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Spain
Now living in l'Olleria, south of Valencia

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!!
video

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)