Casa Rosales

Casa Rosales

Saturday, 14 February 2015

A Weekend in Scotland

Where do I start? Possibly at the beginning, but I promise you, smoke and mirrors are involved, so hang on for a roller coaster of a post...

I thought a visit to Scotland was an essential almost before Sam and family left Alcala la Real last April. I just needed the right 'excuse'. Romy's birthday in January seemed a pretty good reason and knowing that the cottage where the family now live is not big, I decided that we'd have a girly visit and just Romy and I would go. No discussion, no consultation. Even Romy didn't know and I booked the tickets in August last year.

It seemed to take forever for us to reach Romy's birthday in some ways. I'd let her know just after Christmas when she began compiling a 'birthday wish list' and I began to think it would be more fun to share the news so we could plan and anticipate together. It was a good decision and helped her to deal with the rather miserable actual birthday she had, 10 days prior to our departure. (She was ill, the one thing she really wanted had failed to arrive from Amazon....and we had said no party this year due to her visit to Scotland.) But she was brave and our excitement grew in the last week before our departure and Romy got better and I didn't catch her lurgy!

And suddenly, after all the anticipation (and the anxiety when I discovered her passport had expired...) we were on our way to the airport in Malaga for a very civilised flight at midday on a day of sunshine that promised to continue all the way to Scotland.

And sure enough, we landed in sunshine and Sam was excitedly waiting for us at the gate - and we were the first out! What emotion!! I was so anxious to see her again that I foolishly decided against delaying the moment and didn't stop at the loo on the way through the airport. Bad move! Anyway, we stopped at the Hilton Hotel on our way out and the man on the door there was very obliging and let me in in my moment of need.

We called in to see the dilapidated cottage that the Greers are hoping to rebuild and make their permanent Scottish home. It's just the other side of Perth from the village where they currently live and it was in a glorious spot with fantastic views. And a lovely piece of history in the garden - on old horse mill.  I don't know what was milled originally but these types of mills have been used variously as gorse-crushers, to provide animal feed, to mill corn, to crush apples or to raise water.

Plenty of work to do - but a glorious view to enjoy. Oh my, is Romy as tall as Sam?
 After this little detour, we drove on through Perth where I had the weirdest feeling of déjà vu despite knowing I have never been there - and it was a good feeling. I liked Perth very much.

It was so lovely to settle down with the Greers and to feel at home immediately. The girls disappeared off to....well, I have no idea, but disappear they did and I guess Sam and I didn't stop talking until we simply couldn't any more.

Saturday really did start sunny and bright so we set off for a walk in the local woods with Charlie in tow - Charlie is a little street dog from Alcala, who seems to have settled in quite well to her different lifestyle!

It was chilly as the ice on the river proves, but the sun was shining on us.

I think Romy will grow out of pulling this face for the camera. I hope it will be soon.....

(Mine, I can't help!)
After a brisk walk back, we got ourselves ready to go into Perth, where, second joy, we were going to be joined by a dear friend I used to work with and who was travelling across from the Trossachs (sounds good) for a catch up lunch!

Celia and I shared an office for several years and went through more than a few life events together and I was delighted that she was able to meet up with us. Absolutely brilliant to spend a couple of hours chatting and catching up and reminiscing. Thank you so much for coming to meet us, Celia!

After lunch was over - and it was extremely good - Celia toddled back to the Trossachs and we headed to Paperchase and TK Maxx for a little retail therapy. Everything I wanted in TK Maxx was impossible to buy....too heavy to take back to Spain in my hand luggage. (But I DID so want a big Le Creuset jug....a pink one....)  In the end, Romy and I spent quite a bit in Paperchase and were happy with our lovely but light purchases and I bought a beautiful new king size fitted cotton sheet, hotel quality, that I inevitably try and pick up with I visit TK Maxx. Can't have too many of those.

Photography wasn't allowed in the concert hall,
of course, but this was at the end.
They didn't have much room, but skated brilliantly
- very balletic and the Crow was incredible!
A quick visit back home to change for our evening outing to see 'Snow White on Ice' at Perth Concert Hall. This was Romy's treat and I wasn't expecting to be too excited but found I enjoyed the skating very much. The music was excellent and apart from an incongruous element....Rusty Lee (remember her, anyone!) dressed in neon pink and black, with wings, was the 'Fairy Reporter' who provided the younger members of the audience with a commentary of what was going on from time to time. Sam did get a little lost in the plot at one point which caused great hilarity on our return journey. I had to explain that the seven bearded skaters who appeared when Snow White was in the cottage in the woods, were, in fact, the seven dwarves...she'd got a bit lost in the plot. (It doesn't sound so funny but we did laugh such a lot in the car on our way home!)

The next day, we were up early and off to Edinburgh for our last day together. And although Sam insisted that she knows no one and has far fewer friends in Scotland than in Spain, everywhere we went, she bumped into friends and work acquaintances as she always did in Alcala...we even met and travelled to Edinburgh with one of her friends, who just happens to be Spanish and comes from Malaga! A networking genius, she is!

Edinburgh sported the bluest skies and coldest winds imaginable! As we walked down from the station along Princes St. we were treated to a man playing the bagpipes in full costume and with very chilly-looking knees.

We walked through the gardens and down to the Scottish National Gallery, where as well as taking in some lovely pictures and hearing many Spanish voices around, we left our suitcases for a couple of hours. Then we wandered off again and made our way to the selected lunch spot.

It was an excellent choice for five good eaters - Cosmo Restaurant, a 'Pan Asian and World Dining Banquet' - with an open buffet-style menu from many different countries and where you could literally eat as much as you wanted. It would take an age to recount all the different things we tried but I particularly enjoyed the squid, prawn and scallops that were cooked for me on a hot iron and the Lamb Rogan Josh that I followed it with...oh, and the slice of roast beef and Yorkshire pudding that I couldn't resist....and perhaps I should mention the BBQ spare rib that I nibbled on  as I perused what was on offer. And yes, I've come back several kilos heavier but for once I can say it was worth it!! As for what the girls ate...Romy and Izzie were utterly stuffed and Romy couldn't finish her cheesecake. That says it all. It's not something that I would want to do on a regular basis but for someone whose tastebuds are often a tad bored with Spanish flavours, it was such a brilliant experience. And we stayed warm and out of the wind for around 2 hours..

The final treat of the day - Romy's birthday, remember - after we'd picked up our suitcases, was a trip to the Edinburgh Dungeons.

Not originally the Dungeons, I was reliably informed that this venue was once a car park and then a night club. However, it had been cleverly transformed into a most scary place where Sam and the girls did a lot of screaming and I only did a bit.

It was well organised and there was lots of interaction and jesting and some historical information, as well as lots of shouting in strong Scottish accents, much of which I didn't quite catch!

We were at the back of our group owing to having the suitcases on tow and as a result, we had to wait to enter the final part of the tour - a 'this-is-how-it-feels-to-drop-when-you're-being-hung' experience I think it was - which we went on just the five of us. Photos were taken but I refuse to share the one of me at this point...not a good image and obviously I will be getting my roots done very soon as a result of seeing it myself.

This is a 'good' one of us all!

As we were shown out of this part, we were told to find our way out of a simple maze to the entrance hall. It was a maze of mirrors and - I guess because we weren't part of a main group any more - we were stuck in it for what seemed like an eternity. At the beginning, it wasn't too creepy because we expected to find our way out, but after five minutes or so, we became SO disorientated that at one point, Jazzy made a run towards Romy and almost knocked herself out against a mirror - splat onto the floor! It was one of the strangest experiences I've ever had!!

At this stage, I didn't know if I was coming or going...don't be fooled though. It's possible I was walking TOWARDS Sam when this was taken....hang on, who took this picture???

Brave smiles from four totally confused females!
Eventually, the next group caught up with us and within two minutes, the secret and hidden (honestly, I did look for it) door opened and there we were, back in the entrance hall. It was very comical and I will see Jazzy hitting that mirror and then the floor forever more, in a tangle of long gangly adolescent legs and arms and wild screaming. Luckily she wasn't hurt....but it would have been difficult not to find it comical even if she had. Sorry Jazzy! Be glad we weren't filming - you'd have been an overnight YouTube sensation!

And then, suddenly, our time with our friends was over! It was strange seeing them off - rather than the other way round - but they went to catch the train back to Perth, whilst Romy and I were heading off to a hotel near the airport. A fantastic weekend and confirmation that it was serendipity that brought both Sam and I to Alcala la Real, so that we could meet and become the friends that we are.

Romy and I still had a bit of adventure left before we got back home. A tram ride in Edinburgh for a start - and it was now dark, so it felt like an adventure - and finding our hotel. We managed, of course, and by 7pm, were safely ensconced in our room. And by 9pm, we were both fast asleep!! Good too, as we had an early morning start as our flight was at the less civilised return hour of 6.55am...groan! Needless to say, this too went like clockwork and at around 11am, we had landed back in sunny Malaga.

We really had a ball - notwithstanding losing my credit card at some point on our journey and arriving back in Spain with no cash, both of which I managed to resolve without a problem - and I hope we can do it again in the not too distant future. There's something really very good about having a girly weekend.....especially with great friends and with my wonderful, fantastic daughter, who is fun, brave and a brilliant travelling companion. Happy Birthday Romy!!

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

I lapsed....

I really did intend to get back into blogging as we began the new year. But I am already sadly behind with reading those blogs that I love to read, written by people I now consider to be know who you are! I apologise and will get back to it post haste.

My excuses are varied and many but I won't bore you with all of them, only to say that January has been a time of preparation and thinking and it hasn't left me much time for anything else.

The preparation has been for two main things - one of which has taken place with great success - and the other which will begin properly next week.

First thing was the trip I had planned for Romy and I to visit our friends in Scotland. Ostensibly for Romy's birthday this year, I cannot possibly pretend that I thought it was the most perfect idea for both of us and I booked the tickets in August last year - and managed NOT to tell Romy until just after Christmas. She was thrilled, although we did have a minor hiccup when I discovered on 13th January that her passport ran out on 14th January. Despite FR's confidence in being able to get her a Spanish one through in time, when we got to the 20th I was beginning to panic and had had several recurring anxiety-fuelled toilet dreams - years since I had the last one! (Apparently, I am not alone in having this particular dream and I even wrote a blog post about but decided it was not the best idea to publish it!)

Sunny day in Malaga.....
All was resolved by a single visit to Malaga to the British Consulate, where her passport was extended for one year without problem. A very big phew.....

Sunny - and very windy! That's Romy on the beach causing a seagull riot!

And this is Riofrio, where we stopped on the way home to get fresh trout....
not directly from the river but from the trout farm here.
SO delicious!

Our visit to Scotland deserves a blog post of its own and will get one very shortly! We had a ball.....

And amazing weather!

The second thing that has been preoccupying me has been the waiting to start teaching again. A new Director has been appointed at the place where I teach and she is in charge of Human Resources, so my existing contact, the acting Head of HR has been deferring to her all during January and it seemed the English classes weren't high on her list of priorities. At least that's what I suspected.

Eventually, I was introduced to her and was a bit taken aback when she said she wanted to see that the classes were worth the money (not in as many words) and that she wanted the staff to take exams. I don't really like teaching where the main purpose is to pass an exam so I was a bit upset and concerned. However, several conversations later and finding that I really like this new woman very much indeed - she's great fun and very committed to English learning - and I now have a group of students who would like to take an exam. And I also have a group that don't want to; a group that don't need to and an advanced group that will take a high level of exam next year.
I am delighted and it's going to be just as much fun as it was last year, I can tell! I have started with one group this week and will get going 'proper' next week. And the teaching will be mainly in the mornings and early afternoon, which is fantastic as it means I can be at home with the children in the evenings. I'm feeling very good about it all. It's obviously been playing on my mind a bit because as soon as it feels sorted (now) - here I am blogging again!

FR has been very busy, with the help of a builder, adding the summer kitchen and a new storage place nearer the house, where we will put the freezer and make a bit of extra space in the kitchen. We have still quite a big mess and a lot of work to do in the garden but the hard work is beginning to give us an idea of how it might be - one day!!

Delivery of roof tiles. Can you see a difference...?

One day, all this will be sorted. One day. Just not very soon!!

Watch this space. There will be more, I can feel it in my fingers. Axxx