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Keeping myself busy

If you could see me now - gone are the days of the power dressing and high heels - now its just salad dressing and flip flops.

To Volunteer or not to Volunteer that was my question !
29 January 2012


It always seems like a good idea to volunteer to help, but after the initial excitement and feeling of goodness overtaking our brain, reality sets in! We go home, sleep on it and then think it over again asking ourselves; ‘Do I really have the time? Do I really have the inclination?   Do I really want to do this?’   And, a lot of the time the answer is ‘No!’  So we get over our moment of generosity of thought and continue with our normal lives.    I have been guilty of this a few times in the past, especially at charity events where I would soak up the fantastic atmosphere of goodwill and envy those really nice, kind people who were actually doing something to help others less fortunate and before I knew it, I would be offering my services to a worthy cause only to find later I would question my wisdom!   I would get home to my cosy little world tucked away on the mountain and begin thinking ‘Oh, I can’t do this’ and bring up the same old excuses. ‘I haven’t got time.  I haven’t got the inclination. Charity begins at home. Look to your own backyard’, etc., etc., and so I would talk myself out of it.     
Last year, I attended a coffee morning for P.E.P.A. the Association for the Protection and Education for Animals so that I could sell a few things I had and earn a little money for myself. It was great!    I made a few euros, donated a few to the charity and felt very good about myself. So much so that   I agreed to work in the P.E.P.A. Charity Shop in La Font for one day a week!   Of course, later that day back home and in the comfort of my armchair I changed my mind.   Nothing new there then!   But, unfortunately, this time I didn’t have a contact number for the person with whom I had made the arrangements so couldn’t easily back out. But, as it was  school holidays in the UK which meant that Jeremy Kyle had been replaced with Children’s TV, I decided I may as well go anyway.  I got lost on the way, got stuck in a god almighty traffic jam and arrived an hour late.    With so many negatives I just knew this was a mistake!   However, when I did eventually arrive, I found I was made very welcome by the team and before I knew it my 3hrs of voluntary service were over and I was driving home with a smile on my face and a bag full of lovely clothes (M&S, NEXT, BENETTON to name a few) I was very pleased with my bargains and even more pleased with the new friends I had made.   It occurred to me that maybe I had been shutting myself away for too long and the more I stayed in the comfort of my own home the easier it was to find an excuse not to leave it.   Just going to the shop and talking to the other volunteer staff and customers gave me such a buzz and seemed to give me back some of the confidence I had obviously lost over the years.      It seems voluntary work was going to benefit me just as much as it was going to benefit the animals.
I ended up within a very short space of time as well as working in the shop taking on the role of Events Organiser and Publicity. I was a little concerned I wasn’t up to it, and I wasn’t sure I wanted the commitment or the responsibility to be honest as the most stressful things in my life at this stage was what to cook for dinner and where to get my roots done !   I doubted my own capabilities and the last thing I wanted to do at my age was set myself up for yet another fall. Many of us get set in our ways and maybe lose confidence in ourselves over the years and I was definitely beginning to feel I was past my sell by date.    But, I decided to go ahead anyway and exactly 4 weeks and 3 days after attending the coffee morning just to earn myself a little pocket money I was now working in the shop, arranging events and promoting P.E.P.A. at every opportunity. Not bad going for someone who didn’t have enough time or, I am ashamed to say, inclination at that particular stage of my life to raise a glass to the future let alone raise money for abandoned animals! 
Joining the ranks of P.E.P.A. has given me another lease of life.  It has given me back my confidence with the knowledge that I can do something worthwhile. It has made me break out of the bubble in which I existed.   The moral of this story is that it is not just the animals who benefit from a bit of volunteering!!!! Not everyone will want to commit to as much time as I now have, but what may seem a little time to you will seem so much more to the animals.  Perhaps like me you have considered doing something extra in your life, but, don’t know what, where or indeed why you want to do it. If this thought however fleeting has crossed your mind then maybe you might consider P.E.P.A.  Take a look at the website you will see straight away that we are not particularly flashy, we don’t have any gimmicks, we don’t have any big sponsors, but, we do have dedicated volunteers and supporters who are giving a little bit of their life to the animals. We are totally self-supporting and when Janet & Joe Goodwin founded this registered charity over 7yrs ago they did so completely on their own to help any abandoned and distressed animals.  P.E.P.A. does not have a pound, but we do have a team of volunteer foster carers who will take these abandoned animals into their homes until they can be found permanent homes of their own.  But, we urgently need more Foster Carers. Unfortunately the number of abandoned animals is on the increase and it is vital that we recruit more loving temporary carers for these unfortunate animals. Why not compare it to being a grandparent or loving aunt/uncle where it’s great to enjoy the time with the little ones, but, at the end of the day we know they will be going home eventually!!    
We can all find excuses for not doing something but at P.E.P.A. we will help you every step of the way to overcome these obstacles.   Shortage of cash needn’t be an excuse as, when fostering, P.E.P.A. will pay all medical costs if treatment is needed.  P.E.P.A. will also provide collars, leads, bedding etc. and cover the costs for food if this is a problem. Shortage of space or no garden needn’t even be a problem. A volunteer from P.E.P.A will visit you prior to fostering to ensure that you are matched with a dog who will fit in with your lifestyle.  Maybe you are worried about holidays, forget it!  P.E.P.A. will re house the dog with another foster carer until you come back.  Now what other excuses can I find?   Maybe you don’t like dogs and you are appalled by the feral cats in your area. Great!   Don’t have a dog whatever you do, but you may be interested in the Feral Cat programme we run. 
Come on people, all you need is compassion and the willingness to lend one of our needy animals a small part of your heart for a while.    These animals will give you unconditional love when all you need to give them is a feeling of safety, love and belonging.    It’s not a lifetime commitment and it would hopefully only be for a few weeks until a home is found.   We can all find excuses for not doing something but for these animals there are no excuses.  
There is no excuse for tying a dog to a tree with no food, no water and leaving it until it dies as it is of no further use to you. There is no excuse for going away on ‘holiday’ and never coming back. There is no excuse for beating and torturing an animal for a laugh. .    
If you can do anything to help prevent these poor animals from suffering any further, then please give P.E.P.A. a call on 650304746 and speak to one of our Help Desk volunteers who will be able to give you all the advice you need on fostering.    

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One of the reasons why I am glad I decided to stay in Spain.
24 June 2011


Last night I had the pleasure of watching the end of term show put on by pupils of the local village school which my children attend. I had the most lovely time and this morning whilst sorting through the hundreds of pictures I took, it occurred to me how lucky we are to live in this environment and just  how easy it is to take for granted the every day things around us which make life here so enjoyable. We live in an area where there are still as yet only a few expats compared to some other areas in Spain and although there is a British school nearby the decision was made to send the children to a Spanish school in the village when they arrived 6 years ago. Their classes are a maximum of 8 per class and even for such a small village there is quite a cosmopolitan mix of children, Italian, French, Romanian, Brazilian and more depending on the time of year. So the children have a wonderful opportunity to meet others from different parts of the world with different cultures and backgrounds and they are all able to converse through their common knowledge of Spanish. Their teachers are very caring and attentive and because their  classes are so small they tend to know what each child is up to most of the time. Teachers and parents are on first name terms and of course everyone knows everyone (not always a good thing agreed, but I have to say that when my adopted family experienced a terrible tragedy several years ago the whole village and school rallied around and looked after them in their time of need).  Maybe this is what village life is all about and I didn’t experience it when living in UK, although I was brought up in what we called a village, 2 pubs, church, post office, primary school and village green, but it would be considered a town in comparison to this Spanish village.
 Life here is very different and I wonder if I would ever be able to settle back into the UK.  I read the papers , I watch the news and the endless documentaries about community life in the UK or rather the lack of it, the behaviour of the youth, the abuse of the children, the dangers on the streets etc, etc, etc and that brings me back to the point of writing this in the first place. Last night I was able to watch happy, smiling, children and their parents, their grandparents, their great grandparents, their aunties, their uncles, their cousins, their 2nd cousins, their friends and so on and so on all coming together for this annual event held in the park with a make shift stage and PA big occasion getting a proper PA system .........the last 4 years I have been here they have used a ghetto blaster which would have done Del Boys market stall proud.......... but it blew up last year when a hail storm erupted mid show . The park is on the edge of the village with a magnificent back drop of the mountains so the setting is idyllic.   Chairs are provided for the older members of the village who turn out in force not only to see their little relatives but because they too once trod the boards at this historic event  due to  the fact that most of them would have at one time or another  attended that same village school.  The atmosphere was fabulous, much greeting and oohs and aahs going on.  Youngsters who inadvertently sat in ‘ THE’ chairs quickly vacated them when faced with one of the elders needing a rest and not a word of disrespect passed their lips as they gave up their seats. Anyone who dared to stand in front of the pensioners thus blocking  their view of the proceedings was promptly and loudly asked to shift pretty damn quick and they did, again without any back chat or lippyness.  The word respect comes to mind.  The children performed their little hearts out on the stage, the sun shone and a hundred cameras or more were clicking away constantly as proud parents and onlookers captured these moments forever.......... and there the crux of the matter lies, cameras, schools and parents.
 I don’t know how I would feel if I were to attend a school function like this in UK (not that it would be like this unfortunately) and not be able to take photos of my little ones. I have read and heard so much about the situation with photo’s and schools in UK lately that at first I felt uneasy, but I soon got over it and remembered where I was, there were as many cameras as there were people and not one person was concerned. I know there are terrible, nasty people in this world and I understand the reasoning to a certain extent regarding cameras in schools in UK, but, isn’t it just awful when you have to live with that hanging over your head all the time and cannot just enjoy the most simple things in life........... of which the best is seeing your kids enjoying themselves and then managing to get a picture of them doing so. A picture, a memory captured forever, something tangible that you can show to your friends, display on your lounge wall, put in a photo album or just put away in the drawer to get out and look at several years down the line when you are feeling a bit nostalgic. Something spontaneous, something interesting, something pertinent to you and yours, not something someone in authority has decided you would like and should have, I refer here to the official school photos of sports days (and there lies another subject, how much longer will children enjoy the challenge and fun of sports day) Nativities, plays etc.
  I may not be at the sharp end of life, be in the middle of where it’s all happening  or have cutting edge technology all around me but what I do have is peace of mind, I feel secure, I feel part of something and I know my children are learning by example about decent  people, with decent values and a decent community life. They experience first hand how these ordinary people look out for one another with no hidden agendas, no ulterior motives they just do it because that’s how it has always been done. I hope these examples  will help my children become caring members of their  own communities in  the future whether it be here in Spain or in the UK if they so wish. But I worry would they adapt in UK........, would they get street wise quick enough..........., would they change........ and I don’t mean for the better...................!!    They can remain children here for as long as they should, they don’t have to grow up too quickly,  they can enjoy the good things in life without too much peer pressure.   I’m not saying that the Spanish kids don’t moan and groan, they do, they can be lazy, they push and they shove, they are noisy and unruly, their table manners are awful, but...................   from what I know of the UK now, which I admit is just from hearsay, it’s more than kids being kids and I worry for the future.   Life won’t go on the same here forever, villages merge with towns and these communities are lost forever, but I hope that for my children and their friends they will at least be able to enjoy a few more years of life as it is now. As for the older generations here they will carry on regardless and I will do my best to ensure that we as a family follow in their well worn footsteps. 

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2hrs of waiting then 3 come at once.......
30 May 2011

     Maybe I am being given a very subtle hint that blogging isnt for me.  I think the nickname calamity  is probably well deserved.  I am getting the hang of this system now though so my apologies to anyone who had to read my last post 3 times.  I feel such a fool but honestly this is what my life is like, I dont seem to be able to do anything right and spend days apologizing for  my  actions, I am about as embaressed now as I was in the changing room from hell.

  So I am off to the kitchen to look in the oven.  !!

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keeping busy working out how to post follow up to keeping busy
30 May 2011


             Well I am plodding on with my little venture, making my lovely chains for spectacles and I have had loads of response since my last blog, I haven’t sold any chains but I have had loads of thumbs up for the blog. I didn’t think anyone would read it and I was really surprised. Thanks everyone for taking the time to read it. I am now donating part of the profits from the chains to the local animal charity, needless to say with my sales to date they aren’t planning any major improvements to the shelter ......but from little acorns. And thanks to everyone who is donating their old broken dress jewellery and stuff with beads on, I am so grateful, keep it coming. I was even given a fab pair of sandals with loads of beads on so don’t restrict yourself to just jewellery.  
             Following on from what a difference a day makes, I have to accept that less than 5 years ago I was a 50 something single ‘cougar’ having a whale of a, well, now I am a whale with the speed of a cougar through  constantly having to chase my own tail ! In fact come to think of it the only real resemblance I have to a cougar nowadays are the every growing whiskers and rapidly expanding feet with claw like toe nails.  
               But old habits die hard, I still feel the need to apply a coat of mascara before putting on me coat....... so to speak. In the old days I guarantee you I could not have a sensible conversation with out my mascara, honest to god  speech evaded me until I had applied at least 5 coats of Max Factor, a spit and polish type mascara, for those of you old enough to remember it was in a little blue case and you had to spit on the brush then rub it over the rock hard block of gunky mascara until there was sufficient on the brush to coat your lashes. A very long and tedious task but the end results were rather spectacular, especially if you favoured the Dusty Springfield look. But in retrospect and in these days of health and safety I don’t think it was a very clean way of achieving long luscious lashes, although again in retrospect maybe a bit of spit with its added nutrients did my lashes the world of good,  come to think of it they must be the only part of my body to have remained the same over the years. It was a fabulous product though and always gave me the added confidence to look someone straight in the eye and say what I had to say. There were exceptions however, as with everything and it was not advisable to have a conversation whilst checking on anything cooking in the oven,   the whoosh of heat  upon opening the oven would hit you straight in the face forcing  you to slam tight your eyes for a  second, but even this briefest of moments was long enough to begin a melting process of the mascara which turned it into a sort of eyelash superglue and the end result was very embarrassing. I would spend the next 5 minutes trying to continue the conversation in an intelligent manner whilst at the same time trying to prize my eyes apart one at a time.   This used to happen so often my husband used to say go ask the ‘winker'  in the kitchen. Well I think that was what he said. 
        At times despite knowing better, I also feel the need to don high heels once again. Not that often, but as I am only 5’2 ½” on a good day I sometimes need to make myself visible and by making myself taller and wearing the 5 coats of mascara, I do just that,  it’s as if I suddenly re-appear to the world and get noticed.    But, not always for the right reasons, as  this usually turns into a fiasco because  I just can’t manage to walk in them for any length of time anymore. I get about as far as the fruit and veg aisle in Carrefour and have to admit defeat and put them in my bag, or better still I  carry them around pretending the heel has broken, (yep on the same time.............just don’t make them like they used to !) but   for those of us old enough to remember Billy Dainty there is distinct resemblance between me and him walking in heels , especially if I am wearing leggings !!! God forbid, if anyone ever sees me in high heels and leggings please contact the appropriate authorities there and then. 
         I actually don’t go shopping very often these days. I feel I should but the need is no longer there, who do I need to impress up on this mountain, the dogs and the kids certainly don’t mind if my shoes don’t  match my bag or my top doesn’t hide  my ever increasing lumps and bumps. Talking of which, tops that is, not lumps and bumps, my last outing to the shops with my little girl ended in disaster when I went in a particularly nice boutique which was having a sale,  all i wanted was a nice little strapless top to hide those little lumps and bumps which I mentioned before that no-one cares about except me. I must have been in there an hour at least and everyone was getting fed up, including me, when hey presto I found it, a really pretty little top that could have been made for me, I went in and tried it on. In,  I might mention....  the changing room from hell !!!!! do you know I couldn’t even bend over  to pull my leggings up unless I put my head out through the curtains and pretended I was looking for my little girl, (did I just say leggings............sorry Jeans ) so anyway I digress..........seem to do that a lot these days too......sign of old age maybe.............or just no-one to talk to on the mountain so it all comes out in an incomprehensible stream of drivel at times............back to that top, it fitted perfectly and did just what I wanted it too, so I went out into the shop which by now had several irate ladies queuing up to get into that changing room though why some of them were even considering it I don’t know, I thought I had problems , reminds me of the day I sat opposite an enormous lady in the hairdressers and was squeezing my 5 year olds hand as hard as I could because I just knew he would say something..........and lo and behold he didn’t, I was so relieved I eased the pressure on this little fingers probably just in the nick of time as they were beginning to change colour and I breathed a sigh of relief only for him to say “See Mummy, I never said that lady was fat did I ?”    Children eh....bless ‘ em.  So there I was admiring myself in the mirror, pretty little strapless top hanging nicely over my lumps and bumps and the assistant said, “Excuse me madam, but that’s not meant to be worn like that “ must admit she stumped me there, I had, I admit,  in the past put tops on back to front.......but not in this shop and I had checked the label was at the back before I put it on and the neckline wasn’t around my navel or any other part o;f my anatomy which it shouldn’t have been around..............”Why” I asked in all innocence .”Because  Madam that is a SKIRT” she said through a mouth well used to sucking lemons. The look of sympathy she gave my little girl was priceless.  I was mortified of course  but my little girl had been damaged for life, to her it was the ultimate humiliation and I am now banned from shopping until I can get a grip. She was not amused and definitely viewed it as a mortal sin rather like my son who never has recovered from that day over 20years ago when I took him into Burtons in Bristol and asked for a pair of Elephant Cords. Well, easy mistake, the sales assistant knew what I meant and once he had stopped the dribbling brought on by his uncontrollable giggles he showed us some lovely jumbo cords, well I say us but it was just me in fact as my 13yr old son had by this time disappeared and was on his way back to the multi storey car park muttering. He went in the army not long after that.  
           So better go and get ready for Britains Got Talent now, wonder if could build an act around making spectacle chains, well there’s a thought.... Dusty Springfield eyes.... Billy Daintys legs.....wearing the wrong clothes at the wrong time, making the wrong things at the wrong time, sounds perfect for me.  

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What a difference a day makes !
16 May 2011

There I was happily working away enjoying my single life in Spain and all the advantages that brings, when a chance encounter on the internet..........yeh I know (no fool like an old fool !) changed my life forever.  I went from being in control of my destiny to being in control of a whole tribes destiny and boy have I had my work cut out.  But, before I go on I have to say it was the best decision I ever made and anyone who knows me will probably agree.  Being single has its advantages obviously but I was not happy, I was lonely and however much work I had, however much social life I could enjoy something was missing.  So after this chance encounter I was introduced to the most adorable children in the world and fell in love instantly.  Never  being one to think things through too much I made a snap decision and gave everything up to move in with them.  They had a particularly tragic background and I felt drawn to them.  Nearly 4 years later I am still here living quite an isolated life on a mountain with my little tribe around me.  I LOVE it.  Despite everyone saying I was mad, all the usual warnings ´´why on earth do you want to do that at your age´´ ´ýou´ve got such a great social life´´ blah, blah, blah I have no regrets and I certainly feel much more contented and fulfilled now than I have for a long, long time, we laugh a lot, we cry a lot but its all worth it.  I did find it quite a culture shock and the paella room is now full of racks of designer shoes and suits which will never see the light of day again, but I still like to sit and look at them sometimes.  These days its all flip flops and loose dresses really, am toying with the idea of a straw hat too just to complete the image but dont know if I can go quite that far yet.  Think it finally hit home when I made jam - me making jam !  I used to have problems finding the kitchen let alone using it.  I remember my sons (my own son) first visit to Spain years back, he rushed to the fridge as he was starving and was horrified to find it only contained nailvarnish and my make up bag !  I never quite got the knack of being domesticated in those days.  But I have worked at it and now although I say it myself I am pretty good. 

But, with all this time on my hands I have had to find other things to stimulate my brain cells, I sell Avon and thats quite a feat living where I do, I certainly have to go out and find my customers, there is no walking down the street ringing door bells, sometimes I have to stand at the end of a very long drive shouting out ´´Ding Dong Avon Calling ´´ doesnt always get me the response I wanted but thats life, no sense of humour some people ! And I go out to Ladies Luncheons and fayres to tout my wares.  I recently won an award for top sales and was recognized at a presentation dinner held by Avon, that was a really nice feeling after being on the mountain for these past few years and only being recognized by the dogs, guinea pigs and lizards !

My latest venture is designing and making beaded chains-lanyards for spectacles and sunglasses.  I did this because I couldnt find any in the shops around here, to be honest its not easy to find the shops around here let alone chains!  But I think there is a gap in the market and I have put my artistic skills to use and started making these really quite interesting chains.  To this end I have also developed a website (with the help of a very kind friend who has the technical brain, I am just the artistic one) and doing this has got the old grey matter going and it feels good.  The website is if you would like to have a look.  Bear in mind this has been done by a complete novice (me ) so for anyone else looking to make a website but with no knowledge it can be done.  I have had frustration after frustration and felt like a complete idiot so many times doing this but got there in the end. Making the chains is very time consuming but I find it theraputic and can go into a little world of my own whilst making them, reminds me of when I was a little girl and my Dad taught me the art of tying flies for fishing, I would spend hours making my own particular fly, my poor dog had endless bald patches where I would take his hair to use in my designs and pinch my mums beads to make the eyes, so maybe I was destined to do something like this.  Both you and my dogs can rest assured that I dont use hair in these designs but I am always on the look out for old beads and broken jewellery if anyone wants to donate.

WelI  I dont know if I am doing this blog as I should, I dont know if anyone is even reading it, but its been good for me to start writing some things down.  I have had such good times here and silly little things have happened which have made me laugh more than I have in years.  Incidents with rats, lizards, bees, no electricity, no water, too much water, forest fires, helicopters over pool taking water the list goes on and will continue going on as my life is certainly never dull now.  I would not go back to the life I had for anything, in my opinion it was false - this is about as real as it can get and hopefully its rubbed off on me. What you see is what you get.  That cant be so bad can it ?

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