Friday, September 28, 2012

The heavy rain comes

We have just had our first heavy rain since last year, although Joaquin spent a week last year repairing the roof we still had several leaks, although the really heavy rain only lasted an hour the pool filled up a couple of inches, so i had to pump some of the water away, the good thing is the ground has had a thorough saturation which will really plump up the olives and lemons ready for a good crop in November.
Last week signs went up on the road into Blanca as there is a real subsidence at the riverside by the old wash house, this is just as you go into Blanca there are big cracks in the road and Mary always asks me to drive fast over it. i should not think this rain will do it any good and the town hall will need to dig deep to find funds for what looks like a costly repair job. Apparently the rains caused a large rock slide above the town but no  people were hurt or property damaged.
The two new footbridges over the river are still not finished, they  have been constructing them since spring and now they are putting the wood on them, i have heard they cost 250,000 euros.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Wine, Weather and chilli

The temperature today is around 30 at present and you would think that would be pleasant. However the humidity is around 51% so it feels uncomfortably warm. High humidity levels can cause health problems, heat stroke can occur. Those with heart condition and asthma need to take care in this type of weather. The problem although you perspire the humidity does not let the perspiration evaporate and cool you down so you just get hotter and hotter. We have had quite a few days like this and it is very wearing. Best thing to do is a little as possible!
Another thing you find is that you don't want to be eating large or heavy meals, It is the norm to eat very late at night, though when its humid its still to hot to eat much. Lovely, interesting salad with exciting dressings go down well. We did have a curry yesterday though. I made meatballs flavoured with ground coriander and cumin seeds and a chickpea curry which we ate with turkish flat bread that I had made earlier in the day. I love a mango chutney with my curry and as an experiment I made some mango chutney with plums as we had so many. If I say so myself its really good and I will be making more with the next glut of plums. We love flat breads and its so easy to make, requires no kneading and can be flavored with whatever you fancy. Most often I use sunflower seeds on top but John wants me to try using some of my homemade chilli paste, I have two varieties hot and, well, dam hot. Great in curries and chillies and far more body than anything i have found to buy. I know that curry is said to cool you down, because it makes you perspire but if its humid it doesn't work that way so you need plenty to drink to counteract possible dehydration. Would never waste a bottle of wine on a curry meal, far better to have water, beer or lassi ( traditional Indian yogurt drink). Talking of wine Lidl they have some wonder wines on sale at the moment in Cieza. A fairly local one, from Jumilla, Cinglano Jovan, a surprisingly full bodied red with lots of fruit taste. I find it hard to believe its only 1.11 euros a bottle.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Handing Back the Keys!

Over the last few years we have heard very many British immigrants and holiday home owners utter the words, "I am going to hand the keys in". What they were saying in essence was that they intended to walk away from the debt they owned a Spanish Bank. We found this incredible when we first heard it and so much more so now.

In our experience quiet a lot of people, prior to the current world economic crisis, came to Spain and took on mortgages that where ambitious to say the least. We personally have meet large numbers of our fellow countrymen who had a mortgage in UK and took on another here for a holiday home. Then there are  those who had no income here, often just vague ideas of running a business that would serve fellow Brits. The problem is just how many property management companies and the like were needed. Also how did you compete with those who worked illegally- and incidentally  using an unregistered management company can invalidate your house insurance.
Well given the problems of earning a living here, paying two mortgages  the current crisis you can see that cracks would appear in some peoples dreams. Ask yourself this though, WHAT WERE THEY THINKING.
 We are not being smug just count ourselves lucky we have leaned from our lives and our mistakes. You know what they say if you have never made a mistake you have never made anything. But really would you go to a new country, possibly unable to speak the language, without the were with all to live at least for the first year. Whats more would you take on a second mortgage in the hope that you will let the place for some of the time to pay it and that your job was secure. Secure jobs didn't they die out in 1969? 
Following on from the stories of people losing there homes, handing back the keys as many have, we have seen endless media stories about "hard done too" Brits. Some people it seems think its OK to up and walk away from their debt because it is in another country. But think about this for a moment Banks in Spain have 155.84bn euros of loans at risk of not being repaid. That is 9% of all loans.
Of course we are not saying that's all immigrants walking away for a mortgage debt. However consider the up roar there would be if it was happening in UK., this handing in the keys business and running off home.
We have listened to the argument that the Banks are at fault and of course their easy mortgage policy has been a contributory factor. But did all the people who took 100 and even 110 percent mortgages  do so with a loaded gun at there head, I think not. If large amounts of individuals are aloud to ignore their debt to Spain it will be very unfair indeed.
Spain has 1 in 4 unemployed and By 2010, one in four Spaniards were at risk of poverty
or social exclusion. We would say to all the defaulters if you think you are badly off living back in UK think again. For many life is hard now in Spain and I am not talking about not being able to go out for a meal so often I am talking about not being able to eat.We hope the banks will use the international laws now in place that enable them to pursue these debts across borders.
For all this Spain remains the place we want to call home and a country that we love.Here in Blanca despite the hard times local people remain cheerful, helpful and generous.  Property prices are continuing to fall and we hope attracting people who can afford to live the dream. that people will cut there cloth to match there purse. In our area alone there are many amazing bargains that with a little work will become perfect family or holiday homes. The banks are getting their acts together, the rubbish agents whose advice was always to buy big or buy two, we know we met them, have all but gone. The established local companies continue to match, people with houses that suit not only the buyers taste but also their pockets.

What we try to do is on a daily basis is rejoice is the good things whilst hoping for a change for the better,recognizing that no one country is to blame and that individuals contribute to any problem you care to mention, but, we can and should seek solutions that are within our power.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Mayday in July

What seems to be an ongoing drama took a twist this week when Ryan Air received a denuncia following problems earlier this year. The controversial company have had an ongoing  battle with regards the landing procedure at the new Alicante terminal.  The latest incident pertains to one day in July this year.

The budget airline has had a number of mentions in the media here since July 26 when three of the planes were diverted from Madrid to Valencia because of storms over the capital.
it is alleged that  lack of fuel was the issue also that  the three pilots issued ‘Mayday’ calls,  All the pilots managed to land safely on Runway 12 at Manises Airport in Valencia. Ryan Air said that it had activated the alert when there was enough fuel left for 30 minutes. The  planes had to wait in a queue before they could land. The company claims that the three planes were flying in the stack over Valencia for 50, 68 and 69 minutes. Should the Airline be found culpable they could be be banned from landing in Spain for up to three years.
We await the outcome with interest.

Photo: The Plane, The Plane.


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Watching the Mercury

Fridays temperature got the mercury jumping at 45 degrees. We are thinking this may have has something to do with the power cut that happened during the lunch/siesta hours.  Though it could have been the thunder storm that was rumbling around the hills around the same time.

Suzi was not happy with the heat and tried several of her regular siesta places. One fav usually wins and that’s the bottom shelf of the book case, the next  shelf up comes a close second. The shelves are made from terracotta bricks and have the same tiles as the floor so I guess they are pretty cool. If there was A bit, quiet a bit, more room I would be tempted to try it myself.

Its so important to be aware of food safety in this hot climate. We test the fridge temperature  on a regular basis.

A refrigerator temperature of 37°F and a freezer temperature of 0°F will keep your food from spoiling, without causing you to spend unnecessarily (usually the middle setting on the temperature knob).
To test the temperature of your refrigerator, place a thermometer in a glass of water, and check it the next day (or after the fridge has been closed for eight hours). To test the temperature of your freezer, place a thermometer between two frozen foods; then, check it after eight hours.

It has cooled down a little over the weekend and is mid 30s again today. You really need to get any jobs done in the morning though. Yesterday did manage to clean through the house, the hot Sahara winds bring plenty of dust. John gave the pool a clean too as always its looking fantastic under his care, John is known to keep the best pool in Blanca. One thing he cannot prevent though and can only remove are the tarantulas who decide to take a dip. It was not until our daughter spotted one  that John admitted he had been removing quite a few. Now I knew this was quite common when you live on the campo but was, until know at least, kidding myself it was not happening. Its a quick check of the pool every time I take a dip from now on.

More fires around Spain again this week. In the Alicante region two brave men lost there lives fighting a fire. In the Canary Islands around 4000 people have had to leave there homes. It goes without saying that the greatest care should be taken to avoid further tragedy.

Due to the hot weather progress on the building in the huerta has slowed, its still looking good though, well done you men!

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Family get together

Last weekend we had a wonderful get together with family from Rojales. Joaquin's Mother, sister, nieces and partners came over for the day. Everyone enjoyed splashing about in the pool to cool off and generally a good time was had by all. Loads to eat of course with wonderful desserts made by Joaquin's sister. A particular favourite was brazo de gitano, a sort of Swiss roll cake but with much more cream in the centre, translates as arm of Gypsy's by the way. There was also a yummy apple slice and my cheese cake with caramel sauce went down quiet well as did the classic Victoria sponge with homemade apricot jam and cream filling. We all ate a large first course so a break in proceedings was  required before we hit the puds! What with pork, chicken, rabbit and Goat there was a lot to get through. What a lovely way to spend a Summer Sunday though, good weather, good food and best of all good company. Oh yes forgot to say Rocky had a jolly good time too.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Mr Blue Sky

Its a bit of a cliche that we Brits will always talk about the weather and you have to admit it is a good conversation opener. Given the UK summer,  and I use the term loosely, we get a bit nervous about telling you all how hot it is here and of course rain free! As UK residents we lived in the middle, the far end and the top of the country. We did undoubtedly have a lot more"weather" than we do here if you get my drift. Changeable is  the word for it I think. We saw the 76 drought in Cornwall, when we could walk on the dried out floor of the local reservoir and see the remains farmhouses and village. The winter that followed saw us snowed in. And who can forget the 87 gales and how badly wrong the met office got the forecast. So it seems there a lot to talk about when it comes to UK weather. What about Spain then? Is it always Mr. Blue Sky? Well its true we do get a lot of good weather here but the forecast is just as important and in some cases more so. The Weather in Spain brings its own problems as well as advantages. As with all hot countries we have to be aware of very high temperatures because of issues like fire risk and UV  levels. Aside from safety having an accurate forecast is very important with regards using and saving water. Although we use mostly grey water on our garden at the house we utilise the ancient irrigation system at our plot in Huerta. This means we contact the "water man" who will come along and flood the terraces for us. Its not only that we pay for the water we have, it also that it is an extremely precious resource. With  accurate up to date information on Spanish weather we will not water only to find it rains the next day. It also means that, for me at least, I can read the forecast and look forward to a nice overcast day! Well you don't want Mr. Blue Sky everyday do you?

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Butt Out

Last weekend Spain saw the frightening spectra of forest fires taking lives, severely injuring people, destroying homes and devastating countryside and wildlife. It is now clear, beyond doubt, that the two fires that raged were started by carelessly discarded cigarette ends.

 We have just had the driest winter in living memory, the hottest June, the temperatures are soaring. You only have to look around you to see how tinder dry the countryside is and some thoughtless fool casually throws a cigarette out of their vehicle. Lord above it just makes you despair does it not.

If you have ever seen a place that has been razed to the ground by a wild fire you will never forget it. We were profoundly affect by the sites we saw in parts of the Australia state of Victoria that suffered on Black saturday 7 February 2009. Areas we knew well, and had visited only months before the fires stood like barren moonscapes, stark reminders of that dreadful day.

If you drive along the Spanish motorways you cannot fail to see the flashing signs. You do not need to speak the language to know a triangle ( warning) sign with a cigarette crossed through is not telling you smoking is banned on the motorway. It IS telling you to be extra careful what you do with the butt. So lets hope and pray all smokers will take heed and that we will have no more tragedies this summer.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Crafting in Spain

It is strange but I often find that having mentioned something on the blog I then see its being done or in the pipeline. I was only saying this area has so much to offer and then I find a neighbour has been thinking along the same lines! Whats more along with all the natural assets of the area they have talents galore to share. So if you are looking for a nice break with lots of interesting ways to pass the time look no further. Do give Yvonne a call, she can organize your stay for you. We can almost certainly  throw in some sunshine too!

Crafting In The Ricote Valley, Murcia Spain

Card Crafting - 10 euros 1st hour (6e per hour thereafter) take what you make.
Jewellery Classes - *from 10 euros per hour take what you make.
All inclusive 2 day craft course
All materials, light lunch & refreshments both days, 3 course evening meal with wine or beer. 1 night stay at my bungalow with breakfast 110e per person for card crafting or130e jewellery making. Crafting from 10.30 am -1 pm and 4 pm – 6.30pm both days or 1 morning seeing the sights, its up to you.
* (additional fee charged to work with semi-precious stones or Swarovski Crystal. To be specified when booking)

Take a day or two away from the crowds at the beach. Blanca is a typical Spanish town surrounded by mountains and lemon trees. You can walk along the meandering river into town(perhaps stopping for a drink at the riverside bar) where you will often see people picnicking, fishing, swimming and canoeing, carry on out of town to the lake or take the mountain walking trails with fabulous views. There is a municipal park where the townsfolk play bowls, tennis courts, basketball and football courts. Indoor & outdoor swimming pools. Canoeing (water rafting can be arranged).

Spanish cafe bars offering tapas, an Al A Carte Restaurant, shops, supermarkets and banks. The Theatre has occasional Spanish dancing & orchestral music. We must not forget the now famous Pedro Cano Foundation Art Centre and the Light & Water Museum. Local market on Thursdays. All this is a two minute drive or 10 minute walk of the bungalow. Sunday Artisan craft markets, restaurants, architectural and cultural interests can be found in towns within a 15 minute drive. Just a twenty minute drive to the Spa hotels and pools of Archena.

Blanca is just 1 hour drive from Alicante Airport and Murcia (San Javier) Airport and the coast.
Menu of the day can be arranged (to be specified when booking).

Call me, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised
Yvonne 625997049

Sunday, July 22, 2012

"Easy like Sunday morning"

Sunday again, they keep coming around. The day here started overcast and indeed so black was the sky at one point we thought it might actually rain, sadly not so the garden gets grey water again. The olive tree will get fresh water and my how big the olives are this year. We did harvest a crop last year, you can read all about this in an earlier blog. Because of the pruning and extra watering the olives this year are looking bigger and fatter so we eagerly anticipate a better yield of oil.

As I say it was cloudy first thing but still warm enough for our pre breakfast swim.  The pool gives us a good all around view of the sky and hills and its not uncommon for us to spot something interesting whilst swimming. We have a routine going for if one of us is outside and spots something worth sharing. Not wanting to shouting or run around and scare off whatever we have spied we whistle to get attention. Today was a cracker as John noticed an eagle flying quite close by. We never cease to be astounded by the variety of bird life here. Whilst watching the eagle we could hear Golden orioles nearby as  well as Bee eaters. What I cannot understand is why the Ricote area is not inundated with twitchers from all around the world.

We now have our river view and John is clearly going to enjoy living here even more. Fishing on the door step without needing to get the car out. It seems that new trees will be planted along side the river too. We do wonder how the reeds will be keep down though as they have already started to sprout only days after being cut back to the ground.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Fruit and Veg

What a wonderful time of year for shopping on the local street markets. This morning I bought aubergines that are nothing short of beautiful, fresh runner beans and glorious on the vine tomatoes amongst other things. The stalls were full of locally grown fruit and veg, Ricote peaches at one euro a kilo, cherries at under two euros, plums, of which we have many on our own trees, were also a euro.

Its so inspiring for a cook to get such fresh ingredients, I like to slice the aubergines not to thickly length was brush with olive oil, I always use extra virgin, sprinkle with crushed garlic and grated cheese then bake in the oven. Great hot or cold.
The runner beans with be served with bacon stir fried together after the beans have been lightly steamed.
I bought fresh beetroot to and that will be served raw, grated with a dash a of lemon juice and black pepper.

In fact all this talk of food is making me hungry, I am off to the kitchen right now!

Friday, July 13, 2012

sizzle sizzle

                                        The Giant Strimmer

 Hate to tell you, especially you guys in UK, but its boiling hot again today. Temperature is hovering around 40  degrees. Order of the day then is water water and more water. Thank goodness the water supply problem we had earlier in the week seems to sorted. We had not water for a whole day, really makes you realize what some people have to put up with in some parts of the world, so as ever the tap may be ready to flow but we will treat this precious resource with respect.

Order of the day is keep the shutters closed and if you have to get something done do it early in the day. We do have air-con in some parts of the house but again for environmental reasons we rarely use them. We do use a fan at night in front of the open window.

As I said yesterday lots of work going on in the campo. this year they are cutting the reeds along the river. This was a job that used to be done every year but due to the shortage of money its been left for a couple of years. Its must be hellish hard work down at the bottom of the valley along the river. It does look like we will have a view of running water from the garden pretty soon though, so its  thank you to those people getting the work done despite the heat.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Olympic free zone

Well we are lax this year aren't we, I already said sorry for the lack of posting (to our loyal readers!) so will nor labour the point just crack on with a bit of news etc.

Some time has been taken up with hospital visits and tests, pleased to say everything has turned out well. The local hospital is excellent and the consultant I saw very helpful and caring.  Health care for everyone not just we immigrants has been a hot topic all year here. Spain, like many many other countries, particularly in the euro zone, has been making some difficult decisions with regards provision of care. When the dust settles the changes will hopefully enable those who need care to receive it. One thing I read that astonished me what the amount the UK pays to Spain for its Pensioners care, 3.500 euros is the figure I saw quoted. This seems so low when you consider the growing needs of older people. In fact I have contacted the UK Secretary of State for Health, Andrew Lansley to raise the matter. I await his reply with interest.

We are having some exceptionally warm weather so the pool is getting lots of use. We stopped putting on the solar cover some weeks ago. If the water gets to hot, as it would do if we continued to use the cover, it could damage the filter pump.
Lots going on in the area, numerous land plots getting a make over and being planted, some with apricots and the lovely plate peaches and some with olives. The little house below us that was in a state of disrepair is now being reformed. This is excellent news for the adjoining property as it was a threat to the stability of the building. Here in Spain the local council can oblige a property owner to repair a  property that threats another.
Property prices are still falling so its a good time to grab a bargain, we cannot resist looking in Real Homes in Spain window to see whats happening. Always a cheering welcome there and the promise of ongoing advice holds true. Its good to have local people to assist even when there are fluent Spanish speakers in the family.
 lots of other stuff going on so watch this space I will be back and sooner rather than later and lets just say plums may well feature!

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

A labour of love

When we came to Villa Alba the front of the house had a very ailing grape vine growing, or rather not growing across the front of the house. On close inspection we decided that years of neglect had sadly finished off the vine. The pots the grape vines were in however were well worth reusing. They are yellow and blue glazed with a bold pattern, very large too. What to plant in them though. We brought with us two Plumbagos, a particular favorite because of the wonderful blue flowers they produce. I always think they are the colour of bluebells in a cornish evening light. So we planted them up and wished them luck, and they seem to have taken the good wishes to heart because they are growing well with lots of flower heads. John cut some bamboo to make a framework for them today and I have tied them onto this with bread packet ties, we always save them for this sort of Job.
We were also pleased to see that the jasmine has now got flowers coming, well the main one that was here, the cutting we got going is making lots of growth but no flowers as yet. Its a labour of love to garden in Spain, we use grey water to keep it going, we would feel really guilty if we were pouring fresh water onto the beds and pots.

Monday, May 07, 2012

The Golden Oriole

The weather is really hotting up now with high 30s forecast  for next weekend. The pool is lovely now, so morning swimming is now on the agenda. This morning I was having a coffee on the terrace after a swim when I had the fluting whistle of bird song that had tantalised us yesterday during lunch. I was delighted seconds later to see a Golden Oriole fly into the top of the pine tree in front of me. The Golden Oriole is Blackbird-sized, the male has an unmistakable and beautiful bright yellow body with black wings. It is a secretive bird which keeps to the high tree canopy. Its has a wonderful musical and   distinctive fluting whistle. It flies rather like a thrush - slightly undulating, John was pretty sure he saw one last year and it was in just the same place as my sighting so he was undoubtedly correct. Got a feeling Rebecca may be camping out at the bottom of the garden as shes very eager to have a sighting herself.

Sunday, May 06, 2012

The story so far...

Talk about time flies! cannot believe its so long since our last posting, we are so busy that the week whizzed past, still better than being bored and days dragging. So i thought a post doing a round up on what's happening in Spain and with us was called for.

Work has moved forward on our Los Tollos plot with the granting of the project licence, the three "boys" worked together to dig out the footings on friday, the mammoth task of building steps is almost finished through Jude's hard work. Picture will be posted of the progress as it happens.
 We have had some changeable weather  with a little more much needed rain and the garden continues to grow. The pansies we planted be last year continue to flourish and we plan to have lots more in the main flower bed this time. The rose bush that was here when we bought, and survived the mayhem of the pool build, is now blooming in pretty pink, the miniature rose bought from Lidl is still covered with flowers as is the white carnation bought for us by my brother and sister-in-law. We will however have to move the plum tree that was a christmas present from daughter and son-in-law, it really does not like the position its in so fingers crossed that a move will save it.

Lots going on with the in Spain with changes in rules and stronger reinforcement of existing ones with regards health care. Despite the dramatic coverage in some of the English language media it is not solely aimed at Brits in fact  they need only worry if they have been getting access to health care illegally.

Today is Mothers day here in Spain, everyone is here and son-in-law has a paella on the go. Its a traditional rabbit one, rabbit courteously of our neighbour. There a story behind that........

Last week John and i where have having our morning coffee at the far end of the garden when we saw a cat run up the large pine in front of us. We thought it would have a look around and come down and were more concerned about the Collared Doves nest than the cat. little did we know what a saga it would turn into. During the next few hours the cat stayed resolutely in the tree it did not seem bothered with the birds nest. By late afternoon we were convinced it was afraid to climb or jump down. We try to persuade it with friendly calls but as it was a feral campo cat it pretty much ignored us. Ah well we surmised it must be waiting for cover of darkness. It was not. Next morning it had climbed higher, silly animal if it could go up why not come down. By the afternoon of the second day  John and our son had placed a plank "bridge" to aid the cats descent. Did it come down, did it heck! Food was placed on the bridge, the cat meowed, we stressed. The men in our house are most decidedly not tall tree climbers, nor is the woman for that matter!! To cut a long story short we try all sorts and then Son-in-law Joaquin came to the rescue. Despite our misgiving, its a tall tree, he made a rapid ascent, so that the cat had no time to go higher which was its modus operandi, grappled the moggy and had to more or less toss it onto the highest part of the bank. It would have been impossible to carry it down as not only where all hands and feet required to make a way safely down the darn thing was intent on injuring the hero who had saved it.
So where does the rabbit fit in? Well he owners of the place next door feed all the feral cats and also breed rabbits for meat. They where so pleased with Joaquin for getting the cat down they gave him a rabbit as a reward.
The cat can be seen about the place none the worse for its ordeal and its my guess it wont be climbing trees any time soon. Sadly we fear it may have dined on eggs fresh from the Collared Doves nest whilst aloft.

The River at Blanca by Jude

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Fishing in Blanca

John has always loved a spot of fishing, even better if we got to eat the catch. There are not many kinds of fishing he has not tried, from commercial off the Cornish coast, fly fishing in Scotland, fishing the little streams, the ocean and the longest river in Australia  not to mention catching supper from a canoe off the beach in Guardamar, hes tried them all. It was a forgone conclusion then that he would want to fish here with the river Segura right on our doorstep not to mention a lake just up the road.
We have been a little busy to say the least since we moved but once he got a spare moment first thing to do was to get a licence sorted. Whilst I sat and had a little chat with Jan in the Real Homes in Spain office John set about the task with determination. We were somewhat amused to see John pass the office on several occasions, he seemed to be going for a real ground-hog day!

So a little run down on what was happening:
Visit to Town hall to get licencia de pesca
Trip to bank to pay fee of 6.61  for licencia
Return to Town hall with proof of payment
Informed of need for insurance
Off to insurance company to get compulsory policy*
Back to Town hall with proof policy
Licence is issued
Trip to bar for well earned drink

*The Insurance company used was Mapfre in the Gran Via Blanca.  The cost for 6 months was 16.80 euro, which is automatically renewed by direct debit until you choose to cancel.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Our feathered friends

                                  European Bee eaters

Looking back, a bit of a serious week on the Blog. A sign of the times I suppose, the "crisis", as its always referred to here, means more than even the decisions of Government really do have an instant impact on our everyday lives. However we have so much here that remains beyond the grasp of even the most determined Politicians. Whats more if you take a little time out from the hustle and bustle of everyday life the real moments of joy are free.Many wonderful "in the moment" experiences for us are when we connect with the magnificent natural surrounding we are lucky to live in.
Our feathered friends top the list this week. We were thrilled to see the most colourful of summer visitors in Europe the Bee Eater arrive from its African winter one morning this week. Our daughter was also  lucky to spot a short toed eagle over near our Los Tollos plot. Very much smaller but extremely pretty Green Finches have delighted us as we had our first coffee of the day at the far end of the garden. We have eagerly watched for mr and mrs Collared Dove in their nest in the large pine tree too.
Nature may be red in tooth and claw but as ever its a welcome distraction from the battle field of everyday life.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Back to the 80s

A touch of deja vu  as the week progresses. Feeling like I am back in the Thatcherite 80s with talk of  education cuts, more police powers and changes to health services.
We can only hope the end results are an improvement on the infamous Iron Lady's policies.
Rumblings all over the EU with regards the Schengen  agreement*. Interior Ministers in France and Germany have signed  a joint letter in which they call for the reform of, and ‘temporary suspension’ of the Schengen agreement which allows for the free movement between most member states of the EU.
the reasons stated for such a move are stated as the need to "control the massive flow of immigrants’. The call comes just ahead of the 25th anniversary of the treaty this coming Monday, although many countries signed up in March 1995.

France and Germany believe  that a ‘temporary suspension’ is needed during the present  crisis, both Paris and Berlin speak of ‘provisional’ closure of frontiers, and only when a country in the Schengen space cannot control the flow of immigrants. They say they will give the details to their European partners at the next conference.

 Spain has announced the suspension of the Schengen Treaty and the re-establishing of frontier controls with France ahead of the European Central Bank meeting which is to be held in Barcelona on May 3.
Spain has not yet said how long the border restriction will remain in place, they say it will allow the authorities to act if there is ‘a serious threat to public order or interior security’.

The measure will only affect the frontiers between Spain and France from the Basque Country to Cataluña. Reports indicate that it was the Catalan Government to step up the controls in the face of possible disturbances and the arrival of  protesters from other countries in Europe.

So as I say its just like the 80s, we even have an argument with Argentina going on, all we need now is a poll tax!


Thursday, April 19, 2012

Costa del Crime

The old name, first given to the Spanish Costa's in the popular press in the 70s  I believe, seems to have taken on a new meaning in recent days. First we had the Government here raising the issue of illegal use of the Spanish NHS now the British Government is pledged to catch those defrauding their system for a large proportion of the 43 million pound they pay out every year to fraudulent claimants living abroad.
In such difficult economic times no Government can afford to ignore the blatant misuse of its limited funds and I am sure a lot of the perpetrators of such frauds will now be caught and brought to justice. For some it will mean a double whammy as being in reciept of some UK benefits will have given them access to the Spanish health care system. I can only imagine that once caught for claiming long term disability or sickness benefit for example whilst able to work, often working on the black here, they will be on interest to both governments.
The small Pension, Benefit & Health care team based in Spain provide support to the estimated 1million Britons living there. They work with the Spanish Authorities on behalf of the DWP and Department of Health to prevent and detect benefit fraud, ensure correct access to the Spanish health care system, and combat misuse of the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC).
What is termed abroad fraud involves a range of scams such as people on means-tested benefits going abroad but failing to declare their absence, undeclared property abroad, and individuals working while claiming sickness benefits. Here in Spain  claims for Income Support or Pension Credit are the most frequently investigated for fraud.
It has puzzled us in the past when we have heard people who are below state pension retirement age talk about getting a a"winter fuel payment". Understandable if they suffered from ill health and received a disability pension but confusing when we saw they working or  running a business here. What goes around comes around as they say and I am guessing they will very soon being feeling pretty sick indeed, when they are found out.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Kings and Things

A couple of items caught my eye in the news this week so thought I would share them here.
 It seems the King, Juan Carlos, is in a bit of bother all round lately. Whilst on Holiday he had a fall and broke his hip, a common peril of old age! However his troubles did not end there as reports of the accident drew attention to the fact that he  was on holiday in Botswana  and had taken part in an Elephant hunt. As King Juan Carlos is an honorary member of the World Wildlife Fund it has not gone down to well with members and activist alike. There have been small demonstrations outside the hospital where the King has been treated. The governing board of WWF España held an extraordinary meeting on Tuesday ‘and have agreed unanimously to start the necessary process to modify article 6 of the statues, in relation to the honorable figures of the organisation’.
The environmental organisation also wrote to the King two days earlier they ask for a meeting to express the discomfort generated among the WWF members about the news that he had been hunting elephants in Botswana. I must say the Photograph I saw of the King standing with a gun next to a dead elephant was most distressing. A real lack of judgment here fro a Royal who usually displays such good sense.
The other item worth noting is that prescription charges may shortly be levied here, you do pay a small amount at present if you are not retired but the Government wants to charge 50% for every one not except pensioners who would pay 10%. I can see where they are coming from as the economic crisis is hitting hard here but do hope they will make provision for those on low income especially those with families. The health service is very good here and I would hate to  the comparatively wealthy Brits complaining and this I. If it does happen I hope they  will pay up with good humor.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Cream scones, Friends and a lion

We are very busy at the moment what with one thing and another, thought it was nice to snatch a break on Sunday and have a real afternoon tea with the family plus a walk around the campo. Lots of naughty things for tea, scones, cream and Jam, citrus cheese cake, though I made it with Quark so not so naughty. Of course we had to have egg mayonnaise sandwiches which we all love and home made lemonade very tangy and refreshing.
This week we are moving a lot of things which we have bought from friends who are selling up, loads of things that are very very useful for our building project on the campo plot. Sad to see some one going but everyone has to do whats best for themselves after all. We only meet them since moving to Blanca but we soon became firm friends. When we first met I recognised there accent as they come from our home town, This meant we had lots in common a  shared history so to speak. It also means if we are back in UK we will be able to catch up, they have a house very near my sisters place as it happens.
One thing that will not be going to the campo is a fabulous statue of a lion that we have also been given. It is now standing by the lemon tree, wonder what Suzi the cat will make of that!

Saturday, April 07, 2012

If there's a bustle in your hedgerow....

                                          Yellow Broomrape

This week has been amazing for bird and plant sightings. We now have swallows, swifts and  martins wheeling overhead as well as our friends the collared doves building a nest in the pine tree at the far end of the garden. So many small birds tweeting around its hard to keep track of what they are, crested and long tailed tits, yellowhammers and another small very yellow bird we have not yet got a definite identification on. Mr and Mrs. Blackbird are busy on the Campo and in the Garden and Mr. Hoopoe is to be seen calling away in a large pine two gardens away. Then we have the Herons that fly over on a daily basis no doubt following the river looking for a tasty meal. The cormorants of course I have mentioned before and its nice to see the egrets morning and evening. We enjoy starting the day when we can with a pot of coffee and a little birdwatching from the end of the garden. This gives us a view of a wide range of habit that attracts different species. Water, open ground, reed beds, trees and bushes as well has the hills where we sometimes see Raptors.

We have also been very lucky to find two rare plants whilst walking this week. The first was close to the river in a old olive grove, the striking Yellow Broom rape, The second was in a boggy dip in a little valley up the hill, the Gladiolus Illyricus. John spotted this beautiful flower in the shelter of an ancient olive. We have photographed both plants but are keeping quiet about their exact location. The countryside is awash with wild flowers after the recent rains and is a sight to behold. Its such a treat to live once again in an area that really does have seasons. We intend to enjoy every minute of it.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Growing time

 Whilst the UK is plunged back into winter we are at last getting some much needed rain. The very heavy showers of rain, and some hail, are slotted between sunshine and pretty decent temperatures. As a lot of the rain has been after sunset it is soaking nicely into the ground. This is great for our garden and our plot in the campo. We have put in one or two herbaceous plants in the last two weeks and they all seem to be settling in nicely. Our main flower bed is looking good and the soil is very much improve because of the addition of our home-made compost. Fingers crossed the Agapanthus and Astilbe will survive as we loved both these plants. The sweet peas, seeds collected by our daughtetr from plants in Rojales, are doing really well and we look forward to some fragrant blooms later in the year. John as planted a large number of mesembryanthemum on the slopping terrace at the very end of the garden. We hope these will spread to give us a wonderful display of their bright coloured flowers and help to hold the soil in place. Meanwhile in the campo the seeds planted are sprouting merrily and the trees are getting a much needed watering for free.  We have a great variety of trees oranges, lemons, almonds, cherry plums, peaches and we look forward to harvesting the crop. 

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Riverside fire

The bamboo at the side of the River Segura in Blanca town has been cut down and set alight, whether this was on purpose or not i dont know, but a team of at least a dozen fireman were on hand this morning keeping control of the blaze and damping down the cliff face. the heat was fairly intense and could be felt from the other side of the river.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Corvera airport opening delay

The latest news is that the opening of Corvera Airport in Murcia has been delayed until Summer 2013 at the earliest, The president of the Murcian government said a thousand technical requirements and approval of the equipment used still has to be carried out,

Luis del Rivero from constructors Sacyr was sacked last October as boss of the multinational and this has apparently slowed down the paperwork in Madrid. and he was the person putting things in place to get the airport operational.
For a tour of Corvera airport as of 30th December 2011 have a look here
Meanwhile AENA has announced 22 extra flights this summer from the San Javier airport.

Monday, April 02, 2012

New Neighbours

We have two quiet noisy newcomers to the area at present and it looks like they have set up home here. The collared dove, one of the most successful birds in the world has taken up residence. First we had one bird who´s favourite spot was on top of a post at the far end of our back garden. My they do like to coo coo! I can here one now even as I type. After spending a considerable amount of the day calling from its chosen lookout it was joined by another bird, its new mate we presume. We fully expect to hear a multitude of cooing before the summer is out.
The collared dove has spread its wings through Europe and beyond since it was recorded in Hungary in the 1930s. This amazing example of the rapid expansion of a species saw them colonise most of the UK by the end of the 1960s,we had many in all our UK gardens. They are now wide spread in Spain and you will see them in pairs, like ours, or small flocks.

It is 34 cm (13 inches) in size. Its plumage is predominantly pale brown. There is a black stripe on the neck that looks like a collar. The belly is whitish. On the tip of the wins there is a white stripe. Its amazing
this bird has done so well as it normally only lays two eggs. One things for sure it will find plenty of food to its liking around here, it likes to feed on seeds and plants. We just hope our herbaceous border does not prove to tempting.

Sunday, April 01, 2012

Information Technology

Its over a decade since I started to use a PC. I had resisted the technology, luddite by nature in true Leicestershire tradition. The need to get to grips with the the workings of the "machine" became unavoidable when I started a Social Science degree course. Not only did I need to submit word processed work there was also research to be done and the modular entitled computer applications for the social sciences to be passed. It was a painful process and the most useful thing that was said to me re this learning process was that not to worry I would not break the PC if I made mistakes. Its true that the technology has been put to dark purposes by stupid and evil people in the world and we have to hope that the efforts to prevent criminal activities will continue and succeed. Also that those who spend their time causing problems for other users will either be caught or cease there mindless behavior. I have to wonder  what sort of person spends time creating something that is solely aimed at causing a total stranger inconvenience.

 In the main though using the WWW has had so many benefits for all the family. We can book, buy, research. We get almost instant answers to queries that pop up on a daily basis. These range from who's that actor and what else have they been in through recipe ideas, practical advice from building to bee stings. In fact the PC helps us remain curious about life, an essential factor in enriching the process of living. We have found Jobs and homes through this media too. There is also the communication factor. This Blog is one example, enabling us to share our lives with people from many countries as well as our own family and friends. Used properly the WWW is a marvelous tool that helps break down barriers between peoples of different countries, as we tell each other about our interests our communities, share views on life. True there is a lot of rubbish on the web but its like any other medium its up to the individual to sort the wheat from the chaff.

Friday, March 30, 2012

General strike

Yesterday was a day of  general strike here in Spain. Although we did not see demonstrations in Blanca and most things seemed to be functioning as normal the Post office was closed. We respect any workers right to withdraw there labour although it is always sad when demonstrations become violent. This did happen in some cities  and has lead to arrests. In Barcelona 74 people where arrested and tear gas was used for the first time in 16 years.
I think it is worth noting that 4 of those arrested were below 18 and another 8 where non Spanish. We spoke to our local post master today about the strike and what he said was interesting. Although he upheld the strike all the other staff, the postpersons, went into work. He is a quite unassuming man who felt it was necessary to make a statement about the plight of the workers. He did not appear to hold any resentment towards his staff but found it ironic that as the "boss" he was the striker.As he said the postal workers are in a worse position than him as they are lower paid. Trouble times all over Europe, I wonder how many people feel as I do that they would like to take part in a peaceful demonstration but fear that violence might break out. Whilst I cannot see the workers of the Ricote taking to the streets any time soon I feel sure we have not seen the last of these displays of dissatisfaction with the economic situation and Government policies.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Spanish ITV

Last week it was time for the Spanish equivalent of the MOT for the car, Known as the ITV the test is carried out at centres throughout Spain. Our nearest test centre is at Molina Del Segura, and though an appointment is recommended I had been assured that there was no need for one so hedging my bets I decided to arrive at just before opening time at 08.00 so as not to end up in a queue. When I arrived at 7.50 the gates were open so in I went and was at the front of the line. When the attendant arrived at the check in office she checked my Certificate of Matriculation and registration documents, charged me 49.80 euros, the set rate for a diesel car, and asked me to drive round to Lane 1 where a technician was waiting, you assist by turning on, lights, indicators,wipers etc, driving onto the brake test rollers and over the pit, where the joints and exhaust are inspected. after only 10 minutes all the tests were completed,  and i went to the office and collected my sticker for another years fitness for the car.
What a difference to having a MOT test in the UK!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Cuckoo arrives

Last week  the first day of spring greeted us with snowy hill tops. At the beginning of this week we truly heard that spring was indeed here as the sound of the cuckoo echoed around the valley. Big excitement in our family as we stood in the garden listening. By the sound of it the bird that was calling was not far away. As we could not see the bird we assume it was a Common Cuckoo (Cuculus canorus) (formerly European Cuckoo) which will have arrived here from Africa for the breeding season, I thought I spotted one when we where on our way back from the coast last week but had not heard one till Sunday. In flight, the Cuckoo can be easily mistaken for a Kestrel or Sparrowhawk because it has swept-back wings and long tail. However, Sparrowhawks do not have pointed wings like the Cuckoo, and the Kestrel is streaked and not barred on the underparts.I have seen cuckoos at close quarters  in UK so I am pretty sure it was one. Its well know that these birds are brood parasites, laying there eggs in other birds nest, and this gives them a rather bad reputation. The common cuckoo starts to breed at 2 years. When it is ready to lay the hen cuckoo flies down to the host's nest, pushes one egg out, lays an egg and flies off. The whole process takes about 10 seconds. A female may visit up to 50 nests during a breeding season.  The expression "a cuckoo in the nest" is used to denote a thing or person who is out of place, unwanted.

The evocotive sound of the cuckoo in spring however is very welcome as it heralds a new season, it is the male who has the familar cuckoo cuckoo call.
An old British saying goes:

In April I open my bill
In May I sing night and day
In June I change my tune
In July far far I fly
In August away I must

It seems here in Spain for April we should read March.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Amigos and chips

We had our first trip back down to Costa Blanca for quite some time last week. We treated ourselves and stayed at the Guardamar Hotel, it backs on to Calle Argentina where we lived for a time. The hotel is very pleasant, very clean , rooms not luxury but well maintained and some recent up-dating has taken place. Continental breakfast was included, lots of choice and the dinning room is light and airy. It was great to catch up with friends, we went out for fish and chips with our mate Lil and Mary and Bill. Its a treat to have traditional fried fish and chips with mushy peas of course and in such good company it was even more enjoyable. Also managed to fit in a Chinese meal at our favorite restaurant in Guardamar. It was especially nice to catch up on what's been happening in the lives of the very friendly staff there. Same goes for the Hoops bar which was really buzzing as it was a "match" night.
All in all we enjoyed our visit but oh my it felt like we were in another country in contrast to where we live now. We are so glad we live in the Ricote area now. The Costa Blanca really is little Britain and despite our  wonderful friends there its not a place we want to live now. having gone to all the upheaval of moving to a new country we at least want to feel we are actually in Spain. Viva Blanca!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Snow in the Ricote Mountains

When the cloud lifted from 12 hours of almost continual rain, we were surprised to see a cover of snow on the mountain tops, but then the temperature was 23 degrees yesterday and here today it is 12 degrees with a chilly breeze blowing off the mountains.

Let the Lion roar

This is wrong, very wrong indeed. As reported in a posting a few days ago the pool is ready, Johns reputation as the best pool keeper in Blanca is unchallenged its looking great. So whats the problem? quite simply its cloudy weather for a third day and we have rain forecast. We had just about given up on getting any rain at all this winter having nearly got through February and  March without any much to write home about. Not that we do not want rain, indeed we are pretty desperate for a good downpour. Looking over the campo we can see many citrus trees that are suffering from lack of water. We are guessing that growers are hanging out for at least some free water. The price of lemons is through the floor, with Turkish imports killing the local market. Incidentally its not only the growers who are suffering because of this. Packers work on an as and when basis and there has very little call to work for the ones at the local warehouses this winter.
Water costs money and although it may seem cheap if you only want to water a few terraces like us if you have to work it into the cost of growing commercially it looks like many are just not able to afford the price. We are hoping the rain does come in reality, our leisure  activities can hold fire, It is so much more important that the local market gardeners get that free water before the summer. They may not sell the lemons this year but the trees need to be taken care of for the coming ones. So fingers crossed for a bit of drip drip drop little April showers and maybe the reverse of the old saying, March having come in like a lamb will go out like a lion.

Photo taken from Villa Alba yesterday.
I wrote this post last night - then it started raining and its not stopped since!

Monday, March 19, 2012

That Mad Cat

Suzi by name and crazy by nature. We got Suzi when she was already a  grown cat and often wonder where she picked up some  of her stranger habits. For example she will sit and suck her front leg, you can hear the noise of her sucking across the room. Sometimes cats do this  when they have been removed from there mother too early but of course we do not know if this happened to Suzi. Another favourite past time is sleeping in our bed, she likes to get under the bedspread and settled down for a siesta. I get a surprise the other night as she had slept longer than usual and was still nicely tucked up when I went to get in bed myself.
Suzy seems to save her most outrageous behaviour for John. She will "box" with anyone who wants to give it a try but, mostly,  keeps her claws in while she takes swipes at you. Oh and don't get in her way if shes annoyed, usually at seeing another cat in HER garden. I made that mistake the other day walking past her to shoo away the offending moggy. Well the whack she gave my foot had me calling her Mohammed Ali for the rest of the day. But as I was saying John comes in for the hardcore cat attacks. If Suzi has spent the night in her favourite spot, pushing John and I to the edges of our bed, she wakes bright and early. What she does then if walk over to John and tap his face until he wakes up. Suzy wants her breakfast and she is not waiting. This morning she excelled her self. Maybe she thought John was sleeping the deep sleep of the just and a tap on the face would not suffice. Whatever the reason John was give a surprise wake up call indeed when Suzi bit his nose! I mean what gets into that crazy cat.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Making the garden grow

                                THE COMPOST BINS
Another tub of compost was added to the garden today. Its taken a liitle longer to process during the colder months but still light years ahead of the time it took to get compost from waste in Scotland. We are adding quite a lot of lemon skins now, our soil is very alkaline so we are trying to even things out. If you pop some soil in a jar with vinegar you just about get an explosion as the alkali material reacts with the acid of the vinegar. Our flower bed in the back garden is really starting to look good. Much of this thanks to Johns hardwork, I am more of an "artistic director"  dont you know. Hey they also serve who only stand and wait!

Our next door neighbour was fascinated by our compost making system, sounds posh, in fact its two black dustbins that have holes drilled in them. Serefino was throwing vegetable waste on his garden one day so John showed him what we do. Its really necessary to try to improve our soil as it is poor and does not hold moisture well. Its also means we recycle all the kitchen waste, less for land fill too. We had also been putting some of the wood ash from the stove on but now know this is not advisable with our soil as it can raise the PH and prevent the plants from taking in any nutrients that are available. The other great thing about making your own compost is that it comes free and is not damaging the natural landscape elsewhere.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

What lies beneath

The Big reveal today. What with the weather warming up nicely we thought it was time to take the winter cover off the swimming pool. If you live in Spain you have no doubt seen some grim looking pools by the end of the winter. public pools in particular tend to be left with water but no cover, can understand that really it would be quite an expense to have a cover that worked on a really big pool. We picked our winter cover up second hand at a bargain price and its been a good investment. John had kept an eye on the water that lay beneath the cover but we were really pleased when we did the reveal. The water was really very clean. John did a sterling job and within a couple of hours the pool looked almost inviting, give or take a few degrees more warmth in the water! Suzy the cat was a little confused to start with. During the winter she has made it her business to walk on water, well on pool cover. That cat is quite crazy you know. For some reason she just loves to drink pool water, no amount of bowls of fresh clean aqua prevents her from have a little tipple from the pool. So she can no longer "walk" on the pool, she can now be seen dipping a paw then licking off the water at the edge. What a strange moggy eh?

Friday, March 16, 2012

Science and Scenery

We have a delightful view across from the house at the moment, a small area of huerta with Almonds trees in full bloom. Like a pink mist they are  a sight to behold and if you have ever smelt almond blossom you will appreciate what a joy they are. Undoubtedly its because of  all  the hills and dales here because the trees on our side of the little valley were in flower weeks ago and are now covered in spring fresh green leaves.

The almonds are in the group of trees that flower before getting their leaves. This process means the flowers are not only able to access maximum sunlight but they also get first dips on the trees store of carbohydrates. Flowering early also helps the trees avoid the attentions of so many insects as the life cycle of insects is such that they are around in fewer numbers in the first flush of spring. We seem to have  lots of little micro climates around the area. A Micro-climate is a local atmospheric zone where there are differences in climate from the surrounding area. It can be an  area as small as a few square metres (for example a garden bed) or as large as many square kilometres. Micro-climates exist, for example, near bodies of water which may cool the local atmosphere, or in heavily urban areas where brick, concrete, and asphalt absorb the sun's energy, heat up, and re-radiate that heat to the ambient air. We used to see the effect of a large body of water creating such an effect when we lived near Loch Ness. Another contributing factor to micro-climates is the slope  or direction in which an area faces.. Here South-facing slopes  are exposed to more direct sunlight than opposite slopes and are therefore warmer for longer.
We have an example of such areas consisting of just a few square metres on our Los Tollos plot with some trees being in full leave and some still in full blossom
Well thats the technical bit the result is a sight for sore eyes from the front of the house.

Thursday, March 15, 2012


Truth to tell its not really a host or a crowd nor did I wonder lonely as a cloud in true Wordworthian style but i could not have been more delighted. We have daffodils, only two at present but  there are more in bud waiting to bloom though. I have always loved the spring and daffodils are so cheerful, dont you think. We planted these in the late autumn with fingers crossed, pleased to say despite  the lack of winter rain they seem ok.  We are not really gardeners who go to endless trouble and through agonies to get plants to grow in what is clearly the wrong place, we are more the "put em in and wish em luck" type. Well didn't they do well. When we lived in Cornwall the hedgerows in spring would be full of daffs blooming there little heads off. Though there were wild daffodils in Cornwall recorded in the 1600s Dutch varieties were also imported from around that time. During WW2 they were removed  compulsorily  from the commercial fields to increase food production.
Growers were so reluctant to throw away their bulbs they  threw them, with some soil, into the surrounding hedges.
This is why you see so many in hedgerows during the spring down in Cornwall.
We planted many many bulbs when we lived in Scotland and I like to believe they are still welcoming the spring there.
Meanwhile back to Blanca, its a small start but we hope rather like little acorns and mighty oaks we will end up with a mighty host of these delightful flowers.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Spring Break

There nothing we like better than a bit of a road trip. We have done quite a few in Australia, France, UK and of course Spain. We still have a lot of Spain to see and whenever we do plan a trip we always look for hotels in Spain online. its such a great way to find what you want. its so easy to search via location, facilities and price. We have found that Hotels in Spain have been pretty bang to rights with online descriptions and if you google map the address and but the wee man on the map you can also see exactly what the local area is like. That can be very helpful when you are arriving too as you have a clear picture of what the place looks like from the outside. Whether we are looking for a simple hostel or a little bit of luxury we have always found it via an online search. We also look at places to eat near the hotel and places of interest in the town we are going to stay in. Often hotels will serve good food too and not to over the top on price either. So excuse me the sun is shining and I think I will just do a bit of surfing, the web that is.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

How fires start?

We hold our winter pool cover down all round the edge with filled 8 litre water bottles, which has worked very efficiently but as I was tidying up around the pool yesterday, and I noticed some black holes and marks on the pool winter cover. Further investigation revealed it was burns, what has happened is the sun has been magnified through the bottles of water to cause intense heat spots and has nearly set the cover on fire, if someone had told me this was possible I would not have believed them, I now wonder if this is how some of the fires start in the campo.
The cover will be coming off in a couple of weeks for the solar cover to go on, but in the meantime have painted the bottles with white emulsion to stop the suns rays causing any further damage.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

The F words

Well just getting over a bout of flu, second time this year I was blaming it on UK visitors but then recalled it started the day after I was in the local  Salud seeing the Dr. Those places are full of sick people with germs! Bit of a wimp when it comes to colds and Flu as I have fibromyalgia and viruses can hit particularly hard. Anyway worst over now and the multitude of lemons we have at present have been a great help, big mugs of hot drink with honey.

Quite a week for the F words, John and Jude were planning a fire up on our plot, there a good fire pit enclosed with corrugated sheets. You have to be careful though. Any fire in a dry country needs constant watching to keep it under control. Where we lived before here a guy burned his neighbours' house down when he had a garden bonfire, garage with cars and all. The other big risk factor, aside for the dry conditions, is the materials being burned. Olive and citrus trimming are very flammable, rather like eucalypts in Australia they have an high oil content and go up with a whoosh.

Well we were aware that care was needed but we did not realize you need a licence from the local counsel before you have a fire, judging by the number of fires we see here some one must have a full time job issuing the paperwork. By change on his way to the plot John had to call at the Real Homes office to collect paperwork and just as well he did as it turned out. Whilst he was there he heard another person asking about lighting a fire and it transpired that the afore mentioned licence was needed. This it not a case of rules and paperwork for there own sake it a safety thing. Because of the danger of fire the council like to know where a fire will be in case it does get out of control. this aids in sending out the Bombas (fire brigade) ensuring they go straight to the correct part of the campo. Oh yes and its free, jolly good.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Bumping the car

A couple of weeks ago I had my first prang while driving in the car in Spain, I was driving through Cieza and although the traffic lights were green in my favour a car shot in front of me and I hit it broadside on, no one was hurt luckily. There were no witnesses, they were too busy looking at the crash to see what colour the lights were for me, The policia local were there very shortly after the bump and took control, i did not even speak to the other driver, just gave all the documents, details and a statement to the policia, who then gave me the details of the other driver.
Anyway down to the efficiency of Linea Directa my insurance company the car is now fixed and as good as new, I had phoned Linea Directa as soon as I got home- the car was driveable- they told me to make an appointment for an assessor at a garage, which I did, the car stayed at the garage and the repair was finished 5 days later. In the meantime a courtesy car was provided payed for by the insurance. The insurance company emailed me every two days to let me know the progression of the claim, but unfortunately because I hit the other car and there were no witnesses I was declared at fault so I loose 10 percent off my no claims bonus on the next renewal. Driving here in Spain can be a hazardous business and I have been driving here for the last 6 years without a bump up to now, so I think actually I have been lucky.

Monday, March 05, 2012

Cypress tree surprise

Looking out of the window this morning, we saw what looked like smoke blowing around, our fire wasnt lit, and there was no smell of smoke, then we noticed when the wind was catching the Cypress tree the pollen blowing off it in thick clouds. the pollen on Cypress trees is not formed in flower heads but in little brown blobs on the end off each scale like leaf.  Its a good job I dont get bad hay fever now or I would really be suffering.

Friday, March 02, 2012

Summers coming

With spring well on its way and summer just round the corner, we have friends and relatives asking us to recommend a place to stay, somewhere different, somewhere quiet, somewhere out in the country, is often the request, the problem is that we very rarely stay in self catering cottages as our getaway break is our chance to be waited on hand and foot with our breakfast and an evening meal, so we can only recommend what we have been told by other people is good.
This may well change though as we have been looking at taking a trip Andalucia where there are some beautiful rural retreats that would be nice to try out, the town of Iznajar near Antequera particularly caught our eye where there are some nice casetas for rent. Staying in this area would give us the opportunity to explore some of Spain that is new to us.
When we lived in the United Kingdom, school holidays were a problem as we always found that they were our busiest time for our work, so we used to take our daughter out of school for an “educational” holiday which did not always go down well with the head teacher, I understand things are a lot more rigid now so families with children have to stick to the school holidays, so if you choose a time for a holiday that is outside school holidays you can find some real bargain rates not only for accommodation but for travel.

Traditional and modern

Monday really was a day for throwing open the windows and letting in the spring air. That same air is warm and there's a gentle perfume in the it that gives you a Spring rush, time to shake the rugs and wash the floors. Well we do that all the time actually, we would be knee deep in dust if we didn't.  I can fully understand why Spanish houses have tiles not carpets, not only cooler but so easy to keep clean. Quick sweep and then mop using one of the dozens  of floor cleaners available and well Manuel's your uncle so to speak. The type of tiles we have are more rustic, no elaborate designs but not the high gloss type used in new build properties so often in recent years. Those high gloss ones need a purpose made dry mopping to keep them looking good so quite glad we have the stone look rustic type, to our mind they are also more appropriate in a country house. We liked the modern ones in our apartment in Formentera because it was just that a modern apartment
When we were looking for our new home here in Murcia we did view a  variety of types of property both town and country. Many where very old and had wonderful floor tiles which sadly are often destined to be removed or covered, I suspect this place had a dirt floor till it was reformed a number of years ago. Thank goodness the then owners had the good taste not to use the shiny single coloured tiles so common theses days.
Spain had quite an influence on tiles through history and this was greatly effected by the dominance of the Arab culture which followed the invasion of the Iberian peninsula in the 8th century.
Following the Arabs invasion of  the Iberian Peninsula, (modern day Spain),  ceramic-making technology was available to artisans .This gave them different techniques to utilise importantly it was  this glaze that  also provided the basis for decoration and colouring of  tiles. The glaze used on top consisted of green lead and it was decorated on white with a transparent glaze along with highlights of metallic hues. It is amazing when you consider that the wonderful tiles we can still see today at places like the Alhambra in Granada were made so many centuries ago. Somehow I cannot see modern ones lasting so long!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Solar Hot Water

 After much deliberation we have finally lashed out and had a Solar water heater installed, It is the evacuated tube type with a 150 litre tank that sits above it, and pressurised from the  cold water system, we had the system installed by Solardirecta of Caravaca, they arrived as promised at 10.00 on Tuesday, and the heater was completely installed by 18.00 that night.
Previously we were useing the gas boiler for hot water and the hot water pressure was not that great but now the pressure is brilliant, and the water piping hot, we have a valve fitted at the tank that mixes cold water into the outflow for a maximum temperature  of 60 degrees C, (adjustable) which is a safeguard against turning the hot tap on and getting scolded. Within 24 hours the digital water control was telling is we had 150 litres of water at 80 degrees C, and is building up as we are not useing all the hot water each day.
Should we have several days of cloudy weather, there is a heater built into the tank that can be turned on from the controller either manually or automatically.So after the initial expence, we now have plenty of hot water provided by the sun.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Its not who you know its where you live!

Recently we have seen lots of arguments on English language forums re the heating allowance given to British pensions in UK. In case you are unaware once you become a state pensioner, provided you live in UK, you get a winter payment to help with heating. To qualify you MUST be resident in UK when you reach pensionable age. Not quite sure how this rule was reached but that's how it is. As a pensioner myself  I do not qualify under these rules. Well you cannot win them all. I am just pleased to have a pension and to have lived long enough to collect it! Mind you it is a bit nippy at the moment and I am sure the many many forums used by British pensioners living here will have not a few threads running on this issue as heating bills start arriving.  Right now it is a bit nippy but lets face it we know we will get some right hot weather unlike the poor devils in UK. We lived in Scotland for quite a number of years and it was not so unusual to have the heating on at any time of the year. All in all keeping warm in UK is a far more expensive business. So despite the fact we saw market traders in Cieza today lighting fires in makeshift braziers, and a bunch of workman who had stoped for a break and lit a fire on the roadside to keep themselves warm, we will be counting our blessings not our goosebumps.  So chill out
man it will soon be summer.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The rain in Spain

Although we have had some cold weather this winter what we have not had yet is rain. Its only rained 3 or 4 times since the beginning of last December. The ground is very dry and we are putting any available grey water onto the flower beds and trees in our garden. We are also glad we have not drained the swimming pool. Instead we have put a winter cover on it and run the pump about once a month. The water is clear and clean under the secondhand cover, what a bargain, heavy duty cover. If the winter rain really does fail to arrive at least we will not be worrying about all the water the pool needs. Our little domestic worries over the water situation must be amplified for the fruit and olive growers though. This area like so many in Spain is made to bloom and by the ancient irrigation system. The system was put in place by the desert dwelling Moors who looked at the one left by the Romans and set about improving the network. However no matter how good the system for moving water is you need the water to be there in the first place. The river is looking low the ground is dry and its up to all of us to be as careful as we can with water. There is real concern in cereal growing areas on the plains in Spain.
We think that now is a good time to look at your own household water footprint and if you can change your habits to reduce the amount all to the good. Now if you´ll excuse me I must go and greywater the garden.

footnote: It rained last night!