Sunday, 20 September 2015

Only one sleep to go–part 2–The summer

Dawn is just breaking as I write this (I don’t sleep well) and it’s thick fog outside.  That means only one thing – Autumn is coming and it’s time to get away to sunnier climes.

So what have we been doing with ourselves over the summer?

A lot has been done to the house.  At least coming back to live in the house we have had the opportunity to get it up to scratch again for letting, but things were slow.  We got back into the house on about 21st May and had no viewings.  May had gone by, June had gone by – and of course we’ve got to find the mortgage and the council tax and bills from our savings. Plus we had to spend quite a bit on decorating, preparing etc. The biggest job was to have the parking area repaired and new tarmac put down. So to save some pennies we didn’t go out very often, nor did we go away in the van very often.

Of course the obligatory MOT was due and we organised this for mid June.  So a couple of nights stay at our favourite campsite in Cheltenham (Briarfields) and as we had use of our/my brother’s car it meant that we  could put in a visit to Iain’s son near Cheddar whom we hadn’t seen since early last August.  For those of you who don’t know, Connor is severely disabled and the visit is really just to check that he is ok and being looked after well, which we have to report a positive on both counts . Connor doesn’t really know that we haven’t been for nearly a year.   We used to visit every 4 to 6 weeks when we were in the UK and now we are his only visitors as his mum and sister have both passed away in the last three years so we do like to visit whenever we can.  Connor goes to the Atmospherics Trust http://www.atmosphericstrust.co.uk/ in Wells every week for a therapy session and as we pay for this, Iain asked if we could go along to a session to see what it was all about.  Well it was a bit holistic for Iain.  We met with the group in Wells and Iain went into the session while I took the dog for a walk.  There’s a fantastic reclamation yard next to the place and I had a wander around there.  If you are ever in Wells then it’s “Wells worth the visit!!!” Sorry for the pun. Massive “The Thinker” statues; an old Russian tank (not for sale); life-size deer, bears, dogs; a life-sized horse made from saws and other tools and loads of other stuff.  Then I went back to Atmospherics and joined in the second half of the session. 

I was escorted onto a blow up bed on the floor in a darkened room of about 20 beds, while relaxing music was played.  I then (under instruction) covered my face with a coloured silk voile and waited.  From the ceiling there were silk voiles hanging in rows and two women walked up and down the room wafting the hanging voiles around to emulate waves that would gently lap onto your face – got the picture?  There were overhead projectors around the room and these showed lovely relaxing patterns  which projected onto the hanging voiles.  It was actually very relaxing, however I couldn’t resist thinking how I would do it differently – I’d have stitched those voiles together, I’d have this running off a computer so that the patterns could be easily changed.  So I didn’t really feel the full benefit (if indeed there was one).  Anyway, Iain wasn’t having any of this and sat in a chair during the whole process.  However I did hear some “yabby yabby yabby” coming from Connor, so I knew that Dad would be sold on the idea.  Actually the people running it couldn’t have made us more welcome.  We were treated like royalty.  I know some of the Clients (that’s what they are called) at the home Connor lives in don’t have many visitors, so I don’t suppose Atmospherics have many parents come to see what it’s all about.  Whatever we thought it was clear that the group got quite a lot out of it and it is something for them to do each week. After the session we met Iain’s dad for lunch in a pub in Wells, he had driven up from Devon to see us.    Back to Cheltenham and Motorhome Maniacs (aka Motorhome Medics), some banter from the guys there,  MOT and service all sorted, another night in Cheltenham and we headed back to Fillongley. 

In early July, we had a few viewings, one being the new Coventry City Football manager, Tony Mowbray.  We didn’t really think it would be a good house for him, being in the middle of a village with a social club next door that has a football team.   However at least the natives would be friendly – that is of course as long as Coventry City did well, if not it could be eggs on the windows.  We also thought that as The Sky Blues had had 13 managers in 12 seasons that this might not be a long-term let so not a good tenant for us.

At last a couple came to view the house  with two small children and then came back for a second viewing.  Great – we’d got a tenant – I was getting excited - a bit under the asking price but hey, that’s ok, however they didn’t want the house until the middle of August as they were going on holiday.  Everything was going swimmingly and they were going to come around on the Saturday before their holiday and we could discuss what furniture they wanted us to remove.  I asked the agent for their names and expecting only their first names they gave us surnames as well.  So me, being me, got onto Google. I found out a bit on her from facebook pictures etc and nothing on him. So I googled them both together and WOW!!! Things were not looking good.  I won’t go into detail, but Iain called them “Snake oil Salesmen”.  Of course, me liking to speculate and Iain refusing to do any such thing (as he always deals with something when it happens and absolutely refuses to concern himself with a plan B until plan A actually fails) I really was wondering if these people were the sort we would like to rent our house to.  If they were prepared to shaft their customers and staff in the way I had been reading on the internet then they might also shaft us.

Finally the agents came back with the referencing checks and they were very sorry but they could not recommend them as suitable tenants.  I think the agent was quite shocked when I said I wasn’t surprised.

So it was now the end of July and back to square one and me getting fed up because without a tenant I couldn’t make a plan.

We just had to get away in the van. 

1st August was Joy’s birthday and we had all agreed in Spain that as Joy was the only one of the six of us who had a birthday in the summer that we would use it as an excuse and meet up somewhere.  We were keen to entertain our friends at the house (just because we could) so we wanted it to be close to us.  Not knowing if we would still be in the house for 1st August it was difficult to arrange something until quite close to the date, so by the time we could do so, The Village Hall was booked, Corley Village Hall had a function on, so there I was putting out an SOS on Facebook for a bit of land for us to use.  We had also asked as a surprise for Joy, Mick and Shirley from Alnwick and Paul and Ruth from Swindon.  These were also people that we had met in Albir.   I managed to find a field, which just happened to be next to the pub where we stay in our van so it was quite handy for us.

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Waiting for Joy, Nick and Matthew to arrive

Friday all arrived – much to Joy’s surprise and delight to see 8 people  waiting for them, not just the 4 she expected and we had a quick tea at camp.  The weather was very kind to us and we were able to stay out in the evening (blankets required) and somehow the whole thing just degenerated into some silly game which somehow involved wearing Nick’s hat wrapped with a string of fairy lights. Bizarre………….

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On the Saturday morning, we had a very unfortunate incident with the two male dogs which required a visit to the vet, so it was a good job that we had a car available, no lasting harm done though which was a relief.

In the early afternoon we all trundled off to our house where some went for a walk, some to the pub and some of us prepared and cooked dinner.  It gave us a nice chance to have a chat around the kitchen table. Thank you so much to Ruth, Jo and Shirley for all their help in preparing all those veggies.

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Joy, The Birthday Girl                            Waiting for dinner (we sold our patio furniture some years ago)  Feeding time at the zoo for 11 – beats squashing into one awning.

After dinner, those that could, walked the mile or so uphill, back to camp with the dogs and those that couldn’t got a taxi, including  Paddy who was a bit dopey from the drugs after the earlier incident.

The following morning, the boys went off to Jacksons of Arley, the big camping shop at Arley  which seems to be  the camping capital of the Midlands and just happens to be our neighbouring village, while the girls (and Matt, Joy’s son) relaxed.

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Just had to include these pictures of Bree, Joy and Nick’s new dog relaxing in the sunshine.  It was a bit warm for the other dogs, but Bree lapped up the sunshine and didn’t feel the heat as she was born in Australia.  I don’t know why she likes to relax with her foot in her mouth but apparently that’s “just what she does”.

We said goodbye to Ruth and Paul who were returning home but couldn’t resist a photo before they left.

Fillongley Rally

Until we all meet again – hopefully in Albir.

Sunday we took advantage of the hospitality at the local hostelry with lunch and then all chilled out for the remainder of the afternoon and evening, I think a little jaded from the night before.  Monday morning we all went our respective ways.  A fantastic weekend was had by all and we’re already planning to repeat it next year.

Saturday, 19 September 2015

Only two more sleeps–part 1- returning to mortar home living

But only two more sleeps and we’ll be back on the road again.

I haven’t posted about our travels since May, but then we haven’t been on our travels so there seemed little point or motivation. But at last we are soon to be on our away again and I seem to have found the enthusiasm to share with you our experiences since then.  I know this is meant to be a travel blog, but actually having lived in our motorhome for some 18 months and letting our house out, it seems quite fitting to actually write about the experience of letting and the transition back into a mortar home.

The journey home back in May is worth a mention albeit brief.  For the first time we travelled up the east side of Paris.  It was a little longer than our normal route, but it was a lot easier.  We came roughly up through Lyon, Troyes, Reims, travelling our normal 200 to 250 miles in each day.  Taking some 6 days this gave us time to stay for a couple of nights on two campsites which were both lovely and situated beside lakes.  The weather was warming up nicely so this gave us some pleasant walks.  I really must ask Iain where they were.  especially as we’d be quite happy to stay at both sites again.

At the first site, because we were a large van and it was out of season they allowed us to park on the tent field so we had a massive pitch all to ourselves.

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This would be a great site for families, if only I could remember where it was.

The second site was just opposite a lake and it had a bar and a pizza restaurant, also with some lovely walking around the lake area but very popular with the locals and a lovely beach.  I forgot to take my camera, but at least I got a picture of the decorations on the site

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Our last night in France was spent on an aire about 10 miles north of Calais.  The immigrant problems hadn’t quite kicked off then, but we didn’t really want to stay too close to Calais, as it’s been a problem for some time although not on the scale it has been over the summer.  Me being the worrier, we normally get to within about 25 miles of Calais (or any other port) and stay overnight, taking a fairly early ferry as I always worry about getting stuck in traffic or something happening and missing the ferry, but in hindsight though the journey up from our last campsite was really easy going and we both wished that we had done the last leg and the ferry in one day without the overnight stop, especially as we were only going 10 miles the other side of the ferry to Folkestone.  But hey, that’s one to remember for next time.  France for us is these days just a means to an end of getting to somewhere else.  We’ve done France many times when we had jobs and only two week holidays and it was a bit of a shock at the prices after being used to Spain for so long.

One night stopover with Iain’s brother and his wife and then we came straight back to Fillongley as the house had been empty for about a week by then.  We had planned to stay at the pub again for a few nights until the tenancy actually ended but the tenant had already left the keys behind and gone so we went straight back into the house.

Now that was a shock.  It felt really odd to be back.  Although the house wasn’t exactly wrecked, I felt the need to clean everything thoroughly.  There had been some damage to door frames when the tenant moved his furniture out and the garden was a mess. We only have a small lawn area but  Iain had spent years getting it to look good and we came home to weeds over two feet high.  You should have seen his face.

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The front looked no better, not much wonder we hadn’t had any viewings in the month it had been advertised, there really was no curb appeal. The tarmac parking area was so covered in weeds that when we (or rather Iain) pulled out the weeds, half the tarmac came with them.  Now I know that it was terrible before but at least it wasn’t breaking up.

Inside the house there were a few things that he really should have told us about, such as a tile had fallen off the bath panel and another couple were loose in the kitchen behind the sink taps.  Now we would have just got these sorted but of course with water getting behind the sink tiles the wood was soaked.  Luckily both these were rectified without any real trouble.  However there was an adjustment to his deposit payment to cover the gardening and the damaged door frames. The carpets really needed cleaning with many “puddle” shaped patches on them and we know they had a puppy.  The trouble was that we hadn’t had time to have the carpets cleaned before they moved in so there wasn’t much we could complain about there. So we just had to live with the carpet for ages, there wasn’t any point in cleaning them when we moved in as we would have to clean the when we moved out again.

We would rather have sold our house than rented it but after 7 years of trying and not being prepared to give it away we took the only option to get us on our way and that was to rent, it is also the most sensible option financially.  So “c’est la vie”.

We spent the first few weeks, cleaning, painting, gardening. The latter two (well almost completely by Iain), gave him something to do. I did manage to paint the kitchen though.

As for the transition back into the house, it was certainly strange having a deaf dog.  Normally when you want the dog to come you just have to rattle her food bowl or shout, but now we have to go looking for her.  She soon got back into looking out of the windows and barking at anything going past, but I think she has struggled with the stairs, especially when she’s just woken up.  The strange thing is that she was always an indoor dog but having been living outdoors for so long she loved just sitting in the garden on her own in any sunshine that we may have had over the summer (what summer).

The things I like about the house is 1.  being able to entertain friends and have them stay over; 2.  being able to do the washing when and how often I want without having to queue, book or even just having a terrible fluffy wash like the rubbish washing machines at Cap Blanch; being able to have a shower without having to trek to the shower blocks; 4.  Sooooo much space (especially in the wardrobe department). 5.  Being able to leave my “toys” out, ie laptop, printer, sewing machine and not having to put them away tidy after each use; 5.  Having an ironing board and a steam generator (I gave up ironing when we were in the van) and of all the household chores I’d rather do the ironing than anything else. 

The things I don’t like:  1.  Housework!!!!!!, with 13 rooms if you did it properly it would take at least a day a week;  2.  It’s 7 steps from the food prep area to the bin (not just the “drop it in the carrier bag” hanging from the cupboard handle); 3.  Paying the mortgage and the bills.

So all-in-all I’m happy about the two sleeps left.

Be back very soon..

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Please support me and spread the word

Hello again to all my readers, it’s a long time since I last posted, in fact we were in France in May.

We’ve been back in the UK for 3 months now, living in our Mortar home until we can find another tenant – more about that in a future post and hopefully we’ll be back on the road again very soon.

However I haven’t just sat back and been miserable at the thought of all this space to spread out in, being able to shower when you want and not having to hike (or bike) off to communal showers and not least the fact that I can do my washing, whenever I want and how many times I want without booking/queueing/paying for each load – oh and so much room in the wardrobe that I even took to hanging up pillow cases. Oh and much to Iain's delight, I’ve found out how to use an iron again.  

No, in my quest to keep my grey cells active (and hopefully a way to earn a bit of pocket money)  I’ve been busy with my latest venture and now I’m looking for your support and help to spread the word.

A couple of years ago I came up with the idea of combining my love of sewing and crafting with my computer skills (being an ex-programmer and just a little bit of a techie) and of course it had to be something that I could do anywhere and everywhere so The Wendy House was born. The name came from my name of course but when my niece was little I bought her a Wendy House for her birthday and she always called it her Auntie Wendy House and that has always brought back fond memories for me. So there it is The Wendy House.

It's taken a while for me to get it all up and running, My good friend Joy inspired me over the winter to get on with it and after a chance meeting with an artist in early August who thought it would be a great idea, that just gave me the push I needed.  Crafting stuff just leaves Iain cold - as Joy says "These men just don't get it" so it's nice to have someone people  bounce ideas around with.

So what is is?

Well it’s a website, from which you can get crafting and sewing tips and tutorials (mostly free) and a range of crafting and card making digital downloads for printing at home and making yourself.  I’m not going to embellish that any more as all that information is available on the website The Wendy House.

As time goes on I will be adding more crafting ideas, cards and other media.

My new affiliate designer is Ellie Sheffield, who under the name of Fizzy Fairy Paintings, creates beautiful water colour pictures of imps, fairies, dragons and suchlike and together we have created some cards that have been designed exclusively for The Wendy House. With the exception of the Fizzy Fairy Paintings products (where I have done all the computer stuff), the website and all the products, tips and tutorials are all my own work.

And today I’m pleased to announce that The Wendy House is released in all it’s glory

For my launch, Ellie has kindly donated an original water colour print, painted especially for the release,  which can be won in a free prize draw.

All you have to do to win this original painting is to sign up with The Wendy House to receive regular news and updates.

Here is the picture that Ellie has donated and it can also be purchased as a high-quality download of full A4 size, and as a  “Quick” card with a matching envelope.
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The prize draw runs until 30th September 2015.

Please show your support of my venture by viewing my launch announcement , liking my Facebook page, sharing my page with all your social media contacts and asking them to share with their friends – you can do all that at a click of a button on my website. And if you want to be included in the prize draw then sign up to receive regular news by email (you can do this when viewing my launch announcement) .

Also if you know of anyone who might like to join me as a affiliate designer, someone who takes wonderful photographs that would be suitable to be turned into cards (I’ve got my eye on some of you already), or someone who loves crafting and can submit ideas to the site, please especially pass this onto them.

I hope you like my website and I would be delighted to receive any comments and feedback that you have.

Thank you for reading and promise I’ll be back soon with my travel blog.

See you soon.

Wendy

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

On the road again

As usual I’m a bit behind with my blog so I’ll give an update on what I have as we’re moving on today and won’t have internet until we get back to the UK.

We left La Manga on Wednesday (29th April) with the view of heading up to Benicarlo to a small and friendly campsite that we had visited before.  The drive was to be some 280 miles. We’d done that much in a day before although I must admit that it does leave me very tired.  This was to be a drive of over 5 hours, plus any stops for fuel etc.  Just to fill up with gas takes the best part of 30 minutes and you have to lean on the button all that time.  Thankfully that’s an “outdoor” job, so it’s down to Iain.

Unfortunately though we didn’t get our ar**s in gear early enough and by the time we had bought some essentials and paid for the camping it was already 11.45am before we managed to leave.  Normally we plan to get the bulk of the driving done in the morning, stop for lunch and then leave less than 100 miles for the afternoon.  This is because I have a tendency to need a nap in the afternoon.

Sometimes I get my head down after lunch for 30 minutes which helps considerably. It’s great travelling with your bed that’s ready just to climb into and have a snooze.
So we were heading for Benicarlo, absolutely nothing to report about the journey, except that after lunch we decided that we had been a bit optimistic about reaching Benicarlo so we decided to stop about 40 miles south at Benicassim.  This was a place that we had not visited before and some people had told us that they really liked it there so we thought we’d give it a go. 

Ad there’s very little to report on the place itself. We’ve stayed in worse places but I wasn’t even enthused enough to remember to take my camera out when we went walking.   We stayed at Bonterra campsite.  This is a Category 1 campsite so it’s got all the facilities and is the highest price you will pay on ACSI.  However we did feel rather crammed in.  We were directly overlooked by neighbours in two directions and the other side were almost under our window when they sat outside.  Two lovely pools, with one being a covered indoor heated pool – it’s still too early in the season for me to like cold water.  I did use the pool a couple of times.  What really got us was that it was full of Brits.  So many that no one bothered to talk to you.  We find this, when there’s only a few Brits on a campsite then they do tend to make you welcome.  This site had a Camping and Caravanning Club rally going on with all the usual stuff of get-togethers that that entails.  We were eating on the bar terrace one night when they were having a fund raising event indoors and to be quite honest I’m so glad that we weren’t involved.  It was a bit like the Dutch parties back in Albir.
This site reminded me of Eden in Peniscola, too many people, too crammed together, too small pitches, if you remember, we booked into Eden for 14 days and left after 10.  We only stayed 6 nights here, basically because we didn’t see the point of moving just 40 miles to Benicarlo and as we were travelling north we wanted to keep as much of the hot weather for as long as possible. The internet was 4 Euros a day – I thought that was a bit steep.
It also felt very regimented, although the staff were friendly it took something like 20 minutes to get booked in because they had to go over the rules of the site and then we even had to sign a contract for bringing a dog onto the campsite.  This even included that you would not wash your dog in any place not designated a dog wash and that you could not leave your dog unattended in your van.  Now I know these are sensible rules, but why not just incorporate them into the general rules – rather than having to actually sign a separate contract.
The best bit about the campsite was that it had a Mercadona Supermarket right opposite the entrance and a Lidl with a big car park nearby. The beach was about a 5 minute walk away.
The actual town, beaches and seafront were not that exciting.  However if you like beaches then they were pretty good and sandy.  What really struck me was that the town was obviously a very fashionable resort for the wealthy Spanish in the past. Along the seafront there were a lot of old private villas, some in a bad state, that had obviously been used as holiday homes by the wealthy of Castillon and Valencia.  These were interspersed with ugly blocks of flats – some quite high, nothing on the scale of Benidorm, but still too high to be nice. I wasn’t inspired enough to take my camera out so sorry for the lack of photos.
So my summary for Benicassim – probably won’t go back there.

The next stop for us was in the Costa Blanca, northern Spain.  This is our last stop before going into France and a good area for stopping on your travels north or south. On our previous visits to this area we have stayed at Playa De Aro, just because it’s somewhere that I used to go to as a child; Lloret de Mar, just because it sounded ok but this time we have plumped for Pineda de Mar.  The reason for this choice is that it was the furthest up the coast before you lost the main roads and it would be easy to pick up the AP-7 again.

The campsite chosen was Enmar, the only ACSI one in the town that could take larger vans. The satnag took us a very strange direction to get here but on arriving the very nice man opened the “in” barrier instead of the “out” barrier as it would be easier for us to get in.  Without us even getting out of the van, he had hopped on his bike and was leading us to a suitable pitch.  He was very friendly and helpful, helping us to choose a good pitch and then casually said to sort ourselves out and then pop back to reception. 

After Bonterra Park this was just a so much more relaxed atmosphere, it gave me a good feeling as soon as we arrived.  Then we found it was FREE WIFI and it was just getting better and better. The swimming pool was great and the food in the bar was ok.  I would certainly stay here again and would recommend it. 

The town wasn’t much with a railway line between the promenade and the beach but there were several beach bars and there was a great cycle track to get you from Calella almost up to Blanes.  Generally a pleasant place and being not too far away from the main road, we would be happy to call in there again.

There was only one downside of the place, our Dutch neighbours didn’t appear to like dogs very much and of course we have the smelly one with us. We have some very nice Dutch friends but some of them can be quite “prissy”.  I always add that we appreciate that some people don’t like dogs very much and we are fastidious about clearing up after our dog so we go out of our way to prevent our beloved dog from annoying our neighbours.  However one morning  our dog decided to poo on OUR pitch.  Iain was ready with the necessary equipment before the dog had even finished and the man next door started to complain, saying it was disgusting and we should get the dog off the campsite.  Most campsites just say clean up after them and accept that even if you try to get off the campsite, the dog just thinks it’s a road and they think that is ok.  Iain explained in Didi’s (another of our nice Dutch friends) words that you can’t put a cork up it’s a**e, she’s just a dog and doesn’t understand.

Although that does cause some unpleasantness our neighbour then had the audacity to accuse our dog of peeing in his awning, twice.  Well I don’t know where his puddles came from but Iain assured him that it wasn’t our dog. 1.  She doesn’t pee indoors, 2.  She couldn’t get into his awning and 3.  She’d been tied up all the time she had been outside.  We don’t like to have an atmosphere with our neighbours but it does make you feel very uncomfortable.  Still we were only staying a few days so we didn’t let it bother us too much, otherwise we would have moved pitches.

a-connie
Moi, I don't know what all the fuss is about
I hadn’t been inspired enough about the place to take any photos, so I’ll just add this one off the dog enjoying the sunshine, totally oblivious of the problem she had caused. She's an old girl now and likes here sleep.

I’m a bit behind and today we are moving on to Calais for an overnight stop before getting the ferry tomorrow. So this will be my last chance to post before we get back to the UK.  This is supposed to be a travel blog and the campsites we have been staying at in France are definitely worth a mention and a recommendation, so I will do a catch up when I get back to England.

Enjoy your day and I’ll be back soon, when we are in the cold weather again.

Thursday, 7 May 2015

I'm So Proud

Well, what can it be?

Today we have a General Election and we're not in the UK  to vote.  This is the first time in my adult life that I haven't voted.  I don't know what happened with our postal votes, but hey, I don't suppose two votes will make that much difference.

So what am I so proud about?


Well I remember 10 years and 2 days ago, 3 elections ago, I was in the proud position to vote for my own husband.

Personally you can call me a bit of a Philistine, I don't really get involved in politics and feel that it's something that you shouldn't discuss with friends - but then most people who say that, it's because they don't know anything - like me.  Many people vote one way because they always have and because that's what their fathers did.  However I have at least opened my eyes to listening to all the arguments put forward and can form a real opinion - well I think so.

But I can't tell you how proud I was 10 years ago when Iain stood for his party for a seat in Parliament.  He knew he didn't have a chance and could only campaign for 5 weeks, but he gave the party a candidate when they wouldn't otherwise have had one in our constituency.

It was a very frenzied and interesting 5 weeks anyway.  We went campaigning, being "warned off" by the Candidate who thought it was his right to win - it's my patch, go somewhere else - unfortunately he did win, but it came close and he was out in the next election - the secretary general. We went to the hustings where the same gentleman decided not to attend because the BNP were coming, who incidentally made a statement and left themselves.  Iain made me so proud listening to his views of what is going on. At least he had the courage of his convictions and stood up there in front of everyone and spoke coherently.

We went to vote together at our local poling station - now how could I vote for anyone else? It felt really strange ticking the box next to my husband's name.

The exciting thing was when we came to the count.  What a night - we've never stayed out so late, particularly without a drink, watching all those ballot boxes coming in and the counting happening. It must have been 4 am before we left.

Iain was quite overwhelmed, with only 5 weeks to campaign there were over 1,200 votes, but unfortunately he was behind the BNP (where are they now?).

Would it be a different story today?

Actually Iain said that apart from the kudos of being an MP and supporting his chosen party, he didn't really want to win - because he already had a full-time career and couldn't afford the pay-cut. I do know though that he would have liked the opportunity to have tried to make a difference.  Nowadays he's happy to just retire and enjoy his leisure.

So having been without TV for over 6 months, tonight, we have managed to get Sky News so that we can watch the election results - it's going to be a long night.

Personally, I don't care what politics a person chooses, I just like them if they are nice.

Hope you all get what you want, but of course some of us will be disappointed.

But I just remember that night, just over 10 years ago.

See you soon...................................

Saturday, 25 April 2015

Onward Quizteam Soldiers– South

Friends are the family you choose for yourselves


When we started this adventure, our (Iain’s) plan was to tour Europe and be in the warm all year round.  Personally I would rather have had a small cottage by a river and eked out my days relaxing and “playing” with my crafting things and sewing.  So neither of us got our dream (quite).  I do love living the life we live and the way we live it but I would never have come up with the idea in a million years but then I would have missed out on so much.

What we didn’t expect was that we would stay put for 6 months. We have met so many wonderful like-minded people from many nationalities who are easy going and doing a similar thing to us, although a lot swap their motorhome for a mortarhome in the summer months.  We can now count amongst the friends we have made this winter the Dutch (well some of them), Belgians and French.  So that will be a lot of visiting.

So it was time to leave El Albir and the many friends we had made and relationships that we had fortified over the winter.  Everything was ready to leave, the dog washed, the van packed and we had to say our goodbyes.  It was really emotional, big hugs all round.  Plans made to meet up in England in August to celebrate Joy’s birthday.  Over the last three months the Ingles seem to have become a group of 6.  We did do our own thing sometimes but quite often it was the same group of six that would be walking together through the campsite to go out for meals, events etc.  At last we have a picture of the six of us without someone missing, taking the photo.
6 go together

Here’s also a collection of my memories from the winter.
Cap Blanch

And I did promise Emma to post the video of the pseudo bull fighting – talk about last of the summer wine!!!!  When I was younger I hated the program “Last of the Summer Wine” as (in my mother’s words) it just showed that men didn’t grow up, they just grew old and their toys got more expensive. But now, 30 years later,  I’m in there amongst it and I laugh with everyone else.  It seems it doesn’t matter that you have to be over 55 or disabled to hire a madge, there's no sensibility guarantee and they still get abused. Enjoy.

video

video

And for those of you with one of those posh, flashy, expensive, crappy apple devices that can't open files that everyone else can, because the company wants to convert the world to their way of doing things - here's an Ipad/Apple version. Sorry about the rant, but I just don't like Apple!!!!!

Duck Update

Sorry there isn’t one!! After months of feeding by James and taming, the duck is still missing.

Moving on

As I said before, I hadn’t driven for 6 months, well apart from playing on Jo’s madge and if you remember I managed to crash that into their awning (actually into the van, but don’t tell James). Mmm – so tom boys don’t grow up either.  It was with a certain amount of trepidation that I took to the wheel. I was feeling a little nervous, especially as the exit from the campsite is quite narrow with a 90 degree turn at the top into a narrow road and then a very sharp roundabout to navigate.  I was also nervous because for the first time we don’t have any breakdown cover (explained in my last post).  I’m such a worrier. 

Before we had left, there were more people to wave at, so that is a little distracting and this wasn’t helped by Martina, one of the receptionists shouting her goodbyes and her surprise at the fact that I was driving.  Unfortunately it wasn’t that easy to get out of the campsite because one of their trucks had been parked opposite the exit and it meant that I had to do a bit of shuffling back and forth to get through the exit.

First stop Benidorm Repsol garage to fill up with LPG, about 4 miles away.  I was absolutely stunned, I was a lot more comfortable than last year when I left the campsite but then maybe it was because I’d another 4,000 miles of experience of driving this truck behind me.  There were no dodgy moments, no wobbly legs, not even at the “London Underground” junction to get out of Albir and onto the N332.  WOW!!!!!

Sorry I haven’t got anything exciting to report but it did a lot for my blood pressure.  We arrived at the garage with NO incidents.   Refuelled, 200 litres of LPG later (the garage attendant couldn’t believe how much gas we bought)  we left for Carrefour to do a stock up.  There is a fantastic area for motorhome parking so it’s really easy to get in and out.  Whether this is a rumour or not we weren’t taking any chances.  Carrefour in Benidorm is apparently renowned for motorhomes being broken into.  The decision was made – Iain would stay in the van whilst I did the shopping – yippeeeeeeee going to a supermarket and and a large one at that on my own.  It was like a kid being let loose in a sweet shop.  Some hour later (or maybe longer) I emerged with my trolley full of STUFF.  But I’d forgotten the tyres and the innertubes for the dogs buggy.  So I had to go back again, result, that meant that Iain had to find a home for all the goodies that I had bought.  Lunch and then off about 100 miles to La Manga.

Again no dramas and only one time did we have strong words when the motorway split into two.  The conversation went something like “Which way?” (me) – well that always starts something.  “Head for Murcia” was the response.  Both options were sign-posted Mucia so I was none the wiser.

The choice was becoming imminent – the chevrons were appearing and I still didn’t know which way to go.  So I have to admit that I did shout “Which Way?” of course expecting that more volume would encourage a more positive response (I must have got that from my father).  It worked – “Take the right” – now I’ve told you before that I’m left handed, on the wrong side of the road, in a left-hand-drive vehicle and I really do struggle with left and right when I’m behind the wheel so it always takes me a few seconds to react to a left or right instruction.  If only I’d looked at the SatNag, I would have seen the direction I needed – something I had forgotten in the six months being off the road – a lesson to be learned.

Anyway we were on the correct road, which happened to be the right road, so no major drama.
We arrived in La Manga a little after 4pm so had plenty of time to pitch up and sort ourselves out. I was surprised at how tired I was, it was only just over 100 miles, but maybe it was the excitement of my trip to Carrefour.

We had been to this campsite before so knew what to expect. People either love it or hate it, with over 1,500 pitches it is the largest we have ever been on. I’ve written about it before so I’ll just point you to my post last year rather than eulogising about it – click the picture.  
52marmenor

We have a toilet and shower block just next door – result.  We have a washing machine at the shower block – result (except that I broke it this morning).  We have fresh water and drainage on the pitch – result.  We have a restaurant/bar and beach within about 100m – result.  So facilities wise it is soooo much better than Cap Blanch – but it doesn’t have the town location so apart from the campsite you need to go on a 20 minute bike ride to get into town.  We have done that once since we got here, but with the dog being so much older, she wouldn’t be able to walk that far so it’s the buggy for her and the bikes for us.

Not only that but I’ve been cooking. In Albir we ate out nearly every day, either for lunch or dinner, but in the four nights here I have prepared – healthy salad, chicken curry, spaghetti bolognese and pulled pork fajitas.  Tonight we are going out – well it is Saturday and they do have entertainment on Saturdays. I understand that couples generally argue most over money, well we have most of our heated moments over food.

 Iain is so fussy and eats like a sparrow.  Sometimes I see him staring at his plate of food waiting to see if it is going to eat him first.  I causes me so much angst and worry about what to cook.  It’s not that I’m a bad cook, because although a little out of practice,  I am not a bad cook, it’s just that I hate the thought of spending hours preparing nice food, only to see it being left on the plate.  Often when we are in a restaurant and his plate looks as full when he is finished as it did when it arrived I am just relieved that I didn’t choose it and cook it. The waitress often asks if it was ok, only to be told that he’s had enough.  I digress.

The Plan – Gibraltar, Seville, Portugal and then home for an MOT – OR NOT

Having spent a few days, just the two of us, and engaging in some useful conversation, we were just discussing on Wednesday that we hadn’t heard from Paul, who looks after our house in the UK and that surely we must owe him some money as we hadn’t had a bill for a while.  I said that I didn’t want to contact him and tempt fate as it seems that every time we hear from him, something goes wrong with the house.  We also discussed how nice it would be if our tenant decided to buy our house and what we would do if he left.

Lo and behold, that afternoon, Paul sent an email with his invoice for 3 months maintenance.
Then out of the blue, after Iain had gone to bed that night, an email arrived from our tenant giving us notice to quit.  Oh no!!!! Not what we wanted to hear.  Sometimes I just wish I didn’t look at my emails late at night.  I couldn’t wake Iain up for that but then I just couldn’t sleep either thinking about it.  Iain then awoke about 4am to use the facilities and I got my opportunity to tell him.  There was no reaction from Iain but at least it meant that having shared the burden I could get a good night’s sleep.

So yesterday was spent contacting agents for re-letting and discussing what to do next.    So looking at our options – 1. Head directly home and be there about the time the tenant leaves – approximately 1,450 miles, or 2. Do the original plan to go via Gibraltar, Seville, Portugal, Northern Spain and then home – approximately 2,450 miles.

We have decided to get back to the UK about the time the tenant leaves, which gives us a little less than 4 weeks and then we will be able to check the house over for new tenants and if necessary we will live in it until it is re-let.  There’s not much available in the countryside that competes with our house at the moment, so hopefully it won’t take long. I have looked at properties for sale but that seems to be stagnant so we won’t bother putting it back up for sale at this time. I must admit though, I’m a little excited at the prospect of living in a mortarhome for a while, being able to shower when I want, do washing when I want and above all having a bath for a change.  One thing I remember as a bonus of living in a motorhome is when you are cooking you don’t have to go too far for the bin – strange things we think about and compare.

Not only that but it would be a saving of something over 500 litres of gas.
The feeling is strange, we were to cut our journey home down from 2 months to 1 month.  Most people (and us in our past lives) only get two weeks together for a holiday and here I was panicking that we only had one month to get home.

At least the tenant is leaving in late spring and we just have to come home early, if it had been in the winter then that would have been a lot more difficult for us.

So we’ll stay here for a few days more and then head up north again along the east coast of Spain.  The weather is really rather pleasant now, although still not hot enough for me to want to swim.   I’m sorry that we won’t be able to spend some time on the south coast during the nice weather, I’m sorry that we won’t be able to meet up with my old school friend Loreley who after years of looking for her, she finally popped up on facebook a few months ago living in Gibraltar and I’m also sorry that we won’t be able to go to Seville, where with my new found love of Flamenco I was really rather hoping to get to see and hopefully join in with some more dancing.  Portugal – well I haven’t been there and whilst it would be nice to see it, if just to compare it with Spain, that doesn’t really bother me.

Well there’s always big adventure 3 ………………………………….

Sunday, 19 April 2015

We’re Off

Well tomorrow anyway.  After over 6 months in one place we are finally on the move again.  What a great 6 months it has been. This place really feels like home.  So what will I miss? Friends; dancing; the social life; knowing where the shops are; the town being minutes away; the beach; the views.  Yes all that.  What I won’t miss is being so far from the toilet blocks, the other day it suddenly hit me that I was fed up of having to use my bike to go to the showers.  That is one of the big downsides of this campsite, it’s basic but clean and could do with another shower block – and a swimming pool. Everyone comes here for it’s close proximity to the beach and the town – location, location, location.  We have chosen to be right down the far end because we are away from some of the people who think they own the place because they live here permanently; it is more relaxed and we can let the dogs wander (yes, for those anti-dog people, we do watch them constantly and just in case they have got out of sight, we do a poo hunt several times a day) but at least we don’t have to tie them up.  Also sometimes we don’t have to worry if we are socialising late as there is no-one else around and the 12 midnight curfew doesn’t really need to be considered. 

 

The campsite is pretty empty now, there is just the three vans and Dave (who lives here permanently) at our end and at least two blocks of 6 pitches free each side before we encounter another camper.  Most of the people who are leaving have gone now and we know at least 3 vans (including ourselves) who are leaving on Monday.  So all in all, it’s time to move on. After all, the plan was to tour Europe, not necessarily to stay in one place living in a motorhome.

 

Duck Update

b-guard duck

 

The duck has gone!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  We’re missing it a bit, but at least we don’t have to clear up every morning after it.  We have to throw away our outside matting because it has been washed down every day for the last 4 months because of the duck sh*t all over it.  We took a right ducking every night.  I think it liked our matting because it was green and reminded it of grass – and there’s not a lot of that around here.

 

So after it’s brief encounter with Max, where is the duck.  Did it just decide that enough was enough and fly off to sunnier climes, did it meet up with that lovely male Muscovy along the road in Altea and go off to lay lots of eggs and raise a brood of 20 ducklings.  No - it left in a box.

 

No – it wasn’t dead.  It was given away to a good home.  Having fed and watered it and provided a bath for it since November, James had become concerned about his charge and what would happen to it when they leave in about 2 weeks.   Iain just wanted the mess off our matting.  We did suggest that he might get it a cage and take it with him but Jo wasn’t having any of that. But a solution was found.  Jo and James had some friends visit from near Cordoba (about a six hour drive) and as they live in a village and have land with animals they offered to take the duck back with them. clip it’s wings and buy it a male friend.  Plans were made, a suitable box was found, breathing holes were made in the top and the duck just needed to be caught then.  Spectator sport or what!  We all stood around with our cameras, this had to be good for a laugh.  We were so disappointed though.  James had tamed it so much that after only about 5 minutes he was able to catch it and put it in the box.  There was a lot of fluttering around – this thing had a wing span of about 3 feet – but it soon settled down in the dark and it was on it’s way.  James was almost tearful to lose his friend – but it was for the best.

The duck arrived in Cordoba about 6 hours later, safe and sound, it was fed and watered and settled down to it’s new home.  The next day it flew off and has not been seen since.  We just hope that it’s not a homing duck and will turn up here again in a couple of weeks – now that would be something.

 

Connie

 

Connie is getting on a bit, she’s about 14 now and her eyesight has been getting worse over the last few years – her eyes are milky and the pupils are constantly open to let in as much light as possible.  However over the last couple of months she has been a bit naughty – ignoring our commands and wandering off a bit.  We’ve now decided that she is deaf or at least nearly deaf.  So she hasn’t been naughty, she’s simply not heard us.  We started noticing it when we could walk right up to her while she was asleep and she didn’t wake up.  It’s a good job there aren’t any quick brown foxes around here or they’d be jumping all over her.  She’s also started refusing to walk.  If it’s hot or we’ve been out a bit long she will drag behind and then put the anchors on and refuse to go any further.  She still runs around and spins like the tasmanian devil when it’s time to go out for a walk, but that doesn’t last long and after a mile or so she’s had enough.  She’s also become a lot more clingy and woofy – it must be very confusing for her. This of course means that we have to deal with that.  It now seems that her eye-sight is better than her hearing so we have started to use more hand signals and she’s doing well at that – but of course you have to get her attention first.  It also means that she will have to be walked on a lead, always, as we have very little recall because she just can’t hear us.  We’ve also started letting her smell our hands before we touch her, particularly if she is asleep, otherwise the poor thing is jumping out of her skin as she hasn’t heard us approach.  We’ll get used to it and dogs are also so adaptable.  If anyone has any tips on dealing with a deaf dog, we’d love to hear them.   We’ll get her ears checked when we next go to the vets, but we’re pretty sure this isn’t being caused by an infection or anything – just old age.  I don’t suppose they have any hearing tests – no response to the clap of hands is probably enough to decide.

 

Preparations for leaving

So with moving on to be considered it has been a week of sorting out cupboards, picking up any bits and pieces that we need, storing things we have bought – it’s funny to think that if you buy, for example a toaster, then you have to find somewhere to put it or throw something else away.  Of course there has been a lot of socialising but I’ll come onto that later. 

I have moaned several times over the winter that I would like an awning – an extra room.  But at least this means that we don’t need to spend days packing up, dismantling and cleaning the awning – and of course finding a home for all the things that are in it.  I often wonder how people get all that stuff into their vans and still have room to move.

One of the things is to get the van in ship-shape condition in preparation for our next journey. Cleaned and the chrome polished.

As I’ve said, we’ve been in the same place for 6 months and haven’t once started the motorhome.  There was little point – we know the vehicle  battery is shot and we will replace it when we get back to the UK (they are very expensive here), so what was the point in getting it charged up just for it to go flat again.  I’m also well-aware that we chose NOT to have breakdown cover this year.  With me being such a worrier,  I would have loved the peace of mind but  it would have added £700 to the cost of our insurance. Now I’m not one for false economies but that does give us £700 per year in the bank to off-set against breakdown.

 

OK, move on.  We know we’ve got a duff battery and to most people with cars that would be a big problem, but hey this is a motorhome and they work a bit differently to a car.  Most European vans trickle charge the vehicle battery when on hook-up, but ours doesn’t – that’s one of the problems.  BUT as long as we’ve got a quarter of a tank of petrol we should be able to do anything, why? 

1.  We have an emergency start button which allows power to be drawn from the leisure batteries to give a boost to the vehicle battery. 

2.  Should the leisure batteries be flat (we’re on hook up so they shouldn’t be in this case) we can fire up the generator to charge the leisure batteries to then use the emergency start.

3.  As long as we have a quarter of a tank of petrol, we can fire up the generator – and we always make sure we have that.

 

So with all this confidence that we WOULD get the van started with a flat battery, after the tidy up, the oil and water levels were checked, the slide-outs were retracted and I took up my position in the drivers seat.  Of course our friends were well aware of our need to get the van started and not leave it until the day we were due to depart, so this had become a bit of a spectator sport.  You’ve probably heard me talk about the spectator sport before.  That is when a lot of people, with too much time on their hands, stand around and watch other people whilst giving advice and help but of course you know that really they just want to laugh when things go wrong.  I think they were secretly looking forward to this.

 

There I was sitting on my throne, keys in hand waiting for the moment of truth.  Like many vehicles these days, there is quite a complicated security system to overcome before you can start then engine and I hadn’t had to do that for 6 months.  I won’t go into the details, you never know who’s reading these blogs,  but with a flat battery (and I mean not enough charge to open the central locking) I need both sets of keys to override the security system and once I have all the lights flashing on the dash then at least I will have a chance of starting.  So pressing the emergency start button for a few seconds and going through the procedure – nothing, no lights, NOTHING! Absolutely not even one attempt at turning the massive 6.8 litre  V10 engine over.  Here we go I thought – perhaps that £700 saving was a mistake but at least we had a few days to get it sorted and it’s not as if we have to be anywhere else.

 

After a while of watching and waiting, Iain decided to come and offer his assistance.  His first offering was “Keep your finger on the emergency start button”, I said “I am but my finger hurts and I’m just changing fingers”.  Still nothing after about 30 seconds.  Then he spotted a switch and asked “What does this do?”  and I went “Doh”.  Flicked the switch, tried again and voila – lights flashing and He (our van is definitely male) turned over and the sweet sound of the engine was music to my ears.  We’ll it’s more of a grunt actually, this baby really makes a throaty noise.

 

What a relief.  Big smiles all round.  I suddenly felt all excited about getting on the road again.  So the worry about whether the van would start is now over and I’ve stopped worrying – well not quite – I haven’t driven for 6 months – not anything – so in the final words of Gone with the Wind – “I’ll worry about that tomorrow, after all, tomorrow is another day”.

 

Our Last Week

I hate leaving anywhere and this is going to be hard.  We’ve built on friendships that we made last year and made some new friends.  For the last 3 months it seems as though we have been a group of 6.  Although sometimes we do things just in couples (normally our respective couples I might add) it does seem that if we are doing anything, it’s often the 6 of us.  So it’s been a week of last visits, last meals here, saying goodbye to the locals we have met.  Very sad really but at least we all plan to be back next winter.

Last weekend we paid our final visit this season to El Cisne – where Joy got her man.  Well a photo at least.  Joy’s been oogling him for months.  He’s the dancer in Big Bang and I have to admit in the words of an old friend “I wouldn’t kick him out of bed for eating crackers”.  The first picture I took, Joy was so shocked that she beamed a smile.  The second, she’d gone all shy.  She said “Oooh, he’s all sweaty” but then if you’d been dancing for over 30 minutes, throwing your partner around you’d be all sweaty too.  They really are a fantastic act and last week we saw them twice in one day. Once at El Cisne and once at Kaktus in the evening.  Joy just can’t get enough of them.

 

 

joybigbang
Did you get his phone number? 
bigbang
Fantastic acrobatic dance act – BIG BANG

 

I also had a chance to get up with the flamenco dance group and do the Sevillana – this dance is really complicated but I do know enough now to be able to get the spins and crosses and the final “Hola” in the right place for each section.

On Tuesday, Clara, the flamenco teacher, came back to the van for a few drinks and some dancing took place, including some comic flamenco from Iain and Nick  – I’ll have to sort out some photos later but I really want to post this today.

 

Wednesday, Meerke and Nol left to go back to Holland.  We were all choked.  Whilst we hadn’t seen that much of them over the winter, we had been neighbours last year and had become very good friends over the two winters we had spent here. We very much hope that we will see them again next winter.  Perhaps we will get back to Holland in the late summer and  see them then, but who knows where our travels will take us.

 

We had a last cheap chinese – then ended up in Wyndhams (again) having too much to drink and staying up too late – but at least I was a bit sensible and had loads of water to drink when we got back so I didn’t feel rough the next day – it was a late night 3am but that was another story not really for public airing.

 

Friday we knew the Flamenco dancers were performing again at Kaktus so we went out for a last meal at Brisa Del Mar (where we had our anniversary party) and then toddled off to Kaktus to watch the flamenco dancers.  I got a final chance to dance the Sevillana – after months of practice I wanted every chance I could get.  Unfortunately I didn’t get to dance with any of the professionals and was really disappointed to be put with a man, simply a member of the public whom I’d never met before.  This was to be a nightmare – I really needed to dance with someone who knew what they were doing and this was going to be my last chance.  If you end up with someone who just stands there jigging, it spoils everything.  I was so keen to dance that we’d been out for hours just so that I could, the dance act was late and didn’t start until after 11pm .  He must have been looking at me thinking almost the same thing.  “Why have I been put with this (fat, old) English woman to dance a traditional Spanish Dance”.  Well it all worked out ok in the end because he turned out to be Spanish and knew the dance.  I was thrilled – my last chance and he knew how to dance.  It really made my week, but this meant that a late night was had yet again.

 

Saturday was a day to chill.  We had planned to leave on Sunday, but Joy and myself just wanted that “last” visit to Goa so we’ve both decided that Monday it will be.

Today, we’re having lunch out and then going to Goa to watch the flamenco band and hopefully do a bit of jigging around.  It’s not a late night and I will NOT be having a heavy drinking session.  I want a clear head tomorrow to finish packing up and to drive the 185 miles to La Manga.

 

Sorry I’ve rushed this post and not put many photos in, I’ll try a catch up later when I have more time (where does the time go). Now I’d better post my blog and get a bit more sleep, ready for our last day this season in Albir.  I’m sure there will be a lot of tears and photos tomorrow.

 

Be back soon – our adventure continues………………………………………………………..

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Long time no see

I just can’t believe how fast the time has been going.  We’re due to leave here in a couple of weeks and then we’ll be on our travels again so I’ll have more travel news to report then and hopefully a lot more time to do some blogging.

So it’s nearly two months since my last post, here are some of the highlights well things that particularly stick in my mind.

Nick and Joy finally arrived in January and our feet haven’t touched the ground since, almost literally, I haven’t been out dancing so much in years – I don’t know where Nick gets his energy from.

In February, there was a Dutch 50th wedding anniversary party and Clara, our flamenco teacher did a performance and the flamenco group had a photo
DSCF4194
Joy, Ronnie, Betty, Frieda, Fabienne and yours truly. Missing were Hortense and Cora


This brought me onto doing a website for Clara to help promote her business.  So one afternoon Joy, her friend Ellie who was visiting and myself went onto the beach to take some photos and videos.  Here’s a couple – they were pretty good I thought for amateurs.

pic3pic2

Then another day, Clara and myself went up into the mountains and took some more pictures and videos. This then got me into photo manipulation and I rather liked the result of this one. Clara is dancing with her shadow which is in black and white and she is wearing vibrant red.

bw3
If you liked those then have a look at her website www.claratierra.sbw1.co.uk

I have really enjoyed doing the website although it has taken up quite a bit of time.  But anyone who knows me, knows that I’ve always got to be learning something new and I’ve learned a lot about photo manipulation and videos and YouTube – so for me it was all worth it.

After some inspiration from Joy, I’ve also been working on a couple of websites for myself that I’ve been meaning to do for ages, but they took a bit of a backseat because of Clara’s so they haven’t been finished and will be revealed soon. Oh and look, I’ve got into Pinterest and you can now pin any picture on my blog.

Clara, bless her, than offered in return to give me some private Flamenco lessons and I’ve been learning the four parts of the Sevillana, which is a dance that all Spanish people seem to know but it really is very difficult and takes ages.  I think I’m just about there now and I can get up and dance with the Flamenco dancers at El Cisne and Kaktus and actually look like I know a bit of what I’m doing instead of just jigging around – more of that to follow.

In March, there was another party to celebrate the Dutch leaving – sorry that was for the Dutch to celebrate the end of the winter season, when they all go home to check on their tulips.  Apologies to our Dutch friends Meerke and Nol, Henk and Jenny, we don't see you in the same way as some of the others.

So in one of those inebriated moments, we thought it would be a good idea to put on a “Flash mob” during the party.  Only planning it a week before, we actually only had 2 hours to put together and practice the dance (I did mention the Sevillana takes ages to learn).  Clara was brilliant and this is the result which also gave me another opportunity to play around with videos. It’s only a couple of snippets but hopefully it will give you the idea. Even Iain, Nick, Jo and James were involved as they were the “Clappy Happers” backing group.  Hope you enjoy it, it was just a bit of fun and it proves that old birds still like to get up and dance, the oldest in our flamenco group was 82.


We’ve met some new friends

a1Paul and Ruth from Wiltshire stayed for a couple of weeks.  Paul has just finished his self-build and it’s all orange inside – yes, even the orange squeezer. Apart from the fact that they were real party animals, my most vivid memory was of a fairly cold evening (still able to sit out until gone 9pm) when Paul was sitting outside wearing an orange and black “Tigger” style onesie.  I couldn’t believe that he would actually wear that in public there could have been a bit of the confidence-juice that had been consumed responsible for that.
                                              Ruth and Paul

Mick and Shirley returned again, we had met them last year and that meant another few nights out. They’ve now moved off to Calpe for a couple of weeks before returning home.

Dave and Pam from Grimsby became new friends and they are planning to come back next year.

We’ve had some birthdays to celebrate

nick card

Jo and mine fell at the same weekend in early March so we did a whole weekend’s celebrations.  Meals out, dancing at Kactus (posh hotel on the seafront) – you get the picture.
Nick’s fell on 1st April and I made him a card.  Inspiration is always the problem, but just recently, as I said we’ve been out dancing and partying a lot and Iain and James are a bit light-weight when it comes to staying up late, so Nick always seems to be left with the women.  He was left to entertain 5 women one night, so we have “Nick-named” (rather apt I thought) him “Sultan Nick of Albir”.  Of course he loves all the attention.  Here’s the card I made for him.  We then did a surprise lunch at Wyndhams for him and managed to pull it off without him finding out.  But I don’t think he appreciated this picture too much though.
a-nick

We’ve also had some falls

James was the first – fell over and dislocated his finger – mmmm well they do call it falling down water. So that meant a few visits to the hospital and a couple of weeks in a sling.
Then Pam, tripped in the street and ended up 4 nights in hospital.  Badly bruised but gladly nothing broken.
The following night,  Liz who lives in Albir  – fell on her way home from the quiz on Wednesday night and we haven’t seen her since but we have been getting regular updates. Hope you are doing ok Liz and also hope we will see you before we go.
Jo finished it off (we hope) by tripping on a piece of metal  on the campsite.  With her already dodgy ankle that meant a trip to the hospital but thankfully nothing broken. But that does of course mean that the Madge is back in action.  It was the day of “all day” rugby so nearly everyone was out at the time.  I’m sorry to say this Jo, but it must have been a sight to be seen with only Jo and Pam down our end of the campsite at the time and Pam, who had only come out of hospital  that day had to walk using her walking frame over to Jo and help her up.  Glad that it’s improving now Jo, hopefully you’ll be up and running again soon.

We’ve found some new places to go

Kaktus

– the posh hotel on the seafront. Last year, Nick always took Joy out on Saturday nights to the Kactus – they do a really good act each Friday and Saturday and there’s dancing of course.  Last year we just didn’t get ourselves organised enough to go, especially as the act doesn’t come on until 10.30pm which was always far too late for us.  But this year we have been making the effort sometimes.  The acts are really good and we do have a great time.

Goa

– not the holiday resort in India, but a Spanish bar just down the road and on the seafront.  I can’t believe we didn’t discover it before.  On Friday nights (late) and Sunday evenings they have Spanish entertainment.  This normally consists of a Flamenco band (no dancer though) which we think is one family. They are fantastic and whilst Iain really doesn’t like the wailing singing that they do, the guitarist is brilliant.  Having done some flamenco lessons we have learned not only the dance but also an appreciation of the culture and the rythms.  I’m really getting into flamenco and I’m sure it is mainly because I understand it so much more and can appreciate it – even the singing sometimes.

Of course all this makes it sound like we are forever in the pub and getting pi**ed.  Well it would be so easy to do that.  There are loads of ex-pat communities over in Spain, retired, not working, loads of time on their hands, living very cheaply off pensions and with a pint at anything from 1.50 euros and large brandies at 3 Euros a shot it is very easy to fall into that way of life.  I for one, don’t want to.

Yes I’ll party, yes I’ll have a drink (and too many sometimes) but I also want to keep myself busy doing other things.  I’ve been doing a bit of crafting stuff but not enough and the days still seem to fly by.  It’s amazing the things that you did automatically seem to be a job these days – even just having a shower, or doing water in/water out is something  to tick off the list of “jobs to do” each day.  It’s also very easy to get lazy.  Each day seems to start with – “Our neighbours are up, let’s pop around for a chat and see what they are doing today”.

Jo and James, Nick and Joy and ourselves are all next to each other and it is getting like one big commune.  Even the dogs just seem to wander from one van to another as if it is just one big pack with separate kennels. Paddy often pops in for a bit of Connie's left-overs.  It’s rather nice really and we do like the campsite life, but we need to leave here for a rest.   You wouldn’t get this lifestyle in an apartment.  However it is lovely when on the odd occasion we just stay in for the night and watch TV together, just the two of us.  However with the warmer weather and now the longer evenings – already the sun doesn’t set until after 8.30pm those nights are getting fewer and farther between.

But we have taken in a little bit of culture

A couple of days ago, Joy and myself actually ventured into Altea Old Town.  It is lovely, pretty white buildings, narrow streets, a church on top of the hill.  As with a lot of Spanish old towns they are on top of hills and it’s a bit of a climb to get up there but worth it. This is much more real Spain than Albir which has really only come into being since the 1960's. For anyone thinking of visiting – we do actually walk there from Albir, it’s about 2 miles along the promenade,  then the climb up.
a-altea1

a-altea
You can just see the massive hotels
at Benidorm in the distance
a-altea2
These young people –
just couldn’t make it to the top without
a rest



Last week saw the return of the Classical Flamenco Group which we saw in November (I think).  Iain and Nick declined to join us and said it would just be wasted money on them.   flamenco pasionAs usual (this is Spain), there was very little information about it beforehand, loads of posters everywhere but nothing explaining what it would actually be – so we didn’t really know what we were going to see.  I googled everything I could and we were still none the wiser.  We thought from the poster that it might be a male dancer, if any dancer at all, but we did manage to find out that the guitarist would be the same as the previous performance. I wasn’t sure about seeing a single male dancer because I love to see the ladies dancing in their flamenco dresses, however as Joy hadn’t seen the last performance and the poster did show a man half naked,  we thought we would give it a go.

It was fantastic.  Norman (the dancer) was about 6ft 4 and was like an albatross.  How he moved his long arms and legs at such speed, I just don’t know.  His name is Norman Contreras and here’s a brief snippet of his dancing.

video

 He must be quite new on the scene as I could only find one YouTube video of him.



The guitarist was Antonio Munoz Fernandez and he must be quite famous as there’s quite a bit on YouTube of him, if you would like to have a look and listen.

So if you ever come across these people, they are well worth seeing.

DUCK UPDATE

max
The duck has become very tame, it will let you stroke it, James can even pick it up with no fuss and it dominates the two dogs, Connie and Paddy who avoid it at all cost.

However the stupid duck thinks it is a dog and kept visiting Max – now would you torment this dog? Max didn’t know what to make of it and was very curious to say the least.  We had to keep rescuing the duck from a good sniffing and chewing. One day I saw Max had pinned it to the ground.  Another time Max was standing on it’s wing and chewing it’s feathers and the duck didn’t even try to get away. Then Max must have realised that this might be food and one time the duck was rescued after Max picked it up by it's neck.  Things were getting a bit dodgy.  Understandably, although Dave was fed up with the duck tormenting Max, more seriously, Max is a big softie and he didn’t want him to actually taste blood.

One day however the inevitable happened, Dave was throwing the ball for Max and the stupid duck got too close.  Max chased the duck which didn’t take off quick enough and he caught it on our pitch.  Everyone was reluctant to get too close to Max as you don't know what a dog on the hunt might do if you try to take it's prize away. In a matter of seconds, Dave came to the rescue and managed to get Max to drop the duck. Was it curtains for the duck? Well not quite, but it was pretty roughed up, looked very sorry for itself and it lost a few tail feathers so it won’t be flying off anywhere for a while.  It seems to have recovered now but it doesn’t mess with Max any more.

So for now were still stuck with the duck and it's muck.

A couple of days later an egg appeared under James' van.  James was soooo excited - thought he was going to be a grandad. More research on Muscovy ducks revealed that they can lay up to 30 eggs in one batch so preparations were being made for the new arrivals.  Was it the shock of the encounter with Max that had spurred on the duck to start laying? Or was it just a chicken egg!!!!!  Sadly no further eggs have been produced so one solitary egg lies underneath James' van and the duck is totally ignoring it - perhaps she isn't ready to be a mother yet? I think James is now in mourning over what might have been. No one is owning up to the joke but I just wish it had been my idea.

That’s about it, I’m sure there is loads that I have forgotten and apologies to anyone who didn’t get a mention.  We’re on the move again later next week, so there should be more of our travels rather than just our living.  But to anyone thinking of spending winter in warmer climes – Spain is great. Winter lasted about 6 weeks, cool in the day and quite cold at night but I only saw ice on the ground once, early one morning where a small puddle had frozen and I still only wore a coat once and that was because it was raining.

So did we get bored staying in one place for 6 months - what do you think?

See you soon when we are on the road again.