Is that snow on the hill tops?

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January is my favourite month as it is often dry, warm and sunny. Nature also treats us to the beautiful and delicate gift of almond blossom. Mountain-sides seem magical and sunlight shining through a tree in full flower is a wonderful sight to behold. Legend has it that almonds were first planted in Spain on the hillsides around Cordoba in the 11th Century on the orders of ruler Abbad al-Mu’tamid.

The biographer Ibn Khallikan described him as “the most liberal, hospitable, munificent and powerful of all the princes ruling Spain.” Al Mu’tamid had a wife I’timad who he loved dearly. I’timad was originally either a princess from Northern Spain or a mule driving slave girl. Or perhaps she was princess kidnapped into slavery?

 

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One cold day in February I’timad looked out of a palace window in Cordoba as snow fell on the hills and she started to cry. Homesick, she told her husband that he was cruel not to allow her this sight every winter. His grand gesture means we now enjoy the same visual beauty every winter as I’timad did a thousand years before.

Driving along roads in Almeria can be a lottery, if it’s near the end of the month the Guardia often have extra check points to make sure we are all driving legally and in the process they just happen to raise a bit of extra revenue. Racial profiling is obviously used wisely as the majority of stopped cars are driven by North Africans, South Americans or us Brits. Driving a Spanish registered car and being quite dark means I have been lucky up till now at not being stopped too often.

I once had a charming Pakistani family as clients. They wore traditional dress and were devout Moslems. One day they suffered the indignity of not only being stopped and the car searched but the Guardia thought that the father had been drinking and breathalysed him for good measure. It seems they were pulled over just because of the colour of their skin. Obviously no one should be above the law but the officers in question should have known that most Moslems don’t even drink alcohol.

I have pulled up behind cars which are being driven at half the speed limit, swerving from side to side. If I overtake a glance to the right usually confirms the driver to be a Spaniard drunk in charge. A fag dangling from the lower lip often confirms it.

Maybe the smoking ban that’s now in place will have secondary effect and reduce the amount of drink driving especially during the afternoons when a working man can easily spend a couple of hours in a bar drinking during his lunch break and then off he pops to drive his JCB or whatever back at the workplace.

No wonder tractors fall on people! I was surprised at how easily the smoking ban slipped into being. I had forgotten about it yet on Sunday 2nd January when visiting a couple of hostelries I was greeted by unusually clean air and people outside chuffing away. Everywhere I have been the ban is being observed which makes all those previously foul smelling places a more attractive option for the 70% of non smokers that may have avoided them in the past. Food takings can only go up in future.

Owners are no doubt suffering a drop in income and one way to help especially if a non-smoker is to go out a little more often (money permitting) and have a drink (or two) and get something to eat to support owners in their now smoke-free environs. With the January weather its usual sunny self at least the smokers will not be cold sitting outside having a chuff. No-one gains if a hostelry closes down so we can all support them and have a good smoke-free time in the process.

 

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