Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The rain in Spain.....

Well this country, or at least the area we live in certainly has its extremes!  A Spanish friend of ours, who lives in the town once said to us" Why would you chose to live here?  It's too hot in the summer and so cold in the winter!"  He's not wrong there.  I'm sitting typing this wearing woolly gloves and actually have five layers of clothes on, and I'm still chilled to me ole bones!  It's the stone walls and floors that do it.  I can't wait for about six in the evening when we can justify lighting a fire.  A warm cozy open fire, that has us squinting through tears in our eyes, from the thick smoke, as we attempt to watch the television.  After a long steaming hot bath of course.  That seems the only way to really warm you through.

I'm digressing as usual.  Literally three days after our lovely walk to the lake to plan our alpaca trek for next year, along came the rain.  In Spain you don't seem to get the drizzle we used to get in England, it just comes down in buckets.  As we live off grid, if it's cloudy we can't simply put the tele on and snuggle up as we have no solar, so we stood and watched the rain. Riveting!

Well as it happens, yes it was!  We noticed Miguel our local farmer for some strange reason had parked his car at the bottom on the track, beside the little "arroyo" or tiny river.  This is the little river that washed away our bridge two years ago, when the heavens opened, and we were stranded until the farmers, cut down a huge eucalyptus tree, that fell across the river, for people to walk across.  Since then our little bridge has had huge boulders set in place to try and keep it intact, and touch wood, crossing everything it has so far!

So the excitement was watching Miguel's car slowly getting covered in water, as the river rose higher and higher. We never dreamt that it would actually get washed away down the river, but blow me down it did!  Alan and I were practically running from room to room watching the water rise at different parts of the river  and then we noticed the car slowly start to move.  As if it was in reverse it got pushed backwards until in finally toppled over the edge of the bridge due to the sheer force of the water. 

The water on the far side was gushing down from our track

View from the bedrooms in the apartment

Miguel's car, as the water rises!


The car getting pushed backwards

Finally topples into the river

The alpacas don't get what the fuss is about!

Lots of the farmers were having a weekend in the country with their families so many came to check out the situation.  A few of the children were very excited to be told they would have to stay at their country house and not go to school the following day!  Once the rain stopped, Alan and I had a little wander to check out the bridge for ourselves!

Well it stayed in place!!!

When the water subsided two men took off their socks and shoes and walked across, hand in hand!

Arthur was so fed up in the rain he broke in to the apartment, and made himself comfy!

Poor alpacas were soaked, but quite happy!

Oh and Miguel's car was found about half a kilometre down the river!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Planning our alpaca Trek

We love it when children, or adults want to walk our alpacas, usually around their paddock but occasionally outside too.  We have decided to go further, why not!  We are not too far from a stunning lake, which we often drive to.  Oi! Who are you calling lazy bones?  To be honest I was never quite sure I would make it back up the hill, without the need of oxygen, a fireman's lift... or both!

The day was perfect, a few fluffy "Simpsons" clouds and some slightly warm sunshine.  I could n't get out of it.  We did the walk alone, just Alan and I.  Our mastins Blue and Arthur and very lazy and would never walk that far. Actually they would, but they would n't make it back!  Geri is an old lady now, Miliko has a wonky leg and cannot open his mouth to pant.  Carlos would have loved it, but there would be no way we would get him out alone, sadly.

It took us only about half an hour to reach the lake, and about 45 minutes to walk back, but that was my fault, struggling up the hill!  We could not believe how low the water level was, due to the fact of having had an incredibly dry winter, and everything looked beautiful.  

Our plan is during spring and autumn to take guests on a trek, if they wish of course, however also to do little day excursions.  I'm sure they are many people that would love to come for a morning or afternoon, walk our gorgeous animals with us and have a drink and tapas beside the lake.  Or even spend the day with us, to include an alpaca trek and a barbeque.  We are still in the planning stage, and the good news is I did indeed make it back up the hill, in one piece, with just a couple of stops.  I must admit I thoroughly enjoyed it, and cannot wait to do it again.  I hope you enjoy the photos of our beautiful countryside.

Three donkeys on route (the 3rd is hiding)

Half way there

Over the brow of the hill

You can just see the lake

These trees are usually under water!

On our way back home, we came across some horses

One particularly friendly young foal !

Yikes... the steep hill back!

Monday, October 29, 2012

We sadly lost our little Iker!

I was sitting at the laptop having a little nosey online, about half an hour before leaving to take my zumba class in town. Alan had gone to put the chickens to bed, and make sure all the alpacas were behaving themselves.  It was a total shock when Alan came back and said "I hate to tell you this but I think little Iker may be dead."  I got that awful feeling in the pit of your stomach.  Our adorable kitten who was named after the extremely talented and totally gorgeous Iker Casillas, was lying to the side of our track.  He was either dead or very seriously hurt.  At that point I was hoping and praying he had died, and preferably very quickly.  A trip to the vet here for us, is a half hour journey, and we hated the thought of him being badly injured and have to endure that bumpy journey, and him possibly have to be put to sleep!  Besides the fact that I had a class to take!

Alan being made of much tougher stuff than me, said he would check on him and deal with him, if necessary.  He came back and said he was definitely gone!  He was n't sure however that he had been hit by a car.  Now anyone that has been to our house knows, that during the summer months we may see 5 or 6 cars a day in total.  During the olive picking season it can be more, maybe 10 or so, certainly not loads.  Iker and his brother Pedro, had only just started venturing outside of the gate however there had been another danger.  About an hour before Alan and I had been marvelling at a stunning eagle overhead.  He seemed to be circling and was extremely noisy, and we have heard may stories of eagles carrying off small kittens.  We do wonder if he had been scooped up by the  eagle and dropped.  We will never know.

Ikers little brother Pedro certainly pined for his little mate.  Although they had their brothers, last years kittens, Messi and Xavi, I'm sure you are getting the connection here, Pedro and Iker were extremely close and was most of the time cuddled up or playing together.  Pedro spent the next week practically glued to Xavi, he did n't know what on earth had happened to his brother and best friend.

I had to go and do my class, I think I may have felt a little better if I could have had a cry but I felt sick.  I felt like that for days.  Especially not knowing what had happened to the poor little thing.  I hope it was quick and as painless as possible.  Bless his heart!

Iker on the left and Pedro, right
Pedro getting some love from Xavi, after the accident!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

We've only blooming done it................

I am extremely proud to say we, or I should correct myself, and say Alan has written a book.  I am allowing him 95% of the credit, however I would like a teeny bit for keeping up my blog, which has been great to refer back to, plus of course I am a woman!  As that woman it was my role to tell him anything I did n't like, plus changed words round willy nilly, even though this may have upset him at the time, just because I am a woman!  

Seriously Alan has worked extremely hard.  When the weather got too hot here to do anything other than "sweat like a donkey" as our friend Pedro says, Alan would take him self off for hours on end typing away.  We could not have got this far with some help from great friends.  They will of course be acknowledged in the book.   First of all we were skint, and desperately needed a second laptop.  Our good friend Trudy had a spare one not being used, and she posted it to us,  for free!   One of my best friends is an editor, Jo, who went through it all with a fine tooth comb, and dotted the i's and crossed the t's and changed any other mistakes we had made.  Another great mate Rich, a very talented artist, is in the process of designing a cover.  I love it, I love it, I love it, and we are not even quite there yet.  If you would like to see just how very talented he is take a look at his website.  You will be blown away. http://www.richard-newman.co.uk

Through looking at other ex pat authors we came across Victoria Twead, who has a series of hysterically funny books published.  At the beginning Alan sent her the first few chapters and she liked it!  Wooo hoo!  Victoria and her husband Joe as well as being authors run a publishing company for ebooks.  We are over the moon to be working with them, and they are publishing the book in ebook format to be available in every conceivable platform.  You can see Victoria's website here at http://www.victoriatwead.com. Once that it done, it will be also available in paperback too.

I'm sure you will be hearing more about it as soon as we know it's available.  The book is called....  pause for drum rolling, trumpet playing and wooping in delight....................

Bloody Hell, What's An Alpaca?

Of course it is the story of our first few years here in Spain.  Why I really gave up teaching dancing!  Our strange estate agent!  Disappointing builders!  Our initial foray into breading alpacas!  Heartache, tragedy and funny laugh out load moments too.

I'm sure it would be a great stocking filler for Christmas.  Especially if you know either Alan or I, or have been here for a holiday.  We will keep you all informed of it's progress!  Meanwhile we have set up a website to run alongside the book, where you will be able to keep up to date with blogs (from Alans point of view), and photographs of all the animals that feature in the book.  We would be so grateful if you would share it with your friends.

Thanks you!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Sunshine, Scorchyness and Siesta's in Cordoba

Sorry it's been a while!  Been a bit bogged down with  a few health problems, although I am that other person again now, the much nicer one!!!!! And feeling so much better so I thought it was time to catch up!

Well we made it, we survived another scorchio summer in the "Frying Pan of Spain." We have had a lovely summer with quite a few visitors this year, friends and guests.  I have to admit we had some rather lovely European families visit this year.  Apparently the flights going back to England were particularly expensive this summer due to the Olympics, so we were over the moon to have some lovely families from France, Holland and Germany.  Wow what lovely families, and I have to admit to shedding my first tears after a family left, that were not my own family! How very embarrassing!  This particularly lovely Dutch family had walked the dogs with us, spent time with the alpacas, fed and cuddled the chickens, and adored little Pedro, one of this years kittens, who has become extremely friendly, mainly due to being fed numerous times a day!  The gorgeous, kind 12 year old son took great delight in teaching me Dutch phrases whilst I in turn taught him a little Spanish too.  Every evening the routine was "Good night, buenas noches, goedenacht!"  The family had a bbq with us on their last evening, and the dad confided in me, "There will be tears tomorrow!"  Oh no, I'm such a big cry baby I hate to see anyone cry, as it immediately starts me off!

The following morning we were about to say our goodbyes, and I have to admit I had not thought about little Maud, and her possible tears, until I saw her bury her head into her mums side, and her little chin and bottom lip tremble.  That was it, I was off!  Alan was having a right chuckle to himself.  I'm sure his first thought was "Well that goes to show they have had a blooming good time!"  I was secretly pleased that the mum seeing me in tears started her off too, so I did n't feel quite so ridiculous, well I did feel pretty ridiculous haha!

This summer we saw even more extreme temperatures than usual and one thermometer in the town centre of Montoro showed 58 degrees.  Yes it was it in the sun, the afternoon, but bloody hell, even so! 

Whilst we tried our very hardest to keep cool, and hardly move, the dogs slept most of the day.  The cats found shade anywhere they could and more often than not the alpacas sunbathed and soaked up the sun, mad things!

Our big beautiful Blue, keeping cool with an iced carrot... yes she will eat anything!

Cassandra and Bermuda sunbathing

Iker and Pedro huddled together, even in the heat!

Some of the dogs come in for a siesta, and yes that's their sofa!

Blue prefers to stay with us, in the kitchen

Well that was the sum total of our summer really.  Lots of sun and many siesta's, rather a lot of ironing in 40 plus degrees, and my zumba lessons continued.  All in all a pretty good summer!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Sarcoidosis, my story!

This isn't a feel sorry for me blog.  Far from it.  I have quite a few friends living with cancer, and every day I thank my lucky stars for being as healthy as I am. A couple of weeks ago however I had a few of the old symptoms back, so I thought I would post a blog about it.  It is one of those blooming auto immune diseases that just comes and goes, for some years. 

My story begins around the beginning of 2005.  I was working hard, and self employed, but I was loving life and my work too, as a dance teacher. I was aware that was was feeling extremely tired, and just not feeling great, and well, pretty low.  I hate to use the "D" word but I guess I was a little.  Ok I must use it, I was depressed, but I thought I was just working hard.  My daughter Frankie was just about to turn 18 and we had booked to take her Paris on the Eurostar as a surprise trip, and to see one of her friends dance at the fabulously famous, Paris Lido. A few days before the trip I had a bit of a sore throat, no razor blades or anything over the top, and then my voice went completely.  I vaguely remember having a lovely time in Paris, although I still could not talk at all, and not an ounce of energy, and I remember feeling pretty emotional for a lot of the time too.  I had no voice what so ever for about three weeks in total.  That's tough when you are a dance teacher!  As well as that, I started to feel, well just pretty poorly really.  I couldn't put my finger on what was wrong, I just feel exhausted, and felt rather nauseous all the time.

I remember phoning my doctor numerous times, and pouring out to him how awful I was feeling.  He kept telling me it was probably viral, and I needed to be patient.  I would come off the phone crying, feeling I was wasting his time. Most days my dance classes would take me to several places in one day.  On a Monday, for example I would teach my lovely "young at heart" ladies line dancing.  I then had three quarters an hour to get across Brighton to a fab and busy after school dance club.  This would give me time to drink a lucozade and have a small bar of chocolate, on route, and  more often than not a couple of pills, plus a quick cry.  A quick touch up of the make up, put on my dance teacher's face and off I would go again.  I would finish that class, then travel across town to my next.  No more pills, but probably time for a cry, simply out of sheer exhaustion, for what seemed to me to be for no real reason.

Alan and I decided at the beginning of November to have a shopping trip to Bluewater shopping centre and think about Christmas prezzies.  We bought nothing apart from lunch, and on the way home, I turned into a completely miserable cow, and had a feeling of complete and utter gloom and depression that I had never felt before.  I also had a strange itchiness in my eyes.  I wanted to claw at my eyes, my lashes and even my eyebrows too.  That was certainly the beginning of a significant symptom.  I am rather an emotional person, and at certain times of the month can easily cry over the Andrex puppy advert, and I never watch a sad film as I will always cry, and I don't like crying! Life can be tough enough without giving ourselves a reason to cry.  Give me a good comedy, and a great chuckle any day!  My eyes as well as being extremely itchy became very dry.  My tear ducts dried up and although things would make me cry, I shed no tears for a few months.  That's a bit weird!

We also had a holiday of a life time booked in Florida too, with my son, and daughter and their partners.  Alan and I were working hard.  Life was treating us well and we wanted to treat them.  I did have a lovely time, I really did, however after our evening meal, they would go back to the hotel room with me and settle me into bed and they would go back out again.  My eyes were still causing me a lot of problems and were totally mishapen and I didn't look like me! I remember visiting Sea World and feeling very ill that day, and I so love it there.  The journey home from Florida was terrible for me, luckily the rest of the family all slept, whilst the plane bounced about and I felt so terribly sick.  I couldn't wait to get home!

Eventually I did make an appointment to see my doctor, who I liked and I had no issue with, however I did want to hit him with a heavy blunt object when he suggested blood testing me for the menopause.  Not that I couldn't have been going through it but I was suffering from real physical symptoms, which I rather felt he was dismissing. I felt he was taking the easy route!  He did the blood tests he felt he wanted to do, and every thing came back.... surprise surprise, normal!

I soldiered on with all my classes, still crying on route and falling asleep on the sofa usually withing five minutes of getting home.  I don't remember cooking, cleaning or looking after the family in any way.  I guess I didn't. Luckily they were all quite capable of looking after themselves, and all I did was go to work. My line dance ladies were all very perceptive and knew something was wrong, so I did confide in a small handful of people.  Somehow I managed to teach right up until Christmas, plus run a great school dance competition, especially to raise money for a very special little boy, who is sadly now in heaven.  I believe adrenaline carries you through and sometimes when you relax, a health problem can rear it's ugly heads even more.

I broke up for the Christmas break and we had been invited to our neighbours for a drink to see in the new year.  We had wonderful neighbours, all great friends.  As I was getting ready in the bathroom, I noticed a rather large lump on the side of my face, like half a boiled egg had been stuck on my face?????? I did panic a little, and no we didn't go to the party.  The following morning I had one the other side, too.  I had mumps as a child but this was different it was in front of my ears, and I looked like I was storing food like a hampster! We went to the emergency doctor, that had obviously drawn the short straw by being on call on new years day.  He promptly told me it was an allergic reaction.  I had in fact been taking antihistamene pills for about 3 months to try and help my eyes, to no avail.  I really was desperate for help, and no-one seemed to be able to help me.

It was time to make another appointment with my doctor, this time Alan came too.  He had been living with me feeling so very poorly for about a year.  He knew it wasn't me, and he had been so patient and caring, but we needed to get to the bottom of it now, it was hard for him too.  As soon as the doctor took one look at my swollen face he knew it was time to take this a bit more serously. We talked about how my health had affected me the past year, and then I cried, as usual, so Alan took over.  The doctor repeated the blood tests and told me to make an appointment for the following week.  At last!

Alan and I went back the following week, we were both pretty sure the blood tests would come back all clear, and I would be at square one again.  Not this time.  The doctor said my thyroid count was "all over the place" not low or high it simply was not working properly. This of course was causing the extreme tiredness and the depression.  The results on my liver didn't seem to be correct either,  which was causing me to feel very sick all the time.  He made arrangements for me to see the top thyroid consultant at the Brighton hospital. New blood tests were done, eventually of course, and a follow up appointment was made.  I was so sure that during the appointment I would be told I had an under active thryroid, and I could take a pill every day, and my life would be back to normal in no time.  However it wasn't quite as easy as that. This lovely lady said I had thyroiditis, and that my thyroid simply wasn't working as it should.  She could not give me anything for it as she felt it was a symptom of another problem going on.  I was devastated and cried like a baby.  I had been feeling so ill over over a year, and nobody seemed to be able to help me.  The consultant told me she understood completely how I was feeling, and said she wanted to discuss my case with some of her colleagues and she made a note of my email address.  I was so very grateful.  She cared!  Sure enough about a fortnight later she did email me as promised.  She had been discussing my case and felt I could have something called sjogren's syndrome pronounced shoh-grinz, and it is not to be confused with a piece of Ikea furniture!  

The symptoms were uncannily familiar!  I was sent off, to a rheumatologistIf you would like to know more about sjogren's syndrome it, copy and paste the link below.


A few weeks later, and I saw the consultant rheumatologist, a very nice attentive gentleman, who seemed pretty convinced at first I had "Ikea syndrome."  He asked lots of questions, and he seemed to be putting a puzzle together.  It seemed to be coming together and then he stopped quite abruptly and said "Do you get breathless Lorna?"  "Errr yes" I said, but I had put that down to not feeling well, and trying very hard to still dance whilst I was teaching.  Although sometimes I would simply get into bed, and I would feel so out of breath it would be as though I had run a race.  He immediately said, I don't think this is Sjögren's.  My heart missed a beat.  Was I going to be sent home again with no idea of what is wrong?  Luckily he followed it up straight away with "I think you may have sacrcoidosis". A cat scan would check this for sure!"

Of course more time went by as I waited for the scan, still dancing, still crying, still struggling and feeling generally ill. My head and face ached, as did my teeth and ears, and my skin itched as though there was something creepy crawly under it. The scan was done and another consultant seen.  This time at the lung department, with some other tests too.  The appointment following up the scan and tests was extremely simple.  "Yes Lorna you have some nodules on your lungs, which are symptoms of Sarcoidosis, and they are not cancerous in any way."  I was so reliveved, first of all of cause that the nodules were not cancerous, plus also a huge relifef that they really did know what was wrong.  

The doctor explained to me that the cause of sarcoidosis is unknown. The disease can appear suddenly and disappear. Or it can develop gradually and go on to produce symptoms that come and go, sometimes for a lifetime. Sadly currently, there's no cure for sarcoidosis. However, for the majority of those with the disorder - around eight out of every ten people, in fact - the condition resolves spontaneously after a few years and never comes back.  More than two-thirds of people with lung sarcoidosis have no symptoms after 9 years. About 50% have relapses.  That is what you are told!

Sadly I seem to be one of the 50% that suffer relapases, this is usually in the form of extremely painful parotid glands.  Usually now I don't have the swelling, just the pain, and occasionally a touch of the depression will set in.

During the time I was undergoing tests and seeing different consultants, I was at one point given steroids which reduced the swelling in my face, however this did not last and the swelling came back.  It is now so much easier for me to handle.  For a start I am not having to dance and paint on that smile while I'm feeling ill, and if I'm feeling depressed which I feel rediculously bad about, as I have absolutely no reason to be feeling like that, what so ever, I guess it is a chemical imbalance, and I try and hide it.  When you are living with someone 24/7 of course that is not easy and I become extremely introvert, which is so not me.  That can last weeks or even a few months, but as hard as that is, I know I will come out the other side.  

Up until about a month ago I had suffered no effects from it for almost two years and then the pain started in my face. It's ok, I know it will only last a few weeks at the most. I am one of the lucky ones!  I thank my lucky stars for that every day!

If you would like to read up about sarcoidosis, copy the  link below.


Keep healthy everyone!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

An update on the "Aunties" - The Feathered Variety!

“Alan!  Alan, where are you?”  “He’s blooming disappeared again!” I muttered to myself.   I peered through the mosquito netting of the bedroom window....  I knew it!  He’s outside, in the alpaca paddock with Auntie Eileen perched on his shoulder, again!  Auntie Eileen is one of our new family members, and one of six chickens, that we recently bought, to live alongside our alpacas. They also have five feral cats and five dogs for company too.  Well that’s not entirely true, as we know not all dogs are fond of chickens, apart from in their dinner bowl, so they are in fact being kept apart.... just in case!

The boy alpacas gallop and pronk following them around, and appear to watch in amazement as the chickens kick around their hay, eating any good bits that the boys leave behind.  Then time to tackle the boy’s poo pile, looking for tiny insects that may have got there before them.  Alpacas usually have very clean toilet habits and all go in the same place, great for cleaning, but the girls now, back kick it all over the place, so it is nicely spread out for them to search through it, and a nightmare for Alan to clean up!
We had planned that we would like to name the chickens after elderly member of our families, and at first we did n’t think we would be able to name them individually, as we have three pairs, and each pair looked so similar, however as time has gone on we can have named them, and know them all as individuals, and we are loving them!

We have two stunning black chickens, one with a turquoise sheen to her feathers, she is the tamest and Alan called her Auntie Eileen after his favourite auntie.  The other black chicken with a gorgeous auburn tinge is Auntie Mabel, on my side of the family.  Two white aunties are Auntie Marg, who actually had a pink rinse, that’s the real auntie of course, which was far more fashionable that the usual blue rinse, and Auntie Jess who seems a little slower than the others , and sadly reminiscent of my Auntie Jess’s last few months.  Auntie Jess is also a late layer.  I am very happy to say the real Auntie Jess was very happily married though, and was n’t an aging spinster.  The last two ladies were grey and white and particularly difficult to recognise so Alan chose his grey haired Auntie Jean and also his nanny Audrey, for these two chickens to be named after.

Personally I was a little concerned that Alan’s other nanna, Renee would be a little put out by this but Alan assured me that she would not be upset or hold it against him, not having a chicken named after her.  Thankfully this was right.

We have now had our aunties for about 4 months, and still auntie Jess has n’t laid an egg for us although her comb is getting a little longer and stronger, so hopefully she is nearly ready.  We love to call our girls, and they come running to us, their little bottoms waddling.  They rather remind me of a little elderly Spanish lady, who after a few years of enjoying copious amounts of olive oil, is slightly wider around the hips!   They seem to particularly like Alan, and they sit in front of him to be picked up, especially Auntie Eileen.  During the afternoon they all disappear back to their room where it is shaded from the extreme heat, and come back to see us and the alpacas for some left over leaves, as the sun is slowly dropping behind the hill.

The "aunties" know when it is bedtime, as we feed the alpacas a little hay or alfalfa, and the chickens around excitedly for a while, and then head off into their room.  Dinner first, and then they all huddle together for the night in an old stone window ledge!  Bless them!

Alan with his favourite, Auntie Eileen

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Cordoba in Springtime - Post by Alan Parks

Cordoba in Springtime!
Cordoba is a magical place in the late spring and early summer. May and June are particularly important months in the calendar, before the real heat of July and August hits the ‘Frying Pan of Spain’.
 This year we indulged, and took part in the three major events, The Patios Festival, Cordoba Feria and ‘La Noche Blanca del Flamenca’ , this involved two all nighters and one very hot day. 
 The festival of the Patios, takes place in May every year, and this year, as usual, involves lots of homeowners opening up their terraces and gardens to display their wonderous collections of geraniums, petunias, bougainvillea and exotic and colourful cacti of all shapes and sizes. At some of the entrances, marked by red terracotta pots planted with conifers, the queue stretched out for more than 100 metres as people and tour groups clamoured to see the most popular patios. Some of the terraces and patios are communal and as such there is a wonderful sense of community pride, but some are individuals houses, and one has to wonder how these often old and infirm proprietors of these places manages to keep them in tip top shape. This year there was even a Spanish musical group, touring the larger patios and adding to the atmosphere where ever they appeared.
 We completed one of the three routes around the city, and it took us over 4 hours to appreciate fully all the amazing patios, so to truly do the festival justice, at least two days should be allowed.

 The patios is swiftly followed by the ‘Feria de Cordoba’. An enormous, week long fair, complemented by numerous ‘casetas’ (tents erected to serve food and drink), hosted by many local companies. The masses of people can enjoy beer and wine, tapas and many local delicacies. A large stage is erected for bands and groups to perform, and flamenco dancing can be seen in every other caseta. The local Cordoban ladies wear their traditional gypsy dresses, children are dressed up to the nines and grandparents are at their proudest.
 The fairground consists of a variety of childrens rides, extreme thrill rides, many raffle stalls and sadly, even in this day and age, merry-go-rounds with live miniature horses.

 After enjoying the festivities until the early hours it would be rude not to enjoy some ‘churros’ the Spanish equivalent of a doughnut, and some thick chocolate to dunk it in. Falling in to bed exhausted, in readiness for the next night of celebration is the norm for most of the citizens of Cordoba.

The ‘Noche Blanca del Flamenco’ is a large, one night flamenco extravaganza, held every year on the 16th June. It takes in all the Flamenco disciplines, guitar, singing and dancing. This year nearly 250,000 people descended on Cordoba for the annual event. 
 In different plazas, dotted around the city, all within walking distance from one another, stages are erected and performers from all over Spain get the chance to sing and dance in front of baying crowds. Even in these times of austerity, the bars and restaurants are heaving throughout the night. 
 In the ‘Plaza de la Corredera’ thousands of people cram in to watch top Spanish bands play, and it feels like a large rock concert, complete with lights and ringing ears.
 The last show of the night was on a huge stage erected in front of the city’s famous Mezquita, next to the Roman Bridge, and there must have been five thousand people bouncing up and down in unison. The show started at 5.30 am!
 All in all theis makes May and June, the perfect time to visit the beautiful city of Cordoba, as the Spanish know only too well, before the heat of the summer hits. Why not try it next year?
 Back on our little farm springtime was also busy. In early May, one of our female alpacas, Lily, was starting to look a little hefty. In July last year, we had an incident, where two of our males escaped and although we stopped the ensuing copulations, obviously we were not quick enough in Lily’s case.
 Although Lily was large, if she was indeed pregnant it was still early and she had a few weeks to go. However, one day, on returning home from shopping, we pulled in to our courtyard to see she had given birth to her cria, still about 5 weeks too early. The baby looked ok, and she weighed in at a reasonable 7 and 3/4 kilos, but she had a ruptured umbilical chord, and she didn’t have the strength to drink from her mother. Sadly, after 24 hours of effort and milking of Mum and feeding by syringe, we lost the battle. Lily gave an agonising cry as the cria took its last breath, and as we held her to give her a shot of antibiotics, a single tear rolled down her cheeks from each eye. I couldn’t believe eyes, sometimes Mother Nature is amazing. 
 Our springtime was completed at the end of May by the shearing of the alpacas. We are lucky to have a great friend from Australia, who shears alpacas in the UK in the summer and always manages to find time to squeeze in the few alpacas we have here in Andalucia. The animals are sheared and we store the wool in our barn, hoping that one day somebody will come along with the ability or talent to do something amazing with it.
 While the alpaca industry is still in its infancy in Spain, word is spreading and as well as Cordoba, there are alpacas in Ronda and Gaucin, Malaga, Cantabria and Toledo, as well as a few small farm dotted around. 

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

I'll try again with "An all nighter? At my age?......

No you are not seeing double, nor have you, nor I, gone nutty, sadly I am slightly "peed" off. I wonder if I can say that on here?  Bugger, shit and lots of other rude words too, coz I have done it now anyway!  The reason for my rude'ish outburst is that I spent a couple of days last week putting my previous blog post together called "An all nighter?  At my age?  Yes please!"  You may remember it, you may have tried to click on it, opened it and thought "Hmmm she's having a senior moment!"  WELL.........  I was checking the correct spelling of the name of the castle we visited with our friends, and copied and pasted it correctly to the blog, via notepad, that is supposed to iron out any little discrepancies.  After I had finished my 2 days of little more than 2 fingered typing, and posting photos, I "published" it, then realised I had a white highlight line across the info I had copied.  I make no aplogies for saying it again. BUM!  I had a problem with this previously, and had found an answer in the forum telling me what to do, and surprise surprise it blooming well worked!   That was until I tried to return to the "compose" as opposed to the "HTML" page.  It told me I couldn't, there was some sort of error, and it was n't having any of it.  I came off here for a while and Alan later gave me the tragic news that the whole bloody lot had gone. So, here I am again, poised as well as I can be, with two snoring giant dogs at my feet, with a fan on my neck, as it's around 40 degrees as usual, for  Cordoba in July.  I am stopping only for lunch, and a wee break if absolutely necessary.  Sorry for the rant....so here we go again!  

You know how tough it is if you have animals, you simply cannot drop everything, and spend time with friends without considering what time you will be back for feeding etc.  Our friends Mike and Linda had a guest visiting them for a few weeks, and I was so pleased they took the opportunity to leave him in charge of their menagerie, and drive up from Ronda to spend a weekend with us.  We spent the first evening doing a quick tour of our lovely little town of Montoro.  Although they had visited us many times, they had n't done the official tour.  It was a pretty quick as we had a date in the park with a large TV screen. to watch the football, and yes we had to ask for the England match to be shown.  Although they did in fact win that match, I don't think we will going into that in much more depth, except to say that isn't in great that with have such a fantastic back up team we can rely on! A very nice meal later, and we headed back home to bed.

We had planned to visit the Alcazar de los Reyes Cristianos, or in English the Alcazar of the Christian Monarchs in Cordoba, then during the evening visit the La Noche Blanco festival in Cordoba.  Alan and I had been before however we had not been inside the castle.  We had been to a water, light and sound show in the gardens, which was great!  I must admit I enjoyed the day very much, and the castle was very nice to walk around, although I preferred  the gardens.  It was lovely to see them during the day, with the flowers all in full bloom. It was a forty five minute drive home, so the plan was a leisurely lunch followed by a siesta before a whole night out on the tiles.  Lunch however was rather more leisurely that we anticipated, so my siesta turned out to be a 10 minute snooze, whereas Alan had only just got into bed, when we heard a 'toot toot' outside our gate.

The view from the Alcazar

The gardens

N'awwwww Mike and Linda

We were expecting our other great mates Pat and Pedro an hour later but they turned up a little earlier than expected with enough chorizo to feed half of Montoro, and some freshly baked bread from their local baker!  We had a super duper bbq with all of our bestest friends who had n't met each other previously, although I knew they would all get on like a house on fire. 

Next stop... Cordoba!  In June there is a wonderful night of flamenco in Cordoba called the La Noche Blanca Del Flamenco.  The night begins at 10.30 pm and small stages are situated around the City, all within walking distance of the Mezquita, although anyone that has visited Cordoba will know it's not a huge city anyway.  Every hour is a flamenco show, be it singing or dancing, and the plan of the night is you watch a little show, then have a drink in a bar on route to the next performance, watch another little show, have a little drink.... you get the idea!  My favourite little show involved a flamenco dancer Pilar Garcia, the drama and total immersion into the dance was just, for me as an former dancer.... phenomenal!  I could have watched her for hours! I thought we did fantastically well, and left Cordoba around 7am, Alan drove home and we all fell into bed,although not the same bed I hasten to add!  We all met up for a very late breakfast, as you can imagine later that day, then our guests all left us and went on their merry way. 

I tell you what it took me a week to get over it haha, but I can't wait to do it all again, next year!

My favourite Pilar Garcia

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Monday, June 25, 2012

Shearing Time Again!

Hooray, we were having a regular shearer back... we did n't think he could make it this year!  We were so pleased to hear that James Dixon had managed to squeeze in a few of us, in Spain, as he worked his way around Europe.  James and his wife Kym have been shearing our alpacas since we had them here.  They come from Australia, and I hear their home town spoken about when I watch Bondi rescue!  How cool is that!  Unfortunately Kym could n't make it this year, and we all missed you Kym.  James did however bring along his nephew.  Noah was a lovely lad, and a complete credit to his family.  He was a great help during the shearing (not that I was there actually, I was taking a zumba class in town)  so I heard, and he was intelligent, polite and all round great company.  I'm sure he had a great time with his Uncle Jamie, especially the whisky and haggis tasting in Scotland, that was a good important cultural experience for him!

I don't know that we will see Noah again next year, but hopefully some day he will be back.  Below are some before and after shots of our gorgeous girls and boys! 

Our gorgeous girls, feeling the heat!

Ah that feels sooo much better!

A few of the boys

Galaxy soaking up the sun!

Eduardo likes a paddle!

How handsome am I!