Casa Rosales

Casa Rosales

Tuesday 24 August 2010


During the long hot evenings, we have been playing a Spanish card game called Escoba, which is quite addictive.  Escoba means brush, usually a long handled broom-type brush and so I suppose the translation of the game could be 'clean sweep'.

Cesar Snr likes to play against me and is very competitive - I have beaten him a couple of times and he's very keen to eradicate the memory! Whilst he's been away in Leon, I've been practising with Ruy - and unfortunately for me, I've taught him too well and he keeps beating me!

The game is played with a deck of Spanish cards and I have just looked this up on Wikipedia and found this image showing exactly the same deck that we play with. I have discovered something myself by doing this.

If you look carefully at the 'suites' of cards and you will see that they go 1,2,3,4,5,6,7 - and then directly to 10,11 and 12. I had thought that the cards in the Villa family were missing something important, but that like many things in this house the 'put and make do' attitude was prevalent! Bear with me....

The game requires each player to have three cards each and to start with, four cards are placed face up in the centre. The aim is to make 15 points with one card in your hand and as many of the centre cards as possible. If you can take all of them, that counts as an 'escoba' and you win a point. Now, imagine playing this for the first time and being pretty cool about adding up to 15 - and then discover that the 10 is only worth 8, the 11 is worth 9 and the 12 is worth 10.. takes some getting used to. Anyway, I can now confidently say that 11 plus 6 equals 15 and thus gather my cards as necessary from the table! Hope it doesn't have a negative effect on Ruy's mathematical development.

As to the 'put up and make do' attitude here - it is comical on good days and frustrating on bad. A few examples are:
i) The house is full of heavy old chairs - in the dining room alone, I counted 11 and usually there are only 2 people living here. That would be OK if there was room for them, but there isn't. One of them lives in front of the big old 'dresser' where the plates are kept and it is impossible to open the door to get plates out without moving the chair or taking the plates one at a time and turning them sideways to get them out.
ii) The dining table is again very old and very heavy - a solid walnut thing - oval with lots of inconvenient legs. It's in three parts that keep coming apart. It is impossible to get the big heavy chairs under the table because the legs are too close together on the table. Getting five of us round it a meal times is a challenge.
iii) In the upstairs part of the house, where we sleep, there is a terrace over which is a canopy - many other houses round here have one - but this one, when extended, is so low at the front that you have to stoop down to get under it. Occasionally, Cesar Snr must get irritated with this, so he winds it in - only to find then, that because the metal arms of the canopy have bent inwards as it closes, you can no longer open the door wide enough to get in easily!
iv) Another door that is impossible to open wide enough is the bathroom door, because is shelving unit has been put up behind it - most of the time, this isn't a problem, you just have to remember not to open the door too wide when you go in. However, the washing machine is in the bathroom, and because the bathroom door doesn't open properly, neither does the washing machine door! So, to load it, you have to 'post' the washing in bit at a time - there isn't quite enough space to go in, close the door and open the machine wide either - just in case you think I'm being picky!!
v) I'll stop after this one, though it's not the last! The plugs in the house have a tendency to leave the wall when you extract a plug... exposing the wires behind. OR, there's a disconcerting spark when you plug something in... I am constantly telling the children not to plug things in though thus far, no one has been damaged.

There are lots more little 'features' about the place...mostly created by Cesar Snr... the garage door, for example, is on upside down so you have to lift the handle up to close the door and vice versa to close it. As I said, mostly, it's amusing and there's a never ending supply as I keep discovering  more things. We keep making suggestions about making changes, but they are not usually accepted...and it is their home so we put up and make do as well!

Monday 23 August 2010

Oh to be in England...

no, no, not really, just sounded like a good title! Although if I was, I could give my exceedingly clever niece and nephew a big hug for getting 4 'A's at 'A' Level and a whole host of 'A*'s, 'A's and 'B's at GCSE level respectively - well done Em and Will!!

Yesterday and today have been incredibly hot - at one stage we drove past a temperature display showing 42 degrees. Today has been slightly more bearable and I could almost say very tolerable by the poolside...that's Ruy you can just see.

The pool is in La Flecha, where Cesar's parents live and where we are currently staying. Their house was one of the first to be built in the area and Cesar remembers when there were hardly any other neighbours. Now, it is quite a large urbanisation just outside Valladolid itself, which is a University city with masses of history attached to it and some wonderful architecture, wide streets and a large central park.
Cesar's parents live a slightly alternative lifestyle within the formal layout of La Flecha - most of the other houses around are either apartments of around two to three storeys or big, suburban houses with terraces, rather than large gardens. Cesar Snr and Amelia have a back garden that has a fig, a cherry, a plum and an almond tree; several areas where potatoes, tomatoes, green beans and chard are grown; a sort of outbuilding where there is a large barbecue/oven thing and a loft area where the hens are kept. When we arrived, there was a large cockerel, in yet another area of the garden. This began crowing at 3am the morning after we arrived from Leon. Cesar and Amelia don't really hear it in their bedroom in the front but I know all the neighbours behind them can - as could we in our back bedroom. Barely had we protested than the poor thing was plucked and left to hang, beak tapping against the kitchen window by 11am - Ruy was quite offended! However, Mateo was already imagining that it would probably taste rather good - which it did.

Then after a few days with us at home, Cesar Snr and Amelia left to go back to Valdepolo in Leon - where Amelia's father stays during the summer months. He's an amazing old fellow of about 92 and for the last 20 years or so, has been going three times a week for dialysis. He ate some watercress from a river when he was younger and from that, some sort of worm or fluke destroyed his kidneys! Anyway, despite the heavy toll on his body that dialysis must take, he is still here, very alert with a typically good Spanish appetite!

We had been to look at a house near Leon which was very nice and had possibilities but someone was already trying to purchase it. It turns out there are very few houses around to buy - so many are kept in the family and passed on for several siblings to share so selling a house is quite complicated and buying one even more so! We found a large piece of land for sale nearby the area and were planning on visiting it but decided to look a bit further to the east as well in our search for our new home. This included the north of Palencia - las Montanas Palentinas - an area just south of Cantabria and rather sensibly placed to get to the port and airport of Santander, a journey taking about an hour.
On Friday, we headed off to look at a few places near to Aguilar de Campoo. I would like to whisper this - Aguilar de Campoo is an absolutely gorgeous place and I have fallen absolutely in love with it! The scenery is spectacular, the town itself is stunning, the villages around are beautiful and in the middle of it all is an embalse - a reservoir - around which there is a forest of pines and oaks and a vast area of beach.
Aguilar - plaza and church

View from the church

Romy the explorer

 And one of the many houses we looked at: this one is in a mountain village called Monasterio - really nice but we are not planning on buying it - at least not until we've looked around a bit more...

All in all, it feels as though we might have found the area we were looking for. We came back feeling very positive, especially as Andres, the estate agent, showed us a piece of land that we could potentially build our own house on AND have enough left over to keep some animals AND put a couple of yurts on.

I am trying not to get too excited too soon as there is still a lot see and many questions to ask. But it feels like we are making some progress.
I will keep you informed!

Wednesday 11 August 2010


Well, here we are in Valladolid with connection to the wider world!

I have to briefly describe our journey here, as much for posterity as for interest. At the last minute, our carefully made plans for the removal were thrown up in the air - almost causing heart failure - but which, in the end worked out well for us.
Our new removers, Andy and Steve, had arrived on the Monday evening to check out access to our house - in the most enormous articulated lorry I have ever seen! And they were really lovely men - I cannot speak highly enough of their help, assistance and good humour.
I have to make a little diversion to thank Kath for her help on Monday, packing all our kitchen things - and being the one to notice the lorry at the end of our street and thus enabling us to meet Andy and Steve. She reckoned it was haunting her as on Tuesday as she was returning home and saw it driving along the road - this time loaded with our things.
After our whole house was loaded up and taken away, we were still left with loads to do - cleaning, packing up remaining bits and pieces and saying goodbye to friends and neighbours .... I found I wasn't really able to get my head round the idea of leaving for good so it was relatively easy; easier than I thought it might be. Probably easier than it should have been. We left for the ferry at about 4 in the morning and made good time to Portsmouth - where we found our lorry again in the queue to embark!
A relatively uneventful and easy journey across the channel, followed by a drive down to Valdepolo gave us just half an hour to prepare ourselves before the lorry arrived. However, we discovered that FR's father hadn't arranged for anyone to come and help us as we'd expected! Anyway, he rounded up a couple of people from the village and Alfredo and Ruz (pronounced Ruth, FR's cousin) came dashing over to help.
And another hot couple of hours later, all was safely loaded into the barn next to FR's grandfather's house - all in a chaotic mess, but all in. Again, I must get some photos because it is impossible to describe!
All the rest will come in my next post - let's just say, we had three lazy days after this in tremendous heat, driven mad by mosquitos but otherwise in peace, relaxation and with a great sense of achievement that we had done it.
And now, here we are at the next stage in La Flecha, near Valladolid, settling in to FR's parent's house for the time being - going twice a day to the local open air swimming pool, the children playing in the plaza and generally taking time to become accustomed to life in Spain.