Casa Rosales

Casa Rosales

Monday, 31 October 2011

Long shadows and Halloween

Halloween has been a funny old occasion this year. I've spent the whole week talking about it to my students, from the history going back to the pagan celebration of Samhain to playing Hangman with only spooky words allowed. Romy's class dressed up at school on Friday because Monday 31st is a school holiday and they didn't want to miss the opportunity to make masks and go around making loud noises.

But then, we couldn't find a pumpkin to carve - nowhere, no how. I can't say quite how disappointed we all were by this as we are rather fond of pumpkin lanterns.

By way of consolation, I decided to make a graveyard Halloween cake even though I had limited access to decorations - our local supermarket being good but basic. It tastes, rather surprisingly, out of this world!

(But somewhere in 'tidying up' the computer, we've lost our photo editing programme, so apologies that this one really is warts and all!)

As Monday and Tuesday (All Saint's Day) are holidays from school, we decided to go to the coast today. We had really wanted to go the the Sierra Nevada before the snow comes again, but the weather forecast was poor and there was no point in going if it rained or was cloudy. And as we headed south, we could see the clouds hanging over the mountain ridge in an ominous sort of way. The path we chose took us through the Sierra del Chaparral - a stunning, (probably best walked!) track that wound through some wonderful pine forests (and how we love our pine forests) where we stopped for our picnic and clambered up a dry river bed and walked several kilometers without meeting a soul.

And the long shadows? Well, our journey through the forest was made more exciting when the car engine suddenly started vibrating erratically, a previously unseen warning light came on and then the engine stopped completely and suddenly - leaving FR and I looking at each other in shock, wondering how we would get out of the woods before nightfall. However, after a brief poke under the bonnet, we were fortunate enough to discover the trusty Volvo had not let us down and it growled back into life. It seems that our slow and sandy drive over the bumpy forest track had temporarily clogged something up. Let's not dwell on it - we made it safely out and down the winding road to the coast.

Where we enjoyed a late autumn afternoon's sunshine on the beach at Salobreña and where the sea was still warm enough for the children - well, the brave ones - to venture in.

In fact, it was when FR also stripped off and waded in that I realised I'd left the camera in the car but it took me too long to get there and back to catch him.

And the sun had just gone down a bit too far to capture those long shadows too but I did get the moon! (That tiny crescent high up in the sky - see it?)

When we came home - in the dark - Romy was absolutely amazed to discover it was still only 8pm and there would be time to go out in her witch's costume. Which she did, and Ruy with her in a scary tunic with his heart beating on the outside. We were surprised to see several children out and about in Halloween costume - not a lot but enough for my own children to feel it was OK to knock on some doors. They were pleased to come home a short while later with a reasonable haul of goodies. Halloween is not exactly a traditional Spanish celebration....the power of advertising.

We've had a full and lovely day but one with time to sit and listen to the birds and the silence of the mountains and forests; one to feel the sand between my toes and the sea on my feet.

Time can go as slow as it likes when there are days like this to enjoy.

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Is it me..?

..or do some weeks take longer than others?

It's a phenomenon that many of us notice. Some days seem to fly by in a blur of business or a haze of laziness whilst others seem to drag on interminably. It seems to happen to weeks too.

This week has been a long one. It seems an age since Monday, when I went to look at a couple of houses - interesting ones, ones that pricked the imagination with possibilities - even though the rain was falling relentlessly and the country views were of low cloud and little else. It's been a week where I have taught the usual number of students at the usual times. I've taken the children to football and swimming and discovered yet again that I am the only person in the whole of Alcala who runs from one place to another - is this my disorganisation or have I not yet learned the secret of Andalusian time? I haven't had that much time to draw a quiet breath on my own. The children - my own and my students - have been incredibly noisy and silly and funny this week. They have invaded every corner of my own space and filled it full of their laughing, shouting and diverting noises.

And then I found this little poem.....

Time is of your own making;
its clock ticks in your head.
The moment you stop thought
time too stops dead.

                              Angelus Silesius, 6th century philosopher and poet.

and wondered whether this week I haven't been thinking enough. This week has been taken up by lots of doing. Little time for reflection or deep breathing.

So, in the name of science, this week I shall try thinking a lot but running about a bit less. I shall make time to breath deeply and quietly.

And I will report back my findings.
What has your week been like?

Monday, 24 October 2011

Looking east, looking west

From our roof terrace on Saturday night.

Sunset in the west

Rainbow in the east.

Lovely whichever way you face.

Today, however, it is raining and so miserable that I'm not even going to take a photograph. It may be what the farmers wanted but I do hope it doesn't last long.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Fancy this and fancy that

I think I've established that the knitting bug has started to bite me as the temperatures here in Alcala begin to drop. The big blue box has been dragged down from the store room upstairs and I've been sorting out my stash.
But nothing has grabbed me. Sad face.

SO, after a couple of hours teaching (and a few euros in my purse) I decided to investigate the local mercerías - which are like old-fashioned haberdashers, selling a bit of all sorts of things. Not the beautiful, colour-coded, subtly-laid out, delight-for-the-senses wool shops I had access to in Yorkshire - which, if you didn't know is  where wool was invented - but a mishmash of material, towels, buttons, little drawers with goodness knows what in them, knickers for one euro a pair, towelling dressing gowns - and plastic bags full of 'ovillos'. This word is what the Spanish call a ball of wool. They're not hot on knitting in most of Spain and there's no verb 'to knit' - 'ovillo' means a tangle! I will say no more. Though I'm tempted..

No, moving on, I remembered seeing a video on one of my favourite wool shop sites - Black Sheep Wools - where a woman was knitting up some novelty yarn into a super frilly scarf. And here in the shop, on the floor in a plastic bag though still recognisably a 'ball' was something similar to the yarn used on the video. If you're interested, watch this:

I bought two balls of novelty yarn and whilst knitting it up is a bit fiddly, the first one in a lovely sheeny green, salmon and brown, was round my neck within two hours! The second one is taking a bit longer but is now halfway done and I'm only doing a few rows at a time in amongst more important things (like feeding my children, walking the dog and doing the washing...) but will definitely be finished this evening.

If you're into scarves, like I am, and can face fiddling with novelty yarn for just a few hours, then either the Black Sheep yarn or the Katia Triana and Onda yarn might just be what you're looking for to make an interesting addition to your wardrobe this autumn.

Friday, 21 October 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, 20 October 2011

Soy una iglesia

I've had a lovely week switching between Spanish and English classes. I've just started back at the Academia, where I do a few hours on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and have also this week taken on some adult Spanish learners - by which I mean, of course, adult Spaniards who want to learn English and not 'adults who want to learn Spanish'.

In English, I think the hardest thing is to teach pronunciation as there are so many different ways to pronounce certain letters - think of English vowels and how there are always two ways to say each one, then add the various combinations that give the diphthongs, then add the 'magic e' to the end of words like mad, war, sit, rod... and so on. Compared to the five basic vowel sounds in Spanish, English has either an rich abundance or a minefield of different sounds. And that's just the start.

And if you can successfully get the pronunciation right, how on earth can one explain English spelling and how words that look different but sound the same or worse, look the same but sound different? (For example, homophones such as 'mail' and 'male' or homonyms such as 'wound' (oo) and 'wound' (ow))

This week, in one class of beginners (children), we were doing parts of the body. Most of them could remember 'ear' so I thought it would help memories to link the word 'hear' with 'ear'. Firstly we had to practice making the sound for 'h' as it is silent in Spanish. (It's spelt 'hache', pronounced 'atchay', so to spell it out, you have to say 'hache con (with) hache' otherwise how can anyone know that there is an 'h' at the beginning of the word?) The linking seemed like a good idea for my beginners but in the next class, one up from beginners, we were reading 'Goldilocks and the Three Bears' - and, oh dear (like 'ear'), everyone pronounced 'bear' to rhyme with 'ear' (so 'beer'!) then we had to go through words that looked like 'ear' but sounded like 'air' (not like 'are' though, unless the word started with a consonant, such as 'bare' or 'care' or 'share') - and of course, it is always possible that you'll confuse them (and yourself) by trying to find a logical reason why bear is NOT pronounced like ear.

Local accents can play a part too. The last English person to teach the children at the Academia was from Liverpool, but to be honest, there's no detectable Scouse twang in the sounds they make - I'm a bit disappointed about that, it would have been rather nice - but the vowels sounds are definitely northern, like my own, so no 'barths' or 'parths' in this part of Spain. However, the local Spanish people tend to miss the final 's' off their own words, so numbers such as 'dos' and 'tres' (2 and 3), come out as 'doh' and treh' and no one ever says 'buenos dias' - no, just 'bueno' - nada mas. The 's' can disappear from mid-word too - 'hasta luego' becomes ' a'ta luego' (silent 'h', don't forget) and so on. It's highly contagious and I find myself dropping 's's all over the place when I speak. Hard final consonants such as 'd', 'g' and 't' are alien to the Spanish - so imagine trying to pronounce 'dogs' - some of the best attempts still sound rather like 'doh..' or 'dohs' if they remember the 's'.I think I already mentioned the pleasure I get in asking the children to say 'crisps' and 'wasps' - and the tongue-twister, "She sells seashells on the seashore!"

In my Spanish conversation classes, a common complaint is that the locals don't seem to understand even the simplest of sentences when it's spoken by an English person. A carefully prepared and delivered sentence can be met with a '¿qué?' - and to be fair, the words might have been Spanish on paper but uttered aloud, using English pronunciation and stresses, the words do not sound Spanish enough for them to be recognised by other than the most sympathetic and understanding of ears. Embarrassment is sometimes a restricting factor. People simply feel silly trying to roll their 'rrs' or making the necessary lisping and throat-clearing sounds that are part of the Spanish alphabet.

And speaking of embarrassment - there are lots of words that are the same or almost the same in both languages - those that share a common, latin root, for example. Knowing some of these is really helpful to learners but even more important ones to learn are those that look the same or seem the same - but are not at all the same. Take 'embarrassed' - the Spanish word that fools the English is 'embarazada' - and most people feel confident that this would be a fairly safe guess. Potentially embarrassing for a woman to make the mistake but downright bizarre if the man does - it means 'pregnant' in Spanish. Though I like the idea that there might be a connection somewhere...

Very difficult for the English learner is the 'gender issue' - nothing to do with feminism - but the need to understand that all nouns are either masculine or feminine and that any adjective used to describe it must also take the masculine or feminine form as appropriate. And you'll just have to believe me that there are lots of words that mean something very different it you get the gender wrong - not just male or female things. One of my class confessed that for some number of weeks, she had visited her local butcher to buy a chicken, always asking for a large one because the small ones were very small - and wondered why the butcher and other customers always smirked and muttered when she spoke - until one day she was taken aside by a little old lady who explained her dreadful error. She had mixed up the gender of the chicken - which is masculine and therefore 'un pollo', with the feminine (???) version, which is a slang reference to the male member. She now buys her chickens prepacked at the supermarket.

A really difficult one that I understand in principle, but which I often get wrong in practice is the Spanish equivalent of the verb 'to be' - there are two, which is the problem - SER and ESTAR. Basically, the former is used to describe a permanent state whilst the latter is usually for a temporary state - though it's not quite that simple- it never is. Both are irregular verbs and both need to be learned as they are commonly used. And it does seem, in both languages and possibly in languages the world over, the more common a verb, the more it veers away from the regular. The English verb 'to be' has eight forms (am, are, is, was, were, being, been and be), compared to the usual four of most regular verbs (- 'to talk', for example, has only talk, talks, talking and talked.)

It's one thing to get SER and ESTAR mixed up but getting the language a little bit wrong can also lead to the utterances of a strange sort. You may have heard of the man who mistook his wife for a hat* but I once got confused with a church. Yes, the title of this piece is one of my own mistakes, made many years ago. I wanted to tell someone I was an Englishwoman - and knew enough to use 'soy' - from the verb SER - as my being English and a woman were both permanent enough to qualify for that verb - but I did confuse 'inglesa' (English woman) for 'iglesia' (Church). And in my few months of experience in teaching Spanish to English women, I've met several more churches. Are there any more out there, I wonder?

* 'The Man who Mistook his Wife for a Hat'  - a book by Oliver Sachs, the neurologist who wrote about the case histories of some of his patients - fascinating stuff.

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Sweet air

Sometimes, things happen that make you stop and think a bit, don't they? And sometimes, despite the busyness of every day, taking time to think is really important.

I have been thinking that the term 'absence makes the heart grow fonder' is just so true. I realised that for more than a year, FR and I have been living and being together for almost every hour of every day. Now, for some couples, this could a dream state; something delightful; the time to do things together, to do things apart whilst being together and to weave a state of married bliss that suits both of them. For others, it could be a nightmare state; where neither one can turn around without the other passing comment; that one or the other partner wants to talk and the other wants silence - where the frustration of having someone else watch, criticise, offer help, play music or even breathe in your presence feels like the grounds for divorce.

I hadn't stopped to think about it before - possibly there hadn't been the space. And mostly, we are somewhere inbetween these two points. But we recognise both extremes. If you haven't been there, you don't know.

Clearly, what we needed was a little enforced break to sweeten what was left of the air between us. Time to take big gulps of personal space. And what better way to do this than by spending this time with our own family - my with my mum and FR with his father.

And FR's return from Valladolid on Monday brought with it a deeper understanding between us - a recognition that we had fallen into bad habits in our lives together. And with minimal fuss and maximum effect, this week, we have generously given each other more space, more time, more attention and ensured less duplication of effort, less criticism and less noise - as appropriate. The air has been much sweeter.

Playing to our strengths today, we decided to pack up a picnic and head into the hills to explore as the weather continues warm, sunny and inviting. Within fifteen minutes drive, just over the border into Granada - oh I do love Granada - there's an embalse (reservoir) which I have wanted to have a closer look at for a while. I'm so glad we did. Just enjoy these colours and know that if there was sweet air anywhere - it was here today.

Old tree trunk - just needs putting in place

Perfect for sitting on to enjoy the view

Darwin's already been in for a swim

No, Ruy threw a large pebble, not Darwin

Swishing canes

Note - Darwin happily running about like the grown up dog he is becoming.

Love Romy's hat.

 A little further on from the embalse, we came to Colomera - a small village clinging to a steep hill but instead of going up to visit, we followed a sign to a Roman Bridge. We thought it was wonderful.

A perfect place to play

the ancient game of Pooh Sticks!

Sadly not for sale....


Monday, 10 October 2011

A few days..

A few important days, in which my mum got to know her grandchildren a bit better. Up until seven and a half years ago, we saw my parents fairly regularly either at their house or at our own. My dad - an electrician and 'handyman' to the roots of his being - came and did various jobs that needed doing and my mum loved to play with Mateo and Ruy - who were still very young - as well as chatting to me as we always did.

I remember one particular visit very clearly. It would be in very early June 2003 and we'd been moved into our new house for about three weeks. We planned on doing quite a bit of work to it, including adding a full-width conservatory on the back. Dad spent the afternoon pottering about fiddling with wires and identifying with FR where important connections were and needed to be.

I was wondering how to break the our news. News that had taken us by surprise - had left us in shock, to be honest - and which was taking some getting used to and which was repeating itself over and over in my head. After lunch, my mother referred to something that she'd told FR on the phone recently that she assumed he had shared with me. As our minds were otherwise occupied, he hadn't told me and my mum innocently remarked, 'Don't you two communicate?' - to which I replied, 'No but we fornicate and I'm pregnant again.'
This wasn't exactly how I had planned to tell my parents our good news but it's a phrase that has remained fixed in our brains over the years and one that will probably be passed on down the lines. To be honest, I was devastated and truly terrified to be pregnant again.

Please bear in mind that I was 44 years old and had assumed I was very lucky to have had two children rather late on in my life. We had just moved to a nice but not over-large house - just right for a family of four - and I'd just readjusted to my life back at work. We had two gorgeous boys and had no plans to increase our numbers. It sounds silly but honestly, neither of us really knew how this pregnancy had happened - and we definitely knew with the other two! Obviously, we hadn't ever before encountered a force like Romy - for it was indeed, our Romy that so determinedly shattered our safe and comfortable plans in those early days in our new house. I was so worried that I would have problems and the baby would have problems and I wasn't at all sure I could cope with three children and how could it have happened....And of course, within a very short space of time (well, about a week before she was due) all shock had turned to excitement and wonder and suddenly we were five.

Just a few short weeks after she was born, my parents went on holiday to Madeira, where my father suffered a severe stroke and since that day, we've only ever visited my parents in their home as for them, travelling to see us would have been too difficult. In fact, in all this time, whilst they have attempted holidays together (and had an increasingly complicated set of health problems each time) my mum hasn't had a proper break at all - not more than a few hours a week whilst my dad attends a day centre and it really was about time she thought about herself. Otherwise, we all know what might happen.

And the visit she made here was just the break she needed. And as well as giving her chance to recharge her batteries - no meals to cook, no-one to lift in and out of bed or a chair, no need to take anyone to the bathroom, no accidents to mop up or bedclothes to change - she had the chance to get to know her grandchildren. My mum is good talker. There's no doubt that she can talk - even more than me - but she's a good listener and was delighted to find that all three of our children also love to talk and love to listen.

It's been a few days for us all to enjoy each other's company; a few days to drink our coffee on the terrace together; a few days to sit and chat around the dinner table; a few days when the television stayed switched off; a few days when everyone told their favourite story; a few days to slow down and enjoy every minute.
So although it was only a few days, it was a few days of truly quality time that we will remember in the way we remember seeing something beautiful, like a sunset or the sea; something that stays etched in the memory forever.

You can't really ask for more.

Saturday, 8 October 2011


life is too busy chatting to your mum to find the time to blog. Especially if she's on a flying visit and leaves tomorrow....

(Picture by Veronica Holland, called Flying Visit, part of her collection of wonderful whimsical paintings.).

Thursday, 6 October 2011

On an up

It's been a fraught few .. I was going to put weeks but in comparison to the last few days, weeks is excessive - so, days; the last few days have definitely been fraught.

But we've all survived them and happily to say, we've come out stronger as a result. Cesar Snr underwent surgery on Monday and had a quadruple cabbage (coronary artery bypass graft) and the surgeons and medical team are pleased with his progress. Amelia, my mother-in-law, has her three sons with her and my FR reports that she is fine and coping well. Lots of family members have made the journey from their various outposts in either Valladolid or Leon to visit - which has caused the particular problems as intensive care visiting time is limited to half an hour a day and two visitors only at a time - and Spanish families can be guaranteed to turn out in strength for hospital visits. FR's own recent hospital experience was of being surrounded by lots of family members - not his own, but those of his fellow room-mates. FR has been out of Spain quite a while but even he was surprised when a couple of tios plonked themselves down and made themselves comfortable on his bed and then spent the whole time chatting to him, rather than to their own relation. In fact, one of the tios - (tio is uncle in Spanish but is also used as a man-to-man sort of greeting, a bit like chap or fellow...(showing my age) or mate or bloke... or whatever word men used to greet each other)  who visited several times was a Granada gypsy - Granada has lots of gypsy families and also lots of real gypsy flamenco - and had a bar to which he cordially and generously invited FR to visit anytime where he would be treated to a night of music like he'd never heard before. I don't know if either one of them will remember this offer in a few months time but I might just remind him one evening when we have nothing better to do.

Happy in the knowledge that all was going as well as it could up in Valladolid, I breathed a huge sigh of relief, as did the children - who adore their Yayo as he is so totally unique - like a big gruff, white-haired bear who sometimes might slip them a few euros but who also might chase them out of the garden with a big stick!  All I had to do now was to prepare for my first day back at the academy - four and a half hours of classes one after the other - I was both looking forward to it and dreading it a bit. The dread was relieved after I'd spoken to my lovely neighbour, Isa, who has two young boys with whom Romy and Ruy have established a firm friendship. I told her my predicament about starting work when FR was away and she'd said not to worry and to send the children over to her whenever I needed to go. Then she went on to say that if necessary, she'd give them lunch or fetch them from school and they could even sleep over if they wanted. I really can't express how grateful and happy I was to hear this because I had been acutely aware of how 'alone' I might have been here - FR away and no family of any description within hundreds of kilometres - but now I have another wonderful neighbour and kind people next door as well. I also know that I could ask Belen and Pedro - our ex-next-piso neighbours to help me if I was stuck. Pedro helped us move house at the end of June and we were poised to return the favour as they were also moving into a new house - only they moved the day FR has his operation! Truly sod's law.

I took Isa a little bunch of flowers to say thank you - no big deal in England, where friends exchange a few flowers for any possible excuse; token gestures of friendship, gratitude and love and a gesture that I heartily approve of - and I was glad I did as Isa was blown away by this little act. Flowers in Spain seem to be given only on formal occasions and are very often stunning, spectacular displays. I'd been a little worried that my simple bunch of carnations might seem insignificant but I was delighted that Isa really appreciated the gesture - I hope now to start a new trend in Alcala la Real.

And so, yesterday afternoon, back to teaching, safe in the knowledge that I wasn't leaving the children alone in the house and the hours flew by and it was so lovely to see my students again although el crisis (pronounced here most dramatically as creesees) did mean that there were rather fewer in some of the classes than last year. No suggestion yet that I should get paid less though...

And today, my mum flies in from Manchester to Malaga, albeit for a brief visit but one which we can now look forward to even more now that Yayo is doing so well. FR might even get back before my mum leaves. Must go clean up a bit more -  I'm sure she will only have eyes for her grandchildren and so won't be inspecting for dust or dirt but I can't help feeling she might just spot a bit here and there and that will never do!



Mum arrived safely and we've spent a lovely evening all together - Romy pressing for stories of what I was like as a little girl and really enjoying not being outnumbered by the boys for once. It's so lovely to see the children through someone else's eyes for a change and as I listen to them talking to their grandmother - whom they have not seen for over a year - I'm really very proud of them. And tomorrow, Mum and I can sit and chat like in the old days, making up for lost time, as chatting is something we do rather well together.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Highs and lows

I wonder why it is that life has a habit of throwing more than the usual at us from time to time? For me, almost every day has its own ups and downs with little peaks and troughs of mood, pleasure and frustration. (Or, when the hormones are really playing up, wild swings between harridan screeching, teeth-clenching rage and tears of hopelessness... moan, moan, hormoan.)

But every so often, things don't follow the usual gentle roll; like a sea when there's been an unseen, underwater volcano - could it be those complex biorhythms, getting their waves twisted up - and suddenly, 'things' come at us. Like a tsunami.

And compared to what happens in some people's lives, I know we can still say we are lucky, but we are experiencing a 'tsunami' of family emotions and concerns this week.

After the little trauma of FR's appendix, we had been getting nicely excited in the knowledge that in just a week, my mum would be coming out to visit us. The first time anyone from England has had the chance to come to see us here; the first time my mum will have seen the children in more than 13 months; more importantly, the first time she will have had a break from caring for my father, who had a stroke more than seven years ago. It took a quite a bit of persuading and it was only the finding of Rachel, a private carer, who was able to come and live at my parents' home to look after my dad (rather than him going into respite care) that in the end, convinced my mum that she should come. And she'll only come for five days - not long, but better than nothing. She is very tired and really in need of a bit of 'me' time. I have been planning gentle little routes around the village, avoiding some of the steeper hills; possibly a nice relaxing session of healing massage as delivered by my friend, Valerie; joining one of my conversation classes at the English centre, which is always a good laugh; walking to meet the children from school and possibly stopping for a coffee or a tapa on the way. Plus, of course, lots of sleep - undisturbed - on soothing, essential oil-infused pillows under a down-filled quilt (now that the nights are getting chilly, we can once again snuggle under quilts - how I love that feeling!) Doing her a world of good and setting her up for the next visit whenever she felt the need.

Then, last week, as FR came out of hospital, we heard that his father had been taken into hospital after he returned from a little holiday in Santander with pains in his chest and down his left arm. Fortunately, no heart attack had occurred but he was kept in for observation and further investigation. On Thursday, he had an angiogram to see what the problem was - and the doctors took just ten minutes to decide that it was very serious. We understand now that they really don't know how he hasn't had a heart attack as there doesn't seem to be very much room in his arteries for blood to flow through. They planned to prepare him for bypass surgery in four or five days - if they could wait that long - so they could thin his blood and sort out his medication. FR's father is 76 years old and two years ago, he almost lost a leg due to blocked veins and arteries.Fortunately, he didn't and his left leg is now full of plastic tubing and working again pretty well. But the knowledge of this has caused me some concerns. I know that usually, an artery or a vein from one of the patient's leg is used to replace the damaged heart tubes and these need to be as good and healthy as possible for the best results. You see, I used to work in a hospital...

And isn't a little knowledge is a dangerous thing?  
My hospital was one in Leeds that was also a specialist heart centre. As the information officer, I collected data and collated statistics on everything that went on, including all the different procedures, operations and interventions that took place. I could tell you the average number of visits to the X-Ray department, what the average time was for various surgical procedures, how long patients stayed in the hospital for the same or different operations, or with different surgeons -and what the success rates were - on.

It's more than twenty years ago that I worked there but memories of that time have come flooding back - including that the Coronory Artery Bypass Graft (CABG) was always called a Cabbage. It always amused me that I counted cabbages (and other veg) for a job; that as I called into collect theatre stats, the staff pulled a pint of milk out of the 'Blood Fridge' to make me a coffee; that a couple of the surgeons didn't like me collecting information and I have memories of one waving a rectal stretcher at me in a threatening manner, whilst another called me the KGB. The hospital was old and rather tatty but full of wonderful people, some with huge personalities that seem fewer on the ground nowadays... but I digress - it's a habit I have, to distract myself, to get lost in another place. Back to today, back to reality.

When we got the news of the seriousness of the situation from Marco, FR's middle brother, who still lives in Valladolid and who had spoken to the doctors after the angiogram. Then we had a long discussion about whether just FR should go, or whether we should all go; whether my mum should come or better to cancel her holiday. Because the information coming from the hospital was honest - but not very reassuring.
We decided we would be positive. It is, in fact, the only way to be.

So, no dramatic upheaval of children or change of plans. Yesterday morning, FR took a bus to Valladolid so he can see his father and be with his mother whilst the operation takes place on Monday. His other two brothers will be there too, Ruben flying in from Majorca today. Cesar Snr's operation is on Monday;  I will go back to my teaching on Tuesday, first day back since June - and my lovely neighbour will happily look after the children whilst I go - and my mum will fly out as planned the next day.

We will be sending lots of love, positive vibes, wishes, prayers and hopes to Cesar Snr and our family in Valladolid, tinged as they are with deep concern, and at the same time, looking forward with pleasure and anticipation to my mum's visit on Wednesday.

It's a very strange and complex set of contradictory emotions that I'm feeling this sunny Sunday morning. And whilst it won't make things any easier, I think the children, the dog and I will take a nice walk in the park and eat one of the delicious home-made ice-creams from the bar in the square. And then I promise to do all the ironing this evening after the children have gone to bed so that it's out of the way once and for all. Not to digress, not to distract myself but to remember that in spite of all the big highs and lows that go on in our lives, we will continue to live the little ones too.

To anyone reading, I hope your highs and lows are swinging only moderately today.