Last Saturday, Chabanais was busy and buzzing with competing cars from the Angoulême ‘Circuit des Ramparts’ having a lunchtime ‘pit stop’.
The Angoulême Circuit des Remparts weekend is an event where classic cars ‘race’ around the twisting roads of Angoulême. It is a key event for car enthusiasts!
The first race was held in 1939 and the circuit of 1,279 meters has not changed since. Relaunched in 1947 but abandoned in 1955, this race saw the greatest drivers of the time. Although the circuit is often referred to as the slowest in the world, this didn’t stop Juan Manuel Fangio leaving his mark in 1950 with three hours and twenty-four minutes for the 80 laps.
In 1983 Circuit des Ramparts was revived. Today, only three French city circuits are active, the others being Pau and Monaco. This year is special, as it is the 50th edition of Circuit des Ramparts.
So, it is historic but also a celebration with concours competitions. A beautiful road trip through the Charente countryside!
In the park, along the river, on side roads, all the cars looked so colourful and really great in the autumn sunshine and Steve was in his element. Seeing an Alfa Romeo Alfasud, the first car he owned!
Then possibly his favourite car? Alfa Romeo Duetto Spider.
So, next year why not bring your classic car and come and tour the beautiful Charente region.
We are two months into our French adventure and funny really, as this move just doesn’t feel as daunting as when we moved to Spain. I guess we know the sort of things we have to do and organise although this time after Brexit, it is an eye opener to say the least or maybe that should be a ‘wallet opener’!
We were introduced to Beatrice (Anglo French Solutions) who has outlined a schedule for us to work through. She is ‘holding our hand’ through the complication of French paperwork. I hate filling forms in at the best of times and that’s in English! She also arranged for us to have a letter signed by the mayor here in Chabanais, confirming we are living here, as we are renting and don’t have utility bills as proof of address which is needed for almost everything we have to do. She said it would be very useful. I’ll call it our ‘golden letter.’
So, step one was the validation of our French Visas here in France, not explained to us in the UK. Back online to our application account and “Darling where is the bank card?” That will be €200.00 each! And, no, I don’t know what the fee we paid in the UK was for either. A little Brexit gem?
Onto the car and first to declare it to French customs. We had driven over after our belongings had been shipped and declared. So, armed with our volumes of paperwork and our golden letter in hand, we drove to Angouleme, the capital of this region (Poitou Charentes) to the customs office. The French customs officer inspected our papers and also smiled at our golden letter and muttered ‘parfait’. The process was quick and easy and we even had the certificate issued while we waited which was free!
To matriculate the car onto French plates it is necessary to change our headlamps back to our Spanish ones as we are driving on the right hand side of the road once more. That done, next the French MOT, time for the wallet again! Since Brexit the UK MOT is not recognised. €80.00 later, our paperwork has been sent off to hopefully complete the process. Just the final fee outstanding which is one we know about just not how much!
Next, on our list, open a French bank account. Again copies of all our paperwork and our golden letter, which you guessed, was met with a smile by the bank assistant and a muttered ‘parfait’. Two and a half hours later, we had completed the bank’s paperwork and I think two hours of that was completing their security checks. However, we were dealt with by a person face to face who really made us feel welcome, the way UK banks used to be years and years ago. In fact, he was keen to give us information on good restaurants rather than sell bank products! Refreshing after an exhausting week of transferring money daily from our UK bank account to our existing Euro bank account. With every transfer having to be authorised with the bank customer services team (minimum 30 minute phone call), who are based in countries where scams and fraud are prolific. It makes you wonder how safe our customer data really is, as on one call, we could hear a voice in the background coaching the agent with the security questions, frightening! How do banks check on their employees?
Yesterday, a visit to the vets. Charlie needed checking for a skin problem and we also decided to get his microchip details updated to the address here. Another ‘to do’ ticked off our list. As mentioned in the previous post, Charlie has his Pet Health Certificate (PHC) which is valid for 4 months to re enter UK. Therefore, when the vet explained Charlie should have had his microchip updated in the first 8 days of arriving here, it was a surprise, as nothing is mentioned on the PHC. This means France will not let our dear Charlie out of the country for 6 months, which is OK of course, but what does the PHC ‘valid for 4 months’ mean then?
It does feel, and Beatrice also mentioned, that people and businesses are still working out what Brexit really means in day to day life? Anyway, we carry on ‘being processed’ into the French system and really look forward to our future here in France, where to date, everyone has been so friendly and helpful!
Of course, our main focus and most of our time has been to spent finding our new home. We’ve been busy travelling around the region viewing properties. Aigre, below, one of the places we viewed houses and added a nice lunch stop at Le Square.
So many beautiful hamlets and towns …..
And driving through the countryside full of fields of sunflowers, just stunning!
Charlie went to several viewings when they were over an hour away. He’s tested out quite a few gardens and was seriously not impressed when put back in the car and driven away, bless. But fantastic news, two weeks ago, we had our offer accepted on a house!
Here the process takes at least three months and I fear three long months as we are so excited! We’ve already decided where the Christmas tree will go! But, so I don’t jinx the sale, no more details for now as the paperwork is being prepared for stage one and yes, our golden letter was needed again!
As the sun sets on the river Thames, we now find ourselves on a new dawn on the river Vienne. We’ve arrived in Chabanais!
And now let us go back ten days when we still didn’t have our French visas, therefore we couldn’t book a definite day to travel and Charlie, our lovely dog was too ill to have his travel Pet Health certificate issued. The sale of our apartment was due to complete on 20th June which would mean we would soon be homeless.
We set off for our long awaited visa appointment on 8th June, armed with reams of paper, enough to wallpaper our lounge! So much photocopying that our old printer almost died of exhaustion, so our neighbour took it off our hands. Our second printer was already packed! Our 10.30am visa appointment seemed to be shared with at least 50 other people, still it was a day out!
Meanwhile, back at our our apartment, the hot water pump had packed up and finding a plumber that could replace it within a few days was a challenge. While Steve organised a plumber and two new front tyres for our car, I was back and forth to the vets to to get blood and poo tests done for Charlie. His symptoms pointed to a nasty parasite, so the vet started treatment while still waiting on the results. Thank goodness Charlie got better and his certificate was issued on Tuesday 14th. The very day the removal company and the plumber descended on our home.
Later that day, we received the e mail from the visa centre saying our passports were back from the French Embassy and ready for collection. But no actual confirmation of the visas being approved. Even on the French Embassy website, there was no confirmation. We had to wait anxiously until 8.30am Wednesday 15th when I collected them and nervously opened the envelopes and looked inside the passports and we’d been approved! Bienvenue en France! Couldn’t quite believe it and I admit I shed a tear. When I arrived home, Steve dashed off to get a new front tyre fitted and yes, if you’re keeping up, I got a puncture in one of the brand new tyres on Tuesday night!
We were now booked on Eurotunnel 07.50 Thursday 16th with a nice 5am start! After such an exhausting week, with not much sleep, we decided to take up our friends Lucie and Tom’s kind offer to stay overnight at their place in France.
But there was still time for a little more stress on our way to Folkestone with an accident closing the M25 resulting in us missing the train, along with many other passengers. But the staff met us with a smile, no fuss and booked us on a later train. The friendliness, facilities and efficiency at the terminal were a very welcome surprise. Charlie was happy as he had longer to play on the agility course set up in the dog area! We drank a bucket of coffee!
Were these signs for us not to go? ….. were they heck, nothing was going to stop our “aventure français”.
We arrived early evening in pretty Chitenay, (pronounced as you may think!) in Loir-et-Cher.
We were given a lovely French welcome and met Lucie and Tom’s young children for the first time, so did Charlie and he finally relaxed enough to receive a lot of fuss and cuddles from them! Lucie and Tom moved to their beautiful house in March. It will be their long term family renovation project, along with the gardens and woods. An idyllic location for their children to grow up in.
And potentially, only a few hours from where we may find our new home? Next morning, fresh croissants and coffee for breakfast and dear Lucie sent us on our way feeling refreshed for the first time in weeks.
Finally, I now feel we can get really excited as we are here. Our little rental house is right in the village centre and 2 minutes walk from the river, the local café and local shops.
Finally, I’m writing a blog post, well just a short catch up really, as the gap has been much longer than intended!
I can’t believe its 19 months since we arrived back in England from Spain. In fact, I think we’re all wondering how the last two years or so have vanished so quickly when we’ve been locked up, quarantined, socially distanced, masked, you name it, we’ve all been through it, haven’t we?
Back in October 2020, our plan was to return from Spain, decorate our apartment ready to sell and move on. But like the best laid plans things took longer than expected. Two buyers later and our sale is completing next month. Life also got busy, back to ‘normal’ spending time with family and friends. I became a volunteer at the vaccine centre in Chertsey Hall and felt a part of a real community sprit. It was very hectic and I have sanitized hundreds of chairs and had some great laughs!
We also joined the `’Big German Shepherd Club’ walks on many Sunday mornings.
Then, there was my lovely part-time job at Mercedes-Benz World at Brooklands which ended up lasting a year but I have made some truly special friends there.
We imagined moving to the English countryside for a while but our hearts weren’t quite there. Our budget was being pushed more and more with the ever increasing property prices, also there are lifestyle choices to consider, especially at our age! After many months of Steve showing me beautiful country houses online, we took a short trip to South West France and viewed some properties. Decision finalized, France would be our next adventure! Right now I’m thinking, goodness another language to try and learn!
Moving to the EU after Brexit certainly throws up challenges, a lot of research, visa issues, shipping belongings etc etc…. Now we cross our fingers that our visa appointment, early June, (after two month wait) will result in a huge ‘Oui’! Then, we will be on our way, first stop Chabanais, Charente where we have booked a rental property and storage for three months.
So, I must get back to packing and say goodbye for now or ‘au revoir pour l’instant?
Where does the time go as I cannot believe it’s been three months since my last post!
However, I’m so pleased and proud of my dear cousin Duncan who is holding his first photographic exhibition ‘Our Generation’ at The Lightbox Gallery, Woking, Surrey.
He is so creative and artistic in many mediums and designed the Mad Mods logo and video for the exhibition. So, I want to share this exciting event which is running from the 31st July to 22nd August.
But one step back, as some of you may not be so familiar with the sub culture Mods who were the baby boomers of a post war Britain. The Mods started in London in the late 50’s with a small group of men called ‘Modernists’ because they listened to modern jazz. The Mods were about fashion, smart Italian style suits and the music was jazz, rhythm and blues, soul and ska. They drove Vespa and Lambretta scooters. And the girls wore slim capri pants, twin sets, A line skirts and just think Mary Quant and the mini shift dress and skirts. All so different from how their parents dressed! There was a revival of the Mods in the 70’s and it hasn’t gone away and today still has a loyal passionate following internationally.
Black and white images are presented as ‘fine art printed onto aluminium’ giving an amazing, stylish, industrial, contemporary look.
Mods are never shy in front of a camera so there is never a shortage of content and inspiration! With lockdowns finished (we hope) Mods can get back to socialising and their live music, so key to their lifestyle. The ‘Mad Mods and a Camera’ book, of over 200 pages, covers Duncan’s first year of his photographic journey documenting the Mod scene.
But how did it all begin, here’s Duncan’s Mad Mods story.
“It was Remembrance Sunday, November 8th, 2015. I was heading back home with the Sunday papers and as I passed a local café I saw that a number of Mods with their scooters had congregated outside. By the time I got home I’d decided I was going to go back to photograph them. Don’t ask me why, but I knew I had to go back.
Bear in mind I hadn’t picked up a camera in years, so I was a bit nervous, to say the least! Outside the café, I asked if I could maybe take a few photos, not knowing what kind of reaction I’d get. Then ‘Smiler’, as he’s known, replied: “Of course mate, where do you want us?”
When I look back, that whole experience is an utter blur. What I do know is I was nervous as hell. After getting a handful of shots and saying polite goodbyes, I jumped back into my car and headed home. The big question was, had I captured anything worth showing?
Since then, my passion for photographing the Mod scene hasn’t stopped. I’ve photographed ride outs, weekenders and club nights– just about everything Mod. In fact I’m writing this after finishing a shoot with Paul Welsh, a suede head from Leeds, for a project called ‘Suited and Booted’. That’s what’s so great about this photographic journey – it’s introducing me to other subcultures, from suede heads to scooter boys and skinheads. And I’m learning from people inside the scene, which is so important.
“So, one day, when someone said to me “you must have enough photos to produce a book by now,” it got me thinking. And here it is. A book documenting the beginning of a photographic journey that started with that very first photo in Enfield in 2015.
So, a huge thank you to Mad Mods and Englishmen. If it wasn’t for the way they welcomed me that day, Mad Mods and a Camera might never have happened.
And who knows, one day I might even photograph Paul Weller. But that’s another story. Or even another book.”
“When I first planned this book it was going to be a simple celebration of how I started on my Mad Mods journey.
But almost a year after that day in Enfield, I started on another, much shorter journey. It was 1st October 2016, the first day I ever heard the word Glioblastoma.
Glioblastoma is an invasive, fast-growing primary brain tumour with one of the worst survival rates of all cancers. In the UK, around 3000 people are diagnosed with Glioblastoma every year. That’s why every single penny from the sale of this book will go towards The National Brain Appeal to support the pioneering work that my brother’s consultant, Dr Paul Mulholland is doing to find an effective treatment for Glioblastoma. I don’t want anyone else to have to go through what my family went through with my brother. A wonderful husband. A loving father. A beautiful son. And my little Bro.”
I really hope you can visit Mad Mods and a Camera ‘Our Generation’ at The Lightbox. If you would like to purchase this fabulous book to support the National Brain Appeal, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or contact me through my blog.
“It is more important to click with people than to click the shutter.”
While sipping another lockdown coffee, I have been stressing that I still haven’t published a post in 2021. But just so you know, I’ve not stopped my Chilled at Sunset blog! However, life has many ‘ground hog’ days, doesn’t it?
We have already been living back in England over five months and locked up for most of it and yet the time passes by so quickly ….. how does that work? We are lucky in that we have lots of decorating to do in the apartment. Plus, all the legalities of moving back here. Needless to say dealing with companies and their mix of ‘customer service’ and ‘working from home’ really ensures the blood pressure keeps bubbling! Currently, the DVLA are holding no. 1 position in driving me crazy, excuse the pun. DVLA could generate the longest and most boring blog! Instead, like all of us, I prefer to remember fun times when we all socialised.
During Spanish and English lockdowns (I’m so international!!) I have continued with my art. The first painting I did all on my own really tested me but I was pleased with the end result.
I’ve paused with my latest one as I have started my second commission piece. I feel excited, very flattered and so nervous but another challenge which I also love to have! I’ve even sold some of my work.
When I think back to my first class with Trina at her Bedar Art Centre, in June 2016, I could never have imagined all this would happen. Here are a few of my favourites.
I made lovely friends there and miss them all …. Pam, Helen, Lesley, Carol and Daniela. We had such a laugh and really encouraged each other. Trina’s mantra to us all of “dark to light” and “white is your enemy” still rings loud in my ears here, but always a fabulous inspiration! (Trina, below with her Whimsies and artwork.) There was also the time I helped out at the children’s art and craft classes which Trina organised a few summers ago at her workshop, such fun.
But the highlight was the Bedar Christmas Market December 2019 where Trina set up the Bedar Art Centre Exhibition and most of us exhibited our paintings.
On the subject of Spain, I’ve read a charming little article in El Pais about our Queen. A Spain/UK tradition lost in the 20th century has made a comeback. So, a crate of bitter oranges from the gardens of Real Alcazar Seville will be made into marmalade and sent as a gift to Buckingham Palace. With all the Brexit bickering I wonder if the gift will arrive? And the Queen may not have much of an appetite at the moment!
But back to Chertsey and thank goodness we have our mad dog Charlie, so we can still get out several times a day, legally! At the end of January when it snowed it was brilliant as Charlie had never seen snow, having been born and brought up in Spain. But my goodness how he loved it, chasing loads of snowballs and trying to eat them. Although being the nervous dog he is, he was totally spooked by snowmen!
It’s a year since the world went crazy and got frightening but now at last we have real hope with the vaccines. We’ve already had ours. We’re all so close to being allowed to meet up with friends and family. And we will discover more English country walks with Charlie and start serious house hunting. Exciting!
Meanwhile, please stay safe and sane and I leave you with a photo of me at one of my volunteer shifts at the vaccination centre in Chertsey where the atmosphere is brimming with positivity and I think one of the friendliest places I’ve ever worked! I feel proud to do my ‘little bit’.
The funny thing about dreams is that sometimes they are just that, dreams.
We had a dream to retire to Spain in the sun and where we would get more bang for our buck. So, we bought a beautiful cortijo and off we went! It was pretty idyllic and we were lucky to meet some fantastic people who have become good friends. We’ve had so many funny Spanish adventures as recorded in this blog and throughout that time Brexit was never in our sights until it happened and uncertainty crept into our lives and we decided to sell our house. We sold it within six months after expecting it to take at least a year and then rented an apartment on a golf complex until the Brexit situation became clearer but it still hasn’t!
And now 2020 is happening, a year none of us will ever forget. Many people’s plans and dreams put on hold or changed. Are we still planning to buy another property in Spain, may be? When we told friends of our big decision to go back to England, one of them pointed out to us that “you don’t have the same dream every night and so why shouldn’t you have a different dream!” So, here we are, currently back in England and feeling sometimes a little like Spain was just that, a dream.
We’ve moved back into our apartment which is in a lovely setting by the river Thames in Chertsey, Surrey. After years of having our property rented out, we now have repairs and decorating to keep us busy and from missing our Spanish lifestyle. Soon we will be ready to sell it fingers crossed etc etc in these weird times and buy our next house!
Meanwhile, we also have ‘project Charlie’ our nervous German Shepherd dog! His whole little life has been turned upside down, difficult for normal dogs, let alone Charlie. He has left behind his girlfriend, Aura, his neighbours, Ellie, Brando and Saba and his training classes. He’s left behind sunny warm walks, beach walks in the winter sun and generally a chilled dog’s life! I sometimes wish he could tell us what he thinks now seeing lots of people (his biggest fear), loads of traffic (he hates cars), even more cyclists and joggers (on a good day he’ll ignore!), rain, muddy paws and no garden. Thank goodness, just a two minute walk away are open fields where he can run and chase sticks, not that he ever brings them back!
All this is on top of a boring nine hour drive and overnight stay in Santander before catching the ferry!
Right now, I feel a bit like a foreigner in my own country, to be honest. Setting up utility accounts and new internet supplier (2 week wait!) has assured 100% frustration levels! I’ve been on intimate terms with automated robots who “would like to direct my call to the right person” or on a couple of occasions to a person who mimics a robot and has no common sense! The recorded message from one company apologised in advance for any background noise involving children, animals and clinking of tea cups ” in these difficult times while staff work from home” What I do know, is that overall these companies aim is to get the customer to do everything (their job?) online. But with internet access only on our mobiles it has made me feel like an uneducated tech alien with very fat fingers on a small keypad completing endless forms! Hey, I wasn’t going to be defeated and nor was Steve, who outsmarted our two-month old Samsung Smart TV which thought it was still in Spain for a few days!
However, the runner up, yes only the runner up, in my tech frustration charts is the Health Centre. After one hour, one green tea and one strong coffee, I completed both our registration forms which gave a link to an NHS app so we could make appointments online. Great and I downloaded the app on our mobiles and booked a video appointment for Steve later in the day. Guess what ….. it didn’t happen. So, I called the Health Centre and the NHS app isn’t actually linked to them! You couldn’t make it up but all was resolved with a good old fashion telephone conversation.
Well, I was all ready to publish this post as we had gone live with WI-FI and then Saturday happened. So, the winner of my frustration charts is my dear friend Alexa Echo. Steve reluctantly unpacked her, he just doesn’t see the need for this gadget, a waste of time and money! Anyway, I amended the app details with new UK phone number ….. Hello Alexa! She replied Hola! and continued in her perfect Spanish to tell me she couldn’t connect to the WI-FI. That’s probably as she thought she was still in Spain with the TV! One and a half hours on the phone to the Amazon Alexa helpdesk, explaining the problem to four different people and Alexa simply refusing to give up her Spanish, they finally sorted the problem. Now we happily say good morning to each other in English!
Our 14-day quarantine has now finished, so, our English adventure can really start!!!
Well, I’ve swopped the iced coffee for a chilled Peroni! We still have temperatures up near 30 C, only now we get a cool breeze, bliss.
So, hands up those of you who can believe it is September in this crazy, weird and sometimes daunting year? But I don’t want to dwell on this in my post. However, I have had huge ‘writers block’ as of course, I’ve stayed very local, so that put an end to my plans of visiting more places and sharing on my blog. And of course, no events. No fiestas!! I mean Spain and fiestas go hand in hand, don’t they? I was looking back at photos and it really is hard to imagine how we would meet up with friends and party at the local fiestas here. People packed into plazas and spilling out onto streets. All seems amazing right now?! And this weekend just would have been the highlight of our local fiesta in Antas.
Therefore, I’ve decided to ‘go to some fiestas’ in this a short photo blog of fun, colour and happiness. Just what the world needs and a way to say ‘hi’ to everyone! Plus, fantastic memories before Steve and I move on to our next adventure in the coming weeks …..
Our first fiesta in Caravaca – Caballos del Vino
And dear Antas, close to our hearts.
Our friends here, will be pleased I didn’t share some of the more ‘drunken’ photos (Jauro fiesta in particular!) … LOL
The changeable ‘lockdown’ weather we had for a good few weeks really helped Colin’s plot although it was a bit unkind to some of the newly planted fruit trees.
An absolute abundance of potatoes, leeks, cauliflower, onions etc….. And as I type, Colin is busy planting out more of his seedlings.
Planting the courgettes attracted some friends!
As we approach phase two easing of Spain’s lockdown measures, I can’t wait until we are allowed to meet up, as last time we got together, Colin gave us a bag of goodies! Recently courgettes, strawberries and eggs have been added to Colin and Steve’s menus. Yes, eggs, so that was Colin’s next project he hinted at, in my post Basket Case in Jauro (February)
I asked Colin how this latest project came about? He said that developing the plots was always on their dream Spanish lifestyle ‘to do’ list but with the major renovations on the house plus their beach apartments it couldn’t be a priority. Fast forward several years, and an action plan was spurred on due to their neighbour Sofia subtle words in Colin’s ear about how some of the other neighbours were complaining that the weeds from the two plots were seeding on the neighbours plots!
Colin said that after they cleared the land, the plots looked so much larger than they first thought. Jokingly, Colin suggested to Steve they should keep some chickens and Colin already had a design in mind. A few weeks went by and Steve said if Colin drew up the plans he would build it. On discussing keeping hens with neighbours, there were lots of arm waving and warnings for Colin about foxes, wolves, wild cats and the village dogs! Also, beware of eagles and hawks, so a strong fenced run with a covering to stop predators getting to the hens was added to Colin’s design.
The good thing about Steve’s mancave was that he had lots of bits of timber laying around. An advert on Facebook resulted in 6 lengths of 6in x 4in and a small wooden window! These posts were cemented into the ground, and this set the villagers tongues wagging and funny how they then started going by the plots on their walks, pausing to stop and point, trying to work out what was going on?
The floor of the hen house was constructed on site in a morning and the side panels constructed and put up the same afternoon. The roofing being a sheet of marine plywood was put up just before sunset. On the second day the upcycled wooden window was fitted and doors put on.
Then the wood was stained and vinyl floor went in and that completed another long, mostly fun day! Egg laying boxes were connected at one end.
Next, support posts were cemented into the boundary for the run and left to set overnight. A boundary fence on the chicken run was cemented two foot underground so predators couldn’t dig under the fence and get in. The door was fitted with padlock and wire topping complete with a solar security light in place. Finally, finishing touches with curtains over the egg nesting boxes for privacy …. and pretty curtains up at the window! Cosy and safe! In total it was five days work at a cost of 275 euros on materials and after just fifteen minutes drawing up the plans. It’s super stylish and I am sure there is a business venture there for Steve offering 2 bespoke coup styles, the large model ‘Rural Jauro‘ and the smaller model ‘Urban Antas‘ …..LOL!
Last but not least Colin spent another 36 euros and enter the girls ….. Meryl, Beryl, Cheryl (grey hens) and Molly, Lolly and Dolly (orange brown hens). And no surprises they are very happily settled in their bespoke hand built hen coup.
They started laying eggs after a week and totalled 6 a day after a few weeks. Meryl lays double yolk eggs and several huge eggs which have triple yolks!
the first little egg!
Colin told me at night he always makes sure the hens are locked in, much to the delight of his neighbour Juan who always says to Colin as he walks by “todos los niños en la cama” (all the children in bed). Colins replies “si, y buenas noches besado!” (yes and kissed goodnight!) Juan gives the biggest toothless grin!
So, Colin another project? “Yes I want a donkey” ….. watch this space …..
As for me, I hope to be back out soon and sharing this lovely part of Spain I live in!
Meanwhile , here’s a video of Colin’s home seed production with the most beautiful views!
If I was having a coffee right now, I would be thinking, like many of us, what a strange world we are currently living in. We’ve completed the 7th week of lockdown and now we are beginning our phased exit. I was thinking of writing about what tricks we have used to survive this period but honestly, none of it was particularly interesting or original! (Apart from Steve’s self haircut and no photos allowed!) So, I thought I would talk about the first thing I would like to do on release from lockdown?
But my mind started wandering (not too difficult in these times) to the ‘firsts’ that Steve and I have experienced during our 5 year Spanish adventure, so here are a few of the more memorable ones …..
Realising quickly, that as a proud owner of gardening design City and Guilds certificate, it meant nothing in our garden where 3 meter plus cacti sat waiting to attack me rather than me pruning them! Eventually, I found them mostly stunning when in flower.
Owning a swimming pool and watching my husband learn how to balance the chemicals to keep it safe and clean so I could paddle safely!
Getting up close and personal with snakes and being bitten by a spider. Steve has seen the biggest centipede which the 6′ 3 gardener, working at the house, jumped 6′ 3 in the air and then decapitated the centipede with a spade but it kept on walking ! (no photos …..google this creature if you want!)
Steve and our neighbour removing processionary (or marching) caterpillars from a pine tree. They first sprayed the nest with hairspray, lobbed off the branch the nest was on, catching it in a bin liner and then digging a large hole in the ground placing the bag and setting fire to it. It is so important to do this, as the caterpillar hairs are so toxic and can become airborne in the wind and give nasty rash to humans and with dogs in severe cases can be fatal. (again google if you wish!)
The night a wild boar visited and re landscaped the front flower beds.
(Still thinking of moving to Spain ….. lol!)
Back to the nice things …..
Harvesting our olive tress, going to the olive press and exchanging our olives for pure extra virgin olive oil that was unbelievably delicious. However, our neighbours had to ‘lend’ us one of their olive trees in order for us to just to fill a crate! (read more – blog post December 2017).
Joined an art class and painted for the first time since I was 16. And I sold my first painting last December ….. who would have thought?
Obviously, speaking another language although still not fluent with our Spanish, we can get by of sorts. I recall the first time I went to a Spanish hairdresser and requested a cut and colour, it was as scary as the first visit to our Spanish dentist!
Started Spanish dog training classes with our German Shepherd, Charlie when he was a puppy….. that also helped with learning the language. Any shop assistant or waiter I can confidently tell to ‘sit’ stay’ ‘down’ ‘turn’ etc! But the highlight was entering Charlie into an obedience competition held in Vera bullring. Sadly, he didn’t achieve a rosette but I was just relieved he didn’t escape!
assessment day, best hide!
the big day!
after a few weeks, obstacles …
Administration here in Spain is a test of wills, not logical and extremely time consuming with different rules depending on who you are dealing with and what day of the week it is! So I will skip over setting up house taxes, car tax, car ITV (MOT in UK) and the 4 visits to Almeria to secure our residencia! But each mission accomplished was celebrated with a large vodka and tonic!
Oh! yes, so what is the first thing I will do on my full ‘release’ …… a walk along the promenade with Steve and Charlie, our dog, and stopping for a coffee. Sounds a dream? Well we are now moving forward with a slow easing of lockdown mode and heading for the ‘new normal’ that everyone talks about!
How exciting to think I can become a ‘new normal’ ….. ha! ha! ha!
Oh! PS, Steve has finished his book and one day to be published.