It was the day I got a smartphone.
On that day, I could receive my emails, I could log onto Facebook, I could search the internet for information, I could even play endless games of Scrabble with my mother! I could take all my information around with me in my handbag. Oh, and make phone calls too, if necessary. I admit to being utterly smitten with my smartphone. And possibly still am.
But writing blogposts? No way - impossible. And even reading other people's is quite difficult really. And if I ever tried to leave a comment from my phone, it would almost always show up in duplicate. As if I didn't really know what I was doing. I don't know why it happened - perhaps I don't know what I'm doing....
And over the months, my boys became used to playing games on the computer - games of civilisation building and destroying, hunting out and attacking unknown enemies with friends from hundreds of miles away, aircraft flying and mine crafting...and so on. And I stopped making them come off when I wanted a write a blog post or check my emails or play Spider Solitaire (my other time-wasting passion). And when I did approach, they'd complain that they couldn't stop JUST NOW as they'd die, or lose the game or let their teammates down or something. So I'd go away and forget why I needed the computer when I could do most things on my phone.
We've just come back from a few days in Valladolid with family. All is not well and my poor mother-in-law has had a horrible year. It's not for me to say anything about what has been happening but a part of her family has fallen apart just when she needed it most. These things do happen and it's never easy but the timing has left a lot to be desired. As always, our visit was too short and as always, we left leaving her feeling bereft - although we did leave her Mateo for a few days. Might help a bit.
For me, our six days away seemed much longer because we packed an awful lot in. Our journey up began on Friday afternoon and as usual, we had to take Misha and Pippin with us, the one protesting loudly for most of the way and the other drugged up to the eyeballs to prevent doggy travel sickness. We headed first for Aranjuez, which is just south of Madrid. There, Ruy and I disembarked outside a very normal apartment block in a residential street - in temperatures of over 30 degrees, even though it was 9pm. We waved the rest of the family off and prepared for our stay with Pedro - our Airbnb host for the night. Next morning, it was the national junior archery competition and Ruy was taking part - this year as a Cadet. But back to our lodgings. It was quite comical. Not only were all the hotels nearby very expensive, they were also almost completely booked up and not just because of the archery competition, but because it was the weekend of the town's annual fair. Pedro was a charming host and his apartment was clean and simple, although it was unchanged since it was built, with garish 60s tiles in the bathroom and kitchen - but no creature comforts to speak of. But oh so unbelievably cheap!! 25 euros for both of us for one night with open access to anything in the fridge that we wanted. I was so relieved as I had been a tad worried about taking such a risk but it was worth it. Ruy and I wandered around Aranjuez and got something to eat before going early to bed, just as all the fireworks, live music and fairground noises began. Fortunately, we were just far enough away from the centre to have only a muffled version and in the end, we didn't have a bad night's rest. Under the circumstances.
|And breakfast was good|
The competition was held just outside the town and we got there in good time, indulging in a taxi for convenience. At 8.30am, it didn't feel too, too bad, but the forecast was for a very hot day indeed.
Ruy met his old friend and competitor, Alberto, the current champion and also from Andalucia - they were the only two from this area although there were a couple more from nearby Murcia.
Many of the competitors were local to the Madrid area or had come down from Galicia, Asturias and Cantabria - and they, without doubt, suffered most from the high temperatures. I spent the day pootling about between the town and the venue and must have walked about 10 kilometres in total. In sweltering heat...a different sort of sweltering heat to here in our village. Here, the heat is so dry that I always suspect that when I hang out my washing, the chances of me spontaneously combusting are actually higher than me sweating. Not so in Aranjuez. It was heavy and humid and most unpleasant. I sat in the shade and tangled my Zentangles - helps to pass the time. Ruy finished the first round in 4th place, just outside the medals. And then after a couple of big barbecued chorizo sandwiches, they all set off to do the second round. Really, they should have finished by 2pm, but the first round had been slow. It was almost 4pm before they began to return - poor kids - so hot, so sweaty, utterly exhausted but most of them showing incredible resilience. Ruy had done a good second round and managed to get third place and a spot on the platform with a medal. We were delighted!
Afterwards, we took a bus into Madrid then another one up to Valladolid, with everything going to plan and one more thing ticked off the 'to do' list. Phew!
The whole of Spain has been suffering this week in tremendous heat and it leaves everyone feeling wrung out. However, I was on holiday. I've spent all summer working - something I don't usually do - but I had a plan. I've taken on some extra hours as from the start of the new term and I'm using my extra income to fund a new car for myself. We've done very well so far in managing with just the one car, but with me out of the house for more hours, I'm not happy leaving FR and the children without transport. On Tuesday, I will collect my first completely new car for quite some years. In fact, the last one was a little Peugeot 106 which I bought in 1995 and which I loved utterly and completely. I hope I feel the same about my new Toyota Yaris, which is almost the same colour - important factor in cars - a very blue metallic colour. I have to wait a bit longer though...then she'll get a post to herself. But air conditioning is a must!
SO! Back to my holiday! I booked a night in a hotel for FR and me. Special treat. It was in the amazing medieval walled city of Avila, just a little north west of Madrid. We set off before lunch on Tuesday and our hotel was inside the city walls - which were just incredible - and right in the very heart of all the jaw-dropping architecture. I took almost 100 photos - too many to post, but believe me, every time I turned my head, there was another wonderful stone building - a palace, a church, a museum, a turret.....here's just a small selection.
They don't do it justice but I couldn't possibly post all that I took. And the food! Avila is famous for its beef - Chuleton - a big steak on the bone. FR and I ate at an excellent restaurant, recommended to us by a taxi driver. And it was really very good indeed. Afterwards, we visited the local museum, had coffee and little sweet things called 'Yemas', made from egg yolks and sugar, went into several churches, listened to the band practicing and basically walked all around the city, wondering why it was so very quiet - no children, hardly anyone around - until we escaped the walls and discovered that there was a lot more to Avila than we thought! Most of the main city is outside the walls and to the south of the old part. I suspect that FR would have stood a better chance in eating a good pizza outside the walls. What they brought him at an 'Italian' restaurant in the evening of our stay was a long way from being authentic. It wasn't eaten. Our only regret - we should have returned to the first restaurant for our evening meal.
The next morning, after breakfast, we sought out a butchers to bring home a few chuletons to eat with the family. And by the time we came back to Valladolid, we felt to have had a proper, indulgent holiday on our own. And felt much the better for it. Must do it again before too much longer.
Why driving over olives, etc? Well, while we were staying in Valladolid, FR began reading a book that I'd left there several years ago - 'Driving over Lemons' by Chris Stewart. I'd read it before we actually moved to Spain or thought of living in Andalucia but I had it in my head when we were looking for a place to live in the south. I was actually very envious of him and his success in writing about local life. I wasn't envious of his lifestyle which is too remote, too self-sufficient for my taste but I admire his integration into local life, his unending optimism and his ability to deal with apparent good humour, all the idiosyncrasies of the people around him - who have never travelled, or read, or studied much but who always know best. Those who live knowing that most of the people around them are family, not incomers. Until very recently, I have found my adoptive town unfailingly welcoming but a recent occurrence has brought it home to me that our family is not 'from here' and despite our best attempts, when things go a bit awry, then it may be one of us that is scapegoated as a result. It's nothing serious, it's nothing irreparable, but I have learned a lesson. Chris Stewart writes that he swerved his car to avoid squashing a lemon and was told in no uncertain terms that he should drive over them. Lemons squash pretty easily. Here, there's a bit of hard centre to both olives and almonds. Driving over them isn't too bad, but I don't recommend it in bare feet. Just saying.
However, it's because of Chris Stewart that I'm writing again. I don't feel I have the mojo back just yet - and there are far too many words here but maybe, just maybe, it's time to sit back and reflect a little. For me, it's a good way to see things in perspective. We've travelled a long way in the past six years, sometimes at breakneck speed and sometimes at the pace dictated by others.
From Tuesday, I will have my own little car and can metaphorically go my own way.