Friday, May 26, 2017

Rocking Your World 2017: Week 21

As a young girl I had the song "The Lion Sleeps tonight" in my very limited collection of records which I played on an old Dansette player donated by an older sister, and I would sing it top volume up in my room, all the time. So when I saw this on Facebook this week, it really made me smile. I hope most of you can remember it, and appreciate the picture too.

And while on the subject of lions and Facebook, Fb has a habit of starting your day posting a memory from your page, which only you can see unless you share it. I normally pass over mine, but apparently it is just three years since this 'little lion' joined our family. The vet deemed him to be around three years old, and he was in a very sorry state as he had been living rough for some time. Just before I took this photo he had been sedated to have most of his body fur shaved off, while he was bathed and treated for various parasites, and he had been sterilized. So no wonder he doesn't look very happy. He was also very thin and mal-nurished.
He may not look it (he can't help the shape of his face!), but he is a much happier and healthier fellow now. My son soon learned that Tango loves to be rubbed under his chin, and he sat and nursed him for ages.

And here is one extra smile, for me and my family members who read this blog. As I looked at today's date, I realised that it would have been my dad's 110th birthday! Sadly he lost his fight with cancer over thirty years ago, six weeks before my fourth son was born, but it still makes me smile to think of him. He taught me all I know about gardening, and introduced me to the wonder of baby frogs in the pond, and the insects that still fascinate me. I wonder what you would have thought of all the tropical flowers and strange bugs we have out here dad. This photo was taken at my marriage to Chris, before the illness took hold , and it is how I like to remember him.

It hasn't been the very best week this week as we had to say 'Good-bye' to our son Ben and his partner Dave on Thursday, and I really miss having them around. But also, the throat virus that really knocked me back in January, has come back to haunt me. I knew I had a sore throat a couple of weeks ago but I hoped it was just a bit of irritation because of the wind, pollen and dust, but it gradually got worse. It was good in a way that the boys were here, because they kept me going. Fortunately they came out only wanting to relax, so we mostly sat around on the patio, them in the sun to build up a tan, and me in the shade. I decided it wasn't wise to join Ben in the pool, but he had a dip most days.

As I have mentioned before, he does love to sing, so last Friday night we went into a different karaoke bar in Turre where we had been told there were some semi-professional singers most weeks. Sure enough, the standard was high, but Ben held his own among them and had a really good night. One of his 'party pieces' is the song Anthem from Chess, but it is not often available at karaoke sessions. However the man doing it in this place had access to the internet and was able to bring up the backing track. There were no words but Ben knows them so that didn't matter. When he started singing it the whole bar went quiet to listen, which doesn't often happen, and he got a huge round of applause at the end.

On Friday, Ben and Dave celebrated their anniversary - nearly thirteen years together, and five since their Civil partnership ceremony, but since they wanted to go to the karaoke session that night, we decided to go out for a special meal on Saturday. We told them about a few of our favourite eating places near here and they went to look and settled on a little Italian place in between Mojacar Playa and Pueblo. It is years since we ate there, but I am pleased to say the food was as good as we remembered, the setting was lovely, and the staff friendly and efficient, so it was a good meal. We took photos of each other across the table.
When we left the restaurant, the sun was just setting behind the hills, and it looked so lovely. Shame about all the pylons and posts!

We drove home along the sea front and stopped for a short stroll along the promenade to wear some of our dinner off. I love the sea in the evening when there is a pearly pink tint in the sky and everywhere looks so peaceful.

I am glad to say the weather was perfect for their holiday, hot, but comfortable to sit out in. They were both sensible about using sun cream and went home looking very tanned and like you should after a good holiday. They only sat out in it for half-hour stints and then came back into the shade for a while, and we all embraced the wonderful Spanish tradition of afternoon siestas!

Now though, it is hotting up rapidly with temperatures well over 30º and I have got all the ceiling fans going. And of course, this means the end of all the green we have been enjoying this Spring. The green zone behind our house is now covered in dead brown weeds. One of the grasses is taller than the rest and it has open, white seed heads almost like a field of oats. They look very pretty but soon they will fall over and be trodden down by the children who play there, and folk walking their dogs. The orange trees are almost ever-green, but because this area is neglected, they too will mostly drop their leaves eventually, but at least for now they remain green.

A few weeks ago I showed how the rain had caused little seedlings to appear around the orange and other fruit trees next door, and soon they were surrounded by a green carpet. Now it looks like a waste land.
The house is on the market, so, as the owner doesn't live here now, she employs men to keep the grounds tidy, so any day now they will come in with a rotavator and it will all be cleared, leaving just brown mud again.
Where her land joins ours, there have been some very pretty wild flowers but they too have gone to seed. One plant that grows all over the campo starts with pink flowers that gradually turn purple and then a deep blue, and sometimes it has all three colours showing on one plant. It is very pretty but someone warned me not to pick it as the hairs on the stems and leaves can be a strong irritant. Now there are mostly just the blue flowers left.

But not everything is getting scorched by the sun. I regularly get the hose out in the evening, alternating between the front and back areas of garden, and our tall pink rose is showing its appreciation of my attention, and is looking really good, though most of the other roses are coming to an end now.

We had to get up a bit earlier than usual on Thursday to drive the boys over to Murcia airport. We left home at 7.30 just as the sun was breaking through a light layer of cloud, and as we drove along, it gradually got stronger. I tried to catch it on camera, but it is never easy taking photos from a moving car. This is about the best one. 

We were back home by 11.00 and since then I have mostly laid on the settee and slept. The meds I have been taking for my headache and sore throat make me very sleepy. But this morning I thought I had better do something useful before I dozed off again, so  sorted out my yarn stash. I was working on my blanket the other night and I ran out of a colour wool that I was sure I had more of, but I couldn't find it. I have limited choice of wool out here, and it is in thicknesses that I am not used to, with no patterns designed to use with it, so it is difficult to adjust the tension and judge what size I should be doing. So I mainly order wool on-line from UK, and I stick to one make so that I can use it in any combination. It comes in a huge 85 different colours and I try to have at least one ball of each colour in my store. So the first thing I did was to tip everything out and arrange it along the setee in colour groups. Here are the blues, purples, greens, red and pinks.
Over on the other setee are the yellows, oranges, browns and neutrals.
I then sorted out what I will need to finish the two projects I am currently working on, made a note of any colour that I have less than a full ball of, and any that I have none of, and then I put it away in the big organza bags that my orders arrive in, with one bag for each colour group, so now it will be much easier to look for a certain colour when I want it. (I did find a ball of the one I wanted the other night). I have to confess, I then went to my computer and ordered the new colours and the ones I am low on, so my collection will soon be compete again!

Now my eyes are drooping again, so I will link up with Rocking Your World, and Annie's Friday Smiles, and have another early night.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Rocking Your World 2017: Week 20

Hi. I am here with a fast but photo heavy post. We are going out in an hour so here goes. I'll start with my Smile of the week - our son Ben wearing my straw sun hat because he needed to shade his eyes to read his book.

Ben and his partner Dave arrived last Saturday morning and were immediately thrown into village life as it was the fiesta for San Isidro.  There were local horse owners riding through the streets, as well as the village band playing.

After a mass at the church, they followed a small cart bearing the statue of San Isidro, as it made its way through the streets and up to the sports-recreational area at the top of the village.
We arrived in time to find a space for our chairs, and we joined the many families who had gathered to enjoy what was a beautiful, sunny day.
The highlight is the 'Grand Paella' traditionally provided by the Town Hall, which is free to all comers. Because San Isidro is the saint of the poorer villagers who are agricultural workers and fishermen, the paella is decorated with flowers made from fruit and it looks lovely.
At around 2.00 everyone lines up and huge portions are handed out to everyone along with bread, and we all find a corner to sit and eat, in the shade of a tree if possible. Our visitors enjoyed their's.
After that we went back to the house so Ben and Dave could have a siesta, as they had left home at 4.00 that morning to get to the airport. (We had a siesta too but in fairness we had to leave at 8.30 to go and collect them).

Well rested we set off for Turre for a karaoke session at a little bar we have been to before - because Ben does love to sing. It turned out that there was a big function in Turre that night so there were far less people than usual in the bar, so he ended up singing at least a dozen songs, which were very much appreciated.
It was almost midnight when we got home but we had a wander up to the top of our road to see how the village folk finish off their fiesta celebration. A stage is built across the road and band with singers entertain from around 11.30 until the early hours of the next morning. Spanish folk love to dance, and there were several couples 'getting into the groove' just below the stage.
Although it was so late, there were people milling around, and the street was quite crowded up by the stage. There were a couple of street bars set up, so we stayed for a drink and then we left them to have a good time and went home to bed.

Ben is keen to get back to full fitness after his cycling accident in February so he is following a running schedule that he wanted to keep going while he is over here. It is a bit warm for running now, but he has done very well. This was his facebook post after his first run. At least he took time to appreciate the pretty jacaranda trees in full bloom along the front of the village.
As you can see, he has also made good use of our pool, so it was worth Chris' while to get it in Summer condition, ready for their visit.

Since his run, the main road has been somewhat disrupted as they have finally started work on a roundabout that has been promised for months, if not years. Opposite the village there is an urbanisation called Huerta Nueva (New orchard/garden), and it is difficult to cross the busy main road to get to its lead-in road. There have been some fatal accidents there, and it was decided to build a roundabout which will make access easier and slow down the heavy lorries that use that road to get down to Garrucha docks. As we understand it, there will, be pedestrian access to H.N. via a pelican traffic light system, giving pedestrians priority over traffic. We will see when it is all done. Here is an aerial photo of the road posted by the local authority. The white circle shows where the roundabout will be, and if you click on it to enlarge it, directly to the right of it there is a small blue cross which marks where our house is.
The project is going to take two months to complete, but I think it will be a real improvement when it is done.

We have sort of been alternating between eating at home one day, and out the next, and last night we decided to have a barbecue at home. Our barbecue is housed inside a small enclosure which gives the 'chef' some shade from the mid-summer sun which can make manning it quite an ordeal. Last night Ben took on the role of chef and a good job he made of it too.

Markets are not dad's idea of a fun way to pass the time, but this morning I took Ben and Dave to the market in Garrucha. They took the chance to buy a couple of shirts etc and then we walked back to the car along the sea-front. They have been together for almost 13 years, and five years ago they had a Civil Partnership ceremony. Today is their fifth anniversary so here is their anniversary photo taken with the gravel barge in Gurrucha harbour in the background.
We were going out for a celebration meal tonight but we decided to defer it until tomorrow so we could go for another karaoke session tonight.

So now I must go and get ready but I will leave you with one more photo. Not a sun set this time. Instead it a perfect sun-halo that we spotted yesterday, apparently made by the sun's rays passing through ice crystals in the cirrus clouds around it. It was an interesting sight to see.

Now I will link up with Annie's Friday Smiles and Rocking Your World, and will be back tomorrow to read all your happy posts.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Rocking Your World 2017: Week 19

Well another week has come and gone. Don't ask me where it went because I have no idea, but I will look back and try to remember all the best bits.

I'll start with our two wonderful choir concerts at the weekend. It was a so much better venue than we had the previous week, so we could sing our hearts out and know folk were hearing us properly. We had a standing ovation on Saturday, and so much lovely feedback, which made all the hard work worthwhile. These concerts were organised by the local animal rescue charity, and they were very grateful for the money that was raised.
Our MD, David, took the opportunity to announce some news that we have been keeping to ourselves for a while. Next year, in October 2018, we have been invited to sing in the Royal Albert Hall with around 1,500 other singers, and a huge joint band, at the last ever "Cancer Research UK Festival of Brass & Voices". It is very exciting, and the only downside is that absolutely no music or word books are allowed, so we have to be word and note perfect on 14 songs with no crib sheets! Easy when you are a young singer, but quite a challenge for us oldies. But hopefully we will have the arrangements soon, so we can start learning them.

After the excitement of the weekend, the rest of the week has been fairly routine. I have again stayed at home more than usual, to avoid over use of our ailing car, but I am happy to say it was fixed yesterday, so we are back to normal now.

I am especially glad of that as tomorrow morning we have an early drive to the airport again to collect Ben and Dave who will be with us for twelve days this time. Ben had accumulated some extra holiday because his booked leave came while he was off work on sick leave, so he got to use it again. Added to this he founds flights out for just £19.99, so we have two more weeks of their company which always makes me smile.

My first photo this week was sent to me by my grand-daughter. It is her little boy and his best buddy - both aged six. They are in their own little world and it is lovely to see them enjoying time together out in the fresh air. I wonder what they are talking about?!

I was right about my amaryllis coming out this week. It has this beautiful head of flowers on it now.

What's more, high above it there is another bunch of buds just ready to open. I was surprised when I saw it as this is the older bulb that did nothing last year, and I had thought it was dead! I was expecting it to be the white one I had last year, but that one is apparently resting this year. This pink and white one is possibly the most hardy type, because I have seen them flowering in quite a lot of gardens this year. It still seems strange to have them in the garden. In UK they are always a house-plant, often given as a gift at Christmas. I don't think they would survive an English Winter outside.

Because we had to take the car over to our mechanic friend's workshop again yesterday, we put the dogs in the back so they could have a nice long walk home. The thistles we saw last time are in flower everywhere, and now they are interspersed with the pretty blue chicory flowers. They were everywhere, and although they are small flowers, the plants are often quite tall, and they stood out from the dark foliage and looked really pretty.
We did a slight detour to an ornamental lake in the centre of the urbanisation, to see if there were any baby birds. A few years ago the residents clubbed together to buy a few ducks to go on the lake and they have thrived there. Sure enough there were some proud parents near the bridge with two little fluffy chicks by them. I loved the little yellow one, but had to wonder whether there had been some inter-breeding between the dark and white adults.
Soon they were joined by more chicks. They were so fluffy, they must be quite newly hatched. The rest were all dark, but I see one of these has a yellow head. I'll have to go back in a month or two and see how they have all turned out.
It reminded me of my childhood spent in Parkstone, Dorset. We were always taken to Poole Park to see the baby chicks in Spring. There was a huge lake there and a wide variety of water birds, but our little lake is a real novelty for local children. Duck ponds are few and far between in this hot land! It is nice to know the birds are happy enough there to breed.

I have spent a lot of time this week making favour boxes for our son's wedding in July. I needed seventy of them, but my Silhouette cameo machine made the cutting of them all easier than it might have been if I had had to do them by hand. They are made to match the invitations I made for them a while back, cut from black card with gold art-deco decorations on the sides. We settled on a design that I can take with me flat, and they fold up and stay together without glue, so it will give us something to do in the days leading up to the event. Now I just have to make the post box for cards, and decorate the cover of the guest book. A wedding in the family is something nice to look forward to.

With visitors coming tomorrow, I spent the last two days making up the spare room bed, tidying the house and this afternoon I had a massive baking session. It is not just for the boys, though I know they like a bit of home-made cake, but also it is my turn to do church teas on Sunday, so I needed some cakes for that. So I have made big tray bakes of triple gingerbread, sticky date and apricot cake, a coffee and walnut cake, a light fruit cake, and everyone's favourite, lemon drizzle cake. The smells in the kitchen are a bit confused, but lovely all the same.

Poor Chris has been battling all week to get the pool clean and ready for Ben to have a dip if he wants to. The water temperature is 23º so it is warm enough for me to have a quick swim, though I am not sure I'll stay in it for long yet. The trouble is, it has been very windy, so as soon as he has skimmed it of leaves etc, a new lot of debris is blown in. But he gave it one last hoover on the bottom today, and it looks very inviting. Now we just hope they have plenty of sun to enjoy it.

It has got a lot warmer this week. In fact I put our duvet away today, so we just have an empty cover on the bed, and a light blanket to pull up if we need it. As soon as the evenings stay warmer we know summer is really on the way. The wind is often a bit fierce at this time of year but it doesn't usually blow for long. It does blow in a few light clouds, and yesterday we half expected a shower, but it blew over again. However that did provide us with a nice sunset. I was busy in the kitchen and saw the first golden streaks arriving, and I took photos every five minutes or so, as it got brighter, then turned to orange, with a final burst of fiery red before it disappeared as quickly as it came.

Now I will link up with Annie's Friday Smiles and Rocking Your World. I will do my best to write a post next week, but if I don't, you will know I have been busy with my family and I'll get back when I can.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Rocking Your World 2017: Week 18

Hi everyone. As you can see, I was so happy with my beautiful field of poppies and yellow marguerites, that I have taken a section of the photo to use as my new header for a while. I thought it was time for a change so this will do while I am thinking of something different.  Although it is still really Spring time, this picture really shouts "Hot Spanish Summer" to me. I also followed through my plan to have it enlarged and printed on canvas, so it is now hanging on my wall. The colours came up a bit darker, but it is still lovely, and adds some colour to my plain walls.
Today's post is mostly about flowers. We have been careful in our use of the car this week, only going on truly necessary journeys. It is awaiting a spare part, but our mechanic has made it OK to use while we wait, but we are not tempting fate by taking it too far. So I have been home a bit more than usual, and I have managed to do a little gardening in the morning before the sun is fully around to the front of the house. All the weeding I did recently seems futile as the rain and warmth have made them grow again at an alarming rate, so yesterday I once again weeded around the roses as they are so lovely and deserve to be seen.
Three years ago, late in the summer, I bought a little rose plant from Lidls. It was labelled as a yellow flower which I wanted as we mostly have red and pinks. It was little more than a stick and its stem was waxed, but I planted it and watered it, and hoped something would come of it by the next year. Nothing happened! All the next year I kept it free of weeds, fed and watered it, and gave it an encouraging talking to, but nothing! I didn't give up on it though, and last year it grew quite a lot, at least doubling in size, but still no flowers. So this year I was excited to see a lone bud on it. I have been watching it swell with interest, and this week it finally opened. So here is my new YELLOW rose.
One of us is colour-blind, and I don't think it is me! However it is such a full flower, and opened such a dark rich red, that I am happy to leave it in its corner, and hopefully it will reward us with more flowers in the future. 
It is a shame that it is planted right next to our other red rose, but that is an old plant that has gone very 'woody' and may be coming to the end of its life. But for now it too has beautiful blooms on it.
Next comes this absolute beauty. I think it is my favourite one. Isn't it lovely?
Then, lastly, we have a pretty pink one. No matter how hard we prune this back each autumn, it sends stems up to four or five feet high, so the flowers would be above my head, but the bed is sunk a good foot below the path, so I can still see and enjoy it.
There are some other little surprises as we move around the garden, looking in the many pots we have across the front. Last year I bought four Peruvian lilies that the seller promised would bloom each year, but they hadn't shown any signs of life this year. Then suddenly up they shot and I now have two yellow and one orange out. I think the second orange one may have died. The other bud is last year's amaryllis that I am hoping is going to flower soon.
The bright pink daisy to the side of them is known locally as 'Claw' because it claws its way across paths, rocks and mud banks, and is often smothered by these gaudy flowers. I love it, though it does have to be kept in check, or it would clamber its way over everything else.

On the steps I have a pot of minature red roses that again came from Lidls, and when I realised it was not one plant, but four tiny cuttings, I separated them and spread them around the pot. Knowing they have a fairly short flowering period, I added two small pinks to the pot, and they are all doing very nicely.
I lavish quite a lot of love and care on my plants, but some of them seem to thrive on neglect. In the corner of the porch there is a pot where I tend to dump plants that are not doing well, and I only remember to give them some water occasionally, as I know they will probably end up in the bin anyway. But this week some of last years bronze chrysanthemums have given us new flowers, and above them an old geranium is looking really good again, so I may have to find them a better spot now.
Similarly, we once again failed to keep good hanging baskets by the front door. It is often too windy for them so they get battered, and they are in full sun so it is difficult to keep them hydrated. So last year I added some rather straggly succulents to them which had a few flowers on them, but nothing exciting, and as everything else died off, we took the baskets down and left them under the garden tap while we decided whether to bin them altogether or try using the mesh and liners again this year. I guess they have been dripped on each we time we use the hose, and somehow the succulents have really taken off, and though they are still just on the ground, they are now a mass of bright pinky-red daisy flowers. Some of the tropical plants are almost fluorescent in their colours. I think they all have a fairly short flowering season so I guess they need to attract the insects as much as they can.
At the same time there is an ever changing display of wild flowers that we see as we walk the dogs each morning. On Monday we drove the car to our mechanics workshop out on the campo, and took the dogs with us to walk them home. It is almost an hours walk, and they were worn out when we got back. Crossing the campo the predominant flower was no longer marguerites, nor the lilac flowers that grow in with them quite often. Now it is thistles. Big fat thistles that will soon be covered in flowers and then leave a cloud of thistle-down seeds clinging to everything.

And the field bind weed that grew along the edges of the poppy field, are trying to cover as much ground as they can, and they also grow up fences and anything else they can cling to. I even saw one climbing up a thistle so they flowered together at the top of the stem. Their flowers are much smaller than the usual white convolvulus that was such a nuisance in our garden in UK, but they have so many of them, that you just see an area of pink.

I hope you have enjoyed seeing all our lovely flowers, but they have not occupied all my week. Having got the car back to 'use with care' while we wait for the part to arrive, I persuaded Chris to drive down to Mojacar with me for some essential shopping. We soon did what we needed to do, and as it was such a lovely morning, we walked along to one of our favourite cafés for a drink and a snack. We passed what has for a long time been a feature point on the playa - a large fountain set on a roundabout where the main road meets with the beach road. It has been closed and covered for a few months, and lately I have seen several men working on it so I was eager to see what they were building. Well it is now finished and I have to say I am a little disappointed. It now consists of a large square concrete building with a statue of the Andalucian symbol - Indalo man - on the top. On two sides water pours in a straight sheet from under the roof to the reservoir below, (You can just see it on the white side in the picture), but the other two sides are plain. I am hoping they will grow some plants up them or something to make it more interesting, but I would rather to see the old traditional fountain that was there before.

But ending on another smile, last Saturday we had our choir Spring concert. Unfortunately we could only have the theatre in the afternoon, which wasn't ideal but we had a good turn out for it, and everyone seemed to enjoy it. The accoustics in the theatre were not good so we really had to sing out, but our MD was very pleaded with us. The theatre was inside Albox Town hall, and one of the staff there took this photo, but he said he couldn't get a very good one because the stage lighting was bouncing off the banners behind us. But it isn't too bad.
Despite looking white or blue, all the men's shirts were light lilac to go with the ladies lilac tops. I am sitting next to the gentleman in the 'white' shirt, but I was happy to learn that although he needed to sit between the songs while David was introducing the next ones in both English and Spanish, he wanted to stand to actually sing, so I was able to sit and stand with him. We were praised by friends in the audience for being so synchronised! One of the Town Hall staff was in the crows nest high above the back of the seating, and she recorded a video of us singing one of our songs. Unfortunately she put it on facebook so only those with a Facebook account can see it. If anyone is interested, This link will take you to my page and it is the second post down.
Proceeds from the sale of tickets was donated to the Albox cancer charity, and this morning, representatives from the choir presented them with a cheque for 700€.

Tonight we are singing again, and this time the venue is closer to home, just between Mojacar Playa and Pueblo. It is another charity concert, this time arranged by Paws-Patas, the local animal rescue group. They have been responsible for advertising, sale of tickets etc, and we just turn up to sing! There is a repeat performance tomorrow afternoon, so they should make quite a lot for their funds. Of our current two dogs and four cats, three were adopted from Paws, and they do carry out very good work with all the abandoned animals we get here.

I need to think about getting ready to go to it now, so I will end with one pretty sky photo I took this week, and then I will link up with Rocking Your World, and Annie's Friday Smiles. I am sorry I didn't get to visit everyone last week, though I did manage some. I will try to do better this week.