Tag Archives: ex patriot

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!

 

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!) 🙂

A week in Blighty and Lady Lipman makes it to the ball!

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I’ve been in the UK for a week for work.  Although that allows me to catch up with colleagues and family, I’ve felt strangely cut off with the lack of facebook, goodreads, skype and so on.  It’s surprising since the connection in the UK is about a million times better than what we have here, but I didn’t have the time to check anything online whilst I was there.  It was a strange feeling.  There I was, surrounded by some of the people I speak to online nearly every day, yet I felt I was missing out on the usual rants that make the day go by so much more quickly.  Maybe it’s a sign of the times that we feel more comfortable telling the anonymous world about our day rather than popping round to a friend’s house or picking up the phone, but I for one really missed knowing what everyone in my circle was up to.  Ho hum.  Never mind – as you can see I’m back and merrily telling you all what I’ve been up to.

The journey to the UK was, for once without all it’s usual dramas.  The flight arrived ahead of schedule, I picked up the hire car (the reason I even need a hire car is another, much more irate story) and was in my home town shopping and stuffing my face full of Burger King in no time.  I did however find it a little disconcerting that there were several hundred more people in the shopping centre that there were at our local “international” airport.  I watched smugly as my fellow Brits ran around like headless chickens, scrabbling for the best bargains in Primark and thought to myself “God I’m glad I don’t live here.”  Now don’t get me wrong, it was absolutely brilliant to see everyone, but people were almost maniacal in their determination to grab their shopping with “sod you Jack,” written all over their faces.  I much prefer the slow meander of life over here.  Yes it can be frustrating when deliveries don’t turn up when you thought they would and sometimes the process of things just doesn’t make sense, but it’s all so much more relaxed.  Manana isn’t just a word, it’s a way of life.

So my shopping trip over I made my way down to Devon to the in-laws and the office for the rest of the week.  I am very lucky in that I actually get on with my in-laws and I can use their house as a base when I’m back in the office.  I have to say though that getting up in the dark, having to wear office attire and proper shoes and everything soon lost it’s novelty.  Driving to work leaves something to be desired too!  When I’m at home, my commute takes all of 30 seconds, and I can sit here in my pj’s and slippers if I really want to.  It was great to be back in the office but I wish the makers of Star Trek would hurry up and making tele-porting available to the masses.  It would be much better than having to fit all my make up into one of the stupid zip-lock bags at the airport and then hanging around for hours eating tasteless sandwiches at a fiver a go. I’d also forgotten that with office life comes the office illnesses.  Everyone was coughing and spluttering.  I spent the week holed up in a corner covered in alcoholic bacterial rub hoping I wouldn’t catch anything.  So far so good, but it’s early days.

Whilst I was in Devon it was my father-in-law Reg’s 81st birthday so needless to say there was much merriment, enough food to feed an army and gin and tonics flowing till the wee hours of the morning.  I felt like the guest of honour since everyone wanted to catch up and hear about our life in Spain and waxing lyrical about the Spanish weather.  It was a great night and I know Reg enjoyed having his friends and family around him.  He is impossible to buy for so i settled for a good bottle of Barolo.  I went to Asda to purchase said bottle – an experience I hope not to repeat.  It was bun fight of epic proportions.  Christmas certainly brings  out the worst in shoppers.  Everyone also seems to think they must stock up for a siege because the shops will be closed for 2 days over the holidays.  I’d forgotten all about the madness that is Christmas food shopping.  The woman in front of me at the checkout spend nearly £300 on a trolley full of booze and turkey.  And there I was feeling faint about the price of wine in England!

Lady Lipman

Finally the week drew to a close and it was time for the “End of Year Bash.”  As I’ve said before, it is always fancy dress and you are considered a completely loser if you don’t at least make some sort of effort – even if that effort means you get all Blue Peter and make yourself something out of sticky-back-plastic and an empty Fairy bottle.  This year’s theme was “Medieval Banquet,” and seeing as though they don’t really do fancy dress in Spain, I laboured lovingly over my sewing machine to come up with my Medieval Princess creation.  I have to say, especially as I didn’t have a pattern, I was really rather pleased with my outfit.  It looked the part and didn’t make me look like an idiot, so all in all, I’d say it was a winner.  Lady Lipman finally made it to the ball!  Hurrah!

Sadly all good things must come to an end, so I left the party and made my way back up to Gatwick, stopping en-route in Basingstoke to pick up some pals who were also back visiting.  When I booked this trip, the plan of going to work, setting up for a party, going to a party and then driving to Gatwick for a 6am flight sounded like a genius plan.  It wasn’t.  It was dark and miserable and not fun.  To add to my misery, I got to sit in front of the token idiot on the plane – you know that one you spot at the boarding gate and want to avoid at all costs?  Yeah.  That’s the one.  Added to that, the plane had more ill people on it than a doctor’s waiting room.  Not surprisingly, I slept for the whole flight, but was squished into the window, desperately trying not to touch any of the great unwashed who were sharing my air.  Unfortunately, this included my 2 friends, who are also full of snot, but I’m hoping they were breathing over the people in front of them instead of me.  If I get a cold I won’t be happy.

Back home now, wood burner on, tapas eaten, drinks drunk; Happy Days!

The rain in Spain falls mainly….

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on my sodding house!!  Now, don’t get me wrong, I know rain is good.  It helps things grow and waters our gardens and fills our water butts and all sorts of lovely thing like that, but SERIOUSLY?  I’ve had a right nightmare today and it’s all because the rain in Spain most definitely does not fall mainly on the plain.

It’s been launching it down since last night and at around 9am this morning we started having intermittent power outages.  It’s alright though, because we’re super organised and have lots of back battery packs in the form of UPSs (uninterrupted power supply) and they tide us over nicely when someone is playing silly buggers with the lecky supply.  (I work for home so this is a complete must.  Also they act as surge protectors for all our precious electrical gadgets).  The only problem is that they are only meant to be used as a temporary back up.  They are not designed to power my hive of office activity for any significant length of time.  Inevitably at around 11.30 ish the power monitor on the unit was screaming at me that is was about to run out of juice.

What now?  I thought.  Tim to beg borrow and steal some power and internet supply from my friendly ex-pat neighbours; who, I might add, never seem to have as many electrical problems as we do.

So, that was how I found myself cosying up with my laptop in my 70 year old neighbour’s bedroom for a few hours. If he wasn’t gay, I’m sure he would have thought it was marvelous!  Needless to say I spent my morning be offered endless cups of tea and listening to enquiries as to whether I was warm enough.  Thank God for the older generation – I was lovely and toasty!

This being me, it could only get worse.  When I made it home, I discovered more disasters awaited me.  In my rush to continue working, I’d managed to leave the front door open so our 2 biggest dogs (the smallest is a Mummy’s girl and had come with me to work) had been out on a nice little, puddle hopping adventure.  The floor, sofa and both dogs were soaked.  Great!   Also, our chimney had leaked.  The water had run down the flu pipe, into the log burner – which hadn’t been cleaned after yesterday’s fire – and on to the floor.  There was a lovely big puddle of brownish-greyish water in the middle of the living room floor. Just brilliant.  Add to that – I was no longer lovely and toasty and I was starting to really regret offering to do overtime at work meaning I’ve given up my Friday afternoon’s off for the next two months.

Ah well.  At least it’s Friday.  It’ll soon be Ceveza-o’clock.  I hope.

I can’t juggle

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Anyone who’s spent even the smallest amount of time in Spain will know that the floors are very unforgiving.  Carpets are unheard of and everything is beautifully tiled.  It looks great, but isn’t so wonderful if you are a complete butter-fingers like me.  I have lost count of the amount of crockery and glasses I’ve smashed to smithereens just by being mal-coordinated.  In fact, I’d go so far as to say that we celebrate when I drop something and find that it bounces!

Now, dropping things in your own home will probably earn you disapproval or (usually in my case) laughter from those nearest and dearest to you. Stupidity and awkwardness are things that we Brits find hilarious.  If you are injured or humiliated in such instances, then quite frankly it only adds to people’s amusement.  It’s slapstick on it’s most basic level and we just love it.  The Spanish?  Not so much.

Case in point; an ordinary Saturday morning trip to Mercadona (Spanish supermarket) with my friend.  I know!  How exciting and cosmopolitan are we?  It gets better.

After a nice morning of traipsing round haberdashery and todo shops, Mrs B and I brave the madness that is Mercadona on a Saturday.  (We are not completely insane – we don’t normally food shop on a Saturday, but we were in town so….)  As is to be expected, it is completely rammed.  Not with shoppers it seems, but with locals who think nothing of congregating in the aisles to chat and generally using the supermarket as a social club.  After a half hour supermarket-challenge-esque run round the shop we make it to the checkout with our overflowing trolley. We’re in luck and find a queue with only one (obviously English) chap and his mammoth booze purchase in front of us.

When the alky in front of us has got his off licence packed up, I start loading the conveyor belt with my goodies.  On goes the beer, bottles of pop and other heavy things.  I am just putting the last bottle of coke on the belt, when “oh my god,” I realize I haven’t picked it up as securely as I thought I had.  The bottle starts heading towards that ominous looking tiled floor so I make a grab for it.  For what seems like an eternity I look like some sort of circus performer.  There I am touching the bottle and bouncing it around between by hands but never quite managing to get a decent hold on it.  Inevitably, I fail miserably in my juggling/catching attempt and the bottle plummets to the floor.

I have enough time to glance over at Mrs B, who is waiting patiently behind me with her basket and think to myself, “I’ll have to remember not to open that for a few days,” before moving to pick the bottle up.  In the split second it takes me to think about bending down THE BOTTLE EXPLODED!  I kid you not.  It’s like a bomb had gone off.  It made a huge bang and splatteed coke literally everywhere.  Mrs B and I both gasp and then fall about laughing.

Whilst still giggling to ourselves and trying to cover my chagrin I realise that apart from the fact I dropped the coke and it exploded everywhere, something else is very wrong with this situation.

Apart from our inane giggling, the entire shop (and possibly the world) is in complete silence.  No sniggering, no tutting, no outrage, not even mild amusement.  Total silence and complete non reactions on the faces of customers and staff a like.  It is possibly the most surreal thing I’ve ever seen.  I apologise to the check-out girl and she doesn’t even acknowledge that I’ve spoken.

Meanwhile coke was still dripping from the walls, the side of the check-out, my trolley plus the rest of my shopping,  the impulse buy products around the till and the fresh bread oh so beautifully displayed at the end of the aisle.  We check ourselves and discover that I’m soaked from the knees down and Mrs B looks like she’s had a fight with a water pistol.  The cleaner arrives with a mop, takes one look at the devastation and leaves.  We presume she’s decided a mop just won’t cut it.  We stifle more laughs.

I have never packed shopping so quickly.  In fact, the speed I’m going, you would have sworn I’ve stolen it.  Mrs B and I make a dash for the lift.  We load in our soggy trolley in and glance back at the shop as the door is closing.  The shop is still in silence and for some reason, despite how busy the shop is, no one is queuing at our checkout.

The doors close and we hoot with laughter again.

Note to self:  you can’t juggle coke bottles and slapstick comedy doesn’t go down well over here.

ITV is NOT a television station

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  Well – at least it’s not in Espana!  It’s the Spanish version of an MOT and having just gone through the torture I can tell you it bears no resemblance to what we think of as an MOT.  Remember how in the UK you take your precious motor down to your trusty mechanic and wave him off as he “sorts it out?”  No such thing in Spain.  Oh no!  Here, you take your car to the test centre yourself.  Not only that, but you stay with your car during the whole process.  Now my Spanish is ok, I’m not a confident speaker, but I can get the gist.   My hearing?  That’s just rubbish.  I can’t hear at the best of times.  My husband calls it selective hearing.   Imagine me, sitting in my car, surrounded by grease monkeys shouting instructions from behind some piece of equipment.   Not my idea of fun.

First of all I drive in and am told to switch the lights on and off, indicate left and right and brake.  This is ok I think.  Next I have to pop the hood – thank god for Spanish speaking friends, because I have no idea what he was talking about.  A nerve racking couple of minutes whilst we watch him check the oil – silently praying to God to forgive us for not actually checking it ourselves before we went.  We presume all is in order as he replaces the dipstick and closes the bonnet.

Next comes some sort of brake test.  I drive my car so my front two tyres drop  into two sort of drums that act as a rolling road.   Then as the chap gesticulates at a digital dial display the wheels start turning and I’m supposed to press the brake pedal.  Not only that but keep it between two makers on the digital display.  This would have been absolutely fine, if a) I understood what all the gesticulating was about and b) I could hear a bloody word he was saying.  Thankfully I have Spanish Speaking Steve of Supersonic hearing with me.  Once I get the gist of what I’m supposed to be doing I’m told to slam on the brakes and as I do the car jolts out of the rolling road and shoots backwards.  I am a nervous reck.  Then I have to repeat the whole process with the rear tyres.  I think I’m probably going to fail the ITV on stupidity alone.

Once the drama of the rolling road is out of the way we drive forward over what can only be described as hole in the floor.  The chap jumps down underneath and starts bouncing the car around.  Meanwhile a great big truck pulls up in the lane next to us.  I cannot hear a thing.  Supersonic Steve is looking just as confused as I am which doesn’t  fill me with confidence.  Suddenly the mechanic is back by the side of the car leaning through the window and turning the wheel from side to side.  I apparently have to continue this whilst he disappears again.  He adds some banging noises to the bouncing of the car, and I am still none the wiser but am following my instructions and am still turning the wheel fr0m side to side.  Finally he emerges and tells me to drive on and wait outside.

So we wait.  And we wait.  And we wait.  Supersonic Steve starts making unhelpful comments like “when they start typing loads into the computer it means you’ve failed.”  We turn to see our mechanic writing War and Peace.  Steve adds “he should be getting us a sticker by now.”   (The sticker is proof of ITV and is displayed in your windsheild).  We look again and our chap is still at the computer.  So we wait.

Obviously not wanting to deal with the silly English girl anymore, Steve is called back into the office.  He’s in there for what seems an eternity.  He comes out looking glum.  We failed.  I ask whether it’s because I’m stupid and deaf, but apparently its to do with something called a ball joint and two rear tyres.  Damn it.

So we make our way home.  Steve makes a sarcastic comment about how my driving speed hasn’t decreased at all, even though I know the car is officially crap.  I tell him to eff off.

It’s an MOT Jim, but not as we know it.