Casa Rosales

Casa Rosales

Sunday, 25 April 2010

About La Urz

Whilst with his cousin in Santiago, FR made contact with some people who lived in a small village in the north of Leon - a place called 'La Urz' - pronounced as in 'urth' (or even 'earth').  Coinciding with meeting them was the realisation that perhaps Galicia wasn't for us. As we had ruled Catalunya out because the children would be taught only in Catalan in the schools - so it seemed that Gallego was the language being spoken more and more in Galicia. Cesar noted that many of the older people spoke to each other in Castillian Spanish but younger people were using the local language - which is fine but not what I want. 

From Tuesday to Thursday, he concentrated on looking in Asturias and I heard little from him - usually meaning there was nothing much to say. He said Taramundi was very hilly; Vegadeo was dull and Castropol the same...nothing much for me to get my hopes up that we were on the right track.

On Friday morning, he headed south towards his parents - who, incidentally, have been unable to fly to Majorca to one of their other son's because of the flight ban. They have only just left today - Sunday - over a week late. FR stopped at La Urz on the way and stayed overnight there.  We had a long conversation when he returned to his parent's house on Saturday and he had loved the place and the people and there was a house there that was big, habitable and for sale within our price range...

It has a lot of bedrooms and still needs some work doing to it - there is one area that has been used to store hay but which could become another bedroom. The people who live around here are creative, artistic people and they have children too. 

FR is so taken with this place and the sort of life it would offer us that I have booked to go and have a look myself after he gets back. I will go with Mateo so that he too can see whether he likes it. The place is surrounded by wild life, mountains, amazing countryside and only a short distance from the Embalse de Luna - where there are all sorts of water activities available. I have taken advantage of Ryanair's amazing offer of cheap tickets and Mateo and I will fly to Valladolid for £6 each! We will stay just 4 days and will be able to borrow FR's parent's car to drive up to La Urz and meet the people there and see the house. And make a decision.

It is not as exciting as a vineyard; it's not as near the sea as I'd hoped; it's not in the heart of any folkloric area and it's pretty isolated.  But I am going to see it soon and I will know when I get there if FR is right about it. 

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Slow cooking.

Today I did something I have never really had time to do before - real slow cooking. I bought some pork belly and prepared rillettes, which can be made from more or less any sort of meat cooked very slowly in a warm oven - pork, duck, goose in particular is good. It makes a sort of pate to be eaten with some good crusty bread or toast and with chutney or little gherkins to counteract the richness. Delicious.

At the same time, I put some tomatoes in to slow cook which I have now put into a kilner jar with plenty olive oil and basil - should keep for a good couple of months: how cheerful it looks.

When the children came home, Romy wanted to make some chocolates so I set her off making some milk chocolate cat's tongues and then thought I would make some dark chocolates at the same time. Her cat's tongues got eaten before I could get my camera out (Jenny's camera!) but I took a picture of some of my snails resting on a leaf.  I swirl some gold lustre colour into the moulds to start with; then these snails are dark chocolate with a little piece of honeycomb set in the middle.

I also made some really rummy raisin truffles. Rather than making the truffle mix into rounded shapes, I broke the thin slabs of truffle into rough shapes before dipping into the chocolate - they look a bit like jigsaw pieces and taste pretty good.

Today is the first day I have really felt that I no longer go to work. I think I like it. There are so many things to do though! I have been doing a bit of gardening as well - am covered in scratches up my arm from tackling a very woody lavender bush in the front of the house. I can only do about 20 minutes at a time and then I get bored but I am doing more and more 20 minute slots and am beginning to understand how the gardening bug can take a grip. 
However, this garden has a long way to go for it to be anything to write about, though if we are still in this house in the summer, perhaps for the first time, it will looked as though we cared for it just a bit!

Monday, 19 April 2010

Coincidence in Santiago de Compostela

Cesar phoned me on Saturday afternoon having looked at a wonderful house in a beautiful situation. He has a typical 'Cesar' story to tell me today by email. He has so far not been won over by the people of Galicia - and does not appear to be winning them over either!  He had gone into the village post office to buy a stamp to send a card to us, but apparently the old woman there claimed she didn't sell any stamps for England. Cesar says he 'tried to explain to her that as a post office, she should have had stamps for the rest of Europe' - at which point, the woman shouted at him quite a lot in Gallego - the language of the area - and which he did not understand word for word, but definitely got the gist. So he left and went into the bar next door for a drink.  Whereupon, the same old woman came in from a door connecting the two buildings... he says he ran away immediately.

Later on, he went to Santiago de Compostela - which is the 'capital' of Galicia and is the destination point of the famous Pilgrimage route - the Camino de Santiago. He had decided to spend Sunday there and soak up some atmosphere as it's always busy, always alive and he has become a bit fed up of what he has politely referred to as the dullness of the Galician people he has met so far.

He phoned me very late - sorry very early - on Sunday morning. Not drunk but very happy as he'd just found his cousin Nacho busking outside the Cathedral! Nacho plays flutes and gaitas, the Galician bagpipes and has travelled all over, including several spells in Edinburgh during festival time, playing on the streets - but this has to be a pretty cool coincidence!  Actually, turns out he is living there at the moment with his Irish girlfriend, but FR didn't know that and hadn't been looking for him - he said he just saw him in front of the cathedral and managed to go and sit next to him before Nacho noticed he was there! I expect Nacho would have been even more surprised to see FR than the other way around.

This is a photo they sent through to me this morning - FR on the left - I have no idea why they are by the sea - Santiago isn't!

Nacho has a myspace page with some of his music -  in some of the pictures he's the one with his hair really short - much nicer when it's long and curly. He's an absolutely charming, talented young man and I am so happy FR found him as he did.

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Simple Pleasures

Almost the last of the Easter holidays, so we decided to go to Saltaire, near Bradford - a UNESCO World Heritage Site no less these days. Many moons ago, pre-FR, pre-children, I lived very near Saltaire and would go to Salt's Mill most weekends for the scent of lilies, the wonderful books and the art of David Hockney. It always was a special place and it was partly sentiment that enticed me there today.
From the age of about 7, I used to go every Saturday morning to Victoria Hall to 'Saltaire Ladies Gymnastics Club' where I did eventually make it to 'top mat' by the time I was 11. When I started playing clarinet, I gave up gymnastics but still ended up at Victoria Hall on Friday evenings for rehearsals with the Bradford Schools Band. And many years later, I still find this small, purpose-built stone village has tremendous pulling power.
We wandered down over the canal with some lunch bought from the bakery on Victoria St. and sat in the park to eat it. There was a cricket match going on and the 'Englishness' of it all created a very strong sense of nostalgia in me - I felt I was potentially looking at this sort of view for one of the last times. It felt and continues to feel rather strange - a bit like homesickness even before I've left. Not a bad sign, but rather a sense that we really are going to be gone before this time next year. And it really has been the most beautiful day.
I took the children into the Mill and Mateo was in heaven with all the books. I could have left him there for the rest of the afternoon but I'd promised the other two a milkshake in the Diner, so we had to drag him away. And despite the fact I haven't been there for more than 5 years, it was lovely to be greeted by the guy who still works there (after 17 years) as a long-lost friend.
We all agreed that we'd had a very good day and came home feeling quite sleepy from the sun and absolutely starving hungry. Mateo, recently trying out vegetarianism on humanitarian grounds, had said yesterday that he felt he could possibly eat chicken as long as it was free-range, so we'd bought one the day before. He was still a bit unsure when I was cooking it, but once it was on the table, between us, we ate the whole thing!

Yes, simple pleasures indeed - and today was the day we have missed FR the most.

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Being an ENFP

FR sent me a text yesterday at around 2pm which read "I am in heaven. I'll look for an internet link later. I love you."  I sort of took this as a 'good' sign after the previous day's assessment of house hunting in Galicia but it left me very agitated and frustrated. Where was he; had he found somewhere; had he seen a lovely view; had he had a wonderful meal....??

Our arrangement was that I would text him to see if it was OK to call him on SKYPE - a necessity because for some reason, his phone has decided it will not ring out when someone tries to call him - I would have bought another phone but FR is not me. He is FR and will not spend a penny unless he really has to. So at 6pm, I sent a text saying can I call, to which I got the reply, not now. Aaargh. Not only am I an ENFP with an overwhelming urge to talk to my husband but one with no patience and a strong activist streak. I was pacing the floor, manically tidying up, eating endless biscuits and watching the minutes tick by. It was excruciating.
At 7.50pm, I got the text to say 'now'! So I whizzed off to the computer to make the call ..and SKYPE wouldn't work - or FR had very poor reception at his end. Whichever, it was even more frustrating than waiting to speak to him. However, we managed a couple of broken sentences from which I learned that he'd been to see a vineyard in La Chantada and later on, he emailed me a long email all about it. I've now located information about it and this is a picture:
 I think this looks rather nice and there are 12,000m2 of land that contains vines, cherries, pears and kiwis as well as a forest area with chestnuts and oak trees. And this is where FR was when he said he was in heaven. The area has a large 'embalse' which translates as a reservoir or a dam - often created by flooding valleys. This one is apparently navigable and FR said there were ships and boats on it.

OK, back to my title and what has this got to do with being an ENFP.. and what is an ENFP? I have a friend, Marion, who is a qualified Myers-Briggs practitioner, amongst many other things and it was she who introduced me to it some years ago. We had instinctively 'bonded' as friends without much need to get to know each other in any more formal way - typical 'N' and 'F' traits that we both share. I am not going to try and explain Myers-Briggs here other than to say it is a personality type indicator- type it into Google and check it out if you haven't come across it before. I used it extensively at work as part of our team building activities and it really did help to understand why some people behave the way they do. (And why others are normal!!)
I bring it up now because being in the situation I am currently - i.e. on the cusp of doing something very different, looking for new ventures and changing my life and that of my family in a radical way - being an ENFP is real boon. I thrive on the excitement of what might be, what we could do, how we might live. If ever a type was made to follow a dream, it's an ENFP. But it has to feel right. I am sure that if I was the one in Spain looking for our house, I would instinctively know when I had found it. FR, being a an INTP (probably) is not likely to tell me he has 'found it' in that sort of way - it's not in his nature and he tends to worry that I will get too excited, mentally move in and then potentially be devastated if we don't get it - however, reading between the lines of his email, I think he definitely likes this property in Chantada.

We ENFPs have one more lucky trait and that is that if our dreams are dashed - it's only momentarily because there's always another dream to be had, waiting just around the corner. In the meantime, I am swotting up on vine cultivation....

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Keeping calm

OK, I confess. I wanted to write my next blog installment in a state of high excitement because FR had phoned me to say - "I've found it! Our home in Spain!"  But, he hasn't. My hope that the house in Meira, that looked so appealing in the brochure, would be just what we were looking for ..wasn't.

In fact, FR was quite down yesterday when we spoke because he'd been all day going around with Mark from Galician Country Homes - who has been extremely kind, helpful and enthusiastic about all things in Galicia - but thus far,FR has not been equally enthused. And he was tired. So I can't say exactly what he thought about what he'd seen because when he's tired, he does tend to exaggerate and also to use really bad language.  Listening between the expletives, I think he was saying that the villages are quite dead, very few children around and that what he had seen might possibly be OK after several years hard work but not what we had in mind. Personally, I think his view was also seriously affected by the fact that it was windy - FR hates wind - but he did concede that it was not cold and it wasn't raining, even though it seemed like the rest of Spain was suffering awful weather.  This is good. I've checked the forecast for today and it's not too bad; a bit chilly but no rain and only light wind...whereas in Huddersfield, it's a very chill 6 degrees and I've had to put the heating on.

So the search continues and I have to accept that it's early days. My mood wasn't exactly improved when the house down the road here had a 'SOLD' sign on it yesterday and it's been on the market for less time than ours. I know the market is subdued but we've only had one couple look. I'm desperate for more viewers; if only to make all the tidying up worthwhile.

The Easter holidays continue for the children and yesterday we went to the Royal Armouries in Leeds. They had all been so fractious before we set off that I had every intention of letting them take a weapon of their choice so I only had to bring the last one standing home. However, by the time we got there and listened to some pirate stories, watched some two-handed sword fighting and had lunch, they were all cheerful and quite pleasant company again. I found the amount of weaponry rather disturbing after just a short while and much preferred looking at the medieval pictures in the Tournament Field; whilst we were there, we found Guy, who was explaining how metal armour could 'bend' and that was very interesting. We all felt we'd learned something there and also got to try on some real armour.

I await news from FR with renewed optimism that today will be the day he phones and says, "I've found it!"

Sunday, 11 April 2010

To Knutsford and back

Today, we went over to Knutsford, Cheshire, to visit my sister and her family. We like going there. Good food, good company and always good advice. My sister is, amongst other things, a plumber and house extender and has thus far managed to extend her already generous-sized home to a five bedroomed, five bathroomed semi-mansion. (Or so it seems to my kids.)
Having finished said house last year and in need of another 'project', she got herself a Border Collie pup to train - Twigg. I would put a picture of Twigg here for you to admire, but FR has taken the camera to Spain to photograph potential homes for us - and I forgot to borrow one from my mum, who also lives in Knutsford, which was one of the reasons we went today.....I do hope you're following this.

And how I wished I had a camera on our return visit as we drove on the M62 passed Saddleworth Moor - which was ablaze! At first, it seemed as though there were three giant circles of fire but then as we drove on, one fire clearly stretched for a good mile or so. There have been other blazes recently, including one at Pule Hill in Marsden, caught on camera by Steve Tuck and which looks close enough to the one we saw for me to include it here. 

Back to my sister, Judy, who also has three children - Emily 18, Will 16 and Luke 13.  Will is a keen and impressive musician with a real penchant for prog rock - most endearing. He is studying at school and is currently putting a collection of his pieces together online which you must have a listen to. I hope he won't mind me saying that the pieces are excellent but the Prologue is not typical of what follows - Ragnarok is my favourite, partly because of the title, which is from Old Icelandic and means 'Twilight" or "Final Destiny of the Gods' and indicates the end of the world - and also for the immense energy in the work.  Ragnarok is a real tale of doom from the Old Icelandic prose and poetic past, which I read at University many moons ago. I still remember one bit about the ship Naglfar, which, during Ragnarok, will sail again carrying giants and monsters to the final battleground. Legend has it the ship is made from the nails of dead men - conjuring for me the most amazing dark and scaly image - and the custom is to always ensure that a man's nails were cut short when he died.
Run and Equinox are the other titles he's written so far.

I will have to look elsewhere to borrow a camera this week.

Saturday, 10 April 2010

On being outnumbered

Three children, a tightened budget, half-term.
Yesterday, we gardened together and put plants into planters, cut back trees and bushes and weeded the scruffy borders. Today, I promised Kids Club at the Odeon, so we whizzed off to see 'Percy Jackson and the Lightening Thief'. Mateo had read the book and promised it would be really funny. It went over Romy's 6 year old head as there was a lot of reference to Greek Gods - actually, there were lots of Greek Gods in it, not just references. Lots of technical whizzy stuff and the sense that the film was rushing through the book without due consideration. It wasn't really funny but it was quite fun. (In no way to be read as a film critique.)

We then trooped off to the library, where Mateo announced there was nothing left for him to read - he'd read everything. After a little more hunting, he found two that were new to him...and we didn't see him for the rest of the afternoon. I expect he's finished both by now. He can read faster than me and the only difference is that he remembers what he's read.
After a really late lunch, even for us, I swear, I lay down on the sofa and fell asleep! For almost two hours..
Meaning we didn't eat until around 8.30pm.
After I let them stay up to watch Dr. Who, which we missed last week, they promised that tomorrow, they will tidy up their rooms and make a start on clearing out unwanted toys and games.  It is going to be a hard day - every time we've tried this in the past, they end up loving things they haven't touched for months and months and I never get rid of anything!

Then FR phoned from Pravia, a place on my list of where he had to check out in Asturias 'because it felt right' - and he liked it there. 

He'd been to see one of the places we'd found on a website but said it wasn't us and I believe him. I so wanted to go with him so we could look together but now he's there, I know he'll know when something is right and when it is wrong. And whilst he hasn't found 'it' yet, he arranged for an estate agent to send me some pictures of what he'd been looking at today. 
This is something that would need completely rebuilding but it's a lovely wall!!
My list includes Luarca, Grado, Castropol, Vegadeo, Taramundi, Santa Eulalia de Oscos and Meira - this latter being in Galicia, rather than Asturias. FR has to go to all of these places. It's been difficult to find good web-based information about these places - you'll see if you follow the links that there is seems to be a sad lack of good web designers working in Spain. Now there's a thought!

Friday, 9 April 2010

FR in Spain

FR left for Spain yesterday morning and phoned me from the beach in Colunga today. We went to this beach about 4 years ago - on the Jurassic Coast of northern Spain. There are dinosaur footprints on the beach! And not just one sort of dinosaur, but big feet and small feet imprinted in the stone at the foot of the cliffs there. Herds of them all passing together - really amazing.
Just a man and his dog there today apparently.
We've talked a lot about going to Asturias to live and FR is there to look into the sort of property we could afford and to investigate which area would suit us best. I wish we could have all gone but the two weeks of Easter holidays is not enough and I want to keep the disruption to the children's schooling down to a minimum. They are really looking forward to going - which makes me feel that the 6 months they did at school in Spain 2 years ago was a good thing all round. Hasn't put them off, anyway!
I've started to look at Galicia as well as Asturias. It's awfully hilly in Asturias, seems a bit smoother the further west you go. And the houses there are big, with huge rooms and altogether more openness around them. Mark Adkinson from Galician Country Homes phoned me yesterday after I'd emailed about a property and did a good job of selling the province.. we'll see.
FR is sleeping in the car tonight - it's a big people carrier - hope he's OK. He will not stay in a hotel, preferring economy over everything but I know if it gets too uncomfortable, he can go to Leon to see family or down to Valladolid to his parents. Wish I were there with him.

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Why chocolates?

When I was about five, I remember sitting on a ladder, propped against the wall in the spare bedroom of my grandparents' house, watching my grandpa stirring a big copper vat full of chocolate. It was mesmerising; round and round he would stir and the beautiful molten soft brown mass would glug and gloop and give off a warm, cosy smell. And with any luck, I'd get a cat's tongue chocolate as a reward for keeping him company. He was a lovely, lovely man anyway but the fact that he also made chocolate made him super-special.
I began chocolatiering when I was about 26, when I bought back all the equipment my grandpa had sold with his shop premises, 20 years earlier. A chocolatier is someone who makes things out of chocolate, whereas a chocolate maker is someone who actually makes the chocolate. I was so glad my grandpa was around to show me how to temper and to mould figures but the best thing ever was when he told me I had bettered his skills.
Almost 25 years on, I am still making chocolates and never tire of trying new flavours, new ideas and improving on what I have already done. I will be writing a lot about chocolates!

Starting Out

Hello - welcome to a first-time blogger's attempt to tell a story. On a regular basis, I'll be charting the progress we make as a family in our plans to move from the north of England to the north of Spain. You don't need my life story - you'll pick things up along the way if you decide to join me. You do need to know that my husband is Spanish because that is key to the decision we made. We are me, (Annie), my husband, hereto referred to as FR and our three children, Mateo 11, Ruy 8 and Romy 6 - oh, and Jaws the Terrapin.
On 31st March 2010, I took early retirement - at 50, quite young to retire but just check the ages of my children again! We have decided we are going to pack up, sell our house, take my pension pay out and run away to Spain.
Feeling still young enough to start a brand new life but nervous nevertheless, this blog will serve to provide me with some personal support - I have always found writing things down to be 'a good thing' - and at the same time, I hope that what I have to say will be of interest to those lovely people I have left behind and also to anyone who wonders what it might be like to 'up and off'!

I welcome any comments you might like to make and hope you enjoy what you read here enough to come back from time to time.