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.

Why is it never that easy(…jet)?

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People at airports are just not normal.  I don’t know what happens, but something definitely short circuits in their brains somewhere.  Some how everyone forgets to act like human beings and instead become rude, ignorant, ill-mannered, inconsiderate imbeciles who are all absolutely convinced that rushing to the gate as soon as it is posted on the boards will a) make the plane leave more quickly, and b) ensure they get “a good seat.”  In reality, a) it will be a miracle if the plane actually leaves on time, let alone early and b) everyone has a ticket and therefore everyone has a seat.  All seats are exactly the same, except the first row, which have extra leg room, but unfortunately are already occupied by disabled passengers and their various hangers on.  If you are last on, they won’t make you sit on the wing or stand in the isle for the duration of the flight.

I’m not made of money, so unfortunately I don’t have a lot of choice when it comes to airlines.  My default option is always Easyjet.  They are less expensive (they used to be cheap, but sadly prices are creeping up and up), and are marginally better than Ryanair, who I am sure get passengers mixed up with livestock on a regular basis and will therefore NEVER get my business.

 The thing is; I know for a fact that everyone else on an Easyjet flight has also chosen to fly with them for exactly the same reason – budget, no frills, flying bus type airline who don’t charge you for carrying hand luggage.  As long as your bag fits into that stupid cage thing and you can carry it, you could be transporting gold bullion for all Easyjet care.  So this being the case, I am always truly amazed by the snobbishness adopted by the fools that have paid the extra £20 or whatever it is to get “Speedy Boarding.”  They stand in their special queue like Lords of all they survey, looking down their noses at the peasants that didn’t opt for the special upgrade.  In reality all you get is the ability to get on the plane 1st.  If there are 40 people with speedy boarding, you can still be at the back of the queue, so it kind of defeats the object for me.

Anyhow, leaving Alicantelast night, the gate staff informed us that there were too many passengers with hand luggage only.  There would not be enough room in the cabin for everybody’s bags and so they asked for volunteers to have their hand luggage transferred to the hold.  In return for this favour, we were allowed to jump the queue – in front of the speedy boarders.  Well, that was good enough for me.  I was the 1st to volunteer.  (See I am also slightly less humane at airports…. Perhaps it’s the aviation fuel?  Who knows!)

So there I was, at the front of the queue making my way down the tunnel feeling a bit smug.  I handed my bag to the ground crew and got on the plane.  I’ve never been faced with an empty plane before.  All that choice!  Ignoring the temptation of grabbing a row at the front (behind the extra leg room seats which are already full), I made my way to my usual seat; last row on the left – window seat, and settled down to read my kindle.  Of course I wasn’t actually reading.  Instead I was sending out hostile vibes in the hope that nobody would sit next to me.  Sadly, it wasn’t to be.  Despite the fact there were numerous empty seats elsewhere, two chaps came and sat next to me.  I scowled heavily at my kindle and made a few huffing noises.  Not that it ever makes any difference.  It didn’t this time either.  (More non-human behaviour!  What’s going on?)

So I settled in to the flight, leaning at a strange angle so as not to disrupt the guy sitting next to me.  I paid the customary €5 (yes that’s €5) for a soggy cheese and ham toasty.  The chaps next to me dole out €35 on toasties, bacon roles and ……CHAMPAGNE!  I know!  I told you airports make people crazy.  Not only is no sandwich in the world actually worth €5 but why on God’s earth would anyone in their right mind buyChampagneon an Easyjet flight?  Incredulously, they finish one bottle and promptly order another.  I decided that there were only a few plausible explanations for such bizarre behaviour.  A) They have been overcome by aviation fuel and are no longer in charge of their faculties.  B)  They do not realise that you can change €s back into £s.  C)  They are criminals and are spending their ill-gotten gains.  There can be no other reasonable explanations since “having more money than sense,” is disqualified by the virtue of the fact that this is taking place on board an Easyjet flight.

So they finish their champagne and settle down for a little nap.  This turned into a deep sleep accompanied by a cacophony of snores and the use of my shoulder/upper arm as a pillow.  I was not amused.

When we finally arrive at Gatwick – an hour later than scheduled due to a heavy head wind, naturally we taxi to the furthest possible gate.  I was faced with a 45 minute trek to the main terminal where I remembered that I’d put my carryon in the hold and had to go to baggage reclaim.  In the back of my head I was busy reassuring myself that since my bag was one of the last on, it would be one of the first off.  Sadly no.  It was THE very last bag off.  Grrr.  Cue more non amusement.

Finally I retrieved my bag and made my way to the car hire desk (the reason I am car-less is sadly another story involving my git of a brother and a write-off).  When I got there, the damned desk was closed, with a small sign instructing me to take to train to the other terminal where the office was manned 24hrs.  Just brilliant. 

I get on the stupid train.  I get off the stupid train.  I followed the signs to the car hire desks which took me outside to a balmy 4˚c (!!!!) at which point the signs just stopped.  Eventually I found a dingy looking taxi hut and a Rab C Nesbitt look-alike who pointed me down the 3 story ramp (lifts were out of order) and grunted something about it being at the end of the road.

Eventually, nearly an hour after the plane touched down I found the bloody car hire.  I was discourteous beyond comprehension in answering “NO,” when barraged by offers of upgrades, damage waivers, and fuel policies.  I was finally directed to my car – which by the way is the world smallest car, a Hyundai i10, and sank into the seat at gone 1am.

I don’t really remember the drive to my Mum’s house, suffice to say, I must have driven like a woman possessed since I made in well under an hour.  I collapsed into bed, trying to ignore the fact I would have less than 4 hours sleep followed by a 3 hour drive to the office.

As I’m typing now, words are blurry and I have developed dyslexic typing fingers – a sure sign that I should wrap this up.

Though my bank balance determines that Easyjet will still be my airline of choice, I think next time I will sit serenely in the departure lounge and just wait my turn.  Karma is a bitch and my smugness and lack of humanity was spat back in my face in no uncertain terms: a squished up 3 hour plane ride, last luggage, closed car hire desk and sleep deprivation.  That’ll teach me. 

Let the smug speedy boarders remain smug, I’m really quite happy as I am – last to board, last to get off, yet remarkably usually the 1st to leave the damned airport.

She saw that coming! Visions of Heat (Psy-Changeling #2) Review

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Visions of Heat (Psy-Changeling, #2)Visions of Heat by Nalini Singh

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Used to cold silence, Faith NightStar is suddenly being tormented by dark visions of blood and murder. A bad sign for anyone, but worse for Faith, an F-Psy with the highly sought after ability to predict the future. Then the visions show her something even more dangerous – aching need… exquisite pleasure. But so powerful is her sight, so fragile the state of her mind, that the very emotions she yearns to embrace could be the end of her.

Changeling Vaughn D’Angelo can take either man or jaguar form, but it is his animal side that is overwhelmingly drawn to Faith. The jaguar’s instinct is to claim this woman it finds so utterly fascinating, and the man has no argument. But while Vaughn craves sensation and hungers to pleasure Faith in every way, desire is a danger that could snap the last threads of her sanity. And there are Psy who need Faith’s sight for their own purposes. They must keep her silenced – and keep her from Vaughn..

A brilliant second book. This series is definitely growing on me. As with he first, the world building is just excellent. I liked the way Singh has developed the over arching plot about the Silence protocol and the NetMind. This book shows you more of how Psy society works and reveals just how atrocious the Council really is.

Faith seems to be in more physical danger than Sascha ever was in Slave to Sensation because her gift is so valuable. That’s “money” valuable because business is something the Psy understand more than anyone and they just can’t have a powerful Psy like Faith defecting. The sexual tension between Faith and Vaughn is outstanding. Faith is a lot less accepting of the new emotions she feels and has been conditioned to think her mind will break, making some of their encounters a lot more difficult than for Lucas and Sascha in the first book.

There are new discoveries about the Netmind throughout the story which add to the mystery of this world and also show us that things are not quite as they seem… leading us nicely to the rest of the series. I for one can’t wait!

View all my reviews

El Donkey Shedo – just a bit of fun

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My friends have had a lovely covered recreation area built at their villa.  It comes complete with tiled seats (topped with the infamous cushions), dart board, eating area and lighting – including the mandatory candle in a wine bottle.  It has walls on two sides and a sloping roof complete with beam like “vegas,” and originally it had 3 windows on one side.  I say windows, but really they were just openings.  Sadly the windows had to go as Spanish planning laws are just weird.  They could have built an 8 foot wall.  They could have built a 2 foot wall.  No problema.  Unfortunately, the openings counted as windows and the owner of the almond grove next door didn’t like it.  As it turns out, he’s done them a favour because now the “windows” have been bricked up and morcemed over, they add a nice feature to the room as they are slightly recessed and the red bricks used to form the window sills are still there.

It really is a lovely use of space and I for one can’t wait for the weather to warm up so we can all pile round there and use it.  When my friends shared some pictures of said space with their family, their grandson piped up and said “why have you built a donkey shed?!”  Of course a legend was born.  Especially now since the “windows” have gone and the recesses look even more like stable doors.

My friend’s wanted a sign for their new donkey shed.  I know them well enough that a completely traditional sign wouldn’t be their thing, so I created something a bit different for them.  I used a old roofing tile to add a hint of “rustico” to the proceedings and set to work with my acrylics.  The “official” opening is in a few weeks time, but here’s my contribution.  Literal translation reads “The Donkey Shed.” Hope you like it.

A literary update: Breeds, Psy-Changeling and a cold shower!

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It seems I’ve been away for a long time, and I can only aplogise.  There are a few projects in the offing, which unfortunately have not been signed sealed and delivered yet, so whilst I’ve been busy, I still can’t officially update you all.  Sorry!  Anyway – more of all that later.

Whilst being busy with my projects, I (of course) have still found time to read.  I became slightly obsessed with Lora Leigh’s “Breed” series.  It really is a fantastic read – a delve into a world of genetic experiments, a new race fighting for survival, a genetics council that will do anything to silence them and the new life the breeds are trying to carve out for themselves.  I know, I know.  It all seems a little bit far fetched, but trust me it’s not.  With the advancements in modern science turning out amazing discoveries on a near daily basis, the whole premise for the Breeds’ world is not really that hard to imagine.  The way in which you are brought into the story is really very clever.  The breeds world builds up around you in a completely plausible way and emotional buy in is a given.  What I should add though, is that while there is some genuinely brilliant story telling and world building in this series, it is definitely NOT for the faint hearted.  If hotness was measured on a scale of 1 -10, this series would probably score a 100.  If it was ranked on books you would lend to your mother, this would rank on the “pretend you’ve never even heard of it” end of the scale.  With my mother in mind, I haven’t written individual reviews of the books (there are over 20), just in case she gets internet savvy and finds this blog!  I was trying to describe the series to a friend without embarassing myself.  In the end, I decided this was best:  “If these books were films, they’d be the kind you’d find on the top shelf.  With a special cover blocking out the naughty bits.  In a special shop.  In a part of town you never knew existed.”  Having said all that, it still deserves a mention since it’s a brilliant story.  If you’re not easily offended, give it a go!

Slave to Sensation (Psy-Changeling, #1)Moving swiftly on, I’ve just started a new Nalini Singh series called “Psy Changeling.”  More sedate than “Breeds,” but still a brilliantly written story.  It is a fantasy/futuristic look at a high-tech world divided by races. A world inhabited by changelings (shape-shifters), humans, and the Psy (highly evolved beings who have subjugated their emotions and conscience). What makes this series stand out from other paranormal series on the market is Singh’s ability to clearly define the emotional and psychological differences in each of these species; each acting according to the tenants and emotional strictures that define who they are. What makes the series even more powerful is that while each book gives us a look at a different hero and heroine it also delves even deeper into the psyche of the individual species, their motives, strengths, and weaknesses. Her books aren’t about informational downloading, instead, she lets the characters reveal the form and function of the world she has created with mystery, drama, action, and romance. Each book is a taut and exciting suspense as well as an unveiling of the individual characters and their communities. Word by word, chapter by chapter, book by book this fantastical world unfolds and captures the imagination.  You can read my full review here.

Happy reading everyone!