And now for something completely different – restarting with a clean slate. #Do-Over http://mybook.to/Do-Over

There are some memories and experiences we could have done without, we’ve all been there. Like it or lump it, though, they are part of our structure, wobbly uneven bricks which are wedged into the whole. So be it – que sera, sera

For most of us, the memories we’d shed are of the friends who let us down, the relationships we really should never have had, stupid things we did arrggghhhh why?! Regrets, shame, guilt and the cringe-worthy ones which pop up at 3 in the morning. Move on, fast.

Moving on isn’t always possible. Some experiences destroy any chance of normal life, twist and distort personality and the future forever. Psychiatry, psycho-therapy, all the counselling in the world can’t reach through the scar damage or take it away, at best there is only the dismal hope of living with the damage. Childhood abuse, wartime atrocities, things seen which can never be unseen, mistakes made which can never be undone. They spread so insistently throughout your psyche that they will dictate the future forever and cannot be shut away . . .

Unless they could be. Do-Over is a story of three people with unbearable lives who are outside normal society, shut away where they can no longer hurt others or themselves. Their damaging memories are cut away but not out of kindness. They are destined to be used as disposable pawns in violent situations, terminated if ever they revert, guinea pigs for a new procedure which could offer new life to many in torture.

It’s a quick thriller, not too heavyweight or gory, burgeoning hope and growing confidence, a million miles from anything I’ve done before.

Love you to read it, so it’s on the lowest price Amazon can offer for a couple of days.

Do-over cover

The autumn at last #livinginSpain

November already … it’s been ever so hot and only in the last few days has the temperature shifted grudgingly to the point where my summer duvet was retrieved from the storeroom, cat hairs brushed off, and returned to the bed. It’s still kicked to the floor by morning.  Duvet. Not cat.

It’s also been nicely busy, including lovely guests from the Shetlands who sold their holiday house here last year and have been back to Spain at least five times since but usually stay with friends, I got lucky getting them in August and again in September as they speak fluent Spanish and know everyone. They were slightly disapproving that my Spanish was so utterly poco and found out where and when the next local course was starting.  Most towns offer free Spanish classes to new residents and I have looked for them since I arrived: turns out the notices (and notices in Spain are never snappy brief things in large print, they are lengthy chatty communications and there are many) advertising the lessons had all been put up in, um, Spanish.  Anyway thanks to them I could join the new class starting in September: while my Pidgin Spanish has been handy, many of the words I chose to stress as being the closest to English (i.e. easiest to remember) are not going down well with Felipe, our maestro. NOT  alfabeto, he says sternly. Yes, it is a known word, but abecedario is more correct.

And yes we are doing verbs (los verbos), on Tuesdays. Sigh. On Thursdays we read tracts and translate them ourselves with dictionaries or smartphones, then take turns reading aloud and mangling Spanish in ways which have to be heard to be believed.  Last Thursday we covered Halloween, which was excellent: some words have come direct from English, as it is new to Spain, so a zombie is a zombie is a zombie.  A werewolf is either a werewolf or a hombre lobo. I mentioned that to a bearded friend of mine who said hang on, that’s my name in the village here! Fairies (fairies?) are fairies but witches on broomsticks are brujas en escobas. We are a very mixed bunch, between 10 and 20 turning up depending on the day. Many are English or Irish, but we have also an Italian couple, a Norwegian gent with the wonderful name of Thor, a Polish woman who has been going for years and helps out with translations ,  a gent from Algeria and my preferred study partner when we have to split into pairs, a Moroccan housewife who arrived in Spain a few months ago. As she otherwise speaks only Arabic we have no choice but to communicate in Spanish.  She’s doing private lessons and apps as well and is leaping ahead, and calls herself a casa mama rather than ama de casa  so I am not the only one rewriting the language.

Lessons are not the only sociable outings, I went to the last fiesta of the summer which is held annually in Los Tablones, a small village in the mountains, usual population about 200, fiesta population about 2000. Most guests start arriving for the evening shindig in the village square around 10 pm and spend a couple of hours catching up with neighbours and friends while laying the necessary foundations of beer or wine and tapas to provide essential energy for the night ahead. Around midnight the first band starts up so explosively the entire village vibrates.  The music is a complete mix of pasa doble and current hits in both Spanish and English, and when that band starts to flag cakes and doughnuts are served at all tables (free of charge) while the next, louder, band takes up the fallen instruments. We left at 4 am and my  ears were still buzzing three days later –

Los Tablones fiesta 2019 off web

I’ve also been through to an English evening in Granada where a very cosmopolitan bunch gather on Tuesdays to practice English, mainly business types but a fair mix from students up to jubilados. There must have been a  hundred of us there, lots of Spanish but also Japanese, Czech, French, German, Canadian, quite a few English, even a South African. As the Czech guy had worked in South Africa for several years we three broke the English-speaking rule briefly to exchange what fractured Afrikaans we could remember – as one does on a rooftop terrace in the middle of beautiful Granada.

Granada at night off web

The South African invited me along to his writing group, also in Granada, which was fun, but Granada is over 50 kms away, I won’t be going as often as I’d otherwise like.  October is also my birthday month – I tried to get out of my new Spanish tradition (well, 2017 and 2018)   of going out to lunch and should have stuck to my guns, from now on I shall absolutely stonily ignore the horrible things and if necessary avoid all human contact. I only cheered up two days later when I met up with friends-of-friends travelling through Europe in a motorhome, the exact pick-me-up I needed. I did drool a bit over their motorhome – two years has been long enough for me to remember my weeks living in my converted camper as heaven and forget all the less ideal aspects, and what a beauty this one was by comparison!  Restless? Moi?

campervan Peter and Gill

 

Should you die in Spain – there’s stuff you should know first #livinginSpain

Dying is the last thing I intend to do, but it seems where you die can make quite a big difference. Dying in Spain doesn’t only leave your British-trained friends and family with a language barrier to be surmounted, it is handled completely differently.

In the UK the process between death and farewell takes a while: apart from anything else there’s frequently a wait of a week or more for a date at the crematorium, there could even be an inquest, and it means lots of time for that assembling of the bereaved for a service somewhere along the line. So if you want that sort of delay, do try not to die in Spain.

Say you’re in Spain visiting a friend who drops dead, or falls down the stairs and breaks their neck (don’t let’s dwell but these things happen) here’s what you do and don’t do

  1. Phone the policia on 112 (the operators speak English) who will arrive pretty quickly.
  2. Normally the policia will accept the death as an unsuspicious tragedy. There is no mortuary van or private ambulance system here. They will call the nearest funeral director.
  3. He will bring a body release form. If you sign that form, you have just committed to paying all funeral expenses. He won’t take the body if you won’t. So this is definitely the point to look in your friend’s wallet for any card showing pre-planned funeral arrangements. If there is one, all is well, the funeral director will take the body and deal with the plan-holders, who will also know what arrangements were desired.
  4. The default procedure is overnight at the closest tanatorio, cremation booked for the first slot available the next day, off in a plain basic coffin to the crematorium by hearse, there’s a service for any hastily assembled friends and relatives, the funeral director may choose to add a flourish or two such as releasing a hundred white doves, and in the fullness of time an urn in handed over. All done and dusted. If you signed that body release form for your friend, and there’s no funeral plan to bail you out, that’s several thousand euros, ta very much.
  5. Autopsies are, for the main part, only required by the State for car accident victims, and while the authorities pick up that tab, they don’t pick up the tab for any storage delays. This is a hot country. Storage at a tanatorio can cost up to 1000 euros a day depending on location, time of year, demand: hence the speed, hence the expense.

Take the bloke who dropped dead on holiday in a rented cabin on a Friday night – the policia came, decided there was nothing suspicious, and called a funeral director to collect the body. The couple’s travel insurance didn’t specify what it would cover and his distracted wife couldn’t learn more, or sort out any finances, until Monday. Okay, said the funeral director, I’ll be back Monday.

And he left, leaving the bloke on the floor of the kitchen.

Or the chappie who was on holiday in another part of the country. He was covered for death expenses, had his card with all the contact numbers, and the hotel phoned the funeral planners and his next-of-kin. Quite a shock for his son, but after two days he got his head together enough to phone the funeral company to ask what happens next, when should the funeral be . . . there was an awkward pause. Um. Your dad was cremated yesterday.

This is no criticism of the Spanish system, which is sensible, efficient, and the accepted way of life death – but it isn’t something you want to learn the hard way, especially if you fall in with an unscrupulous or overly sentimental funeral director and the costs spiral higher than those doves.

The lesson here for the future customer is if you want to make specific arrangements, make them in advance, and make them easy to find. The policia  routinely notify your banco, which will freeze your account(s) instantly, so it also makes sense for any couple with a joint bank account to have separate emergency funds. If nothing else, that will also pay for the rather nice Spanish tradition, in some areas, of a street party open to all in memory of the friend gone before.

A surprisingly large number of people plan to leave their bodies to medical research – unless you have a very unusual condition, that is no longer usually an option (anywhere – supply has exceeded demand) and even when it is you will still be expected to pay those tanatorio rates.

Although I’m not planning any imminent demise I don’t want to leave my daughter, who speaks no Spanish and lives a thousand miles away, tangling with technicalities: it seemed a good idea to get that useful card from English-speaking professionals tucked into my wallet, with a copy in my car documents. Too awkward to otherwise have some hapless guest here faced with the choice of either having to sign for my lavish arrangements, or stepping over my crumpled body at the bottom of the stairs for a few days, eh? So I am now sorted.

No doves.

Ever researching on your behalf,

Elegsabiff

fuller brothers funeral home

(from internet – copyright Fuller Brothers funeral home) 

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

 

 

 

 

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.