Friday, September 28, 2018

Rocking Your World 2018: Week 39

I'm starting this week with a photo of Foxy giving dad a 'high-five'. Kim is so much bigger than her, and rather 'pushy', so it is good to see Foxy getting her chance for a bit of fuss.

In fact, if you peep around her you will see that Kim has already commandeered the seat beside Chris, and has a proprietary paw on him, so Foxy did well to get a look in at all.

Of course I was out at church on Sunday, as I always am, and while I was away Chris decided to tackle the bougainvillea along our side fence, which was once again growing out of control. The dogs were round with him being their usual helpful selves, and Kim suddenly got very excited, barking at the wire fence dividing us from next door's land. When he investigated Chris spotted a good size tortoise scurrying by. He tried to take a photo for me, but the camera on his phone is not very efficient, and there was too much contrast between the bright sunlit area, and the deep shade cast by our fence. So you will just have to believe me that somewhere in this picture there is a tortoise, completely at home in its natural environment!
I blew up the area where I think it is, but the resolution was not high enough to get a good image. Round about the centre of this square, there is a brown line which is the side of its shell.
We have seen several of them before, out on the campo, but this is the first time we have spotted one in the village. I am just happy to know that, despite the extremes of flood and drought, there are still some thriving in the wild.
We have had a mixture of grey dreary skies, short sharp showers, and spells of very hot sunshine, which between them have seen us spending more time than usual indoors. So when, on Monday evening, Chris suggested driving down to Mojacar and walking along the sea-front, I was happy to leave what I was doing and get some fresh air and exercise.
By the time we got down there and found somewhere to park, the sun was already sinking behind the mountains, but there was still plenty of light, and everywhere was very quiet and peaceful.
The late season visitors had mostly gone home, or to their hotels for a meal. It probably got busier again later, when they came out again for their evening stroll, but we had chosen the in-between time. There is a very long seafront at Mojacar, several kilometres in all, so we walked for a  fair way and then stopped at a bar for a drink. Many of the bars only cater for the high summer season, and they have already pulled down the shutters, and won't be opening up again until next July. But other do stay open for the early evening trade, and of course, many of the larger restaurants stay open all year for the those of us who live here. The bar we stopped at, informed us they would be closing in twenty minutes, but that was plenty of time for us to have a cooling drink.
I liked the way pale lines of chalk paint had been used to highlight the wood grain in our table. 
We were sitting on the road side of the promenade, and to our left there was a cycle lane, then a sort of hedge of palms and shrubs, and then the walkway and the beach beyond. From where we were sitting we could see the sea through the palm trees. The sun was setting behind us and pink sky was reflected at the horizon, giving a pearly haze to the scene. A gravel barge was going into Garrucha port and the rays of sun just caught it and lit it up. It looked so pretty.

I had read there was to be a large harvest moon on that night, so before we turned away from the coast to head inland to our village, I asked Chris to stop so I could get a photo of the moon rising over the sea. I only had my phone with me, not my camera, so it isn't all that good, but I was quite pleased with the result. It was a bit cloudy so the moon does not exactly shine, but at least I got the reflection in the water.
Although the drive home is no more than fifteen minutes, it was almost dark when we got in. We were driving into the setting sun, and although it had dropped behind the hills, the sky was still a vivid orange and yellow, (even when viewed through our rather dusty windscreen!)

The recent storms have at least given the earth a good soaking and the plants are all rewarding us with vigorous growth. My little bright pink bougainvillea that we planted as a bare stick several years ago, now spreads along the back railings and is making an archway over the gate. This week it was sporting this gorgeous bunch of flowers. Isn't it stunning?
Needless to say, the cats are less enthusiastic about the rain, and have been getting restless inside. But yesterday Charlie made the most of a dry spell and sat outside on an old garden chair. He is not a great fan of having his photo taken, and refused to look directly at the phone. But he is such a handsome fellow!
And now I have a couple of pictures of last night's sky to finish with. It was a dramatic sky with storm clouds rolling all around, and the final rays of the sun doing their best to shine through them, like little search lights.
In this one you can see that the clouds are literally rolling across the village, though they did roll away without spilling any rain on us.
And finally I had to do this close up of the cloud just before it got quite dark, because to me it is a clear face looking down on me. Don't you agree?
I am a bit late posting today as I have had a busy day, but I am back from choir practice now - only four more to go before our concert in London! So I have finished my post and will link it up with Rocking Your World, and Annie's Friday Smiles.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Rocking Your World 2018: Week 38

Well that was some week! I said at the end of last week that we were on orange alert for storms for the weekend, and they weren't wrong. On Saturday morning we had an epic storm. After waking up to the rumble of thunder all around, and an occasional flash of lightening, the heavens opened. Surrounded by reluctant animals again, we watched as small rivers started to flow down the street to the storm drains. But then we noticed that it was bubbling up around a drain cover in our front yard. 

I have mentioned the acequia or agricultural water before. It runs around the village through channels, and every three weeks or so, anyone who subscribes to it, can open pipes on their land and the water floods in around their plants and keeps them going until it is their turn again. This must be turned on at a central point at the top of the village to start it flowing, but we don't know where, nor who is responsible for it.
Anyway, one of the drain covers in our yard has pipes to direct the water onto our land (left over from when there was an orange grove where we now have the swimming pool), and a second pipe that redirects the water under the road to what was a small orange grove over there. It also no longer exists and a house has been built on that land this year. But the channels remain, and the water still flows through them, and we assume that the second drain, which is very deep, carries the excess off to the main drainage system.

So it would seem that there is a blockage somewhere! As the rain continued to come down, the overflowing water ran across our tiny square garden, under the side gate, and into our side yard.

All along the ledge at the side, there are small drains for when we wash down the yard, so Chris waded out through the water to check that they were all flowing freely, but they were no competition for the rain which showed no sign of letting up. Soon it was gushing out of the drain like a small waterfall...
...and the yard was filling up at an alarming rate.
My heart goes out to those poor folk in N.Carolina and the Philippines who have suffered storms and flooding on a much greater scale. There is something quite soul destroying to watch water levels, knowing they will rise, and knowing there is absolutely nothing you can do to stop them.
Our mini-flood continued until there were several centimetres of water over and above the entire yard, including the swimming pool!
The bag of garden rubbish on the table was rescued when it floated down from the other end. Eventually the water rose just high enough to spill over onto the floor of the pump house. The dogs drinking bowl is bobbing about on the top of it.
Then thankfully the rain stopped! As quickly as it came, the excess water drained away and we were left with a rather muddy yard and a dark brown swimming pool.
The silver lining to this cloud is that the water stopped short of the step into the porch and the back of the house, and nothing was seriously damaged, though the pool will have to be completely drained for the first time ever, and probably will need to be relined, which will be expensive, and is not covered by our insurance. But it could have been a lot worse.

As a follow up to that, this is a picture of the land next-door, taken last Saturday just as the rain was stopping.
And this is the same piece of land today. 
What a difference a week makes!! Give it a couple more weeks, and it will be smothered in lush green 'weeds' up to our waists.

Sunday dawned drier if not much brighter, so I set off for church as it was our Harvest Festival and that is one of my favourite services in the church calendar. There was a fair bit of mud washed onto the road, but no significant damage on the route I was taking. We had a good turn out despite the weather. A couple of our members had been in on Friday to decorate the church and as usual it looked lovely.
On each side there were baskets of fresh produce from people's gardens and the market, and there was that lovely smell of apples, earth and vegetables.
After the service some of this was sent to friends who are sick, and the rest was taken home again as the Town Hall cannot accept fresh goods for the food bank as it is not always distributed straight away.

The traditional elements of light, bread, wine and water were represented on the altar, with the lovely salt  dough sheaf of corn made by my friend Pat several years ago, and lovingly packed away after each harvest service for next year.

In the centre was a fine display of packets and tins of food, brought in by the congregation to be taken to the Town hall in Zurgena for distribution among the needy. It is a lovely way to acknowledge our gratitude for all we have, and to help those less fortunate than ourselves.

As the week continued in a rather dull and dismal way, I took the opportunity to tackle a task that has been on my "to do" list all summer. I sorted out  our bedroom, and more specifically, my wardrobe. I said 'hello' to a few outfits I had forgotten about, and also filled three black bags with items I haven't worn in years. These will be sorted again into a few items that should go to a charity outlet, (we have an animal charity shop in Turre, and one for Cancer support), and the rest will go into the clothes bank, which I think is run by Red Cross. Two bags were winter clothes and they can go now, and one bag of summer wear can go in the garage until next spring. Everything is now hanging properly in the relevant spaces, and I am almost looking forward to some cooler weather so I can wear some of it again.

I had some nice post on Monday. Since my new kitchen was finished I have had nowhere to sit down in there, and I missed that. I had a small area at the end of the work surface, left with nothing under it, so I could have a chair there, but the normal dining chairs were much too low. So I have been looking for a bar-stool type of seat, and last week we saw a pair on Amazon so Chris ordered them. And I am very happy with them.
It is inevitable that the cats will sit on them too, and they are covered in a soft faux leather which will soon be spoiled by sharp little claws, so I have put a cushion on one, and now they both have one. They are very comfortable to sit on, and have already been put to good use.

As all knitters and crocheters will attest, it is impossible to indulge in this hobby and not be left with lots of little balls of left-over yarn. Here is just some of mine.
And this week on the internet I saw a project that is a perfect way to use of some of them. Lucy, of Attic 24, showed a crochet covered clothes hanger, and I just loved it. I have had lots of padded, material covered hangers, but they are too fat, and take up too much space on my hanging rail, but some knitted ones I was given many years ago, are much more useful. So I just had to give one of these a go. I started out with an ancient wooden hanger I already had. It had my son's name written on it from some school project, and he is 32 now! But it has given it a new lease of life.
I used Lucy's idea for decorating it, with a row of her bubble shell edging along the seam, and two of her flowers and leaves, but she did suggest using hearts or buttons instead.
I have found it almost to impossible to find plain wooden hangers without the trouser rail across them, and I didn't want to use plastic ones, but Lucy mentioned this difficulty and told us that there were some available on Amazon, as long s you put the word 'crescent' in your search bar, and sure enough I found them. So I ordered a set and they arrived on Wednesday, so there is no stopping me now.

One evening I grabbed a short window between showers to give the dogs their tea, and while I was waiting for them to finish eating, I stood by the back railings, looking out over the green zone, and little birds were swooping and diving, so close to me I could almost reach out and touch them. The air must have been filled with tiny bugs  disturbed by the rain, and the birds were having a feast. I tried to catch them on camera, but as usual they were too fast for me. This was probably my best shot.
And finally a glimmer of hope, when the clouds rolled back and gave us a pretty sky at the end of the day. All week it has remained very warm, and today the sun is back, the clouds have disappeared and the temperature is in the mid-thirties. So this may be our only sunset for a while, but it made up for all the grey skies and rain.

Now it is time to link up with Annie's Friday Smiles and Rocking Your World. We have a very special choir practice to go to tonight. The man who is MD for the concert in Royal Albert Hall in November, is visiting us to hear us sing, and give us more information about the songs, and how the evening will come together, so we will all need our best voices, and have pencils at the ready to take notes.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Rocking Your World 2018: Week 37

I am starting this week with a photo of my gorgeous great-grandson Alfie. When his family were here in August they were excited because he swam his first ever strokes without armbands on. Now, as you can see here, he has his badge for swimming 5 metres and the same day he got a second one for swimming 5m on his back. He is not four until the week after Christmas, so he is doing really well, and all that practising in our warm pool has paid off.

We have had a funny old week with Summer coming to an abrupt halt, temperatures several degrees lower and black clouds threatening rain most days. On Saturday the rain did come. There were flashes of lightening, and the thunder rolled around the hills, and when it rained, it really rained, several cms in one go. We hastily brought in our porch fan, and folded up the cushions, and I had a mini zoo in the sitting room with five cats and two dogs all refusing to go outside!
As usual, with no guttering on most houses out here, the heavy rain caused water spouts at all the corners of the house. I looked out the front door to make sure all my potted plants were getting a share of the water, and found my daisy pot was washed out to a muddy puddle. Fortunately there was not much left in it and now some new seedlings are popping up, so maybe I won't need to buy new plants in the spring.

At church on Sunday, a friend gave me a bag of almonds from her tree. So on Monday morning I got out an old nutcracker and shelled them all. I always loved the nuts we had at Christmas when I was a child, bought mainly as a treat for dad I think. I used to pester until I was finally allowed to crack some, but Mum never let me do the almonds. They are so hard, and with the old style of crackers, you were likely to crush your fingers and get a nasty blood blister when the shell finally cracked. Fortunately that doesn't happen with the set I have now, so it didn't take to long to shell them all. (Almonds grow abundantly around here, and the local folk put them on a stone and hit them with a hammer to crack them! There are also 'almond presses' in many villages that open for a couple of months each year, and you can take your nuts there to be shelled. They sell the hard wooden shells as fuel).
I managed to get most of mine out whole, and these I soaked in hot water for a while to blanch them, and removed their tough brown skins. The ones I broke, I added to my 'nibbles' box to snack on in the evenings.

This morning we took Chris's car to our mechanic for a service and then he took it for it's Itv (MOT in UK) which I am pleased to say it passed. Andy has a workshop in the yard of his house, out on the campo beyond the urbanisation at the bottom of the village. I followed Chris down in my car so I could bring him home as it is a fairly long walk, and I parked up on a piece of spare ground just before Andy's house to wait for him. While I was waiting I was looking around and I was amazed at the signs of nature all around. There were some fir trees with patches of brown leaves where even they couldn't cope with the heat of the sun. But new leaves were sprouting green all over it, and new bunches of young fir cones were forming.
Below the tree, the bare ground was responding to the recent rain, and tiny seedlings were spring up.
Near to that was this ground cover plant with tiny spears of white flowers on it.
Each one was so tiny, yet so perfect.
The ground is so dry with big cracks in the mud, yet these yellow flowers had found a way to force themselves through and bloom.
Across the road more yellow flowers were fighting their way through the clumps of dry grass, covered in buds just waiting to burst into flower. Isn't nature wonderful?

The land beyond the road is all planted with olive trees and fruit trees, all of which need a lot of water, as they were only planted last year. Next to them is a big reservoir and I have never seen the level of water in it so low. It will  be filled soon with water from the mountains that is piped to all the villages for agricultural use. This in turn, is used to water the fields of trees, and I have to say, they look very healthy on it so far.
You can see in the background, the Cabrera mountains that are often so clear from our house, were this morning swathed in mist. It was probably pretty damp up there. I am happy to say that the sun did break through and it is warm again today. Temperatures are now around the mid twenties which is a lot more comfortable than it was a couple of weeks ago, but it is nice when the sun comes out as well. We are on orange alert for tomorrow and Sunday for storms and local flooding, but I am hoping we are right on the edge of it again, and won't be too badly hit.

In the autumn of 2009, our two way road was dug-up, and a new road was made with one way traffic up into the village. The lane on our side became a parking place, and there were strips each side as pavements. There were no kerbs as everything was on one level. The road was paved in black herringbone bricks, and the pavements in pink bricks, and between the two they put a row of metal bollards. Everyone moaned about them because they were low, and the perfect height to cause a shin injury as most of my family can confirm! We have seen elderly folk fall over them, and because they were so low, you couldn't see them from inside a car, so many car doors bear dents from being parked to close to one. We eventually learned where they were outside our house, so we could park with the driver door between two, but they were a nuisance anyway. If they had made them waist high they wouldn't have been so bad.
Well my happiness is that this week, they have decided to do something about them. (There must have been too many complaints at the town hall!). So a small group of workers are travelling up the road, removing them, and filling the holes with more red bricks. We were surprised at how well they blended in. You could hardly see where the new bricks were - that was until it rained. Now they have had a good soaking the new bricks are bright red next to the old ones that have faded to pink. I don't suppose it will take long for them to blend in properly  though. I just hope people don't abuse them and start parking on the pavements now, or they might find something to replace them with, and we would much rather they didn't!
And now it is time to get ready for my choir practice again. So I will quickly link up with Annie's Friday Smiles and Rocking Your World, and go and pack my music bag.

Friday, September 7, 2018

Rocking Your World 2018; Week 36

Those of you who are my friends on Facebook will not be surprised to see my Smile this week, as I posted it on there yesterday. But it did make me smile so here we go. 
You may remember that back at the start of December last year I was lucky enough to watch a praying mantis laying her eggs in a nest of protective foam. 
I have kept an eye on it ever since, though I had more or less given up on it. But it has withstood some pretty heavy downpours, some ferocious winds, and the relentless heat of a Spanish Summer, and yesterday, exactly nine months after it was formed, some babies emerged! I was so excited to see them. There is one baby just visible in front of the nest. Others were running around on the branch, and I am sure more had already dispersed around the garden. They started off a dark tan/brown, but soon they will become bright green, and hopefully they will eat some of the nuisance bugs on my plants, before they themselves get eaten, either by their siblings (yes, they are cannibalistic when there is a lack of other food available), or by birds etc.

We has a lovely service at church this week, when the subject of the sermon was the meaning of marriage, and the changes that have taken place to that meaning through history. And we ended with a Blessing for a lovely couple who were celebrating their Emerald wedding anniversary - that is 55 years they have been together. Certainly something worth celebrating!
After the service we all shared a lovely cake washed down with a glass of cava.

We have had our son Tom here for a few more days since my last post, so on Saturday we decided to have a day in Almeria city. Dad is not a fan of cities so he stayed at home, but I was keen to go, as it is the main city in our province, and so far we have only visited it for the airport, or for some legal paperwork etc. It is a lovely city, small by UK's standards, but big enough to have plenty to keep us busy. There is a main road running from the motor way into the city centre which goes by the grand name of Avenida de Federica Garcia Lorca. He was a Spanish playwright and poet who was executed by the Nationalists in 1936 at the start of the Spanish civil war. And the Avenue is a rather lovely tribute to him. It is long and straight, and right through the centre of it there is a line of water features, with the sea just visible at the end.
This fountain around a very high pillar, was our landmark to ensure we could locate the car again at the end of the day!

Our first stop was at a large, fairly new indoor market, and it was quite a sight. It was on two levels and the lower level was all stalls selling fish! Neither of us are great fans of seafood, so we didn't linger long in that bit, but what ugly brutes some of them are!
Up stairs it was a different matter altogether. One side was lined with butcher's stalls, and you could buy almost any meat there, but Tom soon gravitated to the back of the hall where there was an endless choice of cheeses and local cured meats, including of course, the traditional Serrano hams.

Personally I preferred all the centre rows of stalls where they were selling freshly baked bread and cakes, and an amazing array of fresh fruit and vegetables. Isn't this a lovely display?
The only goods on this stall that were not produced locally are the bananas which are imported from the Canary Islands and Columbia.
Some people took their displays a step further. I wonder what time the holder of this stall started in the morning to make sure their display was so perfect.
There are three different types of tomatoes there, and although they are not my favourite vegetable to eat, the shiny aubergines do look gorgeous.
As we were walking around for most of the day and didn't want heavy bags to carry, we didn't buy anything at the market, and sadly it had closed by the time we passed it again on our way home, but I would like to go there to shop another day.
After the market, we braved the main streets as Tom wanted to buy clothes for work. Everything is so expensive in Denmark where he lives, so he likes to take the opportunity to revamp his wardrobe when he is with us. Despite it being such a hot day, it was quite pleasant to walk along the streets. The paths were broken up by huge planters with palm trees in them. I'd love one of those pots to put a tree in at home.
The main road itself had a light sunshade stretched across it so it was like being in a cool tunnel. Isn't that a good idea. This was taken just before the shops closed for siesta so there is not much traffic, but it is a very busy road during the week.
With Tom's shopping done, we headed for the ancient Moorish fortress called the Alcabazar, which sits on a hill above the city. It was a bit of a climb through narrow streets so it was good to sit on the top step and enjoy the view while we got our breath back.
When we were up on the ramparts, we had a panoramic view of the old city. We have taken most of our visitors there over the years, but this was a first visit for Tom, so it was good to see the view through fresh eyes. As you can see, there are very few high-rise buildings in the old town, just a higgledy-piggeldy  jumble of flat roof gardens and narrow streets, though there are some tower blocks of apartments when you look out towards the sea front.
From the highest tower we had a good view of the section that was added on by the Christians when they gained rule over the city. We were able to enter its courtyard through a gate by the centre tower, but many of the areas inside were cordoned off, because they were preparing to do some filming there.
Looking in the opposite direction, we could see out over the harbour. We watched a little tug boat guide in a ferry to one of the berths. This is like the ship that Tom arrived here on, after his week's holiday touring across Morocco from Marrakesh. It was strange to collect him from the harbour port instead of the airport.
Our next stop was for some lunch. We found a street bar that sold Mexican food and I had a lovely salad of green leaves, chargrilled chicken, avocado and jalapeno peppers. It was yummy.
Then we wandered back to the car, along deserted streets, as most folk had also gone for a siesta. We still had about a forty-five minute drive home. It was a good day out and we both enjoyed it.
All too soon it was time for Tom to leave. He flew back direct to Denmark on Tuesday morning. So there was just time for one more photo, on the front porch.
And that's it for this week. So I will link up with Rocking Your World and Annie's Friday Smiles. I am sorry if I didn't get to visit you last week, but everything is settling down now, and I will be able to visit everyone this time I hope.