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Now living in l'Olleria, south of Valencia

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Flown the Nest

Well, it was a good job I checked out the baby swallows yesterday. This morning, I noticed a swallow sitting on a beam, even though there were 2 flying in and out of the poolhouse. I tiptoed down to see, and there were 2 babies on the beams, and 2 still in the nest.

Ed and I spent a lovely morning watching them. Play stopped work! As the adults went in and out, there were also other swallows encouraging them out. Then, I spotted one of the babies fly from one beam to another. After a few minutes, it flew back again. There was lots of encouragement from the adults, and finally, first one, then another flew into the great outdoors. Much to our delight, the first place they chose, to get over the shock, was the satellite dish on the side of the house. This meant that we could simply sit in our chairs on the terrace, and watch them. They sat and preened and demanded to be fed while the adults tried their best to get the other 2 out of the nest. Finally, number 3 came out. He too landed on the dish.

It was a bit like living in the Hitchcock movie “The Birds” as we were surrounded by swallows. Some were calling the last baby, some were feeding the new fledglings, and others were just protecting the new family. It was lovely to watch. At one point, there were 7 adults and 3 babies. It is a little hard to tell, but the babies in the photos have wide, white beaks (to encourage feeding) and shorter tails. They are also still a little fluffy.

As I write this, the 4th baby is still in the nest, but perched on the edge. We suspect it may stay there until this evening, as it is now so hot, all manic activity is put on hold. I feel quite honoured to have been able to watch these events so closely. I hope they stay for a day or two, before flying off for good.

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Back to Work

Well… we have been waiting for a Spanish chappie to build a stone wall for us. He came and checked out the job, and gave us a price. He promised to get it all finished by the end of May. We wanted the current stone wall tidied up, a pump house, a set of stairs building, then the wall extending and curving around the walnut tree, and tapering down to ground level. Then came the rain. I realised that he would be pushed back, but we were promised that the work would get done in June. More rain. We chased again. And again. Then we heard that he was in hospital and would be off for at lest another 3 weeks. This brings us into August and in Spain, no construction work happens in August. So that takes us September, but we have plans for September and October, so that takes us to November. In the meantime, we can’t get on with the pool, as it depends on the pumphouse being built.

Stalemate. Well, no. Ed has decided to DIY. We have cancelled the stone man, and got in a load of blocks and sand/gravel. Ed only picked up the sand this morning, and already there are 3 courses of the pumphouse down. He is much happier, as he has something to get on with, on the days that he doesn’t have any paying work. The only problem, is that is it is very hot, and he hasn’t got used to the Spanish way of waiting until the cooler hours before working. Still, as long as he only does a few hours each day, he should be ok. There are 2 big bottles of water in the fridge, and he can jump in the shower at any time to cool off if it gets too much!!

Sitting Tenants

Today, I managed to get another picture of our baby swallows. They are much bigger now, and even have feathers. I don’t think they will be in the nest much longer. In the photo, you can see 3 of them, and if you peep into the poolhouse, 3 little heads try to hide. There may be another one in the nest, but I didn’t climb up high to see. (Ed keeps telling me off for disturbing them!) And yes ~ these are the babies, not the mum and dad.

Naughty Doggy

Ed went out late the other day, to sit on the terrace. Paddy was asleep in his basket by the door, but Ed couldn’t see Max. He wasn’t in his basket, nor on the terrace. Then, to Ed’s amazement he spotted him… sound asleep on top of the table!

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

Girls on Holiday

The day after our Valencia Tour, we returned to l’Olleria. Alison had picked up a hire car, ready for Tina and I to join her in Andalucia. Sadly Tracey could not join us, as she had to return to her family. However, we were able to get a few more hours together before we parted company for the next 12 months!

It was a long drive to Alison’s holiday home, and we missed the supermarkets by the time we got there, but she had the basics in stock, such as fresh water and wine. We were able to go to a local hotel/restaurant for a meal in the evening, so that was perfect. The next day (Sunday), after chilling out for a while, we went into the local town for some supplies and a coffee, and then had a tour of the area. This is the land of ‘little white villages’. Tiny houses clustered together, always painted white. Really beautiful landscapes, and delightful villages. This area of Spain has the highest mountain, and it is possible to ski here in the winter. In fact, even though it was July, we could see a little snow on the top of the Mulhacén (3,482m high). We stopped at Tevelez, the highest village in Spain, famous for it’s air dried hams (and beautiful hand-woven rugs). We then travelled back through the Alpujarras, the area made popular by the book ‘Driving over Lemons’, which inspired many people to try the easy life in Spain.

The next day (Monday), we had a day at the beach, before stopping at a bar on the way home. In this area, tapas are served with every round of drinks ordered. We bought one round, but got chatted up by a local Spanish man, who bought us 2 more. By the time we had ordered coffees, there was no need to cook any tea, as we had eaten enough! Alison and I tried out our Spanish and both of us admitted, that we were nearly fluent, by the time we had had our third drink!!!

Tuesday we had to drive back up again, but we were able to break the journey with a visit to Tracey, still in La Zenia, and catch up with her children. It was a lovely stop, but over all too quickly, as she had to go to the airport.

It was lovely to see them all again, but thank goodness for technology, enabling us all to keep in touch, wherever we are.

Girls And The City

Every year, even though we are scattered over the globe, several friends of mine meet up and we have a lovely meal out and a catch up. The four of us have known each other since school, more than 30 years!

Last year, we realised that it would be my last in the UK, so we all agreed to meet up in Spain. The original idea, was a weekend in Barcelona, but, nearer the time, we decided on Valencia. Even though it is only ¾ hour away, Ed and I have not really been there, with the exception of trips to the airport. Tina (from Swindon) was already staying with me, and Tracey (from Hong Kong) was staying in La Zenia, near Torrevieja, so she drove up on the Friday, and then the 3 of us went to meet Alison (from Stafford) at Valencia airport, for our adventure.

I drove around the mad Spanish streets, with Alison shouting directions! We had the sat-nav on, but it was so manic, the it wasn’t always easy to figure out which turn I was meant to take. At one point, there were 8 lanes of traffic going one way, then all splitting off, just like when the Red Arrows do a display! We finally found the street, with the hotel in, but couldn’t figure out how to get in to their underground car-park, as we had approached from the wrong direction. However, Lady Luck was on our side, and I spotted a parking spot, right outside the hotel. (The Westin, Valencia)

We soon booked in, and decided to chill out, with a lovely drink in their private courtyard / garden. The waiter brought the 3 g&t’s and a light sangria (tinto de verano) and left the drinks menu on the table. Alison picked it up, and went white! 14€ each. No more drinks in the hotel then!

We strolled into the old part of town, and viewed the beautiful old buildings. We stopped for a coffee outside the main cathedral, which was a much more civilised price! Then, we spotted an open top bus, doing tours. It was only 14€ each, so we jumped on. I have always thought that this is the best introduction to any city. Although only an overview, it gives you a good insight of the layout of everything, and then you know where you want to go back to. The tour lasted about 2 hours, and as well as the old town, it went down to the new developments including the Art Centre and the Oceanagraphic building. We all had headphones, so we could listen to the commentary as we went along. I did think it was rather funny… here we all were… having travelled so far to be with each other, sitting on separate seats in a bus, with headphones on, ignoring each other!

After the bus trip, we got off where we had started, by the cathedral and discovered that a wedding was about to take place. We watched all of the people and commented on their dresses. Most of the ladies were in full evening dress, which is normal, as the celebrations go on right through the night. Some were absolutely stunning, and one lady, with a figure to die for had a fish-tailed gown on. (One lady looked a fright, with a strange blue and pink chiffon creation, that looked like a Walt Disney dress-up costume.) When the bride arrived, we spotted all the little bridesmaids and pageboys. So sweet. The bride had a fabulous dress on, and hers hadn’t creased in the car, unlike Princess Diana’s!!

We found a tiny bar, and had a drink and a selection of tapas. (Small plates of different dishes, common in bars instead of a fixed meal ~ tasters) This turned out to be a good move, because we got lost on the walk back to the hotel! We bumbled along for a while, but all wanted a drink and a sit down. Finally we found a corner shop and got some cold drinks. Poor Alison bought a pair of flip flops, as her feet were so sore, from walking around in high heels! We finally found the hotel, and did a quick change, but it was now really late.

We went back in to town and had terrible trouble finding somewhere to eat. Everywhere was full. We finally found a lovely bar down a side street, that was happy to serve us, at 11:30 in the evening. The food was great, and they didn’t hurry us up, even though we were the last to leave. (They had even put away the outside tables around us!) We strolled back to the hotel at about 2 am, in need of a good night’s sleep.


The Boys find a Bug

Ed spotted a huge stag beetle, climbing out of a hole in the ground this morning. We called Paddy over, to have a look at it, and he soon started digging! However, by the time he had finished digging it out, he had split it in half. He just stood and looked at it. It didn't work any more! Normally, he runs around them, and barks at them. They are that big, I'm sure he expects them to bark back!

The new Tenants

The swallows have been flitting back and forth feeding their babies for several days now. It doesn’t take long for them to fledge, so we thought it was time to get a picture (since we didn’t get the baby blue tits). Ed had to climb on to a platform, as they hid themselves each time we went into the poolhouse. In the picture, you can clearly see how big they are, it’s a wonder they don’t fall out of the nest. Ed thinks there may be 5 of them. Hopefully, this time, we will actually see them trying out their wings, before they disappear.