28 Feb

With the last day of February dawning it occurred to me that I hadn’t written a blog for the entire month and an update is long overdue. This time it’s not so much that nothing has been happening but a combination of circumstances. I ended the last blog with the death of our old workhorse of a car and the need to find a replacement asap. For us it was impractical to do this in Spain and a trip back to the UK proved to be the best option.

Now there’s something I haven’t mentioned on here despite its significance to British nationals and those of us who call ourselves citizens of Europe. Yes, you’ve guessed it, Brexit. Don’t worry I’m not going to pontificate on here despite my opinion of the utter madness of the whole debacle (sorry, couldn’t resist getting that in) but it has made us rethink our personal plans. We’ve long been pondering the idea of getting ourselves somewhere to call home. We had thought this would be in Spain but the uncertainty and more specifically the dreadful exchange rate following the referendum made us have a rethink.

To cut a long story short, we acquired a small townhouse in the Midlands that had seen better days and arranged to get the builders in over the winter, all managed remotely, while we kept our distance in Spain. A bit stressful at times, this approach still proved to be infinitely preferable to living in the rubble as the work went on around us. It did mean something of a gamble and a lot of trust in the various contractors – our trip back this month would be the first time we’d seen the refurb with our own eyes.

We weren’t disappointed. OK, we had tried to make it simple by keeping all choices as neutral as possible with the idea of adding more personal touches as we go along. With the bare bones now in place, the visit this month was the perfect opportunity to start getting basic furniture and soft furnishings.

A clean slate to build your dream home on presents so much choice that the desire to get everything exactly right is overwhelming. The limited time available to us to get curtains, bed and bedding, seating, table etc in place proved to be its own challenge. It really focuses minds when you walk into a shop (or go online) and ask what they can deliver in the next few days. It also limits choice and has the effect of forcing an ‘it will do’ attitude to proceedings. So, perhaps, we made choices we wouldn’t have made if we’d allowed a gradual, more organic development to take place but it is what it is.

And, yes, we did get a car. That was the easy bit.


Car Trouble

27 Jan

Our car hasn’t been looking too good for a while. Originally purchased back in 2013 when the idea of towing a caravan began to look like a real possibility, this big workhorse more than proved worth keeping long after we parted company with the ‘van. The sheer amount of “stuff” that could be piled into the cavernous boot space made it ideal for our wandering lifestyle. The bulk of our old boat’s contents were transported across Europe, the caravan dragged around the UK and every winter we’ve spent in Spain it crossed the channel with us, carrying all we needed for months at a time.

I was the problem. My 5 foot 5 inches proved to be insufficient for the driver’s seat of this man’s car. Being unable to see where the bonnet started and the boot ended meant I struggled with close maneuvering and parking (OK, never my strong point) and proved to be a bit too much of a challenge. It reached the point where we decided not to bother with cosmetic repairs. I’m not taking all the blame, mind, as Neil added his own bit of decoration last autumn!

But still this beastie kept on going. Until last week, that is. What didn’t make it into the last blog entry was the fact that the car ground to a halt on the motorway just after leaving Benidorm. Neil managed to steer it under its own momentum to the hard shoulder and to peer helplessly under the bonnet whilst I hurriedly clambered over the safety rail sporting a fetching high-visibility vest. Similarly attired, he joined me on the scrub-covered bank and rang round our friends in search of a contact number for a mechanic. Thankfully they were able to help but it soon became clear it was a breakdown truck we needed.

We settled down to wait in what proved to be a record breaking heatwave for January and as bladders relentlessly filled. This inconvenience is so much easier to manage for a man. Having put it off as long as I could, the time eventually came when I had to get myself into an off road hiding place. This involved climbing over the sharp, scrubby bushes and assorted debris that accumulates​ in inaccessible places and down a slippery, precipitous bank to find somewhere discreet to expose myself. Did I mention the sharp bushes?

Well, the long and short of it all is that we are now without a car. The engine failure proved to be pretty catastrophic and uneconomic for us to repair. A replacement is being sought.

Show Time

21 Jan

In all the time we’ve been coming to the Costa Blanca the show at the Benidorm Palace is something we’ve never done. This is, perhaps, surprising as the resort’s night time buzz makes a welcome change now and then from Jávea’s more laid back vibe and the Palace is something of an institution. Somehow we’d never got around to it mostly because of an image of “Dancing Girls” which didn’t really appeal.

Then we got chatting to a couple who had been recently and were raving about it, describing the show as the best they’d seen in years. In the post Christmas lull where nothing much was happening further investigation seemed like a good idea.

First opening its doors in 1977 but going through a couple of transformations ​since including a major refurb, this winter’s show was the 40th anniversary celebration ‘Rubi’ in which “more than 50 artists participate and whose main theme is the “Spanish” Fiesta.” and promising “A night full of surprises, elegance, fantasy and art.” Well, sounds worth a try doesn’t it?

Booking on-line ( )was a challenge though. Perhaps we’re just awkward, but having decided we wanted to go the whole hog and have dinner there before the show we were completely unable to select our chosen main courses. Not to be defeated Neil rang the booking office. Turns out that the difference in price of the various menus reflects not just the food itself but also the location of the table. I wanted a deluxe (of course!) so Neil had to pay the extra, allowing us to sit at the same table! 

It turned out to be well worth it. I can honestly say we had the best table in the place; bang in the centre, a comfortable few rows back and elevated above the tables in front. OK, we’re not talking Michelin star food here but it was more than satisfactory and the show, well, not to spoil anything, was pretty awesome. In the early hours of a chilly January morning, there was a spring in our stagger as we left. Definitely worth the visit. 


3 Jan

So it’s the New Year (Happy 2018, everyone) and, I suppose inevitably, I start thinking about resolutions​. I’m an old hand at this and wasn’t going to bother to be honest. Along with most of the population I don’t stick to these somewhat arbitrary good intentions. I’m not going to give up chocolate, do Dry January, take more exercise or whatever. Still, there is this nagging realisation that I’ve been overdoing it.

My weight has been creeping up since we arrived in Spain – the food and drink here is just SO good. I already, sort of, do the 5:2 on a long term basis. That is, we both have ‘fast’ days twice a week but don’t bother counting calories on the ‘non-fast’ days and this tends to keep our weight pretty steady. Particularly since the build up to Christmas, however, there’s no denying that there is a definite trend in the upward direction. Me and millions of others, of course, but hence the, rather delayed, preoccupation with resolutions​.

And here we have it – Moderation. I can do that. Surely? Today is January the third. Alcohol has not passed my lips since going to bed in the early hours of New Year’s Day (brilliant night, by the way) but tonight I’m cooking and wine will be required in the recipe. I’ll be opening a bottle of rather nice Rueda Verdejo so I’ll naturally be having a glass. But do I have the willpower to keep it to just the one? I can do that. I’m resolved. 

The truffles are another story, though. The problem with January and giving stuff up is that there still tends to be whatever the temptation is lying around the house from Christmas. These chocolates have been burning a hole in the cupboard for the last three days and now I’ve opened them. They’re incredibly moreish. Having stuffed down four in rapid succession after lunch (well, I was too full for a banana) I’m yelling at myself “Moderation!” I’ve drunk several glasses of water. I’ve brushed my teeth. I’ve concentrated on being aware of my lack of hunger (stupid idea – when was chocolate ever about hunger?). I’ve tried to distract myself but all to no avail.

So now I’m writing this. I’m resolved. Moderation. I can do it. Yeah, right. ​

Merry Christmas

23 Dec

 Neil and I want to take this opportunity to wish everyone who has stumbled upon this blog and especially those who have stuck with it, a few of whom have become real life friends thanks to it, a truly wonderful Christmas. Your encouragement and messages are genuinely appreciated and I hope I can interest you enough in the future to keep you coming back. Thank you all. Merry Christmas! 


3 Dec

 I’ve been neglecting this blog since our return to Jávea in Spain. To be honest, it does become difficult to think of something fresh to say about a place you’ve written about many times before.With our first month ​here now over, however, it seemed appropriate to share a few photos.
Although we still refer to the UK as home, it’s to this little corner of the Spanish coast in the Comunitat Valenciana that we keep returning each winter.

As members of the University of the Third Age, perhaps better known as the U3A, we quickly find ourselves absorbed in their groups and activities when we get back. One of the first was the annual coach trip to Valencia. I think the idea was originally for it to be a pre-Christmas shopping trip but we tend to use the opportunity to simply enjoy this lovely city. Last year it was the futuristic buildings of the City of Arts and Sciences that absorbed our time

This time the old town called with its bell towers and their views over the rooftops. We climbed a lot of steps!

I did manage to briefly explore the wonderful indoor market, leaving Neil in a nearby cafe – he doesn’t do markets.

Some pretty amazing street art 

Otherwise, our return to Spain has, so far, been confined to the beautiful area of the Marina Alta  nd lots of coastal walks.

The end of the month brought a change from the beautiful warm days we’d been enjoying earlier in the month.  

The clouds were closing in as we walked the seafront in Dénia. 

It’s now turned decidedly chilly but I guess it’s all relative! 

Age of the Dirt Dweller 

27 Oct

I’ve reached the stage of life when women are usually referred to as being of a “certain age”. Another phrase also comes, increasingly, to mind: “age appropriate”. I’ve ​always admired those women who seem to take great relish in growing older, who find the advancing years give them a sense of liberation. They say what they really want to and dress however they damn-well like. Then again there are women like Audrey Hepburn who age with such grace, dignity and wisdom they are an inspiration. I know I’m not either of these two stereotypes.

I aspire to be Audrey but, in fact, I’m probably nearer the aging starlets who seem to fill the pages of those ghastly magazine and tabloids with shock pictures of weight gain and plastic surgery gone wrong. Who doesn’t understand, men as well as women, the horror of watching your body change, hair turn grey and/or fall out, face sag? The image of youth is everywhere while only those who surprise us with how well they seem to have aged are admiringly remarked upon.

I’m not saying anything new here, of course, and I’d like to think there is a movement for change although I don’t really believe it. And I haven’t even mentioned how the body’s failings and increasing weaknesses ​impact on life and plans for the future. No, I only mention all this because it is so relevant to me at the moment.

Returning to the “real” world after time on the boat is always something of a shock. How truly remarkable British supermarkets are is always a delight and how easily we can access them, piling a week’s worth of shopping into the boot of the car to transport straight to the door and into huge fridges and freezers. But these same supermarkets are also the first to confront me with rails of clothes. And full length rear view mirrors. None of this seemed to matter on the boat where a discrete sarong was all that was required.

I thoroughly dislike most of the clothes deemed fashionable at the moment but it’s not only the vile colours, fabrics, patterns and frills. I know they won’t suit me. Leggings and skinny jeans were not meant to be worn with saggy bums. More expensive shops have better fabrics and sometimes a looser fit, yet when coupled with the 70’s patterns they just scream “old lady” to me. It seems I’m expected to wear the same thing my mother did when she was ten years younger. None of this will ever look good to my eyes. Age appropriate is the best I can do.

The other aspect of returning to the world of the land dweller is how it affects that obsession of mine – my hair. While deprived of hair dryer and straighteners the priorities were enough hot water to wash it in and long enough for it to dry naturally. All I had to do otherwise was tie it up and put a hat on. Restraining it is what mattered.

I’m now confronted with the increased length, the exposed grey roots and that particular shade of orange that coloured hair takes on when exposed to sun. I find that I resent the time it takes to wash, dry and style just to still be piled up onto my head because I’ve grown accustomed to having my neck cool. Life is just too short.

I begrudge the expense of the never ending colouring and highlighting to hide the real me. So my hair is turning grey. Is that really something I should be ashamed of somehow? And just who exactly am I kidding? Let’s face it, that shock when someone who looks twenty from the back and is nearer seventy when they turn around is not attractive. There you have it again, it’s not age appropriate anymore​.

I want to wear my hair any damn well way I like, yet I want to look dignified and attractive, not be a laughing stock. My roots are well and truly exposed and I’m never going to colour them again. I want to have it all chopped off. Are all these wants even compatible? I’m going to have to explain all this somehow to the hairdresser when I get Spain. They’ll need to be a damn genius.