Blogging 101

I am taking a blogging course and today’s assignment is to write a post for my ideal reader, but who are you?  For me, any reader is ideal but the idea of the blogging course is to increase the readership of the blog from the friends and family who currently read it to a wider audience.  How will you find me?

Are you thinking about moving to Spain or moving abroad or considering a huge life change.  Do you love gardening, living a rural life and learning to earn your living in a new and challenging way. Is that you?

Should I talk about books or the countryside, weight loss, healthy eating or the joy of discovering exercise? Should I share my deepest, darkest thoughts or talk about knitting – are those the sorts of blogs you read?

Shall I share my obsession  enthusiasm for Pinterest or for the vast and frankly mind boggling world of home decoration blogs (there are already a myriad of these) or……………….shall I keep writing about my life in Spain, perhaps in a more focused fashion, tagging my posts, sharing them on facebook and with the family and friends who already read them?

Are you there? Anyone?

 

 

I

Happy New Year part two

Note to self: Always proof read before publishing………

I had written a last paragraph concerning the grapes but somehow it was lost – should have checked before sending.

Anyway, “what about the grapes?” I hear you ask.

On Noche Vieja, literally Old Night or New Year’s Eve it is traditional to eat a grape on each stroke of midnight.  If you don’t require the Heimlich manoeuvre during this, it is supposed to bring you luck.  You can buy bunches of grapes for this or as we did this year a small pre-prepared tin or two.  New Year’s Eve has never been my favourite fiesta and generally Steve and I have been asleep by eleven only to be woken by the fireworks but for the past two years we have made it to midnight and gone out onto the terrace to watch the fireworks going off all over the valley.  With some optimism I bought a double tin of grapes so that we could join in with the tradition.  Whether it was the wine, the heat of the fire or our age and the lack of entertaining TV, we were asleep on the sofa by 8.30, woke briefly at 9.30, gave each other a marital look that said midnight, I don’t think so, put the puppies to bed and were asleep in bed by 10pm.  The grapes are still on the mantel-piece and with an expiry date of 2017, will come in handy for next year or even the following year.  For the sake of Auld Lang’s Syne indeed.

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What traditions make Christmas and New Year for you?  It is always great to hear from you so do leave a comment and follow the blog in 2015 as I keep you posted about our life in Spain.

Happy New Year

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Christmas or at least the festivities surrounding Christmas are still being celebrated here in Spain and will continue until after the Three Magic Kings visit on Monday night. Christmas is a different animal in Inland Spain from the traditional English one.  You don’t see much evidence of the approaching festivities until at least December when street lighting appears and a few decorations and chocolate advent calendars appear in the shops. As December progresses you can find tins of 12 grapes (more of this later) and packets of turron, a sweet made from almonds, in different textures and flavours along with lots of little biscuits in individual packaging.  Some of the bigger shops and supermarkets start to open on Sundays, and they play Christmas music, usually a short loop featuring Feliz Navidad, Jingle Bells and We Wish You a Merry Christmas.  Until recently, Father Christmas didn’t feature very much as presents are brought by the three magic kings who arrive on January 5th but these days children expect a present on Christmas Day as well as on January 5th.  One of the children in my class received un espacio nave de Star Wars on Christmas Day but was expecting a lot more for Kings.  You can buy a turkey fairly easily, last year I ordered a fresh one as my family were with us and this year I bought ready prepared one – not so nice, but if you want mince pies, Christmas cake or Christmas pudding you have to make your own or like me this year be the happy recipient of a hamper courtesy of my mother and sister and husbands!

As most of you know, Christmas in the Bosworth household is a fairly muted affair.  Steve doesn’t really participate in anything Christmassy although he is happy to put the tree up for me and eat turkey for days on end along with lots of chocolate, separately I mean.  Steve doesn’t send Christmas cards and prefers me not to  add his name to mine although I usually add a non festive greeting from him to avoid people thinking we are getting divorced.

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I like to decorate with a few precious ornaments I made over the years and do a bit of festooning with whatever greenery is available.  In England, Steve and I would take Doobie for a walk up to the Mells estate and pilfer several carrier bags of ivy and a bit of holly and over here I have a secret supply of ivy in Sax near the river and then, happily, I can walk across the field and find fir trees and pine cones galore.  I add in lots of candles and tealights, preferably M&S scented ones and this year was very happy to return from our December visit to England with a Christmas Tree shaped candle and two varieties of diffuser so the house smells gorgeous.

For me, Christmas must include chestnuts in both sweet and savoury forms.  Last year, Steve’s brother visited us in November and brought two tins of sweetened chestnut puree and several packets of vacuum packed chestnuts and as we didn’t finish them all I was able to open the cupboard on Christmas eve and make lentil and chestnut soup and chocolate, chestnut sauce.  With last year’s home made mincemeat I was able to rustle up some mince pies along with some apple and cinnamon versions for the non mincemeat eating part of the household and Christmas was complete bar friends and family in England but Skype and Facebook are wonderful things.

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Back to the blogosphere

Err, cough, swallow……………it has been a while hasn’t it. If you are still interested in hearing about what goes on here I am aiming to publish a bit more frequently with shorter posts. It is always great to get your feedback and to hear from you especially those who aren’t on Facebook so let me know what you think.

Last year it was wasps. This summer has been the season of the ant. Possibly due to the lack of wasps to eat them, there are ants everywhere, outside and annoyingly in. I have been truly amazed by the sheer variety of sizes of ants from the whoppers that heft large bits of vegetation back to the nest to the tiny little dots that are currently attempting to colonise the kitchen. My cupboards have never been so clean and organised as on a regular basis I open one to discover a seething mass of tiny ants searching out a grain of sugar or drip of sauce to sustain them. We are very happy to live and let live outside unless the ants come onto the terrace in great numbers but once inside they have to go and we have a bottle of spray that smells vile and kills the ants pretty much on contact. Of course then I have to wipe down the cupboard surfaces and all the bottles, jars and packets before they are replaced. I don’t have many cardboard packets in the cupboards anymore after I bought some beans from an open basket in the market last year and ended up with weevils in the cereal packets – yuk. Another afternoon spent cleaning out a cupboard.

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Considering that we haven’t had any rain for months and I don’t water them, the vines have produced a huge amount of plump and juicy grapes. As we couldn’t possibly eat them all we decided way back at the start of August that we would try and make some wine. People have been making wine for centuries – how hard could it be? As usual before undertaking any new project Steve did some internet research. Clearly we were going to need some equipment which, we thought, would be readily available in a wine making area such as ours. First stop the co-operativa shops, a sort of Spanish Mole Valley Farmers that are found in each town attached to the bodegas and oil mills – nada. Then we started asking around and discovered that there is a shop in Villena that sells wine making equipment but whilst my Spanish is vastly improved it didn’t prove equal to explaining to the shopkeeper that we only wanted to make a small amount of wine and so a beginner’s kit costing nearly 1000 Euros was a tad excessive. Amazon was our next thought but having compiled a shopping basket full of items it transpired that half of the items couldn’t be delivered to Spain. Finally we managed to order from a wonderful site called Homebrew UK and after a two week wait caused by the annual Spanish shutdown in the last two weeks of August, our tubing and other equipment arrived. We had managed to find two large glass vessels at the Rastro and although we were still short of a couple of rubber bungs we picked a bucket full of grapes and proceeded. The You Tube videos we watched kept hectoring us about the need for keeping everything sterilised – we tried hard but reasoned that as Camden tablets weren’t readily available in the past the odd bug wouldn’t hurt. A week and a big sticky mess later we have a couple of gallons of wine fermenting in the corner and a huge amount of grapes shrivelling on the vines. Next year I am going to try and see if we can sell the grapes and at less than 2 Euros a bottle, buy some wine.
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All is Safely Gathered In

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In the Vinalopo valley, late August, early September is almond harvesting time and in the early mornings we began to hear the sound of trees of being thwacked to loosen the almonds in traditional fashion and sometimes the mechanical shaking machines used by the better off or more forward thinking farmers in the valley.
We decided to start our harvesting at the bottom of the field furthest away from the house close to our neighbour Jose’s house. Armed with sticks and a large net we duly thwacked our first tree and were rewarded with a shower of still husked almonds into our net. The husks which surround the shell need to be removed, therefore rather than filling our sacks (we had previously ascertained that sacks were the acceptable form of container for almonds not wanting a repeat of the “no sacos – plastico” comments at the co-operativa) with extra volume we decided to “de-husk” as we went along. It didn’t take long for Jose to come and tell us that we were doing it all wrong. In a stream of rapid, colloquial Spanish out of which I could recognise only a few words but accompanied by a vivid mime which left us in no doubt as to what we should be doing, Jose explained that we should take the still husked almonds to somewhere close to the house and spread them out to dry for a couple of days before attempting to de-husk them. Jose also helpfully pointed out that our net was inefficiently spread and we would lose almonds through the gap. Apart from useful almond harvesting lore I learned a new verb; Recoger or sometimes just Coger means to pick or harvest and with my developing conjugating skills I was able to tell my zumba class the following day that recogemos las almendras – we are picking the almonds.
Once Jose joined us, we didn’t get a lot of harvesting done before wine o’clock but full of new knowledge we gathered our equipment the following afternoon and returned to the bottom of the field. Before long we had developed a rhythm and a routine for each tree: first, spread the net underneath ensuring there are no gaps, next, thwack the tree with sticks – we use the handle of an old mattock that we found in the garage and half a broom stick (re-use, re-cycle) until all the almonds are off the tree, decide whether to bag or drag the almonds i.e. a large harvest from the tree goes straight into a sack but a smaller harvest can be dragged on top of the net to the next tree. Steve then takes the wheelbarrow and sticks to the next tree while I take the net and spread it again. Each tree takes between five and fifteen minutes to harvest and we have approximately three hundred trees, some of which are too small to bear nuts yet but most have at least a few so Steve and I reckoned that if we spent four hours a day, five days a week harvesting we could finish in a month. Factors such as my zumba classes which were shortly to increase to four a week might affect the timings as might guests in the apartment and visiting friends we thought, however we didn’t anticipate that the weather would hold us up.
La Gota Fria, literally translated as “the cold drop” is a weather phenomenon which most commonly takes place after the summer months when the sea temperature is still high, but the temperature in upper airstreams suddenly drops. The warm air, saturated with water vapour, rises and cools too quickly when meeting the upper airstreams. The result is extremely intense rainfall, accompanied by high winds (up to 140 km/h), hail and thunderstorms.
The afternoon was sultry with dark clouds coming over the mountain behind us and a warm wind increasing in strength plus a few rumbles of thunder in the distance. There had been a few thunderstorms in the previous few days, usually without rain or only a small amount therefore we weren’t unduly worried but after half an hour of increasingly thundery conditions there was a flash of lightning immediately followed by a thunderclap so loud and so close that it made me scream. Heavy rain, rapidly increasing in volume and accompanied by hailstones drove us to Jose’s house for shelter and within minutes the cloud, rain, and hail were so impenetrable that we could see neither our house nor indeed much further than the edge of Jose’s terrace. The hailstones grew bigger and covered the ground like snow and the rain was torrential. For over an hour we sat on the terrace, driven further back towards the house by the force of the rain, thunder crashed and roared and the lightning forked across the sky all around us. Jose’s tiny dog sat on his lap shaking and his son, also Jose or JosB as John christened him, filmed the storm on his phone. After about twenty minutes we remembered, unhappily, that we had left all our windows open at home but there was nothing we could do except wait for the storm to pass.
When the storm eventually passed we went outside to survey the damage, which was considerable. Many of Jose’s almonds to the south of his house had been knocked off the trees along with some of his olives. Tomatoes were smashed to a puree and the leaves on trees and plants were shredded. Back at home we found pools of water on the floors at the back of the house , soaking rugs and even our bed was wet. I looked for the place where the roof used to leak but realised that the rain hadn’t come through the roof but through the window and blown across the room to the bed. Outside there were holes in the surface of our newly monocappa’d wall, the red peppers were similarly holey and many of the tomatoes and grapes were split and damaged. My English geraniums were looking very sorry for themselves but the Spanish ones looked in better shape and luckily most of the plants in pots had been sheltered by the walls. Later we discovered we had escaped without too much damage as further down the valley entire crops had been destroyed and many people’s cars and houses had substantial damage. The temperature of our pool, previously a balmy eighty degrees dropped ten degrees and made it too chilly for me to swim in although Steve stoicly swam each day.
After a couple of blustery days the weather settled again and we were able to continue harvesting assisted for a few days by the visiting superhero “Big Stick Girl” so called for her “Big Stick” which Helen used in an unorthodox but effective pokey/wiggly style. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Helen chose a tree to call her own that harvested a whopping 4.7 kg of nuts – one of the heaviest cropping trees. Kathryn’s tree (chosen whilst not in nut) harvested a more modest 1.9kg and Nicola’s tree 4.6kg. It will be interesting to compare each tree’s harvest next year after Steve has pruned them; we noticed that the few trees we managed to prune last year all yielded good crops. Being out in the fields all day gave us the opportunity to see the local insect life at close quarters. Apart from flies, wasps and other buzzy things we saw several preying mantis, one of which nipped me with its’ pincers, beetles in various colours and sizes and spiders; thin and wispy spiders with very long legs, stocky small ones that move very fast, jumping spiders but worse of all, spiders with big fat bodies and chunky legs related, without a doubt, to Shelob.
At the end of each day’s work we spread the almonds on a net to dry and then bagged them and after three weeks we had finished the picking. We had a private little harvest festival – a glass of wine and a fresh almond each (we know how to party) and then started the next part of the process; de-husking. Bagful by bagful, Steve emptied the almonds into the wheelbarrow and we sat on the terrace listening to our CD collection in alpahabetical order (in the C’s we listened to Eric Clapton, the Communards, Elvis Costello and Jim Croce amongst others), sorting and discarding leaves, twigs, husks and last year’s almonds and re-bagging this year’s crop. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Our final total was four hundred and sixty kilos – approximately one hundred and two thousand nuts. We are hoping to receive a good price for the almonds as production is, apparently, down due to the cool spring we experienced. We will take the majority of the crop to a local co-operativa either in Castalla or Pinoso although we have heard that Agost may give us a better price, but we will keep back a certain amount in order to experiment with almond products. We have made blanched almonds – ours didn’t keep for very long and ground almonds which are fantastic in macaroons and biscuits but we also experimented with biscuit recipes using unskinned ground almonds which are a trifle more rustic in appearance but no less delicious. Helen told us about almond milk – a dairy free alternative to cow’s milk and courtesy of Google, Steve found a simple recipe and made some. I suspect commercial almond milk contains both stabilisers and preservatives – ours tasted alright but didn’t keep so won’t be part of the “Foods from the Finca” stable. We have yet to try making almond oil or almond essence nor almond liqueur but roasted salted almonds, caramelised almonds, almond and orange or lemon biscuits, macaroons and unshelled almonds are all successful products and will definitely make their way to a market stall in the near future. Another successful experiment involved last year’s walnuts, parsley and olive oil which, together with some Parmesan cheese make a fabulous pesto, divine on pasta with goat’s cheese or as a base for a tomato or onion tart. I have also found that both walnuts and almonds in the shell look very decorative in glass dishes or bowls with candles and tealights.
We had been told that the almond husks can be burnt in our wood-burner but an outdoor experiment proved unsuccessful producing some heat but a lot of malodorous black smoke so we decided to abandon that idea – we have plenty of last year’s shells which DO burn well.
At the time of writing we have passed our one year anniversary at Finca Los Gatos and it seems a good time to look back at the year and reflect on what we have achieved. The land has been rejuvenated and the trees are responding to the care we are giving them and cropping well, allowing us to make some money from the harvest. Outside, the house looks loved with the weeds kept down and the garden slowly establishing, providing colour and scent along with herbs, fruit and vegetables which we hope will increase next year. I am teaching four zumba classes a week and at the beginning of October started to do some conversational English with two teenagers, children of a couple of my zumba customers and I have had an enquiry about teaching a five year old and a couple of twenty somethings. Steve has joined the tennis club in Sax and plays twice a week; both of us are establishing links with our community. The olives are looking very good. Steve’s pruning has really paid off and many of the trees, bare last year, are laden with plump fruit promising a good harvest in January.
The Apartment at Finca Los Gatos has been occupied by both friends and strangers, all of whom have been comfortable and left with very few suggestions for changes and we have listened and acted upon those suggestions that have been made. We have met quite a few of the local ex-patriot community and have made some good contacts and one or two good friends. We see our friends north of Valencia fairly often and have maintained good contact with friends and family in England many of whom have been out to visit us. It has been a full and rich year and whilst there are days when the language barrier is frustrating or I long to pop into Marks and Spencer, we don’t regret moving here one bit. Moving out of one’s comfort zone is inevitably uncomfortable but overcoming challenges especially in one’s middle life is quite immensely satisfying and stimulating. We have more challenges and aspirations for the coming year and are looking forward to them hugely (mostly).

Here Comes The Sun (doodndoodoo)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOne has only to think about the number of song titles that contain the word “sun” or live in the UK to realise how life enhancing sunshine is.  Waking up each day to a bright blue sky and lovely sunshine is a novelty that, so far, has not worn off.  Provided that they are watered sufficiently, plants grow incredibly well and flower forever: the geraniums that I got free from an offer in the Telegraph in Frome last year not only survived the journey to Spain and being cooped up in storage for over a week but burst into flower in April and are still covered in blooms now in late August.  There have been one or two casualties in the wall pots that have gone from luxuriant growth to shrivelled brown things in the blink of an eye but largely the plants we have bought have all thrived and the vegetables have cropped well.  

In the Spanish sun applying sun cream becomes, for me anyway, part of the morning routine and despite being out in the sun for long periods of time we haven’t burnt at all.  We try to stay out of the sun during the hottest part of the day and the wealth of sport on television this summer has meant that we have spent a lot of time watching tennis, cricket, athletics and swimming.  The house is considerably cooler even than the shady terrace but despite that it can get very warm during the afternoon and so a busy morning followed by a late lunch is inevitably followed by a siesta.  More often than not we don’t make it further than the sofa, falling into a heavy doze at about 3.30pm to the disconcertion of our guests staying in the house with us as they go up the stairs in our sitting room to their rooms upstairs.  We are contemplating a dividing wall before next summer.

The five sets of guests we have welcomed to Finca Los Gatos during July and August have all seemed to appreciate everything we have available here and we have received some very gratifying feedback.  Steve and I have made a couple of changes including buying a new fridge, based on this feedback but largely, the market research that we did when we were setting up the apartment has paid off and we have had satisfied guests.

Our main worry for our guests as the summer progressed was the wasp invasion.  Once the temperature warmed up, the shallow end of the pool became the “go to” hang out for the local wasp population who came for a dip and a drink before flying back (we realised in horror) to their nests in the roof and the cattery wall.  Steve reacts badly to stings and bites of all kinds and so of course he was the first to be stung, once on his forehead, swiftly followed by four on his side and another for luck while we were clearing the fig tree of over-ripe figs and a wasp got up his t-shirt.   Internet research suggested using oranges studded with cloves around the pool to deter the wasps, washing up liquid in the pool water to alter the surface tension (wasps hate this), citronella oil, lavender oil, waspinators (a glorified stuffed paper bag meant to resemble a wasp nest that supposedly signals occupied territory) and if all else fails, Rentokil.  To cut a long story short, all else did fail with several nests worth of wasps swimming and drinking undeterred although the washing up liquid did cause the foolhardy to drown and thus we were forced to contact Rentokil who came at vast expense and sprayed the roof.  While we were waiting for Rentokil’s visit, Steve read that algicide in the pool water would deter the wasps, kill those that braved the water and as an added bonus, keep the water sparkling whilst remaining suitable for swimming. Who knew? It worked, or at least a combination of all of the above plus a late night covert attack on the nest in the cattery worked.  Dressed in track suit bottoms, wellies and hoody with the drawstring drawn tight and armed with a can of expanding foam, Steve, backed up by a similarly dressed me clutching the torch and wasp spray, waited until dark and made our sweaty way (it was very hot in all that gear plus we were a bit nervous about the possibility of wasp attack) towards the nest site in the wall.  Our first attempt had to be aborted as having tested the expanding foam spray earlier in the day the foam had solidified and blocked the nozzle so when aimed and fired, nothing came out.  The ominous hum in the wall grew louder and deciding that discretion was the better part of valour Steve and I retreated.  The next night, tube patent by virtue of poking a wire down the nozzle, we tried again and succeeded in blocking up the hole.  We inspected our work the next morning and found a lone wasp buzzing fruitlessly around the entrance, probably a teenager who had been out all night partying in the fig tree.  There are still a few wasps about but a fantastic gadget from the Chinese bazaar, an electrified tennis racket insect killer combined with Steve’s stylish volleys sees them off in no time. 

And then there were two.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAt the beginning of August, we had to make the heart breaking but only possible decision in the face of the facts to end the life of our beloved sixteen year old dog Doobie, with us since she was just a five week old puppy.  Sad as we are, we are grateful for the fun, joy and unconditional love that Doobie gave us.  Rest in peace little dog.

Several of our friends holidayed in Spain this year and we travelled to Almeria to spend time with Wendy and her family.  Rupert and Julie, Poppy and Zeb came to stay with us and competed in a pentathlon consisting of darts, boules, table tennis, pool and Pictionary.  The prize, a priceless artefact from the Chinese bazaar remains unclaimed as we didn’t quite have time to finish the pool so hasta pronto Devey-Waterhouses. We have also arranged to spend a couple of days in Andalucía with Jackie and family.  John and Rhona stayed overnight en route to the UK and whilst at the airport collecting them from their return flights, UK I heard a familiar but unexpected voice greeting me.  My oldest friend (oldest as in I have known her for longer than any other friend bar Clare) Debbie and her husband, holidaying in Moraira were dropping their son and his girlfriend at the airport.   After a good deal of hugging and even more nineteen to the dozen talking, we arranged to spend a day together before they flew back to England.  What a lovely surprise and coincidence.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA“Barcelo-o-na” .  We let the train take the strain for the journey to Barcelona arriving at Barcelona Sants station at about two p.m.  It. Was. Hot.  Barcelona is a fabulous place full of interesting and quirky things to do and see.  The tourist bus took us all over the city and like an amuse bouche, whetted our appetites for a subsequent and more specific visit.  Next time we go I would like cooler weather so that we can walk without my feet turning into balloons with sausages attached, to see the Sagrada Familia and Parc Guell and to go to the harbour and eat freshly caught fish. Cooked obviously.

 

 

 

Jumaprilyne

Gate to Finca Los Gatos
Gate to Finca Los Gatos

Yes, it has been a while since my last blog so this one covers three months hence the title.

When the sun came out at the beginning of April it was hard to resist it’s lure. Sunshine and warmth were, after all, the reasons we came to Spain. Our Easter visitors were able to enjoy a couple of days of reasonable sunshine and a paella by the beach at Guademar before leaving us to resume work on the pool and outside space.

The longer, warmer days brought vivid colours to the landscape which became covered in wildflowers on a scale I can’t remember seeing in England since I was a child. Yellow, purple, red, lime green, pink and blue flowers lined the roadsides and filled the fields and rough ground around the valley and to emphasise that Spring had truly arrived there were birds courting everywhere and making a joyful noise about it too. The trees in the orchard shook with the strength of avian passion to such an extent that I began to wonder if the developing almonds would survive the spring let alone make it to harvest but by the end of April a sense of peace descended on the orchard once more. This sense of peace may have been due to the awful weather that was to strike but I am getting ahead of myself.

My mother and stepfather came to visit for a few days in mid-April and had a glorious few days of sunshine. For the most part they sat on the terrace enjoying the warmth, the views and our builder finishing off the work outside. After they left Steve and I headed up to Segorbe to help celebrate our friend’s birthday in wonderful sunshine and we were confident that the warm weather was set for the summer.

Not so. The wind got up, the clouds came over and it rained. A lot. Although May was a disappointment weather wise, when the sun did come out it was a good deal warmer and brighter than the English version. We checked the long range weather forecast avidly as we were expecting friends at the end of May and beginning of June who were desperate for some warmth and sunshine after the grim English Spring. We popped back to England at the beginning of May to see friends in Frome and at the school where Steve used to work and had a lovely time. We flew in over Poole Harbour at sunset – gorgeous and had fun trying to remember to drive on the left. Back in Spain we accepted a couple more bookings and continued to wait for better weather.

Back in January I had been to a gym in town to try and set up some Zumba classes. I hadn’t had any response to my initial visit so I went back to follow up and was pleased if slightly taken aback to be told that not only were they interested but they had promoted Zumba in their newsletter telling members that classes would be available in April. I was asked to give two demonstration classes which were well received despite my nerves and it was decided that I would start with two classes per week. I learned the Spanish for relevant parts of the body; knees, heels, arms and hips and hoped that along with the words for faster, slower, left and right I would manage. My Spanish had improved greatly but the biggest challenge remained and remains understanding Spanish spoken at speed. I am better at saying I don’t understand but it continues to be a frustration. The telephone is especially difficult with no visual clues to help.

Throughout May we concentrated on marketing, getting our website up and running http://www.steveandjudith.wix.com/fincalosgatos and a Facebook page dedicated to the business. We also placed an advertisement on the Spain made Simple web site. Having got these in place we felt able to approach Tabitha Symonds of One Off Places http://www.oneoffplaces.com to see if she felt our property was suitable for her site. Tabitha features some incredible properties so we were delighted to be featured ourselves and within a week had accepted a booking for July. Our former estate agent Teresa, at Olive Grove Estates http://www.olivegroveestates.com continued to recommend us to her house hunting customers and a booking came through her. I am grateful for the knowledge I gained from the marketing department at Rosemary Conley Head Office which I try to put into practice in our new venture.

By the end of May the weather was starting to improve and our friend Wendy had a sunny few days with us and a good rest. James had better weather at the beginning of June and even swam. Steve of course was swimming daily but, chilly mortal that I am, it took until later in the month for me to really enjoy the pool. Now in mid July, a dip is an essential part of each day particularly if we have been working outside.

The olives are swelling, the almonds are ripening along with the walnuts and we have had a glut of nisperos, figs and now cucumbers! We made jam with the nisperos and I am going to do the same with the figs and make chutney. We eat lots of cucumbers fortunately but I am hoping to pickle some for winter and am looking forward to a larder filling with produce as the summer continues. We have guests in the apartment, bookings in the diary, a marketing strategy and employment with other prospects in the pipeline. We took a big risk, have worked hard and are reaping the rewards. We are living the dream.

Lunch on the Terrace
Lunch on the Terrace