Casa Rosales

Casa Rosales

Monday, 4 January 2016

And now....2016

I'm more of a looking forward than a looking back sort of person, but as so many do, when the new year arrives, I find it quite healthy to assess how the previous year has gone.
First thought is usually, 'Oh my goodness! Another year gone! How, when, where....' and then it slowly starts to take a focus with various peaks and troughs. My view is surprisingly like a 3D contour map. I look back and see the colours - peaks are lighter, brighter and even a bit glittery. The troughs, naturally, are darker, deeper shades with one or two parts that are definitely black. There are a couple of rift valleys too when the ups are side-by-side with the downs...

I've had to go and search Google for an image that represents what I'm talking about and I've found a really good one. You'll just have to believe me that this is very similar to what I am seeing in my head! (They've got the colours a bit wrong though..)
I found this on site.

Contour 3D

A huge peak was Romy's beautiful school performance at the end of May when she was Mrs. Potts in 'Beauty and the Beast' and she discovered how she loved to sing - and the bigger the audience, the better. She hasn't stopped singing since!

And then Ruy won second place in the National (Spain) 3D Bosque Archery competition which thrilled all of us, coming, as it did, just a few weeks after we heard that FR's father was terminally ill. Cesar Snr was delighted with the news, of course, and I'm also very pleased to report that we found him in a remarkably good state of health this Christmas - more of which in a moment! And as a result, he was awarded a sum of money towards a new bow, which is now in his possession...he's very pleased with it! The is is just after we arrived back from Valladolid - his first opportunity to pick it up. The back pack quiver is also new. 

Mateo's ideas are crystallising. After chugging rather drearily through school, he's starting to change gear and realise that if his desire to be an anthropologist is to be fulfilled, he has to dig deeper and channel his intelligence into passing his exams. He still needs a lot of help with the maths, but he's getting there and his teachers are in no doubt as to his capabilities. I have a lot of faith in him and as he is now in the year of his 18th birthday, I feel sure that he's going to find there are lots of opportunities for him to do the things he wants to do - and is capable of doing. Go for it Teo!

My own peaks have been through some of my teaching moments. There's almost always a lot of laughing and fun and enthusiasm. I manage to get up and teach a class at 8am four days a week and despite not being a morning person, I am always happy to face the morning folk for an hour of lively and comical conversation. I have little peaks most days!! A real peak this year too for me was when I went to England and saw a couple of my old school friends. I can't tell you how energising I found it and how lovely it was to be back in touch, face-to-face in a hugging sort of way - not just Facebook messages - with good friends. Very special. I shall do it again. Special as well to see Sam and David and the girls again - we saw a lot of the girls in the summer and I do hope they repeat the arrangement again this year. I love having a houseful of happy children and young people. 

FR and I have had a good year together. He's had some peaks and troughs of his own, but we have ended our year feeling grateful for and to each other. Just two weeks ago, I'd returned from town with Ruy and Romy and was beginning to prepare lunch. FR was outside working - I'd seen him chopping logs with his chainsaw as we came home - and so had such a fright when he appeared at the doorway clutching his arm and asking me to take him to 'Urgencias'. There was a lot of blood and one of the boys got a towel to wrap around his arm. I dashed him to the hospital in record time, driving on the wrong side of the road as we met the slow Saturday traffic in Alcala la Real. I chose not to look or even think as he went straight into the casualty room, although I had questioned him on the journey in and it seemed as though he could still feel and move his hand - something I found extremely reassuring. He had to go to Granada in the ambulance so I whizzed home again and got a few belongings for him to take and then he was gone. It was an extremely scary few hours. 

In short, he was exceedingly lucky - lucky beyond words - as the cut, which was deep and to the bone, managed to avoid any main arteries, tendons and nerves although he is a vein or two missing now. He had surgery later on Saturday night and had to stay in for three days to receive an intensive course of antibiotics. An infection could have destroyed the luck he'd had...And boy, was he lucky. Definitely a rift valley moment! 

Ruy's school performance has been a bit of a trough during the past 12 months or so. He didn't pass his exams last year and so has been repeating the year again. Pure disinterest and total lack of application. And despite hoping that he would pull his finger out immediately this year, his end of term report indicates that this hasn't been the case...sigh. We have tried so many ways to deal with this but we keep drawing a blank. At home, he's a treasure. No underlying problems at school other than he doesn't want to learn. He's 14. He's not Mateo - whose thirst for knowledge is immense - and we have to try and find what will press his buttons. Or rather, hope that he finds something because in the end, he will need to find his own motivation. In the meantime, we are just trying to help.

This is the year we found Meesha, our amazing little kitten. Along with Pippin, she travelled up to Valladolid with us to spend Christmas with all the family. And having been rescued by Romy and I at the end of October, she has really made herself a key member of the family.
FR - never much of an animal person to start with - made quite a fuss when we came home with her, predicting illness and infirmities as the least of our problems. However, the following day, he simply fell in love with her and continues to be so as I write.
She really is very beautiful, extremely relaxed and friendly - apart from with Pippin who she dislikes intensely and growls at him every time he tries to come into the kitchen. He occasionally gets his own back by eating her food when she's not there to block his entry. I've seen her sitting on the kitchen window sill, behind the bars which are on all Spanish windows, with Pippin approaching her carefully...and when he's within reach, she bats him soundly on the nose. I absolutely love her to bits.
And so far, have no signs of being allergic to her - not that I'd tell anyone if I was though!

Christmas 2015 was a great big family fun occasion. All three brothers and their families met at my in-laws house for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day and a few other days along the way too. We ate, laughed, played, walked and chatted. My father-in-law looked well, if a little paler than the last time I saw him but was able to join us for all meals and joined in when we played a Christmas game I'd prepared for us all.

With Abuelo Cesar

The cousins (and I) played Monopoly and Risk with gusto;
there was a great family outing to the cinema to see the new 'Star Wars' film (though I abstained...) and Meesha was an absolute star as she sat on all the best chairs and made herself at home straightaway!

A Christmas we will all remember with pleasure, I am sure. 

Impossible to get a photo of Amelia in a pose that looks right on camera....some of the other attempts are hilarious!
I think in summary, 2015 is the year that I have felt most comfortable in my own skin for a long time. That's quite something, don't you think? My children are growing up and need me less on a daily basis. In many ways, I am doing less than I have done in previous years, but what I do, I enjoy more. FR has done so much in the garden this year and I'm trying to straighten out the inside of the house - which has more or less - created itself since we first arrived. This year, I will be making some changes and will be glad when FR finishes off the outhouse that will be his office and additional storage space. The task of decluttering will be a pleasure when I can get round to it!!

This is a personal blog and not one where I usually pass much comment on world events. But it would take a hard heart not to express the deep feelings of concern, sadness and frustration at the plight of the refugees and the action of extremists. (And the popularity of hideous characters like Donald Trump.) I just wanted to say though, that I have been very impressed at the efforts of an ex-colleague of mine from Kirklees. Nel Hargrave has been working tirelessly on behalf of the refugees, initially in Calais, and now she's due to go out to Lesbos in the next week or so. I do admire so much what she's been doing and if anyone knows her or wants to check out what she's doing, you can find her on Facebook here, where she also posts links to other groups that help out. All power to your elbow, Nel!

One small peak was definitely returning home after the long journey from Valladolid. Coming home to our house was an unexpectedly lovely experience. The house is old, it's 'campo' (which means it is higgledly piggledly and not really very well made), we've had problems with the neighbour's stinky animal house which joins onto our house...including a problem with a horrid smell that took FR a lot of work to resolve. The summer and autumn have been so hot and dry that the land - mainly clay - has shrunk and we've got some serious cracks appeared throughout the house.

After a week away, we were a tad worried about opening the door again ....but it was delightful. My house smelled wonderful, it wasn't really cold and it was super-welcoming to be home again. 

It is good being here.

Happy New Year to everyone. 

Monday, 7 December 2015

The Angel of Malaga

At risk of repeating some information I may have shared with you before on this blog, but the mood to write is upon me, so apologies in advance!

During the first few months after FR and I met - maybe I told you what a whirlwind start our relationship had? We met on 10th March 1996 and on 27th March, also 1996, he moved in with me...

And to continue - we began talking about moving to Spain to live together. I was lucky enough to be allowed to take a year's leave of absence, so we could see how things went without burning all bridges back again - not an option the second time we did the same thing! We purchased a valient (and as it turned out, illegal..another story) Nissan Patrol monster, packed up our belongings, topped off with a precariously balanced wicker chair, and set off. We were heading for Malaga. For two reasons. The first was that FR said the weather was very stable and temperate all year round. (Although the storms of January 1997 and the extreme heat wave in early June put paid to that particular 'fact'...) The second was that he had a friend - a trumpet player - who lived there and who played in the Malaga Philharmonic Orchestra. His name was Angel. I was impressed.

Our journey to Spain got off to a fairly inauspicious start and I actually entered the country in an ambulance. With hindsight, I know that the occasional but incredibly severe pains I had experienced over the previous three or four years stemmed from gallstones. Before I met FR, I had been treated for a suspected ulcer and told it was probably stress....neither of which was true. But the pains stopped and I forgot about them. However, as we drove through France, around Bordeaux, our picnic consisted of some amazing saussison and bread, which we ate en route. Soon after, I guess the combination of the rather fatty saussion, the long journey and perhaps a touch of tension/excitement/stress activiated my gallstones and I had an attack...I don't know if there's a medical term for it but the only way I can describe the pain is in a series of expletives. It can feel like a heart attack (I am assuming...) and like there's an intense pressure on the whole chest area, leaving me rolling around and moaning and groaning.

I tried really hard to hide it from FR but after a bit of moaning and a lot of huffing and puffing, he obviously began to get very worried. I pressed him to keep going as I knew that it would eventually stop and that there was nothing much anyone could do and also that his French didn't always reach French ears in an understandable manner....I was in too much pain to have to speak to anyone.
However, as we approached the border between France and Spain, he had obviously formulated a plan and just we crossed into Spain, he screeched up to a portacabin that was occupied by the Red Cross and explained that I was in severe pain and needed help. I was so bad by this time that I couldn't even speak much English, but I remember being bundled into an ambulance and hearing a siren. It was about 1am. We had arrived in Spain. Not quite as anticipated.

FR did a sterling job following the ambulance through the streets as we headed for San Sebastian. I remember being hooked up to a drip and various things being asked of me. And then being left with FR for seemed like quite a long time. As as suddenly as the pain started, it stopped. I suppose it's the stones that cause a blockage and that when they move or pass through, the relief is immediate. FR tried to find a nurse or a doctor but it was very quiet everywhere - 4am - and so I removed the drip and we ran away to continue our adventure.

And after stopping a few days in Valladolid, we continued our journey to Malaga. FR had spoken to Angel, (sadly, it's pronounced ANN-hel, including a bit of throat phlegm on the 'hel'....the Spanish 'g' is never pleasant.) and he and his wife and young son had offered to put us up for a few days. We had no map that I remember and only the name of the little village where they lived. We began asking for directions far too soon - on the wrong side of Malaga to be exact - and almost everyone answered 'Pa' rriba' - which means, more or less - 'Straight on'. Of course, we eventually found them and spent a couple of days in their tiny little house, very grateful for some sort of base. Over the next couple of days, we managed to find an apartment to rent in a neighbouring village and Angel and Rosa were our first visitors.

We saw quite a bit of them over the next 10 months or so that we lived in Malaga. They moved house during this time and I remember helping to move them into their new apartment in the centre of the city. Angel also managed to get FR hired to join the Malaga Philharmonic for a concert where lots of additional brass was needed. I remember that the programme included Prokofiev's 'Peter and the Wolf' and the concert was absolutely wonderful. FR got well paid too and as this was almost at the very end of our time in Malaga, it was very special indeed. Good old Angel was what we said.

And then we left. FR kept in touch for a good many years but then as sometimes happens, we lost contact.

After the fantastic concert we went to in Granada a few months ago, I have been keeping my eyes open for another and couldn't resist booking for one in Malaga, which included one of my favourite symphonies - Sibelius' 2nd. I didn't actually think about Angel when I bought the tickets but as time is rushing by and we suddenly found it time to set off on the 2 hour drive to Malaga...I wondered if we'd get the chance to speak to him again.

By the time we found a parking space, we were pretty familiar again with the narrow streets in Malaga's historic centre! I remember driving the Nissan Patrol around them and feeling the wheels scraping on both sides of the little pavements! Most of the area has been pedestranised but bizarrely, there's an underground carpark right in the middle of it all! And that's where we ended up - inching our way through the Saturday night crowds of young and old, some in pushchairs and wheelchairs, all ignoring our car as we followed the 'P' signs....with increasing concern. However, at the end, there was a car park that was packed as though it were a ferry and where you had to leave your car keys so that the attendants could shuffle them around during the evening to get some people out and more people in. Very strange!

The theatre was in one little square and I just managed to capture this photo before my phone batteries died....sad face. We had time to have a little wander around the main square, la Plaza de la Merced, and see the Picasso Museum, which I confess I have never been in. Ruy has - he came on a school trip last year and was pointing out all the places they visited. I think they must have spend the day running from one place to another!

We also listened to some great street musicians - a really cool guitarist and saxophone player - and I visited the shop in the main square where I once used to sell my cards. Well, I think I may have sold two or three....

And then it was time to go into the concert.

We were sitting really high up in the third level and the orchestra was a long, long way away. Two trumpeters came out - FR recognised one from when he played 19 years ago but the other didn't look like Angel but as there were only two of them, maybe it was. The first piece was Mendelssohn's 'Hebrides Overture' and whilst the clarinets and woodwind were brilliant, the trumpets left much to be desired. Particularly the one that we weren't absolutely sure wasn't Angel....surely it wasn't.

Then we had a Mozart symphony which we all agreed was OK but not his best. Number 35, the 'Haffner' but again, the trumpets were unimpressive. The star of the orchestra for me was the timpanist. He hovered over his pans (is that what they are called?) like a giant spider as he turned his elbows out and seemed to have overly long arms. He was fascinating to watch and when he'd done his bit, he would sit down with a very theatrical flouncing of his tails.

During the interval, I stayed in my seat chatting to the lady next to me who was an interesting old bird. Travelling alone, probably in her 70s, from Canada. She looked like a frail little thing but I really admired her as she was staying alone in Malaga, learning Spanish and had obviously been travelling around a fair bit. Hope I have her spirit in twenty years time!!

Then a lone trumpeter walked onto the stage and sat down. Now this time, I clearly recognised Angel. Funny how I hadn't been sure in the first half.... No doubt about it now it really was him, but FR was nowhere around for me to mention it (nor, for that, were any of my children...our family having a tendency to scatter at the first opportunity!) And then, Angel walked OFF the stage. As I found out later, FR had gone backstage and asked to speak to him, so someone called Angel from the stage. Apparently his face was a picture when he saw FR! I do wish I'd been there!

The Sibelius was excellent. I studied it as part of my 'A' level music and so I knew it pretty well. I have a great fondness for Sibelius, who seems to me to convey the vastness of his homeland, Finland, so well - although apparently the piece was inspired by Mozart's 'Don Giovanni' - but I simply don't hear that! I see mountains and fjords and snow-covered trees....but either way, it's a very uplifting and emotional piece. And Mateo loved it. I am still pondering Ruy's response that he liked the last movement best....

And afterwards, in the Christmas lights of Malaga, we all met up with Angel and Rosa and their son, Alvaro, who had been only two years old the last time we saw him and who is now studying piano at the Conservatory of Malaga. And Angel was just as warm and funny and full of jokes as he had been all those years ago - only this time, I could understand him. I had to confess that when we first met and I had nodded and smiled at all he said to me, I hadn't a clue what he was actually saying! What was strange was that once again, as happened to me in England last month, the years seemed to fly away behind me and we were all chatting away as though a lot of time hadn't passed and we'd just bumped into each other in town...even Mateo and Alvaro struck up an easy conversation as if they too were meeting old friends. I look forward to them coming to visit in the not too distant future!

And did I say, Angel plays the trumpet....well, like an angel!

Angels in Malaga. Lots of them!

Saturday, 21 November 2015

Old friends....

It's been a while since I posted, hasn't it? Hello, anyone out there? .....Well, it's been a while since I read any one else's blogs too and I may appear to have done a runner.

But I haven't and after my lovely weekend, I felt driven to record a few things for posterity and for sharing and for capturing.

On Friday last - yes, the 13th - I unsurprisingly had managed to pick up some cheap tickets to travel to England. Since the summer, my friend Annie Relph and I have been trying to find a weekend to get together and it took us until November. But we did it and it was worth all the frustrations and impossibilities that had gone before. That said, the news from Paris the morning after I arrived was high on our list of conversation topics, even though we had a million and one other things that we wanted to say. And sadly, I don't suppose these events will be the end of the problems.

This probably about twenty nine years ago...
However, that aside; despite the six years that it's been since we last saw each other, no one would have guessed as we immediately settled into our non-stop ´stream of conscious conversation´. Lucky is the person who has such a close friend!!

Mid-morning conversation -
still in pyjamas..

Our plan - other than to talk and talk and talk - took an exciting turn just days before I set off when, through a facebook post, another old friend contacted us to say he wished he could join us.

So on Saturday afternoon, he did!

Not six years since we last saw each other but thirty. THIRTY!! And whatever amazing things have happened to us all in the intervening years, I immediately felt myself transported back to my youth.

We had a wonderful afternoon - not visiting the White Horse of Uffington as we'd intended - but curled up on sofas and chairs in my friend's lovely Oxford home, sharing reminiscences and bringing each other up to date.

In the thirty years since we last saw each other we have, between us, become parents to six children; been married just the once each; been on stage and tv, studied at Oxford University, started up two ongoing businesses, gained Masters degrees, become teachers and trainers and - I'm delighted to say - all confessed to being extremely happy and contented in our lives. There's obviously a lot more too....

(My friend, Annie Relph, is the most wonderful artist and now puts her talent into her business, Scattercake, making incredible (but edible) wedding cakes. She's just finished the most amazing piece of sugarcraft work imaginable and I have to share the photos here:

In case you were wondering, it's not actually a cake in its present format but Annie now has all the templates and ideas prepared should anyone order a 1.5m high cake.

It showcases her fantastic work perfectly.
Even more impressive in real life!
And as I have been writing this post, Alan has been delivering a TEDx talk in Leamington Spa!  The link leads to a summary of his very varied life and work and covers the thirty years during which we haven't seen each other. It also includes some things I didn't know - like the all-human  Circus Burlesque bit...! And I'm really looking forward to listening to his talk - 'Bringing Back the Licenced Fool'. He states that he started playing the fool whilst still at school and one over-riding memory I have is of him being sent out of the classroom....regularly.

I am quite sure it won't be the last time we get together. And we're hoping a few more friends will be able to join us too.

From Oxford, I headed northwards to visit my family and arrived just in time to go out for a wonderful pub lunch with my parents, my sister and my brother-in-law. I confess to enjoying my food, whatever 'type' it might be but there was something super-delicious about the dinner we had - very traditional, a British Sunday Roast with all the trimmings and possibly the best Yorkshire Pudding I've ever tasted! And that's saying something.

Sunday night was a ScrabbleFest. I play online with both my mum and my sister, so it was only right that we had a face to face match, which I enjoyed very much. I was quite confused by my sense of time. As it was dark soon after 4pm. I found it felt incredibly late by around 7.30......we seemed to be playing into the small hours!

I have to confess that I didn't take many photos on my travels. I was either too busy talking or doing whatever we were doing - although for some reason, I took a Christmassy photo of the place Mum and I went to eat on Monday. It seemed so incongruous as Spain hasn't really started working up to Christmas just yet, whilst England is in full flow.

And then all of a sudden, it was over and I was on my way to Manchester airport, where my suitcase appeared to contain a host of suspicious items, (like soap and a glue stick!) but soon I was back in the air and heading for sunny Malaga again.

Just a few short days, but I felt years younger and so very pleased that a) I am lucky enough to have such great friends to play catch up with and b) that for me, life has been pretty good over the past thirty years, but 'being here' is almost as good as it gets.

Thanks for popping by - I do hope to find a bit more time to read my favourite blogs again soon!

Friday, 9 October 2015

Carpe diem...

I have such a horrible cold. FR has it too. I feel guilty because we got the cold from Ruy, who got it from Mateo and both of them continued to go to school and do what they had to do. We've been pathetic. I haven't been to work since Tuesday and FR went to the doctor this morning as the cold has gone to his chest and he has an infection. I made my children go to school.

'Seize the day' because I seem to have so little time to write my blog - illness being one of the few times when I seem to have a moment! The positive side of not feeling well is that I can indulge myself in Zentangle again. It's an age since I did more than doodle on a pebble. But of course, there has been one big distraction recently.

As Romy and I were coming back from town last Tuesday, we saw a Land Rover at the other side of the road and I spied a couple of kittens around the man who was standing next to his car. I stopped immediately as I suspected he was throwing them out....
He denied doing so and said that he just saw them as he was passing. He went to pick one up and put her through my open window, where said kitten snuggled in and started purring....what could I do. I saw he was trying to pick another one up, which hissed and spat at him and had a distinctly unfriendly air about it. He assured me again that he hadn't dumped them and that he was going to come back and feed them but I am not convinced. There were four. I'm allergic to cats and FR is not a cat person in any sense of the word. But I had the cutest thing sitting on my chest and a wide-eyed Romy not quite sure what to think, sitting next to me. I handed the kitten over and we carried on home.

FR was duly agitated, irritated and predicting dire warnings about the dangers of cats (not sure exactly what these are but he was muttering something about diseases) but in she came. And here she still is. An absolute little beauty. FR totally and utterly won over - she sits on his knee, he even allows her to walk on the kitchen table, which I baulk at! We let him name her just to ensure the attachment continues. Meesha. Here are a few photos...

5444444444444333`45`(She just walked across the keyboard....)

Super cute

Sits on people

Even FR

Does kitteny things like play with handbag fringes
She doesn't like Pippin - puffs up twice her size and hisses menacingly - but Pippin keeps his distance, instinctively knowing that she's not to be messed with. Poor Pip!

My allergies are invisible at the moment probably due to the heavy cold I have. I'll see how I go. (Before the cat, I expect.)

We also have a crack in the wall that makes Dr Who's problem look like nothing a bit of polyfiller couldn't fix. Since we moved in, there have been many hairline cracks appearing and some that are somewhat bigger than hairline. All over. Everywhere. FR went up to try and fill one of them and agreed, he had to knock away a bit of plaster but this is an impressive crack to have in your house....

Impressive and rather disconcerting.

It's all filled and repainted now and FR has gone around putting 'testigos' - which means 'witnesses' - on some of the others cracks. This is a simple measure involving a bit of polyfiller on the cracks with a date to see how long it takes for the crack to open more. I keep checking but since the 3rd October, we don't appear to have moved too much.

I'll keep you informed.

Now I think it's time for yet another cup of tea - nothing like a nice cuppa when you feel rough. I'll leave you with a couple of tangles too just because I have nothing else to say.

Friday, 18 September 2015

Not a bad week really...

Last Thursday, FR and Ruy went up to Valladolid to see the grandparents. Romy started school the same day after a long hot summer. I had begun working at the beginning of the week. It's strange to be up before the sun and to feel the coolness of the night that suddenly falls as we begin September. Mateo was at home on dog and hen duties. All calm and organised...on the surface!

My cute little solar lights still on as I left the house to go to work this week...
The good news is that despite the negative forecast from the doctor, so far, FR's father seems quite well. He gets tired quickly and finds walking around uncomfortable but in himself, he appears to be OK and he was, as always, delighted to see Ruy.

The previous week had been the most awfully busy one I'd had for a while. Despite knowing that there was the up and coming national archery competition at the beginning of September, I hadn't seen anyone at the club to check what we ought to be doing. A nagging concern I had was that Ruy would need a different licence - one that would allow him to shoot not just in Andalucia but throughout Spain - and he hadn't got it. I eventually made contact with the right person and in my rather patchy written Spanish (FR was in Valladolid at the time and not around to help me), but after a couple of exchanges, Juanma understood what I needed. And his response was not good....I'd left it too late. The national federation needed at least two weeks to provide the licence and we only had 8 days. I wrote back and pleaded. He said he'd do what he could. I bombarded him with suggestions and ideas and desperation. He wrote a letter to the federation and we had to wait.

I couldn't do that so I spoke to the lovely Guillermo, who has always helped in the past but whom I haven't seen for months and months, and turned out to be the absolutely the right thing to have done. Guillermo knows everyone in the archery world in Spain and he set about pulling a few strings. Ruy and I had to whizz into Granada on the Friday morning, just a week before the competition, to get forms signed - and then we had a hair-raising drive across Granada at lunch time following Guilllermo to the archery shop to stock up on arrows - and then, Guillermo assured me, all would be fine. All Ruy had to do was to arrive at the venue and do his best. It had been a very traumatic period, during which I swung between feeling sure that Ruy wasn't going to be able to take part, to feeling sure that it would all be OK. But even when FR and Ruy headed off to Valladolid before the competition, I still wasn't absolutely convinced that he would be allowed to compete...

In the end, though, it was OK and on the Saturday morning, after an early start, they arrived just north of Madrid to the club where the competition was to be held. This was the National Junior Championship in Archery in 'campo y bosque 3D' - (field and woods) where the targets are life-sized figures of animals. (That's the 3D bit.) No circular targets other than in the practice area. The competition involves walking around the countryside in small groups, stopping at various stages where the animal is either plainly visible or slightly hidden between trees or plants. And then shooting two arrows at them. There are 22 animals and a circuit takes a good two hours to complete - and there are two circuits to do. It's quite an endurance event - walking and shooting and staying focused for more than four hours with just a half hour break in the middle.

At around 11 o'clock, they'd completed the first circuit and Ruy was happy with his score of 290 - a good score for him and I wished him luck for the second circuit, where sometimes, he begins to feel tired and his shoulders start aching and it's harder to concentrate, especially as he hasn't had so much experience and practice. FR rang me back a few minutes later to say that Ruy was currently lying in third place!! Excellent news, as there were 40 competitors. And I suddenly felt very nervous!

The rest of the morning dragged by for me but I didn't dare call in case I distracted him. But then, Ruy called to tell me he had come second overall - beating his first round score on the second circuit - and was SubCampeon of Spain!! Jubilations. The winner was the boy who had won last year - also from this province and who Ruy meets from time to time in local (Andalucian) competitions - but their scores were very close. And it's good that they'll continue to meet in the coming year at competitions much closer to home - knowing that they are the best in the country for their age.

We were all so delighted and I had the great pleasure of calling my father-in-law and hearing the thrill and excitement in his voice too. That was very special.

Ruy on the left in his club t shirt.

And this success will hopefully start his new school year off well. Last year was awful for Ruy - he didn't work in class, didn't do his homework, didn't bother in exams with the result that he is going to repeat the year again. Fortunately, there is not too much stigma attached to this and I am hoping that Ruy will pull his finger out and show everyone that he can and will do it this year. He will be the biggest and oldest in his class - something he has not been since arriving in Spain - and again, I hope this will be a spur. I will return to this subject at another time...right now, we are celebrating.

Because this week has also been his birthday. He asked for - and got - a ukulele and I'm delighted to say the house has been filled with some lovely sounds since the thing emerged from its case yesterday afternoon! I remember my stubborn little son, who absolutely refused to eat vegetables as a toddler, pointing to broccoli at the supermarket and saying, "I want to eat that!" and he did and still does. (He eats a few others now but at the time, it was broccoli or nothing). When he sets his mind on something, he does it. Maybe he'll be entering the Ukulele championship in a few years time too...

Thank you Ruy, we have all enjoyed your rather special week. Congratulations, my champion!

Sunday, 6 September 2015

Balancing act...

This is a difficult post to write. There are so very many things in the world that are dreadful. So many people in unimaginable situations and the outcome of some of their actions washed pitifully up on the shores of beaches. We are rightly outraged, horrified and terrified by the concept of people taking such desperate measures to get away from their homes.

As the photographs of little Aylan were being published, my family and I were on a different beach, in very different circumstances. I posted a photo on Facebook as we were driving home but I had to take it down again when I saw Aylan's body - the contrast seemed heartless. Like many others, I am hoping that the shocking image will continue to move people to action and that governments acknowledge that we are in a situation that needs a new response. Opinions are polarising and on hearing some of the negative ideas expressed in the media, I have been appalled and disbelieving. Fortunately, there are a lot of people who are doing things to help in big and little ways in many European countries. In posting my photos here today, I am at pains to say how much I recognise the differences in our situations and how I regret so very much that so many are suffering.

And we all have our own trials and tribulations to face and manage even though many of them pale into insignificance in comparison. However, the illness of a loved parent will always loom large in our lives. And right now, my dear, dear father-in-law is facing a gloomy future and probably not very much of a future either. FR went up to visit for a few days earlier this week and spoke to the doctors on Monday, together with his brother. The doctor didn't pull any punches from the sound of things and showed FR the x-rays and the spread of the cancer. The fact is, they are not sure quite how my father-in-law is still walking around, eating and breathing. And the good news is that to see him, he apparently looks quite well - he gets tired quickly and has a nasty night-time cough - but otherwise, he seems fine. We are dreading the day we find out he has pain somewhere...

Anyway, it was a beautiful afternoon and the children and I drove into Granada to meet FR and as we were getting to the end of summer, I decided we should take advantage of being halfway to the coast and that we should spend the rest of the day at our new favourite beach, Calahonda on the Costa Tropical. My plan was decided - collecting more pebbles to paint - and I had little intention of going in the sea. Last time we visited, it was freezing cold and most uninviting. However, when we arrived, Ruy and Romy - always first in - announced it was perfect. So we all swam that afternoon. And it really was glorious.

As well as collecting pebbles, I sat and built a few stone towers in a zen-sort of way. And then the children all joined in and I took some lovely photos of them. So please, enjoy with me, the pleasure of sunshine and stones. They are mindful pictures. We are mindful.

A small tower of balancing stones


And more concentration

My various stone towers...

Very satisfying and calming to do

They did this for a good half an hour.....
And then today, FR shared this video with me on Facebook that shows how it's done really....

Please enjoy this - it is something that I find utterly hypnotic and beautiful. He also has a website called Gravity Glue which is worth a visit.

Sunday, 30 August 2015

Summer coming to an end...

(Bit of a timelapse from starting to finishing this post - with a change of focus part way through too. )

A couple of hours weeks ago, I rather tearfully waved my lot off to Valladolid. The tears were a bit of a surprise. I usually look forward to a little bit of 'just me' time as I get precious little of it and there are always so many things that I want to do....if only I had some 'me time'!

Anyway, they've gone and the plan was that FR would return in a couple of days, leaving the children with their grandparents for a week or so. We've been planning this all summer, but the weather throughout Spain has been so incredibly hot since the end of June that they were better here where at least we have a pool and a relatively cool house (though even the house has soaked up so much sun and heat that we don't feel that lovely sense of chill when we walk in now.) It has been the most draining summer we've had so far - the early heat waves of June and July have passed, but now we're in the heat of August. Today is the first day the temperatures haven't been in the high 30s (C) and I think we're in for a little respite during the next few days.

I paused a while after the last sentence - dog to walk, chickens to check, feed and water, pool to clean and so on - and got the call to say everyone had safely arrived but that Yayo (Grandfather) has been taken into hospital and not likely to be out for several days. Bladder and kidney problems that sound quite severe....not what we hoped to hear. So, the interim plan changed, and FR would stay a day or so longer to see how things go and then probably return with Ruy and Romy. Mateo will probably stay a bit to help, see his cousin and have a bit of freedom, returning on the bus to Granada, which is a bit of an adventure in itself! Fingers crossed for a good recovery.

And in the meantime, I was rather withdrawn, declining invites to flamenco and fireworks parties...just feeling the need to have a bit of time alone. I am usually outgoing and sociable but I do quite like my own company, sometimes in preference to bigger groups. I've been pottering, walking, sewing and drawing.

I had five days of this rather welcome solitude and made several lovely cushions for my sofas in the lounge, did lots of painting and drawing and tidied the house from top to bottom. Glad to see them back of course - and a strange week we had without Mateo too! How the dynamics of a family change when one of us is missing. Ruy and Romy seemed to squabble and laugh and play and had their moments pretty much as usual but Ruy missed having Mateo around and the house was definitely quieter and lacked its often manic edge. I now know exactly where that comes from!

Mateo had a good week with his cousin, Marco and grandmother, Amelia, and managed to arrived back safely on the bus on Tuesday evening. The rest of us had had a beautiful afternoon on the beach at our new favourite spot near Calahonda in Granada and stopped at the bus station on our way home to meet Mateo. He seemed somehow to have grown and relaxed after a week on his own but said he had only really missed Pippin....

But the news has not been good from the hospital. Yayo, my father-in-law and my godfather, continued to have lots of tests and we now know that he has a cancer. And it's an aggressive one in his oesophagus. His kidneys are not functioning properly still but he has been sent home. FR has just returned to his parents' home on the bus and tomorrow, he will go with them and his brother to speak to the doctors to find out what, if any treatment, is recommended and what decision FR's father will take.

It's a lot to take in and brings the summer holidays to an end in a very sad way. I leave this post with a beautiful photo that Romy took as the sun went down at the beach earlier this week.
Because I don't really know what else to say.