I've resisted committing to paper (well, the electronic stuff) our emerging plans for the new year in case we changed our minds yet again. But a few things have happened these past few weeks that have helped to crystallise things a little.
The first was before we were ill when Cesar was planning a visit to Guadix in Granada to arrange to rent a house for us. Having spoken to several agents it became clear that there were very few places available but when one asked if we were coming to work at the new solar plant, a penny dropped. A brand new, enormous solar plant is opening soon near Guadix and this particular agents admitted that they were being inundated with people moving into the area to either come and work there or to try and find work there and demand was by far outstripping supply. It didn't take us very long to decide that at this time, Guadix was not for us - we already knew that there were only two spare places at the secondary school there and we couldn't bear to move down and find that these had gone before we had chance to get ourselves a home. SO - we made a momentous decision and decided we would head for a place that we visited during our time down in Granada, but that I didn't write about because we liked Guadix better at the time. This place is called Alcala la Real - and - oh gosh, it's NOT IN GRANADA! It's very, very close.... it's only just over the provincial border in Jaen.. but it's not in Granada.
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We looked at a couple of old properties in the area around Alcala la Real but didn't really like any of them because they were a bit small though they both had lovely land with olive trees and almonds and cherries but the lovely estate agent, Raquel who was about 7 months pregnant and who felt like a real friend by the time we left her, insisted that we drive through Alcala before we left to go back to Guadix. She was very proud of her town and when we approached it, we could see why - it was a very beautiful place. Smaller than Guadix and with a quieter sense of it's own Moorish history but impressive nevertheless.
We've ummed and ahhed about it ever since but we both immediately felt that it was not worthwhile being determined to go to Guadix if it were to prove even slightly difficult when really... the whole of Andalucia lies in front of us with such a variety of lovely offerings that we couldn't fail to find somewhere else.
So that was the first thing.
The second has been the visit from my sister - which would always be a welcome occasion - but the timing of this particular visit has been a true godsend. As a family of five living with los abuelos, we have done extremely well for the past four months but when flu struck and resistance was low, a few little ructions started to emerge and the usually manageable irritations (let's call them that) became stress points (we'll call them that as well) and there have been a little fraying of tempers and the occasional flow of tears. Judy's arrival cleared the tension and we've ended the week back to our usual cheerful and jolly selves. From being desperate to get away, to run away, to be on our own again to make our own decisions about what we eat or when (cos that's been the main frustration - nothing much more!) - we're back on an even keel and looking forward to having a happy Christmas together and talking about how soon they can come and visit us. It's much better and makes leaving much more 'natural'.
And the final thing has been the lovely conversations we've had with the schools down there, where the people who answer the phone have been friendly, cheerful, informative and happy to discuss taking on a boy who will need a little extra help with his Spanish. Here, the school Mateo goes to has been very resistant to helping him and we've had to push and push to get his English teacher to understand that Mateo should not be doing the same things as the other Spanish children do in the lesson - that he knows how to answer questions such as: 'Do you have a dog?' or 'Have you any brothers?' - that he could be offered more challenge or focus on additional Spanish language support. Two weeks ago, they offered him some extra, after school classes - since which time, there has been a holiday and he's been ill and missed a couple of classes - so limited value. A city like Valladolid has a lot of tourism and people come from all over Europe and Asia to visit but immigrants who come to live here tend to come from other Hispanic countries and already speak Spanish. There are relatively few non-Spanish speakers in the schools and quite simply, the authorities are quite poor at providing for them. It's quite different in Andalucia as there is a wide influx of people from many different countries and so the language support is already in place. It will be quite a relief!!
So - we will be packing up and setting off soon after Christmas, weather permitting, for another adventure in our new life here in Spain. But for now, we will really enjoy the run up to Christmas, the preparations, the last days of school and the planning of our special meals together. In peace, not in pieces!