Casa Rosales

Casa Rosales

Friday 31 May 2013

Always lovely

As I returned from dropping Ruy and Romy at school this morning, I realised that I was still listening to the same CD as I had been for the past week. And I didn't mind. I was enjoying it as if it were for the first time.
Some things are just like that, don't you think?

It doesn't matter how many times you see, hear, smell, touch or taste them - they are always lovely; always just what you like.

I've made a very small list - because otherwise, I'd be here all morning and there are things to do. These are some of my 'Always lovely' things that are maybe not on everyone's list. (Because some things are undeniably always lovely for most people.)

1. Sting - well, I could listen to him all day and always find something different to hear in his arrangements. I really do think he's an excellent musician and lyricist and he's worked with some of the best around. Here is an smooth jazz version of one of his songs - with saxophonist, Branford Marsalis. Great stuff.

2. Nutmeg - the scent has to be possibly the most exotic, wonderful, sensual, deeply pleasurable and irresistible for me. Oh I do love it! Cinnamon, saffron and Jasmine come a close second - there are some of the same notes in these scents for me - but nutmeg is top of the list! Not a good idea to overdo it though as it can produce unpleasant side-effects...

3. Birdsong. Just about any birdsong is lovely to me apart from cooing woodpigeons. They always sound as though they're complaining and I feel compelled to add words to their complaints - like 'I CAN'T do it, Denise'...or 'Come HERE please, Betty'...over and over. No, not woodpigeons, but having lived in the town for the past two and a half years, I had forgotten how glorious it is to hear birds singing all day (and part of the night now, as we have nightingales!) When we lived in Huddersfield, we had a little wood behind our house, which was full of birds and we loved hearing the  woodpeckers, owls, blackbirds and bluetits. Here in Villalobos, we have SO many that I am still learning which ones they are.

4.Getting into bed when the sheets are newly washed, ironed and crispy cool. Bliss. (And even better if it's someone else who has done the ironing...)

5. Fossils - aren't they always amazing? Not just to think that they come from so long ago but the actual shapes and patterns of things like ammonites... I don't think I shall ever tire of the joy of finding one or the fascination of peering at them embedded in rocks.

6. A fruit I haven't seen on sale here is the lychee but if I saw any, I'd snap them up regardless of cost because I could gorge on lychees all day. They have a flavour like a perfume and an delicious, delicate scent and I can't imagine eating too many! I love the process of peeling them - gently snapping the puckered shell from the super-smooth interior and, the eating over, being left with silky, shiny seeds. How I wish I'd saved a few - maybe I could have grown them for myself...

7. Seahorses! Now I've loved seahorses from being a child. I used to dance a special seahorse dance up and down our lounge when I was about 5 to the second movement of Rimsky Korsakoff's 'Capriccio Espagnole' - a piece that is also always lovely....

And that's my limited little list of always lovely things. It's even been lovely just thinking about them and I am listening to Rimsky Korsakoff now - if you have a few minutes to spare, and if it's only a few seconds, do listen to the clarinet twiddly bit at 7:30 which is a wonderful bit of seahorse stretching if you have that sort of imagination....


Monday 27 May 2013

Summery summarish

Definitely not been in blogging mood recently. I don't know why because everything in our garden is really rather rosy - Casa Rosales is living up to its name quite literally.

The week after my mum left was a really long one. It seemed she'd gone too soon and although she'd only been with us for about 6 days, the place seemed really empty after she left.  And I caught the bug that had laid Mateo and Ruy low - a sort of flu-like cold that sapped all energy and left me with a cough on my chest. I have been rattling and wheezing like an old smoker for the past week or so. Coughs are horribly exhausting, aren't they?

Well, this is a summery summary - though knowing me, it'll go on forever, hence the title...I'll get on with it. (Though today is a little cool for really summery and we've been promised a thunderstorm ...however, I can see only blue sky and little white clouds from my little window here. I understand from Radio 4 news that the UK seems to have a sunny Bank Holiday for a change! Hurray!!)


  • Just before Mum came, I planted 24 sunflower seeds in 24 little yogurt pots and 23 of them have sprouted and are growing very nicely. 

  • I have also bought and planted some lavender, some variegated mint and am buying a geranium a month from the local market - so far I have two - I shall have lots more!

  • The potatoes we put in a few weeks ago are also sprouting nicely both in the container FR made and in a little furrow in our ploughed field. We're not entirely sure why we had the whole field ploughed but when someone arrives with a big tractor and a rotivating thingy, you can't ask them to do just a couple of stripes...

  • FR and I have been walking in the countryside around our lovely village and have officially deemed it 'perfect'. For both of us, in some nostalgic way, it reminds us the countryside of our childhoods - the smells of the hawthorn and wild garlic and the sound of little streams bubbling up - we both spent time close to nature, FR more than me, but it worked its way into our subconscious and has stayed there.

  • I've been busy at work, with the other teacher, preparing our students for their written exams. We do both Cambridge and Trinity Board syllabuses. This Saturday morning was the Trinity written exam and as this is the first year that we have done this syllabus, the other teacher and I were probably as nervous as the students as we were invigilating under the silent and mysterious eye of a Trinity College Inspector. He arrived and walked in without introducing himself and sat at a desk until the exam finished, then rose, said, 'have a nice weekend' and disappeared again. We are hoping all went well for all concerned.

  • We have bought some bamboo and some trees for our garden - not lots, but some lovely ones - and something that smells divine but whose name escapes me. We are waiting for them to be delivered and FR has dug long trenches down one side of the garden ready to accommodate them. The bamboo is a cunning plan to disguise the fence without completely blocking the view...hope it works as it was my idea and tall bamboo plants are not cheap! 
  • I impulsively wrote a little piece in a travel blog competition and whilst I have no illusions of winning anything, if you feel like reading it, voting for it or even writing something yourself, please visit the page here.
  • I've been researching some serious chocolate-making - more of which later - however, I shall probably stick to the fun sort.
  • I've decided to stop teaching at the Academy next year - obviously, more of this later too.

That's the summary. Even as I write, things are happening - the guttering man just called and he's on his way to put us some guttering up, so that next time it rains we won't get soaked as soon as we step out of the door by the rain that falls directly from the roof. FR has phoned to say he's hiring a hole-making machine for the tree planting exercise and that he's had to pay also for Ruy's end of term trip and commemorative t-shirt...Ruy's off to Cazorla for a three-day adventure, where he and his classmates will be doing all sorts of outdoor activities, including rafting and rock climbing.
Time is whizzing by and the children have only another few weeks before term ends...

Breathe deeply, hang on to every moment - is it just me or is time really flying by for everyone else too?

Friday 17 May 2013

Fiesta time in Villalobos

The hamlet of Villalobos

Last weekend was fiesta time in our little village. For several weeks beforehand, evidence of preparation for the big event was seen, as a dedicated little group of women went around weeding the verges, painting walls and fountains with clean white paint - and choosing the occasional rock at the side of the road to be daubed too. Antonio and his son, David, called round for our financial contribution (25 euros) and left us a programme of events for the fiesta - which included a procession, sandwiches and a dance on the Saturday and a communal lunch, games and more dancing on the Sunday. Sounded like fun.

The village hall/church was the scene of much activity as the patio in front was swept and a large marquee erected and then as last week came, a great number of chairs and tables were brought in and arranged. Our little village was expecting a lot of people it would seem.

Interestingly, since we've lived here, I've been told by almost half of Alcala that they were born, if not all of them in our house, then in the house next door or round the corner in Villalobos! Or their mother or father or cousin was. A huge number of people claiming to be from our tiny hamlet - which is the smallest of the ten or so hamlets of Alcala - and many of them intending to come to the festivities.

So the big day arrived and my mum was as excited to witness it as we were.

Procession heading out of the church

This is the second half of the procession - one half has already passed. The band came in from Mures, a neighbouring village - Villalobos not quite big enough to muster a band itself, though perhaps we should think of starting one....

Stunning backdrop to one of the statues

David, in the centre, and his family were tireless in their organisation of and involvement in the festivities

The man in the centre in the brown suit is the chef of the excellent meal we ate on Sunday
Though not a great lover of the procession tradition, I think this is a really lovely image

The procession reached the top of the village, where our letterboxes and the rubbish bins are kept, then turned around and marched back again.

Once the statues were safely back inside the church at around 6.30, we all gathered outside and the drinking and munching began. We were treated to an endless supply of sandwiches, crisps and lovely cakes, to say nothing of any type of drink. At first, we stood a little on the outskirts of what was going on as families and friends met to greet each other but soon, we were dragged in and introduced to lots and lots of people and made to feel extremely welcome. I had had little conversations with several people since we'd first arrived but somehow failed to recognise them out of their straw hats or pinnies or not surrounded by a flock of sheep or goats, now that they were all dressed up! And now there are people that I won't recognise out of their finery!

That evening, we stayed and danced and chatted until past midnight before we felt we'd had enough. I woke at around 6.30am and could still hear the distant sounds of music. It was 8am before the party ended!

Just a few hours later, at 10am, FR went down to help prepare for the communal meal. When he hadn't come back two hours later, I suspected he might be having rather a fun time! He just about managed to ride Mateo's bike back for around 12.30, full of wine and stories and still laughing at the comical antics of our fellow villagers! One hundred and fifty kilos of pork had been delivered for the meal - that is rather a lot of meat no matter how many folk you expect to attend and I'd been told that often, around 300 turn up. Do the maths...

We were going to eat a dish called 'Secretaria' which is specific to Alcala la Real. The local story is that in the 1920s a group of friends, spending the weekend in the country, discovered that they had forgotten a crucial ingredient for their intended Sunday lunch - the rice. One of the ladies, the secretary of the council - a sensible woman after my own heart - decided not to worry about such details and so made the dish without the rice and everyone enjoyed it so much, they named it 'Secretaria' and local people have been eating it ever since. The recipe can be found here, though despite what it says here, I have never had it made with chicken - it is always made with pork here. (Everything is!) And obviously, a lot was being made today....

This was taken after we'd already eaten - Antonio was sous-chef. I never asked what happened to the leftovers but I should have done - it would have been worth having a bowl or two in the freezer....
Sitting in anticipation before the food starts arriving.

Plenty of water, beer, crisps, olives and nuts make their way onto the table...

No Mum, no cheese!

The noise we made was quite deafening - and there were nowhere near 300 people here

Did we photograph the food? No. Did we capture the lovely, orderly way in which is made its way onto the table? No. And it did. In other village fiestas, I have known people give up and go home rather than queue in searing heat for a dish of paella. I'm proud to say, Villalobos folk queued in the most efficient and effective manner I have ever seen and we were in and out with our plates full, a napkin and bread roll tucked under our arms in no time! It was absolutely delicious!

And then we had crème caramel for a pot from the local supermarket - dressed up with a can of squirty cream. No one said the chef did puddings, so this was, in effect, a bonus, remember!

And then the fun and games started just an hour or so later. Firstly, around 10 would-be knights on motorbikes raced up and down the village road, reaching up to collect ribbons from a string hung across between the electricity towers. It was noisy. It went on quite a long time. The only female in the group won it - our neighbour - she of the chainsaw and rather scary disposition. Not surprising really, except she is the thinnest creature I have ever seen in my life and I can only assume that the days when she has smiled at me and been pleasant were the days I was actually seeing her twin sister - there were two of them. One cheerful. One not! Both incredibly thin. Explains a lot.

Sack racing down a road...I wasn't sure this was a very good idea.

Especially when some of the men tried to join in - but no harm done and Ruy came 3rd, Romy 5th.

But the men couldn't resist...

And they were not quite as careful as the kids...

Next up - thwacking pots with a stick! 

Antonio helping a little girl collect her winnings...such a sweet man.

That's my girl!

And that's my boy...he smashed it too!

And then, we waited for the band to arrive from Almeria - a prize-winning group that we'd heard a lot about. And we waited. And waited. By 10pm - four hours late - it was clear the band wasn't coming so someone dashed into Alcala and fetched Isidro and his organ who played on well into the small hours, occasionally shouting - 'Is it too loud? I'm half-deaf so tell me if it's too loud'. No one did and he did a great job and made everyone laugh and dance until they'd had as much fun as they could.

I have to say that Antonio, son David and their tiny little wife and mother, whose name I missed but whom I will call Dolly for a number of reasons, not least her blonde hairstyle, worked tirelessly throughout the whole weekend - they had organised the fiesta and they did a wonderful job.

I wonder if next year they might let me help? That could be fun.....

Wednesday 15 May 2013

Recipe for a lovely week.


1. Take one daughter looking forward to seeing her mum.

2. Take one mum looking forward to seeing her daughter, grandchildren AND in great need of a holiday.

3. Take a handful of grandchildren who love having family around.

4. Take one new home and garden

5. Take one village in fiestas


1. Add all ingredients together in a beautiful countryside setting.

2. Stir in some warm sunshine.

3. Allow 1-6 days to develop full flavour.


Procession in Villalobos

Before the feasting commenced.

And the fun afterwards...

Health and Safety be hanged...smash earthenware pots all over the place!

Get ready to eat Grannie's trifle in the garden.

Where Mum spent most of her holiday - outside in the garden.

I was so getting used to Mum being here - it felt quite strange this morning. Now she's had to go back and I am missing her. But we have the recipe and we can do it all again. Hopefully soon.

Tuesday 7 May 2013

And there was the day....gone!

A sheep pace of life
It's a strange phenomenon that since we've moved to the countryside, it seems as though time has slowed down. I rarely feel as rushed and busy as I did when we lived in town. I'm living at a pace to hear the birds sing and watch the clouds move across the sky. I really do feel the gentle movement of the earth beneath my feet. As our house faces south and it's a long thin building, we get the full sensation of the sun on its east to west path. However, we seem to reach 10pm each evening without ever knowing how it got so late!

We still have no television and no one seems to miss it, but we don't get the reminders of time that programmes used to give us and as the evenings stay light, it comes as a bit of a shock that it's time the children were in bed and another day is almost over.

Looking backwards, though, we seem to be fitting a lot into our days. Romy and Ruy have been on school trips. They've been to Granada to the Alhambra and the gardens of the Generalife, which will be especially wonderful at this time of year and they both also went to a concert in the Manuel de Falla Concert Hall. Romy went last week and had a wonderful day and Ruy went last Friday. During last week, Romy's class had been putting on a series of plays for the younger children. Romy was a cat in her play and we were invited to go and watch.

It was lovely, with the little infant children joining in and having a great time. The performance was held in the art room and I was most impressed with the displays and snapped away with my phone camera - so the quality of the photos isn't that good but there's no doubting the quality of the art!

Love the birds playing a duet!

I've been taking some beautiful walks with Darwin - the countryside here is something very special. Unlike much of this region, not all the land is given over to olives. We have a lot of other trees and plants around too. And Villalobos is in a gorgeous valley - very lush at the moment - with lots of water running in rivers and small streams. We've picked a very lovely place.

(Photos taken again with my phone...they're not bad but not good!)

Hawthorn bushes blooming as they should in May.

Gorgeous daisies but can't work out why my feet are there if I took the photo myself? They look too far away....

How I love poppies.....I really do.

And tomorrow, I can show it to my mum!

Yes, as soon as we found the house, she booked a flight to come and visit. I can hardly wait. Despite having lived here such a short time myself, I have really enjoyed looking at it all as if with her eyes too - deciding what to show her when she arrives. She'll be glad to sit in our garden and take a long earned rest too. She might just be persuaded to put her green fingers to use - or at least advise. Anyway - I know her visit will also fly past too, but quality time it will certainly be.

A clematis ready to impress

I saved this beauty for last - hasn't this been a magnificent tree. I wonder how old it is?

Saturday 4 May 2013

Sun, stars and flowers

In the village nearest us, La Pedriza, a new observatory has been built - opening just a few weeks ago in March. This month, they are running their first astrological course and Mateo is attending. 20 hours of theory and 10 hours of practice.
Today he has been able to look at the sun and has seen sun spots and flares. He is impressed with the knowledge of the instructors - which is good, he's a stern critic - and has already notched up 10 hours of theory since last night. This evening, he will go back again to do some practical star-gazing and the weather looks nice and clear.

Ruy and I went to meet him this lunchtime and it gave us an opportunity to enjoy the beautiful countryside around us and be so glad we live where we live.

Looking across the little valley. Our house on the left and if you follow the low white wall, you can just see our ruins in the middle of the photo. 

The new observatory lecture hall

and the cupola housing the telescope.

The building is surrounded by fields carpeted with wild flowers - the buzzing of happy insects was everywhere!

So pretty

Splashes of colour

The orange flowers which my camera didn't do justice to - the orange colour was really intense.

Good luck to the observatory in coming years. We get some wonderful skies to observe with the naked eye - I'm looking forward to hearing what Mateo sees through the telescope this evening....but maybe I'll wait til morning. He goes at 10pm and stays until he's 'had enough'.  I wonder if they realise just how long that might take?