Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Another nature walk

When walking around the campo now, you could be forgiven for thinking that everything is dead, parched dry and brown by long days of hot sun. But if you take a look there is still a lot of life to be seen. As I walked the dogs this morning I was surprised to see quite a few flowers in bloom. There are still pretty patches of blue chickory, a new batch of pink convolvulous, yellow thistles, and some healthy green plants with small yellow daisies on them. Of course none of them are anything like as showy as they were earlier in the year, just after the rain, but they are there none the less, battling bravely on against the heat. But the thing that facinates me most is the snails. You would think that in such an arid landscape, snails couldn't possibly survive, but somehow they do. I don't know what you call it, but they do the opposite of hibernating. i.e. they go to sleep for the summer. During the rainy months they emerged to feed and presumably lay eggs, but now they just cling to every blade of grass and stalk, cacti leaves, and even a rusty old road sign. They pile up on one another, and bleached white in the sun, they just stay there until the next season's rain wakes them up again. It is quite extraordinary to see them. Here are just a few of the ones I saw this morning.(Click on image to enlarge it, then on the 'back' button to return to this page).
Some of you know that we have a lovely purple bourganvillia shrub, rambling along the fence outside the kitchen door. What you may not realise is that amid the beautiful coloured bracts, there are some vicious thorns. While sweeping up the side yard the other day I managed to get a branch wrapped around my neck and untangling myself was somewhat painful, so I got out the shears and gave it a severe pruning. It is a rapid grower and it needs to be cut back regularly, to keep it under control. As I chopped off one branch this bug fell onto me. It is a bit like a green ladybird, and I thought it was so pretty that I took a picture of it to show you.

And finally here is another picture of Arwen and Baggins. They are settling in well. They both eat quite well, so hopefully they will soon gain some weight. I still keep them in my room most of the time, but in the evenings I leave the connecting doors open and the kittens come down to say 'Hello'. Last night the dog, (Chico), came down as well and they all seemed to tolerate one another really well. There were a few grumbles, but no fur flying and no-one hid away, so it looks promising that they will fit in here quite happily. Already they are looking a lot more relaxed aren't they?

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Hello Hobbits!

A few weeks ago I introduced you to Luna, my little tabby kitten, who joined us to 'even up the score'. Well I came close to making it uneven again this week, because my vet knows me very well, so when, early this week, she had an unwanted Persian boy dumped on her, who did she ring? Me, of course! I went to see him, and as I stroked his head he went limp and rolled over to have his belly rubbed. It was love at first sight and I knew I had to give him a home. Then, the next day, she called me in to see his mother. She was desperate to home her because otherwise she would have been taken back by the owner, who had used her to breed several litters in quick succession, and now no longer wanted her. She had to be rescued, so for now I have them both, with the proviso that if they haven't settled with the other animals within a month, they will try to rehome the mother elsewhere.

Both cats are severely malnourished, with all their bones sticking out. The mother must have had tangles in her fur because it has been chopped off very badly. It looks as though someone went at her with a knife and fork! Both were covered in fleas and had ear-mites, and the boy had old scabs on his head. They stayed at the vets until both had been neutered and treated for their various skin problems, and this morning I brought them home. They are in isolation at the moment, just while they settle in and get used to me. The others are all fine now, with Paco and the kittens all sleeping together, and all of them happily sitting out with the dogs in the afternoons, so I am hoping these will settle down the same. The mother is three and a half and the boy, two years, so they are not very old, and hopefully will integrate just fine. I chose names for them both from that wonderful saga 'Lord of the Rings'. The boy I have named Bilbo Baggins, (we'll just call him Baggins) after the hobbit who is the hero of the tale. It seemed to suit him, because he is one of those cats who is so relaxed he feels as though he has no bones (A bit like Dorothy's Beezer for those who know him). His mother I have named Arwen who was the Princess of Rivendale in Book I. She is a scraggy little thing right now, but given enough TLC I think she will make a beautiful princess one day.

The vet has promised not to phone me next time she gets a 'Special' brought in. I told her, "From now on, it's off the hook!"

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Peace and Quiet

Chris and I enjoyed the peace and quiet last night, now the village fiesta is over for another year. Miki and Foxy were back out in the dog-house in the yard, though Chico continues to sleep indoors, as he has done since his accident. We had five nights of heavy-bass dance music blaring out until 8.00 each morning, and this year they had moved its source a bit and it was a little louder than last year. We again closed the windows and shutters and put the air-con on all night and we did sleep through most of it, but it was quite trying during the evenings when it drowned out the television or our own music. We didn't go over to to join in quite so much this year because on Wednesday night I came down with the dreaded tummy bug that afflicts everyone here from time to time. It really only lasted for 24 hours but it left me feeling very tired and lethargic, with no appetite for a proper meal let alone fiesta food. But we did go over to the plazza on Friday night for the big open air mass. The fiesta is in honour of our patron saint the Virgen de la Carmen, and her statue was carried to the plaza and all the villagers surrounded her with bunches of beautiful flowers. You can see them all around the statue and piled onto a special trestle next to her. We have a nice young priest in the village who led the mass with the help of an older priest, and all the music was done by the village choir who sang beautifully as ever. Then everyone collected their flowers again and took them up to the church and the usual fiesta night life began. There was a very good fair this year with bumper cars, roller-coasters, roundabouts and a big area of children's rides. There are bars set up all around the plazza selling beers and wines, and serving tapas, and the streets are lined with little stalls af all description. I invited my friend Sylvia to come over and we walked around together. Chris kept popping home to check on the dogs. They were very frightened by all the noise and lights, particularly the volleys of loud rockets that sounded more like gunfire, which went off at random times throughout the days and evenings. We had them indoors with us for most of the time but they are not used to being left indoors, so we wanted to check on them regularly. When Sylvia went home, we had half an hour sitting on the plazza just watching everyone enjoying themselves. It is a very good-natured time and the atmosphere is great. Although the music was playing until 7.00 on Monday morning, when Chris took the dogs out that morning, many of the rides were dismantled and loaded up ready to move out, and apart from the strings of light still spanning the plazza, everything is now back to normal.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The foxglove by the cottage door .........

...Looked down on Jane when Jane was four. I used to love it when mum said this little rhyme with us as small children, so, of course I remembered it, and I used to say it with all my little ones at the nursery. Well "The lily by the villa door looks down on Kate, and Kate's nearer sixty four!! This is the lily plants that I dug up from my friend's garden when she moved house in February, and now Sylvia is very jealous because they never bloomed for her. I don't know what was in the compost I bought, but my few small cuttings have shot up and produced head after head of beautiful flowers. This particular head has twelve individual flowers in it. I now know that I incorrectly called them Calla lilies when I mentioned them before. These are, in fact, Canna lilies, similar in name but quite different in appearance. I moved them on to the front porch to give them some protection from the mid-day sun though it says on the internet that they thrive in full sun, but I think it was talking about growing them in England! The flowers don't last for long, but as long as I dead-head them regularly, they just keep producing more.

It was fun here on Sunday night when Spain won the world cup. I heard a huge roar from across at the plazza, so I guessed it was the right result. I was busy in my craft room and Chris had gone down to the bar to watch the match in more interested company! I had to bring the dogs in because the noise frightened them, but I did just nip across to the plaza and back to see what was going on. There were people at every gate and on every verandah, calling out to one another and all looking so happy. Gangs of youngsters, all dressed in red and yellow, and carrying big flags, were singing and dancing in the street. cars toured the village, jam-packed with people, horns blaring and flags flying. I think most of them went on down to the coast where I gather they jumped into the big Mojacar fountain. There were fireworks and sirens going on for ages and it was great to see everyone having such a good time. As I walked the dogs early Monday morning, I saw a big lorry pull up outside a bar and a whole gang of flag-wrapped young people disembarked. I presume they had stopped by for a breakfast of coffee after a night of revellry!

I have been aware for a while that my sight has deteriorated since I came out here, causing me problems cutting out or painting detailed pictures, and trying to put pins in the right place for my lace-making. So I did a bit of research into local opticians and as several people recommended the same one, I went there for an eye test this morning. It was as I had suspected. With my glasses on I have 80-90% vision in my right eye, but only 20% in my left. I was warned at the eye hospital, just before I left UK, that I had a cataract coming and it was an agressive type that would need attention within the year. Well, I have managed for eighteen months, but now I must have it dealt with. (A family failing eh?) So tomorrow I have to go to my doctor with the information from the optician, and get him to put me through to the hospital in Huercal-Overa. I have no idea how long the process takes out here, but I suspect it will be quicker than in UK, so watch this space...

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Party Time

Yes it's party time in Los Gallardos, or more accurately it's fiesta time ('Fiesta' does mean 'party' in Spanish). I can't believe a whole year has gone by since we had our last village special. We have, of course, had several lesser fiestas during that time, but this is the big one - Fiesta de la Virgen del Carmen who is the patron saint of our village. The fiesta starts next Thursday and runs almost non-stop until Sunday, with games, music, dancing, processions, loud fireworks, food, fairground rides, competitions, a lovely open-air mass, and much, much more. There are strings of lights across the plaza now, and several fairground rides are up already. The music literally goes on all night as do the bars, but we stay until we have had enough, and then go home, close the bedroom windows and shutters (the only time this happens all year), put on the aircon, and sleep through it. For most of the villagers, this is their holiday. They have new clothes to wear and dress the children up. Many of them wear flamenco style dresses and they look beautiful, and the children all get toys and other bits and pieces from the stalls that line the streets. The shops only open for a few hours a day, if at all, so I must get myself organised at the beginning of the week.

It being our first year, we went to most of the events last year, and Jonathan was here to enjoy it with us, but I expect we will pick and choose when we go this year. The dogs will be frightened by some of the strange noises, and I know Chris will want to stay with them when the fireworks go off. I will be popping over to the main square quite often to see what is going on. I love the atmosphere. There is no trouble despite the 24 hour supply of alcohol, and everyone just wants to enjoy themselves. We'll be glad enough when it is all over though, and the village goes back to its usual quiet.

As there are no photos to go with tonight's blog I thought I would just add these onee before you are all completely fed up with me going on about my babies. Just after I had finished last night's blog, they both started chasing around on my computer desk so I scooped them up and they sat quite happily having a stroke with no sign of a fight between them. Chris happened to put his head around the door so I got him to take a photo and here it is. And more amazing still, when, a few minutes later, Chico, who sleeps indoors with us since his accident, came and flopped down by my door, the two little cats just sat on my desk and stared at him, with no hint of a growl or hiss. A week ago Sombra was spitting fire if a dog came anywhere near him. So that's real progress, and a happy note to end this post on.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Hide and Seek!

My two latest additions are settling down well. Sombra is much less wild now. He likes to sit near me and has a loud purr. He is always hungry and eats everything I give him so he is growing fast. He now has the run of the house but still choses to spend most of his time down in my room with me. Little Luna spent her first day hiding in corners, but she now comes out to eat and plays with Sombra. The vet has decided that she is two weeks younger than Sombra but she is half his size. She only eats a little at a time yet, but as she gains confidence, her appetite will improve I'm sure. She has loads of energy and the two of them whizz around my room. There are lots of shelves and boxes that give them opportunities to play Hide and Seek, and they creep up on each other and romp and squeal. Sometimes when they are locked together I think 'Is that a loving embrace or mortal combat?' and from the angry bansheen wails they emit the latter seems the more likely, but they go straight back for more and I think they enjoy their spats. They both like to watch the birds out the back and often sit quite calmly together on the window sill. You can see in this picture, just how much bigger Sombra is than Luna. Luna is chocolate box pretty with a thick, quite fluffy coat but her hair is coarse. Sombra is lighter than he was, especially down his front and tummy, with lovely grey markings, and his fur is soft as silk. They are a funny pair and very entertaining together. They also help me to keep my room tidy, because anything I leave out over night has chewed corners by the morning, so if you have a birthday coming up and your card has teethmarks in the corners, you'll know why!

Someone else playing hide and seek this week was this gorgeous bright green hopper. I was out in the front garden doing some 'dead-heading' and I nearly picked him. He matched the leaves on my pelagonium exactly. And just look at those amazing eyes. The bugs are really quite beautiful out here. I just have to be a bit careful as I don't know which ones it's not advisable to touch.

(I've just picked Luna up and stroked her and she purred. That's the first time I've heard her. She must be starting to trust me).

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

To Even up the Score!

Being born mid-October I am a true Libran, and I like everything to balance, so having three dogs and two cats has never felt quite right. So today, when an opportunity arose to put that right, I jumped at it. I had called into the vet's surgery to borrow a second cat carrier so I could take both Paco and Sombra together this evening, to have their injections - first ones for Sombra and an annual booster for Paco. The vet moved into new premises in Turre this week and now has a huge reception area. Just inside there was a big cage with two tiny kittens in it. They had been dumped on her doorstep in the night. Well, I took one look at this little darling and knew she had my name written all over her (metaphorically speaking of course). I came home and talked to Chris, and my dear, long suffering husband reluctantly said 'Yes'; I could have her. So this evening she joined the other two to have her first injections and we brought her home with us. I am putting her with Sombra because she is only two weeks younger than him, and being a female, they will probably soon be playing together as though they were from the same litter. She is only half his size and weighs next to nothing, but Sombra has grown a lot these past few weeks and I expect she will too once she has regualar food and care. So here is the first picture of her. Isn't she gorgeous? She looks a bit bewildered but she has just had an injection, been rubbed with de-fleaing solution, been dumped in box and taken for a car ride, and now she has a little black monster growling at her. But he is only having a quiet grumble, not attacking her, so I think they will be O.K. I have called her Luna. Sombra is my little dark shadow and she is the moonlight. They compliment each other well.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Cat and Mouse

I guess we've all played cat and mouse at some time, and right now it is the favourite game of my little friend Sombra. I doubt he knows he has caught a 'mouse', but he knows he has something that I want, and puts up a good fight to hang on to it. As soon as I sit at my computer he jumps up and tries to climb onto my shoulder. Not only am I tired of being a pin-cushion, but it is just too hot to wear a fur collar, so I keep putting him down again, and in the end he curls up on my table as close to me as he can get. As the only available space is to the right of my keyboard, this inevitably means that he sits on my mouse. If I'm lucky he falls asleep holding it. Otherwise he spends his time trying to catch the curser as it moves on the screen, and that makes computing somewhat difficult.

Sombra has the run of the house now and he and Paco are learning to tolerate each other. He has great tenacity and returns to pester Paco over and over again, and just gets his ears boxed for his efforts, but in the end he gives up and they each find their own space to relax in. On Monday he will have his injections and then, in theory at least, he can venture outside, but he still hisses and spits if he sees the dogs, and they in turn bark and jump at him, so he will need a lot of supervision for quite a while yet.

I still shut him in my room sometimes and if I am not there to pester, he sits on my boxes under the window and watches the world go by - especially all the little birds. He can jump up on the boxes without using my chair as a step now, and he seems a lot more agile than Paco was as a kitten. He has grown a lot already, and his markings are becoming clearer. He has beautiful orange eyes that stand out against his dark fur. He's very cute and I enjoy having him around.

P.S. Thank you Tom for leaving a comment. If you don't know what I am referring to, click on my blog history and read my two previous posts.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Changing again

So far I have not had any comments on the changes I made to my blog appearance. Whether that is because you are all too polite to say you don't like it, too computer shy to have a go at leaving a comment, or you just don't read it, i am not sure. I hope it isn't the latter, but as I enjoy writing it, I shall continue in any case! But I have made a few more changes. As Chris is my only critic I have taken his advice and changed all the print back from 'bold' to 'normal' and am using another different font. It spaces better and I hope you all find it easier to use. (Anyone looking at yesterday's blog in the last couple of hours must have wondered what was going on. I had to use it to test out each new idea and sometimes each of the four paragraphs was differently written). Now I have settled on a font, size etc, yesterday's has changed to that so a lot of what it says is a bit meaningless now. But not to worry; the rest of it is still my news.

I have also added two panoramic photos that I have made by taking a series of views and 'stitching' them together in my photo editor. The one at the top is the view at the back of our house, before a huge mimosa tree sprung up from nowhere and hid half of it. Underneath my blog is a picture of the beach where Jean and I went on Tuesday. It is also where our church held a baptismal service earlier in June.

In order to have the lower picture on my blog, I have had to change to one entry only showing at a time. This makes it harder for you to see whether you have missed the previous one, but to the right of the page there is a blog history where you can click on the month to see what else has been posted, and on their title to open any of them that you may have missed.

Once again, I would welcome some comments, if only to let me know that I am not all alone in cyber space! So don't be shy. Tell me what you really think!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Back to Normal

Well, I suppose that depends on what is normal. But for me, during the summer in Spain, 'normal' means doing as little as possible, and relaxing as much as possible. So we get up with the dogs around 7.00am, and having seen to their needs, and fed and watered ourselves, I do any necessary chores and then spend time in my craft room with the fan on and the window open, or sit outside in the shade with a good book, a puzzle book, and a bevy of animals for company. Cooling down in the pool occasionally is an added bonus, as is a stroll down the road for a refreshing tinto de verano while the dinner is cooking. Chris is home safely from his week in UK, and Jean is back home with Ron, and her own version of normality. And so it will continue until our next visitors arrive. There are several possibilities but nothing confirmed so far.

Jean and I enjoyed our week together. The weather was beautiful without being so hot we couldn't move, so we managed to visit the market, drive inland to Albox to see what the craft shop there had to offer, spend a day on the beach (I even got Jean into the sea for the first time in several years), enjoy a lovely barbeque/pool party with members of my church, and I even drove her up the rough and ready road that winds into the Cabrera mountains. At home we walked the dogs, tried to avoid the attentions of my annoying but very cute kitten, dipped in the pool, made good use of my craft room and its contents, and ate and slept when we felt like it. All in all, a good week for us both. I even got her back to Murcia airport on time, and only had under an hour to wait for Chris' flight to arrive.

I am making a few changes to my blog, so please bear with me, and any feedback would be appreciated. (It is very easy to leave a comment at the end of each blog entry). Firstly I have gone back to black print on a white page as I thought the blue background made it hard to read. I have changed the font, and the size of the print, and made it 'bold', and cancelled the daily fairy picture as they have run their course I think. Hopefully there will be a picture on the header very soon. Finally, I am very concious that my blog entries are getting too long and this puts some people off reading them, so hopefully they will, in the future, be shorter but more fequent. (I should be writing a book not a blog. I like words and use them freely, but I know I could often say the same thing in a lot shorter way). So I'll do my best, and please let me know if you think there is an improvement.

The photos today are all from my week with Jean, and include ones of her in the sea, making friends with 'Licky-Miki' as my grandchildren called her, both of us swimming in the pool, sitting on a very 'uncrowded' beach, and a couple from the party we went to at my friend Jasmine's house. She has a lovely place out on the campo near Huercal-Overa, with a 10 x 6 meter pool, and a friend whose quiet and retiring husband happily stood in front of a hot barbeque to cook our lunch, while the rest of the men watched the disastrous England football match! As there are too many photos to fit into the relevant paragraph, I will space them out throughout the blog.