Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Quite possibly the cheekiest puss in Asturias

Everyone, this is Cheeky. He's very pleased to make your acquaintance.

Oh, and don't let the appearance fool you, the name suits him perfectly.

Sunday, 7 December 2008


Black sheep of the family? Well, in Spain, as I have recently discovered to yet more amusement, you'd be the garbanzo negro, or black chickpea.

Sunday, 23 November 2008

The old faithful

Yes, it's that time of year again. Be prepared for more sunsets (given my sleeping habits, I can't promise any sunrises), camera dependent.

What's this?

Can anyone identify this visitor to my terrace for me?

Sunday, 26 October 2008

One of my favourite times of year

Oh yes. The clocks go back an hour tonight. And I get an extra sixty minutes in bed. Woo hoo!

Wednesday, 15 October 2008


The last couple of weeks have been trying. Normally I keep this kind of thing to myself and brood, but I've decided to try and moan more to people, let them know how I'm feeling and see if it helps me to cope better myself. If I stay up here on my own and keep it to myself I'm sure to go potty.

So here we go...The tooth reconstuction I shelled out for a month or so ago has broken already, and sod it, I'm just going to have what's left taken out instead of forking out a scary €1,500 for an implant.

I may have a wheat intolerance/allergy. It looks like my sister is at least intolerant. I need to make an appointment at the doctor's to get tested.

I lost a pumpkin. Remember last year's crop? Well this one was even bigger. It rolled down the hill, broke through the fence into the neighbour's finca, hit a bump in the earth, flew into the air, collided with the branches of a tree and exploded into pieces. Fortunately it was my part of the fence that broke, and not the neighbour's, becasue he's a grumpy old bastard who hasn't been very friendly in the past. It was also fortuitous that nobody was around to get in it's path, otherwise it may have become a killer pumpkin. Now I'm afraid to try and move its companion in case the same happens again. I've told Cris that if she wants her Halloween pumpkin at the academia this year I'll need help in harvesting it. It´s not so much the loss of the vegetable that made me sigh, rather the fact that it brought the realisation home that managing on my own is more difficult, and at times, rather wearing.

Shortly after witnessing the demise of the pumpkin, the woman who owns the field where I go to collect firewood moaned that I'd broken the wall surrounding the land by placing when my logs on it. I swore I'd been very careful and it wasn't me, she pointed out that she'd paid a considerable amount of money to get the wall done and that it had to have been me. I said I'd go and look at it. Which I did after she'd left. The old witch had marked every chip that had come of the wall using an old piece of roof tile. Some were in places where it would've been impossible for me to lay any wood (right in front of a lamp post for example) and others weren't even broken bits, just irregularities in the concrete. Anyway, I'm sure she's bad-mouthing me in the town now, she's that type of person. I'd love to tell her to stuff her wood, but this is my sole source of heating and I can't afford to buy any. I'll have to figure something out. I shall try and be diplomatic but if she winds me up I may end up forgetting how cold it gets here in January and February and tell her where to go after all.

Worst of all, I took the motherpuss from my mum's house to the vet's to make sure she wasn't pregnant which in itself went well - she wasn't - then brought her back here to see how she'd get on with my three and if having her here was an option since she behaved perfectly at the vet's and seemed to trust me completely; she ran straight out of the cat flap straight and I haven't seen her since. This happened ten days ago, despite going to call every night and keeping en eye out for her on the way to work every day there's no sign of her. I hate thinking I might not see her again, that she's out there on her own, and feel miserable knowing it's all my fault. Everything else that's happened in the last couple of weeks wouldn't be so bad if it weren't for this.

I'm fortunate to have a job to go to that cheers me up when I'm feeling down. I doubt many people can say that. I had a good laugh this evening when one class of students, when asked to name famous English people, responded with George and Mildred, (see here for a taster) which was mysteriously chosen, out of the many British comedies on offer, to be shown on Spanish TV, and it was still being rerun a couple of years ago. I find it absurdly amusing to imagine thousands, maybe even millons, of Spaniards watching the programme and forming ideas about the British from it.

Sunday, 21 September 2008

Four-cat household

Yes, I have taken another step down the path to crazy-old-cat-womanhood. Although the lastest addition to my household may only be temporary. It depends on my will-power.

Anyway, the story goes something like this... In the village where my mum has a holiday home, there's a small black and white cat, that I have, over the last couple of years, been befriending. She has no permanent home but lived, I presume, in the outbuildings of a small-holding on the edge of the village - at least she always disappeard in that direction after I'd petted and fed her. She must've been given scraps of food, although no-one is ever there in the winter and hunting for food must've been difficult for her then.

I'd seen her pregnant several times, but never with kittens. It's a very sad fact that in rural Asturias controlling the feline population means drowning the offspring at birth. However, she must have realised I was a trustworthy, kind sort because this June she appeared with three kits in tow in the barn opposite my mum's house and has been there ever since.

This has posed me a great dilemma. What to do? I can't not feed them, the kittens are too young to hunt for survival and the mum too weary from looking after them. But then again, I don't want to have an ever-expanding population of cats on the doorstep, clamouring to be fed. On top of this, two of the little ones have come down with a bad cold. One, of them, who's completely ginger, is a suspicious fellow who won't let me near him. Helping him, beyond providing food, is currently impossible even though I'm desperate to take him to the vet's and get him well since he's in a really bad way and I'm dreadfully worried for him. I keep going up there to see if there's any chance of catching him, but no luck so far. His brother, however, a very cheeky ginger and white tom who'd previously enjoyed nibbling my hand and getting strokes, is much friendlier and I brought him back here instead of watching him go the way of his ginger sibling. (The third, one, a very pretty, mostly ginger female seems perfectly healthy at the moment.) He's currently in a spare bedroom with food aplenty and a comfy bed to sleep on and can't believe his luck. Beeps, Mahou and Elbi are aware that something's up but I'm keeping them separated until this little one is better.

There are organisations here who will help you neuter stray cats and look for adoptive homes. Once I've nursed as many as I can back to full health I'm going to see what I can do along those lines for the three kits. The mum is going to be spayed too, she's so tiny, the ginger kitten is almost as big as her already. She's too small to keep on having kits and I'm incapable of not being responsible and doing my part in keeping the unwanted cat population down. So, once that's done, do I let her stay where she is, where she's happy enough, although life is difficult at times, or, do I bring her back here? I watch my three on the terrace, rolling in the sun, content, and know that in the winter they'll enjoy snuggling in front of the fire and the answer seems a simple one. However, introducing an adult female cat to a household where there are alreay three adult females is going to be difficult, and I wonder if she'll be happier here or not for that reason. I can envisage power struggles with Mahou already. Do any cat lovers out there want to help me figure this one out?

One last thing, I'd include pictures if I could, the three little ones are adorable and I've caught them in some poses that would've made you go 'awwww'. However, my camera is still refusing to function so you'll just have to believe me when I tell you that they're damn cute.

Sunday, 24 August 2008

Why do women need men?

So the old joke goes. And in the unlikely even that any of you out there don't know it, the punchline is, and don't get too excited: because vibrators can't mow the lawn. Anyway, vibrator or not, I was determined that I should be able to cope with the lawn here. It was the one thing that caused me most worry about being on my own. I've mown lawns before but this one is on a slope, measures about 1,200 square metres and I'd never done it here before, nor used a petrol mower.

A vast expanse of rapidly-growing grass. The lawn before mowing

This is the means I have of cutting it. A heavy petrol mower, with powered wheels, which I have recently named The Beast.

A brief practice several months ago left me worried about being carried away by it, down the hill, causing in havoc in neighbouring vegetable patches as I went, so I approached the machine with some trepidation the first time it came to my mowing the lawn on my own. Sunny evening as it was, I donned my Australian-army-issue reversible sun hat and sturdy walking boots, pulled on my gardening gloves and got down to work. I decided to allocate myself two hours to get as much of the task done as I could, seeing as it was my first time, and then complete it another day.

All ready to start.

Half an hour in, I was hot, sticky and red-faced and the hat was disgustingly sweaty. Traversing the slope wasn't too difficult, but turning round at each end gave the mower an opportunity to glide off towards the freedom that it seemed eager to take every time. And then of course when the grass holder was full the compost heap was located right at the top of the slope - by the vegetable patch - which necessitated a long trek up there to dump the grass. Carrying on, I realised that a sun top and shorts is definitely not the best gear to be wearing to cut an insect-filled lawn and swore each time one of the litte buggers decided I'd be a tasty snack.

However, I'm not the sort to be easily deterred. Besides my two hours weren't up so I had to keep going. If I gave up the first time round I'd never make it. Also the neighbours were out and about and I wasn't going to let them think that I was some weak little woman who couldn't cope on her own. Rural Spain still has to catch up somewhat on the sexual equality front and I was determined to do my little bit to help. So, after a brief rest to catch my breath and down a pint of water I went on.

Traditional hay making - I stop for a break but the neighbours carry on

And blow me if, 90 minutes after I'd started, I had the whole lawn mown and looking rather snazzy. I rather surprised myself.

The finished product

After several more glasses of water I celebrated with a tasty dinner and a few glasses of wine. I felt it was the least I'd earnt. Since that first attempt I've attacked the lawn twice more, with gusto, and come out the winner each time. The Beast still tries it on every now and again but I now feel fit and capable enough to show it who's boss.

Friday, 15 August 2008


I haven't been taking many photos these last few months, but here are some of the few I did snap. Make the most of them becasue my camera seems to have given up its hold on life and no amount of persuading can get it to work -  believe me, I've tried.

Oviedo city council opt for the cheapest solution - Woody Allen, now completely devoid of glasses.

March skies and Redes mountains

March snow

Fruit from the garden. The berries and plums have all been scoffed and I'm about to make a start on the pears.

Feeding greedy sheep though the garden fence.

A neighbour's lambs

A different neighbour's donkey and a two-week old... erm, what's the word for a baby donkey? Donkette?

Still curious

And still friends

Tuesday, 12 August 2008


A huge, enormous, heartfelt sorry to all those of you who have been wondering what's been happening to my blog of late and also for being dreadfuly lax in my commenting. On top of that, a big thank you to those who emailed to check how I was or stated their concerns for me on other blogs. I was extremely touched that people I have not even met cared enough to do that.

Anyways, after several months of silence, and a few changes out in the real world - the main one being that I´m now on my own up on the mountain, and happier for it, although the cat count remains the same - I´m back.

Never a very prolific blogger to start with, I make further apologies for what will probably be errratic posting in the future. This is because I now have to keep the garden, house, car and cats in order by myself. My already busy timetable has been filled considerably, although I´m hoping all the mowing and strimming I´ve taken on will do wonders for my muscle tone.

My friend Sue, on a recent visit, suggested I advertise for a strapping au pair, of the male variety, to help me out around the house and in the garden. I´ll see how things go first, but I am keeping the idea mind. If any of you should know of a suitable specimen, I mean candidate, please do direct them here.

Wednesday, 27 February 2008

Things I don´t like about living in Spain, part VII

A trip into Oviedo last week failed to bring me any results in my quest for a bra. This was my last hope. The Corte Inglés (a Spanish chain of large, slightly upmarket department stores) had to have a suitable one, or so I thought, but I was foiled for the nth time and now I give in.

Finding a bra in Spain that´s bigger than a C-cup and that isn´t obviously made for the older women in that detestable skin-coloured fabric - you know the type, they look like some kind of industrial hoist - is impossible. What do well-endowed young women do here? It beats me, and I´m too embarassed to go up to one in the street and ask. It´s back to good old M&S this time. Unfortunately they don´t ship abroad, but thankfully I have a mother who does.

Wednesday, 20 February 2008

By Popular Demand...

...sort of. OK, that's a lie - I don't have the readership for popular demand. Enjoy anyway, and excuse the mud stockings.

Here's your more stereotypical Spanish cow:

And, seen on the same walk, an alternative for those of you who don't do bovine.

Tuesday, 5 February 2008

One of those rare days

Today has been good. Very good. One of those days where everything is right and everyone and everything is in a fine mood. I enjoyed every little detail.

The lawn carpeted with daisies

Mahou adventuring

Beeps exploring the chapel roof

The first of the neighbour's lambs

Another neighbour's horse looking for attention

Even the clothes flapping chirpily in the breeze as puffs of cloud moved across the sky in formation behind them.

As for myself, after a session cutting wood and trimming the grass around the new bushes, I decided that was that and retired, book in hand, to my hammock.

Monday, 4 February 2008

Mixed skies

It's the time of year the weather often does this, or worse.

Although it's not always that bleak.

Blue skies in February. Normally, by this time of year everything is convered in snow. The neighbour's mimosa adds a welcome dash of colour whatever. As does the minature version on this side of the fence.

Vegetable planting has been started. In December a packet of chilli seeds arrived in the post, sent by a friend in the UK. Each of five friends has a packet and we're going to see who can grow the best chillies.

According to the bumf that came with the packet, you're not supposed to plant them until February. I cheated and sowed them about four weeks ago. They're currently in a propagator on a sunny window ledge, looking very happy.

And this is what I should hopefully have come summer.

The variety is called Twilight, I'm very enamoured with the colours, especially the purple. Almost too good to eat.

Sunday, 27 January 2008

Things I don't like about living in Spain, part VI; things that make me happy about living in Spain, part VI

When I lived in Cardiff my main mode of transport was my beloved bike. I used to look forward to cycling into uni in the morning (ahem, afternoon), zipping in and out of the traffic and making my way down the cycle lanes to the front of the queue at the lights, cheekily stopping right in front of the car waiting there. There's nothing quite like the satisfaction you obtain from getting around under your own steam, knowing that you're getting excercise and not polluting the environment - unless it's by swearing at the stupid pedestrian who thought they could cross the road right in front of you, or walk in your cycle lane, or the moronic commuter who impatiently swings round in front of you from behind before taking a left-hand (for anyone not in the UK/Australia read right-hand) turn causing you to slam on your breaks and curse as foully as you know how at the top of your voice. Despite the idiots on the road, cycling the Welsh capital and the sense of independence it gave me was always one of my favourite things about living there.

Those that know where I live will proabably have guessed what's coming next. What I really don't enjoy about where I live in Spain, exactly where I live, is that it's like this:

View from our terrace with El Entrego at the bottom of the valley.

This is all very well to look at, and I love it most of the time, however, cycling most places around here involves hills - big, steep, imposing hills, oh yes, and don't let's forget the mountains.

I am nowhere near fit enough as I need to be to use my bike as a serious method of transport to get about in these parts. I once tried cycling back from work and only made it through the town and most of the way up the first hill - which to be fair is the steepest one of the whole route back - before I realised I couldn't breathe properly and had to start walking. I greatly miss not being able to hop on my bike and take myself the wherever I wish to be.

Every so often, it happens that Matt needs the car when I have to be at work. As long as it's not raining, this is something that always perks me up. Out comes the bike from the shed, greeted like a long-lost friend and down the hill I go to work. I adore cycling into town, the feeling of freedom it gives you to wheel your way down the hill, wind in hair and mountains on the horizon is unbeatable. I often like to play chicken with my sense of self-preservation and see how much speed I can build up down an certain stretch before I put the brakes on.

When I cycle into work I always arrive feeling revitalised and ready for the day's challenges. If I didn't have to rely on a lift home afterwards I'd do it every day.

Friday, 25 January 2008

Enjoying the learning curve, part III

Earlier this week my boss was talking about a new TV channel here in Spain for learning English. Settling down to an advanced-level episode, it kept her up way beyond bedtime and then had her clamouring for explanations from me the following morning.

The point of the little tale above is that one of the words the programme wanted watchers to translate was galimatías, a new word for me and I do like the way it runs off the tongue. Even better, translated it means gibberish, which Cris liked the sound of just as much as I did the Spanish version.

A wonderful coincidence yesterday in class with some adult students had one of them asking me how they could say galimatías in English. I confidently gave him his answer, knowledgable teacher that I am, but failed to metion that I´d only just learnt it myself. I do have the image to think of, after all.

So, enjoy your new Spanish word. I shall mention no names, but I´m sure some of you will find it very useful indeed.

Wednesday, 23 January 2008

No, it's not another sunset

I was saving this one for a while until I'd written a post that didn't include me blathering on about how lovely Asturias is - I do have a couple planned, but time is limited at the moment. I've just been visiting Magdalene and Martin and sunrises and skies seem to be the order of the day, I felt the need to share too, again. Last one, I promise.

Friday, 18 January 2008

First snow of the year

I've been asked recently what happened to all this snow I'd been talking about. Well, the weather people here must have been having a severe Michael Fish moment, because they got the predictions completely wrong; last week we enjoyed a whole seven days of sunshine, temperatures of up to 20 degrees and several tasty lunches on the terrace.

Given this splendid January weather, we did suffer slightly last Friday when temperatures plummeted and the rain finally appeared. We awoke on Saturday morning to this:

Our view to the south-west

I always think it looks as if someone had grabbed a giant sieve and delicately dusted the peaks with icing sugar. When we eventually get snow here and I have to traipse down to work in my wellies I'm sure this rather romantic image will promptly disappear from mind.

The sky quickly cleared and we went for a long walk up above the house. This is the Peña Mayor to the east of us, with melting snow. It didn't last long did it?

Since then there's been more snow, and more melting. The closer mountains are currently almost free of the white stuff. This is the cat-and-mouse teasing before it pounces on us here below. Preparations will be needed so we can sit snug indoors by the fire of an evening while the snow falls silently outside.

In the meantime, I intend to enjoy the current spell of fine weather which is due to continue for the next week or so. Lunch on the terrace today I think. I just hope the Spanish weather people haven't been talking to that Mr Fish again.

Saturday, 12 January 2008

Why we don't need a telly

Sorry to bore you all with pictures of sunsets again, but this one was too good not to show.