Thursday, April 30, 2009

Early pruning of fruit trees

I haven't a lot of news today but I thought I would just share two little things with you. Our new house is only a stone's throw from the A7 motorway which makes it a very easy way to get to nearby places fairly quickly. This week we needed to go to Vera, a nice little town which is a couple of kilometers from Vera Playa, which boasts a long stretch of golden sand. Unfortunately the Playa is overrun by the British and other ex-pats, who inhabit the vast new urbanisation of apartments and duplexes built for their convenience, so we prefer Mojacar and Garrucha when we want the beach. But we like the town and visit it quite often when we want a larger supermarket. My craft shop is also there. This time we were looking for the health centre so that we could register with our village doctor who comes under the Vera administration. We weren't successful on this occasion as we were simply handed yet another form and told to return with a copy of our marriage license, so we'll have to go back again soon. Anyway, we pulled off the motor way along a route we have used several times before, but this time I was suddenly aware of the statue on top of a small hill that overlooks the town. It is a steep hill so you don't notice the statue easily and I had not seen it at all until Jonathan was out here at Christmas and pointed it out. You can just see it in this photo but it is not very clear as I took it through the car window. We have now been to Vera at night and it is actually lit up then so it becomes more visible after dark. It is too high to see clearly but we have seen from a postcard that it is a statue of Jesus. I am keen to walk up to it and we have found the bottom of the foot path that leads up there, but it will be a stiff climb so we are postponing it until a cool day next autumn. But I am determined to see it close up one day.

Today I went out to lunch with a group (there were 39 of us in the end), who all attended the little church in Vera where I went while we were at the flat in El Calón. Unfortunately it closed down at the end of Februaury so we have all had to find alternative places to go. But everyone wanted to keep in touch so we are meeting up every month for a meal together. Later this afternoon I was sitting on the porch to do a bit of sewing when I heard the jangle of bells out on the road. I, being somewhat nosy, had a peep over our front wall and saw a herd of goats calmly stripping the leaves off the orange trees in the gar
den across the road from us. It turned out that they had been brought down to a small piece of rough ground further down the road for some extra grazing, but the trees were obviously more tasty than the poor grass and thistles growing there. I don't know what our neighbours thought of having their orange trees unseasonably pruned just as the new fruit is setting, but the goat herd was quite unperturbed and stood watching them with his two dogs at his side. Eventually the goats had eaten all they could reach so they ambled back to the rest of the herd. All in a days fun!!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

I have chosen my destiny

That sounds a grand philosophical title doesn't it? But it isn't really. Some of you may remember that back in June last year I was riding on an elephant in Thailand. Her name was Watsana which means 'Destiny', and I decided that next time I had a cat I would call it Destiny too. Well I heard about a lady up near Arboleas who had four tiny kittens dumped in her garden. They were only just opening their eyes so they they were no more than four weeks old. Unfortunately it is something that happens too often out here. The Spanish have a very different attitude to animals than the British have. Anyway, she took them in and fed them with a dropper. They have moved on to a syringe now and seem to be doing fine. Her dog, Huny decided to foster them so she keeps them clean and warm. Of course the lady is looking for homes for them and Chris agreed for me to take one. This afternoon we went up to see them and I chose mine. He is the one with a tabby head, flat on his back with big blue eyes. He is not ready to come yet, but providing he is feeding himself in another two weeks I should be able to have him then. He will be called Destino which is Spanish for destiny. He is a funny little thing at the minute but he promises to be a fine cat, and I'm sure he'll be worthy of his name.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Officially residents

Yes folks; Chris and I are now officially residents out here in Spain. I told you last week that I helped Chris write an e-mail in Spanish asking for an appointment at the 'Office of Foreigners' in Almeria, and it must have said what I wanted it to as, early this week, we had an e-mail back telling us to be there at 10.10 this morning. We nearly missed our appointment because we had trouble finding the office, but this being Spain, nothing runs to time, and they didn't seem to mind us arriving five minutes late. We had done our homework well and arrived with all the papers we needed. These included our passports and photocopies of them, Our NIE certificates and Padrons, three copies of each, and the form from the bank to say we had paid the fee. These were all in order, and we left half an hour later each clutching our 'Certificate of Residencia', which is valid for the next five years. We can then renew it and make it permanent if we want to.
When we left the office we decided to have a look around before going home so we drove on down the main road until we hit the sea! It is unusual for a capital city to have a proper beach, but we found not only the port, which we knew was there, but also a long stretch of sand, grey like so many beaches around here, with numerous chiringuitos |(beach cafés), and a long tiled promenade edged with palm trees. There were quite a few people on the beach and several in the sea. We walked along the sand and onto a rough stone jetty. It was wierd to stand on baking hot sand and see snow on the distant mountains. I tried to capture it in this picture but you can't really see it. So you'll have to take my word for it; there really is still quite a lot of snow up on the Sierra.
We then drove back towards home along the coast road, stopping a couple of times to enjoy the view. From one point we could just make out the light-house on the tip of Cabo de Gata where we were last week with our visitors. Just before we got to the turn off for the airport where we rejoin the motorway, we stopped again to look at a big stadium. There was a very good market in its car park last time we were there but unfortunately it can't have been on a Friday, because it was very empty today. The stadium is quite big and modern, relatively new I think. We thought it was where the Almeria football matches are played, but close up, Chris didn't think it was big enough. According to the signs on the gates it is a municiple stadium used for a variety of spots including athletics. There was a nice picture of the Almeria crest on the fence. Can you guess what the legend says. I have translated it as 'Very noble, very loyal and determined for freedom; City of Almeria'. Just at the end of the stadium carpark there is a roundabout with a huge statue on it of Indalo Man. He is the symbol for the province of Ameria, and originates from cave drawings found near here. You can't get away from him. He is on the sides of houses, lorries & fences and every souvenier shop has him made of metal, wood, plastic and adorning ceramics, key rings, jewellry etc. If you give him to some one he sybolises health, wealth and happiness, but you are not supposed to buy him for yourself. Here he is, proudly standing under the Spanish flag.
We were home in time for a late lunch and we finished up the bread I made yesterday. Then we both had a swim in the pool. The water was up to 22º today. Later on we walked down to a little bar/café 50m down the road from us called Los Naranjas which means 'Oranges'. We got talking to some of our neighbours, and decided to stay there to have our tea. We had a very nice, and rasonably priced meal, so no doubt we'll be calling there again.
There are more photos of Almeria City on my gallery.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

A taste of what's to come.

Hello again. Today we had a taste of what it will be like for the next few month. It was a real scorcher. At 28º in the shade, it was much too hot to sit in the full sun, but lovely still under our porch, where we sit to eat lunch whenever we can. I did some washing this morning and by the time it was dry it rather ressembled cardboard! I'll soon have to start hanging it out to dry at night like I did when we lived in Cyprus. Lots of people out here use a tumble drier to keep their towels soft, but it is not a very 'green' option. Jim was a tiny baby when we went to Cyprus and he survived with nappies dried over night, so I am sure we can cope with the towels.
I had a mad moment when I got up this morning and decided to make bread, which incidently rose very well and very fast, but the cooker stayed hot for ages, so I didn't fancy putting it on again for our tea. Instead the 'outdoor kitchen' came into its own. While Chris was at his Spanish lesson I prepared some skewers of meat and we had a little barbeque, washed down with a few cans of beer (shandy for me. I'm a wimp and can't get on with it full strength!). I even did the washing-up outside. We have a big stone sink in the garden with running hot and cold water, so it is ideal for the washing up.
I am enjoying watching the plants develop in the garden. I expect you've gathered that! Our first rose is in full flower and it is huge. It has changed from a rich, deep red, to a purple-pink, and there are five more fat buds about to burst. Just a couple of doors down from us there is a sort of climbing rose with smaller red flowers on it and it looks lovely right now. I thought roses liked heavy, clay soil but they seem to thrive on the dust and sand in our gardens too.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Taking the plunge

I said that when the water temperature in our pool got up to 20º I would get in. Well today it did, so I had to take the plunge. We both sat on the side with our feet in the water, and I wondered what made me think 20º would be warm enough, but I gave it a try, and once I was in, it was actually rather nice! It is only a little pool so you can't do much proper swimming in it, but I paddled around for a bit, and then Chris decided he might as well join me. So here are the photos to prove it.
There is not a lot of other news. I have made a few successful calls on my new skype phone, but so far no-one else has had a camera so I haven't seen who I am talking to, but Jean could see me, so that's a start.
Yesterday I had my first Spanish lesson with Paco, a local bar man who has been holding group lessons for some years. I joined the intermediate group and it was hard work. We did the 'present perfect subjunctive' tense! Now if I knew when to use that in English it would have helped. We were each given a sentence to translate and mine was "I don't believe you saw cows flying around this campsite because there aren't any cows in this area"! I can tell you on good authority that the word 'saw' in that sentence is in the aforementioned pps tense. So now I know some really useful Spanish! But we all muddled along, and I expect I will get the hang of it in time. At least it will save the old grey matter from ossifying!
Our hibiscus turned out to be a bit like a butterfly. It had a short but very beautiful life. Today it has gone but there are loads of buds to look forward to when they open. There is a small stretch of land belonging to us, just beyond our back fence. It drops down into the green zone, and is too steep and overgrown for us to do anything with it, but it has two lovely big orleander shrubs on it, which are now in bloom. The flowers are double ones in a deep pink. I looked it up on the net and I see it is one of the most poisonous plants on the planet, so it is a good thing it is on the other side of the fence. I shall still enjoy looking at it.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Gadgets

Welcome El Gato to my little band of followers. I am glad you identified yourself to me privately. I would never have recognised you from your Avatar!! Perhaps you will inspire others, who I know follow my blog regularly, to sign up as well. It hasn't got a lot of point except that you can post a comment if you want to, but I get quite excited when I see a new name on my list.
Now for gadgets. Most of you will know that, like Mum was, I am a sucker for kitchen gadgets, and I know when folk visit me they are often amazed, and somewhat amused, by some of the equipment I use. So I was rather envious when Jo told me she was taking Jim to 'The Gadget Show Live' at NEC Birmingham, for an Easter surprise. I haven't heard yet how they got on, but I am sure Jim came home with a list of gadgets he'd like to try. It runs in the family! Of course, although Dad wasn't a real gadget collector, he would have loved all the new techno ideas that are around now, and my two new 'toys' fall into that category rather than the kitchenware. First of all, I now have a very good webcam, so when I phone family and friends on Skype they can see me while we chat. Of course, if they also have a webcam, I can see them too. So I am looking forward to seeing the grandchildren on it. They grow up so fast, and it is a good way to keep up with them. Secondly I also have a skype phone. Originally I used a huge pair of headphones with a microphone attached to make skype calls. When they broke I turned to a hands-free kit that went with my mobile phone. It has worked OK but every time I get a call I fumble around plugging it in, and fitting the ear-buds so I am often too late by the time I am ready. But Chris promised me that, when we were settled, I could have a USB phone, and today he bought me one. It's very neat as it actually works as a mouse as well. So when I get a call I just flip open the mouse and use it as a phone. Clever !!
I couldn't do a blog without putting in a picture so here is another of my garden surprises. I was talking to Jean about a plant in one of my patio tubs, that looks a bit like a straggly hydrangea. Last week, when I was watering everything, I noticed that at the tip of each branch there were several buds forming, and this morning when I went out there was a lovely deep red Hibiscus flower. I had to take a picture of it. You might be seeing it again, because if lots of the buds open together it will be a real sight worth photographing.
When I sat down to do this I had another look at the photos I took out the back here yesterday afternoon. I zoomed in on a corner of one and look what I found. Complete with swallow-tail, this is definitely a house martin. I knew they had to be there somewhere. Hasta luego mis amigos. I'll be back soon.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Of Birds and Bugs

We've had an unsettled weather since our visitors left last Tuesday, with rain, clouds, very strong winds and some sun, which, when it shines, is now getting quite hot! I've been feeling a bit under the weather with a very nasty eye infection. I used to have them a lot as a teenager but I haven't had one like this for years. It was very swollen and bruised looking. I remember they always used to make me feel quite poorly, and I had a cookery teacher at the grammar school who I disliked intensely (probably because she called everyone 'Child'), who wouldn't let me in her kitchen when I had a bad eye. She used to look down her nose at me and say "Child, you have a vitamin B deficiency"! Well, I don't think I lack any vitamins now. It is more likely that I got dust or sand in my eye in the high winds, and rubbed it! Anyway, Chris nagged me to do something about it so I went to the Farmacia yesterday and she gave me hydrocortizone cream. That took me aback, as when I wanted some for the patch of dry skin that Ben got on his chin every winter, my friend, who is a pharmacist, said "Don't tell them it's for a face or they won't give it to you". Anyway, this stuff is meant for eyes. It's in a vaseline base, so it's very greasy, but it has made my eye more comfortable, and hopefully it will be gone in a few days.
It rained steadily yesterday evening so this morning I went out to inspect my plants. They were of course, very grateful for the drink and were all looking very perky. We have a big, fat, red rose bud just bursting open. That's one of the plants that Chris pruned nearly down to the ground in February, so it has grown really fast. Last week I put up some photos of some of our flowers and one showed a shrub with red hairy flowers that I thought was quite interesting. I'm posting another picture of it now because suddenly all it's buds have opened and its covered in flowers. I still don't know what it is but I rather like it.
Today I have been working in my room all afternoon. It faces out the back of the house, overlooking the 'green zone' beyond our fence. I suddenly noticed that there were loads of birds swooping around and thought the rain must have woken up the midges. I assumed the birds were house martins. They are very common around here and several pairs have nests under the eaves of next door. We can hear their babies squawking for food in the mornings. I went outside to investigate and soon found the reason for all the excitement. A nest of ants had erupted on our path and were having their moment of flight, and a lot of them were ending up in little house martins tummies. I stood there for ages trying to catch the birds on camera but, of course, they were much too fast for me, and they were swooping in every direction so I couldn't time it right. But in the end I did get one (and there's another one in the far distance), but when I put the picture on the computer I found that it definitely wasn't a house martin after all. There is no 'swallow' tail there! I don't know what it was, and I am sure the martins were also swooping around, but they were too camera shy for me to prove it! Anyway the ants were soon dispersed and the birds disappeared, but it was fun to watch while it lasted.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Out and About

Sadly, today we said 'Good-bye' to our visitors and they should be arriving safely back home round about now. But we have had a lovely week with them, and have taken the opportunity to not only show them some of our favourite local beautispots, but also to explore new ground as well.
Of course, we started by walking round the village, and then taking them to El Calón so they could see the flat, and the coastline around there. We also visited San Juan and the beaches at Garrucha and Mojacar. We were quite lucky with the weather, and every day we were able to sit outside, chatting or eating! We all caught the sun a bit, and we managed to walk around in shorts or skirts most of the time. There has been some strong winds during the week, so at times we have been glad of an extra layer, but it didn't stop us doing what we wanted to.
We didn't go too far over the holiday weekend as we wanted to enjoy the Easter processions, which we went to Turre to see, except for Maundy Thursday when we just went to the little one in our village. It started at 10.00 at night so the pictures of that are not good. But it was quite an experience, and well worth going to. In between the processions we visited several other places. We did manage to get up the hill to Mojacar Pueblo at last. This is an old Moorish village with narrow streets, and terraces of white houses reaching up the slopes. The view from the top is amazing. One way you can see all the agricultural land, and you can just about see our village from there, and the other way there are views of Mojacar Playa (beach).
Jenny wanted to see the dessert so another day we drove as far as Tabernas, the only area in Europe classified as dessert. It is where they filmed the spaghetti westerns, but the film sets are now a sort of theme park. On the way we stopped at a little village called Sorbas, and then we went on to Carbonares and from there followed the winding, cliff-hugging road that leads back to Mojacar. We chose to get to Carbonares using a narrow mountain road, and on the way we passed a huge solar 'farm' with fields of solar panels. Some were waved to follow the contours of the land and they looked quite attractive.
Yesterday we drove almost to Almeria and then cut down to the coast of the natural park called Cabo de Gata. There is a large salt lake there which is sometimes home to a flock of flamingos, but we couldn't see any yesterday. There were also lots of lovely flowers. We saw some ground-hugging yellow daisies with what we thought was a red line around their centres, but on closer inspection, this turned out to be tiny red spider mites! There are loads of daisies around which are a bright flourescent pink, both growing wild and free, and cultivated in containers, . We drove to the bottom tip of the Cabo to a faro (light house), and a mirrador (view point), from where, on a good day, I am told you can see the coast of Africa. It was not clear enough for that yesterday, but the views were still very fine; lots of jagged rocks and what was probably coral breaking the waves in a wide arc between them. The natural park extends quite a distance into the sea. Next we drove on to one of our favourite beach villages called San José and ate our picnic on the sand. This little village is a popular holiday resort for both the Spanish and foreigners, and during July and August it's normal population of 300 rockets to 3,000, so we only go there 'off-season'.
There is tiny peninsular of white houses known as Isleta de Moro that is mentioned in all the guide books so I wanted to see that. It was reminiscent of a small Cornish fishing village, with lots of small boats pulled up the sand dunes. Finally we drove on to Los Negros, another sea-side resort/fishing village. We last went there two years ago, and it had grown a lot since then. We sat on a sunny terrace and drank cups of tea while we watched some hardy children play in the sea. The cliff that edged the bay looked like the head of a girl with her hair streaming behind her. Well I thought so anyway! The others weren't convinced. Look at my gallery and see what you think. That was John and Jenny's last full day, so they took us out for a very nice meal in the evening.
Today we just had time to wander round the market in the village, and have some lunch on the porch, and then it was time for them to pack. All in all it has been a really good week and we made the most of every day.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

He is risen!

Happy Easter to all my followers! I have to say that the Spanish really appreciate the fact that today there is something to celebrate, and they do so in great style. Having looked at the local programmes we decided to take our visitors back to the little Town of Turre, where we were on Good Friday, to watch today's procession, so at 11.00 we were back in the courtyard outside the church. There were more people around today and it was very hot and sunny. I now know a little more about the three brotherhoods in the parade. The white group is Hermandad de la Virgen de los dolores (The Brotherhood of the Madonna; Our Lady of Sorrows). That explains why she has such a sad face. The green group are Hermandad de San Juan (The Brotherhood of St. John), and the purple group are Hermandad del Señor, (the Brotherhood of our Lord). Today's parade was led by San Juan's group and they were followed by a much larger band than on Friday, who had exchanged their black suits for elaborate black and red ones with silver frogging. They looked, and sounded, really good. Then the statue of the Madonna was carried out. On Friday her trono was covered with white roses and lilies, but today they were also threaded with pink roses, and the statue was wearing an elaborate black robe. Of course the third trono was not used today as it represented the crucifixion, but a small trono bearing a casket with a cross of red roses on it was carried straight to the town square where it was guarded by two men dressed as centurions. We walked down to the square and waited with the crowd there for the procession to arrive. When it did, there was a lot of the strange running up and down and lifting high the float of San Juan, that we had seen on Friday. I managed to catch it on video so you will see what I mean. This little routine was repeated five or six times, and then once by the white group. It was so hot, and it looked really hard work. One of the young men carrying San Juan couldn't make it. His legs buckled and he fell, but he was quickly replaced and the sequence continued. One of the other lads was struggling to keep control of his knees, and his legs were buckling, but he just made it to the end. After all this, the two tronos were taken up a wide walk-way, and at the top they were greeted by a new trono, (carried by the purple group) which represented the ressurection. The three tronos all faced each others and their carriers started to dance, bouncing the statues up and down and side to side. Then there was a big cheer, rockets full of sparkling paper were launched into the sky and a few fireworks were let off. Then the trono bearers reversed their cloaks so what had been the pale blue lining was now on the outside. They hugged and kissed, and passed bottles of champagne around. Then two people climbed onto the Madonna's throne and removed her black robe to reveal a beautiful pale blue and gold one underneath. As I said, they celebrated in style, and it was exciting to be a part of that happy crowd. Once again I wanted to share it with you so here are a couple of short videos. The second one is poor quality. I was holding the camera in my right hand to take photos and my phone in my left hand for videos, and I had to hold it high above the heads of those in front, so my arms got a bit tired and wobbly, but it will give you some idea of what it was like.
video video

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Good Friday

Despite a rather late night on Thursday, I was up with the larks on Good Friday morning, so I could make a batch of hot cross buns. It is so nice to have a proper cooker to use again after six months at the flat without one. The kitchen soon smelled lovely and spicey, and by a late breakfast/early lunch, we were able to sit down to warm buns which were very nice, even if I shouldn't say so myself.
We then set off to the little town of Turre, just five minutes drive from here, because the local paper said they have one of the better 'small town' Good Friday processions. It was well worth going to. The town has three hermanadades or brotherhoods, each responsible for a different part of the ceremony. They each started their bit of the procession with an adult carrying a banner, accompanied by children wearing the costume of their group. The first was white, then green, and finally purple, the traditional colours in the church for Easter. Behind this group came the trono (throne) carrying a statue which was dressed in beautiful robes and flanked by gorgeous banks of flowers. The tronos were carried on long poles resting on the shoulders of several men and women. They were very heavy, and you could see the strain on the carriers faces every time they had to stop and lower the statue, and then raise it again. Many of them have to walk 'blind' as they are directly facing the base of the throne, and cannot see the path. One man walks on either side to ensure the throne remains level and stable, and he adjusts the steps of the carriers, or changes them around to ensure it stays even. They walk with a strange gait, stepping sideways and back again so the whole thing sort of sways from side to side. Each trono has a large metal knocker on it and one man bangs on this periodically to maintain the steady pace and to tell the carriers when to stop , lower or raise the trono, so they all work in unison. It is all very well orchestrated. We watched the three sections leave the church and pass us, accompanied by a very good band, who played very slow music in some places, and quite cheerful music in others. Then we walked down a side road and came out on the main road through the town where there were more people, so we waited there to see what else was going to happen. Soon after this, the procession came round the corner. At the square the first trono (bearing the virgin) stopped. Then the band played some lovely music and marched away up the road. Next the second trono came to the first one and they had a sort of 'face-off'. They turned so the two statues were facing each other. And then we were taken by surprise when the second one was lifted up and the carriers ran with it up the road. Everyone clapped and cheered and then they ran down again. Then they lifted it up really high for a few minutes and lowered it again. This was no mean feat considering the weight of them. They did this several times with the crowd getting more and more excited. Then the trono with the virgin on it was lifted and they ran up the hill with that, before they all disappeared round the corner. We heard the band again in the distance so we followed the sound and found the procession in a very narrow street and it had now been joined by the third trono again, (depicting the crucifixion). They all walked solemnly back to the church. It was a very strange, but moving celebration. I have no idea what the bit in the middle was all about. It seemed very bizarre, and not at all in keeping with the rest of a very serious occasion. It was almost as though each group was saying 'Look at us. We are the strongest. See what we can do!' We wondered if that is how it had started many years ago. A contest of prowess between the brotherhoods that gradually became adopted into the tradition. I certainly can think of no religious significance for it. There were a lot of people of all ages involved in the procession, but no-one else followed behind it like they had done on Maundy Thursday. This time the rest of the townsfolk, and the tourists, were spectators. I am enjoying finding out about the local traditions.
I am including a picture of each trono, but there will be more images on my gallery. It is hard to give much idea of what it was like in pictures, so I took some videos on my phone and I will try to add a couple below this. I hope you can manage to play them.
video video

Friday, April 10, 2009

Down came the rain!

Tuesday dawned warm and sunny so I set off to stock up on lovely fresh fruit and veg from the village market. I came home and said to Chris how hot it was. I'd have liked to sit outside in the sun but I decided to set off to the neighbouring town of Turre to do some supermarket shopping for our visitors first, as I wasn't sure how much the shops would be open over the Easter weekend. I parked a way from the supermarket as it was so sunny, and had a browse along the street first. Then I did my shopping and came through the checkout, only to find that the heavens had opened and we had a thunderstorm of monsoon proportions. It certainly rivalled anything we saw in Thailand. I sheltered at the entrance of the shop for a while and then the rain seemed to ease a bit so I decided to go for the car anyway. It is only a five minute drive home and I would soon be able to change if I got a bit damp. So I set off for the car and just as I did, there was another loud clap of thunder and I was pelted with huge hail stones. Then I realised that I was parked on the other side of the road which was by now a raging river, so I paddled across, much to the amusement of three Spanish lads who drove passed me in a van, tooting and shouting at me!! I dripped my way inside a few minutes later, like a little drowned rat, and had to change every stitch I was wearing. Needless to say, by then the sun was out again. Click on this link to get the idea. Chris filmed this from our porch. The houses do not have gutters (there's not a lot of need) so the water from the roof pours down wherever it can.
videoOf course, the flowers in the garden are only too happy to have some rain. I said I would show you some of them so here are a few. First the orange blossom which continues to fill the air with it's heady perfume. This bright pink daisy grows rampantly over rough ground and in gardens. We passed a house the other day that had a whole wall covered in it. It was also growing in abundance on the beach at El Calón and when we left the flat I brought a small piece with me and put it in a pot on our patio. It seems to be thriving and this flower is on my little cutting. Lovely, isn't it? And finally I thought this one was rather interesting. It is in a pot at the side of our house, and it was looking pretty dried out and sad when we came here. But we have been watering it and cutting back the dying bits and it is now covered in buds which open to produce this mass of red fillaments. I have no idea what it is called. There are more flower pictures in the 'Our new home' folder on my gallery.
Today was another bright, warm day so we decided to have our first barbeque of the year. Chris and John did the cooking while Jenny and I prepared salads and a big jug of sangria.We decided to try something new, so at the supermarket we bought a tray of globe artichokes, which are eaten a lot out here. None of us had tried them or knew what to do with them, so we looked them up on the internet and settled on roasting them and making a mayonnaise and balsamic vinegar dip. They were different and not unpleasant, though they weren't overly exciting either. Still it's good to try new things. We sat in our little sun trap at the back of the house to eat our meal, and it was all lovely.
Then later tonight we walked up to the village church to watch the Maundy Thursday procession. At 10.00 this evening, two large statues (one was the Virgin de Carmen, our village saint, but I don't know who the other one was) were carried from the church around the village, on the shoulders of strong men. They are very heavy, and carrying them is an opportunity to do penance. They were accompanied by a band playing very distinctive music which I loved, and other penitants who wore black robes and pointed hats that are intended to disguise their identity. We joined the crowd of local people who walked behind the statues around all the little roads of the village and back to the church. It took over an hour. At various points along the route, everyone stopped and the band stopped playing, while one man 'sang' a chant which is based on a flamenco gypsy chant. Each time, he was applauded and then we moved on again. It was good to be a part of this old tradition.

Monday, April 6, 2009

All sorted!

Yes, the unpacking is now all complete. Having visitors arriving tommorrow night was a good incentive to get on with things, and except for a few finishing touches, we had the main house in order last week. But arranging my own 'special space' was a daunting task, not the least because the room was so full of boxes that I couldn't move in there. But it is now all finished. There's 'a place for everything, and everything in it's place' as mum used to say. Things are arranged differently from what I am used to, so I need to make lots of labels to help me find things when I want them. I have my big desk to work at my craft on, and it will be very convenient to have the computer in the same room as I often use them together. Chris didn't think I would ever get it straight so he was quite surprised when I brought him down to see it last night. His contribution was to play with the magnets on my cupboard door so they are smiling at me! He did then put up a few picture hooks for me, so I could hang two pictures that Jonathan and Ben did in their final year of primary school, and I think for eleven year olds, they did pretty well. I've also hung a picture of daisies, that was painted by the lady who is visiting us this week. Jenny illustrates childrens' books, and Chris commissioned her to paint some daisies for my birthday several years ago. My final picture is a flower made up of hand prints of all the children who were in my nursery when I retired. Sadly the original had to go when we moved but I took a photo of it and have now printed it out for my wall. It was such a lovely thing to do for me. The staff knew I was always facinated by the childrens' hands. All my boys had big hands with long thin fingers, and it wasn't until I worked in the nursery that I discovered how much little hands can vary. Some are so small and delicate and others are soft and podgy with short, fat fingers. We were always printing with hands, drawing round them, casting them in plaster and pressing them into playdough, so the staff knew what they were doing when they collaged them all for me, when I left. I am so lucky to have this lovely room to 'do my own thing' in. I can't wait to get started, and as I have a grand-daughter who is seventeen at the end of the month, and a niece getting married in May, I have some cards to make.
And to finish off the house today we hung a big multi-frame above the fire in the sitting room which I have filled with photos of the boys and the grandchildren. There was nowhere to hang my 'rogues gallery' - individual pictures of each of them, that has always been on my wall, but it is getting increasingly difficult to get recent photos of them all, so this frame is a good solution. Chris also put up my butterflies on the outside walls of the house. He bought two for me on our twentieth wedding anniversary, from the workshop where they are made, near Llangollen. Later we bought one for Peggy, Chris' mum, and when Mary cleared the house out to sell it after Peggy died, she gave it back to us. So we now have two flying on the side wall and another one landing on the rehas on the front window. They look quite at home there. I also found time today to make bread (French bread, not Spanish!), and a ginger cake, and do some gardening, but I think I'll write about the flowers tomorrow. The clock is just striking midnight, and as I stripped the bed for the wash this morning, I had better go and put some clean sheets on before one of us wants to crawl inbetween them. Good-night all.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

I told you fairies live here!

Many years ago, my sister Dorothy took me to see the film Pollyanna. It's a real tear jerker but I loved it. I've seen it several times on T.V. since then, and cried buckets every time! But the bit I remember the best is when the irrepressible little girl, Pollyanna, cheered up a grumpy old lady by taking the chrystals from her chandelier and stringing them across the window to make rainbows. Since then I have bought several chrystals and hung them in my windows, delighting myself and the grandchildren (I'm not so sure about the boys) with myriads of rainbows dancing on the walls, floors, ceiling and furniture, and on ourselves as well. I did it for the children in nursery too and they loved it. Of course out here there is a lot more sunshine, so I get a lot more rainbows. Now I know that they happen when white-light passes through a prism and by a process called diffraction is split into different wavelengths, each of which is visible as a different colour, but if want to see them as my fairies flying around, even in the day time, because they are so happy to be in their new home, then why shouldn't I? They even let me photograph them, and I managed to catch one in flight!
This morning we did the last of the tasks that required a drill. We have discovered that, good as it is on most surfaces, 'No more nails' tape doesn't work on my kitchen tiles, so today Chris drilled into them and hung my utensil rail above the hob, freeing up some much-needed drawer space. Then he hung a rail across one of the cupboards in the garage to hang shoe-holders from. Shoes are such a nuisance to store, and this packs them all away nice and tidy. Finally we tackled the hall, putting up our 'good' book shelves, more for ornaments than books, as these are mostly on the shelves in our respective rooms. We also found a space for the wall hanging I bought from Chi's mother when she invited us to her home in Sapa, Vietnam. So I've added a couple of photos of this to my gallery, and also replaced some of the others. They were a bit blurred because I had the camera on the wrong setting, and the light was better today anyway. I am not ready to add any more of my room yet, but hopefully I will have it finished by the weekend.