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Jane in Spain

Our travels between our canal boat in Cheshire and our home in Almeria with my partner, Mike, and our two miniature schnauzers. The good, bad and 'interesting' experiences we have had with the language, our lovely spanish neighbours and visiting friends and family.

Wheels on fire, rolling down the road
12 September 2018

It's that time of year again. Part of the sound effects when living on an urbanisation is the regular trundling of suitcases on wheels as the landscape of faces changes over the weeks. Some arrive in the early hours from a night flight with fractious toddlers clutching comfort blankets; others have driven down and the rolling wheels are followed by exited children and panting dogs anxious to sniff out their new territory. Two weeks later the wheels are heard on their reverse journey up the slope; the cleaners arrive with their mops and buckets and the whole thing starts again.

  When we first bought our apartment we knew most of the owners and their families from conversations around the pool. Some were permanent residents, others had bought their property as holiday homes We enjoyed the familiarity; the sense of community which it brought.

Then the 2008 recession happened, the Spanish property bubble burst and the picture began to change. Many sold up as the pound devalued and those with mortgages (like us) found themselves in trouble. Some properties were repossessed; others were rented out in a bid to recoup something from the crash. We were only visitors on holiday ourselves in the early years but as we got to spend more time at the apartment we noticed that, like the favourite restaurant that we went to the year before, or the English bakery franchises - they were disappearing. Something that shone brightly one year had disappeared under a Se Vende hoarding the next.

The lovely little spanish family that were next door are gone. They had a little toddler  who could be heard chattering away through the bouganvilla. She sounded just like the clangers (remember them?) when she spoke. Now we have a succession of people - mostly Spanish and mostly delightful families - who only stay for a week or two. Apart from the first guy, that is, who seemed to be here on a work contract for a few weeks. He use to whistle loudly as he went passed our hedge at 7am (deliberately?) and let his dog roam off the lead in our garden. This seriously annoyed our two and barking mayhem would ensue. The next bloke arrived on the Saturday, switched the air-con on, closed the shutters and didn't re-appear until the following Saturday. His choice, of course, but we only knew he was still alive because bags of rubbish would occasionally appear on the patio in daylight and then disappear during the night...... Don't ask.

The urbanisation now has a slight air of transience about it that wasn't there before. Part of me likes that, being something of a transient soul myself - it certainly makes life interesting. From our kitchen, the door of which opens onto a small tiled outside area which forms the ground floor of an inner courtyard, three stories high. This forms a funnel effect and, consequently, we hear echoing voices from all of the windows that open on to the void. At the moment we have mainly Spanish voices but some Italian and French dialects are also echoing around the walls. It lends a sort of cozy cosmopolotan feel to the place and, if there were a few lines of washing strung between the windows we could be in the back streets of Naples or Marseilles. I love it. Off season, however, the not so cosy sound of the wind that sometimes blows across from Africa and brings with it a coating of red sand, gusts into the vortex and creates a Hammer House of Horrers howling wind straight from Central Casting. Very creepy at 3am - especially if you are here on your own.

We have been talking. Would we buy on an urbanisation again? Probably not. Not for a permanent home anyway - not for us. Having said that, it is a great time for anyone thinking of moving to Spain to buy while prices are so low. What I would strongly advise anyone to do, though, is rent somewhere first. Make sure you like the area. Get the feel of the place - it's no use finding yourself in an ex-pat community if you are looking for the real Spain, unless that's what you want of course. The housing stock available on the coast is huge - take your time and make the right decision for you. Get a good agent and English speaking solicitor you can trust - word of mouth is the best recommendation. The excellent (British) agent we bought through is long gone but our solicitors (Spanish but English speaking) are also excellent - they even informed us when they thought our utility charges were too high (they were right and the tariff was changed) http://www.mamsolicitors.com or see link.

Would we sell though? Highly unlikely. The apartment has devalued by about 30% and the hefty mortgage still has three years to run. If we rented long term we may receive 50% of the monthly mortgage payment on top of which you still have agents fees,maintenance costs, fiscal costs and bank charges, which can be rather random - there is no regulation here. Renting as a holiday let would yield more  in the short-term but, frankly, just isn't worth the hassle unless you pay for someone to do all the cleaning and meeting and greeting etc. And what would we do with all our personal stuff - clothing, photographs, pictures, books, all the day- to- day living detritus that we all collect? We can't take it back to the UK, it just won't fit on the boat.

Anyway, there are so much more important things to consider. 

My lovely grandson, Liam, and family, have been coming over on holiday from Belgium since he was a baby. I remember him sitting- exactly where I am now- on the patio in his high chair, eating his lunch and beaming at us. He was clutching a spoon in his little fist and two little white teeth in his bottom gum glistened with pulp from his kiwi fruit. Adorable   He loves the pool too and all the local haunts that he has grown up with. It's part of his childhood memory bank now and I hope he will want to share it all again with his little baby brother, Lio, as he grows up.

So - no, we won't be moving anytime soon.

 

 

What we would like to do - and should do - is to travel around more when we are here. Maybe stay in different areas for a couple of weeks, check out the people, sights and sounds - Brexit and  the pensions permitting of course.

Last year we stayed at a friend's casa near Granada and also a rented finca near Lake Vinuela which were both interesting and worth a longer visit. Our friend is selling up now for her own personal reasons but we would love to re-visit the area - and then there is Seville, Ronda, Cadiz, Jerez .............. and that's just Andalucia.

 

I am still feeling haunted by the death of that poor child in Mallorca (Eye on Spain news 10th August)). It's easy to make judgements when we don't know all the facts but how could anyone 'forget' that they left a 10 month old baby in a car for 8 hours? How is that possible? Even if, as alleged, you did believe that she was asleep - you wouldn't leave a baby in a car in this heat for more than a minute. In fact, you wouldn't do it at all. The car was parked all day on a public street. Didn't anyone see it? It's difficult to believe that in the country, where La familia is central to everything that this terrible tragedy could occur. If, as all the reports I have read suggest, the judicial system are undecided whether to prosecute then clearly there are other factors that haven't been reported. But, whatever the circumstances, what a terrible waste of a young innocent life.

 Just a thought enlightenedCan anyone tell me why men glower when anything electrical (I'm thinking air-con) is switched on??



Like 2        Published at 16:40   Comments (13)


Could you repeat that in English, por favor?
09 August 2018

My Spanish really isn't very good - in fact it's rubbish. I have tried, over the years, to master it and have even managed a few phrases. The problems arise when the Spanish person I am talking to answers me, in good faith, in the rather machine-gun-like delivery that they have. My mind then becomes a total blank.

'Er... Perdón?' Is usually the best I can manage.

I lived in Italy in the sixties and found the language much easier, although when you are young every thing seems to come more naturally. I had some French and a knowledge of Latin from school (best language ever if you are a  crossword enthusiast) and I was away. Italian has a lovely slow rythmical sound to it, almost lyrical and very expressive. I mean 'Che ora e cara?' sounds a lot more appealing than 'What's time is it luv?' Don't you think?    

So why didn't we retire to Italy? That's easy. My sister and brother-in-law had already bought a place in Spain; the cost of housing is more affordable here and... well... sometimes happy memories of times and places are best left in the past.

Anyway, we have lovely Spanish neighbours here who we have known since we both bought apartments (well, theirs is a duplex) 12 years ago when the rush to buy was on. We regularly have conversations, although none of us speaks a word of the others' language, interspersed with sign language and a great deal of laughter. What shines through the language barrier, however, are their genuine natures and we have come to know them as lovely people. Every summer their daughter, who lives in Barcelona, arrives with her husband (who speaks Catalan) and children and,as she speaks English, a three way conversation starts up with her interpreting in the middle.

Last year we had external blinds fitted to the patio, the plan being to make another 'room' for general relaxing in and for me to write out of the glare of the sun which can be intense, particularly at this time of year. The job was completed quickly and as soon as the installers had gone (they also fitted the wall mounted rotary drier which Mike hadn't got round to) and the job was a good'n.  Five minutes later Carmen was round with a gift of fruit, six eggs and a bunch of mint. "Muy bien, muy bien" She was beaming with happiness for us. It was just a set of outside blinds on a small patio but her sincerity and genuine pleasure on our behalf brought a lump to my throat.

We hadn't been able to figure out her generosity at first. At least once a week she would come up the path with a plate of jamon or cakes along with an explanation of how we should eat or store it (Well, that's what we think she was saying). Of course we couldn't understand a word but nodded and interspersed with 'Si' at what seemed like appropriate times. We discovered that returning the plate the next day would trigger another gift of food so, as we didn't want to abuse her generosity, we would wait till we had a stack of at least four and leave them on their patio table with a note of thanks. However, as soon as whichever of us had returned and made it through the front door she could be seen coming up the path with another delicacy. We also tried returning the kindness with our own offerings but this only excerbated the flow of goodies in our direction.

Things become really confusing when my son and his little family arrive from Belgium each summer. Paul's wife, Ines, is Belgian but her English is very good. Liam, twelve, speaks both Flemish and English and the baby, Lio, takes direction in both languages. The difficulty is, Paul speaks fluent Flemish but, being proud of his roots, tends to speak it with a Liverpool accent which can be very confusing if you are Belgian and don't know and love him like we do. He also has some difficulty with English nouns now, having lived in Belgium for 15 years and often tries out three or four words of either English, Flemish or a combination of the two to make his point. Conversations can be hilarious with three of us interrupting him trying to second guess the word we think he's trying to convey. Eating out can be especially tricky with Spanish also added to the mix but we usually get there in the end.

The dogs, of course, being clever little Germans, are quick learners and have mastered the language thing with no problem at all. A tone of voice or command is the same in any language and if there is food, at treat or a cuddle at the end of it, they will respond.

Having that doggy instinct for knowing who the good guys are (if only we mere humans had it to the same degree!) they make a beeline for Carmen the moment they hear her voice and bound up to her for a fuss or a bit of whatever morsel of food she happens to have to hand.

Feeling positively ashamed of our lack of knowledge of the language of our host country, we are trying Duolingo. Its method of teaching by repetition is good (a bit like learning the times tables back at school) and I could now ask for a table for two and order a fish burger, should I ever feel the need.

The best,(perhaps the only?) way to learn a language properly is to immerse yourself in the culture and use the language on a day to day basis. We don't really have to here on the coast, most of our resident neighbours speak English as their native language, as do a lot of the shops and restaurant owners and it makes you lazy. Perhaps it's time for a move to a more 'Spanish' part of Spain - inland? Mmmmm ..... food for thought.

Speaking of which, I came across this recipe the other week which we decided to try and it is absolutely delicious. Ok, so it's not intrinsically Spanish, in fact it's a bit more Italian, but a bit of culinery diversity never harmed anyone- beware of the calories though, it's very filling so you don't need much.

Chicken in white wine with tarragon and mascarpone sauce

Ingredients (serves two)

  • 2 skinned chicken breasts                                                                       
  • 1 glass dry white wine
  • 350ml chicken stock
  • 250gm mascarpone
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh tarragon
  • 3 bay leaves
  • salt and pepper
  • 1tbsp olive oil

Method

  • Slice each chicken breast in half through the centre to create thinner fillets and season with pepper (no salt as chicken stock will be added later).
  • Add olive oil to a hot pan, add the chicken pieces, brown quickly on both sides, then add the wine, bay leaves and dried tarragon - if using.
  • Reduce the liquid over a high heat until the wine has nearly evaporated, then add the chicken stock.
  • Cook the chicken in the stock until the liquid forms no more than a thin layer on the bottom of the pan.If your chicken is very thinly sliced you may need to remove it before reducing the stock to avoid overcooking. Keep warm.
  • When the liquid has reduced sufficiently, lower the heat and add the mascarpone,using a whisk to incorporate. The sauce should be thick and coat the back of a spoon. Add the chopped fresh tarragon if using.
  • If you have removed the chicken, return to the pan for a couple of minutes, adjust seasoning and serve

We have served this with crispy potatoes and green beans but it is equally delicious with rice.

Buen provecho! Buon appetito! Goede winst! or just enjoy wink

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



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No.1 favourite doggy billet en route to Andalucia.
12 July 2018

It's only July but the drive back to the UK in October is already nudging into my thoughts. We live on board our narrow boat when in Blighty and the yearly trip to and from Spain takes some serious planning. The top priority being, of course, the dogs' comfort and safety.

Before we both retired, we flew over from Manchester to Almeria - ok if you've only got a shortish time in Spain - leaving Branwen and Breaca with my son (another dog lover) who lives in Manchester. I also flew over on my own sometimes to spend a few weeks working on my book. It's not easy to find the time, space and solitude needed to write living on a boat with two mischievous dogs - and our apartment, especially around the April/May months, offers all of that.

The first year we drove down with the dogs we took the ferry from Portsmouth to St Malo in France. The kennels were down a dark corridor off the car deck and the dogs looked seriously depressed. We were glad the trip only took 11 hours and made the decision not to take that route again. It was a shame as it was a beautiful drive down the west coast of France, through the lush green Basque Country and south through Madrid.  We stayed at the Hotel la Marine in La Rochelle overlooking the Old Port. We had a charming room and the dogs were made welcome but no parking. We learned very quickly that secure parking on site is a priority when travelling with dogs and personal possessions. A car loaded with luggage in a public car park or on the street shouts 'tourists' and is an open invitation to thieves.   

yesBranwen and Breaca always like to check out the views.    

  Next stop  Biarritz, in the Atlantic Pyrenees area of the French Basque Country with its echoes of the Belle Epoch and Art Deco eras jarring slightly with today's sunkissed surfers on The Grand Plage. It was very easy to imagine Agatha Christie sitting in her suite at the Hotel du Palais watching elegant couples sauntering along the promenade whilst she plotted her latest Hecule Poirot mystery. We stayed at the Cafe de Paris, overlooking the beach and with underground parking, which is awkward with a big vehicle, but better than no parkingat all. The dogs loved walking along the promenade, their ears, eyebrows and whiskers blowing in the strong atlantic wind.

A slight south westerly detour took us through Toledo for an overnight stay at the Cigarral de Caravantes and its amazing view of The Alcazar, a Roman palace in the 3rd century and now a museum, from our balcony. This was a superb hotel which had everything you could want for the furry traveller but has now changed management and, sadly, no longer accepts pets. From there, home to Almeria driving through Don Quixote country with its windmills and vineyards. I love the romance and mystery of visiting new places that I've only read about and, if I'm honest. I probably prefer to travel than to arrive. Mike, who is, to be fair, an excellent driver, insists on doing all the motoring himself and would probably have preferred to have put his foot to the floor at St Malo, arrive at Almeria 17 hours later, have a large whiskey and a fag and then fall asleep and snore. It must be a man thing ..... mmm wink.

We've also used the ferry from Plymouth to Santander which has kennels on an upper deck with an excercise area for owners to walk their dogs. The last time we did this route, however, the Bay of Biscay was the worst we had experienced it and most of the dogs were distressed and/or howling. Our two stoic sisters however were cuddled together and swaying from side to side in unison with each dip and roll of the ship like seasoned sailors. The drive down from Santander is straightforward and can be managed with one stop over but, unless you divert west to Zaragoza and south from there, it takes you through the ring road in Madrid where a lot of swearing and shouting at other drivers can often be heard from our vehicle.

Last year we tried the eurotunnel from Folkestone to Calais. The dogs get to stay in the car with you and the whole crossing only takes about 35 minutes. It's not as exiting as the ferries; you can't go to the bar for a drink or saunter along the deck breathing in the sea air and the only view you get is the rear end of someone else's car.  It's not the quickest route to Spain and probably not the cheapest, bearing in mind the toll charges, but the dogs are good road travellers and we get the opportunity to see the  different regions of France and Spain. We have a trusty 4x4  which accommodates us, the dogs and all their stuff, our stock of Alta Rica coffee which we can't get in Spain and all our luggage. We have 'near' luggage for our overnight stays stashed behind the front seats for easy access with my lap top and 'far' luggage, usually containing clothes that won't fit in the boat, wedged in the back behind the dogs. Oh, and a stack of Andrea Bocelli discs vying with Fleetwood Mac for time on the cd player.

As we now have a lot more time but are both financially dependent on our pensions we have had to budget significantly and so have opted for more rural (and much cheaper) stop overs. The upside of this being that they usually accept dogs and are set in their own grounds so parking and doggy walking isn't a problem. We haven't had a bad experience so far but our absolute favourite has to be the Casa Rural Morena just outside Ontinyent, about 4 hours journey from us so it's our first stop over heading north along the east coast. Augusto and his wife, the owners, are charming and attentive hosts and excellent cooks.

Last year was our first visit here on our way back to the UK and we weren't too sure what to expect. We left the dogs and luggage parked under a shady tree with the tailgate open whilst we went to introduce ourselves. We thought it only polite to address our host - in what was his own home- in his own language, so we went for it in our best Spanish as per google translate. The prelimineries over I thought we were on a roll so tried  "También tenemos dos perros." (We also have two dogs)

"Que?" Augusto's eyes narrowed.

"D-o-s  p-e-r-r-o-s." I enunciated slowly.

His eyes bulged and his jaw metaphorically clanged like something out of Tom and Jerry. "TWO PARROTS!!??"

At this point Mike, having seen the way the conversation was going, appeared in the doorway with Branwen and Breaca wagging their tails and all became clear. It certainly broke the ice and Augusto could be heard telling the story to the other (Spanish) guests at dinner - a wonderful affair served on the terrace overlooking the grounds.

Our room here was simple, spotlessly clean with a huge,safe, terrace for the dogs to run around and for us to enjoy the amazing view with a glass of wine....or two.

 Our terrace and view @The Casa Rural Morena

  Writing this has brought back so many good memories I have already booked in for this October.



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Death in Paradise and the German who needs his shepherds
28 June 2018

 

We often bring family and friends to see the large ships in the harbour at Garrucha waiting to load their only export now - gypsum. My brother-in-law, an ex merchant seaman, enjoys telling us which country the ships waiting to load in the dock are from and how the gypsum is mined in Sorbas and brought down from the hills via a fleet of lorries. All Interesting stuff.

The port is also home to a small fishing fleet and has around 300 moorings for leisure boats. We love to wander around the marina, daydreaming about which boat we would like when we win the lottery, before visiting one of the many fish restaurants dotted along the harbour.

The other day, Mike and I were doing our usual walk and fantasising about the boat we would choose to sail the Mediterranean when Mike decided to visit the Tabacos before we went for lunch. We walked up the steps from the harbour, passing fishing nets with their yellow floats spread on the ground and harbour workers sitting in the shade of some outbuildings enjoying a fag break. Waiting for him on a bench overlooking the harbour, I noticed something stuck to the heel of my sandal. It looked like soggy newspaper with shredded bits dangling from the bottom. There was something else amongst it though; something pink and wet glistening in the sun. My stomach turned over as I realised I must have trodden on the remains of a mouse.  I shot up off the seat and wiped my sandal on the grass underneath a tree next to the bench. Something white and shaped like a miniature dog biscuit landed in the grass...... it was a tiny bone.                                                                                                         

When Mike arrived back, we scraped the remains off the grass into the paper bag his cigarettes had been in and dropped them into a bin, all thoughts of having lunch gone. I just wanted to go home, have a shower and scrub my foot. Going back down the steps to the car on the quayside a sudden movement caught my eye. I looked down to see a tiny heart shaped face peeking out from a drainpipe, its green eyes wide with terror. A kitten. I grabbed Mike's arm and pointed. noticing that his gaze was drawn to something else on the ground. The half scavanged body of what we assume now to be one of the kitten's siblings was lying with its entrails splayed across the path. What remaining fur it had was grey, white and wet .A bit like soggy newspaper. The full horror sunk in; this must be what I had trodden in on my way up the stairs. I wanted to be sick. I also wanted to grab the terrified creature from the pipe and take it home. But what about its other siblings, if there were any left? We couldn't rescue them all so I'm ashamed to say that we did nothing.

I'm not a squeamish person nor am I naive to the dark side of life on the docks. I come from the Merseyside area of the UK and most of my family worked in shipping, either in the shipping offices on the Liverpool waterfront or in the merchant navy. I also subscribe to Darwin's theory of evolution (but not his views on womens' role in it I hasten to add!). I've just never had evidence of The Survival of the Fittest hanging from my foot before. Believe me, it adds a whole new perspective.

Feral cats are a huge problem here in Spain and there are some excellent charitable organisations working tirelessly offering rescue and neutering programmes and re-homing where possible. What can the rest of us do? I'm not sure. Donate cash? Volunteer in the catteries and kennels? Offer foster homes? One thing is for sure. The terrified face of that innocent little creature will haunt my dreams for a very long time.

 

                                                             ***********

 

A couple on the small urbanisation opposite ours have recently aquired an Alsation type puppy. A lovely little thing. Problem is, they leave it outside on the steps of their duplex when they go out. It's about 600 metres from us and we can see the poor thing  wandering up and down the outside steps over and over again and barking frantically at the front door for its owners. There are gates on each end of the staircase so it can't wander off and its owners appear to care for their dog in every other way when they are home, so how can they leave it to pine like this?

The strange thing is, our two don't respond to the constant barking. I guess they are able to distinguish an anguished woof from an aggressive one. They usually sit upright, their heads on one side, listening and watching through the window.

Ok; we leave our dogs sometimes when we go out and it's too hot to take them in the car. They are left inside in the cool with water on offer, the radio on and a window to nose out of. They have a routine. As soon as we leave, they head off into the bedroom with the toys that they sleep with and snooze till we get back. We know this because we hear them yawning from the bedroom when we come back up the path - and find their toys on the bed. The neighbours tell us that they don't bark when we are out which is a relief to know. Not only do we not want them to be distressed but we don't want to annoy the neighbours either.

Anyone thinking of moving out to Spain permanently should go for it. Don't hesitate. You will love the people, the food, the culture and the relaxed pace of life.  We have always had an excellent service from the vet in Garrucha and the dog groomer there is wonderful. Just be aware, though, that the Spanish, generally, have a very different attitude to animals that takes some adjusting to. It's 7am as I write this and already there is a pitiful howl coming from a dog in the distance; its owners probably having left for work.  You can either tolerate it or, if you find it too uncomfortable..... and if you are able of course..... maybe do something to help.

I wish we had.



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Loss of a friend and white spot on the geraniums
20 June 2018

We have been watering and dead heading in the garden of some friends who are, sadly, no longer here to care for their pride and joy themselves. Having retired; sold their house in the UK and made the permanent move to Spain, they barely had time to enjoy it before he passed away suddenly and she, unable to face remaining here without him, went back to the UK to be with family. A devastatingly sad situation but the one redeeming fact, if indeed there can be one, is that they had made all arrangements here in Spain for just such an eventuallity and she wasn't left having to arrange a funeral for her husband at a time when just getting through each day was difficult enough.

Not only have we been affected by the loss but our two dogs, Branwen and Breaca have missed their company and the treats on offer as they passed their house on their afternoon walk with Mike. The couple were always friendly and welcoming towards the dogs and understood their barking language,knowing that they were just saying 'hello'. Now when they go past their ears are down and they are uncharacteristically subdued..

No one wants to think about dying but this has left us with a huge question mark hanging over our heads. Of course we have made wills, both here and in the UK, but done nothing about funeral arrangements. It has always been something that we have put off - well you do don't you? However, I'm hitting the big 7-0 this year and Mike, although a couple of years younger than me, is statistically likely to go first. Where would I start? We did have life insurance but this expired last year and to renew it at our age is expensive and would only cover us until we were eighty anyway.

We have to do something soon. I don't want to leave my boys with the worry of 'what to do with the old girl', especially if I am out here in Spain. If it was just up to me I'd have a funeral pyre on the beach with Fleetwood Mac playing in the background but funerals are for those we leave behind so that's not going to happen. It's very sad, though, that it has taken the death of a lovely man to jolt us into action.

                                                                    *********

We've always had red geraniums on the outside sill of the bedroom between the window and the rejas. Last year, though, they developed white spots on the leaves and the plants started to look very sickly. We had no choice in the end but to replace them with other plants, making sure we changed the compost. This year we bought fresh ones from the local garden centre in Vera (always very reliable) and they have been fine - until now when I notice greyish/white spots have appeared on the leaves. I haven't overwatered them; deadheaded them regularly and removed any leaves clogging the bottom of the plants. I don't know what else to do. If I lose them again this year, I'm going to replace them with lavender. We already have some which is thriving in pots on the patio and, anyway, it's supposed to keep mosquitos at baygeranium

I was relieved to read the article in the Euro Weekly that the early arrival of the mozzies was due to the very wet spring weather. We have some quite marshy terrain around here so that won't have helped. I'm sorry for everyone else who may have been affected by the little blighters but at least I now know that it wasn't personal.



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Bliss in Bedar and 15 - love to the mozzies
14 June 2018

Castellon de Bedar terraceI spent a wonderful day last Saturday at Castellon de Bedar up in the foothills of the Cabrera Mountains. Mike had spotted an advert for a beginners' jewellery making course in the Almeria Focus magazine and I booked a place online, thinking it might at least take my mind of my mosquito bites for the day. I was so glad I did.

We were met by Shane, one of our hosts, in the car park at the top of the village and he walked us round the meandering streets (a short walk) to the Castellon where we met Clare, our tutor and mentor. My left arm was dotted with elastoplasts covering my bites (I know you shouldn't scratch them) but I don't think anyone noticed? There were seven of us altogether - five other ladies and a gent. None of us were sure what to expect but we were all blown away by the beautiful setting and the friendliness of Clare and Shane. Clare is an excellent, and very patient, teacher who was keen to share her own values and skills in making the twisted silver rings that was our goal for the day.

Morning coffee and homemade lemon shortbread biscuits were served by Shane who also provided us with a superb lunch on the terrace overlooking the rooftops of the pueblo and down to the coast - with Andrea Bocelli playing in the background what's not to love?

We finished off the day, all of us having made individual style rings to be proud of, with a glass of Cava on the terrace.(that's me on the left lurking behind the easel). Shane showed us round the b&b suite they offer which was beautifully furnished in Spanish boutique style with the same stunning views from the terrace. Dogs are not permitted, being in close proximity to the kitchen, so that rules us and our two little yappers out (shame) but it would be a perfect place place for visiting friends and family to stay to enjoy the ambience, superb food, great hosts, the view ........ I'm envious already.

Mike picked me up back at the car park and listened patiently to my chatter about my day and the interesting people I had met. Unfortunately, for him, I still had Andrea singing 'Melodrama' in my head and kept joining in with the chorus. It's only a thirty minute drive to where we are on the coast but I think he would have preferred it shorter.

Back at  home I was greeted enthusiastically by the dogs and Mike showed me his new weapon in our warfare against the mosquito and flying insect population generally. He'd bought a 'zapper' from the Chinese supermarket which looks a bit like a tennis raquet with batteries. We've found the only way to get rid of those annoying flies which continually nose dive parts of your anatomy is to hit them over the head with the tin of fly spray - just spraying it gets you nowhere.

I'm now going to bed with all the old favourites ... blue light plugged into the wall, the mozzie repellent spray, lavender oil on my person and the new weapon in the arsenal - the tennis raquet hidden under the sheet. On the first night, I sat bolt upright at the first high pitched wine and frantically waved the raquet around - my finger on the red button on the handle as directed. I'm not sure if it did anything as I still got one bite on my finger. I think it's more likely that the little buzzer slipped off the lavender oil than was swatted by my backhand, but only one bite has to be an improvement.

I'm now also looking for a cure for ear worms as I've still got Andrea and 'Melodrama' on a continuous loop in my head!



Like 3        Published at 15:03   Comments (6)


Barking mad.
06 June 2018

We have two absolutely gorgeous miniature schnauzers, Branwen and Breaca (Welsh names). They are seven year old bitches from the same litter and they are superb pets, loyal, affectionate, cheeky, inquisitive, cuddly and adorable.Dogs on sofa The only problem is, they BARK!  They bark at neighbours, family, friends, passing cars and people on the next urbanisation to ours just watering their plants.

We have had them from twelve weeks old. They came from a breeder in Snowdonia and we met their mother and siblings, saw them in their home environment, had all the correct paperwork and were delighted to take them home. Our previous dog, Scruffy, a bearded collie, had died two years earlier and we now felt ready to welcome them into the family.

I knew someone who had two miniature schnauzers and I liked their funny characters and the way they interacted with each other so we thought that having two from the same litter would be company for each other. And so they are. Problem is, once one starts to bark the other joins in and the the first one goes a decibel higher and so it goes on. They have a yap which is not only high pitched but echoes around your head like Big Ben at close quarters.

We love our dogs very much and can cope with the yapping but we worry about the effect on neighbours here in Spain who are in close proximity to us.A lot of Spanish people tend not to keep their dogs on a lead and any offending four leggers sniffing, or worse, in our garden get the full multi-decibel treatment.

We did some training in the UK  which was helpful, and were advised to use a 'pet corrector' spray which mimics the sound of a preditor and can be effective in some circumstances. But who wants to frighten their dogs? We certainly don't. We just want them to chill out and stop barking!  We have a very good dog groomer in Garrucha, Luis, who understands schnauzers. His view is: 'They are schnauzers ..... they bark .... it's what they do!'.

All we want is for everyone to love our dogs as much as we do.



Like 4        Published at 20:59   Comments (18)


The mozzie problem
01 June 2018

Last night was very strange.

I'd been aware for the previous couple of nights of a high pitched buzzing noise in the bedroom but we couldn't locate the cause. To be on the safe side, I plugged the anti-mozzie blue light thing next to my bedside table, sprayed myself with repellent and lavender oil and slithered into bed.  My partner Mike and the two dogs sleep in the second bedroom due to snoring (Mike) and wind (dogs) problems.

I woke around 6am with a row of stinging lumps stretching from my forefinger to my shoulder on my left arm, which must have been outside the sheet while I slept on my right side. The little buzzer had got me. I threw the sheet off and headed for the bathroom to apply bite relief spray before jumping back into bed, my left arm throbbing with pain.

Mike came in, the dogs trotting behind him, and we had our usual early morning tea watching the sun rise through the window. As the beams of light fell across the bed I noticed streaks of red had appeared on the sheet and pillowcase. Blood! The mozzie must have been draining my blood while I slept!  It was then that Mike noticed that my right hand was smeared red. On closer inspection, it seemed that my (red) nail varnish had somehow melted off and everything I had touched was covered in it. All we can think of is that there must be an ingredient in the repellent spray that zaps nail varnish.

It was a relief to realise that I hadn't been attacked by a killer mosquito but I still haven't got all the nail varnish off the bedding.



Like 2        Published at 23:37   Comments (2)


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