A grand day out!

At the end of the last instalment I reported that we had received news that our residency had at last been accepted. We have now been to Murcia to have the next stage of the process done which includes having fingerprints taken (just both index fingers) and all the paperwork scrutinised again in order to allow us to collect a biometric card in 40 days time. The earliest we can make an appointment for this is 20th December which will make it a whole year and two days since we first applied! Appointments are not yet available for then so I am checking on a regular basis. At some stage in the proceedings someone (not us) had mistyped Nigel’s name as NigeR! We noticed this straight away but the official at the government office we were at at the time in August would not change it and said it “would not matter” as it was the numerical data that was important. So everything we have received after our case had gone to appeal had the wrong name on. Another fly in the ointment and more for me to fret about. But this was finally corrected at the appointment last week. Also, another great worry has been alleviated in that I have at last received a temporary Spanish driving license. I haven’t been legal to drive since I became 70 in May, even though we surrendered our UK ones and applied for the exchange last December. Nigel’s has been delayed because of the wrong name saga but should now be on the way.

The sign warns of a dangerous drop, Poco can’t read!
Castillito Altalayon Jorel

So from hardly venturing outside the garden for anything other than shopping for 14 months, we now find ourselves becoming more and more busy and slightly more “sociable”.

Me and him!!! On Cabo Tiñoso
Rare as hen’s teeth and three in one blog, photos of us two together.

We had a visit from a long standing friend in early November, Mary from Oakworth in Yorkshire, who was the teacher who took me under her wing during my final teaching practice in Bolton in January 1972 and introduced me to Nigel one evening at her local folk club. She came alone, her husband stayed at home to look after their two dogs. We went to some of the same places we had been to with our other visitors but also had some new experiences and sampled more eating out venues. She assured us she had a lovely time and was very taken with the house and garden and the new canine addition, she had already met Belle and Ditto and of course Dash, several times in the UK.

Up at the Guns on Cabo Tiñoso
Choosing from the menu at Bocana de Palos as recommended by Julie.
And just look at the starter she chose!
Making herself at home, notice Poco getting in on the act!
We had a touristy ride around the Cartagena harbour on this
Passing this multimillion pound yacht on the way and NO, as a friend asked, it is not to be our next boat!!

Sadly, there used to be two tourist boats operating in Cartagena harbour, the other of which we had considered going on, a catamaran that was more of a party boat which could accommodate up to 100 people. But it broke apart and capsized a mile out to sea two weeks ago with 33 guests on board. Thankfully no one lost their life and the few people who were hospitalised overnight were released the next day. A manufacturing fault is suspected, it had been operating without incident for 10 years and an investigation is under way. We decided against it on the grounds of reports of it playing loud music which we heard as it docked shortly after ours did on the day of our trip.

The day before Mary was arriving, we had a message from some whippety/motorhomey friends we had met in Portugal in early 2020. They were passing our way en route to Portugal again and could they call in and see us. Fortunately we were not picking Mary up till 8pm ish so there was plenty of time to have another lovely catch up with Samantha, Alan and Blue the whippet. They stayed overnight in the camper park next door but we had a good old chin wag over cups of tea and I won’t tell you Samantha’s nickname for Poco or my blog might get censored. She’s right though! Didn’t take any pics this time as we were too busy talking. They are currently in Portugal and sent me photos from Faro yesterday.

During the time Mary was here we noticed a distinct change in the weather and it became much cooler at night. Time to light the fire for its last few times as we have now had it removed and have replaced it with a pellet stove which will be more controllable and easier all round, we hope! We wanted to wait until we were absolutely sure about residency before making any more expensive changes to the house. But as soon as we knew, we ordered the stove and had someone in to retile the wall and remove the hearth which we will no longer need. To our relief the floor tiles below the hearth are sound and in good condition so the new stove stands directly on the floor.

Last log fire, pretty but not controllable.
There it was gone
Newly tiled and awaiting the pellet stove. And a well camouflaged Ditto on the left.
The pellets arrived placed exactly where we wanted them by a very skilful truck driver. Now we just need something to burn them on!
Two weeks later and here it is …… very pleased with it!
New slimline design leaves plenty of space in the room.
Little helper again
Phew, all stashed in the shed, considerably quicker and less labour intensive than the
two tons of logs last winter
Menace, still picking up bits of chewed up plastic from his antics!

In between visitors I’ve been busy in the kitchen making the most of produce from the garden. I’ve cured a couple of kilos of olives. I did some last year and although extremely salty at first, the flavour mellowed over time and when we came to eat them when Richard and Aoife were here we found them to be delicious. I’ve also made fig jam, fig chutney, used figs in cakes and puddings and dried some in the sun for my winter porridge again. Now we have a bigger freezer I will probably freeze some as well. They are nearing the end now.

Olives sitting in their salt bath to remove the bitterness. Takes 3 weeks before they are rinsed, dried and stored with a little olive oil in jars in the fridge. Hardly surprising they are rather salty!!

On 12th November, my ex colleague and dear friend Julie with whom I taught at Gorsefield for many years, came to visit for the afternoon with Rob, her husband and his brother and wife.

Julie should have had her sunglasses on!

Rob and Julie have an apartment on the La Manga strip, about 40 minutes drive from us. Because of covid they have not been able to come to their apartment for almost 2 years but they flew out to spend some time there at the end of October/early November and fitted in lunch with us. It was absolutely great to see them, the gin and wine flowed and we had a good old catch up and lunch around the pool as it was still warm enough to sit outside. Ditto made the most of us being distracted and ate the remaining half of a chorizo tortilla, still warm, from the edge of the table while no-one was watching! Julie taught both our boys and hasn’t seen them since they left primary school so was interested to see the photos we have around the place of them and our grandchildren. We sent them off with a bag of figs and a cactus for their balcony.

Julie bought us a lovely ceramic pot, now planted up with a succulent and a bottle of cava, not opened yet!! Julie and Rob are returning to their apartment next February so we have a reciprocal arrangement to visit them next time when Poco will be a little more mature, we live in hope!

Succulent potted up before Rob and Julie got back to La Manga

Yet another meet up, this time with erstwhile boating friends, David and Pamela Ross who keep their boat, Lea Crest in Burgundy, took place on Monday 15th. Nigel and I were going to see an audiologist in the direction of Alicante, so as we would be passing Torrevieja where David and Pamela spend their winters, we met up and had lunch with them. Last time we had seen them was 6 years ago when we were “passing” in the motorhome on our way to Portugal so we had a lot of catching up to do. We only took Poco with us, leaving the older two at home. We go back next month for another audiology appointment so we have said we will do it again and they have an open invitation to drive over and spend some time with us whenever they would like to.

Us three with David and Pamela

My favourite rose bush is blooming again

We’ve been busy in the garden again, one of the olive trees has been severely pruned, it was very overgrown and out of shape. It’s more of an ornamental specimen now, if it doesn’t produce many olives next year we won’t be surprised or disappointed. The other olive tree will be less harshly pruned when the weather brightens up again, we’re going through a rainy spell just now. Just before the rain began, Nigel had a huge bonfire to get rid of the olive trimmings which he hadn’t shredded and other garden waste so we are looking tidier again!

Little helper, or hinderer!

From this…..
To this, a little more than a short back and sides!
This is what we are aiming for eventually with the olive trees

Nigel can’t resist pots and succulents so we now have many and various adorning the front porch and the wall around the “man cave”. Also the former well is now planted up with things that will spread and look after themselves. The oranges are plentiful and look beautiful but I tried one the other day and I don’t think they are quite ready yet. It was sweet enough but lacked the depth of flavour we remembered from last year so we are going to leave them a few more weeks before we start juicing them regularly. A lot split and fell last year, we think because of the wrong amount of water. So far this season that hasn’t happened.

Front porch

Vitamin C Tree!
The former well, an orange hibiscus in the centre, a few more to go in yet.
Mini pansies, very pretty
Interesting find at a Chinese supermarket.
Crown of thorns plant in flower
Flowering succulent
New twisty stem plant, yet to find out its name.
Oleander pruning, many more trips in the car to the Ecoparque. We can now see down the olive groves again

And the dogs …. Poco keeps us on our toes. He is getting on better with Belle now, she is becoming more tolerant of him but only on the days she gets out the right side of the bed! He and Ditto taunt each other yet seem good pals.

The great news is that now that the beaches are almost deserted again, we have been able to let him off his lead and he absolutely loves gambolling about with the others. Tires him out too! So now the autumn is upon us and we can leave them in the car a bit longer we will go back to our routine of combining runs on the beach with our shopping trips more regularly.

Calblanque beach
And then there’s Poco!
Poco enjoying Calblanque beach
Lovely to witness Belle running on the beach still interested in the ball at 12 and a half years old.
All 3 off lead for the first time
Belle and Poco snuggling together in the sunshine
Just love their expressions
Tug of war with a piece of rope brought home from the beach, gets played with every day!
Our Andrex dog
Since it has become cooler, Poco has learnt the art of tunneling into Belle’s snuggle sack to keep warm.
Spot the Poco
At other times, he sits wherever he feels like it, on this occasion on a pile of clean bedding
that was waiting to be ironed and NO, I didn’t wash it again before it went on the spare bed, sorry Mary!
Or on our shoulders!
I wonder whose little teeth marks are these in the butter???

We thought we had no more scheduled visitors till next Spring when my college friend, Jean, is coming out with her painting and drawing accoutrements. However we were pleased to get a phone call a couple of weeks ago from Richard to tell us that he and Aoife are planning another short break with us sometime before Christmas. No date confirmed yet but very welcome news. Somehow I don’t think they will be in and out of the pool this time! My last venture in it this year was 1st November.

Last weekend and the tail end of last week we have had a lot of rain, culminating in a massive storm with torrential rain which flooded our rambla (dry river bed) which we need to cross in the car every time we go out. The previous owners of our house told us this had only happened twice in the 16 years they lived here. Well this time it has opened up a sizeable hole in the road, we can see from the debris how far up the water came. We can at least still drive over it with care until the hole is filled in again. Judging by some of the footage we have seen of local flooding and cars etc being washed away, we have got off very lightly.

After the flood. This is our exit road from the house to anywhere.

Caution driving over the rambla!
You can just see the edge of this hole centre right in the picture above this one
Looking downstream
Much debris washed down as the rambla flooded during the night, looking upstream
Last Monday we were waiting for our lunchtime meal in the sunshine
5 minutes later, it was pouring down.
Yours truly, circa 1972 soon after Nigel and I first met…..so young!

Hasta Luego, todos.