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Now living in l'Olleria, south of Valencia

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Grub's Up

As Ed walked past one of our large pine trees, he spotted something odd on the ground. It was a huge grub of some sort.

Poor Ed. He just wanted to get rid of it, but no, I made him hang on to it, while I fetched the camera! Further investigation revealed that this was actually the grub of a rhino beetle. We get loads of those here. (In fact, today, I fished one out of the swimming pool.)

What a horrible looking thing. I'm glad I didn't find it.

Was She Pushed

Ed and I headed out towards the coast recently, so while there(ish) called up a friend to see if he was about.

It ended up with Ed and I having a lovely lunch with Roger and Nina in a dutch restaurant right on the sea front in Albir. The food was excellent. I ordered the club sandwich, which I find is often a good idea. Filling enough on it's own, a plate of chips soon turns it into a complete meal! In this case, it was served with the usual olives and nuts as well as lots of entertainment from the owner. He was so camp, he should have his own Butlins! He was lovely.

When I go to new places, I always look around at what other people are eating. In this place, I was more intrigued with the crockery than I was with the food. They had the most divine asymmetric plates as well as beautiful glasses. When the time came to serve teas and coffees, I was presented with a cup of hot water, and a pretty wooden box containing a selection of herbal t-bags. What a cute way to serve tea.

The place was really busy and I think we were lucky to find a table. I have no idea how long we were there, but some time later we decided to depart and head for the sea. I was determined to have a paddle. What I didn't realise, was that the beach there was a pebble one. Oh, it was very hard work walking on it. As we got to the edge, I rolled my jeans up and kicked off my flip-flops. Ed, Roger and Nina did the same, and we all had a laugh splashing in the sea. Then Nina fell over. Thankfully, she was still laughing as we struggled to pick her up and get back up the beach. I did wonder if she was pushed, but Roger said she was 'pished, more like'. Very funny.

Saturday, 20 July 2013

No. I don't want to.

Max and Paddy needed a bath.

They hate bathtime.

It's actually very funny. Whichever one we grab first, the other one watches from a distance, knowing that they are going to be tortured next. We have now mastered the art. We have a rope around a pillar of the house, which we fasten to their collar, and then we fill a kiddies paddling pool and stand them in it. We can then wash them and rinse them off, without too much struggling. Even if they do run off, they can only go around the pillar.

This time, we happened to wash Max first and then Paddy. As soon as we had finished with Max, he raced round and round the house, looking for somewhere to rub himself in (the door to the house were shut, otherwise he'd have soaked the place). Unfortunately, he found some soft soil and then did his best to remove the smell of the shampoo. On finishing Paddy, the pair of them then raced around and did the same thing again.

This is the final outcome. No fleas (we didn't find any while washing anyway), but also no shiny coat.

First Communion

A friend's daughter has reached the age of her first communion.

We got a bit muddled up, with what was happening when, but we understood enough to be at Paco's house one Thursday at 7pm. Not certain of the protocol, we dressed up a bit, although we had been told that jeans were ok. Surely, if this was a special do, then we should dress up? Not necessarily, it is quite common to wear jeans to church here!

We rolled up at 7 as asked, and Paco asked if we knew where Julian lived. No. Ok, then follow us. Then Paco, Victoria and their daughter set off, with us following behind, with no idea as to where we were going. We parked in a small street in the centre of town. It was within walking distance really, but, as Victoria has MS, it was better to take the car. We got out, then wandered up a street, looking in desperation for the right house. Evidently Paco didn't know where it was either! He finally asked someone, just as we were right outside the right house - typical.

In we all went, and then I understood. We had been invited by the family, to view the gifts that Marta had been given on this very special occasion. In her bedroom, all of her gifts were on display. There were clothes hanging everywhere and books and toys laid out on the bed. There was a lovely display of jewelry and Marta took great pleasure in showing off all of her treasures. She is not a selfish girl at all, and she understood the importance of it all. In centre stage, was a tall doll, which was wearing the dress that she would have on for the church, her shoes underneath, and necklace and earrings in place. It was all delightful. Thankfully, I was organised enough to have a present for her, as well as a card, which she was delighted to receive.
In the livingroom, was a photo album, and a CD on a loop, showing a wonderful selection of photos of Marta and her parents. Many were taken in a studio, but, equally, there were some lovely outdoor shots too. We were honoured to have been invited. Sadly, Julian couldn't be there on that night, as he was working until 10pm!

Once the church ceremony had taken place (presumably the following Sunday), the family celebrated in private in their country house. Other friends were then given a token present (a bit like getting a bit of wedding cake, if you didn't go to the wedding) and we received a decorated bottle of wine (the label having her name on, along with the date) as well as a beautifully wrapped selection of sweets.

I know England isn't a catholic country, but it is a shame that such significant points in a child's life are not celebrated. First day at school? Nothing. So sad. Childhood is over so quickly, we ought to celebrate it while we can.

Raucous Ride-out

I love our Sunday ride-outs, but sometimes they can get a bit monotonous. Meet up at 9, ride somewhere for breakfast and a chat, ride back, drink in a cafe then home.

A few weeks ago, we went to a bar in the countryside for breakfast. Ed had been there before with the boys, but I hadn't. There were a few bikes there already, so everyone nodded at each other, but we didn't chat with each other. We had the 'house' sandwich which can be recommended in any establishment. Paco must have been very peckish, as he ate all of the nuts, then hid the basket and asked for a new lot! The staff were really nice and friendly, as they are in all of the bars we have been to. No sullen waitresses here!

Outside, there was a man dressed as a red indian, selling hand made goods on a stall. It was obvious that these weren't authentic, so I don't really know what he was trying to pass them off as. They weren't even particularly well made. As we were looking at the stock, we all chatted and looked around, then Paco saw that someone on the other side of the valley had a bonfire on the go. "Look", he said, "they are communicating". We all howled. We may not understand everything we are saying to each other all of the time, but we certainly share the same sense of humour. I think this is why we get on so very well. Our similarities overshadow any communication problems that we might have.

This time, instead of simply riding back home, we stopped by Beniares reservoir. It was a lovely day and there were loads of people all over the place. Thankfully, we found a spot to park and take some photos. Paco was thrilled with a photo I took of his bike, as I lay down practically underneath it, for a 'publicity shot'. Some trikes stopped by for a while and then some other bikers too. One of them had a camera mounted on his helmet, so I went up to him and asked about it. Everyone was very interested and he was happy to show it off. I was most interested in the camera, but the others wanted to know how it had been mounted. It was a very good set up. When I got back, I checked the price of the cameras. Hmm. That idea goes back on hold!
On our way back, we went over a beautiful pass, that we have used a few times now. Sadly, there is no-where to stop and take photos. This seems to be the way with the Spanish roads. There are no verges, and very few lay-bys. It is not safe to stop at the side of the road. If you do find a side-road, the chances are that you have quite a walk back to the spot where you want to take a photo (and then you won't have your bike or car in the photo anyway!) One of these days, I ought to go out on the back of Ed's bike, then I can take some photos as we go along.

Coll De Rates

One Sunday I fancied a ride out somewhere different. I had heard of Col De Rates, a restaurant on a peak of a mountain, which serves brilliant food.

Ed and I went to Pedreguer first for a bimble around the Sunday market, then headed out to find the place. I had no idea which road to take out of the town, so I asked a couple of people on a scooter. To my amusement, they didn't speak much Spanish as they were German. I then asked in (terrible) German, but they didn't know where it was. They recommended a nice place, which wasn't the idea! I then asked a policeman and he knew where I was asking about.

It was a lovely ride, along the edges of the mountains and through very small villages. At one point, I spotted a building at the top of a mountain and guessed it was where we were going. I was right. As we finally got onto the car park, we were greeted by Roger, a friend from Albir. I had asked him about the place, so he decided to join us. Good job we didn't decide to go to the other place the Germans had told us about.
We went inside (it was a chilly day) and it was like going into a German mountain restaurant. The staff were either German of Spanish and the decor was decidedly Bavarian. We got a menu and decided on a 'snack'. I ordered some sausages and Ed ordered some lamb chops. Roger ordered apple strudel! When mine arrived, I had a bowl of water, with 3 sausages swimming in it along with a couple of giant pretzels and some mustard. It was divine. Ed's snack, turned out to be a plateful of chops, with the usual trimmings. It was a good job he didn't order a full sized meal.

It was a lovely place, and very busy in spite of the weather. I can imagine it being totally packed in the summer. Apparently, they do 'full moon' barbeques which are very popular (but don't forget to take a jacket, as it gets cold on mountain tops at midnight!). It was a long way from here, so I don't think we'll go very often, but the size of Roger's apple strudel certainly makes it worth thinking about.
The views from the place were spectacular. As it was a bit overcast, it wasn't possible to see Ibiza, but on a clear day, it is visible. Roger said that he had been able to watch our progress from the last village, all the way along the mountain road, which was several miles. He assumed it was us anyway, as there were 2 bikes!

I think we ought to go again in September, when the summer heat haze had cleared and we will be able to admire the view from outside (as well as admire the strudel inside).

There's a pot of gold...

Some deserve it more than others.

Come Fly WIth Me

This time, on my return flight to Spain, I had mum with me. This time, we took the car to the airport and left it with them right outside the door. On Mums return, it will be available to her just outside the arrivals door. Perfect.

Having bought some bulky stuff, I had a suitcase, which was actually a giant holdall of mums. A quick tryout on the scales at a spare check-in desk, followed by a minor shuffle of bits and bobs, and we were soon checked in and through customs.

I'm always amused by the other passengers. Gone are the days of traveling in your best suit, with matching luggage sets, but really, some people need to look in the mirror before they go out. Ah well. I've always said that the biggest problem with Ryanair is usually the customer.

This time, the flight took a slightly new route south. I had a pretty good idea of where I was, but I was still suprised at how low we were as we passed over Valencia. A few minutes later, and I could see Verni Prens, where we bought our patio tiles from. Shame we could get dropped off there, as we were just 5 miles from home. Had I been on the other side of the plane, I would have seen our house. (It would have been very easy to see the road tunnel from that height.)

As it was April, it wasn't particularly warm, but it was certainly much better than in England. Mum was happy to sit by the pool, wearing her trousers and a jumper!

On one of the days, she had a visit from her old neighbours (Pat and Roy), that now live near Taragona. They were holidaying near Altea, so called in on their way back. It was lovely to see them again. They were particularly taken by one of my garden ornaments, an oversize gecko which would look wonderful at their house. They had been looking, but hadn't found anything right. Mine was perfect. To my total surprise, Ed said that they could have mine. I knew he didn't like it that much, but it was my birthday present! Before I knew it, a price had been agreed, and Ed was unscrewing it from the wall. With great reluctance, I wrapped it up for them.*

As she isn't too mobile at the moment, we didn't go too far. We had a lovely day in Xativa, strolling around the old part of town, as well as a day shopping in Ondara, in a big shopping centre. I really wanted to take her to the top of the mountain by the house, so she could see all around us. Ed drove up the mountain road, with mum in panic mode, looking at the drop at the side. Sadly, after the spring rains, part of the road was too rough to pass, so we stopped half way to the top. This still gave us a great view across the valley (Val d' Albaida) and I pointed out our house, and all the other points of interest. I think she was glad to get back down.
While I had been away, Ed had done lots of jobs around the house. The pool was all clean and lovely and the garden was nice and tidy. Jobs I had anticipated for May had all been done.

I think a week was long enough for mum, but hopefully it won't be so long before she is here again.

* The following week, Ed and I drove out to Guadalest again, where I bought an identical gecko. He is now decorating the wall, looking very handsome, as his compatriot had before him. I hope Pat and Ron get as much pleasure from theirs!

National Memorial Arboretum

In spite of the terrible weather in March, John, Mum and I managed to make another visit to the NMA.

This was John's first visit there, but it was not a great introduction. After the terrible rain and snow, all of the land was terribly waterlogged. Thankfully, the main purpose of our visit, was on dry land.

Dad's memorial stone has been laid and we went to see it.

As we are quite well organised, we knew within 20 feet where we would find his stone. However, the staff at the centre were so kind, I was happy to include them in our quest. As we were welcomed inside, the guide asked if he could help us at all. I explained why we were there and that we knew where we were going. He seemed to be a bit downhearted, but as I explained, he said that he could show us exactly where the stone was. (Since we knew it was at the back of the church, it wasn't going to be too difficult!) I gave him dad's name, and 3 Harman's came up on the screen. Knowing what was written on the stone, I knew in seconds that the 3rd one was him. One click, and the map showed exactly where the stone was - within a few feet. It was at the back of the church. Excellent. At the same time, the man showed us where the REME memorial was, although he indicated that it was quite some distance away.

We went outside and around the back of the church. With just a little wandering around, we soon found the right stone. It was right alongside the church wall, and next to a hosepipe. At first we thought that was a shame, but then we realised that this was actually a very practical spot, and, even here, he was finding a way to be helpful.
John and I left Mum there and went in search of the REME memorial. It wasn't too far away, but the land was so waterlogged, it was quite an adventure to get to it. The whole park is beautifully kept, but the last 12 months must have been quite a challenge to them. A drought in the beginning of 2012, followed by a very wet summer, then a terrible winter. John and I skirted around boggy land and puddles but soon found the memorial. It was a very nice semi-circular quiet area, shaped a bit like a bench, with the insignia incorporated within it. Had the weather been more favourable, I would have been happy to sit there for a while, but we quickly scurried away via the main area, in search of some shelter. I briefly explained the statues to John as well as the gap in the wall. He seemed quite impressed, but I think this is somewhere we each need to come on our own, to be alone with our thoughts.

It is a wonderful place and I can't recommend a visit highly enough.

Sunday, 14 July 2013


In spite of the terrible weather, Tim Abbie and I went to Carsington Reservoir in March.

I was very impressed by the odd motorbike we saw that was braving the conditions. The roads around there are wonderful, but with the grit and the slush, it would not have have been on my 'things to do today' list. Still, riding in those terrible conditions keeps your skills at peak performance.

Parking was fun. The snow was too deep to see the bays. Knowing how some authorities work, I still envisioned some jobsworth brushing the snow aside, to see if I was parked inside my bay.
Abbie hadn't been before and it was a long time since Tim had been, so we went around the visitors centre and the exhibition, before walking out to the island. I had anticipated eating there, but in the end we didn't bother.

We actually ate in one of the pubs in Uttoxter, where we had the dubious pleasure of witnessing a most unpleasant, drunk woman, berating her boyfriends child, in the most offensive way possible. I was secretly pleased, when she spilled her drink all over herself. Nasty woman. Still, it reminded me of why I don't live in Uttoxeter any more.

Tea is Served

I finally managed to get into the Tea Emporium in Uttoxeter.

Previously, fate has conspired against me and I have never even managed to get my foot in the door. Squashing my nose against the window just doesn't have the same satisfaction.

Mum had a couple of appointments in the centre of town, so we arranged to meet in the tea shop. I go there first and organised the proper full on 'Afternoon Tea' nd paid for it in advance, so that she wouldn't know. Unfortunately, she finished her chores too quickly, and arrived while the lady was still laying the table with a lace cloth and putting the pretty china out.

My goodness. What a feast. This is something to be done just once a year.
As well as the pot of tea, there was a wonderful stand, containing a good selection of sandwiches, then scones, then cakes and trifles. There was so much, that we ended up putting the last bits into our handbags and taking them home. We didn't really want them for tea either, as, having had so many sweet things, they seemed a bit too much. I would certainly recommend the tea, but it would be best of a 'suprise guest' turned up and helped you to eat it all!

Dinner is Served

Time to posh up and go out for 'dinner with the girls'.

We may have known each other for 40 years, but any excuse for a meal out. Ali, Tina and I went for a meal in STafford, in spite of the terrrible weather in March! (Yes, I know I am behind with my writing.) Jessica came with us too, which meant that I could have a drink. Perfect.
As the schedule was a little tight, I rang Ali on the way, to say that we would meet her at the restaurant. The subsequent pause said everything (obviously already on their 2nd bottle of wine), so Jess and I picked them up too. The restaurant was fine about us being a bit late. I could see why, once we got there - there were only 2 other groupd of people there. This wasn't too suprising though, it was mid-week, so not too busy at the best of times.

The food was excellent, but I did have a laugh with the drinks. I asked for a Ricard, but the waiter had no idea what that was. I explained that the commercial name in the UK was Pernod, but he didn't look any the wiser. He came back a little later, saying they were "fresh out of Pernod". Ha Ha. As if someone in the room had just polished off the bottle. I don't think so. After some debate (no moscatel, no other aperitifs) I settled for boring rum and coke.

As usual, we were the last ones in the place. We didn't manage to break our record though. Once, we were asked which room to book our meals to (in a hotel), as all of the day staff had gone. We weren't staying there, so they had to call someone back, to take our money!

(We have known restaurant owners to sit and wait for us to finish, so that they could lock up, everyone else having gone. Although one literally threw us out into the rain, shouting 'haven't you got homes to go to', even though she knew we were waiting for our lift!)

I love these meals out. We really do need to find ourselves a whole weekend, so we can just talk and talk and talk... I think I ought to ask the girls over, and send Ed away for that weekend. That would certainly work.

Forum Meet

To keep in touch with the motorcycle scene in the UK, I am a member of a forum, where like minded people chat on-line, insult each other and get very nasty (just like most other forums).

Thankfully, with a little discretion, it is possible to separate the idiots from the obnoxious and find a few genuinely friendly folks. I've managed to meet up with some of them, either in Spain or the UK, and last time I was in England, despit the terrible snow in March, I arranged to meet anyone and everyone at Malock Bath on a Sunday.

As the weather was so terrible, it actually ended up with me meeting up with someone I already knew, so Chris and Rachel met up with (brother) John and I, and we all had a traditional chip lunch in Matlock!
Sadly, time was short, and parking was difficult, so we only had a little time together, but it was great to see them again.

We actually met up again at the end of May in Spain. This time, we managed to have most of the day together, which was much better. They are both lovely. Chris is perfectly happy to have the mick taken out of him (as are most bikers) and Rachel is an 'extra' in lots of TV programs, so she has some fantastic tales to tell. I know that if we still lived in England, we would see much more of them.

Hong Kong meets Spain

On Friday, I had the delight of dropping someone off at Alicante airport, then going on to La Zenia (near Torrevieja) to visit an old friend that actually lives in Hong Kong.

When she is in the UK for the summer holidays, she usually has a week or so in Spain, which gives me the opportunity to meet up with her.

This time, she was over with her husband and both daughters, but her husband had had to go back the day before, so there were just the four of us. We had a wonderful day on the beach, but, unfortunately, I forgot my camera. (Myabe not such a bad thing.)

After a shower, we then went to the new shopping centre, for a stroll around and for some tea. The girls bought some bits in a well known chain store, then we went to a Wok for tea. This is an 'all you can eat' chinese restaurant chain. It seems to be very popular with the ex-pats, but Ed and I have only been twice before in all this time.

Afterwards, as we strolled around, I wanted a picture of the girls together. I suggested a location, but Catherine (being a teenager now) though that my chosen spot was naff, and refused to stand there. Oh well. Mum and younger sister instead then! Had we been in a pretty park, I'm certain she would have posed quite happily, but it was not to be.
It was one of those days with not enough hours in it. A 2 hour drive back home was on the cards, so I had to leave them.

Hopefully, we will have much more time together next July, as there is a big event comming up, that we all hope to go to.

The Pack Descends

For a change, Tim decided to visit us in the much warmer summer weather.

"Mum, can I come over?" "Of course, just send me the dates and how many." That turned out to be the following week, along with 3 friends that hadn't been before. Ooops. Half way through some major renovations wasn't the best call.

We quickly dashed around, tidying up rooms that had been used for storage, while dust and brickwork had been flying around. It didn't take toolong, as, whilst doing the work, I had had a major clearout. I think I had sent 4 boxes of bric-a-brac to the charity shop, along with 3 bin-bags of clothes.

Anyhow, Tim turned up on Sunday, with friends in tow. Including 1 vegitarian. Poor thing. I hope he liked my veggie lasangne, as he had that as a base for most things he ate during the week.

On the Thursday night, we went to the Barraca Restaurant (under new management) for a pre-ordered paella. It was excellent. She even did a veggie one for the 'special' guest, which went down very well.
Two of the lads were drinking cider, which is quite unusual here. They were offered an artesanal cider, which, for the best taste, should be served from a great height, in order to incorporate some air into the drink. Tim was given instructions on how to pour it. He did well, but opted for the boring style when doing the second glass!

We had a lovely selection of starters, as well as a couple of jugs of sangria to help wash it all down. Needless to say, coffees, brandy and carajillos were also the order of the day. To our delight, we were then offered a delicious shot, courtesy of the owner, just to finish off the meal with a lovely flourish. (Even the bill was a pleasure to pay.)