Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The rain in Spain ......

Last year in the middle of December the rain started, and lordy Lord without a word of a lie, it hardly stopped for three months. We practically lived in our wellies, and the poor alpacas looked so glum, bless them! This year so far has been a lot better, however, when the rain began around the second week in December it was pretty torrential. "Drenching showers" the weather forcast called it! Once last year Alan saw the river flow over the top of our little bridge, ever so slightly! Oh no, not this year! I don't know if it was sheer volume of water that runs off down the hills, that filter through the gullies on the tracks, and into the little "arroyo's" that eventually join the huge Guadalquivir river, that runs through Andulcia.

When it rains hard here, we have very little solar, and the television has no satellite signal, so there was little else to do than read, be on the laptop, or gaze out of the window. Generally feeling rather miserable. We could hear our little river (arroyo) roaring with the speed the water was travelling at. Occasionally we would wander down our track in our wellies and coats to just look. At one point Alan had been looking over the alpaca paddock and he realised the bridge had gone.... disapeared.

The bridge is made up of a huge metal tube, which is basically held in place by rocks, stone and mud. An olive container (the back of a lorry) had been washed from its collection point, and had been dragged down in the sheer force of water and wedged under our bridge. Of course this limited the amount of water getting through the pipe and the water began flowing around the sides and over the top of it. The tube had been pushed further down the river, plus the olive containr too, and left a gaping hole between us and the town of Montoro............... yikes!

The following day, lots of locals, well maybe 20 or so, that's a lot for us, throughout the day, came to look at the damage done and many little meetings seemed to be in progress. Lots of shouting, wildly gesticulating , shaking heads, and then driving off was taking place. The following day, a man arrived with a chain saw and a huge eucalyptus tree was cut down, at a point across the river, so at least people could get across it. You see where we live, very few people if any use the houses around us as their permant homes. Their country homes are used for occasional weekends, holidays and through the olive picking season. They are often used solely by their olive pickers. Which could be a Spanish family of 4 or 5 adults, or even a group of Romanians. They would live there, and the farmers would come in to check on their work, maybe working with them, probably not, most days. Of course the olive pickers were in the same situation as us, as they could not get out to go to town. When word had got around, the olive pickers would walk down towards our house and climb over the tree and be collected by car from their bosses the other side, to get food in.
However we had no one the other side waiting for us!

After a couple of days, more meetings, more gesticulating, something seemed to be happening. We were sure someone official would turn up, with a tape measure at least. Nope that did n't happen, but one man put a stick in the water, to check the depth of the river. Another obviously felt he could not be trusted so he got IN the river, it was only about waist high by then. It had subsided considerably. The next thing we knew we heard rumbling and two tractors turned up, and things started to happen! It took two days for the tube to be back in place and a whole lot of mud to be dragged and pressed around it. Cars were driving over it, but how long was it going to last, was the big question?

To the left of the palm tree you can just see the corner of the blue olive container

The bridge has been washed away!

Sad looking Sunshine Santa

Its all coming back together

A tractor, a meeting, our alpacas, a man and his 2 dogs, in on the action!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Argh it's all gone wrong!

When I went back to Brighton this time, Alans mum decided to come over a few days. It was great for her to have a break, from her busy schedule plus a bit of emotional support for Alan as, seriously, everytime I go back something goes wrong! Whilst I was away this time Alan had a) A litter of cats that seemed to just turn up, or were put under our fence. b) A local olive farmer asking Alan if he had seen his Romanians, which he had lost (his olive pickers that is) c) A group of men shouting for his attention as they were stuck in mud a couple of kilometres up the track, and they needed a tow! d) And our car battery died one evening. Ken, our good samaritan, fitted us with a new battery, and it seemed to be ok the following day! Nothing desperately terrible then, it all waited, luckily until I got back home!

Ok so I was back and cooing around the place talking about my beautiful granddaughters, and of course my kids too, and it all seemed to blooming go together! Alan decided to go out and play football one evening. He has been desperate to get back to it, but something always stops him. He just needs our friend to be with him for the first night, as of course it's so difficult with the language barrier. He was on his way up the track, excited and hopeful, bless him, when the phone went. It was David cancelling at the last minute, as he was ill. Whilst Alan took the call the car lights were dimming! He sadly turned the car around and drove back home. When safely at home, he turned off the engine, and tried to immediately turn it back on.... it was n't having any of it! The alternator had gone on the car, although luckily we were able to use it during the day! One of our genny's was n't working anyway, so it just left the second to stop working, which of course it did. No genorator mean no power unless it is sunny! Nope, none of that, just plenty of rain, plus our water pump also stopped working. This actually meant that we had water for about a week, but then it stopped! No genny to pump some more, so we had to fill water bottles from our water deposit to fill the toilet cisten, and use bottled water, heated in the kettle, phew luckily we were ok for calor gas, to heat the water for washing! Took me right back to the good old days, when mum said you had to have a strip wash!

So let me spell it out, we could only use the car during daylight! We had to order an alternator on ebay, and wait for it to be delivered to Spain. No water ....... thank the Lord for the bottled type. I would also lke to thank God for the invention of candles. It seriously was a hard couple of weeks.

Pat and Pedro our very good friends invited us over for lunch and a shower one day. Wow it was heaven, beautiful king prawns, clams artichokes and rice.................. PLUS a steaming hot shower, I wanted to sleep there....... no really! In fact maybe even move there!

No photos you will be pleased to know of us sobbing round the candles, so a few festive dogs to help cheer you up now!
Handsome Arthur

Beautiful Blue

Little needy CarlosOur Geri

Our little mad Miliko

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Brighton in November 2010

Another beautiful and special trip back to Brighton to celebrate first, the baptism, followed by the first birthday of my beautiful grandadughter Kaci. It was great to be picked up from the airport by Mark, ready for the white knuckle drive on the A27. There are always lots of sucking teeth sounds when anyone drives me around, thse days, I am just not used to the traffic. We have a lot of traffic going passed us at the moment here in Spain as it is olive picking time, however that probably mean less than 10 cars a day, and doing two trips. Weaving in and out of a dual carriage way is rather like being on a roller coaster for me! First stop is to see Mark and Callie's gorgeous little house they moved into recently and seeing my beautiful little Maisie. She is more beautiful than ever, with cheeks you sooo want to squeeze. I was fed and watered, wonderfully by Callie and waited for my little Frankie to collect me after her dance classes, and take me to her and Chris's little home for a few days.

Kaci's baptism was at the catholic Church in Peacehaven and luckily the lovely Fr Tom was happy for Kaci to just walk around the church during the service, it may have been dificult to keep her still. It was a shame it was raining hard all day, but I know Frankie and Chris were so pleased with the turn out. Chris has a large family, but so many friends came too. It was so lovely to catch up. We even managed to get my little Uncle Charlie there, who at the pub, after the service, was given strict instructions to only have two pints, that is quite sufficient for him, bless him! It was also good to see Mark and Frankie's dad Garry, looking so well after a rather difficult year health wise too.

All ready for her special day

Having a potter about

Oopsy wet head!

Proud mummy and daddyKaci's little cousin Maisie of course came too
Kaci with her beautiful Godmummy Louise
And beautiful Godmummy Mairead
Tuesday 16th November was Kaci's 1st birthday, where on earth has that year gone. It certainly does not seem a year ago we were timing contractions, with nerves and excitement! We began the day with a trip into Newhaven to see my wonderful friends at the Haven stroke club where I was a volunteer, for many years. Back home afterwards, as Frankie and Chris had invited family and close friends over throughout the day. Kaci had such a wonderful day, and some even more beautiful presents. I was so happy to be sharing the day with them!

Birthday Princess

So very cheeky

Little Maisie comes to visit
Freddie has a soft spot for Maisie

My two beautiful grandaughters
How adorable are they!

It was also my son Marks birthday during my trip, so it was so good to be able to spend some time with him and Callie on Marks birthday.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Walking the alpacas

We always thought it would be a great holiday experience to take an alpaca for a walk, and during the months of September and October we did some work with the boys. They had been on halters previously apart from our two youngest, Galaxy and Santa. so we concentrated first with Rafa, Galaxy and Marcus. Our first few times we walked the around their paddock then outside their paddock but still in our grounds. Rafa was a dream, and Galaxy very quickly caught on too, however Marcus was rather nervous, and many minutes were spent just standing still with him, whilst he sadly watched the other boys have fun exploring. Of course we persevered with him and he also now is very happy walking. We have a little route we take them on where they can munch on grass and weeds on the way. It is extremely relaxing and another way of getting close to ur beautiful alpacas.

We also spent time with the girls, Cassandra and Lily were perfectly happy to be haltered. Bermuda we don't think has ever had a halter on during her life, maybe just for her transportation, nothing she would particularly compare to being a pleasant experience. Over the last couple of years we have have had the pleasure of owning Bermuda, she has certainly become less nervous of us, and I certainly feel she has benefited from being in a smaller herd. Although we have not taken her out of her paddock yet, we were delighted to get a halter on her.

A bit of TLC with Bermuda

.... and she ventures out... just!

Great year with our holiday guests!

What a great year Alan and I have with regard to our holiday lets this year. Our youngest paying guest was aged four, and of course my beautiful grandaughter Maisie was here at just around 8 weeks old too. Our most mature guest was 70 and spent his birthday here with us, before jetting off to do his regular charity work in Ethiopia. We have welcomed guests from the UK, France, Spain, Holland and Germany, and thoroughly enjoyed it. Most of our visitors hve integrated well with our animals and most of the children have liked to come and help feed the alpacas, and cuddle the dogs! However this of course is not obligatory. What a wonderful way of making a living! We had some wonderful feed back too in our visitors book. We have had a few enquiries over the winter, as yes no definite bookings, although we do like to let people know we are rural and of course have no such luxury as central heating, lovely log fire though. We have also been invited into our holiday apartments to share meals and drinks etc with guests too, how lovely is that! We do have four weeks of next summer already booked and deposits paid for.

Looks like another good year..... hopefully!

More great new friends!

A few months ago we had a suprise email from a couple interested in buying some alpacas. They had put "alpacas in Spain" into google, and we were top of the list, good that! The very exciting thing was the only had a house 20 minutes away from us, just the other side of Montoro, and they were coming over to Spain in the next few days. We were emailing back and forth for the next day or so, and made plans for them to come to us and see our alpacas ............. I was so excited. Haha it's good to talk!

You know occasionally in life you have met up with someone and you just know you are going to click, and be grea friends? Well it was like that with Kev and Sue. Since meeting up that first time at our place, we have also had lunch at their lovely little house which will soon become their full time residence. They also came to us, with their lovely family for a bbq and swim in the summer, ooooh and we watched the semi final of the world cup at the park together on the big screen. One night we shan't forget in a hurry was in the middle of summer when we were eating outside in a lovely little restaurant in town, and totally out of the bue, we had, what felt like a mini tornado with torrential rain. Chairs and tables were flying everywhere, and all Sue and I could do was laugh hysterically! It was lovely to meet briefly this week as they did a flying visit, with brekkie and a chat in Cordoba. Good times! We are very much looking forward to seeing them in January on their next flying visit :)

In actual fact our first meeting was months ago now, but I like to ask friends if they re happy for me to mention them in my blog, I don't want to take it for granted!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Santa and the figs

Santa the alpaca adores fresh figs, and we used to allow him one each day with his dinner, and the other alpacas too. We were thinking of weaning him, but he is a big baby and loves being with his mum, so we had just put it off. However he escaped twice to get to the figs that had fallen off the tree, and we knew it had to be done, and sooner rather than later.

One evening Alan had gone into town and I was feeding the alpacas, on my own. I knew immediatetly something was terribly wrong. Santa was lying on the ground with his head on the floor drooling. He struggled to get up as I got close to him, which was a good sign, although he did not eat, and he was drooling a lot of the time. Alan had the only phone with him, but luckily we had guests, with a phone, so I phoned Alan to tell him to get the vet, who of course does n't drive! However I guess I did n't sound paniced enough so he went to our pharmacist friend who gave him some medicine for him, then called into the vet to check it was ok or him to take. Andres the vet did say he could give him a couple of injections to make him more comfortable. But Alan just brought the medicine home, and not Andres!

When Alan arrived back he soon realised Santa was not in a good way. So we buddled him into the back of the car and took him to the vet in Montoro. I phoned Andres on route and told him we were on our way as it was around 9.30 pm and his surgery closes at 9pm. Santa was ok in the car, humming loudly of course as alpacas often do that when they are unhappy. Andres came down to the car, and we got him out. He was making a terrible crying noise, he was of course feeling like a child at a party that had eaten too many cakes and sweets, AND he wanted his mum! As we got him out of the car so Andres could listen to his stomach(s) (they have three), a little dog came running barking at him, I bet the little dog did n't know what on earth Santa was, nor would any of the neighbours in the area, I'm sure! Poor little Santa! Andres did not seem overly worried, and he gave him two injections which once again made him cry like big baby. One was a painkiller and the other to help with his digestion.

Andres and Alan bundled Santa back into the car again, and we managed to get him home without too much humming and crying. We had to make a snap decision that it would also be the best time to take him away from his mum, otherwise he may have been over the fence eating figs again. So at around 11pm we did a little "musical alpacas." Galaxy and Santa had been together as babies so we thought they would be perfect together until we wanted to integrate them with the big boys! They are still together now, and look rather like Siamese twins, although different colours, always close together.

Bermuda, Santa's mum did fantastically, with very little upset from her, and Santa and Galaxy are having a lovely time growing up together. Thank goodness, all is well!

A couple of days before the fig incident, we were trying to entice Santa out. Mum Bermuda looks up at him lovingly!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Meeting of great friends

We do a regular shopping trip to another town around 45 minutes away from us each week, it's a day out really, plus a chance to stock up on things we may not be able to get in our home town. Like Montoro thre are very few English around there so I jumped at the chance to say hi to an English couple around the fruit and veg a few weeks ago. Not only was the lady English but lived 10 minutes drive from where I used to live in Brighton!!!!! How crazy is that! Pat's husband Pedro is orignally from Montoro, his family had a huge olive farm there many years ago. Pat and Pedro lived in Portslade near Brighton for 40 years then deided to retire in Jaen, the province slightly north of Cordoba and near Granada. After exchanging email addresses, we promised to keep in touch. We certainly have, we have lunched, dinnered, barbequed and swam. Funny is n't it, we have made such lovely new friends, just from a supermarket trip!
Pat and I, in the pool

Haha, Pedro trying to cuddle Blue

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Unhappy guests

I have counted up and we have had the pleasure, and I really mean pleasure, of sharing our home with twenty two families in the last two years. Sadly we had one booking that did not quite work so well.

When we receive an enquiry, we always refer prospective guests to our website, and recommend they check it out as we are very rural, and basically a small workng farm, with alpacas, dogs and semi tame cats. We also do not want guests coming and thinking then can walk to a village or bar, it takes twenty minutes by car, but then all your needs can be met with bars, restaurants, banks, shops etc, even though they are quaint and very traditional, there are no fish and chip shops, chinese take aways etc. We are in "real Spain" Well we had an enquiry, and Alan sent them the link, sadly not all of the prospective guests looked at it.
I was in Brighton celebrating Maisies baptism, and we already had guests here. Alan received a phone call from our next guests, that should have been arriving three days later, to inform Alan they were in Cordoba and ready to be met. We always meet guests just off of the motorway as the house can be difficult to find for the first time. Alan explained that there were not expected for another few days, and he was told they had changed their mind regarding their order of their travels. Rather than saying no it was not possible, he asked or them to give him a couple of hours so he could get the apartment ready for them, which they were happy to do, and he promptly rushed aound like a blue arsed fly!

We explain on the website that we have track leading to our house, however it is perfectly fine to drive on, and does n't need a 4 x 4, Alan knew sadly the moment they stepped out of the car and moaned about the track, it was going to be difficult. Alan is n't one for any form of confrontation, and he did his best to make them feel relaxed and welcome. The following morning of which Alan thought had been a good night with the dogs, and Arthur had been pretty well behaved, Alan was met by one of the guests and told in no uncertain terms that "The dogs had to go!" This was rather laughable until Alan was told that the if the dogs kept them awake again (although they certainly had n't kept Alan awake) THAT ALAN WOULD BE KEPT AWAKE! Quite was they were implying we are not sure. Alan rightly decided that we did not need guests like that and gave them back their money, and suggested they find a hotel. Apparantly as the left he was asked "No hard feelings?" A bit late for that I think!

In future we shall doubley check that all guests realise that we have a track, and dogs, which occasionly bark, and yes it does get hot in the summer here!

Thank you to all our other guests for making this so pleasurable!

Maisie's Beautiful Baptism day

Sunday 12th September, it would have been my mums birthday, as from today it had another wonderful special occasion, Maisie's baptism. The sky was blue, and there are few better places to be than Brighton, when it is sunny. It was going to be a hectic day, so Frankie dropped me over to Callie and Mark's in the morning to help a little, although Callie and her mum had made a very good start before I arrived. I had a lovely morning helping a little, and just being there with Maisie and the family.

Maisie 's baptism was at St. Thomas Mores RC church in Brighton, and led by Fr. John. I have met him a few times before, a truly lovely priest, he started the service outside in the sunshine, and we then all followed inside. Frankie was looking after Dilan, who slept most of the time, the Godfathers baby, and Chris was on photography duty, whilst I tried my best to look after a rather excited Kaci who rather liked the sound of her voice echoing around the church.

The service was beautiful and Maisie looked and behaved like an absolute angel. As Mark held her at the font, she did not murmur once but her little head became lower and lower and she slowly and gently nodded off to sleep. She cried just a tiny bit as the priest anointed her with her holy water, that's good - I was always told that's the devil coming out - as if!

After the service we had a lovely afternoon at one of the local pubs where Mark, Callie and Callie's family had put on a beautiful buffet. It was really nice for me to meet more of Callie's family.

What a wonderful day. I am so much looking forward to a repeat when it is Kaci's big day in November!

A handful of my favourite photos

I'm hoping to post a few more photos soon

Brighton :)

My trips to Brighton, were always great, and I love my children so much, but having these beautiful grandaughters as well, makes it doubley fantastic going back. It is so hard not seeing them grow and change every day, or even every week, that when I see them I am totally in awe of how beautiful they are, and what little characters they both are.

This trip was for Mark and Callie's daughter Maisie's baptism, and I shall tell you all about our wonderful day in the next blog. Since moving to Spain our priorities in life are very different. We spend most of the time inside working, or outside with the dogs, or in the paddocks with the alpacas. No need to hair to be straightened very often, or make up to be worn, or even nice clothes to be worn. It came to prepare for my trip back and had not got a clue what I could wear, for Mark, Callie and Maisie's special day. In Montoro there are plenty of shops if you are a size zero up to about size 12.  The young girls / ladies are teeny tiny here, or there is the twin set brigade, that always look dressed for wedding. I don't fit into either of these categories, so my four days in Brighton were going to include a trip round the shops trying to find something to wear- nightmare!

Day 1 - Shopping - We arrived in town, looked in 2 or 3 shops, went into a coffee shop then met up with friends, and babies.............. wonderful!

Day 2 - Frankie and I decided if we went to Eastbourne we could probably shop til we dropped and no skiving chatting to friends. Shame but it had to be done.

I was getting cross with myself, although I must admit Frankie was being very patient with me, then we found something, yipppeeee! Good old M&S! Our poor old feet, we could go home and relax and get ready for the big day tomorrow!

Kaci and Mairead

Maisie, dreaming about her special day!

The boy friend, Freddie with mummy Lizzie

Adios Nigel and Ginny

Our good friends Nigel and Ginny Cobb, have decided to say "adios" to Spain, and "bonjour" to France. The cunning plan by their friends Kevin and Yvonne, was to have a great farewell party for them. The alpaca gang led by Mike and Linda, decided we could help out by getting Nigel and Ginny out of the house for a little get together of our own. The plan was that Ginny could tell us all about her fantastic trip to the other side of the world visiting alpaca friends. Along with of course a lovely lunch supplied by Mike and Linda, and a good ole catch up with us, David and Di, and Jane. After catching up for quite a few hours with the vino flowing we realised, after wondering how on earth we were going to keep Nigel and Ginny there, so long, in actual fact the problem was going to be how are we going to get them back to their place for the party. We had all trooped up to see Mike and Linda's lovely animals, including their notoriously naughty spit machine Lilly. They were all looking stunning, and Alan and I secretly love their donkeys, if they were n't so big they would be in the back of our car, and up on their way to the Cordoba Province by now.

Yvone had rung numerous times, the guests were there and waiting in anticipation and Ginny was in full swing talking about the stunning Lorca (the alpaca not the gay Spanish poet). Eventually Yvonne got through and spun Ginny a tale that some people from England had turned up unexpectedly to see them. Ginny was wracking her brain to think who on earth it could be, and the speedy thinking of Yvonne insisted it was to be a surprise but they had to go home now........ great tactic! Alan and I stayed to help Mike and Linda with their alpaca chores and have a freshen up, and we followed on later.

Nigel and Ginny called us a few choice names when we did arrive, far too rude to be put in print, and we had a super evening.

I think our friends will be moving soon and we wish them all the very best in their new life in France. They will be keeping a herd of alpacas in Ronda, and we hope to catch up with them as often as we can.

Ginny, Linda and Alan get hands on with the extremely
handsome Lorca

Alpaca friends together but a donkey wants the close up shot!

Why lean on a post when you can lean on a donkey?

How gorgeous is he!

Mike and Linda's beautiful dogs, pool and view!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

He's a little nightmare, but we love him

By mid morning, during the summer months, Blue and Geri are chomping at the bit to get inside for a siesta, Miliko is too, but he just wants to get in to cause havoc. Yesterday was one of those days. He looked quite settled and relaxed, when the three of them barged through the door of the apartment, otherwise I would have chased him back out. An hour or so later, I went to check on them. Blue and Geri were sleeping soundly, no surprise there, but silly me had not locked the door to our bedroom and bathroom. I shuddered to think of the destruction I might find!

Now bear in mind Miliko is the smallest of our dogs, has one leg visibly shorter than the other three and he can open open his mouth 18mms at the last measurement. Ok try and visualise the destruction........

Our bed that was clear apart from a sheet if we need it, yes don't forget it's August in Spain. We have huge plastic holdalls, aproximately a metre square that we keep bedding in. He had dragged one from the bedroom to the bathroom, and pulled out a towel, a mattress protector, and a thick furry throw. He had taken a bag that contained twelve toilet rolls up on to the bed to have a play with, plus, a new pair of trainers of mine and a glittery flip flop (he has already eaten the sequins off of the other one), one trainer of Alans and one slipper. A small shopping bag from a cupboard, oh and a TEN KILO bag of Geri's food which was a least half full, was also on the bed too. It was like a child surrounded by his toys but with lunch there to nibble on.

Little bugger!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Meeting with friends in El Torcal

It was almost a year since we, the member's of the Spanish alpaca group AEDA, that stands for Asociación España de Alpacas, had managed to get together, for one reason or another. At last we managed to set a date at meet up at our friends David and Di's house in one of the most stunning regions of Andalucia, the El Torcal National Park. Just a short time after we arrived Di informed us they had a baby donkey born two weeks previously. That was it, the vino was put on hold and we all immediatly trotted, excuse the pun, to see him, and what a little beauty!

Mum and baby donk, how lovely!

It was a beautiful day and surprisingly enough we managed to get through our meeting in pretty good time, thanks to Mr. Cobb keeping his eye on the clock! Allowing us to have a good old catch up with good friends, something we miss dearly. I do wish we could get together more often.

Fabulous view from the terrace

Mike with David and Di's beautiful cria

Nigel gets a "hello" kiss

What a stunning journey home