ciento volando

travel, stories, and other flights of fancy


please do touch

“If the fat one touches us, we might have to close the school…”

“Oh, how I want him to touch me!”

“What will you do when the fat one touches you?”

“Wouldn’t it be great if he touched us together… our lives would never be the same…”

Gordo-de-navidad-telamThat’s right. It’s Christmas lottery time… and all of Spain is waiting with baited breath to find out who El Gordo, the fat one, is going to touch.

With a total prize pool of 2,520 million euros (this year), La Lotería de Navidad is the biggest grossing lottery the world. It consists of an extremely complex system (for the numerologically confused, such as me), in which prizes are drawn from two giant gold spherical vessels containing thousands of ancient wooden lottery balls. First category, El Gordo, is worth 4 million euros, so there’s a fair bit left over for sub categories…the love is nicely spread about the country. One ticket costs a hefty €200, but is usually split into decimos of €20 each. The lottery is drawn every year on the 22nd of December, in an elaborate 3 hour ceremony in the National Lottery Hall of Madrid. Traditionally (since 1812), pupils of the San Ildefonso school (formerly reserved for orphans of public servants) draw the numbers and corresponding prizes, and sing the results aloud for the audience (who is usually decked out in lottery-themed fancy dress). And of course the event is broadcast on national television, inconveniently clashing with school concerts and masses across Spain.

Children singing the lottery drawAs the tickets are so pricey, it’s customary for groups of friends and colleagues to all buy decimos of the same ticket, so that everyone can (potentially) win together. Like any form of gambling, there are a tonne of superstitions and statistics floating around regarding the luck of certain number combinations, regions, and vending outlets. You can even search your preferred number online to find out exactly which vendor will have it in stock. Enlarged colour photocopies of the ornately decorated tickets are displayed in shopfronts, dashboards, and noticeboards all over Spain. Publicising your lottery number is almost as important as buying the ticket in the first place.

I don’t have a shopfront or a dash board, and I’m not even important enough to get my own desk. My pigeon hole is in the dingy, bottommost corner of the pigeon hole bank thingy, where it’s frequently obstructed by wet umbrellas, and far too low a place to post my future fortune bringer.

So my only real display space is here. You will therefore all be thrilled and delighted to know that this Christmas, this little blogger is playing (half of a tenth) of ticket number:


I must say, have a lucky feeling… I can’t help it. Someone’s got to win, and I’ve actually met someone who has in the past. Plus I’ve been lucky in (much smaller) competitions before, you never know, it might just happen again. Luck is luck, and mathematically, it’s impossible to use up, I think. Also, the colleague with whom I’m splitting the ticket lost it shortly after she bought it. It took her two weeks to find (in a very logical place: wedged between the pages of one of the umpteen textbooks she uses and leaves lying about the office and random classrooms on a daily basis). She did tell me that if she couldn’t locate it, I should find another partner. But Murphy’s Law would suggest that once lost, the ticket was sure to win, so I’ve developed a certain attachment to it. Of course now we’re back to the original odds, but least it was a lucky ticket for a little while.

I know this is all very flawed logic, but that’s not the point. As they say, the lottery gives you ‘the chance to dream’. Not that I personally need an excuse to dream, but ‘in these uncertain times’, many other people do… so good luck to them. May the fat one touch* us all.

In the meantime, real life continues, semi chaotically. The end of the year always seems to speed up, and now more so than ever. Perhaps we really are hurtling towards a precipice…. if so, having to give up my millions due to the fall of capitalism or the end of the world is going to be a hard pill to swallow.

Anyway, work-wise, I’m on the home straight. With just under two weeks of class to go, the real world has become a steadily fading foreground. Pretty soon I’ll up up up and away… a little further north, to some destinations both known and unknown. It’s going to be my second Christmas away from home (already), let’s hope that this time it’s a proper white one!

I’ll endeavour to keep in touch whilst on the road… but what with the end of the world, the touch of the fat one, the birth of Christ, the beginning of the New Year, and my first taste of real German pretzels… there’s gonna be so much happening, you’ll have to forgive me for any lapses in communication. Plus travelling hand-luggage-only in winter doesn’t allow much space for dinosaur laptops…so I’ll be leaving this cranky old stegosaurus** at home.

That’s all for now. Except that I should probably mention (without getting too mushy) that I’m thinking more than ever of my faraway family and friends, and missing you a little bit more than usual… As is only natural at this time of year, I suppose. Anyway, I hope you’re all well, and staying warm, or keeping cool, and making the most of the silly season

love and cyber hugs

xox jean
*I should probably explain the nature of the Spanish verb tocar, to touch. It’s used a little differently to English, and can mean anything from playing an instrument to ‘being chosen’ (think little green Toy Story aliens).
Anyway, the innuendos never cease to amuse my simple mind:

  • My housemate touches the trumpet. She touches really well.
  • I prefer playing Scrabble with just two people. That way you get touched more often.
  • Marie Carmen’s elderly mother touches her every fortnight. (Every fortnight it’s Marie Carmen’s job to look after her elderly mother).
  • It touches me to clean the bathroom. (It’s my turn to clean the bathroom).
  • Gotta go! The bell is touching!
  • Give me a touch when you get there. (Give me a prank call when you get there)


** Perhaps my first fat purchase will be a skinny tablet computer.


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more on Spain and MERRY CHRISTMAS!!

To: People on the old mailing list
Subject: more on Spain and MERRY CHRISTMAS
From: jean

So… I have the feeling that my last email is still sitting in some people’s inboxes, pending a spare few reading hours…

But given that it’s Christmas, I thought I’d be so bold as to spam you again with a bit of festive cheer.

I’ll try to keep it short

  1. Merry Christmas
  1. Happy New Year
  1. My ticket number in the Lotería de Navidad is: 0943510509. Apparently it’s very important to advertise this fact, and if had a shopfront I’d be displaying a huge blown up photocopy. If the lottery ‘touches me’ (and my colleagues), Hinojosa will have one less primary school, and I’ll be able to fly home every year for Christmas… or maybe sail, in my own private yacht!

As it is, for Christmas I’m flying easyJet to England, dressed in as many layers as I can humanly wear. I’ll be spending most of my time in London, catching up with distant rellies and long lost ex-pat and British friends (for a country I’ve never been to, I somehow know a lot of people there).

I’m crossing my fingers for my first ever White Christmas. If it must be cold, it may as well be beautiful!

Either way, I’ll be thinking of you all.

Stay safe, happy, warm (Northern hemisphere-ers), and cool (Southerners), and have a wonderful, relaxing (or exhilarating, depending on what you prefer) break.

Best wishes

Xx Jean

PS: ‘tis the season to be homesick:


  1. Honey. For some reason it tastes completely different here. I guess the bees eat (?) different flowers and that affects the flavour.
  1. Watching QI on Tuesday nights at Mum and Dads
  1. Sushi-Sushi, Kake de Hatti, Almazette’s, Bombay by Night, Thaila Thai, Ambrosia, Nam Loong, and Shanghai Dumpling Palace…
  1. Good coffee, in funky little cafes. Even if it does cost three times as much. I’ll always be a city girl at heart.
  1. Understanding what’s going on around me, and not just ‘getting the gist’.
  1. Being able to meet people without having the same conversation over and over. I’m beginning to tire of the inevitable ‘you’re not from here, are you?’ ‘oooh Australia, that’s very far away, isn’t it?’ Yes. it’s the other side of the world. ‘how many hours in the aeroplane?’ ‘do you get a stopover?’ ‘are there kangaroos there?’ ‘are you married?’ ‘then what are you doing here?’. It’s like Groundhog Day. And the only way to avoid it is to somehow disappear my accent and improve my vocabulary to include an infinite number of everyday words like ‘grouting’ and ‘lint remover’. Plus learn a whole cast of idioms. And master the subjunctive tense. And remember to use second person plural. And stop using possessive pronouns to talk about body parts (it’s ‘the hand’ not ‘my hand’). And remember the gender of every damned inanimate object/abstract concept ever to have existed in the history of the world, and then make sure that all the relevant particles and modifiers correctly correspond to said object with said gender. And then slur and blur and lisp it all together into a mush, drop all the ‘d’s and ‘s’s, skip the ‘h’s, cough up the ‘j’s like phlegm, and clip the end off all the words… even though Spanish is supposed to be phonetic. But really, it’s a beautiful language, and that’s why I’m here, politely responding to all who ask about Australia – ‘yes, we do have lots of cute little kangaroos, they actually make quite good meat’.
  1. Being able to regularly and fluently vent my frustrations at the end of the day with friends or family. Rather than bottling them up for self indulgent written spiels.
  1. Reading The Age cover to cover on Saturday mornings (even if it takes me until Thursday)
  1. Aussie Rules. Especially how the players fall over and then get back up again, without crying to the umpire.
  1. ‘fresh milk’. Well, I know our homogenised pasteurised stuff is probably nothing like it was in the good old days, but it’s closer to what comes from a cow than the UHT you buy here.
  1. The pace of service. Service here is mostly good, but it’s ever so slow.
  1. BBQs.
  1. JJJ. I know it can be streamed online, but my computer says no. Which is for the better, I’m trying to avoid having too much English around me.
  2. Running Prinny in the mornings and watching the balloons over Brunswick.
  1. Smoke-free bars. The new laws haven’t yet reached Hinojosa.
  1. Normal business hours. Don’t get me wrong, I love siesta, but it’s very frustrating that all the shops close at 2pm, exactly when I finish school, and open again just after I start my evening classes. And running out of tea/coffee/milk on a Sunday is nightmare material. I guess that’s where all the UHT milk comes in handy.
  1. Australian beaches. Not that I went that often, and I can’t say I miss the blow flies and Antarctic water and potential for sharks and jelly fish and the ozone-less burning sun. But Aussie beaches seem so much bigger and cleaner than those I’ve encountered since I got to Europe. Then again, I was on the tourist trail in high season. I’m sure there are better beaches here, and if it was beach weather then maybe I’d go looking for them. I guess what I’m really thinking is that I miss camping at Wilson’s Prom and watching the waves in front of the fire at Apollo Bay… I know I know. I’ve gotta learn to make some sacrifices!
  1. Summer in Melbourne. In rooftop bars and the Botanic Gardens, drinking on balconies and fire-escapes and in backyards (backyards!), with people I know and who ‘get’ me (or at least do a good show of pretending to). One thing about speaking a foreign language is that it totally cripples your personality… it’s hard to edge into conversations, whenever you want to make a snappy little comment the moment is lost before you can form your sentence, and sarcasm is totally out of the question. I feel so boring. But I’m ever so much more polite!
  1. Peanut Butter. There’s only one brand here in the supermarket here and it doesn’t quite cut it. Though I’ve never had a healthy relationship with peanut butter so that’s probably for the best. As for vegemite, I’m hanging in there with half a jar left. Fortunately I’m not a ‘vegemite every day’ person, just ‘vegemite in case of emergencies’. Think I’ll survive.
  1. My family and friends. AWWWWWW

Lots of love and hugs