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.
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.
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.
Thanks for reading.