Casa Rosales

Casa Rosales

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Off to Granada

On Sunday, we're off to Granada to look at houses!! I am very excited. Booked to stay in a self-catering house for a week and have various properties that we're going to look at - some to the east of Granada and some to the west.
To the east, it seems that there are more expats, many who want to sell up and quickly (do they know something we don't?) and so there are some real bargains to be had.  To the west, most of the villages are typically Andalucian Spanish and although the houses are not nearly so nice or well kept, the prices are higher because very often, the sale is not really necessary. We discovered this in the north of Spain - houses tend to stay in the family until they become absolutely redundant - i.e. no one wants to maintain it, go there or live there but there is no necessity to sell immediately - or, it has been left as inheritance to a group of grown up siblings, who can't decide what they want to do with it or are arguing over it and so agree to sell for as much money as possible. Either way, the prices stay high and no one really wants to negotiate. One of my first questions to the estate agents is always, does the seller really want to sell - which seems obvious, but has resulted in some most unexpected answers!

There are a lot of cave houses in the area we are looking and it is in one of these that we are going to stay - I quite like the idea of living in a cave but thought perhaps the reality might be less appealing. If you are not the claustraphobic type, there's quite a lot going for caves. They are very economical - keeping a constant temperature of about 18 - 19 degrees, in both summer and winter; if your furniture doesn't fit or you need a shelf, you can just chisel away at the rock until you have what you need; you don't need to worry too much about mosquitoes, nosy neighbours or making a lot of noise! I'll tell you after whether there are any negatives to it.
Some of the properties have plenty land, which is what we were really hoping for but without paying for it in terms of being very isolated.

We have asked for time off so the children can come with us - it's important that they like the places too but I have set aside time everyday apart from house hunting so we can have a bit of fun and also for them to do some homework. It's bad enough that they have a lot of catching up to do, never mind dropping further behind; it's important they do a bit everyday.

So - we will see what happens next! Cross all fingers, toes, eyes, legs, arms etc. that we find what we are looking for.

Friday, 22 October 2010

Looking for trouble.

Romy and Ruy stay for lunch at school and eat a 3 course meal everyday. As parents, we are given a list of each day's menus. 'Comedor' (or dining room) as it is called is staffed by dinner ladies whose job it is is to train children from an early age to eat beans, lentils, vegetables, chickpeas and other things that parents sometimes find difficult to get their children to eat at home. I have heard parents anxiously asking whether their child had eaten their lunch that day and sometimes, it is clear that the poor thing has had no choice at all! These women are not to be argued with. On the whole, I approve of the attempt to widen or awaken their taste buds though at the same time, I feel a bit guilty that I allow my children to 'refuse' these things at home and that I have opted for the Comedor service, where I know the children are given many things they don't like. (I have to add that I make a delicious lentil soup and the children do eat vegetables every day!)

Guilt aside, on the whole, they do eat well at school and very often say how much they have enjoyed their lunch. Mateo has no such luxury and has to come home to eat - but at least he loves chickpeas!

Last night, as they were all getting ready for bed, Romy serenely announced "Tomorrow, I want to be 'castigado' at Comedor". Mateo looked at her and said, "I don't think you know what that means" and I agreed with him because 'castigado' means punished. However, Romy said she did know and that she really did want to be castigado tomorrow. When I asked why, she said she wanted to be castigado because tomorrow, 'alubias blancas' (white beans) were on the menu and she didn't like them.
Still puzzled, I asked why she would be castigado for not liking white beans and she said, "Because I am not going to eat them".

And that was that.

We shall see but I suspect she will not be the one to give in first.

Mateo is also struggling a little with his English teacher, who insists on telling him that he has got answers wrong in his tests - such as answering the question, "Have you got a dog" with the reply, "No, I don't have a dog".
I can see why "No, I haven't got a dog" might be slightly better but struggle to see why Mateo was marked incorrect for his first answer.
Also - and bear in mind the phrasing of the first question - he was told his answer "Yes, I have got a brother and a sister" was wrong in response to the question, "Do you have any brothers or sisters"....he was told he should not have used the word 'got'.
All this from a man who pronounces the word 'Thames' as it is written! I ask you!!! Fortunately, Mateo is rather amused by this though Cesar is most definitely not. We have a meeting next week with the school.

Ruy, on the other hand, came home very proudly yesterday with his latest maths test result which was the best of all the Year 4 students.
Without wanting to label my children in any way, I can't help but think about Myers-Briggs and note that Ruy takes in detail, facts and information in a very 'Sensory' manner which really helps in early school life compared to a child (like Mateo) who has a strong 'Intuitive' approach as to how he takes in information. To Ruy, if something is explained to him, he understands it, thinks about it, mentally sorts it and can then apply it appropriately and when required. To Mateo, I really do see that if he is given one bit of information, it triggers all sorts of other questions, ideas, images - it opens doors to other things, makes patterns, reminds him of something else - so that when he has to demonstrate his understanding, he can't relocate the original information or doesn't know where to start to apply it. I think in his previous school, there was more scope for this way of thinking but here in Spain, the 'S' preferences definitely seem to have an advantage.

Romy's preference lie somewhere in between the two boys, not absolutely clear yet - though of course, I do already know that her preference is NOT for white beans!

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Home is...

It's been a family sort of week. It was very hard last Wednesday morning to walk to the bus stop with my children, kiss them as they got on the bus, wave as it pulled away, knowing that I was leaving later that morning to go to England for a week. I struggled not to drip a few tears on the path as I returned - having forgotten to take a tissue with me. I often forget how easily I cry - I should always carry tissues in good supply!
Mateo was still at home though as he was full of cold, coughing and spluttering and not sleeping during the night, so at least I had both him and Cesar to see me off to the station.

I almost didn't make the trip - as it happens, only because I was feeling bad about something that could have been a whole lot worse. On the Tuesday afternoon, I had gone with Ruy and Romy to the commercial centre about 5kms away and on the way home, we were involved in an accident that completely wrecked the rear passenger side door, including smashing the top part of the opened window. Very luckily, no one was hurt at all. It was a very stupid accident and if the other driver had been as aware as he should have been, it would not have happened at all, but he didn't see me and moved into my lane coming up to some traffic lights on a roundabout - it all happened very slowly and so the impact was minimal though the poor car looks awful. He only lost the cover of his external indicator and it was a large truck. Despite our relatively lucky escape, I felt dreadful leaving Cesar with a car that was in a mess, insurance claims and garage visits and no window on one side. However, I needed to return to England to check the house, take a few more things away that we'd left, see my family and sort some other things out, so off I went feeling a bit miserable.. especially as the only reading material I had was Jane Eyre in Spanish. I now know lots of new Spanish words for feeling miserable, hard-done by, maltreated, outraged, indignant and all the other things the poor girl felt in her early life. (I haven't got very far with it yet!)

I was one of the last onto the very full plane and ended up with a crowd of school children on their first flight on a trip to Scotland, who were SO excited that it was impossible not to be caught up in their enthusiasm for the take off - which I always love anyway. And by the time we landed, I knew most of them (or felt I did) and I do hope they had a lovely time in Edinburgh with John, their English teacher, as they were a delightful bunch.

Having SKYPE, Facebook and email meant that seeing my sister again was just a physical extension of the close relationship we've always enjoyed - we have spent hours on SKYPE in the last few months, with videocam, so it has hardly felt like I've been apart from her. We just picked up from where we'd left off the day before - fantastic!

I hadn't wanted to broadcast my return to England as I was staying at Judy's and would be without my own transport, so the few folks I did manage to see are due a huge thank you for accommodating me so unexpectedly - and sorry if I couldn't manage to see some others who also knew I was home. Next time! I did get to spend a day with my mum though, which was good and something I haven't been able to do for ages and ages for various reasons.

I had a fantastic flight back from Liverpool as the sky was clear almost from Wales onwards and I derive huge pleasure from looking at the earth below - explains why I think Google Earth is so amazing - and was able to pick out various places in Spain that I recognised - including flying right over Valladolid!! I kept thinking that if Cesar and the children looked up (it was about 3.15) they could have waved to me and I would have waved back! But they didn't know and by the time I'd found my phone to text, I was well on my way to Madrid.

I had bought, from ebay, the the MOST.. enormous suitcase which I collected from Altrincham on the Sunday before I came back. I had quite a lot of additional things that I knew I would be bringing back but the case was even larger than I'd imagined. It came up to my armpit when I stood next to it. My brother-in-law brought back some precision scales from work so that I could ensure I didn't overfill it and incur excess baggage fees. I had to take all sorts out to stay under 20kg and the suitcase felt half-empty! So I had to put heavy, but small things into my hand luggage and all the bigger, lighter items into the case. In the end, I think the two were almost the same weight! And somehow, I managed to get the whole lot across Madrid and onto my train back to Valladolid without too much trouble - a fact I am quite proud of.

And oh what joy to get off the train and know my family would be waiting on the other side of the platform! It was just the homecoming I wanted, hoped for ... and got! Everyone talking at once, huggings, kissings, the sharing of important news, the questioning about presents, the holding up of the traffic as we tried to get the huge suitcase into the back of the car and then all of us inside - (and me trying not to look at the plastic sheet over the window) was all just lovely. Even coming back to the place we currently call home - which is a little removed from our aspirations for life in Spain - was pure pleasure.

Home is where the heart is - most definitely!!


Monday, 11 October 2010

These little piggies went to market..

Hope you are not of a sensitive disposition or upset at the sight of dead animals... because we went to Valladolid market the other day and saw lots of little piggies that went to market and didn't make it home again.

(Is it my imagination or do some of them look to be smiling?)

 Along with a few of their other farmyard friends.
Just the nose left of this poor cow

Little lamb feet
Skinned lamb

Sea food  - not so emotive?

Easier on the eye once processed to next stage..

Outside and around the market, there are some wonderful buildings - these are just a few of what we saw within a short walking distance.


Just so you know, we only bought bread and a radicchio from the market!!

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Thank you readers!

Just noticed that I have had 1,001 visits to my blog since the stats page was launched in late June. Thank you all - whoever you are - for visiting and reading. Hope you keep coming back to see how things go. I too visit lots and lots of other bloggers' sites and find some really interesting things.
I would still love to have comments - don't be shy - and if you too are a blogger, let me know where your site is.

Thanks again - I'll let you know when we get to 2000!

Thursday, 7 October 2010

El bueno, el malo y el feo

The good, the bad and the ugly - some images taken around our current abode.

When I first came to Spain to meet Cesar's parents in La Flecha, the place was a small but rather spreadout little development of individual houses, all with gardens in an area about 5kms outside Valladolid town centre. It used to be a bit ramshackle in that the people who lived there - like Cesar's parents - had bought plots of land and built their homes with very little intervention from the authorities.

My in-laws' home could be in the middle of the countryside when you look around the garden and I have captured a few images that I have grown to love over the years.

Looking up from the back door, you see the little balcony that leads from the kitchen area in the upstairs where we are currently living.

View from the balcony looking down

There are little 'things' in every corner - symbolic of the habitual horder!

The cat isn't ours but was sitting on next door's wall and looked just right! Is he good, bad or ugly??

In the intervening years, La Flecha has become an urbanisation, with a network of narrow, often one-way streets, a local authority building, a large new library, several 'plazas', shops, supermarkets, a big primary school, swimming pools, even a bullring.. and new homes in the form of apartment blocks - or 'pisos' - that have been gradually expanding the boundaries of La Flecha so that it is now a very substantial place.

View from the front of our house to the right - you can see a small plaza there where the children go to play most evenings.

And to the left, you look towards the main square - La Plaza Espana - which is just down the hill from the house.

And this is the front balcony of our house - and yes, I do put my washing out to dry here - works a treat!!

On Saturday, there was the grand opening of a new bridge that links La Flecha with another urbanisation that has sprung up with considerably less elegance. The road and the bridge are impressive; the area it goes through is less so.

Here you can see the effects of the current economic crisis as building works have been abandoned, brand new pisos unfinished, unlived in and deteriorating rapidly. Awful waste.

 Oh - and of course, on Wednesday, the first stone was laid on this site - of a new IKEA!!

And pertaining to none of the above directly, a picture I captured on the way back from Aguilar de Campoo - and which I rather like - Sunset Christ near Palencia.

Friday, 1 October 2010

I need to explain something.

Anyone following my blog will know that I have mentioned the Myers Briggs Personality Types before. And that I confessed/admitted/bragged that I am an ENFP (- more information here if you are interested or google 'Myers Briggs' to find a test for your own personality type) - and that I am open to new ideas and possibilities. I may have forgotten to add that I have the attention span of a butterfly and that I am as fickle as the wind. I feel I need to explain this so that anyone reading this understands what motivates me and my current thinking. But first, a little bit about the 'P' part of an ENFP taken from this Myers Briggs Know your Type website :

"People who have a preference for perceiving appear to prefer a flexible and spontaneous way of life, they like to understand and adapt to the world and to stay open to new experiences." 
I think this adapted quote sums me up reasonably well.

"Remember that this only describes how the person’s outer life looks. Inside they may feel very planful or decisive (which they are). In 'type' language, perceiving means "preferring to take in information;" it does not mean "perceptive" in the sense of having quick and accurate perceptions about people and events."  Which I take to mean that although no one around me can tell, I actually have a very cunning plan set out for the rest of my life and I am not just aimless drifting. Be reassured.

The text continues:

"People who prefer perceiving may:
  • like staying open to respond to whatever happens
  • look more loose and casual
  • like to keep laid-out plans to a minimum
  • like to approach work as play or mix work and play
  • work in burst of energy, and enjoy rushing just before deadlines
  • sometimes stay open to new information so long that they miss making decisions
  • sometimes focus so much on adapting to the moment that they do not settle on a direction or plan"
I will get to my point in a few moments but first, I also need to explain that Cesar is also a 'P' and his attitude contributes considerably to our 'plans'.

All the above is a sort of apology for much of what I have said in earlier bloggings because - in true P style of staying open to new information and responding to what happens around us - we have again decided to change the direction of where we look for our new home. Allow me to explain, (especially as a week ago, we had put in an offer on a house near Aguilar de Campoo and were on the verge of buying! I am aware of some inconsistency in our behaviour!) .. .

  • our offer on the house was rejected though the seller came back with a reduced price from his end which was tempting
  • we went back last Saturday to see the house again and still really liked it
  • BUT
  • in our hearts we knew it wasn't exactly what we were looking for and never would be
  • it was chilly and damp on the day we went
  • Very chilly
  • Very damp
  • the pound/euro exchange rate has fallen quite radically this week
  • (.. which is a 'sign')
  • the weather has changed here in Valladolid, which is considerably further south than Aguilar
  • it's cold in the mornings when we get the children up for school
  • I miss the heat of the summer more than I could have imagined 

(The fact that Cesar's father has started up the cooking range already so the house is literally like an oven is still overkill in my opinion! Right now, the sun is shining and it's a beautiful crisp early autumn day.) 
Now,  instead of wandering around saying 'que calor' (how hot it is), all the Spaniards are now wandering around saying 'que frio' (how cold it is)!! The concept of the English being preoccupied with the weather is but a pale shadow compared with the obsession of the Spaniards - believe me! When it's hot they are overcome and amazed and when it's cold, they are horrified and shocked.

Ah yes, off I fluttered for a moment there. Our house search has turned very much southwards. There, I've confessed. I had SO intended to shine the torch of discovery onto the area of northern Spain - which is a stunning and wonderful place to visit - that I feel now almost a sense of shame to say we feel beguiled by the sun and we are now searching inland from Alicante for the right place.

We are planning a visit towards the end of October, but it's an area Cesar knows well - his auntie lives in Alicante itself and her husband's family come from inland where the mountain air provides a softening of the temperature and an escape from the somewhat infested coastline.

And as if to prove what a P is really like - we are still keeping our options open about Northern Spain because despite all else, if we found a piece of land to buy there, we might well do that!! And before anyone else thinks it or points it out to me, I am acutely aware of the penultimate point on the list above - we will make a decision soon, honestly!

Let me know what you think! All comments are like new information to me.