contentedsouls

Join us on our travels around Europe aboard our Dutch Tjalk Francoise

  • Jill Budd

    After 6 years aboard our Narrowboat Matilda Rose in the UK, we took the plunge and shipped her across to Europe. After 2 years in Europe we knew we didn't want to return to the UK so took the plunge and purchased a 1902 20 mtr Dutch Tjalk called Francoise and are now continuing our travels of the waterways of Europe in a buxom wench

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Life under lockdown–Part 5

Posted by contentedsouls on 27/03/2020

It’s me back again

People in the UK are a week behind us in Spain now. We’re just starting our 3rd week of lockdown and, believe me, a 2nd week makes a big difference – the virus figures keep rising and the weather has continued to cry with us.

I previously shared the fact that I had gone through anger and depression before reaching a level of acceptance that my wings had been clipped. Acceptance that brought me peace and positivity. Now I’ve gone through that same depression again – although the anger has been replaced by fear – by the realisation that I could be infecting myself and bringing it home with me each time I shop. Even the fact that we’ll imminently run out of wine doesn’t tempt me out of the house now! It’s amazing how long it takes for reality to, finally, sink in. I am currently trying not to berate myself for this slow to dawn realisation, because we are living in unprecedented times and I don’t believe that our psyche can make such a monumental adjustment in such a short timescale.

I know that there are others in a far worse situation than ourselves but, this is my diary, I want to tell it honestly how it feels for me and I’m not forcing you to read it. Even amongst my own privileged social retiree group, I have friends whose house sits have been cancelled leaving them homeless in foreign countries and another couple living up a ladder on their new boat in a car park because their boat launch got cancelled along with the UK waterways’ closures.

One of the contributory factors to a shitty couple of days was the irony of our situation. We came here to safeguard our mainland European cruising lifestyle by getting Spanish residency; to escape rain and grey skies; and for me to improve my Spanish.

If we had been back on the boat in the Netherlands we could have continued carefully and safely cruising but we now have a kind of forced residency (although not officially because all government offices are closed) because we can’t cross borders as we can’t prove that our home is in the Netherlands; it’s rained every day and the temperature has dropped to around 12/14 degrees; and whilst having all the time in the world to continue my Spanish studies with Duolingo, I am unable to go out and see if any of my Spanish works in practice, and if I can understand what is spoken to me.

Talking of Duolingo, I realised that I’d somewhat lost the plot when I found myself – instead of translating a given sentence in to Spanish – shouting contradictions at it.

‘March is a warm month in Spain,’ says Duolingo.

‘No it’s not. It’s always bloody raining, dark and cloudy’’, I reply in my limited Spanish.

‘Madrid is a beautiful city,’ says Duo.

‘So why didn’t they stay there and not come out to the coast and infect us,’ I shout back (people from Madrid with holiday homes here are the new ‘enemy’).

It’s a good job G doesn’t hear/understand what I’m saying or he might be tempted to call men in white jackets – although they’re probably too engaged in herculean efforts elsewhere to worry about me.

‘We had a really good meal in that restaurant last night,’ Duo continues rubbing further salt into the gaping wound…………

….I’m not going to share my response to that one with you ….. it’s beyond publication!!! At least I’m getting plenty of practice at past tense!

 

Normally food shops here open around 8.30 – 1pm and 5 – 8pm. Today we were informed that they had to close by 7pm and then we had further information that they would only be allowed to open from 8 until 4. At least the family shopkeepers will get a break, but it will be hard on the people that are still working to tie in with these new hours.

So, what have we been doing? Not a lot really. The new TV stand arrived – don’t yawn – this enabled us to have a furniture shuffle in the sitting room making it more to our liking and it feels more spacious and cosier now; although the phrase, ‘re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic,’ springs rather too readily to mind. I watch the cockerel, chickens, dogs and cat being cuddled by their devoted owner on the roof terrace below me – this can use up a happy hour! I stand on the doorstep and listen to the singing, dancing and support for frontline workers in the early evenings.

Most of all I ponder about the occupants of the tiny little house, way up, across the hill from us, always so brightly lit – I wonder who they are, if they are OK, what their lives were like before all of this, and what their lives are like now we live in a Sci-Fi movie.

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Life under Lockdown–Part 4 A Guest Blog!

Posted by contentedsouls on 26/03/2020

Yesss! Graham has taken up my invitation to write a blog – here it is!

 

If this doesn’t stop soon we’ll be bankrupt; when I get tied down in one location all I want to do is look on the internet and spend money. Being under lockdown here in our Spanish casa is no different…. everywhere I look I see buying opportunities to make our life more comfortable, or is that my life, as Jill always tells me she has everything she needs.

enough of that …. P1170461

I had always said that my father watched too much daytime television, and that is all that my mother has to keep herself occupied other than the numerous number of friends she has on Facebook, but i now understand a little why that was and is so. With this enforced isolation it would be an ideal opportunity to do all the DIY that is always needed when moving into a new abode but……no tools, no spares and no opportunity to go and buy any had I the inclination to do so (I have all mine back on Francoise!). This leaves huge voids in the day that need to be filled. Jill has her new hobby/quiet room where she disappears to learn Spanish and write and possibly catch up on sleep (said tongue in cheek): its not my bag so, hey ho, Netflix and Amazon Prime Video are getting huge hits…thank the lord for the unlimited internet here. It also means (with Jill out of the way) I can watch what I want…no not what you think!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6HvIWpNjNSM enough to send anyone to sleep, I decided that when we bought this place that I didn’t want to pay the huge monitoring fees that security companies charge for what, in effect, is sitting on their backsides waiting for an event to happen. I decided that, for that money, I could put in a system that I could self monitor. I then began to think that I could possibly re-use the system that’s already in situ…..firstly, unlike the video, all the instructions on the panel are in Spanish, ah! I hear you say, why not use Jill’s new learnt skills; her Spanish is coming along brilliantly but her patience is exhausted within minutes when it comes to playing with “IT”, so back to watching Netflix……

I have just spent an unhappy 30 mins talking to my Mum, she has had a carer/cleaner/shopper for the last 10 years who has at times been her lifeline and I have had to talk Mum into letting her go for the foreseeable future, Josie (not her real name) has another job working at Aldi Supermarket where she is in contact with the general public all the time. After work, she goes and ‘does’ for Mum (87) and another lady who has MS. Mum is absolutely distraught but we (the Family) have taken this decision to protect her.

Now what’s on Amazon Video? or YouTube or….

Today is Jill’s birthday and I managed to get Alexa to sing Happy Birthday to her with me as she walked down the stairs, it brought a beaming smile to her face. Lubbly Jubblies and even the sun has made a brief appearance too, what more does a girl need? I couldn’t get her favourite Ferrero Roches so a bottle of Remy Martin will have to do.P2110623

Yesterday I needed to buy a new gas bottle for a heater which is being delivered today, everywhere I went in Oliva I was told, ‘sorry, only exchange’. So then I went onto Facebook and the local Oliva group and put out a, ‘wanted’ message. Within 40 mins, I had a bottle offered for 10 euros instead of all the rigmarole of signing a contract and paying an extortionate amount for the privilege…result. I also got a free workout having to climb to a 4th floor apartment and carry it down again!

Lockdown; it’s a necessary evil which we all have to endure if we want to survive, so stay safe and love what you do, it’ll help you keep sane. I’m loving my new 43” smart TV!

P3080731Just a little something I put together………….(note from the editor – can you see his nose growing?).

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Life under Lockdown–Part 3

Posted by contentedsouls on 21/03/2020

Saturday 21st March

Karen shared my last blog to her Facebook timeline and, as a result, I seem to have gained a younger readership in England (my guess is around 30 – 45 year olds). So firstly; welcome! It would be lovely to hear how things are for you and what you’re feeling – particularly as the majority of you will now have children at home all day, which will add to your problems.

Despite the school, pub, club and gym, closures; the UK is still a long way behind us. At the point of writing this you are still allowed out for no specific reason and to go out together as couples and families – you are still allowed to visit friends and families, you can travel together in a car. You can go for walks together or kick a football around.

You are not stopped from bulk buying and hoarding – I have no idea why, because it is so easy to stop, and it means you have to go out more often, to more places, in search of essential groceries which only puts you, and others around you, at even more risk.

Regular readers please bear with me here whilst I outline what happened to us for the benefit of the newcomers.

We find ourselves in an unusual situation from the majority of people because ‘home’, for us, is a boat which is currently in the NL and we have no way of proving that the boat is our main residence, so we cannot cross the border to return to it. ‘Home’ is where nearly all our ‘stuff’ is; tools, paints, sewing machine and, most importantly, the contents of my large kitchen store cupboard and stuff that needs doing, along with the stuff do do it with.

We left home at the end of November in our tiny, converted, transit van and packed it with the bare essentials that we thought we might need for the next few months; sleeping in the tranny for 4/5 nights at a time, house sitting in various locations in France and arriving in Spain where we rented a house. Then we went and bought a little house (to stay in over winters) and moved in on the day everything closed. We have very little with us and I remain eternally grateful that we negotiated the purchase to include all major items of furniture and electrical appliances!

Had we not bought this place however, when our rental contract was up on the 15th April, we could have found ourselves living full time with the dog in a transit van due to the new rule (unconfirmed) that property owners are no longer allowed to rent property to non residents – now wouldn’t that have been fun, not! It was our 31st wedding anniversary this week and I’m pretty sure we would not have made it to our 32nd.

This is going to go on for quite a long while, I fear, before it gets better. To start with I was shocked, depressed, frustrated and angry that some ‘thing’ could clip my wings and change my life overnight – and to think I was worried that Brexit might curb my lifestyle (does anyone remember ‘Brexit’ now?). Only once I had accepted the situation did I find some kind of peace and, strangely enough, it got easier.

I share this with fellow Brits in the UK because the same is about to happen to you.

I don’t have to worry about my finances because my pension keeps coming in, but for those of you still working and with young children to entertain, it’s not going to be a barrel of laughs. You can’t change it, so stop worrying about it –it is what it is and there is nothing you can do about it. I make no apology for repeating that the sooner that you accept it, the easier it will be. What you can do is plan for the things that you CAN change and lower your expectations so that you get more joy from the good stuff that happens and good stuff does still happen!

Just because Tesco substituted Brillo Pads for your order for toilet rolls, doesn’t mean you can’t wipe your arse with a tissue, and it does mean you can clean those manky old roasting pans and baking trays that lie skulking in the tray under the oven – if you don’t have any skanky pans you are definitely reading the wrong blog. I don’t have any – but that’s because I don’t have any pans (they are all lurking skankily at home).

Just think of all the times you just wished you had some down time; more time with the family maybe……now you have. Choose how you use it and be grateful for your store cupboard. I find playing Masterchef invention tests with whatever ingredients I have available can, actually, be good fun and bring about some surprisingly good results.

Recent observations, being the new ‘girl’ in town, means that I don’t know what is normal. I keep seeing women (mostly in their late twenties and thirties) wandering around in PJs and dressing gowns at all hours of the day – even walking their dogs – I have no idea if this is normal or if they’ve lost the will to get dressed! An elderly lady came to her door and shouted furiously at a young lad walking down the street  (shops closed for siesta and no dog) ‘go home – you’re going to give it to everyone.’  She was very loud; I was able to interpret it from across the valley – chuffed to bits that I could interpret it – sadly, it was today’s only delight in a grey and drizzly day; mind you, dinner was pretty good.

Well, I’ve just read this little lot back and it strikes me as coming across somewhat sanctimonious – it wasn’t my intention, I just wanted to share some of my experiences in the hope that you might be better prepared. Whilst I’m giving out ‘good’ advice; please remember that, if all else fails, there is always Sudafed for the kids and wine for you – I recommend that you lay off stuff that makes you hungry until food supplies ease up a bit!!!!

One final word of advice – if your partner is consuming more than his their fare share of your favourite chocolate, bread, cereals, or alcohol; hide it, but please remember where you hid it.

Now where did I put that last half bar of Fruit & Nut and that bottle of vodka …………?

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Whilst walking the dog last night I explored a new area of town; I think I’m going to like it here when life resumes.

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Life under lockdown, Part 2

Posted by contentedsouls on 19/03/2020

Wednesday 18th March

It is amazing just how quickly we human beings adjust to a ‘new normal’ and how quickly our expectations are reduced. By contrast, of course, our delight when expectations are exceeded, is magnified.

When G came back from a foraging shopping trip with, amongst other things, fresh broccoli, rice, pasta and wine glasses, I was as happy as the woman who found an unlocked skip open on a Marekrite island out of season. Whilst drinking wine and beer out of thick mugs does not directly impinge on our survival, the ability to drink wine out of a glass makes life feel so much more civilised – not to mention that it tastes much nicer.

Having shivered through Monday and woken up to rain on Tuesday, my priority for the day was to sort out firewood.

I didn’t have high hopes, but I had been given the name and telephone number of a man called Vincento who might still deliver. I thought about the words I needed – telephone calls in a foreign language are far more difficult than face to face – and dialled his number. He understood me and said that he would deliver that afternoon; 10 minutes later and the delightful Vincento was on our doorstep with 4 bags of wood and a cuddle for Muttley (he has 7 dogs himself). Woops there goes another rubber tree plant (see what I did there?)!

Today was a little drier and I decided to walk down the hill with my granny trolley and see if I could find some meat and veg (particularly onions – food without onion is, on the whole, pretty sad). It was the first time I’d been out to acquire food since this started; I’m not allowed to go with G in the van and I’m not, under any circumstance, going to drive a long wheel base tranny up here. I wasn’t really sure what to expect. I stuck to individual shops.

My first encounter was at our little corner shop. Nothing untoward there and I was able to get a reasonable assortment of vegetables, including onions, and a bottle of brandy. Wine and alcohol are not in short supply – maybe the authorities feel we will riot if not kept sedated. A little bit of banter ensued at my speaking the total bill in Spanish and himself trying to do it in English – these tiny interactions have become very important in my life.

Further on down the hill (remember this is all unknown territory to me) I found a chemist. I needed contact lens cleaner. We queued patiently on the pavement and were let in, five at a time, to stand on the marked out red arrows as we awaited our turn at the counter, one metre away from the sales lady behind a taped barrier and a sheet of polythene between us as she talked to me through a mask and waved gloved hands about whilst we communicated. After being served, I left via a different exit – a one way system through the building.

The next ‘find’ was a butcher. Only two customers allowed in at a time here, but I was delighted to spot a whole chicken and realised that we could have a celebratory wedding anniversary dinner the next day, I also scored some belly pork. My frantic attempts to stop them from chopping both up into diminutive portions were met with great hilarity – I thoroughly enjoyed their piss take out of my appallingly bad Spanish. I am sooo glad that I took the trouble to learn some – in these troubled times, when so many expats haven’t ever bothered, it puts people on our side and they engage with me. No point in saying ‘us’, as ‘us’ is not allowed out together anymore.

I dragged my granny trolley back up the hills to our old town – they are very steep- and produced my goodies to G with a flourish, only to find that – yet again – we had the dates wrong; it was our anniversary today, not tomorrow. He’d knocked up a spag bog, which was way better than our 30th last year-a baguette and peanuts. We don’t seem to excel at wedding anniversaries!

Because we are tucked up the hill in the old village, we’re not seeing, or hearing, an awful lot of ‘life’. However, down in the new town at 8pm every evening there is a right old celebration of support (from balconies and roof tops) for all the hospital workers, police, shop keepers, delivery drivers and everyone that is helping us keep safe and alive. Under the (permitted) excuse of Muttley, I can walk down to soak it in (we’re allowed 500 metres from home with a dog) and remind myself that the world keeps turning.

I have no idea if I’m boring you with my ‘diary’, but it helps me keep some kind of perspective in this strange world we find ourselves living in.

I still have some pretty pictures left of spring springing.

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Life under lockdown

Posted by contentedsouls on 18/03/2020

Monday 16th March

Due to a cancellation at the Notary’s Office, on Friday 13th March at 1300 hours, we found ourselves sat around a table with the ‘headmistress’ and two solicitors to finalise our commitment to bricks and mortar in Spain, and take possession of the keys.

Little did we suspect what was about to happen over the next 48 hours.

We returned to the rental and collected Muttley and a load of our ‘stuff’ before driving over to the little house. We can drive passed the end of our road, can’t turn into it with the van, but there isn’t any parking. One little town house there has a little slipway big enough to take the van without blocking the road.

“Quick,” said G, “Go and knock on their door and ask if we can park here for 30 minutes whilst we unload the van.”

A very elderly Spanish lady answered the door and between her Valencian, my bad Catalonian, and a bit of miming and pointing, I made the situation clear and she agreed. I was so grateful that I shook her hand (forgetting that we’re not meant to touch each other anymore).

I staggered back to the house with a pile of clothes and bedding that I couldn’t see over (or round), nearly tripping over a motorbike en route. G then did a number of runs until the van was empty, and then parked the van down the bottom of the hill whilst we unpacked. During the unloading process a man, spotting the TV, stopped and said,

“You’re going to need that,”

“Why?” I responded.

“They are closing all the bars and cafes here for a week, so you’ll need to get some food in – the little shop here hasn’t got a lot in it.”

For some reason, both of us got the impression that he just meant Oliva Old Town; our minds were elsewhere I guess. As we drove back to the rental, G suggested we stopped at the MasyMas to get some food for the weekend – it’s a very good job we did.

We moved into the little house with the last of our stuff on Saturday – this time using the Spanish parking system; parking the van at the end of the street, totally blocking it, sticking on the flashers, and making everyone wait whilst we unloaded our stuff onto the side of the road. It’s not a very busy road and the Spanish are extremely patient about people temporarily blocking roads however, being Brits, we got uncomfortable as a small queue slowly formed so G drove round the block whilst I shifted the first pile along to the door. A second repeat performance completed the job.

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It was late in the evening before we had the time or energy to poke the local Facebook group, so by the time we found out the extent of what was happening, all the non food shops were closed. Not the end of the world, but we have no wood for the fire, and I am shivering as I’m typing this at mid day. We spent yesterday sunbathing on the terrace, but today there are signs of the forecast storm approaching and it’s quite cold. The ground floor of this old stone house is always chilly – a real bonus in the summer, no doubt – but a bit uncomfortable at this time of the year.

Life feels very surreal at the moment

When you move into a new house, in a new area, of a new country, you would normally be trying out your local restaurants and pubs, hoping to meet the neighbours, finding dog walks, and buying furniture, rugs, glass and china, etc.

These are not normal times.

Everywhere is closed except chemists, supermarkets (currently stocking levels are unknown) and garages. Only one person is allowed out at a time to visit these ‘essential’ establishments, walk the dog, or walk rubbish to the collection points. Police are stopping vehicles with more than one person in. These ‘essentials’ don’t cover the means to purchase sources of heating, apparently. Gas bottles are going to be re-filled twice a week; which is good news if you already own a bottle – we don’t, and there seems to be no means of purchasing one.

Spain and it’s populace are renowned for being noisy, and our location is no exception – one dog barks and every dog in the area starts barking. We (or rather Muttley) also contribute to this cacophony. After eating his dinner he insists on playing with G and his ‘wack wack’; this daily ritual includes a lot of barking which, inevitably, starts all the other dogs off in the area – well we do like to let others know that we’ve arrived. The, ‘I bark, you bark, we all bark,’ theme is well known amongst dogs but, what I’ve not encountered before, is identical behaviour amongst cockerels and chickens! The crowing and clucking echoes around town as soon as the first cockerel wakes up; strangely, they seem to be trained to stop during siesta, thus restoring their energy to continue the noise throughout the evening with renewed vigour.

The lockdown has had the effect of intensifying the noise levels due to the fact that social interaction is, in effect banned. No problem to the gregarious Spaniards; everybody gets on their roof terraces and shouts to their neighbours – if your neighbour lives on the opposite hill; just shout louder! The closure of dancing establishments is no obstacle either; just get your boogie box, guitar, drums, or whatever, up on the roof and boogie, Flamenco, sing; whatever floats your boat.

Those of you who know me well know that I hate loud noises but, strangely, the noise here doesn’t bother me – it seems to be part and parcel of the rhythm of village life and undulates around you rather than rudely intruding. It was one of the reasons for picking this particular location. We spend the majority of our year in splendid isolation and I like this contrast – it’s a sort of affirmation of life continuing, and people just getting on with living.

This morning was the first week day of the lockdown and I overslept a bit (not that it matters), partially because it was slow to get light (due to cloud cover), but mostly because it was QUIET, OH SO QUIET.

It still is.

It is surreal and more than a little scary. It feels like we’ve involuntarily stepped into the opening chapter of a sci-fi novel.

It’s siesta time now; so bound to be a bit quieter – I do hope the noise starts up again later, because this feels horrible.

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HAPPIER TIMES – A VISIT FROM SARAH AND ANDY

Just before all of this, we had a visit from the ‘Pirates’ as we have affectionately labelled them. They flew out and hired a Fiat 500; an eminently well suited vehicle for the twisty mountainous terrain and tiny narrow streets of the old towns. Andy, Muttley and I just about fitted in the back, with Sarah driving and G as front seat passenger. In order to keep Sarah’s Mother from feeling that she was missing out on a jolly, they had told a little fib (that’s how Sarah described it – I would call it a whopper of a lie!) and said that they were visiting us on the boat in Belgium! The weather remained glorious and we put the Fiat to good use for most of each and everyday – touring lots of little restaurants up in the Sierra Nevada (our soon to be, ‘new back yard’) and all sorts of remote locations.

I don’t know why, but Sarah wouldn’t let me buy a present for her mother that said, “Bienvenida a Espana” and, instead, went off in search of Belgian chocolates. Sarah was confident that she could pass her newly acquired sun tan off as windburn.

A good job they didn’t stay any longer – although I’d love to have been a fly on the wall whilst she tried to explain to her poor Mother how they managed to get stuck in Spain for a few weeks/months!!!!!

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Summoned to the Headmistress!

Posted by contentedsouls on 06/03/2020

(and pictures of our new house)

Since we have been here, we have hired the services of a legal/translator lady to guide us through the infamous and legendary paperwork and officialdom that accompanies all Spanish bureaucracy. Due to the process of trying to establish residencia and, latterly, buy a house here, it has been necessary to make many visits to this lady – let’s call her Maria (and if she ever reads this blog I am unlikely to live long enough to move into the new house!).

She is a very large and intimidating lady (for which, read ‘immensely scary’) with a highly developed sense of sarcasm. Our relationship  didn’t get off to the best of starts when, in my nervousness, I missed the wiggly bit over the ‘n’ off my pronunciation and consequently told her that her daughter had ten assholes, instead of ten years.

Us Brits, when summoned to legal meetings, expect the work to have been done before you get there, then be told of progress, timescales, and what you need to do next. Telephone calls are put on hold for the duration of your meeting and 15 minutes later, you leave. The Spanish way (in our experience so far) is entirely different.

When we get to a meeting with Maria, she opens our file and commences to read all incoming emails etc., to find out what’s going on. Graham was next to get into trouble because this reading of stuff takes quite a long while and he’s not very good at silences. So he asked her a question (how very dare he – he’s only paying her!) and got told,

“Please be quiet, this is complicated and I need to concentrate,”

At the last meeting we attended, we both got a terrible fit of the giggles when G got told off 4 times; 3 times for trying to ask a question and then,

“Don’t look at your ‘phone – you can do that at home,”

By now I was bursting with suppressed laughter – not helped by the fact that G kept nudging me under the desk. In desperation to get an important question asked I, finally, resorted to jumping to my feet and waving my hand in the air – she wasn’t expecting that! We both managed, somehow, to hold it together long enough to get out of her office before giving way to our hysterics.

Her ‘phone rings frequently and, despite her ‘concentration,’ she takes every call. Each call involves both parties talking simultaneously and growing in volume as they each attempt to shout each other down and get as many words in as possible should the most momentary of pauses occur. Consequently, meetings go on for hours and I rapidly loose the will to live.

The exact same process occurs if you have the misfortune to be in the car with her; constant ‘phone calls (hands free) of the, ‘I can shout louder than you,’ variety.

On one momentous occasion, I was in the car with Maria and she was, of course, overshouting someone on the ‘phone and pulled over (on a zebra crossing – natch!) when she spotted somebody she needed to speak to on the pavement; winding the window down, she and the man proceeded to simultaneously shout at each other (right across me). Sensing a slight distraction in Maria, the bloke on the other end of the ‘phone seized the advantage and yelled down the ‘phone as fast and as loud as he could. I kid you not, my ears were ringing for the next 24 hours!

Interestingly it seems to work for them, as all ‘phone calls are terminated, by both parties, simultaneously – so both must have got what they needed from the ‘conversation’. They would be utterly brilliant at Prime Minister’s question time.

Having said all this, it’s part and parcel of getting involved with a different culture and it’s always both interesting and entertaining. In addition, Maria gets the job done; she was magnificent – and speedy – when the house purchase started to get into trouble (perhaps I’m not the only person who finds her scary!).

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When we went to, ‘just have a look,’ at the little house, it just wrapped it’s arms around us. The situation was perfect for us for winters; up in the narrow winding streets of the old town, in walking distance of shops and restaurants, 95% Spanish population, no garden to maintain, massive roof terrace, and easy to secure for 6 months of the year.

I wasn’t ready to be tied to bricks and mortar yet, but G confessed that he would like to have a comfortable bolt hole should something happen to either of us – neither of us could cope with Francoise single handed; the maintenance doesn’t get any easier as we get older. So we, first, negotiated with each other.

Provided that we could continue our road trips (and I’m thinking house sitting in France and Italy on the way down) and, from the house; Southern Spain, Portugal and Morocco, I was happy to go ahead. My additional requirement was that the 3rd bedroom (currently in use as a craft room) was to be my ‘quiet’ room – in return, I offered him a new bells and whistles TV in the lounge (with the proviso of a max of 43”!).

I thoroughly enjoyed the negotiations with the estate agent; particularly as we were in such a strong position. Not only were we cash buyers, but it didn’t really matter to us if we bought it or not. We could always find something else. So I put in our offer (to include furniture) and left the estate agent to talk it over with the vendor, adding that I thought the offer fair and I wouldn’t go any higher; it was that or we’d walk.

After 48 hours they accepted; part of me was pleased – because it is the perfect house for us – and part of me felt a bit flat at the thought of being tied (however loosely) to one location. G was thrilled skinny.

So here it is; not villa and pool stuff, but a proper Spanish town house. You’ll find the odd person lurking in some of the pics.

The view from the roof terrace – yes that is the sea.

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Roof terrace and built in BBQ (it also has a big marquee/sunshade thingy, that fits over that frame).

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… and the rest; you can’t see it on these, but the kitchen is surprisingly big.

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Getting the van up some of these streets is going to be interesting – if we succeed, there is a parking space!

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So, one more visit to the notary with the headmistress, and we move in (if we choose to) in less than a fortnight. OLE !

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I really should know better….and a Family visit

Posted by contentedsouls on 02/03/2020

In the 7 or 8 days between G & G leaving and the family arriving, we popped over Montgo (bloody great hill with a national park) and down the other side into the Provence of Valencia a number of times. We found the area a lot less over run by expats and loads of lovely little tucked away restaurants where the food was delicious, cheap, and no English was heard. We also found more national parks and dog friendly beaches for Muttley.

G suggested we go back to one of our favourite little restaurants on the beach for lunch. Then he, oh so casually, mentioned that he had seen a really nice little town house just up the road.

‘Why don’t we make an appointment to have a look, whilst we’re in the area,’ he said.

‘But we agreed that we wouldn’t buy a house for a few years, and that we’d explore new areas every winter,’ I replied.

‘Yes, but we could just have a quick look to see how it compares for the money with places we see in other areas,’ He glibly replied.

I really should know better by now; never trust a Graham when he replies with such logical ‘off the cuff’ responses! He doesn’t do “logical or off the cuff,” he’s more of an um, err, well perhaps ummm, sort of man.

So……. we went out to walk the dog and buy lunch and, after a few days of haggling, bought a house. We have exchanged this week and we shall be moving on 16th or 17th March. I hasten to add that We are NOT going to sell Francoise – we did not need residencia to buy the house (although buying a house will certainly help us to get residencia). This allows us to continue living as we have been, pre-Brexit; boating through Europe, road trips and house sitting, with the added bonus of a comfortable, well equipped, base; our ‘rentals’ have not been ideal so far. It also means that both sets of kids and the grandchildren can spend some time there in the summers.

These are pictures of the beach – about 2kms below our little house; taken with my back to one of our favourite  restaurants

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The family arrived at 10pm, so we only had 3 full days; we certainly didn’t waste a moment of that very precious time!

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An added bonus was that we took them up to see our new pad – just from the outside – but were spotted by the vendors and they invited us all in, including Muttley, so the kids now have seen where they’ll be spending some of their summer holidays. It was very kind of them and we were extremely grateful.

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As we drove over the hills a fret moved in, so we had a quick looksee and beat a hasty retreat back into the sunshine.

We took them up to Sue No Problem’s ‘restaurant on the mountain’ and Karen didn’t fare to well on the mountain climb – up or down – having an attack of the jeebies and collywobbles, but she still said that it was her highlight of the three days!

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For Andre I think that – apart from the beaches – his highlight was probably his duties as fresh “orange juice monitor”. Every morning he picked oranges off of the trees and juiced them for our breakfasts. The little video (link below) that Karen made and expertly edited, shows how seriously and proficiently he undertook this duty.  Please go to You Tube link in ‘Comments’

I have mentioned, in the previous blog, how we had only one working shower – and decidedly dodgy, at that, should anyone touch a tap or flush a loo elsewhere in the house! Also that the use of electrical appliances was limited to one at a time.

I have to admit that I was concerned as to how the family would cope with this type of living – especially with Chenelle being a teenage beautician in the making – but I underestimated them, and they took it all in their stride; clearly boaters in the making!!

Most of us, heading towards the shower, tackled the problem by making Chenelle accountable if she let anyone touch the water supply – an extreme temptation for Andre. If they did, she was going to get chucked into the cold manky swimming pool; that pretty much fixed it! Cool Karl – the tough man amongst us – didn’t seem to care. One evening he saw that I was prepping supper in the kitchen and never even told me he was getting in the shower! Goodness knows how many times I must have doused him in freezing or scalding water.

Thanks for coming out guys, it was great fun.

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Out and about with SueNoproblem and Vic

Posted by contentedsouls on 27/02/2020

Thursday it was time to collect Sue and Vic from the bus station. It’s not so easy to get in and out of the back of the van at the moment, due to various calamities with our plastic steps: the first one we left behind after a night stop; G managed to reverse over the second one, and the third one we bought was nice and solid and folded flat when not in use – sounds ideal but, when we unwrapped it and set it up, it was exactly the same height as the floor of the van, so of no help at all! As a temporary measure, anyone needing assistance to get in has to be, somewhat unceremoniously (and most definitely undignified), be shoved in from behind by Graham. So, as is usual when we all get together, they were in hysterics within two minutes of their arrival.

We only have two belted, forward facing, seats and the surrounding mountainous terrain is not conducive to sitting comfortably on sideways facing bench seats, so we hired a car for the duration of their visit and it was delivered promptly the next morning. We certainly maximised our usage of it.

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Having done the markets and stuff, Sue decided to ask Google to find a restaurant up a mountain – Google obliged!!!!! The mountain road consisted of hairpin after hairpin and was a favourite road for peloton’s of cycling teams in training. They undertook us on the way up, and overtook us on the way down. Not a road for those of a nervous disposition; particularly with the sheer drops.

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Sue and I both sampled a couple of Irish coffees in different places; just by way of research and comparison you understand.

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Vic was just happy to sample an all day ‘full English’, a curry, and I did make him sausage, beans and chips once – so he didn’t have to eat the unknown surprises of the local menu del dias all the time.

As always, our time together flew passed and it was time to stuff them back into the van for their epic, return overland journey, back home.

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They left us Wednesday lunchtime and we didn’t have long to brood because, by Friday lunchtime, our Dutch friends Gerrit and Gezina arrived in their motorhome – we knew they would be arriving at some point, but we didn’t know when. With their arrival came Muttley’s BFF, Diesel, and Daan the cat. I was utterly delighted that Daan chose to sleep with me in our bed on several nights – such a joy to share my bed with a purry puddy again.

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Down on the other beach there was still signs of destruction from the storms – all of those  concrete blocks used to be on the prom.

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We had a jolly few days together before they headed off further South in their motorhome.

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After they left we had 8 days to explore at a more leisurely pace ……… and be struck by a moment of madness which, fingers crossed, I’ll be able to share with you in the next blog. 

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Moving in to the villa in Xabia/Javea and an horrific storm

Posted by contentedsouls on 20/02/2020

Having hired a north facing two bed apartment in Oropessa last year – which was permanently dark and cold, with no sun on our outdoor balcony, and being constantly plagued by noise from the builders doing winter refurbishments – we decided to dig our hands a bit deeper into our pockets this year and rent a villa with gardens all round and a pool.

Our first ‘surprise’ was that the villa wasn’t solely ours; we had only rented the top floor, whilst the ground floor is occupied by the owner and her two young sons. Whilst it is in our remit to use the gardens and pool (should the pool ever get sorted after the winter); it’s not the same as having your own privacy and letting the dog wander. Our second surprise was that there were no sheets, duvets or towels supplied, and the cooking utensils consisted of two frying pans, one huge saucepan and a kettle that barely holds enough for two cups of tea – this place is 3 bedroomed and sleeps 6.

I asked what we were meant to do for heating and was pointed to an open, unfurnished, hearth in the lounge – perhaps we were expected to nip out and buy a grate and a lorry load of wood! We were advised not to use the two electric wall heaters in two of the bedrooms because, if we did, the lights would fuse. We were also advised to use the shower near the kitchen (and nearest the gas boiler) if we wanted a hot shower, and not the shower or bath in the family bathroom because the hot water didn’t reach to the far side of the house. Hmmmmm……. At this point the lady took one look at my face and suggested that perhaps she should go out and buy us a gas heater. I concurred that that would be a very good idea. We are here to enjoy the warmth and the sun; not die of hypothermia overnight!

Fortunately, having arrived by camper, we had our own bedding, towels, pans and utensils on the van -I never ever leave home without the emergency fan heater, a hot water bottle and, of course, a corkscrew. We were also to find out, to our cost, that the one shower with hot water was notoriously unreliable and was maliciously willing to burn or freeze you on a whim should anyone touch a tap or flush a loo anywhere else in the house – the pilot light for the water heater (on demand system) was outside and frequently blew out should the wind be coming from the wrong direction.

However, this place is pretty much South facing and gets the sun all day long, pouring through the conservatory windows in the morning. The owner of the property (whilst clueless as to what’s required in the rental market) is an utter delight and only too happy to point us in the direction of places she thinks we might enjoy. She also helps me with my Spanish conversation and did stop her boys from playing football inside in the early hours before school (which sounds horrendously loud in our bedrooms). It only happens now when she’s out!

So, enough of my moaning – we are boaters and, therefore, adaptable and pretty resilient.

We moved in on the Wednesday and, by Friday, we were getting warnings of a really dangerous storm; of the lock up your daughters and board up your windows variety. Before it hit us on the Sunday, we did little more than unpack, eat lunch out, drive around a bit and shop for towels, bedding and stuff from one of the multitude of Chinese bazaars – they are legendary here, and the first port of call should you need to buy anything – a sort of mix of Woolies/Poundstretchers/Wilco.

The people in these bazaars speak (not surprisingly) Chinese and Spanish, so asking for an item you can’t find is always great fun and rather reminds me of playing family charades at Christmas – this year, however, I had an extra set of tools in my toolkit; a bit of Spanish vocabulary!

Towels were easy; we spotted piles of them everywhere so just a matter of picking the sizes and colours we wanted.Sheets were pretty much a doddle too – I just needed to specify, ‘para dos’ and ‘para uno personnes’. In fact,the conversation didn’t even start to get interesting until we hit “shower mat,” on my shopping list.

‘And now I want something for the bathroom,’ I muttered proudly in my best Spanish, ‘for the floor, to put your feet on (I haven’t yet learnt stand) after your shower,’

‘Si, nececitas una alfombra de bano’ he patiently replied, as he whisked out a selection. I managed to over ride my burning desire to shout, ‘ole’

The next item was another hot water bottle (for Sue) and, despite my success with the “alfombra,” I wasn’t quite as confident with this one as, those of you with the stamina to keep following my blog for all of these years will know, I got into quite a lot of trouble with this one in a chemist’s in France!

In I plunged with the literal translation, ‘Una botella para agua caliente’ adding the Spanish for, ‘for my feet at night,’ in the interest of further clarification.

No puzzled looks, no mime required, just a straight forward, ‘Si. Una botella de agua caliente,’ That was it – a nice, straight forward, literal translation.

Now some of you might be wondering why, if I knew I was going to buy this stuff, I didn’t look it up on ITranslate before hand – trust me; my way is sooooo much more fun!

The storm hit late afternoon on Sunday; the full moon/high tide driving the 24 ft plus waves into the shops, restaurants and seafront apartments. It took no pause at the protective barriers they had built, and hurled huge blocks of concrete around as if they were no more than lego bricks.

On Wednesday we went to Denia, which hadn’t been hit so badly, but it was still cold and miserable.

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We didn’t go to the seafront in Javea until Thursday, as they had asked everyone to stay out of the way whilst they got on with the clean up. The amount of work that had already been done was impressive, with one or two places re-opening to serve coffee.

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After wandering along the front, we walked down to the port – I was utterly amazed to see the fishing boats coming in and unloading their catches; the boats must have gone out the day before! Rather them than me!

Twice a day, the fish catch is auctioned to fishmongers, hoteliers, local supermarkets, etc. The stall is opened (on the side of the auction house) where we can buy it fresh from the boats. You always know when it’s going to open, as a queue of patient customers quickly forms. It would appear that you can also do a private deal with the skipper, if you have contacts, as I watched this man approach a boat, shared a few words, chose a fish, and cycled home with his dinner hanging off his handlebars – a poor shot because I tried to take it surreptitiously.

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The port waters were calm again, but the sea outside the sheltered port still heaved and swelled angrily.

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From cement mixers to guns

Posted by contentedsouls on 07/02/2020

Post Script to previous blog (for those of you who have the slightest interest). Our only visitors high on the hilltops in the Midi Pyrenees – who called by to borrow a cement mixer; as you do – did, indeed, drive back down the hill with a cement mixer hanging out of the back of their vehicle. Should any of you find yourselves at the receiving end of a similarly confusing request; French for cement mixer is ‘betonniere’ and, in case it should happen to me again whilst in Spain, the Spanish is ‘mezcladora de cemento’ – obvious really.

Van all packed up, we set off over the mountains and down into Spain; as usual, relying on the app park4night to decide on our first night’s stopover. Not for the first time, we found ourselves heading up a narrow, twisting, hill climbing road, with no choice but to push on as there was nowhere to turn round (I can understand that the satnav does it sometimes as it doesn’t know that we’re a van, but ‘Park4night’ should know better. Eventually, we reached the location at a slight widening where – albeit with some difficulty – there was room to turn and go back down in the morning. What a beautiful view we had from our deserted eyrie across the valley to the next range.

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Climbing out of my bunk the following morning, I pulled back the curtains to find that we were surrounded by men with guns. I rubbed my eyes, cleaned my glasses and pinched myself – all to no avail. We were still surrounded by men with guns. Then a car slowly came passed us – the driver swigging from a bottle of beer – and pulled in in front of us; it was a bit like a scene from Breaking Bad. Waking Graham, I said (possibly in a slightly higher voice than normal) “there are a lot of men out here with guns,”. “mmm,” he replied, “is the kettle on?” “but….” and then we heard the dogs; they were hunting of course and we’d managed to park right in the middle of the spot that they had designated for the day’s shoot.

We couldn’t resist driving back through Oropesa (where we rented for 3 months last year) to pay a visit to our favourite little bar where we used to sit and watch the sun go down but, sadly, it was still closed for the winter. We parked for the night next to the sea, in the place we used to park to take Daisy for walks along the beach – sad in some ways but, in another way, it felt like we were paying homage (if that makes any sense).

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Our next destination of note was Denia, just a stone’s throw from our rental in Xabia/Javea and, as always, we decided to stay to the outside of the town. Park4night took us down a road that was closed for forthcoming repairs, so we thought we’d be clever and use the satnav to wend our way in from the other end – to no avail; the other end was closed off too.

We wound up in the most beautiful spot which was the car park belonging to the adjacent seafood restaurant. “Hop out and ask them if we can stay overnight if we eat in the restaurant,” says Graham.

At this stage, I should point out, that Graham has a theory (he has many, but for now I’ll concentrate on this one). I have been learning Spanish – through Duolingo – every day, for 200+ days for around an average of an hour and a half a day. Duolingo advertises “learn a new language with just 5 minutes practice a day”. Graham’s theory? “If you’ve been doing an hour and a half a day, you must be bilingual by now”. Hmmmmm. He is also developing a rather alarming tendency to send me in like his own personal 4G Itranslator without a second’s notice. My Spanish, if operating at all, is strictly limited to a speed of 1G and, even then, requires at least some prior notice to gather my thoughts.

So, like the dutiful little esposa that I am, I hop out trying to muster the most relevant words I can as I cross the car park towards the entrance – only to find that there is refurbishment work going on and the restaurant would be closed until the 14th February, but the owners were about and I did manage to ask if they minded if we slept in their car park overnight. Well, what I actually managed was more like, ‘Is possible, sleep here tonight please?’ It was close enough and they were more than happy.

We had the most delightful afternoon – with some of the best views in town – nattering and sharing beers with the guys parked in the stealth van next door, after they returned from their kayaking jolly. One was National Police and the other was a ferry skipper (Gibraltar to Tenerife) and they had been ‘let out’ by their wives for a couple of days to go kayaking. As an aside, the ferry skipper (who spoke perfect English) encouraged me to speak Spanish and helped me ‘unlock’ my tongue-tied stage fright for the first time.

As with boating, we continue to meet fascinating people whilst travelling in the camper.

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