Saturday, October 30, 2010

Done and Dusted!

Yes I am glad to say that my long-anticipated operation is done and dusted. I am not sure whether I am pleased or disappointed with the result. It wasn't the 'quick fix' I was hoping for but I should have known better. I have worn glasses for close work since I was eleven so my eyesight was poor even before the cataract started to grow, so removing it was never going to make everything clear. However, it is a bit clearer, and colours are brighter. With my old glasses on I can see as well as I did before, and I have been functioning 'one-eyed' for so long now, that one more month won't make much difference. After a month I will be assessed for new glasses, and hopefully then, the improvement will be more noticeable.
The operation itself was not a pleasant experience and took rather longer than expected. I was put off when one of the first things he did was to put oxygen tubes in my nose and tell me that he would be covering my whole face for the operation. Now I am one of those peoples who starts to fight them off if the bedclothes dare to creep above my chin, and as soon as he laid the cloth on my face, I felt the panic rising. But I had a few sharp words with myself and breathed deeply on the oxygen, and actually it was alright. I managed to switch off inside and remain quite still throughout. Afterwards he told me I had been a very good patient, 'Muy tranquillo'. Half way through the operation he asked me whether I had ever had any trauma to the eye (not that I can remember), because it was not a 'normal' cataract and was hard to remove. Because it was 'different' (his words in '...') he put a bubble under it which meant that I couldn't see with it at all until the next day. I had to be at the hospital for 8.00 in the morning, and the first hours were spent having drops put in my eyes. I went to the theatre around 1.30. I had not been allowed to eat or drink all day so I was starving and would have loved a cup of tea, so I was grateful when they brought me a meal, Spanish style of course. There was a nice vegetable soup, cold fish filets and salad, and fruit, but no tea! Later we were given a cup of hot milk and sachets of coffee and sugar so, not being a coffee drinker, I just drank the milk, and was glad of something warm. It was actually quite cool on the ward and I hadn't dressed for that as usually I roast in hospitals. Then I had to stay until 8.00 p.m. before they would let me go home. I was the last eye patient to leave. I had to be back there for a check up at 9.00 the next morning. It would have been easier to give me a bed and keep me there! I am back there again in a week's time and then in a month, by which time I will hopefully be ready to have an eye test and new glasses. In the meantime I have two lots of drops to use, one four times a day and one six times, for the next couple of weeks, and then less often for the next month.
A big thank you to everyone who sent me good wishes and who were praying for me on the day. It was really appreciated. When he told me I had been a good patient I said "Mi Dios es conmigo" and he smiled. I hope that is because he understood what I said and he wasn't just smiling at my apalling Spanish accent! Hasta luego!!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Second attempt

Hi again. Yesterday's photo of the cats started out with a white wall as the background and Chris said it neded to be coloured, so after a few false starts I managed to paste the whole thing onto a coloured background. I wasn't sure about the yellow last night, and I liked it even less this morning so now I have mastered just changing the wall. (My first attempts resulted in blue cats as well!) I have bought a very good book on how to get the best out of Corel Paint Shop Pro, and I am gradually working my way through it. It is heaps better than the help files and manual that come with the program, but I am really a visual learner and remember things better when I have watched them being done, than when I just read about doing them. Still time is on my side, so I will keep trying. I still have a lot to learn. I do think this is an improvement though, don't you?

Monday, October 25, 2010

Over and out

Yes I am signing out for a week or so, not because I have run out of words to say (as if..!), but because, this morning I received a surprise phone call from the hospital to say that my cataract operation is on Wednesday of this week. I shouldn't have been surprised because I have been waiting for the call, but I was expecting to be given a little more than three days notice. But that's obviously not how it is done over here. So with no time to worry about it, I am tying up a few loose ends, and as I have no idea how well I will be able to see immediately after the operation, it is safer to say that this will be my last blog for a little while. But they won't keep me quiet for too long.

Before I go I will share a few little bits of news. Jean and I had a very nice time for the week she was here. She was very lucky with the weather and it stayed fine and warm all week. We didn't go too far from home, but we did enjoy some lovely strolls along our almost deserted beaches, and paddled in the sea, which is still surprisingly warm (ish). We did, of course, spend one day in my craft room, and when the beautiful set of alcohol ink pens that Chris ordered for my birthday, arrived, we had to spend one evening playing with them. We achieved some very good results, and I am sure that with practise I shall do even better. It was Chris' birthday on the Friday, so that evening we went down to the local bar for a meal. It was their karaoke night and we wouldn't usually go there then. All summer we can hear the singing just sitting in our garden. But it did mean that there was a nice crowd of people in, and there was a good atmosphere. A group of our Spanish neighbours were there and they do love to sing. They weren't very tuneful but they certainly enjoyed themselves, and we enjoyed watching them! There was still some time to lounge in the garden reading and doing our puzzles, so it was a nice relaxing week for us both.

This week I found myself with a big bowl of fresh, ripe figs, (don't they look good?), and although I love to just eat them, they have a very short shelf life, as Jean and I discovered when some I bought the week she was here, went 'off'' when we had only eaten a few of them. So when my friend Jane told me that someone on her forum had posted a good recipe for fig jam/chutney, I decided to give it a go. I managed to get all the ingredients except the crystalised ginger. I was looking for the sort in syrup that we used to buy Dad as a Christmas treat, and was going to use the minced ginger we can buy in jars instead, but in the end I settled for the drier cubes of ginger that we buy to put in cakes etc and it worked fine. It may have been what was intended in the recipe anyway. It also included an interesting mix of spices - cinnamon, mixed spice and curry powder! So I now have some new jars on my larder shelf. It is very good chutney, especially with a sharp, mature cheese.

Yesterday I had my second outing to a Lace Day. It was at El Ejido, just the other side of Roquettas del Mar, which is in turn, just the other side of Almeria city, so it was an hour and a half coach journey to get there. Pam, my lace teacher, invited me to this one a while ago, because it is one of the bigger ones with more trade stalls, and she thought I would enjoy it. Then she said that it had been cancelled, but at the very last minute she contacted me to say it was on again, so I went after all. And I am glad I did, not least because I was able to buy the kit to make a lace fan, that I have been promising myself ever since I started learning to make lace. I now feel confident to tackle the pattern, but all the supplies are incredibly difficult to buy, especially locally, and the lace days are the best opportunity. It was a very different affair from the one at Macael. We calculated that there were at least 500 people there, and Pam and I were the only two non-Spanish ones! It was in a big warehouse, and the whole space was taken up with rows of tables and chairs, all designated for one or other of the groups that were attending. I was there as a guest of the Garrucha group. Once we found our area, we all got out our lace pillows and started working. Pam and I caused quite a stir because our pillows and bobbins are very different from the ones used by the Spanish workers. This photo shows a typical Spanish worker, using the long, bolster style pillow and thick, plain bobbins. They love our coloured spangles (the beads hanging from our bobbins), and lots of people asked if they could take photos just of the bobbins. Quite a few included our work in their photos as well!! We, in turn, had a wander around and looked at what other people were making, and there was some beautiful pieces of work being done. In this photo you can just see that all around the outside of the room, there were the trade stalls, selling everything from patterns and threads to pillows and stands for them. I bought a kit for a tiny little fan which is only for use as an ornament, but it should be fun to do. But when I had only had a couple of lessons, and wasn't sure I would ever get to grips with it, some visitors came to our Wednesday group to show us their work which included a beautiful full-size fan, and I said then that it was my aim to make one one day. So here I am, one year on, with a kit that I am just dying to get on with, but I have to finish the peice I am working on at the minute first. It has been on my pillow for ages because my ham string injury meant that I couldn't sit to the table to work on it, and now my eye operation will delay me further, but when I can once again see where I am supposed to put the pins, I will have it finished very fast and then I shall be able to get on with the fan. As is apparently the norm, there was an entertainment mid-day at the lace day. This time it was dancing by a very talented group of people. The oldest ones danced first and then these girls with their pretty dresses and big white fans did some excellent dances. Lastly a groups of little tots came on. They had simple little dresses on and then they added some rather bizaar, overlarge yellow arm warmers and big boots. But they did a very spirited dance and they were great fun to watch. The Spanish people seem to be born with a sense of rhythm, and even the little ones keep in time with the music. While they were dancing, some men outside cooked a 'gran paella' for our dinner, followed by basket loads of mandarins, from a local garden I suspect. The whole day was very noisy with so many people in a big barn of a room, and we were worn out, so we both had a nice siesta on the way home.

And finally, this evening, in the spare time that I didn't really have, I indulged myself by playing with my photo editing programme, (Corel photoshop XI). I like messing around with my photos, though by this time of night I can't really see what I am doing, and I don't have a steady enough hand to do a really good job of it. But today I started off with individual photos of my two beautiful babies, and here is the result. All Hail King Baggins and Queen Arwen! And on that note I had better say 'Good night'.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

You can't beat the natural world!

No you can't beat the natural world for entertainment. Everyday another little bit of God's creation turns up to surprise, amaze and entertain us. Last year I 'waxed lyrical' on my blog about a small plant that I watched develop as I walked the dogs early in the mornings. It fascinated me because it grew sraight up out of the dry soil, on a long sturdy stem which was topped with a cone of pretty flowers, but it had no leaves whatsoever. I no longer walk the dogs but Chris does, and he has been telling me that my plant has reappeared this year, along with several others, so I decided to go and see them. Chris wouldn't let me go on my own in case I fell again on the rough ground, so after church today, while our dinner was cooking, he came with me to the campo and sure enough the pretty cones of flowers were in evidence over quite a wide area. I am sure we only saw the one plant last year. Just to remind you what it is like, here is a photo that shows how it pushes up through the barren earth, with an inset to show its lovely head of flowers. We noticed that some of the flower heads had green praying mantis on them. (I've always rather liked them since I had a huge one resident on my sitting room curtains for some weeks, while I was living in Cyprus. They do a good job of eating the mosquitoes and other unwanted bugs). Our little outing then turned into quite a nature walk. First this beautiful bright red dragonfly hovered around us. It's not a very good photo but they don't exactly wait around for the camera! Next I was delighted to see a wild tortoise creeping along. I know there are quite a few out on the campo but we rarely actually see them. Even more surprising was that, a few steps further on, we saw a second one. They are fairly territorial so perhaps this was his mate, his brother or sister, or maybe he had an asignation with it - 'Meet me at the third bush on the right'!! We realised that we have not been out that way at lunch time before so maybe tortoise are not early risers and that's why we don't usually see them. Finally, as we were going back to the car we heard an angry buzzing, and following the noise, we found another one of my flowers with its own praying mantis, and she was busy subduing a bee, ready to have her lunch I presume. I thought black and yellow insects were fairly safe from predators, but this one had met its match and was losing the battle to break free. So now we know why the mantis sit on the flowers; it's a good spot to catch the passing bugs! Isn't nature wonderful?!

Friday, October 8, 2010


No; I haven't made a typing error and put an 's' on the end of my favourite city around here, Granada. Granadas is in fact, the Spanish name for pomegranets. Each Autumn when we were little, mum used to buy one pomegranet, break it open into two halves, and armed with a pin each to pick out the cells, Jean and I would eat it. I was never quite sure if I really liked them then, but I was fascinated by the way they were formed inside. If they were bright pink, then they were usually sweet and nice, but a pale yellowish one could have a dry flavour that wasn't so good. Remembering that childhood experience, and knowing that not too many mothers would spend out on such an odd and expensive fruit, when I was managing my nursery, I bought a couple of pomegranets every year so that my children, and the children at school, could also see the beautiful pink sacks of juice, and if they were brave enough, they could taste them too. Old habits die hard, so as the new season of pomegranets appeared in our shops this year, I paid the princely sum of 55cents for one fruit. In fact they grow freely in this area, often on patches of campo land, and in gardens, so I could have picked one along the road, but some I have tried have been quite dry and sour, so I thought it was safer to spend out on a cultivated one. Then, this week, I had my first really good conversation with our next-door neighbour. She is Spanish, lives in Murcia, and only comes to the house for a couple of weeks each year, so I have had little opportunity to get to know her. We talked about the trees in her garden, and that afternoon she brought me in a big bag of pomegranets. Don't they look good? The one I have eaten tasted good too! They are huge. This pair together weighed 700g, (that's around a pound and a half if you haven't embraced the metric system yet). They make the one I bought from the market look a bit lonely and superfluous don't they? I'm not sure what I am going to do with them all, but I'll think of something. They are freshly picked so hopefully they will keep for a while. Do you like pomegranets Jean? (My sister Jean is coming over for a week next Wednesday).

The reason I was talking to my neighbour was that she called me out to tell me that she wants to sell the house. She asked me to tell all my friends, and if any English people want to view it, she wants me to talk with them for her. She speaks no English herself, but we managed quite a long conversation. She was very patient with me, and we went around the houses until we found a way of saying things that we could both understand. I also got to see around her house which is a typical, fairly old style Spanish villa, with, upstairs, a long, dining/sitting room, a nice kitchen, big bathroom and three bedrooms. The rooms appear dark because that's the way they like it, never opening shutters or windows more than an inch or two. I told her that the English prefer more light, so she opened up everything and it was lovely and light then. There are more windows and patio doors than we have, some leading on to a big verandah at the side and a smaller one at the back. The downstairs was the village farmacia (chemist) until about ten years ago, and there is still a huge empty space where the shop would have been. Behind that there is a room with a very large family dining table in it, a small sitting room, and other small rooms beyond that. None of the downstairs has been lived in for a while, so it needs some work done on it, but it has the potential to be a huge family home. There is also a good size plot of land all round it, mostly set with fruit trees at the moment, but with lots of space to put in a swimming pool if it is wanted. I rather hope it will be bought by a Spanish family as I would like to have neighbours to practise my Spanish on. I asked her the price and she did a big 'Spanish' shrug, and said, 'I do not know, becuase of the crisis. People will have to say what they can offer, but it won't be cheap!' I don't suppose it will sell easily, but I look forward to having neighbours on one side of us eventually.

I drove into Turre this morning to buy the weekend essentials of bread and milk, and I was surprised to see the road lined on both sides by a profusion of yellow flowers. I don't expect to see many wild flowers at this time of year. It is the tag end of the flowering season even in the gardens. We had lots of nice autumn flowers in England, but here they have been deprived of water for months, so we can't expect them to flower. I didn't have my camera with me so I stopped to pick this one stem so that I could identify it in a Flower's of the Murcia region book that a friend from church lent me. So I now know it is 'dittrichia viscosa' more commonly known as Arnica, and it is used in medecines and to repel insects! I believe it is quite common in England too, but I have never seen it growing quite so abundantly as I did this morning.

I now have a much improved computer system in my room. My PC was becoming prone to all sorts of problems, due, in Chris' words, to the amount of rubbish I have on there. I know I am bad at weeding out the duplicates, and files that I have finished with, and it was always telling me that my memory was low, so it worked very slowly and often crashed. So this week Chris decided that for now, he would use one of his laptops, and he has given me his PC. It is so nice after mine, much, much quieter and so very much faster. But it proved quite a mission to get it set up for me. He uses Linux instead of Windows, and is always telling me that it is a far superior system, but as I have just about mastered everything I want to do on Windows, I am not keen to start again with something new, and I also use some programs and CDs that are not compatable with Linux. So first of all he had to clear his system off it, and then I had to decide what files etc I wanted to keep and what could safely be discarded. I spent a couple of days editing all my documents and reduced them by about half, but I still have thousands of photos in files that I have to weed out the rubbish from. In the end Chris let me keep them all for now, with the promise that I would edit each folder, little by little over the coming weeks. Then he had to copy everything across from my old machine on to the new one and every now and then it would object to something, so poor Chris has had to keep redoing bits. He is a very patient man. The whole thing would have gone out of the window by now if it had been down to me. We had a couple more hiccups this afternoon, but now I think everything is running smoothly. All except for the sound card which didn't like the change, and Chris has bought a new one for me that is winging its way here curtesy of ebay. Today I discovered that I can still use my skype phone without a sound card; I just can't listen to music yet. So I am a lucky lady, a) to have a nice new computer to work on, and b) to have such a talented man to set it all up for me. I can use it to the level that I need to, but I don't begin to understand the workings of it. But then I don't really know the workings of the washing machine or TV either and I use both of them quite competently, and although Chris is always encouraging me to read books and understand the computer better, I think that is something best left to the expert in the family!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

The one that nearly got away!

As you know by now, I am fairly fanatical about bringing my cats in at night, especially after I lost the second one to a night time driver, so I was rather dismayed when my lovely persian boy, Baggins, went walkabout on Wednesday morning, and hadn't returned by bed time. At the moment he still spends much of his time in my craft room, so I keep the window open and he hops in and out at will. He never goes far, rarely out of sight from my window, and always comes back at mealtimes. So when the others had had their tea, and there was still no sign of him I was really concerned. By my bedtime I was walking up and down the street calling him, and shining a torch into all the gardens, but to no avail. I had to give up and go to bed, but I was up early the next morning calling him again, and he didn't come for his breakfast either. Then at around 11.00 he suddenly appeared on the window sill. I have no idea where he had been, but I suspect he spent the night locked in a shed. He was mercifully free of the sticky grass heads that tangle in his fur if he goes down into the green zone at the back of us, but he was covered in cobwebs, and it took me ages to clean him up.

After this narrow escape I looked back on my computer to see how long they have been with me, and I found these two photos taken on the day I got them. (July 24th). What a sorry pair! The difference in them after just two months is amazing. Baggins is friendly, very at home around the house, and gets on well with the other cats. He follows me like a shadow, and likes to sit right on top of whatever piece of craft I am working on!! He comes for attention at regular intervals, and will even let me sit and hold him for a while. He eats well and drinks lots of water. His coat is much improved though I have had to cut the odd sticky grass out when it has got too entangled to deal with, with a comb. He is still a little thin around his back quarters, but has gained a lot of weight, and I am sure he will continue to do so. He has such a funny face, and looks so disgruntled, but this is his 'Please love me' face, and I do! Arwen is a very different cat. She has only left the house on a couple of occasions, and rarely leaves the room, though just this week she has ventured into the hall, but she scoots back here if anyone approaches her. She doesn't like to be picked up, but will let me stroke her, and even tolerates being brushed and combed on a daily basis. She doesn't trust anyone else yet, and will lash out with her claws if they come too close. She also growls a bit if Paco comes near her, but seems to ignor Luna who likes to visit my room too in the evenings. When I am working she will come up and tap me on my legs, to ask for a quick stroke, and then she goes back to her favourite perch next to the window. She also eats well and now is quite rounded and heavy, and has a lovely coat, and even more lovely green eyes. I am so glad I took them in and have been able to give them a better life than had had up until now.

I am always game to try new things, especially foody things, so this morning when I was in the supermarket, I bought some of what I al
ways think of as 'Black tomatoes'. Of course, they are not really black, but very dark green, with just a hint of red showing through. I always think they look rather unappetising compared with lovely ripe red ones, but the local people buy them by the bagful on market day, even though they are considerably more expensive than the usual red ones. I found on the label that they are called Kumato tomatoes, so I looked them up on the internet. Apparently they originated in Belgium, and are now enjoyed world-wide. Their main difference is that they have tougher skins and they ripen from the inside outwards, so they are lovely and sweet and juicy, without being bruised and squashy on the skin. The one I ate didn't taste much different from usual, but I will be interested to see how well they keep, as the red ones only last for a few days in the summer, even in the fridge.