Friday, March 30, 2018

Rocking Your World 2018: Week 13

This has been a lovely week which I am going to whizz through mainly with photos, as I have my visitors waiting in the sitting room. I am smiling this week because I have had the company of these two lovely young people - our grandson Marcus and his girlfriend Beth. Both are at Aberystwyth University, and are glad to have a break before the end of year exams.
As you can see, they wasted no time in stripping off to enjoy the sunshine, determined to go home a shade or two darker than when they arrived. Most of our friends out here are retired folk like us, so it is good to have some younger company for a few days.

But before they arrived we had a happy meal out with our friends Keith and Sue. It was Keith's 75th birthday, and they invited a group of us to share a meal after church on Sunday. The food was good and the company even better. Keith is the gentleman on the left in a green shirt, sitting almost opposite to my Chris.

On Monday we were off to the airport to collect Marcus and Beth. They were landing at 8.00 in the evening and it made a huge difference having the clocks moved on. We arrived before it was quite dark, and on the journey home I took this photo of the setting sun.

They have been extremely lucky with the weather so far, especially as they have forecast another storm this weekend. It was due to reach our coast today, but although the clouds gathered and the temperature dropped, it has not rained yet. On their first day they just wanted to sit around in the sun, so apart from a brief walk around the village, that is what they did.
On Tuesday they asked us to take them to the Alcazaba in Almeria city. We took Marcus and his family when they visited several years ago and he remembered it and thought Beth would like it there to take some photos. She is studying film and has a super camera, so she wanted some scenes to do it justice. We have taken visitors there several times now and I love the old ruins, and the superb views  from the top, out across Almeria city to the harbour and the sea.

Each taken in a different direction. In the third which is looking behind the Alcazaba, away from the sea, you can see the two high bridges that take the motorway over the gorges.
The Alcazaba itself is an ancient site, divided into three areas. The first two date from when the Moors ruled the area, and features geometric gardens, lovely archways and water features. The third part was added on  when the Christians gained supremacy, and it is mainly a military base, with the old cannons and keyhole windows, and living space for the soldiers. It is in an increasingly unstable condition now, and several walkways and steps up to the turrets are now chained off. Last time I was there we could still walk up them. Here are a few photos of the older areas. I love the big heavy original doors to the arsenal, and the deep windows. I don't know how any soldier in armour managed to move around in them to fight the invaders off.

In one building there was an interesting display that showed all the films and TV series that have had sets filmed there.
The youngsters were very interested to see that it was used in Series six of Game of Thrones.
It is hard to see, but the top picture on the poster is this little oasis of peace in the Moorish sector.
Water features heavily in all Moorish buildings, and the gardens are filled with little fountains, and larger pools, and it runs along gullies down the centre of the paths and steps, so everywhere you go you can hear the sound of running water. It is very restful.

The long pool above had lots of fish in it, and it made me realise how much I miss my fish pond back in the UK. We sat by the pool to eat our lunch before walking back to the car. As we went down a step set of steps to the next road down we saw a beautiful bottle brush tree.
It was so tall and was in full bloom with huge brushes at the end of every branch.
Almeria city is built right on the coast and it is strange to walk from the shops straight onto the beach. When you fly into Almeria airport, the runway is parallel to the coast and you feel you are right there on the sand. We drove just out of the main city and stopped to enjoy an ice-cream on a beach bench before going home.
Yesterday was a shopping day - for food mainly, as the shops are now mostly closed until Monday, though I expect the bigger supermarkets will open for the morning tomorrow. Our visitors were keen to come with me and see how our shops compare with theirs', and it was getting late by the time we got home and packed it all away, so then we down to the seafront and had a lovely dinner at one of our favourite restaurants.
It was, of course, Maundy Thursday, which is a special day for the catholic church especially. We are only a little village but we still had a small parade following a mass at the village church. I heard the band on the street at around 11.00 in the evening so I went up to watch. There was a bigger turn-out than I remember from the last time I went. The statue of Mary (Virgen de la Carmen - the patron saint of our village) was carried out of the church and lifted high on its 'throne'.
They are immensely heavy and it is quite a skill to lift it and hold it level and steady at the same time. Then it was carried all around the village, followed by the band playing very solemn music, and then a second throne bearing a statue of Jesus. The people who follow closely with these thrones are called penitents, and sometimes they wear high conical hats and masks that cover their faces so they will not be distracted during their penance, and in theory will not be recognised. I did not see those this year, but it was still a very solemn procession.

I thought it would be nice for Marcus and Beth to see one of the bigger parades, and as I shall be attending my own church on Sunday, I took them to the Good Friday parade in Turre today. The parade is called the encounter, and it involves the three hemanidads of Turre (Jesus, El Virgen de Dolores [Our lady of sorrows], and Saint John), all meeting and greeting each other.
Each hermanidad has its own statue and ornate throne, and its own banner and colours. Jesus is purple and his throne has purple and red flowers on it.
Mary is white and black today, changing to white and pale blue on Easter Sunday.
John is white and green, with some yellow. Each throne is on bars and is carried by both men and women from the hermanidad. For the first time this year Jesus' group was led by some very young members who had their own little throne to carry. I have not seen that before.
They leave the church and process through the town. The people who carry the throne have to walk with a sort of swaying gait to keep it steady, and one man walks beside them to make sure they are all in time together. Each throne has a bell or knocker and when it is sounded, they stop and some legs are placed under the throne while the bearers stretch, drink water and shake out their shoulder muscles. It was very sunny this morning and some of them looked so hot in their long velvet robes.
In some towns I have been to, the Good Friday parade is a slow, reverent occasion, with many of the bearers walking the streets barefoot, or blind folded as a penance. But in Turre it is a more joyous occasion. When all the thrones have reached the main street they stop, and then the ones carrying Saint John, hold him lower and run at the others and stop face to face with Mary to greet her. Then they turn around and run back, and this is done several times to cheers of approval from the crowd. This running is specific to Turre and a few other places. I believe it is done in Granada too.
Later they run round the corner, up the street, round a very tight corner and up a hill, closely followed by Mary's group. At the end of this post I have put a link to a very short video of this that I took to give you an idea of the skill of the bearers and the noise and excitement of the crowd.
From up there they went around some back streets of the town and then came back round to where we were. This time all three statues 'greeted each other'  while some individuals did some traditional singing. Then they did the running again, before processing back to the church.
And on that note I had better close for today before my visitors think I have deserted them.
Very Special Easter Blessings to all my blogland friends, including our two hostesses Annie of Friday Smiles, and Virginia at Rocking Your World, who I will now link up with. And HERE as promised is my video.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Rocking Your World 2018: Week 12

This is the day each week when we look for the happy moments in our week. Sometimes that is easy and sometimes harder. This week is harder for me as very little has happened since I was here last time, and most of what has happened wasn't exactly 'happy' events, but they have a silver lining, and that is what is important.
The week did get off to a good start, because, on Sunday we had a special service to attend. It wasn't at our own church which cancelled it's service that day, but it was at our sister church in Mojacar. It was a confirmation service for two young people, a man and an elderly lady, and it was taken by Bishop David from Gibraltar. He was  a lovely man. He spoke so nicely and personally to each of the candidates, and gave a lovely message to us all. After the service he made sure he had a word with each person who was there.
Mojacar church is an even smaller building than ours, so it was packed to the doors on Sunday. It is set on a small hill with some steep steps leading up to it, and a fairly precarious sloping driveway to drop off anyone who can't manage the steps. From the top there is a lovely view of the surrounding mountains. Just behind them is the sea. As you can see, it started off as a sunny morning, but the clouds were rolling it, and just as we were leaving, the rain started.

Unfortunately, the lady who was to be confirmed, suffers from several medical conditions, and she was not well enough to come to the service. She and her husband had driven over to Mojacar the night before to stay in a hotel along the coast, and after we had left, the Bishop and our vicar, went to the hotel and she had her confirmation there. I thought that was so nice of them to 'go the extra mile' for her.

We had some entertainment as we were enjoying a cuppa after the service. We had heard a bit of commotion outside just after we had started singing, and some men went outside and came in a few minutes later with a fairly frail lady. It turned out that she had misjudged the tight turn into the slope up to the church and had to reverse to have another go, and unfortunately she had backed her car into a ditch! So after the service some of the men went down to get it out. The back wheel was not touching the ground, but it was a front wheel drive car, so some of them sat on the bonnet to get some traction, while one man tried to drive it forward. That didn't work and in the end one man fetched his four-wheel drive car and they cobbled together a tow rope from belts and bits of rope, and eventually managed to pull it up onto the road again. This was quite fun for us to all watch from the top of the hill, and the silver lining was that neither the lady, nor her car, seemed to have suffered from the experience. She got in and drove it home anyway.

Despite the fact we have had a fair bit of rain over the past few weeks, everywhere is still very dry, so we were a bit alarmed on Tuesday, to see a plume of thick smoke rising up from the rambla (dry river bed), across the road from us. We hoped it was a controlled bonfire, but we hurried over to see and found the start of a wild-fire. The tall bamboo that lines the banks of the rambla caught so quickly and it was alarming how rapidly it spread. It was crackling and popping, which had attracted quite a crowd of villagers lining the tall fence that runs along the top of the rambla. 
One man kept his hose spraying the ground nearest to the houses while we waited for the bomberos who had been called as soon as it started.
Soon one engine drew up near to where we were standing and the men took a hose down the steep banks towards the fire, while a second engine drove along the ramble and attacked it from below.
Fortunately they soon had it under control, but it took them a while to douse all the little fires that started along the bank as the wind carried the sparks. We understand from a lady who was walking her dog along the rambla at the time, that it was started by a group of young teenage girls messing about down there, so I expect they were in very hot water with their parents and the police that night. Fire is taken very seriously here because it can spread to danger levels so fast. I guess the silver lining is that it is quite good to get rid of some of the bamboo  each year, and no-one was hurt, nor was any property damaged.

As I have had the odd spare afternoon at home this week, I sat and watched a Photoshop Tutorial on how to blend a photo into a background. I've watched it before, but when you purchase a tutorial, you have it to watch as many times as you need to, and I need to watch lots of times before it sinks in. Anyway I managed to have a go using a photo of the church from my home town in UK, and a paper from a scrapbook kit, and then I used that to make a couple of Christmas cards, so it was time well spent. Here is my card and you can read more about how it was made on my craft blog HERE.

The only other thing that has happened this week is that I managed to have a fall while walking the dogs yesterday morning. I have to say it was entirely my fault, not the dogs', as I was wearing trousers that are too wide at the bottom, and I got my other foot tangled in them. Fortunately I didn't fall on my face, but I still hit the ground a bit hard and have various bruises and grazes to show for it. The silver lining? Well I let go of Kim's lead as I fell and he is not used to being free on the road, but we now know that he doesn't run off as he could have done. He only went a few steps and came straight back and waited while Chris held on to Foxy and hauled me back on my feet! And secondly, I did get away with only minor injuries and it could have been a lot worse. So that might teach me to dress more appropriately and take more care where I am putting my feet!!

And on that happy note I will link up with Annie's Friday Smiles, and Rocking Your World, and hopefully I'll back again in a week's time.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Rocking Your World 2018: Week 11

It is once again time to highlight some 'Happy moments' from the past week, and what better way to start than with a 30+ year old photo, taken when little Ben was just a couple of days old. Fortunately his big brothers all look quite happy about his arrival!

And now here they are 'all grown up' along with hubby and I.
As one might expect, they have all followed different paths through life, but I am proud of the men they have become, and love them all to bits. And it was a joy to have video calls and messages from them for Mothering Sunday.

It has been a quiet but fairly productive week, and much of it was spent getting the garden ready for a new season. We set off on Monday for a big garden centre in Mojacar, and came home with the car boot filled with plants. I can't do too much at a time, so each day I tackled another bit and now we have a lovely pot of osteospermums to add immediate colour. They close up and go to sleep at night, but by day they look lovely, and they have quite a long flowering season.
When we moved in we inherited some lovely plants in tubs in the front garden, and among them was a standard gardenia. Sadly it was one of my failures and it died. This year we have also got rid of an old oleander that was past its best, so I have now replaced it with a new gardenia.
It is covered in buds, and the one flower that is open, smells heavenly.
Other plants in the front tubs are doing quite well without too much help from me. Look at all the flower buds on my little mandarin tree. It was new last year and only had two fruit on it, but I am hopeful for more this year, even if the winds do blow most of the blossom away! It is a rather weedy little tree, but I have cut the thinnest branches off, and I'm hoping it will get stronger with time.
You may remember I got excited last year when my Elephant foot palm had a flower for the first time. After watching it develop from a tight bud over several weeks, I was a bit disappointed by the rather nondescript flower. However, when the flower died, a new rosette of tiny leaves grew from the same leaf, and that is now a big head of leaves,and this week we have noticed it is again about to flower. A second head of leaves also grew from lower down, but that one isn't flowering. So now I am watching again to see how it grows. Unfortunately, our cats, especially Paco, have decided the trunk is a good place to sharpen their claws, so the bark has gone, but apart from its looks, it doesn't seem to have harmed the plant.
Those sweet little tiny daffodils I had in a pot, sadly only lasted a about a week, as we had some very warm days. So I cut off the dead heads and left the leaves to die off and 'feed' the bulbs, just in case they survive until next year. I have tried this before, but the summer is too hot for them and they dry out and just disintegrate. So I was really surprised to find this in one of my tubs. I didn't have any last year, so it is one from two years ago, that has managed to push through again this year, and give me a delightful surprise.

Next I turned my attention to the side yard, and more specifically to my tiny water garden in the corner of the fly-free area. This had been neglected all winter, and was looking rather sad. Now I have replaced the hydrangea with a new shrub. I don't know its name but it is smothered in buds, and has a small pink flower, and dark green leaves.
On and around the water feature there are some pretty pink and white verbena, a pink petunia, one more osteospermum, and two different ivy plants, and on top I have replaced the pot-bound fern with a tradescantia (spider plant). So it is looking a lot better now.

We have had a fair bit of rain again this week, gentle enough to do the plants some good, and settle them in without washing all the soil out of the pots. But it is still cold enough in the evenings to settle down in front of the TV, though there have been some nights when we haven't needed to light the fire. But that has given me time to crack on with my new crochet project, and by Wednesday I had completed part 2, and had to wait until today for part 3 to be published. I have just downloaded it now, so I am raring to go again. I am loving the pattern which is called Arizona Blanket and is based on a Navajo design. This is what it is like so far.
It started with the pattern for eight squares which were then joined together, and they run down the centre of the blanket. So now I am working in long rows on either side of the squares. I actually decided to use nine squares, so my rows are even longer, and it is too long to lay along the settee for a photo. It looks rather wavy so far, but I am confident a lot of that will sort itself out as I go along.
The pattern is in eight parts altogether, so maybe when I have finished part 4 I will show you again.
Now I have just got time to link up with Annie's Friday Smiles and Rocking Your World, and then I am off to choir practice. When I get home this evening I shall make a start on part 3 of my blanket. I want to get as much done as I can, before it gets too hot to have it on my lap.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Rocking Your world 2018; Week 10

It has been a mixed week here, with days of sunshine, lots of rain and some very fierce winds. This is the season for the Levante wind which whips up big waves along the coast, and makes stepping outside an uncomfortable experience. We have had to do a lot of sweeping up of debris, but nothing has been damaged so all is well. I prefer not to drive along the motorway when it is so windy as parts of it are very exposed, so I have been home quite a lot.

We had just finished our lunch on Sunday when Chris said "It is raining hard again", and looking out the side door, it was indeed coming down thick and fast. But when I opened the front door to make sure none of my flower pots were getting washed out, it was bright sunshine at that side of the house, and there was a beautiful double rainbow spanning from the dark grey clouds into the bright blue sky. Isn't it strange?
Another day, I left the house to go shopping and the sky at the front was black, and in the distance I could see a sheet of rain falling, but at our house it was still sunny as you can see in my picture.
But fortunately, when it does rain, it doesn't usually last for long, and we have had some lovely warm and sunny days when it is much warmer outside than in the house. So we have been sitting out most afternoons. Our porch is fairly sheltered from the wind, and is nice and sunny until the corner of the roof casts a shadow on us.
I took the opportunity to sit out there to sew my squares together for my blanket and to work on the border. Tango is quick to spot a sunny place to lay, and he has been keeping me company.
The blanket is finished now and I am very happy with it. The colours were carefully planned by the designer Lucy, to travel through the shades diagonally across the blanket. You can see what I mean here. The best way I can get a complete photo of a blanket is to hang it from the washing line!
We have two matching sofas in the sitting room, one cream and one navy. My seaside blanket is draped along the back of the cream one, so I decided to put this one along the navy sofa. It goes quite well with my odd mix of coloured cushions. Paco seems to approve anyway.
I have made good progress with my next project, though not enough to show it off yet. I again sat outside today because I needed to do a couple of rows in very dark brown, and I was glad of the sunlight to help me see what I was doing. I think I might have done too much because this evening my hands are so stiff I can hardly use my fingers to work the computer keys.
The sunshine and rain are bringing the garden on a treat. I have fat buds ready to open on the freesias and the osteospermums, and our pink jasmine is now in full bloom.
I was hoping my picture would show some of the bees that are all over it, but unfortunately I can't see them, but there were loads of them flitting from flower to flower  today. It is absolutely smothered in flowers again and it is so pretty. And despite the rain, this year it has stayed up on the wall. Sometimes the weight of it when it is wet, pulls it down. The buds are deep pink but the flowers are almost white.
People walking up the street always stop to look at it and comment on its very powerful perfume that is again wafting through the open window and filling the house.
Today we have had the sitting room window, which is right by the jasmine, open all day. That is the first time this year it has been warm enough. I also went to the market this morning in just a tee-shirt, and at tea-time it was the first time this year I could spread the butter without warming it in the microwave first. All signs that we are turning the corner and moving rapidly into more the weather we expect to have by March.
Today there was no rain forecast so I got up early and stripped the bed, and the sheets etc were washed before I went shopping and blowing out on the line. By the time I got home they were dry and ready to go back on the bed. Dorothy and Jean, can't you just hear our mum turning in her grave at the thought of sheets going back on the bed without a good stint in the airing cupboard first! But I think these got a good airing just on the line today. The sun had just crept around the corner by my line and there was a stiff breeze so they were flapping around all morning. (We don't have an airing cupboard anyway!)
I treated myself to a little azalea plant in Lidls this week, to sit on my front room table. I always chose plants with lots of buds, because none of them last for very long here, and already most of them have opened up. Doesn't it look pretty? Hopefully I will be able to plant it outside later, but I am not very clever at keeping them. We shall see. But for now I will enjoy it in the house.
I haven't only been busy with my crochet this week. I have also made a couple of cards which may make it onto my craft blog later. I have been busy in the kitchen too, making jam. Several friends have asked me when I will have strawberry jam to sell, and I always tell them that I will not make jam until the strawberries drop down to 3€ a kilo. When they first come in they can be as much as 5€ and I hadn't seen any below 4€ yet. However, when I was in Lidls last weekend, they had a one day special of strawberries for 2.70€ a kilo, so I bought enough to do a batch of jam. They were lovely fruit, and it almost seemed wrong to be using them for jam.
Strawberries are very big out here. This one on its own weighed 100g!
Sometimes they can be a bit 'solid' and lack the flavour and sweetness of the smaller English ones, but these were really ripe and smelled and tasted delicious. 
As they were so ripe I made the jam straight away and soon there were seventeen jars labelled and priced and ready for me to sell. I took a few jars to my sewing group on Wednesday and they sold straight away.
Today I went to the market and this time I bought two, 2 kg boxes of them for 5€ each, so that was even cheaper, and this evening I made another batch of jam. So now my cupboard is well stocked. I probably won't make any more of it this year. The folk out here don't eat much bread and jam/marmalade once the weather warms up, and I don't like to keep it for too long.
And that is about it for this week. I have had long video chats with three of my five boys which is always good. The plans for the kitchen are moving along. We are provisionally booked in for the work to start on 22nd May, so my next job will be to clear the garage so I have somewhere to store everything while the work is being done! 
Thank you to those who visited me last week. I am sorry I was so late getting round to each of you but I hope I didn't miss anyone out. I will try to do better this week.
So now I will link up with Annie's Friday Smiles and Rocking Your World, and I'll be back with more, next week.