Thursday, December 22, 2005


A couple of weeks ago I went to a Christmas dinner. We stuffed our faces, of course, and drank quite a lot (we'd left the car at home), and then, while everybody was feeling mellow, they brought round the raffle tickets.

Now I'm not a fan of national lotteries. Tickets for the big Christmas lottery in Spain cost €20, and your chances of winning are tiny. I think I've probably got a reputation in the staff room for refusing to join syndicates. I have to stop myself from banging on about the remoteness of your chances. If you buy a ticket for the British lottery on Monday, you are more likely to drop down dead before Saturday than you are to scoop the jackpot. But at the dinner I bought two strips of tickets for €20. Now obviously the top prize was tiny compared to the €3,000,000 of the national lottery, but literally millions of people buy national lottery tickets, and this raffle had only about 50 people entering it. Besides, any profits go towards next year's dinner.

And I won a prize - a ticket to the national lottery for today, 22nd December. I thought that was pretty funny - spending €20 to get exactly €20's worth of something I didn't actually want. It wasn't until I was on my way home that I realised I could have swapped it for a bottle of wine. Never mind, I thought, I could indulge in a few day-dreams until the draw took place and reality set in. My son announced that if we won the big prize, he wanted a PS2 and a Lego Dirt Crusher (it's a radio controlled Lego car, if you're wondering.)

Well blow me down, I've won. No, not the €3,000,000 jackpot. I only won €20. That number again. It was good for a laugh, at least.

And today my son got a good school report. This beats my lottery win any day. I'll give you three guesses what I'm going to do with my winnings.

A ChristmasTreat

I've just spent the last two days suffering from gastroenteritis, so it was a nice surprise to wake up feeling well and HUNGRY!

It was a good day to go back to work (as a classroom assistant - I must write about this some time) because it was the Christmas treat for the infants. It was raining as I drove to work, so I was a bit worried the excursion might be cancelled.

Father Christmas / Santa Claus is a very new introduction to Spain. These days he does turn up for most kids and leaves a few sweets, but the main presents arrive with the Three Kings on January 6th. Like Father Christmas, they come and say hello at Christmas parties beforehand.

Today they visited our school, handing out sweets! I must have been a good girl all year because I got two. Then we put Father Christmas hats on the kids and took them out on a road train. First a short drive into town, waving and yelling "Merry Christmas" at everyone in sight. Then we got off and went down the main street into the square, where we had a group photo taken. We carried along the main street towards the post office, with the kids handing out hand-coloured cards along the way. It was great to see random shoppers and tourists forget their tired feet and beam as a four-year-old pressed a wrinkled bit of paper on them.

When we got to the post-office, the kids posted their letters to the kings, (the first time some of them had posted a letter) and we got back on the road train for a drive down to the next village along the coast, which is the tourist beach.

Well it was great. Bemused tourists waved, and workmen digging a ditch cheered, and passing cars (and one bulldozer!) honked their horns in salute. I felt like the queen, although I knew most of it was for the kids.

But I couldn't help feeling sorry for the occasional adults who just glared. All religion apart, if you can't raise the tiniest twitch of a smile or wave for sixty-odd kids grinning at you, then I think you're sad in every sense of the word.

And in the afternoon it poured with rain.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Cleaning up by shutting down

For some years I've been sponsoring a little girl in Zimbabwe. If you haven't come across the idea of sponsoring before, it works like this. You contribute a small amount of money each month, and some of it goes to help a specific child. In most cases it means that they can go to school and have a proper lunch. Things my own son takes for granted. (In fact he'd be only too happy not to go to school, but I doubt if he'd prefer farm work all day instead.) You can write to the child and get replies. It's a window onto another world, and it makes a huge difference to the child and their community. You see part of the money that doesn't go directly on the child is used for community projects like providing safe drinking water. I do this at World Vision and it currently costs just £18 a month.

Little Manyara got a blanket and a school uniform. The sponsorship money paid for two new school blocks and supported a health clinic. World Vision built a vegetable garden to help feed undernourished kids. They installed more taps (faucets to Americans) with clean water, and water bourn infections went right down. Twenty adults were trained to run their own small business and given small loans to get them started.

Then Robert Mugabe decided on operation "clean up." If you've been off the planet for a while, this is officially a crime fighting exercise consisting mostly of slum clearance. In practice it's meant that all the houses, the school and the clinic have been demolished and World Vision has been told to get out. Of course it makes perfect sense to fight crime by stopping kids from going to school or seeing a doctor. I'm sure it's nothing whatsoever to do with the way the area voted at the last election.

So now I've lost track of Manyara. I hope she's OK, wherever she is, and the three years education I paid for will help her cope.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005


I live in the Canary Islands. They are part of Spain, but situated off the coast of Morocco.

Our house is a new building. Before we moved in, we had a long period where we were dragging our son, Julio, round with us to choose bath taps and floor tiles and so on. The poor kid got very frustrated because we wouldn't let him chose anything – like we were going to spend 20 years living with a 6-year-old's taste. So to relieve the frustration, I told him he could choose what we planted in the front garden. Then I hastily added "Anything in seeds," because the garden is only about by 12ft by 4ft, and a California redwood wouldn't fit.

Julio nodded very seriously, and said, "Carrots."

My jaw dropped, but I'd promised, so we planted carrots. It was a pain because we still hadn't moved in, so I had to go round to the new house every three days or so to water them, all summer long. But they tasted great. And when we eventually moved in, it was really handy for giving directions, because oddly enough, nobody else in the village had a front garden full of carrots.

Sheila Crosby

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Saturday April 22nd

Well, I find it hard to belive that the world will be interestin in my musings, but here I am. To tell you the truth, I only signed up in order to enter a competition.