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.

Friday, 11 January 2008

This little piggy...

Last weekend we went round to Matt's dad's for lunch. The meal was as good as always, but the title of this post does not refer to my good self and the amount of food I scoffed (although, admittedly, it could). No, the heading refers to the highlight of the day:

A pair of Vietnamese pot-belllied pigs seen on the post-prandial walk we undertook to help lunch go down. They belong to Matt's dad and Carolina's neighbours and both came running at the sight of us, or rather the food we were carrying for them, which disappeared in no time. The little one was a real sweetie and lay down and dozed while Carolina scratched it's neck.

It turned out to be an animal-filled stroll after that: we were offered a four-year old Dacshund with a slipped disc by another neighbour. We politely declined, fearful of the wrath of our cats. And then we met a beautiful Siamese-tortoiseshell cross who was quite happy to be picked up and stroked, despite the yappy Basset Hound pup she was sharing her barn with.

We almost topped the day off with a camel or two on the drive back - they were appearing the the local town's Xmas Parade (the 6th January is when everyone gets their presents in Spain). We missed them, however, as we purposefully turned in the opposite direction and headed home, bellies full and thinking of cute black pigs.

Wednesday, 2 January 2008

Things I don't like about living in Spain, part V

Hands up who spent 26th December at home, eating leftovers in front of the telly, with friends in the pub, or just generally relaxing.

Well, you can all feel very smug because I spent it at work, and with a hideous cold that'd started the day before. Yes, that's right. Spain, land of the public holiday, does not recognise the 26th December as such (unless you're fortunate enough to live the Balearic Islands or Catalunya). Next time I bang on about how many national holidays I enjoy here you can all remind me what happens on Boxing Day. Grrr.

New Year's Day

Happy New Year everyone! I realise I have been most lax with my blog recently and hereby resolve not to let this happen again in 2008.

Despite our hearty New Year's Eve celebration - I wore pyjamas and we drank cava and red wine aplenty - I felt fine enough by 4pm yesterday to go on the walk that Matt insisted upon: it would 'do me good' as he put it, although I would've been just as happy to skulk indoors.

Getting up to the land above our house is always a bit of a trek, never helped by the fact that Matt seems to glide effortlessly up on his long legs while I puff and pant and struggle to keep up. I usually have a good moan about it and then enjoy myself once I'm up there. It's hard not to, especially with the weather we've been enjoying recently.

Finally up there, and yes, I admit it, it was worth it (but I'll still complain about the walk up next time).

Naked trees

The lake catches the sun's light

More disrobed trees

Getting home, just before the sun sets

You may have noticed that the mountains currently have almost no snow on them. This is set to change very soon with a week's rain forecast and snow above 1000 metres. So, in preparation, today I have been mostly sawing wood. With a little help.

It's not so bad when you have company.