Saturday, 29 December 2007

Rabbit bits

Yesterday we drove into Leon to shop and get Reb a pizza. She needs periodic encounters with American food and there are no burger or pizza joints in Sahagun. The Leon pizzas we get are very good, with thin crusts. Mine was liberally covered with anchovies, which, to my mind, is the only reason to bother with pizza.
We bought some chunks of rabbit along with the shopping. Very Spanish, the package included liver, heart and half the head, including the eyeball.
At home today, we roasted it all over an open fire in the kitchen. It worked very well and was a change from stewing the little fellow. When cooked, the head yielded no edible -or even inedible - meat at all. Tim was awarded it. Rabbit bones look much like chicken, except for the little ribs, and may be dangerous for dogs. This time they survived (the dogs, that is, not the bones. Or the rabbit who once used the head, for that matter).
Very misty and cold this morning. Very pretty, the plants all frosted white, but a bit too brisk for my taste. Reb put jackets on the dogs. They both originally belonged to Una, so hers fitted, but on Tim the jacket looked like the tiny ones greyhounds wear with a number on.
Angel, a neighbor resplendent in his orange boiler suit, had a good laugh at our dressed-up dogs. Round here, they would as soon put a jacket on a cow or a pig or chicken.

The Bhutto murder is disturbing. It put me in mind of the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand in 1914, for some reason. One person - admittedly important - is killed and, in some mysterious fashion, the rest of the world is plunged into chaos. Maybe it is in enough chaos already. Maybe this incident is just more of the same. I hope so.
It is hard to know what to make of Bhutto herself. Until she decided to return to Pakistan, she seemed to be just another grubby pol on the make, with a husband referred to as Mr. Ten Per Cent, and a strong whiff of corruption in her background. But it took a lot of nerve than I would ever have to go back where her father and two brothers had themselves been killed over politics. Hard to believe she was in it for the money this time round.

I may not write again this year, so I will wish one and all a happy new year now. But it does not look promising.

Thursday, 27 December 2007

A Blog that´s a Log of the Dogs

We went west towards San Nicolas yesterday morning for our daily dog-walk over the camino. The village´s full name is San Nicolas del Real Camino, which is almost a long as the main street. Compared with Moratinos it is practically a metropolis. It has two bars to our none.

We didn´t go all the way there, but stopped at an area of uncultivated, eroded ground full of ravines where rains wash off. We call it the Hare Field, because we have often seen both hares and rabbits there. The ground is honeycombed with burrows. It is Una´s favorite place in the world, and she generally vanishes there for several minutes. Today was the same. When it was time to go, Reb, Tim and I set out for home, leaving Una with her head stuck down a hole.

About twenty minutes later, as we neared the house, she trotted up, apparently unruffled by the fact that her white fur around her neck and ears was a nasty shade of pink. One of her ears was bleeding. She had tangled with something – a fox, maybe or even a Jabali, a wild boar. I can´t think of anything else round here that could take her on, although there have been reports of wolves reappearing. Tim was very interested in her wounds - sniffing and trying to lick them. At home I stuck Una in the bath and she cleaned up like new. (I did not come out of it so well.)

Moratinos has about as many dogs as it does people.

Justi and Oliva next door have two nasty dogs that bark and bay whenever anything stirs. They (the dogs) detest and envy Una and Tim because we walk them every day, but those dogs never get out of the barn. Reb says there is also an old hunting dog in the house, but I´ve never seen him. God only knows what it must smell like inside that garage.

Stasi and Pilar, one house down, have a new puppy now called Perla, who looks as if she is made out of black pipe-cleaners.

Julie´s family also now has a puppy called Luna who might be a black Labrador. Judging by the size of her paws, she is going to be a monster.

Segundino has the old German Shepherd who lazes peacefully in the sun whenever possible. His only serious job these days is to guard Bertha the Parrot from other nosy dogs when her cage is put outside. Segundino also has a hunting dog, a slender hound that stands on top of a six-foot pile of wood all day and howls. He only gets out on hunting days. Segundino´s relatives in the Plaza Mayor seem to have about three other dogs sequestered inside a barn near the bodegas, whose only job is to kick up a rumpus whenever anyone comes within twenty feet.

On the other side of town Esteban and Milagros have two dogs too: the infamous Roldan, a lupine brute set to kill anyone and everything in sight, and Toby, a small, short-legged mutt who mooches around the village. He is cute, but does not like Tim.

Pim has a hunting dog called Braulio, who does not care overmuch for Tim either.

Edu has The Pants Dog, so named because his front half is white, but his hindquarters are dark grey, giving the impression that he is clad in pantaloons. He really hates Tim.

All this animosity over poor Tim, is I suppose because he is a newcomer, male, young, and still, so far, in possession of his testicles.

Una, as a neutered female and long-established resident, arouses no ill feelings with most of the local hounds. She does step in, however, when Braulio or Pants Dog gets too near or threatening to Tim. He is her boy toy, and she will tolerate no ruff stuff around him.

There is an entire community of dogs here, but somehow we only manage to snap photos of the two most attractive ones.

Tuesday, 25 December 2007

Very short blog

Apropos my blog about Real Madrid a day or so ago, my daily newspaper, El Pais, had a piece about the game with an intro containing a quote from Nietzsche.
There´s posh.
El Pais is always doing things like this and regularly assumes the reader knows who dudes like Nietzsche, Wittgenstein and Sartre are without being told.
And, oddly, the piece did not include being Beyond Good and Evil, which - at the top of the table with a seven-point lead over Barcelona - is where Real now finds itself.

Monday, 24 December 2007

Christmas Eve in the Dog House

The house of dogs, that is.
Una vanished during our morning walk today and we had to go and get the car and drive back into the Promised Land to search for her. She showed up as soon as we reappeared, filthy and smelling of rotten fish. She had been rolling in some sort of fertilizer. I had to give her the full body wash back at the house. Today Tim behaved himself, remembering a couple of weeks ago when he decided to take a dip in the town sewer drain and had to get the same treatment. When they do stuff like that, I scrub them extra hard, to learn them. Some dogs like baths. Not ours.

This blog will be a bit of a rag-bag.

The weather continues to be splendid - chilly and cloudless early, and warm by lunchtime. Is this global warming or just a spot of nice weather? I think we should be told. But the locals say it´s cold.

Last night Lib and I went to a bar to watch Real Madrid play Barcelona, the game of the season so far. The place was mobbed, as the game was on pay per view only, so everyone interested had to get out of the house to see it. Real won with the only goal. I thought the result was fair, because the Mad team defended much better. It was the sort of game Americans should be shown to let them see how good soccer can be.

In the paper and on the radio, and probably on the TV as well, except we don´t have one as yet, Zapatero, the Prime Minister is making a big deal about the new high-speed train between Madrid, Segovia and Valladolid, and so he should. It will go at about 200 miles per hour, or so they say. This will enable it to stop in the stations for half an hour instead of a quarter of an hour, and still only be twenty minutes late.
Still and all, trains are the best way to get around. Comfy seats with a restaurant car in the middle (of the train, that is, not the seat). Sahagun is a train town, with a direct line to Madrid and even Pamplona, Barcelona and Alicante. Most Spanish travel, outside the big cities seems to revolve around the bus station. We don´t even have one.

The big news, however, I got from the Expat Telegraph, via email. The most popular boy´s name in Britain, which is currently Jack, next year is set to be supplanted by Mohammed. But then, what will we call our Teddy Bears?
There´s always Osama.

Merry Christmas to all, except Republicans.

Friday, 21 December 2007

Life in the Afternoon

It is Friday afternoon, December 21. Rebekah and Libby, her daughter, have gone of on a trip with the neighbours, to another local town. I am not sure which one, Saldaña, maybe. Clowns are threatened. I am here with a nice fire and the dogs snoozing in front.
Christmas is round the corner and Reb wants a canary. This is proving tricky, as there don´t seem to be any in Sahagun, and there is not much time left to get to Leon. And there is not much meat on a canary.
She may have to settle for the leg of lamb we bought this morning. It was, in fact virtually half a lamb, as it came with a side of ribs attached. The butcher lady chopped it all up into its component parts, including a kidney. We also bought a lamb´s liver which comes as a set with a heart and lungs still attached. More like an anatomy lesson than cookery. The bill was high, a tad over 40 euros, but the lamb did weigh over three kilos, about six or seven lb. It will be our Christmas dinner. Reb is going to look for a pilgrim to share it with. No doubt she will find one, although I haven´t seen any in the last day or so.
The lungs will make a fine snack for the dogs. Even I draw the line at eating them. (The lungs, that is, not the dogs.)
Along with the lamb stuff, the butcher threw in half a lamb´s head. Muy rico, she says.
We decided against a turkey, though the fact that Israelis eat more turkey than anyone else in the world had nothing to do with it. We just didn´t want one, I suppose because Reb and Lib cooked a monster in Paris for Thanksgiving (a turkey, that is, not an Israeli).
I didn´t go to Paris, but am making up for it by reading books by French writers. As well as Camus, I have re-read Chaos and Night, by De Montherlant and the essays of Montaigne. This all sounds rather poncey, I must admit, but for some reason French writers often seem more relevant than others to me. Same with French movies, although some Spanish one are coming on strongly.
As the first essayist, Montaigne, was really the first blogger, back in the late 1500´s. Every reasonably educated French person is familiar with his works, but in England and the States, only academics are aware of him. This is a pity. Pascal disapproved of him, which is always a good sign.
I don´t suppose Pascal thought much of canaries, either. In fact, I wonder if they had canaries in the seventeenth century in Europe. Will have to look it up.

Wednesday, 19 December 2007

Dogs, rats and bears

Keen-eyed readers will notice that, after a brief reappearance, the blog stopped again . This is because we were in Southern Spain seeing my son and grandson there, and making efforts to sort out our financial stuff with people who understand English and American taxes, as well as Spanish ones..
But now I am back in the Land of the Fields. When the dogs saw us again, they went crazy with either delight or relief.
A bishop I know thinks they have no souls. If they don´t have souls, then souls are unnecessary. Who knows how much dogs know or feel? The chickens were only mildly cheered by our return.
While in Malaga, I bought a copy of The Plague, by Camus. It must be at least 40 years since I read it. It is still a great and disturbing book, but now I found myself now more conscious and rather critical of the sometimes stilted translation.
But the message is as potent as ever. The plague of the title is, as we all know, a metaphor for political extremism, in this case Nazism. The disease - bubonic plague - occupies, then isolates Oran, in Algeria, as did the Germans in France during the Second World War.
It doesn´t take a leap of imagination to transfer the situation to that of America now. Most of the rest of the world now regards the States as an area under intellectual quarantine. The hopeful news is that in the States, one can see signs of the Neocon malaise finally going into recession. Soon, perhaps, it will be just another ugly footnote in history. But, as Camus ends the book by saying, the rats will still be there, waiting.
Maybe I should apologise for adding more words to the pile about the appalling Bush and his gang, but it is important.
The news, while we were in Malaga was mostly about the Engish schoolteacher lady who allowed her class in The Sudan to name a Teddy Bear Mohammed. She was lucky to get out with her life. As someone on the BBC remarked, if the loonies had known that Ted´s full chosen name was Mohammed the Pooh, her head would have been rolling in the Sudan sand by now.
We get the politicians, and the religions, we deserve.