Have you heard about the Three Gifts at Christmas tradition? Do you know where the idea originates from?
If you are looking for a way to enhance yet declutter your festive season, the Three Gifts at Christmas idea may be for you.
I think it is a great way to ensure money is wisely spent on gifts that are both required and desired rather than simply buying for the sake of it, as can sometimes be the case.
Our children are growing up fast and as much as we loved our old festive traditionsof Christmas Eve Boxes and fun Family Stockings, I have become increasingly aware of the frivolity of it all and the waste we create. Maybe I am becoming even more Bah Humbugand grumpy in my years … I’ll leave that one for you to decide.
So, what is the origin of the Three Gifts at Christmas idea?
As we have mentioned before, despite the fact that Santa Claus, Father Christmas, Saint Nicholas, Papa Noel (and whatever else you may call him) has been growing in popularity in Spain over the past years, The Three Kings (Los Reyes Magos) are still the most respected and celebrated in this country.
After all, it wasn’t a well sized, jolly, white bearded man in a red outfit that bore gifts to the newborn Jesus was it? Or was that just in the Simpsons or whatever else they told our children… (joke ;-))
However, I don’t want to dwell on that too much as I appreciate we all have our own beliefs and interpretations of events. I am here to share our ideas and interpretations with you.
The three gifts at Christmas idea appears to have originated from the gifts brought by the three kings, that of:
What is the Meaning of the Three Gifts?
During research for this idea, I googled the three gifts at christmas idea and found many interpretations. I thought that this post on Keeper Of The Home offered a clear explanation of the meanings of the three gifts
The gift of gold symbolizes something of great value. It’s to be something the child wants – something precious to them.
You can let your child choose this gift or you can simply buy something you know they really want. This is the one you can really have fun with…but don’t go overboard. I’ve always found great deals on my “gold” items – and most of the time I buy used things. Buy used and save the difference.
The gift of frankincense symbolizes something spiritual. Frankincense was burned in the temple as part of worship. For this gift, we give something that helps with the child’s spiritual walk.
Our interpretation: As we are not religious, something for the mind / educational / learning
Myrrh was a medicinal item back in the day. This gift symbolizes something for the body. I’ve heard it told that the Wise Men brought this gift to Jesus in preparation for when he would die for us. This item can be any number of things: clothing, shoes, cologne, underwear.
Our Family In Spain Version of Three Gifts at Christmas
So, this year, we are limiting our gifts to three per person. There will be no Christmas Eve box nor family stocking. There will however be lots of homemade decorations and naughty foods. After all, both Nana and Granny are coming to visit so we cannot kill the festive spirit totally … I’m waiting for next year to do that (but Shhhh for now, that’s a new blog post for in the new year 😉 )
Our three gifts will be:
Something for the HEART
Something for the BODY
Something for the MIND
As our children are now older and thankfully, incredibly thoughtful, we will all participate in selecting gifts for each other. We like to keep it interesting!
What will we end up with? Who knows. And, to be honest, that does not really matter at all. It is the general build up and anticipation that is still exciting. Amusing threats and insinuations have already begun. Imagine what 15 year old Joshua thinks would be good for his dad’s body and his mum’s mind! Ha ha ha!
Have you tried the Three Gifts at Christmas idea? What do you think?
Are you moving to Spain or maybe you are already living here and are looking for work opportunities? Have you considered working as a Nu Skin Spain distributor?
Many women in Spain choose to seek employment outside their new home, however, there are also many women who choose to stay home and solely handle household responsibilities. While this is a fulfilling and noble calling, you might be looking for a little something extra to enhance your day. After all, enjoying some self-earned extra income never hurt anybody, did it now?
There are currently over 200 personal care products available through Nu Skin, making it easy to find products that work for anyone — regardless of age, gender, or social status. Vault, a professional ranking and review company, listed Nu Skin as the eighth-best personal care company in the world because of their range of products and their global reach.
Global Humanitarian Efforts
Another thing that helps Nu Skin stand out in the market is their humanitarian efforts across the world. The “Force for Good” campaign provides service projects and relief efforts throughout the global markets, including creating school kits for children in orphanages in Singapore, teaching children safety skills in Greater China, and more. When you join as a distributor with Nu Skin, you become part of their efforts to help the world.
Benefits of Direct Marketing
As an affiliate distributor with Nu Skin Spain, you will experience a variety of benefits that you won’t get in a traditional office setting. However, the best of these benefits is this: freedom. When you become a direct marketer, the only person in charge of you is you.
Working as your own boss allows you to pick your own schedule, including how many hours you work. Choose to work part-time at 20 hours, full time at 40 hours, or as much or as little as you want to fit the lifestyle you have.
Since the majority of direct marketing is done online, you can work anywhere you can take your phone. Relaxing on the beach in Marbella? Yep, you can work there. Visiting friends in Madrid? Don’t forget your phone. Having a quiet night at home? Make some extra money while you watch TV. No matter where you are or what you are doing, you can work for the Nu Skin business.
Perhaps you are looking for some extra ”fun” money or you want to bring in a little more to help with the bills. Being a direct marketer with Nu Skin can help you with that. Nu Skin is a popular global brand that has been extremely successful in recent years. Invest time and energy into your own little branch of this business and you could potentially make a couple hundred extra every month.
Reviews From Other Distributors
Still on the fence about becoming a direct marketer with a company like Nu Skin? Here are some reviews from other distributors so you can get a feel for it.
“I love it because I worked when I wanted. When you decide to stop, you can, and you can pick it back up where you left off when it’s convenient for you. You’ll definitely receive what you put into it. I would recommend it to anyone who would want to do it.”
“A typical day at work is a typical day at home or on the road because it’s work from anywhere, which I strongly enjoy and love. I have learned so much.”
Join and Find Freedom
If you’re living in Spain and want the complete and total freedom to work and earn money from home, or want to get away from restrictive work schedules, consider joining Nu Skin Spain as a direct-marketing distributor.
We were recently interviewed for the When In Spain podcast, talking about moving to Spain with children. For those readers who follow our blog and social media posts, you will know that we share the truth about living in Spain. The good, the bag and the sometimes downright ugly.
For any newcomers, don’t be afaraid. There is always a solution to every situation. However, research and homework, in adundance, are essential for a successful relocation with or without children!
Pour yourself a cuppa, sit back and remember to send us your questions once you have listened to the interview.
Over to Paul, from th When In Spain podcast …
I talk to Lisa Sadleir who runs the Family Life in Spain blog about the practicalities of moving to Spain with children. Lisa has spent more than 20 years in Spain and has raised her own two children here and she’s also helped many other families make the move.
We examine all of the factors to consider when relocating as a family including which type of school to choose, state, private or bilingual. We run through the Spanish State education system and look at the pros and cons for the different schools available.
Lisa also shares her advice for helping your children integrate into Spanish culture and community and gives some tips for making the transition as stress-free as possible.
Lisa has also written a book called Moving to Spain which you can find on Amazon here. She also runs her own house finder service and relocation consultancy for anyone thinking about moving to the Málaga area of Spain. movetomalaga.com
Listen to the When In Spain podcast episode via the links below…
There are many advantages to moving abroad, and being able to enjoy plenty of sunshine year-round is one of them. Once you’re settled in your new home and have your house sorted, you can turn your attention to your outdoor living area and creating a simple garden.
Make the most of the Spanish sunshine with these tips for creating a simple garden…
1. Make it easy to maintain
Taking pride in your garden is a wonderful thing, but it can soon turn into a lot of work. Who wants to spend more time maintaining it than enjoying it? Keep things simple with some evergreen plants and consider installing a decking area to give you a seating area which is easy to look after.
Of course, there’s always the option of bringing in landscapers to help you maintain your garden, particularly if you have a lawn that needs regular cutting. This can also give you some peace of mind if you plan on travelling often.
2. Make it a place to relax
The Spanish lifestyle can be very chilled and laid-back, and your garden area can be the perfect place for you to embrace that. Having some comfy sun loungers and a seating area can help you enjoy your space day and night as you enjoy the Mediterranean atmosphere. Don’t forget to take a look at different lighting options too so that you can enjoy your garden at night and make the most of those balmy evenings.
Why not check out some outdoor living trends to help you find some inspiration for decorating your space?
3. Invest in a pool
There aren’t many places in the UK that you’ll get much use out of an outdoor pool, but you’ll have plenty of opportunity in Spain. An outdoor pool is something you could get a lot of use out of, and is perfect for families – the kids will never be bored with their own pool! If your Spanish home doesn’t have one already, you should look at some quotations to help you start planning. You could always invest in a hot tub instead if space doesn’t allow for a pool.
4. Embrace Spanish living
When you move to Spain, you’re not just moving for the weather, you’re moving for the culture and lifestyle. The Spanish really know how to love and with a strong emphasis on family and socialising, you should make sure you make plenty of time to get together in your new home. Make friends with your neighbours, learn how to cook Spanish cuisine and bring elements of traditional Spanish living to your life.
Moving to Spain brings many benefits, and getting to enjoy the sunshine with your family is one of them. With a beautiful garden space, you’ll be able to embrace the incredible Spanish culture and make it feel like home. Think you’re ready to move overseas? Check out the A to Z of what you need to know about Spain and start making your living abroad dream come true.
Do you go with the flow or stand your ground and resist change?
I’ve never been a trend addict (except for a short “Townie” clothes phase back in the early 80’s), I’ve always done pretty much what I have wanted, worn what I feel comfortable in and bought things that make me smile or make my life easier in some way. But food, well that is a slightly different matter…
If you’d have told me, a few months ago, I’d be posting recipes for making scrummy Vegan Ferrero Rocher, vegan no cheese and dairy-free ice cream, I’d have laughed at you!
But, here I am. July 2019, amid what seems like a vegan revolution that has been growing for a few years and is gaining momentum at a great pace, about to tell you about these simple and scrummy Vegan Ferrero Rocher.
Before I share this simple and delicious treat with you, I must state that I am not vegan and have no intention of becoming vegan. However, I do believe it is a great compliment to our current Mediterranean style diet. Having been on a day course with www.vegetarianos.org, my eyes were opened to a whole new way of cooking. I have many new recipes that are improving our day to day eating habits. All easy to make and all super tasty.
NOTE: (Not all the recipes I have tested were tasty …. so they won’t be shared or repeated in our kitchen 😉 ) No matter how “healthy” something is, if it isn’t tasty, we don’t make it again. Simples!
How To Make Vegan Ferrero Rocher Style Energy Treats
70gtoasted hazelnuts or almonds
12- 15whole toasted hazelnutsfor centre
20gcrushed nuts (of your choice)for decoration
Blend the nuts until they form a fine powder, with no chunks.
Chop the dates and add to blender
Add cocoa powder
Blend all ingredients together until evenly mixed.
Using a dessertspoon to measure, make small balls of the mixture and insert a whole hazelnut into the centre. Set aside.
Melt the chocolate in a bowl, over a saucepan of boiling water.
Cover the balls in chocolate and put on a plate to cool and set.
Sprinkle with crushed nuts or add crushed nuts to the melted chocolate (whichever you prefer!)
Leave to cool in the fridge until the chocolate has hardened.
Bookmark this page to keep up to date with the latest Dog Beaches Spain 2019. The Google map below is automatically updated. Every year, the website www.redcanina.es publishes an updated map of dog-friendly beaches around Spain.
Last year was a great year for dog lovers since there were more than 10 dog beaches that were enabled in the Spanish territory. The Valencian Community and Andalusia were the communities that allowed more beaches for dogs. Municipalities such as Torrevieja, Alboraya and Torrox, already have pet friendly beaches for this summer 2019. Whether you are planning to enjoy a beach holiday for this summer, or if you want to escape a weekend with your pet to enjoy the beach, here I leave the updated list of beaches to go with dog this year 2019.
A few years ago, the Coastal Law was amended to include the prohibition of dogs on beaches in the summer season. Since then, many municipalities have been encouraged to enable beaches for the enjoyment of bathers and their dogs (some better than others, everything must be said …)
For more information about beaches for dogs in Spain this summer 2019 (photos, schedules, how to get there, services etc), click on the icons in each location:
Our dogs love the beach and we are always looking for places we can enjoy with them. Here’s to a great summer and lots of beach time (within moderation of course 😉 ) with our furry friends!
Where is your favourite beach to enjoy with your dogs?
Mijas Costa is a beautiful stretch of coastline on the Costa Del Sol. Popular with holidaymakers, this whitewashed destination is perfect for any trip with family or friends. It holds a perfect mixture of tradition and culture, without leaving behind the beautiful beaches and stunning sea. But what if you decide you love it so much you want to move there?
Here are five factors to consider before making that brave step into the sun and moving to Mijas Costa
Moving to Mijas Costa proves to be a walk in the park (or on the beach) when it comes to the lifestyle. Found nestled between Fuengirola and the east Marbella resort of Cabopino, the area is full of a diverse range of restaurants, bars and shops.
Mijas Costa is approximately 25 km from the Malaga Airport, which works out as an easy 20-30 minute drive. It’s perfect for friends and family to come and visit throughout the year without long transfers and tiring journeys. A taxi would cost around €40.
There is a popular coastal walk to Fuengirola and over to Benalmadena which follows onto Torrequebrada. It is possible for walkers to venture all the way to Malaga if this is of interest – making for a great time to explore and discover new places.
Living in Majis Costa couldn’t be more relaxing, however this does make it a very popular area and properties don’t stay on the market for long before being snatched up. A property boom hit the area in the mid noughties when thousands of British and Irish property investors and lifestyle buyers flocked to the area.It is recommended to 100% commit to moving to Mijas Costa before property searching to avoid missing out on the perfect villa.
The good news is that there is a property for every budget, as prices vary largely in Mijas. A two bed property would set a buyer back by around €150,000, however it would not be a surprise for a more spacious 3 to 4 bedroom villa to be on the market for over €500,000. If you spot a great property at an even greater price in the area, it is advised the grab the opportunity with both hands. The area is very popular and many are constantly considering living in Costa Mijas.
3. Getting around
Leaving town to move somewhere where the sun shines is always a good idea, if it is possible to move around. Transport in Mijas Costa varies. A regular bus can be caught from nearby Fuengirola every 30 minutes which runs to a selection of beaches and towns. An overground train can also be caught in Fuengirola which runs a scenic route along the coast before reaching Malaga Capital. It also does a handy stop at the airport.
There is currently no train link which runs directly to Mijas Costa. A hire car is a good idea to get out and explore more of Costa Del Sol, but not essential to enjoy a lazy week in the sun and lazing around the pool.
Marbella is just a 15-minute drive away and inland pueblos of Mijas, Coín and Alhaurín el Grande are close by. Malaga City is around a 30-40 minutes leisurely drive which is the perfect distance for a day trip. If the kids are holding you back from living in Mijas Costa, don’t worry. It is home to many attractions for little ones, including its own water park complete with water slides, wave pools, play islands and body skiing slides.
Mijas also has its own auditorium which hosts concerts throughout the summer months and a free flamenco show takes place twice a week in the village square. An outdoor swimming pool can be found in Osunillas as well as a football pitch and indoor gymnasium. Beaches in Mijas Costa offer jet skiing, water-skiing and paragliding to keep every day fun. The destination is home to some of the best golf courses and nearby Miraflores Golf and Lawn Tennis Club comes highly recommended, providing entertainment for every age.
For a night out, the Hipódromo Race Course proves popular with a family-friendly atmosphere, live horse racing and entertainment shows in-between races.
5. Food and drink
The popularity of the area may not work in everyone’s favour for finding somewhere to live, but the wide variety of food and drink on offer makes moving to Mijas Costa amazing. A line of typical beach bars can be found built on the sand, locally known as chiringuitos. Favourites offered here include the local tapas. Spanish bars can be found sitting alongside Italian restaurants or even the odd cafe offering a full English breakfast. The choice of food available will never leave a disappointed face or an empty belly behind.
So moving to Mijas Costa is a perfect move for anyone looking for a popular area in the heart of Costa Del Sol.
The properties are hard to get hold of but once bought, never regretted. Activities are available for the entire family, from children’s water parks, play parks, sports clubs to golf courses.
Those who like their food will never be disappointed, with a range of Spanish, Indian, Argentinian, Chinese and British food on offer to keep tummies happy and full.
The area is accessible by train and bus from nearby Fuengirola and taxis are reasonably priced and highly accessible.
The amount of British and Irish people in the area create a friendly atmosphere but do not take away from the natural beauty and cosmopolitan feel of this lovely destination.
If you are thinking about moving to Mijas Costa, remember to consider housing, travel and financing and everything will fall into place.
You’re not far away from owning your dream holiday home in an aesthetically pleasing and bustling area now. Book a flight, visit the area, we can arrange for you to visit properties. See if the children will feel comfortable there and most importantly, try to imagine yourself there. If you can see yourself moving to Mijas Costa and spending all of your time in the sun, then we say go for it.
According to data from the Horticultural Trades Association, over two-thirds of British adults enjoy visiting a garden centre every year. This just goes to show how much the British love gardening. However, if you’ve recently moved from the UK to warmer parts of the world like Spain, you will have to change the way you garden.
Here are simple ways to create a garden for a warmer climate:
Research about the soil
The main soil type in Spain is clay. In the UK, clay is one of the most difficult soils to work with, but in Spain, it actually works really well. Droughts and extreme heat are much less damaging on clay soil than any other type of soil, which makes it easier for plants to germinate and grow healthily. The rainfall in Spain is also less than what Britain gets in a year, so your garden won’t be wet, clogged, and unmanageable.
Understand climactic changes
Climate patterns change frequently in most Mediterranean regions, which means in some areas summers could have rainstorms, while in others there could be extended periods of drought. It’s important to learn about the weather patterns where you live so you can effectively choose which seeds to plant.
Pick the right plants
The Mediterranean Garden Society has a list of some of the best hot weather plants you can easily grow in your new garden. One great example is Aloysia gratissima (known in southern Spain as La Faborita), which grows six to nine inches tall. It thrives in well-drained soil, and come spring its white flowers bloom to give your garden a calming vanilla smell. You can also plant some Bush Morning Glory, which has a beautiful, snowy lavender flower that blooms in summer.
Succulents are also a great choice. They grow best in places with sweltering heat and require very little maintenance. They also come in all sorts of shapes, sizes, and colours. You can spread them throughout your garden and even use them as decorations indoors.
The hot weather also makes it ideal to grow a huge variety of vegetables—from cabbages to root veggetables like carrots, parsnips, potatoes, artichokes, and beetroots.
Build a reliable water system
If you don’t water your plants regularly they will dry up fast, so make sure the water system you choose is reliable and efficient.
Watch out for plant pests and diseases
Remember that the warmer climate makes your plants more prone to pests and diseases. The head of RHS Advisory Services Guy Barter explained to the BBC that you need to choose your plants carefully to work with your gardening environment. Decompose your compost properly so that it doesn’t attract flies. Make sure you have a place for it where you can aerate and water it easily. Gardening experts say the larvae of the rose chafer beetle are often found in compost, and although they are not generally harmful to every plant in your garden, they can damage the plants you are growing in pots.
Protect yourself and your guests from the sun
You can’t very well enjoy your hard work if you can’t sit in your garden with a cool glass of wine and marvel at your blooming flowers. Take the warm weather as an opportunity to get the cosiest pieces of outdoor furniture, and create an inviting garden where you can entertain guests and have BBQs. Pergolas and gazebos are ideal for entertaining and will also be a nice focal point. Some of the pergolas on Screwfix are open air, and come with additional gazebo kits. A covered gazebo is preferable as it will provide good cover from the sun during the day and add to the overall look of your garden. You can also add climbing plants to the structure to make your chill out spots look even more attractive.
It’s also maybe worth considering joining gardening and home interior design events to get more inspiration about the best garden designs that work for the warmer weather. We wrote about one of the most sought-after events in Estepona, which featured a lot of practical advice from local Mediterranean gardeners and interior designers. Be sure to check if any of these events are happening near you. As long as you have all the right tools, there’s no limit to what you can do in your summer garden, especially if the weather is nice and sunny.
Do you intend to move to Spain with your family this year, and maybe buy a property? If so, you’ll already be thinking about sitting on the beach, soaking up the sun, with a tall glass of sangria by your side. That said, before you can get working on your tan and enjoy la vida española, you’ll need to sort through some practical things and pay attention to our Currency Exchange Tips.
For example, how can you transfer your money from the UK to your Spanish bank account at a top exchange rate? Well, to ensure you maximise your euro total, and start your new family life in Spain on the best foot, please find below 10 easy tips. Keep these in mind, and exchanging currencies to move to Spain will be ¡muy facil!
Our 10 Currency Exchange Tips:
1. Plan your money transfer well in advance.
Are you thinking about moving to Spain with your family in the next few months? If so, start looking at transferring money to your Spanish bank account now.
This is because, the sooner you look at exchanging currencies, the bigger the window you give yourself for an outstanding exchange rate to become available!
2. Talk to a friendly, professional currency dealer.
Is this your first time transferring a significant sum of money to Spain? If so, speak to a friendly, professional currency dealer.
He or she will explain the process and answer your questions in straightforward language, without any jargon. This way, you can put your mind at ease.
3. Transfer your money with a foreign exchange broker, instead of your bank.
When we transfer money to Spain, it’s tempting to use our local bank. The thing is though, the banks know this, so they offer inferior exchange rates.
Instead, a foreign exchange broker can get you a significantly better currency rate, to make moving to Spain with your family a breeze.
4. Accept a good exchange rate as soon as it arises.
When you exchange currencies, our impulse is often to wait and see how high the exchange rate goes. The thing is though, the foreign exchange market is highly volatile.
Given this, instead of trying to “time the market”, exchange currencies when a good rate arises. This way, you’ll receive the euro total you need!
5. Keep an eye on the foreign exchange rate with Google.
To keep an eye on the foreign exchange rate, and find out when sterling climbs, you can simply use Google.
Just enter “GBPEUR” into the search engine, and Google will return the current exchange rate, as well as a historical exchange rate graph. This way, you can see if the exchange rate is favourable!
6. Don’t exchange currencies at the “low of the day”.
On a given day, the exchange rate fluctuates. Today, for example, the pound to euro interbank exchange rate has moved almost 0.5 cents!
As a result, to lift your euro total when you move to Spain, ensure you don’t exchange currencies at the “low of the day”. This is the point when the exchange rate is lowest!
7. Transfer your money with a currency broker that’s “FCA authorised.”
To make sure that your money is highly secure when you exchange currencies, use a foreign exchange specialist that’s “directly authorised by the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA.)”
This means that the currency dealer will adhere to all UK regulations to transfer funds, and protect your money!
8. Avoid banks or currency brokers that charge fees or commission.
In 2018, you can transfer your money to Spain while paying 0% in fees or commission. This way, you save the highest possible amount, to lift your euro total in your Spanish bank account!
So, when you speak to a currency broker, ask them to confirm that they charge 0% fees and commission.
9. Get peace of mind with an International Transfer Receipt (ITR).
When you transfer money abroad, you’ll like to know that your money has arrived safely in your Spanish bank account as soon as possible.
To get this peace of mind, ask your foreign exchange broker for an International Transfer Receipt (ITR). With this, you’ll receive quick, clear confirmation that your money transfer has been successful.
10. Protect yourself against volatility, with a forward contract.
To guarantee that you get the euro total you need when you move to Spain with your family, you can set up what’s called a forward contract.
With this, you lock in today’s exchange rate, so you know well in advance what euro total you’ll receive in your Spanish bank account. This way, you’re protected against currency volatility!
With these 10 tips in mind, transferring money for your move to Spain will be a cinch. So you’ll enjoy less stress, and more ¡siesta under el sol!
About Fiestas and Siestas Miles Apart, By Alan Cuthbertson
Fiestas and Siestas Miles Apart is the humorous but true story of what happens when the Cuthbertson family decides to sell everything (including the family business), load the family car, and move from England to Spain.
As author Alan Cuthbertson and wife, Heather, begin their move, daughters Ashlie and Stacey have other ideas and take off on their own adventure to Thailand, Australia, and New Zealand. The girls swim with sharks and work in a gold mine, their enthusiasm and naivety shown in the e-mails and texts received by their parents, who themselves are finding Spanish life a very steep learning curve. Who knew fried sparrow was a delicacy? And Alan’s first hunting trip is not a completely successful expedition, but a very funny one.
We are giving away 3x copies of Fiestas and Siestas Miles Apart in Kindle format and 3 copies in audio format.
For a chance to win answer the following question.
For more information, please visit www.alancuthbertson.com
Excerpt from: Fiestas and Siestas Miles Apart
Antonio and Encarna are good friends from our village. Antonio is referred to as Lee Van Cleef, getting the nickname after I pointed out his similarity to the spaghetti western star
A couple of days later we sat with Van Cleef and his wife Encarna and the conversation got onto the subject of food once again. “Rabbit is my favourite,” confessed Van Cleef.
“I’ve never had rabbit,” admitted Heather.
“Mi casa, Domingo próximo.” Van Cleef’s invitation to Sunday dinner will have been the first time we have eaten with a proper Spanish family in their own home. It was something we looked forward to with mixed emotions.
Not knowing Spanish etiquette for such an occasion, we dressed casually and before leaving the house, selected a bottle of wine to take. “I’ve just remembered. Encarna doesn’t drink and Van Cleef only drinks whiskey,” said Heather, so I swapped the bottle of wine for one of whiskey.
During the short walk to their house, Heather and I mulled over the possible menu.
“He said it was going to be rabbit,” I pointed out.
“I’m just thinking back to the bar when they were all eating sparrows and snails,” Heather said nervously, her nose curling a little.
“We have to eat whatever they put in front of us,” I said, “it would be rude not to.”
We knocked on the door and were greeted by Van Cleef himself. I passed him the bottle of whiskey. He looked at me, then the bottle, then back at me. His expression said, “You have a drink problem my friend.” Inside the house it was quite dark, as most Spanish houses are. Alfonso, Van Cleef’s son, was engrossed in a cartoon on the TV and seemed to be finding it hysterical, a little unusual when you consider he is 19 years old.
We took our positions at the table and right on cue in walked Encarna carrying individual plates full of assorted vegetables and…animal. Heather and I glanced at each other recalling our vow to eat, or at least try, whatever was put in front of us.
Now I know this was to be Heather’s first taste of rabbit, but I just don’t ever remember seeing a rabbit with wings, so presumably some kind of last minute substitution had been made. We all picked up our knives and forks and began to dig in. Encarna saw me pushing the meat around, got up and disappeared in to the kitchen. When she returned she passed me a pair of scissors. “What the hell are these for?” I whispered to Heather. Across the table from me, Alfonso had rejected the knife and fork and was pulling the animal on his plate apart with his fingers, so I did likewise. The wing looked tempting, so I gave it a tug. It came away from the body. Unfortunately, where it had been joined hung the veins and tendons, still dripping with blood and bodily fluids.
“Antonio, no conejo?” Not rabbit? I asked.
“No,” he replied. He then stood up, hooked his thumbs under his armpits and waved his elbows up and down. From this I deduced he was either trying to tell me we were eating bird, or we had progressed on to charades and this was his Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins.
Heather, who had been sitting at the side of me throughout the meal, let out a faint squeal that fortunately only I heard. As I turned my head I saw her pulling something from her mouth. Was it a bone? A bit of gristle maybe? Or even a filling? No, it was a piece of buck shot the size of a small rock. “I guess he shot it himself,” I said.
After the main course, a bowl of fruit was brought from the kitchen, and Heather selected a pear and took her first bite. “No, No,” called Encarna thrusting a knife toward Heather.
“I think she wanted the pear,” I said a little worried. As it transpires, the knife was to peel the pear, as they never eat the skins of fruits concerned about what they may have been sprayed with.
As we said our goodbyes I returned the invitation and promised that next time they would have to come to our house for a meal. Van Cleef turned his nose up and curled his top lip. A rough translation of what he said would be. “I don’t think so; I don’t eat that English muck.”