Friday, April 28, 2017

Rocking Your World 2017; Week 17

Hi folks. I am starting today with a photo of my 'little' lap-dog Kim. He used to only be able to get his front feet up on me and kept his back legs on the floor, but we have changed our furniture this week, and the new settee is lower so he has discovered he can climb right up now! He just wants cuddles all the time - such a softie! With all 40Kg of him on me, I can't let him stay there for long, but we usually have a little cuddle time before I turf him off again.

So the week had a good start when we took delivery of a new set of furniture for our sitting room. This is what it was like before.
We had two big, leather, recliner chairs which had cotton throws on them because of the animals, only hubby can never sit on one and keep the throw in place! I find the chairs too big as I am only short, and last year he bought me a smaller recliner which suits me much better, but we really needed a couple more seats, so we have ditched the two big chairs, moved the little extra one out onto the porch, and replaced them with two two-seater settees and one recliner for Chris.
It does look a lot better and is very comfortable to sit on. I still need to cover the seats and for now I am using two cotton single bed spreads which seem to stay in place better. I have kept my little recliner which I really like, but now I have the option of putting my feet up on a settee; win-win.
It also suits me to have my little chair right by the patio doors so I have plenty of light when I sit there to do my crochet etc.

I was pleased when Saturday dawned bright and sunny, because that afternoon we had a new initiative by the Town hall, to run a trade market on the plaza to promote local businesses. There were stalls from a wide range of businesses from clothes and shoe stands, to baby-wear, books, and even heavy machinery and car repairers.
Plenty of village folk turned out to support them, and as many stalls were offering a discount for the day, they were doing a good trade. 
It was an opportunity to meet with friends for a chat.
Here I am greeting  the mother of one of my Spanish friends. She lives in Barcelona but visits her daughter several times a year, and always remembers me and greets me with a hug.
There was a cordoned off area where Town Hall staff provided entertainment and then table activities for the children.
I love the needlework this young man was doing. He was working with gold thread on beautiful red velvet.
And there was a stall where you could sample locally brewed beer.
The market was officially open until 10.00pm but business was slowing down before then, but early evening a group arrived with their instruments and played for us until well after it was dark.
I think it was a very successful day for the little shops etc that operate from the village. They are always in competition with the larger stores in the towns so it was a welcome boost for them.

The rest of the week has been fairly quiet. On Monday I went for an extra alto choir practice and on the way home my car 'died'. I managed to coast onto a garage forecourt where a nice young man helped me enough for me to make it home, but now it is not going anywhere until our mechanic friend has given it some attention. Unfortunately he can't look at it until Monday, and as that is a Bank holiday, he will not get any parts until Tuesday, so it could be later next week before I am mobile again. As there is no public transport from the village we are very reliant on our car, and it is hard being without it. Fortunately I keep a well-stocked larder and freezer, so we won't starve until I can get to the supermarket again!

I have arranged a lift to our choir concert tomorrow and for church on Sunday. Today we had the technical rehearsal for the concert so again I needed a lift from a friend, but normally I take her to our practice every week, so I didn't mind asking her. The concert is in a theatre that is part of the Town Hall in Albox. We started by unrolling our new banner, which is very smart.
Then there was some discussion about seating, and placement of risers for the back line to stand on. The man in the purple jacket is David, our Musical Director. At least everyone is smiling, so I guess it went well.
Finally we did some singing so we could do a sound check. It was hard at first because we practice in an big, open room. Here on the stage, we were surrounded by a lot of layers of curtains which deaden the sound so we really had to sing out, but we soon got used to it. I am in the photo below, sitting on a chair, dead central, so I am completely hidden behind David. We have some members of the choir who are unable to stand for  the length of the concert, so they have a row of chairs at the front. Being one of the shorter ladies, I was asked to move forward to keep the altos in a block, so I now have to sit with the others as I can't be the only one standing in the row. It is much harder to sing sitting down, but as our MD always says, "If you are sitting down, you are sitting up", so I have to stretch myself, and do the best I can. I love taking part in the concerts and am looking forward to it tomorrow. We then have another concert in Mojacar on Friday night and a matinee performance next Saturday, so I will have to try and do my post a bit earlier.

We have ended the week with two days of steady rain, and a severe drop in temperature again. I don't know what is happening to the weather. Half the world seems to have been unseasonably cold and/or wet this week. Fortunately the sun is supposed to be shining again next week, so here's hoping!

So for now, I am off to link up with Rocking Your World and Annie's Friday Smiles, and hopefully I will manage to visit some of you to share your happy moments too.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Rocking Your World 2017: Week 16

Last week my smile was a photo of myself with son number 5, taken while he was visiting us the week before. So this week my opening photo is son number 4. He is busy doing what he does, and loves to do best - playing his drums.

So much energy and passion! It makes him look very fierce, but he is just lost in what he is doing. I don't pretend to like the noise he, and his groups make, but I do love to watch him play. This week he is in Eindhoven, Holland, playing at a big festival with his band Gnod. They have their first record in the shops this month, which has realised another of his dreams. This photo was taken at the Fat Out Fest in Manchester last week when he was playing with his other band - Lake of Snakes. He also plays in a duo called King Beef! You probably guessed he plays heavy metal music. They get to choose the way-out names for their groups.

So on to what has made my week a happy one. Well it started with our Easter Sunday service at my little church. Two of our members had spent Saturday making it look nice. I love this little corner. You can just see my friend Sue sitting behind it, playing the piano. She played some beautiful Easter music for us.

We have a locum priest at the moment, Father Hywel Davies, who has been wonderful. He has been with us for two months, but sadly goes home next weekend, but we have another Welsh priest booked to take his place. Father Hywel comes from a slightly more traditional background so he has introduced us to some elements that we are not used to. This week he started the service by processing in with the Paschal candle which then sat on a small pedestal in front of the altar and was lit for the duration of the service.

As a child I attended a Baptist church with my parents and I had to wear a hat each week, which I hated. I vowed, once the choice was mine to make, I would never wear a hat again, and I haven't. But several of our ladies donned their Easter bonnets for church, and I have to say, they did look nice.

On Easter Monday we had another church fund-raising event, but this was a little bit different from our usual - we had a 'posh Picnic'. All we had to do was buy a ticket and turn up! The venue was a picnic area at Los Llanos that I did not even know existed. I have never been through the village beyond our church, and this was  another one or two kilometres on. It was sited at the local fuente (fountain), where folk living out on the campo go each week to collect drinking water, as the mains water has too many added chemicals and does not taste that nice. If they live far enough out they don't have mains water! In the towns, most people are lucky like us, and have a specially filtered drinking water tap in the kitchen, or they buy bottled water from the shop, or from the tanker that drives round three times a week. The mains water is fine for washing and cooking, just not so good to drink. So The fuentes are a place of great importance to the land workers and others who live in cortijos in more deserted areas. They go to meet with friends and sometimes to do washing in the trench that is also filled from the fuente. It is natural spring water so it is usually fresh and cold, and these days it is fed by pipes to taps which often have quite elaborate stone or tile work around them. This one was quite simple, but very attractive.
The reservoir under the taps proved to be the perfect place to keep the cava cold.
In the area around the fuente, there were plenty of picnic tables and benches with a pergola over each one. One of the men from our group had gone ahead and stretched fabric over these to give us some welcome shade as it was a hot day.
This lovely couple, Dawn and John, had organised everything, including preparing all of the food and they had done a wonderful job.
While we sat around chatting, a friend helped Dawn to lay out all the plates with a selection of hors d'oeuvres, and every table also had a tray with bowls of paté, hummus, and guacamole, plus olives, capers and gherkins and a basket of bread.
Next they brought out five huge pies with a wide choice of fillings, as well as lots of different salads.
We didn't need a second invitation and soon we were all lining up to fill our plates.
We were all feeling stuffed, but we still found room to eat a lovely light trifle, or meringues and cake.
While we enjoyed our food, and the excellent company, we also enjoyed the warmth of the sun and unspoiled scenery. I was surprised to see this lovely, well-formed tree, because trees in full green leaf are a rarity here, but then I realised that its roots were under the run-off from the fuente, so it always has plenty to drink. The food table had been set up under a wide spreading pepper tree and we could look through its pretty fern-like leaves to the grassy banks and shrubs, and beyond them to the distant mountains. It was all very tranquil.

Later we had an egg hunt (real eggs not chocolate ones!) I wasn't very good at that, but then our table won the treasure hunt. One item we had to find was 'something that makes a noise', so instead of the rather obvious phones that other groups offered, we used my friend's little dog, who, to be fair, hadn't made a sound all afternoon, but we did get a little bark from him for the judges! We won a bottle of cava to share but we had all had enough by then, so we donated it back to the bottle stall at the annual summer fair coming up soon.

On Tuesday I drove into Turre to get bread and milk, and I spotted a colourful field, so on the way back I stopped in a lay-by and climbed up the bank to get a better look. It was Stunning!
 The yellow is mostly made up of wild marguerites and  the red is poppies. (They are called 'amapolas' out here and I think that sounds even better).
The marguerites make good cut-flowers so I picked a little posy of them to take home. I love the poppies but I knew it was no good picking those, so I just added a few stems of wild lavender for contrast. Along the road-side edge of the field the bank was more grassy and was studded with the pretty little pink convolvulus (or field bindweed) trumpets that also grow in abundance around here.
There was a man there who had parked his bike so he could take photos too. The whole field just took my breath away, and I couldn't stop taking pictures, so here is one more for you. I am thinking of having this one enlarged and framing it.

We have had a lovely week, though it hasn't reached the temperatures again that we had on Monday. There has been a little cloud to keep it a bit cooler, but I am in my summer clothes now, which makes me happy, and the evenings are staying warmer too. One day there were just a few streaks of cloud in the sky at dusk so we saw the first evening colour we have seen for a while. Nothing dramatic but pretty all the same.
Last night was different though. We had been warned of the possibility of rain, and by night time the clouds had gathered and were getting very black. The sun had been out and as it sunk behind the hills I got this picture.
Then as the actual sun disappeared but the sky was still lit up, I zoomed in to take this one.
The weather still hasn't quite settled, and both yesterday and today were rather spoiled by the high winds that we often get in April. So now everything is covered with dust again, but it is not the red one from Africa this time, but a more local brown one, and there are also drifts on leaves and dead flower heads in every corner. But we will wait until it has blown itself out before we have a proper clean up.

My computer has been a bit 'iffy' tonight and it has taken at least five minutes for each photo to load, so I had better get it published now in case that takes an age as well. But first I will link up with Rocking Your World, and Annie's Friday Smiles.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Rocking Your World 2017: Week 15

Well it is Good Friday so I am sure many of you are enjoying the Easter weekend and will not be around to post today, but as I missed last week, I thought I would do a quick catch-up post.

The reason for my absence, and the reason I am smiling, is that we had a visit from our lovely son Ben - the youngest of my five boys. He came with his partner Dave, and later in the week we were joined by his nephew, my grandson, Marcus, so we had a busy house-full.

We were too busy enjoying ourselves to take too many photos, but here are a few. 

We left for the airport to collect them quite early so we saw this beautiful sunrise. I hoped it boded well for good weather while they were here, and apparently it did, as we have enjoyed a lovely two weeks.

Ben loves to sing and usually 'wows' everyone at a karaoke session, so on their first night we went down to Turre, the little town nearest to our village. The folk running the karaoke were able to put up the name of the singer before the song started, so here is his screen for his 'party-piece', Moondance.

There was a good crowd there, but he managed to fit in four or five songs before it was time to head home. They had been up since 3.00am, for an early flight, but did manage a short siesta before we went out.
I now have Ben's "retired" digital piano out here, so he is able to play and sing while he is on holiday, and it has become a bit of a tradition to have an 'at-home' musical evening when he is here, so we organised one for Thursday night. Unfortunately many of my friends who enjoy coming to these evenings, were back in UK for Easter visits, but we still had around fifteen folk in our little room, and actually it was more comfortable than when we squeezed over thirty in last time. The weather was kind so we had a buffet table and a drinks table out in the fly-free porch which gave us even more space to sit comfortably and enjoy the music.

Ben started things off of course, playing and singing a few of his own compositions, and then some covers.

Marcus is also a very good singer, with head choir boy training as a treble, and lots of experience singing and dancing in pantomime. He sang some songs from Les Miserables, and also did a couple of fun numbers with Ben.

Then there was an opportunity for our guests to sing and both Eileen and Tony, and Christine and Brian entertained us. Then Ben was able to cast youtube karaoke tracks onto out TV and Robin sang a few songs, followed by the rest of us all having a go. It was a lovely evening, and every one enjoyed them selves.

Friday was Ben and Dave's last day, so they soaked up as much sun as they could. In the evening there was an open-mike evening by the Travelling Accoustic group, at a village bar. We went down to listen for a while, but Ben wasn't in the mood to sing. He hates flying and was too uptight about his flight the next day. So we had a pleasant evening chatting with friends there, and went back for an early night as we had to leave for the airport at 7.00 the next morning.

We still had a few more days with Marcus after the others had gone home, and it was nice to have some special time with him. Now he studying at Aberystwyth Uni, I am less likely to see him on my visits to UK, so we had a good catch-up. He, like Ben, plays the piano, mainly by ear, so he entertained me just like Ben always does when he is here.

We also spent some time on the beach. On Monday Chris and I had an appointment in Mojacar for 3.00, so we went down early, had some lunch al fresco, and then had an hour on the beach. The sea was 'lively', just how I like to see it, but there are strong currents along that part of the coast, so I am hesitant to go in very far. I wasn't dressed for it anyway, but I did get my feet wet, and it wasn't as cold as I had expected.
After that I was happy to watch the waves rolling in, but Marcus was braver than me. Even he said there was a strong under-tow.

On Tuesday, Chris decided to stay at home while I took Marcus over to San Juan. This is a lovely beach with wide stretches of golden sand. Although it was the start of Easter week (Semana Santa), the beach where we were was almost deserted. The sea was much quieter here, and although we dipped our toes in again, neither of us was tempted to go in any further.

Marcus wanted a tan to take home, and he lay on the sand, initially with a tea-shirt on. Then he took it off to cover his face, and despite my constant warnings (nagging), he was not generous with the sun-screen, so he did indeed take home a tan, or at least a very pink chest and arms!

Although it was warm enough to enjoy an hour or two on the beach, no-one was brave enough to try the pool, except for dipping in a big toe to test it. But another visitor came along and swam around happily in it.
We have had tiny frogs in there before, and they seem immune to the chlorine which is quite strong this early in the year, when we are preparing the water for the summer, but we have never seen anything like this. The spots made us wonder whether it was poisonous. It was very fat and we thought it might be a female looking for somewhere to spawn, so we fished it out and put it over the back. I am sure it found another pool or reservoir that was more welcoming.

As our first concert is coming up in a couple of weeks time, I couldn't afford to miss my choir practice, but Marcus and Ben had sat through three hours of our rehearsing the previous week, so this week he opted to stay home to watch football. But when I got back we finished up his last evening playing a couple of games. When he was a really little boy I gave Marcus a Mancala game, and he soon learned how to play it. So I dug out my old set and we played a few rounds for old times sake. Then I taught him the rudiments of cribbage. I am wary of playing any kind of strategy game with him as he is in the university chess team, and can run circles around me if strategy is involved. 

So yesterday we were off for an early drive to the airport again, and today we are back just the two of us. I thought I'd end with a photo of a beautiful bottle brush tree that is growing in a garden in the village. I am pretty sure the house where it is, is unoccupied so it has been a bit neglected, but it must have put roots down deep enough to find its own water, because now it is amazing.

And on that happy note I am off to link up with Rocking Your World, and Annie's Friday Smiles. and I'll be back to normal by next week.