Casa Rosales

Casa Rosales

Monday 29 August 2011

Celia and the jellyfish

My lovely friend Celia, with whom I shared an office at work and a huge chunk of my life some years back, left me a message on Facebook after reading my Rambling post. She said how my memories had got her thinking about her own family, her childhood and her holidays in Ireland...and some of those memories came flooding out into the comments box. And they were wonderful! I dropped her a comment back saying with memories like that, she should start a blog and capture them all.

And guess what! She went straight off and began a blog of her own with one of the most wonderful blog names ever:

Avoid the jellyfish

Now, if that isn't just darn good advice, I don't know what is. And I am so pleased she's done it because it brings her closer again after all these years. We shared a lot did Celia and I - we worked together in the same team, tackling a range of challenges and sharing friendships with a very special group of people - and I knew I could always count on her support, friendship and humour as well as her incredible good sense for those times when things didn't always seem to be going right. And now we are many miles apart as she moved back to her native Scotland a few years ago and here am I in Spain.

I know I've waxed lyrical about the positives of modern communication technology but a little more won't harm, will it? What I love about Facebook is that it gratifies instantly the thoughts of one person with the reaction of another. And whilst this might not always be positive for everyone involved, in my case, it certainly has been. I so look forward to reading Celia's posts and feeling closer to her and her world as a result.

Go Celia - post, post, post!!

Sunday 28 August 2011

A sanctuary for reptiles

The body language says it all. Our darling Darwin is not the great explorer and adventurer that we supposed he might be. Taking him for a walk can be a bit of a drag.

 This is a refusal at the second bend in the climb up to the reptile sanctuary.

I explained the saying 'making a rod for your own back' to Romy at this stage.

The boys took my advice and kept on moving. Romy provided encouragement from the rear.

But we did eventually make it to the very top of the hill, where there is a lovely Amphibian and Reptile Sanctuary just outside the entrance to La Mota. Seemed a nice thing to visit on a sunny Sunday morning.

Abandoned turtles and terrapins

Darwin and the crow - who lives with the iguanas
A selection of abandoned iguanas - seem happy enough now.
Hands on - a bearded dragon

Always my favourites - I do so like chameleons and this one posed beautifully for me
Here's a tasty mealworm

*Thinks* - I'll have that

We can now officially report that the sanctuary is a wonderful place, in a superb setting at the edges of the castle itself. And it's free entrance and a charming and informative girl showed us around and talked to me whilst the children wandered around independently ( - as is their wont.) It has tanks with crocodiles, big snakes and lizards; it has ponds with frogs, smaller water snakes and fish and a lovely waterfall and views over the town below.

Hot Dog
Castle walls

Managed to catch this stunning dragonfly..

Static frogs are easier to snap

In the end, I had to drag the children (AND Darwin) away as closing time approached. Ruy wants to work there. I don't blame him.

We will visit again - because it's there!

Saturday 27 August 2011


My grandpa, who was a wonderful man, took up playing the piano, appearing on television, travelling and painting after my granny died. He was in his 80s but still sprightly and full of energy and enthusiasm. He returned from a trip to Italy with a less than positive image of the place - declaring he didn't think much of their idea of style as they all wore the same sort of clothes, all of which were navy blue; the trees in Italy were a disappointment and the food was dreadful. He claims to have eaten crocodile and 'squib'. We were never quite sure what the crocodile might have been but an educated guess would suggest that the 'squib' was either squid or possibly octopus...

He only actually appeared once on television and that was a daytime chat show hosted by the revolting charming Robert Kilroy-Silk when the subject was 'Vegetarianism'. My grandpa felt he had something to contribute to the discussion so applied and was accepted. He had his say... in his deep, sonorous, Yorkshire tones he told how he'd taken cows to the slaughter house as a young lad and how it was clear that they knew something bad was going to happen. He continued in this vein for a little while, holding his audience spellbound - he was rather different from most of the contributors - then ended with this: "But what I really want to know is, if we're not supposed to eat beef... why does it taste so good?"
I was living in London at the time and I laughed and laughed as the audience took a good few seconds before they could decide how to react. As it happens, all hell broke loose and the vegans waded in. A memorable occasion!

The painting also shows some typical characteristics of my grandpa. Having produced one he was rather pleased with, he went on to repeat it three times - so I have one, my sister has one and my mother has one, all identical! He did some lovely pen and ink sketches too, of the village pub where we used to live. Then, having mastered art, he stopped and concentrated on his piano playing. Whilst my granny was alive, he hankered after a new piano - they had an old one that had seen better days - but my granny said no, literally using the words 'over my dead body'. I swear that within ten days of her death, we watched a new piano being delivered to my grandparents' home. He was fair, my grandpa - not always subtle - but fair.

I loved my grandpa dearly - he was the person who bought me a clarinet for Christmas when I was ten and who helped to inspire a love of music. He was non-judgemental and open-minded and he was the person I told when I had decided to go and live with my boyfriend. He supported my decisions and encouraged me in the things I did. He was delighted when I took up chocolatiering and gave advice, shared his skills and was generous enough to say I had developed beyond the level he had reached himself. He used to laugh til tears rolled down his face and he grew the best tomatoes and chrysanthemums ever.

I originally began this post with no real idea of what it would be about - hence the title. I'd rambled quite a bit before I just happened to mention the pictures we'd brought back with us from Leon recently and that set me off thinking about my grandpa's all the above came before what follows.

I had been wondering why I haven't had time to do a rambling post - but then I realised we've had a busy few months, what with all the children at home and a new puppy and moving house and all. Extra long school holidays will become the norm over the coming years and I think we have learned a lot from this first one.

What I have discovered this year is that many of the children's schoolfriends are away a lot over the summer - their families have houses in the countryside and there are many cousins, aunties and uncles to visit and stay with too. Although Alcala has not been deserted - it always seems very alive, apart from the hot hours of siesta time - but we haven't bumped into as many of our acquaintances as I had expected. This has thrown the children back on themselves for company.

And most of the time, this goes well. Ruy and Romy have rediscovered their love of Lego and Playmobil and have created some fantastic scenes, buildings and vehicles - which Mateo has then turned into storyboards and photographed.

We have had numerous day-outings to the beach or the countryside which we have really enjoyed. We had our visit to the north, which would have been better had we all enjoyed good health. The children have taken time out on the majority of days to do a little studying - with Ruy finishing the maths part of his homework book in record time. Romy still has quite a bit to do but her homework was not mandatory. Mateo will find out after the 5th September whether his studying has been intense and thorough enough to get him a pass mark in his Spanish Lengua test - the only subject where he didn't quite achieve the required level.

We moved house and have spent a lot of time arranging things, buying things, collecting things to make our new home feel like home. And it does now. We have more of our pictures on the walls - though there are still more in Leon - and we're all sleeping in our own beds. (And in our last visit to Leon, Cesar located all the necessary screws to fit the bedframes together - hurray!)

Our neighbours here are friendly, mainly old, unintrusive but helpful and the other evening in the park opposite, we met a nice couple with their two young sons, who live close by and who invited our children to visit and go in their roof-top pool should they wish. Our ex-next-piso neighbours have turned out to be really good friends and we see them regularly both by arrangement and sometimes by happy accident as we go to the Paseo in the evenings, as happened last night. I'm on my way round to their apartment in a little while to 'help out' with a problem they have - a glut of fruit and vegetables from Pedro's parents' huerto - which is like a village 'allotment' - so I promised to take some off their hands! Fresh homemade gazpacho for lunch today, methinks! And maybe some tzatziki, some fresh tomato sauce and more fig jam too for later!

My grandpa used to cook and bake too... he made wonderful bread and fantastic cakes. On his return from Italy, he conceded that pizza was actually rather delicious and went into production. After a short while, he decided to 'improve' on the recipe and made the base from mashed potatoes. It wasn't long before he'd perfected the Yorkshire Pizza - mashed potato base with a topping of liver and onion. Honest!

I know that my genes carry some of my grandpa in them. I know I'm not like him in any obvious way but I do hope a little bit of that spirit and engagement is there. When I turn 80, I'll let you know if I take up painting!

Friday 26 August 2011

{this moment}

A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savour and remember.
:: Idea from :SouleMama:

If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see.

Tuesday 23 August 2011

Tuesday is...

Market Day!

The market in Alcala is always on a Tuesday and is nearly always well-attended. In recent weeks, we've had some of the best and most delicious fruit and vegetables we've ever tasted.

Today, for some reason, known best to the Alcalainos, the market was particularly busy, particularly bustling, with much shouting of wares by store-holders.

I went to get some fruit to take to the swimming pool and to see what I could see.

There were pots and pans, of all shapes and sizes

Not sure why these were so interesting but a big crowd gathered

Materials - some sparkly, some plain

Good tomatoes for gazpacho

Pulses, beans and delicious dried tomatoes


Frutos secos (a Spanish favourite) and honey

Crisps, olives and yet more Spanish snacks - how they love their snacks!

Every herb imaginable - for infusions, teas and remedies

Always my favourite stall - shame I didn't quite capture the stall holder as he's rather nice too...

And this is what I bought - some wonderful strawberries and speciality bread from Guadix.

What could be nicer?

Sunday 21 August 2011

A hostile environment..

... for a puppy's first walk.

How guilty is it possible to feel when you set off with great excitement to go out for a proper country walk with your new puppy, only to hear him yelping and whining withing 5 minutes of setting off?
Well, double it.

Darwin had his third injection and the all clear to go walkies in 'el campo' last week. As it's been just too darn hot to go anywhere in daylight other than across the road to the little park and skulking along only the shaded streets, he hasn't yet had the chance to get excited when we pick up his lead. Indeed, he has proved to be a tad embarrassing in the walking department. He doesn't really like it. We spend most of the time dragging him - with words of encouragement - but dragging nevertheless and I have been thankful for him having short legs as I feel it may just disguise the fact that he's not actually using them as he moves along. Sometimes, he simply splays himself out on the path - doing his sheepskin rug impression, (or is it baby seal?) and when we look round, we find he looks more like a street-sweeping implement than a real dog.

Yesterday evening, as we felt a slight drop in temperature, we decided to head out to the hills above Alcala la Real in the hope of finding figs, plums or any other ripe fruits and we all piled into the car to get there - the walk there would have been just too much!

And it started off fine as we set off down a sandy pathway. The figs weren't ripe - sad face - but we found plums and grapes which were, together with some nice green almonds. And then the whining started...
And poor Darwin! He was covered in little spiky burrs and sharp pine needles; they were in his fur, on his legs and belly and deep in between the soft little pads of his feet. Every step much have been excruciating!

We stopped and sat on a rock and Mateo, Romy and I started picking out the burrs as carefully as we could - he just lay there and let us pull away! Ruy was having problems of his own, having left the house in flip flops, but could identify with Darwin's problem.
We carried him back to the car and on the way, I had a good look around and saw things differently - instead of looking far, at the trees and the hills and the sunset, I looked near and down. And what a scary place it was! Especially if you're travelling 'barefoot'!

Full of little burrs

Full of spiky things

Sticky and spiky


Very prickly


Angry ants

And even I wouldn't tangle with this on purpose

However, I am very pleased to report that this Sunday morning, due to a slight covering of cloud and and a refreshing breeze, I set off with my puppy to walk up to La Mota - a steep climb up a sandy path - and despite an initial resistance to the idea, Darwin soon began to stretch his little leggies and enjoy his first proper walk. He's now crashed out in a little heap on the floor. Smiley face.

Friday 19 August 2011

{this moment}

A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savour and remember.
:: Idea from :SouleMama:

If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see.

Thursday 18 August 2011

Escape from the heat?

Average temperatures in summer are at their highest in Spain in the region of Jaen. During the past week, parts of Jaen have been well into the 40s - degrees centigrade - and Bailen, just north of the capital of the province, is officially the hottest town in Spain with temperatures reaching over 30 degrees on average in August.

Here in Alcala, at almost 1,000 metres above sea level, the temperatures tend to be a couple of degrees lower than elsewhere in the province but even so, you have to believe me when I tell you, it's hot here. Today it's 39 degrees. About the only place to feel cool is near the fountains.

The mornings see people bustling about as usual - out shopping, walking their dogs, strolling, taking a coffee or eating a 'tostada' (toasted bread with a variety of tempting and delicious toppings) in the bars. Come midday, an eerie hush falls. People disappear from view. The streets, where the sun hits them directly, are lifeless. A few shadows lurk in the shade; particularly if there's a bar there, but there is still a quietness and a certain lethargy about the people who sit at the tables. This is highly unusual in my experience of Spanish people - of the people of Alcala - who usually sparkle with vitality.

When we open our front door to take Darwin to the park, the heat hits us with a real vengeance. From the relative 'chill' (25 degrees) of the house - and that with the air conditioner on all the time - it takes one's breath away and Darwin has to be carried across the tiled pavement to avoid him scorching his new little paws.

And so it continues until about 8 or 9 o'clock in the evening. And then Alcala reverts to its usual lively self as its inhabitants venture out once more onto the still warm streets. No wonder they're out and revelling until the early hours!

Anyway, we were getting a bit over-cooked and so, having looked at the weather forecast for Tuesday and seeing there was no let up due, we decided to pack up and visit the cooler costa.

The journey down through Granada province was as spectacular as ever and we were able to enjoy it as Darwin has continued to be a good traveller and after an initial moan about having to sit in the back in a box, he settles down and sleeps most of the time. We headed for our favourite beach in Almunecar and even found a parking spot right in front of the promenade. This was looking very good. Then one of the first things we noticed - and should have considered beforehand - was the 'Perros No' sign, indicating very clearly that Darwin would not be welcome on the beach.
Of course not, who wants dogs on the beach? I've never wanted dogs that run around, kicking sand and leaving unwanted deposits when I've been in the past. Hmmm... surely that sign couldn't apply to our little puppy, who would sit nicely and well-tethered under our umbrella? Who wouldn't dream of doing anything smelly or sticky, heaven forbid, or if he did, his owners would immediately remove, disinfect and leave clean the area.

We didn't dare take the risk of a fine so pushed on east along the coast until we eventually found a little cove or cala, where we discovered a few little dogs, neatly ensconced under chairs and so unloaded our not inconsiderable beach trappings.
(Cesar likes to load two umbrellas, two folding chairs, a picnic table, a rucksack full of flippers, snorkels, goggles, a bucket and two spades, our two picnic bags, the straw bag with suntan lotion, books, spare clothes and the 'black bag' with all the towels - oh, and a two man tent!)

When we eventually hit the sea, it was with the very greatest of pleasure and considerable need - I personally was so hot by the time we'd unloaded and set ourselves up and put lotion on the kids and tethered a puppy that I think my entry to the Med raised its temperature by a good 2 degrees! I swear the water gave a hiss as it touched me. And it was delicious. The sea around Malaga always has a little current or two of chill water that sneaks in from the Atlantic through the Straits of Gibraltar and makes bathing so much more enjoyable than it is in the soupy waters around Alicante or in Majorca.

Darwin was taken in for a dip - he swam and enjoyed it very much - then spent an age rolling around in the sand and digging holes under the chairs before settling down and behaving beautifully for the rest of the hot day.

And the children spent almost the whole day in the water, snorkelling - Romy doing it most balletically!

And after our lunch, which comprised a roast chicken and ensaladia rusa, (a delicious concoction comprising potatoes, carrots, peas, artichokes, asparagus, eggs and anything else you fancy, smothered in home made mayonnaise), everyone went back in to the water armed with various chicken bones to attract the fish - and so many came that at one stage, Cesar was getting a little worried lest barracudas hear of the feast and come rushing up.

It was all very interesting below the surface! The children counted many different varieties of fish some of which were amazing colours and shapes. We're going to try and find out what they were, using the wonderful resources of the internet. I'll let you know!

And, when the sun slipped below the mountains behind us and we'd showered ourselves and our sandy little puppy, piled ourselves back into the car and set off for home, we realised we had survived our first family day out, dog and all. No mean feat, considering the extreme weather!

Fiestas in Alcala la Real

This weekend has seen fiestas in Alcala in celebration of their patron - la Virgen de las Mercedes - with the usual processions, bands, traditionally dressed Spanish girls and women of all ages, many candle-bearing worshippers and everyone out in their finery.

And we had the additional pleasure of spectacular fireworks on both Sunday and Monday evenings. I love fireworks!

On Sunday, I relented to Ruy's plea to stay at home to watch the match between Real Madrid and Barcelona (again!) so watched the fireworks from our roof terrace where we enjoyed a wonderful echoing effect with each explosion. Cesar took Mateo and Romy into the centre where they could hear the music that the fireworks were 'performing' to.

We decided to be prepared on Monday and to get a good viewing spot so drove up to the little square at San Marcos - where on Friday there had been a free concert of Flamenco, which was excellent. The view across Alcala towards La Mota is really spectacular from here. The procession was due to leave the church at about 9pm and the fireworks would start when the Virgin arrived back at the Church. We thought this would be around 11pm and so headed off to San Marcos at around 10.30 - along with Darwin who thought it was great fun.

The stage was still in the square from the Flamenco concert and Romy was drawn to it immediately. For a good fifteen minutes, she sang, danced, declaimed and recited, totally oblivious to anyone else around her. It was lovely to watch - which Cesar and I did from a distance.

By 11.45pm, we were convinced our information must be duff and that there would be no fireworks. No great crowds had arrived at the square and those who were there were either couples embracing on the benches or friends who brought pizzas to eat with them. So, we piled ourselves reluctantly back into the car and began the descent through the narrow winding streets - and as we did, three loud bangs heralded the start of the display!

We hadn't gone very far and were able to stop at the side of the road and still get an excellent view. I was a tad concerned that the noise would frighten Darwin, but not a bit of it. He sat a while on the wall and watched with interest but then clearly thought that if you've seen one firework, you've seen them all and found sniffing around by far a more interesting way to spend his time.

The effect of seeing La Mota through the fireworks was utterly stunning.

And next year, we'll know a little bit more about what to expect and when.