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Now living in l'Olleria, south of Valencia

Wednesday, 27 February 2008

Mi Familia

Well, here's one for the clever folks!! My first piece of written homework. Ironically, I missed the class where it should have been handed in, so if Tracey or anyone else wants to mark it for me. I would be delighted. I just hope you have enough red ink in your biro!

Este mi familia por la setenta cumpleaños mi madre en noviembre.

Al atras este mi madre, mi marido, mi hermano y mi padre. Delatre este mi hijo y mi hija.

Mi madre llama Hildegard y nacer en Alemaña. Mi padre llama Ron y tiene setenta y uno años. Mi hermano llama John y tiene cincuenta años esta año. El trabajo en un tienda de motos.

Mi hijos Timothy y Jessica tiene veintedos y veinte años. Ellos viven en Ingleterra. Timothy es tecnico de ordenador y Jessica es un receptionista en un tienda de coches.

Mi marido llamo Eddie y es conductor de maquina de terra.

El foto ester llevar un otra Timothy, de novio mi hija. El soldado, y tiernes veintecinco años.

It's a dogs life

As the scallywags have got taller, they have found new things to entertain them. Today, they suddenly discovered the hammock for the first time…

Also, they have now discovered that in the bathroom is a thing called a toilet roll. If they pull it gently, it gets longer… if they pull it hard, it comes off, and they can run away with it. Ed found out by default… “where’s the toilet roll?” hmmm, not even a tube in the holder… I can guess. Sure enough. All over the front garden. (Thankfully, there was a new one within reach!)

There's a hole in the roof

Actually, there are several! We’ve actually got the beams on already. They were delivered on Monday, and we managed to get them in situ today (Wednesday). Thankfully, the little Kubota was big enough to lift them into place, otherwise we would have had to call on a host of people to get them 3m into the air! I was very impressed that the delivery truck got around the back of the house. He only had about 2” clear on either side, between a large tree and the house.

We had a delivery of roof tiles and bricks this afternoon, and the delivery driver asked how we had got them up there. He assumed they would have been manhandled.

The long wall is up to height, but will be finished off with tiles, and then rendered. Once it is plain white, it will all look wonderful. Last week, I actually put some tea lights into the little holes, and they looked fantastic. They gave off a lovely glow. When the palm tree is there, and a few other plants, it will be very civilised.

Our biggest problem now, is the pool. It will have to wait a while before we can do anything to that, so we can’t lay any more slabs either. The dogs keep bringing sand and dust into the house, but at least it just sweeps back out again! Ed says it will be November before it is done!

Sunday, 17 February 2008

Hot Desk

At last, I've got a little office to work out of, rather than using the dining table.

Previously, when I was working, the puppies used to run around, and trip on the wires trailing around. This then led to panic on both sides! Me, chasing the dogs and shouting at them not to run off, so that they didn't cause any damage anywhere, and the dogs running away, frightened because they were wrapped up in cables and there was a mad woman shouting at them!

Really, this room will also have a single bed in it at some point, when I spot one in the paper. The desk came from an advert I spotted. It was in a village just 10 miles from here. As usual, it was the classic, 'meet you at the edge of town, you won't find my house'. We followed the lady for miles down country roads. She lived in a beautiful house, with her mum and baby daughter. Her father had passed away last year, and her sister a few years earlier. When I looked at the desk, I noticed some folders in the cupboard. I mentioned them, and she quickly cleared them out - apologising as she also removed the 2 urns containing the remains of her sister and father.

Tree Fellers

We had a huge pine tree, right next to the house, which was actually leaning towards the house itself. Worse than that, the roots of the tree seemed to be on top of rock, rather than stable in the ground, so it had to come down.

There is an ex-pat in the area, known as ‘Tree Darren’, who does everyone’s trees. However, he hasn’t got a digger! Ed simply pushed the whole thing over, so that the roots were ripped out of the soil, sawed off the trunk, and then picked up the roots, and shook the soil out, ready to chainsaw the whole lot up, for the fire. (Then we encountered the normal problems of getting rid of the highly flammable brash!)

Everyone here has a name to identify them, since no one has a proper address! There’s; Curry Mark (because he cooks a good curry), Electric Ian, Carpenter Joe, and a host of others. I don’t know, but I guess we are; Ed the Excavator!

A Grand Entrance

The front porch had horrible tiles on it. Before I knew what was happening, Ed was ripping the tiles off, ready to replace them.

The slabs that have been laid, will also go alongside the house to the back, and all around the pool area, including inside the pool-house.

We haven't chosen a new colour yet for the house, so for now, the hideous pink remains!

This porch is on the north side of the house, but is open to the west too. Late in the day, the sun goes on to this area, so we have a nice little area, perfect for a book and a bacardi.

Rome wasn't built in a day

We’ve decided to build a pool-house. As the property at the bottom of our garden has pruned their trees to within a few inches of the ground, our pool area is now quite exposed. We plan to put in a long wall alongside the pool, for privacy and neatness, and then include an open fronted building at the end, for a covered eating area, which will also include a bbq and a sink area. At the back, will be a small en-suite; toilet, sink and shower.

Ed has taken up all of the hard standing around the pool, and dug out the foundations. We have called in Petir the Bulgarian (who helped with the pine needles) and one of his friends. Unfortunately, they can only work at weekends, as they have other work elsewhere, so the job is taking a while to complete! However, this gives us time in the week, to get supplies in for them; blocks, sand, gravel, cement etc.

They certainly do things differently here. Breezeblocks are laid face down, but with the bottoms knocked out, and then rods inserted, and the whole wall filled with concrete. This is because Spain is an earthquake area. One thing is for sure – next time we have any huge floods, as in September, our pool and garden will be fine! All of the rain will be diverted to the back of the garden where any damage will be minimal.

For the toilet outlet, Ed has built another cess pit. Here, they are all natural ‘decomposing’ pits. Basically, a deep hole, with block built sides (with big gaps) and a solid top. If you are lucky, the top will have a lid on it, so you can make sure it’s ok, if you need to, otherwise, the pit will be somewhere in the garden, never to be discovered, unless you are really unlucky!! (Ed has put a top on the new one, so we can dispose of the dog poop hygienically.)

As we have had some rain this week, they are a little behind schedule, but really, we are very happy with their work.

Friday, 15 February 2008

Scallywags Playing

Here are 2 videos taken in January, of Max and Paddy in the garden. Oh yes, and Ed too!!

Sadly, the cute bandana collars are too small for them now, so we've had to give them normal chains. Need to go shopping and buy them some proper bandana's of their own - after all, they are Spanish!

Playful Puppies

I've now discovered that I can upload video's onto the blog, so how about this one!!!

How cute? Needless to say, this is when we first had them. (24th November 2007)

Poorly Puppies Perk Up

Well, the good news is… they will both be ok. Sort of.

(See the Nasty Creepy Crawly story)

On returning from the vets on Monday evening, Paddy was so ill, we really thought that he would die. He constantly drooled, and couldn’t stand up. We tried to force feed him cold water, but he simply ran away, very distressed. We tried to hold him still, and wipe his mouth, but it was obviously painful for him. In the end, we just left him.

Ed spent the night on the settee, keeping an eye on them both. Finally, at around 3am, Paddy got himself up, and tried to have a drink. His tongue was so swollen, it simply fell out of his mouth like a piece of liver. He couldn’t drink. Again, at about 6am he tried, with little success. At least he was getting himself around.

In the morning, Ed fed them with a special food from the vets. Very high nutrition and calories – especially for recuperating animals. Thankfully, they managed to keep it down. A little later, Ed then fed them ½ tin of puppy food, which they also kept down. At lunch time, I gave them a handful of biscuits, but Paddy was sick. This was obviously too much.

By the end of Tuesday, Max was much better, and Paddy was showing signs of making a good recovery. By Wednesday, we felt like fraudsters. Both dogs were bounding around as though nothing was wrong – although they were sleeping a bit more than previously.

Today (Friday) was D-day. What does the vet have to say? Well, we duly waited outside, for 5 pm, and this time there was only 1 person in front of us. When she saw us, she asked “Good?” we nodded and waited for our turn. Then came the hideous moment. As we sat and waited, Paddy yawned, and both Ed and I saw what we had been dreading. Paddy’s tongue was discoloured at the tip, and curled up, dying. We both looked at each other and felt sick. It hadn’t been like that earlier. Necrosis.

We wnet is to see the vet, and she looked at Paddy first. She saw his tongue, and explained that he would lose the end of it. ‘Does it need to be cut off’ we gestured? No, it would simply dry out, and crumble off. Nice. Thankfully, it is only the tip that has been affected, not the sides. Max was fine. They need to continue with their antibiotic tablets, but otherwise they are ok. She was very pleased with them.

I can’t believe that such a small creepy crawly caused so much distress.

Monday, 11 February 2008

Nasty Creepy Crawlies

Well, as Ed has said earlier, all of the flora and fauna here wants to either sting you or bite you.

One of the things everyone has warned us about, are the “Processionary Caterpillars”. The moth lays it’s eggs on the south side of pine trees in the summer. The ‘worms’ eat the pine needles and live together in a nest, containing up to 300 of the little blighters. They come out at night and feed, then in the daytime, the sun warms up the nest, and aids their digestion. In the beginning, it is very hard to see the nests, but as they get bigger, the nest grows, making them easy to spot. On misty days, the moisture clings to them, and then you seem to be able to see them everywhere.

The worms grow into caterpillars, which have long hairs, which secrete a very nasty toxic substance. If children get it in their eyes, they can go blind for a while. Animals too are badly affected. Needless to say, having lots of pines, we checked out garden regularly for nests. Sure enough, we spotted 2 in our garden, and one overhanging from next door. Ed cut the branches off, and poured diesel on them and set fire to them. Even doing this, you have to be careful not to inhale the fumes, so nasty are they.

When the caterpillars are ready to leave the nest, they all march together, nose to tail, (hence processionary) and climb down from the tree, travel along the ground, until they find somewhere nice and soft to bury themselves in, in order to pupate into moths. This is when they are at their most dangerous – on the ground, where anyone can encounter them. We haven’t seen them marching, but, they leave a trail of toxic ‘slime’ wherever they have been.

Sadly, today (Monday 11th Feb) the puppies must have encountered a trail. They were fine at lunchtime, but this afternoon, Paddy was slobbering, and very ill. Max soon started slobbering too. A quick dash to the vets was in order. They weren’t yet open when we got there, but we were 3rd in the queue. However, the staff obviously knew this was a poisoning issue, and we went in first, as soon as the vet arrived. She took one look at Paddy’s tongue, and confirmed that it was ‘processionary’ poisoning. The poor things could hardly stand up. They had both been sick in the car, and cried while we were waiting to go in. The vet gave them 2 injections (anti-inflammatory and antibiotic) and a supply of pills. They have to go back on Friday, in case they get necrosis of the tongue, and lose part of it. They can’t swallow anything. They can’t even drink. We have to squirt cold water into their mouths.

They were both sick several times on the way home, and again in the evening. Hopefully, they have got rid of a lot of the toxins. Paddy is very quiet, Max at least is able to lick his mouth. Tomorrow we have to hand feed them small amounts of mashed up food, using a syringe. They are likely to be ill for the next 3 days.

The worst part is, we haven’t even seen where they picked the toxin up from. It was obviously in the garden, but we only have 1 nest (too high to reach and destroy) and that is still intact. They must have come from a neighbours garden, and crossed through ours. Next year, we will pay, and get everyone’s garden around here sprayed. It will be about €50.

Friday, 8 February 2008

The biggest bonfire in the world

It seems like quite a claim, but Canals, a small town only 5 miles from here had an entry in the Guiness Book of Records, for having the highest bonfire in the world. Not to be outdone, Rio subsequently took the record off Canals, but nonetheless, this was a tempting fiesta to visit.

Well, we popped along (with some neighbours) but there was no sign of anything outside the town. Sure enough, this spactacular afair took place right in the heart of the town, in a tiny square, right outside a church!

As we rounded the corner, into the square, there was a huge construction, looking and smelling like a christmas tree. A VERY TALL christmas tree, with orange branches at the top. This thing was huge. I couldn't beleive that it was going to be set on fire. Further examination revealed that all of the houses (very) nearby had special aluminium shutters over their windows and doors - and of course - the fire brigade were standing by! (That's ok then.)

At 9pm, the church bell rang, everyone shouted something I didn't understand, and then the fun began: People had been throwing sheets of paper around, and now we could see why... those nearest the 'tree' lit their paper on the firecrackers that were set off after the shouting, and, as the paper caught light, they pushed it into the tree. (So much for H&S stand 30 ft away.) Needless to say, the pine branches quickly lit, and within moments, the base was ablaze.

Now the fun started. As the tree began to burn, everyone at the front tried to get back. However, the square narrowed to a street, and there was a temendous crush as we were all forced back. The heat and smoke were tremendous, but most of it went straight up to start with. Then, it bagan to be blown towards one side. The firebrigade simply doused the buildings that were in danger and left this huge fire blazing.

It was very impressive. We watched for quite a while, and then, as the oranges finally caught light, everyone cheered. We managed to squeeze past on one side to get out, but then I felt someone brushing my jacket... Sparks had come down on me, but our neighbour had seen them, and brushed them off before they singed my jacket!

Great fun. Will go again next year!

Bull Running for Beginners

Ontinyent, a nearby town, have a bull running event in December. This one is strictly for those of a nervous disposition. The bull's horns are covered in special leather 'gloves' with balls on the ends, to minimise damage, and the bulls are also held on a rope, resticting their movement. Well, that's the theory anyway!

In reality, it is the crowd that bring on most of the energy. Thousands of people, flocked into a few streets, surging backwards and forwards away from the bull. Terrifying and exciting all at once. There were local video camera's set up, and it was possible to watch it live on screens in the bars, so you knew whether or not it was safe to get out of the bar, or better to stay there.

We saw a few people (being assisted by marshalls) who appeared to have hurt their arms (one looked as though it was broken) and we saw one unfortunate elderly gentleman knocked to the floor by a bull. He couldn't get away, because of the crowd behind him. Afterwards, he seemed to be ok, but he was obviously shaken.

The atmousphere was amazing. Once you realised how 'safe' it was, you mentally thought you could get very close to the bull, but in reality, when confronted by a fully grown bull running at you, capable of anything, your 'fight or flight' adrenalin kicked in, and it was difficult to think straight.

Many people had gone in small groups, wearing matching sweatshirts and bandana's. Young and old, male and female, it really was spectacular.

¿Hablo Español?

Well, at last I’ve started going to Spanish Lessons. They do 3 classes per week. Monday; vocabulary, Tuesday; Grammar, Thursday; Conversation. At the cost of €15 per year.

My first visit was terrifying. The classes are aimed at everyone who needs to speak Spanish, so the teacher only speaks Spanish. The classes contain people from England, China, Morocco, Bulgaria etc. I felt absolutely drained after ½ hour, but I still had 1 hour to go!

I’ve only been going to the Tuesday and Thursday ones so far, but now I don’t feel too terrified when going into shops, where I might have to speak. Indeed, recently, I managed to order 6 pallets of breeze blocks and a pallet of cement, all to be delivered. (Easy? Not when your house doesn’t have a name, and your road doesn’t either!!) But, I must have done it right, as they all turned up next day, as arranged.

The classes run from October to May, so I missed the first few months, and it shows. However, everyone is in the same boat, and no one laughs when you say something wrong, so I am enjoying it. I will repeat the course again in October, and I should get a lot more out of it next time.

I feel bad when I watch people squirm as I try to explain what I want, but generally we all get there, and then there are smiles all ‘round! Only once have I had to resort to “yo returno con uno amigo que hablo Español” my version of “I will return with a friend who speaks Spanish”.

John (brother) has also told me about the BBC Language courses on the net, which are really good.

Poco poco (little by little)

Max and Paddy

In November, we took on a couple of abandoned pups.

Primarily, they are Bernese Mountain Dogs, but they seem to be crossed with something alsationish! They are great fun. Lovely natured, and very curious, they now seem to be turning into little theives. They go into the bedroom and steal shoes. Into the spare room and steal teddies. Into the garage and steal tools... Last week, a T-shirt disappeared off the washing line, 3 days later, Ed found it in the garden.

We have builders in at the moment. Last night, gloves and tools were safely stored underneathe the upturned wheelbarrow. This morning, gloves are gone, subsequently spotted in the garden!

Both are boys, so no worries about puppies.

I could tell many stories, but those with dogs will know half of them, and those without won't want to know. Ah well, there will be more pictures in due course!


Both big bedrooms are about the same size. At the moment, we are in the north facing one, looking at the front gate, but we will we swapping to the other in the future. Just need to tile the floors, before moving all of the furniture!

All White

Well, I know it’s typical for the British in Spain, but I’ve painted all of our rooms white now. The rooms only have small windows (with the exception of the dining area) and don’t let in a lot of light. This is to reduce the heat coming in in the summer – however, that means that we have to have the lights on a lot of the time. The rooms were all decorated in mottled dark colours. Very trendy, but not very us.

The paint in Spain is very strange!

When you put it on the walls, it seems to have very little pigment. In fact, it is hard to tell where you have just been. Then, as it dries, it develops a tacky stage – touch it at your peril… you think you have missed a bit, but it turns out to be a translucent tacky spot and… presto… all of the layers of paint in that spot are promptly removed, and wrapped around your roller!!! I slowly learned that you have to do 1 layer of paint, wait a day (and look for any spots to fill) then cut in, wait another day, do a second layer, wait a day, cut in again (bound to have missed a few bits) wait another day, then, if you are lucky, the 3rd coat will be enough. Phew. 1 week to paint a room? It was a bad do, if it took me 2 days before.

Snow Good

When we went to pick up the new cooker, we encountered snow falling at the highest point. By the time we returned, there were cars with swathes of white on their screens. Thankfully, we didn’t have any, but it was certainly in the papers. The next day, we happened to visit a nearby town, just inside the Costa Brava border (10km from here) and the mountains there were capped with snow.

They didn’t mention this in the brochure!

Let's get cooking

How to cook in Spain: If you live in a new build, you have a built in cooker, if you live in an older house, you cook outside. Apparently.

I needed a cooker. We had procured a calor gas one for a while, but it was easier to use the barbeque on a daily basis. Only one ring worked properly, and the seat on that meant that the pan got so hot, everything in it burned. The oven was used only one, and it took 1 ½ hours to heat up a pizza from the fridge (and that burnt on the bottom)!

I actually wanted one with a ceramic hob (easy to clean) and a separate oven and grill. Hmmm. Not in Spain. We looked everywhere. Beautiful built in units available but all with single ovens, or normal cookers – with single ovens. In the end, we ordered one through the well known ‘catalogue’ store, and arranged for our removal company to bring it out to us. This was fine, as we also had a few other large items that we wanted shipped out. However, we had to travel to Alicante to actually pick them up. Not too bad, but it turned out that we had to meet the wagon at 7am, so we had to leave at 5am!!

We picked up the goods, along with another person awaiting their delivery, and brought it home. A few minutes of unpacking and fitting of plug, and I had a cooker. Yipee. A quick trip to the shop, and I had all of the ingredients for my first proper Sunday dinner in months. A few hours later, there I was watching in glee, as the chicken and potatoes turned golden brown. Sitting on the settee, I could smell the dinner wafting through, then suddenly ‘bang’, ‘crash’ and the sound of shattering glass. Oh no. Either the ceramic hob had shattered, or the glass door on the oven. We raced to the kitchen, to be greeted with the sight of smashed wall tiles al over the floor. Three of them had simply popped off the wall, hit the fridge, and shattered all over the floor. Further investigation revealed that a few more were loose, so we pulled them off, and settled down again. A little later, another pop and bang and several more had shot off the wall. We decided that the kitchen had never been so warm and the expansion of the walls had caused them to come off. Oh well. I didn’t like the tiles anyway.

The Estufa Story

One of the things that sold the house to us, was the beautiful open Spanish fireplace. Not to bothered about the attached shelves, but a lovely open corner fire. However, as winter approached (not helped by the terrible flooding during September) we realised that a true open fire does not really heat up a room. We tried one, and the walls got lovely and warm. So warm in fact, that it was impossible to have anything near the bedroom wall, (one the other side) without the fear of spontaneous combustion taking place. Equally, the terrace was now well heated, by the 150o external wall. Not quite what we had in mind. Evidently, what we needed was some sort of contained fire.

A visit to friends in Andalucia revealed the existence of a cast iron, corner stove. I want one. I coveted their stove so much, they took me to the shop that sold them, the problem was, we had gone to visit on the motorbikes, making it impossible to buy one (and get it back). It was quite some distance, so a future visit was not a good plan – there must be somewhere nearer home that sold them. Mustn’t there…?

Well, I think we visited every fireplace shop within a circumference of about 40 miles – and that’s quite a few towns and villages. The bigger shops had swanky stainless steel ones for over €2,000 and the little shops had fire grates for €100. Corner one’s seemed to be anathema. Finally, we found one, at the right price, not to far away. I had made up an ‘Estufa Buying Kit’ by now, which consisted of a brown paper pattern of the floor, including measurements, plus a photo of where the fire was to go. We showed the sales man where we wanted the fireplace, and he smiled and said “no”. It would be impossible to get it into position. Slightly deterred, we went home again, and made a full scale mock-up of our hearts desire, and thied to get it in place. He was right! The angles needed to tilt the fireplace made it impossible to fit. Time to try again.

In the midst of our travels, one salesman had told us, that the little feet on all of the cast iron fireplaces could be removed. This suddenly opened up more possibilities, of one’s that we had seen, that we thought were too tall. Finally, we went back to one of the first shops we had called at (typical) and selected the fire, using the usual combination of hand signals, pointing and smiling. “Esta” that one covers a multitude of requests. This was followed by a flurry of apparent understanding. Then, for some reason, we found ourselves following a little chappie out of the store. As he beconed us to follow him, him got in his truck, and we were to follow him too. Where and why was beyond us, but he was smiling and insistent! Duly, we drove out of town, around the back of an industrial estate, where it transpired that our shop kept their store of fires, the one’s in the shop being display models. Aha. Carefully, the chappie moved an assortment of fires, until he got ours. Then, he simply fork-lifted it on to the back of our truck. We then selected the necessary pipes to go up the chimney – one black, the others galvanised. Then, we left the industrial estate, and Ed said, with a smile, “Shall we turn right and go home, or left and pay for it?” Indeed, the whole transaction took place, without any money actually changing hands. Just like being in a bar for the evening, the exchange of money seemed to be outside the social aspect of the agreed sale. Needless to say, we did pay!

When we got home, Ed unpacked the whole thing, and took it apart as much as possible. Even then, it was still extremely heavy. Then, disaster struck, just as he lifted the casing off the truck, it slipped, and there was a ‘pop’ as the glass in the front smashed. Oh dear. We carried on putting it in place, and then had to return to the shop, to explain our predicament. “Uno poco problemo” a little problem; we needed a new glass for the door. “Es no problemo” said the man. Then, ignoring us, he asked the little chappie if the door was ok when he gave it to us, who couldn’t tell, as it was wrapped in coloured cellophane. After a few minutes, the little chappie got a screwdriver, and removed the glass from the showroom fireplace, and gave it to us. Problem solved.