Simple Pleasures

13th March 2011

I recently read an article where female celebrities were interviewed about their simple pleasures – the little things that mean a lot.

Living in Spain, for me, is all about the simple pleasures. We moved here for the lifestyle choice. We weren’t running away from anything bad in the UK, we weren’t hoping to make our fortune – we just wanted a better lifestyle than we felt we could achieve in the UK.

The weather here on the Costa del Sol plays a very important role. We spend a lot of time on the beach, with and without our faithful four legged friend. While my Spanish colleagues are enjoying a quick siesta following their main meal of the day, I like to take my book down to the beach and boost my vitamin D levels in the sunshine. Or, if it’s not so warm, take a brisk walk along the shoreline with the dog paddling in the water beside me. And even when the heavens are grumbling and the waves crashing, the sea provides such an amazing landscape that I wrap myself up and head down there for a look. There’s always something to see. I have to confess that sometimes it’s a bit of a struggle to get back into the work mode afterwards!

Spending time together as a family must also count as one of my simple pleasures. I’m lucky enough to have my parents nearby, as well as my beloved. We all spend a lot of time together, ask my beloved and he may well say too much! When we lived in the UK, my family was four hours drive away so it was not often that we managed to meet up. Here in Spain we get together at least once a week, and my brothers and sisters often travel over with their families too.

It’s true to say that we haven’t made our fortune, so it’s a good job we weren’t desperate for that! But as I’ve said to a few friends recently, I’d rather be broke here than in England! One of the charms of living on the Costa del Sol as opposed to the UK is the potential to be a bit entrepreneurial. I don’t think I would ever have got round to attempting to forge a career in writing if I had stayed in safe old Shropshire. But here I am giving it a go! My beloved would be teaching instead of DJing and I’d have been in an office somewhere working all the hours god sent for little personal satisfaction.

It sounds clichéd but life really is too short and it’s important to make the most of what you’ve got. Simple pleasures can be anything from spending time in your favourite place to spending time with your favourite people. Whatever puts your life into perspective for you. We may have to do jobs that aren’t necessarily our dream vocation, but saving a bit of time and energy to put towards what you really want to do can make everything else seem worthwhile.

The Leaning Tower of Piña

21st February 2011

Seeing that I’ve lived in Spain for nearly eight years, you would expect me to have come to terms with supermarket shopping, the Spanish way. Not so.

There are many different supermarket chains with stores near where we live. One blatantly caters to holidaymakers, inflating its prices during peak season, while another uses its French roots and international appeal to draw in shoppers of all nationalities, all year round. It’s particularly good at encouraging you to buy three of something when you only need one – at the time, you think buying 12 cans of pineapple instead of the three you went for means that you’re picking up a real bargain. Usually you just end up with a bigger bill than you anticipated and, as has happened in our house, a leaning tower of piña filling up your cupboards.

One of the other popular supermarkets here requires you to remortgage your house prior to arriving at the checkout, and then there’s the one known to be the supermarket of choice for the average Spaniard – and, of course, it’s one of the cheapest.

I hate supermarket shopping and have always avoided the cheapest option simply because of the hordes of people that flock through its doors whenever I want to go there. And while it is great value, our local branch is impossible to navigate. I like straight aisles, where you can systematically venture up one side and then back down the other, passing everything and thereby forgetting nothing. Well at this particular store, you have to wiggle around corners, and at right angles – it’s organised chaos.

But I’m overjoyed to report that this chain has opened another branch near to where we live. And, touch wood, not too many people seem to have discovered it yet. The aisles have been built in perfect straight lines, the checkout staff are friendly, the carpark has girly wide spaces and you can buy individual pieces of fruit rather than super huge packs that go off as soon as you get them home.

One oddity though – last week I bought some broccoli. That evening, while my homemade fish pie was bubbling away, I unwrapped my broccoli and was gobsmacked to find instructions explaining that I should split said vegetable into florets and cook in boiling water. Now, I’m no domestic goddess, but even I don’t need instructions on how to cook broccoli. If you do, check out this helpful (if somewhat hairy) guy on You Tube:

How to cook perfect broccoli

Finally, a word of warning: Most of the supermarkets here in Spain now charge for plastic bags so don’t forget to take your old ones with you next time you shop. We may be saving the planet but goodness me, I’m going to have to start buying bin bags now! What is the world coming to?