Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Viva Espana!

Hola compadres,

Welcome to this week's blog dearest readers. In the newly formatted style you can jump to the parts you like most if you really want to, but why do that when I have so much to tell you?! This week's blog is jam packed with tales of my holiday in Spain, reports about soaring Comets and a truly wonderful song of the week. So settle down with a brew even though this edition isn't the longest one ever!

Status Update
Easter week rolled round very quickly this year. I don't know whether it has been the unseasonal cold snap we are currently experiencing in the UK or that I have been living alone so have had no excuse for going on nightly chocolate and sweets raids of the local supermarkets. Either way I have had nowhere near enough chocolate in the lead up to Easter. To make up for that fact I have been on somewhat of a chocolate overload over the weekend and have put away numerous Cadbury Creme Eggs, Malteaser bunnies and Cadbury Caramel eggs. So, much so I think I might have to hit the gym again just to bring my net calorie intake down...nah! I guess Easter comes once a year, but then again so does Christmas, birthdays etc.

Haggy's Hols
I have just returned from 4 days in Spain. It was a very welcome relief from the freezing temperatures over her and I did end up catching some sun through a cloud and getting sunburnt ever so slightly! Honestly, I couldn't tan at gunpoint, but I could burn through a cloud. I met up with Vic to celebrate Semana Santa (Spanish Easter) in a relaxed little Spanish town about 20km east of Nerja called Almunecar. It made me think about what the Costa Del Sol was like before us Brits got hold of it and made some garish land of expats and all day English breakfasts. It was the kind of place where you need to try speaking the lingo and you were made to feel welcome for doing so. At the end of the day it is a different country and why would you go abroad to sit and eat a bacon buttie and have a cup of tea?
With the sun shining through the clouds and temperatures up to a tropical high teens we thought we would set out to explore this seaside town and what it had to offer. Let me just tell you for a small little place it has a lot  because we ended up walking about 8 miles to take it all in. From rocky coves and chilled beach bars to a castle and tapas culture we had a really great time. Each day was full of things to do and we earned some well deserved siestas with all our adventures. Some of the best spots were hidden down side streets and we found one place that served up a mean mojito and then gave us gummy bears as well as peanuts, you couldn't get much better than that!
Over the course of my holiday I took in the sights and sounds of an Easter parade. Spain remains a strongly religious community and will take an opportunity to throw a party. So, Easter provided the perfect opportunity for that. After a late paella meal in one of many local squares we headed to the main street to take in the parade itself. It was scary and exciting all at the same time. Locals dressed in what can best be described as different coloured KKK masks lined the street as a group of 30-40 men in similar garbs carried a giant stature of Jesus. This was all accompanied by a marching band stomping along behind them. It was all a bit surreal, but everyone got involved and it created a sombre yet fun atmosphere. It was a cool way to spend the night, especially as it was all topped off with a night cap of Ponche de Caballero with coke...yum!
What was lovely about the whole week was that the place was buzzing with activity every day and everyone got involved from young to old. For example, the day after the big celebration a group of young kids did their own mock parade with homemade figures and created their own music. Everyone loved it and it brought a smile to everyone's face as they passed by.
Just to make you all that extra bit jealous it is only 2 weeks until I return to Spain and more specifically Seville to take in the sights and sounds of Feria.

Food Glorious Food
This week's FGF is dedicated to Spain, mainly because I have come back from enjoying traditional Spain. When I say traditional I mean the kind of place where if you ask for a beer they will give you a tapas dish free of charge and the longer you stay the better the food gets and that's not just the beer talking! It is a great way to try new things and also save a bit of money.

First up. Paella - A Spanish staple that is easy to make and will bring back the taste of many a holiday...guaranteed (no actual guarantee)! A dish that packs a subtle spicy punch, but does not overwhelm classic tastes of fresh seafood. Vic actually let slip that I make a good Paella and she is notoriously critical of my cooking so I think I have reason to brag now. Eventually I will get myself in order and share with you my tried and tested recipe, but it is at a bit of a taste and adjust state of play at the moment. My advice to you right now would be use proper paella rice, find good spices and most of all give it some love and attention. You can always enjoy a glass of wine as you create this crowd pleaser!
Berenjenas frita con miel aka fried aubergine with honey - A great tapas dish that can be enjoyed on its own with a cold beer or as part of a party spread. A really simple dish that delivers on crunch and taste every time. I was lucky enough to have this made for me in Spain, but will definitely be adding it to my repertoire and I really think you should too. My one word of advice with this dish would be to dedicate yourself to the process and draw out the moisture with salt to get a better fry and cut the aubergine as thinly as possible to get the best crisp you can. Also, use a decent honey because it will add an extra dimension to the dish.

Haggy's Hockey Corner
The Comets continue to roll in the Northern Ball Hockey Conference. On Tuesday last week we faced off against a fellow North East Dekstars team; The Dekstars Stars. We entered the game with high spirits after our last game out against the Northumbria Sharks and that confidence showed as we eventually won the game 9-2 (it could have been 10). The scoreline, however, does not reflect that this game was another tough one and we struggled at times to contain many of their team. The Stars gave it their all and we had to drastically change our usual free-flowing tactics to man-mark at times and see out difficult parts of the game. This year the Dekstars have split their talent between all teams and I think this has really benefited everyone with games being close (often closer than score lines suggest) and also I have seen some incredible strides amongst new players. Genuinely everyone is great to play with and as long as we all give it our all great things can happen to this club.

Personally, the game against Stars saw my slump continue and although I contributed a few assists and like to think I defended solidly all game to end up with a good +/- I could not put that ball in the net. I think I am over thinking things at the moment and just need to relax more, you know, have a bit of fun with it. As they say success is a mentality and I am trying to force it right now. I know I really shouldn't complain as the team continue to win and I am getting points on the board for my assists, but there is something special about scoring a goal, mainly that I get to break out a pre-crafted celebration. Next time out I hope to be reporting that I have recaptured the fun of the sport and am performing to my potential as a result.

Have You Heard What Haggy's Heard
Story of the week - Well it was April Fools this week so this shouldn't be difficult at all and I am sure there are many you can probably point out to me (please feel free to share below). Anyway I have opted for a story that may appear like a prank, but isn't...genuinely. This week a Police Officer is suing a businessman after they tripped over a kerb at their premises whilst investigate a crime. Click here for the full story and sorry it's from the Daily Mail. I am in a state of shock because I fear for the future when the police are suing. Should I be doing a health and safety assessment of my house just in case? Surely part of the job is accepting a bit of risk and this makes a mockery of those who have lost their lives in the line of duty?

Song of the week - I am a massive fan of conscientious rap and there is really no-one better in the business than Common. If I could I would point you in the direction of all his back catalogue I would, but unfortunately that's not what song of the week is about. He has come out with some more mainstream stuff, but I usually prefer his more chilled soulful stuff that gets less airtime. If you like this track I really encourage you to go check him out. Also, look up J-Dilla as he is possibly one of the best, late producers out there.

Quote of the week - This week's classic comes straight from the mouth of a Spaniard. Now you may think the classic Spanish man is a passionate lethario, but having witnessed men leering and shouting 'Guapa' at any passing woman my opinion is very much different. The quote of the week goes to show that contrary to common belief Spanish men have no style. Coming back from fiesta we came across a guy following a clearly uninterested girl down the street. Initially he was shouting "Chica! Chica!" to get her attention, but he really stepped up his game and came out with the show-stopping chat up line "Chica en blanco!". Shockingly that didn't work, but I was pretty much crying with laughter at his lady-killer moves afterwards. Must try harder or just stop trying!

TV of the week - Storage Wars. I didn't watch much TV because I was trying to take in some culture this week and hotel TV is usually pretty rubbish. I am going to be honest and say that this experience was no different, but there was one bright spark amongst the dross and that was Storage Wars. Essentially, a program about people who go round buying abandoned storage lockers and selling their wares on in second hand shops. On paper it sounds a bit pants, but ask anyone who has ever watched and they will tell you otherwise. It is funny and at the same time interesting because occasionally someone will come across a gem of a find.

Film of the week - The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets Nest. After reading the Millenium trilogy by Steig  Larsson and being gripped from start to finish I held out high hopes for the associated films. Often I would advise against having such hopes and the English speaking version of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo starring Daniel Craig really let me down, but the original Swedish films have really lived up to the hype of the book. I have just finished watching the final instalment thanks to Film4 and Sky+ and have got to say I have been impressed by them all. The final episode was tense and gritty and did a great job of managing complex storylines as they come to their climax. It is a long film, but throughout I felt entertained and my mind was not caught wandering. Admittedly the books are better and the films do edit out some scenes and details, but if you can't face reading I would recommend dipping into the Swedish versions of the films.

Catch you on the flip side (next week) and as ever if you can't go one day without me find me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter @adzhagg

Hasta luego,

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