Viva España

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jack troughton femalefocusonline feb18Journalist and broadcaster Jack Troughton plays ‘Johnny Foreigner’ and casts an eye over Spain and focuses on stories that serve as a gentle reminder he remains an Englishman abroad.

Spain enjoys a bumper crop of fiesta days and national holidays so the news there’s not another national holiday and a chance to lay down the quill for 24 hours until Easter (the end of March in 2018) is something of a surprise. However, a peek at the calendar always turns up some heart-warming event locally.

The sun no sooner goes down on Three Kings – a favourite of mine since setting up shop in this part of the world – and everyone suddenly talks about the depressing days of January and February and being SAD, a medically recognised condition; Seasonal Affective Disorder, a form of depression.

Step outside and the sun still has his hat on, there’s pantomimes on offer, funfairs (music on full volume at the dodgems) and the annual treat of the celebration of San Antonio, patron saint of animals. Historically, a day when beasts of burden had a day off and were blessed by priests and in modern times when domestic pets enjoy a special day and are often splashed with Holy Water...still working on a photograph of little boy or girl innocently holding bowl of goldfish with liquid being topped up by attentive parish priest.

It is a wonderful occasion and one of the more delightfully eccentric traditions. Quite what tons of beef or horseflesh make of it all is not recorded but, of course, being Spain, it is also an occasion when folk reach out to light the blue touch paper and another round of incendiary devices exploding. It is not like November the Fifth back home when government broadcast advice is to keep pets safely indoors on Fireworks Night – animals here are presumably immune but the explosion of noise certainly made me jump (again) on the morning of 17th January, the saint’s big day.

The sun was also shining at APASA in Jávea, more formerly the Asociacion Protectora de Animales de San Antonio – not too difficult to spot the link here – as the animal charity staged its own blessing for the dogs currently in residence at the Jávea shelter.

This year’s guest priest was from a German church on the Costa Blanca who brought a certain gravitas to the occasion – reminding people of the Biblical teaching to safeguard the dignity of animals and to offer thanks for the people who volunteered to work for and support APASA; many who have adopted the sanctuary’s dogs bring them back especially for the occasion.

It is always a great photo opportunity and an exciting afternoon for owners, pets, and dogs waiting for a forever family. There is also a lasting image in my mind of the said guest priest – rather than the local Catholic pastor – dining out for years on the story of the day he (or she) took part in the ceremony and blessed the animals.

Wishbone ash: There is still a certain SAD-ness in the household over the failure of Christmas gifts to arrive after a €134.52 demand from Correos to release a parcel from New Zealand.

As reported last month, a parcel arrived from family in the Southern Hemisphere ahead of the festive holiday but was seized upon by the post office acting for the Spanish government and much correspondence took place; we even got to be on first name terms.

Apparently, as a gift, a person is allowed a present worth up to €22 without attracting a penalty in import duty and something described as ‘tax regularisation’. With just one name on the address, those in authority failed to recognise that there were five people (actually four humans and a pooch) involved.

In previous years duty has been paid on delivery but this time the penalty was judged to be too steep. The result is despite a number of horse-trading emails, there was an admission of defeat and said parcel is on its way back to NZ – the magic of Papa Noel and even San Antonio failed to work on this occasion. Ho hum.