People Allergy

A young lady, flying Jet2 to Tenerife from Manchester, informed the airline that she had a very severe nut allergy and requested no one should eat nuts during boarding as this may affect her.

What a marvellous idea, making requests to the airline to avoid the threat of a severe, sometimes life threatening reaction.

Just before we take our next flight to Spain I am going to explain to EasyJet that I am allergic to the following people and can they not be allowed to sit near me for fear of my reaction. Here goes:

Stupid people, drunk people, smelly people, people who can’t eat quietly, people who bring their own food on the plane (especially if its something like sardine and boiled egg sandwiches), people who obviously can’t fit in a single seat and should have booked 2, people who insist on talking to me, people who snore, people who offend easily when their irritations are pointed out to them, young children, anyone with a pet, people who insist on applauding when the plane lands, people who recline their seats, people with huge carry on bags.

This list is not exhaustive but I think it covers most of my allergies.

Let’s see if EasyJet are as accommodating as Jet2

4 Days in February.

It is 6 weeks since our return from our little Spanish idyll and I am officially sick and tired of the grey, drizzly, wet, cold and windy weather that has been relentless in the North-West of England since our return.

We are due to return to Spain in 4 weeks but I said to Deb, ‘Why can’t we go earlier? I am absolutely cured of the weather at the moment. I don’t really care what the weather is in Spain but it has to be better than the conveyor belt of misery that is our current climate.’ ‘You really do exaggerate don’t you?’ She responded. ‘Mind you it is pretty poor at the moment. Let’s see what Ontinyent is doing’ She then proceeded to cheer me up further by informing me that it is currently 21deg in Ontinyent at the moment.

‘So why can’t we go a bit earlier?’ I repeated, like a petulant child. ‘What about trivial things like work and commitment to clients?’ She replied with an element of common sense. ‘Well you have a look at getting an earlier flight and I’ll work out what I need to do before we leave.’ Tasks allocated, we got to work.

Those of you who follow my globally renowned blog will be aware that Deb is now working for me. Strangely, she was finding it extremely difficult to find an employer who could accommodate her 63 days of holiday already booked for 2020. We therefore discussed it over Christmas and, because I am an employer with modern and flexible approach to staff holidays, it made perfect sense for Deb to bring her technical administration skills to benefit my small Company.

This move has proved to be inspired for many reasons. Firstly, Deb deals very efficiently with all my paperwork, diary management and all things logistical. This then frees me up to be far more productive and deal with Client’s projects far more quickly. Being more efficient and productive allows us more flexibility with our holiday dates. Finally, Deb working for me means she doesn’t have to seek approval from some narrow minded boss who insists on sticking rigidly to some archaic holiday policy.

‘We are due to go on Thursday 27th,’ said Deb, ‘we could get a flight a week earlier? I thought about this and was sorely tempted. ‘Let’s go for it.’

Deb looked at me a little concerned. ‘Realistically, can we afford that amount of time out of the business? Bear in mind we return on 8th March and then go again for 2 weeks on 14th April. I think that’s a push, so what about going on the Sunday, 4 days earlier?’ ‘Brilliant! I knew there was a reason I employed you.’ I said joyfully. ‘Let’s get it booked.’

So we are off back to Spain four days earlier, which brings Debs holiday total to 67 and it’s still only February. At this rate she’ll she’ll have more holidays than work days.

Four days may not sound a lot but psychologically it is one less week of work and more importantly, almost one less week of this woeful Winter climate.

One of the many, many things Deb and I love about Spain is the fact that all businesses and shops close on a Sunday, allowing everyone to concentrate on family for the day. Only one downside to this that we can see is when your flight is on a Sunday you end up at Spanish home, late afternoon, with no essentials, such as ice for your G&T or leche for your café. Oh well, can’t have it all.

January 6th 2020.

Happy Three Kings’ Day.

The Three Kings‘ Day, also known as the Feast Of The Epiphany, is a Christian festivity that takes place on January 6th and celebrates the birth of Jesus.

Melchior, Caspar, and Balthazar, the names of the Three Kings, bring three symbolic gifts with them to give to Jesus: Gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Since then, this event included in the Gospel of Matthew is celebrated in all Spanish speaking countries around the world.

But for all those not in Spain or a Spanish speaking country, what else can we celebrate on January 6th?

Well, for loved up couples everywhere, it’s National Cuddle-Up Day.

For those who dislike weekends and can’t wait to get back to work, it’s National Thank God it’s Monday Day.

Anyone with a culinary leaning could be embracing National Bean Day. A special time to celebrate the bean in all its sizes, shapes and colours.

Still on a foody theme and celebrating that very Scottish of treats, it’s National Shortbread Day. Och Aye!

And finally, to celebrate all technological achievements from the wheel to the smartphone, it’s National Technology Day.

Something for us all in there so, Happy January 6th everyone!

2020. The Year of the Sexagenarian

Welcome 2020 and a Happy New Year to all.

New year, new decade, new challenges, new goals and new milestones.

The first is that I will officially become a sexagenarian later this year. No, the police are not charging me with anything, it’s my 60th birthday in October and that is the official term for someone of such advanced years. Still a while off my pension but, having said that, if the government keep moving the goalposts that are the pension age then I may never collect it, however long I live.

Another biggie is celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary in August, which is an exciting milestone for Deb and I and very special for many reasons.

The majority of our vists to Spain have already been organised for this year and we have ensured we are at our Spanish home for both of these important events. Special place for special times.

A bonus to being in Spain is that we avoid paying for two expensive parties back in the UK. Celebrating in Spain will be far cheaper as we have fewer friends there. Up to now anyway.

We have even managed to persuade our Son, Josh, to come with us in August for our anniversary celebrations. He’s not really shown that much enthusiasm for our Spanish purchase, I think mainly because he saw it as us squandering his inheritance. He’s too young at 22 to appreciate the peace and quiet of our future home, but give it thirty years and he’ll relish the idyllic tranquility of the location. What did help in getting Josh to agree to come with us was our choice of celebration activity for our anniversary.

Deb and I were sat on our patio early on a Sunday morning during our visit in August last year, having a morning coffee and admiring the view. Then, above the distant mountains appeared, very slowly, two hot air balloons. Perfect blue skies, just the slight hint of wind and we watched them leisurely progress into the air. ‘That looks fantastic, don’t you think?’ Deb said. ‘Can you imagine what it must be like up there.’ ‘Bloody cold I would’ve thought.’ I said. ‘It’s still early and not exactly red hot down here at the moment.’

Deb ignored my, almost, sexagenarian grumblings and carried on. ‘I wonder if the wind will carry them over here?’ We sat there watching the progress of the balloons as they drifted away from us. ‘Wouldn’t it be great to do that’ said Deb, ‘and drop lucky with the wind direction and drift over our house.’ Despite the prospect of freezing to death in a wicker basket a couple of thousand feet above the mountains, I had to agree. ‘I actually really fancy giving that a go.’ I said. ‘They seem to come from the Bocairent area, we should look into it.

Research done and, sure enough, early morning balloon flights from the nearby beautiful and historic town of Bocairent. ‘That would be a perfect thing to do for our anniversary next year.’ Deb said. I had to agree. ‘You’re right hun, let’s get it booked.’ Josh also thought it was a great idea and is really looking forward to it, which means the three of us will be spending a really special time together.

I just hope we don’t have to drive through the town to get to the launch site. Bocairent may be outstanding but the roads through it look like a scary labyrinth that nightmares are made of.

We had six visits to our house in 2019 and have already booked six for this year, with a seventh planned for late November/early December as soon as Easyjet release the flights. Car hire is proving to be quite expensive with so many visits so we have decided to purchase a car in Spain and leave it at Valencia airport long term parking.

But which car? We have spent the last few months test driving cars in the UK with a view to purchasing our choice in Ontinyent. We were very open minded about which car as long as Deb, at a slight 4’11’, can drive it and it can accommodate my 6’6”, and slightly paunchy, frame.

The only car I absolutely drew the line at considering was the Nissan Juke (or Joke). In my opinion, singularly THE most hateful piece of crap on the road currently. I actually don’t care how it drives, although I would imagine it’s going to be awful. I just wouldn’t be seen dead in this, the vehicle equivalent of a Quasimodo/ Kermit the Frog love child, it looks ridiculous.

Anyway, we have eventually made our choice and hope to complete the purchase this coming year, but that will be dependent on the cost of remedial works to our plot following the damage caused by the Gota Fria and the decision made by the insurance company to avoid paying out. No surprise there then.

Which reminds me, for those travelling from the UK to the EU after 31 Jan, don’t forget your International Driving Permit, or you won’t be hiring a car at all. Only a few quid from a post office in the UK that provides the service. You see, I also try to make this blog useful and informative.

The amount of visits we have planned for 2020 has meant that Deb has had to re-think her career. She is a Technical Administrator in the construction and Civil Engineering industry. She works, on Contract, on large sites administrating construction projects. However, when she mentions that she will be having 63 days holiday in the coming year, the employers are strangley reluctant to accommodate this.

We have decided therefore, that she is going to come and work with me, organising my day to day life, handling all my paperwork and making me more productive. My relaxed attitude to holidays also helps, I’m hardly likely to say she can’t take the time off am I?

Our next visit will be in February when Deb has promised to finally fulfil her threat of dragging me to Valencia on public transport and also to complete the painting, in black, of any metallic item on our plot that stays still long enough.

So those are our plans for this year. In between times we will carry on with slowly transforming our little finca into our cosy retirement home and, barring any more Acts of God as destructive as the aforementioned Gota Fria, it should be good to go within the next couple of years, with a little help from Julian and Marijse of course.

Wishing you all a healthy and prosperous 2020.

Goodbye 2019. It’s Been a Great Year

We have just returned from our sixth, and final, visit of 2019 to our little piece of Spain.

February 2019 saw the culmination of 3 years of stress, anxiety and frustration with the purchase of our finca in Ontinyent, something Deb and I are hugely proud of and, at times, we thought was beyond our reach. But there we were, watching the sunrise over our garden on our first morning of this visit.

Well, the truth of it is, I was outside taking photographs while Deb was snuggled up under a duvet in our bedroom because it is bloody cold.

Tasked with picking our oranges to make into freshly squeezed juice from our trees, I thought I’d get a couple of photo’s of the sunrise. It doesn’t get much better than this.

I can though see this novelty wearing off very quickly. I’m not really a hunter/gatherer, living off the land type. I’m more into hunting through the shelves at Consum and gathering the things into my shopping trolley.

Anyway, it’s been an interesting year of experiences as we try to slowly transform this little property into our future retirement home. When I say future, I mean very near future. As soon as Josh, our son, has graduated and settled into the job of his choice, we are off, permanently closing up our current life in the UK to emerge, butterfly from the pupae like, to a wonderful new life in Spain.

This was our first December visit and we have now experienced all the seasons in Spain, and still haven’t been put off. Where there was sun bathing and lounging around in shorts and t-shirts in June and August, there were now jeans and jumpers with coats.

This cooler weather prompted us to get out and about more this visit. Both Deb and I have very stressful and full-on jobs and we like nothing better than just lounging around reading and listening to music in the privacy of our secluded plot when we are away, but when it’s a bit cooler, and wetter, it pushes you in the direction of getting out and exploring more.

Deb had suggested a visit to Valencia on ‘El Tren’, which she has been threatening me with for the last couple of visits but I had so far managed to avoid for various reasons. Don’t misunderstand me, I love the thought of wandering round Valencia, absorbing the vibrancy, architecture, culture etc. What I don’t want to absorb is somebody else’s hygiene issues by being stuck next to them on public transport. I love my own car and my own personal space and the ability to arrive at a destination at the time of my choosing.

I did though manage to avoid this wonderful experience once again. Result.

Deb said one morning ‘I think we should give the Valencia trip on the train a miss this time.’ I was beside myself with joy at this turn of events but tried not to let it show. ‘But why hun,’ I replied disappointedly while perfectly masking the relief, ‘we were so looking forward to it.’ ‘Because’ she said, ‘I like the idea of taking in what Valencia has to offer when it’s a quieter time of year rather than during the hustle and bustle of Christmas.’ What can I say? All my Christmases had come at once. ‘If that’s what you really want’ I said ‘then I suppose we’ll have to miss out on the experience this time. But what else do you want to do?’

‘I fancy a drive out to Javea,’ Deb said. ‘We can go on market day and have a good wander round the old town and then go down to the seafront.’ ‘Great idea,’ replied, only picking up on one relevant word in that sentence ‘drive.’

We had a splendid day out. Lovely drive down and a wander round the market first with a few little purchases.

Then a wander round the old town, which is fantastic, and we came across the Parroquia de Sant Bertomeu a glorious little church in the middle of the old town. Doors open to all so we had a stroll round admiring the architecture and the nativity scene on display.

While we were at the house we also had a meeting with Julian and Marijse to discuss the remedial works to the landslip we suffered during the Gota Fria in September and that the insurance company had washed it’s hands of. The builders came round later that day to assess the damage and the works to be carried out to reinstate it.

I haven’t got a clue what was decided as my Spanish was even worse than their English, but there were so many sharp intakes of breath, constant shaking of heads and pointing in numerous directions that I can only think the worst when it comes to the cost. We are currently waiting with anticipation for a quote for some sort of work to be carried out to stabilise our garden area.

We also decided to do a little DIY round the house. Well, when I say ‘we decided’ what I mean is Deb decided. To my mind DIY comes a very close second to public transport on my list of things to actively avoid. However, with the unknown cost of works to the garden, I suppose it makes sense to carry out some minor DIY ourselves.

So a trip to Leroy Merlin in Gandia was planned to stock up on black paint for all the window grills and handrails, brushes, sandpaper, wire brush etc. We also doubled this up with a visit to Gandia beach which, out of season, is more like a desert than a beach. I expected to see tumbleweed rolling along the promenade, but it was peaceful and quiet, even if a little chilly.

Back at the ranch, Deb made a start on the window grills following a wire brushing by yours truly. In fact she was on a painting roll. If it looked like it was in the least bit black during its life, and stayed still long enough, then it got a coat of black paint.

Penultimate day of the visit and we decided on a visit to nearby Pou Clar, which is a geologicalcal water feature of descending pools with a walkway and steps at the side so you can follow the progress of the river. It’s a beautiful walk and very quiet at this time if year.

Normally I would end my blog here with a conclusion about our visit and not bore you with the airport experience. However, Deb’s experience in the boarding queue is worthy of mention

We were stood in the queue waiting to board the plane when the female of the couple behind us decided to strike up conversation with Deb. ‘So where’ve you been then? She said as an opener. ‘We’ve been to Ontinyent.’ Deb replied. ‘Oh,’ the lady said, obviously clueless as to where Ontinyent is. ‘We live in Denia and are going back to the UK to see family for Christmas.’ ‘That’s nice.’ Deb said with disinterest as neither of us like striking up conversations with fellow travellers, but the woman persisted. ‘What is in Ontinyent then?’ She said. ‘We have a house there.’ replied Deb.

You’re going back to the UK for Christmas as well then?’ She continued. ‘No,’ said Deb ‘we live in the UK but holiday in Ontinyent and will be retiring there in a couple of years.’

‘Take it from me, it will be nothing like a holiday when you live here.’ The lady said quite firmly. ‘We don’t expect it to be,’ replied Deb, ‘we just want to live a better and different quality of life in our retirement.’

The woman carried on, completely ignoring the irritated tone in Deb’s voice. ‘Your whole day will centre round cleaning your house as there is nothing else to do. You lie around in the sun on holiday now but you definitely won’t do that when you live here. The people around you become alcoholics because they have nothing to do except drink all day. Luckily I don’t drink so it won’t affect me.’ She was beginning to make me feel like I wanted a drink. ‘And if you’re coming here for health benefits due to the climate then you can forget that because it’s too humid.’

I turned and looked at her husband at this point, feeling really sorry for him and he looked back at me with that down trodden demeanour that only comes from years of constant nagging.

‘Thanks for the advice,’ said Deb, stunned, as the queue started to move forward. ‘Take it from me, it’s the truth,’ the woman persisted as I positioned myself between her and Deb. ‘You’ll remember these words in a few years when you move here and realise I’m right.’

I can see her bringing much Christmas cheer to her family this festive season.

And on that happy note I wish you all a very merry Christmas, happy New Year and a healthy and wealthy 2020.

Can the Crowd do my Gardening??

Deb and I have just been informed that the devastation wrought on our idyllic terraced plot in Spain is not covered by the insurance policy that I specifically purchased because it included landslip. I thought this was a sensible thing to do because we purchased a property on a hillside.

Well, the insurance company have managed to swerve that one because none of the buildings have been affected. That will teach me to read the small, smaller and smallest of the fine print.

We will therefore have to fund the reinstatement of the slipped terraces ourselves, obviously not something we had ever budgeted for.

And then a thought occurred to me. Crowdfunding.

Crowdfunding is a way of raising money by asking a large number of people each for a small amount of money. Traditionally, it’s for financing a business where the investor will get a small return if the business is successful, but it is being utilised more and more for individuals’ personal needs.

For example, Wayne Sprockett from Worksop went to Benidorm on a stag weekend with his pals. He was asked when he booked his flight if he required Travel Insurance. ‘Nah. What do I need that for? Waste of fifty quid.’ He responds.

First Night in Benidorm he gets absolutely off his face on cheap drinks, then staggers, absolutely p*ssed, off the kerb, trips and fractures his skull. Off to intensive care he goes.

Poor Wayne is in a coma and needs to get back home to the UK but he first needs to pay his hospital bill. He can’t, obviously, so family fly out to be with Wayne and try to negotiate with the hospital.

‘We thought it was free ‘cos he has one of them health cards.’ Say Mr and Mrs Sprockett. ‘No,’ said the hospital administrator, ‘It’s subsidised but you still need to pay the balance and pay to get your son back to the UK with medical assistance. That will be €15,000 please.’

At this point Wayne’s sister, Waynetta Sprockett, makes a suggestion. ‘Lets go on-line and apply for crowdfunding so other people pay for Wayne’s hospital bills and flight home.’ This is what they do and after no time at all a couple of thousand people have chipped in a few pounds each to get poor old Wayne, who thought £50 for insurance was a waste of money, home.

For those who care, Wayne Sprockett made a full recovery and returned to his job as a saddle makers bottom knocker. In fact he’s currently on his own stag weekend to Benidorm. Still refused to buy Travel Insurance though.

So if the crowd will fund Wayne’s self imposed problems, why wouldn’t they help fund repairs to the damage on my garden. Especially when I have purchased my insurance in good faith.

In fact maybe all us in Ontinyent who have been let down by their insurance companies should get together and apply for joint crowd funding.

If You Can’t Dodge it… Ram It!

Deb and I have recently decided we need a vehicle we can leave in Spain.

The cost of car hire for six or seven visits per year is really ramping up and it makes sense to purchase a new car. Bonus is, second hand cars really hold their value in Spain so we could look to get a new car every 3 or 4 years without too much loss.

We have looked at valet parking at Valencia airport as well, it’s just like a standard meet and greet but they take your car back to a secure car park. When you arrive from the UK you just call them as you pass through passport control and ‘voila’ your car is brought to arrivals. Perfect.

We will miss the hire car team at Valencia airport though, they have become like family because we see them so often. We have been invited to the staff Christmas party this year and even been asked to be Godparents to Isabella’s new arrival. Only joking, well about the Godparent bit anyway.

So this is an absolute ‘no-brainer’ and we are currently on the search for a car to suit our needs, but what type of car do we need?

I have a large BMW saloon which accommodates my 6’6″ frame more than adequately. Deb, at 4’11”, has a tiddly Mini Cooper Coupe which suits her perfectly. While I can just about shoehorn myself into it with much grunting and groaning, it is not a pretty sight and people have actually stopped in the street to be entertained by my attempts to get into Debs car, I kid you not. Once inside though it is rather commodious and you forget you’re sat in the vehicle equivalent of a roller skate.

One serious consideration though is that I am finding it more and more difficult to get into a low slung saloon car the older I get. A taller car it is then.

‘Range Rover please.’ I said to Deb. ‘Not at €150,000+.’ She replied very quickly. ‘And think about the cost of fuel, it’s not that much cheaper than the UK.’ Well, that’s my second choice of a Dodge Ram SRT10 truck with an 8.3litre supercharged engine out of the running then. Bugger.

Truck Heaven

I did try to justify my initial choice to Deb on a health and fitness basis. ‘Hun,’ I said, ‘you’ve been in enough supermarket car parks in Spain to appreciate the fact that Spanish drivers actually don’t give a toss about their vehicles. You see them with dinks and dents on the doors and all the corners have scratches and scrapes on them, true?’ ‘Yes.’ She said slowly and cautiously. I soldiered on. ‘Remember that little red Fiat we rented that somebody scratched in the car park and we had to hide the scratch with your red nail varnish?’ I kid you not folks and it saved us £1000 in penalties from the hire company. ‘Yes.’ She said even more cautiously. ‘Well, if we got an expensive Range Rover we would have to park it in a far flung corner of the car park so remote it would take someone of Ranulph Feinnes’ abilities to find the supermarket. That would keep us away from careless Spanish drivers and the trek to the shop would keep us fit and healthy.’ She didn’t have to say anything, the questioning look as to why she’d married such an imbecile said it all. No Range Rover for me then.

So where do we start? I haven’t had to choose a car for years, I’ve been driving a 5 series BMW for as long as I can remember. I get them on a 4 year PCP deal, small deposit, fixed monthly payments for 4 years then you give it back, brilliant.

Only you don’t just give it back. The dealership contact you after 3 years to see if you want to upgrade to a brand new vehicle, which I always do. But rather than looking for something else I just get them to organise another 5 series. I’m comfy in them and it means you don’t have to schlep around every 3 or 4 years looking for another car, I’ve got more important things to do. The only choice I have to make is the colour. ‘I’ll have a grey one.’ I say boringly. ‘Which grey Sir,’ the salesman responds, ‘there are about 112 shades.’ ‘A dark one.’ Is my response and leave it at that.

I hadn’t even seen my current car before I picked it up from the dealership, I was just told it was very dark grey. ‘That’ll do.’ I told the salesman on the phone. But when Deb, Josh and I went to pick it up Josh to one look and said ‘It’s a drug dealers car. Look at the colour, look at those alloys and the darkened rear windows.’ He lives in the middle of studentsville in Newcastle so I bow to his greater knowledge of the choice of vehicles drug dealers find appropriate. It did look a bit dodgy I must admit, but also a bit cool as well. Anyway, I’d already signed the paperwork so off we went, back home, to start the neighbours gossiping about my new career change.

So we need an economic, tall-ish car, but not so tall as to be awkward for diminutive Deb. Everything points to the smallish SUV, or sports utility vehicle, some people confuse them with a crossover. What?!?! I hadn’t got a clue what all this was about so I did a small amount of research and…well….I lost the will to live in about 5 seconds.

I could write a whole blog on the differences between and SUV and a crossover but…..who really cares? Not me that’s for sure, so I won’t bother.

‘We need to get out and test drive a few,’ Deb said. ‘We’ll try them in the UK so we know what we want to buy in Spain.’ ‘Sounds good hun,’ I said.

So research was begun a week or two ago and we have trawled through reviews on a dozen or so small SUV’s including Seat, VW, Hyundai, Kia and Citroen. The one I draw the line at even considering is the Nissan Juke (or should that be ‘Joke’). To my mind it is the most hateful car on the road and it looks ridiculously hideous and ugly. I even dislike the people who drive them as they seem to think they are somewhat superior, sat in a slightly elevated position within their pretend 4×4 that would struggle to get through a Summer puddle. So the ‘Joke’ is out, as is the Qashqui, mainly through association but also because of the stupid name, (I think that’s how you spell it).

Hideous and pathetic. Presenting the Nissan Joke.

Our first test drive is tomorrow in a Seat Arona. Great reviews, 5 star Ncap safety rating and basically an all round good choice. What Car recommend it, Top Gear recommend it and my wallet is also looking at recommending it because it’s so reasonably priced. Zzzzzzzzzz…….sorry, drifted off with boredom there. I’d much prefer a Dodge Ram SRT10 but we have to be sensible unfortunately.

The next few weeks will be taken up with test driving cars and maybe we’ll have a good idea of what car we want to purchase when we are in Ontinyent next month.

Focus on the Fundamentals

Well, here we are, back in the UK and hunkering down in readiness to face the Autumnal weather. We are currently in the midst of a conveyor belt of Low Pressure systems, bringing with them rain and drizzle and grey depressing skies. A bit like Summer really but the rain is colder.

To make it worse the clocks went back last week, so it will be dreary, wet AND dark. Marvellous.

But are Deb and I feeling down and yearning for our next visit to our Spanish home? Well of course we are looking forward to our next visit but we are not feeling down at all. I think the novelty of owning a little piece of Spain is finally wearing off and the time between visits isn’t completely consumed by thoughts of returning.

Don’t get me wrong, it still fills us with excitement to plan our short, mid and long term future in Spain but we still also have life in the UK to embrace as well.

From February 21st this year we have spent the time wishing our life in the UK away waiting for our frequent returns to Spain, but we have so much to enjoy here and should make the most of every minute because we will only be in the UK for the next couple of years.

The primary focus of our life is our only son Josh. Josh is now 22, and has developed into a wonderful, caring, considerate and very intelligent young man, but still a boy in Debs eyes. For the benefit of those who have not been following my blog, AND WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN, I AM NOT DOING THIS FOR THE FUN OF IT. (Well, actually I am.) Josh is currently in his 3rd year at Newcastle University studying a Masters in Civil and Structural Engineering. We are unbelievably proud of Josh and what he has achieved and love following his progress, as much as we can without being too nosy.

We cannot wait for his graduation, not just for financial freedom this will give us but to see him progress to greater things, applying the skills he has worked so hard to achieve.

Aside from our focus on Josh I am really busy with my own Architectural design business. Established almost 20 years ago, we have a solid client base and still benefit from a regular year on year increase in business. We have a huge diversity of work with involvement on projects ranging from domestic extensions and new build properties to commercial and large scale industrial projects. It keeps me busy and I thoroughly enjoy my work.

Deb is a Technical administrator in the engineering and construction industry and has had many roles, on a contract basis, for national and multi national companies working on some high profile projects. She is currently under contract to a local construction company and enjoying the challenge of the requirements of a smaller scale business. She is nothing if not flexible, but that comes with the nature of the work.

And…er…that’s it. Just the three of us forming a very tight knit little family unit. No other family and just a small select friendship group.

Both Deb and I luckily thrive on the challenges our work provide, we love watching our son progress and thoroughly enjoy our family and social time. There is, therefore, a lot to focus our time and attention on during those periods we are in the UK and this we shouldn’t forget.

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

We have just returned from our latest visit to our Spanish home and it certainly hasn’t gone to plan, not least because of the devastation inflicted on our garden by the recent appalling storms.

It has been a roller coaster of a visit that can be divided nicely into the three sections that are the title of this blog.

The Good

There have been many ‘GOODS’ fortunately and these have mitigated all the downsides and made the visit more than worthwhile

The first ‘Good’ is our new road. The road to our house, and 6 other properties further down the hillside, was a rutted stone track that started where the adopted tarmac road ended. It was passable with relative ease but care had to be taken in places. I understand that the heavy rains had taken their toll on the road and made it impassable. We now though have a lovely smooth road almost to our gate, thanks to a persistent neighbour who badgered the Council constantly as he couldn’t get access to his house.

Access road now

Another ‘GOOD’ was the fact that the house was where we had left it. But surely, I hear you say, that is a minimum expectation you have of your house, to be where you left it. Yes, I reply, under normal circumstances that would be the case, but the weather here had seen unprecedented levels and intensity of rain that have literally washed houses away. Our garden had suffered when the terraces gave way under the flow of water and Deb and I were sat in the UK over the last week imagining our house had suffered the same fate. So it definitely falls into the ‘GOOD’ bracket as it could have been much worse.

Then there was the invitation to Julians surprise birthday bbq from Marijse. That was a major ‘GOOD’, excellent night with fantastic company, outstanding food, thanks John, and copious amounts of alcohol, thanks Marijse.

Roll of Honour in the below picture is me on the left, Marijse next to me with her halo as she is our guardian Angel, our Superhero Julian next, suitably adorned, and finally Deb on the end. Great night.

I so desperately wanted to add to the ‘Good’ category the arrival of our new bed that we bought in August. We arrived on the Thursday and had organised delivery for the Friday. I had little to no expectation that it would show up from previous experiences of Spanish logistics and, guess what, they lived up to my expectations. We had to go back to the store on the Saturday, kick up a fuss, after which they faithfully promised delivery, two days later on the Monday. A slim chance it could make it into the ‘Good section.

Next ‘GOOD’ was the house re-naming ceremony. We have a tile fixed to the side of the house, facing the drive, that you see immediately as you approach up the drive. This tile proudly displays the title Buena Vista or Good View. It annoys me every time I see it for the lack of thought and consideration for a property in idyllic surroundings with a vista that is the best we have seen by far in the dozens and dozens of properties we have viewed over the years. It’s a name that doesn’t reflect any love for the house or just highlights a scary lack of imagination.

Anyway, the naming ceremony. Makes it sound rather grand but in actual fact we had just got up, sat in our PJ’s having a brew when Deb said, ‘Shall we do the re-naming now?’ So we did. We weren’t removing the tile as it would have made a mess of the wall but we had a weatherproof tile sized sticker made with the title ‘Case én Trébol’ proudly displayed. This means ‘House in Clover’ which is to live in comfort and luxury. Not sure about the luxury but we’ll replace that with love and contentment.

Then there was the ‘Good’ surprise visit from our friends Claire and Tommy who have a finca in Xativa, a large town approx 20mins drive away. We met them when we were searching for villa rentals in the area as they rent theirs out during the season when they are at home in the Isle of Wight. We hit it off immediately and they have remained firm friends since. Impromptu boozy lunch followed. Sometimes they are the best ones.

We were expecting another ‘Good’ with a visit from John and Jo, who we know from the UK but also have a house in Denia, and they were in Spain at the same time. However, commitments and circumstances conspired against us this year but we hope we can have ‘boozy’ lunch sometime next year.

We invited Julian and Marijse for dinner on our penultimate evening, in part as a thank you for everything they had done for us but mainly because we enjoy their company. This was a ‘Good’ event most definitely and we look forward to many more.

The Bad

The garden has to take prime slot in the ‘Bad’ category. Four terraces partially collapsing and the loss of well established olive and fruit trees, it was appalling, devastating and really upsetting.

The retainng wall supporting the upper terrace was truly a feat of Spanish Engineering. How a 10ft high wall formed with, amongst other well known building materials including, a cot, a shopping trolley, a toilet pedestal and a Zimmer frame, ever held back the ravages of weather in the past is completely beyond me. The concrete bonding them all together must have been an extremely strong mix. Ok, there were some more traditional materials in there as well such as brick and stone which I’m sure contributed to the stability, but even so…. a toilet pedestal??

The Loss Assessor turned up while we were there, filled out his paperwork, took numerous photo’s and promised to report back in a few weeks. We’ve not heard anything yet but I’m not pushing it, there is devastation all around us and these guys are really up against it.

A very close second ‘Bad’ was the amount of mosquitos. Due to the amount of rain that fell and the subsequent amount of standing water that resulted meant there was a plague of ‘mozzies’, approximately 100 Gazillion of the little buggers, which was just in our garden.

If I counted up all the ‘mozzy’ bites I have received on all the holidays I have had throughout my nearly sixty years then factor up that number by 10, that is how many bites I received on my first day. Ok, ok, maybe a slight exaggeration, but it was a hell of a lot. Tiger ‘mozzies’ during the day, Spanish ‘mozzies’ at dusk and dawn, meant that you were house bound unless you were wearing a Hazmat suit. Plus sides of wearing one of these is that you didn’t need expensive ‘mozzie’ spray or sun cream, but you don’t half sweat in them and they aren’t practical at social functions, unless it’s a fancy dress party.

We all do it on holiday, you get up in the morning and say, ‘Look, I’ve got another here and another here.’ We just gave up after 2 days, we had so many. For some strange reason my face was left untouched, I wouldn’t say I was ugly but when a ‘mozzie’ would rather bite the top of your bum crack rather than the juicy flesh of your face cheek you have to question your looks.

What other ‘Bad was there? Oh yes, the bed never showed up on the Monday. We waited in all day, changed our plans and just sat there by the pool feeding the local population of Tiger mosquitos. We also waited in the following day just in case there had been a mix up, still nothing. This was turning ‘Very Bad’ but I don’t have a category for that so we’ll leave it where it is for now.

Groundhog day on the Wednesday. Drive to bed store, kick up a fuss, they promise faithfully to deliver the bed on a certain day, in this case the Friday, and we leave having zero faith that they will fulfil their promise. Same old, same old.

Friday came, we waited in all day again, and then we got a call at 6.30pm, your bed is on its way. We looked at each other disbelievingly. Could it actually be arriving? Has Spanish logistics eventually got it right? We were so excited. Deb had to drive up and meet the van to guide the driver in and then, there he was, on our car park, lowering the tail lift and raising the rear shutter to reveal… a bed base. A bed base with no mattress. I looked around for the Candid Camera team who I was sure would be there to record and laugh at my reaction. I was so beside myself with lividity that I thought I was going to explode.

How hard can it be to deliver a bed. The bed base is in two parts and then there is a mattress, three components that you purchase, together, which form a useable item and that you would reasonably assume would be delivered together. Individually they are of no use whatsoever. Unbelievable.

The Ugly

What wasn’t fitting into the ‘Ugly’ category was my face. I eventually got a bite on my cheek. It was on the morning we left and I was locking the gate for the last time as we were on our way to the airport. I felt it on my face and I was actually rather pleased because I was bending down at the time to secure the padlock and my bum crack was on show and the ‘mozzie’ chose my face. Result.

‘Ugly’ would definitely be my description of the wording in my e-mail to the bed company. Julian also waded in with a strongly worded e-mail to the company describing his disbelief in the way we had been treated.

Whether it was my e-mail or Julians or a mixture of both I know not, but I do know that the mattress turned up on the Tuesday before we were due to leave on the Thursday, so we would at least get two nights in our new bed.

Still doesn’t make it into the ‘Good’ category as we had to change our plans to constantly wait in for a bed that was eventually delivered in installments. In future, for any large items we order, we are going to hire a van and pick it up ourselves. I can’t stand the stress.

The final ‘Ugly’ award has to go to the Tiger mosquito. The bane of our lives for two weeks and the reason we look like dot to dot pictures.

Conclusion

We missed out on a few trips that we had planned due to waiting around for deliveries, but on balance a very good two week break only marred by an ‘Act of God’, as insurance companies like to refer to things they want to avoid paying out for, poor logistics and ‘few’ insects. All part of the rich tapestry of life in Spain… and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Gota Fria.

Shocking news. Our little idyll has been devastated by the recent, and on-going, atrocious weather conditions in Ontinyent, Spain.

However, at this stage we are counting out blessings. People have died and so many others lost their properties completely or have been flooded.

Gota Fria or Cold Drop is a weather phenomenon that happens when the temperature plummets suddenly and then it rains, a lot. But this time it is far more than a lot.

The river Clariano rose 30 foot in 2 hours due to the unprecedented amount of rain that has exceeded all records going back to 1917.

The town and surrounding areas are in the middle of what has been categorised as a ‘Catastrophe’.

But it wasn’t the flood waters that affected us. We are at the top of a hill over looking the valley. It was the surface water run off that was our downfall. We can only imagine the amount of water it took to create this much damage.

Viewed above is the entrance to our drive and to the left you can see where our drive has ended up. It has been washed away and is now blocking the access road to the properties further down the hillside. This was after a day of rain that saw 10 inches of rain per sq m every hour. Apparently it was described as being similar to standing in front of a pressure washer

Julian and Marijsa kindly went to view our property yesterday and took these photographs. It is devastating.

Part of the drive remains intact but the gaping holes offer no confidence in supporting what is left of the drive through the current deluge.

Our re-modelled garden

Julian did inform us the house was ok, but the garden and terraces have slipped

We are due to visit on 25th September and know not whether we will be able to even reach our drive let alone view the devastation beyond it.

However, on the plus side, Julian has informed us today that the damage is no worse at the moment and we only have another battering of torrential downpours to get through this evening and it should start abating.

We are in contact with people in Ontinyent and watching events unfold on an hourly basis through social media and the community spirit is absolutely outstanding. Both Deb and I are looking forward to becoming part of this amazing town.

This blog is not just about the fun and exciting side to buying abroad, but also to bring to life the realities and disappointments. This is a biggie.

The clean up and reinstatement will be a major project and one that I intend to describe fully through this media.