Thursday, 21 January 2010

How an mp3 player helps to relieve me of my haemorrhoids while allowing me to play with my little organ…

Be honest, haemorrhoids are not the most pleasant things in the world. I've put up with them for a while now. No idea why I get them, but perhaps it's something to do with the medicine I take, or simply the age, which seems to be blamed for quite a number of ailments.

I've tried pills, potions and pomades, but there's nothing that helps quite like the remedy suggested by She Who Knows Best (whe else?): old-fashioned starch.

I kid you not. It reaches parts other products fail to reach…

So each evening you can now find me sitting for about half an hour in a bidet, which is filled with pleasantly warm water in which a handful of Remy Royal Starch has been dissolved. Relief is assured.

But what to do during that half hour?

Well, I used to read. Recently, however, I purchased an Apple iPod Touch, an mp3 player that does a lot more than just play mp3s. One of the additional features is its ability to run applications that can be purchased and downloaded for a very small cost, or even free. I have become particularly enamoured of three of these "apps", namely Cribbage, Backgammon, and Pocket Organ.

Being careful with my money (otherwise known as an old skinflint), I have chosen the free, or "lite", versions of Cribbage and Backgammon: they do for me quite well, thank you, and I really do not need the online playing capabilities offered by the paid versions. I've tried a couple of other implementations of these games, but the versions linked to please me most.

Most of my time, however, is spent playing with my little organ.

The little organ in question is provided by Pocket Organ C3B3. I had to pay for this app, much to my chagrin, but having previously owned a Hammond drawbar organ (an Aurora Century, in fact), I quite fancied a tockle on the plastics again and 2.99 euro wasn't really going to break the bank.

Wonderful app, with a decent sound (especially with earphones) and a cleverly designed interface to set up the various functions of the organ and to adjust its drawbars.

Don't get me wrong, I was never a virtuoso; nothing like it! But I can follow a relatively simple score and Pocket Organ provides more than enough scope for my limited abilities. I'm already belting out Welsh favourites such as Calon Lân, Myfanwy, Sosban Fach and Wooden Heart (well, that's Elvis via Swabia, but you get the idea).

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Onward Christian Soldiers

I remember that when I was a young boy, living in the Rhondda Valley, my father would get very annoyed at the fairly regular Sunday visits of the Salvation Army, who would have a band playing in the street and then knock at the door, asking for money. He became especially angry one day when I gave the paper-money (the money that was supposed to be used to buy the Sunday newspapers) to the Sally Army.

At least they didn't try conversion tactics.

Lately, we've been plagued by hordes of Christians calling on us at unearthly hours of the morning. Ding-blooming-dong goes the doorbell at something like ten in the morning, when all good Christians and even sensible folk should be either asleep or just waking up, especially in the depths of winter.

Several weeks ago a group arrived at what was, admittedly, a rather more sensible hour. "Are you a believer," or something was the introduction offered by He Who Clearly Looked Upon Himself As The Leader.

"No, I'm an atheist."


The rest is history.

Less than two weeks ago I was in the middle of my ablutions and She Who Must Be Obeyed was equally employed, though in a different bathroom, I hasten to add, when ding-dong goes the bell. There's me, thinking that this must be something really important for another human to be round and about at such a time, so a quick rub down with a towel, on with a dressing-gown and off to the front door: four turns of the key, pull back the dead-lock and open the door to see two oldies (well men of about my age, actually) standing at the gate with grins on their face, one of them bearing a remarkable likeness to Carrol's Cheshire Cat. It was The Cat that spoke. "Good morning, sir!" Yes, he called me "Sir." I suspect he noticed my dishevelled state, my dressing-gown, and my look of bewilderment. "We are on a small Christian mission…" Well, that was quite enough for me.

"I'm an atheist," I announced and promptly shut the door.

And then, just yesterday morning, there's me, sitting on the pot, contemplating my navel and expelling substances previously ingested, when ding-blumming-dong again. SWMBO was still in bed, but moved herself, presumably in recognition of my somewhat disturbing condition. Not that her condition was much better, of course: a hastily donned dressing-gown and a hairstyle van ik zal je hebben. Anyway, open the front-door she did. Turns out that this time it's a couple of old women (well, about my age, so that's old enough).

"Oh, did we wake you up?"


"Can we leave you some literature to read?" (And SWMBO swears she could hear a sort of sub-vocal "Amen" to follow.)


And the door was closed.

Okay, they believe what they want to and they are entitled to do so. But they are not entitled to annoy us by ringing or doorbell and trying to alter our opinions. Just imagine the uproar there would be if a group of Muslims were to travel from house to house trying to convert people to Islam! The Christians (the good side, of course — the ones who organised the Crusades that killed tens of thousands, the ones that wiped out the Cathars because they chose a different lifestyle, the ones that supported Hitler and Franco…) would be up in arms, there would be questions in Parliament, headlines, threats of civil disturbance… So, what's the difference.

Sing to the tune of Onward Christian Soldiers

Onward Christian soldiers
Walk on past my door
Don't ring at the doorbell
Don't call any more
I don't want the message
That you wish to give
I don't share your feelings
I'm an atheist.

Friday, 1 January 2010

¡Que aproveche!

We are not ones to take part in well-participated festivities to welcome in the New Year, or for any other occasion, for that matter. Too much smoke and false jollity for us. Instead, we prefer a quiet twosome in a decent, smoke-free, quiet restaurant. Hotel La Laguna, not far from where we live in Guardamar, offers just such an environment, so a couple of weeks ago we booked up to hopefully enjoy the New Year's lunch that was being offered there.

Well, we've just returned from our lunch and it more than lived up to our expectations.

The menu was as follows:

Abreboca de degustación individual:
Entrada fría: Abocado relleno al estilo La Laguna
Entrada templada: Volován de Crema Fina Mero y Gambas con Lluvia de Huevas (shown in the photo)
Entrada caliente: Ensalada Templada de Perdiz

Plato principal:
Tierra: Caldo Calentito con Pelotas (traditional New Year dish of the area)
Agua: Sorbete de Piña Navideña al Cointreau
Mar: Lubina Acompañada de Nube Crujiente de Puerros

Saquito de Mango Crujiente sobre Salsa de Chocolate y Frutos Rojos

Accompanied by a selection of wines, waters, etc. and followed by coffee.

In addition, a tapa of a piece of toast, covered with serrano ham and topped with a fried quail's egg, preceded the meal itself.

It was all exceptionally good, correctly served by a very friendly and helpful waiter, and enjoy it we most certainly did.

Last year we also partook of the New Year's offering at La Laguna, though then it was in the form of a buffet. Also very well presented and excellent value for money.