Promotion challenge – a book which makes you sound half-witted. Any suggestions? http://mybook.to/PidginSpanish #easySpanish

I’ve never mastered marketing anyway. Now I have to dazzle you into buying my book on speaking Spanish. Am I fluent? uh, no. Will the book make the reader fluent? uh, no.

I had a phrase book when I moved to Spain. I’d still have it except that it fell apart in my handbag. The pronunciation notes in it, well, it was deliberately making me sound like a tourist. And some of the strange things it thought I needed to know … so instead I started looking things up and asking and making notes and – I am a writer, after all – putting them in some kind of order and a year or two down the line they have turned into Pidgin Spanish. The Pidgins, as it happens, are my fictional family in the book but the point is, I hope, made. You’ll not step out at the end saying in flawless Spanish ‘my dear chap, I wonder if you could help me with a small problem I have, my computer’s on the blink and I need something reliable and not too expensive‘ –

You will be able to say ‘hello, help please, computer, good price.’ I have met a surprising number of English-speakers who live here (some for years)  who gave up before reaching even that dazzling level of communication. There was no way, I vowed, that I would spend my life living on the thinnest fringes of this extraordinary country but I was too busy teaching English and writing and rebuilding, then running, my odd guesthouse to put in the necessary hours and hours and hours. To learn Spanish properly is hard work, and nobody wants to teach you any way other than properly, and that, here, when you take local lessons, means starting with verbs. Let me tell you about the verb abrir, ‘to open’.  Some verbs are pretty straightforward. Some – well, verbs like abrir are why people give up on Spanish lessons. It is not only irregular, it has different forms for subjunctive, past simple, past imperfect, future, future potential, imperfect of the subjective, imperative, gerund, and past participle – even the negative form changes – for example, the Imperative ‘you’ version is abrierais, the negative of that is no abráis.

There was a definite need for a book which teaches you how to ask someone to open the wine (abre el vino). Or that a shop with the sign abierta on the door is open. I spent a year looking for it, then I gave up and wrote it. So even if nobody else needs easy basic Spanish spoken with the hectic fluency of a 5 year old child, I’ve got the book I wanted.

The paperback’s whizzing through the process now. If I were you I’d wait for that because the ebook is included as a freebie optional extra and the paperback is probably more useful.

If that hasn’t got you fired up and fumbling for your wallet, or at least clicking on the cover below, well, I’ve shot my marketing bolt for now. It might be one of those books people need to find on their own.

Amazon cover for Pidgin Spanish

 

 

 

 

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If you smoked while you watched the moon-landing, and you’re still smoking now – #smoke/vape/quit

 

(I can talk for Africa: scroll towards the end if you want what I considered the 6 potent pros and cons re vaping generally, distilled from a dozen websites.)

howsafeisvap

copyright Medical Xpress 

Must be said that not a lot of people who watched the moon landing in 1969, or were grooving at Woodstock, are still smoking. Some are gone from us, for a variety of reasons which would include passage of time, moons, raves, smoking, etc. Many have quit in the intervening years. Hands up, though, if you started as a teenager, whenever that was, and a few decades have gone by, and you still smoke now.

No disapproving eyebrow from me. I was too young to be smoking in 1969  but I started as soon as I could – at 13 behind the biking shed (as one did) and coughed my lungs up (as one did) and persisted (as, unfortunately, one did). In the seventies smoking was something you could do indoors and out, in public as well as in private, and without breaking the budget. Times have changed a bit and yet some of us still defiantly smoke and still enjoy it but the pressure never stops quit-quit-quit-quit-while-you-can

In my case I had a stammer and was overjoyed by smoking.  The standard therapist advice for overcoming a stammer is to pause before tackling a difficult word. That looked so geeky: but to suck in smoke before tackling a difficult word? Once you get over the choking stage, it looks entirely natural. So a few random decades have flowed under the bridge and apart from a 3 year break (which I didn’t enjoy)  I am smoking still and I no longer stammer at all.  But my best buddy in Spain, who has been smoking even longer than I have, has been ill and didn’t enjoy being ill and has now as part of his new and improved lifestyle invested in some pretty fancy vaping kit. I have an uneasy feeling in a week or two he is going to be very superior and patronising. Time to look up some facts and I looked at a dozen websites and cherry-picked what worked for me. Lots and lots of overlap on my 6 pros and 6 cons, try it for yourself.

I found, as you probably have, that vaping doesn’t get the best press. In fact there is growing terror that those pesky teenagers who started smoking at 13 (tut) are instead now vaping at 13 and that is generating some fantastic warning bells from, well, everyone. JUST QUIT AND STOP BEING A BAD INFLUENCE is the word on the street, and many add crossly that it isn’t the best way to quit and can lead to swapping one addiction for another.

By the way I’ve always thought the fastest way to stop teenagers thinking smoking is cool would be to force wrinkly wheezers back out from behind the bins where society has dumped us, and make us smoke in public, but that’s not the point.

The point – he wants to use vaping to cut down dramatically, with the intention of quitting altogether. I’m assuming you’re reading the blog because you’re considering that too.

The success rate is – meh.  Alternating smoking and vaping has the lowest success rate of all. Having a gasper which can deliver a selectable low or high nicotine hit, and sticking to it, has a high success rate – but there’s that  possibility of getting addicted instead to the gasper.

The cons are tricky:

  1. long-term studies aren’t available yet, because the trend hasn’t really been going long enough. However, lab studies on non-human subjects are fairly firm on the subject – this isn’t much better for you.
  2. In fact with words like ‘popcorn lung’ and ‘increased risk of heart attack’, not to mention faulty vaping kits and / or rechargeable batteries exploding, it carries some significant risks of its own.
  3. Reducing the risk of explosive kits, and getting real benefit, means forking out a hefty start-up price for something safe, adjustable, and which won’t run out of puff just when you want it most. Costs can start around the price of a carton of cigarettes (in Spain, where they are relatively affordable), and run really high, up to 1000€. This is not the time to economise. Buy the best you can afford.
  4. Once you have the kit, there are so many variations, flavours, mixtures and options for blowing a cloud that finding one you like could take a discouraging while. Some have stopped trying.
  5. Oh, and re those variations – this whole fad has blown up so quickly, and is moving so fast, that it is effectively unmonitored. There are options on offer which have never been tested on anybody or anything and you will be one of the guinea pigs finding out how bad the side-effects could be.
  6. You still need to smoke outside unless everyone else is vaping too.

That’s the bad news. The pros are potent too.

  1. Ongoing cost is minimal. Vaping vs smoking will save you LOADS. (I know, you’re using it to give up so you don’t need to know that but I’m mentioning it anyway.)
  2. Your breath, clothes and hair won’t smell, or you can choose a vape option which makes you smell like a rose garden, or a beach at sunset, or a chocolate milkshake.
  3. Your fingers and teeth won’t be stained (your teeth may rot faster, but hey, that’s only if you become a vape addict and probably the least of your problems if you do)
  4. You can have a low-setting puff or two when you want (no having to finish, or stub out and waste, a cigarette when you only needed a puff)
  5. You can dial up a high-setting puff when you need a jolt – cravings are stopped in their tracks to reel away, gasping.
  6. The mere fact of making, and carrying through, the decision to change your life, is proving you’re statistically far likelier to bring in other life-enhancing improvements.

I tried his new toy and triggered the kind of coughing fit I haven’t had since I was 13. Then I dialled it back and tried more cautiously and it was – okay. If he cracks this, I’m going to have to follow suit, or give up the friendship, or face a social future of being patronised and smirked at every time I light a cigarette.

Maybe it’s time. (And century-old words like ‘gasper’ and ‘blowing a cloud’ definitely appeal to me)

Ever researching on your behalf

Elegsabiff

Pull up a chair, grab a beer from the fridge, chill #hotinSpaintoo

Tourists shift like shoals of fish and many are currently aiming at Turkey and Egypt, despite pan-European strenuous efforts to offset the stronger euro by offering incredible deals on flights, car rentals, and accommodation. The braver traveller is also whizzing off to Vietnam and Cambodia for something completely different: even within Spain itself some coasts are booming and some are having a quieter year than usual, and who knows why? I swap notes with a friend in Tenerife who says his boutique hotel has been ludicrously quiet.  So I’m grateful to have had a few scattered bookings . . .  guest income is earmarked for ongoing spiffication, so every little helps.

I’m now firmly and officially addicted to cycling guests, the last of the cooler weather brought a German cyclist who had booked a cycling tour and, not wanting to stay in a hostel or risk his bike (which he drove down) in communal parking, booked here for a week. Actually those priorities might be the other way round.  He’d return late afternoon, do any running maintenance required on his cherished steed, then spruce up and re-join the group for an convivial evening on the town. He had an absolute ball, loved every minute of the gruelling daily outings, and will, he said, be back after summer when cycling tours start again.

yay

He was followed, also in April, by my first real published writer, ooh! and her husband – they were mid-honeymoon, which was (a little unusually) a sponsored charity walk along the 500 mile Camino de Santiago trail. I’m nowhere near the Camino de Santiago, but Nan sprained her ankle and was ordered to rest it for 10 days before continuing. They turned misfortune into exploration and spent 4 of the 10 days checking out Granada province and the Costa Tropical from the front bedroom, in between writing writing writing – she’s doing a book about the honeymoon and has promised me a good write up. Even better, it seems back in the US she’s a well-known medium so it’s nice to know that old as this house is, there are no restless souls hanging about. There were times, during the renovations, when tools vanished from where they had been left, and doors and shutters banged back and forth in very little wind, that I did wonder . . .

crazy

May, a year from the end of the main refurbishments (how quickly that went!), saw a little refurbishment and sprucing, to have the house at its slightly ramshackle best in time for a family visit.  It was wonderful taking a few days off to be a tourist!

That was followed by a fab French-Canadian couple for a week, my first guests to really, and finally, put the cooking facilities to the test. Wonderful mouth-watering smells drifted downstairs either side of their outings to the beaches and Granada, they appeared in the atrium waving pink wine and a spare glass of an evening, and even brought back the occasional goodie I had to try from various bakeries they’d found.  French-Canadians, in my hotchpotch experience of Spanish, French, Belgian, Croation, Irish, Rumanian, Danish, Dutch, American, English and Polish guests, rank high, I find I adore being spoiled by guests.

grin

My first Italians arrive next week, and it will also be my first full house since last year, both rooms booked at the same time, so things are kicking off again for the summer . . .  I think the other guests are Spanish. The websites handle everything and merely tell me when to be ready, and for how long, and this time there were no clues to nationality in the surname. Handy if they too were Italian, eh? Watch this space.

playball

Truly glad not to have guests during the current little heat wave, the Costa Tropical is sizzling gently but not record-breaking (we got off lightly) and it’s a luxury to be in the atrium with an icy glass of lemonade (or shandy) without having to be presentably dressed  for visitors

cool

Only the lonely – end of an era, and a thank you. #CS

CS – a website connecting singles to other singles – is close to unique in having a lively blogging and forums facility.  At the time I joined, around five years ago, it was international, multi-cultural and interdenominational, and the majority of the members were fairly careful not to step too heavily on the toes of others of different cultures and beliefs in the lively interaction.

conversing

At its best the CS blogs were a kind of Cheers, where everyone knew your name, long term members knew  which blogs would be fun to banter on and which should be avoided (a few nutters grumbled about cliques) and people occasionally met up – I met around a dozen different members, over the five years, and enjoyed online friendships with people I would never meet, would never have met in any other way.

Joining CS changed my life. I said in a lifestyle interview that I got belatedly brave. When I joined I had become a recluse living behind my computer in Scotland, writing books and hoping if I left the real world alone it would return the favour. I only joined to ask single people questions because I needed answers for my books:  the thought of going out and asking real people was unthinkable.

Now I live in Spain, still writing books in between teaching English as a second language and opening my very quirky old house up to paying guests, interacting with others every day, and all of that can be directly traced back to joining the website five years ago.

So CS was pretty special to me, and it was fun. Most of the bloggers were comfortable being single, sometimes drifting in and out of relationships while they waited without anxiety for The One, or sitting shiva for the One who had been lost, or enjoying the banter because for whatever reason real life couldn’t offer the same kind of sociability. There weren’t that many of us, a few hundred at most, some popping by regularly, some intermittently, and blog subjects ranged between being single, topical events, being single, old jokes shaken out for new readers, being single, the occasional attempt to save souls by offering various religions, being single, and every now and then some politics to spice things up.  The being single thing, some blogs were happy about it, some furious and hurting, some philosophical, some raunchy, some advising. It was relevant to the site, after all. One other thing that made it unique – it was like a petrie dish of life itself,  a tiny cross-section of international viewpoints from all ages on all subjects, often fascinatingly alien.

love

A couple of years ago disaster struck. Another blogging website for singles finally closed when it had become so toxic that it had only a handful of members left. The best of them had already come across and fitted right in but unfortunately when it closed its zombies  lurched across and joined CS – for the most part the kind of Christians who would tar and feather Christ for not being American, or at least wearing a MAGA cap.  They blogged relentlessly on their convictions, never joining any of the existing chats, ignoring what CS was as they determinedly changed it to what they had known (and destroyed), lost in their own obsession and speaking only to each other.

roll eyes 

It was like exploding a hate bomb in Cheers. Politics and singles don’t mix.  People obsessed with bigotry certainly don’t mix. Existing members tried to jolly them into chilling, or tried ignoring them, or disinterred unsuspected hates and prejudices to leap into the fray, exploding cyber friendships in the process.  Many withdrew altogether, bored or disgusted or chased on their way by hostility and anger. So much anger, and so much of it illiterate into the bargain.

scold

It reached a point where the minutiae of American politics accounted for the majority of the blogs – an occasional offering from a Normal always attracted comments and chat but Normals were becoming thin on the ground.  (Okay, “Normals” is a loose term, we long-term singles aren’t, but some are more normal than others.)

laugh

Bigmouth launched a protest and a blog asking that politics be confined to a sub-section of the website and although many of the original members joined the protest saying yes yes YES my profile was promptly deleted by the site moderators.

doh 

End of an era. But when I say that one of the no no NO comments was “Bullshite Elegsabutt! (sic) You have a stick so far stuck up your arse you would always find something and someone to complain about,” you can see how far the change has gone. It is definitely time to go.

Please charge your glasses and join me in a toast to a singles website which changed the lives of many besides me. Thank you. No regrets – I knew when I lit the match that I was probably going to be burning my boats, but they were no longer seaworthy as they were. How nice it would have been if instead it had worked and the hate had burned instead. Que sera, sera.

wine

And to the zombies – a pox on your houses.

tongue

The relevance to you, dear Reader, for patiently getting this far? Don’t let politics destroy your friendships and relationships. People can hold different views, despite professional and social media’s frantic attempts to set us all at each other’s throats. If you find yourself hating, it is time to re-examine your position – it may be time to walk away. When the self-obsessed media storm is over, we will still be left with each other – don’t have destroyed that.

 

Do you review? Products, books, holidays, services – if you don’t, do you read #reviews? Millions do.

Some people review as a matter of course. The Starbucks coffee shop, you had a good blether with your mates, yay, 5 stars! The new coffee shop struggling to get established, the coffee was better, the cakes excellent, but you were miffed because the person you were supposed to meet said it was too far away and stood you up. You crossly gave 1 star on location.

Was that entirely fair? You just hurt, perhaps broke, a potentially great little coffee shop, especially if yours was one of the first reviews.

the cynic

The book you just read was okay, and does have over a hundred 5* reviews supplied by the publisher, so what the hell, give it 4*. The indie one you just read was actually unexpectedly good, you really enjoyed it, but eek you don’t want to be the only person reviewing it!  No review.  Which is, by the way, why there are several hundred reviews within minutes of any traditionally published book being released, publishers know that readers love to be seen as being part of the crowd around a success.  Of course you may have hated it, and crossly gave a 1* review and said why, and oh yes reviews are vital!

I review a LOT, all products, and I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve given 5 stars. I’m a tough crowd and whatever the product, it has to be above expectations to get the 5th. However I can also count on one hand the number of times I’ve given a blistering 1 star. The service had to be abysmal, the product description totally misleading, and the quality shocking.

Reviews only work if you are fair. If you were thrilled, 5 stars, yay.  If you got what you expected, 4 stars = valued feedback. If you were underwhelmed, 3 stars and say why. Keep the 2 and 1 stars for real disappointment, for incorrect advertising and false promises.

Puff reviews are paid, much of the time, and written up to the daily limit allowed. This is the best coffee, restaurant, book, hotel, product, I have EVER encountered while using this fake email address!! Some aren’t paid but look as if they are, even when they are well-meant – ‘(my friend / relative) has the best coffee, restaurant, book, hotel, product, I have ever found!’  but troll reviews are also scattered far and wide, with even more fake email addresses.

On behalf of those of us who live or die by your review – use your fifth star sparingly, really think twice before slashing with one star, and bless you for your explanatory comments whatever the final star tally – reviews that show thought are the nuggets of gold in a sea of dross.

I’ve always reviewed, long before it became personal.  When I became a supplier, I was meticulous about how I worded what I offer. Obviously, per the side margin, I’m a writer (whodunits, mainly, armchair detective style).  I’m now also, for nearly a year, a host offering holiday accommodation. The rooms are cheap, clean, cheap, comfortable, cheap, with multiple normal lens photographs, cheap, and the gumph about what you get is oh so carefully worded. I describe myself as that useful relative you don’t have in Spain. Come stay at Auntie Biff’s in your separate private suite in her funny old house in a funny little town near the Costa Tropical. It’s not, don’t know if I mentioned, very expensive, either, for those strapped for cash who love to explore

To be fair, most of my book reviews have been lovely, and the holiday reviews ditto, telling future readers and guests what to expect. Exactly what reviews should be. But oh my sometimes guests are odd cattle. 1* for location, for not being near Malaga. Um? Malaga is one of the most popular airports in Spain and I am also in Spain, but Spain is huge.  The Costa Tropical may be next along from the Costa del Sol, but those coasts stretch for miles . . . it is about 85 kilometres from A to B. Always check map distances, when planning your holiday trip in Spain – or ask your host. Like one sensible potential guest who asked if I was walking distance from the centre of Granada. Thank heavens she did. Granada city is in Granada province, as am I, and there’s a coach service from here to the centre of that lovely city, but she’d have to be a very keen walker.  The coach really belts it along the motorway, but allow half an hour . . .

Cyclists love me to bits, they can bring their bikes inside, the house is cool after the heat of the ride, their shower has tons of hot water under good pressure, and the beds are good.  Some holiday guests, though, forget they paid not very much to stay with faux-relative Auntie Biff, especially those who paid months earlier. Street parking for their car? Where’s the swimming pool? I have to drive to the beach? I expected a hotel? One said there’s not a lot of nightclubs (in a small town? Ya think?) and one said there’s not a lot to do, you have to expect to go out a lot (which is why it is described as an ideal base for exploring) and to those I can only say thank you for the comments, you have helped future travellers. Perhaps with us both saying the same thing, the point will carry . . . biggest thanks of all to those who remember to say it is fantastic value for money. Love you long time!

 

Kiss Kiss, and I’m legal. #LivingInSpain  – burocracia with kisses

kisses

If I had been jumping through UK bureaucratic hoops today I am pretty sure I wouldn’t have been kissed so often.  Kiss kiss when I met my translator Chris, he who helped make the car legal a few months ago. I’ve given up waiting to see which way the Brexit farce will twist next, time to become legal.

xx

Kiss kiss Alessandro who was going to register me as self employed (autonoma), kiss kiss Paco who was called in to sort out the knotty issue of how I should be classified. (Not to be confused with the Paco who knocked giant holes through my walls, it is a very common name, although I shy nervously every time I meet one). Kisses all round again of course when we parted.

xx xx

xx xx xx

For anyone more interested in the process than counting kisses, you need your passport, NIE, and Spanish bank details. Oh, and fluent Spanish, as some of the questions are extremely complex, hence Chris’s presence.  By the time I got home the email confirming my registration was in my mailbox.

  • The authorities allow us self-employed types two years grace to get established which means for the next two years I will be paying 60 euros a month Social Security, with full health benefits and even unemployment benefits if awful things happen.
  • The full whack, because I am getting older, will be eye-wateringly high but after the 2 years grace I will get a 60% discount for 6 months, followed by a 30% discount for 6 months, and by then have to hope the house is fully booked on a frequent basis as it seems the entire house income (which goes into my Spanish bank account) will be needed to cover income taxes and my Social Security.
  • The tax-free window is small, 5500 euros a year, and full income tax is due on the whole amount once that is exceeded.

Next step will be talking to the tax authorities, since my complicated income is made up of teaching English as a second language (teaching  is VAT, or IVA, exempt) letting holiday rooms, (IVA applies but since Airbnb, for example, has me registered with their Irish office I won’t need to pay if I give them an IVA número) and my royalties, which are unlikely to pour much into the Spanish tax coffers but who knows, maybe one day. The next book could be the charm . . . that’s the one teaching basic essential Spanish as a second language, and I was fairly chuffed this morning to find I could not only make myself understood before Chris and Alessandro arrived, but could follow , hmm, nearly a quarter of the rapid-fire Spanish of the meeting!

Then there is the residency to be sorted, but I’m assured that because I am autonoma, it will be virtually automático, as simple as uno dos tres. My driving licence has to be switched no later than October. So there is lots more bureaucracy to come, I look forward to the kisses. And by the by, x in Spanish is equis, pronounced eh·kiss.

Ever researching on your behalf

 

Elegsabiff

xx

Wallpapering over tile (stair risers at the Casa Excéntrica)

It seemed like a fun idea when I first thought about it. I keep popping out to frown at the result.

img_20190401_143501_4

Anyway, I looked at a few videos before I started  and no-one was papering over tiles, so this is partly advice for anyone trying it and partly so I can remember how to do it next time. I’ve so far found only one paint which even adheres to tiles, a local almost rubbery waterproof one which can be bought in terracotta or white, and I go through litres of the stuff because until I can decide on non-slip tiles I like / can afford I paint the terrace and laundry floors in the stuff and it needs redoing about twice a year to look its best.

From very early on I have wanted to wallpaper the risers. The estate agent said giddily that the tiles throughout were handpainted and unique (not and not) but they are certainly timeworn and have faded to different colours in different places. I was inspired by the idea of turning the stairs into faux bookshelves because in theory the house is a writer’s escape. (So far I am getting as many cyclists as writing types but I am not putting in cycling wallpaper)

I found a few bookshelf effects on Amazon, mainly from Muriva, while I was still in the UK and yes, it has taken 18 months to actually pluck up the courage to get on with it. If and when I get used to the effect, I will do the stairs up to the landing as well.

First step – paint the risers in terracotta. Horrible. (which in Spanish is pronounced orry-blay). No option now but to do the wallpapering.

Second step – cut the wallpaper to size. The steps, like the house, are old and were built by eye rather than rule, so that was challenging. The wallpaper is only about 18 inches wide, so there had to be some careful matching up, but on the bright side cutting along shelves was super-easy.

Third step – mix up wallpaper paste. The Spanish don’t really do wallpapering, but I found a Motril paint shop carrying a paste which describes itself modestly as the best product ever invented, on all types of paint, having a permanence remarkable.  Sounded about right.  (Leizol metil-celulosa, aplicación industrial)

I started with a cautious tablespoon of powder and while I can’t yet vouch for its long-term sticking power, I can say that very small amount mixed up to about double as much gloop as I needed. A little goes a very long way.

Fourth step – was pure fun, as it turned out. Stick it all together, and the advantage of working on tiled steps was I could use each step in turn as my pasting table, then wipe it down afterwards.

Fifth step will be varnishing over it: the stairs have a comprehensive overhang but the atrium is partly open to the elements, and sixth step, to tidy up the erratic edges, could be narrow strips of Washi-style tape. I do have about 60 metres of a brass-effect option on its way, which will be attempting to neaten up the edges between old plaster and old doorframes since all the careful painting in the world can’t create perfect matches between the two. Brass trim on the stairs might be a bit much even for me, another trim will perhaps be used but for now, an early unveil, and a link to a mini-album here

There are definite advantages to having a house which already defines itself as eccentric.

dancing