Reflection on a Dream

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!!!

Chilled at Sunset in Chertsey

Charlie … chilled at last!

I am so chuffed that I finally get my own blog post, although I did think and hope it was a new type of treat or toy? So, here I am, Charlie, a German shepherd of two years and five months. Some of you will have met me or at least know about me. I’m quite a complicated chap and there were times when my owners worried if I was going to make it and stay living with them? But here I am!

We all met when I was 3 months old and I lived with my two sisters (I was one of eleven pups). Carole and Steve certainly gave me loads of cuddles when we met and then imagine, they came back the next day to see me again! This time, though, I left with them. I can still remember the garden gate slowly opening and them leading me outside. Whoa! I was so scared. But he scooped me up and I lay on the seat in the car and was stroked until I fell asleep.

I entered their house and they let me wander around so I could sniff (and wee!) and take in my new surroundings. There was also a huge dog bed with a duvet waiting for me but sleep was the last thing on my mind. They seemed to have bought so many things for me! I wasn’t that co-ordinated and I can remember when I decided to try my new bed, I climbed up and promptly fell out! A few months later, I also fell in the swimming pool, put me off water for life!

My safe place became a shelf or step, see I am a strange chap!

The first few weeks were intriguing discovering a new home meeting a new vet, my first walk outside and getting to know my new owners. One day, she sat on the floor with me, teaching me to look at her when she said ‘Charlie’ and rewarding me with a tasty treat. No problem for me. Ah! that was now going to be my name! Charlie ….. Yeah! I liked that name.

He would also sit on the floor a lot with me, trying to get me to play with a ball or rope toy. Nope, couldn’t get the hang of that. Although, I did get to love chasing sticks he’d throw outside for me and today this is still my favourite game.

20171111_160939

The bigger I got … the bigger the stick!

Every evening we all went walking along the promenade at Garrucha. Lots of people, bikes, skateboards, pushchairs etc. I was getting along OK being introduced to so much stuff. So many people stopped and wanted to stroke me and quite a few laughed at my huge ears! 

I really loved the garden at the house, firstly it had no fences so I could take off and chase the farmer on his tractor! Secondly, the plants tasted delicious, especially the figs, although I don’t recommend such a detox diet for a young growing pup! I was meant to be putting weight on.

But then overnight I became frightened of everything? All the training and socializing they had been doing with me went pear shaped. I didn’t want to go out, I didn’t want to be stroked and my toilet habits left a lot to be desired! I drove my owners crazy and quite frankly they drove me crazy trying to stop me doing my own thing and became an uncontrollable rebel. How were we going to live together, as deep down inside I didn’t really want to leave but it wasn’t looking promising?

I had made friends with the neighbours dog, Woody, a podenco (Spanish hunting dog) and occasionally we would make a break for freedom and be gone for an hour or so. However, one day when we were out, it felt like a really long time, in fact it was hours. I realised Woody and I had lost our scent to get home and this wasn’t a good game any more. It was very hot and both tired. Somehow, I got us walking in the right direction and then, out of nowhere I heard a car – my car- and Steve had found us! We leapt into the back feeling shattered and stressed. Goodness, I drank several bowls of water when I got home and I could tell I was in the really bad books. The rebel in me wasn’t helping secure a future with my owners?

And that ‘op guarantees no future Charlies!

Then, one day, we all went to meet Paqui, who runs the training school (Adiestramiento Canino Zadhir). She specialises in German Shepherds and trains police dogs. I just sat behind the fridge while they all chatted. Now, what was going to happen to me? I decided to make Paqui wait 6 weeks before I would let her stroke me, let alone give me a treat. Twice a week, we all went to training classes and it was so stressful and so tiring having to obey commands ‘sit’ ‘stay’ ‘wait’ ‘down, ‘here’ etc. On and on and on it went but I did smile inside, as my owners were also being trained! At the end of each class, I would be let off my lead along with the other dogs. We were all young playful puppies except my nerves kicked in and none of them played with me. They were chasing each other but I wasn’t ‘invited’. What was that about, my world was going backwards.

Well, I better not keep talking about my bad habits, let us fast forward over a year and after many, many more ups and downs and never-ending training classes plus a house move, another trauma (and story!), I have finally become quite a nice pet, even if I do say so myself! I now love playing games, being brushed and lap up affection and being stroked! I’m still anxious with people and children terrify me so I bark a lot. Paqui says as one fear is conquered, I’ll invent another one! But hey, she entered me into her local dog competition the training school organised and I did quite well!

And there’s more, I’m happy to tell you, I have a girlfriend, a beautiful, lovely German Shepherd, Aura. We met at training classes just over a year ago.

20181208_152445

Charlie (left and Aura (right)

It turned out she was a complicated gal! She barked a lot at other dogs and barked and went crazy at the birds. But she adores people. Aura’s owners, Rhona and Ian really like me and goodness, they always give me so many treats. I’m even allowed on their sofa! And get this, Aura lives only a ten-minute walk away. Aura and I have fun and help each other when we are together! We also go to the beach together and Aura loves the sea but I still have a fear of water. But I take my frisbee and run and run.

So, you could say “once upon a time there was a dog called Charlie ………. and they all lived ‘chilled’ ever after” Paws crossed!