Casa Rosales

Casa Rosales

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Sunday morning stroll

At least, I presumed it was a stroll we were embarking on.

FR had been out walking earlier in the week with a friend who is learning English. He's a biologist and lover of nature and during the spring and summer months, he takes people on guided tours of the Andalucian countryside. You can see his brochure and what he offers on his website, called Natureda. We have just finished a rather better translation into English for him - what is currently here is just a Google translate, I think - although I rather like reading it in this format!

Anyway, FR and JC go walking together, talking about the landscapes, wildlife and countryside around Alcala la Real - in English. When he returned on Thursday, FR was full of where he'd just been and keen to take us all. So off we set.

Darwin - newly clipped and ready for adventure - and yes, we did the first bit in the car...

Looking back at Alcala la Real - fantastic view

Family stringing out from the start...don't know where Mateo is and Romy was behind me.

Ah - Mateo was a long way ahead - you can just see him in the centre of the photo... lost Ruy though.

In amongst all the trees, there was a sheep-shearing fest going on -
you can't see anything but you could certainly hear it!

There are some amazing dry stone walls.

Pause to quote:

I am a drystone waller
All day I drystone wall
Of all appalling callings
Drystone walling's worst of all.
                            Pam Ayres

I have quoted Wordsworth and other notables in the past but I'm afraid I cannot see or say 'drystone wall' without Pam Ayres' lines reverberating in my head. The children are sick of hearing it but I'm afraid they will not be able to resist saying it to themselves (and their own children?) in future years...parenting has such responsibilities!

Amazing views across to the next village.

We'd come to see a cave - was this it?

No - there was more walking to be done. Now Romy's ahead of me.

Zoom in on an ancient watch tower, known as an atalaya.

Taking a break whilst FR tries to find his bearings...

Cooler under the olive trees

Flying across the sky is a pair of crows - apparently quite rare ones.
You will have to take my word for it that their beaks are red.

At last, we find the cave

Family-sized with interesting sleeping ledges....

Hidden from view by a big fig tree.

As caves go, it was OK. Fortunately, FR had taken some pruning shears with him so that he could cut away the brambles as we followed him. Not quite as radical as a machete but effective enough.

We returned to Alcala and went up to La Mota to capture the view from the other side of the town.

And Darwin took time out to sit in the shade and chill.

We came home and ate chilled watermelon and have just finished off a pile of delicious little lamb chops, salad and patatas fritas.

And now, methinks a siesta is just what I need.

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Allegory on the Nile

I received an email from a dear friend this morning. Last time we exchanged notes, both she and her husband were suffering healthwise. He was having an operation for prostate cancer and my friend had a suspected collapsed lung and was waiting to see a specialist.

I was naturally quite worried and concerned. I have never met anyone quite like Susan and am very fond of her. She was my boss's secretary and joined our workplace just before I returned to work after my first maternity leave. She is perhaps the most dotty person ever - full of fun, helpful to a fault, kind and considerate - and... well, dotty.

As cuts were made and secretaries were shared instead of doled out one per manager, all the secretaries were pooled together and I'm sure that Susan's dotty presence and her droll sense of humour were much appreciated. She never forgot a birthday, always found just the appropriate gift (and I have been the recipient many a time, most notably, my wonderful mug) brought flowers from her garden to brighten up the office and generally made work a jolly place to be most of the time.

What has all this got to do with allegories on the Nile? Well, Susan was a Mrs. Malaprop if ever one walked this earth - so much so, that the other secretaries kept a book in which they wrote many of the little 'pearls of misrule' that fell from her lips. How I wish I could get my hands on that book now! It deserves publishing, so funny it was. 'Susan's Antidotes', we'd call it, of course.

As it is, without access to that book, I can only clearly remember one of these gems - her describing a phone call she'd taken from one of my staff -

"X has called in sick. Again. He said he's pulled his Hercules tendon - I don't know what that is but he said he did it in bed, so I didn't like to ask."

True to form, her note to me about her husband said he was 'having the operation to remove the prostrate'. Her email this morning reported on his recovery - which is great news - and went on to reassure me that she too is getting better and her specialist thinks it is nothing worse than 'chronicle bronchitis'.

There is always the possibility that her idiosyncratic speech was carefully planned to amuse. There were times when I was sure it must be. If there's anyone out there reading who can remember any more from that little book, please do share!

What are your favourites?

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Magic, maths and colour

A couple of weeks ago, a fellow blogger had a 'ta-dah' post. The post had the most wonderful title of 'The Cloak of Outrageous Power' - and I whizzed over to have a read straightaway.

I was more than a bit wowed by her creation. A rainbow realta of a blanket. She said I could share one of her pictures here on my blog - so here it is, modelled by Allyson herself - though the blanket is for a friend, one very lucky friend I would say.

It was not long after I read this that my mind started wandering off towards entropy and fractals and I am sure the complexity of Allyson's cloak had something to do with it.

I was equally fascinated by her latest post, in which she confesses that the arrangement of her crocheted octagons was less than random - indeed, it would appear that a fairly sophisticated mathematical approach was taken both in the creation of the octagons and in the positioning for sewing up.

I found it most interesting and also loved the opportunity to see a few more photographs of a very beautiful blanket in its new home - looks just right.

Read the creation post here and the science behind its creation here. Well done Allyson!

Friday, 18 May 2012

Expressions of satisfaction and delight

I'm leaving up to you to decide on what noise or sound you make to express your satisfaction and delight - and what makes you make that sound.

For me, today, it's YEEEHAAAA!  It's WOOOOOOOOOO! It's also yeh!
And for no other reason than I am alone. On my own, with nobody with me.

It's such a rare treat that I am celebrating with a long iced coffee and uninterrupted access to the internet.

I love days like this where there seems to be such a lot to do in a very short space of time - an early start; arrival of small friend of Romy's; departure of husband to Granada; boy kids leaving at fifteen minute intervals to get to school or play football before school starts; girls and me setting off a little bit behind schedule but arriving just in time; quick whizz round the block with Darwin; jump into car to get to doctor's appointment - c h i l l   w i t h  b o o k whilst waiting - whizz back towards home and drive in ever widening circles around cash machine then abandon car with hazard lights flashing and dash back three streets to extract cash; whizz home; run in, drag dog out and into car; drive to next village to man who is going to remove all Darwin's hairy coat and leave him shining and clipped and sweet-smelling.....

...and then, driving home, that wonderful, smug, can't quite believe it feeling hits me


And, fighting the temptation to come home and clean the house, which is what I tend to do whenever I get a moment to myself because there is always something else more important when everyone is here, I have decided that after I have written this entry, I will go up onto my lovely hot roof terrace with my iced coffee and soak up a little sun whilst reading my book. 

So, there you have it. I feel I have it very good right now. 

(Though in precisely two hours, the whole mad dash thing starts all over again in reverse, plus I will have four hungry children to feed...but I'm not going to think about that yet.)

Have a nice day.

Saturday, 12 May 2012



As well as entropy, I have long been fascinated by something very different  -  fractals.

Let's not pretend I have any idea about the mathematical definition, calculation or explanation - no, and neither do I really understand the process by which fractal art is produced. But I do understand that fractals show self-duplicating patterns and that computers were probably designed to make amazing images based on fractal calculations. (I said probably.) All the useful stuff came later when the possibilities of computer became clearer -  but I bet you anything that the original scientists were a lot more interested in fractals than they were in online shopping or social networking!

Natural fractals in a cauliflower.

No - there are no complicated or intellectual reasons I love fractals. I love them simply because they are amazing and I could look at them forever - probably literally!

Another natural fractal - a seaurchin

Probably the most famous fractal is the Mandelbrot Fractal - a distinctive shape in its own right - but just imagine, anywhere you zoom in on is an exact copy of this original shape with repetitions of this shape over and again.

A fascinating YouTube zoom into a Mandelbrot Fractal - mindblowing!

I feel better for sharing this. Hope you enjoy it too.

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Entropy - or why I can't get organised

As a student in the late '70s and early '80s, I lived in a shared house in Ashford, Middlesex. It was always called  'Ashford, Middlesex' to distinguish it from the more important 'Ashford, Kent' even though since 1965, (when Middlesex as a council disappeared with the creation of Greater London) it was 'moved' to Surrey - no one ever said (or says) 'Ashford, Surrey'. Despite its Twickenham postcode, all letters I received arrived with Middlesex in the address and I suspect this is still the case.

I got a lot of letters then, some of which are so precious to me that despite several moves of house, county and country, I still have with me.

Note that not one has the postcode and not one says 'Ashford, Surrey' but all which clearly reached me from their various starting points.
A rather nice example of mixed-up-ness - more of which in a moment.

It was here, in Ashford, (not Kent, but Middlesex or Surrey), most appropriately, that I was first introduced to entropy. I took to the concept like a duck to water and have been seeing it in action ever since. It helps me to understand why, however hard I try, some things always seem to go wrong. I lived in a house shared with five men, one of whom was my boyfriend at the time - and he and I were the only students. The others were an incredible mix - a real odd bunch - who found themselves together by pure chance rather than choice as the house was their first meeting place.

The phrase 'camp as a row of tents' was probably invented to describe Andrew, one of the lodgers. He and I became absolutely best friends within a short space of time and stayed so over many years. He had a degree from Cambridge in Mathematics, worked at an important computing job at British Airways and also played the piano rather well. He is without doubt one of the most intelligent, interesting and amusing people I have ever met. He and two of the other lodgers, Bill and Richard, were very competitive chess players and many an evening was spent in silence apart from the slap of a hand on the clock that timed their moves. These three men were highly qualified scientists and mathematicians - all three very eccentric in their own ways. The fourth lodger was an attractive, lanky guy with a taste for leggy blondes and a strange, obsessive interest in rank and pinion railways.

It was Andrew that explained entropy to me. With hindsight, I'm sure he was having a gentle dig at my lack of tidiness and general disorganisation but it was so gentle that I didn't pick up on it then. He used a phenomenon of the time, the Rubik's cube, to explain it to me, (though you may, of course, be more aware of entropy as the Second Law of Thermodynamics). Richard had stayed up very late one night doing the cube and had proudly left it for all to see on top of the television when we came down in the morning. To my shame, I picked it up and twiddled it a bit - meaning to nonchalantly pick it up and put it right again when the next person came into the room. And then got into a panic when I couldn't redo it and that it got worse at every turn. Andrew came in and found my distress very amusing. He kindly explained that once something reaches a stage of complete organisation, it could only ever disintegrate or become disorganised - this was entropy. He wrote a big note and put the cube and note back on top of the television saying 'Entropy Happens'. What a shame he didn't copyright the phrase!

That phrase was used over and over during my time in that house - usually as an excuse for leaving my washing up in the sink or other undone domestic chores. I've continued to use it to this day to excuse my children's mess or to try and make them feel better when things haven't gone right and the glue has stuck to the wrong side; or the scissors inexplicably cut off the feet/sword/head or whatever of their picture, instead of following the outline; or when they have started writing in a brand new notebook, only to find they had the book upside down. Anything, in fact, where perfection or order was the goal but the result was mixed-up-ness.

'Mixed-up-ness' is a real word - a lovely entropic sort of word - coined by J. Willard Gibbs in 1903. Shame it was for something unnecessarily complex and scientific. However useful entropy may be as a means or measure for scientists to explain certain phenomena, I think it is so applicable to those things in our daily life that seem to go wrong or awry without any clear reason. Like socks - how is it that despite drumming it into my children to put both socks into the washing basket at the end of the day, I always end up with a selection of odd ones when I've done the washing? Like pens and pencils - we buy hundreds of the darn things, but the moment I need to write down a message following a phone call, I can never locate anything to write with. Like despite constantly picking up toys, papers and small items and putting them away or in their proper place, they will inevitably find their way into a messy heap on the table, sofa or floor? Like when I have a really good clean up, the mess will have gone somewhere else when I turn around? Like in trying to be organised and always having things like pegs, scissors, sellotape and envelopes in a single, accessible place, I end up with nine rolls of sellotape in different places, no scissors, the wrong sized envelopes and never enough pegs?

Entropy is the natural tendency of the organised to move towards the disorganised. It leads to mixed-up-ness.  
Well, that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it!)

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Green day

Well, I've had blue, grey and white days.

Today was so green, I was looking for the Teletubbies.

All this greenery from a few days of pouring rain - obviously just what the earth needed around here as the wheat has sprouted, lush and verdant.

We'd been visiting a village just south of Jaen (north of Alcala) where I'd had my eye on a house for some time. It's such a disappointment to find that the photographs distort reality somewhat - though what was impressive about the house was the amazing furniture that was to be part of a sale. Sadly, the house isn't for us - I just needed to see it in real life to put it out of my mind (or buy it!)

On the way back, we left the olive groves and entered a green paradise, just north of Granada near a pretty little village called PiƱar, which is topped by an ancient moorish castle and known for its caves.

Our house won't there either but we did enjoy the scenery!

The children were just delighted to see such a wonderful spread of green - I think they've missed green. We had a lot of green in Huddersfield! We should go back soon and capture golden, I think.

Thursday, 3 May 2012


On Monday, we set off to see a house in a village in the south of Cordoba province - less than an hour away. On paper, the house was ours. It met all our critera and the owners needed to sell. It even had an apartment for visitors (Perpetua!) or for FR's parents to come and stay as long as they wanted. And a pool.

And it was really lovely. However, the village, full of beautiful houses, was only occupied to around 30% and that with people over the age of 60. Nothing wrong with that per se but on a day that was a school holiday, we saw only two children in two hours - the village was without life.

We went to the neighbouring village, where there were schools but that was even less inspiring. The children were with us and they agreed it was just too quiet. It made us realise again just how lively and bustling Alcala  la Real always is and how very difficult it will be to find anywhere quite like it.

So we decided we'd just have a day out instead, rather than make any life-changing decisions

And we drove to Cordoba.

Cordoba is the home of the famous Moorish Mezquita and wonderful Andalucian patios filled with flowers and sweet-smelling plants. It is on the River Guadalquivir and the roots of the city go back for centuries. The Romans were there building their ubiquitous walls, bridges and roads. Then the Arabs came, in around the 8th Century, expanding the Great Mosque and building the wonderful royal residence at Medina Azahara. In the 10th and 11th Centuries, Cordoba was said to be the most populated city in the whole world and was certainly the intellectual centre of Europe.

Around two hundred years later, the Christians arrived, the Moors left and things started to change. The Mezquita was only 'tweaked' - most of its Moorish insides were left pretty much intact, fortunately. The Christians did, however, expulse the Jews - a while after they'd got rid of the Moors -  and as time went on this led to a financial and economical decline - not helped another few centuries later by Napoleon's visit - a not entirely friendly occupation. Not until the 20th century did Cordoba manage to reestablish itself as a University city with an acknowledged historical centre, declared World Heritage by UNESCO.

Gorgeous patio photo courtesy of nh hoteles
We arrived from the south and drove across one of the many bridges into the city, finding ourselves on a wide, six-laned carriageway. Swept along by the traffic, we could see to our right the ancient town walls which we were eager to explore. At a large roundabout, we returned the way we came and found a most convenient carpark, with plenty spaces, right opposite the old walls. The rain - which had passed over us most of the morning - had stopped and the sun was warm.

As we crossed the road and headed down some steps, through a big, warm-coloured, sandstone arch, we entered a pedestrian zone where the scent of orange blossom on the trees almost lifted you off your feet with pleasure. The streets were cobbled and seemed to get narrower as we walked parallel to the river towards the Mezquita and the Mediaeval Jewish quarter. It was overwhelmingly beautiful, dramatic and yet peaceful and elegant - giving off, to me at least, the most wonderful positive vibes. I have been once before, almost seventeen years ago, with my mother-in-law. We visited the Mezquita and walked around the ancient streets where I remember feeling as though I could sense the intellectual vibrations from centuries ago - it felt like a very learned place. On Monday, it still felt learned but it felt like a city that had learned how to have fun with that too.

I have fallen in love with Cordoba - and whilst the comparison doesn't hold much water - it reminded me of another place I always loved to visit in the UK. It reminded me of York. The colours were different, the climate was very different (I've never been warm in York!) and the previous inhabitants have varied - theVikings brought a different culture to the Moors and left a different inheritance - but there was something of the same confidence of a city with a past; with a huge, imposing and impressive place of worship; with a wide, energy-giving river running through it; and with a constant stream of visitors walking its historic pavements smoother and keeping that sense of history alive.

I shall go back to Cordoba soon. This time, I WILL take my camera with me.