Casa Rosales

Casa Rosales

Saturday, 10 September 2016

Driving over olives....and almonds...and things.

Too long, yes, I know. Too long and this post will also be too long. And I think I know why I haven't been blogging. I can almost name the day when I lost that interest, that bloggers way of looking at things and situation, mentally outlining a blogpost as I looked.
It was the day I got a smartphone.

On that day, I could receive my emails, I could log onto Facebook, I could search the internet for information, I could even play endless games of Scrabble with my mother! I could take all my information around with me in my handbag. Oh, and make phone calls too, if necessary. I admit to being utterly smitten with my smartphone. And possibly still am.

But writing blogposts? No way - impossible. And even reading other people's is quite difficult really. And if I ever tried to leave a comment from my phone, it would almost always show up in duplicate. As if I didn't really know what I was doing. I don't know why it happened - perhaps I don't know what I'm doing....

And over the months, my boys became used to playing games on the computer - games of civilisation building and destroying, hunting out and attacking unknown enemies with friends from hundreds of miles away, aircraft flying and mine crafting...and so on. And I stopped making them come off when I wanted a write a blog post or check my emails or play Spider Solitaire (my other time-wasting passion). And when I did approach, they'd complain that they couldn't stop JUST NOW as they'd die, or lose the game or let their teammates down or something. So I'd go away and forget why I needed the computer when I could do most things on my phone.

We've just come back from a few days in Valladolid with family. All is not well and my poor mother-in-law has had a horrible year. It's not for me to say anything about what has been happening but a part of her family has fallen apart just when she needed it most. These things do happen and it's never easy but the timing has left a lot to be desired. As always, our visit was too short and as always, we left leaving her feeling bereft - although we did leave her Mateo for a few days. Might help a bit.

For me, our six days away seemed much longer because we packed an awful lot in. Our journey up began on Friday afternoon and as usual, we had to take Misha and Pippin with us, the one protesting loudly for most of the way and the other drugged up to the eyeballs to prevent doggy travel sickness. We headed first for Aranjuez, which is just south of Madrid. There, Ruy and I disembarked outside a very normal apartment block in a residential street - in temperatures of over 30 degrees, even though it was 9pm. We waved the rest of the family off and prepared for our stay with Pedro - our Airbnb host for the night. Next morning, it was the national junior archery competition  and Ruy was taking part - this year as a Cadet. But back to our lodgings. It was quite comical. Not only were all the hotels nearby very expensive, they were also almost completely booked up and not just because of the archery competition, but because it was the weekend of the town's annual fair. Pedro was a charming host and his apartment was clean and simple, although it was unchanged since it was built, with garish 60s tiles in the bathroom and kitchen - but no creature comforts to speak of. But oh so unbelievably cheap!! 25 euros for both of us for one night with open access to anything in the fridge that we wanted. I was so relieved as I had been a tad worried about taking such a risk but it was worth it. Ruy and I wandered around Aranjuez and got something to eat before going early to bed, just as all the fireworks, live music and fairground noises began. Fortunately, we were just far enough away from the centre to have only a muffled version and in the end, we didn't have a bad night's rest. Under the circumstances.

Aranjuez is rather lovely.

And breakfast was good

With Alberto

The competition was held just outside the town and we got there in good time, indulging in a taxi for convenience. At 8.30am, it didn't feel too, too bad, but the forecast was for a very hot day indeed.

Ruy met his old friend and competitor, Alberto, the current champion and also from Andalucia - they were the only two from this area although there were a couple more from nearby Murcia.

 Many of the competitors were local to the Madrid area or had come down from Galicia, Asturias and Cantabria - and they, without doubt, suffered most from the high temperatures. I spent the day pootling about between the town and the venue and must have walked about 10 kilometres in total. In sweltering heat...a different sort of sweltering heat to here in our village. Here, the heat is so dry that I always suspect that when I hang out my washing, the chances of me spontaneously combusting are actually higher than me sweating. Not so in Aranjuez. It was heavy and humid and most unpleasant. I sat in the shade and tangled my Zentangles - helps to pass the time. Ruy finished the first round in 4th place, just outside the medals. And then after a couple of big barbecued chorizo sandwiches, they all set off to do the second round. Really, they should have finished by 2pm, but the first round had been slow. It was almost 4pm before they began to return - poor kids - so hot, so sweaty, utterly exhausted but most of them showing incredible resilience. Ruy had done a good second round and managed to get third place and a spot on the platform with a medal. We were delighted!

Afterwards, we took a bus into Madrid then another one up to Valladolid, with everything going to plan and one more thing ticked off the 'to do' list. Phew!

The whole of Spain has been suffering this week in tremendous heat and it leaves everyone feeling wrung out. However, I was on holiday. I've spent all summer working - something I don't usually do - but I had a plan. I've taken on some extra hours as from the start of the new term and I'm using my extra income to fund a new car for myself. We've done very well so far in managing with just the one car, but with me out of the house for more hours, I'm not happy leaving FR and the children without transport. On Tuesday, I will collect my first completely new car for quite some years. In fact, the last one was a little Peugeot 106 which I bought in 1995 and which I loved utterly and completely. I hope I feel the same about my new Toyota Yaris, which is almost the same colour - important factor in cars - a very blue metallic colour. I have to wait a bit longer though...then she'll get a post to herself. But air conditioning is a must!

SO! Back to my holiday! I booked a night in a hotel for FR and me. Special treat. It was in the amazing medieval walled city of Avila, just a little north west of Madrid. We set off before lunch on Tuesday and our hotel was inside the city walls - which were just incredible - and right in the very heart of all the jaw-dropping architecture. I took almost 100 photos - too many to post, but believe me, every time I turned my head, there was another wonderful stone building - a palace, a church, a museum, a's just a small selection.

They don't do it justice but I couldn't possibly post all that I took. And the food! Avila is famous for its beef - Chuleton - a big steak on the bone. FR and I ate at an excellent restaurant, recommended to us by a taxi driver. And it was really very good indeed. Afterwards, we visited the local museum, had coffee and little sweet things called 'Yemas', made from egg yolks and sugar, went into several churches, listened to the band practicing and basically walked all around the city, wondering why it was so very quiet - no children, hardly anyone around - until we escaped the walls and discovered that there was a lot more to Avila than we thought! Most of the main city is outside the walls and to the south of the old part. I suspect that FR would have stood a better chance in eating a good pizza outside the walls. What they brought him at an 'Italian' restaurant in the evening of our stay was a long way from being authentic. It wasn't eaten. Our only regret - we should have returned to the first restaurant for our evening meal.

The next morning, after breakfast, we sought out a butchers to bring home a few chuletons to eat with the family. And by the time we came back to Valladolid, we felt to have had a proper, indulgent holiday on our own. And felt much the better for it. Must do it again before too much longer.

Why driving over olives, etc? Well, while we were staying in Valladolid, FR began reading a book that I'd left there several years ago - 'Driving over Lemons' by Chris Stewart. I'd read it before we actually moved to Spain or thought of living in Andalucia but I had it in my head when we were looking for a place to live in the south. I was actually very envious of him and his success in writing about local life. I wasn't envious of his lifestyle which is too remote, too self-sufficient for my taste but I admire his integration into local life, his unending optimism and his ability to deal with apparent good humour, all the idiosyncrasies of the people around him - who have never travelled, or read, or studied much but who always know best. Those who live knowing that most of the people around them are family, not incomers. Until very recently, I have found my adoptive town unfailingly welcoming but a recent occurrence has brought it home to me that our family is not 'from here' and despite our best attempts, when things go a bit awry, then it may be one of us that is scapegoated as a result. It's nothing serious, it's nothing irreparable, but I have learned a lesson. Chris Stewart writes that he swerved his car to avoid squashing a lemon and was told in no uncertain terms that he should drive over them. Lemons squash pretty easily. Here, there's a bit of hard centre to both olives and almonds. Driving over them isn't too bad, but I don't recommend it in bare feet. Just saying.

However, it's because of Chris Stewart that I'm writing again. I don't feel I have the mojo back just yet - and there are far too many words here but maybe, just maybe, it's time to sit back and reflect a little. For me, it's a good way to see things in perspective. We've travelled a long way in the past six years, sometimes at breakneck speed and sometimes at the pace dictated by others.
From Tuesday, I will have my own little car and can metaphorically go my own way.

Saturday, 6 August 2016

What a week!

The summer holidays are usually slow, lazy and very hot, although this year, I am working, so they haven't been as lazy as last year.

We had Etnosur during July, where we partied in the streets and the boys stayed out all night. That was fun. We've had blissful impromptu afternoons and late evenings on the beach.

And this week, we seem to have never stopped.

Glorious setting
After another glorious afternoon on the beach to see the sunset and skim stones on the sea, we finished the weekend with a concert in Consolacion, the main church of Alcala la Real - a performance of Mozart's Requiem in homage to the town's choirmaster who died earlier this year. And what a beautiful performance it was too. There were two choirs - one from Alcala and a supporting choir from Jaen, plus a small but excellent orchestra. They made a stunning sound and the soloists were also very good. I had been bowled over by the performance of my mother's choir in March and hadn't expected anything quite so good....but I think it came extremely close.

I commented on Facebook that the only problem was the noisy audience. At the time, I was quite scandalised by the 'zzzzippp...zzzzzzzipppp' as the women who - in a perfectly justifiable attempt to keep cool - loudly flicked open their fans, wafted wildly for a few seconds and then snapped them shut again. And again, and again. I think there were three rows immediately behind and in front of us, each with six women and their fans....I could hardly hear a thing at times. Also, some people didn't feel the slightest obligation to remain in their seats during the performance and wandered around, taking photos or maybe just stretching their legs. And rather too many mobile phones rang for it to be quite clear that Mozart was not held in quite the same esteem by others as he is by me....

However, a long and interesting discussion with one of my students left me in no doubt that much of this behaviour is 'cultural'. Firstly, the performance was in church, not in the theatre. And on a Sunday evening. There was a preponderance of late middle-aged and elderly women present in the audience, who, I was informed, attend anything that happens in the church and expect to behave as they always behave in church. That includes having conversations with neighbours and friends and, of course, using their fans to keep cool in the extreme heat of the summer. The performance was secondary and their knowledge of audience behaviour not required because they were not paying to see it. I did rethink my reaction as a result of the conversation but it may take me a bit longer to completely forget the sound of those fans....

And this week has been unforgettable. We'd planned to spend the afternoon with Sam and family at the nearby 'lake' or pantano. This is a reservoir which we've visited a couple of times since we've lived here - the first with Darwin when we went on a lovely long walk and the second (can't find the post) when we went to eat at the bar that is at one end. Both times, I got some beautiful photos and blogged about the experience.

It's been a very hot few weeks and so we decided to go out around 6pm when it was still hot but past the peak temperature. Probably around 33 hot enough! When we arrived, we were initially disappointed to discover that the Centre that manages the boats, pedalos and sailing equipment looked to be not only closed but really quite abandoned, but undeterred, we crossed the chain and headed down to the lake. Prepare for some stunning shots, taken without any idea of what I was taking as the sun was so bright, I couldn't see my photo screen. However, I luckily managed to capture some of the colours and vibrancy of the scenery.

Looking out across the reservoir.

After a little while, a young man came and let us take pedalos out. 

This is quite the life.

Shades of sunny Swallows and Amazons...

And David caught a carp - he let it go again.
And as we dried off in the sunset, we thought a beer at the bar might be a good idea...
A very lovely day with good friends.
And that's not all!

Last night, it was la Noche en Blanca, which means 'sleepless night' (and in this heat, there have been a few of those) in Alcala la Real. A night of music, late-opening shops, concerts and free museum entries.

This is the view from just below La Mota of some ongoing work to create a new exhibition centre, concert hall, gardens and eventually, a restaurant, on the ruins of an old convent. They've made a great job of it. The gardens were full of vibrant geraniums in all colours but it had got a bit too dark by the time we arrived to capture them.

This is inside the also newly-refurbished Amphibian Rescue centre that we used to visit quite often when we lived in the calle Bolivia - in fact, Jaws, Mateo's pet turtle went to live there when he grew too big for his tank. We hoped he might recognise us and come up to the window so we could say hello to him...but he didn't. We were never quite sure whether he was a he or a she. I had wanted to paint his toenails red so that we could say hello when we visited but Mateo wouldn't let me. He wasn't in the same tank as the python, by the way! All the turtles were in a bigger pond - and they weren't at all photogenic.

Finally, after some tapas in a bar, we made our way up to the little park above Sam and David's house where there was some flamenco singing. It wasn't brilliant as it happens but watching the little children from the 'gitano' families, many of whom live in this area, was fascinating. Even the tiniest ones can clap in the difficult flamenco rhythm and obviously feel the music in their blood. And even when flamenco isn't at its best, there is something so incredibly different about it - it has a raw quality that is both complex and simple. Definitely make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up.

And then we sat on Sam and David's beautiful terrace overlooking La Mota, until 4am - with all our children together somewhere in the dark and warm night, talking and laughing and generally feeling extremely relaxed.

During the August fiestas in Alcala, a very special night of Flamenco had been proposed and FR must have been one of the first to buy tickets to listen to one of the most admired singers of the age - Jose Menese. The tickets are on our fridge door waiting for next Saturday's concert up at La Mota - very special...and then the unthinkable happened. Last Friday, poor Jose died. I have no idea what will happen for the concert but I will let you know.

Flamenco is an acquired taste and although I found it difficult to start with, I am now's a little taster if you're feeling brave!

It has been a week of wonderful moments, when we've made many memories and spent precious time together. I really am very grateful for weeks - with friends and family - like these!

Monday, 25 July 2016

There's a saying...

'A picture says a 1000 words'. I really have lost the blogging plot in the last year or so, haven't I? But for posterity and to share, I am posting here a few photos of important moments in the last few months. 

Caught doodling on the tablecloth at our village fiesta in May..

Maybe I wasn't setting the best example....

Signs that garden improvements are happening.

First cherries from our own trees...

Mateo's graduation ceremony - from a distance and as the evening darkened...being a Villa means being at the end!!
Romy giving the class speech at the end of her time at Primary school.

A few days with a special Zentangle student.

And a gorgeous afternoon with Romy, Sam, her daughters and friends Rachel and Kirsten.

Super cool on a hot summer day

The naciemiento del rio San Juan - the rise of the river, San Juan, near Castillo de Locubin

In Manchester with my sister and her husband, on our way to a gig at the Albert Hall - Band of Horses. Possibly not my first choice of musical entertainment but a great evening and a spectacular venue!

Gorgeous green view of my sister's land, chickens and outbuildings. 

Reunited after almost 40 years.....

Graham and me on a wall...not recent!
Back home and Etnosur weekend. Alcala la Real opens its streets to a big, free music festival, this year is the 20th Anniversary!
This street spectacular is the Fura dels Baus

I turned and managed to capture this striking photo of the three men in my life.

Whilst Romy was in the firing line of powder bombs!

And yesterday, on the beach....

Skimming stones... the evening sun

Eating ham and tzaziki sandwiches, no less....

Painting stones...

,..and just chillin'
In addition, it was an important year for Mateo. He passed his Bachillerato and university entrance exams (hurray!!) and reached the age of 18. What a year; what a few years. So now, he's taking a sabbatical before hopefully going to Granada to study Anthropology next year. And Ruy continues well with his archery, this year finishing third in the league of Andalucia. Third because he didn't finish one competition, due to shoulder pain (not so good) and also because he did one competition less than the boy who came second....He will be doing the national competition as well at the beginning of September. 
And Romy starts secondary school in September too...where does the time go? 

Happy Summer everyone. Hope your's is good.


Sunday, 8 May 2016

Tangling workshop - Alcala la Real

A few weeks ago, I was asked if I'd like to do a workshop for a women's association here in Alcala la Real. This was via the wife of one of my students, who is also a Yoga teacher in town - a lovely, bubbly person that I knew from when Romy took part in her classes. We'd become friends on Facebook and she'd seen some of my Zentangle posts...and thought it would be a nice idea for the association she is part of.

You can guess what I said!

We produced a poster between us and she sent it out to her contacts and a few hours after it was made public, she contacted me to say that, incredibly, it was full already and was I happy to do another workshop later in the month. Of course I was...and now we're part way to filling a third.

On Friday, I set off with a collection of my drawings, some framed works, lots of little Zentangle tiles and my decorated boxes. Between us, Angeli and I had prepared a pack containing the materials needed and a leaflet of information that I had produced - in Spanish. I was a tad nervous. Not for giving a workshop. My teaching has given me lots of confidence and experience in standing in front of a group and showing them a pathway to follow. I was, however, slightly concerned about having to do it all in Spanish.

Fortunately, I needn't have worried. The group of women was wonderfully accommodating and either helped me out with the odd word I couldn't find or corrected me when I got my endings wrong. And they obviously listened carefully enough to what I managed to convey because they produced some fantastic results!

We had such fun and the three hours flew by. I think there may be a few more converts to this lovely, relaxing and satisfying method of drawing here in Alcala!

A few glimpses of the 'action'!

A selection of the finished tiles.

Aren't they fantastic! (If a tad out of focus, sorry!)

The artists.

Now looking forward to the next, and the next....and the next!!

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Not without a hitch...but getting the drift...and splitting my sides

I've been trying to teach idioms.

I have two groups of students who will do exams at the end of May and I tell them it's a good idea to earn extra 'Brownie Points' by including an appropriate idiom or two - if they can. And with the emphasis on 'appropriate!

Have you ever looked at how many idioms there are in English? There are SO many! I have realised that since I've been living in Spain, I use a lot less than I did when I lived in the UK. Automatically, I try to adjust my English when speaking with non-native speakers. Idioms are so difficult - we take them for granted and bandy them about willy-nilly. I won't go on....but I could go from here to kingdom come.

One of my students missed the class where I explained that most idioms are spoken rather than written. She's such a good student too and very thorough. She is very organised and likes to take things in the right order. This could have been a part of the problem.

Her written work, which we reviewed the following week was on the topic of  famous people, past or present and I'd asked the group to write someone they admired.
Anabel chose Jesus Christ - perhaps this was another part of the problem - but she also chose to use the idiom that was at the top of the list we had been looking at.

She began well saying that he was a very famous person and that she admired him very much. She went on to say that he had been born in a small village in Israel. No problems here.

Her next phrase was also absolutely fine for B2 English - she said that his mother, Maria, had "not been impregnated by any man".  I suppose that at the time, her choice of idiom at the end of the sentence would also have been quite appropriate....however, I can't imagine the face of an examiner when they read '...and this was a hot potato between believers and non-believers'.

The corners of my mouth are twitching again when I think of this phrase - it will stay with me forever. In the classroom, when Anabel read it out, I confess to snorting. It wasn't very polite or professional, but then the giggles really overtook me and I had to hide behind the whiteboard as tears rolled down my face. Anabel took it all in excellent humour but vowed she wasn't going to risk an idiom in her exam at the end of this month.

And she said I could share her little 'faux pas' on my blog. Hope it has made you smile too.

Thursday, 24 March 2016

About time

As in, about time I wrote a blog post. Although it could also be about 'time'. I don't really know yet. I haven't given much thought to what I'm going to write. I just know it's about time I did or else I might never write again.

January did seem to pass in a flash. We'd had a lovely Christmas all together and the new year started off rather nicely. FR and I went down to Malaga to a concert, followed by a meal with friends - one of whom is the principal trumpet player in the orchestra. He and his wife are originally friends of FR from many, many years ago but they were incredibly kind and helpful to us both when we first came to live in Malaga around 19 years ago. It has been excellent to rekindle the friendship, especially now I can understand all the conversation! It makes me realise how little I could speak Spanish when we first met. My attempts are still not always fluent and clear - there's always so much more to learn - but at least I can follow and take part in a conversation without too much trouble.

As we approached the end of January, it became clear that my father-in-law's health was failing seriously. He was admitted to hospital during the last week of the month and we felt that he wouldn't be sent home again. I was very anxious that Romy was going to be able to enjoy her birthday, which was on the Wednesday, and her party, on the following Saturday. Wednesday came and went with only good things, including a mobile phone for my 12 year old. Very happy, she was. And on Saturday, she had invited around half her class to our house for a 'playing out' party. I had prepared a map and a set of clues for them to explore our little village. They were to do this in two teams, setting off in opposite directions. I didn't make a treasure hunt, but they had to take photographs in strategic places to prove they'd done the course. Then they could select the best photos to claim a prize. The theme was very much photographs, seeing as Romy had a great camera on her new phone. She was so happy to be with her friends that she never took her phone with her! We have no photos....

Not until they returned when I snapped a few during the present-giving ceremony, which took part on the trampoline.

I know Romy was a bit nervous about all her friends seeing where she lived - she's one of only a handful that doesn't live in town - but she didn't need to have been. They all had an absolute ball and I heard them saying how lucky she was. All good stuff....

The bonfire also went down really well and can you believe it, only two of the whole group of them had ever toasted marshmallows over a fire before! Another hit.

In the end, it was voted the best party 'ever' and Romy was completely and utterly delighted.

Unfortunately, I had to tell her that her beloved grandfather had died during her lovely party. Just before her guests were due to arrive, FR had a call from his brother saying that things had taken a turn for the worse. He originally thought we should arrange to go all together the next day, but I didn't think that would be soon enough. He set off alone at around 4pm in the hope of arriving in time. It didn't happen, though. I had a sudden urge to call my sister-in-law at about 6pm and she had just had the call from Amelia to say that Cesar Snr had just died. It was dreadful bad luck for the brothers - one had just left the hospital to collect his youngest brother from the airport and, of course, FR was still on the road - but my father-in-law chose to die with just his wife of more than 50 years with him. He didn't really like a fuss. I think it was what he wanted.

I had to call FR later in his journey to tell him - and to say to go to the tanatorio as his father was no longer at the hospital. It was very difficult. What was also difficult was the fact that the funeral would be at 12 on Monday morning. I discovered that funerals take place very quickly in Spain - within 24 - 48 hours is both custom and law but it meant that I had a rather frantic evening trying to arrange transport to get us there as there was no chance that FR could come back and get us. I have to thank neighbours for their help. One took me to collect a car from Granada airport, which was the nearest I was able to find a hire car at such short notice and Sergio was his usual heroic self, reassuring me that he'd take care of Pippin and the hens for as long as we were away.

Princess Meesha

We decided to take Meesha with us as she's not exactly experienced in looking after herself - being the princess of the house - and we know she's a good traveller.

I think it was this next period that was most difficult and sort indicated a rather complicated period in our lives. I had been quietly congratulating myself on managing to keep things together - the party, telling FR and the children, sorting things out at such short notice and arriving exactly on time at Madrid airport, where we left the hire car and waited for FR to arrive to collect us.

He was a tad late as there was a big traffic jam just outside Madrid. He mentioned on the phone that there was a red light showing on the dashboard and he was a bit concerned about the car. He was right to be. As he arrived, the radiator burst and it was clear that we had a fairly serious problem. We had to wait for the tow-vehicle to come and take it away and for the insurance company to sort out a hire car for us. Which they did and eventually we set off in the second hire vehicle of the day.

I am not going to say too much about the funeral. Only that it went well, was extremely emotional and raw and a lot of people attended. I will say that I think it's a bad idea to have a funeral so quickly. Emotions were high, FR's mother hadn't been home all week and had not had time to eat a proper meal for days. It was very hard on her. The whole of Sunday, a stream of visitors had gone to the tanatario - family and friends, all very upset - and Amelia was there the whole day. It has to have been the most exhausting thing at a time when she was still unable to take in what had happened.

I spoke to my classes about this afterwards and said how shocked I was that everything had to happen so quickly. It is obviously part of the culture though, because most people were equally shocked to hear that we waited 'so long' in the UK before we put our dead to rest. It seemed unthinkable to them. A lot of heads were shaken at the idea, so I guess it is what you are used to.

We left the following day in yet another hired car, as ours had been taken back to Alcala to our usual mechanic as there was no one local who could have fixed it quickly. And then the very next day, I was struck down by a lurgy. I am not saying it was the 'flu, but it was very nearly. I was in bed for three days and it took me another two weeks to feel remotely back to normal. And it left me feeling very depressed and down. I guess part of the reason that I left blogging well alone. I have read very little and written even less in the past few months. I read and like my Facebook friends' posts and occasionally, have commented from time to time. But, so sorry, I haven't read more than a couple of blogposts by anyone this year.

And then in the middle of March, I had a turn around and began to feel better. I had booked a visit to England very early on in January to coincide with a concert that my mum and her choir were giving. I can't resist Mozart's Requiem and my mum is always telling me how well her choir sings. So, a couple of weeks ago, I set off on my little adventure. I do love travelling and, is this a confession, even better when I'm alone! I flew to Birmingham and hired a cute little Fiat 500 for my planned route to Knutsford, Huddersfield and Oxford. After the huge length of our Volvo, I love getting into a small car and always enjoy driving - though the crowded M6 was perhaps not quite as much fun as the Spanish motorways that I am used to.

You'll just have to believe me that it was wonderful!

I packed a lot into my few days and am delighted to report that the concert was an outstanding success. Knutsford is not a big town but goodness me, they have a superb choir and orchestra. I was extremely impressed. Definitely worth the journey alone, but I also managed to see friends in Huddersfield, visit a wonderful street market in Northwich, spend time with my family, including a delicious Sunday lunch and also visit my friend in Oxford again too.

I am just sorry that I couldn't coincide with Janice!

That would have been the icing on the cake...although that's the wrong metaphor as I was able to watch my clever cake friend actually putting icing on a cake on Sunday!

(Not actually this one, which had already been iced. Can you believe it, these flowers are sugarpaste?)

One day, we will manage to be in the same place at the same time, Janice! And failing that - we'll just have to arrange something specially for the two of us.

And back home, we had a weekend of snow and a few miserable dank days but today is glorious again. Mateo has gone to Valladolid for the week of Semana Santa to stay with his grandmother and spend some time with his cousin too. He had a very fraught journey there by bus but by the time he arrived, I'm happy to say he had managed to take it in his stride and turn it into part of the adventure. He's hoping to visit England when he finishes school in June and I have to admit to being rather nervous about his plans but at the same time, delighted that he's ready to spread his wings.

Today, FR has gone with Romy and Ruy to the Sierra Nevada, where he reports that there is lots of snow right now. I am taking the day to myself and as I was wandering around and inspecting the garden - for the first time this year - I was suddenly inspired to write a post.

My darling father-in-law is gone but will never be forgotten. My poor mother-in-law is still struggling with her loss on a daily basis but we are here when she is ready to move on herself.

New shoots are appearing on our trees and the sky is blue.

That I think and care about all the mess that there is in the world must go without saying today. Sometimes it is just too hard to understand. And sometimes the frustration I feel when I see what is going on around us is overwhelming.

But today, I feel positive and cheerful and happy.

About time.
Thanks for reading.