Casa Rosales

Casa Rosales

Monday 31 March 2014

A year on...

Just over a year ago, we'd just started negotiations to buy the house we're now living in. I had it in my mind that it was at the end of February that we'd seen the house, but it was at the beginning. As I was driving home from a class the other day, there was just a fuzz of pink showing on the almond trees that line parts of the road and the sky was blue and bright. Spring was just returning after a cold and damp winter.  A year on and time for a little reflection methinks...


The house had been on the market since we first arrived in Alcala - but at a price that excluded us looking - but I had liked the look of it from the start. Indeed, I had driven out to Villalobos three times during our first two years in rented accommodation.  Each time, I'd get about half way and decide - no, it was just too far out - only on the last time did I find the house itself. I guess knew deep down that we'd always end up living here.

Now, the journey is a well-known route of twists and turns, occasionally made stressful by a large car coming towards you - most people drive as though there is no one else on the road, but thus far, we've avoided contact; it's a route that Mateo has walked several times just because he felt like it; it's the route the little local bus follows like clockwork twice a day, taking the children and other village folk to and from town and the schools - often a full and jolly load.
We planted a few trees last year and recently, FR has planted another dozen trees in the garden and on the land - including cherry, almond, fig and walnut. They're all young trees so it's going to be a while before they start to be productive, but it's so lovely to think they're in and growing and putting forth buds and blossom.
We've had some ups and downs in the past year but our house has done a sterling job in keeping us cool in the summer months and warm and dry in the winter ones. Until we can sort out the outside and the entrance to the house, we will have to accept that dust, dirt and mud will enter every time we do. I have become accustomed to sweeping the kitchen floor and seeing half of it wander off again - ants and little beetles are in all the gaps in the tiles and no matter what I do, I can't keep them out. A key reason why I won't be making chocolates to sell any more - certainly not this year - not while Pippin is a puppy and running me ragged either!

We'll have to take small steps in improving the outbuildings as our budget is small and precious but FR has already dug foundations for a new summer kitchen/store room which he plans to start when the weather improves. We discovered that the roof on the outbuildings contains asbestos and so will have to be professionally removed - an expensive job - but one that will have to be done. I rather fancy having a Zentangle Barn. Maybe not this.....

Our darling Darwin is buried at the top of the land on the corner and I certainly have a little chat with him now and then. There's another smaller set of stones, which is the last of the hamsters...we found her in her food bowl, sunflower seed still between her teeth and we hope she died happy...
But Pippin is making himself an integral  family member and whilst trying to train him not to chew anything and everything in sight, it was absolutely the right thing and the right time to have found him. 

I've settled into a routine of teaching young children in their own homes - mainly siblings - and love reading, singing and playing with them. We make our own versions of 'Snakes and Ladders', draw pictures to go with Nursery Rhymes, make up wild and wonderful new animals or play counting games. I often find that the time flies by. There may be a big change afoot though - more of which later. Can't say anything just yet....

Our neighbours have not been as bad as we were led to believe but they are not good. It's a shame but they are a problem family and on more than one occasion, we have been caught up a little in their problems. Sometimes the problems are not so little...However, it does amuse me that they call FR 'el ingl├ęs' - the Englishman!!

We know many of our village neighbours and I can chat away with them about this and that. One thing they always tell me is how polite my children are - yeah! The Spanish don't say please and thank you as a matter of course. They're not rude but it's not their custom to require the expressions that I take for granted and which were instilled in me from childhood. Whenever I meet the parents of  my children's friends, they are always super-impressed by these little courtesies that spill from my children unbidden. We might not always mean them or even think about them but I have come to value a 'thank you' when I get one. And I have on occasions found myself thinking that the whole of Spain needs some training in customer service...but then the general public are so incredibly kind, friendly, generous and willing to help ..I do wonder why they can sometimes turn so rude when they are behind a desk or in a shop...strange.

I chose the two images by Escher because I love his work. It's not Zentangle but it reminds me a little of the complexities that it's possible to achieve in this new art form that I have discovered this year. I am totally hooked and there's nothing I like better than sitting down on my sofa and drawing - maybe watching an episode of 'Judge John Deed', or with a favourite film, like 'A Room with a View' or 'The Princess Bride' or just sitting at the dining table on my own, filling page after page with tangles. I love that my workshops have found several converts - some of whom are so good and talented that it makes my jaw drop when I see what they have done - and we meet every two weeks. It's probably the fastest two and a half hours in the week! Such wonderful concentration and focus. Yes, this is the year I discovered Zentangle, and I won't ever forget it!
On my tangle blog, you can see a recent tangle I did of the outline of La Mota. I think I shall do several more - it's such an iconic image and the tangles are perfect for it. And here are some spirals.

These are my general and unspecific thoughts after a year in our home. I love to go out in the garden, despite there being still so much to do there. I love the sun tracking from one end of the house to the other during the day. I love going out at night and looking up to a sky so full of stars it seems like a painting. I love the birdsong in the morning. I love walking around the countryside and breathing in the different scents along the way. There's not much I don't like....and that's not a bad reflection, is it?

Why do you love YOUR house - new or old?

Sunday 23 March 2014

Striding Out

The weather is just perfect now. Not too hot, but sunny. A fresh breeze that is energising and carries with it the glorious honeyed scent of almond blossom. It's almost a year since we moved ourselves into our new home - it seems both much longer ago and yet just a moment ago.

It's perfect weather for sitting outside reading the last Harry Potter novel.

Perfect for watching the full moon rise over the hill in the evening. (Even if photographing it is still a challenge!)

And having Pippin means a lot of lovely walks - twice a day - and I do most of them, so I'm very grateful the weather has been so good!

Today, I took two willing assistants and we decided to head for a pretty mound on a hill at a walkable distance away. It's visible in the middle of the picture.....

...and here it is close up. Very pretty, full of almond trees in blossom and a little 'oasis' of colour in amongst all the olives.

Setting Off....Ruy in slightly the wrong direction.

Arrived at the summit - time for a drink!

We passed several bee hives - wonder where we might find the honey...

We could see our house and so zoomed in - looks different from this angle - and I'm imagining a swimming pool where the trampoline is. Could be rather nice one day!

We were actually quite a distance away...ours is the house in the middle of the picture.

And doesn't Pip look healthy, happy and handsome.

We had another lovely walk this evening in another direction - but I forgot the camera. It's been one of those beautiful weekends that has seemed longer than usual, with more sunny moments and time to enjoy each other's company. Hope your's has been too.

I'm working up to another Annieversary post - not quite sure how it will look but I have another few days to think about it.

Thursday 13 March 2014


March is the month of many of my own 'annieversaries' ...these are personal and important dates for me. And the pun is too good to resist!

At the beginning of the month, I realised I was coming up to the first of my 'Annieversaries' - my Wednesday morning Spanish Conversation class. I hold this with a group of English people who are keen to improve their Spanish, but who simply couldn't cope with the grammar-driven method often used by Spaniards to teach their language. Many had tried lots of different classes and given up - only to give another one a go a few months later and give up again. Most have some basic level of Spanish and many have a very wide vocabulary but lack confidence in putting it all together.
In my class - which is confessedly NOT a teaching class - I aim to help people with specific conversation requirements...things they can use with neighbours, at the market, in the bar, at a restaurant - and they have the chance to practice without embarrassment. It's not a large group - probably seven or so at the most and although I have had some 'drop-outs' for various reasons, including financial, health and returning to the UK, I am delighted to say that many of my class have stuck with me for quite some time - and Tony has missed only ONE class in all the three years we've been meeting!! Time to celebrate, I felt. So last Wednesday morning, I took in some splendid little cakes and biscuits and some fresh orange juice and bottle of Cava...and we celebrated in style (well, in plastic cups, but hey, it was lovely!)

I do hope we can continue this class - where our conversation wanders from the roots of English, to places to visit, to how to say 'I'm dying to go the loo', to condolences and good wishes - for another three years!
Thank you all for making Wednesday mornings such a pleasure and for remember at least some of the new words and phrases I try to teach you! You know who you are!!

Another little 'Annieversary' was actually an FR and Annie anniversary. On the 10 March - also the day of a good friend's birthday, which could be part of the reason why I remember it so well - we met! It was at a band reheasal in Bradford. FR had recently moved to Leeds and was studying at the Leeds College of Music. He met a flute player there who brought him along to the reheasal. I remember it as though it were yesterday. He was sitting in a big overcoat, looking half-frozen and studying his music, counting to himself (in English, I noted) even though he was clearly NOT English. I thought he was Italian. And I couldn't keep my eyes off him...though, unfortunately for me, he was directly in front of a trombone player, who thought I was looking at him and who was returning my 'interest' - that took a little sorting out later!

At the break in the rehearsal, I went to speak to the interesting-looking stranger - and I wasn't the only one! I was really surprised to discover he was Spanish as I didn't think the Spanish travelled much to the north of England...and they don't usually. I remembered that I had done a Spanish 'O' level whilst in the Sixth Form but sadly, could only remember two words, neither which were great conversation starters. (One was mantequilla, which is butter and the other was zapatos, which means shoes...) However, FR was keen to speak English and at the end of the rehearsal, a friend and I 'kidnapped' him and took him back to my flat where we spent an hilarious evening listening to FR's stories and thoughts in his enthusiastic and ambitious but still flawed English! I particularly remember him graphically describing how Beethoven's 9th Symphony made him think of Beethoven riding on a chariot pulled by six black whores....It was a powerful image and as I asked him why black whores, I realised he actually meant 'horsES'. Plurals can be tricky!

17 days later, he moved into my flat and we have been together now for 18 years. Feels like longer sometimes, but when I think of that very first day, I always laugh!

And as we move into the middle of March, one year ago, we got the keys to Casa Rosales! It wasn't officially ours and we didn't move in until the end of March but it was this time a year ago, that FR and I came over with our car loaded up with pictures, a bookcase and a sofa and began to establish ourselves here in our home. I love Annieversaries when they're so full of joy and happiness.

The only cloud on the horizon - the only Annieversary that I won't really celebrate this month -  is that it marks the return of our lovely friends, the Greers, to the UK - to David's native Scotland. We saw the New Year in with them, they helped us move here, they are there when we've needed them and I shall miss them dreadfully. Work here is sporadic and unreliable and when you still have mortgages to pay, it can make every day more difficult than it should be. Despite giving it their very, very best shot - and Sam has certainly done that - they are leaving Alcala la Real and their beautiful home here (with the best view in town) to take up 'proper' jobs again. I can't begin to imagine quite how much I shall miss them and Sam in particular. To find a really good friend is always special but to find one in one's chosen spot is really good fortune...I wish them all the luck in the world - we all do.


Pippin has spent a month with us and is now about 11 weeks old - during which time he has doubled in size and weight....

Pippin little...

Pippin after two weeks...

Pippin this morning...

We're able to take him out on walks now as he's had all his injections. This morning was glorious and I took the camera with me to capture the beginnings of Spring in Villalobos.

And I discovered that Pippin would like to go swimming...he was straight in the stream! He's proving a very headstrong pup and is taking up a lot of my energy and time! He is wonderful at 'Sit' - but pretty rubbish at everything else, preferring to run away than to come here; to force his way back inside when I say 'out'; and to chew every plant pot and plant he can find when he IS outside and to bite all the children's feet and trousers and anything else that he can get his teeth into....I'm working on him. This time next year - when it's Annieversary time again - he'll be a credit to me. (Oh, I DO hope so!)

Any special events for you this month?