Monday, 30 March 2009
So, when we researched our move to Spain we checked where there was the least rainfall and the result was Almeria, after all only an hour away from us is Mini-Hollywood where they filmed the Spaghetti Westerns because it is so desert like, due to the lack of rain. Almeria is advertised as having over 320 days of sunshine each year - and to be fair it doesn't rain often, we haven't had any rain for about a month - which isn't bad for March. But when it does rain, it comes down in torrents.
Now, we don't have a lot of grass at the villa but there is a small area and the pups love to lay on it and so, we are back to lawn mowing. Last Wednesday Neil hurt his ankle badly and has struggled to walk without a stick since and has been resting up but on Friday I commented that we needed to try and get the patch of lawn cut soon as it is starting to get a little too long - that's OK, he said, I should be okay by Sunday!
So, it forecast rain on Saturday and after a lovely sunny day the clouds came over the mountains and at about 8pm one of the dogs went outside and got drenched - it had started. And within minutes the heavens had opened and there were rivers running down the street. Within a few hours the garden was starting to flood and we knew we were in for several hours of downpour. By the time we went to bed it was showing no signs of stopping and we woke up to the same downpour. Now it may have stopped for a few hours during the night or not, but by now people were having serious problems.
Many pools were close to overflowing , some pool houses were flooded and pumps were ruined. Many properties have garages here that are underbuilds, that means they are built under the house and the garage ceilings are level with the road. Put this together with a dropped kerb to allow access for the car and hey presto, you have gallons of rain water running down the road and running straight into some of the garages if an alternate run-off route has not been made - it's only about a month ago we had some garages that were full to the ceiling with rainwater and took 2 days to pump out - well, guess what - they're pumping out again!
We're fortunate - the worst we had to sort out was a rather muddy puddle in the garden that Brinkley seemed to take a particular interest in, if he was a little boy he would have had his wellies on and would be jumping in and out of it.
So, we have more of the same forecast for today and a cloudy week ahead. But at least when it stops here, it stops. There is no need to carry an umbrella for weeks on end - just in case, you can plan outdoor events with a fair amount of confidence that it will not be rained off and inbetween rain the sun comes out and everything dries quite quickly, so you are not walking through puddles hours later. The dogs can go out and come back in dry and more to the point, it just doesn't feel as miserable as it did on a rainy day back in Sheffield.
And, of course, it is good for the gardens but as yet, the lawn remains uncut!
Tuesday, 24 March 2009
Over the last week or so we have been watching the mosquito lava hatching on the lakes up at the golf course and we knew we were going to get up there one morning soon and they would be up and ready. This morning we were prepared, both Neil & I covered ourselves in mossie spray - and boy were we glad! They were thousands of them - and they are big.
We start golf at about 9.30am so the mossies are just swarming everywhere at that time in the morning. By 11ish the breeze has got up and it's a lot warmer and there doesn't seem as many about but if you go into a sheltered part of the course where there's no wind, be careful 'cos that's where they are all hiding.
As far as we know, they are going to be spraying the course in the next week to reduce the numbers of mozzies, it's like crop spraying. They do it over the village as well and again, should be doing it soon and I did notice tonight when I was down in La Venta that there were a number of mozzies about - but so far, up at the villa we haven't seen any - but we are ready for them, the little monsters.
Todays bite count (despite all the spraying) is 2 on the right arm and 2 on the neck - I have a feeling that all the 'unprepared tourists' on the golf course this morning in their shorts and T-shirts and and no mozzie spray will be counting many more. When you stood still for a minute you would have a number of them land on you - so we did kill quite a few which made us feel a little better when they were dive bombing us while we were trying to take our shots. And you have to learn to speak through clenched teeth otherwise they're in your mouth - and that's not pleasant!
I have to say that having had a number of bites last year, the ones today don't seem as bad - they are not driving me mad with itching and they haven't come up in such large red lumps - maybe you build up immunity to them like when you have a vaccine - anyway, I'll put some cream on them just to make sure I can sleep ok .
One of the down sides to living in a hot climate!
Thursday, 19 March 2009
Afterward, we were all given an orange for dessert - locally grown of course - and delicious.
I understand the burning of the old ladies signifies the burning away of bad omens.
Tuesday, 17 March 2009
We have had red wine from there before, they sell it by the percentage strength - 14/16/18. The 14% is a bit raw but the 16% is fabulous and you can buy a 5 litre container for about €6. One word of warning, don't leave it in the plastic container or when you go for a drink a couple of days later it will taste like vinegar.
Our local bodega sell more than wines though, and today one of our friends, who was going over, asked if we needed anything. Now, recently Neil has been making me a lovely cocktail of Cava, fresh orange juice and Cointreau - and in these credit crunch times that may seem a rather lavish drink - BUT I get my bottles of Cava from the supermarket for €1.50 and as we never drink the Cointreau neat we thought we would try some from the bodega. And so we got a litre of 'Cointreau' and a litre of 'Vermouth' which is also useful in cocktails, for a total spend of €10.50 - the Cointreau seems to be way stronger than the genuine stuff and way cheaper. Again it comes in re-cycled plastic bottles that you take back for re-fills which helps keep the price low so our shopping looks like a bottle of water and a bottle of Coke but is actually our litre bottle of Cointreau and a litre of Vermouth from the local bodega.
We just need to be aware of the measures we pour ourselves!
Monday, 16 March 2009
The delivery man arrived about 1.35pm, I think I may have been the last delivery before his siesta but at least he came today as arranged.
Hang on a minute!!!!
There is a DHL van pulling up infront of the house - could this be my recent order from the UK arriving on the same day? - like London buses - nothing for ages and then 2 at once.
Be back in a moment.
Yes, my other outstanding delivery. Now this is how it normally works, a week from ordering I usually take delivery which I think is pretty good for UK to Spain. This time it is a griddle pan and press.
We watch a program called Come Dine With Me and on one of the programs Neil spotted one of the contestants cooking a steak in a griddle pan with a cast iron lid that does the top at the same time as cooking the bottom. Well, of course, he wanted one. So I decided to do what I do best and 'Google' it. But, as always with Google - you have to know what to put in to your search to find what you are looking for. And we didn't know what they were called, so I tried everything and eventually was directed to a blog which deals with cooking that mentioned the word 'press'. That was all I needed, I could now find them on the internet and get one on order. I found one on an Ebay store called 'Storage and Home Solutions'. I asked them if they could ship to Spain and they said they could for a small additional fee to cover delivery and so I placed the order with them through Ebay (Buy It Now!)
It's actually called a Grill pan and Panini Press, and the lid is a cast iron heavy plate that you heat up in the empty pan and then you put it on top of whatever you are cooking and it cooks the top while the bottom is cooking. It's also good for stopping meats, such as Gammon, from curling while you cook it.
So, a good day all round. We'll put the earlier delivery delays down to experience and see the positive in that it has given me a number of opportunities to practice my spanish. And now I'm off to buy some steak to try out our new pan!
Friday, 13 March 2009
Well now I can!
Just over a week ago we ordered a bulk batch of golf balls from golfonline. It goes without saying that they tried to deliver them on Monday when we were at golf. Not a problem, they leave a sticker on your letter box saying they have been and you ring them up to arrange another delivery. Simple - or so you would think.
I rang the number and had a very simple conversation in Spanish, explained we would be in either Tuesday morning or Wednesday afternoon and they said Tuesday morning would be better.
So, we stayed in and no-one came.
So, I waited for Wednesday incase they took my other option, but still no-one came so I rang again. To be fair the young man on the end of the phone seemed quite surprised that the package had not been brought to us and we agreed that it would be delivered in the morning. To make sure he meant Thursday morning, I said this back to him. Yes he said, Thursday morning. Neil stayed in while I went to my Ladies group meeting and then to Pulpi Post Office but when I got back at 1pm, still no golf balls. I rang again, bearing in mind all this is being done in my best spanish, and he said what still no package, it will be there this afternoon.
Well, you've guessed it - no package had arrived by 6.30pm so I rang the office again. This time a young lady answered and, well, why would we be expecting our package to be delivered on a Thursday, they don't have a delivery man in Terreros on Thursday's, could they bring today - Friday?
I explained that we would not be in today but agreed to stay in on Monday and so I thought we were sorted.
That is until we got back from golf this afternoon to find another sticker on the letter box saying that the delivery man had been with our package but we weren't at home!
So, I am about to ring them yet again to see whether they are still coming in Monday as previously arranged or did today's trip start the whole process again!
Now I understand why people complain about deliveries out here - it is a little trying!
Saturday, 7 March 2009
Last week we were asked if some of us would go down for an hour to help with the children's reading in english, to help with pronunciation and also to help explain some of the parts of the stories they don't understand and so today I went down to help.
The first thing that surprised me was how many children were there, there must have been over 30 of them. They are very boisterous and took a lot of settling. The smaller ones went off to a seperate classroom and the older ones (7 & 8 year olds) found their folders and settled down to learn the different names for items in the supermarket and items of clothing, and as the pictures have both spanish and english underneath them it's also useful for me.
I was to work with an 8 year old girl called Larisa who wanted help with her reading and so she chose a book and we sat down in a corner so she could read out loud to me. Her reading was very good and she understood a lot of what she was reading. The bits that she didn't understand I found I was able to explain to her in spanish quite easily. We did Little Red Riding Hood and Jack & the Beanstalk.
Overall we worked together for about half an hour and when it was time for her to leave she was reminded to thank me and to say goodbye. I met a couple of the mothers who also thanked us for going down to help.
What a lovely way to spend an hour on a Saturday morning.
Friday, 6 March 2009
Not long after we first arrived it was my 50th birthday and I remembered one of the ladies saying she would be watching how I coped with being 50 as it would be her 50th this year. Well, Tineka finally reached her 50th last week. She goes to the same spanish class we have with Amelia each week and Amelia thought it would be nice if we all stayed behind after class and had a group photo done, once we had manouvered Tinake away from class, to put on her birthday card. We all thought it was a nice idea too so we stayed.
But we didn't know she wanted to dress us all up.
We were amazed at the amount of stuff she brought out clothes, jewelry, flowers, scarves etc - but then the spanish are keen on costume parties and Amelia's flamenco dress is gorgeous, so I can understand her wanting to wear it.
It seemed that any thing went as long as it didn't match. I think I actually did OK in the end, maybe a red dress, blue scarf & orange earrings are not a combination I would have put together but at least by the time she got around to allocating my stuff to me she had run out of wigs - see, blonde is the wrong colour out here - apparently, so some of us had big flowers to hid the blonde and others had less than flattering wigs!
Still, it was a fun hour and I actually think the photo looks good - it looks like we were having fun, and we were and Tinake loved it.
And here we all are - the worrying thing is Amelia wanted us all to go down to one of the local spanish bars dressed like this - needless to say there weren't any takers.
Feliz cumpleaños, Tineka
Monday, 2 March 2009
Well, for the last few weeks I have been helping my friend Lucy to get started with spanish and it's a great way for me to revise the early chapters from the book I use and also to appreciate how much I have really taken in. It's one thing to learn and try to understand yourself but quite another to explain it to someone else.
When I was at work (gosh, that seems a life time ago!) I was told that I was not good at teaching people how to do new tasks as I used to jump stages and assume they knew more than they did. Well, I hope Lucy is able to fill in any missing gaps but it does help if we are at least using the same book. We both have books from the series Practice Makes Perfect - Verbs and after only 2 lessons I had said Lucy would be able to complete the exercises upto page 7 so I was surprised when she told me it had taken her 2.5 hours to complete one question. Tonight we met up to go through them and see where any problems may be. It didn't take too long to identify 2 key problems. Firstly her PMP Verb book is not the same as mine so although we both have a series of 40 questions to do on page 7 - they are not the same questions and secondly, the manner in which the questions were phrased in her book suggested the use of 'Gerald's' as Lucy likes to refer to them (in english they're called Gerund's and for all those who don't now what these are they are the 'ing' words - speaking, walking, talking etc) We english use 'ing' words all the time but the spanish tend not to - 'I speak' and 'I am speaking' are both the same in spanish, hablo - simple when you know how but when you don't hey, 2 hours later!!!
And also, when you ask a question you just use the same words, mix up the order and put and upside down ? at the beginning of the sentence so the reader knows it's a question before they get to the end. So 'él habla inglés' He speaks english turns into '¿habla él inglés? - Does he speak english - no extra words needed. Simple when you know how but difficult to start with as there is the urge to make it more complicated than it is.
So, all being well our Monday nights down in the bar at La Venta will work for both if us - Lucy will start to see an improvement in her spanish despite my poor ability to teach and I will gain extra revision time which will help my confidence in what I have actually learnt so that when I have my own classes and feel totally at odds with things, I can compare to where I was several months ago and at least take heart that progress is being made, as the spanish tell me 'poco y poco' - little by little.