Casa Rosales

Casa Rosales

Thursday, 20 April 2017

Happy Birthday Mum!

On 1st April, it was my mum's 80th birthday! Although I couldn't get to celebrate with her on the day, we had previously arranged to have a little party at my sister's house the following week, so on the Friday afternoon, I jumped into my little blue car and drove down to Malaga to catch a plane to the UK.

After an uneventful and relatively peaceful flight, I arrived in Manchester where my sister was waiting for me.  We spent Saturday shopping and cooking and generally chatting away as usual and the sun shone down. It was lovely and everything went to plan.

The party was relatively small but consisted of family and close friends. It was a shame that all my family couldn't come with me but it was logistically and financially impossible to travel en masse so close to Easter. However, one of my gifts to my mum was a large framed photo of my three - Mum's request - and she was very happy with it.

I also did a painting for her. One of my Zentangles which carries a 'hidden' message....look carefully and you might just see that the design is based on the number '80 80 80'.

I had the picture framed with a nice dark passepartout and a mid-oak frame which looks perfect in Mum's room
It was very good to see old friends - many of whom are now genuinely old....but who look great. I also think my mum looks pretty good for 80!! Here are a few photos from the day...I should really have taken more, especially as my sister's garden was looking so very beautiful but I completely forgot!

A view of the delightful garden - perfect place for a party

Setting out the tables and chairs...

Tuck in... plenty of delicious food for all tastes.

And an Easter themed birthday cake...the chicken is co-incidental! It was a gift from a friend to my sister but to put it on the top was irresistible. We decided against risk!

Well done Mum - a brilliant 80!!
Here's to continuing health and happiness. Axxx

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Four years

Four years have passed since we moved into our house here in Villalobos. In some ways - as we all say - it seems to be only yesterday when we packed up our things yet again and drove out in the drizzle to the countryside. It was such an exciting day...

The lovely table didn't collapsed sometime last year.

The garden in its original wild state

Romy happy in the silly little reformed to full height!
Four years on and there has been a lot of work. It's involved digging up existing parts, adding new bits, rather a lot of concrete and huge amounts of toil, mainly by FR but with help from the boys on the more back-breaking things!

There has been a lot of planting, building of walls and the placing of strategic electrical points in preparation for summer living....
Lots of trees....walnut, almond, cherry, nectarine, plum, pear,,,,
There's still a lot to do but FR's vision is taking place. I keep putting bulbs every year - slowly but surely our garden is starting to bloom.

I don't have a lot of time for gardening 'proper' but Mateo is a good helper and a brilliant weeder...I'm looking forward to getting the front of the house's still the original ugly concrete that was here when we moved in. In time, it will be a beautiful terrace and additional living space, with furniture and plants and nice things. In time. 

And today, I have just taken a walk down memory lane as I dropped Romy off at her friend's house, which is the house we lived in before we moved here! It's such a beautiful day that I decided to do my old, favourite walk (though sadly without my favourite little white ball of fur that was Darwin....) up through the pine trees to La Mota, glad that there was no one around to hear my panting and puffing as I plodded up the steep hill. About halfway up, I heard a band playing. Practising for Semana Santa. It was lovely to listen and as I got to the top, I could see that they were rehearsing carrying the platforms that in a couple of weeks will be topped with figures of Christ, the (various) Virgins, plus donkeys, flowers, other figures - making them very heavy indeed. Today though, from an onlooker's point of view, it looked like a large table with about 20 people underneath it, who from time to time, lifted it up onto their shoulders and 'processed' a distance to the music, then stopping for a break. 

The glorious view from the top towards the snow-capped Sierra Nevada in the distance. The playground is new. 
As is this 'recontstructed', in a wonderfully minimal sense, church at the foot of La Mota. 

It really was a gloriously bright and sunny day on Sunday.

My photo is embarrassingly bad - I didn't manage to capture the 'table' or really even the people underneath - and you can't see the band that was just around the corner...I felt a little rude taking photos of a rehearsal. Perhaps I shouldn't have bothered at all!
Anyway - it was a slightly comical sight but will be impressive in a week or so from now once the processions start.

Four years ago, blogging was an integral part of my life. I could hardly carry out any activity without thinking how my blog post would accompany its description. Nowadays, I rarely write and rarely read blogs....and with a few notable exceptions, I think many of my blogging friends must feel a bit the same. It's too easy now to upload a photo to Facebook or Instagram and be done with it. I also have less free time than I had for writing. My free time is usually spent drawing my Zentangles. I am more addicted to this than ever! Partly, this is because every Friday evening, since last October, I have been sharing my passion with a class of, mainly, women in the Women's Association that I am a member of. It started out as the usual sharing of different skills, but very quickly after I did some Zentangle drawing for them, there is now huge enthusiasm and more than a little talent amongst this group and I'm going to show a little of our work here. 'Being Here', for me, is about being part of the town I live in and apart from my children, Zentangle is a thing that has brought me more into the community than almost anything else. It's important to say that I am NOT a certified Zentangle teacher ....yet! I am so determined that one day I will be so for now, we say we enjoy tangling. In Spanish, all those consonants together means that Zentangle is a very difficult word to say!

Our classes are informal and just for fun and we practice different patterns.
Outside the class, people also tangle - and bring in their various artistic endeavours each week. And each week, they are more impressive.

Note, for example, the beautifully decorated box on the right - absolutely stunning work by Aurora. You can see some of her 'practice' work, albeit a bit blurred, in the notebook she's working in.
She's really very good.

This is a final set of tiles, done in the last half an hour of the class. There is a peace and tranquillity that descends at this time that is incredible. A room full of women - Spanish women for the main - and silence. Beautiful, eloquent silence as we slip into a Zen state of concentration and creativity.

And this is in my English teaching classroom - sometimes the drawing creeps into an English lesson. I have one group of young teenage girls and it's a special treat for us all when we have a lesson devoted to the language of Zentangle!

And whilst I started off this post by saying that it seems like only yesterday that we moved house, looking back now, and seeing how life has changed and developed in these four seems like we have done a lot and moved on even more, not forgetting those we have lost.

Life has changed in many ways for us all. What were you doing four years ago?


Saturday, 4 March 2017

Al azar.....

Since the summer last year, at the invitation of a great women's association here in Alcala, I've been giving Zentangle classes on a Friday evening. I think we have around 25 people, mainly women, who come regularly, either to the beginners or the advanced classes, I often leave the house feeling quite tired after a long week, but invariably, I am rejuvenated when I arrive home a few hours later.

Al azar is a 'Spanish' phrase which I recently discovered and which has made my Friday evening's teaching SO much easier all of a sudden. 'Azar' is not originally a Spanish word, as you may imagine. It seems to originate in Persia, is found in Arabic (which is probably how it entered Spanish) and is quite common in Hebrew too. It can mean chance, fate, bad luck, 'Al azar', however, means randomly, frivolously or by chance. This is the meaning I need in my classes.

The point being that I became ridiculously excited when I discovered this phrase, because my alternative was a very long word that I could never remember...aleatoriamente ....but which I need to use very often during the classes to explain - 'make random dots on the paper'. Random is one of my favourite words - and indeed, concepts. Doing or thinking things 'at random' sparks my imagination and can set me on a wonderful path of discovery - finding something by chance is so exciting. It's one of the things I love in teaching and in my drawing. You never know where you'll end up or what you'll end up with.

It's how writing my blogposts go. I sit down with an intention in mind but many of my posts take a direction of their own at the production of a random word that triggers a set of thoughts.
I'm labouring the point. I'll stop.

I was on my way home today from taking Romy to a friend's birthday celebration. It has been raining quite a lot in the past couple of days so I was quite surprised to see a neighbour out and walking up the hill, still at some distance from her house. I stopped and asked if she wanted me to take her home, but she grinned and said no, she liked walking in the rain. She was wearing her dressing gown. Couldn't see her feet. But she did look very happy! Just thought I'd share.

A couple of weeks ago now, the wife of Edward Bond died. Edward is FR's guide, mentor and friend and he knew Elisabeth personally. At random, he opened a book of Bond's poetry a few days later, only to find the poem, 'She died'. FR was genuinely moved by this chance occurrence.

Strange random things sometimes encourage us to look for patterns in life. I'm not saying we always find them but there is a sense of reassurance for me that today - 4th March - is the birthdate of my great grandmother and FR's father. And that both our sets of parents got married on the 10th June - which is also the birthday of my oldest and closest friend. They make little links in our lives. Randomly, of course.

This is the pattern that sparked my need for the word 'random' in Spanish. It starts off with a set of random dots on the page which are then joined together with five lines. So simple and so effective - I use it sometimes with my English students if I ever get on to the subject of chance, of course!

Random questions make great conversation topics in my English classes. It's incredible how an unexpected question or statement can spark several memories or thoughts in people's heads. No need to worry about a language barrier if people really want to speak. Recently one of the best random questions was 'How would the world be different if animals could speak?....It really got my 13 year old students talking and made many of them think deeply about eating meat, visiting zoos and protecting the environment.

Quite out of the blue, I got a message last night from my nephew, Will. Several years ago, I bought him a wooden box for his birthday. It had a dragon on it and it caught my attention for him as he often uses the name 'Wishdragon' when online - a lovely name in itself - so the box seemed perfect. Being Will, I suspect he was a tad bemused at receiving an empty box but it made him think how he could put it to use. I am so delighted with what he came up with...a musical box, complete with the roll and beautiful tune he composed himself. Hope you enjoy this.

I will randomly end at this point, stopping only to say - do share any random thoughts or ideas you might have at this moment!

Thank you!

Saturday, 14 January 2017

Starting 2017

It seems so long since I posted that this really does feel like starting over! I have been working many more hours a week since the summer and now, a few months on, I am getting into it and coping better. It has taken a while with some of the classes in the Academy but I am much more relaxed now about teaching in my own style and enjoying the interaction with the students there. And the people at the company continue to be engaged, fun and a pleasure to teach. So as far as the teaching and the working goes, life is really good.

It felt as though we all had to work right up to Christmas. School and academies didn't finish officially until 23 December and many students had exams in the final week. I missed the celebratory Christmas lunches that I used to have with colleagues and friends when I lived in the UK - more so this year, I think, because I was working more - but in our town, Christmas is still pretty low-key as it is one of the more intensive periods of work. It's olive picking season. The hills and countryside ring with machinery and tractors and the roads are positively busy with landrovers full of workers ready to gather the fruit. They've been lucky with the weather this year - it's been clear blue skies (and very cold nights) since mid-December. It's hard not to get caught up in the hype of buying and spending at this time of year but easier when it's not being pushed at you from all sides. We were aware that Christmas was coming - the lights and trees in the town blazed from 6th December - but it has been comparatively subdued. I'm sure I've commented on this before and I'm glad we haven't had the Christmas 'musak' in the shops, the constant bombardment with advertising, the pressure the buy, buy, buy ....but I still miss Christmas carols and pre-Christmas parties...

My boys have reached an age where, when asked what they would like for Christmas, they say just one thing and don't have long expensive lists (phew!) ...Romy hasn't quite got there yet (but she will!) As a result, we had a quiet Christmas at home with a few presents round the tree on Christmas morning, a delicious lunch and then our usual routine of Christmas games and fun that are particularly English. I enjoyed it very much. I think we all did.

Back in August, I rashly booked a trip to England for Ruy, Romy and myself in late December until 6th January. I say 'rashly' because I didn't check with anyone before I booked, including Ruy and Romy! The prices were good and I had this sudden thought that they would like to visit London - for the first time - and Christmas was always especially exciting, with the lights and the special events. I planned for us to go to Manchester and visit family first, then head to Huddersfield to catch up with old friends before a couple of days in the capital. When I told them, they were less than enthusiastic...or at least not as enthusiastic as I'd hoped they would be. Fortunately as, time went on, they warmed to the idea. I seriously failed to take into account that my sister always goes skiing at this time of year and we had nowhere to stay. And in the intervening months. my father has been so ill that we began to fear we might have an unplanned visit before Christmas but I am glad to say that he has had a good recovery and was looking quite well when we saw him at New Year. He really is incredible!!
However, our backup plan to stay with my parents - a bit of a squash but manageable - caused my mum some stress as dad is often awake during the night and she was worried that as well as keeping her awake, he would keep us awake. So we booked into a hotel near Knutsford for that part of our visit - and which Mum generously paid for.
In addition, I began to have serious qualms about the potential for bad weather. It would not be unusual to find freezing fog, rain, driving wind and even snow between Knutsford and Huddersfield during the winter month, now would it! I'd booked a car for the northern part of our trip and did spent a lot of time checking the weather forecasts as our journey approached - all looked like it might be OK but I know how changeable it can be.

In the end, the weather, travel and fun gods smiled down on us and we had a wonderful time. It was 18 months since the children saw their grandparents and we were lucky that dad was well enough for us to all go out for lunch one day and to have an afternoon playing dominoes together - Romy was the winner.

Our time in Huddersfield was spent at my friend Marion's house, who was the absolutely perfect host and where we felt utterly at home. We also had a delightful afternoon with Karen and Philip, friends of mine since we were at University, where my children were introduced to dumplings and frog-flipping.

Then Ruy spent a day with old school friends, which he enjoyed, whilst Romy and I went shopping and where I discovered that at almost 13, Romy is a professional at selecting which clothes are 'her' and which are not.

The weather was more than lovely, it was spectacular and I so enjoyed a long walk with Marion one afternoon, taking in green fields, damp verges, crisp blue skies and woolly white sheep in the fields. Super bracing and definitely appetite-building. And we did eat a lot! It was so tempting to eat everything that was 'not Spanish' for a change. We had curry, home-made pizzas, moussaka, Greggs pasties (!), mince pies, apple pie, thick fresh cream, filo pastries, meat and potato pie, turkey, stuffing and cranberry sauce sandwiches, cappuccino coffee and gingerbread biscuits.....oh, I could go on ... but I won't! Marion had a party whilst we were there, where there was more game playing and lots of eating and catching up with old friends.
And then it was time to leave.

After taking the car back to the rental village at Manchester airport, I think the children were almost ready to go home. We felt to have been away quite a long time but we still had London to do! We caught the train and arrived just before it got dark. Our hotel was outside London, near Wandsworth (long story why) so we took the upstairs seats of a double decker and took the scenic route via Trafalgar Square, past Downing Street, the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey...over the Thames and with views of the London Eye - all lit up and beautiful by 4.30! Having lived in London in my early twenties, I love seeing how much I remember and how much has changed. It did look particularly lovely when we arrived and we saw some ice-skating rinks which we decided would be a good thing to try out the next day.

And the next day, after a good night's sleep and a hearty breakfast, we set off the the Natural History and Science Museums - where there just happened to be one of the above-mentioned ice-rinks. We bought tickets for an afternoon twirl.

And then we went to explore the museums. I adore these buildings so much and the weather was again unbelievably beautiful and showing London off at its best. We spent the morning in the Science Museum, then went round to the Natural History Museum, where we met my cousin from Australia, Dee-Anne. She mentioned on Facebook that she would be visiting London at the same time as we were there so what a great opportunity to catch up?

Which we did over lunch ...and whilst Ruy and Romy were trying out their skating legs. (You didn't think I went skating as well, did you?) We held the coats and shouted encouragement, whilst carrying on our own conversation and soaking up the beautiful surroundings. Sneakily, I would have loved to have skated but was really worried that I might fall and break something important which would create serious knock-on problems for our return home....

And try as I might, I couldn't persuade the children to leave the museums so when they closed, they were happy to make the journey back to the hotel, stopping to buy some sandwiches to eat in the room. I intended that we went out again later but they were exhausted - we'd walked a lot and skating is quite tiring - so after laughing a lot at Romy, we eventually fell asleep quite early. And the next day we had to make our way to the airport at Gatwick. We had time to go to Buckingham Palace and ALMOST see the changing of the guard. My goodness, what a lot of people there were - probably the sunshine that brought everyone out on the streets.

(There were so many people that it crossed my mind that the Queen's cold had got the better of her, but apparently not and the crowds were quite normal.)

And then, we were on the train to Gatwick and home! I'd had another slight panic back in October when it sounded as though Monach Airlines were about to collapse....they were, of course, the airline we would travel back with. But again, we were spared any problems and I would like to congratulate our pilot on the smoothest landing I have ever experienced - like a feather brushing the earth, it was.

FR and Mateo were just arriving as we emerged from the airport - they'd been on the beach at Malaga when I called to say we'd landed (15 minutes early) and they had to scrabble into the car and make the 10 minute journey to find us, so our joint timing was perfect for a quick pick-up. It was lovely to see them again after what felt like a very long time. It was nice too to feel energised by the trip because, contrary to my many fears (foul weather, my dad's health, staying in so many different places) and worries (responsibility for passports, tickets and belongings always weighs heavily on me when I'm with the children), the holiday had exceeded my expectations; we'd had wonderful weather, done everything we'd wanted, negotiated roads, rail and air travel and returned safely without a single problem*, a great deal of good temper and a sense of achievement. I really feel as though my 2017 had got off to a very good start indeed. I won't start on the state of the world at this point, but having such a good personal beginning is giving me the strength to face what might be to come....

*There was just one hiccup to all my plans. I lost tally of the days and dates and as a result, failed to meet up with Kath and Jenny as I had planned. I would also have LOVED to have seen Janice but I didn't make plans to do this, focusing this time on doing what the children wanted to do and knowing that she and Mark have had a busy and exciting time with family themselves.

And, if you've stayed with me to this point - thank you. If I saw you in England, it was a pleasure - it's always lovely to bump into people in the street that I know. It often gives them a bit of a surprise but the years roll away immediately - at least they do for me.

Here are a few more photos - all from our trip.
Happy New Year to everyone and I sincerely hope we can pull together to make it a good one, somewhere and somehow.

Romy looking very proficient

And Ruy too!
Possibly my favourite photo...

Waiting for a turn in the 360degree flying pod at the Science Museum

Outside the Natural History Museum
With Dee-Anne ...still at the Museums!

Palm trees, blue Wandsworth! (HONEST)