Facebook options when a family member or loved one is deceased include deleting the profile or switching to a memorial version. Today I was told by FBP that I’d been unfollowed by a family member. As it happened death / deletion of profile wasn’t one of the suggested reasons I could have been unfollowed. Anyway. Profile gone, photos gone, and, slightly shockingly, every comment she’d ever made on my posts, and she had made many, some hilarious, some pithy, some useful – gone. Wow.
If there had never been a Facebook account we’d likely have only ever communicated with chatty birthday and Christmas cards, and the occasional phone call – different countries, different lives. Facebook can be infuriating but for family it is a way of sharing news, photos, updates, and it was oddly chilling to lose all that history.
Okay, no fun whatsoever getting birthday reminders for someone lost a year or two earlier but when I go, I have just added to my very long list of instructions to my long-suffering daughter to please choose the memorial option. Is that narcissistic? Ghoulish? Don’t care. At least if anyone, ever, gets round to wondering whatever happened to old whatsername, they’ll be able to find out.
It’s coming up two years (in November) and time for an update on living with a podenco, the Spanish hunting dog used for running down rabbits and hares, for anyone thinking of adopting one of these lovely sighthounds, especially a rescued working dog which has usually lived out.
Purdey loves little rituals, which become cast in stone – when I return from shopping I unpack the bags against the door, then open it so she can charge out and leap into the back of the car where she waits, trembling with expectation, while I transfer the shopping inside. Then we go find parking and detour into a brief walk on the way home. Not exactly exciting, but she loves it. She loves life generally, everything except thunder and bangs, which bring her trembling under the desk. She was five when we found each other and all I know of her background was that she started life as a hunting dog and three of her owners were hunters. She’s had at least one litter, possibly every time she came on heat although if a dog is too insistent (they still are, although she’s now spayed) she sits down firmly, removing temptation, and snaps crossly at him. No way José.
It seems likely she was never a house dog before, and very timid about coming indoors, but she decided eventually that anything the cat could do was surely legal. Ideal homes for them are large busy families, not single old ducks like me, but I own a guesthouse so there’s usually something on the go. Occasionally paying guests bring dogs with them – she was utterly fixated by a visiting Chihuahua which was very patient about being sniffed from nose to tail every time it appeared. Another guest brought a miniature Doberman which adored her and wouldn’t leave her alone, I’d find her sleeping in a hiding place while the little visitor searched anxiously for her. The very first guest dog was a particularly massive Newfoundland – even I was taken aback by its size. When I let her out she charged upstairs to see what was happening, took one startled glance, and charged back down, but they got on well during his stay. He was a gentle giant, still very young, and delighted to find my last dog’s neglected basket of toys. Purdey hadn’t understood the concept of play until then and now has a favourite teddy. She’ll also now chase a ball (and sometimes bring it back). Mainly she loves attention. She’s not a pest, but is radiant when being stroked and as for grooming, would probably stand rock still to the end of time so long as the brush kept moving.
Sometimes guests borrow her for walks or even dawn runs, both of which she heartily approves. Some guests bribe her with scraps when they are cooking (strictly against rules), but some shout at her to go away when she pokes her nose round the apartment door, and she skitters downstairs looking embarrassed and avoids them from then on. I worried about taking on a breed which needed lots of exercise and company but the walks are good for both of us and she seems to enjoy the turnover in visitors. Sometimes when a favourite guest is leaving I fancy the glance she gives me says well, we tried our best, maybe next time but then I am a writer and have an over-developed imagination.
She leaps about like Tigger when I lift down the lead and harness, and is always up for adventure – if I get to my feet, any time day or night, she’s instantly alert, those enormous ears pricked, amber eyes glowing. She’s friendly, loving, eager to please, but when I’m busy she’s quite happy to head up to the patio to sunbathe, or to my bedroom for a nap. She hates baths and she hates the sea, fleeing in panic from waves. She’s swum (politely, with a guest) in the river, but generally loathes getting wet, possibly because her wiry coat takes a while to dry even with a towel. Rainy days are few and far between here but those are our shortest walks, and she’s turning for home with a pleading look even as I’m bending down with the baggie.
Because she has way more energy than I do, we worked on her recall until now I can let her off the lead to gallop in open areas. She’s even learned that if another dog comes into sight, especially one on a lead, she has to resist temptation and return to her own lead before introductions, if they happen at all, are allowed. That was essential, as Spanish dogs aren’t generally as sociable as, for example, UK dogs, and are usually on the lead for a reason, especially in the open. They react in different ways to a pod galloping up to say hello. Some stand rockstill, frozen in shock, some launch straight into an attack, and some are delighted and the two end up having a romp while we owners make laboured Spanglish conversation. She’s very, very, good with other dogs, and very firm, tolerating no more than a polite amount of sniffing before pointedly putting a stop to it. We were on a street walk, on the lead, when a very angry terrier launched itself teeth first from a doorway. She owned him in about four seconds flat and had him on his back crying out in fear while she stood over him making dreadful noises into his face. She was in complete control of herself and the situation, and didn’t so much as nip him as she terrified him into good manners. She’s never started a fight, defends herself with vim and vigour when another dog turns hostile, but doesn’t hang about, using her hunting speed to remove herself from danger. She can jump like an ibex, from a standing start, and is surefooted on high walls or rocky terrain while I’m still palpitating with shock. She’s in her element, of course, when back in the campo.
That’s something to remember, anyone wanting to adopt a pod needs good fencing especially as they are the most inquisitive dogs ever hatched – she’s left in my apartment while new guests arrive, in case they aren’t dog fanciers, and can be seen through the glass door leaping up to five feet in the air while booming out her enormous challenging bark. When she’s let out to be introduced (as she has to be, even to the non dog fanciers since she has to know this lot are allowed in the house) she’s suddenly timid and diffident, then warms up to them by the day if they’re the right sort, and again that shared glance when they leave, as leave they must . . . she adores family visiting because they come into “our” space.
There were initial hiccups, to be expected. Even with 3 meals a day, she scavanged at first, still in “who knows when the next meal will come” mode. Although she has no animosity towards cats, anything darting away had her in automatic pursuit – she’s a sight hound, bred to chase. And she was and is stubborn when she thinks she knows best. I’ve previously nearly always owned bull breeds and know about bullheadedness but she doesn’t glower, she just – does what she thinks she should. This stubbornness makes some think them stupid but in fact once they have worked out what it is that you want, and why (logic matters to them) they are willingness itself. She is highly intelligent, clean in her habits, independent, loving, and far more protective of me than I’d expected from an initially timid dog.
I really wasn’t sure I was doing the best thing, for either of us, but she was in desperate need of a home and it turned out we needed each other. Thank you for reading to the end, perhaps you are doing so because you too are thinking of adopting a podenco. She is an enduring delight.
One side-effect of Covid19 changing lives was that thousands of teachers internationally switched to online work, and another significant chunk of the English-speaking population started teaching English online to keep the pennies rolling in. Many schools sprang up, and as many websites where teachers could hang out their shingles. I’d been with the same school, based in Hong Kong, since 2017, as one of their thirty thousand teachers handling Chinese, Taiwanese, Japanese, Korean, and Vietnamese students, was ranked as a senior tutor and earning good rates, especially seeing my commute was from the kitchen, bearing a cup of coffee, into my study. Lovely!
Covid19 was a personal nightmare. The vast tsunami of competition turned cut-throat, with multiple websites advertising lessons to pupils for as little as $5 an hour, which meant us senior tutors earning up to 10 quid per half-hour class, 2 classes an hour, became unsustainably expensive. The school gave a thin scream of horror and cut rates drastically. Every other decent school had firmly closed their recruiting for the interim. Even those cautiously interested in taking on more teachers for the flood of new pupils pointed out gently that a few years experience and a TEFL hardly stacked up against fully, conventionally, qualified teachers with >twenty years classroom experience competing for the same few jobs. In September last year China banned online private tutoring for schoolchildren, which cut as big a swathe through the pool of available pupils as you can imagine. At least half of my pupils had been Chinese. It made a bad situation significantly worse. The school laid off hundreds, if not thousands, of teachers and I was assigned to the Taiwanese branch, where there weren’t always enough pupils to fill the 3 hours a day I was committed to the school. No pupil, no pay.
Another Covid19 side-effect – no guests, no income. I have a small guesthouse (the Casa Excéntrico tab) which previously paid my overheads, not only letting me live free but even contributing to its own maintenance, and ongoing renovation, in a very understated way. Lockdowns kept abruptly putting that income out of reach. Spain offered some (not much) relief to the self-employed but I was registered as a self-employed teacher and was still teaching, so – nope.
Well, we all have our Covid stories and most of us are still here, even if our savings aren’t, but it got me wondering whether this whole move to Spain thing had been such a good idea. I’d never have done it without the assurance of being able to earn my daily bread, as my Spanish was close to non-existent then and still, to my shame, relies heavily on the medium of dance and the vocabulary of a slightly backward child. If I was meant to be here, if the winds which had blown me through the last few years were dropping, what next?
Lockdown lifted slowly, first within Spain, then within Europe, and house bookings started pouring in. I think the longest I’ve been without at least one guest in the last eight months has been ten days – fantastic, wonderful, luck for me, and every good review, (I have lovely guests, who review enthusiastically) especially in another language, brought in more bookings. The winds have started blowing again – I had to coach for an international English exam, enjoyed it, and was useful. It started a trickle of pupils who are already pretty fluent, appreciative, and scattered all over the world. Ideally I’d have built that up a bit more first but the most popular hours are already committed to the school. However, my contract at the school is up for renewal this month… I’ve swallowed hard, and once again taken a leap into the barely-known by telling the school I’m not renewing. That’s it, freelancing on a wing and a prayer, gambling there’ll be no more lockdowns and enough ambitious students, and that the winds keep blowing until I reach the wonderful plateau of becoming a jubilado and can count on at least one source of income no matter what horrors still lie in store for us all …
Oh, and as for wondering whether Spain was the right choice – yes, I think so. It was a bit of a mad thing to do but I am definitely a bit mad. That may not be comfortable, but it’s interesting. The winds haven’t let me down yet so I’m trusting them to whirl me on along the right paths a bit further yet.
I’d say ever researching on your behalf, as I have in the past, but how to research a wind? Shut your eyes and go where it takes you, but so far so good, no regrets.
Got a dog, or even a cat? Here’s an experiment. Spend a week ranting at it, sounding angry, tearful, reproachful, unreasonable, or near hysterical, pointing in random directions. Note its reactions. My dog would be a nervous wreck. If I kept it up she’d doubtless adjust but she’d definitely lose her bounce. She’d even possibly start getting defensively aggressive or go off her food. I wouldn’t dream of doing it to her.
I don’t do it to myself, either. That’s not as easy as it sounds. I can refuse to watch the news, but there’s headlines bursting through on my phone, in the margins of my websites, trickling across the bottom of my screen whenever and wherever I’m online. There’s Twitter, Facebook, and those friends who message any news atrocities they feel I might have missed because I, you know, won’t watch the news. I do want to hear from them, I want to know what’s going on in their lives, but it seems all that is going on is the bad news authorised by the media for circulation and now I’ve hurt their feelings and they don’t message at all. Personal updates to people who know and like us are it seems binned because somewhere else someone you never met and will never meet has the media’s attention and is the only suitable topic for the day.
I keep up with local events because they directly affect the bubble in which I live my life. I am aware there’s stuff going on elsewhere that is pretty crappy for those experiencing it, in Africa, Australia, the Americas, the further reaches of this European continent, in jungles and tundras, in what should be the untroubled depths of the sea, and in little hellholes created by my fellow man to torture their fellow men or the animals with which we share this planet. If I can’t do anything but feel sick or angry or fret uselessly, I don’t want to know. I resist knowing. I won’t know. Fingers in ears, lalalalalala.
I know no man is an island, I know I should ask not for whom the bell tolls, I know a lockdown cuts off my income, and don’t even want to speculate what a war would do to it. I mean that literally. I won’t speculate about it. As a child I was told “don’t trouble trouble until trouble troubles you” so I try not to. Nearly everything bad in my life has happened without warning anyway. If I’d known in advance, could I have stopped it happening? No. Just been fraught in advance about that event, and about a whole lot of other stuff which actually didn’t happen, but not because my fretting stopped them happening. All my fretting did was damage me a little bit more. Well, that’s useful. Not. All about ME.
It can be all about you. Stick your fingers in your ears and cut out the world for three days. The world won’t end – or if it does, not because you refused to agonise. Just say no to anything outside your customised bubble. If constructive interaction, rather than useless, destructive, global, empathy, puts a wag back in your tail – re-stocking the world, one person at a time, with a little selfish optimism and cautious contentment might, just might, be healthier than flooding it with multi-attack negativity, if only for that one person. From tiny acorns … Worth a try. Three days.
I don’t think I have ever stuffed so many little sayings into one blog before.
That bit in Secret Garden where Colin says tremulously of the garden, “will I live to see it? Will I live to get into it?” and Mary is very impatient and down to earth and the moment passes. I now feel as Colin did, but about something which, for most of my life, felt as distant as the Milky Way. We’re all getting older, but now I’m getting a bit cynical about “age is a state of mind” and “you can’t stop getting older, you don’t have to get old” and “I’m not getting older, I’m getting better.” Fact is my warranty is running out and you just can’t get the parts any more. There are the first crackles and creaks and my vision is occasionally blurring just a little and my middle toe on my left foot aches on cold mornings (I blame the horse that stood on it more years ago than seems actually possible) and sometimes when I carry something heavy my hands don’t uncurl instantly when I put it down. I had a glorious wonderful Indian summer and I wish the same on everyone AND it lasted nearly 10 years, but autumn itself is slowly but inevitably drawing to an end, and winter is approaching. There is, though, that one tiny twinkling star hanging in that late autumn sky. Will I live to see it? Will I live to get into it?
My state pension . . .
In months, in less than a year, my seventeen years of working in the UK and another five years of contributions will pay out in glittering cascades of gold for the rest of my life. Will I live to see it? Will I live long enough to become a jubilada?
I bloody better.
Oh, the only point to this blog for you, gentle reader, is to stuff every penny you can do without into a pension plan. If this blasted pandemic did nothing else it taught us that you can’t always assume your own efforts will be enough because you may not be allowed to make your own efforts. Such a huge relief that something you never thought twice about is sailing in to the rescue – if you live long enough –
Tripped over another of those pious, infuriating, now-we-are-fifty “prepare for death good people” posts today which have irritated the crap out of me for years. Before I was fifty, especially in my tiring forties, I owlishly believed come the dread fifties one must take to a rocking chair and with good grace and gentle regret watch the sun setting on our lives. Sunset shmunset. Late afternoon is awesome, sunset is blazing with colour, and after that comes the evening and THEN, okay, prepare for the good night but that’s hours and hours away.
I’ll tangle my metaphors further, why not. Late middle age is autumn, not winter. Autumn can be, sometimes is, blustery and challenging, but it is also mellow afternoon sunshine, respite from the heat of summer, favourite season of many – as in the year, as in life.
Hands up if you love late afternoons, sunsets and the promise of the evening: if you think that autumn is spectacular: do you apply that to the context of your own life? Too many say, and believe, I’m old now. Losing my leaves. The light is going. Must be winter. Nope. Not yet. Enjoy the season to its full, and let winter wait its turn.
If at 30 we said sadly we had peaked physically, so it was time to give up all sport and exercise because what’s the point, we’d be howled at. If at 45, when we have reached our productive peak, we said that’s it, I shall stop trying at work now, those older and much higher up the corporate ladder would be aghast. And yet at 60, those who say I’m studying a new language, have taken up a new sport, am painting, am going to travel on my own because no-one else wants to visit the place I have always wanted to see, etc etc etc, our own generation ask if that’s wise, at our age, when there’s that nice rocking chair out on the porch instead.
If you, having read this far, have said to anyone (or even thought) they were too old, when they were clearly capable at least for now, did you really believe that, or are you simply groomed to fixed expectations by their age? Time is flying, yes. Older friends and relatives will have to start trimming their sails, yes. Tick tock. Now is more important than ever before, and maybe that’s why it is such a thrilling time and why, if you have the energy, the desire, and the funds, the freedom to do it, you should be cheered on, not anxiously cautioned. Carpe diem. The rocking chair will be there in 10, 15, years, when we can enjoy sitting in it to look at the stars.
Of course the motivated ignore the faint disapproval from family and even friends and go ahead and do it anyway but crucially don’t talk about it much because they are bored with being judged. Many are simply too busy to tell the burned-out forty somethings wilting in summer how awesome autumn will be.
I know the friend who reposted the pious ‘count our blessings as life nears its ends, we the over fifties’ has enjoyed a riotous autumn, meeting the love of her life, taking up cycling and winning races, running in half-marathons, and eventually uprooting and moving a thousand miles away where she is now successfully running a business with new skills learned in the last few years, and trying to meet kindred souls who are equally loving their so-called leisure years. She must have been having a pensive day, or be feeling a bit down. Of course there are down times as well as up – when not, in life? but remember, said good people, there IS up, bags of it, and more of those enjoying it should be grooming those following behind to know what to really expect. Autumn is awesome.
Quarantining and lockdown has created some understanding of loneliness but it has always been presented as temporary, even when temporary kept extending. Most of us cope, most of the time. But when loneliness comes with huge distances, when boats are burned and there seems to be no turning back –
Following the Dickason story (I didn’t want to piggyback on their tragedy, although it triggered this blog – there’s a comment with a brief outline for the puzzled) there’s been an accusation from another expat who had attempted suicide that there isn’t enough support for expats. I don’t personally see how there could be support. Strangers, however kind, are still strangers, and while yes yes a stranger is just a friend you haven’t got to know, that’s not an attitude that helps when one is surfing angst. In fact neighbours popping over to issue a friendly greeting can trigger the despair, if it’s obvious you’re never going to be bosom buddies because they are so “different”.
Perhaps the support is in recognising that stress is to be expected, loneliness is natural, and that all those brave letters and blogs and posts from expats talking about how interesting and excitingly challenging this new life is are genuine enough, but interest and excitement and overcoming challenges is a work in progress, and bad days happen. They aren’t brilliantly succeeding where you are faltering and failing – they’re having a better day. And you will too. Soon.
It isn’t actually about losing family or friends, because thanks to phones and emails and social networks they are still there, even if no longer close enough for an impromptu coffee. It is the whole fabric of life once taken for granted and now lost. We cut ourselves out of that familiar fabric and now have to stitch a patch for ourselves onto very different cloth. The minutiae of our lives – different shops, products have different names, favourite foods never appear on these shelves, where to buy wool, no librarian keeping back a book you’d like, no reliable mechanic who knows your car inside out, an awful haircut from even a recommended hairdresser, getting lost yet again on roads which never seem to have names matching the satnav. Stupid tiny things, but so many of them that at first the alienation is overwhelming. They are mastered eventually but the interim period is – daunting. Challenging, interesting, exciting, yes, and a little bit horrible, oh yes.
Douglas Adams, in the Hitchhikers Guide, says “in moments of great stress, every life form that exists gives out a tiny subliminal signal. This signal simply communicates an exact and almost pathetic sense of how far that being is from the place of his birth”. (He goes on to say that as it is never possible to be more than sixteen thousand miles from your birthplace on Earth the signals are too minute to be noticed by others, but Ford Prefect was born over 600 light years away and the barman was hit by a shocking, incomprehensible sense of distance.) Great books, love them, but he nailed it there and that sense of terrible distance may not be tangible to others, but does rock the soul in times of stress.
Support lies in realising that feeling like you made the biggest mistake of your life is NOT personal failure but known to many, most of whom refuse to talk about it because the fear of it is still too close and too real. It passes. It comes back, and it passes again. We’re NOT on the wrong path – just temporarily lost and afraid. Where, after all, is home? The place you were born has gone forever and exists only in memory. The last place you were truly happy? For many, that’s lost in the past too because who would have left behind true happiness. The past is a different country. Knowing we can’t go back to the exact place and point in time we want to be makes the difficult present seems briefly even more to blame.
Perhaps the tragedy, and the other stories which will be following of suicide attempts and despair, will bring new awareness to the stresses faced not only by those who have chosen to emigrate, but refugees who have had it forced on them. The awareness isn’t to make others more understanding, but so that the displaced can be more understanding and forgiving of their own bad moments. It’s a time thing. Alien surroundings become less alien every day. Give yourself time. Support, for this, I think, can only really come from within, but it’s comforting to realise others go through it too.
We’re idiots, what are we? If you have helpful suggestions and hacks please add them in the comments because I’m in week 3 and it seems there are months to go before I can whirl my left arm like a windmill and in the meantime life has to go on. If you also live alone, you too may have struggled to find advice. We can combine what we’ve learned!
Sleeping – sitting up against a pile of pillows is definitely the easiest. We can – and I occasionally do – sleep lying on the sound side or on your back but the arm always hurts more when I sleep flat. Sleep comes in slabs of a couple of hours. Don’t fret it, and don’t take pills unless in real pain. Restack the pillows or change position and go back to sleep.
Luckily I lost weight some time ago and hung on to some favourite blouses which are therefore suitably loose-fitting.
Button-up type – feed the sleeve onto your hand, rest your fingers on a window-ledge or counter at the comfortable height, and feed the blouse up your wincing arm. Getting the other arm in is just wriggling. It’s slow and a bit painful. Meh.
Quick dressing – sacrifice suitable pull-on shirts for super-quick dressing. Cut off the affected sleeve and the side hem to just below elbow level. The head and sound arm pull on as normal, the crock arm is fed through the seam, on with the sling and Bob’s your uncle. Your beautiful bruise is on view to impress all who see it (useful for hospital checkups) but the rest of you is decently covered. Well – I say decent – If you do have access to a second handy pair of hands, sew press studs into the side seam so you can be closed up. But your immobilised arm and sling will keep you basically covered up.
For online teaching I have to present a normal pair of shoulders to the webcam, so I unpicked the sleeve seam and side seam to just below elbow level of my red polo-collar teaching shirts. Sorted and I’ll be able to sew it up again when normal mobility has returned.
My sling is the strappy type that goes round the waist as well as up and over my shoulder. I never undo the waist, just step in and out. The end of the strap over my shoulder goes between my teeth until my arm is fed properly in the pre-shaped sling and I can then Velcro the strap to the right height.
A year or so back I bought a light knitted cape which I never wore very much but is turning out to be the most useful garment I possess now . . .
Elastic-waist slacks are our friends. Lean against the wall to put on knickers and pull on the slacks. Prevents overbalancing completely – after all, sudden hopping hurts, and falling over is probably not advisable.
If you have a dog which was formerly in a harness for walks, because it needs more control than a collar affords, your best option is a slip lead.
In the beginning leaning forward or bending down tugs at the shoulder quite painfully so I feed her on the stairs. A saucepan with long handle has become the new dog bowl.
If you have a cat litter tray – my cat is old, drinks vast amounts of water, and pisses like a horse. The soaked sand sets like cement and is a bugger to shift one handed. I moved his tray to a compromise height both he and I can reach (that’s really a benefit with old Spanish houses, lots of deep window ledges at various heights) and lined it with a sturdy heavy plastic shopping bag with the handles and corners protruding from the sand. It’s easy to tug at either handles or corners to shift the sand around and then scoop out the clumped bits. A long-handled soup ladle is proving ideal for fresh sand out of the sack to top up the tray.
My favourite purchase has been a long-handled dustpan which proved endlessly useful for picking stuff up off the floor while bending or crouching down was painful. I seemed to drop everything at a rate never known before, that’s not happening so much now but the dustpan is still my go-to little helper.
In books when a character doesn’t return within a reasonable time from a dog walk other characters notice. “Harold”, for example, grabs his keys saying gruffly that something must be wrong, and off he goes. In books. So after I managed to roll over and sit up, and realized no WAY was I achieving the vertical with only one working arm, I rather wished I was in a book. Reality – I live alone, and although I’m in fairly constant email contact with a Harold of sorts, he wasn’t likely to start wondering at the silence for at least 3 hours. He wouldn’t come looking for at least 6 hours since we live in different towns – at best he’d phone my neighbours to say I was unusually silent (as I would with his). I teach online and was due to start in 2 hours, but the school is Chinese and would just put in a replacement tutor and dock my pay. One puzzled man had walked by in the quiet street flanking the wasteland where we had been walking, and there would be others, and I even knew the necessary Spanish (ayudame, please aid me) but Purdey, my podenco, was in an absolute panic at my peculiar behaviour already and would attack anyone who came near me.
Purdey is an absolute sweetie but very OTT and protective. I said in the first blog I ever wrote about her that pods were timid and if trouble struck would lead the way to safety, expecting you to follow. I was wrong. She is still timid, but with a home and owner to protect she has become extraordinarily fierce. She’s particularly wary of men, and rarely lets herself be stroked or patted, preferring to keep a safe distance unless they are sitting down and, even better, offering treats. My invaluable friend Nick, who did most of the work on this house, visited – when he stood up and started waving his arms she bit him. Oops. The fact that he was pointing to where the walls had to be replastered, and had been peacefully drinking coffee until then, held no sway. Even worse, a guest who had been using the laundry walked back past my door and paused to look in – to call me, being inquisitive, who knows – and Purdey went for her, too. Just a nip, and didn’t break skin, but honestly a warning bark or growl would have more than met requirements, stupid dog, plus saved me grovelling apologies and a brimming glassful of my best brandy. So we are working on that, and very nice local brave friends pop in every now and then to get her used to the idea that people do come and go, and she watches them narrowly and with deep suspicion. Since in normal non-Covid times I let holiday rooms this is a Problem. Normally there would have been a constant if erratic stream of guests from the time she came to live here but of course that’s been impossible and continues to be unlikely for weeks yet. We will get this sorted by then. I hope. She’ll hate being locked up.
In every other way she is an absolute joy. She and the cat have a truce so long as he doesn’t want too much affection from me – she resents that very much. She’s stopped scavenging, and although she occasionally disembowels one of the potted geraniums it doesn’t happen very often and she is very apologetic about it. We house-sat a young terrier for a day and he was so enthralled by Leela’s old toys that Purdey has learned to play – she gallumps after a ball, even occasionally returning it, and is charmed by squeaky toys, keeping all her treats upstairs on the patio and returning them there after play.
She is ‘clean’ to the point of obsession and waits hours longer than normal for a walk if there’s an unexpected delay, although she’s nearly cross-eyed with strain by the time we reach the great outdoors. She’s good with other dogs – there’s a pitbull with personality issues often met on our morning walks. When he’s off-lead in the wasteland he’s violently friendly, but we met him once in the street on-lead and he lunged at her, snarling and growling. She defended herself vigorously and we went on our way. A minute or two later there was a despairing Spanish scream of warning – Lou had slipped his collar and was charging after us. He grovelled apologetically (didn’t realize it was you, so sorry?) and she behaved impeccably while his owner puffed up to reclaim him. My last dog, Leela, would have resumed hostilities instantly!
She has been for one long hike in the mountains, with the company of Nick’s quite elderly pod, and proved she can be trusted to return when called back. While I keep her on the lead in the streets I can now let her off in the wasteland and she can stretch her hunting legs in a gallop or two before returning to the lead.
2 pods on a walk
The wasteland was once a large allotment for a small herd of goats, and is surrounded by well-maintained allotments which probably wouldn’t welcome a digging dog. The last time she’d returned with muddy paws so this time I was trotting gently after her to see what she was destroying. One minute trotting, the next minute face down with an unceasing blaze of agony from my left arm . . .
Eventually I got to my feet using her as a support – she stood like a rock, never buckling, little heroine – and got home and Nick collected me to go to hospital and I had impacted my humerus and am out of action for, apparently, months. Oh great. I may do a blog on living alone with one working arm and two working hands because that’s proving a learning curve of note. From Purdey’s point of view the two main changes are that she’s now fed on the stairs out of an old saucepan with a long handle, and there’s no more harness. She’s now walked on a slip-lead, which is much easier for one hand, and so solicitous, and keeping so protectively close, I am in constant danger of tripping over her.
Having a pod was the reason I’m in this one-armed pickle, but it’s hardly her fault I’m a clumsy clot and she has been quite possibly the nicest dog I have ever adopted. Time and patience are being repaid with devotion and fun and even as I type this she is dozing on her blanket on the sofa, one eye on me to make sure I don’t suddenly do something else inexplicable and need her help . . .
Last week was a very Spanish week, testing my shrunken vocabulary well past its limits. Monday I knew I could no longer ignore my high temperature, complete loss of appetite, and other slightly alarming symptoms: definitely not covid, equally definitely needing antibiotics of some kind. Thanks to being registered as an autónoma, I have a “health card” (tarjeta sanitaria) but how to use it in these viral times? Turns out – write a note (in Spanish) describing your symptoms, go to the local clinic, hand in the note and card, they will hand back the card after checking they have all your contact details on computer, and a doctor will phone you at home for consultation / advice. Simple. The reality was they kept the card for ages, as they puzzled through what Google thought I wanted to say, but it was no hardship queueing at suitably-spaced intervals in the sunny street. They finally called me inside to provide a urine sample before handing the card back.
Colour me impressed, I got the phone call (in English) within 10 minutes of getting home, the sample had been tested, a UTI confirmed, antibiotics and painkillers prescribed. Colour me VERY impressed, I didn’t need to pick up the script, just go to the farmacia and hand in my card, all the details had been loaded on the card. I was in and out with my meds in 10 minutes and of course nothing to pay because the social may cost a lot but it covers everything. So much for Monday.
Tuesday morning woken at sparrows by a very voluble Spanish gent on the phone. The English system of talking to stupid furriners, Slower And Louder, may be mocked but I can’t see the Spanish way of dealing with stupid furriners, Use Different Words With Every Try and Talk Faster, really works either. After ten minutes of getting nowhere I scraped up enough Spanish to ask him to send a Whatsapp so I could translate it. Aha! He was an Inspector from the Tourist Department, and he was coming to inspect the place on Thursday morning. So much for a day or two recovering in bed with languid cups of tea. The house hasn’t seen a paying guest since October, thank you covid, and I’m not dedicated to immaculate when it is only me. When I applied for my temporary hosting licence back in 2018 I was told I’d have an inspection within the month and then I’d get my permanent licence. Instead I got the permanent licence by post and now, finally, the place was to be checked. WHIRLWIND of activity! He was in fact very nice, very quick and efficient, and with us both using our phone translators I could show him not only the rooms but the laundry and the first aid facilities. However I couldn’t show him my Vivienda Rural signboard, because I didn’t have one, and I couldn’t show him official complaint forms, those had to be acquired. I’m still waiting for his official email re ‘deficiencies’ but it seems those are the only problems, phew. He did purse his lips at the low doorway to the sunroom but hey, it is an old house, that’s part of its eccentricities. Hope I don’t have to rebuild.
I do have contacts in Velez also newly in the holiday accommodation side who were agog for news about the inspection and the wife, oh thank you, speaks good Spanish after 17 years living here. We found a local guy licenced to issue our official signboards, and that was sorted in another flurry of Spanish.
Another requirement of Turismo is that hosts keep records of every guest, and routinely register them on the police website as soon as they check in. I’ve kept scrupulous records but access to the website has been an ongoing frustration – it won’t let you in without a password, and the password can only be got in person from the policia. The Policia Local said not them. I went through to the Policia Nacional in Motril and they said not them. My efficient friend took me off to the Guardia Civil (I didn’t even know we had a branch in Velez) and translated like a whizz and the next day, Friday, I could nip back and pick up my certificado with official password.
Velez municipality is once again off the lockdown list (when the lockdown trigger is 500 sick in a hundred thousand, and the population is under 3000 people, it only takes one or two either way) so I also shot through to Salobreña to stock up at Mercadona, as Motril is still closed off to the outside world. So there we were, Friday, time at last after school to take to my bed with those languid cups of tea but it all felt a bit pointless by then so I got up again to admire my lovely immaculate house. Life in Spain. Never dull.
For those who read the blogs because of my podenco Purdey, oops, I had to lock her away during the inspection as she’s a bit nippy around men. There’ll be a blog coming up about that as she (hopefully) responds to therapy but she remains in every other way a delight and a joy.