Casa Rosales

Casa Rosales

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

How do you blog...?

Blogging lends itself to such a range of different purposes. So many blogs are pure fun; some are abstract; others provide interest, education or entertainment about a specific subject. These blogs are usually quite impersonal. And whilst I enjoy a wide range of these and use them to provide me with valuable information - particularly on teaching - I much prefer the diary-type of blog; those reflective, celebratory, down-to-earth, common interest or simply engaging glimpses into another person's life, interests and inspirations. I feel now, with my little group of followers and the number of blogs I follow myself, that I have a network of people across the globe, who, if I met I would recognise in real life - from their tone of conversation, from their interests and from their willingness to share. It is my chosen assumption that individual blogs reflect individual people.

Lots of bloggers I read have agonised over whether to blog the negative in their lives. I'm sure these are the cup half-full type of people. Most of their daily life feels good but from time to time, as is normal, life deals a rotten blow or something out-of-the-blue upsets what is important and - because it is a more alien feeling or one that isn't helped by complaining about it - only rarely do these occasions find their way into the blog. Sometimes, people like this find it difficult to blog when the going is tough - it doesn't feel right; it doesn't actually help.

Others have no problem saying it as it is; telling us how it feels; expressing the bad as well as the good without feeling the need to apologise about it. If it doesn't help, it doesn't make things worse.

And some bloggers are prepared to grasp the nettle and blog a difficult subject or life-event even if it's is rather contrary to their usual tone and they often doing it in moving, engaging and life-enhancing sort of way. And I'm thinking in particular of two blogs I read when I say this. The first is Lunar's blog and the second is Annie's at artistica domestica. I'll leave you to read and discover for yourselves, if you don't already know, the immense courage they both show in the face of the things life has taken from them or thrown at them..

Being fascinated by how people react, work, think and behave, I did a bit of very quick research to see whether there is a link between  personality types (Myers Briggs - this is a place you can do a quick online test - try here for more information about Myers Briggs Personality Types proper) and blogging. There doesn't seem to be much as yet, so I can't say whether there is any correlation between certain types being more likely to blog or, whether certain types have particular blog focuses although anyone might make a guess that extrovert type (E) would have less of a problem in writing about their own lives and feeling types (F) would include ...well, their feelings. My own Myers Briggs type is ENFP, described by Myers Briggs as:

"Warmly enthusiastic and imaginative. See life as full of possibilities. Make connections between events and information very quickly, and confidently proceed based on the patterns they see. Want a lot of affirmation from others, and readily give appreciation and support. Spontaneous and flexible, often rely on their ability to improvise and their verbal fluency."

I would say this is me most of the time, most of my adult life and how others people often perceive me. It doesn't mean it's how I am all the time because I do suffer from mild depression sometimes and am currently just coming out of a bit of a hard time. And when I've been down, I often indulge in a little bit of reflection - which is useful because when I'm 'up', there's no time to look back - the future is far more interesting!

It struck me that my 'Month in the country' posts read and look absolutely idyllic though at the time, I was mostly miserable - feeling down and having no energy, not sleeping properly, getting a urine infection that went to my kidneys and being bitten all over by bastard mosquitoes. I also struggled at times with FR's mother, who was naturally anxious about her father and tired from all the care she had been giving him. This showed itself in her state of nervous tension, stress and an apparent need to control everything. It often meant that when I said I'd do something, she'd insist on doing it herself or when I did do something,  she would criticise what I'd done and how I'd done it, regardless of the thing itself - and usually this criticism would be about the smallest, most ridiculous thing, from how I cut the beans to how I hung the washing out. And it made me feel very guilty, hopeless and frustrated...and, I'm afraid to say, resulted in some childish behaviour on my part - I started doing it back. I would criticise - or more, pass comment on things that I didn't really care about one way or the other and not agree with the things she said. We didn't bicker and it wasn't all the time but on some days, we weren't our usual good friends. And we were both doing it to the others in the house as well...

I recognise now (having come home and reflected) that I my 'shadow' personality had come to the fore as I was not feeling too good - and, surprise, surprise, and ENFP will become critical of others, be pedantic about unimportant issues, do things to excess and take control of situations without due consideration. And weren't these the things I was complaining about in my mother-in-law...? And isn't it interesting that these traits are visible to the people who know me - mainly invisible to me - but are the things that most annoy me in other people. Very possibly, Amelia too is an ENFP!

To come back to the beginning, blogging and how we blog - or even why we blog. I found a website called Typealyzer which claims to analyse the 'type' of blog from the text used in the blog. And of course, I jumped at the chance. Not surprisingly, it came back with a type that was close to my personality type, but NOT my personality type - ESFP. This type was described as 'The Performer'. I can see the rationality of this assessment - we, sorry, I 'perform' when I write our  my blog and I suspect that many of the blogs I enjoy  will probably conform to this type.

How do you blog? Try it and see! (And do let me know!)

Friday, 24 August 2012

A month in the country - Leon

Leon is the area where FR's family are from - not Valladolid at all. On his father's side, he has two aunties who live to the north east of the provincial capital. In Leon itself, FR's mother has two sisters and their families and this is also where Segundo, FR's grandfather has been living - well, been looked after - in an apartment with one of these sisters in turn. The house where these sisters, another and two brothers were born is to the east of the province in a typical little Leonese village called Valdepolo. 

Despite a plethora of mosquitoes and flies, ancient beds, awkward cooking arrangements and the occasionally cutting off of the water supply, we are very fond of the house in Valdepolo and when I say we spent a month in the country, it is this house that is central to the concept.

Add to this the proximity of family, who joined us for lunch from time to time and brought pipes along......

....glorious, glorious countryside and natural surroundings.....

....amazing sunsets....

....outdoor baths....

... lazy, hazy evening strolls..... late golden sunlight....

...and making campfires on which to toast marshmallows....

....I think you'll see why we like it here.

And a short drive away, we were able to visit Segundo just a few days before he died. 

I hadn't been able to go on the day this photograph was taken as I was unwell but I went the next day and saw Segundo in his bed. FR suggested I sing to him - I don't know why - but I obliged with the first thing that came into my head, which was 'The Owl and the Pussycat'. I had his rapt, if somewhat bemused attention from start to finish. I think he liked it. I hope so. 

What I didn't capture, because I forgot my camera that day, was the beautiful cathedral of Leon which we went to visit before returning to Valdepolo. I have borrowed an internet image as it is such an amazing building it would be a shame not to include it here.

It is a huge tribute to Alcala la Real that we don't choose to live in Leon. I wish we could have two - no, three homes - one in Alcala la Real itself; one in the campo nearby - for weekends and holidays, with a swimming pool, of course; and a third in Leon province for our month in the country and possibly for longer as our children grow up, leave school and make their own way in life. I think FR and I would appreciate the peace and calm of the countryside in years to come. 

Though right now, I'd be glad of just the one house - the one we're searching for in Alcala! But Leon can rest assured that we will be back...

A month in the country - La Flecha

To be honest, La Flecha is not in the country.

It's in the suburbs of Valladolid - a large, historically important city which has much to be admired in terms of its beautiful buildings, which I shared in a post during the time we lived there, but much to be despised in terms of its unrelenting spread over the past decade. Now, apartment blocks stand empty or worse, unfinished, in all possible areas. And whilst fortunately, the many factories are still functioning in this time of crisis, the pollution and smell they create definitely detract from the overall impression as you enter the outskirts of the city.

Getting back to La Flecha - not in the country, but FR's parents' house is a little oasis in the middle of a newly developed suburb that started out as a few houses on a hill and has spread to almost small town size with a couple of schools, several supermarkets, a new health centre and a large plaza topped by the modern 'town hall' or ayuntamiento. The big difference between FR's parents house and most of the others in the town is that it has a garden. With chickens. And cockerels. And tomatoes, beans, flowers and grass. That is something very special and something I sorely miss. (Not the cockerels.)

We divided our time between visiting the coast and the house in Valdepolo, Leon but La Flecha remained our base. And we had some lovely days.

And then there's the uncle with a really cool bike - Ruy in awe.

Romy in heaven

Picnics in nearby beauty spots

Time spent with cousins playing computer games...

Time spent in the garden - lots of time spent in the garden

Los abuelos captured by Romy one day as she went around taking photos of the world through her eyes.
Time spent visiting nearby towns - this is Medina de Rioseco

Where the streets are ancient and interesting

And they make the most wonderful pastries and biscuits and breads

And where a crocodile climbs precariously down the wall....

There are various legends about how a crocodile became linked with the town but I am not sure I can explain them fully. One is that as the church was being built, parts of it were destroyed during the night and eventually, the worker discovered a huge crocodile was responsible. It was killed and its skin hung over the entrance to the chancel - apparently this still here though we never knew the legend, despite visiting the town many times over the past 16 years or so. This is the first time we've seen this new crocodile on the wall so he must have arrived sometime during the past year.
Medina de Rioseco would be a perfect chocolate shop town - maybe not the spot below the crocodile though.

*FR has just told me a more interesting version - he must have stopped to read the information on the banner...I should have done that. The legend begins the same way, in that the church building was being damaged but also townsfolk were being attacked by a monster near the river - el rio Sequilla - so the folk in charge left a slave out by the church one night, armed with a mirror (!) to see whether there really was a monster. By immense cunning and most likely divine intervention, the slave killed the crocodile - the mirror confused it dreadfully - won his freedom and saved the town from its dreadful menace. And there must be some truth in it all because I found this link with the photo of the crocodile skin.

Corner of the garden - chicken shed on the left

Handsome chappie

When you wake to cockerel crows, it does feel as though you're living in the countryside and when you eat fresh eggs that you have heard being laid in the morning, that too feels rather rural. Within a few days of the picture above, we were eating a rather splendid chicken stew - with onions and peppers from the garden too - yes, him.

Being in La Flecha counted towards our month in the country. And we bring back happy memories of hearing the children playing in the garden, playing cards around the dining table, barbecuing delicious ribs and spending the odd evening or two in the beautiful historic centre of Valladolid - just 5kms away. Notwithstanding FR's parents' lovely neighbours, Yolanda and Ermi, with whom I spent a lovely couple of hours chatting, being in La Flecha made me nostalgic for Andalucia; for the warmth and the friendliness of the people and the constant bustle of people living their lives. I'm glad we didn't settle here. I'm glad we came south.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

A month in the country - Asturias

A month can be a long time...and we did a lot of things and Spain is very big. This post mainly covers the time we spent on the coast of northern Spain.

Allow me to start with our safe arrival after a journey of over 600kms (or 385 miles) in some pretty hot weather. We were very glad to reach the relative cool of my in-laws house. FR and I had had a stupid fight a few days before we left - neither of us know why - and we were both still rather sulky and subdued, which is embarrassing to admit at my age but there you go. I guess deep down, I was rather dreading the time in less than comfortable beds, under threat from the dreaded mosquitoes and managing in the awkward, frustrating houses in both La Flecha and also in Leon. Not the best of starts.

It was, as always, a pleasure to see my in-laws and they were delighted to see us too. And the children were immediately at home and bounded off to check out their bedrooms, beds and to pick up where they had left off last time.

This was Tuesday evening and we'd made arrangements to meet up with my sister to spend Saturday with her, Rob, Emily and Luke - William choosing to stay at home this year - during their holiday in the Basque Country near San Sebastian. We agreed to meet somewhere on the north coast and to make the most of our time, we decided to camp the night before and stay til the Sunday with our meeting point being the nearest beach to our chosen campsite.

We'd had to borrow a tent from friends in Alcala as our old one was just too big, cumbersome and awkward to use for short stay holidays. (And last time we camped in it, it had taken us three hours to put it up as we'd forgotten how it the time we finished it was dark and onlookers had had to fetch their torches to see the final outcome.) It was a lovely big, old-fashioned tent and it was with some regret we sold it to some lovely people from Leeds - who live about 10 kms away from us here - and who have given it a good home in their garden.

So we set off on Friday to find somewhere to make camp and as we drove along the coast road, we turned into a petrol station where, on asking, we were directed towards a little village where we were told we'd find some campsites. We seemed to be following a road to nowhere but eventually, said village came into sight and we found a gorgeous site, up on a cliff overlooking a beautiful little cove - and managed to take the very last spot in what was a busy but very peaceful place, full of dips, ledges, trees and steps.

Unfortunately, it was raining lightly but the tent went up without a hitch - the children staring in disbelief as we had it 'mantled' (surely this is the right word) in minutes rather than hours. And the rain stopped so we went down to the cove and enjoyed a quick dip and a wiggle of toes in some perfect sand. Mateo made a den with driftwood.

Campsite hugging the cliff in the background

Mateo's den

 On Saturday, we awoke to the sound of rain on the tent roof. There's no denying, it's a lovely sound whilst you're still snug in your sleeping bag, but I wanted the loo and was not looking forward to the trek down soggy steps and past dripping trees. But needs must. And I needed. And whilst it was wet, it wasn't cold and we had all slept like logs - a phenomenon that we notice every time we stay in Asturias. It's as if the dampness encourages deep, deep sleep. By the time I got back, FR had got bacon sizzling on the stove, the rain had slowed to the odd drip and my sister had texted to say they were on their way. (This is not to suggest I lingered in the toilets, just that it was quite a distance away...)

Soon after we'd eaten and tidied away, I tootled down to the road to wait for Judy and before long, they arrived, brightening the day into instant sunshine.

Photo courtesy of

And we had a lovely day, visiting a museum in Ribadesella, where in 1968, a huge cave containing prehistoric paintings was discovered. We weren't able to see the actual cave as numbers were limited, prebooked and full up until November, but the museum was very interesting and well presented.

Awaiting lunch in Ribadesella

After the rain began again, we made a mad dash for the cars and moved on to Colunga to see the footprints left by dinosaurs over 65 million years ago. Sixty five million years. More than.

Disappointingly, they didn't show up as well in the wet but each indent was made by a dinosaur.

See these steps...I fell down them. It hurt a lot.

A last drink together - Judy and I had been deep in conversation all day and this picture captures it perfectly!
Not sure I could believe what she was telling me here!
This is Lyme Regis

After this, we drove around the coast to a village called Lastres. This part of Spain is called the Jurassic Coast and so reminds me of the coastline around Lyme Regis, Jurassic Coast of England. Full of fossils, dinosaur relics and information.

There is a similarity in a sort of mirror-image way in how the two towns are laid out..
And this is Lastres

Only Lyme Regis is sunnier....

We had a lot of rain during our day together but it didn't dampen our spirits at all. Eventually, though, we had to say goodbye and set off for our respective beds for the night. We were soon snuggled into our damp but cosy sleeping bags, whilst unfortunately, it took Judy and family five hours to return to San Sebastian. Spain is bigger than we think sometimes!

The next morning, the rain continued and although we braved another dip in the sea, we decided enough wet was enough and so we packed up and left.

We stopped on our way home at a stunning beach in a place near the Cantabrian border, called La Franca, which we liked so much we decided we'd definitely come back again during the holiday. And just a couple of weeks later, we did just that. Spain was on red alert for the highest temperatures of the summer as a heatwave came up from Africa.

We were staying in Valdepolo at the time and decided that the coast would feel cooler, so we set off nice and early and took the scenic route over the Puerto San Glorio, which is a mountain pass of outstanding beauty and wiggly roads. It took us four hours driving in blistering heat but which doesn't feel too bad in an air-conditioned car.

However, we weren't prepared for the weather on our arrival at La Franca. It was decidedly chilly! Whilst the rest of Spain was wilting, we were enjoying a bracing day on a breezy, overcast beach. And rather enjoying it.

Not crowded!
Perfect sand for toe-wiggling

 On our journey back, the heat rose as we moved south again and we were so very glad to have had a day of relative coolness.

Our last view of the north for a while - it's a long way away. A long way.
More of our month to follow shortly.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Putting the 'fun' in 'funeral'.

On the eve of our return to Alcala la Real, we received a phone call to say that FR's abuelo, Segundo, had died. Like all expected news that is not good, there was an element of shock involved, despite the knowledge that an ailing 96 year old cannot go on forever.

We secretly think that Segundo had hung on to see all the family together over the summer before he decided it was his time to go. And he thoughtfully saved us an additional journey and gave us what turned out to be a wonderful day together to remember for all time.

Amelia and her sisters arranged things the following day and the funeral took place in the beautiful little church in Valdepolo on Friday at 12 o'clock. The church was packed with family, friends and neighbours and was a simple, solemn occasion during which one of Segundo's 11 grandchildren, Adrian, read a short, touching piece that he had written in memory of his grandfather.

In the cemetery, he was put into the burial wall in his reserved spot, just above his wife, Segundina, and then bricked in - something I have never seen before. I had always assumed the little plaques on the walls in Spanish cemeteries held urns, not whole coffins...

After this very final act, Amelia, my mother-in-law, visibly relaxed. It has been an increasingly hard job for her as she has devoted a good third of the past two and a half years, feeding, cleaning and looking after her father all day every day - sharing the task in the end with Eloina and Ines - and travelling between her own home and the apartment in Leon to do this. And now, it was over and I suspect it will take her a little time to adjust to having her own life back.

Afterwards, we walked the short distance down to the house in Valdepolo, where we'd spent much of the past four weeks and which we have grown very fond of. It's not a big house and sometimes felt a bit cramped with just the five of us. With thirty-two of us, it was hilarious! Fortunately, there was nothing but sunshine and we set to, putting tables and chairs into the garden. Ruz, another grand-daughter, was an absolute star and stood over the inadequate stove making chicken, steak, soup and tortillas for us all, with a little help from others who put together some excellent salads - but all credit to Ruz (pronounced 'Ruth') - who told me she reads this blog, which made my day!

And had what turned out to be the very best day of our holiday - full of fun, laughter, chatter and family. Segundo would, I am sure, be very proud of the family he left behind and which I am happy to be part of.

Chefs at work

Let the feasting commence

An excellent spread

There was not much left, either