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Now living in l'Olleria, south of Valencia

Friday, 22 June 2012


Once again, Xativa hosted a Borja's Re-enactment in the centre of town. Thanks to a quick message from a spanish friend, we found out in time to see it all.

We parked near the bull-ring and strolled along the Avinguda towards the main square. Like last year, the square had been converted into a medieval town scene. Straw all over the floor, tents everywhere with assorted armies and workers plying their trades. Birds of prey, horses, bulls - all very entertaining.

We walked around into the old market place, which was an eclectic mixture of artesan stalls. The smells of the different cheeses from the stalls in the narrow streets made your mouth water. Sadly, the prices make your eyes water too, not in a good way! We gave them a miss.

I did see a small item I fancied, and just as I finished buying it, the man with the geese walked by. It made my day. I'd wondered where he was. I would go there just to see him. This time, he was talking to them as he walked through the busy narrow pathway. They were waddling along behing him very happily. Maybe he was saying, "if you don't keep up, you'll be spit-roast tomorrow".

We didn't eat there this time, but did have a drink in a cafe overlooking the activities. The atmosphere was wonderful. At least this year, the weather was dry and warm, so everyone was enjoying themselves without having soggy hems on tunics or jeans!

Couldn't Find It

Someone has placed a geocache on the far side of our valley, on the north side of Benicadell - the highest point of the valley.

Off we went today, to try and find it.

It wasn't too far away, but I set the sat-nav to get us as close as possible, up the right lane. Then 'Jane' told us to take a right turn, up an unpaved track. No, I said to Ed, this isn't the right way. Yes it was! We finally managed to turn around and go up the track.

Up, and up. And up. The track was quite good, although it was unpaved, and wound it's way around the back of the hill, before comming out into our valley again. The views from both sides were amazing. Finally, we encountered the lodge near the cache, and parked up. A short stroll and we were at GZ (ground zero).

And that was that. Zero. We searched for ages, but we couldn't find the cache. Although it was a small one, we knew what we were looking for, but it eluded us. I'm going to keep an eye on this one now. Either the person that placed it will update his information, or someone will find it. Then, I'll go again and have another look for it.

All was not lost though. We went the back way over the mountain, on to the motorcycle museum at Guadalest, and had a wonderful menu-del-dia in the restaurant next door.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Time to bug you two

It must be the time of year, but recently, we have had several rhino bettles again. We didn't get many last year, but we have in the past.

These things are so big, you can't be frightened of them. It's not as if they are creepy, or slimy or fluttery. They simply fly into the side of the house (evidently not very agile) and simply crash to the floor.

They are pretty dopey having just crashed, so it is easy to pick them up and put them somewhere safe, ready to recover and fly on.

It's a Small World After All

It is always sad when a plan doesn't come together.

My friend Tina got married at the end of May, but I wasn't able to go to her wedding. Alison had been invited to another family wedding on the same date, so instead, Tracey went in our place. And? Well, it's just that Tracey lives in Hong Kong!

As she was in europe, I arranged to meet her in Spain!

This isn't as mad as it sounds, as she used to have a property just south of Torrevieja and her parents still do.

I remembered how to get to the house, so drove down the new motorway, past Cuidad Quesada where John used to live, and through a couple of toll booths. Then I hit little England! Every second car seemed to have English plates on it, and of the remainder, many were other nationalities. My Spanish car seemed to be the odd one out!

As I arrived, Tracey's dad was just going out - apparently, to buy me a cake! When he got back, we all had coffe and cake on the terrace. Tracey was wearing a lovely neckless, which I was rather upset to see. She had turned 50 just shortly before, and Alison and I had chosen some jewellery for her. We found a lovely Swarovski necklace and matching earing. Guess what she was wearing? Oh dear. I've had to arrange for the receipt to go back to the UK and Tracey would take the gift back to her sister, so Alison can exchange them at some point. At least it shows that we chose something she liked!

After coffe and cake, Tracey and her daughter Christina and I went to the local beach. It was bliss. Not too hot, and a little overcast, making it fine for sitting in all day. There was a little beach bar, and some well kept toilets, so there was no need to leave the beach at all.

The sea had some really good waves rolling in, so we all played in the sea too. Christina was a delight, making us help with building sandcastles, but happy enough on her own, that we got to chat a lot too.

Later, after a lovely shower, we went to a restaurant in the countryside. As it happened, both Tracey and I ordered steak, which was the size of a fist! I'm guessing it was Argentinian, because it just melted in the mouth.

We did have one interruption at the table. There were some cats around, very interested in any titbits. One even walked along the wall next to my elbow, in the hope of something. Not impressed, I gave it a quick tap on the nose. The cat wasn't expecting this, and jumped into the air. However, as it came back down, it missed the wall, and promptly disappeared! Christina was horrified (so was I, but I wasn't going to tell her) and demanded to know what had happened to the cat. Thankfully, at that moment I saw it again, walking off in a huff! "It's fine, look." Evidently, that must have happened before, because a few minutes later it was back again, but not so close!

I was sad to leave her, but I had a long drive home.

Flash (ah-a)

We had a night of fantastic thunderstorms.

There actually wasn't very much rain (here anyway - loads further south), but the sky was alight for hours, and rolling with thunder.

It was great to simply sit outside and watch it, as there was lightening every few minutes or so.

Max hates thunder, so he just followed us around, looking for reassurance all of the time.

Red Tape

Having gutted the kitchen, we now had a lorry full of tiles, bricks and building rubble. Not a problem, take it to the eco-park (tip).

Off we went. We stopped by the little hut, to check which was the skip for building rubble. 'You can't dump that without a licence'. What? We've just gutted our kitchen - it's not a commercial job. 'You need a licence to do any work'. What? Even inside the house? 'Yes - the council is so broke, that all works now have to be authorised, so that the council can find out who is doing what, which contractors are being used, and whether or not they are declaring the income from the job.'

Oh dear. We had no idea. Thankfully, my face must have made that perfectly clear, so he let us dump it all 'just this time'. As it happened, there was very little left to do, so this was more or less everything.

Ed reversed the truck up to the right skip, and tipped the tipper up, dropping it all off in one easy go.

We thanked the little man very much and drove home. As we were almost back, Ed asked, 'did you take the shovel off?' Oh dear - buried under 3 tons of hardcore. Bye bye shovel.


Where to begin? If I begin the begin, I'll be writing pages and pages!

So, the time came to order the new kitchen and finally get rid of the breezeblocks and marble. Yes, they were functional, but they were also designed for people of a somewhat smaller stature.

We trotted of to a well known DIY store and ordered everything. I spoke to the kitchen designer, 'do you have an appointment?', but before I could say 'no, do you want my money?', he motioned me to sit down, and we went through my plans carefully. A little later, he gave me the price for everything, but one look at my face showed he had overdone it. There were certain parts that I hadn't thought about, but he seemed to be selling me every accessory possible. Um, no. A few deletions later, and I was happy.

"Do you want to take it now?" Oh, goodness, I didn't expect everything to be in stock. He checked carefully, and yes - everything was there. Great - we'll come back at 4:30 with a truck. He checked again - yes, that would be fine. He printed off a slip with a barcode, and I paid at the till. Job done.

After lunch, we returned, and spotted the pallet of white bits and bobs by the delivery door. I handed over my bit of paper, and the girl ran off! She returned a little later with a man that spoke excellent English. 'Sorry, but about 10 items aren't in stock. It is our fault, we will deliver them in about 10 days, when they are here'. Hmm, ok.

So, 3 weeks later, I get a friend to call, and there are still 2 bits outstanding. 2 weeks later, there is 1 outstanding. Finally, the last one has arrived, so we pick them all up.

Time to get demolishing. Ed removed all of the tiles from the walls, as well as the marble worktops and pillars. He also gutted the pantry and the loose floor tiles, leaving a shell - and a house full of brick dust!

Paddling Time

As the weather warmed up, we felt sorry for the dogs in their fur coats.

When we moved in, the previous occupants had left a sand pit, which we had often put to good use, mixing sand / cement etc. This time, we put it to use as a paddling pool for Max and Paddy.

As usual, Max thought it was a great idea, but Paddy wasn't so sure. Max was very happy splashing about in it, then running around, but Paddy thought that just walking through it was good enough for him!

Don't Bug Me

I was working away merrily in the office, when I was distracted by a strange bug.

Not the prettiest of things, I promptly demanded that Ed remove it for me.

Subsequently, on the TV, I have seen the very same bug, and apparently it is a type of pine beetle. Many of the trees here have been infested and need to be cut down, and this little chappie seems to be the one to blame.

On the TV program, the man was so unhappy with them, that he pulled off it's head, and then ate the body. Thankfully, I didn't know it was a nasty bug at the time, so Ed got away with his high protein snack!

Baby its cold outside

This time, my flights were at a pretty decent hour. However, the temperature was still terrible.

For May, it felt more like February. (To be honest, I have known February's to be even warmer.) I had to borrow Jess's boots a couple of times, and wore dad's anorak on several occasions too!

When I left, I was able to get a window seat on the plane, for the first time in ages.

The would have been a good thing, had it not enabled me to watch the ground crew de-icing the wings.

The Long Way Round

Travelling to Aberdovey, we went via Machynlleth, but for the return journey from Tywyn, we went via the lake at Tal-y-llyn, and (almost) via Dolgellau.

It was such a shame that the two Tims were in the other car, as I spent most of the time showing Jess where she had spent her summer holidays: Over there is the miniature railway line. If you go here, there is a lovely waterfall. Once a year, there is a race against the train to the top of the track. All wonderful trips we undertook many years ago, now for them to discover again themselves.

I often took this route home, as it is so pretty, and there are fewer towns to contend with.

We stopped at the edge of the lake to take some photos, and I told Tim about the area. He remembered things more than Jess, partly because he was older, but also because he undertook a canoe course there one year. He was paddling in a river, with a bunch of other lads, miles from anyone, when an old couple appeared on the river bank. Nanny and Grandad had trekked across some fields and found him!

To paddle or not to paddle

After we had scattered Dad's ashes, we went to Tywyn, where Trevor and Enid had prepared a wonderful tea in their caravan. Mum and Dad used to love it there, with the sound of the waves nearby, and the fresh air. Even if it was not possible to go out on the boat, a visit to the caravan was always welcome.

After we had eaten, we went to the beach, just a few short steps away. We were really lucky with the weather still, and had a lovely time, although it was certainly rather blowy.

Later, Trevor told us that there was a huge storm in the night, and he and Enid were convinced the caravan was going to get blown over.

What's Welsh for Geocaching?

Jess, Tim and Tim have the geocacing app on their phones and it was no great suprise to discover that there was a chache near the bandstand at Aberdovey.

Once we returned to land, Mum, Trevor and Enid went to Tywyn, while the rest of us had an ice cream and a climb up the hill. I think we spent longer choosing what flavour ice cream we wanted, than walking up the hill.

I really thought I would have to stop to catch my breath, but before I knew it, we were there.

Sutty had already spotted the cache, but it proved to be sneaky and difficult to get hold of. As this is such a popular place, the log was full, but we used the label off a stick of rock, and signed in!

John had only been here once before, when sailing the boat down from Scotland. Now that he had seen it, he plans to use it as a destination for a good ride-out, just as I used to.

All at Sea

The captain of the boat that took us over the bar was really lovely. Although he understood the sad nature of the trip, he also saw that we were actually very positive about the whole thing, as it was our chance to fulfill dad's final wishes.

On the way back, we were rewarded with wonderful bright skies and sparkling crested waves. I could understand why Trevor and he spent so much time here.

The grandchildren really enjoyed the trip and are looking forward to visiting again.

The Last Farewell

"There's a ship lies rigged and ready in the harbor
Tomorrow for old England she sails
Far away from your land of endless sunshine
To my land full of rainy skies and gales
And I shall be aboard that ship tomorrow
Though my heart is full of tears at this farewell"
(Roger Whittaker)

And so the time came for Dad's final journey. We all climbed onto a lovely boat, and set sail for the open sea. Aberdovey - beyond the bar, just as requested.

It was terribly sad.

We all knew what wonderful times dad had had there, but this was the final thing we could do for him. As the boat was untied, the sun broke out from behind the clouds and we had a lovely trip out beyond the headland.

The captain stopped at a lovely spot, in line with the hotel where dad has eaten many a time. I didn't really know what to say, but I thanked everyone for being there and being able to have the opportunity to fulfill dad's last wishes. Maybe I should have said a prayer, but this wasn't a religious ceremony, it was a very private parting of a loved one.

I opened the box and we all scattered dads ashes into the sea. We threw flowers in too. From each of us, and also from friends far afield. The flowers floated around the back of the boat, before drifting off.

And so his final journey has begun. Not ended. From here, he becomes a part of the sea, and he can travel all around the world. To the few places he has not yet seen. And with this parting, we wish him peace and contentment

The Land of Valley and Song

Dad's wish was always to be scattered at sea when he died. In the beginning of May, we travelled to Aberdovery to fulfil his desire.

It was a long time since I had been there, and with the new motorway open from Wolverhampton, the route was a little different to my previous 'blast on the bike down the B-roads'. Soon though, I was back in familiar territory, and even though I hadn't been for such a long time, I didn't really need the sat-nav to tell me where to go.

The second car, containing John, Tim and Tim however, went the 'scenic' way, as none of them had any idea where they were going, and we'd lost them before even getting to Stafford!

Technology though, it a wonderful thing. Jess kept texting them, and we knew where they were. Most of the time, they were just a mile or so behind, but, once we got to Welshpool, that changed. It was quite apparent that they had now gone a different way. I knew where we would meet again, but driving through they valleys at high speed is not an option, so we just relaxed and enjoyed the trip. Mum pointed out several places, as did I, as we drove along. Jess didn't remember much, but she wanted us to point out where her boots had been left in a layby some 20 years earlier. (We knew where that was.)

Finally, a few miles from Aberdovey, I saw John's car behind us. Jess texted 'can you see us' and Tim replied, 'when we can pass the slow Jetta, we'll catch you'!! The carpark was almost empty, as the weather had been truly terrible the day before, but we had a lovely walk around before having hot chocolate in one of the hotels.

While we were there, Tevor and Enid found us, so we all warmed up, before our trip on the sea.

Driving Over Lemons

It's true, that lemons grow everywhere in Spain, but not that many of them lay in streets to be driven over! (read the book!)

We did have a lemon tree, but it was less than sucessful. Ed has admitted to hitting the trunk a few times with the strimmer, so that won't have helped it much. In the end, we dug it out, but I do plan to have another one in a different spot in the autumn.

In the meantime, lots of friends have lemons, and they are cheap enough in the supermarket for a bagful anyway.

I decided to make a lemon meringue pie. I'd never made one before, but I love sweets with a bite, so it was worth a go. The big dilema of course, is, if I make it, then I have to eat it. Not such a good idea. So, I decided to make it for a Sunday, and take it to our Spanish friends for tea, so I only needed to eat one bit! (Cunning plan eh?)

First problem - no loose bottomed flan tin. Ah well - a pretty earthenware one would have to do.
Second problem - no baking beans to bake the pastry blind. A quick look on the internet informed me that rice would do fine.
Third problem - no granulated sugar for the meringue. Since when have a few problems stopped me from doing anything?

So, off I went. Mixing, baking, grating, boiling, whisking and baking (again). And the result was spectacular. Beautiful, fluffy, tall, lemon meringue pie. Wow. Time to depart. I popped the cake on the passenger seat for a moment, and went to fetch something else. When I got back to the car, I discovered that the sugar (granulated) had seeped from the meringue, and dribbled all over the car seat. I grabbed some towels, and sat on them for the journey, then had to apologise for he mess when I arrived, with a sticky messy pie!

All was forgiven when we ate it.

I now have some caster sugar and a loose bottomed tin (thanks Mum), and will give it another shot later in the year. Yum.