Wednesday, February 25, 2009

We've got wheels ...

..... Spanish wheels that is! We had wheels before but they were English ones. Having made the decision to move here permanently, we knew we would be better off with a left -hand drive car and Spanish number plates, so today we traded in our Focus for a Renault Scenic. It is a little older than ours, but it's in excellent condition. It has very efficient air-conditioning which is so important here, and there's more room inside. The back seats even lift out to turn it into a mini-van if necessary. Chris collected it this morning while I stayed here, as we had two new armchairs being delivered. So this afternoon he took me out for a test drive. We went to a long stretch of quiet road so I could take a turn behind the wheel. It's the first time I have driven a left-hand drive car and it did feel a bit strange. It felt natural to be sitting in the centre of the road when driving, and I got the hang of the gears quite well, but the clutch is different so I didn't always change smoothly, but I'll soon get used to that. But I kept looking for the handbrake on the right side, and the rear-view mirror is very strange and may take a bit longer to get accustomed to. All in all I am sure it will be a change for the better, and before long it will seem like we've always driven that way.
Tomorrow we return to UK for a couple of weeks and I will have limited access to the internet, so this will be my last blog for a while. Don't forget to check back after 15th March, when 'service will resume as normal'.

Monday, February 23, 2009


Hi everyone. I said I would have some exciting news to tell you, so here it is. It is actually only exciting for me really but I want to share it with you anyway. Most of you know I am 'into' papercraft, and some of you will know I make ATCs. These Artist Trading Cards are small pieces of unique art work which are exchanged with other art and craft fans, rather like an artistic calling card. They can only be exchanged (or given as gifts) and must not be sold. They have to be the size of a standard playing card, 2.5" x 3.5", and can be painted, glued, stamped, embellished etc. Almost anything is acceptable as long as it is your own work and not just a made up kit, or a copy of someone else's work.
I have been making ATCs for a couple of years and now have a folder full of other people's cards that I have received through on-line swaps and magazine swaps, or by meeting other swappers at craft shows. Jean got me interested, and at first I was unsure. I am not a neat worker and I thought the small size would be very limiting, but in fact it is just a different sort of challenge, and before long I was hooked.
Last Autumn I received an electronic news letter from a company called Crafty Individuals. I have been a customer of theirs for some time as I love the style of stamps they make and sell on-line. The letter announced a competition to create an ATC using any items from their range. Now I am not usually confident enough to enter craft competitions, and most of my craft materials and equipment are still in storage, but I did have a few of their stamps here with me so I decided to give it a go. I made three entries and sent them in well before the closing date of 26th January. Then to my amazement, I received an announcement earlier this month to say not only was I a winner, but I had in fact won first prize!! I was absolutely bowled over. I didn't expect to get anywhere and only entered because I love receiving the swaps! My other entries featured trees on one and angels on Christmas postage for the other, but for the one that won I used a lovely Crafty Individuals poppy stamp and a photo of my grandfather. I used the computer to make a caption, and painted and decoupaged (layered) the poppy. Sometimes for online swaps we are given a theme for our work, but for this competition we had a free choice. I called this card 'Remembrance'. This photo shows the finished ATC as photographed by the company. You can see more details and the other entries by going to and clicking on 'competition winners' in the column on the left of the page. Jean entered as well so hers are on one of the boards. I have tried to guess which are hers but I am not sure.
My prize was £50 worth of stamps etc from their site and £50 cash, so I had a lovely time chosing what I would have. The parcel will be waiting for me to open when I get to the Punchbowl on Thursday. What fun! It has been a tremendous confidence booster. I knew I had won a couple of week ago but I had to wait until the results were made public before I could put it on here. The photos of all the entries were posted yesterday, so at last I can talk about it. I hope you don't think this is 'showing off'. It was just such a lovely surprise that I wanted to tell everyone about it.

Friday, February 20, 2009

A stroll around the village

We are beginning to feel at home in our new house, so I thought it was time I got to know my way around the village. After a coupe of chilly, grey days, yesterday dawned clear and blue, and it was soon very warm. We were busy all morning and after lunch we got out the loungers and relaxed for a while. Then I went in search for my trusty camera and set off for a stroll around the village. I expected it to not be busy as it was siesta time, and everything stops for a couple of hours, even in the cooler months. And it was certainly quiet though I did come across little groups of Spanish folk, sitting together, wherever there was a suitable seat. And seating is something there is quite a lot of. Every time I turned a corner I found another little area of shade with trees, pots of flowers and seating. Life here is lived out of doors for most of the year, so for people living in tiny apartments and houses with no garden, these rest areas are very important, and they are where the social life of the village takes place. I saw groups of the elderly dozing on benches, folk on their doorsteps chatting with neighbours, and several recreational areas where young mums sat together watching their children playing on swings and slides. There are at least three 'squares' in the village including the new plazza which is the site of village fiestas. There is a small one in front of the church. The bell tolled for three o'clock as I stood there, and it made me glad that it is a distance from our house. The bell was very loud! The whole village is surrounded by open countryside. On two sides there are ramblas, or dry river beds, and many streets just come to an end at the edge of them. There is lovely rural scenery in every direction, with the main motorway just visible beyond the farmland. I saw horses and donkeys, and a man with his herd of goats. And the backdrop to it all is the Cabreras mountains which are just visible from the back of our garden. I discovered the location of the doctors clinic, always useful to know, and three small supermarkets, a bread shop reputed to be the oldest in the province of Almeria, two hairdressers, several bar/cafés, the chemist, two banks and a feriterria which is what we used to call an ironmongers, and which now sells anything in the way of household needs, (a bit like Wilkinsons in Oswestry. I don't know if you have them down south). I am sure there are other shops around as well that I didn't spot. Everywhere I looked there were flowers; wild ones along the roadside and potted ones on balconies and porches. No matter how small a space is, they nearly always manage to sqeeze in a pot or two. There are lots of the original houses still in the centre of the town, and along the little narrow streets, and some new larger ones around the edge. It will be a while before we know all the backstreets but it is a charming village and I know we are going to enjoy living in it. I took a lot of photos and couldn't decide which ones to put on here, so I have made a folder of most of them on my picasa gallery. Enjoy looking, and I hope you will all come and see it for yourselves one day. It is getting late now so I am off to bed. I will upload the pictures to the gallery tomorrow.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Images from the garden

Yesterday we got the keys to our new house so today we drove over there and 'got aquainted'. It was another lovely day. I dug out the loungers and we sat by the pool for a while. Then I went around the garden, watering plants and generally finding out what was there. I discovered all sorts of treasures. There is a good range of plants, from palm trees to cacti, to various succulents and very English looking roses. I found lots of ceramic plates, pots and ornaments, either hanging on or embedded in the walls, and a rather nice water feature, though this needs a new pump to get the water flowing. There are even some odd ornaments wearing sun-glasses. I wouldn't have bought them but they are quite fun so I expect they will stay. The plate in this photo shows 'Indalo man'. He is the symbol of Andalucia, and is based on cave drawings found near here. He can be seen on houses, vehicles, road signs and company logos, and if you are given one it is supposed to bring you good health and happiness. Chris spotted a tiny, pale lizard on the back fence and called me over to see it.
I found so many interesting things, so I decided to take some photos and make a folder on my gallery. I shall post them up now. One day next week I will make another gallery of images from the village.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Home sweet home

Yes; At last we have the keys to our new home. This morning we went to our solicitor's office in Mojacar to fill in the last few forms, and then she took us to see the Notary. While we were waiting for our turn, her secretary read everything to us in English one more time, then the notary read it all to us again in Spanish, we signed it, and then we all shook hands and they gave us the keys. Tom and Jessie met us at the house so we could show them around. We cracked open a bottle of sparkling cava to drink a toast. It was a lovely day so we sat outside enjoying the sun. Several of the neighbours called out 'Holá' to us, so I am sure we will soon get to know them. The pool looked really inviting and I couldn't resist putting my toes in, but it was very cold! I wonder how soon we will be able to get right in.
The house was left beautifully clean and tidy, and there is enough furniture for us to begin with, though we will have to buy a few pieces eventually. At least I have a cooker now! During next week we will start to move our 'stuff' over from the flat. Then I can get this place cleaned up too before we return the keys to the landlord. I will miss seeing the sea when I open the shutters each day, but it will be super to be in our own place. Now all we need is to get our belongings out here and we'll really feel at home.

A lovely day out

Tom and Jessie have had a super week here. They hired a car and have done some exploring on their own, but today we agreed to go out with them. As we feel deprived that we have not shared all that cold white stuff with you folk back home, we took them up to the Sierra Nevada to find some snow! And we certainly found some. It was beautiful. There was more snow around than when we went up with Jonathan at Christmas, but it was melting faster too. Little snow ploughs were keeping the paths clear, and we watched some brave souls who were roped to a chimney, using picks and shovels to remove thick snow from the roofs before it fell onto the people below. Beautiful icicles hung from all the buildings, and we all got chilly drips of water on our heads and down our necks.
After lunch we drove to a place called Orgiva to visit some friends of Tom and Jessie, who they spent a couple of weeks with last summer. Orgiva is a pretty white village nestled in the Apuljarras range of mountains, which gained some fame as the home of Chris Stewart, author of 'Driving over lemons'. (A diary of how this ex-drummer from the band Genesis, bought a run down farm a few miles from Orgiva, rebuilt it and brought up his daughter there. I'd recommend it to anyone interested in life in Spain). Glyn and Fabe, who we were visiting, have a charming cortijo on the edge of the village, with lots of land, planted with various fruit, nut and olive trees, vegetables and flowers. We spent a lovely time drinking tea on a patio hung with wind chimes, suncatchers and colourful 'Arabian turban' gourds. When we heard jangling bells we went to the gate to greet their neighbour Minola as he walked his herd of goats home for the night. Then we chatted in the garden while watching the setting sun lengthen our shadows across the grass.We left with a huge bag of oranges that we had helped to pick. It was very dark by the time we got home, and we had to take a last couple of photos of a huge orange moon reflected in a calm dark sea. A lovely day! See my gallery for more photos.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The shell seekers

Instead of my usual song title I thought I'd use a book title today instead. (The shell seekers by Rosamunde Pilcher). Today was the last day of their holiday for Jean and Ron, and it dawned warm and sunny, so we wanted to make the most of it. After a leisurely breakfast 'al fresco', we set off towards San Juan. Usually we only stop off here to refil our water bottles at the supermarket but today we strolled along the long sandy beach. Us girls had to paddle of course! It was very beautiful with a clear blue sky and sparkling water to match. There was just enough breeze to make the waves interesting, and they broke on the little rocky outcrops in pools of white foam. While the men gave one another a geography lesson, each illustrating their points with elaborate maps in the sand, Jean and I used the time to collect tiny, tiny shells for our craft. I have collected them from here before and they are just perfect for cards and ATCs because they are small and flat enough to send through the post. I have photographed some next to a euro, similar in size to a British pound, just to show how tiny they are. Jean took the ones we found today home with her, and they were mostly even smaller than these. I couldn't find my really tiny ones tonight; I may have to go and collect some more!
We walked back along a lovely clean, tiled promenade to a Venta where we intended to have our lunch. Ventas are bars which serve a set menu during siesta hours at a very reasonable cost. They were a government initiative orginally introduced to provide a hearty meal for the workers who came in from the fields for their afternoon break. They would eat a three course meal, sleep for a couple of hours, and then return for more hard labour in the fields. Now anyone can enjoy the 'menu del dia' and we thought it would be a good idea to do so today. Unfortunately we discovered that this particular venta closes on Wednesdays! Not to be put off by this, we drove along to Villaricos to the restaurant where we enjoyed a lovely Christmas dinner with Jonathan. They also do a special lunch time menu, but being an English-run establishment it is a slightly less basic menu with a wider choice, and of course, a slightly higher cost. But it was worth it. We had a very nice meal which meant our visitors could travel without feeling hungry, and I didn't need to think about cooking for us when we returned from the airport. The wind got up while we were eating lunch and when we got back to the flat I had to collect my washing from all the corners of the roof terrace, but at least it was dry. We got Jean and Ron to the airport in plenty of time, and it looked as though their flight was on schedule, so Bournemouth has obviously cleared their runways of ice and snow now. We are just waiting for an e-mail to say they are safely home. (Just received. It was snowing when they arrived. What a strange day they've had, paddling on a sunny beach in the morning and driving through snow tonight).

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Spring has sprung

Well we have been enjoying a lovely week with our visitors, Jean and Ron. The weather has been very kind, and although we have had some days when the wind has proved too chilly to sit out in, we have also managed to have our breakfast on the verandah on several occasions, and we have spent many days sharing some of our favourite haunts with them. Chris had to find his sun hat for Ron when his scalp took on a 'pink glow', and we have had little need for our coats all week. Today we drove inland a little to the Arboleas/Albox area. We bought churros and lovely smelly manchego cheese from the market. We also stopped along the way to photograph this beautiful almond blossom. The trees are in flower everywhere, sometimes in small plots with lots of trees on, and sometimes lone trees along the roadside. (We can't decide what to call a lot of them together. It's an orange grove or an olive grove, so perhaps it is also a grove of almonds!) Anyway, whatever they are called, they smell lovely and look beautiful and are a sure sign that spring has really sprung. Despite this we will be phoning the airport tomorrow to find out whether Jean and Ron have a flight home. Their son is stranded in Tennerife tonight because Bournemouth airport is frozen so no planes took off, so maybe they will get an extra day of our sunshine. We will have to see what tommorrow brings.