Author Archives: itsallmanana

All white by me!

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Well, Casa San Jorge has had a face-lift!  The “new” section has been rendered to help it fit in with the rest of the hamlet.  The only problem being is that now our house is a brilliant white and the rest of the houses are an off-white, dirty kind of colour.  We’re considering chucking some mud at it to make it look authentic!  It shouldn’t take long for it to blend in though; one dirty down pour and the house will look just the same as all the others!

Today’s jobs; fit windows, tile stairs and finish tiling the roof terrace.  All very exciting!

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I also convinced hubby to come window shopping with me to Murcia.  This is no mean feet since he doesn’t do shopping.. at all.  It all hung on a promise that if he came with me to Leroy Merlins and Ikea, I’d take him to KFC.  Doesn’t sound exciting I know, but when you realise that he LOVES his Kentucky and add that to the fact he hasn’t even seen a KFC in over a year, then maybe you’ll understand.

Unfortunately, for him, when we got there, we discovered KFC in Murcia has closed down.  This was an unmitigated disaster of epic proportions.  I kid you not.  I could not have been more unpopular if I tried.  So in reality, the day consisted of two hot and bothered people stomping round Leroy Merlin’s not talking to each other and dismissing any tile/paint/kitchen choices the other cared to share.  Oh dear.  I decided it was probably best to forgo the planned trip to Ikea.  We eventually found somewhere to eat; an American themed restaurant.  A “how would you like your burger cooked,”  (definite sign this was going to be a great burger), a full rack of ribs and a €50 bill later and hubby was somewhat placated.  We even managed to have a civil conversation about kitchens – we live the life I know – and have agreed on an island/breakfast bar idea.  So I suppose that was progress.

Only a million other things we need to agree on.  Ah well, one day at a time!

Casa San Jorge, phase one complete!

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Hurrah!  It seems I’ve been waiting ages to write those words – phase one complete.

It’s been exciting times in the pueblo.  The builders have finished their work and the roof terrace is almost tiled.  Naturally, because this is Spain, and the house we bought is like a million years old (well it’s only 100 years old, but you know what I mean), things didn’t quite go according to plan.  We ended up having to replace 2 ceilings/floors that we hadn’t taken into account, but in the end it was best to get things done properly.

Now, we have walls, ceilings, a new stair case AND a roof terrace!  Marvellous isn’t it?

Here’s the latest pictures:

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Now all that’s left to do is, render walls inside and out, render ceilings, strip back beams, fit windows, build interior walls, fit doors, remove garage door, chase out for electrics and water, tile floors, paint walls, fit bathroom, and fit kitchen.  Easy peasy!

 

Forgive me readers, for I have sinned

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It had been nearly a month since my last post and I can only apologise.  I’ve just been so busy I haven’t had the time to write about anything, so again, I am sorry.

It’s been a hectic month in our household.  At the beginning of the month my Mother came to stay; the orginal plan was for her to dog sit whilst my husband I went off to Cordoba and then on into Portugal to see my brother-in-law and his wife.  All the best laid plans and that.  Needless to say, that’s not exactly what happened.  As our super speedy builders (more about them later) decided there was no time like the present, we decided that now wasn’t the best time to bugger off on holiday.  Unfortunately my Mum was on no-refund-easyjet tickets so she came anyway.  We felt a bit bad that she’d made a special trip but that her services were no longer needed so we decided that we’d stick with our Cordoba booking and Mum and I would go instead.  Poor old hubby would stay behind to supervise/labour on the build.

Cordoba was BRILLIANT and on reflection I’m glad it was Mum and I rather than Hubby and I.  My husband, bless him, doesn’t do culture at the best of times, but after Mum and I spent about 10 hours solidly walking from one historical wonder to another, I was glad he’d decided to stay at home.   Oh he would have gone, if only to shut me up, but I don’t think he would have enjoyed it.  No doubt he would have been impressed with the amazing Mesquita (Cathedral-Mosque) and the roman bridge, but after five minutes of looking, I think he would have been bored out of his mind.  He is of the opinion that one “load of rubble looks much like the next.”  I suppose he could be right, but I’m bit more romantic than that.

Cordoba truly is a wonderful place to visit.  An Iberian and Roman city in ancient times, in the Middle Ages it became the capital of an Islamic caliphate. There are literally hundreds of historical sites to visit and you spend forever just wondering the streets and inspecting the traditional Andalusian court yards and irregular buildings that look like they’re threatening to fall in on themselves. It really is beautiful.

During it’s Islamic period, Cordoba was thought to be the most populous city in Europe and the impressive Great Mosque of Cordoba was built to house it’s numerous Muslim inhabitants. It was expanded and expanded some more and at it’s height, could cater for 15000 worshipers. Yes that is fifteen thousand – that should give you an idea of the scale of the place. It’s now home to the city’s Cathedral, but much of the original architecture remains and it is a sight to behold. You really cannot visit Cordoba without visiting this great site. It is awe inspiring.   The Cathedral still conducts services and there were several weddings being held in some of the smaller chapels that line the walls – cue lots of people watching and outfit marking!  The tickets are reasonable at about €10 each and you can wonder around for as long as you like; I think we spent a good few hours in there and we paid the extra couple of € to hire the audio guide so we would know exactly what we were looking at. It was well worth the money.

Near the cathedral is the old Jewish quarter, which consists of many irregular streets, such as Calleja de las Flores and Calleja del Pañuelo, and which is home to the Synagogue . In the extreme southwest of the Old Town is the Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos, a former royal property and the seat of the Inquisition; adjacent to it are the Royal Stables, a breeding place of the Andalusian horse. Near the stables are located, along the walls, the medieval Baths of the Caliphate.

The impressive Roman Bridge leading across the river and houses the Torre de Calahorra at the south end.  It’s a pleasant walk across and you can look down the river to the two ancient mills that once served the city.  At night the bridge is alive with locals taking a stroll, musicians and artists selling all manner of handmade jewellery, paintings and the like.  The tower at the end if home to the Museum of Andalusian life and gives you a great insight into the history of Cordoba.  It’s only a few euros to get in, you get a free headset to tell you all about its exhibits and they have an amazing scale model of the Mesquita.

All in all, Cordoba is a fantastic city and well worth the 4 hour, 35-degree-plus- no-airconditioning trip there and back!  I would recommend it to anyone.  The food is reasonably priced, there are hotels to suit every budget and the ice creams are gorgeous!  I recommend a good pair of shoes though – you’ll do a LOT of walking and your feet WILL hurt!

More about the house build next time – I promise!

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Moving on a pace: Casa San Jorge

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So things are moving on with Casa San Jorge.  We’ve even made a bit of money back on it by selling some of the galvanised steel roofing sheets to a chap who’s building himself a car port.  (Only a few thousand to go!)  My husband and various volunteers have stripped part of the roof of it’s old and cracked tiles and taken down the ceiling on the bit of the house we lovingly refer to as the “Frodo” end.  It’s because that part of the house was an add on (not sure when, but it’s still ancient so we can’t call it new), and has no access from the main house except via a small red door, known as the Frodo door.  It comes complete with 3 hobbit sized doors and and a sloped roof that only the smallest of people are actually able to stand upright under.  Now the roof is off, perhaps we’ll have to rename it… who knows.

Anyway, the Frodo end is going to become home to my office, the master suite complete with en-suite and a staircase which will eventually lead to a new roof terrace.  Due to the fact that only hobbits could live in it at the moment, we need to bring in some builder types to raise the roof (literally), build a stair case and sure up the floors (and the ceilings below it).  We had a quote from a chap in the village which was waaaaaay out of our price range.  I admit we started to panic a little bit, but when we told Super Sonic Steve (readers of previous posts will no doubt remember him for his ability to speak Spanish and his possession of hearing akin to a hawk’s eyesight), he laughed and said we must have misheard.  He duly phoned the builder and queried the price explaining that as we were English, we must have misunderstood.  We hadn’t.  GULP!

By some minor miracle, we managed to knock €4000 off the price with my husband offering to be one of the labourers.  We’re still not sure how this happened.  There is no way on God’s earth that a labourer gets paid €4000 for 2 week’s work, but we are definitely not complaining.  At least it’s back within budget.

Another miracle has also transpired.  The Spanish way of life means that NOTHING happens quickly. Mañana doesn’t just mean “tomorrow” here.  No, it’s a way of life.  It lends itself nicely to the slow pace of life and the fact that there is no rush to anything.  If someone tells you something will be done mañana, it really means it’ll happen some time over the next few weeks, perhaps in a month.  Never, never does it actually mean tomorrow.  My husband went to talk to the builder today and nearly fell of his chair when the answer to the question “when can you start,” was “tomorrow.”  And it wasn’t in the mañana sense of the word either.  He really means tomorrow.  As in the day after today.  Bloody hell!

I’m having a little lie down to get over the shock!  I’m also having another ciggie to calm my nerves since this is when the real stuff starts and we start spending some real money.  EEEEK!  Wish us luck!

When is a curry not a curry?

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Answer:  When it’s a Kebab!

What on earth am I on about?  Let me tell you.

Last night we took some friends out for a curry (readers of previous posts may sense a theme here).  The curry house we use is the only one in the vicinity and whilst it’s popular, it is never packed.  Bearing this in mind, we decided we didn’t need to book.  Silly us!  We got there and the place was heaving and we were told we’d have to wait at least an hour for a table.  Considering our friends had their young son with them, waiting an hour wasn’t really ideal.  So we opted for take away. Monday to Wednesday the restaurants offers a “buffet” menu of a starter, main, rice or nan and a pudding for €10 each, take away is an extra €0.95.  Well, at least according to the menu it is.  According to the not so friendly owner takeaway on the buffet menu wasn’t available; we’d have to choose from the normal menu and pay full price.   Strange since it clearly stated that the buffet menu was available for take away for a surcharge of €0.95.  When we questioned it, the chap got really shirty, told us he makes the menu and he can decide what we can have.  Charming.  He offered us the full menu (with much higher prices) or told us to get lost.  Well.  Just lovely.  We decided to get lost.

So there we are, in town with a hungry 4 year old in tow and nowhere to eat.  We went over to a local bar to weigh up our options.  On the counter are leaflets advertising all sorts of local shops and eateries.  One of the leaflets is from a turkish kebab house.  Instantly both men started drooling and doing Homer Simpson impressions.  Its seemed we were off to the kebab shop instead.  The problem of course is that despite having the address for the restaurant, none of us knew where it was.

We got in the car and as we debated which direction we should head in, a Guardia Civil 4×4 drives past.  (Yes that’s the branch of the Police you hear horror stories about).  Our friend leaped out of the car and flagged them down – the rest of us looked the other way and try to pretend that the English bloke asking for directions to a kebab shop isn’t really with us and we have no idea who he is.  Still, they managed to point is in the vague direction of the shop and sent us on our merry way.

A few wrong turns later and we finally found our oasis, down a side street next to the Geriatric Hospital.  Very salubrious surroundings.   Anyway, at this point I was so hungry I’d have probably agreed to eating a scabby dog, so we all head into the kebab shop.  It was light, bright, clean and obviously reasonably new.  We could even eat in if we wanted to.  So we ordered our 3 chicken and one doner kebab meals – which come with chips and a drink for something like €5 and settled ourselves at a table.

When the food arrived it was presented on proper plates (in England you’re lucky if you get a sweaty polystyrene box) and we even had real glasses for our cans of coke – which the boys quickly swapped for beer.  We even got a free plate of chicken for the hungry 4 year old!  And the food?  Well it was yummy!  I opted for the chicken since donner is frequently described as “meat,” not beef or chicken or whatever and I don’t like the thought that I may be eating donkey or something equally odd.  My husband had it though and said it was really tasty – so much so that he ordered another one to take home for lunch today.

So there you have it.  One door closes and a door to a kebab shop opens.  That my friends, is when a curry is not a curry!

Building a new house…. virtually

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I’ve been playing with a new piece of software I found on t’interweb.  Sweet Home 3d is something Google threw up for me.  I’ve tried a few of these programs, even before I had an actual house of my own to design – well I am a girl after all.  These programs allow even the most amateur of designer to play grown-up dolls houses!  This particular program has a host of furniture and house features ready to download.  It also allows you to import from other similar programs like Google 3D Warehouse, meaning you can find even the most odd of features for your virtual house.  Sweet Home 3D can also produce photos of your masterpiece as well as videos in the form of virtual visits.

So I’ve been playing with my new found software and my first order of business was to attempt to create a virtual representation of Casa San Jorge as it is now.  Of course, my house has wobbly walls and a dogleg that only seems apparent from the outside – inside it feels relatively straight, so what I managed to come up with isn’t exact,but it kind of works.

Here’s what I’ve managed to generate so far:

Ground floor

First Floor

Pretty cool huh?

I’m so excited (and I just can’t hide it!): St George’s Day hails new beginnings

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Some of you might remember my January post where I talked about secret projects in the offing.  Well, yesterday we finally signed on the dotted line and bought our very first house – ever!  I say house…. that may take a little imagination. We’ve actually bought an old cortijo (farmhouse), which hasn’t been lived in by man or (thankfully) animal for a VERY long time.  It needs a bit (that may be optimistic) of work, but we are both sooo I excited about the project I can hardly explain myself.

After a few months of waiting and some very useful, “I think I might know who owns that,” conversations with some Spanish friends, we finally had our appointment at the Notary in Almeria, to sign the deal.  It seemed fate that it should fall on St George’s day.

The trip to the notary was an experience.  We had our trusty translator with us (Spanish Speaking Steve of Super-sonic Hearing) and our other Spanish friend, who is conveniently friends with the vendors with us to help.  Well I say help, I think Steve may have only come because we promised to buy him a Burger King whilst we were up in the big smoke – we don’t get out much round here – does it show?

So we all (the seller, her brother, her solicitor, our Spanish friend Tere, Supersonic Steve, my husband and I) cram ourselves into a room filled with dusty law tomes and boxes of files and a notary who wobbles his head when he writes.  (Steve and I notice this quite early on in the proceedings and have to spend the rest of the time looking at our feet in case we start laughing.)  The notary reels of all the clauses and caveats, every nods sombrely even though he pronounces my middle name as Louse not Louise, we hand over a cheque and sign on the dotted line.

Next, we all filed out of that room into another room, on the recommendation of the Notary (who is a government official) to complete the rest of the transaction in CASH and away from official eyes.  Completely bizarre, but apparently very common practice here.  You agree a price, then you agree the price you’re going to officially declare, then you pay the rest in cash and no one is any the wiser.  Now, we’re no strangers to bargains (read dodgy deals) but the fact that this happened in an official’s building, just not whilst he was watching is almost laughable.  Still we did get an amazing deal on the house, so I guess it’s a good thing.

I’ve shown these pictures to friends and family who’s reactions have varied from “wow, how exciting being able to do it all from scratch,” and “blimey that’s gonna be a lot of work,” to “why the hell are you buying the Blair Witch house?”  Ho hum.  I hope the chap who came up with that comparison will eat his words when it’s all finished!

So here we go, presenting Casa San Jorge (could we really call it anything else?) in it’s current- slightly unloved – state.

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Do yourself a favour – do someone else a favour

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“As she has planted, so does she harvest; such is the field of karma.”

– Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji

I’ve mentioned karma before when I was discussing what happened to me on my Easy Jet flight a few weeks ago.  After what happened at the weekend, I’m absolutely 100% convinced that it exists.

My Mum is visiting at the moment so we decided to go out for the day on Saturday.  We made our way to the beautiful village of Castril in the Province of Granada.  Though it’s (sadly) not the main focus of the post, it is so beautiful there, I had to share some pictures:

    

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Breathtaking scenery and some tapas along the way – what could be better?

Anyway, on with the story:  After our lovely walk around the village and a stop for lunch, we decided to make our way back.  Stupidly I let Mum navigate and somehow we ended up on a single track in amongst some seemingly deserted olive and almond groves.  We took it slowly and were enjoying taking in the amazing countryside.  All of a sudden, a little old spanish man can careering out of one of the said groves shouting and waving his arms around like a madman.  Our initial thought was that we were trespassing so we stopped and put our best innocent foreigner faces on.

It transpired that although it wasn’t clear whether we were trespassing or not, he was much more concerned by the flat tyre he’d just acquired.  The poor old bugger had one of those old Renault vans that seem to be de rigueur over here along with a brace and jack set that was probably older than me.  He’d obviously been struggling along on his own for some time judging by his sweating and wheezing as he told me all about the stone he’d run over in order to get the flat in the 1st place.  Add that to the sandy ground he’d parked up on and the fact the jack was sinking into the ground rather than lifting the van up and he was getting nowhere fast.  Now I know I’ve explained several times that I’m not a car person, but I can actually change a tyre and know how to use all the equipment and everything – I usually just choose not to.  In these special circumstances though I had to help.  I told him to stop using his wheel brace which wasn’t actually gripping the wheel nuts – just making a scraping noise and spinning round and set about getting mine out of the car.  I got a flat stone from round one of the trees and put it under my superior jack and set about helping him.  We had a bit of trouble with a few of the wheel nuts and inevitably ended up stamping on the brace to get them moving but we got the old and very flat tyre off in a jiffy.  I was slightly concerned by the state of the spare, but at least it would see him out of his in-the-middle-of-nowhere field and home safe and sound.  New slightly dodgy tyre on and a gap-toothed smiling Spaniard waving us off, we made our merry way back to the main road.

Feeling very pleased with myself and feeling that we needed some sort of reward for all our good deeds, I decided not to go straight home but to head into our nearest town to order a well deserved take away.  2 hours of fairly high speed driving and we arrived outside the one and only curry house in the vague vicinity.  I parked up, we got out and it was then that Mum happened to glance back at the car.  You’ll never guess… or maybe you will.. we had a flat tyre!  It must have gone just as I parked because it was flat as a pancake and there was no way on God’s earth I would have been able to drive it very far in that condition.  Bugger!  Ah well, I’d already changed one tyre today – what difference would another make?

I had to move the car since the flat was against the pavement so I drove very gingerly into a side street and set about getting the spare out of the boot.  I set up my jack and started undoing the wheel nuts.  I almost managed it, but got stuck with the last one.  Lots of huffing, puffing and swearing ensued.  I tried everything – different starting positions for the brace, kicking the brace, kicking the wheel, literally jumping on the brace to get it to move.  Still nothing.  Just when I thought I was going to have to call home and admit that I was too much of a girl to change my own tyre (I was quite secure in the knowledge that my earlier tyre changing experience would not have swayed the judgement) an old man who’d been sitting outside a tapas bar watching me shuffled over to offer his assistance.  Cue a bit more huffing and puffing.  Eventually the stubborn nut wound free and we jacked the car up further to get the new wheel on.  Phew.

Luckily the curry was also ready and since I’d ordered and the run off to change the tyre, Mum was left to pay for it!  Shame!  He he he.

So there you have it.  The moral of the story is “always do someone a favour, you never know when you’ll need one yourself.” (and you might get a free curry thrown in for good measure too!) 🙂

I’ve been reading – what have you been doing?

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So as you know I was in the UK for two for work.  I had limited access to the internet and decent television, so I completely indulged myself in Nalini Singh’s Psy-Changeling books.  I know, it’s a hard life, but someone’s got to do it. Besides, world current affairs are so depressing at the moment, I thought it was good for the soul to envelop myself in someone else’s wonderful world.  And boy am I glad I did.

Psy-Changeling series is one of my top ten YOU MUST READ paranormal romance series to date. It’s filled with non-stop action, suspense and mystery, but nicely balanced with hot steamy romance and bouts of hilarious comedy.

The series is set in a futuristic alternative Earth and populated by three groups: the Changelings, the Psy and humans. The changelings are shapeshifters. The Psy are humans with psychic powers who have been taught from birth to suppress their emotions. The Psy is the largest and most powerful ruling body on Earth. The continuous arc tells of the struggles between the three groups and the struggles within each group. Each story features a different hero and heroine who meet, fall in love, and engage in some heavy petting and purring, though I promise you they are all so different you’ll never get bored. RAWR!

I’ve only got a few in the series left (sob sob) but here are the reviews so far.