"A passion for tending grapes and producing fine wine means far more than mere science and chemistry,'' writes Craig Briggs.
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"A passion for tending grapes and producing fine wine means far more than mere science and chemistry,'' writes Craig Briggs.
...But as sugar levels rise, my gorgeous grapes come to the attention of countryside fowl. A hungry squadron of magpies can lay waste to a small vineyard at one gluttonous breakfast sitting...
Craig Briggs is at war with uninvited feathered feeders.
...We were sitting up in bed enjoying our first, kick-starter coffee of the day when a sheep wandered up the lane...
You've got to read on to see what happens next! Craig Briggs unravels another Spanish secret!
Craig Briggs brings us a tasty account of a night of tapa and jazz in a small Spanish town.
Craig Briggs brings us a tasty account of a night of tapa and jazz in a small Spanish town.
...Sonia presented our dish on a stainless steel platter. Three whole pork knuckles, slowly roasted; surrounded by peas, carrots and a mountain of chips. It looked like a banquet fit for a king. The knuckles were perfectly cooked; crispy crackling on the outside and succulent pork beneath...
Craig Briggs brings us another mouth-wateringly tasty column about life in rural Spain.
...Like a mirage in the desert, our eyes feasted on an unimaginable site. A body of water surrounded by conifers and framed against a backdrop of lilac toned mountains, topped with a cloudless, pale-blue sky...
Craig Briggs brings another gorgeous glimpse of rural Spain.
...‘Good morning Pepino,’ I called as we neared, ‘what do you have there?’
‘Lunch,’ he said with a cheeky smile.
By now I was close enough to see for myself. It wasn’t a giant tea cosy as I had first thought, but a rather large chicken...
Craig Briggs brings us another "helping'' of life in rural Spain.
...Today, the smell of wood smoke means one thing – danger.
I scan the horizon looking for the source. A large, grey plume billows into the air, fading as it rises higher and higher...
Craig Briggs tells of summer worries in the part of Spain where he and his wife Melanie live.
... the list of pet names is endless but in my experience, a dog will often choose its own...
Crag Briggs introduces us to a dog called Slawit.
...When we moved to Spain, 11 years ago, Pedro was one of the first people we met. His manner and attitude brought reassurance that our decision to settle in Galicia was the right one...
Craig Briggs mourns the passing of a good friend.
For progress to be made in modernising Craig Briggs's ruined Galician farmhouse, the property must be linked to the power grid. An 8 metre tall concrete post has to be erected. Can the job be done immediately? Come on! This is Spain...
To read more of Craig's frustrating experiences as a property developer please click on Spanish Secrets in the menu on this page.
Craig Briggs tells of the frustrations of getting electricity connected to an old farmhouse in Galicia.
For more of Craig’s engaging accounts of life in rural Spain please click on Spanish Secrets in the menu on this page.
...Watching the drill sink deeper-and-deeper was like watching one's money disappear into a bottomless pit. We looked on for a while in the forlorn hope that water would be discovered...
Craig Briggs and his wife Melanie look on anxiously as an uncommissioned drilling crew search for water at a ruined Galician farmhouse...
To read earlier chapters of Craig's property developing adventures please click on Spanish Secrets in the menu on this page.
...As we stared through the toxic haze the familiar shape of a drilling-rig emerged. This giant tractor bounced and shook as the large drill slowly and rhythmically bored into the ground. Piles of grey dust, ground-up particles of rock, surrounded the drill head. The overgrown garden now looked more like a scene from the Somme during the Great War...
Craig Briggs and his wife Melanie visit their rundown Spanish farmhouse - and find themelves in the midst of a property developer's nightmare.
To read earlier episodes of Craig's account of the roller coaster experience of buying and restoring the farmhouse please click on Spanish Secrets in the menu on this page.
At last! A restoration dream looks like becoming a restoration reality!
Craig Briggs continues his account of the frustrations of modernising a derelict Galician farmhouse.
Do please click on Spanish Secrets for more of Craig's entertaining accounts of life in Galicia.
…In Galicia, the twenty-first century and the era of telecommunication are things that are happening elsewhere. It might come as a surprise to learn that we have friends living locally who have been waiting years for a telephone line, and others who have been forced to compromise by installing, a near-Neolithic radio-phone…
Craig Briggs tells of his battle to get a telephone line installed.
...As we rounded the corner into the drive we were surprised and delighted to find Angel the stonemason, hard at work - only two days later than promised. Clouds of dust billowed into the air as an old tractor, equipped with a fearsome-looking shovel, drove rough-shod over the baked garden. The old boundary wall had gone to be replaced by plumb-straight foundations.
After countless site visits, numerous quotes, drawn-out negotiations and daily soul-searching, work had finally begun on the restoration of our romantic rural retreat....
Work begins on modernising an old farmhouse, then comes a surprise opportunity to buy another house, as Craig Briggs reports.
Be prepared for major financial shocks when you ask for quotes on modernising an old Spanish farmhouse.
Craig Briggs continues his account of property development in Galicia.
...Having dutifully signed the legal papers, we handed Maruja a clean, white envelope containing a small bundle of crisp, fifty-euro banknotes. Contorting my facial muscles I managed to produce a strained impression of a polite smile. She opened the envelope and pulled out a virgin note. With the tips of her fingers she slid the note across the table towards us.
“This is for you. If you were poor I would have given you the land,'' she added mischievously...
Craig Briggs finally purchases a strip of land which will guarantee adequate access to an old Spanish farmhouse.
...We arrived as arranged, knocked on the door and awaited a response. To our bewilderment Maruja flung open the door and greeted us with a firm embrace and a delicate kiss to each cheek. We were treated like long lost relatives returning home after years away. No doubt the thought of receiving a handsome bounty for an insignificant strip of scrubland, had sent her dizzy with delight...
Craig and Melanie Briggs are making progress in restoring a rural Spanish property and providing it with adequate access. To read Craig's earlier accounts of this absorbing venture please click on Spanish Secrets in the menu on this page.
In their bid to buy an old Spanish farmhouse Craig Briggs and his wife Melanie experience the snail-like pace of Spanish bureaucracy.
For more of Craig's words about his new life in Galicia please click on Spanish Secrets in the menu on his page.
…Down quiet, leafy lanes, at every twist and turn, this tiny Spanish village held a turbulent history of family squabbles…
There’s a lot more to buying an old Spanish farmhouse and doing it up than you might think, as Craig Briggs reveals. To read earlier episodes of Craig’s farmhouse story – and many more articles about life in rural Galicia - please click on Spanish Secrets in the menu on this page.
…“It’s not going there!’’ Maruja was clearly agitated and upset.
Just when I thought everything was going well, the whole scene turned into a chaotic fiasco….
Craig Briggs tells of the dramatic day when a stonemason arrived to discuss the building of a boundary wall.
For more of Craig’s vivid accounts of life in rural Spain please click on Spanish Secrets in the menu on this page.
Craig Briggs and his wife Melanie meet Angel the stonemason – and are shocked into silence when they see his astonishing creation.
To read more of Craig’s sparkling columns about life in Galicia please click on Spanish Secrets in the menu on this page.
…To a reserved Englishman, Spanish negotiations appear heated and aggressive. Voices are raised, fists clenched and fingers pointed. People wave their arms in disapproval, turn their backs and even walk away…
Craig Briggs and his wife Melanie negotiate to buy a small strip of land to gain adequate access to the ruined farmhouse which they are turning into a holiday let in Galicia.
Craig Briggs goes in search of the Holy Grail and the Arch of the Covenant.
…This was the cue for him to begin his less than impressive illusionist's trick. From the glove box of his 4x4 he pulled out his magic wand – known to all as a divining rod. Holding two ends of a Y-shaped twig he marched to-and-fro across the garden.
In the exact spot where we had chosen our ideal location, the tail end of the Y rose like an erect flagpole. As he moved away it gently descended…
Craig Briggs and his wife Melanie call in an expert to drill a well in the grounds of the remote farmhouse which they bought in Galicia.
To read earlier accounts of the trials of turning the farmhouse into a holiday let please click on Spanish Secrets in the menu on this page.
So you buy an old farmhouse in Spain, intending to turn it into a holiday let. You call in a builder, get a quote from him, then sit back while the work proceeds?
Such is not the case. Craig Briggs continues his story of developing a property in Galicia.
To read earlier episodes of this story, and many more columns about Craig’s new life in Spain, please click on Spanish Secrets in the menu on this page.
Having bought a ruined farmhouse in Spain, intending to turn it into a holiday home, Craig Briggs and his wife Melanie call in a vital expert – an electrician.
To read earlier episodes of this venture please click on Spanish Secrets in the menu on this page.
Craig Briggs and his wife Melanie continue their project - to transform a ruined Galician farmhouse into a perfect rural holiday retreat.
Do please read more about Craig’s new life in Galicia by clicking on Spanish Secrets in the menu on his page.
…We climbed the moss-covered, granite steps to the first floor. Two narrow wooden doors guarded the side entrance. I stared at the small bunch of keys Don Antonio had given us earlier in the day. Right at this moment, a bundle of used bank notes exchanged for four rusty keys, didn’t seem like such a good deal…
Craig Briggs and his wife Melanie finally take possession of a run-down farmhouse in rural Galicia.
After more than a year of bureaucratic delay Craig Briggs and his wife Melanie at last acquire a delightful crumbling old ruin of a farmhouse in the Galician countryside.
For more of Craig’s equally delightful columns please click on Spanish Secrets in the menu on this page.
Buying property in Galicia can involve would-be purchasers in the waiting game, as Craig Briggs reveals.
Read more of Craig’s entertaining columns about building a new life in another land by clicking on Spanish Secrets in the menu on this page.
…Measuring less than five feet tall and surrounded by tall weeds he reminded me of a Tolkien-like character. Over eighty years of hard work and sunshine had left him with a deep-brown complexion, leathery yet subtle. On his head sat an oversized and well-worn cap which, if it wasn’t for his elephant sized lobes, would have slipped over his head at any moment…
Craig Briggs meets a Galician man with a house for sale – and a deal is done!
…It was early summer and the calm air was hot and stifling. The car’s air-conditioning fought a losing battle with the soaring temperatures, as we turned down another narrow country lane. Large leafy boughs, from majestic chestnut trees, briefly shaded us from the afternoon sun…
Craig Briggs is about to meet with success on the house-hunting trail in Galicia.
For more of Craig’s wonderful articles about his new life in Spain please click on Spanish Secrets in the menu on his page.
…His broken and heavily-accented English was always clear and to the point.
“You English?” He asked brusquely, at our first meeting.
“Yes.” I replied.
“I speak English. You want to buy a house? I have a house for sale.”…
Craig Briggs and his wife Melanie continue their search for a house which can be developed as a holiday let in Galicia.
For more of Craig’s columns please click on Spanish Secrets in the menu on this page.
…For the past four years we’ve lived in our dream holiday home, enjoying a holiday lifestyle. Unfortunately, holidays can’t last forever. With our cash-flow reduced to a dinero-drip, it was time to take some positive action…
Craig Briggs continues his search to find a property in Galicia which can be renovated and rented out as a holiday home.
For more of Craig’s Galician adventures please click on Spanish Secrets in the menu on this page.
…Field upon field of abandoned trees stood as a testament to a crippling disease sweeping across the province. Rotting fruit hung from unkempt trees which were surrounded by overgrown weeds and more rotting fruit. For the time being this devastating illness is confined to isolated groves, but it is spreading fast. The Costa Blanca is just one more agricultural area suffering the ravages of supermarket savagery…
Craig Briggs tells of a disaster affecting Spain’s orange growers.
….Running between the seafront apartment blocks are a series of dark, thin alleys. Strolling down these paved alleyways is like a voyage with Jules Verne, travelling back in time hundreds of years….
Craig Briggs visits Baiona on Spain’s Atlantic coast, a place where Galicia’s rich and privileged arrive by helicopter for Sunday lunch.
…Spring in Galicia is a time of rejuvenation and new life. Beautiful song birds perform romantic mating rituals. Tiny buntings whistle their song, darting from branch to branch amongst the leafless Spanish oaks. Colourful male finches preen themselves in the hope of luring a young mate. Giant storks loudly clack their long bills and circle the sky in contented pairs…
Craig Briggs welcomes the official ending of winter gloom and is entertained by the antics of a wily old duck.
…With the bedroom door left slightly ajar our dog Jazz bounds into the bedroom and bounces onto the bed. Her excitement and joy is an overwhelming constant -boundless energy always eager to please. It’s a wonderful way to start the day….
But on the day that Jazz was not her usually bouncy self Craig Briggs was reminded that the best things in life should never be taken for granted.
…A heavy wooden door at the entrance stood slightly ajar, a thin sliver of sunlight arrowed across the polished wooden floorboards. Inside it was cool and dark. Old framed photos of ancestral family members hung proudly on the walls and antique furniture lined the hall…
Craig Briggs and his wife Melanie stay in a splendid Portuguese manor house, part of which dates back to 1679.
For more of Craig’s delightful columns please click on Spanish Secrets in the menu on this page.
A journey to watch a football match takes Craig Briggs on a drive through some of the most spectacular scenery in Spain and Portugal.
To read more of Craig’s fascinating columns about his new life in Galicia please click on the menu on this page.
Craig Briggs, who is enjoying an idyllic new life in Galicia, explains why he does not buy lottery tickets.
For more of Craig’s colourful columns please click on Spanish Secrets in he menu on this page.
On a rainy Galician day a Spanish journalist, accompanied by a photographer, arrives to interview Craig and Melanie Briggs about their life in Spain.
For more of Craig’s tasty columns please click on Spanish Secets in the menu on this page.
…Roast beef smothered in chopped leek gravy, accompanied by herbed potatoes and bronzed roasted parsnips. We ended the meal with fresh Spanish strawberries, lightly sugared and generously daubed with extra thick cream…
Craig Briggs’s glowing descriptions of the food and wine in his new homeland, Galicia, are guaranteed to awaken the most jaded taste buds.
For more of Craig’s vivid descriptions of his new life please click on Spanish Secrets in the menu on this page.
…Pruning trees in Galicia is not the work of a tree-surgeon but that of a tree-artist. The most common design is a five-pointed star. After pruning, all that remains are five equally spaced branches atop a thick trunk. They spread out like the spokes of a large wheel…
Craig Briggs prunes his sycamore trees then carries out a violent attack on the mother upon whom we all depend.
For more of Craig’s vivid accounts of his life in Spain please click on Spanish Secrets in the menu on this page.
…The importance of the lunar calendar to locals is undeniable but it’s practiced more as a farming tradition than a horticultural science. What I was keen to know was whether these ancient superstitions had any basis in fact. My search began…
Craig Briggs investigates the effects of the moon’s phases on horticulture – and on other things besides.
To share more of the delight that Craig and his wife Melanie derive from their new life in Galicia please click on Spanish Secrets in the menu on this page.
…The fashion industry is an important part of youth culture. By attacking it, the Spanish government could further alienate politically disenfranchised adolescents. As everyone knows, the quickest way to encourage a confident and rebellious young person to do something is to order them not to…
Craig Briggs is unimpressed by an agreement between Elena Salgado, Spain’s Minister of Health, and the fashion industry to limit the portrayal of thinness as being attractive.
For more of Craig’s must-read accounts of life in Spain please click on Spanish Secrets in he menu on this page.
…Children are not restrictively managed but left to express themselves amongst their peers. Parental supervision is liberal and discreet. In the five years since our move from England I have never seen a child reprimanded with a slap. Physical abuse against children is as repulsive to the Spanish as the public slaughter of a bull is to many in England…
Craig Briggs commends the close family ties which exist in Spain.
For more of Craig’s evocative columns about life in his adopted country please click on Spanish Secrets in the menu on this page.
Craig Briggs decided to let the train take the strain to get back his village home in Galicia - only to see the last train of the day to Canabal disappearing down the track.
For more of Craig’s tasty accounts of his new life in Spain please click on Spanish Secrets in the menu on this page.
…The day’s celebrations began early for us with a trip to the supermarket. Three Kings simply wouldn’t be Three Kings without a chunk of Rosca. This traditional Christmas cake resembles a large, holed doughnut. Once baked it’s sliced into two halves and filled with cream, custard, or in our case a glutinous apple jelly. It’s topped with sweet candied fruits and sprinkled with sugar…
In this tasty column Craig Briggs allows us to share in the wonder and delight of a Spanish Christmas,
...Plump pork sausages sizzled in a large frying pan. A chilled glass of fruit juice and a piping hot sausage sandwich smothered with HP sauce, warm sunshine and a stunning Mediterranean panorama - now that’s what I call Christmas...
Craig Briggs and his wife Melanie savour Christmas in Spain.
...The marina was crowded with ocean-going motor cruisers; floating palaces of the rich and famous. Several of these were surely large enough to be classified as ships. Prestigious marques front the narrow quayside like an international motor show. Open topped Bentley Continentals, Maseratis and within the space of 100 metres, three gleaming-red Ferraris.
Mingling among the hoards of camera-snapping tourists are designer people wearing designer clothes. The correct badges of exclusivity mark them out from the rest of us mortals. Well groomed pooches nestle underarm or quiet babies hang casually from hip and forearm like designer rag dolls...
Craig Briggs visits one of the Costa del Sol playgrounds of the super-rich, and is far from impressed by what he sees there.
For more of Craig's engaging words about life in his own choice area of Spain, rural Galicia, please click on Spanish Secrets in the menu on this page.
…After a few minutes I rose cautiously to my feet. With the exception of my big toe, everything seemed in one piece. The following day I was black, blue and a rather regal shade of purple. My arms were cut and grazed, my back hurt, my ribs ached, my right hip was sore and my right foot so swollen footwear was out of the question…
Poor Craig Briggs takes a tumble and is now heading into a colourful Christmas of the unwelcomed kind. However his keen sense of humour will guanatee that he still enjoys the festive season.
Light is dawning. Craig Briggs is finding that at last he can carry on a half-hour conversation in Spanish. "It’s incredible how much easier everyday chores become with improved communications,'' he adds.
To read many more of Craig's wonderful, colourful columns about his new life in Galicia please click on Spanish Secrets in the menu on this page.
Craig Briggs pays an unplanned visit to the city of Astorga and "discovers'' a masterpiece of a building designed by the renowned Spanish architect Antonio Gaudi.
...We’re now stocked up with our adult winter-warmer, a rich sweet treat on dark cold nights...
Craig Briggs and his wife Melanie have this year added a new delight to their wine cellar - home-made café liqueur. And who minds spending wet and windy autumn days in the garden clearing up a carpet of decaying leaves if there's such a treat in store when labour's done?
...Here in Spain, our national telephone provider is Telefonica SA. They also have worldwide business interests in 36 other countries; it’s truly a global company...
So why oh why, with millions of customers worldwide, did Telefonica SA pick on Craig Briggs and snatch forty euros from his bank account?
For more of Craig's entertaining words about life in rural Galicia please click on Spanish Secrets in he menu on this page.
"The roads were filthy, buildings were grubby and the countryside dirty. The air was filled with the constant drone of traffic. Peace and quiet was a rapidly fading memory. Like a Lowry painting, people shuffled along the pavement, shoulders hunched and heads lowered...''
Craig Briggs and his wife Melanie pay a brief return visit to England following a family bereavment - and Craig is not the least bit impressed by the crowded island of his birth.
Craig Briggs, having gathered in this year’s crop of grapes, hypothetically considers the distillation of aguardiente, a Galician fire-water.
To read more about Craig’s idyllic rural life please click on Spanish Secrets in the menu on this page.
Hartley’s blackcurrant jam, Paxo sage and onion stuffing, Bisto gravy granules, tomato puree and lean British bacon rashers… Not the things, if you’re a Brit, that you would buy and take home from a holiday on Spain’s Costa Blanca. That is unless you are Craig Briggs and his wife Melanie, true Brits through and through, who live in rural Galicia, where English titbits are unavailable.
For more of Craig’s columns about life in his rural corner of heaven please click on Spanish Secrets in the menu on this page.
As summer draws to a close in Galicia, Craig Briggs and his wife Melanie travel south, bound for a holiday where the clear, blue Mediterranean Sea laps gently onto sandy beaches.
For more of Craig's colourful descriptions of life in Spain please click on Spanish Secrets in the menu on this page.
Craig Briggs goes impressively Shakespearian as he considers the big question: TV - to be, or not to be.
Reading Craig's words brings guaranteed delight. Craig and his wife Melanie are leading lives in rural Galicia that would be the paradise dream of many a million wage slaves. To see more of his enticing words click on Spanish Secrets in the menu on this page.
…Pablo walked calmly across the stable and picked it up. Holding it firmly under one arm he brought it to show us. A tiny bundle of flesh and bones held together in an oversized coat of close-cropped wool. I extended my hand to stroke its head. Instinctively it tried to suckle on my finger…
Craig Briggs tells the story of Missy, a lamb rejected by its mother.
For more of Craig’s glowing accounts of life in rural Galicia please visit Spanish Secrets in the menu on this page.
Craig Briggs and his wife Melanie are woken from their slumbers to solve a neighbour's water crisis.
To read more of Craig's wonderfully evocative articles about life in the depths of rural Galicia click on Spanish Secrets in he menu on this page.
In a scorching hot Galician September preparations for the grape harvest and wine making are well under way, as Craig Briggs reveals.
To read more of Craig’s tempting articles about life in rural Spain click on Spanish Secrets in the menu on his page.
Craig Briggs and his wife Melanie dine with the lord of the manor on a special feast day – a day of generous hospitality and high delight.
For more of Craig's delicious columns about life in Galicia click on Spanish Secrets in the menu on this page.
"Down the leafy lanes and dusty tracks near our Galician home there are a multitude of centuries-old treasures waiting to be discovered,'' says Craig Briggs. One of these is the church at San Fiz de Cangas, and who better to lead Craig and his wife Melanie on a tour of this historic building than the daughter-in-law of the Keeper of the Keys.
The battle lines have been clearly drawn. Jazz the dog and an array of glittering CDs are essential to the defences. To find out who the enemy is read Craig Briggs's exuberant report from the front line in Galicia.
To read more of Craig's colourful columns click on Spanish Secrets in the menu on this page.
A lethal combination of parched undergrowth and high winds has resulted in uncontrollable fires raging across Galicia, as Craig Briggs reports. Last Friday there were 111 fires, 84 of which were said to be out of control.
Craig Briggs relishes the opportunity to go touring and exploring along Galicia's uncrowded roads.
To read more of Craig's delicious accounts of life in an uncrowded corner of Spain click on Spanish Secrets in the menu on this page.
Craig Briggs and his wife Melanie savour a tasty reward after a frustrating morning of form-filling.
For more of Craig's colourful and evocative accounts of life in Galicia click on Spanish Secrets in the menu on this page.
Baking-hot juicy sardines. Finger-licking bacon sizzling in a hot pan…
Craig Briggs and his wife Melanie attend a family and friends barbecue, Galician-style. And the mouth-watering way in which Craig describes the experience gives you the measure of pure bliss.
…Long hot days drift effortlessly into relaxing weeks. Time floats by almost unnoticed…
Craig Briggs enjoys Galicia’s tranquil summer months – and the freedom to live as he chooses.
For more of Craig’s luscious accounts of his life in Spain click on Spanish Secrets in the menu on this page.
This is fiesta season in Spain, and the nights are filled with the sounds of fireworks and music. Craig Briggs joins in the fun.
Craig Briggs sees his small kitchen garden as a colourful, wonderful work of art. But strange things are happening at the garden's edge. Could goblins be involved?
Craig Briggs now has a different perspective on an English “hero’’ after visiting A Coruna.
To read more of Craig’s vivid accounts of life in Galicia click on Spanish Secrets in the menu on this page.
…A glass of chilled white wine, a delicious scarlet-red strawberry and a golden-orange sunset accompanied by natures wildlife chorus – the ideal way to end the day…
First there are days of sticky 100 degree heat, then comes a storm, then life continues on its delightful way in Craig Briggs’s quiet corner of Galicia.
“…the tiniest sip had my head spinning and my throat, lungs and stomach feeling like I had swallowed a velvet-lined hot-water bottle…’’
Craig Briggs samples the delights of aguardiente, a Spanish spirit distilled from the remnants of wine production.
For more of Craig’s tasty columns click on Spanish Secrets in the menu on this page.
Craig Briggs describes the allure of one of his favourite Spanish cantinas. Weathered granite walls, rolling hills, deep green forests, an icy-cold beer - ah the bliss of Galicia!
“1966 was a remarkable year in English history. Not only did Sir Alf and the boys show the rest of the world how to play football, but a little- known couple from Huddersfield surpassed even that marvellous achievement.
On 17 May 1966 Geoff and Jennifer Kidd produced Melanie Jayne
On the fortieth anniversary of this miracle, I’d like to invite you to celebrate this wonderful event with me and other much loved family and friends at the Nawaab Indian restaurant in Huddersfield…’’
Craig Briggs planned a splendid birthday surprise for his wife, Melanie, which involved a traumatic journey from Galicia, Spain, to Yorkshire, England.
Craig Briggs writes of two splendid, hard-working village folk, his neighbours Chuchi and Teresa.
For the real Spain, for a taste of village life that is far removed from the glitz and clatter of the Costas, read more of Craig’s columns. Click on Spanish Secrets in the menu on this page.
“…The pruned grape vines are now showing signs of life. Tiny lilac and green buds cling to the dry vines before bursting open into leaf. Microscopic bunches of grapes have appeared nestling among the tiny leaves.’’ ‘Tis the season in Galicia for Craig Briggs and his wife Melanie to enjoy their first barbecue of the year.
…Ancient rocky outcrops, weathered by time, stand like stone sculptures in an art gallery… Craig Briggs and his wife Melanie drive through the spectacular heart of Galicia, then cross the border to lunch in the Portuguese fortress town of Valenca.
For the real flavour of Spain, and Portugal, read more of Craig's columns by clicking on Spanish Secrets in the menu on this page.
The sad winter landscape is being re-painted in much brighter colours. Craig Briggs reports “Adding to this colourful palette are the crimson and purple tulips we planted earlier in the year. Their petals greet the rising sun by spreading open. As the sun fades they close like praying hands.’’
Craig writes so colourfully and appealingly about the part of Spain where he lives that he makes you want to instantly catch the first’plane heading for Iberia.
Craig Briggs gets to work in the garden, but as the unforgiving Galician terrain results in another broken fork handle he is reminded of one of the most famous of all British TV comedy sketches.
…Wild blackberry bushes snare the unsuspecting gardener. The needle-sharp spines of wild gorse pierce gloves, clothing and flesh like arrows in a dartboard….
As spring arrives in Galicia Craig Briggs braves the”dangers’’ of the garden.
The attributes of an orang-utan can sometimes be required when it comes to “trimming’’ a tree, as Craig Briggs reveals.
Craig Briggs goes on a cyber safari into the depths of the electronic jungle to track down and kill a virus.
Craig Briggs thinks of the slowest of slow-moving snails as he struggles to master the Spanish language.
…Bird cages, door handles, locks, hammers, garden furniture, pizza makers, bullets, fishing tackle, boots, tents, big nails, little nails, medium sized nails, buckets, brushes, coat-hangers, draught insulation, every item imaginable; well almost… Craig Briggs and his wife Melanie go shopping at a Galician ferreteria.
"Wrapping my arms under her body, I feel the pounding of her little heart as I raise her onto the sterile steel. Her nervous fear causes her to struggle. I hold her tighter and she presses her body into mine. Her heart races, pounding like an uncontrollable clockwork drummer boy…’’ Craig Briggs and his wife Melanie take their dog Jazz to a Galician vet.
…the countryside was covered in a frosty white coat. Strange undulations and unusual shapes appeared on the landscape like distorted pale marshmallows on a pure white canvas.
It was a day for staying at home, keeping warm and enjoying this rare visual delight. Unfortunately I was charged with a different task, an unavoidable trip to Santiago airport…
Snow in Galicia – and Craig Briggs, braving the elements, ventures out in his car.
To sample more of Craig’s delightful accounts of life in rural North-Western Spain click on Spanish Secrets in the menu on this page.
“Here, deep in the Spanish countryside, we look out on rolling hills and distant mountains, deep valley gorges with gently flowing rivers quietly meandering their way through the endless landscape.
Old women sit on dry-stone walls, knitting colourful cardigans whilst watching over their small flock of sheep grazing in the green fields.’’
Craig Briggs, who has been on holiday in Lanzarote and is now back in Galicia, agrees wholeheartedly with the sentiment: it’s very nice to go travelling, but it’s so much nicer to come home.
Craig Briggs writes glowingly of his favourite island, Lanzarote. On a recent holiday there he got to ride pillion on a silver dream machine.
“Our celebrations to see in the New Year began with a high-speed race through the country lanes and village streets of Lanzarote….’’ Craig Briggs and his wife Melanie thought their driver must be related to the Spanish F1 motor racing ace Fernando Alonso when they set out to celebrate New Year’s Eve on the holiday isle of Lanzarote.
Craig Briggs, his wife Melanie and their dog Jazz flew off to the island of Lanzarote for Christmas and the New Year.
"Like a good shepherd he lifted the two young lambs, placing one under each arm...'' While doing a good deed for friends in a hamlet high in the Galician hills, Craig Briggs and his wife Melanie encounter two hungry creatures who are just six hours old.
After enjoying this slice of Galician life, click on Spanish Secrets in the menu on this page and enjoy Craig's experiences through the seasons in this beautiful part of Spain.
The open market looked like an enormous Bedouin camp, a vast expanse of tethered white tarpaulins shimmering in the bright daylight… Craig Briggs and his wife Melanie go Christmas shopping in Valenca, a Portuguese fortress town.
"Being the only English residents in the village, we receive a curious selection of mail, especially at this time of year. It seems that all the mail bearing an English stamp is delivered to us. The actual name and address of the intended recipient appears to take a secondary role in identification...'' Craig Briggs vividly conveys the slowing beat and rhythm of life in a Galician village in these muted grey days of winter.
Craig Briggs says that in Galicia a number of other Christian festivals celebrated throughout the year are considered to be just as important as Christmas. "Here at least, those cleverly manipulative marketing men have to play second fiddle to Jesus Christ.''
"The seamless blue sky is broken only by wispy-white vapour trails created by passing airliners. Like long straight chalk-marks on a pastel blue board, they linger in the air broadening and contorting as they fade from view...'' Craig Briggs describes in poetic detail the wonders of Galicia's November days.
“Raising my garden fork overhead and adopting the posture of a trident-armed gladiator, I waited in dread for the emergence of a forty-foot python. My heart was pounding in anticipation; my eyes focused like lasers on the pile of stones Melanie had been removing….” There’s a “shocking’’ encounter when Craig Briggs and his wife Melanie start to establish a vegetable garden at their Galician home.
"Tonight is a night to satisfy a dark desire. We leave our home driving down the lane and through the village. Lighting our path are randomly spaced street lights, around which the early evening mist forms a luminescent veil. Once through the village it’s onto the main highway.... '' To learn the secret of Craig Briggs's dark desire, read on.
Craig Briggs takes a bemused alien's look at his home village in Galicia, then at other bizarre happenings on Planet Earth.
Craig Briggs and his wife Melanie visit the former monastery at Santo Estavo, now a Paradore, a state-funded hotel, and are duly thankful for the decision to preserve old and beautiful buildings by converting them for modern use.
“The vinicultural symphony begins from allegretto to allegro, with the orchestral gasses bubbling to the surface and bursting with song. Within a week the melody has changed. The musical score now calls for calando, gradually fading until the barely audible murmurs have ended…’’ Did you know that sounds accompany the fermentation process? Craig Briggs writes joyously of the process of turning juicy fruit into wine.
“Young men and women enter the square having spent weeks retracing ancient footpaths. All are weighed down with huge rucksacks containing life’s necessities for their temporary nomadic existence. Some are barely able to walk from self- inflicted injuries to tender feet…’’ Craig Briggs visits Santiago de Compostela, a place of pilgrimage.
“During the summer we’ve made delicious orange and lemon flavoured cocktails with the white, where colour became inconsequential, and deliciously fruity and spirit-laden Sangria, served freezing cold with an abundance of crushed ice, with the red…’’ Craig Briggs and his wife Melanie can look forwards to many more tasty wine-based drinks because this year they have harvested a bumper crop of grapes.
Water is flowing down rural lanes in Galicia. Huge oaken barrels are being cleansed. This is the season for grape picking and wine making, and Craig Briggs makes you long to be there to join in the age-old traditions.
Craig Briggs tells of the time when a Good Samaritan provided guidance when he and his wife Melanie were lost in Galicia.
"...she jumps to her feet, ears pricked and tail wagging furiously. With no less enthusiasm than an excited child opening presents at Christmas, she bounds to the glass patio doors, slipping and sliding on the hard polished surface of the dining room tiles...'' CRAIG BRIGGS takes his dog Jazz for a walk in the quiet of a Galician evening, to the accompaniment of chirping cicadas and a chorus of croaking frogs.
"...the first of the planes circles the menacing cloud. The pilot is looking for the perfect angle of attack. It banks sharply to the left before diving steeply and disappearing into the thick black smoke...'' Craig Briggs brings a dramatic account of the aerial warfare against the fires which rage through the forests and countryside of Green Spain.
Do you long for a calm, relaxing life? In this tale of a well and a water supply Craig Briggs suggessts that one way to achieve calmness is to live in a society which does not acknowledge the words "You're late''.
Two whirlwinds hit the Briggs home in Galicia recently. One of the whirlwinds was five years old, the other two... Craig Briggs writes of fun and games with Mason, Erren...and a green aligator called Gary Gator.
Craig Briggs is left with a deep sense of being unjustly accused after a large white envelope is delivered to his home in Galicia.
"This small and very light piece of plastic had become a lead weight in my pocket...'' Craig Briggs, a former credit card "slave'', sympathises with the attitude of his Galician neighbours: if you can't afford it, you can't have it.
"In this quiet, cool, almost intimidating gorge, faces in the rock, formed by centuries of weathering, stare at the passing boat...'' Craig Briggs goes on a dramatic river trip in a fjord-like valley in Galicia.
Craig Briggs pays heartfelt tribute to a Galician neighbour and friend, Jesus Angel Rodrigues Fuentes, the "ordinary'' but very special man who taught him all he knows about the proper care of grape vines. Jesus passed away in the house in which he was born in 1965.
The drilling men arrive to hunt for water, and Craig Brigg's peaceful Galician lawn becomes a circus ring.
Craig Briggs's account of a brief Galician storm is so vivid that it will have you ducking to avoid the rain and hailstones.
"To the left in a wooden pen were two very clean-looking cows, one jet-black and the other a lovely milk-chocolate brown colour. Not having previously seen cows in someone's house I was quite astonished at their apparent enormity in such a small space...''
Craig Briggs and his wife Melanie visit their friend Pablo who lives with his extended family in a traditional stone-built Spanish farmhouse.
Tall, straight eucalyptus trees, with flaying bark like the peeling skin of an overenthusiastic sunbather, fragrance the air with their aromatic odour... Craig Briggs, his wife Melanie, and their friends go on a quest for cool air - and hot, spicy food.
Imagine sitting on your terrace, savouring a coffee, while a majestic eagle glides overhead. Imagine watching a stork, circling in warming thermals, as though tethered by an invisible cord. Craig Briggs describes another day in the paradise of a Galician hill village.
"First course would be fresh sardines, basted with butter and lemon juice, accompanied by a fresh crusty loaf. Followed by char-grilled beef steaks...'' Craig Briggs plans the perfect meal, then has fun and games assembling a new gas-fired barbecue.
"Like a classroom of unsupervised children, the garden had descended into horticultural anarchy...'' Returning home after a holiday in England, Craig Briggs discovers that his Galician garden is in need of a good deal of care and attention.
After visiting their former home territory in Yorkshire, Craig and Melanie Briggs are glad to be back in Galicia. "Here I feel in harmony with the environment, content and happy,'' says Craig.
When the customs at Santiago de Compostela airport insisted on searching the three suitcases, what did they find? Polythene bags, some containing white powder, others reddish-brown powder. Read Craig Briggs's entertaining column and discover the nature of those powders.
"...history has a tendency of converting architects into artists. Imagine the emotions and feelings of ancient Egyptians when the pyramids blighted their landscape...'' Craig and Melanie Briggs, on one of their beloved exploratory road trips, discover a splendid bar in a dramatic setting.
"As the car swerved sharply to the left, the carefully packed contents of the back seat slipped onto our dog, Jazz. Startled and confused, she clambered over the fallen items. With Melanie trying to calm her down, and Jazz trying to sit on my lap, it was time to stop...'' Craig and Melanie Briggs had a nightmare drive through France on the way to the land of their dreams, Spain.
At long last, rain in Galicia! Overnight, fruit trees have released their colourful blossom, like the opening of a floral jack-in-the-box. Camelia bushes, some the size of anchored hot-air ballons, have burst into flower... Craig Briggs relishes the present while recalling the stresses of the past.
The frosts have gone. The Moon is waxing. Time to prune those precious grape vines in Galicia. But Craig Briggs, aware that his labours would determine the quantity and quality of this year's grape harvest, wields the secateurs tentatively. "Every cut leaves an open wound where oozing sap forms in droplets. Like tears, they fall to the floor, as if the vine is crying for its loss...''
Spring is in the air in Galicia, says Craig Briggs. Men are frequently checking on the progress of their wine, while women toil in the fields.
"The air was still, as it is for most of the year. Not a breath of wind, and yet my face was tightening as I walked towards the gate. It felt as if the frosty air was piercing my skin like a thousand needles...'' Craig Briggs's column will make you wish you were there to share in a brisk, bright Galician morning.
There you are, sitting on your front porch, sipping the delicious wine made from grapes from your own vines, watching the setting sun, exchanging greetings with your Spanish village neighbours who are out for an early-evening stroll...and what comes next? Craig Briggs savours the full cup of Life.
"The yokes are an orange-gold colour and taste as if the flavour of a dozen eggs has somehow been compressed into one...'' In this delicious column Craig Briggs, conveying the full flavour of Spain, introduces the real San Miguel.
In a column which really will make your mouth water,Craig Briggs tells how he turned a bank windfall in his favour into a delicious lunch in the beautiful town of Chantada.
Craig Briggs contrasts two carnivals, one held in sunshine, the other in rain - but both of them filled with joy and a sense of fun.
"For reasons unknown he'd driven straight into the back of the car. Both man and machine bounced, bumped and rolled down the road in almost surreal slow motion...'' Craig Briggs has an unwelcomed close encounter with a motorcyclist, then enters a mobile "oven''.
Oh, oh Antonio, what a disaster when you moved those roof tiles-o! Craign Briggs collapses in uncontrollable laughter.
In this thoughtful column Craig Briggs suggest that besides pubs Britain needs European-style bars, places that are open to all and fun for all, where drinking to excess is looked upon as childish, rather than adult.
In this wonderfully tasty article Craig Briggs will make your mouth water with his description of a Galician farmhouse feast.
For a long, delicious read about the experiences of Craig and his wife Mel in rural Galicia click on Spanish Secrets in our column menu on the right-hand side of this page.
This is the time of year when pigs are slaughtered in Galicia. Craig Briggs, his wife Melanie and two of their friends are invited to a farm for the Matanza, the slaughtering, an event which is another reason for a celebration.
When Craig and Mel Briggs forgot to check before leaving a hotel room, leaving behind articles of clothing, they found themselves caught up in a frustrating and seemingly endless drama.
This year in the UK 300 million tons of waste paper will be created by discarded Christmas cards. "Did God have in mind such wanton destruction of the planet in celebration of his only son's birthday?'' Craig Briggs asks.
Craig Briggs introduces us to some of the characters in the Galician village where he lives, creating a longing to go and see them.
When Craig Briggs took his car into a garage for a check-up he was involved a sequence of events that could have made a comedy film. A film that might have had an ending that was far from comic though, for brakes and steering on the "discourteous'' courtesy car were in such a state of disrepair as to court an accident.
Craig Briggs and his wife Melanie are woken by the crack of gunshots in their sleepy Galician village.
With high expectations Craig Briggs and his wife Melanie travelled to Madrid to watch England play Spain in a friendly game. On a bleak night for football the English players had reason to be ashamed of their performance, and the Spanish crowd of its behaviour.
"Personally I think God slipped up with horses,'' says Craig Briggs after an unexpected equine encounter in a Spanish lane. "Anything that large and powerful should surely have an on-and-off switch somewhere.''
The preparation of the Spanish desert Quemada is spectacular. But the taste? Read Craig Brigg's entertaining slice of Galician life and discover what it is like to sip a flaming waterfall.
Craig Briggs describes the excitement and floral profuaion as preparations are made to celebrate All Saints Day in the Galician village where he and his wife Melanie live.
Craig Briggs discovers that the most important factor in making Galician wine is the Lunar cycle.
The Spanish love a party and any reason will do, says Craig Briggs. There are fiestas to celebrate the chestnut harvest, the slaughtering of pigs, the new wine...
A football match in Portugal is a celebration of the glorious game. Craig Briggs, his wife Melanie, and friends David and Terri drive down into Portugal to watch the Scottish team Hearts play Braga in a UEFA cup game.
Craig Briggs and his wife Mel have gathered in their grapes, the red variety and the green. They have purchased the special barrels. Now, it's on with the Wellies - and let the wine-making commence!
Wine making? Craig Briggs is told that all he needs to turn his grape harvest into wine is a few buckets, a pair of Wellies and a barrel.
You can almost taste the delicious local wines, the tapas, the flavourful Spanish food as Craig Briggs and his wife Melanie welcome English relatives to their home in Galicia.
Craig Briggs finds an eastern Paradise in the Spanish city of Vigo.
"Here in Spain, we say what a tonto! In English, what an idiot!'' Craig Briggs fails to take account of one small point when he goes to buy ladders in Galicia.
Craig Briggs and his wife Melanie celebrate the twentieth anniversary of their first date with a very special meal in a refurbished monastery.
Craig Briggs introduces us to two splendid characters, Julio and Julio's dad, who run a petrol station in a small Galician village. "They are the most generous petrol station owners I have ever come across,'' says Craig. "They add between 4 and 7 cents worth of extra fuel free of charge every time you call.''
Craig Briggs samples a cup of cold coffee - just the thing to refresh you when you are sitting outdoors on a Galician summer evening.
If someone gives you a huge marrow, what do you do with it? For an unexpected answer read Craig Briggs's latest delicious despatch from Galicia.
Craig Briggs tells of a friend who, because of the officiousness of a Ryan Air check-in desk employee, was not allowed to leave Spain because her British passport had expired.
Oh Mr Spanish Porter, what shall we do? We wanted to go to Santiago, now it seems as though we're going to Vigo too! Craig Briggs tells the story of an unwelcomed train journey.
Never, never give a four-year-old a hosepipe and turn your back on him. Craig Briggs and his wife Melanie have some damp fun entertaining English friends with young children.
In Galicia hairdressing is an additional service provided by some retailers. "Can you imagine?'' Craig Briggs asks. "Six oranges, a loaf of bread, oh and a cut and blow dry while I'm here please.''
There was a sign on the bank door "Back soon''. The manager had gone for his morning cup of coffee. Bank managers in Spain are human beings and it is a pleasure to do business with them, as Craig Briggs reveals.
Be ready for nasty surprises when you mow the lawn in Galicia. Craig Briggs has some unwelcomed experiences as he tends his vines and garden.
When Craig Briggs drives down to Portugal to experience the international camaraderie and high excitement of the Euro 2004 football tournament he finds himself surrounded by friendly Vikings. Even if you are not a footie fan you will still wish you were there to join in the fun after reading Craig's account of a vivid day.
The harder I stirred the thicker it got, until I could pick the pan and its contents off the gas ring by the wooden spoon, which was now sticking up in the middle of it like a flagpole. Craig Briggs faces up to a cooking disaster when he wrongly interprets Spanish instructions.
Even when lightning flashes and thunder rolls life is still sweet in Galicia, as Craig Briggs reveals in another of his flavourful columns.
Time to treat the grape vines - and there's a noise in the night as if a train is passing within inches of the house. Craig Briggs brings us another delicious slice of Galician life.
Imagine the thrill of watching the "neighbours'' as they soar and zoom overhead, hunting for lunch. Craig Briggs's Galician neighbours are majestic eagles - and a grandstand view of their aerobatic displays sure beats watching a video.
Storks fly by while you tend the lawn. Frogs make enough din to remind you of car alarms. Wild boar wander in the lane. Craig Briggs introduces us to wild, wild Galicia.
Craig Briggs brings us an amusing account of early encounters with the Spanish health service. Brace yourselves! You are about to meet a creepy-crawly - and Dr Chaos!
Looking for your place in the Spanish sun? Read Craig Briggs's absorbing cautionary tale about the misfortunes of Pam and Jeff - then think, very, very deeply.
Craig Briggs and his wife Melanie go hunting for chicken Madras in rural Galicia.
It's a funny thing about trees, says Craig Briggs. They always look a lot smaller when you have both feet on the ground than they do when your ladder is extened to its maximum and you are precariously perched on the top rung.
Craig Briggs tells us about a Spanish village shop which you invariably leave half-cut, with a carrier bag full of things, even though you have only paid for one item.
Lucky you are to have a neighbour who comes a-calling with a gift of home-made chorizo. Craig Briggs brings us another rich slice of life from a remote Spanish village.
When one of his Galician neighbours comes a-calling Craig Briggs discovers that there's more to grooming grape vines than you might think.
Craig Briggs and his wife Melanie are living a dream shared by thousands of stressed-out Brits.
They have swapped the hustle and bustle of an industrial town in Yorkshire for a quieter life in a remote part of Spain, far away from the tourist-crowded Costas.
Craig, a chap with a keen sense of humour, will be sending us regular reports of their new life in Galicia - a region which he says is one of Spain’s best-kept secrets.
In the first of these he tells us how to de-ice a car Spanish-style.
Get ready to chuckle.