Casa Rosales

Casa Rosales

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.

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.