Sunday, December 16, 2012

Counting down to Christmas

It is really feeling more like Christmas now, and I love it. We are several concerts into our Cantante programme, and there is nothing like some Christmas music to get you in the mood. We had a concert on Friday at a place called La Estacíon in Alfoquia. The name means 'Station' and it was quite literally in an old, disused station building, converted into a function room with a small stage at the front and a make-shift bar across the back. At first I thought it was a bit stark and chilly, but they had put some pretty trees and other decorations at the front, and crackers on each table, and once the people started arriving it soon warmed up. It was acoustically good in there, and I think it was our best concert to date. 
This morning we led the singing at our church carol service and that was lovely. There were several Spanish visitors in the congregation which was nice, so one of our members translated throughout the service and they did appreciate it. (She is English but has a Spanish husband so she is very fluent. I did find I could understand more of what she said than I used to be able to, but it will be a long time, if ever, before I can speak it like that!) I was on refreshment duty after the service and I had taken along five dozen of my mincepies which all disappeared. It was great to see the building so full as we are usually only a congregation of about thirty to forty people. My friend and I were kept busy making tea and coffee while another friend served mulled wine. It was a lovely friendly, happy atmosphere, but of course, I was too busy to take photos for once.

In my last post I showed you a man fitting our street lights to a pole outside our house. They were switched on this weekend and look very pretty.
We also saw some Christmas lights on Wednesday when I went on my sewing group annual outing to Granada. We had to be on the coach at 8.00 so it was an early start for me, and we didn't get home until 10.00. I was shattered and went straight to bed! Out here, Christmas is fairly low key, but it is a bit more apparent in the cities. I'm not a shopaholic, and usually only go when I am actually in need of something that isn't available locally, but I was with friends who were set on buying new dresses for Christmas and  we had some fun rifling through racks of party frocks. They have too many frills and flounces for my taste, but they do use some very pretty fabrics. 
As it got dark we walked through the shops to the plaza where the trees and fountain were all lit up. There were rows of temporary chalets all round the plaza with stalls selling hand crafted goods and I enjoyed browsing around these. 
We also went in a tent that housed a traditional Belén or nativity scene. In Spain this does not mean a stable a few shepherds and three kings; it incorporates all aspects of village life. 

Covering the whole of a huge table, there were figurines of men working in the fields, market stalls, sausages being prepared after the pig-killing, wood men, mothers playing with or feeding their children etc, etc. 

Somewhere in amongst it all you will find a stable with the baby and Mary and Joseph, and nearby there will be a field probably with a goatherd rather than a shepherd, and three kings arriving, but you do sometimes have to hunt for them. It is fun seeing what other activities you can spot. Some cities have several Beléns set up in the streets, and even some private houses have quite elaborate ones. All the characters can be bought in specialist shops throughout November and December. The photos were taken in a very dark tent so they are not too good, but they will give you an idea of what it is like.

The one thing that is not quite so Christmassy is the very mild weather we are enjoying. This week it is back up to around 19 degrees, and even warmer in sunny, sheltered spots. We sat outside to eat our dinner at around 4.00 today, and it was lovely. It does get chilly at sundown so we have to make sure we have all the doors and windows closed before then to conserve the heat. 
This week Chris bought me a little halogen heater for my craft room which is nice when I want to work down here all evening. We have a color gas fire in the main room which is very efficient, and my halogen uplighter is often all I need down here in my craft room, but if I am working on my blog, or editing photos etc and want to sit at the computer for a long time, it does get cold even for me, so the heater will be just perfect for some instant heat.

The mild weather is encouraging everything to grow in the garden rather than to take a winter sleep! As I thought, we do have "Roses in December" (see my earlier post on 25th Nov.) Isn't this just perfect? By the way it had water droplets on it, not because it has rained, but because my tubs were so dry today that I got the hose out and gave them all a drink. I nearly lost my beautiful poinsettia because it had dried out, but I spotted it drooping just in time I think.
We also have a beautiful patch of pink by our garage gates. This is incarvillea and it is really in next-door's garden, but it always comes through to us to face the sun. It has been flowering for weeks and weeks and still looks beautiful. Some people think it is a nuisance because it is such a vigorous grower, but I love it. We keep it trimmed back all year so that it doesn't take over, and I think it is a lovely way to hide the very basic chain link fence.

And finally I want to give you a link to a video. Do click on it and watch it right through if you have a few minutes. A while ago our son Ben and his friend Bob worked together on the words for a charity song which they called 'Santa won't be coming". Then Ben wrote some music for it and their other friend Charlotte sang it. Later, through some of Bob's contacts, they were able to take it to a Catholic primary school in Redditch. Ben arranged the music and the school choir learned the chorus and supplied three little soloists for some lines. Then they all got together and he recorded it. Another contact made it unto a video which is now for sale through the school and the money will go to the Catholic charity CAFOD. I think they did it really well. Ben certainly enjoyed his part. I think it is a shame they didn't include one shot of him playing the piano at the end, but he is in the credits. He is now hoping to do something similar with the Birmingham youth choir for next year. Anyway, you can watch the video by clicking here.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Busy, busy, busy!

Well I have just discovered that it is over two weeks since my last blog, but that is not really surprising as I have been very busy. And I probably will be again for another week yet, so I thought I'd try to fit a post in tonight.
The 3rd of December brought our first Christmas concert with Cantante and it was a special one for us because it was at our local bar, so for once it wasn't us doing the travelling. We held it there because Mick and Ali, who run the bar, are great supporters of our village children's charity Asadis, and this year Cantante are collecting for them. 
It went very well. We were extremely short of space, but despite struggling to squeeze up close and still find space for our music folders, we survived. There was a good turnout of both English and Spanish families, and they all seemed to enjoy it. They particularly liked our rendition of the old favourite "While shepherds watched.." which we sing to the tune "On Ilkley Moor but at"!, and also our finale song which is the "Milennium prayer" - The Lord's Prayer sung to "Auld lang syne", as performed by Cliff Richard at the turn of the century. We raised almost 200€ for Asdis as well, so it was a very successful evening.

At the weekend it was our bi-annual Gallarte expo, when a small group of local artists and crafters display their work and hopefully sell some of it. I never manage to have anything made in the way of craft at the right time, but it has become my role to supply baking and jam for sale, so once again I turned up with lots of mince-pies which sold very well. The Spanish folk must be getting used to them. They had no idea what they were the first year I made them. I sold quite a lot of plum jam, and also the piccalilli I made a few weeks ago. I had made six of the fabric pine cone decorations that I showed on here a couple of months ago, and I sold five of them, but I only sold one of the bobbin lace decorations. I wasn't all that surprised, because when money is short, people are more likely to buy food than decorations. 

The expo ran from Thursday through to Sunday morning, and then we took everything down and went off to a nearby restaurant with our 'other halves' for a Christmas meal together. As we always do at El Cumbre, we had a lovely meal and it is such an attractive setting. The whole building is set around a Roman theme, as you can see by the huge mural in the back of my photo. Outside there is a big garden area with archways and 'ruined' walls, through which there is lovely a view of the Cabrera mountains.

Yesterday when we took the dogs out, there was a big 'structure' leaning against the telegraph pole outside our gate. I guessed it was the Christmas lighting for this year, but I couldn't make out what it was. Shortly after we got back, a lorry drove up and a man went up in a crane to fix ours and it was instantly recognisable as a glass of bubbly! He saw me taking pictures and gave me a wave. He was probably thinking 'mad English woman' but then he doesn't know about my photo a day project. It still seems a bit incongruous to have Christmas lights being hoisted up a pole when the sun is shining in a clear blue sky. They won't be lit until the week before Christmas, but then, of course, they will stay on until after the Three Kings fiesta on 6-7th January.
We are getting Christmassy in other ways now too. Last week I spotted some lovely poinsettias for sale in Turre and chose a big, beautiful one to sit on our front porch. It is just sufficiently sheltered there, as although they do get planted in lots of public flower beds, round roundabouts etc, if we have a really cold wind they do blacken and sometimes die, but our porch one usually survives. Isn't it a lovely splash of colour?
Today I did a round trip this morning, starting at Turre where I left Arwen at the vet's for a shave under anesthetic again. I didn't really want to have her done in the winter. I think she will feel the cold. But her fur was in a dreadful state and she won't let me anywhere near her to cut it. So this is the only way. For something so very soft and silky, it is amazing how hard the tangles become and it makes her uncomfortable. She does try to pull them out herself but she can't do it.  She looks rather sweet again now and is much happier. 
While she was being attended to, I drove over to Vera to collect a parcel from the depot because we were out when the courier called last week. While I was there I went into the big post office and posted all my overseas cards. I was a bit late doing this but I always forget that out here, the 6th and the 8th of December are public holidays, so no-where is open. And because they fell on Thursday and Saturday this year, many places stayed closed on Friday as well. I am afraid Michael (our grandson) will get his card a day or two late. He will be 18 on Wednesday! I remember the day he was born so plainly. It was the Christmas party at my pre-school and I had Emma with me. We took her to meet her new brother with her face painted as a little cat!

I then paid a quick visit to Iceland, whizzed home to store the frozen food away, and then went back to Turre to collect Arwen. She was still half asleep when I got her home, but she is fine again now. She has been sitting on my lap - a very rare occurance - but I expect I am keeping her warm.
All the animals are feeling the cold a bit now and the cats spend more time indoors than they do in the summer. Even the dogs will bark to come in as soon as it gets dark. Our only heating is the black calor gas fire visible in the back of this photo, and as you can see, the animals are all happy to share a blanket if it means they get to curl up (or lay out!) in front of it.
This afternoon I decorated our Christmas tree. I love getting the decorations out and meeting up again with lots of happy memories. Here is a group of some of my favourites -  there's Ben's treble clef, Emma's ballerina (we each had one), our milennium bear and the tiny teddy I helped the boys to make with light-weight modelling clay many moons ago, a set of celtic crosses that always make me think of Jim, some lovely hedgehogs and an owl made from pine cones that Jean gave me, and the fabric bell made by Brenda, and the big bauble that started out as an empty, clear glass one which I learned to decorate on the inside at a workshop at the craft shop in Ellesmere. And so it goes on. 

Something new joins the collection most years, and inevitably some things fall apart or get broken, but it always ends up as my beautiful tree that I still love, and that still brings me close to friends and family at the one time of year when I sometimes wish I was back amongst them all.
While I was busy with the tree, Chris was being a plumber's mate. Those who have visited us and who have needed to work around our temperamental bathroom plumbing (both toilets have a tendency to go into perpetual flush mode), will be glad to know that we now have two new cisterns, and hopefully the problem is solved. The plumber also fitted a new drinking water tap in the kitchen because the other one was worn out so that my kitchen work surface  was always wet. The new tap has the feature whereby it has to be held down to make the water flow. This could be a good idea as my party trick was to turn the tap round and leave it to fill the kettle while I did something else because the flow was so slow, and of course I used to forget it until I heard the waterfall as the overflowing water cascaded all over the floor! Now I will have to stand there to hold the tap on so no more floods!
Well I've rambled on a bit so I will leave you with this beautiful photo which I took this morning. It is unusual for us to get up to walk the dogs before the sun is up, but today it was partly obscured by cloud so wasn't visible until a bit later. It was around 8.o'clock when we saw this lovely sunrise coming up behind the mountains.