These are just a few of the odd things we have learnt about and seen during our stop here at El Campello.
Earning a living
The man in the picture who was the other side of the field behind the campsite is doing what we see him doing very often. On his right hand he wears a thick leather glove and you will have noticed his carrier bag. What is he doing? He is foraging for asparagus which grows wild here and he searches under the prickliest bushes that can be found in abundance on the scrub lands of Spain. I have seen stems of asparagus but I would not pick any for two reasons. One reason is that the man seen is, most likely, earning his living and depends upon finding the single stems he finds after searching under many bushes. Secondly, I do not have a thick glove and when I say the bushes are prickly then just imagine trying to pick a single stem of Asparagus from under a Gorse Bush.
The Hoopoe bird
The bird in the picture is a Hoopoe bird and I took its picture as it sat on the support wires for the electric cable that supplies power to the trains that run behind the campsite. Unfortunately it wasn’t displaying or calling or the magnificent head feathers would have been on display which looks every bit like a crown and because it is winter here then its colours are not as vibrant as they would be in summer. They are known to be a rare, but annual visitor to Britain but I had never seen one in the UK. Any bird spotters amongst you will know its strange way of protecting itself when ground nesting by exuding a bad odour when threatened. Despite its bright colours and dazzling black and white wings it is well camouflaged when shuffling about in light and shade.
Beggars and Begging
Outside Aldi, in El Campello, every day during opening hours, sit three women with their poster begging for money. The older one of them always sits right by the trolleys so that anyone returning the shopping cart would feel forced to hand over the deposit coin they had put in. The man from the ramshackle house over the road is often seen staring intensely at them from his front door presumably to make sure he gets his share of any donations. The two girls wear designer trainers and play with their smart phones whilst they wait there. Begging is quite widespread throughout Spain and the pathetic signs telling of copious children, all needing hospital treatment look suspiciously similar as though it is all organised. All the large churches and cathedrals have their beggar at the door. All tourists have a cup waved at them as if the beggars are there by right; simply collecting the church entrance fee. We saw an old man follow two tourists down the street haranguing them because they refused to pay him.
Of course the Africans are here in force selling their snide handbags, CDs and films and they lay their wares on large blankets on the ground. The funny law here says they have to be seen selling before the police can arrest them. How frustrating it must be for the police here because, as we have watched, on their approach a lookout yells a warning and the blankets are scooped up by all four corners and they are away. We have seen the Africans standing in groups, all with their merchandise over their shoulders laughing at the powerless police men.
The letters pages of the local newspapers aimed at the Brits living out here have been full of letters protesting that the Chancellor has said that the heating allowance will be stopped for expats. Many moan that Spanish homes are not built like English homes and they haven’t got the insulation qualities to keep the “freezing” weather here at bay. I do notice that none of them mention the exchange rate between the pound and the euro and those with pensions and investments in the UK paying in pounds greatly gain when that money is turned into euros. What with the exchange rate and the much lower cost of living here for most things, it is surprising that there are so many getting worked up over the loss of £200.
The chemist shops
The towns all have many chemist shops and they always appear to be busy. The health system is completely different and here you can buy most of what would be prescription drugs in the UK over the counter at very reasonable prices indeed. An English person was telling us that he had bought a six month supply of two drugs he needed from a local chemist for 18 Euros which saved him the bother of having to fly home to see his GP. All he showed them was a note with the names of the drugs written on it. At the end of the road is a clinic and they deal with the less serious injuries and illnesses, leaving the hospitals to deal with the serious cases.
Care for the OAPs
In one of the local English newspapers I read a fascinating article about how the Spanish government were increasing the budget so they could send more old age pensioners on free holidays in Spanish hotels. They do this to enable the hoteliers to keep their establishments open throughout the year so that their staff can keep their jobs. The hotel owners were complaining that although it was good that the budget was being increased overall: they wanted to be paid more for each holiday maker. English government please note! What a great idea this is for keeping English hotels busy throughout the year and if this is taken up then we’ll come back immediately to do our bit to help the economy and enjoy a free holiday at the same time.
The Illeta Watchtower
The constant invasions of the coast by Berber pirates during the 16th Century led to the construction of a line of defense towers which warned the people of their arrival. These held two men in the interior and two on horseback and they communicated between themselves through smoke signals by day and fires by night. In El Campello two towers were erected between 1554 and 1557. The Illeta Watchtower is unique due to its dimensions and its type of solid construction. It was restored in 1991 and is an authentic emblem for the El Campello townspeople.