Casa Rosales

Casa Rosales

Monday 29 April 2013

Around Villalobos

The forecast was a bit dire for the weekend.
Plummeting temperatures for the whole of Spain. Here in Andalucia, we thought we'd get away lightly.

So some friends came over on Saturday afternoon; some of us wrapped up and we all set off on a little walk.

I can't resist taking a photo of my house - must get those ruins sorted out though...

Poppies are everywhere just now. Here was a stray one.

The expedition leaders

No idea what this is but it was really pretty.

Lots of trees in blossom too..

The stragglers....(not Romy!)

A view across the fields to La Mota - Alcala la Real - in the distance

By the time we reached the top of the hill, we'd discarded jumpers and scarves and were enjoying the sunshine. What rubbish these weather forecasters talk.

The next day, we had snow!

Our very own 'sierra nevada' - or snowy mountain. 

The snow etching patterns in the olive groves 

Not 'the' Sierra Nevada but one a bit closer to home. It has been a chilly day!

Very glad we have our woodburning stove. Can it be May on Wednesday? Really??

Tuesday 23 April 2013

Midnight wrestling

Ruy woke us up last night saying he could hear Mateo calling for help. It was one of those nerve-racking moments when the whole body goes on alert, adrenalin starts pumping and options are assessed... but without contact lenses and still half-asleep, I could only manage to kick FR out of bed to go and see what the problem was.

Mateo has always had a tendency to wake us in the night with his nightmares. From a very early age, he had them. I remember using lots of sign language with Mateo because he was slow to talk but obviously very bright and imaginative. If he woke in the night in fear, I would put my hand to my head and then to his head and do a spiral shape coming out - to indicate that the thing he thought he'd seen was in his head - and then would waft it all away to show that it had gone. He soon understood what this meant and that his fear came from a dream not anything in his room. It didn't stop the dreams but he calmed down very quickly once he realised what had happened.

His nightmares have continued on and off all his life - though there is something much more scary about hearing a grown-up voice shouting in the middle of the night, rather than a child's - but they are quite rare now and he doesn't usually shout out for help, rather wakes himself up and then goes back to sleep. I don't know if he does the waving-thing with his arms...must ask.

FR dutifully went downstairs and there were some muttered conversations before the lights went out and everyone settled down again. But only moments later, Mateo came upstairs and said he thought there was something in his bed. Being wide awake by this time, I bravely went down to his room to investigate with him. He said he thought it was something inside his duvet cover. As we knelt on his bed and carefully undid the duvet cover buttons, he told me that he'd had the sensation that something was scrabbling about on his bed and he'd thought it was Darwin. He'd told him to get down whilst half-asleep and then realised that Darwin wasn't there but the sensation was so strong that he thought he must be dreaming and so called out - waking Ruy. At this point, we had the cover off - nothing to be seen - so we picked up the duvet itself and gave it a shake. I managed not to scream but an ENORMOUS evil-looking centipede fell out and scuttled under the bed before either of us had chance to thwack it.

Mateo was strangely relieved to discover a real-life reason for the scrabbling in his sheets - better, in his opinon, than a figment of his imagination. However, he came upstairs and slept the rest of the night on the beanbag in the kid's den.

Me? I didn't sleep again and lay awake with all types of bitter memories unaccountably stirred by this poor but creepy creature. I wrestled with a few of my own hidden monsters in the early hours of the morning and whilst they're not completely destroyed, perhaps when Mateo gets home from school and we hunt out the centipede, getting rid of it will be cathartic for me too.

This isn't ours, but it's a good likeness if you want to share the fear with us! Don't look if you don't!

Monday 22 April 2013

Kandinsky On Line

You may want to leave this page and go to Kandinsky-Online if you were looking for the theatre production group - because what I want to show you is a beautiful Kandinsky-inspired cushion cover - on my washing line. This weekend, it was very carefully handwashed and hung out to dry on yet another beautiful, sunny day here in Villalobos.

(Although the production company looks very interesting if you're based in Scotland.)

Isn't that a beautiful thing?

Well, even better. I have two!

I got one for myself a few Christmases ago and my sister bought me the other one; they remain something that gives me pleasure every time I look at them.
Fair trade, cost FAR too much money but worth every penny. There's a lot of work gone into hand stitching this lovely design. I'm very fond of Kandinsky's work. I would have really liked one of the rugs too ... might start saving up for one of those.

This week saw one of the local men very busy with his tractor and rotavator in and around our little village. He came and dug over a large part of our land.

We'd originally thought we'd plant all types of things here but we're a bit short on water and will have to decide whether we want to put a well on the land before we do anything else. We may wait another year and see how we go. Without easy access to water, our crops would die anyway in the searing temperatures of July and August.

So instead, FR has been busy tidying up the 'garden' area and it's beginning to take a bit of shape.

We've discovered a nice flower area in the middle which is now sprouting purple iris, roses and has clumps of carnations that should flower before long. I've also found several patches of peppermint and I will be putting in some lavender too. There are lots of wild daisies - weeds, really - but which will have their pretty little yellow and and white flowers in bloom any moment now, so I've left them in. And we planted the little lilac tree that a friend gave me too.

Against the house, there is a Philadelphia shrub, which has the wonderful mock-orange flowers that smell delicious. There are also two other climbers that I can't identify.

Help would be most welcome if anyone can tell me what these might be.

This one looks a bit like elderflower to me...but the leaves are different so obviously, it's not elderflower.
What is it?

And this one is a really vigorous climber and I can only think it must be a Virginia Creeper but again, I need some positive ID from someone in the know.

It has climbed up and over Mateo's bedroom wall in the few weeks we've been here.

The vines are sprouting nicely too. In another month, we should have some nice shade here - PHEW!

Line on Darwin!
I realised the other day that I do so enjoy having lots of things lined up in front of me to do - no pressure jobs, but things that I want to do. Lots of mini-projects, or big projects, that I can do in chunks when I feel like it. In the sunshine. In my own home.

Yes, it's coming along.

Tuesday 16 April 2013

Through the keyhole..

Who lives in a house like this?

With little nooks and crannies to keep items of sentimental value but hasn't yet got round to their artful placing?

With a row of hobbit-like candle-holders made yesterday by FR out of olive wood. Not yet long will that take, I wonder?

With a stack of white masks that have graced our windows, mirrors and bookcases without any of us knowing who put them there....

With an old barometer that belonged to her grandpa - who tapped it gently every time he passed it.  Today, on its cool, indoor wall, it's showing Fair/Very Dry and 20 degrees - pretty accurate, I would say.

With a huge wooden bowl filled with shells collected over the past 17 years from various beaches, now sitting on the lovely, wide window ledge.

Where the buds are opening on the end of the vines, ready to form a shady pergola as the summer months approach.

Where an as yet unidentified climber begins to spread its way across the whitewashed walls

Where a previously unnoticed little cherry tree has put forth a fizz of blossom.

Where a little tiled table provides a lovely view of the house (and all the work that needs doing in the garden!)

Where a busy little pair of birds have built their nest in the outbuilding.

And where some of the garden work tools are little works of art in their own right.

Who lives here? Why Darwin, of course!

Saturday 13 April 2013

Labouring the point

Our third weekend here at Casa Rosales and this time, the sun is shining down on us. The garden is dry again and we've been digging out the many weeds. Sadly, I haven't found a single snail, stoned or otherwise!

And we are still very much in love with our house, though FR is cursing the wooden windows, which have swollen in the winter rain and which need sanding down and repositioning in order to let some of the wonderful fresh air in. Before long, we will have to keep them firmly closed against the summer sun and the flies, of which I am sure there will be many!

We are adjusting to the travelling in and out of town to school, to shop and to work. I love the drive and already know the turns and bends and wiggly bits by heart. It is just ten minutes, taken at a leisurely speed to conserve fuel - exactly the time it took me to get the children to school when we lived in England. Not as many busy roads to navigate and whilst it was a nice enough journey then, now we have the view of the Sierra Nevada for part of our return journey. Not bad!

Today, FR, Romy and I went in to town to get a bit of shopping. I stopped off at 'A LITTLE Bit of BRITAIN' - a shop run by some lovely English people and which initially just stocked things that many Brits missed - Bird's Custard, Wall's sausages, Steak and Kidney pies, for example - but now, runs an Aladdin's Cave of a second hand shop, where people bring in the things they no longer want or that they want to sell on. Everything from antique lampshades, sofas, china tea sets to garden furniture, fridges and freezers. It's brilliant and there's so much coming in all the time. The locals are beginning to see what a great idea it is to buy quality second-hand rather than rubbishy new and so it's a lively place.

Every month, they run a 'market' and today I bought my first geranium for my garden and some basil to eat at lunchtime. At Christmas and Easter, I ran a chocolate stall and was delighted with the sales I made. At the Easter stall, when we knew we were buying the house,  I made my first 'house' purchase too. It was from Jan, who paints roof tiles, old bottles and these big 'jarrones' that contained wine.

It looks lovely next to my fireplace, don't you think?

Coming home, I really enjoyed a salad of tomato, garlic, mozzarella and basil, with olive oil and balsamic vinegar dressing. Meant to get a photo but had to tuck in straightaway!

And really, truly, not wanting to labour the point that we do like our home, I just wanted to share a little bit of the history that we've found out since arriving.

The house has a little blue cross built into the outside wall. I read that this was to commemorate the death of someone here at the turn of the twentieth century - not clear if they were killed or it was an accident though.

My neighbour Pedro told me that the brother of the person who put the cross there went one better.......

...and built this little shrine.

However, the date on this is 1952, whilst the date of the death against our wall was about 50 years earlier. So not sure exactly what happened. I shall continue to try and find out.

Pedro, who is 82, apologised for breaking off our conversation the other day because he had to fetch his 79 year-old wife from the gym! He told me that our house and the one behind us, were the original houses in Villalobos - which is neither a 'villa' not has 'lobos' (wolves). Romy wants to know why we are not number 1 in that case...good question!

I took this photo whilst standing in the 'era' or threshing circle which is at the end of the road leading to our house, seen in the centre of the photo. We are part-owners of it now, although no one uses it anymore. But it adds to the history and sense of old community to think that people came here to separate the wheat from the chaff and other such farming necessities.

Despite having been looking for such a long time for a property to buy and having been thwarted or unwilling to commit in the past, there really has been no sense of anti-climax in finding and moving into our home. No, rather the opposite. Every day brings another little discovery; another thing to think about or do.

So yes, I AM labouring the point a bit and I promise I will stop soon. But I do like Being Here....

Thursday 11 April 2013

Tryin' Bloglovin'.....

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Caracol colocado

Hours of mental application. Words whizzing through my mind. The choosing of a new blog title is almost as difficult as choosing your child's name.

Of course, I wanted something clever; witty; encapsulating; pertinent. So many good concepts to choose from - I already had chocolate. I have moved to place with a name - Rosales - in a village with wolves in the title. There were 94 inhabitants before we came. I have identified myself with snails; we'd been 'moving on' for quite some time; we had arrived in our very own home.

Surely from this little lot I could conjure up a wonderful title?

Well, there have been some strong contenders. ('Dun Romin' was the outsider, though, let me make that clear!) 'Moving In', 'Settling In' and 'Staying Put' came quickly to mind; closely followed by 'Casa Rosales'.

Ruy came up with a lovely one - Five New Wolves'; and someone else suggested 'And then there were 99'.
I was focusing on snails and rose trees and discovered there is a story of this name by Hans Christian Anderson. Interesting.
I checked out chocolates and roses and was plagued by memories of a truly awful advertisement from my younger days. Some of you will know exactly which one I mean! (I was quite surprised to find it was from 1964 - when I was only 5 - and I can remember it clearly even now. The power of advertising!) It was for Cadbury's 'Roses' - a mix of chocolates, usually in a tin, - and had Norman Vaughan saying 'Roses grow on you' as the slogan.

So no to a roses and chocolate theme. But I did wonder about the phrase 'May contain nuts.' I've included it in my heading because it appeals to me and could cover a multitude of possibilities as well being a common reference to chocolate. (And I much preferred Frank Muir's contribution to Cadbury's advertising...)

The other night, my mind still turning words and phrases around, I had the lovely idea of being a settled snail. Snail, in English, has a slightly unpleasant sound to my ear.
In Spanish, though, it's lovely. Caracol.

SO, feeling on the verge of something rather exciting, I remembered that something 'placed' (or settled) in Spanish, is 'colocado' - and I absolutely fell in love with the sound of 'Un Caracol Colocado'.
Beautiful alliteration, somewhat unusual and rather clever, in my opinion.

I turned to FR to try it out. He was unimpressed and appeared to mutter something. As he was with earphones on and watching a video, I though his comment about being 'doped up' was related what he was watching. Then he stopped and gave me his full attention.

"'Colocado in Spanish does mean 'placed' or 'settled' but it's also used as a slang expression for being stoned, smashed, drugged up. You can't call your blog 'The Stoned Snail'......No, you can't!"

(This last comment as he saw my eyes light up!) Yes, I was sorely tempted - but then I discovered someone already had the title. Not a blogger, but a fantasty fiction writer. And not a very good one. But I really was tempted.

I've had suggestions from friends too and in the end, I've settled for something that takes a bit from many suggestions, says what I want to say, doesn't require lengthy explanations and also draws on the philosophies of living in the moment. Of being; and of being here.

Being Here.

Monday 8 April 2013

Moving on thoughts

I remember my friend, Annie, standing at her cottage window in dreamy Oxfordshire, saying she never wanted to move again; that she had settled and would stay there forever – and thinking she was quite mad. Heavens, she was only about 30! How could she know? It was an alien concept to me and I feel I have spent most of my life moving on. I have always been a bit ‘snail-like’ and I’m quite content in my own shell. I take what I need with me in internal compartments and put out my feelers to find the external comforts I require.

I haven’t been a great adventurer but my imagination has coloured the travelling I have done - at my own pace – into a series of exciting adventures. Readers of Julia Donaldson’s story will know why I love the tale of the tiny snail who climbed on the tail of a humpback whale. ... though I will stop the snail analogy here as its conjuring up some slightly unpleasant images in my head and making me look for the slimy trail I might have left behind me...

I have just always thought of myself as a mover-oner. But maybe I’m not. The first time I stopped moving on, was when I started working for Kirklees Council. I was just 30 years old and had had many jobs beforehand – but the longest I’d stayed at any of them was 14 months. It was a different era, and luckily, gadding about didn’t work against me at interview. (Though I have always had mixed feelings about why I got the job on the day...I suspect it was mainly to do with my having studied Old English. That and being a young, fairly feisty female who was the most appealing of the candidates on the day to the lecherous interviewer ...I think I was the right person for the job but I wasn’t interviewed in a way that could have demonstrated it.) Anyway, that was then. And I’m very glad I got the job. I stayed for 21 years. But outside work, I was still ‘moving on’ and the end of one long term relationship eventually made way for meeting FR and our moving on together.

FR and I have lived together in eight different places – four in England and four in Spain. It might not sound that much but we’ve had three children during this time and Mateo has moved seven times, Ruy, six and Romy, five. That doesn’t include the six months they spent in Spain with FR whilst I was still working in England. This is a lot of upheavals for young children. Mine have had quite a snail-like attitude to it too, thank goodness.

In England, the first house FR and I bought was a beautiful, bijoux, converted chapel – not child-friendly, as I said before, as I was convinced I was too old to have children. But –within one month of us moving in, I was pregnant with Mateo. And in just over a year, we decided to move on.

We sold the chapel very quickly and bought a house in a dreadful state at a bargain price with the intention of doing it up and selling it on. The bath was in the garden; there was no heating, the walls were damp with paper hanging off – it was awful but had a large, high-ceilinged lounge which I fell in love with. We made it really lovely and it was there I fell pregnant with Ruy. Two and half years later, we had no trouble selling it and could have sold it three times over – indeed, we even had a note pushed under the door offering to pay more than the offer we’d already accepted. Our third house was an accident really. So was my third pregnancy.  I had seen and put in an offer on a different property but the survey was so bad that there was no way we could have taken it on. Our buyers were pushing us to move out and we had to find somewhere fast. And it was a seller’s market at the time and our choices were limited. We ended up with a house that I instinctively disliked but which my head told me was a practical choice. It was close enough to work for me to walk in and, being on an estate of similar properties (nay, identical – it took me weeks to remember which one was ours!) was full of people with children. It had a lovely garden and in the end, I grew to love it very much. (But I always hated its mock tudor beams and smug residential attitude.)  A week after moving in, I discovered Romy was on the way. 

Talking to a friend recently, we thought perhaps it was my nesting instinct that made me want to ‘lay an egg’ in my new nests. Something like that... probably. But the two nights before we moved in here, I had vivid dreams of being pregnant – one of them, with triplets – so perhaps he’s right. No laying eggs for me now though. I’ll stick to making chocolate ones!

All our previous houses were bought with a mortgage. I can tell you now, when you are looking for a house to buy that requires a mortgage, it feels very different from looking for a house that you are going to pay for in ‘cash’. The latter is significantly more scary. There is a heavier burden of responsibility to get it right. It might be psychological and it might be just me but it has been one of the things that has made it so much more difficult to find the right house here in Spain. Whilst there have been several that I have liked; ones that we have discussed late into the night - the idea of putting all our money into any one of them has just paralysed us. We couldn’t do it.

So, what made a difference in the end? Because here we are - we bought a house. Did all our months (and years!) of searching make us wise, prudent purchasers in the end? Well, of course not!! I had seen this house on the market for almost as long as we’d lived in Alcala la Real and had, over the course of this time, driven out to Villalobos about three times, just to see if I could cope with the idea of living in a village. The house originally had a higher price and wasn’t within our reach but it was subconsciously registered. With retrospect, I can almost say that I knew we would end up here. The intervening time was needed for house prices to fall – which they have done – and for me to feel settled enough in Alcala la Real to know that if we moved just 7kms away, our lives would not have to change too much. After more than two years, we have established good friendships and contacts; we have our work and the children their schools. We had become tired of the noise, the traffic and the dust that living in a town creates. I had looked at around 50 houses in the centre and none of them would have worked for us but we kept on looking. And, then this house came within my budget just after Christmas. FR and I came on a Friday afternoon with Derryl, the estate agent, to this and another property. We did our usual non-committal wander around but I felt I’d walked into a home for the first time in ages, not just a house that was for sale. I hardly remember seeing the second one.
FR has hopeless recall skills – he could remember only the vaguest details of the house by the time we got home, whereas I knew where I wanted the furniture to go and who would have which bedroom. However, he thought it was OK. This was the only green light I needed. Over the weekend, we went to see it again from the outside with the children and, on discovering from the neighbour that the property included a big piece of land, we were all convinced we had at last ‘found it’. And by Monday, our offer was accepted. We’d only been in it once and for all of ten minutes. We didn’t even discuss it. But we knew.
And it was time to move to the countryside.

It was time to move on. It was time to arrive.
And I have been put in mind of my friend and the feeling she had in her lovely home. I don't want to think of moving on again.

Painting by the previous owner of the house that is now ours - Casa Rosales

And now, I want a new blog name. And I need some help in finding the right one. Any ideas?

Saturday 6 April 2013

Moving IN!!

We've been living here in our new house for just ten days. Ten blissful days (without internet, television or telephone!) and it feels like we've never lived anywhere else. Now we have our first link to the outside world. I am so looking forward to sharing my new home with my friends - and hope that some of you will be able to come and see us in it before too long.

I prepared a blog post a few days ago about how I feel about it all but it's on the other computer - which isn't yet connected - so today, I'm just going to post the pictorial evidence of our long-awaited moving on!

Our old living room looking a bit barer

The boys with Dave - what would we have done without him? The best, most cheerful help we could have asked for!

Bye bye number 27 - don't worry, Darwin, you're coming with us.

Here we are with the first van load of things.

Part of the ruin in the garden - oh what plans we have for this!

The shepherd bringing his sheep across our land - better than a lawnmower!

First signs of spring as the rain stops momentarily....

The ruin in all its 'glory'......

And the views beyond.

Ignoring the electricity tower, which we can't do anything about, this is a nice view of the house from the ruin.

Mateo's mattress arrives

And is delivered into his room.
Mateo's room is the lowest part of the house. Look at the thickness of the walls!

Darwin exploring his territory - the view from Ruy's window.

The sun didn't shine all day, but it did come out when we had finished unloading the van.
Best time for a beer - cheers Dave, you deserve it!

Wednesday evening, time for swingball!

My kitchen - Wednesday evening.

Still a lot ot do...

But showing potential.

Thursday morning! Wake up Ruy - lots to do!

Can't believe I got my sofas in after all....

The lounge - Thursday morning. Fire and candles lit.

Thursday afternoon, kitchen taking shape...

The weather has been unkind this week but by Sunday, we HAD to barbecue!

And by Sunday, I HAD to bake a cake. A carrot cake, and rather nice it was too.
Can you see my natural style is 'clutter'...

Saturday, one week on...stunning sky looking east.

The Den - a favourite spot where a great deal of playing has already taken place.
Ruy's room is on the left.

Ruy's room looking a bit more lived in - taken today, Saturday. 

Romy needs some shelves...still some unpacking to do.

And yes, my beautiful bed went in and seems more comfortable than ever before! It was handmade for me so I didn't really want to have to part with it, or keep it in storage forever!

And FR is totally happy with his new red wheelbarrow.

We're all happy.

We are no longer moving on. 
We have arrived.