Casa Rosales

Casa Rosales

Saturday, 29 June 2013

A view with a room

We have resisted buying a television since we moved into Casa Rosales but as the temperatures soar and the afternoons are best spent indoors, we felt it suddenly rather necessary to have something to look at on the days when a proper siesta isn't what we want. So that's what we did last weekend and as one of FR's many jobs this week, it is now installed on our wall in the lounge.

We haven't overdone the oggling this week - no, the children have watched a couple of recent DVDs and marvelled at the difference in clarity between our old machine and this 39" LED screen. And FR and Mateo watched a couple of strange films one evening whilst I went out.

However, today, after a morning sweating over some cherry jam (not literally, I hasten to add) and making fajitas for the kids, I knew exactly what I wanted to watch during the heat of the afternoon. Possibly my favourite film - 'A Room with a View' - and, thanks to YouTube, I was able to watch the whole thing in a high definition version.

Made in 1985 by Merchant-Ivory, it perfectly captures the subtleties of EM Forster's book; the acting is perfection and the scenery breathtaking. I love every second of it. There is so much to read in the body language, the unspoken words and the repressed feelings that are so reflective of the Edwardian period.

And that kiss, (with Kiri Te Kanawa hitting all the right notes alongside,) is just so innocent and beautiful - charmingly clumsy and unrehearsed. (Though had it been me, I think I might have stayed with the Italian coach driver who knowingly led Lucy to George, rather than to Mr Beebe, the vicar...He was definitely more my type.)

And probably one of the main reasons I love this film is because of the views of Florence you get in the first part. I went to Italy with my parents and my boyfriend in the late 1980s and fell in love with most of it but with Florence in particular. I was so overwhelmed by the beauty of the place that I wandered around with tears rolling down my cheeks - not cool, I admit, and possibly caused by the 48 mosquito bites on my ankles from the night before  - and with my eyes so wide at the art and architecture on view all around that I must have resembled some strange alien. It is a view that has stayed with me and really stirs up some deep emotions.

The only other place that had this effect on my was a visit to Cambridge which I found equally moving and beautiful. I have never been back to either place but really must put them on my essential 'to do' list.

Where in the world moves you to depths of joy, peace, pleasure and awe?

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

The start of summer

Today it's my birthday. I'm feeling very laid back and happy today - not because I'm a year older of course - but because it's a beautiful day and I feel much more healthy.

I got up quite early to see Mateo before he went off for his last day at school. He's staying at a friend's house tonight so I won't see him until tomorrow. I'm glad he's going out to have some fun with his friends. After the less than perfect start to the new school year, he's adapted really well and although school's not his favourite place at all, he has let slip one or two comments to the effect that he likes his friends and most of his teachers - and that he thinks he will really enjoy next year....

I have been out to take a few photos of the garden. It's looking a little less jungle-like but there's still plenty to do. FR is tireless in tackling jobs and now I've finished teaching, I guess I shall have to buckle down and get my hands dirty a bit more.

These stunning plants are a member of the garlic family - and smell like it too! They had to stay outside!

The vine is growing beautifully now after a little set back when we had snow in May...

FR's rustic wall behind which we have sunflowers, peppers, watermelon and courgettes growing.

One of my 20 sunflower plants.

Originally thought to be cherry - this little pear tree has lots of fruit on it now

We thought we might be able to eat the artichokes, but they'd been wild a bit too long..

However, they have redeemed themselves by these beautiful flowers!

Plenty of shade now - Ikea curtains coming in very useful - another FR invention...

And Casa Rosales is living up to its name - we have had lots of roses! Here are a few...

Seems like the right place to celebrate my birthday. 

Monday, 24 June 2013

We reap what we sow....

Oh dear. I've just been looking at my statistics - my blog statistics, that is. It would appear that I've become very boring over the past few weeks. I haven't written too many posts and those I've written have been done through a sense of obligation. I haven't warmed to the task the way I used to. I've stopped thinking 'blog' at the moment. My page views have more than halved this month.

I know I have my 'hardcore' readers (is that the right term - probably not) because the comments you leave me are from a close group of blogging friends and I am so grateful to you lot because without comments, I don't think I could continue now.

There is absolutely nothing wrong. Nothing at all. I've been busy and I've had - still got - a horrid head cold that has given me a bout of sinusitis like I haven't had for decades. I'm slightly anxious and excited about what is 'going to happen' when I don't go back to work in September - though I know it's down to me to investigate my options. Indeed, I'm off to a meeting in about 10 minutes to talk about the possibilities of doing a summer school in Alcala la Real.

See - perfectly cheerful in my little study! Hello!

I have a week to myself as FR takes the children to Majorca for a week in July. Originally, just he, Ruy and Romy where going to see his brother, who lives there, but Mateo thought it could be fun too, so they're all going. I confess to being absolutely delighted at the idea of a whole week to myself. No cooking, no piles of laundry, no timetable or need to do anything I don't want! And no desire to sit on a beach this year - my garden will do just fine.

And although I have no batteries in my camera (a sure sign of blog fatigue) I've just looked at what we've taken on Ruy's and so I thought I'd share with you just a few images of what we've all been up to during the busy weeks in June. And when I go into town today - I shall buy some batteries.

The huge and beautiful bunch of flowers I got from my Level 6 students on Wednesday

Ruy at his graduation ceremony on Thursday - being hugged by his first teacher here in Alcala, who sadly retired at the end of that first year. They thought the world of each other.

Ruy second from the right with his classmates. A lovely class they are and luckily most of them are going to the same high school next year. 

Romy and Paula enjoying the fun at Parents Evening - where there was much singing and dancing.

My second cherry pie of the week - we've picked and eaten several kilos of cherries thanks to Sergio.

And I have to say how utterly delighted I am that ALL the students passed their oral exam on Friday afternoon!  We have to wait until August to get the final results which include their written work - and for a few of them, it will be touch and go - but a pass at this stage shows how hard they have worked and how much effort they have all put in. The examiner was lovely and made them all feel very comfortable. Well done to all of them! And right now, these are the only statistics that I really care about.

Friday, 21 June 2013

Another spot in time

I know that some of you kindly read and voted for a little piece I wrote for a Travel Blog competition last month. I can honestly say it was something I dashed off in about ten minutes so I didn't give it much of a second thought. I did it because someone else in a local Community group on Facebook had entered and was touting for votes to promote her 'bit' of Spain. I felt obliged to promote my 'bit'.

It's on the Near and Far blog.

Although I didn't get anywhere near as many votes as the most popular piece, I hadn't realised that it wasn't votes that really counted. There was a panel of judges who awarded the prizes, with the reader's choice also getting a prize. Well, readers, I came 'Second Runner Up', which I guess means I got 3rd prize. I was absolutely delighted when I found out! And I get £100 voucher to spend on 'LateRooms' hotels. So I have that to plan and look forward to.

Just thought I'd share this and thank those of you who left me a comment.

Now....where shall I go with my voucher?

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Hasta luego

Well, today was my last session with Level One. Yesterday, they all cheerfully sat their end of term exam and they all did very well. My youngest student - a good year younger than most of the others - got 100% in her written tests! And it wasn't all based on memory; I included some material from a source other than the text book they've been using all year so that I could see whether they were able to apply their learning in a different context - they did very well on the whole, so I'm delighted.

It's been a lovely day as I've spoken to all the parents too - and what a difference it has been since the beginning of term when I had to talk to them all!  This time, I've had hugs all round and some much appreciated feedback.

But it's this little group of sweeties that have made it all so worthwhile. What a lovely, lovely bunch they are - even if they're a bit out of focus here.

L to R: Blanca, Danae, Paula, Hugo, Elvira, Eulogio, Angel, Maria and Mercedes.

Love 'em to bits!

Sunday, 16 June 2013

The Cherry Orchard

Last week, as I read that the UK was having its first heatwave for absolutely ages, we were enduring the relatively chilly temperatures of about 17 degrees. As I dug out my thicker clothes and took my cardigan with me when I ventured out, I was put in mind of the old saying : 'Cast ne'er a clout til May is out', which made some sense to me when I lived in the notoriously fickle-weathered Pennine area of Yorkshire.

But here in Spain, there is a similar - nay even more prudent - saying - 'Hasta el 40 Mayo, no quites el sayo' - which means, 'until the 40th of May, don't take your coat off'.

Well, that makes it around the 9th or 10th June and it was pretty spot on.

This week, we've had temperatures of 36 degrees.
It's nearly killed off some of our new plants, which, because they went in rather late this year, haven't yet got themselves quite established.
We're holding out hope but there are a couple of trees that don't look too good.

I've had a week of feeling well below par myself, starting out with some sort of stomach bug which left me with chronic backache and a very stiff neck - though I'm really not sure how these two things are related. We are really lucky here in Alcala to have a wonderful masseuse at hand for all things painful. She's a most lovely English woman, married to a Dutchman, with many years experience in providing specialised treatment - often for sports injuries and to some pretty high-ranking sportsmen - when she lived in Majorca. (Go figure who.) She gave me some treatment yesterday and I felt so much better afterwards - I may have to go again next week too....

And I've been not 'bloglovin' recently. I've been concentrating on preparing students for their exams - indeed, those of them doing the Cambridge syllabus have now done the exams and I've no more classes with them. I've had some sleepless nights worrying (without any real reason) that if they don't pass it will be all my fault, though the other teacher and I have a pretty clear idea as to how it will go for each of them. But I'm obsessing a bit as my contact with them comes to an end.

I would have loved to have spent the last week of term having fun but tradition at the Academy has it that all the classes do exams in the last week. My youngest group have theirs on Monday and then, on their last day, after the first 20 minutes, their parents come in to see me to get their results and for me to give them their marks. I'd much rather sing songs and play games with them but they'll all be fine with the exam and we have all had a lot of fun this year - and goodness me, I'm very proud of them!

And on Friday - when the school term ends - a whole group of students taking the Trinity Syllabus have their Oral exam. What an end to the year. I'm very hopeful that some of them will get really good results and the nice thing is that we will know by the end of the day, which of them have passed. This  has been a lovely syllabus to teach, but as this is the first time the Academy has offered it - and the first time that Toni and I have taught it - there has been an enormous amount of work for us to do to ensure we've got it right. We still have a mountain of paperwork to complete before the end of Wednesday - so I have been a bit preoccupied. So much so that I've hardly read any blogs - so apologies if I've missed any of your lovely posts.

Now then, this post was going to be about our wonderful neighbour, Sergio. I wonder if I've already gone on too much about other things to start with him now? Especially as it's half-past midnight. Oh, what the heck - I'm here and I'm typing and the children are upstairs watching 'The Fellowship of the Ring' - again - and FR is working on the other computer.

Sergio lives just a little further along the road from our house, with his aged parents. He is the fount of all knowledge and I am so very glad we have got to know him.

Our relationship began early on - he walks his three handsome and huge dogs every day and passes all around the village, thus getting to know all the gossip. He has small pieces of land in various different places around the village, which seems the usual thing around here, so he pops up unexpectedly in front of us on nearly all our walks.

He calls us up to insist we come for a walk just now because the light is perfect to appreciate the views. He dragged FR off to buy tomato and pepper plants to put on his land as we'd decided not to plant on our land this year (lack of water and fencing - the latter a problem as the sheep and goats pass over our land - they've already eaten the potatoes we planted there!) He made the children go and pick wild strawberries the other day.

He is wonderful to talk to because he knows so much - I've found myself having conversations with him about things from archery (he has a hunting bow) to vets (he knows them all and which are the best). He is also full of advice - from cars to chorizo - even which dog food provides the best consistency of dog poo...!

My vocabulary has increased remarkably since I met Sergio.

Last week, he took FR and the children off to pick cherries from his cherry field - I say field as it isn't an orchard in that quintessentially 'English' orchard way - though I guess orchard would do really.
This year has been dreadful for the cherries as there was a late frost and so there is not a lot of fruit. He told us this week that it's not worth harvesting them for sale, so we should go and take what we want.

So this evening, we did just that.

We filled our bags and ate cherries from the branches.

It was clear that there was a problem this year as some trees had no fruit at all - but the odd one or two was laden and delicious.

It was no surprise when Sergio suddenly turned up on his motorbike. He told us the cherries would be even better in a couple of days but that it was due to rain on Tuesday and if it did, then the cherries would be ruined.

I wouldn't argue with Sergio - he's always right. I should have asked him if it was a cherry orchard, I guess. I will do that.

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Decisions, decisions

I mentioned that I had handed in my notice at the Academy and that from the end of June, my often joyous, sometimes fraught, teaching days will be at an end for the time being.

These sort of decisions are never made lightly. I have written about my English teaching many times, though I don't know that I have ever mentioned the strange coincidence that found me teaching there in the first place. When I first arrived in Alcala la Real, I spent some time teaching in the English Centre here that has now closed. Towards the middle of March 2010 - we arrived in January - a lady came in looking for a native English speaker. As no one in the centre spoke Spanish, she was directed towards me, where I understood that she urgently needed someone to take over the oral classes in her Academy as the usual teacher had been taken ill. As I was in the middle of teaching, I said I would come and talk to her at the Academy the next morning - thinking (no false modesty here) that she had come specifically to talk to ME!

I continued in this thought for some time after taking on the job until Maria, the owner of the Academy, and I had more time to chat when I discovered that she came to the English centre to ask for help in finding someone - not expecting me to have my sleeves rolled up and teaching within 48 hours. She also told me later that her daughter had been very shocked that she'd taken me on without asking to see my TESOL teaching certificate or any formal qualifications that I held. She still hasn't seen them but when I dug them out recently, I was rather pleased to discover that I had passed my Teaching English as a Foreign Language certificate with a distinction. Maria has always said that she took to me instinctively and as her other teacher never came back, we both feel that serendipity brought us together.

I have so enjoyed the last year where I've taken on more actual teaching, rather than just a 'chatty' class. At Level One - the first year - I have taken their full 2 and a half hour's lessons during the week and also have more time with the more advanced classes. My level 1 students have been so responsive and quick to learn and we've had a lot of fun as well as managing to complete a very demanding text book. They've taken everything on board and I the other day, I heard the youngest of the group go to another girl and ask, without my involvement, if she could borrow a rubber please - in perfect English.

When we found our house here in Villalobos, I thought that living so close to town I wouldn't have any problems in continuing work. A twelve minute car journey as opposed to an eight minute walk didn't seem likely to cause any problems.

However, the reality is a bit different. I find I have to leave the house just 10 minutes after Mateo arrives home and some days, the logistics of the five of us having slightly different plans and arrangements in town at not quite overlapping times, has made it very awkward to schedule and manage. I am missing the hours at home with the children now we have our own space and garden to enjoy together. Often, by the time I get home, I am quite tired and have only an hour or so before it's time to start thinking about supper and bed. There have been some days where I've had to leave the three of them at home on their own because FR is in Granada and that also makes me very uncomfortable in some ways - although we always have a backup plan in the event of need. And sometimes, Ruy and Romy have come with me to the Academy before going off to either swimming or tennis. This has been quite good in the summer months but wouldn't be ideal in winter when the nights are dark or the weather bad.

The worst thing - which is also the best thing - is that FR has finally got his play off the ground and out into schools. A couple of weeks ago, his group went to perform at a school in Monachil, in Granada, which he followed up the next day with a workshop. In his own words, it was everything he had dreamed of from the outset - and it can't really get better than that. In the new term, I expect he will be visiting many more schools which means he won't be home with the children or available to take them to their various classes and practices whilst I am teaching.

So, for practical purposes, though not necessarily financially responsible ones, we are going to try and manage without my teaching income - it wasn't much but it was better than nothing - in order for me to be at home for the children. I think it's the right decision but I do find myself wishing I could have the best of both worlds and keep my favourite classes and do a few less hours - but that's not an option. At first, I don't think Maria really believed I was going but we have found an excellent replacement - again by pure chance - so she's coming round to the idea and she knows that she can always call on me if there's a need to.

All I need to do now is tell the students. Without a tear in my eye...

It's so hard giving up the things we love but it's so much easier when I know I can spend more time with my children in our lovely home. I think it's best all round.