrodomésticos son nuevos y de bajo consumo. Muchas cosas han sido recicladas de la basura o ha comprado Pablo de segunda mano.

“Pero las camas y los colchones y toda la ropa de la cama son nuevos,” aseguró Pablo.

Los invitados a la "casa abierta" han dejado comentarios muy positivos. Hazel Terry de Derbyshire Inglaterra, escribió: “Muy bien ubicada y muy cerca de la plaza. Una casa de mucho espacio con una terraza y un patio exteriores excelentes.”

Hazel y su marido Peter quieren alquilar por un mes a lo mejor en agosto. ¡Ojalá!

A Ivo y Katya de Holanda, que acaban de comprar dos apartamentos en Montejaque, les gustan las vistas estupendas desde la azotea sobre el Hacho y el Mirador.

Kevin y Carolyn Emmett, residentes en Montejaque, han vivido en todos los rincones del mundo: Canadá, Sud África, Botswana e Indonesia. Carolyn comentó: “La casa es muy divertida y peculiar. Tiene dos dormitorios muy amplios, dos baños fabulosos y un patio privado y una azotea con vistas. Recomendada para alquilar.”

Pablo ya ha alquilado la casa cinco veces a ingleses, españoles y alemanes. El próximo fin de semana está reservada para la duración del festival de música de los pueblos blancos, pero todavía hay disponibilidad para la semana cultural y la feria del pueblo.

 

Detalles:

www.a1-holidays.net



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Ronda, Andalucia's 'city of dreams': A walking tour
Thursday, July 7, 2022

Available on the VoiceMap app. Download free from PlayStore or the Apple Store.

 

I’ve lived in the Ronda area for 14 years and know the City of Dreams like the back of my hand, so I wasn’t expecting too much from this audio guide. How wrong could I be?

Although I was familiar with every location included on this tour, I learned loads that I didn’t know from this very thoroughly researched guide by Clive Muir, of the website Ronda Today. In particular, the historical aspects.

Clive’s voice is easy on the ear and the accompanying music by local professional guitarist Paco Seco made for a very pleasant couple of hours.

We broke our journey in the Barrio San Francisco, where we had an excellent breakfast at Bar Sánchez by the Almocabar Gate.

I was accompanied on the tour by friends Brenda and Jeremy White, who own property locally and have been coming to the Serrania de Ronda regularly for over 20 years. Like me, they thought they knew all there was to know. They were also wrong.

At the end of the tour, we gratefully sank a refreshing beer in Bar El Rincón de la Manzanilla on Calle Virgen de Los Remedios and discussed the audio tour we had just taken.

“I enjoyed the tour very much,” said Brenda, “although I felt some of the historical information was a bit long-winded.”

“I disagree entirely,” responded Jeremy. “I found the history sections fascinating and I learned a lot.”

We all agreed that we had spent a delightful morning and had enjoyed the whole experience immensely. Strangers to Ronda would find this audio guide fascinating, as well as informative, we felt.

You can choose to enter any of the sites during the tour, eg the interpretation centre of the Puente Nuevo, La Casa de Don Bosco, El Palacio de Mondragón with its municipal museum, La Casa del Rey Moro and the water mine, la plaza de toros or the Arab baths.

Or you can come back another time.

If you purchase a Bono Municipal (Tourist Ticket) at the Tourist Office near the bullring, it will work out cheaper.

And remember, if you are a senior citizen, and can prove it, you should get a discount. If you’re a Ronda resident, there is usually free entry, certainly to municipal sites.

You can also book a Paco Seco concert at La Casa de Don Bosco. I’ve heard Paco Seco play elsewhere and he is really good.

Highly recommended.



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De tapeo en Ronda
Friday, July 1, 2022

The Meter Maid and I have rarely been de tapeo in the 14 years we have been together. Yet, on Tuesday, the eve of mi santo (Peter and Paul, 29 June) she suggested we do just that. Fine by me. Going on the Spanish version of a pub crawl is something I’ve always loved about Spain, since I first came here in 1970 aged 20.

Tapear is all about the tapas, whereas an English pub crawl is all about the beer. For older English folk it’s about sampling a range of cask ales, easy in the northwest of England where I used to live. For younger people it’s about guzzling as much disgusting lager as possible to get as p****d as possible.

Whilst I have to confess, I’ve participated in both English versions, I much prefer the Spanish option.

 

So, off we went. Rather than go to the tried and tested bars we know from over a decade of living here, we decided to try out new places.

We started at Bar Mimanuela in Plaza Carmen Abela. It used to be a jeweller’s but since Covid it has opened as a rather stylish but unpretentious café bar with a lovely terrace outside the Caja Rural.

A beer and two tapas each for 13 euros was perfectly acceptable. Rita chose snails (caracoles) and mejillones. I had alcachofas con jamón and anchoa cantábrica  Well-presented and delicious. The owners are delightful.

Inside they have a permanent exhibition of paintings by Elaine Moore, an English artist long resident in Ronda and a good friend of ours.

We then shuffled up Calle Tiendas to Bar Bodeguita, also unknown to us. And guess who was sitting there talking on his mobile? None other than Michael, who was to blame for me meeting the Meter Maid (yes, you guessed it, her name is Rita!) at the Feria de Pedro Romero in September 2008.

We hadn’t seen him for a while so after warm hugs (Rita, not me!) we joined him at his table. Serendipitously he had been on the phone to Malcolm, who is the husband of the afore-mentioned artist Elaine Moore. They were on their way to join us! ¡Qué coincidencia!

Another friend, Hilde from Belgium was also on her way.

At the table next to us I recognised Maria, a customer of one of my locals, Venta El Puente in La Indiana.

After a beer and a tapa and some catching up, Rita and I moved on to Bar La Flamenca, which in a previous incarnation had been my internet café of choice back in the day before smartphones and widespread computer ownership.

The terrace was full, so we sat at a table for two just inside the door. It was next to a mirror and I kept noticing this fat, long-haired, old guy sitting opposite a beautiful, elegantly dressed septuagenarian lady! Oh! Blimey! They were us!

Also in that bar was Eduardo, another customer from Venta El Puente. Guess who he was with -  Nerea, a waitress from said bar. It was the bar’s dia de descanso. I later established that Nerea and Eduardo are an item.

The tapas here were arguably the best so far. Again, we had two each plus a drink. 12 euros.

Next up was El Almacen. The last time I’d been there was that fateful night with Michael in 2008 when I later met Rita. It was under different management back then. I gather it’s now the hottest place in town.

We had a beer and a tapa each – 7 euros.

It was now quite late, so we decided to head for home. On our way back to the car we passed Pizzería Michelangelo. Sitting outside were Manolo (El Corcho) and his wife Carmen, the owners of Venta el Puente.

What a great night.

I must add that Rita’s beers were cervezas sin, as she was driving.

 

Further reading:

Ronda is just a village.



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Ronda is just a village
Friday, July 1, 2022

Pablo de Ronda fell in love with Ronda the first time he went there in August 2000. By the end of 2001 he had bought an apartment in the Barrio San Francisco. In 2003 he bought a doer-upper nearby and did it up. In 2005 his girlfriend of the time bought a house in Las Peñas and Pablo, by this time retired, “reformed” it for her.

In 2008, single again, he met the girl of his dreams and moved out to live permanently in the Ronda area. He married his “Meter Maid” in 2010 and in 2011 they bought the house of their dreams just outside Ronda.

In 2020 he bought another doer-upper in Montejaque, a pretty pueblo blanco near Ronda and despite Covid-19, lockdowns, and other obstacles, he finished it earlier this year.

 

Although it’s a city, with a current population of round 33,000, Ronda has always felt tiny. Just like Madrid, Berlin, Liverpool and London. They are really just big villages in the sense that most of what you want to see as a visitor is within walking distance.

In Madrid everything you want to see, eg Puerta del Sol, Plaza Mayor, Parque del Retiro, El Prado, Las Cortes, La Moncloa, is within walking distance or a short metro ride.

In Berlin everything is centred around Checkpoint Charlie and the Alexanderplatz. Namely the Brandenburg Gate, the German Parliament, the Holocaust Memorial, the TV Tower, the remains of the Berlin Wall.

In Liverpool the Anglican Cathedral, LIPA (Paul McCartney’s fame school), the gents toilets in the Philharmonic Pub, the Everyman Theatre and Paddy´s Wigwam (the avant-garde Roman Catholic Cathedral) are all on Hope Street. It’s then only a 10-minute walk via Mathew Street and the Cavern Club to the glory that is the restored Liverpool Docks with its Granada TV Studios, Tate Liverpool and Liverpool Maritime Museum.

Even in massive London most of the sights/sites are close together. The Houses of Parliament, Buckingham Palace, Madame Tussaud’s, Hyde Park, Harrods, Fortnum and Mason, the London Eye, the Royal Festival Hall, Tower Bridge and Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre are easily managed in a couple of days.

Compared to the above-mentioned cities Ronda really is tiny. All you want to see is within walking distance. Parque de la Alameda, Plaza de Toros, Parador de Turismo, Puente Nuevo, El Tajo, Casco Antiguo, Palacio de Mondragón, Plaza Duquesa del Parcent, Almocabar Gate, the Arab Baths and the Casa del Rey Moro constitute a walk of a couple of hours.

But the main reason that it feels like a village is that you are always bumping into someone you know or used to know.

This week alone I bumped into Clive and Elisabet (ALDI), Antonio; Yaiza and Viviana (Décor Asia), Ian; Geoffrey (LIDL), Michael, Elaine, Malcolm and Hilde; María (Bar La Bodeguita), Nerea and Eduardo (Bar La Flamenca), Manolo and Carmen (Pizzería Michelangelo).

So, La Ciudad Soñada or Ciudad del Tajo, as Ronda is sometimes called, truly is a village or even, maybe, a hamlet (aldea).

***

Note: Some of these people the "Meter Maid" and I met when we went de tapeo on the eve of mi día santo (Peter and Paul, 29 June). For more about that little “pub crawl”, please read: De Tapeo en Ronda.

 

Other articles of possible interest are:

Saints Peter and Paul

What’s in a name? Pedro y Pablo



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Saints Peter and Paul
Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Today, 29 June, is the Holy Day for two of the most important holy figures in the Christian world, the disciples Peter and Paul.

In some regions of Spain and in some other Roman Catholic countries it’s even a bank holiday. As it’s Pablo de Ronda’s name day he decided to investigate the background of these two important men.

 

St Peter

According to Matthew’s gospel: While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he [Jesus] saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you ‘fishers of men.” [Matthew 4: 18-19].

Famously, Peter went on to deny Christ three times: “I do not know the man.” And immediately the cock crowed. And Peter remembered the saying of Jesus, “Before the cock crows you will deny me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly. [Matthew 26: 74 - 75]

Nevertheless, Peter was the rock on which the Christian church was founded.

 

St Paul

St. Paul the Apostle, original name Saul of Tarsus, a Greek-speaking Jew, became one of the leaders of the first generation of Christians, often considered to be the most important person after Jesus in the history of Christianity.

Before his conversion Saul was travelling on the road to Damascus so that he might find any Christians there and bring them "bound to Jerusalem" (Holy Bible, English Standard Version).

At midday, a light brighter than the sun shone around both him and those with him, causing all to fall to the ground, with the risen Christ verbally addressing Saul regarding his persecution. 

Having been made blind, along with being commanded to enter the city, his sight was restored three days later by Ananias of Damascus. After these events, Paul was baptised, beginning immediately to proclaim that Jesus of Nazareth was the Jewish Messiah and the Son of God.

Of the 27 books in the New Testament, 13 are attributed to Paul, and approximately half of another, Acts of the Apostles, deals with Paul’s life and works. Thus, about half of the New Testament stems from Paul and the people whom he influenced.

His surviving letters have had enormous influence on subsequent Christianity and secure his place as one of the greatest religious leaders of all time.

 

Note: Tomorrow is also the Saint’s Day for Don Pablo, who writes the Spanish Matters blog for Eye on Spain. He has written an article in castellano for Spanish language learners. You can read it here.

 

Acknowledgements:

Encyclopedia Britannica

Holy Bible, English Standard Version

Wikipedia

 



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A Change is as Good as a Rest – No, it’s not! Or is it?
Friday, June 17, 2022

Most of us don’t like change. Sometimes it’s for the better, but not everybody sees it that way. Pablo de Ronda has noticed a lot of changes recently around his patch. In his opinion, not always good at first, but sometimes it gives new energy to local life. The Curmudgeon, on the other hand, doesn’t like change at all. It just makes him cross. In this joint article, they go into more detail.

Pablo de Ronda: There seems to be a lot of change at the moment. For most of my life I’ve preferred the status quo, because it’s usually easier. Lately, however, and since Covid-19 appeared and blighted our lives to a huge extent, I think that change has often brought about good outcomes.

The Curmudgeon: All the changes we’re experiencing make me really cross and usually just make daily life a lot harder.

 

Death

When someone passes this represents a big change, not just for loved ones of the deceased.

Famous people die all the time.

Recently we lost rock drummer Charlie Watts of The Rolling Stones and keyboardist Andrew Fletcher of Depeche Mode. Vangelis, the Greek composer of those wonderful film scores, such as Chariots of Fire, has left us.

On Monday, as Pablo de Ronda flew to the UK for the strewing of the ashes of Andy, the husband of his niece Nicki and father of Alex and Willow, who died two years ago in a light plane crash in Australia aged 44, he learned that Phil Bennett, the Welsh rugby union legend, had just died aged 73.

Five villagers from Montejaque (Málaga) died of Covid-19, each of which constituted changes to the lives of relatives and friends and to the life of the village.

 

Working from home

Introduced on a massive scale to help countries to cope with the volume of cases of the Coronavirus, this has been a positive change. As employers have realised that the output of their staff has not diminished but increased, that their workers really are working for the company, and not taking the dog for a walk, playing with the children, gardening or decorating the spare room, this has been a positive change, both for the environment (less travel) and for the wellbeing and mental health of their staff.

Jacob Rees-Mogg, the UK government cabinet minister, who thinks that all civil servants should return to their offices, should keep his silly mouth shut.

 

Health and Hygiene

The pandemic has brought about a number of changes in the world of health and hygiene.

At the start of the first lockdown, we discovered we had been washing our hands incorrectly for thousands of years. We learned to sneeze into our armpits and to tap elbows or fists as the new form of greeting. Handshakes and kissing on both cheeks was definitely out.

Doctors began telephone consultations. The Curmudgeon’s wife, after being very ill from Covid-19, was offered physiotherapy ….. over the phone!

Within the private health care sector, many specialists in Ronda declared themselves unavailable for consultations for fear of catching the bicho.

The Curmudgeon says: “We had to travel to the coast to see various specialists. Obviously the Coronavirus wasn’t as dangerous down there, as most specialists continued to ply their trade! Funny, that!”

The vaccination programme went very well in and around Ronda. Pablo de Ronda and his wife were full of praise for the efficiency, timeliness and expertise of Salud Andalucía, who completed three jabs for all adults ahead of time.

“On top of that our certificates were on the Salud Andalucía app within no time at all,” said Pablo.

The downside of the pandemic is that other routine procedures and operations were not dealt with for the best part of two years and there is a huge backlog.

The Curmudgeon, a recently diagnosed type-2 diabetic, complains that he cannot get a blood test on the national health system. “The protocol states that blood tests are only available every six months,” said his doctor.

“It’s ridiculous,” moans The Curmudgeon, “Testing the sugar levels in the blood of diabetics regularly is crucially important. In other countries, eg Germany, you get a blood test every month.”

“I can get one done privately on demand, but what about people who can’t afford to? It’s not fair at all!”

 

Daily Life

Cita Previa

Introduced during the lockdowns for hygiene and safety reasons, this is now being abused by companies and organisations continuing with the practice, when arguably it is no longer necessary. For example, The Curmudgeon had to collect a letter from Hacienda last week, so he went along to the office expecting to be able to just pick it up, but no, he had to make a cita previa to carry out a process that took two minutes. "Ridiculous!" he chuntered, "Bureaucracy gone mad!"

On the other hand, sometimes a cita previa would work better and save us a lot of time sitting around waiting.

To do anything at a comisaria de policia, you just have to show up and wait. The Curmudgeon needed to do a denuncia a while back. He had to go three times because the first two times the (only) officer in charge of denuncias was busy on other matters. And on the third occasion he had to wait nearly two hours to get the report done!

“I have better things to do than sit around the police station for ages. And what’s more, they don’t have a public toilet, so if you’ve got a dodgy bladder like I have, it’s a nightmare!”

He also needed to register a rental property. He went twice last week. The first time he waited an hour and then gave up. The second time the (only) officer designated for this task wasn’t even there. He has yet to go a third time.

“I thought the police were supposed to be public servants,” he said. “Hah!”

Banking

There are huge and controversial changes in the field of banking, so much so that The Curmudgeon has left two banks in the space of six months.

“When my main bank, Unicaja, got too big for its boots and went from being a relatively small regional savings bank to becoming the fifth largest bank in Spain, they stopped caring about their loyal customers in Andalucía.”

Despite making huge profits, they’re closing branches left, right and centre and trying to force their customers, many of them old and without computers or smart phones, to do their banking online.

The Curmudgeon continues: “I was with Unicaja for over 20 years, but when they changed their conditions for free banking and wouldn’t budge despite my long time as a client, I closed the account and went to CaixaBank where the requirements for free banking are less onerous.”

He has also just closed his account with BancSabadell for several reasons. Firstly, they closed the branch in Ronda last December. “I knew it would be a problem, not having direct access to a branch (the next nearest is an hour away in San Pedro de Alcántara) but I agreed to give it a try. Sometimes their cajero isn’t working but, worst of all, when I recently ordered new cards, they were unable to activate them even on the phone or online.”

Three times The Curmudgeon called the manager and left messages requesting a call back and no call came. So, he’s closed the account and will just use CaixaBank from now on.

Shopping

A few stores have changed hands. Supersol is no more. French supermarket chain Carrefour bought all their stores in Spain and are in the process of upgrading them, some to their economy chain Supeco"The stores are very yellow," complained The Curmudgeon. "I hate yellow!"

The other former Supersol store on the bypass, which has been closed for many years, was sold off in a different deal to Carmela, a Sevilla chain, and has now been trading for a couple of months.

Mercadona built a brand-new superstore next to ALDI and closed their old store opposite the new bus station. Bright and airy with easier parking, it’s a positive move from the Spanish chain.

Bars and Restaurants

A few bars and restaurants have closed their doors or changed hands in the last few months.

In Ronda, Locos Tapas has gone, because of the serious illness of owner Guillermo. That’s a real loss. This tiny tapas bar was the most innovative in the town and a delightful place to dine.

Also closed for good is Bar Maestro on Calle La Bola. Husband and wife Rafael and Paqui ran this popular bar for over 50 years before they reached retirement age and decided to stop.

Cafeteria/Panaderia Granier further up the same street seems to have closed its doors for good. We shall miss their excellent breakfasts and their pan noruego.

On the other hand the arrival of Miyagi Express, Ronda’s first Japanese Restaurant, and the new Moroccan restaurant in Plaza Carmen Abela, can only be a good thing for the town.

In Estación de Benaojan, Andy and Pauline have retired and have leased the charming hotel Molino del Santo to an Argentinian couple. "I haven’t tried it under new management yet, but I hear that standards are as high as before," observed Pablo de Ronda.

In Montejaque, Bar Nazarí is no more. The young owner, Javi, realised being a “landlord” wasn’t what he wanted to do for the rest of his life. That's a change for the worse for The Curmudgeon, who loved to go there for a good old moan.

In the same village El Patio de Frasquito Pedro closed when the owner Pepe retired, but, good news, it reopened shortly afterwards as El Patio, when young entrepreneur Jacinto took it on.

Sad news from Estación de Jimera de Libar as Bar Allioli closed its doors after 14 years as the best live music venue in the Serrania de Ronda. We wish Paul and Synnove well.

Parking 🅿

As more and more bars and restaurants spill onto the streets of Ronda, more and more parking spaces are being lost. As streets are pedestrianised or upgraded, parking spaces disappear. Hence, the plan for the new car park in the Barrio de San Francisco, is more than necessary.

In Montejaque, The Curmudgeon is not the only resident who was aghast when the mayor declared unilaterally that several streets where parking has always been allowed were no longer available.

However, as Pablo de Ronda, a frequent visitor to the village, pointed out: “The council has enlarged and improved the existing municipal car park, adding lighting and creating many more spaces. Work is also continuing to turn the old cemetery into an additional car park. As it has turned out, it was a smart decision.”

New Infrastructure

The new bus station, adjacent to the railway station, is well under construction, and the new swimming pool near LIDL is due to open to the public next week.

The plans for a massive car park in the Barrio de San Francisco to the south of Ronda have been approved, and a new access road from the barrio up to town is being planned.

The Curmudgeon thinks these projects are an unnecessary attack on the countryside in and around Ronda, while Pablo de Ronda thinks that both are necessary to keep traffic out of the centre, where parking is already a nightmare in the spring and summer.

The Alameda park overlooking the valley and the Sierra de Grazalema is due for an upgrade. “A senseless waste of money,” says The Curmudgeon. “The Alameda is fine as it is!” Surprisingly, Pablo de Ronda agrees and thinks the money could be better spent elsewhere.

 

Houses changing hands

The housing market seems to be on the move again after years in the Doldrums. In Montejaque alone, more than a dozen houses have been sold in 2022. We will be welcoming new people from other parts of Spain, but also from the UK, Belgium, France, the Netherlands, Poland and Canada.

“This is a positive change,” says Pablo de Ronda. “New blood means new investment in the local economy, eg construction, local shops, bars and restaurants, etc. Many of the houses had not been occupied for years and need renovation.”

“It’s also great to have new and different people from a range of nations to add to the rich tapestry of life in the village,” added Pablo.

 

The Murals

Over the last couple of years Ronda has undergone some changes to the urban landscape. Apart from the changes to the infrastructure mentioned earlier, the “City of Dreams” has acquired three giant murals and is about to acquire a fourth.

The first, a double mural on two apartment blocks at the old bus station were by famous street artist Oscar de Miguel (Okuda), This was followed by one at the Western entrance to the town by local artist Víctor Fernández. “It’s my favourite, although I love them all!” said Pablo.

A third piece of wall art appeared on a gable end as you enter Ronda from the north via Avenida de Málaga. Also by Okuda.

The fourth is destined for the floor of a sports facility in San Rafael. This is by artist Víctor García. Work has already started and should last about three weeks.

These murals are part of a project called “Rebranding Ronda”.

Both Pablo de Ronda and The Curmudgeon like this change.

***

So, a change is as good as a rest? I think Pablo de Ronda and The Curmudgeon would have to agree to disagree about this.

***

STOP PRESS: The shock announcement earlier this week that BAR RESTAURANTE LA TERRAZA in Montejaque is to close has taken us all by surprise. That will bring about some changes. “I’ve no more reason to go to Montejaque,” said Pablo de Ronda. “I might have to move out,” grumbled The Curmudgeon.

 



Like 0        Published at 6:31 AM   Comments (0)


Don’t lose your wallet!
Thursday, June 2, 2022

Pablo de Ronda’s wallet has “gone missing” three times in the last dozen years. Up to now he’s always had it returned. But he mislaid it again last week and hasn’t got it back. He thinks he left it in their hotel in Heilbronn, Germany, where he and his wife were on holiday, but somebody must have found it, removed the cash and thrown the rest away. That’s the worst thing about it, as Pablo explains …..

 

The first time I “lost” my wallet was outside the paper shop in Ronda one wet Sunday morning, but within 20 minutes I had it back. A passer-by had found it, handed it to a local policía and it was taken straight to the police station, where I had gone to report the loss.

Everything was still present, including the cash. Lucky me!

The second time my wallet went missing, it was nicked from my person in a bar in Montejaque, the village where I live. The montejaqueños were so outraged they investigated the crime, found the perpetrator and I got my wallet back, and eventually the missing cash also. The police were none the wiser, as it had been resolved “in-house”, so to speak.

This was such a relief, as the hassle involved in acquiring new documentation and cards didn’t bear thinking about.

Third time unlucky

The third time my wallet “disappeared” was last week in Germany, where we were on holiday. I either left it in the Italian Ristorante where we had lunch or later in the hotel where we were staying.

Despite phoning both places, the day after, there was no sign of my wallet. I can only assume somebody found it, pocketed the cash and threw the wallet with all its contents away.

Cancelling and ordering new cards

Bank cards were easy to cancel and order anew, either online or via a quick phone call to the bank’s 24-hour emergency number.

Health cards (state and private) were also easy to sort out.

Store and loyalty cards I can deal with as and when.

My Amigos de Paradores card was also no problema.

There were three cards I couldn’t deal with from abroad, namely my driving licence, my TIE (Tarjeta de Identidad de Extranjero) and my tarjeta sesentaycinco (OAP discount card). I have to re-order those in person when I’m back in Spain.

Most cards incur no charge, but a new driving licence costs a somewhat hefty 20,81€ and my Costa Press Club card , surprisingly, 15€.

I also had a RENFE Railcard, but I haven’t investigated replacing that yet.

Catch 22

The most stressful and time-consuming issue was my Covid-19 vaccination certificate. I couldn’t access it online without my health number, which was only on the stolen health card and not lodged in my phone or my memory.

A call to Salud Andalucía produced no helpful response; they couldn’t give me my number over the phone, because of something called protección de datos.

I thought I’d be able to find my number online, but guess what, Baden-Baden Airport is the only airport in the world without WiFi!

Fortunately, my good lady came to the rescue. She recalled that some while ago I had sent her a photo of my certificate. She eventually found it on her mobile and sent it back to me. Phew! Panic over.

***

As I write this, I am sitting airside at the airport with a very expensive coffee, bags checked in and waiting for our flight. After all that, I bet they won’t even check our certificates at Málaga.

Despite that, it’s been quite a bit of hassle.

Not having any cash and having no means of getting any from the Geldautomat (cajero) without a bank card was also a challenge. I couldn’t buy anything unless my missus was nearby!

So, all things considered, my advice to you is, DON’T LOSE YOUR WALLET!

***

Further reading:

HOW TO ….. reapply for all your cards …...

En mi bolsa de mano hay …..



Like 0        Published at 11:00 PM   Comments (0)


Death by night - a memoire
Thursday, June 2, 2022

Death can come at any time, as we have been emphatically reminded as the Covid-19 pandemic hit the world in March 2020. On what would have been his Dad´s 105th birthday earlier this month Pablo de Ronda wrote about all the things his dad had missed out on since his early demise at the age of 68. This week his thoughts turned to his late mum, who would have been 104 on Thursday.

 

My dad passed away on a Saturday morning in August 1985.

In my mum’s case I got a phone call in the early hours of a Sunday morning just before Christmas in 2013 to say that she had died. It was two days before I was due to fly to the UK to visit her for Christmas.

My Mum, Vera Valerie Whitelock (nee Lemon), was born in Barnstaple, North Devon in 1918, the same year as Nelson Mandela. She died in December 2013 two weeks after the first black president of South Africa passed. She was chuffed about outliving the great man.

Vera Valerie lost her father at a very young age and was raised along with two siblings by her widowed mother, Sarah, my gran.

Vera Valerie Lemon, aged about four, with sister Joan and brother “Sonny”. Vera is in the middle. What amazing hair!

Very bright, Vera Valerie won a scholarship to the local girls’ grammar school, but couldn´t take up the place because they couldn´t afford the uniform in those bleak and austere interwar years.

So she left school and trained as a clerk. She married quite young but was widowed within a year when her husband John died of tuberculosis.

She met my dad, also called John, who was lodging with his sister in the house next door to my mum’s, while he worked at RAF Chivenor. Dad was divorced with a young daughter, who was being looked after in South Wales by one of his brothers. (Dad’s wife had run off to the USA with an American GI, leaving Heather behind).

John Albert Whitelock and Vera Valerie Lemon get married at the Newport Road Methodist Church in Barnstaple in 1948

Vera Valerie and John Albert got married in 1948 and I came along two years later and my brother Simon three years after me in 1953.

At first we lived in a brand new council house before my mum and dad bought a two-up-two-down terraced house which they did up, sold for a profit and bought the rented house where my gran lived and where my mum grew up.

In 1964 we moved to Exeter, the county town of Devon, where I completed my education before going up north to Salford to university. My brother went away to uni in Bristol three years later.

After Simon got married to Norma and had a daughter, Nicki, our parents moved to be near them, to Yate near Bristol. They stayed there until Dad died in 1995. Mum stayed put and successfully built a new social life as a widow.

After my two kids, Amy and Tom, were born in 1983 and 1987 respectively, Vera Valerie surprised us all by moving to Thelwall near Warrington, where we were living, so that she could “enjoy my grandchildren growing up”.

After my marriage to Jeryl ended in divorce in 2005, and a subsequent failed relationship, I lived for a few months with my mum in her bungalow in Thelwall. It worked well. I paid the bills, did the shopping and cooked dinner every night. Mum continued with her healthy social life and, she said, enjoyed not living alone again.

Despite that I decided that living with my mum at the age of 58 was not a cool look, so I sold Casa Blanca, a house I owned in Ronda, Andalucía, and bought a Victorian pile in Latchford, Warrington. Tunstall Villa was a project, a doer-upper.

Then I met the “Lovely Rita“ in Ronda and the rest is history. I moved to be with Rita in Montejaque (Andalucía) at the end of 2008, we married in 2010, and I sold Tunstall Villa and bought Villa Indiana, where we now live, in 2011.

Despite her advancing age and increasing frailty, mum was very active around this time. She attended the graduation ceremonies of Amy at The Queen’s College, Oxford and Tom at Liverpool (LIPA) and Sidcup (Rose Bruford College), saw Tom perform on stage in his West End debut, attended mine and Rita’s wedding in Maulbronn Abbey in Germany and visited us in our new home, Villa Indiana in Ronda.

Mum had been a frequent visitor to Ronda over the years, and she managed it that one last time before she died. She was happy that I was married again and enjoyed her final visit to Spain, pottering around our garden, dead-heading the roses and plucking unwanted weeds out of the ground. She was in her element. I even think she made it into the pool!

Despite the early hardships as a child, early widowhood, the deprivations during and after the Second World War, being widowed a second time, she came through and made a good life for herself. She outlived her brother and sister – and Nelson Mandela, of course.

Then death came – in the night.

Note: This memoire forms part of a duology with Death in the afternoon ….. and in the morning. Click here to read.



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