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Spain
Now living in l'Olleria, south of Valencia

Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Playtime


Today, Ed got the little Beta motorbike out for a laugh.

It is in need of some TLC, but he managed a ride around the garden a few times. I had a go too, but have to admit to falling off, when trying to ride up the bank. Very pathetic. (and very dirty bum!)

He needs to get a new throttle cable for it, before we can ride it properly, but it will certainly be a good toy when it is working. (And we don't have to pay silly money to insure it for the road!)

Doggie Christmas


This year, we got the dogs some Christmas presents too! We went to the pet/vet shop, and got them a nice big rope toy as well as some new tennis and rubber balls. To our amusement, the shop owner gave us a free gift, which, when we opened it, was a selection of toys for dogs! One of the toys was instantly destroyed, but the small rope has been fought over regularly!
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Christmas


Well, since John (my brother) is now living in Spain, he invited himself over for Christmas Dinner.

He came up on Christmas Eve, and stayed until Boxing Day, which was really nice. He only has a motorbike here at the moment, so had a pretty chilly ride, but going back again was much warmer than the forecast had predicted.

We had a nice quiet time. On Christmas day, we went to the pub for about 2 hours and met up with several of the neighbours (both Spanish and English), then we had a nice turkey dinner. (No sprouts though, as I couldn't find any this year!)

On Boxing Day, I discovered the red cabbage that had been missed, and then the day after, Ed and I remembered the Yule Log in the freezer! (Why is there always something left over at Christmas time?)

Poor Max


Max has not been well for a while. Just before Ed went to England, he was definately under the weather. He was very lathargic and wouldn't open his mouth properly. I took him to the vet, but she wasn't sure what was wrong. It was a different vet to the usual one, and I had to speak Spanish, but she decided that he had an infection, and gave him a course of tablets for 2 weeks. After the first week, he was much better, playing and picking up the ball again. Sadly, after Ed had been back just a day or so, he went downhill again. Unfortunately, this was over Christmas, when the vets wasn't open. Thankfully, I had some antibiotics that I could give him, to tide him over. Yesterday, just before we took him to the vets, his eye really swelled up, and he looked a terrible state. She took one look at him and realised that it was an abscess. She gave him 2 injections, and also gave us 6 prepared needles, for us to inject 2 each day. We have to go back again on Friday, but after just 1 day with the right medication inside him, he is already lots better.

Home Sweet Home?


Poor Ed has had to go back to England for 2 weeks, to help sort his Mum's house out. The council wanted to fit a new boiler and fire, but were unable to do the work, as the workmen were unable to get to the parts of the house they needed.

After a chat with the doctor, he went to the house, and managed to persuade her that a lot of stuff needed to be cleared out. Funny how one sentence from a person of 'authority' can overcome years of pleading. She agreed to the clearout, and now has a wonderful warm house, with a beautiful new living room - as Ed also managed to repaint for her, while he was there.

Happy Birthday Alicia



Our next door neighbours baby has just turned one year old. We popped around with a present, and were asked to go back again at 6pm, in time for the party tea. 6pm?, I checked, well, 5pm then. ok, 5pm?, well make it 4:30. No wonder we never know what's going on!

At 4:30, we went back, and there was a lovely assortment of treats on the table, and a birthday cake, with a photo of Alicia on the top.

We had a lovely afternoon, speaking a mixture of Spanish, English and a little Italian. We met some new people and were even invited to their New Year party, if we had no where else to go (but Ed doesn't want to dress up as Madonna - so we are going elsewhere!!!)

Bull update

Oh Dear. It turns out that the broken arm was even worse than we thought! At the airport, he complained about a pain in his other arm, and a full inspection on his return to the UK showed that that too was broken. Not the best way to spend December, 2 arms in plaster.

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

All Bull



Last weekend was the bull running at Ontinyent again. I can’t believe that it is already a year since we went there!

We went of the Saturday, but it was very cold. There was a bitter wind, and we had made the mistake of not having had any lunch. This meant, that in a short time, we were both very cold, in spite of lots of layers. We watched the first bull, and even filmed someone being trodden on by the bull, but during the second one, I had had enough. I asked Ed if we could leave, “through there?” he asked, indicating where the bull and several hundred people had just gone! “Yes” I said, so we joined the throng! Part way down the road, we encountered the bull, and the runners. The atmosphere was much more tense than in the main square, as there are less places to hide from the bull. At one point, we were crushed against a wall by the crowd, even though the bull was on the other side of the street. Finally we got by, but we still stayed, to watch the bull go back over the bridge. It was very exciting, much better than earlier.

On the Sunday (after lunch) we went again, with some people from Ontinyent, that hadn’t been before. Again we stayed in the main square, but there were a lot more people, so the ‘buzz’ was much better. We saw some people from l’Olleria too.

A couple of our neighbours had a bit of a bet on; who could hit the bull the most times! When we saw one of them in the bar, he had hit it once, and said that he had cow sh*t on his right hand! Ed joked that he needed sn*t on the other one, but he said ‘no’ he didn’t want to get that close! however, a little later, we learned that he had been hit by the bull, his t-shirt was all torn, and he had broken his arm in several places… he was now on the way to hospital in the ambulance... his parting cry… “I presume this means I’ve won the bet?” Needless to say, everyone agreed!

The next day, we discovered that his arm needed pinning, but as he was flying back on the Tuesday, it had been left for the hospital in England to do it, otherwise he would have had to miss his flight!

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Cobblers

The strap on Ed's bumbag broke. He had a go at fixing it himself, but that didn’t last too long! It was time to find someone who could fix it properly.

Then I was told that there was a cobbler near the police station,t hat would mend it. Fine. But where was it?! Ed had a really good look one day, wandering around all of the streets, then we both did together. No sign of a cobbler. We rang a few people, but either they didn’t know, or they weren’t in!

Finally, in desperation, I asked a lady in the tobacconists where the shop was, that would mend a bag (I didn’t know the Spanish word for cobbler). She came out of the shop, and pointed down the street, naming a shop half way down. Excellent – it must be hidden in the back of the shop – which certainly had an odd collection of things in the window! In we went, and asked if the man would mend the bag. His expression said it all! We were obviously in the wrong place! Thankfully, he understood, and pointed us in the right direction. Opposite his shop, was another street, and the place we needed was half way up there. (at least, that was what I understood!) We bimbled up, but this appeared to be residences only. Then suddenly, peering through a house window, I spotted shoes and polish! This was it. As we reached for the door, I noticed the previous shop keeper watching us, and waved to him as we went in!

Inside the house, we discovered that the first room at the front of the house was the cobblers. Inside, sat a little man, mending a coat. I asked if he could mend the bag, and he said yes – come back in 1 hour. If he had told me his name was Rumplestitlskin I would have believed him! Ed thought that when he said ‘1 hour’ that was all he had left to live!

An hour later, we returned, and his wife let us in. He was on the toilet! She asked us to indicate what we wanted. Sadly, there was nothing interesting worth taking! We pointed out the correct bag, but she had no idea how much to charge. She had to go and ask him, through the bathroom door! 2€ later, Ed was the proud owner of a repaired bumbag, and very happy with it too.

Thursday, 27 November 2008

More Visitors

Well, I'm glad to say that finally my Mum and Dad have been able to find a few days in their international jet-setting lifestyle to come and visit us.

They arrived at Alicante on a Sunday morning, so off I went to meet them. No problem! Except that I couldn’t find them! Apparently, they were waiting outside in the sunshine, but I drove past the entrance twice! Finally, I parked and wondered around looking for them. It turned out, that they were at another terminal that I didn’t know about! Never mind – we were still back in time for dinner!

On the Monday, we had a leisurely stroll around l’Olleria. There were quite surprised at how big it was. Although only a small town, it certainly has everything that you could need. On Tuesday, we took a ride to Gandia. The sea was lovely, the harbour peaceful, the beaches empty – but nearly all of the shops were shut. Just like Skegness in winter – but nicer!

Sadly, that was the end of the nice weather. On Wednesday, it was miserable. We decided to go to Xativa, for a stroll around. We drove right up to the castle, and walked in, just far enough not to have to pay! While we were there, the sun tried to come out, presenting us with a big rainbow over the old town. Beautiful. Then we had a stroll around the old town. A man saw us studying a building, and asked, “English?” Yes, we replied. Then he asked, “Italiano?”, No, “Sprechen Sie Deutch?”, Ja, and then he went on to tell us all about the monastery – in Spanish! Very funny! After a wonderful Hot-Chocolate break, Ed had the wonderful idea of driving to Cocentaina to see the beautiful costumes that the Moors and Christians wear at the parades. We drove into the most horrendous weather, and when we got there, we couldn’t find the shop! It turned out, that it was closed – as they had taken the costumes to Xativa (where we had just been) for an exhibition!

Sadly, on the Thursday, it was time for them to depart again. This time, I drove them up to near Taragona, where they were staying with friends for a few days. It was lovely to see the old neighbours and hear about their experiences! Somehow, I think that everyone who moves to Spain should write at least one chapter of a book! It would be so funny.

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

I'm dreaming of a ....



Today, when I was still asleep, Ed came and told me that it was snowing! I thought he was doing his usual 'tall tales', but no... we had big fat flakes everywhere. (I might use this in my Christas Cards!) Today it is only 3.3 degrees, yet on Monday, it was 20 degrees! Still, we have a lovely warm fire to keep us cosy.

Red Berry, Yellow Berry



We have a beautiful ‘wild strawberry’ bush. It is known for having the fruit and flowers on display at the same time. Just now, it is looking really wonderful, and even the bees are having a feast.

Autumn Leaves are Falling


It is very pretty everywhere at the moment. Although we are mainly surrounded by pine trees, we also have a lot of other trees in the area, with all of the fruit orchards around. As I look out of my window, I can see various greens, yellows and reds. Our silver birch has already shed it’s leaves, giving a beautiful silhouette against the blue sky.

Sad Departure


Well, the
economic crisis is certainly world-wide and we are not immune to it here. When the August holidays started, a lot of businesses closed for good, leaving many people unemployed. The industrial estate at the bottom of town is probably only 50% occupied now, even though they are still expanding the roadway around it!

In one area near here, there used to be some 200 English families, but now there are only a handful. Many of them have returned back to England in the hope of finding work. Sadly, this applies here in l’Olleria too. Maz and Wood, good friends of ours have gone back to the UK. Maz has been offered a full time job, so they have packed up their kit bags and returned to Blighty. I wish them all the very best – they will be sadly missed.

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

A Grand Day Out




Today I have been to see Gordon and Lyndsey’s olives being turned into oil.

We travelled to Navares, to a tiny ‘factory’ in the middle of the town, not much bigger than a double garage! The olives and their baskets were weighed and then the olives tipped into a hopper. (The weight of the empty baskets was then deducted – and they had collected 399.9 kg – Oh for a handful more!)

The olives went up a conveyor belt, and were fed into a stone table, with 3 conical wheels / grindstones rotating over them. Everything was crushed together; skins, fruit, stones, until it was a fine pulp. The pulp was pushed down a channel, into a cast iron vessel. Once the pulping was completed, the resulting ‘porridge’ was made ready for the press. To do this, the pulp was layered in special baskets, a bit like up-turned berets. I lost count, but Gordon mentioned 40 at one point.

Once they were all stacked up, the previous stack was removed, and theirs put into place, in the press. This was a lovely old cast iron press, with a hydraulic ram. In fact, the very weight of the pulp on it’s own resulted in liquid being released before it even went into the press. (Although this was a mixture of oil and water – not just oil.) We were advised that it would take about 3 hours to process, so off we went for lunch…

When we returned, the lady was in the process of pouring the oil into the containers, ready to be taken home. They collected about 65 litres of oil, from this first ‘Extra Virgin’ press. The oil is cloudy to start with, but can be used straight away. If left for a few weeks, it starts to clear, and can then be filtered if necessary.

It was wonderful to see such a small ‘cottage industry’ in full flow. People coming and going, bringing olives and taking oil. There are 3 options; a) take olives and get paid for them, b) take olives for pressing, pay for pressing and keep all of the oil, c) take olives and swap for oil (But you get less oil than in option b.)

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Monday, 10 November 2008

Wooden You Know It?


Well, after a few phone calls, we have finally found someone who supplies logs for fires, at a sensible price.

We had a 2,250 kilo load delivered! Yes - that is over 2 tons. The guy simply tipped it out onto our drive. We then had to stack it all...

Lost

Well, one thing that I didn't post on here earlier (for obvious reasons) was the loss of my purse!

When we travelled back from Germany (early September) we had to go through a host of toll booths and I kept my purse handy, in order to pay them. Ed was driving. Once we passed the final one (just north of Valencia), Ed had had enough, so we swapped drivers. Unfortunately, the junction where we turned off (to swap) turned out to be a filter road, not a simple roundabout. We ended up driving into another town, but managed to work our way back to the motorway and then swapped drivers on the hard shoulder of the slip road. Not a real problem, as it was about 3am and there was no traffic.

The next day, I discovered that my purse was lost. I looked everywhere, but couldn't find it. We finally deduced that I must have dropped it when I jumped out of the car on the motorway. Sadly, it is normally a very busy area, so it would have been very unsafe to try and go back to find it. I cancelled my bank cards and got a new driving license. (But spent a few weeks very worried, as it is an offence to drive without one here.)

This Saturday, Ed was looking for something in his bum-bag (which he carries most of the time) and he found my purse!! I must have put it in there in the dark, instead of in my own handbag! What a relief - at least now I know that no-one has found it and tried to use any details!

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

The Earth Moved

Last night, (4th Nov) I suddenly woke up in the early hours, with a strange vibrating feeling running right through me! Ed was sound asleep, snoring very gently, so it was nothing to do with him! I quickly realised that it must have been an earthquake, but obviously only a small one. As I lay there, about 20 minutes later, there was another one – the aftershock. Checking on the Spanish news I have discovered that we had a quake measuring 2.2 on the Richter scale. (Not even classed as ‘medium’ level) We were the only town that was affected, but needless to say – there was no damage reported!

Medieval Fayre


The 1st November is All Saint’s Day (bank holiday) and in the village of Cocentaina, they have celebrated with a fayre, for over 600 years. We have been to this twice already, and went again this year.

The whole of the ‘old town’ is full of stalls dressed up in typically medieval style and the stall holders are dressed up too. I have no idea how many streets have stalls in them, but we spent over 4 hours wondering around. At the top of town, in the more modern part, is the obligatory Fun Fair, but everything you could imagine is on sale!

At the entrance to the town, are some lovely old wooden children’s rides, horses, geese, goats, birds of prey, all very symbolic of an ancient market. (Just like in the movies – but it smells ok!)

There is a food section, with wonderful home made breads, huge vats of pickled vegetables, terracotta pots of olives, salted fish, jamones (legs of air dried ham) hundreds of cheeses, just for starters. Then, you could buys loads of different cakes, (yummy) chocolates, dates, figs, pastries et al. If you took a sample from each stall, you wouldn’t need to buy any tea!

There is a separate eating section, with stalls selling things such as baked potatoes, barbequed sausages and chops, pizzas, crepes, drinks – all sorts and here you can sit down and rest your feet, while filling your tummy (if you have room)!

There are streets of hand craft stalls. Everything from scented candles, herbal teas for every ailment, carved stones, jewellery, hand made toys, clothes…

There are also streets of modern things, such as handbags, commercial clothes, even windows, swimming pools, cars, motorbikes, tractor attachments and goodness know what else! (Can you think of anything more?)

We had a lovely evening. We ate ribs, sausages, crepes, hand made chocolates, and then on the way back, we got a beautiful hand-woven rug for the living room floor. Poor Ed had to carry it all the way back to the car – his hands were numb from the handles. There was no way you could get the car any nearer, as the whole place gets some 240,000 visitors in the 3 days that the market is on! Bless him x

Friday, 31 October 2008

Moto GP



In August we went up to Valencia (Ricardo Tormo Circuit) to collect 4 tickets for the Moto GP in October. When we got there, most of the seats we wanted had already been sold. We couldn’t get 4 together. We paid a little more than we wanted, and got 4 in the Yellow stand, which is really good, and has two TV screens. Two of the tickets were for us, the other 2 for Rose and Shamus. Sadly, Rose has taken ill, and the doctor advised her not to travel. We asked a few people if they wanted the tickets, but they either couldn’t afford them, or were busy.

On the Friday, we went to the circuit quite early, and simply stood outside the ticket office, and offered our tickets to passers by! The first couple thought they were fake, but after a little persuasion they believed us, but they didn’t have enough cash (they were paying by card). One chappie completely ignored us (his loss) and one chap was having his card swiped as we asked. Then we got lucky. An Australian chap was meant to collect some pit-lane passes, but they had not appeared. He bought both tickets for himself and girlfriend and was very pleased. A little later, they joined us on the stands, and were thrilled to see what good seats that had got, for ‘face value’. We had no interest in making money, simply in breaking even.

It was raining much of Friday, so we were all sat together, huddled under waterproofs and umbrella’s watching the practice. Saturday, Ed’s back was very bad, so we didn’t go, but on Sunday, we left home at about 7am, and went on the bike. Typical Spanish, no one goes anywhere early, so we were parked right near the front of the bike park. Later, I noticed that there were 4 huge car parks full of bikes, and then the cars.

The weather was very kind to us. A cold start soon warmed up, and I even ended up with sunburned arms and face. (You could see where my sunglasses had been!) The racing was not very close, but we were so close to the track, that we still enjoyed it. We took our time leaving (as usual) and had no holdups at all going home.

What we did notice, was, some new roadways that had recently been finished, had all of the roundabouts with a road going straight across. Ie, normally, it was a roundabout, but, when there was an event on, then the traffic simply went straight across – all supervised by police with whistles of course! What a brilliant idea!

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Spiderman


We have had a windy few days, and last night/this morning, Ed heard some tiles moving around. He went up on the roof to check, and we replaced about 6 tiles. Thankfully we still had a few left over, from when Ed built the pump house. North of Valencia, they have had heavy snow (for Spain!) in the mountains, but at least the forecast for next week is dry again...

Just Chillin'





Paddy, Max and John - and a large glass of Bacardi & Coke!!

Foot Warmer


The weather is now starting to turn cold. (ish) We have had the fire lit for the last 2 days, although today it has managed to get up to 19 degrees for about an hour. Overnight, it is now down to nearer 12.

It is not very warm in the house without the fire lit, but at least when I am working, I have a lovely device for keeping my feet warm…

Time to Prey



John found a couple of preying mantis’ while he was here. September / October seems to be the time for them. The first two he found were about 2 inches long, just big enough to catch and look at closely… then…

when pruning the olive tree, John spotted a ‘proper’ preying mantis. This little beastie was huge as you can see from the photo. He wasn’t very happy about us cutting his tree but didn’t fly away. We were very careful not to cut him in half, so hopefully he went on to do whatever they do in peace!

Tree Fellers



John was getting bored, so he took the opportunity to cut our almond and olive trees for us. The almonds were about 30 feet high, so it was impossible to get any crop from them. Once he had finished, they were nearer 6ft. The old neighbour next door tried to tell us how to cut them, but he only spoke Valenciano so we couldn’t really understand him. Still, he was very happy to see that we were having a go, even if they didn’t look very aesthetic once it was done!

The Olive tree got a good haircut too! John took it back to the bare minimum, which it really needed. There was lots of fresh growth on it, so hopefully, next year, there will be lots of olives too.

Bellus


After all of the heavy rain, the reservoirs in the area had to empty water out, to prevent any adverse affects in the case of overflows. On the way back from Gandia, we went via Bellus and stopped to look at the dam. We weren’t the only ones, but the day before had been even more impressive. The lake itself was still very full, but, much to John’s amusement, if you looked carefully, you could still see a telephone pylon upright in the middle of the water!

Gandia



John came over for his 50th birthday and we had a lovely 2 weeks. The day before his birthday, he and I went to Gandia for a few hours. It was a nice ride over and as it was now October, all of the beaches were virtually empty. We walked around the harbour, and along the beach front. We didn’t bother to paddle, as it was a little cold (T-shirt weather!) but there were still several people on the beach.

Storm Tragedy

We had some terrible rain again this month. In fact, it rained every day in the Valencia Region during October, except the first 3 days. Here in l’Olleria we had a terrible downpour on Thursday 9th. We were fine, as we are so high above the village, but further down, the gully and riverbeds were awash. A lady (originally from Brighton) went into town to pick up her 14 year old twin girls and their friend. On the way home, they realised that they couldn’t get their car across a swollen river which was normally a dry riverbed. Tragically, they decided to cross by foot, all linking arms. One of the twins slipped and they all fell into the turbulent water. The friend and one twin managed to get to the side, but the second twin and the mother were both drowned. Their bodies were found 1 mile downstream in the early hours.

A service was held here, (which Ed went to) and then they were repatriated back to England for a proper funeral. Such a tragic loss, in a momentary decision.

We are very happy with the location of our house. Although we are not at the very top of the mountain, we are high enough up not to be adversely affected by the rain as it flows down the ravines around us. There are only a few houses higher than us, so the rain is able to run its natural course before turning into a torrent. During the recent storms, the wind was so strong, it even blew the rain into our garage under the door. It will take ages to dry out, but obviously that is nothing compared to those who have been flooded out and the families affected by lives lost.

Fetch

Well, at last the dogs seem to have realised what a ball is for! We have spent ages throwing balls for them, only for us to have to fetch them ourselves! Not quite the right idea. Finally they have figured out that when we throw the ball and then run after it and bring it back, it turns in to a game. Hooray!

Paddy tends to fetch the ball back most of the time, but Max certainly has a few goes too. However, when it gets back to us, Paddy just spits it back out somewhere nearby. Max, on the other hand, won’t give it up! The best thing to do, is catch him (if you can) and then take the ball out of his mouth. If he has already dropped it by his feet, he will bite you as you try to pick it up! Great fun, and a quick way to give them exercise, without the usual 3 mile trek around the mountain!

The bad point is… if the balls are in their mouths long enough, they will get crushed, so they don’t bounce any more! The dogs love popping them, but won’t chase them if they don’t bounce properly! I have now discovered that once they show signs of being bored, I simply remove the ball and put it on the wrong side of the patio railings, where they can see it, but not get it! (Cue another game, where they try to knock it off with their paws – but can’t!)

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Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Our house


At last... we went for a walk to the top of the second highest hill today. We tried yesterday too, but couldn’t fight our way through the undergrowth. Afterwards, we discovered that we could have walked around it! Still, today, we got to the top, and I have finally managed to get some photo’s that include out house on them. I have taken a video too, but please excuse the sound of Ed sneezing ~ I think all that wild sage and thyme got to him!!
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Bike Ride-out

We went out to El Campello and Relleu again, with Ian and Deb and Tracey and Dale. We had a coffee at the seaside which was nice and then headed out to the wonderful restaurant for lunch. The roads are lovely around this area, (find La Carrasqueta on a map and go south!) and the scenery is amazing. However, when we go to the restaurant, although the door was open, there were no customers and no sign outside. It was open, but there were some new faces behind the bar.

It turned out, that the lady running it last time we went, was actually only managing it, and ‘managed it’ €50,000 into debt. Along with a similar amount at another bar as well as some local businesses, she had run up debts of over €100k, all in the name of this business, so destroying the life savings of the real business owner, and necessitating her returning to work. We hear of this happening so often over here. It is as though corruption and deceit are acceptable by products of living in Spain. Thank goodness Ed is the only one who will drive the machine, so we don’t need to rely on anyone else for their ‘skills’.

As we left the restaurant (having had a lovely meal – the same chef was still there) I suddenly got this stupid idea. I saw some unripe (green) lemons on the roadside. I picked one up, with the intention of throwing it a Deb ~ I would call out to her, knowing she wouldn’t catch it, and frighten her. However, as I threw it, I realised that I had thrown it too high, and it was about to hit her on her helmet, but I was too shocked to shout out. As I looked at her, she was looking at the floor, then in the sky, trying to work out where the lemon had suddenly dropped from. She and Tracey were looking at the trees (olives) and the birds, trying to figure it out ~ then they saw me doubled up with laughter and knew what had happened. I have no idea where the silly streak came from (Mother), but I did have the decency to apologise afterwards. (Even though I kept laughing.)

Sad Times

We have had some sad occasions this month, but the only one we could help out with, was Monica, next door. One of her dogs died and she called me in a terrible state, asking for help. She was not yet home, but I asked her to beep the car horn, and we would go straight around. As it happened, her little sister got there first, so we called in anyway. The poor girl was crying, and trying to dig a grave in soil that was too hard to put a spade into. I gave her a hug and Ed offered to get the machine, to dig the hole. We managed to get most things sorted out, just as Monica got home. They had to wait for ‘big’ sister, who was travelling down from Girona (7 hour trip each way) to bury the dog. It turned out that this dog was bought by their mum (deceased) and so was their last link with her. They were all crying but all I could do was hug them.

We helped bury the dog, then left them. The oldest sister had to travel back to Girona. It was all very traumatic. Sadly it was only one month before the dogs 15th birthday. Monica was very grateful for our help, but really, all we had done, was give some comfort. (Although Ed did say later, it would have taken hours to dig the hole by hand.)

This week, Monica came around with a present for us (es nada – it’s nothing) to thank us for our help. There was a huge parcel wrapped up in pretty paper. It turned out to be 2 bath towels and a lovely velour blanket. Ed was stunned. We only did what we both felt was right, to help a neighbour in need.

Autumn

Well, it's September again, and here comes the rain again. We have been lucky here, but many of the other valley’s around us have been hit by terrible flooding again, just as they were last year. We were out last Sunday on the bikes, and as we neared home, we could see black clouds above our mountain. As it happened, we stopped on the way home, and only encountered a few drops. Later in the week, we discovered that it had rained all day.

To the north of us, (about 20 miles north) one of the coastal towns was so badly affected, that they have been declared a ‘catastrophic zone’. To the south (Alicante area) they had terrible floods too. We simply spent a few days in the house, managing to get in to town between the storms. We even lit the fire 2 days in a row, but I have already cleaned it back out again!

Today we have had glorious sunshine, and took the dogs right up to the very top of one of the nearby hills.

Happy Birthday Tim

Ah, bless, 23 today.

Have a great day. Since I am still only 25, you do realise that I must have adopted you when I was 2 years old. I’m not quite sure how it will work out in a few more years, when you are older than me.

Have a lovely day, Mum xx

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Germany



Had a lovely few day in Germany, to celebrate my Grandma’s 90th birthday. On her birthday, a champagne breakfast was held in her honour, and then, on the Saturday, there was a party for some 65 people.

Tim and Jess went too, along with John and Jess’s boyfriend Tim. It was lovely to all be together again, even though it was in another country!



One relative had been to the small town she originated from, in the Ukraine and met up with a lady that knew some ‘Sonnenberg’s’ many years ago. When she discovered that this visitor was from the same family, she cried. There was a lovely slide show and small movie depicting things from her life, which was wonderful. She was also taken on a trip around the village in a horsedrawn carriage

Fiesta Week



We missed many of the town festivals, as we were away in Germany at the beginning of September. However, on our return, we discovered that one of the biggest had been rained off. We then got the opportunity to witness the re-scheduled “Storming of the Castle”.

In essence, this area of Spain, (and further south) has very strong historic links to the Moors (North Africans). There were many battles throughout the regions some 6 or 7 centuries ago, and these are still re-enacted every year. The annual Moors and Christians celebrations are the main event in most towns.

Many parades take place, leading up to the main Parade of the Moors and Christians (which we missed) which takes up to 5 hours to pass through the high street. The costumes are incredible. Many troupes prefer to be Moors, as their costumes are more colourful, even though it was the Christians that won in the end.

And some point, there is the re-enactment of the Storming of the Castle. The Moors are in the castle and a horseman from the Christians delivers a message, calling on them to surrender. The king of the moors symbolically rips up the message, and the rider returns. The army of Christians gathers, and then the king of the Christians calls on the Moors to concede. This is actually a recognised speech, to which the Moors occasionally respond. Although I couldn’t follow much of it, it quickly became apparent that it was in verse. Very impressive. Toward the end of the speech, the altercation becomes louder and more aggressive, and then battle commences. It was all very theatrical, and wonderful to watch. The armies let loose with blunderbusses, and the square was soon filled with smoke and the smell of gunpowder. The buildings shook with each explosion, and my ears were ringing. (At one point, some spilled powder caught fire on the road, but there was a man there with a hosepipe, who put the fire out, and washed the spillage away.

One Year On


And so it came to pass, our first anniversary of our new life in the sun.

It still seems quite incredible. I’m still in the honeymoon phase, where I’m not quite sure if I am on holiday, or actually if this really is my life. Most days, the sun is shining, or it is at least warm. When it rains, it absolutely tips down, but we certainly don’t have the incessant drizzle that tends to hang on for days on end in England. Every day, is a pleasure to behold.

I have a palm tree outside my bedroom window, and a valley sweeping away below. The nearest neighbours are only in situ for 2 months of the year, and they are really lovely. The peace and serenity are truly blissful.

When we had birds nesting, we were able to simply spend an entire morning watching the fledglings learn to fly. We often just sit, and watch the dogs playing. We have time for each other, as well as time for new friends. When Ed does work, no one expects everything to be finished in a day. They are used to the Spanish taking forever to do a job – so are really happy with him. Everyone that has employed him, has called him back again, when the next job is ready to be done.

We have done a huge amount of work to the house and garden, although there is still much to do. As I type, Ed is finishing off a gable on the pump house for the pool filtration system. It will be a while before the pool area is finished, but the structural work has been done. It all looks lovely, even though it is actually a mess still!

Work has proven to be difficult for Ed to find. Much as the Spanish are constantly building, the same recession to hit the UK has hit here too. Building work has slowed down considerably, and no one has spare cash for projects. That said, it would have been the same in the UK, so there is every chance that he may have had no work there too – at least here we don’t have a mortgage to worry about. We only have power bills and council tax – these are a fraction of the UK levels, so not a problem. We are managing, but it is not a life of luxury – simply a luxurious life.

The language has proven to be quite a problem. Here, everyone speaks ‘Valenciano’, not proper Spanish. This is a strange mixture of Spanish and French. (Similar to Catalan) As I am learning Castellon, the true language of Spain, it is not the same language that everyone speaks. It makes it difficult when out and about, as both we and the person we are trying to speak to are speaking in a language which is not natural! However, we usually manage to make ourselves understood, although we have been surprised a few times at restaurants, when something unexpected has turned up at the table.

Any regrets? None whatsoever. Maybe we should have moved out 10 years earlier – but we didn’t know each other then! I promised that I would give it 5 years, before making any decisions on staying – but I can’t think of any single reason to give this life up. There are 2 airports about an hour away, making us accessible for welcome visitors.

Would I recommend it to anyone? Probably not. Ed and I have lived nomadic lifestyles, so moving house meant nothing and moving countries meant very little. But, if you want a peaceful lifestyle, where no one rushes and the sun shines most days, then this is certainly to be recommended. (But don’t come to l’Olleria - there are enough Brits here)