I'm really excited to finally be able to tell you about a fabulous event that is being organised in the Algarve in February!
The Walk In Wardrobe was the brainchild of a group of friends (including me, of course!) who had watched Twiggy's Frock Exchange on TV a few months ago and thought 'why don't we do that?!'... so we decided to!
The event is taking place on February 7th, from 10am to 2pm at the Hotel Garbe in Armação de Pêra, who has kindly offered the use of the Raj Restaurant free of charge, as the event is in aid of charity. We have chosen the Lar Bom Samaritano children's home in Alvor. Tickets for the event cost 10 euros each - all of which will be donated to the home.
The purpose of the event is for ladies to get together and swish. Sound ominous? Worry not... swishing is simply the exchange of clothes! Great huh?
All we ask is for you to bring at least two items of clothing (or accessories) that you would be proud to pass on, and then you can choose anything from the hundreds of items that will be availble for swapping!
We are also organising a fantastic raffle with some lovely girlie prizes!! It's going to be the ultimate girlie day!
We have our own blog and email address:
If you would like a ticket, check out the blog (it's actually in my followers list to the right) or simply send an email to confirm your place. Places are limited so book soon!
You never realise just how much you rely on the internet until you lose it. That's what happened to me last week. I switched on the laptop and opened Explorer and then... nothing. I switched it off and on again... nothing. 'That's odd', I thought.
And then I was summoned to dinner by hubby (it's great being married to someone who does most of the cooking!), and by the time we'd eaten, I'd forgotten all about the computer. It wasn't until the following evening that I tried connecting again and realised we were offline. Our landline had also been affected.
I rang Telecom and they said we would be fixed within a day. It took a week. Typical.
Almost every night, there was something I wanted to check online for, but couldn't, obviously. Also, I was so conscious of not updating my blog... that was the worse thing. It made me realise that I had become quite dependent on my twice weekly blog updates. It was actually making me a bit irritable!
Fortunately we are now back up and running. It appears that we had a faulty line. When Telecom had initially installed the line, they had not connected it properly, meaning we'd had a dodgy line for nearly four years! Oh well... at least it's fixed now. Let's hope it doesn't happen again or I'll be getting withdrawal symptoms.
Talking of withdrawal symptoms... hubby has been suffering terribly with them. All week we have had terribe weather. It's been freezing cold and has rained pretty much all the time - well, every time that he was able to go out on his motorbike that is. He's been moaning and complaining about it, standing staring out at the window as if urging the sun to shine. I got so fed up with it, I practically forced him out this afternoon. "Just go out on your cross bike and get muddy, for god's sake. As long as you wear waterproof clothes, you'll be fine", I said to him, as I shoved him out the door. It's not that I wanted a bit of time to myself, of course....
On the other hand, it meant an overnight stay and.... SHOPPING!!!!
So after dropping the bike off (in case you were wondering how on earth I managed to sit on the back of the throbbing machine ALL THAT WAY – I didn’t... we took it in the back of the van!), we headed for Ikea. We got lost of course... Lisbon wouldn’t be Lisbon if we didn’t get lost. Every time we go, without fail, we somehow seem to lose our way. Once we even ended up going BACK over the bridge towards the Algarve. Three times we went over that damn thing!
Having finally reached Ikea, we had a good wander around, met some friends for lunch and then exited... having spent rather more than we intended.
Next we headed to Estoril to find the hotel that hubby had booked online. I was decidedly apprehensive, considering he’d managed to get it for 41 euros – which also included breakfast! It was going to be dive. I was sure of it.
It didn’t take long to find it... it was well signposted and... it certainly didn’t look much of a dive. In fact, the reception and bar area looked quite funky. I was impressed.
The room wasn’t too bad either. The hotel had obviously recently had a make-over but I think they failed somewhat with the bathroom. Although the idea was good, it wasn’t quite pulled off. The shower, for example, had a tiny glass partition that wasn’t anywhere near large enough to stop water from going everywhere!
But perhaps I am biased, as hubby designs and renovates bathrooms for a living and his are, without doubt, the very best!
After a walk and a nice cold beer in Estoril, I was ready to continue shopping (that goes without saying, really), so we hopped back in the van and headed towards Cascais Shopping where we spent a few more hours having a browse before heading into Cascais for dinner. It was a lovely day but we were exhausted so we looked forward to a good night’s sleep.
Which we most certainly didn’t get! Argh!! The bed was so hard and the hotel was the noisiest hotel we have ever stayed in. The walls seemed paper thin and we could hear people walking in and out all night long. Add to that the traffic and sounds of people outdoors. Needless to say, we didn’t get much sleep that night.
We went down for breakfast early the following morning, where we were almost made to feel like children. The lady on duty clearly didn’t want to be there... she huffed constantly, uttering to herself and complaining. We didn’t stay long!
Next, back up to Cascais Shopping... I had been tempted by a pair of boots the day before so we decided to pop back in and try them on. The shops were closed as we were so early so we had to sit around for 45 minutes waiting. Lo and behold, the boots looked horrible. What a waste of time. Never mind.
It was just before 10.30am. The Ducati dealer and service area closed at 1pm so we had plenty of time to get there. At least we thought we did.
An almighty traffic jam meant we very nearly didn’t get there on time. There had clearly been a nasty accident as we sat there for nearly two hours. Police cars, the fire brigade and ambulances all squeezed in between vehicles that were bumper to bumper. What a nightmare!
I have never been so pleased to get to a bike shop!
After collecting the Ducati, we headed back towards the Algarve, not before stopping at the Almada Forum shopping centre though. There we had a quick wander round the shops, followed by a delicious lunch of authentic Italian pizza before heading home just in time for Strictly Come Dancing and our own comfortable bed! BLISS!
It's been a few months since I created this blog so I guess it's about time I wrote a little more about me and what I do.
I am a freelance writer and I also work as the Features Editor for the best English language weekly newspaper in Portugal, The Resident (see http://www.the-resident.com/), where I can be found three days a week.
I absolutely love to write. Whether it's snippets for my blog, in depth interviews with local residents and businesspeople or general articles, I get such a kick out of creating something from nothing. Even more of a kick when I am complimented on my work, but, of course, that goes without saying!
Since completing my A'levels when I was 18, I have met so many different fascinating people that either live in the Algarve, or frequently visit this beautiful part of the world. From musicians that have worked with the likes of Sammy Davies Jr to the creator of one of the largest hotel chains in England, I've been having a ball getting to know such great personalities.
I have even met Kiki Dee (although that wasn't connected to work) - a very quiet and softly spoken lady. When I met her, she had not long since returned from Elton John's wedding!
As mentioned in a previous blog, I have had the honour of interviewing Stacey Kent over the phone. She was a lovely person and her music is just beautiful. Hubby and I are big fans. We often listen to her, alongside other jazz greats.
But it's those non-famous folk that are even more fascinating. The Algarve is full of them, I can tell you. Some people living here are, undoubtedly, a little strange (I mean... this picture of me, below and my good friend, Rambo, says it all!) but generally speaking, are a lot of fun and super to talk to.
I met a fabulous woman through work who designs her own leather jewellery. We hit it off the moment we met and I am pleased and proud to say that she will be at The Clothes Show Live next month! I am very excited for her. You can check out her beautiful jewellery on http://www.lwrap.com/
In fact, they would make the most excellent Christmas gifts!!
I just had to write about how gutted I am about Saturday's X Factor.
I have been a huge fan of Laura's since the very beginning. I honestly thought (and still think) she has the talent, the style and the personality to win that show.
Since the very start of the show however many years ago, Louis seems to have turned into a bitter and twisted 'old' man. He has become so aggressive and nasty about some of the acts and most of the time he is very wrong. Half the time, I think he votes against the other judges - this week I reckon he had it in for Cheryl because of her comment about JLS and Westlife!
I am so angry about it. There are a few singers in the current series that are simply amazing and Laura was one of them.
I don't deny that Ruth isn't great, of course she is - but Laura really does have more vocal talent. Louis voting for Ruth because she is a 'fighter' is absolute rubbish.
I was in tears on Saturday.
Can you tell I'm angry??
Laura is going to be a huge star, regardless of the X Factor!
I have 'man flu'.
I have been ill all weekend and feel utterly miserable. I am a terrible patient and do feel sorry for my other half who has to put up with my moaning, sniffling, sneezing, coughing etc etc.
I had been feeling as though I was fighting something for a week or so and I guess my system said enough is enough and gave up the fight on Friday.
Waking up with difficulty in swallowing, I just knew it had finally got me. That same day I had a lunchtime meeting with a few friends about a fantastic event we're organising early next year (more about that later, when I'm feeling up to it!), so I at least managed to fend it off until I got home later in the day and then it hit me. So I have been unable to do anything for myself all weekend. What a bummer. I hope I wake up tomorrow with a new lease of life. Let's see.
I've had a lovely weekend... the weather was beautiful and I'd aleady done all the housework so I could just chill out and relax the whole time. Utter bliss.
My other half decided the weather was perfect for a ride out on his motorbike so he left at 3pm on Saturday afternoon, leaving me to laze in the sun to finish a great book I'd been reading (Behaving Badly by Isabel Wolff). Sprawled out on the sun lounger, I was in a world of my own, nothing to bother me but the sounds of nature all around... that and the constant whirr of motorbikes just over the hills.
That's right.... the sounds of motorbikes... whirring away.... constantly. Motorbikes that were practising for the Algarve's very first event of its kind at the brand spanking new autodrome which just happens to be located just 10 minutes' drive away from our house.
I'm not complaining. Not at all. I actually think it's rather fab that we're so close to something so new and exciting. Hopefully the proximity might even add a bit of value to the houses around here, particularly important should we decide to sell in the near future (which I hope we will do but I'll tell you about that later).
The autodrome's opening event is this weekend. Naturally my hubby and his friends have bought tickets. I, on the other hand, am looking forward to a day of guilt-free shopping at our local shopping centre! The event is the World Superbike Championship - quite impressive, don't you think?! I'm sure the noise will be quite loud so popping to the shops is another excuse to save my delicate ears (ahem). If you're interested in the autodrome, it has a website http://www.autodromodoalgarve.com/
Back to my lovely weekend... after a number of hours I started to get a tad worried about my nearest and dearest. Lately when he's out for a ride he's only been gone an hour or two but after two and a half, I did start concerning myself as to his whereabouts.
Luckily I needn't have worried, at about six I heard the sound of the bike a couple of miles away (you could say it's a bit loud) and he returned safe and sound. Turns out he'd been riding and had met a fellow English biker around the same age and they'd stopped for a coffee and a chat. They've swapped contact details so, hopefully, he now has a pal with whom to go out riding now and again. I do worry when he's out alone all the time!
We have lots of friends over here but none are 35 year old bikers with the same taste in bikes (and the same need for speed) as my hubby, so it'll make a nice change for him!
Oh for the love of 'vintage' clothes.
I had forgotten what fun it can be to sort through a multitude of 'vintage' (well... second hand, anyway) items.
Last week, a friend and I decided to pop into Portimao for a coffee and a sandwich. There had been no discussions as to what else we might do... but, naturally, we ended up shopping.
But no ordinary shopping, I might add. We were bargain hunting.
My good pal knew of a great shop she had visited once or twice before. "It's fabulous. They've got this great big box and everything in it is one euro!" Had I heard right... one euro?! "Yes", she giggled.
It turned out the shop in question was a local charity shop and indeed, had this huge box full to overflowing with used and hardly worn garments.
What fun! We began at one end, turfing out all the tat and putting to one side all the items that we would try later. We must have been there a good hour, delving deep into the bowels of this amazing 'vintage' box.
Ok, perhaps I am dramatising it a little... there was an awful lot of hideousness in there but we did discover some real little treasures. I ended up with four tops:
1 deep red wool, roll neck top with no sleeves which will look fab over a long sleeved black top in the height of winter.
1 simple slit neck 3 quarter length sleeved top which look great with my new red suede shoes (see previous blog)
1 stunning purple and black cotton top - perfect for those stunning purple heels hubby bought me last Christmas!
1 fabulous black blouse with a frill down the front and super cuffs. It sounds scary but I've seen similar things on the catwalk this season - and it's just lovely!
My friend spent a massive seven euros on all her goodies.
Having enjoyed ourselves so much, we are popping out again today. This time, though, we are headed to another town that boasts a couple of 'vintage' shops.
Let's see what treasures we might uncover...
Buying shoes has become somewhat of a nightmare. Don't get me wrong... I could shop for shoes all day, every day... but every time I am looking for something specific, I can NEVER find it!
Take last week, for instance, I went shopping (spur of the moment) and decided I just HAD to have a new pair... to add to my other 50 odd pairs. What I wanted was a simple little pair of flats, black, perhaps with a tiny bow - in Portugal they are called 'Sabrinas', in the UK I'm not so sure but they're a little like ballerina shoes. They've been all the rage for ages - especially with leggings. They are very cute.
Anyway... I looked high and low and could not find a single pair. I particularly would have liked leather, so they'd last longer. I tried a multitude of 'similar' styles but they all looked ridiculous on my size 6 feet.
Which brings me to my next issue... my size 6 feet seem to have grown! Size 6 is a 39 over here but most 39s I try on are too damn small. And to add insult to injury... 40s are too BIG! GRRRR
Half sizes are virtually non existent in this country. I know I know... I could buy online but what if they also look ridiculous?!
In the end I found a pair... I wasn't sure about them but I bought them all the same. They were a tad on the tight side but I put that down to my day of trawling round the shops, my feet were obviously 'swollen' a bit.
Anyway... that evening, I proudly paraded them in front of my husband. Expecting praise for my obvious good taste, all I got were raised eyebrows and a slight curl to the lip. He thought they were hideous.
Two days later and the two of us were traipsing around the shops, after returning the previous purchase to whence I had bought them.
Eager to find another pair in that same shop... I tried on everything... to which the curled lip and raised eyebrows appeared once again (over and over, I might add).
In the end, he picked up a rather odd looking shoe in red suede. I laughed at the oddity of them. For a joke, I tried them on...
OH WHAT COMFORT. They were almost as comfortable as my treasured Croc slippers. I just had to have them! And so... having paid a further 40 euros on top of the 25 I had spent two days previously, I am now the proud owner of a pair of red suede shoes that (surprisingly) look super with a pair of jeans!
However... they would look hideous with those damn leggings.... The hunt continues...
The vet advised us to leave Yoda with him over the weekend and he would try and operate today. All weekend its been so strange not having the lovely little fella whining by my feet, following my everywhere. I miss him. I really do. I hope he can come home later today so I can cuddle him!!
I had a bit of a moment last night.
My brother telephoned me from England at almost 10pm. As soon as I answered the phone and heard his voice, I panicked.
It's a seldom occurrence that I get phone calls from any family members in the UK so when they do, I instantly assume there's something wrong.
My Dad, who is visiting the UK at the moment, appeared to have gone missing! And before you have visions of Mrs Hyacinth Bucket (or is that Bouquet?) and her elderly father who frequently vanishes, picture this: my Dad is only 56 years old and is in full possession of his faculties (at least... most of the time!)
Apparently my dear Dad had left Loughborough in the morning to travel up to Rotherham to visit his father. He had told my brother he would be back in the afternoon. 9.30pm came and went and still no sign. Phone calls and numerous text messages to him later, and we were still no closer to finding out his whereabouts.
I had been called in order to obtain our Grandad's phone number, who they duly called - only to be told Dad had left their house at 3pm.
By this time, I was in a bit of a panic... picturing him lying helplessly roadside half dead (I do have a tendency to dramatise things), I couldn't possibly go to bed until I knew what was going on.
Perhaps his mobile phone had run out of credit, I thought. I immediately went online and put an extra 10 euros on it, followed by frantically trying to phone and text him. Nothing.
My brother told me to calm down and go to bed, which I duly did. I lay there until 11pm, worried sick. I can now imagine what parents are like when their teenage kids are out and about in the evening. Arrrgh!
I couldn't possibly sleep so I headed back downstairs and switched on Messenger. 'Any news?', I asked anxiously.
'I was just going to ring you', said my sister in law... 'he's just walked in!'.
A huge sigh of relief escaped my lips.... followed by this intense desire to call him all the names under the sun (which, of course, I would never do... he is my father!)
'It's alright. He's had a bad day.......... he missed the bus'.
Shaking my head and now seeing the funny side. And his mobile phone?
He'd left it with my sister down the road!
I had the great honour of interviewing her last year and it was, without doubt, one of the highlight's of my career.
Imagine my surprise when I received an email from her last week. Sadly, a year ago she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She had chosen not to divulge the news to her fans until now - just before a charity concert she is giving in aid of breast cancer awareness.
Here is her press release... please spread the word about this very important cause.
stacey kent & her musicians
Live @ Indigo2 13th October 2008
Millenium Way, Greenwich SE10 0AX, 0844 844 0002, www.theindigo2.com, 7pm, £40-£10
"...she has charm to burn, a smile that could give you hope in February and sings like nobody's
business." -- WALL STREET JOURNAL
Stacey Kent (vocals) with Jim Tomlinson (saxes), Graham Harvey (piano), John Parricelli (guitar), Jeremy Brown (double bass) and Matt Skelton (drums)
A year on from the release of her Gold-selling Blue Note album, Breakfast On The Morning Tram, Stacey Kent will perform a special charity concert at the Indigo2 on 13th October 2008 as part of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
Stacey, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2007, has chosen to give this concert in aid of
three breast cancer charities, Breast Cancer Care, Breakthrough Breast Cancer and the Barnet
Breast Unit Fund. All of the proceeds from the concert will go to these charities.
What is more, the concert represents the last opportunity to see Stacey and her brilliant band live in London before next autumn. And as an added bonus they’ll be joined, for this show only,
by wonderful guitarist, John Parricelli, who contributed so memorably to her most recent album,
Breakfast On the Morning Tram.
Stacey was diagnosed with breast cancer just as she commenced recording in April 2007, and
though deeply shocked, decided that she couldn’t not do the thing she loved most - make music! Bravely, she opted to complete the recording and commence with her tour - 27 countries and counting - while also under going treatment for cancer. She also chose to keep her illness private, determined to focus her interviews on how much she loved her new music. It is only now that she is completely healthy, and the album an international success, that Stacey has chosen to discuss her illness and to perform this major concert to raise awareness and in support of three cancer related charities - including the local unit where she received such brilliant care. Stacey's new album, Breakfast On The Morning Tram, is out now on Blue Note / EMI.
A ‘Limited edition’ version with bonus CD singles and DVD is released on Sept 29th
Breakfast On The Morning Tram is GOLD in France and Germany.
Jim Tomlinson & Kazuo Ishiguro's song, THE ICE HOTEL featured on Breakfast On The Morning Tram, has won First Place in the Jazz category of the 2007 International Songwriting Competition.
Stacey Kent on why this concert means so much to her:
“I was diagnosed with breast cancer in April 2007, just as we were starting to record my Blue
Note debut album, Breakfast On The Morning Tram. Obviously, this came as a huge shock! I am
young and very healthy and have always looked after myself. I went in for surgery in May, and
finally, I went through radiation last July, when thankfully, the album tour kept me close to home and on the continent only. After that, we left for Japan and the rest of the worldwide tour.
I did have the choice of cancelling the recording session and subsequent tour, but Jim and I thought that as heartbreaking as this news was, we would have been much sadder to have stopped doing the thing we are most passionate about. We talked it out and realized that if everything were to become about the illness, it would be much harder to get through the illness,
the surgery, etc. But in this way, by continuing to work, we had something wonderful to look forward to and I do believe in staying positive. So, we did indeed stay positive and managed to
combine our main aims --1) to get me healthy again 2) to create this album we loved so much.
On doctor’s advice, I ended up taking one week off after surgery and in the end, I bounced
back pretty quickly. And I just wanted to get back to work and to living a normal life!
Ironically, BREAKFAST was always going to be my most reflective, most personal album anyway and then .... my world was turned upsidedown! And though there is no 'theme' on this album, so many of the songs we chose were about the timeline of life, the delicate balance of the joy and the sadness we all have to face in our lives: Songs like "What A Wonderful World" "So Many Stars" "Landslide " "Never Let Me Go" "I Wish I Could Go Travelling Again" "Breakfast On The Morning Tram" -- all the Ishiguro songs, which are heartbreaking and yet all have an optimistic undertone -- one song after the other, they are hugely poignant stories. It was an emotional time, to say the least and making the album put us on an emotional rollercoaster.
However, I decided that I did not want my interviews to be about the cancer but still wanted to
talk about the music, which meant so much to me. Also, Jim and I were just too raw at the time
to speak publicly and we had this enormous tour ahead of us. We therefore made the decision
to keep my illness private and to focus on our new album and exciting new adventure with Blue
The reason for this concert (during 'Breast Cancer Awareness Month’) is that I am now fine and
cancer free and I am now able to talk about my illness and recovery. And most importantly, the
care and support I received, which was (and continues to be) absolutely amazing. I want to be
able to give something back and to help others if I can and I have chosen three charities (one
for research, one for care, one for the centre where I was actually treated) and Jim and I will
donate all proceeds from the concert.
This concert comes right between a 3 week tour in Germany and a tour in Brazil but we wanted
to be part of "Breast Cancer Awareness Month and this was the only way to do it!
Praise for Stacey Kent’s Blue Note debut Breakfast On The Morning Tram:
"... true brilliance...a marvelously inventive launching pad for this bold, brave new Kent."
'Devastatingly stylish' The Observer
"Genuinely affecting" The Guardian
"Stacey continues to deliver intimate ballads with perfect timing and control". BBC
I've not told you very much about me and where I live, have I? Are you curious? Do you really want to know? Well... if you insist...
I live in the Algarve with my gorgeous husband - to whom I have been married for ten years. We have been together since I was 16 years old!! (Shocking these days, isn't it?) We live in a beautiful house out in the countryside with our two dogs: Megan and Roxy and our menagerie of cats: Kylie, Poppy, Scully, Robbie, Hermione and Yoda. We did have another called Mr. Darcy but he moved home when Hermione and Yoda moved in... I guess he was ready for a change. Every six months or so, he does pop by for a visit, just to let us know he's alive and well, which I think is rather decent of him don't you think?
When hubby and I first moved in together (I was 19, he was ... three years older!) we rented an apartment overlooking the sea not far from a really special little fishing village called Carvoeiro. It's special because I pretty much grew up hanging out there... we had some laughs there, I can tell you. But that's a tale for another time!
We rented for about 9 months and then got sick of the whole renting malarkey and so decided to buy. Now that was an experience... looking for an apartment to buy. We went to various agents and were shown some seriously diabolical places, one we are certain was built for the seven dwarves. Everything was knee high to a grasshopper! We didn't quite get that. Why the agent would show something so ridiculously tiny and short to us (hubby is about 6ft 2"), we've no idea!
Needless to say, we didn't go back!
In the end we saw the perfect place... it was actually in the next block to where we were renting, it needed gutting but it was livable. It had the most amazing view, it was to die for... really!
It didn't take too long to sort out the mortgage and we moved in around October about 12 (ish) years ago. Over the next few years we gradually renovated it and it became a contemporary and stylish home. We loved it.
Our neighbours became our closest friends. Unfortunately they don't live here all the time, the apartment is (still) their holiday home. They visit as often as they can throughout the year though. We also became friends with their two daughters and their husbands (who are closer to our age), who call us their adopted brother and sister, which is really lovely!
About three years ago, we decided it was time to move on from apartment life and so we put the place on the market... assuming it would take a little while to find a buyer. We were so wrong... the first person to look at it, bought it!
We had planned on buying a really old cottage out in the country that needed total renovation, however, we soon spotted a real gem on the internet. It was a brand new house, all open plan with big windows. We immediately fell in love with it and made an offer straight away. The rest, as they say, is history.
Or should I say... history in the making?
I have just had the fright of my life...
While sitting here at my laptop, browsing through sites that should help promote my work (one can only hope!), something landed on my face... on my eye to be exact.
I screamed, through off my glasses (luckily they landed softy on the desk) and jumped a mile into the air (ok... perhaps I can exaggerate a little bit) and ran as fast as I could out of our home office. I am shuddering at the thought. Urgh.
As I shook off my faithful pink cardie and headed into the bathroom to inspect my poor face. I couldn't see a thing. Whatever it was, was no longer. No longer on my head anyway.
Urgh... I can't stop shuddering.
As I carefully tiptoed back to my desk, scouring the place for anything alien... I noticed a little grasshopper on the floor. Urgh... a grasshopper had landed on my eye... of all places!
Urgh... I know I keep saying Urgh... but it's all I can think of to say.
Oh, the joys of living in this part of the world... and out in the countryside as well. Bugs galore.
The weather has been dreadful all weekend. I genuinely feel sorry for all those tourists that eagerly arrived for a sun-drenched holiday just a few days ago, to be greeted not by the beautiful hot sun but instead by thunder, lightning and constant rain.
Proof that living here isn't all a bed of roses, this weekend's storm left us with hardly a thing to do. We also had friends staying with us... they own a holiday home in the village where I grew up but whenever they come over for a break, they always come and have a weekend out in the country with us.
But what to do? It rained almost from the moment they arrived. On Saturday morning, we popped to the local shopping centre to buy some bits n pieces for dinner and the place was heaving with people. I hate crowds. I become claustrophobic and uncomfortable... however, I do love shopping so I tend to grin and bear it. Saturday, however, was another story and I just wanted to get home and put my comfy slippers on!
Whenever it rains here, all the shopping centres fill up - it doesn't make any difference whether it is a light shower or a full on storm, shopping becomes a nightmare. Is it the same the world over? Or is it just here because there really is very little else to do but shop?
What else is there to do when it rains? You can't very well go to the beach or the local waterslide parks can you? To be brutally honest... there isn't anything else to do.
In the winter, my husband and I are almost always at a loss what to do. We used to go out for long drives in the country but even that has become a tad tedious... having gone down those same routes time and time again. We dream of faraway places where you can go ice skating, roller skating or even skiing - just for something totally different to do with our time.
Many a Sunday morning, we find ourselves meeting friends for a coffee, often at the (surprise, surprise) shopping centre where we spend an hour catching up before heading our separate ways and then wondering what else we can do to while away the time.
After returning with our friends this weekend, we sat down to a nice cup of tea, occasionally eyeing up the storm outside before my husband decided to start preparing dinner. It was, after all, something to do. With the ducks roasting in the oven, we sat and played Rummikub for a couple of hours before enjoying a super supper while watching Strictly Come Dancing on TV.
The following morning, our friends were keen to head home but found themselves struggling to get out of our house due to the ferocity of the storm. In the end, they decided to brave it and made a swift escape, leaving us, once again wondering what to do with ourselves.
Last week I was honoured to have been invited to a charity fashion show. It wasn't just any old invitation... I was to be guest of honour! I realise this was due to the fact that I edit the monthly fashion page in the local newspaper. But I was still honoured, nonetheless. The event was a huge success and many more people attended than was previously thought. Everyone had a ball. The models were all volunteers or friends of volunteers at the local animal charity, Nandi, and they were all so professional. It was fantastic. What was so remarkable about the show was that all the clothes were 'vintage' (I love that word!), in other words, they were all second hand items that had previously been donated to the charity shops. You would never have known would you?!
There was also an added surprise in the form of a sensuous salsa performed by two dancers from Strictly Social Dance. It was superb! And just in time for the beginning of Strictly Come Dancing on TV. Great timing! Here are some of the photos I took of this excellent cause...
I slept on the terrace a couple of weeks ago. It was such a beautiful evening that my husband and I just couldn’t resist lying beneath the stars as we dozed off into the land of dreams... that, and the fact that our bedroom had been unbearably hot.
As we lay there, counting the shooting stars above us, my husband had just closed his eyes when I saw the most magnificent one. It was the biggest, brightest shooting star I had ever seen and he had missed it. I was convinced it must have been some kind of comet... he was convinced it was probably something man made. We agreed to disagree.
Anyway, again we drifted off to sleep, only to be awoken a few hours later feeling a trifle chilly. I nipped inside and lugged our huge duvet cover outside and we snuggled up and dropped off again. Another couple of hours went by and I was woken by the feeling of something crawling on me... everywhere. I screeched and leapt up, rudely awaking my other half in the process. We didn’t even stop to see what it was. We just shook ourselves silly and shot inside to the comfort of our bed – fan on high to try to keep us cool.
The next morning as I gingerly stepped onto the terrace, I noticed hundreds of giant flying ants all over the duvet. I shuddered. I could have been smothered by those things. I could have been smothered to death (an image of my lifeless body creeps into my mind... death by giant ants...urgh). Ok... so maybe I am a bit of a drama queen sometimes.
That was the first time we had slept under the stars on our terrace. It would most definitely be the last.
Since that episode, we have, finally, had air conditioning fitted into our bedroom! After nearly eleven years of living in a hot apartment by the sea and three years of living in a warm villa in the country, we can finally sleep in a cool room in the summer. What utter bliss. For years we have, like many other expats here, have settled for the humble fan. A fantastic invention, of course, but it has nothing on the air conditioning unit. My skin is starting to feel dry and, with the lack of fresh air throughout the night, our oxygen levels are clearly lower than usual, but we have a cool bedroom! At the moment, nothing else matters! It could be sucking the life out of me, for all I care. It’s a cool bedroom!
Contrary to popular belief, it can get incredibly cold out here during the winter months. It’s not cold enough for snow but we often find a frost covering the ground first thing in the morning, particularly in January and February. Even though it is this chilly, my husband still insists on sleeping with a wide open window. “We need the fresh air”, he says. Perhaps now I have a good bargaining tool, “you didn’t say that when we had the air conditioning on in the summer”. What can he say to that? Not a lot really.
Having grown up in Iberia, I went to an International School. It was an amazing experience because it enabled me to learn about so many different cultures. There were kids from Germany, Holland, France, Canada, US, England, Portugal, Spain – you name it, they were there. It was a whole new world ripe for exploration.
Being just ten when I first entered that school, and boasting a strong Yorkshire accent, I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to be someone else. I remember trying very hard to speak without my accent and telling everyone my name was the (rather posh) one on my birth certificate, as opposed to the (more common) one everyone has called me since I was born.
I wanted to fit in with the posh kids but I probably looked and sounded like an idiot. Eventually my efforts diminished, the accent returned (albeit strangely less pronounced) and I was known as my simple name once again. I was happy though. My posh friends only sounded posh – they were not in the least stuck up and I soon began to realise that it was the little things like our widely differing accents that made us so unique.
I had many Dutch friends who I could have listened to for hours. I just loved the way words rolled from their tongues. And I loved the way they spoke English too, almost with an American accent. To me, they were the coolest of the lot. I remember staying at my then best friend’s house for the weekend and for breakfast the whole family sat round the table chatting. There were all kinds of fascinating foods and fruit juices that I had never even seen before, let alone tasted.
To them, breakfast was the most important meal of the day. It’s a shame it never sunk in – my husband has to practically force feed me to eat food first thing in the morning these days! (Note to self: remember the Dutch, eat a hearty breakfast)
After 22 years of living in Southern Europe, I no longer have a Yorkshire accent. The only time it rears its head is when I say words like ‘bath’. According to my brother and sister, my accent is now a posh one. Funny, considering that’s what I wanted when I was a kid. A couple of years ago I appeared on a regional BBC programme about expatriates living in the region. I couldn’t believe myself how ‘posh’ I did sound! It was actually embarrassing.
Why has my accent fallen by the wayside? Perhaps due in part to my mixing with different cultures, or perhaps being with my husband since I was 16, who knows? My husband is also English, but he hails from Essex – although I do remember calling him posh when we first got together. But that’s a story for another time!
You’re probably wondering, ‘who on earth is this Iberian Bird?’ Well, I wonder the same thing all the time. Maybe I ought to give you a bit of history to give you some kind of idea.
I’m 32 years old and I live in Southern Europe – the same place I have resided since upping sticks with my family some 22 years ago. Although I always described myself as a ‘Yorkshire Lass’, having only been ten years old when I left, I have now succumbed to my surroundings and call myself ‘European’, or in other terms, an Iberian Bird. And no, I’m not quite on the endangered species list. Well... not yet anyway.
Although I have to admit I do feel that I might just be a dying breed. You see, I’m a married woman. Not just that... but I’m a happily married woman. I’m not saying that there are few happily married women out there. No not at all. It’s just that I married my ‘childhood’ sweetheart and I intend to be married to him to the end of time. These days there aren’t THAT many couples who have been together since they were kids and are still, to this day, as happy now as they were then – or more so, in my case.
In this day and age, too many people succumb to divorce. Although expensive, it’s the easy way out. No one wants to fight for what they’ve got anymore. They forget why they got together in the first place: love. Love conquers all, remember? No? Well... perhaps you ought to think about that before jumping lock, stock into the open arms of divorce. Fight for what you’ve got... not with each other.
I’ve kind of gone off on a tangent, haven’t I? Now, where was I? Ah, yes. Me... the Iberian Bird. At ten years old moving from the confines of cold, wet, dreary northern England to the hot summers of Iberia did come as a bit of a shock, to say the least. Admittedly though, it didn’t take too long to settle in. Welcomed with open arms by the locals, we had found ourselves a pleasant little pocket in the country with a swimming pool and ample space for us three siblings to not get in each other’s way.
The Good Life continued for a few years until the tragic death of our beloved mum. Losing a parent at any age is overwhelmingly heartbreaking, but friends told us that life had to go on, no matter what. Dad continued his role as our ‘rock’, cooking, cleaning, taking care of us in every way he could. We missed mum terribly but refused to let the tragedy break us. We had always been a close family and this would never change.
As the years went by and we grew into fine young adult specimens (ahem) our lives took us in different directions. My elder sister and younger brother had both returned to Yorkshire, while I remained behind, fulfilling my dream of further education. I had always imagined I would become a professional. A professional what, I wasn’t actually sure, but I did a couple of A’levels with the intention of going to University in England. I hadn’t thought for a second that love would prevent me from doing so. And so it was that after completing my A’levels, I couldn’t possibly have left my soul mate behind so I decided to stay.
Having lived here for 22 years, I am the envy of all my old friends and family. I have been very lucky but life here isn’t all a bed of roses. But that is another story altogether.