Wednesday, 31 May 2017

La Canasta, Málaga: a Review

La Canasta is my favourite coffee haunt when in the city of Málaga. This particular branch of the small provincial chain is extremely handy for the largest El Corte Inglés department store in the city. I have never been when the place is not packed and the waiters are run dogged; but they are fair and serve each in turn. In actuality, one is served very rapidly.

On this occasion we were ready for our first shot of caffeine for the day and the milk that we did not have on the cereal we missed by setting off to the city as early as possible. Each café con leche cost €1.35, was hot, strong and delicious.

[Image Description: coffee in a logo'd cup with an almost demolished cake]

Of course, it would have been rude to visit a pâtisserie (amongst other things) without sampling the cakes. My companion tried the new Bracito Pio X and I opted for natural mousse café-turrón. Each at €2,15, they were delicious and nought went back to the kitchen.

Refreshed and sated, we paid as quickly as we had ordered and set off to do our shopping…

Highly recommended.

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Viva Lola, Málaga: a Review

Having completed our list of shopping chores at El Corte Inglés, the main store just west of the casco (old city centre), we went up to the top floor to visit the Gourmet Experience. Here one can purchases beverages and foodstuffs from across the globe, from delicacies to locally sourced products. Furthermore, there are several eateries: some are parts of chains; others are independents.

[Image description: my companion with just some of our shopping
with Viva Lola's signage in the background]

Málaga being a port-city and a fishing-port as well, I of course wanted to sample the harvest from the sea. A new sea-food restaurant has recently opened, named Viva Lola. It is part of the Los Mellizos group of restaurants.

We selected our own table and were glad to sit down in extremely comfortable, ice grey coloured, Vitra Eames chairs. I find sitting due to my disabilities to be be extremely uncomfortable if not outright painful. These seats had plenty of lumber support and sufficient give to let me relax long enough to dine.

[Image description: the writer toasting with his wine; behind kitchen & bar staff at work]

Almost immediately a waiter was over and took our drinks orders. We were hot and did not yet know what we intended to eat, so selected rosado/rosé, a large glass of a fine wine cost an unbelievably low €3,10 (for city-centre prices). The waiter then brought over the menus for us to peruse.

[Image description:the menu and a chef's appetiser of a chunk of fresh tuna
atop a bed of chopped tomato on a mini bruschetta]

My dining companion & fellow shopper oohed and ahhed at the offerings. I, of course, ever mindful of my food allergy, kept an open-mind as to what I might be permitted to sample. We were hoping to try the whitebait, but Paul (the maître d'-manager) said when he had been to the fish-market that morning, they had not been good enough. So, instead we chose the special board of the day (left image below), pata de pulpo con mojo picón which would be octopus tentacle with a piquant sauce & lime (right image below).

It was absolutely delicious. The octopus flesh had not been overcooked, so instead of rubbery we bit into a meaty, steak-like texture. The flavour was somewhat like chicken, but far more delicious. This plate was emptied and got the thumbs-up. At €12 perhaps on the pricey side - but well worth it from my perspective for the mouth sensation, and quality. And believe it or not, on a blind tasting several years ago, it transpired that friend's favourite 'fish' is in fact octopus; so a contented chum too.

Whilst Paul tried to find a dish I would like for my mains, he sent over two steamed scallops, each designed for our respective tastes (image above). My chum is not the biggest fish-lover, but it was at this point that even he was making orgasmic noises on the other side of table. His was spicy; mine was sweet & sour. Mmmmmmm…

Richard's tarantelo de atún served with home-made French fries (image above) finally arrived with our next glass of wine. This is the bees-knees of tuna, the cut to dine upon. And my friend wolfed it down.

As you can see from above, there was little left on his plate.

In the meantime, I was treated to the most divine tuna steak, for me perfectly cooked - just seared on the outside and cooked hot enough to heat through the flesh. I was in heaven. Not a scrap was left on my plate.

By now you are probably wondering what we would have for dessert. If you guessed more fish, you would be right! Sea-bass sushi and raw red tuna on mini bruschettas (to the left and the right respectively in the image above).

I can not overstate how exquisite is the seafood at Viva Lola. This is a must-eat-at eatery. I shall be making a bee-line for it when next I am in Málaga.

Monday, 29 May 2017

Per ATOS/DWP: Able to Leave Home, Fit to Travel Anywhere

Those poor folk at ATOS appear to be working the bank holiday as I have just received a response to the complaint I did not make!

On 24th May ATOS issued the following letter in respect to my last email to them, outlined in my previous blog-post, ATOS & DWP question whether disabled can go abroad.

Dear Mr Hunter
Thank you for your recent communication, in which you expressed concerns regarding your application for Personal Independence Payment (PIP).
An investigation will now take place into the issues you have raised and we aim to complete our investigation within 20 working days. However, if the investigation takes longer than anticipated I will continue to update you of our progress.
Should you have any queries in the meantime, please do not hesitate to contact our customer service team on the above telephone number or myself at the address below.
Yours sincerely
Annmarie Cowley
Client Relations Officer
Atos Healthcare
PIP Customer Relations
PO Box 1006
TS19 1UL

Today's response is:

Dear Mr Hunter

Thank you for your email, in which you express your concerns with regard to your application for Personal Independence Payment (PIP).

As part of Atos Healthcare’s commitment to provide a service of the highest standard, it is important that we continue to be open and receptive to the views of those whose lives are affected by the service that we provide. I am, therefore, grateful for your feedback.

I understand from your correspondence that after you received a letter for a face to face assessment you contacted the Customer Service Centre and the Agent requested a Home Consultation (HC) which unfortunately was denied.

Home Consultations (HC) are reserved for claimants who do not leave their properties for any reason due to their conditions. In some instances, exceptions can be made to this rule providing that certain criteria can been met. Upon review of your questionnaire, it was established that you were able to travel abroad therefore could attend an Assessment Centre (AC), however you have explained the circumstances behind this and a Paper Based Review (PBR) has been completed after Atos Healthcare spoke with health professionals involved in your care.

I am pleased to tell you that the report has now been completed and returned to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), for a decision to be made. For any further update the DWP can be contacted on 0345 850 33 22.

This concludes the investigation carried out in regards to your complaint. I understand you feel we have not met your expectations during this time and I would like to apologise for
any distress or upset caused; I can assure you this is never our intention. I do hope that any future dealings you may have with our service will not cause you any further concern.

Yours sincerely,

Annmarie Cowley

Apparently: "Home Consultations (HC) are reserved for claimants who do not leave their properties for any reason due to their conditions."

What an absurd position!

You can get to a hospital appointment - no HC

You can get to your GP's - no HC

You can get to the dentist - no HC

You can get to the optician - no HC

You can get to the podiatrist - no HC

You can get to the physiotherapist - no HC

You can be wheeled out for a breath of fresh air - no HC

Such absolutist stances are disablist and contrary to common-sense. No account is taken of fluctuating conditions; the need for medication prior to, during and post appointments, nor their effects on one's mental capabilities; the ability or not to travel over distance; the amount of stress, whether physical &/or emotional; the need for support to attend appointments; the ability to travel on public-transport; and so on.

And note: I only got somewhere because I had the gumption to stand up for myself and wrote back to ATOS pointing out the stupidity of their position. Most folk would probably have done as instructed, i.e. refer back to the DWP. At the point where I raised the possibility that attending a medical examination centre would not be possible, ATOS ought then to have acted pro-actively and contacted my medics for their medical opinions. I had to press them to do so.

Health is not black and white: if x then y. It is innumerable shades of grey: if a then b or c or d or…

ATOS' standard of healthcare is illogical, unreasonable and contrary to common-sense and additionally costs the tax-payers of the country each time they carry out a review. As I stated previously, if ATOS returns cases to the DWP, they can then claim a further payment for a further review.

Scotland is getting rid of private contractors from the social security system. It's about time England followed suite!


Friday, 26 May 2017


[Image description: "Michael" a portrait of a hirsute, muscled, bespectacled man,
naked but for a skimpy pair of white briefs; courtesy & © Mr. Jo Ji]



"he did not presume to pronounce a reviling judgement upon him"
(Jude nine)


thud, thud, thud
dance music pounds out
trendy café-bar
youth's cultists
momentarily alone
in the crowded space
a table is vacated
straddling a seat
taking a place
looking out
away from the animated
the vociferous longings of desire
staring through the sheet-glass
over the car-park
where myriad lights shimmer or twinkle
inner silence
an eternity
an instant
and it is broken
two male lovers
take the chair beside me
one spoons into the other's lap
distracted by presence
uncomfortable proximity
I turn around
sipping at my Seltzer
glancing at the next two
approaching new arrivals
yet unsure
the mien opposite mine
strikes a chord
almost recalled
but from where
not from…
nor from…
creeps stealthily
and jumps out
of course!
a party long before
six months ago
or thereabouts
it must be
attempting to catch his eye
noticing his orbs remain
and cast down
toying with his Bier
blushing cognisance
or the flush of alcohol
deliberate avoidance
or does he just not know?
his charming, attractive partner
crosses his legs protectively
so no inadvertent touching
uses his expression
the sour scowl of one confident of possession
to parry
advances on his spouse
my pal returns
settles down
in a chair
drawn up to table
the two who are one
and the two who are two
the four
and we two
six in silence
thud, thud, thud
moments race
then dawdle maddeningly
rising from my chair
walking around to him
two eyes remain cast down
staring at the now tepid liquid
eight eyes follow
a look of mistrust from the lover
a look of misapprehension from the paired lovers
a look of curiosity from the friend
oblivious he
towards his unproffered ear
I bend
are you…
something of a god
jet hair
bronze skin
piercing sapphire
enchanting emerald
or flashing ruby
perhaps an angel
come to wage war
on the dragon
or what menace
what powers of evil
a holy warrior
Israel's sar
a guardian of the innocent
a defender of justice
whose scales you hold in your hands
in their secular guise
now commonly Michæl
so many names
for such an ancient presence
irony or predestiny
your namesake
the patron of your chosen profession
excuse me
are you…
a policeman
he recalls our meeting
in detail
not as drunk as I thought
thud, thud, thud
my sex-life as empty as ever
standing in an alien kitchen
a friend of a friend
who was invited
too abashed
to approach any of these strangers
the would-be movers and shakers
of Granada television production
smiling from embarrassment
at all and sundry
a lipstick lesbian duo
take me under their wing
chatting away
insignificant minutiæ
banality repels isolation
I didn't see him
a rather tall
handsome chappy
it transpired
a policeman
novel chat-up line
"puffa-jackets are passé now,
aren't they?"
cringing as
if only
but somehow
despite ineptitude
he gave me his number
…then blurted
he has a partner
with whom he is in love
drop by drop
with the effects of alcohol
he became a little irritable
by degrees
he began to display
a sadistic streak to his nature
continue to pursue
on the off-chance of
a fella to fellate
or to discreetly back off
cowardice or valour
my best interests
leave him be
later that night
after having bopped away
I sat down for a rest
on one of a pair
of unoccupied chairs
shutting my eyelids
- suddenly
a hand gripped my thigh
opening my eyes
to see him
on the floor
beside me
in a maudlin state
I pressed him
I did implore
sit in the empty chair
next to me
the other party-goers
were in the main
such extravagant behaviour
unsolicited attentions
a decorous amount of time
had elapsed
I got up
went into
another room
just before
we were about to depart the party
suddenly re-appearing
he hugged me
 then dashed
through the front-door
of the apartment
knocked two blokes
at the top of the stairwell
stumbled down the stairs
staggered at the bottom
and then
ran off down the street
needless to say
though I very much wanted to
and even worked out scripts for
his answering
his partner answering
an answer-machine
I did not telephone him
thud, thud, thud
in Paradise
primal rhythms
worship to hedonism's
natural endorphin fate
glimpsed again
he regarding me
and the partner looking on
rather irate
and then gone
as the image of the archangel
in the burning bush
but you remain
a prince of light
in my dreary
mundane life
you remembered me
I must have made
an impression
your smile
your glances
tell me
tantamount to love
but isn't that
a necessary part
of training
a police-officer
to recollect
I turn to dance again
listen to the music
thud, thud, thud


Today is my blog's fifth birthday. I am not up to writing my usual analysis of the blog's stats, etc. Hopefully, readers will be content with an old poem I wrote in the 90s prior to my disablement. I do not take readers for granted; so thank you all for visiting and reading. %)

Monday, 22 May 2017

Maracas 2017: a Review

Back in my second home of Benalmádena, I naturally gravitated to my favourite café-bar, Maracas, on Playa Bil-Bil. The popular venue celebrates fifteen years of business and international friendship this year. This is my fourteenth year of frequenting. Dani the waiter raised his eyebrows in greeting whilst serving elsewhere, but once free came over for our order. Sunday is always the busiest day of the week for the staff as the tourists are augmented by the locals on their day off who also want to enjoy the benefits of their blessèd municipality, now grown to seventy thousand registered residents. Maracas is not the cheapest place to eat and drink, but obviously one must expect to pay a small premium for being able to enjoy a cocktail or paella right on the beach and within a couple of metres of the gently lapping sea.

It was a warm Sunday, so we commenced with a caña apiece @ €2, that’s a small draught beer. In Spain, one will observe even respectable-looking women as well as the menfolk taking a small beer first thing of the morning. This does not signify a nation of drunkards or alcoholics: recent research has proven the benefits of this small pick-me-up.

As the afternoon progressed we moved on to tinto de verano @ €2.50, a cocktail of chilled red wine with a sparkling lemon drink, often Sprite or lemonade. It is surprisingly refreshing and not as sweet as perhaps one might anticipate. We chatted with: a group of four German, late middle-aged chaps on a friends’ break; an extended queer family and their beautiful bairn; a very middle-class family from Holland; and, a Spanish mother with her brood of peckish children. One has probably gathered that Maracas is a friendly place for all: child-friendly; gay-friendly; alien-friendly…

[Image description: read following paragraph]

The time to eat arrived. My chum ordered a hamburguesa de ternera - this strictly-speaking ought to be a veal hamburger, but is often made from beef cuts. My companion loved the burger: tasty, juicy and not over salted. He was also content with the filling. The bread roll was not the best and crumbled. Over all, at €4.50, he was very content.

[Image description: read following paragraph]

I opted for a dish Maracas introduced about three or so years ago, ensalada pasta tricolor. In a large bowl were three colours of perfectly cooked pasta twists, with sweetcorn, chicken, walnut halves, diced cheese, and hard-boiled egg slices. One has the choice of several speciality dressings or one can use the balsamic vinegar &/or olive oil brought to table whenever one places an order for food. At €8 this represents great value for such a substantial meal.

[Image description: read following paragraph]

We shared a large bowl of perfectly cooked French fries, patatas fritas (in Spanish this can mean chips [US fries] or crisps [US chips]). Accompanying our luncheon we enjoyed a medium, chilled rosé, vino rosado, @ €2.

After three hours of chilling on the beach in the sun, we were were ready to head back to our hotel for a siesta (nap). Of course, we shall return to Maracas.

Highly recommended. %D

Sunday, 21 May 2017

ATOS & DWP question whether disabled can go abroad

[Image description: writer in his NHS adapted wheelchair, covered
in a blanket & large cabin-bag for meds, at Manchester Airport]

As my conditions pejorate and my state of general health deteriorates, I am only ever going to get worse. At the current time there is no chance of amelioration let alone cure.

Over the last few assessments for ESA (Employment & Support Allowance) & DLA (Disability Living Allowance - now being replaced with PIP [Personal Independence Payment]), I have either had a decision made on the paperwork or ATOS have sent round a doctor to carry out the medical assessment at home.

For some odd reason, this time ATOS do not wish to send round a medic. Nor, for that matter, are they willing to contact my G.P. - details of which were on the claim-form - to determine whether what I say is true.

I suspect the absurd in/actions of #ATOS belie the reason for behaving so obtusely: if they send the paperwork back to DWP and then it is referred back to ATOS, the latter private company gets a second fee.

The email I received a day or so ago from Charlotte (a bot I believe as she is always sorry for the delay!) at ATOS:

Good Morning Mr Hunter,

Thank you for your email and I apologise for the delay in my response.

Unfortunately a Home Consultation has been declined as the information on your PIP Questionnaire which you filled out advises that you were going abroad in March and also in June and as you are able to travel you would be expected to attend an assessment centre.

If you are not able to attend an assessment centre this may result in the claim being sent back to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) if you wish to take it up with them directly you would need to contact them I am not able to provide an email address for the DWP.

I am sorry I cannot help you further at this stage.

With Kind Regards


PIP Customer Service Support
Atos Healthcare
P.O.Box 1006
Stockton - on - Tees
TS19 1UL
Well, having had a rather bad few days, in which I have been in excruciating pain and dosed liberally with pain-killers that never quite seem to hit the mark, I finally had some nous this evening. I caught up on my emails and responded as follows:
Of course I can go abroad. But it takes careful planning.

You have not taken account of the need for recuperation, typically a couple of days. Whilst I could attend a medical examination, as soon as I arrived I would need to rest for typically 2 to 6 hours; but depending on the level of exhaustion could be up to 22 hours. You would therefore need to make available a darkened, very quiet room where I could sleep until recovered. Of course, if a relapse is set off due to excessive stress I could end up being there for several days or even weeks.
You have not taken account of the need to rest up and store up energy prior to my making any undertaking. Again this takes several days, depending on my state of health at the time.
You have not taken account of the need to take pain-killers prior to taking any physical activity, nor the increased number that have to be taken post activity. These drugs, whilst they mean I can travel, also have the effect of putting me into drowsiness or a sleep state, depending on the number taken and the state of my health at the time.

You have not taken account of the need for a carer. When travelling I take at least one with me and if needed arrange for a second as well. The trip I shall be taking in June is because my housemate is at a conference and there is no-one else to care for me at home. I therefore have to travel with him, where I shall be holed up in a hotel-room until (assuming I do) recover. I have no carer who can accompany me to a medical examination and as such will be at risk, unless you are wiling to pay my housemate £400 to cover a lost day's pay. Hence the need for an ambulance to collect me.
You have not taken account of the fact that both by NHS consultant and my GP advise me to go abroad for my health, otherwise I should be even iller at home and thus require more care & health support.
Given your on-going failures to act reasonably, I am copying in my GP and my MP.
Sort this mess out and use some common-sense!
FAO DR. E[…]: DWP refuse to contact you to conf[I]rm home assessment needed.
FAO Graham Brady: Please can you now intervene for as you can see DWP playing silly-beggars. By the by, would you like to attend my medical examination, so you can see what a disabled person has to go through in respect to PIP?

If lives were not at stake, this might not be so serious and rather amusing; but folk have committed and are attempting suicide because of the way ATOS & DWP treat us.

Saturday, 20 May 2017

Café Capricho, Benalmádena, Andalusia: a Review

We have been frequenting Café Capricho for several years. It is located in the Torrequebrada district of Benalmádena, which also happens to be the location of my favourite supermarket chain, Supercor.

[Image description: the eatery's outside terrace, partly covered]

The vast majority of the staff are professional and affable, speaking to one with genuine smiles. Occasionally, one encounters a member of staff having an off-day - do not let that put the reader off from returning. The most difficult aspect at Capricho is trying to pay, for the café is invariably busy and frequented by locals and tourists alike, surely good signs.

We often just pop by for a coffee prior to doing the shopping; but we also stop for longer periods to enjoy a light luncheon.

[Image description: luncheon at table]
Whilst there for our first visit of this holiday, we ordered two dishes to share. It being Friday, we requested a plate of queso manchego, traditional cheese from central Spain which goes well with a glass of Rioja. However, we chose to drink draught, light beer instead, a small glass of which is called a caña. We also selected bacalao frito, a small serving of French fries (NB not English style chunky chips!) surrounded by the most lightly battered cod chunks, the flesh of which was moist, and flaked only when one broke off a forkful. This latter dish cost €10, but is highly recommended, especially for Brits who like their fish & chips of a Friday.

[Image description: club sandwich]
 [Image description: huevos rotos]

On the second occasion, we started by ordering a caña apiece, @ €1.60, whilst we mulled over the menu. I plumbed for the club sandwich, which contained a substantial amount of chicken breast, lettuce, delicious & sweet beef-tomato, and a light dollop of mayonnaise. At €6 better than anything one might obtain at certain burger chains: a substantial and tasty, quality meal. My chum opted for huevos rotos, a plate of lightly cooked Spanish ham with fried eggs with a slash through the yolk, on a bed of shredded lettuce and French fries, @ €7, my chum wolfed down and said he would be more than happy to order again. We also shared a plate of home-made French fries at €3. They arrive golden and unsalted, so one can season to taste. Very little remained of this repast, as ever.