Friday, April 30, 2010

The broom blooms bonnier!

A few weeks ago I did a blog entitled 'The broom blooms bonny' because I was so taken by the sight of the campo covered with yellow shrubs. The flowers were quite a deep yellow and they didn't last long. The shrubs are now covered in little 'pea-pod' seeds, but there are still plenty of other flowers to enjoy. Then this week I was really surprised to turn a corner round the hill on the campo, and find myself surrounded by a new strain of broom. This one has a much lighter, brighter and smaller flower, and they seem to have all come out at once. The sun was shining on them and it looked stunning. This was just a small area of them. They actually cover a huge area. You can see from the second photo, how densely flowered they are. Unfortunately their moment of splendour will be short lived. Already the flowers are starting to fall like yellow confetti. Just at the end of our walk I spotted this pretty blue flower. It caught my eye as it is unusual to see a plant such a true blue. It is the first time I have seen this one but I am pretty certain that it is chicory. I know that because it is one of my favourite 'flower fairies' and Cicely Mary Barker's drwings are very accurate.

We feel our summer has really arrived now. I walk the dogs at 8.00 in just a thin dress, and most days we eat our lunch outside. Then I sit out for the afternoon with my lace-making, sewing or a book. It can get quite breezy but the porch is fairly sheltered and I don't like it when it is too hot and still. We've taken up the carpets for the summer and packed away the douvet. I hope we are not tempting fate there. On Wednesday afternoon we had our first dip in the pool. The thermometer in the water showed 22º but Chris doesn't think it is very accurate. It certainly was warm enough to stand around in without getting chilled. No doubt we'll be in there quite regularly now.

As you mostly know, I am a registered diabetic, and for the past few months I have been on medication, taking half a tablet in the morning and half at lunchtime. In England I was only tested once every six months, but here they do it every month, and yesterday I had my appointment. It is always at around 8.30 and I can't eat or drink until after I've been tested. It was a different nurse this week and she didn't speak any English, but when she had filled in my card (blood sugar level and blood pressure) she just said 'Medico' which was her way of telling me to go in to the doctor. I didn't know why as the levels looked much the same as usual but I went in to see him. He speaks fairly good English but I always try to use Spanish if I can. Anyway he looked at my card, did a big tick through it and said 'Fantastico'! He then went on to say my sugar level is still a bit high and was I taking my tablets every day. I said 'yes' but that I found it hard to remember the lunch time one so could I just take a whole one in the morning. We don't always eat midday. Often it's nearer 2 or 3 o'clock, or we may just have tapas in town and cook even later. But he said 'No, no, no. Lunch time is important. It is the strong time. You must take half a tablet in the morning and then have some breakfast, and at lunch time you need a whole tablet and then BIG FOOD', illustrating this by using his hands to draw a plate piled high! I don't do 'big food', but I guess that puts paid to our plan to move to a mid evening main meal as it gets warmer. I don't like cooking once the kitchen gets really hot, so I'll have to do some bulk cooking early in the morning, and freeze away things that just need to be reheated at lunch time. They won't be very big meals though. It is hard enough to keep my weight under control with the little I eat now and the hot weather does nothing to improve my appetite. I'll have to do my best. I know the problems that come when diabetes isn't taken seriously, so it's in my own interest to 'do what the doctor orders'.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

In memory of Destino

In my last post I told you of the sad death of my little ball of fluff - Destino. I do miss having her running about the place. Chris bought her for me last year as a present on our thirtieth wedding anniversary, so it was doubly sad that the day she died was actually our thirty-first anniversary. We did not celebrate in any way as it was also the day that Chico had his operation, so our thoughts were elsewhere, so today, as we sat out enjoying the sun, we decided to mark the day by buying an orange tree. You may think that is an odd choice as oranges are two a penny out here nearly all year round, but like apples, you just can't beat picking one off your own tree. We have a very sad looking lemon tree, which actually has quite a few flowers on it this year, and a tiny, baby mandarin tree which may, or may not, produce some fruit, but we wanted to have a mature orange tree, ready to bear fruit. So we went to the garden centre and chose a tree with a good sturdy trunk, four ripe oranges on it, and lots of blossom. Of course, being disturbed at this stage in its life, the blossom may all drop, but it should definitely fruit next season. We have no garden as such to plant it in, so we bought a huge container which needs at least three eighty litre bags of compost to fill it, so we have to make sure we chose the right spot to site it, because we won't be moving it once it is planted up. We put it in the tub and took these photos and then we ate one of the oranges each and they were lovely! So it will be a constant memory of little Destino, who would have loved to have her own tree to climb in the garden!

There is a small corner in the back patio where there used to be a mimosa tree. The previous owners cut it down because the pollen and falling flowers spoiled the pool, but they left a stump about a foot above ground. This is covered by a small stool and on that there is a little water feature, which just about works. The ground around is covered in large stones and the dogs have dug these up over and over again. It traps all the rubbish from the garden and generally just looks a bit unloved. So Chris had the bright idea of making it into a little garden. It is what we can see when we sit on the porch. Gradually most of our flowering tubs have been moved into the front yard because as puppies, the dogs just ate them, (the flowers that is), and they were getting ruined, so the whole patio is rather bare. Now the dogs are older and have finished teething, they no longer chew all the plants though they do dig in any flat ground that isn't paved. Anyway, the idea of a tiny garden greatly appealed to me and I sat down and planned what we could do with it. The garden centre was full of lovely plants and we chose some to give height at the back, one to hang from the wall above it, and some smaller ones for the front. I tried to get a mixture of some familiar ones such as a hydraenga and a fuchia, and some more exotic ones like this type of cactus, and the pretty purple bossom tree. I chose a diplodena in the hope that it will climb over the water feature that we decided to leave in the centre. The whole thing only measures about a meter square but it looks so nice. Chris put an edge of split logs around it to discourage the dogs from digging, and they will be in big trouble if they touch it. Here are the 'before' and 'after' pictures. I am sure you will agree that it is a great improvement.

I also chose a bowl of deep pink petunias to hide the cushion storage box behind the garden, and then I spotted this bright yellow/orange daisy, and I just had to have that as well. It is a succulent and only flowers when it is in the full sun. In the shade, the flowers close up. It is similar to these bright pink ones, and the tiny orange ones in with them. They are both cuttings that I took from the beach at El Calón when we left the flat to move here. The pink daisy grows everywhere, and you often see it covering large areas such as banks and walls. I love it and am so glad ours is flowering this year. Finally I have two small red plants that were surplus to requirements in the little garden. Both are common house plants at home; the kalenchoe will flower for ages and so will the other one. I had a yellow one like it on the windowsill at home and it was one of my most successful house plants. I don't know its proper name, but out here it is known as 'crown of thorns'. When we have bought some more compost and planted the tree properly, they can go underneath it.

And finally an update on Chico. He is an amazing animal. The day after surgery he was up and walking around, and now he hops around after us as though born to it. He doesn't seem to need his painkillers though I do make sure he takes the antibiotics so he doesn't get an infection in the wound. Here he is lying out on the porch with us. We try to keep him in the shade as I think his shaved area would sun-burn quite easily. As you can see it is a big wound and he is a bit multicoloured. The orange is similar to iodine and the blue is to deter the flies, though he has licked some of that off. He has been very good at leaving it alone but we do put the big collar on him whenever he is alone. It has a thick wool ribbing around the neck which makes him very hot so we don't make him wear it whenever we are with him. The vet told us that the operation took four hours and the last hour was all the stitching up. He has thirty four external stitches and lots of internal ones. Anyway, he is managing brilliantly with only three legs, and sometimes when you see him, you would hardy notice. Of course he will look a lot better when the stitches are out, and his fur has grown over the scar, but we are proud of the way he is coping, and now we are sure it was the best option for him, under the circumstances.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A sad, sad day.

I guess I started this blog so I could share our day to day life with friends and family back in England, so it is only right that I should share the sad days as well as the happy ones. Fortunately our days are mostly happy ones, but there are a few less so, and today is one of those. It didn't start off too well because we knew that at 9.30 this morning we were taking Chico to the vet to have his leg amputated. It is now a month since his accident and there was no marked improvement to his foot. The vet was reluctant to do the operation because Chico is so young, but she tested him thoroughly this morning, she even got scissors and cut up between his toes and he didn't bat an eyelid, so there is definitely no nerve function in his foot. It hangs limply and just gets in his way. He bangs it on steps, and drags it around so that it is constantly sore and open to infection. So we had no choice really but to have it removed. The vet explained that she would take the whole leg from the shoulder, partly because it looks a lot better, and partly because if she left a stump, he would continue to injure it. So we left him there and she said she would phone us when he woke up from his anaesthetic.

However, prior to the 9.30 trip, it was my turn to get up to tend to the other animals, so I fed them all, let the cats out into the garden as usual, and took Miki and Foxy off for their long run. When I returned I was shocked to find Destino in the garden, dead. She was just lying on the path and Paco was sitting beside her, waiting for her to wake up and play some more. She had only just died as she was still warm and soft. There was no sign of any injury or of poisoning, so we took her down to the vet and she said she may have just had a heart attack. She was only one last week. However when we went back for Chico tonight, the vet told us she had a closer look at Destino and she thinks maybe she had been hit by a car, because she found blood stained froth in her throat which suggested punctured lungs. I am really surprised if a car hit her. Unfortunately cats are not trainable and there is absolutely no way of stopping them going on the road, but she never went beyond the garden of the house opposite, and was usually in our garden playing around the tubs of plants. If she was outside the gate and a car came, she shot back in, so whoever did it must have been travelling too fast for our little road. She was very special and I loved her to bits, so I am really sad to have lost her so soon.

And now back to Chi
co. We were told we could fetch him home just before 7.00 this evening. Ellen, (the vet) warned us before we went in, that it was a very big wound, which of course, it is, but as I told her, when you have brought up a family boys you learn not to be squeamish. She has done a good tidy job on it. At the moment his whole side is shaved, but once the hair has grown back, it won't look too bad. He is still asleep, and we could have left him at the surgery until tomorrow, but they don't open up until 9.30 and we didn't want him waking up and having a couple of hours tied up in a strange place, and in pain, so we brought him home. They lifted him into the back of the car on a blanket, and when we got home, a neighbour helped us do the same to get him out, and we laid him beside our bed so we can get to him easily in the night. He really yelped and screamed when he was moved, but he soon settled again, and I have painkillers and antibiotics to give him tomorrow. She says he should try to walk on it in a couple of days, and in two weeks or so, he will have his stitches out, and should be fine. So he's a poor old thing today, and I think tomorrow will be the hardest day, when he is fully awake, but hopefully he will then make good progress and soon be able to get on with his life.

So yes, it was a very sad day in the Perry household today. The animals are a part of our family, and to lose one leaves a big gap, and to see one in pain is hard, because you can't even explain to them what is going on, but hopefully there will be no more sad days for a while now.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Looking good!

I said the saga of our street was now at an end, but I have a 'post script' to add today. When they first dug up the road we were rather sad to see the trees taken away from each corner. Of course they were very close to the houses and their roots would interfer with the new underground pipes, but they looked nice and offered some welcome shade when we walked up to the village in the summer. Anyway, the new parking lane of the road was left with small tubes sprouting out at intervals so we were hopeful of getting something there soon. This week large bowl shaped planters arrived and the tubes were duly fed up through them. Then today a van came down and filled each one with earth, and the next time we looked we found we had a small tree surrounded by shrubs outside our gate. This planter is just to the left of us, and there is another one a short way down to the right. Others are spaced all the way up the road. I don't know what sort of trees they are, but they are less likely to get vandalised here than they would at home, so hopefully they will continue to give us pleasure throughout the year. (As you can see, we have yet another showery day. The weather is very poor for April, though it is quite warm most of the time, but we just want to see the sun again!)
And while on the subject of plants 'looking good', here are a couple of pictures of our windowboxes, taken today. They are all thriving and the flowers add a lovely burst of colour. Several people have commented on them. The Spanish have a lot of window boxes, perhaps because the gardens are small in the village, or are used for growing fruit and vegetables, rather than being ornamental. So they tend to have lots of pots on their window ledges and patios.
I had a small success today when I won a bid on the Spanish ebay site. I use a lot of coloured ink in my printer when I copy photographs for scrapbooks, so this week I had to buy a new cartridge, and I was not impressed by the price of it. The web site I always used, to buy them in UK, would or could not post overseas, so Ben suggested I looked on ebay. But I found that the suppliers on there were also only sending within UK. So then I tried looking at the Spanish ebay. I had to register again, but I managed to understand the instructions, and then to search for what I wanted. Eventually I found a pack of one colour and one black cartridge for my printer, and over the last couple of days I have been bidding on them. Someone was bidding against me but at lunch time today, when the auction finished we both bid in the last second and I bid one euro more than them and won! The two of them cost me just less than I paid for the colour one in the shop this week, so I am well set up for ink now. I have just received an e-mail message from the seller which I was able to understand. It is occasions like that which make the weekly Spanish lessons worth while, because I realise I really am learning the language better. I just wish I had more opportunities to use it.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Consider the lilies of the field ...

This is such a beautiful time of year in Spain. I know it is in many other places as well, but out here, for so much of the year everywhere is parched and brown, so we really appreciate all the lovely colours we can see right now. Every day when we walk on the campo, we see new flowers opening. They are mostly pink/purple or yellow. many are quite familiar but there are also lots I haven't seen before. I just love all the grasses and plantains with their wide variety of flower heads, from tiny catkin-like tassels, to the loose ferny ones. Many of the flowers grow very close to the ground and are almost insignificant, but on closer inspection they are exquisite. I have been taking photos of them to make a little book. (Jean will smile when she reads that. She knows how many 'little books' I have waiting to be made!!). But in the meantime I have made a set of three collages. One of yellow and white flowers, one of pinks and purples with a couple of reds, and one of grasses and plantains. I have printed them out in A4 size to stick on my wall, so when we are baking in the summer I can look at them and remember what we have to look forward to again next year. So although some of the individual elements will be too small for you to see clearly, I am putting them on here, but I will also make a gallery folder of the separate pictures and if you like flowers, do take a look. These humble 'weeds' are worthy rivals for any cultivated flower if you take a closer look. And now I am adding two pictures of my little cats. When I was at the garden centre buying things for our window boxes, I picked up a few large saucers for our patio tubs. A couple are still out in the front garden and today Paco found a much better use for them. Doesn't he look comfortable? There is a beautiful pink pelagonium in the tub behind him, and some matching osteospermens that I took from my friend Sylvia's garden before she moves house this weekend. The second picture is of Destino. I thought she would be a real house cat but she loves to be outside. The other week she got caught in the garden when we had a heavy downpour, and although I opened the door and called her in straight away, she looked like a little drowned rat. She is all fluff with very little inside it, and she objects to being dried with a towel so she just had to stay one very soggy moggy!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

New beginnings

Today was very exciting because we had a service of dedication for our new church premises. (You will have to forgive me if I repeat myself here, but I can never remember whether I have said something on the phone, by e-mail, on Facebook or on my blog). Anyway, our little church group has been meeting in a bar restaurant for a year now, ever since it started just before I joined. A church in Mazzaron, further along the coast towards Murcia, decided to run an Alpha course in Huércal-Overa, and when it finished, the people wanted to go on meeting regularly, so the church was born. Like the one at Mazzaron, we are part of the Victory Church group, whose main vision is church planting. They now have churches in over 40 countries. We are led by Trevor and Sue Miles who are both trained pastors. We still have regular joint meetings with Mazzaron, and visiting preachers from there, but in the main we are self-contained now. Each Sunday there are around thirty of us, all fairly aging of course, and our numbers fluctuate depending on who has visitors, and who is visiting UK. We are all English except Mateo who is Spanish, and he plays the keyboard. He is a professional musician, and he is gradually learning our English hymns from Trevor's CDs. He plays them by ear, and reads them without understanding all the words, but his English has improved massively since he has been with us. He has an English wife who teaches Spanish and they only speak Spanish at home. They are a lovely couple and a real asset for our time of worship. We have known for some time that we need to have our own premises so that we can hold a mid-week Bible study, and other events for the wider community, but it has not been easy to find anything suitable. However, just before Christmas we heard of a hairdresser who was about to close her business, and when Trevor went to look at it, it seemed to fit our needs perfectly. He had to work fast to secure a lease on it, as some restaurant owners also had their eye on it, but with the help of Mateo's wife as an interpreter, and an agent who was sympathetic to our cause, we were successful. So for the past few months we have been busy fundraising, and making plans, so when the hairdresser moved out last Wednesday, we were ready to move in! A small group of our menfolk did some DIY, fixing lights, replacing floor tiles where a counter had been, removing a sink, and other such tasks, while a group of us ladies scraped beauty product posters off the wall, cleaned mirrors, scoured the kitchen area and swept and mopped the floors. We had sufficient funds to order 60 good quality, comfortable chairs from England and 'Jimbo the Scot', (the man who moved our furniture over here for us who just happens to live next door to the Palms where we have been holding our services), transported them back here free of charge, and they arrived on Thursday afternoon, along with five big, folding tables. Then a friend of Trevors, who is an electrician and computer buff, came and fixed our projector in the ceiling and ran the cables above the ceiling tiles, so we don't have to keep taping them to the floor any more, and he set it all up so we can project from a laptop onto the screen. We then found a home for a wooden cross made by a man from our group, hung curtains that another church member had made, and had a few trial runs at arranging the chairs. Then we called it a day as we were all very tired. On Friday, just a small goup of half a dozen or so, went back there. The new floor tiles were dry so we swept and mopped through again, set up a table across the entrance to the kitchen ready for teas, and set out the chairs for todays service. We needed all sixty of ours plus twenty or so borrowed from the cafe next door, but we managed to get them all in. As well as the main room and kitchen, we have two toilets and a small room which will be a quiet room, but which, for today, became the place to set out all the food for a buffet tea after the service. So we put up a block of the other four tables and spread white cloths on them so everything was ready. At the last minute a man arrived to put up the sign above the door. It has a real 'church feel' to it now, and it is lovely. Today we got there early so we could put out all the food as it arrived - contributions from all our members. The tables were groaning under the load and it all looked lovely, and almost every bit was eaten! There were just a few cakes left that we will finish up with our coffee after the service tomorrow morning. The service today was wonderful. The room was full, with all the chairs taken and a few people standing at the back. Trevor led it and Sue worked the computer for today. The message was given by the International director of Victory Churches, who has a church in Rugely, and the dedication of the building was led by pastor Andrew from the Mazzaron church. Another man from there sang a beautiful solo called 'Watch the Lamb'. It was very long and it told the story of Simon of Syrene taking his sons to the passover and being ordered to carry the cross for Jesus. I think nearly everyone was in tears at the end of it. We had a good time of fellowship afterwards while we enjoyed a lovely buffet, and then we had a big group photo taken outside. Another lady from the congregation made a beautiful celebration cake which was cut at the end of the service and shared out with our tea. We are lucky to have so many talented people among our membership.There were plenty of helpers so we soon had it all cleared away and ready for our first service there tomorrow. Let's hope we go from strength to strength.
I will add a few more photos on my gallery (along with the Good Friday ones that I haven't had time to do yet!)

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Does my head look tiny in this??

Poor Chico is not making much improvement since his accident. His foot is still 'dead' and floppy and he drags it around whenever he walks. We are struggling to keep any form of bandage on it. He was good with the splint for a day or two, but once he got his teeth into it, he wouldn't leave it alone, and in the end we had to take it off because the sharp corners were dangerous. We go back to the vet twice a week for a vitamin B injection and to have his foot dressed again, but she is running out of ideas too. The yellow bandage on the original splint was a special 'No-chew' one, but he took it off in the end. When she ran out of that she used a strong red sticky bandage but he liked the taste of that one!! He also chewed at the soft dressing at the tip of the splint, and then he wouldn't stop licking between his toes, so they got very red and sore, and infected. Last night I had to cut what remained of his splint, off, because his foot was swollen and it made the bandage too tight. We weren't due to go to the vet until tomorrow but we took him this morning and she decided not to renew the splint. Instead she did a big soft dressing over his entire foot, and used lots of strong sticky tape to cover it. Without the protection of the hard plastic splint, this would soon wear through if he dragged it around outside, so we have kept him indoors for most of the day. The vet covered it with some 'Bitter paste' and she was a bit non-plussed when he started to lick it off in the surgery! She said she tasted it once and it is really horrible. In desperation we also paid a deposit to borrow a new soft, wide collar, which you can see him modelling here. As you can see, he is not impressed, and it is so soft and flexible, I am not sure it would be a lot of use if he decided to really have a go at his foot again. So we have taken it off again for now, as we would like to get our deposit back on it, before he chews that up too! Anyway, he seems to have decided that the paste doesn't really taste very nice so he has not licked it again today. He is a bit subdued now. I think the bandage is big and cumbersome for him, but he'll have to put up with it for a while. We'll see whether it is still intact in the morning! I am not sure how long we will go on like this for. She said to give it a month to see whether it would regenerate, but that doesn't look very likely to happen.

I have completed another lace project. These little squares all look fairly similar, but they do all use different 'stitches', and I am learning to combine them in different ways. Ignor all the threads at the corner. It isn't a tassel; I just haven't has time to sew them all in yet! Pam told me where to find a shop that sells proper thread for bobbin lace, and I used it for this piece. It was much better to use, and being very slightly finer, it shows up the detail of the pattern better. I am now just starting another two-colour square, with yet another different variation on the twists and weave. They get harder each time, but I am beginning to understand how it all works, so I can put my own mistakes right when I need to. Hopefully I will be ready to start on a bigger project soon.

Easter came and went quite quickly. It was a little disappointing as we had been expecting JIm, Jo and the children to arrive yesterday, but technical problems to do with Jim's change of name, meant that his passport was still not ready in time. They now hope to come in June. Santa Semana, or Holy Week, is taken very seriously out here. Their main celebrations run from Thursday to Sunday, and Monday is back to normal. The shops were mostly closed on Maundy Thursday, and all of them were on Good Friday, so I had to do my big monthly shop on Saturday and it was very busy, (by Spanish standards anyway). Good Friday was clear and sunny so I decided to go to the mid-day parade in Garrucha, just down on the coast. We had visitors last year and we took them to the one at Turre, but the Garrucha one was much more formal and solemn. There were three large 'tronos', carrying a statue of Jesus carrying the cross, Saint Joan, and Mary. (The village church is the church of San Joaquin or St. Joan). The penitents who carried the tronos were all dressed in black and white. Many of the girls went bare foot all the way (2½ hours in the sun, over hot asphalt roads and cobbles), and some men wore dark glasses or were blindfolded. The tronos were very beautiful with huge banks of flowers, and big candles. Each one is the responsibility of a separate brotherhood, and each brotherhood had it's own band which marched behind them. The music and noise is indescribable. One band all had a smart black uniform with gold braid trim, and there was one little boy of about three or four who had the full uniform on and he marched the whole way, presumably with his dad, playing on a little trumpet. He was lovely. Between the brotherhoods there were women walking who wore black dresses and the high mantilla draped in black lace, pinned up with a diamond studded cross. They were very impressive. The whole procession left the little church on the hill, and slowly wound its way down to the main road. Then it went through the shops, and down to the sea front, along the prom and stopped at the entrance to the port. As Garrucha is a fishing village the port is central to all their activities. Here, all three tronos lined up side by side, and one by one they were lifted up high in the air. They are very heavy. The one with Mary on had nineteen men along each side as well as extras in the middle back and front, and an English man whose friend was one of the bearers, told me that there has to be an average weight of 75kilos for each bearer, and if necessary they add extra weights to make it up to this! It was a really hot day and some of the men were struggling to make it back up to the church again. When all three tronos were outside the church, a man gave a short impassioned speech. I couldn't understand much of it, but I couldn't hear him properly. Then the tronos were manoevered round and backed into the church through the large wooden doors at the side. The church had recently been refurbished, and on a sign outside it said, 'Construction of a house for the royal and ancient brotherhoods of our father Jesus the Nazarene, and Saint Mary of Sorrows.' Although I am unsure about all the extravagant statues which come close to idolatry, it was a very moving and solemn occasion. I didn't go to an Easter Sunday procession this year as I went to a very nice service at my own church. I will put a few pictures of the Good Friday parade on here, and some more in a folder on my gallery. Feel free to take a look.