Monday, March 26, 2012

Another Week On...

It feels like ages since I last did a blog post. Although I have been up and about for the past week, I am only just beginning to feel that I have left my virus behind, and I still fall asleep every time I sit down. But I have managed to get a few bits of crafting done, and I am enjoying having the company of my sister Jean this week. She hasn't had the best of Spanish weather for her stay. In fact I think it has been warmer back in the UK, but we have had had some lovely days and we have spent a lot of time just sitting outside chatting. She brought me her two latest craft magazines to look through and one of them featured a technique for making pretty backing papers using real flowers, and we decided to give it a go. I don't have many flowers out in the garden right now so we wanted to go for a walk and collect some wild ones. We had been to Turre to do some shopping so I drove down a little side-track where I knew there was a fairly wild field that was bound to have flowers in. We picked a lovely bunch of pink, lilac and blue flowers, and a whole bunch of the bright yellow wild chrysanthemums that grow everywhere during March, but I thought I was getting a few insect bites so we went back to the car. By the time we got home I was itching like mad and it turned out I was covered in mosquito bites. We managed to take a few into the car with us that we quickly swatted so I know they were mosquitoes, and I guess the recent rain followed by some warm days had hatched them out. Jean had a few bites as well, but I am like a magnet for biting bugs, and always get more than my share. I took an allergy tablet as soon as I could which helped me to leave them alone, but they are still causing me grief, and I am trying really hard not to scratch them. We have since had fun making the paper with the flowers and very soon I will do a post on my craft blog about this.

While we were in the field I spotted an interesting beetle, so I asked Jean to keep an eye on it so she knew where it was, while I ran back to the car for my camera. I thought from it's shape that it was an oil beetle but they are usually black and this one had a red stripe round each segment of its abdomen. But I was right in my assumption. I have looked it up on the internet and it was indeed a red-striped oil beetle, or blister beetle as it is also known. The names come from the fact that it secretes an oil from its skin when it is annoyed which is toxic, and it causes blisters on your skin if you touch it! But it was interesting to read about its life cycle. Apparently the female lays thousands of eggs but only a few survive. To do this the larva climbs the stem of a flower and waits for a lone bee to fly by. It clings on to the back of the bee which flies back to the nest. Here the larva eats a baby bee pupa and climbs into its cell where it lives on the food intended for the bee pupae. Then when it is fully grown it climbs out of the cell, drops to the ground and lives off plants. Nature is very strange sometimes. Anyway here is the best photo I got of the beetle. He was running around too much to get a clearer one. He had a mate nearby and he was more interested in catching her, than in posing for me!

Today started a bit too cloudy to just sit outside so we drove down to Mojacar to walk along the sea-front. It was quite windy down there but that meant there were lovely waves breaking over the rocks. I love it when the sea is lively. There are some lovely views of the bay and the hills just to the other side, and there are loads of mimosa (acacia) trees out in flower along the promenade. We were laughing at the obviously British residents and holiday makers who were walking along the prom in summer dresses - there was even one man in just a pair of swimming trunks - while the Spanish walkers were still wrapped up in big coats and scarves. When we had walked as far as you can go on the paved prom, we turned around to walk back, and we were then walking into the wind which was a bit colder. But when we got back to the beginning we warmed up with a coffee in a little beach cafe. Then we drove home to get some lunch and by this afternoon the sun was fully out and we baked ourselves outside for a few hours.

Friday, March 16, 2012

HI. I'm back.

I thought I had better get my act together and do a post in case any of you wondered what has happened to me. I have been 'proper poorly' with a nasty bug that the doctor called flu, but it was more like sinusitis with a fierce head ache and earache. It is rarely that I give in and go to bed, but I did spend around four days either in bed, or in my recliner chair. Chris had it first, and two days later it got to me. Though we had some different symptoms, it was basically the same bug, and from reading facebook etc, it sounds as though many friends in UK have had something similar too. It left both of us with a hacking cough, but although I am still a bit wooly-headed, we are both much better than we were, so it is time to get back into the swing of things. I wouldn't recommend it as a way of losing weight, but I didn't really eat anything for five days, and I shed three kilos which was good, but sadly it will probably go straight back on now I am eating again.

Anyway here are a few little snippets of life in Los Gallardos. If any of you also follow my craft blog, you will already know that I have been waiting for a new piece of jewellery. There is an English man near here who used to be a goldsmith, but he took early retirement for health reasons, and he now keeps busy doing jewellery repairs for people. He also buys silver and gold and makes some pieces for sale, so I gave him a few small repair jobs. I also asked him whether he could make me a ring and he did. Firstly he mended a lovely gold bracelet on Chris' watch, and also the catch on mum's gold chain which had worn right through. Then we gave him a ring of Chris' that he never wears as I replaced it several years back with one he preferred. And when we were in Thailand, Chris bought me a Thai sapphire surrounded with tiny diamonds. It was intended as a pendant and it was very beautiful, but it was also quite tiny and because I rarely wear high-neck plain jumpers etc, it tended to get lost and I wasn't wearing it. So we asked Michael to make it into a ring, keeping it's original setting, and using the gold from Chris' ring, and here is what he made for me. Isn't it lovely?! I am so pleased with it. It sparkles like anything, and the photo doesn't really do it justice. There were no materials to pay for and he only charged me a very modest fee for labour, and now it will get worn instead of hiding in my box. He also used two tiny diamond chips from Chris's ring to repair my cross, which has had the stones missing for several years now, so all in all it was a very good transaction.

Despite us neglecting it for a couple of weeks, our garden has suddenly sprung into life. The mimosa is in full bloom. That won't help my cough any, but it looks beautiful! The jasmine on the front wall is amazing. You can't put a pin between the flowers. It is a really unusual one. It starts with dark pink buds that open into very pale pink flowers.
A couple of evenings ago the front door bell rang - quite unusual as we don't get many callers - and two young men were there. They nearly turned away when they realised I was English but I spoke to them in my hesitant Spanish and one explained that every year he looks at our jasmine and admires it. He wanted to ask if he could take a cutting, so Chris found a torch and he sliced off a couple of stems. I hope they grow for him. I told him it was very easy to grow! Then in the last couple of days we have seen the first of the new blossom on the orange trees. All three of these have a strong perfume and the air is full of them, but usually the jasmine wins.

Today I had to go into Turre and it was market day so I picked up a few pretty osteospernum plants. I had one lovely yellow one that has flowered each year, but I had to dig it up when the fly-free area was built in the autumn, and I just rested it in a pot and forgot about it. So this spring it is long and leggy with only a few buds on it. But I've planted it at the back of a big pot where it can lean on the wall for support, and in front of it I put my three new plants. They like the sun and the flowers 'go to sleep' when it is shady, so we have put the pot on the back porch where it will be in the sun all morning. Hopefully I will remember to water it there and it will give us some nice colour for several months.

I went to Turre to take Arwen to the vet. She was again covered in matted fur which she absolutely refuses to allow me to brush. She gets really wild and won't let me near her with a brush or scissors in my hands. It is a shame because she is so lovely the rest of the time, and very beautiful. Baggins fur is the same. The minute it starts to grow it knots, really close to the skin, and before long it is thick mat that even they can't get rid of for themselves. But at least Baggins allow me to drag a comb through his most nights. I end up pulling the knots out by the roots and he grumbles and growls at me, but he does have a half decent coat as a result. Arwen had started biting at hers but it just hung off her in big chunks which occasionally I managed to snip bits off, but she was uncomfortable and I decided the only thing was to have her shaved under anaesthetic like we did last year. The poor vet had difficulty getting the injection through the mats but she managed and now we have a poor little naked baby again. She was still half asleep when we brought her home but she wouldn't rest and kept wobbling along behind me, so I laid her on a blanket outside by my chair. I covered her lightly as she felt cold, and also I thought she needed protection from the sun. She is more awake now, but she looks a bit pathetic. She had to have more shaved from her face and tail than last year, but she still has a brush and fur boots, so she is bit like a toy poodle again! I decided to keep her company so at teatime I went round to my hair-dresser and had mine cut off too (not shaved I hasten to add), and tomorrow I may get round to attacking Chris with the shears!!

In between the many hours I spend dozing last week, I read two books and finished the red and black striped jumper I was making for Ella. Here is dad modelling it, and as it fits him, there is probably room for both Ella and Jonathan in it together! But it is posted now so I await the verdict!

Now I am back on my feet I have to do some serious housework as Jean is arriving next Wednesday for the week, and everything is looking very neglected. Hopefully we will manage to do something together for me to write my next post about.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Happy Birthday to a good friend

Yesterday was our friend Eileen's seventieth birthday, and we were invited to join her and her friends for tapas and drinks at lunch time, to celebrate. I went to church as usual but left as soon as the service ended instead of staying for tea and chat, so I was home to collect Chris by 1.00 and we walked up to her house at the top of the village. There was a good crowd of both English and Spanish friends there, and we knew them all except for a couple who were visiting from UK. We had lots of fun, and proved what they say about living in the sun keeping you young. Here is the birthday girl, not looking anywhere near her seventy years, and here is her husband Jack who made a very credible Groucho! My friend from New Year's day, Cabillo was there again, and we all did our best to keep him cheerful. He had a very sad start to the year when his forty-year old son died in a tragic accident. We spent a very pleasant afternoon together. Eileen had put on an impressive spread - rather more than just tapas - and we had music and dancing, and lots of chats with friends, and we left early evening to go home and feed the dogs.

Today I went up to Albox to my 'wool lady' as I needed one more ball of black wool to finish the jumper I am knitting for Ella. Elaine runs a business selling mainly English wool, from her home. A lot of the Spanish wool is very harsh, so she has lots of customers for the types of yarn we are used to using. Up until now she has kept all her wool in big plastic crates which she has to get out each time people go to her. But this year she has opened a little 'shop'. It is a weather-proof wooden construction behind her house, and on Mondays it is open all day. Other days we ring up and make an arrangement to visit. All along one wall she has shallow cubby-holes where she can display one ball of each yarn in each colour that she stocks, making it very easy to chose what we want. On the opposite wall she has examples of garments so we can see how the wool knits up, as well as several folders of patterns, and boxes of buttons, needles, and other accessories. It all looked so lovely. I would love to have worked in a wool shop, but there are so many different yarns available now that it must be very difficult to know which to stock. Elaine mainly has the regular 4ply, double knitting, aran, chunky and baby yarns, but she does have a few specialties as well. Once we have made our choice, her long-suffering husband fetches the amount we need from the garage where the bulk of her stock is stored. I only bought my one ball of black today, because when Jonathan asked me to knit the jumper, I had just started an aran jacket for myself, so I shall go back to that next, and try to finish it before it gets too warm to knit. It is already too warm for me to wear it this year, but at least I can get it ready for the autumn.

Another month has passed and so far I am keeping up with my photo a day challenge. So February's photo board is complete and I have done the page of journalling to go with it so I can remember what they all are.
March's board is now a going concern and I am looking forward to getting some good pictures for it when my sister Jean comes out for a week at the end of the month. In the middle of April Jonathan and Ella are coming for a week, and then in May we have our visit to UK. We had a bit of hiccup with this because both Jonathan's and our flights were on a new route by Ryanair from Almeria to Liverpool. We were quite excited when we saw this was starting last month as Almeria is so much closer for us than Murcia, and Liverpool is quite convenient at the other end too. They offered some very reasonable fares as an opening offer and we thought we had done quite well. Then, at the end of last week we read in a local blog that the route had been cancelled due to lack of support. It hadn't really been running for long enough to give it a chance, but I suppose they were going by the future bookings. So while I was out yesterday, Chris spent a long time on the phone to Ryanair, and he has managed to rebook for both of us, Jonathan from Murcia to Manchester, and us to Birmingham. That does of course mean that we now have to drive to Murcia instead of Almeria, but they have let us keep the agreed fares, so it isn't too bad, and all our holidays are still safe. So we have a busy few months ahead, and lots of nice things to look forward to.