About Us

My photo
Now living in l'Olleria, south of Valencia

Monday, 31 March 2008

Lickle Puppies

As you can see, the little puppies are fine. Well fed and nurtured!!

It's hard to believe how quickly they have grown. The day we brought them home, they both climbed under the passenger seat and huddled there together. Now, they can't even walk under the coffee table any more. They sleep outside at night, and, in fact, even go out at the end of the day, and put themselves to bed. Little angels.

The Wall

Well, our wall is really coming along!

They are working away at the rendering, but it is taking longer than I thought. It has to be built up in layers, so that it does not crack. As they put each layer on, they spray it with a fine mist of water, so that the blockwork draws the excess moisture, before the render starts to dry out.

The finish is lovely. Very smooth. I just wish it was actually finished, so I can paint it (then put the plants in, then the ... etc) All in good time.

Saturday, 22 March 2008

Spring has Sprung

Well, it's still March, you guys in the UK have got snow forecast for the next few days, but it is officially Spring.

Today, we came back from the supermarket and I saw our first open cape daisy. The biggest one I've ever seen, nearly 3 inches across. A quick trek round the garden and I got these photo's. The only thing we haven't got, is daffodils.

Thursday, 20 March 2008

La Fallas – Xativa Style La Gran Crema

We spent the evening in Xativa strolling around, having coffee, and looking at the Fallas, trying to figure out which one was going to burn next. We would hear the roar of fireworks, but by the time we had figured out where the noise was coming from, we had missed the action.

We met up with some other people, but they didn’t know what was happening next either. Next year, we will have to go to the tourist information office they day before, to find out the order in which they are being burned!

We did work out which one was being lit last, which was the ‘best’ one. This was due to be lit at 2am. In the end, six of us sat at a café opposite the town hall, fireworks being lit all around the town, both by tiny children and organised pyrotechnicians. It was very noisy. In time, the large fallas next to the town hall was getting ready to be lit. We were in a prime position, sitting at a table, glasses full, a few yards from the action. Excellent.

Then, unexpectedly, the grand firework display of the evening took place directly over our heads. This was on a par with the firework displays at Alton Towers. Huge cascades of stars, rockets, screamers, bangers. Everything went up, and we had a grand view of it all. Perfect. The only scary bit, was when one of the firework carcasses, still alight, fell down and landed on a table just 2 rows away from us. One set of fireworks even exploded with lovely shapes in the sky, a heart, a diamond and something else. (Maybe a bull, but I couldn’t work it out!) Everyone cheered at the end, and then we stayed put to watch the falla near us get burnt.

Now it was 2am, time for the Gran Crème. The great cremation, or grand burning. The street leading to the biggest falla was packed. Then we realised that actually, there were spaces in the crowds and it was possible to get to the front. We duly wriggled through, and ended up just one row away from the firemen. One of our group made an observation – the average age of the people at the front was 17, and the average age at the back was 68. We were possibly in the wrong place!! However, we stayed and watched as the streetlights went out, the fireworks were lit, explosions emanated from everywhere within the falla and the whole thing caught light. Fireworks continued to erupt, and the firemen doused the highest flames, to stop them lighting the buildings just a few feet away. At that point, we realised that we were being covered with debris from the falling fireworks and ashes. I had patches of grey soot on my face as well as my clothes.

Health & Safety? Heck, why spoil anyone’s fun? In fact I only saw 2 policement during the entire evening.

La Fallas – Xativa Style El niño

Well, we have heard terrible stories about getting back from Valencia, so we decided to go to Xativa for our first visit to la Fallas. The first lighting was due to start at 9pm, with the lighting of the children’s fallas. We duly left home at 8ish, expecting huge crowds. We managed to park ok, on the outskirts of the town centre, and strolled into town. Although busy, there was no where near the level of crowds that we expected. Not knowing where to go, and no crowds to follow, we bimbled our way to the Town Hall.

Sure enough, by ¼ to 9 lots of people started to arrive. All the pretty Fallas Princesses arrived, and lots of photo’s were taken. It wasn’t too crowded, which was a great relief. Suddenly, someone started moving the barriers further back, and we found ourselves right on the edge of the goings on. Ed and I looked at each other, with the same thought… “were we now in the perfect position, or the worst one?” We had no idea, but stayed where we were. The man busied himself, and now we could see exactly what happens. A string of fireworks is wrapped around and around each fallas and an accelerant of some sort poured over it. The string of fireworks was then tied to a lamp post, right next to us.

As this was a children’s fallas, it was little by a young girl, in a beautiful golden dress. The lit wick was passed to her, and she lit the string. All hell broke loose! The firecrackers lit, leading to the fallas, and then round and round the sculpture. Flames, sparks and smoke everywhere. Fireworks took off and lit the sky, and the sculpture started to burn. Music was blaring away, and as parts of the structure fell, everyone cheered. In no time at all, it was well alight. The little girl was crying. It transpires that each fallas is made by a ‘club’ or social group and so much work goes into them, that the girls often cry, as a year’s work goes up in a few minutes.

As we stood watching it burn, we heard fireworks going off in different streets, as other children’s fallas were lit.

Monday, 17 March 2008

Health & Safety? Que?

Why do the English bother with all this health & safety malarkey shipped in from Brussels? What do you need scaffolding for? Why use a fork truck to get supplies where they're needed? This is the way to do it.... Ed says, if Christa aims for Petir's head or his privates, Petir will catch them!!

Sunday, 16 March 2008

Quiet Sunday Lunch?

I don't know, you go out for a quiet Sunday lunchtime drink, and suddenly get surrounded by people throwing fireworks, ladies and gents in fancy dress, bands, tv crews etc etc... What a fabulous place.

La Fallas

This is the most famous festival in the area, drawing people from all over the world. The festival takes place over about 2 weeks, (with 4 days of intense festivities) always ending on 19th March, with the burning of the Fallas. There are many events, from parades, pagents, offering of flowers and the Mascletá (separate post). The Fallas symbolise the carpenters celebrating the coming of spring, by emerging from their dark workshops, and being able to put out their lamps. When they emerge, they bring out their old unwanted wood, ready for the new work. They also got rid of any rags and set fire to them all.

Now of course, splendid sculptures are made out of papier mache on a wooden frame. There are built by various neighbourhoods, over a 12 month period, and only the best one is saved. All of the others are burned. The best one’s actually go into a Fallas museum. The fires all take place on 19th March, with the little one’s being burnt in the evening (niños) and then the bigger ones at midnight. Some of the constructions are huge, up to 30ft high, and right in the middle of the streets and squares, in among the houses. This year, it was very windy last week, and as some of them were being put together (the come in sections and are completed on site) the wind took some of the sections and smashed them. The artists were crying, as they desperately tried to piece them back together. 12 months work, damaged in a moment.

In Xativa, is a smaller version of the Fallas which we looked at today. The sculptures will all be burned on 19th too, but the attention to detail is just as meticulous as the main Fallas.

Also, bizarrely, for these 2 weeks, it is permissible for small children to throw fireworks. The rest of the year, it is against the law! We saw tiny children, who could barely throw, with the little paper bombs of crystals that you can buy in joke shops. Even at the age of 2 or 3, they knew to stamp on them, if they didn’t pop. One boy, aged about 10 or 11 put his cracker in a glass bottle, which exploded. Not very clever – but I’m certain Tim would have done the same. No-one told him off. His granddad just told him to do it further away from the people drinking their coffees.

I’m certainly looking forward to next Wednesday, whether we manage to get to Valencia, or simply watch it all in Xativa.

Las Mascletá

As part of the ‘Fallas’ activities (culminating on 19th March), every day, at 14.00 there is a huge firework display in Valencia, in the town square. The main point of the display, is the noise, not the light, so doing it in the daytime is not an issue. When you go, the recommendation, is that you put your fingers in your ears, but open your mouth, otherwise your eyes will blow out with the pressure!!

So far, we have not managed to get to Valencia, but in Xativa, there is a smaller version of the same festivities. Today, we went to town, and enjoyed the spectacle. There are Fallas Princesses all dressed up in their traditional costumes and bands.

I know the video picture isn’t very good, but if you turn your sound up, you will get some idea!

Day on the Tiles

Well, we’ve had a bit of a hiccup with the roof. Our fault in a way. There wasn’t enough fall on the roof, for the water to run off properly. Although the fall was 600mm over the length of the building, the way the tiles sit on each other, this turned out not to be enough. Thankfully, Christa had the sense to tip a load of water on the roof after he had laid just a few rows of tiles. The water poured off to start with, but as the pressure lessened, the remainder ran back.

Rather than take the whole roof off and raise the beams, Petir spent a week adjusting the levels with struts and bricks. This saved us a huge sum of money, as we would have had to replace all of the bardo’s that had been laid and concreted into place. The cost of his time would have had to be paid anyway, dismantling. Late this week, Christa came back, and finished putting the roof on. He has also put one row of tiles at the front pointing downwards, making a lovely finish.

Now, they have to finish off the long wall, which will be much easier. Once that is done, then they will render everything. There will be two coats of render. A base coat, and then a skim, made up with white cement, to give it its pale finish. This means that we won’t have to paint it for some time.

Petir says that the rendering will be very quick, but there is so much of it, I think it will take a while. We are very pleased with their work, and happy to recommend them to anyone. Whenever we come up with another idea, Christa finds a way to fit in with our requirements. I just wish that I could speak Bulagrian! (and Spanish)

Tuesday, 11 March 2008

Cosy Kitchen

When we moved in, there was no door from the lounge to the kitchen, only a door frame. In all reality, that was absolutely fine. However, once we got the puppies, it was a different matter all together. There was no way I wanted them creating havoc in the kitchen. Simple solution, put a bit of hardboard across the door. Just tall enought to keep little puppies out, and adult legs to step over.

Fine for a while, but of course, now the dogs have grown. Modifications required, before they cotton on that they can simply jump over. Ah, it's wonderful being married to such a 'handy man'. Ed has built a lovely stable door. We can keep the dogs out, but not be cut off from the goings on elsewhere in the house. Absolutely perfic.

Darling Dogs??

Here is a picture of the two little bookends. All sweet and angelic.

However, their newest trick, is to remove the washing rom the line. Unfortunately, to do this, they have to jump up, bite and pull, until the item they want comes off. This is the remains of a full load of washing, before we discovered what they were up to...

Agghh - They're Back

Ed was doing his daily patrol around the garden this morning, and found these - the source of all of our problems with the dogs. (Well, not all of them, just the nasty ones.) These are the dreaded processionary caterpillars. Much smaller than I thought, and quite hard to spot. There were 15 of them making their way to soft ground, ready to bury themselves and pupate into moths. Bit of 'gasolina' and a match - problem solved. Hopefully, that is the last of them.

Late Night Visitors

Well, it must be warming up at last. The first of the geckos have started to appear. This little chappie is about 5" long, and very brave. Ed put his finger within a few inches of his nose, and he didn't run off. It is not a shadow by his tail, there is actually a split in it. He must have had an encounter with something nasty.

Friday, 7 March 2008

Wind in the Willows (pines)

Returning from a windy trip at the seaside, I found the car trying move on the road, as it was soooo windy. Each time we passed a gully or ravine, the wind tore through. I was glad we hadn’t gone out on the bikes. I was also glad, not to be driving a lorry, there must have been many blown over. As we not nearer home, there were small branches down on the roads, and debris all over the streets. Some of the branches were quite big and I was grateful that there were already down, and didn’t fall on us. As we reached our gates, we were greeted by 2 scared dogs. The whole drive was covered in small sticks and fallen pine cones. The dog bed (a single duvet) had managed to get blown from the back terrace, and was now wrapped around a palm tree on the front. A patio chair from the front terrace was now on the middle section of the garden, but round the back. Even our large barbeque had been blown over on to its side. There must have been a small whirlwind.

We got the dogs in, and there were obviously grateful, and promptly curled up inside the quiet house! We walked around, and picked up what we could rescue. My lovely lemon shaped coasters were in the garden, but the matching placemats are no-where to be seen. Sorry mum, I think they have landed in Morocco. I raced about shutting all of the windows, but something kept banging. Eventually, we realised that it was the door to the attic. Ed had to climb up in the wind, and fit a new lock, before it got damaged. The wind had even blown the lens cap off Ed’s telescope, which he found 2 days later, in the pool!

Watching the Spanish news that night, we discovered that actually nearly all of Spain was on an either yellow or red weather warning, and in fact, the snow in the north caused some terrible problems. There was even snow south of us (Alcoi), but we didn’t see any.

Thank goodness we had taken down the pine tree that overhung the house. One thing is for certain – that’s the end of the pine pollen!

Rip off Britain, Spanish style

We popped over to a nearby seaside town, as we had heard that there was a decent ‘English’ shop there, and there were a few things that we wanted, that are not available in the normal Spanish shops. We knew roughly where the shop was, and wondered around in the wind, looking for it. After a quick phone call, we found the shop, albeit with a different name!

It was a bit like a small Spar shop. Limited range, inflated prices. We picked up a couple of things, blackcurrant jam (only blueberry in our Mercadona), Branston pickle, gravy granules and some packet mixes. Just as we were going to pay, Ed spotted some snicker’s bars, so we had 2 of those. The bill was nearly €15. Crazy. The price they charged for 40 PG teabags was €2.40, but they are only €1.95 in the supermarket (and I bet the manager laughs at the profit he makes at that rate!). As we left, Ed mentioned a shop called ‘Quick Save’ and the girl said where it was.

On our way to the other shop (which was the one we were really looking for) we ate our snickers bars. I bit the first mouthful, and thought that it didn’t seem to taste the way I expected it to. No English chocolate for so long, was my memory failing me? No, it just wasn’t right somehow. I checked the wrapper. It was out of date, by more than 4 months. Ugh. Still, it was chocolate, so I ate it!!

After a short stroll, we discovered the other shop, and found it to be much the same. Slightly less pricy, but not somewhere to do your weekly shop. Another €15 on nothing much. A quick visit to the nearby Mercadona, and we got 4 bagfuls of shopping for €20. That’s better!

Sunday, 2 March 2008

Woof? Woof woof!

I think Max is learning to talk. Put your speakers on for this one.

When he is playing with Paddy, he sometimes has a very strange growl, that seems to intonate in different ways, just as though he was actually saying something. This is not the best example, but the only one I have on record... for now...

Shout it from the Rooftop

Yey. We have a rooftop!! There is still much to be done, but the boys have put the 'bardos' on the roof. It is all cemented and ready for the tiles - one row already on, to work to.

I'm not sure how long it will take them to tile the roof, but then they need to tile the long wall too. After that, it is a simple case of rendering the wall. We will use white cement, so that the wall is naturally white, only needing a coat of paint 'as and when'.

The chap who will be doing the pool came around today, so at least now we have got an accurate budget for the pumphouse and pool hardware needed. (As well as the tiles, labour etc.)

I think I need to buy another lottery ticket!!!!!!!!!!!


Last week, in the local paper, was an article recommending that those suffering from asthma ensure that they have enough medication, as the pollen from the pine trees was due. This was something that diddn't apply to Ed or myself, so I simply dismissed the article.

This week, I understand the implication! As Ed drove out of the drive, with the digger, the cab of the machine touched the branches of our pine trees, and a huge cloud of yellow/green pollen wafted out. In the week, as the delivery truck left the back garden I saw it again, as his cab touched the trees. On Saturday, we had a little breeze which was enough to send clouds of pollen everywhere. I had never seen anything like it before. Everything is covered in a fine film of yellow/green dust. Sweeping the livingroom results in a pile of coloured dust, rather than the normal pile of dirt from outside.

Looking at next doors garden, we could see swathes of dust. We then looked across to the bottom of the mountain (covered with pine trees) and the whole of the mountain was covered with a smog of pollen. (Jamie - don't come over in early March!)

Apparently it is not this bad every year. Everything is covered. Cars, slabs, patio tables and chairs, even the ground is a strange yellow green. It is very fine, and simply blows off everything, but there is so much of it!