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Now living in l'Olleria, south of Valencia

Thursday, 31 December 2009

Playpen / Paddling Pool?

Since the rain of a few weks ago, Max has discovered his own personal paddling pool. Paddly still won't go into the pool, following his fright when he fell in, during the construction of the steps.

Max, on the other hand, runs up and down the steps with abandon. At the moment, just as we wonder where he is, we hear splashing and realise that he is having fun in the 8 inches or so of water. All well and good, until he decides to jump out of the pool and come for some fuss... oh dear!

Latest Visitor

We now have a little man swinging from the plum tree. Ed knows I like individual and unusual items around the place, so he made me a one-of-a-kind ornament. The man is welded rigid, but he swings freely on his chain. I was absolutely thrilled. Now we need to find a name for him - probably Paco, as that seems to be the most common name hereabouts!

Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Rebels Yell

On Sunday night, lots of us met up at the bar Uni.K to celebrate Christmas and New Year together. It was a lovely sociable night, with lots of people singing on the karioke and some people dancing.

Best turn of the night - definately Mark and Joe, singing Billy Idol's Rebel Yell... (also on youtube)

Happy Christmas

This year, we have had to have a real Christmas Tree! All of my decorations including the artificial tree are stored in the garage, but recently we have had a furry intruder set up home in the corner where everything is stored. He has left his little messes everywhere and shredded up some of the Christmas things, so I have had to do a bit of a review.

Ed has now bought a rat-trap, but so far, he has eaten all of the cheese put out for him, whilst evading capture. The dgs know there is something there, but they haven't got him yet either.

Still, we had a nice quiet Christmas at home, with John.

We went to the pub at lunchtime, which was nice, as there were lots of people there that we knew. Last year, the Christmas Day menu wasn't very inspiring, but this year it was much better. Maybe it is something to think about for next year?

As we left for the pub, Ed shut the door and said' have you got the keys?' No. Followed by a minor panic as we figured out how to get back in! Then, as we left again, I accidentally let Max out, who then promptly ran off for a walk around the woods. Paddy and I waited, while Ed and John chased him down. They caught him once, but he managed to run off again! Finally, nearly a hour late we got to the pub!

Still, the extra time meant that the turkey was well done.

There was one other problem... I had decided to make individual Banoffee Pies for pudding. I had done the base, and the caramel (ready made Dulce de Leche) then put the bananas on; John offered to whip the cream... but I had bought the wrong cream - it was slightly sour, for cooking, not sweet, for puddings! (Good job I had ice-cream available on stand-by) Oh well - everyone had eaten so much, we didn't want pudding anyway!

Snowed In

While I was in England, I got a concerned phone call from Ed, that the snow in Spain was so severe, many of the roads around Alcoy were blocked, and the pass we use to get to Alicante was dangerous.

I had to make a few phone calls (in Spanish) and he was right, the pass was dangerous even at 20 kph, so for him to pick me up now meant a very long drive, going a different way, to avoid the high peaks! Very kindly, one our our neighbours accompanied him, even though my flight wasn't due to land until 11pm. (In fact, it was delayed, so we didn't get home until after 2am)

The following day, there was still lots of snow on the mountains, and it stayed for about a week.

Christmas in Uttoxeter

Good old Ryanair. Cheap flights - cheap service, you get what you pay for - nothing!!

I found a cheap flight for December, which enabled me to nip back and celebrate Christmas with the family in England! It was almost as cheap as the postage was last year, just to send back lightweight token presents!

I had a day shopping with Jessica, which was lovely, and a day at Alton Towers Spa with my mum, which was wonderful too. We celebrated Jessica's first dinner party in her new house, with a lovely dinner, finished off with 'Eton Mess' for desert.

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Hedge Hacking

A little while ago, I suggested to Ed that one of the fron flower beds be removed. After some thought, he agreed with me. Subsequently, we also agreed on removing the hedge alongside the drive. Why anyone would plant 20 feet of hedge along a 100 ft driveway is beyond me. Needless to say, it looked lost and forelorn.

However, one excavaor and 1 hour later, and not only the hedge had been removed, but also the brick built flower bed. The drive had been levelled and the gravel re-distributed.

We now have a double parking area at the front of the house, and the area allocated for a car-port is ready for when we win the lottery (so we can pay for it!).

Little Beastie

The slabs for the patio had been bought so long ago, that there were lots of creatures living in between them. Many of them had multiple legs, but a few of them had only 4!

Jamie managed to catch 2 small gheko's, as they were quite cold, so not too lively. Needless to say, we put them both in a new safe home. They must be the reason why we don't have many spiders in the house here. (I don't like them in the house - but I like spiders even less.)

Happy Chappies

I like this one - We went for a stroll around Xativa on Monday. Ed wanted to show Jamie the 'belen' in the Avenue, but it wasn't finished. Never mind - we made up for it, by having a chocolate caliente con flautas. (Hot thick chocolate, with pastry sticks to dip in.) mmmm yum yum

Practically Perfect Patio

Ed and Jamie have done really well, and have pretty much finished the patio.

Well, to be honest, the patio IS finished, and so is most of the floor inside the poolhouse. Now, all that is left, are the cuts around the sides and inside the shower-room. Even the toilet is in place, although not plumbed in yet. (Ed has put an old towel in it, so I don't think anyone will use it by accident!)

The whole thing looks really lovely. The night time photo is a little bright, as there is no cover on the light in the poolhouse yet, nor are the blades to the fans screwed on. Once the final cuts are done, and the joints sealed, then the final touches can be put into place.

Pleased? That doesn't even begin to say how happy I am - both with the project itself, and the quality of the finish!

Saturday, 28 November 2009

Older Boys, Smaller Toys!

On the outskirts of town, and not well known about, is a small race track for remote controlled cars.

Although small (by its very nature), the course is well equipped, with a control tower for the operators, a pit lane, repair benches and an office for the race officials. There is even a camping area, for the National Races, with toilets, bbq area etc!

The guys take their sport very seriously. If the 'spotters' didn't see a car which had overturned, there was almost a riot, until it was turned back! The spotters had a very hard job - jumping into the middle of the track, without landing on another car, but at the same time, hoping not to get smacked on the legs by another car.

These things were petrol driven, about 3.5 bhp, and were doing about 60 mph. Not bad, considering the size of the track.

The 'Final' was about 40 minutes, and we noticed that the operators were getting tired, as there were a lot more crashes nearer to the end.

Dressing Up Time

When we were in Cocentaina recently, I managed to get some photos (through the window) of the costumes worn by the Moors and Christians during the big parades.

The costumes are 'one size fits all', much to my suprise. Many of them lace up at the back, or sides, and then have the cloaks draped over the top. In general, one or two people from a fila (troupe) go to the store and select which costumes they would like. They may choose 2 or 3 costumes, depending on how many there are in the troupe, and then, just in time for the parade, the costumes are collected (say 10 of each).

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Ferrari Day

Ed and Jamie have spent the day at Cheste circuit today, to watch the 2009 Ferrari World Finals.

It was only 20€ to get in. Not bad, considering it was 25€ to buy a mug! They didn't come back empty handed - as well as the photos, they got a free newspaper!

Call to Order

I can't believe that I have actually attended a Town Council Meeting - in a foreign language!

One of our neighbours came and told me that there was a meeting on Wednesday at 8pm, to discuss the poor state of our road (or at least, that's what I thought)!

He wasn't able to contact Monica, but as I could get her on the internet, I offered to do this for him. All I knew, were the basic details, but I thought that she would find out more, if she needed to.

At 8pm, most of our neighbours were waiting patiently inside the Town Hall. Apparently, there were a series of meetings that evening, for each street that was badly maintained. When it was our turn, we went into the main room, where 2 councillors explained the situation. There were some 30 roads in need of repair, and not enough money to do them. Just like back in England.

Since our road had been tarmacced in the past, the council accepted responsibility for it, and acknowledged that they should pay for the repair. The cost would be just over 7,000€. The council were not prepared to pay this, as the rates received from the few houses in the street did not cover the costs. They would, however, pay half, if we would pay the other half.

Unfortunately, of the 10 plots of land on the lane, 2 of them belong to people with no houses on the plots (just scrubland) and 1 belongs to a very old couple, who have only visited the house once in 3 years. Needless to say, they have no intention of paying anything. There are only 3 houses fully occupied (including ours) and one of them does not want to pay. We are not prepared to pay over 2000€ for everyone else's benefit. Oh well - it could be another 2 years before anything happens!

In the meantime, Ed will simply go on filling in the pot-holes when necessary! (I must admit, we seem to have no through traffic any more!)

Big Step

To my absolute delight, Ed and Jamie have been laying the slabs. Ed has finished the big step off the terrace, and the area around it.

It looks beautiful, with the risers being made of the same slabs as the steps themselves. I have put a big plant pot on the corner, so that it is easy to see where the step is, as it is so well done, that after a few sangrias, it might not be noticed!

At last, we can walk out of the house, without having to walk on the dirt in the back garden, or the dogs bringing the dirt in.

(I think it looks great - Ed just thinks it's a big slabbed area - Builders eh!)

Plumbing the Depths

At last, the plumbers have been, and installed the pump, filter etc into the pool. Ed dug out the trenches for the pipework and all they had to do was supply the bits and bobs, and connect them up.

The hardest job, was for the drilling of the 3 points for the jets that push the water towards the skimmers. It took ages, as there is so much re-inforcing in the pool. At least now we know how well built it is.

The crew were really nice. A German owner, an English salesman, A French plumber and a Spanish labourer. Everyone spoke a little of each language and there were no problems at all. By 5 pm they had finished and Ed was able to start back-filling.

The next day, he and Jamie relaid the pool floor, so that we have a good surface ready for when we can tile it.

Fancy Seeing You Here

I got an email from Tina, saying she was in Spain on holiday, about an hour or so from us. That was as good an excuse as any for having a trip to the seaside. We had a nice day out, then headed off for her urbanisation. A combination of sat-nav, map and written instructions, and at 5 mins to 7, we were just 5 minutes away from them (allegedly). Perfect. Follow the road signs up the hill to the estate, and there was the information centre, as described. But, it was on the right, not the left. Hmm. Follow the instructions, but something seems wrong. Go back to the information office and try again. No. Something very wrong. Ring Tina. Voicemail. Try again. No connection. Go back to information office and call again. Success - sort of, but my phone ran out of credit before we had finished the conversation! Use Ed's phone, but it's ok - she's on the way... It turned out that the urbanisation is so large, there is an information office at each end of the estate, and we (of course) were at the wrong one.

So, we arrived rather late for a lovely barbeque with her and had a great time. We told her about the market at Cocentaina, and sure enough, we met up again (twice) amongst all of those people the next evening.

All Saints Day

1st November is All Saints Day in most of the world. (Preceeded by All Hallows E'en) In Cocentaina (a small town near us) every year there is a huge market. The market can actually trace its origins back to 1346, so the event is still held in Medievel style.

As well at the stall holders, the stalls themselves are dressed up, and the streets are lined with flags and banners. It is a wonderful event, filling up most of the streets through the town.

It is so well organised, that everything is zoned. The original medievel area is in the old town, with craft stalls, artesan foods and lots of staged events. Then, there is a separate food section, with cheeses, hams, olives etc (all local produce). There is also a funfair, a trade area (cars, tractors, fireplaces and anything commercial) and the usual market stalls that you would expect anywhere. In the middle of it all, is an outdoor food court, with huge barbeques, baked potatoes, crepes etc.

We arrived at about 5pm, just as the stalls were re-opening after the siesta, but before the crowds had arrived. As we strolled around, there was lots of shouting.. Just behind us, four medievel guards were escorting their squire and his maiden through the market, and making everyone get out of the way. As they passed us, the squire saw a cheese stall, and insisted on stopping, and sampling the wares. He was very loud about it, making comments on the cheeses he tried. When he was ready to move off, one of the guards had disappeared, and there was a big argument, as he was punished for not paying attention to his duties. All great fun. Later on, we encountered the same group in the main square. They had aprehended a robber and were administering his punishment. Sadly, my Spanish was not quite up to understanding his final sentence, but they took him off with lots of noise and fuss.

We spent about 5 hours wondering around (including eating out)as we were so lucky with the weather.

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Jamie at Xativa

We took Jamie to Xativa castle, but this time much later in the day than usual. It was lovely to see the sun setting over the mountains, although it made taking pictures much harder! (Thanks Tim, for the ISO advice!)

The lady at the reception advised us that we only had 1 hour to walk around, so we quickly scurried right up to the top. On the way back, we met some French people still climbing up. Hopefully they got out, before the gates were locked a the end of the day.

In the summer, a group of Russian tourists didn't hear the 'closing' announcement and were locked in. They had to call the police, who then called out the key holder, but they were trapped there for several hours, before they were released. The annoucment is in many languages, but Russian is not one of them! That said, it is only a 5 minute warning, which is not a lot, for such a large castle.

Afterwards, we went for a stroll around Xativa, which was really nice, as the weather is still so pleasant.

Horses for Courses

There was a lovely display of local horsemanship in town on Sunday. First of all, they all did a little tour around the town, and then each of them did a turn on the parade ground (wasteland/carpark!).

Some of the traps were beautifully prepared, with both horses and owners wearing their Sunday best. They demonstrated how good their horses were at turning tight circles and some of them could even go backwards, pushing the traps in reverse.

Afterwards, the single horses showed their skills. I don't know much about horses, but it was lovely to see the skill of both horse and rider. In Spain, a great deal of respect is shown to horsemanship and one or two of the riders were obviously very well skilled. Horses were riding diagonally, as well as backwards and showing off with there clever steps. Yes - they could go forward too!

One of the riders was our next door neighbour. He is only about 10 years old and had some trouble with his horse. It seemed to be frightened when everyone clapped. He got quite cross with it, and seemed very upset, but to be honest, taking his age into account, I think he did very well. We congatulated his grandad when we left, and hopefully our message was passed on to him.

Friendly Bikers

On Sunday 25th, there was a huge parade of old motorbikes and cars. Up to 1,000 vehicles take part in the event, doing a tour of 5 or 6 villages and towns in the valley.

Based on the usual aspect of everything Spanish running late, we got there at about 10:15, just as they were all about to depart. Apparently it is one of the few things that actually runs on time! I must remember that next year.

As we got out of our car, a firework went off, indicating the begining of the event. A few moments later, something hit me on the head. I assumed it was the rocket from the firework! I shook my head, but there was something stuck in my hair. The stick from the rocket must have got caught! I ran my fingers through my hair and quickly realised that this was no rocket - there was a huge brown grasshopper on my head, swinging on my hair. It was at least 12cm's long. I shook it out, but I was too shocked to scream! Yuck. At least it wasn't anything slimey.

The parade began, but much to my suprise, the vehicles all left from the top of the street, even though it was one-way ~ the opposite direction. As quickly as we could, we made our way to the top of the hill, but many of the bikes had already left by then. Thankfully, we had seen a lot of them on display in the town the day before.

There were allsorts. Old Bultaco's, Derbi's, Ducati's, an old BSA, lots of scooters, and several that I didn't recognise. Then, there were lots of older cars, including a London Taxi! I'm sure they had a great day out.

Fun Fair

The fun fair has been to town again. There always seems to be some excuse for a fiesta - and whyever not?

The funfair was the same format as last year, including the layout! It was fine for the children and teenagers, but was not really something for older 'children' or adults. The real donkeys were there too, walking in circles again.

There were the usual market stalls, selling mostly handbags or scarves. One of the houses in town has converted their underbuild into a haunted house. It is 5€ to walk around, and get scared to death. Apparently it is really good. There are people dressed up, and madmen with chainsaws lurking about! There was a really big queue when we went past, so we didn't go in - maybe next year. (Maybe not!)

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Ball Boy

Nice one! The dogs had someone else to throw the ball for them! Tim was quite happy to oblige pretty much all day - the problem is, now that they have gone back, Paddy keeps wanting the ball to be thrown, and we get bored with it after 2 hours!


Tim and Lauren have been over again, for their second visit. This time, I thought they should do the cultural/touristy thing.

We took them to Guadalest for a day out. The weather was a bit grim when we left, but thankfully cheered up nearer the coast.

I think the highlight of the day was the sweet shop!

(Shorts and sleeveless tops, in the middle of October - can't be bad!)

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

New Toy

We had a visit from a spanish chap recently, who wanted to buy a new motorbike. He realised that they were a lot cheaper in the UK, so used us a go-between. On Sunday, his new toy finally arrived...

(Ed was NOT very happy about having his photo taken, sitting on a Honda!)

Busman's Holiday!

There is still lots to do here in l'Olleria, but I spent 3 days re-decorating for Tim and Jess (with lots of help from Nanny and Grandad).

Now, they only need to finish off the living room, and the smallest bedroom. Thankfully, the kitchen is in quite a reasonable decorative order, although short in cupboard space.

One more cut of the lawn, and all will be in order for the winter.

Birthday Tea

Tim invited everyone to join him for tea at Franky & Benny's. It was lovley to see his school friends again - just like old times! I had bought him a game of 'Chav Top Trumps' for a laugh, and they were all thrilled and played just as they did when they were all little!