Another week has flown by here and we are settling into the house and our surroundings. We have explored all of the streets within El Puig, which is easily manageable on foot being a compact town, but although we know the layout, the timings for shops, bars and festivities remain a mystery for now.
Having been provided with a few free hours on Tuesday last week, whilst Selena took Lizzy to see friends, I felt it I should explore the wider local area. Rather than head directly to a bar I decided to venture slightly further afield by pushbike and ended up at a beach along the coast from Puig. I secured the bike and cooled off with a quick swim before pausing for a beer (it was inevitable) at the beachfront bar fashioned from a red double decker London bus.
Having dried off whilst people watching I jumped back on the bike for a pleasant 3 mile ride back to town, via the beachfront promenade, stopping at a shop in town to make a purchase.
Then that dreadful, sickening, sinking feeling as I realised I no longer had my wallet! I triple checked all pockets to no avail. What an idiot!! I instantly knew it hadn’t been stolen but rather had fallen from my non-trendy manbag which I hadn’t zipped properly after my visit to the bar. Thankfully I still had my keys and phone but the wallet contained €70, driving licence, and bank cards. The bank cards had the contactless feature so anybody could have a field day with them, and they were my only means of accessing more funds. I had been afforded some luxurious free time, and couldn’t look after myself for more than an hour!
There was nothing to do but retrace my route and scour the roads for the missing wallet. I also asked at the bar and checked with the ‘socorristas’ (lifeguards) without success. Fearing the worst I rode back to the Police Station in town to report my own stupidity, before returning home, embarrassed and annoyed, to phone the bank and cancel the cards.
A buzz of the doorbell half an hour later…….. one of the uniformed Policia Local that had helped decipher my broken Spanish, with arm outstretched, handed me my wallet, with all contents still present!! I was truly dumbfounded. Apparently somebody that lives near the bar had found it and handed it in. El Puig had been recommended as a nice place to live and I cannot disagree.
Later that day I went to collect Selena and Lizzy from Pucol where I found them, with friends, enjoying the municipal pool. It was a lovely setting, bathed in warm evening sunshine, with only a handful of people there. Thinking of my many visits to The Oasis Leisure Centre in Swindon this was beyond compare. “I can’t believe this is provided for free” I said. “It isn’t” came the reply. I had walked straight through reception obliviously. Being the honest type I sheepishly paid on my way out, and would gladly pay the euros 2.40 (for all day access) again, rather than the £7 for the Swindon (time limited) version.
The day before I had been called out of the sea by a young socorrista after I had waded out to sea, with Lizzy in my arms, oblivious to the red flag flying. I was trying to get her past the ‘breakers’ but was flouting beach legislation. Again I was apologetic and acknowledged my carelessness but wanted to tell him I was raised in Cornwall when there were no lifeguards to protect me!
Back in El Puig the festivities have been continuing for days. Although we have struggled to understand the timings and locations of every event we were aware that something was taking place in the town hall square on Thursday night. We have been unsuccessful in our attempts to get Lizzy to take a siesta during the day, which is a shame, as most partying doesn’t start before 11pm. On this day we took her to the square at 6.30 and found a stage erected and a few children running around. Selena and I took seats and beers at a bar whilst Lizzy climbed on stage to perform to her imaginary audience. Whilst I was contented with the opportunity to sit and relax momentarily, Selena was anxious about Lizzy falling from the stage. “Calm down Miss Health and Safety, she’s fine”. With that we both watched her running from one end of the platform to the other, in her own little world, before approaching the end nearest us. Time slowed. The stage was three feet high, above a stone tiled floor. We watched as Lizzy realised she was nearing the edge of the platform and wouldn’t be able to stop herself. In slow motion we watched her topple over the edge towards the floor. I started moving but knew that I would not reach her in time. In that slow motion version of events I anticipated her landing on her head, or her hands, knees and face……. but incredibly she landed on her bottom!! The tears ensued inevitably but no damage was done. Whilst I hugged and soothed her the rest of the square watched impassively. An old couple approached us and spoke incoherently at us and all I could think was “even if Lizzy wasn’t screaming in my ear, I still would not have a clue what you are saying to me!”
Needless to say Lizzy didn’t make it to the later celebrations. She went to bed to dream of free falling from a great height and submerging at sea under huge waves, whilst I wandered back into town to see what it was all about. The town square was now heaving with families eating, drinking and chatting, like I had never seen in El Puig. At 10.30pm there were speeches from the town hall balcony followed by assorted acts of singing and dancing, juggling and magic. I had a quick ‘Mr Bean’ moment with a local Police Officer as I thanked him for the return of my wallet, and largely felt out of place. It soon became apparent that I was the only person alone in the whole square. Even the woman in front of me moved her handbag away protectively as she saw me pocketing my phone and perspiring. At 11pm it was 30 degrees with 80% humidity so it was no surprise, but the locals were taking it all in their stride. I withdrew to the comfort of home.
So after all of my positivity about life in Puig I started feeling an element of self consciousness. Could we ever be accepted here? Being primary carer for Lizzy I have been interacting with kids in an effort to unite Lizzy with the locals. That sounds odd already, but it highlights my point. Whilst in the town square on Thursday evening Lizzy watched three sisters playing together just feet away from us. As she plucked up the courage to talk to them I had to go and help to translate. Before long I was demonstrating how to apply lipstick, eye-shadow and nail polish. Were there strange looks from the local men in the square? Probably.
The next day at the beach, a lady arrived with four children of a young age. Again Lizzy was drawn to childhood company and, although she wanted to play with them, she required my help. I spoke to the mother, who kindly asked her children to play with Lizzy, but the language barrier posed problems. Although they played well together briefly, Lizzy needed me to intervene and assuage her frequently. This resulted in me helping with filling buckets of water, building sandcastles, and generally joining in.
I was left with the same feeling. Less than two weeks in and I’m already acutely aware of the following a) Lizzy needs friends of her own age, and b) I’m looking like the weird English Dad in town.
Thankfully we had last weekend together as a family. We spent Saturday at the beach with a friend who has a bilingual son of 6 years. They were able to fill us in on the details of life in El Puig without any gloss or ambiguity and Lizzy enjoyed the childhood company.
I had already primed Selena that I was planning on watching the football later that day, but when we ventured to my favoured bar, there was no sign of life! As it was fiesta weekend some bars had closed completely, or had decided to open much later. After calling at different bars, without success, to watch the English football, getting increasingly frustrated, I plucked up the courage to try the last one. It seemed like a real local’s bar with a close knit family clientele hanging around outside. Inside was a tattooed barman and one customer. Without any fuss the TV was changed to the Premier League and I had a chat with the customer in ‘Spanglish’. Luis was a Barcelona fan from Galicia who bought me a beer and discussed the qualities of Pep Guardiola! I also got chatting to a couple of Belgian guys later (Vincent Kompany / Kevin De Bruyne fans).
Yet again El Puig had proved it’s worth. Every bar that I had called upon tried to get the English football on for me. Bar El Parquet succeeded. To top it all I had several beers and patatas bravas, with table service, and the final bill was 8 euros!
The next day we wandered up to the main hill in town.
The views from the top were incredible and a cooling breeze blew as we explored the historical remains of this strategic stronghold.
The rest of the weekend passed with various random celebratory fireworks, at all sorts of times during both day and night. We were caught out a couple of times by sudden chaotic explosions in town, as they set light to hundreds of firecrackers strung up across the narrow residential streets. They have started street parties, with music and dancing, at 10.30pm and later, and Sunday and Monday mornings started with more deafening volleys at 8am!