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

  • May 2023
    M T W T F S S
  • Meta

ContentedSouls Returns!!!!

Posted by contentedsouls on 03/12/2021

On Monday I decided it was time to re-start the blog whilst the IT department was out of the way on a boy’s day out (please don`t ask me what a boy´s day out involves – I don’t know, and I don’t wish to know). I haven’t blogged on G`s new computer before and it doesn’t have a qwerty keyboard. 2 hours later I also discovered that it doesn’t have my blogging software loaded; ‘no problem’ thinks I, I’ll use the old one. Another 2 hours later and I still couldn’t find the thing (I later discovered that G decided to leave it on the boat). As those of you who know me well will remember, I am not the most patient of people; particularly when it comes to IT and I was ready to throw the bloody thing through the window. The air was so blue that I even made my mate Howard blush (for those of you who are wondering why I have a man in the house in G’s absence, Howard is changing the downstairs shower room into a bathroom for G ). It has taken another 3 hours today to sort out software and photos. I am telling you this to explain why the next few blogs may have all the right stories and photos but they won’t, necessarily, be in the right order.

Our prolonged stay in Spain, inevitably, meant that we were still here when the the feral tom cats and unneutered dogs had their wicked way and kittens and puppies started to be born, the latter being abandoned and dumped in bins and the former raising litters on any scrap of land which provided some cover. We have a local capture, neuter and return system. Unfortunately, nobody told the cats about the ‘capture’ bit, so I fed them all and now have an official cat feeding colony registered with the town hall.  It was and still is through the goodness of the, largely expat, community, that as many get rescued/re-homed/neutered as possible and many do survive.


Talking generally about neutering, they don’t geld their horses either; imagine the look on my face when I walked passed a row of horses at the stables and was confronted with a row of hindquarters with balls still on display! Having recovered from breaking my arm/shoulder joint,


I decided to start riding again. At my age, and 30 years on since I last rode, it was pretty daunting anyway – even before I realised that I was expected to ride stallions! I tried a few on for size before finding one that fitted.

This one was too big


     This one was too small


Oops wrong photo!

THIS one was too small.

gypsy horse

This one was just right


We couldn’t register the camper van in Spain, and the MOT was about to run out so, after chatting up two youngsters over a Sunday lunch, they drove it back to England for us. For me, that meant even greater imprisonment, not to mention that G had just installed a new domestic heater and fitted a side awning which we never even got to do a test trip in.

Then we had to call time on Muttley. Our lovely vet came to the house in her lunchtime and did the dreaded deed, so it was as good as it could be. Suddenly we had a completely empty house after having had pets all our individual lives and all of our 30 + years together.


Finally we managed to get our strangers’ residency and identity cards, which meant we could return to Francoise without fear of not being let back into Spain should covid worsen.

Meanwhile, here are a few pictures of us out to play and G swimming on Christmas day last year; I feel that I must point out that he is NOT the one in the pink mankini!


Some of the ‘muriels’


Posted in Uncategorized | 21 Comments »

…. and our world starts to, slowly, open up

Posted by contentedsouls on 10/07/2020

It’s so long since I’ve been on here that the computer had shut me out and it took my IT department the best part of an hour to get me in again! The second thing I noticed was that the last blog I posted was dated 22nd March, when it was actually 22nd April – I am amazed that that mistake slipped past you all; particularly Andy Windsor and Kevin Too. It just goes to show what a state we’re all in.

Back in the first half of March I was craving some ‘me time’ and, at first, I used that time wisely and happily. I don’t do anything with that time anymore and I know that I will look back on these two and a half months and regret the wasted opportunity. Whilst I know that’s the case, I still can’t seem to change my behaviour. I am forcing myself to write this blog today whilst, normally, writing is a joy to me; I’m hoping that this will be the first step to recovery because, I don’t know about you guys, but I do feel I need to ‘recover’ and find my mojo again.

Ensconced as we are (up here amongst the gypsies) in a new country, we have had a pretty steep learning curve which has caused me a fair bit of frustration (with myself mostly). As always though, my adventures have provided me with a great deal of entertainment whilst immersing myself in observing this new culture. The biggest hurdle for me was trying to get out of the front door, because our front door opens onto a little  open space with many escape routes should the police do a drive past the end of the road – a rare thing in these narrow streets – so outside our front door is where the young lads hang out (never girls). They literally sit on our front doorstep which, although a typically Spanish thing to do, can be quite daunting for us Brits. They are actually quite good lads and we now, over time, seem to have come to quite a good understanding and, whenever I ask for help, they happily oblige. We can’t drive down our street, so we unload shopping up the top and I trot down with it whilst G goes off to find somewhere to park. It’s ridiculously hot now and the shopping is heavy and takes 5 or 6 trips. The lads carry it down for me now and it has become a bit of a ritual to pretend to make off with the wine carrier.

They came in particularly useful when we, inadvertently, found ourselves to be the sole carers for a pony which was put into the scrubland below us without a sustainable water supply. Access to said pony was down steep scree; not great on our poor old knees lugging 8 litres of water. I coerced the lads into doing it for us as often as possible but I could not get them to bring the containers back. I’m sure I had all the right words (not necessarily in the right order) but they just filled the ponies bucket and tossed the plastic carrier to the ground. Can’t win them all – every trip they saved us was a blessing. It was a huge relief when, maybe 10 days later, I saw the pony being led away to new ‘grazing’ one night, I became quite stressed about the little fellow.


I like the lads best when there are just a few of them and they turn up with a guitar or two.


Every so often, particularly when there are about 10 of them and they’ve smoked too much weed, they get a bit crazy and I have to go out and do my angry Spanish Grandmother thing.  I wave my arms, stamp my feet, point a lot and shout, ‘that’s enough!’ Such power I have here as a granny age woman. I really must try not to let it go to my head though (and remember not to try it in the UK).

Eventually, G and I were allowed out together and to walk the dog up to a kilometer from home. It felt immensely joyous.


Posted in Uncategorized | 11 Comments »

Life under Lockdown–Part 8

Posted by contentedsouls on 22/04/2020

Wednesday 22nd March

The sun continued to shine for us for a few more days after my last blog, and the time passed pleasantly enough as we enjoyed a few games on the roof (thanks to the eventual arrival of two packs of cards, Triominos and Rummikub). The wild man of Borneo (aka G) decided he could no longer handle the mad curls growing on his head and chin, and took the dog clippers to both – having practiced on himself, he turned his attention to Muttley; Muttley then hid in the cupboard!


With the weather turning bad on us again, I turned my attention to Alexa thinking that she might help me learn the words to, ‘Resistiré’ –thank you Kevin Too for telling me how to get the accent. On asking her to play it, she responded with some ghastly dirge (try it yourself and you’ll see what I mean)!

I then asked her to play Viva Espana; she played the English version – the one reminiscent of early day package holidays from back in the 70’s – so I asked her to play the Spanish version; she did, the instrumental version. Even Alexa has turned bloody minded and gone rogue on me; just between you and me, I never liked her much anyway. I’ve always considered her to be the third person in our marriage.

Whilst G was walking Muttley around the block, I stuck my head out of the door to listen to the music and bumped straight into ‘Senor Propane’ – as he’s now referred to, thanks to AndyWindy. El senor (I still can’t get the wiggly thing over the ‘n’) was quite curious about our arrival here and what we were up to. I was in the middle of giving him my best shot at explaining that our home was a boat, currently in the Netherlands, and we would normally be here for 6 months each year, blurdy, blurdy, when G arrived back and joined the conversation in English! Given el senor doesn’t speak a word of English, G received some fairly blank looks whilst I tried to translate – no problem for G; he went into default mode and switched to French! G’s French is pretty good, but mine is very limited and I suddenly found myself in the position where I’m trying to translate G’s French into English, then back into Spanish. Needless to say, the conversation didn’t go on for very much longer!!!! As we bade Senor Propane good night (by then I’d ascertained that his name is Lorenzo), he shot back to his house after asking me to wait and then came back with an armful of oranges as a present for us.

Lorenzo having offered me his (informal) name, now means I can drop the ‘usted’ and use ‘tú’, but it also meant that I had to introduce myself the same way and ‘Jill’ is a pretty hopeless name to say in Spanish (Budd being pretty easy). Given that the ‘J’ is virtually silent and the ‘ll’ sounds more like ‘ya’ – I come out as more of an ilya (as in Ilya Kuriakin (?) in the man from U.N.C.L.E.).

I was so happy with this encounter and felt it was definitely another good step in the right direction for the future.

I don’t know about you guys, but I find that emotions are intensified at the moment. Whilst the smallest things can bring me great pleasure, the smallest things (that I would normally take in my stride) can, equally, be my ‘undoing’ and I sometimes wonder if I’m closer to unravelling than I think.

I went shopping a week last Tuesday and discovered a little shop selling ‘English’ stuff. I found a bar of Cadbury’s fruit & nut, Jammy Dodgers, Fig Rolls, Pukka Pies and steamed syrup puddings – it wasn’t cheap, but it was a real treat given that we’ve not been in England for over a year. The guy who owned the shop was a real barrel of laughs (not!). He was convinced that Coronavirus was a conspiracy theory just used by the Spanish authorities to revert to a military dictatorship.

From there, I went to the supermercado and felt, irrationally, uneasy about leaving my granny trolley (full of expensive goodies) at the check out – i was really worried that someone would steal it!

I’d never been to this supermarket before (let’s face it, I haven’t been anywhere here before) and it was a maze of small rooms – not like the usual ‘up and down’ straight aisles and I quickly lost my bearings, getting more and more agitated about the security of my hoard of UK treats in my trolley – I went back to check and realised that the checkout wasn’t the one I’d entered by; I found another exit and my trolley wasn’t there either, it sounds crazy but I could feel the panic rising in my chest. Eventually I found a third exit and my trolley was still sitting there quite happily but, by then, I was close to a full blown panic attack. I abandoned the rest of my shopping list, checked out what I already had, and headed for home.

The day got worse. G took Muttley out for his pre-dinner wee (Muttley’s wee, not G’s; it takes all of 3 minutes) and when he was nearly home, 50 meters away, he was subjected to a racist attack by a young Spanish man shouting abuse and trying to kick Muttley before going for G with his fists – G protected Muttley and blocked the bloke; I heard the commotion and had the door open. G and Muttley shot in and we slammed the door; the bloke was still following and started trying to kick down our door. We phoned the police who asked if we needed medical assistance – we didn’t, ‘ring us again if he returns’ they replied.

I can’t tell a lie, I was seriously rattled. We’ve never experienced anything like this in all of our travels. For the next two days I didn’t want to go out with Muttley and I didn’t want G going out with him on his own either, but we’re not allowed to go out together, so ………

I’m over it now; I guess it was just one of those things – the bloke was high and probably getting as stir crazy as the rest of us, in a way I have some empathy because it’s all getting a bit too much now.

I popped round to Senora Propane, Lorenzo’s wife, with our last jar of Gezina’s courgette and onion chutney and lied –saying that I had made it myself. Only a small porky as I had made some with Gezina – just not that particular batch. The gesture seemed to go down really well; but, somehow, I doubt that they’ll try it – is it polite to ask if they’re going to eat it and, if not, can we have it back please because we love it?

Not far from home, I discovered some new alleyways and so, unusually these days, I have some pretty pictures; it was quite a steep climb – let’s face it, everywhere here is a steep climb; it’s extremely good for us after 3 years in the flatlands.


Posted in Uncategorized | 14 Comments »

Life under lockdown – part 7

Posted by contentedsouls on 10/04/2020

Friday 10th April (I think!)

Today’s news is that a vote has been taken and that the current restraints will remain until at least the 10th May – it has to be ratified, but that is just a formality.

How do I feel about that? Well, OK really – the earliest I really hoped for any kind of easing of restrictions was the end of June if I’m honest, so it came as no surprise, shock, or disappointment. I have realised that underneath the skin of this person that is always doing, moving, exploring and bustling about, is an inherently lazy person that was waiting to come to the surface! Massively encouraged by the return to lovely Spanish weather after the first two weeks of incessant rain.

It makes me smile now when I remember how hard done by I felt, PTL (Prior To Lockdown), that I had to stay in for one day waiting for an Amazon delivery!

In order to avoid any recurrence of future, ‘rainy day blues’ we ordered some basic stuff from and yesterday we were, excitedly, waiting for a delivery of a pack of cards. It was scheduled to be delivered by 8pm. I get particularly excited because it gives me an opportunity to launch my dodgy Spanish at some poor, unsuspecting, delivery person – and G gets excited by the arrival of a new ‘toy’. You can imagine our disappointment when the church bells rang out 8pm and the cockerel crowed thrice (no, sorry it didn’t – I just thought I’d throw that in for a bit of added drama) and no delivery. All was not lost, however, as a new notification popped up saying it had been re-scheduled for delivery between 8 and 10pm; we could track the delivery person’s progress around the village – he was at the bottom of the hill, heading our way …… but, then he turned away again, then back towards us, then he turned away again. There was more excitement and tension in this little house than at a Houston pre-launch!

Then he headed away back to town. 5 minutes later a new notification pops up, ‘we tried to make your delivery today at 09.46, but nobody was available,’ – 4 bloody weeks we’ve stayed in waiting for this delivery and it didn’t come, we were in – WE’RE ALWAYS BLOODY IN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Every night there continues to be singing and dancing and applause for the front line workers – most of it down in the town, but someone in the village here has been playing ‘the last post’ at 8 every night. Last night someone down in the town beat him to it so ‘our’ man, up here, played a kind of harmony to it – I think it was one of the most moving things I’ve ever heard and brought tears to my eyes.

I always listen to the nightly music as it makes me feel less isolated. The song, ‘Resistire’ (needs an accent over last ‘e’, but i don’t know how to do that on this keyboard), ‘I will Resist’ is sung every night to a very catchy tune and has become, almost, a new National Anthem. I have been learning the words and, tonight, I was on the doorstep poised with my song sheet prompt ready to burst into song – the neighbour, senor gas bottle provider, came out for his daily excercise (10 meters down the hill and back) and stopped to chat. His social distancing wasn’t great – each time he took a step forward, I took a step back. We ended up having our first ‘proper’ (I use the term loosely) conversation which ended with him saying we would be friends and we must go to his house (I think) and I responded that we would when this was over (I think).

Before I registered what was happening, he patted me on my (clothed) arm and bade me goodnight. Although this shouldn’t have happened, it was the most wonderful affirmation of some kind of local acceptance and future potential integration and such a natural gesture amongst the current frigidity of external relationships.

There is no need to worry about my being contaminated, as G watched this interaction through the window and stuffed me straight into the washing machine.

Another very good day.


Posted in Uncategorized | 14 Comments »

Life under lockdown–Part 6

Posted by contentedsouls on 02/04/2020

Thursday 2nd April

I get very few opportunities these days – for obvious reasons – to excercise my Spanish in the ‘real’ world (I use the term loosely) and when I do, I always seem to screw it up – even the most basic stuff. My most memorable cock up to date was to tell Maria that her daughter had 10 arseholes instead of being 10 years old.

This week I added to the list when I ventured down to the local, non-English speaking, shop. I couldn’t understand why the gentleman looked so shocked when all I’d asked for was the dog food – it was only on my way home that I realised that I had used the verb, ‘to eat’ instead of the noun, ‘food’. What I had actually asked him was, ‘where eat dog?’ – no wonder he’d looked worried.

Yesterday I had an opportunity to ‘meet’ some of our neighbours. Our terrace looks down onto their’s and I spotted what looked like a spare gas bottle on their roof, which we were in desperate need of. No problems getting an existing bottle swapped out for a full one; but getting an additional bottle is not possible at the moment. My mission (which I chose to accept) was to ascertain if it was surplus to requirements and try to purchase it. It was 2 days before I found an opportunity to approach them without knocking on their door. In those 2 days I mentally rehearsed the conversation and realised that I had the vocabulary to cover this, but would be unlikely to understand any return questions. My solution to that potential problem was to blast them with so much information that they would lose the will to live and not bother asking me any questions. I told them that I had seen the bottle on their roof and, if they weren’t using it, I would like to buy it and was willing to pay 10 euros for it. I probably also told them why I needed it, how old the dog was and what colour knickers my Granny used to wear on her birthday.

What I hadn’t factored in was the novelty value of a crazy new English neighbour arriving to ‘visit’ a large family that had been in self isolation for nearly 3 weeks! I successfully negotiated for the bottle and popped home to fetch money and Graham to carry it. I ostentatiously cleaned my hands, the money and the gas bottle handles, which gave the whole family ample time to gather and ‘interact’ with their novelty neighbours. The other factor that I hadn’t counted on was their basic honesty; they wanted to be sure that we knew there was no gas in it, how we could exchange it, and that there was no regulator with it. All of this, in typical local gender bias, was addressed directly to Graham! We, eventually, escaped and scuttled home with our prize. We have a spare regulator, so all we need now is to exchange it.

It is amazing how such triumphs brighten the day. Another such moment was when I found a T-towel lurking in the van.

I have discovered that the best time to walk the dog is mid-afternoon as there are very few, if any, people about – siesta still seems to be observed even though it’s not hot and (most) people aren’t working. About once a week (when both Muttley and I have reached desperation point) I push the, ‘max of 500 meters from home’ limit and stay out for about 45 minutes. This week’s jaunt took me up the other side of the Old Town to the castle – I chickened out before I reached the top though because, if I was spotted, there were no houses within 500 mts that I could have come from.

Here’s some pictures


Posted in Uncategorized | 9 Comments »

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.

Posted in Uncategorized | 10 Comments »

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! 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?).

Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments »

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 …………?


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.


Posted in Uncategorized | 8 Comments »

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.


Posted in Uncategorized | 22 Comments »

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.


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.




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!!!!!


Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

Itchy Feet

Real time travel tips from a duo travelling Europe by motorhome

Alex Grehy Fiction

Playing with words....

Indigo Dreaming

The journeys of the Narrowboat Indigo Dream

Aurigny Aperos

…"I took the one less travelled by, and that has made all the difference."


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


Never grow up, Grown-ups are boring!

Avalon Abroad

Exploring Europe on W B Avalon

M. B. Willow

Life afloat on the 1935 ex-Severn and Canal Carrying Co. motor, Willow

%d bloggers like this: