Silvia told us something about her job a few days ago, and it occurred to me that Spain, with its dry climate, has quite a tradition of water management. I remember how amazed I was when I visited the Alhambra - not just by the architecture and the decoration but because, although it's on a hilltop surrounded by a bare, dry, rocky landscape, there's water everywhere, in pools, fountains and channels, and supporting incredibly varied and luxuriant vegetation.
Britain has a much wetter climate, but it's affected more and more often by water shortages as well as flooding - no doubt because of a combination of factors, including climate change and the ever-increasing water consumption of a densely-populated country with less and less countryside. But I was shocked to read a couple of years ago that in West Yorkshire, which is the county where Leeds is, about a quarter of all the water collected in reservoirs never reaches the consumers, but is lost by leakages from worn-out pipes. And I don't suppose the infrastructure is much better in other parts of the country.
I think the custom of sending traditional Christmas cards is on the decline, as more and more people send email cards or text messages. This year seems to be the year that we've finally more or less given up sending cards, except to a handful of relatives. It's partly just a question of laziness - it's easier to send emails. We haven't progressed to the sophistication of sending animated cards with falling snowflakes and talking reindeer, though!
Thanks for telling us about your local fire traditions, Silvia. It's interesting how a pagan tradition was taken over by Christianity, then outlawed, and finally promoted as a tourist attraction! Have there ever been any serious accidents caused by the bonfires, I wonder?
Yesterday was Christmas Eve, and we went into the city centre to do a bit of last-minute shopping and have a look at the Christmas street lights, which Leeds is very proud of. (Apparently, there's a team of 80 people employed year-round working on them and trying to make them bigger and better every year!) As usual, the city was full of all sorts of people, including some pretty odd characters - there was even one man wearing pyjamas, and talking to himself as he did his shopping.
Later on, we had a semi-traditional Polish-style Christmas Eve dinner, with dishes that my wife prepared - not twelve of them, but quite a few.
And today's Christmas Day. We've been out for one of our usual local walks, to a nearby village and around the estate of a sixteenth-century manor, with extensive gardens, farmland and woods - a good way of working up an appetite for today's traditional English-style Christmas dinner.
I'd like to suggest a few improvements to things you've written recently, Silvia. But I'm sure you don't want to be bothered with things like that at the moment, so I'll leave it till after Christmas.
Best wishes to everyone - and if you're celebrating Christmas, have a good one!
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