Hi everyone. I am a little late getting started tonight as it has been a very busy day, but I thought I would still try to write my post before I fall into bed.
My smile this week is a couple of photos of our animals. Most of the time the cats and the dogs get along together fine. My lovely Tango (the long-haired ginger cat) is so laid back and non aggressive that the dogs just think he is no fun, and they mostly ignore him. If they approach him, he just holds his ground and stares at them and they back off. Luna keeps out of their way, but Paco has swiped their noses with his claws enough times for them to know it is best to leave him alone. If he is sitting still they will walk past him, but if he runs then he is fair game for a chase, which he always wins! But in this photo, he decided to approach Kim who for once didn´t back off, and it actually looks as though it is Paco who is having second thoughts.
In the second photo, Foxy has taken up her regular position with her nose under the back gate, so she can watch me hanging out the washing. Paco, recognising that there is a safety barrier between them, is sitting there taunting her. It was Foxy who looked away first! The animals are just as much fun to watch as the children were when they were small. It is a constant battle for supremacy, and the pecking order constantly changes. I love to watch them interacting with one another.
And before I move on from our furry family, here is Luna, enjoying a rare moment in the sun, in our garden. Usually she disappears out the door when I get up in the morning and open it for her, and she goes down into the green zone to hunt lizards etc, or into next door´s orange grove to catch baby birds, and we don´t see her again until tea-time. She is a natural ´campo cat´. She must rest in the dry grass etc, but it is not very often that she lays around so close to home.
It has been a funny week in some ways, but a good one too. I did say the other week, that I would show you a better photo of my Strelitzia Nicolai, and it has really turned into an amazing plant this year. It is a fraction of the size it would be if it was planted in the ground, because being in a pot restricts its growth, but where it normally sends out one or two flowers, this year it has sixteen out, all at the same time. As each flower opens, another one grows out of the top of it, and then another out of that, and there are still more to come. Now it is fully open you can clearly see the lovely pale blue tongue of each flower.
I started this week with a gift from one of my friends at church. On Sunday she brought me a whole box of ripe nectarines from her tree. She has so many of them this year, and once they start to ripen, they go very fast. Even by the next day, some of these had started to discolour at the ends, but on Monday morning I washed them well, trimmed them up as necessary, and made some nectarine jam. It is not one I would normally make, so I didn´t know how easily it would set, but I had no trouble with setting it at all. My friend said she peels her for jam, but the skins were very soft and thin so I left most of them on and they turned the jam a very pretty shade of pink.
I am a little disorientated this week as Chris is over in UK for his brother-in-law´s funeral, which was today. It was hard to get last minute flights, and it being a bank holiday at the start of the week didn´t help. In the end he had to go on Wednesday morning and he will be back next Monday morning. So I had to make an early start on Wednesday so I could drive him to Murcia airport for 8.00. It is about a ninety minute drive but we have to allow a bit extra just in case...
He actually drove on the way, so I took my camera in case there was a nice sunrise. It wasn´t spectacular, but the sky turned a lovely golden colour as the sun broke above the low line of clouds.
At the same time as it rose higher, a new bank of cloud also appeared from nowhere, but the occasional break in these gave me several images like this lovely one. (Not bad seeing as it was taken from a moving car).
We got to the airport in good time and I drove home using the toll road because it is very straightforward, and the quickest route. It was worth paying the fee to have such an easy drive home. I doubt I saw more than three cars the whole way! I went straight on to my usual sewing group, but I left a little early so I could pop home to see the dogs before I went back out for my house group and then choir practice. They are not used to being left alone for so long, and by the time I got home that night it was two hours passed their tea-time and they were wondering whether they were going to get fed!
I was very happy at choir practice to get my one to one audition out of the way, and even happier that I passed it!
It was good that Chris managed to Skype me last night. We weren´t sure he would get the right signal, but we had a good connection.
As I would have been on my own today, I accepted the suggestion of a friend to join her on a coach trip, and we had a lovely day. First we went up to Lake Negratin, near Baza, one of my favourite places for a day out. This is not a well composed picture, but I have included it because it shows what a very beautiful, and tranquil place this is.
We had such a laugh on the way. The top end of the lake, where we were heading, is approached along a narrow sandy road, and half way along it there was big JCB parked right across the roadway, digging in the ditch that ran at right angles to it. The coach went right up to it, and just as he put on his brakes, one of the men stepped up and held up a ´Stop´sign. It was so utterly superfluous that we all burst out laughing, and the man joined in.
We had to just sit there and wait while he finished digging out his ditch. (It was designed to carry the agricultural water, and had got blocked after the rains!) The man in the red shirt is our driver who decide to munch on his breakfast buttie while he had a chat with the work men. Only in Spain...! Eventually he was done and moved out of the way so we could continue.
We drove on up to the spa pool which you can see here, several feet below us. It is actually a long, narrow channel of water which continues right through the covered area to the end. It is constantly fed by natural hot water springs, so it is beautifully warm all year round.
Above it, there is a very pleasant bar/restaurant, with two layers of verandahs all around it, and most of the party went there for a coffee first. My friend and I settled her mum with a drink, and then we went down for a swim before it got to crowded. There were only a few of us to begin with so we managed to swim up and down a few times, and them we just relaxed in the water and chatted to others who had joined us by then. When we like a pair of wrinkly prunes we got out and went up for a nice cup of tea. Then we sat out with friends and just enjoyed the sunshine, the beautiful scenery and some gentle chitchat with everyone else. The lake was in front of us, and to the side was a high mountain covered in pine trees which made it look very green.
There was a narrow flower bed around where we were sitting, and at intervals along it there were beautiful hollyhocks. I loved these dark red ones.
These very pretty flowers were growing along the banks and the road side, and someone picked a few so we could get a better look at them. These were beginning to wilt by the time I took the photo but you can still see their delicate white petals, and the mass of fine lilac stamens.
I have seen these growing in the rambla around our village and they reminded me of very large rock-roses, but what I didn´t know was that, before they have opened, the tiny, tight buds are picked and pickled and these are the capers that are in all the shops here. We also have jars of much larger capers, and they are the seed pod of the same flowers, that remains when all the petals and stamens have fallen. So, we learn something new every day.
When we had spent a pleasant hour or two in the sun, we piled back on to the coach and drove to a restaurant for an excellent menu del día. We sat around the tables there for quite a while, and when we went back out, the clouds were gathering again, and we could see that it was raining heavily over the distant mountains. There was lots of lovely light and shade on the cliff in front of the car park, but it didn´t show up too well on the photo I took.
The yellow bush in the foreground is broom. It is in flower everywhere right now, and it looks lovely. The car park was surrounded by an area of stoney ground, and all over it there were little clumps of scarlet poppies. (They are called amapolas out here, and I think that has a lovely ring to it).They never cease to amaze me, because they look do very delicate, yet they survive the hard stoney ground, the heat of the sun and the harsh winds, and just continue to make lovely patches of colour.
Our final stop of the day was at the cherry orchards of Baza. There was just field after field of these trees.
They are kept fairly low to help with the task of picking the fruit. We did not actually pick any ourselves but we could see them shiny bright red between the dark leaves.
The man told us that once they are picked they have to be marketed within twenty-four hours, so they are picked at daybreak every morning. In the warehouse there were stacks of boxes that we could buy from, so I came home with these.
There are five kilos in each box, and they are huge and juicy and very delicious! So I guess that is my work for tomorrow cut out. I shall store some of the best ones in the fridge and hope they keep well until Monday so that Chris can have some when he gets home. But mostly I will be stoning them, freezing some, and putting others into jars and covering them with brandy or ameretto. These have to be sealed and stored for a year, by which time they have a rather strange texture, but they taste nice and the liquor is wonderful! And the rest will, of course, be turned into jam. I don´t think I have ever made cherry jam, because even in the market, the cherries are too expensive to make jam with, but these were half the price, so I shall give it a go. We won´t include in that list the ones I will eat along the way!
As we drove home we went through an area of storm. There were tiny patches of rainbow behind the breaks in the clouds, and sky was very black. The fields around looked like they were smoking with fire, but actually it was a series of small whirlwinds whipping up the dry, sandy earth. Then we briefly drove through heavy rain before coming out the other side of it to clear skies for the rest of our journey.
Another strange thing that we experienced on the way home was really an optical illusion. Our trip organiser told us that there was a patch of road that appears to go downhill, but it you were to lay a can on its side in the road, then it would roll back uphill. That sounded a bit odd but when we reached the road, and we certainly appeared to be driving downhill, the driver stopped and put the coach into neutral, and sure enough, it started to roll backwards - apparently uphill. There must have been something about the arrangement of the contours of the land that gave the illusion of the road running downwards, when in fact it was running up. But it was a strange feeling all the same.
I was home by 8.30 so the dogs were only an hour late getting their tea tonight, but they were pleased to see me. And as I fed them I took this picture of sky.