Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Lace Day at Macael

Macael is a small town just beyond Albox, and its main, (probably its only) claim to fame, is that it is where the white marble is quarried, that adorns so many places throughout Spain. Our favourite promenade, at Garrucha beach, is lined with a fine white marble balustrade, which is Macael marble. Some is ground into highly polished tiles to cover whole buildings, and huge blocks are used for many statues in this region.

We went to th
e main hall in the town where the local group of lace-making ladies were holding their annual open day. Pam, my teacher, attends a similar group in Garrucha, and we went as part of their party. I hope to attend the group sometimes too when it gets cooler, but I am not sure I can commit myself to another regular group. Pam has invited me to several Lace Days in the area this year, but there has always been something to stop me going, so this time I said 'Yes', even though it was held on a Sunday, so I had to miss church. I was keen to go as I had been told they were great fun, and also that there would be trade stalls there where I could buy patterns, thread, and many other items, which are just not found in any of the shops around here. In that respect it turned out to be a little disappointing as it was a fairly small affair. Only seven groups attended, where Pam says there are up to thirty at some of them. Mind you, those seven groups made a vast amount of noise, so thirty groups would have been horrendously noisy. The Spanish people are notoriously 'loud' and all chatter together and shout across the room at each other. Pam and I were the only two non-Spanish people there, so it was a good opportunity to practise my Spanish speaking. I did talk to a few people. They were very interested in our thin bobbins with their pretty spangles of beads to weight them down. The Spanish bobbins are plain, much thicker than ours, and unweighted. They also use long bolster-type cushions which are very cumbersome to carry around. Between us, our group nearly filled the luggage compartment under the coach with all our bags of work. When we arrived we were given a nice fabric bag containing a bun and a drink for our breakfast!, two free patterns, and some tickets to exchange for our lunch, and for the raffle. We sat at one of four long trestle tables which had our group's name on it, and all got out our current piece of work. We did a bit, and then walked around and had a look at what everyone else was doing. There were some beautiful projects on the go. Later there was a display of dancing by some local youngsters from the Macael school of dance, and then a group of ladies came on and sang. We decided that they were the town choir. They all wore black skirts with peachy coloured blouses and black shawls, and their skirts had three rows of handmade lace around them. Underneath they wore white petticoats with rows of pintucks, and more lace around the bottom, designed to hang below their skirts. What a huge amount of work to make them. Below the stage there was a display of local craft work, including some lace, but also crochet and sewing. I am showing the photo of a lovely lace fan, because it is my ambition to make one eventually. I am going to start with a mini ornamental one like the one at the front of the photo, and then hopefully I will be able to tackle a full-size, functional one. I was hoping to buy a kit for one at the event, but unfortunately there was only one trade stall there, and they didn't have anything suitable. I did manage to buy some spools of thread though. I chose ivory/ecru and pale turquoise. I can only buy white in the shops and I like to include a little colour in my work.

It was thought that the day was rather less-well supported this year because the whole town is at a standstill. The halt to the building trade means that there is no call for the marble, and nearly everyone in the town is involved in the business in some way, so they are badly hit. As we drove through the town to the main road out, we passed yard after yard piled high with tiles and big blocks of marble. It's very sad. Of course it means that local people have little money to spend on hobbies such as their lace-making, and the trade stalls, knowing that, didn't bother to come. Next month our local group at Garrucha have their own open day and I have again been invited. I shall try to go so that I can get to know some of the Spanish ladies. Also, being right on the coast, it will be more strongly supported and I shall again have the opportunity to look for my fan kit. In the meantime I shall try to finish the piece I have been working on for months now. I have to sit up close to a table to do it, and I was unable to sit comfortably for ages after my accident, so I am just getting back into it now.

I had to drive down to the coast by 8.30 on Sunday morning, to get the coach, and I left in plenty of time as I wasn't sure exactly where I was supposed to go. The nice thing about that was that I got to see my first sunrise in ages. Now Chris does all the morning dog-walking (again this is since my accident), I am not usually up in time to see the sunrise. It was a lovely one on Sunday, so I stopped along the front to take a picture of it, and just caught the silhouette of an early fisherman, hoping to catch his lunch.

The house next door to us is owned by a Spanish lady called Helena, who lives in Murcia. She only comes here a couple of times a year, so although she has some men who come in periodically to tend her orange trees, the rest of the garden gets a bit overgrown. This year an incarvillia has popped up from somewhere. it was hardly noticeable last year, but this year it has grown enormous and every morning I find new vines sreading across our path. I have been weaving them into the fence. It is fairly shady there and they have formed a dense green wall. But further to the front, where it is sunny, they have completely smothered our bottle brush tree, and the mini apple tree that grow in pots there. Now it is covered in pink flowers and it looks lovely. A lady from up the road, told me this week to cut it down and not worry that it is not in our garden, but we think it is too pretty for that. So we are waiting for another month until the flowers fade and then we will do some fairly ruthless pruning. Our neighbour has actually come here this weekend and she has had her workmen cut it down on her side of the fence, along with all the other creepers that have completely covered the front of her house, but our side is still blooming for now.

I have survived another week of my somewhat intense Spanish lessons. Three afternoons is too much really but I can't afford to miss one if I want to keep up with the group. They are a bit more advanced than me anyway, but I am just about holding my own, and I am learning quicker with them. I had a chance to practise this morning as I had my pre-op appointment with the aneasthetist at the hospital. Most people take an interpreter with them, and I would too for anything more serious, but I had been given a very full form to fill out, and I translated it all at home and filled it in so I knew what it was all about, and I managed to have my interview without too much trouble. He mostly only had to read my answers, and just asked a few simple questions about them. Now I have to wait for the appointment for the operation. I asked the girl at the desk about how long I would wait and she gave a typical Spanish shrug and said maybe two months, which in Spain could mean anything from two weeks to six months, so I don't know why I bothered asking really. Still, so that I don't get caught out, I have been working hard on my Christmas cards and have ninety-eight completed. So I just want to do another couple of dozen and they will be finished. I've never been so far ahead before. I'll get them written soon, and then I'll just have to remember to post them in time!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Doesn't time fly when you are having fun?!

You must be wondering what I have been doing. It is not usually this long between my posts, but I have to be wondering the same thing! Sometimes time just flies by and I don't seem to have done anything particularly significant, yet I am usually busy for at least part of each day. (For the other part I am recovering from being busy!).

So, what have I been up to in the week and a half since our friends went home. There was, of course, a certain amount of extra washing and clearing up to do, but washing is not a problem out here when we have a machine to do it, and we know the first load will be dry before the second load is ready to hang out. I have also put some effort into making Christmas cards. I had ordered a set of rubber stamps from UK, and when they arrived I made a run of eighteen cards all the same style but in different colours and I am very pleased with them. That's sixty five ready to use now so I am nearly half way!

Last week I bravely joined the local Spanish class, which is organised free by the town hall. I say 'bravely' because the class is led by a Spanish man who teaches in school all day, and he speaks no English, or even less than we speak Spanish anyway, and that's not very much. So it is very different from what I am used to, as we rattle through new grammar techniques and then do exercises using them, and we do a piece of dictation, and read passages aloud from books, all without actually translating any of it. If we stop him and say we haven't understood he explains (in Spanish) and gives us lots of examples until we all nod sagely at him, and he carries on. It's a steep learning curve but it will help me to improve my listening skills - my weakest point - and also help my pronunciation. The down side is that the classes are for two hours (3.00 - 5.00) three times a week - Monday, Wednesday and Friday - with homework over the weekend, which is a big committment when you actually 'have a life' beyond the classroom. I did not want to start from scratch again so I am in the intermediate group, and there are only six to ten of us at any session, so we have to work hard, and we will either learn very fast or all sink together! I am hoping to continue my one hour group with Paco each Thursday evening as, although he is also Spanish, he speaks excellent English and we get more conversation practice with him, plus he can explain and translate for us in English. I had to buy a text book for the new class which cost me €20, so I need to get something out of it to get my money's worth, don't I?

Today I have a poorly kitten. Little Luna hasn't eaten or drunk anything since Saturday night, and she has hardly moved off her bed in that time. She doesn't seem to be particularly distressed, just floppy and docile. I took her to the vet this evening and she said she has a high temperature, but she couldn't find any real evidence of an infection. She put her on a drip as she was a bit dehydrated. I have been using a syringe to get some water into her, but I obviously haven't done it often enough. She also gave her an antibiotic injection which she thinks will sort her out, so we will have to wait and see what she is like tomorrow. I had to drive through a Spanish-style thunderstorm on the way to the vet, which wasn't a very good experience, but fortunately it didn't last for long. Of course, it left the road awash with rain, so the journey home was a battle to see through the sunshine bouncing off all the spray.

This morning I drove to Huercal Overa to collect some paperwork from the hospital. I have my appointment with the anaesthetist next week (prior to my cataract operation), and I was going through the things I have to take with me when I realised that I was missing a particularly important form. I did not want my appointment to be cancelled because I hadn't got it, so I thought I had better go over there and sort it out. I knew the receptionist spoke no English, so I looked up some useful vocabulary before leaving home, and was pleasantly surprised how easy it was to explain what I wanted. Within a few minutes I was on my way out with the missing form, so I spent the rest of the morning wandering around HO market. It is huge compared with ours, and the prices were cheaper too. I must go back there soon to buy some fabric. I want to make new curtains for our patio doors before the cold weather comes, but today I had no idea how much I will need. If I find some material that I like, I may try to make matching semi-loose covers for our two reclining chairs as well. We have throws on them at the minute but they are always dangling on the floor where they are traps for the unwary like me, and they never look tidy. So I shall see what I can do.

So perhaps I have done quite a lot in the passed ten days after all!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

La Alcazaba

Well, our friends have had a lovely week here with us and they are now busy packing for their flight home tonight, so I thought I would make a start on this blog. We did have some nice trips out together, including browsing around the markets, a day on the lovely beach at the bottom of this page, and yesterday we went to La Alcazaba in Almeria city. I have seen it from the motorway when it is all lit up at night, but I didn't know much about it. Originally an Islamic palace, it was built somewhen before the 12th century, and in 1489 it was taken over by the catholic monarch who built a Christian castle on top of part of the Islamic building. Most of it is now ruins, but some areas have been carefully renovated, and some are still the sites of archaeological exploration. On a hill to the east of it, joined by a long, steep wall,
ere is a big statue of Christ. We drove to Almeria, and then spent ages going round and round a system of small streets, before, finally finding a parking space, and from there we walked up through a fairly old part of the city, past a big cathedral, eventually coming to the entrance to Al Alcazaba. The climb to the statue on the hill was too daunting on such a hot day, and we weren't sure my leg would manage all the steps, so we went to the main site. It is one of those rare places, a good, interesting place to visit with no entrance fee for residents in the EU! We spent several hours wandering through the lovely gardens, climbing up steps to the towers and walkways on the walls, stepping over ruined areas where rocks and cobbles poked up through the ground, and discovering new courtyards, towers and seating areas around every corner. We found a lovely garden that was an oasis of cool in a hot courtyard, with lots of trees around the edge and a long rectangular pool down the middle that had all sizes and colours of koi carp in it, and big blue dragonflies hovering over lemon yellow water lilies. It was modelled on the courtyards of the Allambra Palace in Granada, and was a lovely place to sit and rest before exploring some more. There were lovely archways, everywhere; some rounded and some in the traditional Islamic key-hole shape. From the top of the towers the view over the city was amazing. There was a riot of different coloured buildings, with the deep blue sea and harbour beyond them, and on the other side of the castle you looked over more colourful houses and the motorway going over what looked like a tiny bridge over a wide valley. It was very beautiful and we enjoyed our time there.

We were going to look inside the cathedral on our way down but it had closed for siesta time, so we had a nice lunch and then went down to the beach. It seems strange to have a major city rising right up from the sea, but there is a long, long road flanked by high-rise flats and offices, and across the road is the sea. Because there is so much space, the high blocks are not imposing, and it is really very attractive. There was a gentle breeze, which was welcome as it was a very hot day, but it was blowing in the right direction to whip up some lively waves that were breaking with lots of white foam along the harbour rocks, but we went down the sand and paddled anyway, and then we sat in the sun to dry our feet and eat an icecream before the drive home.

I was pleased at how well i managed to keep walking and climbing flights of rough stone steps in Al Alcazaba, though my leg is decidely tender today. but it probably did it good to be properly exercised, and a few days rest will have it back to 'normal' I hope. We are just going up to the little white village of Bedar now, to have dinner before driving John and Jenny to the airport, but later tonight I will put a folder of Alcazaba photos on my gallery. I took so many and could only pick a few to go on here. So do take a look. They will definitely be there by tomorrow. (www.picasaweb.com/kayempea1947)

Wednesday, September 1, 2010


Hi. Anyone who read my last posting about the rail-line with any interest, may also like to see this article below, taken from a local free English newspaper. (I think they need a better proof reader, but you get the gist of it.) A friend of mine from church, who follows my blog, sent me the link, and it does make for cvery interesting reading. It's an amazing piece of equipment.

I haven't done much to write about this week. It has been pretty hot, especially last weekend, so we have had a long siesta each day, and then I have tried to do some crafting. I have made a couple of birthday cards needed for September. It's hard to believe that my grandaughter Hannah is eleven next week, and the youngest one, Mike's Finlay, is four a fortnight later. I've also got some ATCs ready to post off to a swap in UK, and made a couple of sets of Christmas cards. My box is filling up slowly.

The two persian cats, Arwen and Baggins, are settling so well now. I had real concerns about Arwen particularly, but she has suddenly become so much calmer and more contented. She has been moulting, so she has of course grown some new fur, and the aweful steps and bald patches where she had her tangles cut out so badly, have almost covered over, which makes her look a lot better. They are both rather thin and boney still and neither of them eat like they have been half-starved before, but in this heat, no-one has a lot of appetite. I give them a vitimin gel each day, which gives them a little extra boost. Until now they have both tended to just stay in my room, and to encourage them to eat more, I have left their food out all day. This means I have to keep the doors shut so the other two don't come in to pinch it. But now I have got them into the same routine as Paco and Luna, where they have food in the morning and at teatime, and then I take their dishes away again. I do still give them theirs back at night as that is when they eat the most. The other two woof theirs down when I give it to them. But now Arwen and Baggins are beginning to mix with the other cats, and even the dogs sort of, and to go outside sometimes, and more importantly, they come home again, which means we can have all the doors pinned open and there is a good breeze through the house. It makes my room much more pleasant for working in. But I don't suppose I will get much crafting done this week as we have visitors, friends from Oswestry, arriving tomorrow for a week. So I am looking forward to some nice days out.