Casa Rosales

Casa Rosales

Monday 7 December 2015

The Angel of Malaga

At risk of repeating some information I may have shared with you before on this blog, but the mood to write is upon me, so apologies in advance!

During the first few months after FR and I met - maybe I told you what a whirlwind start our relationship had? We met on 10th March 1996 and on 27th March, also 1996, he moved in with me...

And to continue - we began talking about moving to Spain to live together. I was lucky enough to be allowed to take a year's leave of absence, so we could see how things went without burning all bridges back again - not an option the second time we did the same thing! We purchased a valient (and as it turned out, illegal..another story) Nissan Patrol monster, packed up our belongings, topped off with a precariously balanced wicker chair, and set off. We were heading for Malaga. For two reasons. The first was that FR said the weather was very stable and temperate all year round. (Although the storms of January 1997 and the extreme heat wave in early June put paid to that particular 'fact'...) The second was that he had a friend - a trumpet player - who lived there and who played in the Malaga Philharmonic Orchestra. His name was Angel. I was impressed.

Our journey to Spain got off to a fairly inauspicious start and I actually entered the country in an ambulance. With hindsight, I know that the occasional but incredibly severe pains I had experienced over the previous three or four years stemmed from gallstones. Before I met FR, I had been treated for a suspected ulcer and told it was probably stress....neither of which was true. But the pains stopped and I forgot about them. However, as we drove through France, around Bordeaux, our picnic consisted of some amazing saussison and bread, which we ate en route. Soon after, I guess the combination of the rather fatty saussion, the long journey and perhaps a touch of tension/excitement/stress activiated my gallstones and I had an attack...I don't know if there's a medical term for it but the only way I can describe the pain is in a series of expletives. It can feel like a heart attack (I am assuming...) and like there's an intense pressure on the whole chest area, leaving me rolling around and moaning and groaning.

I tried really hard to hide it from FR but after a bit of moaning and a lot of huffing and puffing, he obviously began to get very worried. I pressed him to keep going as I knew that it would eventually stop and that there was nothing much anyone could do and also that his French didn't always reach French ears in an understandable manner....I was in too much pain to have to speak to anyone.
However, as we approached the border between France and Spain, he had obviously formulated a plan and just we crossed into Spain, he screeched up to a portacabin that was occupied by the Red Cross and explained that I was in severe pain and needed help. I was so bad by this time that I couldn't even speak much English, but I remember being bundled into an ambulance and hearing a siren. It was about 1am. We had arrived in Spain. Not quite as anticipated.

FR did a sterling job following the ambulance through the streets as we headed for San Sebastian. I remember being hooked up to a drip and various things being asked of me. And then being left with FR for seemed like quite a long time. As as suddenly as the pain started, it stopped. I suppose it's the stones that cause a blockage and that when they move or pass through, the relief is immediate. FR tried to find a nurse or a doctor but it was very quiet everywhere - 4am - and so I removed the drip and we ran away to continue our adventure.

And after stopping a few days in Valladolid, we continued our journey to Malaga. FR had spoken to Angel, (sadly, it's pronounced ANN-hel, including a bit of throat phlegm on the 'hel'....the Spanish 'g' is never pleasant.) and he and his wife and young son had offered to put us up for a few days. We had no map that I remember and only the name of the little village where they lived. We began asking for directions far too soon - on the wrong side of Malaga to be exact - and almost everyone answered 'Pa' rriba' - which means, more or less - 'Straight on'. Of course, we eventually found them and spent a couple of days in their tiny little house, very grateful for some sort of base. Over the next couple of days, we managed to find an apartment to rent in a neighbouring village and Angel and Rosa were our first visitors.

We saw quite a bit of them over the next 10 months or so that we lived in Malaga. They moved house during this time and I remember helping to move them into their new apartment in the centre of the city. Angel also managed to get FR hired to join the Malaga Philharmonic for a concert where lots of additional brass was needed. I remember that the programme included Prokofiev's 'Peter and the Wolf' and the concert was absolutely wonderful. FR got well paid too and as this was almost at the very end of our time in Malaga, it was very special indeed. Good old Angel was what we said.

And then we left. FR kept in touch for a good many years but then as sometimes happens, we lost contact.

After the fantastic concert we went to in Granada a few months ago, I have been keeping my eyes open for another and couldn't resist booking for one in Malaga, which included one of my favourite symphonies - Sibelius' 2nd. I didn't actually think about Angel when I bought the tickets but as time is rushing by and we suddenly found it time to set off on the 2 hour drive to Malaga...I wondered if we'd get the chance to speak to him again.

By the time we found a parking space, we were pretty familiar again with the narrow streets in Malaga's historic centre! I remember driving the Nissan Patrol around them and feeling the wheels scraping on both sides of the little pavements! Most of the area has been pedestranised but bizarrely, there's an underground carpark right in the middle of it all! And that's where we ended up - inching our way through the Saturday night crowds of young and old, some in pushchairs and wheelchairs, all ignoring our car as we followed the 'P' signs....with increasing concern. However, at the end, there was a car park that was packed as though it were a ferry and where you had to leave your car keys so that the attendants could shuffle them around during the evening to get some people out and more people in. Very strange!

The theatre was in one little square and I just managed to capture this photo before my phone batteries died....sad face. We had time to have a little wander around the main square, la Plaza de la Merced, and see the Picasso Museum, which I confess I have never been in. Ruy has - he came on a school trip last year and was pointing out all the places they visited. I think they must have spend the day running from one place to another!

We also listened to some great street musicians - a really cool guitarist and saxophone player - and I visited the shop in the main square where I once used to sell my cards. Well, I think I may have sold two or three....

And then it was time to go into the concert.

We were sitting really high up in the third level and the orchestra was a long, long way away. Two trumpeters came out - FR recognised one from when he played 19 years ago but the other didn't look like Angel but as there were only two of them, maybe it was. The first piece was Mendelssohn's 'Hebrides Overture' and whilst the clarinets and woodwind were brilliant, the trumpets left much to be desired. Particularly the one that we weren't absolutely sure wasn't Angel....surely it wasn't.

Then we had a Mozart symphony which we all agreed was OK but not his best. Number 35, the 'Haffner' but again, the trumpets were unimpressive. The star of the orchestra for me was the timpanist. He hovered over his pans (is that what they are called?) like a giant spider as he turned his elbows out and seemed to have overly long arms. He was fascinating to watch and when he'd done his bit, he would sit down with a very theatrical flouncing of his tails.

During the interval, I stayed in my seat chatting to the lady next to me who was an interesting old bird. Travelling alone, probably in her 70s, from Canada. She looked like a frail little thing but I really admired her as she was staying alone in Malaga, learning Spanish and had obviously been travelling around a fair bit. Hope I have her spirit in twenty years time!!

Then a lone trumpeter walked onto the stage and sat down. Now this time, I clearly recognised Angel. Funny how I hadn't been sure in the first half.... No doubt about it now it really was him, but FR was nowhere around for me to mention it (nor, for that, were any of my children...our family having a tendency to scatter at the first opportunity!) And then, Angel walked OFF the stage. As I found out later, FR had gone backstage and asked to speak to him, so someone called Angel from the stage. Apparently his face was a picture when he saw FR! I do wish I'd been there!

The Sibelius was excellent. I studied it as part of my 'A' level music and so I knew it pretty well. I have a great fondness for Sibelius, who seems to me to convey the vastness of his homeland, Finland, so well - although apparently the piece was inspired by Mozart's 'Don Giovanni' - but I simply don't hear that! I see mountains and fjords and snow-covered trees....but either way, it's a very uplifting and emotional piece. And Mateo loved it. I am still pondering Ruy's response that he liked the last movement best....

And afterwards, in the Christmas lights of Malaga, we all met up with Angel and Rosa and their son, Alvaro, who had been only two years old the last time we saw him and who is now studying piano at the Conservatory of Malaga. And Angel was just as warm and funny and full of jokes as he had been all those years ago - only this time, I could understand him. I had to confess that when we first met and I had nodded and smiled at all he said to me, I hadn't a clue what he was actually saying! What was strange was that once again, as happened to me in England last month, the years seemed to fly away behind me and we were all chatting away as though a lot of time hadn't passed and we'd just bumped into each other in town...even Mateo and Alvaro struck up an easy conversation as if they too were meeting old friends. I look forward to them coming to visit in the not too distant future!

And did I say, Angel plays the trumpet....well, like an angel!

Angels in Malaga. Lots of them!

Saturday 21 November 2015

Old friends....

It's been a while since I posted, hasn't it? Hello, anyone out there? .....Well, it's been a while since I read any one else's blogs too and I may appear to have done a runner.

But I haven't and after my lovely weekend, I felt driven to record a few things for posterity and for sharing and for capturing.

On Friday last - yes, the 13th - I unsurprisingly had managed to pick up some cheap tickets to travel to England. Since the summer, my friend Annie Relph and I have been trying to find a weekend to get together and it took us until November. But we did it and it was worth all the frustrations and impossibilities that had gone before. That said, the news from Paris the morning after I arrived was high on our list of conversation topics, even though we had a million and one other things that we wanted to say. And sadly, I don't suppose these events will be the end of the problems.

This probably about twenty nine years ago...
However, that aside; despite the six years that it's been since we last saw each other, no one would have guessed as we immediately settled into our non-stop ´stream of conscious conversation´. Lucky is the person who has such a close friend!!

Mid-morning conversation -
still in pyjamas..

Our plan - other than to talk and talk and talk - took an exciting turn just days before I set off when, through a facebook post, another old friend contacted us to say he wished he could join us.

So on Saturday afternoon, he did!

Not six years since we last saw each other but thirty. THIRTY!! And whatever amazing things have happened to us all in the intervening years, I immediately felt myself transported back to my youth.

We had a wonderful afternoon - not visiting the White Horse of Uffington as we'd intended - but curled up on sofas and chairs in my friend's lovely Oxford home, sharing reminiscences and bringing each other up to date.

In the thirty years since we last saw each other we have, between us, become parents to six children; been married just the once each; been on stage and tv, studied at Oxford University, started up two ongoing businesses, gained Masters degrees, become teachers and trainers and - I'm delighted to say - all confessed to being extremely happy and contented in our lives. There's obviously a lot more too....

(My friend, Annie Relph, is the most wonderful artist and now puts her talent into her business, Scattercake, making incredible (but edible) wedding cakes. She's just finished the most amazing piece of sugarcraft work imaginable and I have to share the photos here:

In case you were wondering, it's not actually a cake in its present format but Annie now has all the templates and ideas prepared should anyone order a 1.5m high cake.

It showcases her fantastic work perfectly.
Even more impressive in real life!
And as I have been writing this post, Alan has been delivering a TEDx talk in Leamington Spa!  The link leads to a summary of his very varied life and work and covers the thirty years during which we haven't seen each other. It also includes some things I didn't know - like the all-human  Circus Burlesque bit...! And I'm really looking forward to listening to his talk - 'Bringing Back the Licenced Fool'. He states that he started playing the fool whilst still at school and one over-riding memory I have is of him being sent out of the classroom....regularly.

I am quite sure it won't be the last time we get together. And we're hoping a few more friends will be able to join us too.

From Oxford, I headed northwards to visit my family and arrived just in time to go out for a wonderful pub lunch with my parents, my sister and my brother-in-law. I confess to enjoying my food, whatever 'type' it might be but there was something super-delicious about the dinner we had - very traditional, a British Sunday Roast with all the trimmings and possibly the best Yorkshire Pudding I've ever tasted! And that's saying something.

Sunday night was a ScrabbleFest. I play online with both my mum and my sister, so it was only right that we had a face to face match, which I enjoyed very much. I was quite confused by my sense of time. As it was dark soon after 4pm. I found it felt incredibly late by around 7.30......we seemed to be playing into the small hours!

I have to confess that I didn't take many photos on my travels. I was either too busy talking or doing whatever we were doing - although for some reason, I took a Christmassy photo of the place Mum and I went to eat on Monday. It seemed so incongruous as Spain hasn't really started working up to Christmas just yet, whilst England is in full flow.

And then all of a sudden, it was over and I was on my way to Manchester airport, where my suitcase appeared to contain a host of suspicious items, (like soap and a glue stick!) but soon I was back in the air and heading for sunny Malaga again.

Just a few short days, but I felt years younger and so very pleased that a) I am lucky enough to have such great friends to play catch up with and b) that for me, life has been pretty good over the past thirty years, but 'being here' is almost as good as it gets.

Thanks for popping by - I do hope to find a bit more time to read my favourite blogs again soon!

Friday 9 October 2015

Carpe diem...

I have such a horrible cold. FR has it too. I feel guilty because we got the cold from Ruy, who got it from Mateo and both of them continued to go to school and do what they had to do. We've been pathetic. I haven't been to work since Tuesday and FR went to the doctor this morning as the cold has gone to his chest and he has an infection. I made my children go to school.

'Seize the day' because I seem to have so little time to write my blog - illness being one of the few times when I seem to have a moment! The positive side of not feeling well is that I can indulge myself in Zentangle again. It's an age since I did more than doodle on a pebble. But of course, there has been one big distraction recently.

As Romy and I were coming back from town last Tuesday, we saw a Land Rover at the other side of the road and I spied a couple of kittens around the man who was standing next to his car. I stopped immediately as I suspected he was throwing them out....
He denied doing so and said that he just saw them as he was passing. He went to pick one up and put her through my open window, where said kitten snuggled in and started purring....what could I do. I saw he was trying to pick another one up, which hissed and spat at him and had a distinctly unfriendly air about it. He assured me again that he hadn't dumped them and that he was going to come back and feed them but I am not convinced. There were four. I'm allergic to cats and FR is not a cat person in any sense of the word. But I had the cutest thing sitting on my chest and a wide-eyed Romy not quite sure what to think, sitting next to me. I handed the kitten over and we carried on home.

FR was duly agitated, irritated and predicting dire warnings about the dangers of cats (not sure exactly what these are but he was muttering something about diseases) but in she came. And here she still is. An absolute little beauty. FR totally and utterly won over - she sits on his knee, he even allows her to walk on the kitchen table, which I baulk at! We let him name her just to ensure the attachment continues. Meesha. Here are a few photos...

5444444444444333`45`(She just walked across the keyboard....)

Super cute

Sits on people

Even FR

Does kitteny things like play with handbag fringes
She doesn't like Pippin - puffs up twice her size and hisses menacingly - but Pippin keeps his distance, instinctively knowing that she's not to be messed with. Poor Pip!

My allergies are invisible at the moment probably due to the heavy cold I have. I'll see how I go. (Before the cat, I expect.)

We also have a crack in the wall that makes Dr Who's problem look like nothing a bit of polyfiller couldn't fix. Since we moved in, there have been many hairline cracks appearing and some that are somewhat bigger than hairline. All over. Everywhere. FR went up to try and fill one of them and agreed, he had to knock away a bit of plaster but this is an impressive crack to have in your house....

Impressive and rather disconcerting.

It's all filled and repainted now and FR has gone around putting 'testigos' - which means 'witnesses' - on some of the others cracks. This is a simple measure involving a bit of polyfiller on the cracks with a date to see how long it takes for the crack to open more. I keep checking but since the 3rd October, we don't appear to have moved too much.

I'll keep you informed.

Now I think it's time for yet another cup of tea - nothing like a nice cuppa when you feel rough. I'll leave you with a couple of tangles too just because I have nothing else to say.

Friday 18 September 2015

Not a bad week really...

Last Thursday, FR and Ruy went up to Valladolid to see the grandparents. Romy started school the same day after a long hot summer. I had begun working at the beginning of the week. It's strange to be up before the sun and to feel the coolness of the night that suddenly falls as we begin September. Mateo was at home on dog and hen duties. All calm and organised...on the surface!

My cute little solar lights still on as I left the house to go to work this week...
The good news is that despite the negative forecast from the doctor, so far, FR's father seems quite well. He gets tired quickly and finds walking around uncomfortable but in himself, he appears to be OK and he was, as always, delighted to see Ruy.

The previous week had been the most awfully busy one I'd had for a while. Despite knowing that there was the up and coming national archery competition at the beginning of September, I hadn't seen anyone at the club to check what we ought to be doing. A nagging concern I had was that Ruy would need a different licence - one that would allow him to shoot not just in Andalucia but throughout Spain - and he hadn't got it. I eventually made contact with the right person and in my rather patchy written Spanish (FR was in Valladolid at the time and not around to help me), but after a couple of exchanges, Juanma understood what I needed. And his response was not good....I'd left it too late. The national federation needed at least two weeks to provide the licence and we only had 8 days. I wrote back and pleaded. He said he'd do what he could. I bombarded him with suggestions and ideas and desperation. He wrote a letter to the federation and we had to wait.

I couldn't do that so I spoke to the lovely Guillermo, who has always helped in the past but whom I haven't seen for months and months, and turned out to be the absolutely the right thing to have done. Guillermo knows everyone in the archery world in Spain and he set about pulling a few strings. Ruy and I had to whizz into Granada on the Friday morning, just a week before the competition, to get forms signed - and then we had a hair-raising drive across Granada at lunch time following Guilllermo to the archery shop to stock up on arrows - and then, Guillermo assured me, all would be fine. All Ruy had to do was to arrive at the venue and do his best. It had been a very traumatic period, during which I swung between feeling sure that Ruy wasn't going to be able to take part, to feeling sure that it would all be OK. But even when FR and Ruy headed off to Valladolid before the competition, I still wasn't absolutely convinced that he would be allowed to compete...

In the end, though, it was OK and on the Saturday morning, after an early start, they arrived just north of Madrid to the club where the competition was to be held. This was the National Junior Championship in Archery in 'campo y bosque 3D' - (field and woods) where the targets are life-sized figures of animals. (That's the 3D bit.) No circular targets other than in the practice area. The competition involves walking around the countryside in small groups, stopping at various stages where the animal is either plainly visible or slightly hidden between trees or plants. And then shooting two arrows at them. There are 22 animals and a circuit takes a good two hours to complete - and there are two circuits to do. It's quite an endurance event - walking and shooting and staying focused for more than four hours with just a half hour break in the middle.

At around 11 o'clock, they'd completed the first circuit and Ruy was happy with his score of 290 - a good score for him and I wished him luck for the second circuit, where sometimes, he begins to feel tired and his shoulders start aching and it's harder to concentrate, especially as he hasn't had so much experience and practice. FR rang me back a few minutes later to say that Ruy was currently lying in third place!! Excellent news, as there were 40 competitors. And I suddenly felt very nervous!

The rest of the morning dragged by for me but I didn't dare call in case I distracted him. But then, Ruy called to tell me he had come second overall - beating his first round score on the second circuit - and was SubCampeon of Spain!! Jubilations. The winner was the boy who had won last year - also from this province and who Ruy meets from time to time in local (Andalucian) competitions - but their scores were very close. And it's good that they'll continue to meet in the coming year at competitions much closer to home - knowing that they are the best in the country for their age.

We were all so delighted and I had the great pleasure of calling my father-in-law and hearing the thrill and excitement in his voice too. That was very special.

Ruy on the left in his club t shirt.

And this success will hopefully start his new school year off well. Last year was awful for Ruy - he didn't work in class, didn't do his homework, didn't bother in exams with the result that he is going to repeat the year again. Fortunately, there is not too much stigma attached to this and I am hoping that Ruy will pull his finger out and show everyone that he can and will do it this year. He will be the biggest and oldest in his class - something he has not been since arriving in Spain - and again, I hope this will be a spur. I will return to this subject at another time...right now, we are celebrating.

Because this week has also been his birthday. He asked for - and got - a ukulele and I'm delighted to say the house has been filled with some lovely sounds since the thing emerged from its case yesterday afternoon! I remember my stubborn little son, who absolutely refused to eat vegetables as a toddler, pointing to broccoli at the supermarket and saying, "I want to eat that!" and he did and still does. (He eats a few others now but at the time, it was broccoli or nothing). When he sets his mind on something, he does it. Maybe he'll be entering the Ukulele championship in a few years time too...

Thank you Ruy, we have all enjoyed your rather special week. Congratulations, my champion!

Sunday 6 September 2015

Balancing act...

This is a difficult post to write. There are so very many things in the world that are dreadful. So many people in unimaginable situations and the outcome of some of their actions washed pitifully up on the shores of beaches. We are rightly outraged, horrified and terrified by the concept of people taking such desperate measures to get away from their homes.

As the photographs of little Aylan were being published, my family and I were on a different beach, in very different circumstances. I posted a photo on Facebook as we were driving home but I had to take it down again when I saw Aylan's body - the contrast seemed heartless. Like many others, I am hoping that the shocking image will continue to move people to action and that governments acknowledge that we are in a situation that needs a new response. Opinions are polarising and on hearing some of the negative ideas expressed in the media, I have been appalled and disbelieving. Fortunately, there are a lot of people who are doing things to help in big and little ways in many European countries. In posting my photos here today, I am at pains to say how much I recognise the differences in our situations and how I regret so very much that so many are suffering.

And we all have our own trials and tribulations to face and manage even though many of them pale into insignificance in comparison. However, the illness of a loved parent will always loom large in our lives. And right now, my dear, dear father-in-law is facing a gloomy future and probably not very much of a future either. FR went up to visit for a few days earlier this week and spoke to the doctors on Monday, together with his brother. The doctor didn't pull any punches from the sound of things and showed FR the x-rays and the spread of the cancer. The fact is, they are not sure quite how my father-in-law is still walking around, eating and breathing. And the good news is that to see him, he apparently looks quite well - he gets tired quickly and has a nasty night-time cough - but otherwise, he seems fine. We are dreading the day we find out he has pain somewhere...

Anyway, it was a beautiful afternoon and the children and I drove into Granada to meet FR and as we were getting to the end of summer, I decided we should take advantage of being halfway to the coast and that we should spend the rest of the day at our new favourite beach, Calahonda on the Costa Tropical. My plan was decided - collecting more pebbles to paint - and I had little intention of going in the sea. Last time we visited, it was freezing cold and most uninviting. However, when we arrived, Ruy and Romy - always first in - announced it was perfect. So we all swam that afternoon. And it really was glorious.

As well as collecting pebbles, I sat and built a few stone towers in a zen-sort of way. And then the children all joined in and I took some lovely photos of them. So please, enjoy with me, the pleasure of sunshine and stones. They are mindful pictures. We are mindful.

A small tower of balancing stones


And more concentration

My various stone towers...

Very satisfying and calming to do

They did this for a good half an hour.....
And then today, FR shared this video with me on Facebook that shows how it's done really....

Please enjoy this - it is something that I find utterly hypnotic and beautiful. He also has a website called Gravity Glue which is worth a visit.

Sunday 30 August 2015

Summer coming to an end...

(Bit of a timelapse from starting to finishing this post - with a change of focus part way through too. )

A couple of hours weeks ago, I rather tearfully waved my lot off to Valladolid. The tears were a bit of a surprise. I usually look forward to a little bit of 'just me' time as I get precious little of it and there are always so many things that I want to do....if only I had some 'me time'!

Anyway, they've gone and the plan was that FR would return in a couple of days, leaving the children with their grandparents for a week or so. We've been planning this all summer, but the weather throughout Spain has been so incredibly hot since the end of June that they were better here where at least we have a pool and a relatively cool house (though even the house has soaked up so much sun and heat that we don't feel that lovely sense of chill when we walk in now.) It has been the most draining summer we've had so far - the early heat waves of June and July have passed, but now we're in the heat of August. Today is the first day the temperatures haven't been in the high 30s (C) and I think we're in for a little respite during the next few days.

I paused a while after the last sentence - dog to walk, chickens to check, feed and water, pool to clean and so on - and got the call to say everyone had safely arrived but that Yayo (Grandfather) has been taken into hospital and not likely to be out for several days. Bladder and kidney problems that sound quite severe....not what we hoped to hear. So, the interim plan changed, and FR would stay a day or so longer to see how things go and then probably return with Ruy and Romy. Mateo will probably stay a bit to help, see his cousin and have a bit of freedom, returning on the bus to Granada, which is a bit of an adventure in itself! Fingers crossed for a good recovery.

And in the meantime, I was rather withdrawn, declining invites to flamenco and fireworks parties...just feeling the need to have a bit of time alone. I am usually outgoing and sociable but I do quite like my own company, sometimes in preference to bigger groups. I've been pottering, walking, sewing and drawing.

I had five days of this rather welcome solitude and made several lovely cushions for my sofas in the lounge, did lots of painting and drawing and tidied the house from top to bottom. Glad to see them back of course - and a strange week we had without Mateo too! How the dynamics of a family change when one of us is missing. Ruy and Romy seemed to squabble and laugh and play and had their moments pretty much as usual but Ruy missed having Mateo around and the house was definitely quieter and lacked its often manic edge. I now know exactly where that comes from!

Mateo had a good week with his cousin, Marco and grandmother, Amelia, and managed to arrived back safely on the bus on Tuesday evening. The rest of us had had a beautiful afternoon on the beach at our new favourite spot near Calahonda in Granada and stopped at the bus station on our way home to meet Mateo. He seemed somehow to have grown and relaxed after a week on his own but said he had only really missed Pippin....

But the news has not been good from the hospital. Yayo, my father-in-law and my godfather, continued to have lots of tests and we now know that he has a cancer. And it's an aggressive one in his oesophagus. His kidneys are not functioning properly still but he has been sent home. FR has just returned to his parents' home on the bus and tomorrow, he will go with them and his brother to speak to the doctors to find out what, if any treatment, is recommended and what decision FR's father will take.

It's a lot to take in and brings the summer holidays to an end in a very sad way. I leave this post with a beautiful photo that Romy took as the sun went down at the beach earlier this week.
Because I don't really know what else to say.

Monday 27 July 2015

Lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer

Yes, the song sung by Nat King Cole that I remember so vividly from my childhood. His voice, so easy, so hypnotic and smooth was one that my father, in particular, loved to listen to. My dad was not musical but I have two clear memories that relate him to the music he obviously loved and that we often heard at home when I was young - up to me being about 8, after which the fish and chip shop they bought and worked in wore my parents out to a frazzle and left them little time for listening.

The first of these memories is the singing of Nat King Cole. We had only a couple of his records but they were played a lot and I knew them all. At the time, I wasn't a fan of any of them, apart from the title of this post - which I thought was great fun and I loved those three rhyming words - lazy, hazy and crazy. The second memory is his love of Mario Lanza and his permanent regret that he missed going to a concert by him as he had an ear infection. I've done a bit of research and I think this must have been the concert in Sheffield in 1957. It would have been amazing and most memorable, I am sure. However, I never really grew very attached to this voice, although his power is undeniable.

Nat King Cole, however, has, in the intervening years, become utterly irresistible for me and I love just about everything he sings.

All this is totally irrelevant preamble - because this is my blog - to sharing a few photos and thoughts from our home and lives during these incredibly hot weeks we've been having. I know it hasn't been the same everywhere - some of you have been feeling damp or chilly at times - but it's been so very hot here for so long that I cannot remember what it's like to get up and not see bright blue sky and know that the temperature is going to be well into the 30s.

So - what do we do all day? Well, I have had a couple of weeks where I've been up early and off to work before the sun really starts to hit. It's been fantastic to arrive home and have a dip in the pool - even the little plastic one that we are still using. But the afternoons are when we have to have all the windows closed to keep the sun out, stay as cool as possible indoors and basically wait until around 7 or 8pm before we can start to do anything useful.... Afternoons here in Andalucia are for eating a very late lunch, watching silly films, having a siesta and probably doing some drawing.

Here are some of my Mandala/Zendalas - apologies if you've already seen these posted on Facebook but on here for posterity, or as long as there's a web and because I scanned some of them so the colours are truer to real life. A mandala is a circular drawing, often done in sand or rice, the process of creating it is partly spiritual and partly meditative. A Zendala is a combination of the circular format and the use of specific Zentangle patterns. I am absolutely hooked on creating these at the moment and can confirm that they really do focus the mind and help relaxation and concentration.

I had to laugh recently as I have another blog, Annie's Tangles, where I usually post all my drawings, Zentangles and challenge entries. I had a comment left on one of my posts from a blogging friend from this blog, who'd popped over for a look. I laughed because she said she thought I was speaking a strange language and was there a glossary? And looking at my other blog from a non-tangling point of view, I absolutely understand how she might have wondered what on earth we were all on about! Annie, for your information, it definitely takes a while to get to know all the right words, descriptions and technical terms...but hope you liked what you saw!

This was the first one I did and it took me ages because my usual pens didn't like drawing on top of the acrylic paint. I also wasn't sure what to do about the bit of canvas that the zendala didn't 'fit' - it being round and the canvas being rectangle. I decided to leave it as it was.

Then I found a canvas that I'd had for a while that was square. It is actually quite white in real life but as the canvas is 50 by 50cms it was too big to go in the scanner, so this is a photograph, done without any real photographic help - ie. taken on my phone in the kitchen! I also tried using a permanent marker, rather than my special Zentangle pens, plus white and gold gel pens . It is very finely detailed and quite pretty, I think.

Then I went and bought a couple of smaller canvases - 20 by 20cms - and prepainted them and I got on quite a roll....

I ran it through a Photo Editing programme to put the frame round it - but the scanner reproduced the colours really well - this is pretty much how it looks. What has impressed me is that I started with just three concentric circles in yellow, green and blue. The patterning makes it look more complicated than it really is. 

In this one, I painted and blended related colours - yellow/orange, yellow/green, green/blue, blue/red and red/orange on the canvas to begin with. Then I added a Zentangle 'frame' which you can see around the edge before doing a Zendala starting from the middle and moving outwards. 
And then, utterly inspired by colour, I decided to add some to a tangle I did quite a while ago, just for practice. Here it is in a photo edited frame. I have decided to go and get them framed in town and then I shall put them somewhere in my bedroom and enjoy looking at them.

OK - enough about drawing, painting and Zentangle....or is it????

There are three of mine just about visible in the sea...

Last week, we went to the beach for the day - all together - and decided to go left at the coast, rather than the usual right. We ended up in a lovely place called Calahonda - or rather a little area just before Calahonda called, very appropriately, La Perla de Andalucia - where the beach was clean and long and quiet and the sea was divine.

We wanted a pebbly beach as we had a plan....and the pebbles were spectacular - smooth, round, lots of white ones, lots of sparkly ones. Perfect pebbles.

I had a couple of pens with me, of course, and so now, someone sometime will probably find a smooth, round Zentangled pebble!

During the course of the day, we gathered three big bags of pebbles to put in the garden. However, when we got home and unloaded them, we only filled a quarter of the space - so we have to go back at least another three times!

And after a day on the beach, what did our children do when they got home? Went in the pool! I swear they'll grow fins and flippers before long.....

And our garden? We're definitely learning to live with the ugly floor. We have to, so we are doing. I bought some little mosaic solar lights and love them so much that each evening, at about 9.45, I go outside to count them all as they light up.

A close up of the colours and patterns - bought from Amazon, of course - and Amazon UK at that. How can it be that they are cheaper and the postage is less from there than buying them from Amazon Spain?? And not a bit less but a lot less!

I have them lined up along the terrace and also all around the curved part opposite and they do look lovely, although difficult to photograph with my phone. I may try and get some better shots with my proper camera - if I can remember how to use that... I'm very out of practice.

A few people around, 
but a quiet Paseo de los Alamos.

Did I say 'lazy'? Well, a bit of that, but quite a lot of 'crazy' too. We've had visits and sleepovers and Etnosur in the past couple of weeks. Etnosur, a big music festival held every year in Alcala la Real, seemed more subdued this year. Many local residents leave the town during this weekend but many others have opened their doors in the morning to find someone asleep  or cooking their breakfast on the doorstep...and perhaps have got a bit fed up of finding evidence of a lack of toilet facilities outside the houses. For the first time this year, a lot of wire fencing went up to protect park areas and streets from the visitors who come in camper vans or on the bus and doss down anywhere. They have been directed to designated parts of the town instead - but on the morning and evening when I went into town, the places that are usually packed with people, were very empty.

The shops and stalls around the edge of the park were also fewer than usual and without much custom.

The fountain is always a fun place to go
 and these are not locals, but there aren't many there.
The music was apparently quite good. Mateo went on Saturday night and was out all night. He said there was a real mixture of styles, including rock and African and he enjoyed it. However, we got there at about 2am, with Romy, Ruy, Jasmine and Isabel and there was some really awful music that we didn't like at all. This year, as usual, on the Friday night, we'd heard the distant sound of music in Villalobos. But the organisers had changed to position of the stage to face away from the town, instead of towards it and I was amazed as we walked down from the Paseo de los Alamos, at the top end of town, to the stage area as we simply couldn't hear anything at all! It must be such a relief for the local residents - it's one thing to have a free concert in town, but to not get away from it is quite stressful. I couldn't believe the difference it made. Wonder why it has taken 18 years for someone to think of this solution?

And so the summer continues and the 'hazy' comes from the rolling of one day into the next and then one week into the next. The children have already had one month of holiday - another six weeks to go. There are plans, not quite in place but in mind, to send the children up to their grandparents in Valladolid at the beginning of August, but first, there's the Medieval Festival at La Mota, here in Alcala this weekend and this year, our neighbour, Sergio, has succeeded in convincing the local council that an Archery competition is just what is needed to add authenticity to the event. So he and Ruy will be donning their costumes and taking on all comers...although actually, I have no idea what is planned. Maybe it will be a proper competition and maybe it will be the chance for visitors to fire a few arrows themselves. I will report back! Should be fun either way. Do come along if you're in the area, won't you? There is always some good fun activities for the children - last year organised by a friend of ours - and the food is excellent. And there could hardly be a better setting than the wonderful fortress castle in our historic town.  If you go in costume, it's free entry too!

A photo taken from a previous event that I found on the internet.

So - lazy, hazy or crazy - we definitely feel like it's summer at the moment.
What's the weather like where you are?

Friday 17 July 2015

'Es una chapuza' or The Psychology of Disappointment

I had been planning a very different post. This time last week, we were watching the workmen in our garden, laying metres and metres of concrete in searing heat and feeling very sorry for them and grateful to them. But since then, I have felt differently.  I have felt disappointed.


My text won't go any bigger. 
As you may guess, there has been a bit of a cock up with our garden path. There is a wonderful word for it in Spanish....una chapuza. I will share a few photos of veritable 'chapuzas' that I have found on the internet. You'll get the idea immediately!

OK, these are chapuzas that lead to inconvenience and disbelief. But it sort of sums up the sense that a chapuza, at best, is a botched job; careless work, a 'made-do' thing. 
Or maybe something done without sufficient prior thought or knowledge. You get the idea.

The expectation of seeing the final work came to a height on Saturday morning. We heard Miguel arrive at around 7am and knew that he had to powerwash all the residual powder off the concrete and then seal it with resin, so we stayed in bed a little longer than usual so that we could emerge to see the finished result. I admit, I was very excited. And took a peek from the bathroom window to the area outside the door. 

And squealed with pleasure - it looked fantastic!

Just the lovely, soft neutral, natural colours that I had wanted. 

The rest, which was a slightly more sandy-colour with darker tints on top, could only be more impressive as there was so much more of it!

NO, NO, NO. Disaster. Terrible. Awful. Unimaginable. Horrible....I won't continue but I really couldn't believe my eyes. Instead of a gently weathered brick effect, my garden looked like a garage forecourt or a place where oily motorbikes had been whizzing around. Blotchy, obvious patches where the tint had been spread and hadn't gently dissolved into the concrete. Some of the patches were so dark and round that it really looked as though we'd be walking oil into house if we inadvertently stepped in them. Awful......and the disappointment that hit both FR and I was palpable. We could hardly speak.

Miguel, if he could, would have run away without speaking to us that morning, but we dragged him back. I just kept saying to him that surely there was something wrong; that this wasn't the effect he had expected to leave us with; that he must acknowledge there was a problem. He said very little but did that unique Mediterranean high-shouldered shrug, elbows bent and palms held upwards..and turned his mouth downwards almost further than a mouth can go. And then he left, muttering something about leaving it to dry a bit longer and that he'd return on Monday.

I have since been pondering on the psychology of disappointment. 
The strength of the disappointment is, not surprisingly, directly related to the expectation of outcome beforehand.  If the outcome exceeds expectation, then the reaction is very often elation or excitement. I had truly expected to be elated! There is a further stage too. Initially, I was left thinking that there would be a solution. That we could right this wrong and all would be well. The intervening time has proved otherwise. 

Miguel returned, not on Monday, but on Tuesday. FR had been doing his research and discovered that problems with this type of concrete and the colouring process can occur when the weather is too cold, too wet OR TOO BLOODY HOT! I guess the latter would apply to us. 

But how come the door section is so lovely?

Well, it was the first part that he did - earliest and coolest part of the day. Explains a lot. But Miguel, man of few words, either didn't think about it, didn't know about it, or didn't really care about it. Whichever, he's left us with a grubby and ugly expanse of concrete in our garden.

When he returned, he offered to put another layer of concrete over the top and recolour it, but FR was ahead of him - this is apparently the solution that is often offered but the result is usually worse than the original, so we declined. He then suggested digging it all up and relaying it - but finished off by say 'that would cost you a lot of money'. I didn't actually see FR's blood boil, but I think I heard it bubbling....

So, the psychology of disappointment. It comes with the final realisation that you don't have or can't get the thing you really wanted. And this in turn leads to facing reality. And we can do this in a variety of ways: anger, sadness or depression being three common options or routes. 

We did a bit of all three between us, me and FR. I even felt ashamed - I have been thinking of putting up a sign...'Please forgive our awful driveway, it isn't our fault.'

We've done lots of other things as well. I've been out and scrubbed some of the patches with a bit of wire wool. The patch came out - hurray! - but so did the top layer of concrete and the resin finish....
FR set upon a slightly hidden patch with an electric sander and had pretty much the same result, only with more concrete removed....we've spoken to a solicitor and the insurance company and sent photos to the product company. 

There isn't really much we can do....

SO - do you want to see it??? This is the hardest part for me. But this is where the psychology of disappointment and one's own personal psychological type comes into play. I have today been into work and for the first time, opened up about what happened. I told two different people about it - and showed them some photos. And it helped me SO, SO much. 

How can that be? Well, possibly because I am an extrovert and an optimist and hate 'bottling up' my feelings. I feel better for letting out my frustration and disappointment. I'm not really angry. I have felt sad. But as I drove home, I realised that I felt better. 

OK. Here are some of the worst bits!!

FR is not an extrovert and often gets very angry over what I consider to be unimportant things but on this great big thing, he's been so cool and rational and positive that I am assessing him all over again....again. And when I got home, feeling better and more optimistic that between us, we could find a way to put this right...he had come to exactly the same conclusion. I don't want to put any details here - too public. But watch this space...

And taking the long view. Well, the overall effect is that things look and feel much better than they did - if you don't look too closely, of course.

The 'gap' in the middle is to be filled with white stones and provides a
drainage section - assuming that one day, it will rain, of course!

View from the gate - which needs to be rehung.
The steps down need finishing too.
And in the distance on the right, you can see we've now got the little old pool up - an absolute necessity in this weather - and at least it's a pleasure to walk out to it now.

And now, I don't actually feel disappointed as such. I feel rather proud of how we've managed our disappointment. Hey, aren't we lucky - another learning opportunity!!

However, I absolutely BEG of you not to sympathise with me over this. By all means, leave me a comment as to how you think we could disguise the mess, add features that distract the eye, etc. The way I can get over it is to move on. It's not the end of the world and my sense of humour is still intact. And we have found great comfort in the fact that we didn't pay for ALL of it upfront.....

(Of course, if all else fails, I will simply Zentangle over the whole lot of it!!)