Heat, drink and be merry

It's bitterly cold as I write. Actually, after a few years of mild winters, these temperatures are reminiscent of those I recall prevailing at this time of year when I first arrived in Malaga in the nineteen nineties. Big scarves and woolly hats were the order of the days back then as the icy damp cut through any number of layers of clothing to lay waste to your bones and make getting out of bed a feat of superhuman will power.

By contrast, the last few years have brought relatively mild winters and I've had various conversations with my chums alluding to the olden days and leaving us wondering whether our imaginations have been playing tricks on us and it simply wasn't as cold as we remember. However, current temperatures have put paid to those doubts and vindicated our hazy recollections.

With the coming winter chill in mind, last October, 191 different flu vaccine stations were announced around Malaga province and, as is the case every year, people were encouraged to get the jab and keep the fever at bay. This is all very laudable, especially for those who find themselves more vulnerable to the virus - the over sixty-fives, hospital workers and, indeed, anyone without a big woolly hat.

I think the authorities have missed a trick, though. Instead of pumping syringes of vaccine into people's arms, the 191 anti-flu stations should be used for handing out endless steaming hot cups of 'caldito de pintarroja'. For those who of you may never have sampled this local delight, it's a sort of fish soup seasoned with magical spices that, when consumed, sends a wave of heat through your whole being, culminating in a warm prickly sensation on the top of your head and offering an overall sense of wellbeing rarely attainable in any other circumstance.

I hope I'm not tempting fate, but I've never once had flu since I've lived here and I'm convinced that slugging back a cup of 'caldito' any time I get so much a snuffle, has a lot to do with that fact. It's a bit harder to find than it used to be but there are still a fair number of bars and restaurants which serve the magic potion and I suggest you sample its warmth and wonder at the first available opportunity.

Now, on to more pressing matters - it's nearly midday and I really must get out of bed. Brrrrrrr!!