For example, I was leaving work the other evening and as I walked down to my car, I had the most sensational view of the castle, here in Alcala la Real. And so I took out my phone and took a photo of it. And it was up on Facebook before I got home. Pretty impressive, really.
(Here it is, if you missed it on Facebook!) Isn't that inky sky just glorious?
And having almost a week's holiday in the UK with my sister and my parents was made to feel less of a distance from my own family when my daughter sent me this (completely unrecognisable) photo of herself, out on Halloween.
I guess it must be her,,, there aren't too many Romys around.
It was also good to be able to ask her which jumper she liked best by sending her an immediate Whatsapp message to avoid making a dreadful fashion mistake...
(She answered but I bought both anyway and she was happy.)
I had a lovely time in the UK but before I get on to that, which I probably will, let me just share a little lesser known corner of Spain that Mateo and I discovered recently.
Ruy had an Archery competition near La Carolina, which is about an hour and a half's drive north of here, heading to the mountains that delineate the beginning or the end of Andalucia (depending on which way you're travelling.) These mountains, or rather one of the main passes that takes you through the Sierra Morena, is called Despeñaperros - translated quite literally as 'dogs tumble or fall from a high cliff' or (as I rather cynically think as it's not a reflexive verb, ie. the dogs don't do it to themselves)... 'dogs are tumbled or made to fall'. It is a spectacular place with national park status, incredible flora and fauna and an impressive number of soaring vultures usually on display. We almost always stop there on our journeys to the north of Spain. But is it awful of me to think that a place with a this great gorge and such a name might well have earned that name at some point in the past? Was it not the place people threw away their dogs? I wish them all well, the dogs,whenever we go and we never, ever let ours out at this point unless he's safely on a lead!
Anyway...(I had a feeling this would be a rambly one right from the start!)..after a very early start, Ruy, Mateo and I had a lovely drive up to La Carolina in my smart and sassy little new car. Having reached the town without incident, we then had a rather traumatic 3kms to the archery site where I was convinced I had scraped something vital off the bottom of the car as we navigated, at a snail's pace, the rough and potholed track to the hosting finca. I was almost in tears but we did manage to keep going and nothing seemed to be leaking out or falling off, so after seeing the archers off on their first round, Mateo and I headed off for our own little adventure deep in the mountains of the Sierra Morena.
It took us an hour or so to go the next 30kms - which is slow going, believe me - but we firstly turned off the motorway at Despeñaperros and turned right, instead of the usual left, heading for the strangely named village of Aldeaquemada - Burnt Village. It was 'only' 23 kms....of hairpin bends going up, up, up and ever upwards. Obviously, we eventually started the same process only this time going down. Before we left, I had seen that there were some waterfalls near the village that were supposedly worth a turn of the head and I thought Mateo would like to visit them with me - and I was suitably impressed that he agreed, even though it meant getting out of bed before midday on a Sunday...7 hours before midday. He did say, 'where are you taking me?' at one point but I had lost the plot myself and was just wildly changing gear between 1st and 2nd and hoping that we would arrive somewhere...anywhere..soon! Which of course, we eventually did...Aldeaquemada. It didn't look burnt but heaven knows how the population survived there. I half suspected that there was a backway from another town that probably only took 8 minutes and where you would be able to find shops and bars and possibly even a petrol station....However, it's not. I took the following from its website (translated with the help of Google as I couldn't really believe what I was reading!) and it doesn't do much to encourage a visit..
- Its climate is humid, prone to inertia, quartan fever, dropsy and soreness of the ribs. The prevailing winds are from the west and north and the population has 60 houses of common construction, 6 short streets leading to a square; a granary, a church, a cemetery, served by a priest; a primary school, equipped by parents of students, and an insignificant amount of 'their own; (Google couldn't help me with this but it made me shudder a little); a town hall, a jail, a butchers, an abattoir and an inn at the entrance of the village, built by the government.
- There are 357 inhabitants... which by my reckoning means almost 6 people per house!
Anyway, after our first wrong turn as we entered the village, we saw the lot and before we were spotted by any locals and encouraged to stay and experience any dropsy and quantan fever-filled hospitality, we sped off down an unmade track, grinding my poor new car's bottom along as we went, towards my intended destination.
The waterfalls of Cimbarra.
We had mentally prepared ourselves for slight disappointment as we were coming to the end of a long, very hot and very dry summer. We knew that cascades of water were not just unlikely but out of the question. But we were blown away by the place, even without a dribble.
It was silent. It was vast. It was just mindblowingly beautiful. I posted these on Facebook, but I share them again here on the basis that you just can't get too much of a good thing!
|Look at the amazing rock formations in the distance!|
|And close up!|
|We couldn't be sure but it looked as though at one time, there had been some sort of mill here.|
|Which would explain the millstones...but we were miles from anywhere....most strange.|
|Fascinating rock strata|
|And then, the pool of unfathomable depth where, in spring, the waterfall splashes down.|
|You can see where the water will travel and that we very nearly had a trickle as it had rained earlier in the week.|
|There is a little water in those top hollows...|
|A zoom in to the cave behind where the water falls|
Anyway...we eventually tore ourselves away, hairpinned our way back to civilisation for a leisurely sandwich and coffee - not in Aldeaquemada, I hasten to add - before heading back in good time to wait for Ruy. As always, I hoped he might beat his rival, national champion, Alberto just this once...but as we arrived, I got a phone call from Ruy asking me to come and get him as soon as possible as he'd sliced his finger open with a broken arrow and couldn't continue. So I did...but I didn't drive the last 300m in my poor battered old car. This was on the basis that if I needed to get him to hospital, then I needed the car in one piece. As it happened, the wound was clean, if deep, and not bleeding too much and we decided that a mad dash to A&E wasn't necessary. And it's now healed completely.
And whilst I was in the UK, as well as new pens for tanglin, I picked up a most horrendous cold which only really emerged when I got home. I ended up in bed the last three days and even now, the desk is littered with snotty tissues. Aren't colds just the pits!
When my sister picked me up from the airport, she whisked me immediately off to see a chiropractor that she has started to visit. He specialises in neurology and brain function and has done amazing things to help my sister's foot problems. I don't have time here to explain it all but I am going to do a post on my experience with Anthony soon. I need to keep practising my exercises first though. It's all very unusual!
Just before we went in to see Anthony, my sister warned me that my dad had had a very nasty fit two days earlier and she had thought he wouldn't survive. But he has and I found him remarkably well under the circumstances. I am not entirely sure he is ever absolutely sure that it's me that's visiting. I arrived about 10 minutes before my mum's friend usually comes to play dominoes and he assumed I was her. The idea of dominoes was obviously rather more exciting than my presence because he sounded a bit disappointed....but unfortunately, that is how his life is now. My mother is quite incredible and manages as much as she can with sometimes wicked good humour and acceptance as long as my dad is also good humoured and easy-going. But when he occasionally has bouts of anger or depression, I know she finds it all very difficult. Not being nearer, it is too simple for me to forget how complex it is for my sister....
Anyway, whilst I was in the UK, I met up with Janice! Yes, she was in the UK at the same time - which is very nearly a first for about four years when I saw her in Huddersfield after her treatment and we had a really special hug that I will never forget. We met for lunch in a cool new dining place in Knutsford, where we indulged in sausage and mash but never took a single photo. Not of ourselves, each other, the place, our food...not on our erratic drive back to my sister's, not when we were there, not in the rain or the sun...Janice! We didn't take a photo!! But it was so good to have a few hours to chat and enjoy your company. And you were, as always, looking super chic! I did love that jacket!
I went out again that evening and ate really well in a very lovely pub in the unlikely-named village of Grappenhall. I say unlikely-named but I have checked it out and it was mentioned in the Domesday Book. It is also the birthplace of Tim Curry and is where pianist Stephen Hough grew up. The carving in the church there is said to be the inspiration for Lewis Carroll's Cheshire Cat... all of which is slightly more interesting than Aldeaquemada had to say for itself. (I still don't know why it's called that either!)
Anyway, I have rabbited on far too long and far too much and avoided doing any housework this morning. I will be out teaching all afternoon and need to go and prepare for this. I will leave you with the threat that there may be more to follow. I'd forgotten how much I enjoyed just blathering on! I never even mentioned the Anderton Boat Lift, musical fireworks, Scrabble, Chester, sculpture, what got packed and what was left behind ...plus what was taken away, vis....there's lots more!
(Proofreading....sorry, no time!)