Casa Rosales

Casa Rosales

Thursday 28 February 2013

White rabbits, white rabbits, white rabbits

My great-grandma used to tell us that if we said 'White rabbits' on the first day of the month before we said anything to anyone else, we'd have good luck.

I can't say I always remember but I shall definitely be saying it tomorrow morning.

At 12.00, we're going to *collect the keys to our new house. I really wouldn't want anything to get in the way of that little task!

What will you be doing on 1st March 2013?

* OK - I was a bit previous! We have signed all the papers but it will be around 11 o'clock before Cesar can get the keys tomorrow. At the time, I will be with the children in Priego de Cordoba as they are going to have a session of archery tuition. Hoping for bull's eyes all round! Guess where we'll be tomorrow afternoon, though!!!

Saturday 23 February 2013

Three years ago today...

...I decided to leave my job and head to Spain.

The council I had worked for for over 20 years was going through a series of very severe cuts, requiring a reduction of around 20% of the workforce. I'd reached my 50th birthday the year before and after 31st March, the government would enforce new rules about early retirement, lifting the age when a pension could be received to 55. I had to decide whether I felt secure enough to find a post in the new structure - and to fight for that place against many other friends and colleagues - or to take whatever was on offer and run before 31st March.

The very first time I used a cash point, I took the money out and ran away before anyone could take it off me. There was never very much doubt that I would go but it was actually a huge decision. Three children, a house to sell, no job...facing a blank canvas can be daunting to say the least. However, FR and I agreed it was an opportunity and one we should embrace fully.

(Marion and Diane and I had lunch the following week...!)

I wouldn't have known the date except I was tidying up a bookshelf, preparing to pack all our belongings into boxes once again as we prepare to move into the house we came here to find - and found this old diary, with its quiet little entry. I hadn't had a paper diary for years but fell in love with these Dodo Diaries at Christmas and bought myself one.

It's rather lovely to have a tangible record of the year that 'Moving On' began. Though evidence of the amount of clutter we manage to hang on to in our family....sigh, moving on is always hard work!

Thursday 21 February 2013

Of Salt and Silver

Image taken from this blog post....

My friend and fellow blogger, Janice, wrote recently about Saltaire Village. She discovered it about 30 years ago and it is obviously a very special place for her. Her piece was so evocative and well-written that it brought my own memories of this place flooding back. I wrote briefly about it in one of my early posts, when we were still living in England. Saltaire was a place I had to visit before we moved away.

My earliest connection with Saltaire was as a little girl when I would go every Saturday morning to Victoria Hall to Saltaire Ladies Gymnastics Club, which, in its heyday in the 40s, had representatives in the Olympic Squad. When I went, it was run by a funny little lady called Carrie Pollard - who it turns out was the founder member of the club and one of those Olympic gymnasts herself - a fact I have only just found out! She was good, very strict and we had to work really hard. I eventually made it onto the 'top mat' by pure fluke as we had to demonstrate we could do all the moves necessary - and on the day I was tested, I did my one and only successful handstand-into-crab without collapsing immediately. I never did it again and I'm not likely to try either! There must have been about 60 or 70 young girls, all with different skill levels, all pushing themselves and their various ligaments and joints to the extremes. The friend I went with was much better than me and particularly fearless on the parallel bars. What few people saw were the awful bruises she had on her hip bones.
A most impressive building

I stopped going when my music interests developed and I preferred to play in an orchestra on a Saturday morning - and glad to say, my friend also stopped gymnastics and joined the orchestra - though I also noticed that playing the violin gave her a nasty bruise under her chin too. Perhaps she bruised easily - maybe it demonstrated her determination at all things!

But my involvement with Saltaire didn't end there. No, a little later, I was part of a Symphonic Band made up of students from all the schools in Bradford and rehearsals were held on Fridays at Victoria Hall in Saltaire. I loved playing in that Band and we played during the Queen's Silver Jubilee year, 1977, during which time the Lord Mayor of Bradford was Tom, David Hockney's brother.

The rather overgrown tramway.
Last year saw record visitors so perhaps
it looks a little better now...
At this time, the mill - Salts Mill - was still manufacturing fabric and textiles. Saltaire Village itself always had a quaint appeal with its impressive Victorian buildings, straight, orderly streets and close proximity to the River Aire. Not far from the village centre there is a cable tramway - one of the oldest in Britain - which runs from near the Grammar School in Saltaire to the nearby beauty spot at Shipley Glen. We spent many happy hours exploring the Glen when we were younger but we never went on the tram. I don't think my dad could see the point of stopping and parking in one place, paying to take a tram to arrive at another that he could perfectly easily drive to in the first place. He had a point, I guess, but I had always hankered to go on the tram. And did, eventually, taking my own children one lovely day where we made the tram journey, spent the afternoon clambering over the rocks in the glen before catching the last tram back again.

After a period of living in London and Surrey (though we called it Middlesex) I eventually returned to Yorkshire. We very nearly bought a house in Saltaire - it was actually my first choice - but the houses there, although made from good, solid, millstone grit, were nearly all terraced and without gardens and the thing I'd promised myself when we moved back north was a dog - a Border Collie, no less. I needed a garden and we eventually settled on a lovely end Victorian terrace in Farsley, between Leeds and Bradford. (My wonderful, never to be replaced, dog was Bodley - a Border Collie cross of incredible intelligence and character. Sorry Darwin...)

Soon after settling, I began making chocolates and attended many a craft fair held at... Victoria Hall in Saltaire! This was around 1985. The mill closed in 1986 and just a year later, Jonathan Silver bought it and began his amazing transformation of the place. Janice may have discovered Saltaire, but I must have been one of the first through the doors of the new mill complex to enjoy the overwhelming scent of lilies, which were delivered in in their hundreds every week. I adore the smell of lilies and so strong is the memory of the scent of Salts Mill that I can conjure it up almost at will and be transported back to looking at David Hockney's paintings, browsing through the books and postcards - and on the subject of David Hockney, did I ever mention that my mum went to college with him? (I doubt he'll remember her though!) On my 30th birthday one of my celebrations was meeting up with lots and lots of friends for breakfast at Salts Diner. It was excellent - the scrambled eggs with salmon was my favourite!

In 1995, I entered a brief period of being footloose and fancy free and lived on the ground floor of a big Victorian house with enormous fireplaces, high ceilings and generously proportioned rooms. It was a perfect party house and I had rather a lot of parties in the year that followed. It was also situated just five minutes away from Saltaire, which had, by this time sprouted some wonderful clothes and shoe shops as I remember. And I bought rather a lot of nice clothes and shoes...the excuse being that my ex, in a ridiculous cliche, cut up all the clothes (and shoes) I didn't immediately take out of the house with me when I left. He dumped them in three black bin liners on my parents' driveway. I could never ever replace some of the fantastic shoes I had...though I tried quite hard to.

Almost every Sunday would see me at Salts Mill and Saltaire either with friends or alone. There was a gorgeous fabric company, called Skopos, that had a mill shop there. I don't know what's happened to them since but at the time, they made wonderful fabrics, furniture, sofas and chairs. It must have been New Year's Day in 1996 when I staggered in there with a whopping hangover from my party the night before; slumped on a huge cream sofa and when someone came over to see if I needed any help... I said I wanted to buy the sofa - partly because the thought of moving was too painful - but within a short space of time, I'd handed over a deposit and committed myself to it. It cost me an arm and a leg but for years, it was my pride and joy.  It was big enough to seat about five people and had feather-filled cushions and was almost as wide as a single bed from front to back. My excellent sister bought if from me when Cesar and I moved to Spain (the first time) and it has served her family well too. And it's still going strong in the student home of my niece and I get a glimpse of it now and again on her Facebook photos. It could have come from anywhere, but it didn't - it came from Saltaire.

Of course I've been back - on two out of the three times I've been home since we moved out to Spain. We had planned to go this time but as we had so little time with family and friends, we gave it a miss. Shame.

It could have been left to fall down, it could have been made into offices - there are some there - it could have become a museum. But it's become something new and alive in its own right - and last year, celebrated its 25th Anniversary. Sadly, Jonathan Silver died young - just 10 years after he opened Salts Mill. During those 10 years, he was always there - mainly on the ground floor where the Hockney pictures were exhibited - working as a shop assistant selling postcards, books and artist's materials. His brother, Robin, ran one of the upstairs areas that was filled with the most amazingly wonderful things for the home and he and Jonathan's widow, Maggie, have maintained and developed the momentum created by Jonathan. Don't assume I'm on first name terms with any of them, but my regular presence in those early days was recognised and acknowledged and even when I didn't visit much when the children were very young, on my last visit in 2010, the manager of the Diner greeted me again as if it was just days since he'd last seen me. Attention of this sort feels very personal because indeed, the place is so huge and there are so many visitors, that to notice any individual is quite a feat!

My children will still wax lyrical about the milkshakes they had in the Diner and we would lose Mateo for hours in the vast bookshop. I loved the smell, the space, the echoing, talking walls, the light and the worn floors. I loved the art, the music, the attention to detail found in Salts Mill. And of Saltaire itself, it epitomises all the good things I love about Yorkshire - Victorian architecture, stone-built, straight-rowed  houses, cricket pitches and big parks, Methodist and Congregational chapels, wonderful food and antique shops, gift shops and charity shops, tea shops and toy holds an important place in my memories.

(I know this happens to old people because they've told me...but I worry that I've already reached that phase in my life where I can't remember what I just did, but these old memories are as fresh as ever.)

Saltaire - a real memory lane - thank you, Janice, for tripping it for me!

Sunday 17 February 2013

Hunting Fossils

Thanks to Geo-classica for this beautiful image

Lyme Regis pavement

Aren't they just wonderful?

It was almost Mateo's first word - certainly his first passion - discovered on a holiday in Lyme Regis almost 12 years ago. 

He was fascinated by the creatures we found in the pavements, 

Lovely touch - Lyme Regis lamp posts in the shape of ammonites

on the lampposts, 

and on the beaches.

On the beach in Dorset - courtesy of Hannekje

It was a lovely holiday we had then and we've indulged our interest for all things fossilised and extinct ever since. We had a great time discovering the fossils on the east coast of England at Cromer, where mammoths used to roam and revisited Lyme Regis and nearby beaches several times when we lived in England. We also made a bee-line for the Jurassic Coast of Spain - Colunga in Asturias - and I've written before about the amazing beach there where the footprints of passing dinosaurs can be clearly seen. 

We have made friends with a lovely family here in Alcala la Real, who have a deep interest and work in biology, nature and ecology. We went with them yesterday on a fossil-hunting event in the Sierra Subbetica, less than 30 minutes to the west of Alcala. Meeting up at one of the centres of the area, Santa Rita, we were given a talk (oh, how they needed presentation skills!!) and time to look around the centre before we headed off to a little mountainside, where around 65 million years ago, something caused millions of ammonites and nautilus to collapse and die on the seabed. Ammonites didn't survive, though the nautilus did and is little changed in the subsequent millions of years. 

It was very clear that a tectonic plate shift (oh how easy it is to say this - you know what I mean, don't you - no further explanation needed) had occurred at some point after these creatures had died, settled at the bottom of the sea and become fossilied. How the fossils appear depends on the type of stone they are found in. These were in limestone and so we could mainly see outlines and patterns rather than whole, preserved ammonites. I took lots of photos with my new phone but when we got home, we couldn't download them - technology fails archeology!

These photos are from the area that we were in yesterday - what you can't see is all the children having an absolute ball, calling each other when they found another and finding little stones that may or may not have been bits of fossilied ammonite. 

Ours knew several of the children that went and the atmosphere was contagiously happy. The sun shone like it was summer and we walked and hunted and talked and marvelled. And whilst we didn't see anything like the monster ammonites we found in Lyme Regis, we saw some beautiful examples of these incredible 'snakestones' as they were called before fossils were known about. 
What must ancient people - not so ancient actually, as fossils weren't identified as such until the 18th century - must have thought about the things they found ? So much mythology must come from prehistoric finds - think about dragons and giants - surely the natural assumption of someone finding huge or unusual bones in the ground.

We will continue to struggle with the technology!

Thursday 14 February 2013

Saying it with chocolate

Happy Valentine's Day

A marzipan heart

Lots of hearts and some swirly spheres

All tied up with ribbons and bows

How did you say it?
(or didn't you say it..?)

Thursday 7 February 2013

Just a peek

We are unable to count exactly how many houses we have seen since we came to live in Spain. It must be more than 100. A lot more.
We've seen everything from hideous ruins to brand new apartments right in the middle of Alcala; we've visited the nearby villages and seen houses there; we've followed cars out into the wilds to look at incomplete dreams in the middle of nowhere.
We've been close to buying a couple of them - there was one I was very fond of but it needed repairs and improvements beyond our budget and another that was up such a steep hill that my children nearly cried when I got them to walk up and have a look. And forget being able to park the car anywhere near!

We've seen cave houses in Granada, beautiful houses in the middle of nowhere, properties with huge gardens, swimming pools and fruit trees. None of them managed to offer enough of what we wanted even though offered more of what we didn't. We fell for a house very near Granada and had high hopes that as it was a repossession, the bank would be glad to accept our highest offer - which was short of the asking price but within the range that banks everywhere else were accepting - but they didn't. That was the one that got away and which would have been a lovely home for us, notwithstanding that we would have had to up-sticks and leave my beloved Alcala la Real to do it.

We've seen wrecks and ruins and hideously furnished and awkwardly-planned and downright ridiculous houses. We've seen beautifully restored and lovingly cared-for houses.

And now we've seen the one we want to be ours.

We went to see it on Friday last week and by Saturday had put in an offer. On Sunday, the owners came back with what they would accept and by Monday, we'd agreed to go ahead. We signed all the papers to get things going on Wednesday. FR can't even remember what the house is like inside but he's happy with the outside, the fact that there's plenty of land and a ruin in the garden.

In truth, I have had my eye on the house since we first arrived here but it was outside our price range. I've watched it fall in price over the past two years but even when it began to get closer to our budget, I didn't want to look until I could afford to fall in love with it. So, when it dropped again after Christmas, it was time to follow my gut feeling that 'this was it'. My guts have a lot of feeling at times.

Don't uncross those fingers just yet, because I'm not sure I shall believe it until the keys are in my hand. Please keep sending positive energy to ensure all goes through smoothly.

This photograph is taken from the Estate Agent's site, Undiscovered Spain, whose owner, Derryl Philpot has been not just a great help over the last few years, but great fun to be with : it's just a peek at the outside. There is another property joined on at the back, so it's not quite as huge as it looks (though bigger than you can see here...) I shall take some of my own photos to share next time we go and look. And then hopefully soon after that, photos with us living in it!  Keep calm and watch this space....

Tuesday 5 February 2013

Very important announcement coming soon - all being well.
There will be photos.
And great rejoicing.

Friday 1 February 2013

Variation on a theme

In my last post, I wrote about locking myself and the children out of the house. It was written with the bravura of someone who has escaped a problem by the seat of her pants. We got into the house without too much hassle and if we hadn't had so much fun, I'd have sworn the children to secrecy. As it was, I was quite happy to deal with FR's reaction, though I only confessed to my act of forgetfulness so that Ruy could have his moment of glory - well deserved as it was. FR's potential disapproval was completely thwarted - I knew he wanted to tell me what he really thought, but he had to contain it somewhat. It's not always like that though....

I have found it better over the years to keep my little moments of weakness away from the harsh and critical eye of my husband. He's not one to suffer fools gladly and finds fools throw themselves at him wherever he goes. Personally, I reckon it's just bad karma that he's stored up over the years and he should try to be more tolerant, more generous and less impatient. And that's just towards me and the children.

His 'not amused' attitude puts Queen V to shame at times though when he's being disapproving, I am often overwhelmed by a desire to laugh.  I think it's probably hereditary, my mother having the ability to seemingly turn a crisis, not into a drama, but a comedy. We have a tendency to laugh in inappropriate places - like the dentists and hospitals - and at ourselves or others at inappropriate moments. She particularly likes a good 'come-uppance' or a bit of just desserts.

She would, I know, have been highly amused, as was I, at today's happening.

Whilst I was out teaching one of my students this morning, FR went on a log hunt for our wood-burning stove. I arrived home an hour later to a ringing phone. Oh how I laughed as I answered and listened to the half-defiant, half-pleading voice on the other end!

For it turns out that FR had taken off his jacket in the heat of the morning sunshine, popped the jacket on the front seat of the car and pushed the door closed. At which point, the naughty car locked itself, with the keys inside!!

Wouldn't it have been funny if his telephone had also been in the jacket, but no, we can't have everything. He called me and asked me to locate the spare car key, which I did. Fortunately for him (and for me) he was not too far away and we both set off walking and met up halfway - and oh, how I laughed!! And laughed.

And he had the grace to laugh too...he can and he does and I love that so much.

It's so good to laugh - just think how much more opportunity we have to laugh if we can laugh at ourselves!