Saturday, May 26, 2012

A Week in UK.

We arrived back in sunny Spain on Thursday evening, after what had been a very busy week. Arriving in Birmingham on the previous Thursday evening, we spent Friday with Ben who took us shopping for most of the day, and then we went out together for a meal.
 Saturday was a big family day, when we joined Dave's family and lots of their friends to celebrate their civil partnership ceremony.

On Saturday morning, Mike, Tom and Jonathan and Ella, all joined us at Ben and Dave's house, as did several of Ben's friends from Oswestry, and we all shared a few taxis to the registery office for the afternoon ceremony, where we met up with Dave's two sons and their partners, and some of the local folk who Ben has met through his music. Dan, Ben's 'best man', wore his Navy uniform and looked very smart, and Dave was accompanied by his older son Russell who is ex-army and he wore his dress jacket. The ceremony was simple and meaningful, and afterwards we went into a garden at the rear of the building to take photos. 

Then we walked through the Birmingham city centre to a Chinese restaurant called Ming Moon where 26 of us sat round a long table and had an excellent meal together. The friends then went off around the city and we went back to Dave's house for a rest and some family time. It was lovely to see everyone again, and it was nice that Jim and Jo were able to bring their children along with them.

We booked taxis again to take us to the evening venue which was in a big silky marquee, attached to a bar. Lots of friends from both Ben's and Dave's work came to join us, and it was a very pleasant evening. The bar put on a good buffet and one of the Oswestry friends brought a cake made by their Nan. 

A lady from one of the bars where Ben sings karaoke, played disco music throughout the evening and later organised a karaoke session there. Ben kicked it off with a  song which he sang with great confidence that surprised all the family. We are used to seeing him eaten up with nerves before any public performance. He also helped out Marcus who has a lovely voice but is also very nervous, and Mike who loves to sing but was struggling to find the tune for his chosen song. He then sang with his friends Charlotts and Bob, both of whom often meet up for music session with him. All the youngsters enjoyed the dancing, and it was a thoroughly enjoyable night.

The following day we drove over to Jim and Jo's house (They had gone home the night before), and spent a lovely day with them. Their children are so pleasant and friendly, and it is a joy to spend time with them. They had a visit from Severina, the cutest little rescued kitten, who was being fostered, but who was promised to them by the RSPCA. She had to go back to her foster home that day, but today she came to them to stay. Jo and I also visited a friend of her's who does paper-craft like me. I sometimes talk to her through our blogs, so it was nice to have a chat face-to-face. The next morning we got up in time to see the children off to school, then we joined Jim and Jo and Marcus (He's on study leave for his AS levels) for breakfast at the newly opened cafe attached to Jim's church.

Then it was time to drive over to Oswestry, where we were staying with Tom. We had lovely weather for the rest of our stay, and much of the warmer clothing we had brought with us, didn't leave the suitcase! We met Emma in the park with baby Isaac, who is a bonny little lad, and very friendly. It is hard to believe he is nine months already. He was more or less crawling, and didn't seem to mind in the least being passed like a parcel between people he didn't know. 
We had actually arranged to go to Emma's house that evening, so we still did that so I could take a little family group photo for my frame when John got home from work. They seem very happy and are coping extremely well with running a home and caring for a little baby. Emma's brother Michael also came to see us there when he finished work. I hadn't seen him for almost five years. Like Marcus, he is now 17 and they are both proper young men, though their lives have taken them in very different directions.

The next day Chris drove me to Shrewsbury so I could browse the shops, and buy a few bits that it is difficult for us to get over here. I went home on the bus using my bus pass for the last time. It expires in October and won't be renewed. Chris went back to spend the afternoon with his friends John and Jenny. They have been out here for a couple of holidays with us, so it was good to catch up on all the news. 

In the evening, Mike brought his two boys Oliver and Finlay to see us at Tom's. They have settled down a lot and we spent a very happy couple of hours with them. Oliver has a very active imagination and he plays games that tell a story all the time. He did that as soon as he could talk, and is still the same now he is eight. Finlay is a laid back happy-chappy just like his dad, so he allows Oliver to organise him, but they played well together. Finlay is five and is enjoying full time school now.

On our last day we had an appointment at the bank to sort out a few things and then I met Jessie for a coffee before tackling the job of trying to pack all our shopping into the cases. After hopping on and off the scales to weigh them, and packing and repacking a few times, we decided to leave Chris's suit hanging in Tom's wardrobe, and then we just managed to keep each piece of luggage on the maximum allowance! At teatime, Chris drove me over to Chester to meet another blog friend to deliver all the little jumpers and hats that I, and my friends, have been knitting for the fish and chip babies in Africa. The response I got was amazing and I had 80 sets ready to deliver. (If you are not sure what I am talking about, go to my other blog using the link in this side bar and you will find several posts about it). They, of course, are what I was leaving here, that made some space for me to take shopping back with me.

Then it was our final evening and we went to the Ironworks, a music venue in Oswestry, where every Wednesday, Tom takes his very hi-tech record decks, computer and other things, and with his friend Neil, he runs a vinyl club, where anyone can take any vinyl records and play a set. Mike always takes some along, and this week Dad did as well, as Tom has the care of our own vinyl collection from 'way back when..'. Tom has set up their own website, and a system whereby people can comment on what is playing on the internet, and it is projected onto the ironworks wall, and also the music is streamed straight onto live radio. All too technical for me, but it was quite impressive, and our friends John and Jenny joined us there for the evening as well.

On Thursday we were up bright and early as we had to return the hirecar, and then book our cases in at the airport. At passport control they were doing random checks for explosives on hand luggage and they chose to search mine. Unfortunately they chose the case I had used to bundle a week's worth of dirty washing in to. I warned him, but he still unpacked it and waved his wand over every single item, but he looked quite relieved when I offered to repack it for myself.!

So that was the week that was. I am sorry this is such a very long post, but I know if I don't write about it now, it probably won't get done. I am only going to put a couple of photos on here, just so you are not too discourage by a long page of writing with no pictures, but most of them can be found in two folders on my gallery.

For pictures of Ben and Dave's special day click here.

And for all the family photos please click here.

Ben and Dave then followed us out to Spain. We collected them from the airport this morning and they are spending a few days with us before moving on to Benidorm for a week. So I don't expect to be posting again, while they are here; hence the long one today. I hope you made a cup of tea before you started reading!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Saturday was a busy day

We had a very busy day on Saturday as it was the fiesta for San Isidro in our village, and in the afternoon we had our first choir performance of the summer season.

San Isidro is the second saint for our village (the first is La Virgen de la Carmen in whose honour we have the three day fiesta in July), and he is also the patron saint of farmers and agriculture. So after the mass which officially starts the fiesta, there is a romeria, or country walk, through the village and up to the sports area  where they hold the finals of the inter village football, followed by a picnic and/or gran paella, accompanied by lots of loud music. The romeria used to be led by a small mule-drawn cart bearing a statue of the saint, but this has been replaced by a sturdier trailer drawn by a fairly elderly tractor. This is followed by a small crowd of the more stalwart villagers, sometimes several horsemen, and the village band. 
We have walked with them on a couple of occasions, but this year we knew we needed to be able to get away early so we drove up to the football stadium in the car. 

Next to this there is a large picnic area with lots of tables fixed under the trees for much needed shade, and between them, there are several built in barbeques. These are bricked 'boxes' with a grid over them, and anyone can take charcoal and food up there at any time to have a get- together with friends and families. But this is the only day when they are nearly all in use at the same time. Very early in the morning, someone from each family is sent up to 'bag' a table, by laying crockery, tablecloths, cool boxes and anything else they might need, on one of them. Often they put up a canvas pergola as well, and string it with bunting and balloons. Later the rest of the family arrives with more food than you can imagine. Often there will be several generations of a family in each group, and for many of them, these fiesta days are the only holidays they ever have, so they are very special occasions.
We met up with our friends John and Eileen, and some other British couples, and we all shared a table. From there we watched the romeria winding up from the village. As usual there was a huge paella cooking up behind the sports pavillion, but we didn't wait for any of that this year. We just took our own picnic up, spent a very pleasant hour or two in good company, and then we had to get home and change ready for the afternoon.

Up in Arboleas, a town thirty minutes drive from here, there was a much more 'English' fete going on, to launch the Walk for Life, a sponsored walk to raise money for cancer charities. Our choir, Cantante, had been asked to sing at the opening cermony. It was very hot on the plaza and we were glad to be standing under the town hall parapet to sing.

First we watched a group of women zumba dancing, and then the children from the village school sang. 
We were not singing all of our programme, just four songs, which was just as well. We have no amplification, and it is hard work making enough noise (tuneful noise I hope!) out in the open. Our lovely pianist has been seriously ill in hospital for some time, but fortunately someone else stepped in at the last minute. She did really well, as she had only had one practice with us to learn how we do the pieces. 

For our last number we sing World in Union which is a lovely song, and as we sang the final high note, they released a sack of sponsored balloons and then we went straight into just the chorus of 'Then sings my soul, my Saviour God to Thee' which also has a wonderful finishing note. It was quite spine-tingling, and we got tremendous applause after it. After some tricky practices and worrying hitches, it is very satisfying when it all comes together at the end.

After that we waited for a while and watched the first of the walkers coming back. It was very hot for them, around 30ยบ that day, and the last bit of the walk was a steep hill. The hero of the day was a little seven year old boy who has already had twelve heart operations. He completed the walk and he looked like a little beetroot when he got back to the plazza.

We got back home in time for us to relax for a while, and we watched the final of Britain's Got Talent because I had been following the whole series. Then we went out again around midnight for the rest of the San Isidro fiesta. The top of our road is cordoned off and a large stage is built across it. There was live music and dancing that started at 11.30 and went on until early Sunday morning. We just stayed for a couple of hours and went home to bed. Chris got up at 5.30 and said he could still hear the music, but it was all over when we got up at 8.00.
You should have known I couldn't do 'brief' two posts on the trot! This is longer than I had intended. Unfortunately blogger has been 'improved' (there are a lot of us users who wouldn't agree with that), and it has made it much harder to insert photos, and I certainly can't always put them where I want them now, so I will just add a few here, but there are several more in my gallery. Just click here to see the rest.
This will be my last post for a little while as we go to UK for a week on Thursday. But I am sure I will have plenty to tell you when we get back. You have been warned!!

Monday, May 7, 2012

A Brief Update

I promise I can do 'brief' occasionally and will try to manage it today. I just thought you might enjoy this sequel to the story of our sparrows. One of our fledglings decided to launch himself this morning but he landed on the ground, and was immediately pounced on by the dogs whom Chris had just let out of their bed to go for their morning walk. The poor bewildered bird hopped away from them and nose dived straight into our swimming pool where he was in danger of drowning!  

Chris fished him out and brought him in to me, and I settled him on a warm cloth in a box, covered by a net food cover. I left him in the sun until his feathers were dry and his little heart beat had slowed down a bit.
Then Chris got out his ladder and dropped him back into his nest, while mum and dad sparrow looked on. When I was working as a lab assistant in a school, the head of the biology department told me that birds will accept their young back after human handling, because they have no sense of smell. I hope that is the case and our little fellow will have now been fed, and been given some more flying lessons!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

They're back!

Who's back I hear you ask. Well it's those beautiful birds the bee-eaters, who come here to build their nests and raise their young before moving on, to I know not where. I know they usually arrive towards the end of April but there was no sign of them a couple of weeks ago. However I was over near their nesting ground at the end of last week and I could hear them calling, they have a very distinctive sound, so I  popped round to see, and sure enough there were a few up on the overhead cables. There are not many yet, but more will follow shortly I am sure. I don't know how far they travel to get here, but they looked quite small and thin to me, but there are plenty of bugs on the campo to fatten them up. Their first job will be to excavate last year's nests. These are small burrows in the mud banks along the road side, and although we had less rain than usual this winter, what we did have was quite heavy, and most of the entrance holes had disappeared. It was getting late and I needed to get home so I didn't stop to watch them. Anyway, it is important not to disturb them, so I pulled over to the side of the road just long enough to take a couple of quick photos and drove on. This was a chance to use the zoom lens on my new camera, and although the birds were quite high up, I was pleased with this shot.
While on the subject of birds, here is a picture of a magpie who was flying around in the green zone behind our house, one evening last week. He appears to have a very brown chest, but as I can find no reference to such colouring on a magpie, (and I am fairly certain that is what he is), I think it is a trick of the light, and his chest has caught the rays of the setting sun.
 We often read that sparrows are becoming more rare in UK, but here they abound, and they seem to like to nest in and around our yard, showing no fear of the dogs or cats. Next door is usually an empty house, and they nest in all the tiny ventilation holes under their roof. Most years they make an untidy, rather squashed nest behind our air conditioning box, but we have hung a shiny CD there to deter them, in case we need to turn it on before their babies have flown the nest. Instead, this year they chose to build in the small opening in the 'elbow' of the support pipe for our satellite dish. Their young are hatched and they are so noisy!! I sat for ages trying to catch the moment that the parents went in or out of the nest, but without success, so here is mum keeping an eye from our roof, and dad watching from the overhead cables. 
 I love to see them all in the garden.
 Even the babies will come down to ground level to drink the fresh water when Chris has hosed down the yard, and even then the dogs don't pay them much attention. Our cat Luna would catch the babies but she spends most of her day over in the green zone, or asleep on her favourite chair.
And that brings me to some amusing shots of some of the Perry zoo. These three show Arwen and Paco.
 In the first one, Arwen was peeved because I was sitting in 'her chair', so she climbed onto my desk and curled up there. It is hard to see which end is which, but she has a lovely furry paw wrapped over her nose. In the second one it was siesta time. Chris didn't know she was there at first. She isn't allowed in the bedrooms but the door had been left open and she crept in. She was fast asleep when I peeped in but she lifted her head when she heard my camera click on. In the third one, Paco is drinking from our swimming pool. I can't believe the chlorinated water is nicer than the numerous bowls of fresh water dotted throughout the house and yard. Fortunately the chlorine level is not high enough to do her any harm at this time of year.
And here are some of the dogs. 
 Miki likes to poke her head through the back railings to watch the green zone where children play, birds squawk and fly, and sometimes the old man brings his herd of goats to graze. Foxy knows it is tea time and is trying to squeeze under the gate to get to the back door where I give them their tea. She'll get stuck there one of these days. And finally, Miki is just making a statement about who is top dog!
Last but not least, another month has come and gone so here is my photo board for April. It is the raw file, before I printed it. 

The chequered background is just empty space which is the white borders in the print out. This time I used a board with even sized frames and I combined some to give two longer pictures and one larger square one, but when I do this you can still see the divisions across them. I was able to get around this, and to see the edited board, and what I then do to it before putting it in my album, please click HERE to go to my other blog.