Casa Rosales

Casa Rosales

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

The tearing of hair...

I have just almost completed - twice - a blog post about FR, his month-long project in Granada, the importance of this project and how good it has felt and how proud I am and all sorts of other things. And both times, Mozilla Firefox crashed out on me and didn't save what I'd written!

I give up on that one for today.

And as tomorrow is December, I'll leave my hair alone and continue on a more cheerful note. As all our Christmas decorations are still in Leon, Romy and I have spent the afternoon making an advent 'calendar' - a family must - the countdown to Christmas. I don't want to buy more - this year, less will be more. So we have diligently been saving up empty toilet rolls, which we've painted white and gold, sparkled and glittered, cut in half and stapled up one end and put numbers on from 1 to 24 - though to be honest, we've only saved enough to get to 20 thus far. (However, the nature of the thing means we'll have more empty rolls before the 21st, so I'm not worried.) We bought little wooden pegs and painted them gold and have strung some silver ribbon across a dark blue card, sprinkled with stars and the odd cloud - and the whole thing is now hanging by the door, each little painted holder containing a small chocolate each for the children. FR has the camera so I can't show you. I'll try and remember to capture it - it's so wonderfully homemade-looking that it makes me smile every time I pass it! Now posted as a {this moment}

There, I'll go and look at it again now and forget my irritation at the previous failed attempts to post. I have now finished this one and it's saved....Welcome to December!

Sunday, 27 November 2011

La Sierra Nevada at last

Since first visiting Granada, we've said, "We MUST go to the snow in the Sierra Nevada".
Well, during the earlier part of the year, the snow came and went and we never got there.

But this weekend - a beautiful, crisp, clear time - and we had a snow-capped golden opportunity.

What a wonderful experience it was! Now we keep saying, "We MUST go again!"

This is where we only paused in our search for snow - a ski resort called Pradollano

Very nice; very expensive; full of skis, snowboards and cafes. Not quite our scene...

So we went a little higher up the mountain and found this little place, renting sledges from ramshackle huts.
Where we rented a couple of sledges......
and pausing only occasionally to enjoy the view...
or to take a breather and look after Darwin...
we sledged all afternoon..
and had a (snow)ball of a time!

It was quite a trek up the hill each time.

But with views all around worth the effort.

There was the odd collision and the occasional 'dismount' .....and very nearly a serious altercation between father and son. (Deserved, as father very nearly ran Mateo and Darwin into the ground when he made a very amateur descent with Romy!)

But mostly, our downhill technique improved as we practiced. Ruy preferred to go solo - and no, in case you were wondering, he doesn't have huge feet - he has his father's wellies on! He's outgrown all other boots that we had at home.

Big feet are good for stopping though!

The walk up was tough but the ride down was worth it!
Definitely the winning team of the day - no accidents, super fast and just great fun!

We came home pink-cheeked and sleepy but it won't be long before we go again!

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Time out

Now and then it’s good to pause
in our pursuit of happiness and just be happy.
(Guillaume Apollinaire)
And now and then, I find I have said all I want to say. 
(Annie Taylor)

Monday, 14 November 2011

Where to go on Sunday

... if you live in Jaen, it's a little overcast and you've already put a chicken in the oven for lunch...

A simple decision like - let's just pop into Jaen for an hour or so this morning - is an option only because just about one year ago, we came and spent a week in the province of Granada. We came to investigate whether it was an area we wanted to live having spent six months planning (and three months looking) for our dream home in northern Spain. It just didn't happen, so we came south. We all absolutely fell in love with the place and although we have ended up only almost in Granada, we're near enough to have the sense of satisfaction that our decision-making week has paid dividends. It was a glorious week twelve months ago too.

We have passed the Sierra Nevada many, many times whilst it had its icy covering between January and late June but never went close enough to step in the snow - the pull of the sea and the tides was stronger. And then, from July onwards, the glory of the snow literally melted away and left - well, mountains; unsnowy mountains. Nice enough but not as majestic, not as stunning, not as appealing - not to me at least.

On Monday, I took Darwin for our usual walk up through the pines towards La Mota and when I was almost at the top, paused to rest take in the view - and had my breath taken away when I saw the snow had returned and my mountains were once again back to their dramatic selves.

Go on, look carefully...there they are

A glorious view


We've had several days of mild, clear and sunny weather which has made us all feel good about autumn in Andalucia. So blasé we were about the good weather, we decided to stay at home on Saturday and 'do chores' like cleaning up the house and getting homework out of the way, so that we could set off early on Sunday morning and spend the daylight hours in the Sierra Nevada, with our sunglasses on to avoid the glare of the bright sun on the new, white snow.

Except Sunday was not sunny. It was overcast, grey and rather windy. We poddled about - this is a real word, used rather excessively in my family as we do it a lot, meaning to amble around without any real purpose and we do it until someone thinks of something more sensible to do - it helps. We poddled about until FR said, let's go to Jaen instead of Granada. So we piled into the car with a bottle of water and the ubiquitous bag of crisps and the dog and headed off to Jaen, capital of the province in which we live.

Many years ago, on a journey between Valladolid and Malaga where we were living at the time; long before there was a motorway, FR and I had stopped in Jaen for a picnic lunch. FR has contested my memory and has many times said that the occasion I was thinking of took place in Jerez. We both agree that we stopped outside a parador* at the top of a big hill and ate the best chorizo ever and drank a very powerful bottle of tinto which catapulted us into a very deep sleep in the car. Much to the disgust of the parador management who felt we were making their car park untidy. As we drove through the streets of Jaen up towards the parador, my ability to remember every relevant detail of the scenery convinced FR that it was indeed here where we had drifted off. This time, the car park was so full we couldn't stop but we found a space at the bottom of the hill and enjoyed a lovely - very bracing - walk around the castle walls of what was once an impressive hilltop fortress in the time of the Moors.

Ancient walls

These places always bring out the archer in Ruy...

And after scrambling about for an hour or so, we drove back down the hill to the town centre because no one can go to Jaen without visiting its stunning cathedral. Started in the late 16th century, but not completed until the late 18th century, it is Renaissance in style with much visible symmetry and classical columns. It has relatively little of the Gothic about it - no flying buttresses anywhere! Very different from many of the other cathedrals in Spain and a style apparently much copied in South American countries.

 And a detail from over one of the entrances.

Romy was fascinated by this one, which shows a heavenly warrior fighting off the "baddies trying to get in", in her words. 

And then, resigned to the fact that our chicken would be more than well cooked by this time, we called in to a bar for a tapa, where I swear I had just one San Miguel but which had such an effect on me that I barely remember staggering walking back to the car (must remember to eat more breakfast!) and had me dozing all the way home, though I do remember noticing that the clouds had cleared and the Sierra looked particularly beautiful in the distance...!

We ate our chicken - thanks to the fact that our oven never reaches the temperature it should - and then I fell immediately into a deep siesta - even though a siesta should be more of a post-prandial nap, but hey, I have a busy life - and didn't awake until it was already dark.

And that was our Sunday - one year on after making the decision to live in this gorgeous corner of the world and where I still feel the need to pinch myself from time to time to make sure it's real.

Friday, 11 November 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.

Monday, 7 November 2011

Me 'n' Pru

I met Pru early '90s - I can't remember exactly which year but it was the year that I went on holiday with my friend Annie and her husband. Two Annies and a Pru together in France! Gosh, our menfolk were brave to take us on, I can tell you.

I didn't know when I met her that she had a chequered history; a dodgy past; that she was, very probably, a split personality. I just know that when I first saw her, I fell in love immediately and that we had to be together.

I wouldn't normally have done something like this and my partner at the time was a bit shocked the first time I took her home - he told me when she wasn't listening, that I should really have consulted him first as he knew more about her type than I did; that I shouldn't have made such a decision on my own. I remember being quite cross - I knew Pru wouldn't let me down, wouldn't spoil anything, would be perfect to take on holiday with us. I'd invited her as much for him as for me too.

Indeed, it was the forthcoming holiday that had prompted my decision to get to know Pru.

Probably since she had a serious illness (for in her youth, she was really rather wild...) my friend Annie has been quite a nervous traveller and she was now - just a few weeks before we were due to leave - feeling a tad twitchy about the holiday we'd planned. We were to cross the channel on a ferry; the first daunting challenge for Annie. She and her husband in one car, me and my partner in another. And then we were going to drive through France, stopping off at various places along the way before reaching Aix-en-Provence, our destination. It was the driving that was making both us Annies feel concern, though for slightly different reasons. Annie's was the amount of driving; mine was the type of driving.

Nick is a sensitive soul and has always respected Annie's fears so their driving style was, at this time, sedate to say the least. My partner was a rubber-burning, hand-break turn maniac on the road - and that's putting it mildly. My fear was that we would lose our friends the minute we disembarked from the ferry in France, as they intended following us - Francophiles that we were - but would simply not be able to keep up. And my partner would be frustrated at having to wait or drive slowly... I could see disaster looming before we'd even packed.

This is where I knew having Pru along would help us perfectly.

Pru was a 1988 Citroen 2CV. I bought her from a nice young man in Horsforth without consulting my partner, who was a bit of a car expert. She was cream and maroon in colour and had all the 2CV extras - such as a flapdown/up roof, no heating, loose wing mirrors, bench seating, removable handbreak and erratic door handles. And I adored her. She was perfect for our France holiday because her top speed was about 68 mph but reaching that speed took a while and inside the car, it felt twice as fast.

Everyone happy! My plan worked a treat. Pru was such a novelty to drive that my partner never noticed our relative snail's pace as we poddled along with the wind in our hair. We did lose Annie and Nick in the end but not until we'd reached Aix-en-Provence and all was fine because we all eventually came back together.

Pru went on to play a major role in my life. She was like a celebrity and I drove every day to work, though some days, I'd arrive frozen as having no heater in the winter in Huddersfield was a bit of a negative. She had a friend - another 2CV - and the owner and I parked our two cars facing each other - so they could talk whilst we worked. Once, as I climbed the hill out of Brighouse, snow falling rapidly, I remember hoping the traffic lights halfway up would stay green so that I didn't have to stop and make a hill start - as I knew I'd have to double declutch between first and second gear, which was tricky. (I still have no idea what it means but it was a technique that my feet and hands seemed to master as long as I didn't think about it at the same time.) I wasn't lucky and to add to the problem, as I pulled on the handbrake, which was located in the dashboard and required a horizontal pull - it just came out in my hand! I've blanked out what happened next but I know we got home eventually. I don't blame Pru; I must have pulled quite hard through anxiety.

I was always cheerful driving Pru - although in the cold weather, singing helped me to keep warm. I remember a work colleague remarking to me that he'd followed me some way and was most amused to see me singing along to the radio as I drove. I didn't tell him I didn't have a radio, I just smiled and tried to look like an Information Manager.

Around this time, my partner and I were such Francophiles that we bought a little cottage about halfway between Tours and Poitiers, in a little village called Lurais - Les Basses Granges, it was called. Still is, and I still own half of it....but that's another story. I remember going out there many times in Pru. Once, on our way back to the ferry, we'd left ourselves a bit short of time but Pru wouldn't let us miss it - no, she positively galloped along, reaching speeds of almost 80 mph and shocking many a Gaul along the way - who couldn't believe their eyes!
And one time, whilst in the cottage, we drove to the Vendee coast to meet my family and some friends who were camping there. The beach is long and the tide was far away when we arrived but as it came closer, we had to move back up the beach several times. And on one of these moves, I managed to inadvertently lose the car keys. Not that we needed them to get into the car - Pru was very particular about who she would let in, allowing her little handle to swivel uselessly if she didn't fancy someone. So we didn't bother locking her. But she did need the key to start her. So we walked to a Citroen garage - me confident that there'd be an easy solution. There was and it didn't involve a new key. For the rest of her time with me, Pru happily set off after a quick tickle with a screwdriver. Seems that was the way most French 2CV owners did it.

Pru went everywhere with me. Eventually though, I traded her in - how could I? I've asked myself a million times how I could have been so fickle in the end. For a shiny little red Fiat too. Common as muck.

Well, the garage that was happy to trade and sent me away in my tarty little Fiat phoned me a couple of days later to say well done, I'd pulled a fast one - or hadn't I known that Pru was a ringer*?

You could have knocked me down with a feather. All that time - all the those miles - I'd trusted her completely. And on retrospect - I'd have her back, just as she was, and I'd never, ever part with her again.

Now this picture is as close as I can get to her - and it's not even her.

*A 'ringer' is a stolen car that has had its identification numbers replaced by a set from another - usually written-off - car, which effectively changes the car's identity.

Friday, 4 November 2011

The Versatile Blogger

Oh joy of joys! I've been nominated for something I confess to hankering after for a while now - a Versatile Blogger Award!! 

Thank you, Perpetua for this lovely nomination - I am so pleased you thought of me. Perpetua is that most wonderful of bloggers who makes you really feel you know her - through her posts, her comments and her responses to comments left for her. She makes the world wide web vibrate in a delightful way and some of her beautifully written posts have moved me intensely and deeply as well as made me laugh and chuckle, in the same way I do when talking to a close friend.

Those nominated have to tell you five quirky things about themselves and then pass the award on to five more bloggers, so that's what I'll do!
Except, of course, it's not so easy to pick just five blogs. I have thought long and hard and whilst I could have made a very long list of very versatile (and quirky) blogs because those are exactly the sort I love to read, this is my choice today.

My name is Kirsten not Kristen -  Kirsten takes the most wonderful pictures and has a fantastic eye for detail. I can't remember who we found each other but we enjoy each other's blogs and share a sense of humour (though not the spelling!) and make each other laugh.

Avoid the jellyfish - who wouldn't want to read a blog with this title!? Even better that it's written by my quirky friend, Celia. A beautiful mix of atmospheric Scottish views, memories of childhood in Ireland, random thoughts and stories of family - all from a lovely person.

The Doll House - Anna, who is English and lives in Norway, lives in a gorgeous house from which she posts gorgeous pictures with gorgeous words, with enviable elegance. I sometimes visit her to find a little calm and tranquility when things get a little chaotic here. It always helps.

A Quiet Corner - Karen is another blogger with whom I find I have a lot in common. I love how she writes, her joy in her surroundings and all the things that happen to her and her family - I feel that if we'd ever met, we'd be friends and I find that very comforting! 

And the hardest of all is who to put in the spot that's left. Or rather, who to leave out. I would love to include everyone on my blog list - and even that's not everyone I would really like to include! However, my final choice today is ..

Imagination-Chariot - a blog I have only recently discovered and which is absolutely fascinating. Hita is an inspired artist who now lives in southern France and she tells wonderful tales with beautiful illustrations as well as showing glimpses into the lovely region where she's made her home.  There is such a strong sense of creativity in her posts, her art and her photographs and I am always delighted to visit her blog. 

There - I've really enjoyed that bit, apart from the people I didn't include. Now for the hard bit.

After the initial excitement at having this super (and coverted) award, I began to realise the difficulty of identifying five quirky things about myself. 

I lay awake last night (honestly) thinking what was quirky about me and whilst I could possibly describe myself as a 'quirk' (even though I don't really know what one is) I can't think of quirky things about me. 

So this morning, I googled 'quirky' and read up on what it might mean to see if this helped me identify any particular habits or mannerisms I have that could be described as such.  Nothing much helped as I really do think that the quirk is in the eye of the beholder, though Wikipedia suggests that quirkiness could be synonymous with eccentricity and that sort of helps. 

I also like Harriet Beecher Stowe's comment that "every man had his own quirks and twists".

So on that basis, my quirks are:

i) I have a bit of a phobia about ...damn it... have to say it... lolly sticks.  So bad it is sometimes that I have insisted that a complete stranger throw away their stick quickly once they'd finished eating the lolly. I just can't bear it if I can see someone with one in their mouth.
ii) Plastic carrier bags - I can't throw them away. A long time ago, probably about 25 years ago, I lived in denial about this particular quirk; I used to stuff the bags out of sight, usually down the back of radiators until my partner at the time found them and decorated the whole house with what he'd found. I came home one day and there must have been about 200+ of them hanging from the light fittings, dangling from the banister, draped around the furniture... it sort of brought the problem into the light and from then on, I've had a special dispenser/container bought from IKEA which keeps them (and me) under control. And of course, since then, this particular problem has been addressed by the government - who now legally prohibit the mindless pushing of these addictive items by shops and supermarkets. This has helped me enormously and I'm grateful for the now international programme of support.

iii) A proper coffee every morning. Not sure if this is a quirk or a necessity but mine must be drunk with due reverence and preferably in solitude.

iv) Whilst in some of my earlier posts, I have mentioned that I am not a completer/finisher, I didn't quite give the full picture. (Ah, I wonder why that was?) I have a bit of an aversion to perfection (or aiming for it myself) and I think for this reason, I have the quirky habit (one could call it something else, but I call it a quirk) of always leaving something when I do the washing up. As with the plastic bags, it started off unconsciously but when it was pointed out, I realised I finished one bout of washing up by preparing for the next one - setting a teaspoon or a cup aside for the next time. Washing up is like that - it never ends so I don't like to pretend it does.
v) My final quirk borders on a confession and I hesitate before sharing it with 'the world' but what the hell. I hate wearing tights under a dress or skirt. I wear boots as soon as the clocks go back and as long as there's only a minimal gap between hem and boot, I don't bother with tights. That's not the quirk. The quirk is that I wear odd socks under my boots - always.  Not pretty; but I get a strange pleasure in knowing that everything looks quite normal on the outside but things are a little quirky 'underneath'.

And this is an analogy for how I look at life in general and why certain blogs appeal so much - because I know I'm not alone. I look forward to hearing how my nominees express their quirkiness.