Casa Rosales

Casa Rosales

Monday 29 November 2010


To the south of Valladolid, there is a huge pine forest where we often go to walk. Yesterday, we took Nemo with us when we went to collect pine cones to burn on the oven range that we use at home in the winter months. And boy, has it been cold this week! Everyone at home says, 'I bet it's warmer there than here', it's not!
This morning it was 5 below zero in Valladolid (and that's centigrade, I'm talking) and has only just got up to zero. However, yesterday was sunny and it felt lovely as we wandered through the pine forest, breathing in some wonderful smells - of pine and thyme and just the natural, outside smells of a forest.

It's like being a million miles from anywhere else.

And the trees, which are the most endearing shape,


 go on as far as the eye can see.
Romy, focused and a bit on the competitive side, (known to half-inch a couple of pines from my own bag) applied herself diligently to finding pine cones and filled about three bags full. Ruy didn't pick up any pine cones at all, but wandered around with his toy gun chasing hidden spies and baddies and generally protecting us from the unknown and unseen. Mateo managed a few pine cones but the pull of nature was irresistible for him and I found him staring intently at tree trunks most of the time. And his special eyesight managed to find a bird's nest in amongst the dry grasses on the ground. 

We came home absolutely ravenous and made a nice big fire with our pine cones and then ate huge amounts of my famous pasta con chorizo y tomate. And Sunday was peaceful and just as it should be.

Sunday 28 November 2010

The seven severed hands of Simancas

More than 12 centuries ago, when the Moors ruled much of Spain (and don't worry, this isn't a history lesson just a bit of local colour), taxes were demanded of all the villages. When a village didn't pay up punishment was meted out in various forms. To cut a gruesome story rather short - though not to cut out the cutting part - the punishment on this particular village was that seven young women were taken away and had one of each of their hands cut off.
A 'manco' or 'manca' in Spanish is someone missing a hand or arm. The name of the village 'Simancas' comes from the seven - or 'siete' mancas who came from there.
A form of retribution came later in a battle on the ancient Roman wall took place between the Moors (Moros) and the Christians in 939, when the Moors were well and truly defeated.

Plaza Mayor
General Archive of Simancas
Simancas is about 5kms away from La Flecha and about as different in tone and atmosphere as you could imagine. La Flecha is all modern apartments, straight streets, shops and supermarkets - Simancas is ancient, impressive, tiny, twisted streets and attention-calling corners. It is also the national Archive centre of Spain, holding documents, records, manuscripts and information of all sorts that are important to Spanish history. It's many a moon since I've been but we went again this weekend and I'm really impressed at the recent reform and improvement works that have gone on here in the past few years.

Facsimile of a document held in the archives

Illustration done in Winchester, England

Only scholars and pre-booked visits to the inside - but lots of information outside.

Music School

The old hospital - very old!

Simancas is a lovely place to visit and I shall go many more times whilst we live here in La Flecha as it brings me a lot of calm during this time of things 'unknown'. Down by the river, there are some spectacular walks, which leads me on to introduce the new member of our family. Nemo.

Nemo - found
With his favourite little person
He is a rescue dog, rescued not by us, but by Cesar's parents last year. He is extremely timid, quiet and has a damaged back leg following an accident with a car. (Wasn't me!) Since he came back to La Flecha in October with los abuelos and has experienced a bit of fun with the children, he has really come out of his sad little shell. I adore him and I do believe it's mutual. And now, he goes everywhere with us and is as good as gold. He came to Simancas; I take him to the bus stop to meet the children everyday; he came to the pine forest today and Mateo gets up and takes him out in the mornings at the weekend. And we have just received the good news that he can come with us when we go!

Hunting pine cones

He's ours!!

Not a Chickenblog!

With deference and acknowledgements to the real Chickenblogger, I post this blog about the beauties that we have here. I'm not known as a chicken-fancier (if that is the right term - seems to work for pigeons) but los abuelos have a number of hens and cockerels pecking and strutting about the place, and some of them are really rather gorgeous.
There have been hens here since we arrived and we've been eating the delicious eggs most days - the children often go and collect them when they're not at school. The cockerels came back from Valdepolo with los abuelos in October. When we visited during the summer, they were cute little things, fluffy and chirpy.
Well just look at them now!

In the past two weeks, they have discovered their 'crowing' voices and to start with, they sensibly didn't start practicing until about 8 in the morning. However, as their confidence and skill has increased, they start earlier and earlier and this morning, it was about 6.30am.

I suspect they may not be around much longer. It won't be long before a neighbour makes a complaint - it has happened before and then, curtains for these poor creatures. It's a real shame because they are so handsome and none of us really like to eat them. Not for sentimental reasons; I'm not one to be sentimental over a chicken; but because the meat is actually quite strong, quite hard to eat. They are birds full of energy from sunlight, freedom and exercise and they have a taste so unlike the chickens I have eaten all my life, it's difficult to equate the two. It does make me think more about the chickens I have eaten though....and whilst in recent years, we have always bought and eaten free-range, I suspect they were not quite free-range enough!

Anyway, whether we eat them or not is another story but for now, you have to admit, they are a handsome group! And this one is definitely the most handsome, the most photogenic, the most proud and the most noisy of them all. I really do fancy him!

Friday 26 November 2010

What the eye sees

My dearest, darling eldest son lives in a world of his own most of the time. He is one who if he should turn right, will turn left. Who can mistake up for down. I am not totally convinced he can tell the time.

He is careless about details and leaves important books at school and forgets to tell us about meetings; but he's soft-hearted and honest and knowledgeable about all sorts of big things and whilst he is frustrating to a parent who wants to be able to trust him to do the small and simple things in life, he is an absolute treasure, a unique and individual thinker. And one day, he'll be happier with himself too.

Two things have happened this week that sum him up completely.

On Monday, he came home from school really pleased as he'd been invited to the cinema by his friend, Gabi and his family. I asked if he'd met any of the family and he told me he'd gone to school that morning with Gabi and his uncle in the uncle's car.  I wasn't too happy that he'd got in the car, rather than taking the bus. But then he told me he'd missed the bus so it was lucky for him that Gabi had come along after. How had he missed the bus? He hadn't gone late, had he? No, but somehow, despite there being a whole crowd of kids that get on the bus together, the bus had come, everyone had got on and Mateo 'didn't notice'! And he was left behind. He did manage to remember that he thought the bus that came was blue and orange, not the usual grey, but he didn't clock that all the kids got on it or that he could have asked. Poor thing - though he didn't seem concerned at all. Good for him that Gabi did come along with his uncle!

Then this morning, he and Cesar set off to walk down together (Cesar only goes as far as watching him across the very big and busy main road.. he doesn't usually wait to watch him board the bus!) - already they were a bit late and hurrying. When Cesar came back, he had with him a teeny, tiny gecko. Mateo had somehow spotted it on a wall as they rushed down to the bus stop - can't recognise a school bus but can spot a camouflaged creature at ten paces.

Cute - we like geckos!

Look how tiny, next to a ladybird mouse..?

In Slough

I have often been to Slough - I used to live near there - in another beautifully named town of England - Staines (home of the delightful character, Ali G). Slough and Staines... and don't forget Bletchley, which always sounds like someone throwing up to me. Who thought of these names?

Now, where was I or rather, where am I? Well, for much of this week. I WAS in Slough, in the Slough of Despond to be exact. This is a place in Bunyan's Pilgrims Progress (but suits Slough the town pretty well too. Sorry if I offend any Sloughians (pronounced Sluffians?) but honestly, it was never one of my favourite places.)  Ah yes, the Slough of Despond - a bog that Christian has to cross in the allegorical tale. I'm not going to try and carry an allegory through this posting, only to say that I've had a bad week - we all have them from time to time - and I'm through it now and it does feel a bit like I've trekked through a bog.

Nothing bad has happened to me or to any of us, I'm glad to say. However, last week, Mateo and I heard some awful news from home which, although didn't directly involve anyone we know well, did upset us both and we shared many a hug and appreciated each other a bit more than usual. Then - and this is GOOD - Cesar received an email asking him to apply for funding for a year's post-doctoral research.... at an English University. Now, I say this is GOOD, because it's very good. The timing is mind-blowingly bad not helpful. (Neat way of saying what I really mean, thanks Natalie of the lovely Chickenblog fame!) And whilst it's good to be asked to apply - applying itself will not guarantee the funding. And the outcome of the application will not be known until next May. And he's applied.

So now we have what appears to be conflicting options:
  • of finding the place in which to spend the rest of our lives together here in northern southern .. in Spain; linked to which is the logistics of finding a place to rent so we can house hunt at leisure; furnished or unfurnished to start with? checking out prices for hiring trucks for moving whatever furniture/belongings we would need to take with us; before new term starts or wait another school term? trying to predict weather forecasts for journeys; trying not to upset family who don't want us to move; 
  • of facing the possibility that at least one (or maybe all of us) might need to move back to England for a period; how much of the above should we continue to pursue? should we stay here in the meantime; what would be best for the children; what if he gets the funding; what if he doesn't;

As an ENFP, I should relish these options - the changing landscape unfolding ahead of me, the countless options available to choose from! BUT!! I need to add a few factors that have tipped the balance.

I have discovered I have a deep-rooted aversion to driving our new car. The Volvo thing of my past obviously has a deep psychological hold. It was bad enough driving the Fiat again after the accident; then there was the collision on the first outing with the new one - I am feeling like a bit of a target around here! I have had some other minor calamities this week too.

The food situation needs a whole blog to itself. Needless to say, it's complicated. 7 people with rather different body clocks and timetables; children who don't relish lentils; beans or overcooked and vinegar-drenched vegetables; abuelos who consider food cooked by an English woman to be too foreign to even try; complicated cooking facilities, including limited oven usage. And whilst we usually eat extremely well - it's more by luck than management. Last week there must have been less luck, culminating in a number of less than successful dishes prepared by yours truly - nothing awful, just not greeted with any enthusiasm by (ungrateful) diners (grrr). And then, the hardly-ever used gas oven exploded as I was cooking on it, causing me to temporarily lose my hearing. Turns out that there was a cigarette lighter inside it which we hadn't noticed (hadn't checked for!) when we lit the oven. I guess that could have been worse - and my hearing is back OK now!

And the final additional skewing to my lovely life I put down to hormones. Lots of the little buggers. Whoremoans, as I like to call them. They rose up inside me, they turned me into a screaming harpy for several days, turned everything I touched into dross, set my mind awhirling into doom and gloom.......then upped and left! Just like that.

And we're back on track - and come what may in May, we are continuing our plans to rent a place in Granada and Cesar will be going down there - weather permitting - in the next week or so to view a few very interesting options. So, goodbye Slough - glad to have left you behind yet again.

Monday 22 November 2010

Time out in Campo Grande, Valladolid

Valladolid has a central park - the Campo Grande - and it's a lovely place to go for a walk in all seasons. On Saturday, after what seemed like interminable homework sessions for all three children, we set off to see how it looked on a chilly November afternoon.

Views to the lake - full of ducks, geese and other waterfowl

I like this picture - accidentally 'soft-focus' and all.

They've seen something!

Red Squirrels - obviously used to being fed too.
How cute is this!
And how handsome is he?
Oh how irresistible
to find a big pile of leaves
just ripe for

into the air!

We had a lovely afternoon and didn't notice the chilliness at all!

Friday 19 November 2010

Bloody Volvo Drivers!

Now for as long as I can remember (which, when I think about it, is a VERY long time) I have been of the camp that does not like Volvo Drivers. I remember saying 'Bloody Volvo Drivers' when I saw one on the road - every time - despite having a very good friend who drove one. Who drove worse than anyone else I knew at the time. Like no one else on the road mattered. Like he was totally untouchable. Like he didn't care.... And he was a lovely man... until he got into his Volvo.

More recently, travelling on Spanish roads, my attention has been drawn not by Volvo drivers but by Portugese lorry drivers. They are the worst on the road. They will ALWAYS pull out in front of you whether there is anyone in front of them or not. They swerve irrationally as you approach them and they go either very, very fast or ridiculously slowly.

Some few weeks ago, we.. sorry, I ...had an accident in our English car. Someone ran into us on a roundabout and smashed the back window and the door. We've had the window fixed and Cesar pushed the door bulge out a bit and now, it doesn't look too bad. Not much different from the other cars around here, actually. But we had some sad news from the insurance company. Because it's not overly new, because it's here in Spain and won't be going back to England and because the estimate to fix it was 1500 euros, they have decided it is a write-off as far as insurance claims are concerned.  So after much humming and haaing, we decided we would collect the insurance money and look out for a secondhand Spanish car.

(You know where I am going with this, don't you...)

Cesar took a train at 7am this morning to travel 500kms to fetch his chosen vehicle from Navarra. It's a silver Volvo; (it gets worse) it's an estate; (and worse) it's an automatic. I feel my heart sinking as I write these words. And it gets even worse. He arrived home, very pleased with the car, which had cruised beautifully all the way home and been economical on fuel and was comfy and has leather seats and a sun roof, blah, blah. And we piled into it (what an unfortunate phrase) for a trip around the block.

And someone ran into us and scratched the door and broke our mirror.

Do you think they did it on purpose because they were a Volvo hater? And I am feeling a bit guilty for my bigoted past.

On the swingy thing

There are lots of little green spaces around La Flecha, in amongst the apartments and official buildings and almost always, there is a climbing frame or swings or slides for the children to play on. My children have done tours of the place and have found their favourite spot. It's the 'Swingy Thing' and the boys insisted I went with them today to see it. Romy was out with los abuelos somewhere, so we left her a note, knowing she'd be pretty mad when she came back and found we'd gone out without her. (It doesn't work the other way round - she's allowed to go out without us!)

And off we went.
It's quite a simple but interesting design concept, going up and down as well as round and round, though I did considered it on the dangerous side of 'fun' seeing as how the tyres are heavy, move fast and could easily knock even a large child flying. However, I put these thoughts to one side to watch the fun.

First challenge
is working out how to get on

You first?

No, me!

Next challenge is staying on

Hang on in there!

Arrival of trouble..?

A bit of showing off now

All together now.

Yes .. I did!(Well, wouldn't you!)

Thursday 18 November 2010

Longing for Chocolate!

Is it just me? Or is chocolate calling everyone at this time of year?

Just look at this amazing creation!

 And how awesome would it be to eat a bar of chocolate called 'Dragon's Breath'!!

I found them on Jade's Chocolates site and oh, how I envy this woman for so many reasons!!

It is the time of year when normally, I would be stirring away at big bowls full of melted chocolate - milk, white and my favourite, the dark, rich 60%+ cocoa variety - but this year, I don't have access to chocolate and I am missing it dreadfully.

I have been hanging around shops in Valladolid that sell chocolates, turning my nose up at inferior selections in the supermarkets and searching for websites to try and satisfy the urges I have. To no avail - it's like the itch that can't be reached!

But then I stumbled on Mindy's website and just reading the descriptions of different flavours and seeing her beautiful presentations sort of stopped me in my tracks. She is so good!

Whilst I can't compete right now (and probably never should!) - her work and her wonderful chocolates are a real inspiration and I can't wait to get started as soon as is physically possible.

In the meantime, we might just have to have a trip up the autovia a little way to La Trapa Monastery, which is where many years ago, the monks there began making chocolates. There is now a factory that carries on the tradition and just off the road, there is a little kiosk where you can stop and have a cup of hot chocolate as cars whizz by. It's like being in one of those fast/slow motions films, where everyone else is living at a  manic speed but you are slowly and deliciously sipping your chocolate in calm and peace. Yes, that's where we will go to appease the longing a little.