Grimble & G go KETO: part 1

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Keto moussaka

 

Ever increasing bellies

For some months, Grimble and G had not been feeling the body beautiful. They could make all the excuses they liked: middle aged spread, slower metabolism, the vagaries of clothes shop sizes. The truth was they were getting fatter. They snacked too readily on crap.

Grimble claimed she didn’t eat that many Maltesers. She was sure that WW even had them on a snack list. The truth was that WW may have listed them but Grimble liked the boxes: well the contents held within. This was as much because a £1 box seemed a better deal that an 80p packet. 3 boxes a week later and even her 10000 steps a day could not rectify the damage.

G was a secret snacker. He would fridge raid and scurry the plated spoils to his man cave. Grimble would often find a empty plate with miscellaneous residue. Once she even found a square of chocolate at the foot of the bed. It was difficult to determine both how long it had been there and how it had ended up positioned at the bed end.
It had to stop…

Hair cuts and diets

A trip to the hairdresser, The Pamper Rooms was about to change their attitude to food. Something called KETO was mentioned and it wasn’t a hair product. Basically, KETO was Atkins. ..on steroids. Carb free except for those in vegetables. Sugars gone. Including those in fruit: Nature’s evil sweet shop. Processed food? Never ever: the victuals of the devil.

After the hair cuts, the Grimbles’ sat in their local pizzeria and contemplated this diet. Their carb heavy dinner suddenly morphed into a last supper. They were going KETO. It was December. The run up to Christmas. When better to avoid snacks, chocolates and heavy drinking than the season of ultimate gorging?

Their target date for slimmer, streamlined bodies: March 5th. Their departure to Spain and the start of a lifetime of Mediterranean diet. They’d always convinced themselves that Spain would make them thin. Now Grimble and G were going to give Spain a fighting chance.

Let’s feng shu the shit out of this

Grimble edited her online Christmas shop with a the commitment of a zealot. She axed mince pies, stuffing, trifle and roasties. She felt thinner already. She added an inordinate amount of pigs in blankets, green veg, steak and cheese. Double cream replaced milk. This diet was insane. More fat equalled less fat.

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Keto poached egg with cheese sauce

Gin was fine. Fever tree was not. Thus it was poured down the sink and replaced with elderflower sparkling water. This tasted so good. Baileys also met a sink end. Grimble decided to concoct her own. Jamesons, double cream, keto friendly cacao and expresso and she was an expert. Using the emptied bottles, her KETO cream liqueur enterprise had begun. Sometimes, she just avoided the work and went straight to Jamesons. Which luckily enough was KETO friendly.

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Keto seafood starter

It was a this time, that the Grimbles were about to move. Packing commenced in earnest. Grimble looked at the dangers in her cupboards. They were filled with hidden carbs and sugars. Ruthlessly, she emptied them.

She made two trips to food banks but always felt she was offering poor people crappy killer food options. It sat uneasy in her head. Waste the food or feed poorer people shit: tough call.
Lardy arse or little arse?

Pounds and inches

The curse of radical diets is that fat goes from the oddest of places. Grimble wasn’t sure if it was an illusion but her tits seemed less pronounced. Her ring swivelled on her finger and her arse was reduced. The belly sadly wasn’t joining the party as yet.

A trip to Debenhams confirmed a non surgical boob reduction from 36 to 34 in 3 weeks. No point buying a new bra as by this rate, Grimble was going to reach prepubescent bust size by March. It was difficult to decide whether this was good or bad.

Telling G that he really did need to pull up his PJ bums or risk exposure was another sign. However, scales remained a contradiction. Whilst Grimble was fitting in clothes she had despaired of ever wearing again, the scales showed a desultory few pounds loss.

Scales were not something Grimble liked in the house. They were fickle, unreliable and soul destroying in their inaccuracies. Nevertheless, despite Grimble returning one set as they made her lose an advantageous 6lbs…in 30 minutes, G managed to secrete a new set into the house. He liked numbers. She liked clothes fitting.

Whichever way they judged, initial indications were definitely encouraging.

Location: locating: located

Location

They were half way through their holiday. Grimble was pleased. Bags for men had been bought. G had become the proud owner of two from one market visit.

This purchase had not been without some issues. After their trip to the shopping centre and market, there had been an impasse of sorts. This was not due to G being truculent or diffident. It was due to their remote location: Comares.

Comares was stunning. It was originally an Arabic hilltop fort. It’s white village outline could be seen for miles…and miles. In fact, it was approximately a mile and a half in the air. They had observed its stellar height on their first day when Satnav lady was desperate to journey them down some dirt track, seeming in the opposite direction to this lofty hilltop village. Perhaps this was because she was all too aware of the journey to follow.

They travelled the winding, bending, tortuous road ever upwards. They noted the lack of crash barrier at prime hairpin bends and their ears popped. As they arrived at their holiday rental, they felt dizzy from the thinness of the air. Comares could not be denied it’s status as a hilltop fortress. After this hill was sky. There was no other way back than down the treacherous death defying road.

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Comares…on a big hill

As a result, all road trips had to be evaluated against a day lazing by the pool. Often the pool won outright, without discussion. Any trip taken had to be of value. There was no purposeless ambling from Comares. They might decide to stagger uphill on foot to the square for a coffee, beer or flamenco night. They would not use the car without good reason.

Locating.

G had set his sights on purchasing bags at Torre del Mar Thursday market which luckily coincided with a trip to Sevilla. Their planned trip to Sevilla was no less barking mad as leaving Comares, with it’s recent August temperature of 47. However, they were not planning to stay in Sevilla. The sole purpose was to collect their amiga, the Emster. Charitably they were releasing her from the hellish Sevillian heat for a week of Comares mountain retreat.

After several hours of morning phaffing and dawdling, they left Comares at 11.30. Grimble knew this was not a good time as they would hit Torre at prime beach and shopping hour, just prior to siesta. Grimble, ever knowledgeable about the vagaries of Spanish life, was not far wrong. There was no where to park despite circling the town several times. Huge 4×4 crammed themselves into spaces where a Fiat 500 would have struggled to negotiate. They could almost smell the scent of leather man bags, they were so close. But, finally, it was not to be.

With limited options available, they decided to quit the seaside and depart immediately for the frying pan of Europe. The motorway journey was uneventful, hot and deserted. This was the joy of travelling at siesta. They briefly discussed a short detour at the Sevilla Airport Outlet Mall. But, as the temperature rose steadily through the 30s and into the low 40s, they swiftly dismissed this ridiculous suggestion.

In theory, they were going to bundle the Emster into the car and drive straight out of Sevilla. It might be a beautiful city at other times off the year but in August it was the epitome of a living hell. However, the Emster was not to be rushed or, usually, even ready. After more than a decade in Spain, she had mastered the slow, steady pace of life that meant nothing was hurried. She had fond farewells to say to her mad dog and evil bird before leaving. Plus she still had to finalise packing, eat lunch and double checking her travel arrangements.

By 6pm, they were finally on their way. Making sure that every journey counted, they called off at the large Torre del Mar supermarket for essentials: milk, eggs, chocolate milk, crab sticks, cava and various other irrelevant items. It was dark when they ascended the steep path to Comares. It was hard to say if this was better or worse. It was simply dark and dangerous.

Located

Planning the purchase of a man bag with other pursuits was not easy. Grimble and G had forsaken shopping trips as they were desperately trying to avoid clutter. They wanted to go on a pedalo on Lake Viñuela not shop til they dropped. This was a great way to spend two hours, pedalling for ten minutes and spending the remaining time jumping off the pedalo and safely floating in a life jacket. It hadn’t required a great deal of exertion. All thoughts of man bags were easily forgotten as they floated aimlessly around the still lake waters.

Again utilising the car away from Comares scenario, they visited a supermarket to replenish cava, which seemed to evaporate in the altitude, buy ice pops and cheese.

Their next trip was Torre to join a group heading to the Malaga Feria. This was an overnighter. They departed Torre at 1pm, in theory, though this was a Spanish trip. The coach finally pulled out 30 minutes late. They left Malaga nine hours later. With G still awaiting his ideal man bag, Grimble found herself laden with an awful lot of stuff to cover a protracted adventure. She muttered and cussed to no avail. She also advised that this would be the last such packing of her bag.

Malaga Feria was fun, busy and sweaty. They were able to drink for free as each caseta enticed them in with free beer, tinto verano and paella. Their group was formed from a salsa bar and they were not afraid to take over any caseta and dance salsa to any music. Despite one dance looking suspiciously like the Hokey Cokey, they were rewarded with tequila shots and lots of applause. By 5pm they were half cut. By 7pm, they were hungry and flagging. At 9pm, G, Emster and Grimble had forsaken the others and were drinking strong coffee outside of the Feria.

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Community dancing

The trip back should have been quiet given the exhaustion. However, this was Spain and the return was far from silent. Shouting Spanish ladies conducted full conversations from one end of the coach to the other with barely time to breathe. Staggering through fatigue and tentinitous, they made their way to the B and B and bed.

The next day, there was a halfhearted attempt to buy a man bag. G adorned himself with a decent leather bag, slung gamely over his shoulder but he was too tired to commit. They left Torre vowing to return on Thursday for the market. The market which had become like a holy shrine for all things man bag. It was as if this was the only place a man bag of quality could be found.

And that’s what happened. They set off earlier. They found parking. Within the hour, and after a coffee, two bags were bartered for and bought. One brown leather, the other black. They each had a variety of flaps and pockets.

There was one disconcerting moment when Grimble seemed to be carrying her bag and the carrier bag containing G’s bags. However, another café and coffee later, G’s bag was filled most of his items. Grimble would continue to find odd bits here and there for the next few days. He carried it like a man. Well like a British man. Which meant that there was some self conscious moments, a little grumbling and a defiance that stated that neither bag would be used or even seen in Blighty.

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Man bags take up residence

In the intervening days, the bags had a chequered life. G filled them with stuff then decided that he wasn’t taking a bag. This resulted his items of importance, namely toothpicks and tissues, being left behind. Grimble grittily held her position. She would not refill her own bag with G’s clutter. It was a war of attrition. Bag training was even more complex than puppy training, it seemed.

Man bag nil: beach bag 1

Yet another bloody beach bag

Grimble had to be very careful how she introduced the topic of a man bag to G. If she simply announced it, G would spiral into inconsolable misery. He would refuse to leave the pool or have a siesta that lasted well into the night. All Grimble’s devious wiles would be required to make this search seem fun and worthwhile.

G had shown a level of unexpected cooperation. He had communicated his needs in terms of a hypothetical bag. Grimble worried that his description might result in a fantasy bag. He itemised: pockets that opened easily, not too big or heavy, could carry a phone, iPad and stuff. It had to be in leather. He also said ideally he’d require two.

Grimble had nipped herself to make certain that she wasn’t on siesta or in a drunken haze at this declaration of a double purchase. The bag would be needed in black and brown to allow for maximum accessorising. This was a hopeful sign.

Their first foray into man bag territory was El Ingenio, a monster shopping mall by Velez. This name, roughly translated, meant ingenuity or wit. This seemed apt given Grimble would need both to keep G entertained and focused in a shopping centre. She motivated him with the idea that they needed a fan for the apartment. Air Con used energy insanely and it made them feel like they lived in a freezer. A manly electrical item would be enough to entice G into El Ingenio. Once inside, if there were coffee breaks and gadget shops, he would not complain too much.

G took charge of all things fan like. In the colossal Eroski supermarket, G located a plethora of suitable fans at a good price. However, they had only been in the mall for 10 minutes and, for G, his work here was done. Grimble showed an unnatural interest in large screen TVs in order to prolong this shopping adventure and keep G busy.

In reality, El Ingenio was a bit of a disappointment. The shops had a rebejas of 70% and clothes that no sane person would wear. Dunnes was filled with overpriced tat. Who, in their right mind, would purchase Irish tea at 5€ for 160 bags? Even the coffee shops were far too busy with abandoned men looking forlornly into their third café con leche.

In terms of man bags, the only offering was a discounted PVC one in Zara Man. Grimble showed it to G to assess interest. He grunted disappointment. Unlike a woman shopper who will touch and try on just for the hell of it, he would not even entertain it. Grimble was not certain if he was selective or uncommitted to a man bag.

Grimble realised that, if the current bag ownership remained unchanged, her bags did not have the space needed for a sunbathing trip. This actual trip consisted of a 10m stroll from the apartment to pool. However, it still required a big bag to house all the usual stuff plus two towels, puzzle books to keep G occupied, cool drinks and different factor suncreams. As they were about to depart El Ingenio, Grimble spied a bag shop with a sale. She emerged seconds later with a beach bag of immense proportions and a cheap price.

As the drove up the terrifying mountain pass back to Comares, Grimble pondered on how a hunt for G a man bag resulted in her owning yet another seasonal bag that had no function outside of Spain.

She had higher hopes of the next trip. A local market at Trappiche. It claimed it was artisan and crafty. She convinced G a trip here would give them a taste of local life.

G leads the way into Trappiche market

The location was unusual. It was set alongside a disused airstrip: though planes landing and taking off suggested otherwise. The venue housed the market and weddings. As a result, it was a quite ornate affair. There were white cloth draped chairs, marquees and gazebos, chandeliers and artificial grass bedecked with fake rose archways. In between this opulence were a variety of stalls selling anything and everything.

An unusual venue

There was the ubiquitous holiday clothing stall where Grimble got more short season wares. A local farmer selling garlic and eggs which Grimble also decided were essential items. Then there was a very animated and jolly man selling funeral plans. G and Grimble rarely went on holiday to be reminded of their own mortality. Next to him was a chap who would advise you on how best he could spend your pension.

Grimble wasn’t sure if there was a route they should follow as clearly pension thieving chap should come before burial bloke. This market was certainly eccentric and clearly not marketed at Spanish folk. There was another offering to set up TVs to provide the best of British. Then, there was another selling miscellaneous manly things: small tools, torches and stuff in metal. He did sell one man bag: a canvas one.

G had shown an interest in the general stuff on display here. Just as Grimble thought she might sneak a man bag into conversation, she was blindsided by a man modelling this very bag. Sadly, this man was not aspirational. He was a lumbering hairy bloke whose breakfast was still clearly visible on both his beard and T shirt. G looked horrified at the combination of man bag and hairy beast man.

This was not good and it would take some effort on Grimble’s part to separate this memory for G. As a temporary solution, she located a nice Irish lady that gave G a decent 20 minute massage. This seemed to have the desired effect and G left Trappiche market slightly less traumatised. This hunt was proving to be more complex than anticipated.

Repairing a damaged G

The start of a man bag

G and Grimble return to Spain

Grimble had been remiss. It had been many months since her last update. Her day job did not help her creative spirit. There was something about an excel spreadsheet that made her soul die. However, work was not the whole story…

The insanely hot UK summer had meant long weekends languishing by the boat with a succession of BBQs and flowing cava. This self induced haze had not helped Grimble’s power with words. Finally, the weather broke and there was the torrential downpour. Gusts of of 50 mph wind made the serenity of the mooring very dangerous.

Grimble had been forced to tackle a low flying wooden table intent on barging her into the Thames. Matrix like, she belted the vicious table from its trajectory as she side swiped a metal chair with her thigh. Sporting several bruises, she realised a UK summer was a dangerous thing. There was a definitive need of an escape to the safety of Spain. The only hazard there was the threat of record breaking heat.

The mooring pre storm

In England, discussions of record breaking heat rarely exceeded a desultory mid 30 range. In Southern Spain an acceptable norm: an almost clement daily temperature. Now, even the BBC reported that Southern Europe was about to get volcano hot into the high 40s. Grimble recalled melting in Sevilla at 44 degrees. She considered these few digits more as almost irrelevant. Anything above 40 was simply fucking hot as hell.

However, G and Grimble had selected their holiday wisely. They had opted for the hills east of Malaga. This was an area they hoped to relocate to. This trip was as much a test of local facilities rather than merely a cava, tapas and sun seeking holiday. Here, temperatures rarely exceeded 33. In England, this would result in a cessation of all public transport, A and E filled to capacity with sunstroke victims and the local CoOp having no ice for the foreseeable future. In Spain, this was functioning weather.

Grimble had taken charge of all the organisation. She had looked at locations en route, documentation and holiday cash.

With almost no time to spare, she had ordered a Halifax infinity card. The lovely, reliable Martin Lewis had advised her to do so. Grimmy loved the advice of Martin Lewis. He was a gem of a man. He took on Facebook, irritating PPI wankers and even looked cross in front of the saintly Philip Scofield and Holly W. Then came a nail biting few days waiting for the card’s arrival. The Halifax taunted G and Grimble with texts to indicate it had been posted and it would arrive within ten days.

It arrived Wednesday morning, two days prior to the EDT of Friday afternoon. So relieved was Grimble that she threw caution to the wind and plans to the recycling. A few deft moments on her iPad and she advised G to gird his loins and sort out his rucksack. They were leaving that afternoon! The were now booked on a lunchtime Le Shuttle on Thursday. Not that this spontaneity was entirely unexpected for Grimble. She had forced G to address his packing on Tuesday night. Ignoring his grumbling of far too fucking early, she had advised him that he would thank her efficiency later.

A note on the packing here. G’s grumbling about being forced to pack was somewhat inaccurate. His packing regime consisted of him lay on the bed as Grimble presented him with various shirts, shorts and other miscellaneous items. He then regally stated yay or nay to these offerings. Whereupon, Grimble rolled and deposited them in a case.

Before the righteous among you demand Grimble cease this level of servitude, consider this. Left to his own devices, G’s packing was unpredictable at best. Briefly, Grimble left the room and then unpacking in Spain discovered irregularities. Neatly tucked in the bottom of the case was a black cashmere jumper and a navy fleece. “Why?” demanded Grimble. “Just on the off chance,” retorted G. The off chance of what thought Grimble. The off chance Satnav lady went temporarily rogue and directed them to Sweden ? Which, incidentally, was also suffering from an unexpected heatwave. Grimble patiently bit her tongue, almost in reality as opposed to literally, at what she had to endure. The winter items remained unpacked in the case.

However, the biggest packing nightmare was the Grimble bag of holiday essentials: documentation, cash in two currencies, cards, licences etc. The Grimble bag had long been a point of contention. Even outside of holiday time, G liked to carry light. Trips to pubs, restaurants or even the boat, consisted of G being item free and Grimble shouldering a bag of epic proportions. At points, so heavy was the bag, that Grimble’s gait resembled Quasimodo. Her chant of the bag, the fucking bag did recall Quasimodo’s bells’ speech.

This year’s bag was particularly stuffed. It exceeded even Grimble’s capacity. Each item that G requested seemed to be located in its Tardis like interior. The usual suspects were present. On request, G was delivered with a toothpick, tissues and loose change. Seemingly, to challenge its never ending contents, G decided that his lips were chapped. A short forage later and a lip balm with SPF factor was located. Rising to the challenge, G then decided his skin was dry. There was a rustling and as if the bag was a magician’s hat, Grimble produced a small tube of extra strength moisturiser.

Ultimately, Grimble knew that this situation was reaching critical bag overload. G continued to pass her more and more items to hold. Lighter, phone, glasses to name a few. She endeavoured to retain bag organisation but the system was imploding. At restaurants, before she could even view a menu, half the insides of her bag had been deposited on the table. Toothpicks, needle and thread, plasters for inevitable blisters cluttered her space before G’s glasses could be located. All his items frustratingly seemed to worm themselves out of Grimble’s hand reach.

There was one request too far and a brave or foolhardy G commented on lack of organisation. At which point, Grimble menacingly looked up from the depths of the bag’s interior. With a darkened and furrowed expression, she revealed her inner thoughts. Bag contents required sharing. They were about to venture to Southern Spain. Everyone knew that here man bags were both de rigueur and on point. In 6 months time, G would need to be adept with such a bag. Therefore, he needed to practice now. She did not expect him to take it truck driving in Swindon. There his rucksack would suffice. But it was going to be the way of all future holidays and, very soon, life.

With this plan firmly entrenched in Grimble’s brain, the hunt for a man bag had begun.

A partially emptied bag and G reclining/supervising

G and Grimble locate Nirvana

Hunting season over

After a year of hunting the Costas, meeting an eccentric range of relocators and paella pensioners, Grimble and G had yet to settle on somewhere they’d both agree to love and live in. They’d tried every season and attempted a range of resorts until they reached a decision.

The Costa Blanca had been discounted almost immediately as they’d driven past Benidorm. In addition, where they’d stayed had residents so old that some seemed to be on the verge of fossilisation.

The Costa Alhazar was a clear contender. Peñiscola was stunning with a castle and soft sand. Vinaros was practical as a thriving port town. However, as the summer sun distanced itself, Grimble and G had found their thoughts more critical. Numerous people informed them that this coast line became a spectre in winter. Everyone left and it could be a lonely place. Plus airports were not exactly nearby, unless they counted the white elephant airport of Castellon which seemingly had not been built for actual flights.

Costa del Sol…finally?

The Costa del Sol had always held a special place for both G and Grimble. G had spent a few years there as a young blood doing various tasks in the 1980s. From what he elucidated to Grimble, he’d spent quite a bit of time in discotecas no doubt dressed in the brutal fashion of the time. It was somewhat vague and, as he was a Cockney geezer, Grimble decided to leave prying and just envisage him in tight speedos or a white suit.

For Grimble, the Costa del Sol had been the escape route from the blistering heat of Sevilla in summer. It was also a chance for her and her mates to eat passable Indian food, acceptable Thai and shop at the ridiculously over priced Spainsburys for items they could really live without.

The people watching was entertaining and one happy memory was of a woman rather pissed and staggering down Fuengi prom, grasped onto her bloke, with her exceptionally short skirt tucked into her knickers. Sadly her knickers were G strings (no relation to Grimble’s G) and the abundant naked flesh wasn’t an image anyone could unsee.

This area had a sense of nostalgia and romance for G and Grimble. It was their first time away together. They’d booked two weeks starting in a lovely sea front hotel. They were on a top floor with a magnificent view. To maximise this balcony vista, Grimble had suggested lunch of her own creation there. She’d offered G bread and cheese and was decidedly put out when he claimed it reminded him of prison food. As he’d never been an inmate, Grimble found his comment churlish. They ate out.

However, much as this coast held memories, Grimble struggled with the heavy commercial nature of it and it’s wall to wall party people.

Taste the Costa

Exploring this whole sweep of coast seemed their only option. They spent time in Conil. A wonderful low key Spanish beach town with a wide expanse of beach. It had history being the site of the battle of Trafalgar. It had charm. The only disadvantage was the Atlantic location. With that ocean came strong wind. They often departed the beach looking like they’d been rendered.

Rota was briefly talked about. Rather quaint and lively too, it was a possible choice. However, the huge naval Base which dominated the town wasn’t quite to Grimble’s taste. It gave rise to a male drinking culture especially when ships from the UK or USA moored up.

Then there was autumn in Nerja. It had a decent vibe. Once again their total commitment to relocation was tempered by a lack of beach, a predominance of English shops and Urbanizations that stretched for miles. These housing estates were odd. Built into hills, and filled with elderly Nordic people they seemed disconnected from the Spanish life of the town. Although, Nerja had stayed a likely possible along with Peñiscola, they both hit about 80% of the G and Grimble judgement spots.

Torre triumphs

Torre had been booked the way that Grimble booked everything: well situated and cheap. They had booked Javier’s one bedroomed apartment, one hundred metres from the sea.

Grimble had always claimed that when they found Nirvana they would know. Within 24 hours of arrival in Torre, their conversation turned to a life there or in the hills nearby. It was sudden and mutual and quite surprising.

Why Torre?

Why indeed? As they reflected on their time there, there’d been inauspicious moments. Javier’s friend Antonio offered to collect them from Malaga airport as the late evening flight made public transport impossible. He didn’t do this out of charity and some euros changed hands though he was significantly cheaper than a taxi service. And more lethal.

Given the formula one nature of the average Spanish taxi driver, this was impressive. G took a front seat and endured a white knuckle ride where Antonio weaved lanes with mad abandon and cussed drivers who had the temerity not to use lights at 22.30.

Antonio guided them round the apartment and stressed the self locking door on the balcony. Two nights later, G recalled this as he shivered in the 2am chill trying, and failing for an hour, to alert his spark out Grimble as to his plight and rescue him. G also realised that water on the parquet Spanish floors could be hazardous as he exited the bathroom at some speed and performed a most splendid example of a break dance for Grimble. This included several bum rotations, a strange but edifying leg kick and a resting position that would have excelled on Strictly Come Dancing.

Even the weather was inclement. It varied. There were sunny days with breeze blasts so strong that their stroll down the promenade (allegedly Europe’s finest) became a wind accelerated power walk with Grimble’s little legs scampering alongside the striding G. Then there was rain, torrential bloody rain, which formed mini lakes around the apartment and did not support the wearing of flip flops. Instead of languishing miserably in the apartment, they cleared off to a local immense shopping mall, El Ingenio, where rain coats were purchased.

The future looks Torre

Now with a place in mind, a date was set…a date in the very near future. Suddenly, the clouds of doom, grey and misery were lifted from Grimble. She felt such contentment that G nearly had to drag her by the ankles back to UK. They had a plan!

4. Siesta & mañana: from rat race to no race.

 

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Lifestyle

There’s really no contest when it comes to a Spanish lifestyle. Forget time obsessed Germans, workaholic Brits, Scandinavians spending half a year in the dark and snow. Spain has lifestyle just right with siesta and mañana.

Other nations may mock a country where afternoons are spent in slumber and repose. But, trust me, don’t knock it until you have tried it. Even Spanish people will try to claim that siesta is now a thing for the elderly. If that is so, and I very much doubt this, as shops, banks and services in Spain all cease for a lengthy afternoon sojourn, I am content to be classed as elderly to embrace this lifestyle.

A perfect siesta. A perfect lifestyle

So what constitutes the perfect siesta? Firstly, it doesn’t have to include a coma like sleep. In fact, it might just be quiet, personal time, possibly lay down on the bed, emptying the head of work, stress, noise and social media. I’ve paid good money, and spent many an hour, for a British counsellor to suggest I adopt something similar in UK to prevent my heart racing with stress and suppress the murderous thoughts that I have towards my co-workers.

Here in Spain there’s no need to employ a lifestyle coach to advise on something that is patently obvious. Saving some time to concentrate on me isn’t selfish: it is necessary for mental well being. No wonder the Spanish population are near the top when it comes to longevity.

Mediterranean diet

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Cold, dark, work obsessed Northern Europe often cite a Mediterranean diet as the reason why the Spanish people live to a decent old age. Well it has to be something miraculous given the tendency in Spain to drink red wine and spirits daily and to smoke profusely.

However much I stuff my face with the so called Mediterranean diet in UK, nourishing my knackered body with extra virgin olive oil drizzled peppers, tomatoes, red onions and seafood, I still feel lethargic and dull. This is because in the UK, I have no revitalising siesta! Instead I have a 35 minutes lunch punctuated with requests from managers for things still to be done.

In UK, I am a weekend siesta person. In Spain, it will become a daily routine. I cannot wait!

Mañana!

For some Brits in Spain, mañana seems to be the only Spanish word they learn. Then their knowledge of this concept is scathing, cynical and inaccurate. They assume that because the workforce of Spain does not immediately jump into action at the sight of a memo, demand or request, they are lazy. This is actually very far from the truth. The people of Spain can and do work tremendously hard. They just understand the need for balance.

Frustration or feasible?

If you cannot embrace a lifestyle where the concept of no rush is paramount then maybe Spain isn’t for you. It just takes some getting used to. I remember feeling frustration in a bank just after I’d moved to Spain for the first time. I’d left myself a tiny window of time to complete a transaction and get to work. I was third in line. The odds seemed good.

However, I had not accounted for the cashier knowing the customer at the till. Moreover, she had a new born. Suddenly, the cashier had left her post and joined the lady and baby in the queue. There was hugging, embracing and general cooing. Time passed. My frustration grew. But no death stares, tapping on my watch or deep meaningful sighs we’re going to alter this scenario. I just had to suck it up!

Feasible lifestyle

Time and experience have taught me well. In Spain, small windows of time are just silly. Consider the time taken to complete a task in UK and treble it…or more. Acknowledge that if your location has a Feria, Saint’s Day or any type of fiesta, give up on any type of service. Your siesta refreshed body needs to be outdoors. There you can dance, drink wine and have tremendous fun with your bank teller, plumber and lawyer.

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All jobs can wait until mañana.

3. Tempting, tasty tapas: Spain!

Food faux pas!

Wherever I’ve been in the world, I’ve thrown myself wholeheartedly into the food and beverages of that place. Sometimes, my linguistic limitation has caused some close culinary shaves.
In Germany, following a menu’s traditional section, I almost ordered a plate of lung. Only the quick acting waitress saved me from this taste disaster. Though, perhaps the clue was in the German word for lung: lunge.


Happy Food

Food in Spain is a joy. I adore everything about it, even if they’re not adverse to a piece of offal too in the shape of tummy churning tripe. But, trust me, that’s a rare item.
Firstly, the diminutive portion sizes allow me to order a variety of treats like a personalised buffet. Then there’s the mixture of flavours, the abundant use of garlic and smoked paprika, the vibrant colours of fresh produce. It’s my favourite cuisine in the world.

 

Love tapas: love food!

I fantasise about berenjenas with miel or solomillo al whiskey or secreto. Half the time, there’s no literal translation for these titles. Take for example the Spanish dessert, Tocino de Cielo, a custard flan, which literally translated means bacon of the heart. Now I love my bacon but not as a dessert.
I love tapas replicating. It’s like a little taste of Spain whenever I am. Likewise, I drool at the thought of paella when it’s made well. This is happy food. Every local bar will have a freshly made tortilla the size of an alien space ship. This is the other joy, even the smallest bar produces most of its own food without the arrival of pre prepared crap in a van. This makes every bar potentially a little different.

Adios chain pub food!

There’s no Hungry Horses, Flaming Grills or Harvesters serving calorific, fried mediocrity . All menus ended by desserts with names like Brain Freeze Challenge, which starts with 10 scoops of ice cream…
The nearest thing to a Wetherspoons is a chain, 100 Montaditos, which still emphasises the small Spanish portion and is acceptable in a touristy way. It’s all bargain cheap there too. It even serves plates of fresh prawns for 6€. On one weekday there’s a two for one. A great deal for the budget Brit!

Spectacular food from the sea

Seafood: where do I start? My mouth salivates at the thought of plumpS gambas sizzling in garlic and paprika. How could I ever forget cod encased in charcoal or my contentment at smashing into my dinner to enjoy the succulent white fish? Paella with langostinos the size of small sharks, encased in an armour plated shell. However, their taste is well worth the struggle.
It’s no wonder that Spain has an inordinate number of award winning restaurants. Even those without accolades produce dishes of gourmet quality as my ridiculous amount of social media sharing photos attest to.

Delicious drink

Add to this the wide array of drinks: delicious Spanish red wine. It’s easy to quaff a decent Ribera at 2€ or even a 3€ for a bottle of Rioja in the supermarket. Spirits served in copas. The immense vase that they’re served in certainly makes coping tougher.
It’s not all about booze. The morning café con leche, a rocket fuel strength coffee which at 1-2€ a cup also acts as one of the best laxatives ever. There’s orange juice, with a cube of ice, oozing with fresh fruit pulp, a great hangover cure after a few copas.

The international scene

Although Spain might be hesitant when it comes to international cuisine, it can be found. Their Indians offer little more than mild, overly sweet sauces. Chinese food is often a throwback to the 1980s. Italians are somewhat more passable but heavy. However, some sushi is excellent given the fresh seafood.
Most other foreign foods get no look in at all, unless it’s in Madrid. International fast food chains are present. However, their popularity isn’t as evident as elsewhere. Tourists, terrified of change, will venture in for a taste of bland mediocrity. Party goers find their munchies satisfied at 4am. However, even these weren’t enough to save the Seville city centre famous fried chicken joint. I smirked as the multi millionaire colonel had to surrender to Spain’s preference for quality food.

Spanish food rules!

Breakfasts Spanish style are not my favourite. A piece of crusty toast, smeared in olive oil and rubbed with a tomato isn’t as good as a freshly baked French croissant or as comforting as a full English. But I love the breakfast times. Served leisurely until midday, there’s no rush to grab a Mac something by 10.30am. Nor is it odd to have two breakfasts.
Tapas can get frustrating. Sharing food often depends on the company. If you dine with a starving friend, you’re likely to face a tapas duel when forks clumsily clash as you attack the final albondigas. The rules of who eats what and when aren’t defined. Sometimes there’s an overwhelming desire just to have your own plate and your own food. However, usually it is a pleasure to share food. It is a really sociable way to feast.

The rules of eating

What I love is this sociability. And the meal times. This is really the only rule in Spain. Lunches, the larger meal, are around 3pm and often at home. This allows for a nice little nap afterwards. Never under rate the siesta. It’s the perfect accompaniment to food.
Good dinner places serve tapas in a small time frame of 9pm to 11pm, with 10pm being people rammed. Reservations aren’t really a thing in Spain. Taking a chance for your food is. Eat earlier than 9pm and: 1) you are foreign, 2) you are ‘loco’, mad or 3) dangerous, as you are both. As with the sunshine, follow the habits of the locals. Follow them to the popular places too. They’re popular for a reason. Even with a queue, a 2€ glass of wine makes a wait easy to cope with.

Tasty temptation

Spanish food is something that I long for on a daily basis. Yet another reason to relocate to Spain as soon as I can.

2. Outdoor living: Spain!

An outdoor life

Outdoor life is a natural consequence of sunny days. It pairs beautifully with sunshine. Life moves outdoors at every opportunity with this tolerant and beautiful weather. The streets of Spain stay active for long hours. Only a siesta seems to bring quiet.

Days are long in Spain. This outdoor life continues even when night falls. This is family life like no other. Babies in strollers, deep in a comfortable slumber at 11pm. Their parents slowly finish their cerveza and tapas at a local bar, gently pushing the slumbering infant. Their siblings race around a busy square, kicking a football, with no concern for tables or wine glasses. Outdoor living is an integral part of Spanish life.

Healthy lifestyle

I remember teaching in Seville and I was alarmed that my adolescent students rarely saw bed before midnight, at first. There again, before I sound sanctimonious, I also recall UK students telling me how they usually slept sometime after 3am. But not until they’d finished playing computer games and updated their social media status one more time. However, Spanish kids spend copious amounts of time outdoors. Adults and children socialise as one large community. Consequently, I know which lifestyle I consider the most healthy for mind and body. Outdoor living!

Siberian winter

This winter of 2018 ultimately convinced me I wasn’t suited to the onslaught of this savagely cold weather. It wasn’t just one outburst of a near Siberian winter. It was three. Three! Each weekend the Met office warned us not to travel. So, I lived in PJs for what seemed forever. The third freezing event fell in what was officially Spring. It killed the daffodils. These were my one hope that warm weather was on its way. I just couldn’t stop thinking about the outdoors and sunshine. I couldn’t stop thinking about Spain.

February UK
Spring is here, almost!

English tea shops and coffee places despite their lavish, spectacularly tall, belly busting cakes, brought no joy. Everywhere was indoors. Everywhere was centrally heated to the temperature of a hot, inferno-like oven. Maybe this hothouse was an inviting escape from the artic blasts. Perhaps not. Unfortunately, just to get to the cafes I was compelled to layer up with at least several additional clothing items. I moved slowly as I was carrying the weight of winter clothes on my body. It was a gargantuan effort just to walk along the path. The path that had hidden dangers: snow, black ice and freezing rain. In the UK, the outdoors can be painful whereas in Spain, the outdoors is pleasure!

Simply outdoors

Inside the cafe, I was just sweaty and uncomfortable from the insulated layers of clothes and the intense heat. The whole idea of a relaxing coffee was scuppered by the feeling that I had contracted some type of fever with my clammy skin. The best solution was to strip off. So, I started to disengage my body from my clothes.. However, in a tiny English café, it was hard to find a place to deposit an arran jumper, scarf, hat, gloves, coat and possibly another jumper. In doing so, I made the place look like a jumble sale or TK Maxx.

As a result, I lost interest in the coffee and, more traumatically, the cake! Ultimately, cafe life in Spain was so much simpler. All I had to do was find an outdoor table, read the menu and sit comfortably and happy.

Sping evening in Spain
Spring evening in Spain

Thus, I pined for a café where I could sit outside throughout the year. I pined for outdoor living. This is a reason to be in Spain!

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Sunshine, siestas and sanity? Spain!

Reasons to be cheerful

Seems like we can’t flick our remote across the TV channels without coming across some daytime, easy watching show. Revealing a range of smiling ex pats, embarking on a new life in sunny Spain.

Enticed by supposedly bargain properties, daily sunshine, cheap food and drink. It seems the wet weather, fed up Brit cannot wait to board a low cost flight and leave the work obsessed motherland far behind. The majority of us island dwellers love the idea of a coastal life. Spain certainly has a pretty extensive shoreline to tempt us.

 

So, is all the media hype really true? Is Spain really the land of milk and honey? Or should that be excellent wine and tapas? Well, I was an ex pat there for a couple of years until the UK beckoned me back. Did I return to the UK because I’d had enough of the relaxed lifestyle? Or because I was afraid of an imminent Brexit? No. I needed to catch up on my pension for a few years. The ultimate goal has remained to return to Spain. That will happen: very soon.

Why is Spain such a wonderful country? Despite enduring a savage economic crisis, internal turmoil as Catalonia tries to break free, and the mañana culture which frustrates the punctuality obsessed Brit, it is hard not to fall in love with Spain. I’ve compiled my top 5 reasons for wanting to live in Spain.

1. Spain & Sunshine

It is hard to fully comprehend the restorative qualities of the sun. Much of the time, our rain soaked island with about a week’s sun annually, makes us fear thee sun’s radiance and warmth. Out in it too long and our pasty white English flesh turns initially to porky pink and then to a livid and agonisingly painful burnt red. This, in turn, might horribly lead to melanomas. Perhaps even: death. Oddly, though, despite its power to hurt us, the majority of us Brits crave sun. We seek it when we plan our holidays. We desperately soak it up for the duration of our trip. In fact, we feel almost cheated, to the point of demanding a refund, if the rain dares to fall on our sunshine beach holiday.

Slap on the screen!

Thus, endless Spanish sunshine is more or less guaranteed from mid March to late October and this schedule is often extended. Don’t get me wrong, the health dangers of direct sun on naked skin is real and deadly. But the wellbeing and benefits, when the sun is treated as a daily occurrence cannot be underestimated. The sun’s daily attendance is not so rare that we need to position our naked selves horizontally, in its direct fire, during its hottest hours. Unprotected, or with a tiny splash of lotion, with a factor value offering little more protection than a light coating of olive oil, to catch the rays.

If we only took notice of the locals. We would leave the beach by 2pm to return at 6pm. Perhaps then, our Brit bodies would not look like we were an extra in Casualty. Alive from a horrible accident with fire, but with life changing scarring. Perhaps we’d use the sun, not to change our natural skin colour in a few hours, but to simply enjoy the long hours of natural daylight.

Respect the sun in Spain!

Respecting the sun’s mighty power, and it’s ability to burn, as only a huge fire star will, means can reap the wonderful benefit of it. Without damaging our bodies! Instead, we could sit happily in a café, in the shade, drinking a café con leche or a fresh orange juice. The sky a stunningly vibrant blue: people watching in the sunshine. This is my idea of bliss. As is sitting on a beach in the late afternoon, watching the sun descend on the sea’s horizon. Knowing it will return the next morning, like a faithful friend. Each day dawns with a seemingly endless blue sky. The sun brightly and cheerfully lighting the world. This is enough to lift my spirits.

This is why sunshine is firmly in my top 5 of reasons to love Spain.

 

Midway through Madness

Grimble was now halfway through her initial bout of treatment and taking stock of what had happened on this route to recovery and an anxiety controlled existence.

Road to Recovery

There were several side roads on this recovery route as Grimble had immersed herself in the range of therapies offered to her in order to locate the source and control it. The funny thing was that really she knew the source: work. What she didn’t know was how she could amend or control work. Her plan was to survive for eighteen months until she escaped abroad. Her mind was focused on blue skies, long hours of daylight and more time with her G. As each day passed, the fantasy in her brain was growing closer to reality. Coupled with anxiety was the excitement of a new life . A very disconcerting but slightly reassuring coupling.

Make my mind think

Treatment 1: CBT, cognitive behavioural therapy, or how to make my mind think problems in different ways. The psychology department was sited on the second floor of a bland, modern Swindon surgery. The course was set out with about twenty five chairs replete with clipboards and pens. This was overly ambitious as there were seven victims in total. It wasn’t a miscalculation but the inevitable outcome of a course designed for people with anxiety issues. Anxiety could rule the brain and a trip through soulless Swindon would create anxiety in the most hardened souls.

In order to reassure us that we would not be placed in an uncomfortable situation, they mercifully explained that there were to be no ice breakers, no whimsical self introductions, meaningless as no one ever remembered them, but they made each individual, even those who didn’t suffer from anxiety, feel agitated and ill at ease. Grimble cynically recalled the heavy number of training days, when the ubiquitous ice breaker was imposed on groups of disparate people. Here at CBT HQ, participants only had to don a sticky label with their handwritten name which no one ever referred to, rendering it useless but making the whole event seem more personal.

Uncomfortable silences

Each session was supposed to be just information based, but not even in her keen first year of Uni, could Grimble have sat for a full two hours just listening, even with a hangover. It was clear that the two psychologists would have struggled to keep a disparate group of anxiety ridden individuals entertained. Instead, despite them telling everyone that there was no need to contribute anything, they offered open ended questions to the group which was met with a cold silence and a general close inspection of our own footwear. As the tumbleweed rolled through the room, as the silence persisted for an inordinate time, Grimble and another brave soul decided to contribute to the questions to just to break the solid wall of silence.

CBT wasn’t bad. It offered constructive ideas. It taught the participants how to breathe better and take time out for our selves, even in the workplace. Initially, Grimble pondered the rationale behind this and then articulated to all how she couldn’t actually see this working. Her 35 minutes lunch lasted about 25 minutes maximum, once she tidied up her classroom. Walking off site would take her, at best, to Tesco and back. Putting in her headphones and ignoring her colleagues could seem anti-social to them. They’d keep asking what was wrong. Her only escape would be to sit in her classroom, on her own, thus assuring her colleagues that she was devoted and dedicated but leaving her open to a type of solitary confinement. Perhaps she could just breathe deeply at them, using her new techniques. Grimble concluded that all these ideas were marvellous if they could be applied within a real and stressful world.

Counsel me better

Treatment 2: individual counselling. A forty minutes chat really helped to focus her mind on the important aspects of her life. The counsellor had the expert knack of combining listening with prompting. Grimble felt everyone should have this on tap when they felt low. This was really the best form of treatment ever. No drugs, just time to talk through the myriad of mad moments that invaded her mind. Grimble had a range of sleepless nights. An attempt at sleep usually started about 11pm, then a thought would enter her head: sometimes trivial, on occasions, existential but always with the same result. She stayed awake with her mind racing until about 4am when she drifted off with nothing solved. The counselling was a way to try to put these ideas to bed, so that she could go to bed.

Treatments 3 & 4: regular doctor support and occupational health. Given past experiences of OH documented here, fear and dread accompanied the wait for the call from them. However, Grimble was surprised by the sensitivity and kindness here too. Yes, for sure, the ultimate goal was to get her back in work: productive and efficient, but there was an acknowledgment of her state of mind but also the recognition that it was better to be strong and functioning too. She had explained to OH the overwhelming feeling of failure and the needless and, often ridiculous, tasks she felt compelled to complete. She explained how the anxiety made her feel lethargic generally but, if she thought about work, she began to feel a sense of sheer panic.

The ensuing report was fair and reasonable. It suggested that work could communicate with Grimble to offer good wishes. In the period prior or this, there had been work emails with messages such as don’t worry about year 10 reports (she wasn’t) and we will see you soon (maybe yes, maybe no). But, on receipt of this report, Grimble had no further communication at all from work. It was as if, without some reference to work, no one was able to say anything to her at all. This was rather sad but not totally unexpected. In truth, Grimble was aware that there was little, other than work, that connected her to her colleagues and the brutality of this silence confirmed this. In every job, she’d accepted her expendable nature. Jobs might dominate people’s lives but it rarely gave us life long friends. This, for Grimble, explained much about why all work needed firmly putting in its place and why life’s priorities had to amount to something more.

Anxiety for dummies

Finally, there was the self help that Grimble introduced into her life, anxiety therapy for dummies. This included walks around their village, following her mobile’s health app, to get her steps into the required 1000s. She even dragged G on one of her circuits, tempting him out of his deep daytime, post work slumber with a promise of a post power walk latte at the newest café in town. It worked: once. She then added length swimming to her recovery repertoire. The local leisure centre had a tight schedule interspersed with school groups.

Grimble initially selected an over 50s forty five minute slot on a Monday morning. She had hoped that the receptionist might age challenge her: she didn’t though she was significantly younger than the other swimmers. Her aim was thirty minutes and twenty lengths and she was both draconian and determined in this ambition. However, a setback in her scheme was the others who seemed determined to thwart her steady pace. A group of several women geriatrics seemed to be convinced that simply immersing themselves in the water constituted exercise. They had made a token gesture with a semi floating doggie paddle and then abruptly ceased all further attempts to swim in favour of a mid pool natter. Grimble wondered why anyone would want a wet social gathering when there was a great selection of coffee shops in town. However, their rendezvous made the length swimming more of a slalom. Her future swim would be the early morning lanes when, hopefully, the rope barriers would be a clear indicator as to the purpose of the pool.

Feeling groovy

Midway through and physically Grimble was feeling better than ever. In fact, she pondered on the idea that, when she returned to work, on the outside she’d look better than she had done in years. To the extent, that were she to venture back to the over 50s swimming session she’d demand her age was challenged.

Her mood was lightened further by the government announcing that pointless tasks were to be removed from the teaching workload , simply because it made her belly laugh and guffaw. As G perceptively observed, if the tasks were pointless why did it require government intervention? Surely, he noted, pointless tasks were simply that and shouldn’t be in any workplace: shouldn’t they just be stopped? Perhaps G’s common sense had revealed the ultimate cure for her anxiety.