Coming soon to this blog: the donkey webcam

I have been considering for a while setting up a webcam on this blog, so visitors can see the donkeys live.  This evening I discussed the technical details with a local British computer shop, and they are exploring the possibilities and drawing up some initial plans.

I am hoping to have the webcam installed on the donkey field in February.  The camera will be running live in daylight hours so Matilde, Rubi, Morris and Aitana can be seen during their everyday activities and you can watch what they get up to when I am at work.

Maybe you will be able to catch them on camera doing something very silly, and I will miss it because I am at work.  Then you can write and tell me in the comments what silliness you have seen.  The view of the field will be from under the fig tree, where the camera will be sited in a place that gives the best all-round view of the donkeys, and they are only out of sight when on the left of camera in the corner of the field by the lemon tree.  Here’s a still shot preview of the camera position, with the Puig Campana mountain above Finestrat providing a spectacular back drop.

Proposed webcam position: the camera will have a wider angle lens than this still shot.

Proposed webcam position: the camera will have a wider angle lens than the phone camera used for this still shot.

I will keep you updated on the progress of this project.  Meanwhile, here is a taster: three of the videos captured on the field in the past years:

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Rubí donkey writes to the Pope

I was surprised by Rubí this morning when she told me she wanted to write a post for this blog, an announcement which I was fortunate to capture on camera. The rest of the post is therefore entirely the work of Rubí, who was very keen to write an open letter to Pope Francis.

Tuesday 30th December 2014 

Your Holiness,

Hello, I am Rubí and I have been reliably informed by my keeper that today is Tuesday. Last week while my keeper was away, we had a locum keeper to bring our food, but he forgot to tell me when it was Tuesday and I therefore missed the opportunity to have any important thoughts last week.  Consequently I am having twice as many important thoughts on this Tuesday. I need to tell you my important Tuesday thoughts because it is clear you are going to make a very serious mistake. Since you earlier informed the world that you were raised on donkey milk, I am sure you will listen to my words as a donkey mother.

Pope Francis presented with two donkeys, named Thea and Noah, as an unusual early Christmas present, by a company that produces donkey milk for babies. Francis revealed that he too as a baby was fed donkey milk. Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2862498/Pope-s-penchant-DONKEY-milk-Francis-admits-drank-baby-presented-two-animals-Christmas. (c) DailyMail

Pope Francis presented with two donkeys, named Thea and Noah, as an unusual early Christmas present, by a company that produces donkey milk for babies. Francis revealed that he too as a baby was fed donkey milk.

Holy Father, you have announced you intend to join the global warming bandwaggon, and you want to directly influence the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics by making 2015 the year in which the Catholic Church commits itself to the climate change nostrums.  You intend to write a papal encyclical on the subject and directly influence the United Nations climate summit in Paris.  Before you and Bishop Marcelo Sorondo launch your eco-warrior ships, I suggest you first pay close attention and read the wise words of Cardinal Pell’s address to the Global Warming Policy Foundation in 2011.  In a short but comprehensive condemnation of the way in which the climate science has been manipulated and politically hijacked, Cardinal Pell points out that the ultimate burden of the folly of these extreme left wing and green ideologues will fall upon the poor:

“Sometimes the very learned and clever can be brilliantly foolish, especially when seized by an apparently good cause. My request is for common sense and more, not less; what the medievals, following Aristotle, called prudence, one of the four cardinal virtues: the “recta ratio agibilium” or right reason in doing things. We might call this a cost-benefit analysis, where costs and benefits are defined financially and morally or humanly and their level of probability is carefully estimated. Are there any long term benefits from the schemes to combat global warming, apart from extra tax revenues for governments and income for those devising and implementing the schemes? Will the burdens be shared generally, or fall mainly on the shoulders of the battlers, the poor? Another useful Latin maxim is “in dubio non agitur“: don’t act when in doubt.”

In fact, the real losers will be millions of people in developing countries to whom these “anti-carbon” policies based on false science will be denying the possibility of electricity. They will continue to use fuel wood and their children die from lung diseases; their economies will be prevented from growing; their populations kept in enforced poverty.  Is this what you wish for the developing world, Holy Father Francis?

Even if you won’t listen to the wise words of Cardinal Pell, maybe you will bend your ear to the eminent climate scientists who dispute the ideologues of the IPCC.  I expect you are familiar with the popular and alarmist Al Gore global warming film,  An Inconvenient Truth  (the summarised version can be seen here.)  But have you ever looked at the counter arguments from a range of scientists in a film called The Great Global Warming Swindle ?  This offers a fascinating understanding of how the entire global warming scam began. You need to be aware of the political context in which this false CO2 “science” has been devised, before you tell 1.2 billion Catholics it is their religious duty to support these lies.

Holy Father, I hear you cry, “What about those poor polar bears!”

The use of emotive photographs of polar bears in "disappearing" ice is a stock propaganda trick of the global warmists

The use of emotive photographs of polar bears in “disappearing” ice is a stock propaganda trick of the global warmists

If I may be forgiven for chastising your slightly nineteenth century version of Franciscan romanticism when it comes to cuddly creatures like bears or donkeys like me, Holy Father, let’s just leave the fluffy animals out of the equation please.  Here on the well-known website of the main authority in the field of polar bear science, the global warming alarmism is constantly challenged.  The site is run by Dr Susan Crockford, an evolutionary biologist and an expert on polar bear evolution.  She has been working for 35 years in archaeozoology, paleozoology and forensic zoology, and she has refuted the warmists use of harrowing polar bear stories. In a document Healthy Polar Bears: Less Than Healthy Science, Dr Crockford gives an insight into the way that, not only climate science, but other scientific fields are becoming corrupted by the distortions of the ideological status quo:

“To say that I am dismayed at the behaviour of polar bear field researchers over the last ten years or so is an understatement. It makes me fearful for the state of science itself. Their conservation bias, which was always present but usually understated, has escalated to a deplorable level. The lack of critical scientific thinking is obvious now in everything polar bear specialists say to the media, in every presentation they make and every scientific paper they publish. Their determination to keep the conservation status of polar bears as ‘threatened with extinction’ worldwide – regardless of the present health of polar bear populations, problems with sea ice projections , and noted issues with their predictive models – reveals that PBSG members and associates are simply agenda-driven collectors of data rather than objective scientists who are a bit too emotionally attached to the animals they study. That is a very unhealthy place for polar bear science to be and it needs to change.”

Many more examples could be given of the way in which this Global Warming ideology is now riding roughshod over all areas of intellectual life. And it is already infecting the next generation. In GCSE and A-level Geography exams for school children, the only correct answers to climate questions are those that fit the new orthodoxy.  Millions of children are now being educated in these lies about CO2, and they cannot know the truth or they will not answer the exam question “correctly”.

Your Holiness, as a humble donkey and once-provider of ass’s milk of  the kind you yourself were raised on, I hope I have given you some nourishing reasons to look at both sides of this matter, then reconsider your intentions to get involved in the Great Climate Scam.  You will be in danger of bringing the Catholic Church into disrepute among all people who can see through this nonsense.  And if your judgment is doubted on such a publicly contentious matter where anyone can read the counter arguments against the purveyors of falsehood, how will your judgment be seen on more subtle matters of faith, doctrine and morals that are the true concern of the Catholic Magisterium which is your Petrine responsibility?

Please forgive the directness of a humble donkey, your Holiness, but it is Tuesday and I only have ideas once a week.

Yours sincerely,

Rubí donkey

Update 19.50,  30th December 2014: Rubí is now asleep in the stable after a very exhausting Tuesday in which she has done more thinking than is usual for a Tuesday and entered into theological climatology.  Rubí may do an Open University course on the subject if there is an online programme that just involves Tuesdays. There is more about Rubí here: http://brotherlapin.com/2014/10/25/the-lovely-rubi-donkey-and-is-it-tuesday/

Update 22.00, 30th December 2014:

Thank you to Dan Pangburn for replying to Rubí donkey with the following, from his expert climatologist perspective:

“CO2 increase from 1800 to 2001 was 89.5 ppmv (parts per million by volume). The atmospheric carbon dioxide level has now (through October, 2014) increased since 2001 by 28.1 ppmv (an amount equal to 31.4% of the increase that took place from 1800 to 2001) (1800, 281.6 ppmv; 2001, 371.13 ppmv; October, 2014, 399.23 ppmv) while the average global temperature trend has been flat . This is outside of the ‘limits’ asserted by the ‘Consensus’ of the Climate Science Community.

So how did the Consensus get it so wrong?  The scientists in the Consensus apparently don’t understand some of the science very well, stubbornly refuse to acknowledge some science or may not even be aware of some relevant science.”

Final update 01.15, 31 December 2014:

The Marxist-Leninist left long ago became the greens. They use phrases like “a society self-conscious of its embeddedness in the biosphere.”

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The place of the donkey in the Feast of Fools

feast of asses Today 28th December is the Feast of the Holy Innocents, those infants killed by Herod when he realised that his monitoring of the three wise men had failed to lead him to Jesus, the Messiah King.  There are many different historical versions of the practices of the mediaeval Feast of Fools which resulted from the association of innocence (i.e. folly, and fools for Christ) and the donkey, the beast which bore Mary and Jesus to safety in Egypt.  So, for example in the Feast of the Ass, a young girl representing the Virgin Mary, seated on a donkey, was led into the church and positioned at the alter as the congregation responded “Hee-haw” to a fake priest’s sermon. The Feast of Fools began traditionally during Vespers at the singing of the Magnificat. The hymn would be cut short on reaching the line “He has put down the mighty from their thones, and lifted up the lowly”; whereupon, in cathedrals the bishop would be forcibly put down from his see, and the lowly – in English tradition a boy bishop – replaced him for a week.  Sometimes the Feast of Fools is compared with the pagan winter reversals of custom, or even the Roman Saturnalia, and certainly these customs do borrow from one another, but the Christian feast is quite distinct in many ways, not least in the symbolism of the donkey, or ass.  The fool’s hood bears distinctive donkey ears and there is a clear association of the long ears and the innocence of the ass: the Holy Innocent as the Christ-like fool (cf. Dostoyevsky’s Prince Myshkin in The Idiot.)

Of Reckless Fools,Woodcut c.1568-72. Illustration to Latin edition of Sebastian Brant's 'Ship of Fools',1572. (British Museum)

Of Reckless Fools,Woodcut c.1568-72. Illustration to Latin edition of Sebastian Brant’s ‘Ship of Fools’,1572. (British Museum)

This is indeed a rich tradition and one which I spent some time researching at the Central School of Art in the early 1980s.  When it came to the assessment of our MA dissertations, things could not have turned out more foolish. My tutor told me, “They are either going to fail you or give you a distinction.”  I waited with a pint of John Smiths beer in the Central Club while the decision was made, and I was awarded a distinction.  It was a justification of folly, as far as I was concerned.

Cecil Collins

Cecil Collins (1908 – 1989)

In those days, we were taught life drawing by the mystical painter Cecil Collins, renowned for his drawings and paintings of fools.    So this Holy Innocents Feast of Fools on the 28th December is a very special occasion for me. The standard text on the subject of the fool is a lovely book written in the 1920s, titled simply The Fool (Blog update 29/12/14: I finally remembered, the author was Enid Welsford) I could spend the rest of the night writing about the fool, and renew my enthusiasm for King Lear and Erasmus, and I would probably enjoy myself tremendously, but this is not really the point of my post. I will get back to the point: the association of the Feast of Fools with donkeys. There is surely a connection between the presence of the ass in the stable – as famously represented in the first Christmas crib devised by St Francis in 1223 in Greccio – and the ass’s ears in the foolish livery for the Holy Innocents’ festivities?

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Woodcut c.1568-72. Illustration to Latin edition of Sebastian Brant’s ‘Ship of Fools’,1572. (British Museum)

There is an association between the Christ child and the donkey, and the entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday: for the donkey is the traditional mount of kings.  Saint Paul takes up the theme in 1 Corinthians 4:10, “We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ; we are weak, but you are strong; you are honourable, but we without honour.” (Douay-Rheims translation.) Also, Paul talks in 1 Corinthians of the preaching of the cross as “foolishness”.  The association of foolishness with Christian simplicity and innocence, leads to the symbolic expression of foolishness and innocence in the long ridiculous ears of the donkey, stylised in the jester’s hood. The centrality of the donkey in the Feast of Fools on this day, 28th December – the feast of the Holy Innocents – made this animal forever a symbol of both foolishness and innocence. In Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Bottom awakes from his dream – having played only the part of an ass at the court entertainment – but in his dream he has spent the night with Titania the queen of the faeries. He was elevated to the highest mystical experience.  In the end – notwithstanding the somewhat rambling nature of this blogpost – the donkey is our perfect companion in this earthly Feast of Fools.  The donkey offers us an example of innocence and simplicity. If we keep still and listen and watch attentively, the donkey can lead us into some small experience of the nature of eternity.  I say “experience” not understanding: with donkeys we do not get much in the way of understanding…

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Matilde, Aitana, Morris, Rubí and me. December 2014

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Returning home to the donkeys

So, home with the donkeys and back to normal.  It is good to be back with them, even after such a short time away.  I’m not too sure that I really want to go away again.  Maybe I will let another couple of years go by until I consider any more trips away…

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On the Feast of Stephen

In the midnight Mass in Ibiza cathedral, bishop Vicente Juan Segura reminded the small faithful remnant – about fifty Ibicenco Catholics attending – of the need to evangelize and proclaim the mystery that the Creator of the universe became a Child among men, so that we might participate fully in His life and his plan for creation.  I don’t think I would have been struck so powerfully by these words had I not spent much of the previous twenty-four hours researching the witness of the priest martyrs of the Diocese of Ibiza.

Ibiza cathedral Christmas Day 2014

Ibiza cathedral Christmas Day 2014

Virgin Mary and Child, Ibiza cathedral Christmas Day 2014

Virgin Mary and Child, Ibiza cathedral Christmas Day 2014

As you may gather, if you read my earlier post about Ibiza, I was not terribly impressed by the Hotel Montesol, but see how the history of this dark building is further developed in this account related here.  Nor was I impressed with the present state of Ibiza town, for it is a run-down tourist spot that has now reached a low point in the cycle of resorts, but once it was a place with a vibrant local community and culture which I was privileged to witness in its last dying days in the early 1960s.  As a schoolboy at that time – first at the Graduada and then at the Instituto Santa Maria de Enseñanza Media, I remember the parades in the street during Catholic festivals and the impact they made upon me.

The statues of the saints were paraded through the streets, men and women dressed in traditional costume, bands played, and the troops strutted grimly behind the Catholic crosses and banners, their olive-green steel helmets and bayonets glinting in the Mediterranean sun. In our history lessons in school, Capitan Nuñez – who led the blue-shirted boys of the national movement firing ancient Martini rifles on Saturday mornings on Es Codolar beach – hinted darkly that we needed to defend the faith against the anarchism that represented murder and savagery.  Capitan Nuñez’s anarchist bogeyman was to me a vague but potent idea – for no other adults ever talked about it – and in the following fifty years I still had not learnt the details.

This Christmas I learned what happened in Ibiza, and the priest martyrs of 1936 have made today a special feast of St Stephen for me. Christian martyrdom is more than a distant concept, for in these past twenty-four hours I have been astonished by the history of Ibiza in 1936.  I thought I knew Ibiza well enough, but didn’t know it at all. The story began when I went to the cathedral, simply to find out the times of Christmas Masses.  I picked up the December diocesan newsletter, and on the back page was the story of the twenty-one priest martyrs of 1936.

"Església d'Eivissa i Formentera," diocesan newsletter, December 2014

“Església d’Eivissa i Formentera,” diocesan newsletter, December 2014

Under the present Bishop of Ibiza Vicente Juan Segura the diocese has spent the past two years publishing the biographies of twenty-one of its priests who were murdered in August and September 1936.  Their cause has been taken up and they will hopefully be canonised one day as martyrs and saints. Their violent deaths happened during a short-lived Republican and anarchist take-over of the islands of Ibiza and Formentera in August 1936, before they were in turn re-taken by Nationalist forces in September 1936. Thereafter – with a failed invasion by Republicans in Mallorca – the conflict was finished in the Balearic islands, but the devastation of the diocese of Ibiza remains a lasting witness to the unimaginable horror of anti-Christian violence visited upon an island people of traditional Catholic faith; people who had little real political interest on either side of the civil war.  (Some further account of these matters can be read here and here.)

Alberto Bayo, a Cuban-born Republican naval air captain based in Barcelona led an invasion of Formentera and Ibiza in several warships in early August 1936 with anarchist forces from Valencia in support.  The undisciplined anarchists created a reign of terror on Ibiza which the regular troops under Bayo could not control.  In fact Bayo was more interested in using Ibiza to invade the more strategically important island of Mallorca, and when he left – on a failed attempt to achieve that objective – the anarchists in Ibiza were left to run riot.  All the priests of the island, together with about eighty right-wing sympathisers, were held by the anarchists in the castle on the hill in Ibiza.

The fortress at the top of Ibiza town where the 21 priests of the diocese were held.

The fortress at the top of Ibiza town where the 21 priests of the diocese were held.

The tunnels leading to the fortified d'Alt Vila, Ibiza

The tunnels leading to the fortified d’Alt Vila, Ibiza

As news of the invasion of the island by Nationalists came to the anarchists in Ibiza town on 13th September 1936, they set up machine guns in the cathedral square at the top of the town and machine-gunned all their prisoners, including all of Ibiza’s priests who were imprisoned there.

Yesterday, Christmas day, I walked from Ibiza to Sant Jordi de ses Salines and visited the church where three of these priests were baptised, raised in the Catholic faith, confirmed and received their vocations.  I prayed there for priests Antoni Ramon Orvay (born 14 February 1896), Josep Tur Ferrer (born 21 November 1909), and Josep Serra Ribas (born 7th July 1911); all machine-gunned in Ibiza town by anarchists on 13th September 1936, simply for being Catholic priests.  These three were from San Jordi, and I mention them only because I went to visit their home church to pray for them.  (The names of the other eighteen can be seen here.)

Sant Jordi church

Sant Jordi church, Christmas Day 2014

Sant Jordi se Salines - a rare example of a fortified church

Sant Jordi ses Salines – a rare example of a fortified church

As senior figures in the Catholic Church today seem prepared to throw away the faith (for example the Bishops of England and Wales, in their letter to clergy just a few days before Christmas), it is good to remember priests who died as witnesses to the faith.  It is also important to remember that Christian martyrdom has sometimes taken place in the very pretty, sunny Mediterranean resorts that many people happily associate with carefree days in the sun, and never think twice about the recent past.

As I finished my research into these matters yesterday, talking to an old resident of Ibiza, I discovered that the very hotel I was staying in, the Montesol built in 1931, was originally called the “Grand Hotel”.  After the Nationalist army gained control of the island this hotel was used for the military tribunals that sent Republicans to the firing squad in the very same fortress where the priests were machine-gunned.  It put the final impression on my last night’s stay in the shabby hotel I had already decided to leave early, and I checked out of the place in some haste this morning.

“I hope your room was satisfactory,” said the grim man at the desk, when I told him I was leaving early.

“The wash basin needs a plug,” I said.  I couldn’t be bothered with the rest of the list. And I left.

The Hotel Montesol Ibiza: a place where people were once sent to the firing squad. Now, not fatal, but just a very bad hotel.

The Hotel Montesol Ibiza: a place where people were once sent to the firing squad. Now, not fatal, but just a very bad hotel.

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Ibiza town in winter? There’s more life in the necropolis.

I’m not very sure why I thought it was a good idea to spend Christmas in Ibiza town. I had the opportunity to leave the donkeys in the good hands of my friend Carl for a few days, so I came here just to see what Ibiza is like in winter time. It is Christmas Eve and I arrived two days ago, but this morning’s Diario de Ibiza ominously carries the story of the “Great Exodus” from Ibiza for Christmas, as the ferries to the mainland are filled with local people scrambling to get away from the island. (This doesn’t look very promising: will there be anyone left to cook my Christmas dinner?)

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I am not surprised by the urgency to get away.  In fact, at the beginning of my second day here, I went to the port and paid twenty Euros to get my return boat ticket brought forward to leave Ibiza as soon as the boats are running again on Boxing Day. So, what do I find unappealing about the place?  No better place to start than the hotel.  I booked five nights at the Hotel Montesol in the centre of the town because it was the first hotel built in Ibiza town in the 1930s. I remembered it very well from living in Ibiza in the 1960s: it is the smart looking yellow building on the Vara de Rey, with the pavement café outside, where the smart set always used to take their morning coffee.

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Outside, it is visibly the same rather grand 1930s building; but inside, the faded blue carpet leads to shabby little rooms that were halved in size with plasterboard walls – doubling the rooming capacity – in some botched interior re-fit during the boom years of the 1970s.

The lift is still the same old rickety vintage contraption that takes two passengers and a small holdall. The second floor corridor leading to room 215 reeks of stale tobacco and there is a faded blue armchair part covering a puddle sized stain on the threadbare carpet. Luckily there are only three other guests.  Unluckily, two of them are in the next door room with the television blaring through the thin wall.  The window opens onto a building well filled with rubbish and the constant turbine-like hum of twenty air conditioning units running day and night.

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The Hotel Montesol is a microcosm of the rest of Ibiza town these days. The old houses with their gleaming white walls in this capital of the Isla Blanca are still as I remember them from the 1960s, but here also there have been great changes within.  The entire town has undergone a complete demographic change and there are very few local people occupying the place.  Occasionally some inhabitant of the little flats and bedsits emerges into the mostly empty streets.  It may be a new age traveller type bringing out his skinny little dog to foul the pavement; or a darkly hooded beardy addict, hurrying to the farmacia to get his methodone prescription; and everywhere the beggars pounce upon the only visitor who has been foolish enough to venture out for a winter holiday in this once-charming town.

Ibiza is perhaps the best example I have seen of Stage 6 of the Butler’s Tourism Life Cycle Model: “Decline”.  When all the expensive fashion shops are open for business in the summer, and the harbour is choked with luxury yachts registered in Dubai, and the discos are throbbing till five in the morning, it is easy to miss the simple fact that there is no community left in the old town.  In winter, that fact is glaringly obvious. Nowhere is this clearer than the market place in the centre of the town on Christmas Eve.  I remember coming here on Christmas Eve fifty-one years ago, stocking up with oranges and tangerines for Christmas, and it was packed with local people.  Today, deserted.  A vacant echoing space with two fruit stalls, surrounded by streets of empty houses.

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In 1963 when I first went there the market was filled with local shoppers, many in traditional Ibicenco dress.  The only place to see such costume in the streets of Ibiza now is in the window of a shop selling rather over-priced ceramics.DSCN2714

In case these impressions of Ibiza in winter should seem too negative, I hasten to add that there is another side to the place which no visitor should miss, but it has only marginally more life in it.  The six staff who were manning the museum of the Punic-Phoenician necropolis could not have been more welcoming. I don’t know if I was the only visitor they had that day, but they leapt into action to interpret the place for me and were very helpful. The necropolis is situated just outside the town centre on the Puig des Molins. I spent a very worthwhile couple of hours in the place and learnt about Punic, Phoenician, and Roman burial customs. Sadly, there was no clue to help me organise my thoughts on appropriate funerary rites for a dead tourist town.

At last I find some signs of life in Ibiza

At last I find some signs of life in Ibiza

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Happy Christmas from the Donkeys

This year I was determined to resist the temptation to put Santa hats on the donkeys and do the same old clichéd line-up. I thought we might instead do a photo-shoot with the donkeys on a pre-Christmas night out in a Benidorm disco. However, the donkeys simply didn’t think it would look cool arriving at a disco in a horse box. So here is the same old clichéd line-up of donkeys in Santa hats. HAPPY CHRISTMAS!

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Bye bye donkeys. My friend Carl is looking after the donkeys for the next few days.

Bye bye donkeys. My friend Carl is looking after the donkeys for the next few days.

Update 6.30 pm Monday 22nd December

Now on the boat to Ibiza, from where the blog will be updated over the next few days. Thanks for comments from Alys, Lunar4teddy, and Tuppence: I haven’t heard from you for years 2d!  Hope you are well. (Pity about the demise of the Staffroom.) Happy Christmas all.

Balearia boat leaving Denia for Ibiza

Balearia boat leaving Denia for Ibiza

Arriving in Ibiza, cold deserted and unwelcoming in winter. Perfect.

Arriving in Ibiza, cold deserted and unwelcoming in winter. Perfect.  Just as I remember it at Christmas fifty years ago.

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