Goldilocks is on her way – #livinginSpain

Chaos at mi Casa once again as Goldilocks is on her way and I want to have three, yes three, rooms ready for her.  Papa Bear’s room is more normally referred to as the summer bedroom and is never  offered to paying guests as it is part of my apartment, and next to the only full bathroom in the house.  Other advantage – downstairs.

Mama Bear’s room is Oliver, the front bedroom onto the narrow street, the warmest room because sun streams through the windows nearly all day, it has the bigger shower room, but it is on the street.  It’s getting a second coat of paint in Goldilocks’ honour but Spanish street life can be noisy. Passing acquaintances have cheery running conversations up to 100 metres apart and quarrels can’t be guaranteed but can be operatic.

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So, just in case, Baby Bear’s room, overlooking the peaceful atrium, is also ready. Well, will be. The traditional shutters to the main window are taking on glass as we speak and YES in Spain traditional houses do not have glazed windows. As one who dislikes housework, I am almost sorry to see the tradition finally end, now every room but the tiny sunroom will have windows that need cleaning. It will certainly make the place warmer, along with the new radiators on standby in every room, and winter-proofing was always part of the plan, Goldilocks simply set the deadline.

Take yer pick, and oh if anyone is wondering who Goldilocks is and why she’s so important, she’s my sole offspring. The one who came to look at the house in April last year, months and months before I bought it, and said firmly,  ‘you’d be crazy to buy the house, you’ll never get it sorted.’ Never is a very long time but it’s true that unless I am blessed with extraordinary strength, health, wealth, and longevity, it won’t be finished-finished in my lifetime. Just finding a way of reaching the very beautiful solarium over Mama Bear’s room is a puzzle I may carry to my grave.

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She does have a point – this was, for example, the terrace when she saw it. (And a pic as it is now.)

 

Still – there’ve been 14 sets of guests so far, and a dozen enthusiastic reviews, with but one poor review, for location – the town, that particular guest felt,  was too far from Malaga (well . . .)  and it is beautifully cheap  and two guests have extended their stays while here so I’m not the only one in love with its oddities . . .

Actually I dodged a bullet re location with another potential guest, who luckily wrote asking if I was walking distance from the centre of Granada. I have no idea how good a walker she might be, but wrote back saying it was 55 kilometres. She cancelled her booking. Velez is in Granada province, that’s probably what caused the confusion, athough there are maps on the listing with both Airbnb and HomeAway! Still. Could have been awkward.

The most recent guests – English C from London, my first real English guest, rented a bike and took to the terrifying hills around Velez  and along the coast with enthusiasm. He obligingly wrote all the bike-rental details into my guest book but did add a note that it should probably be an option for experienced cyclists only.  He was organized enough to book in advance for the Alhambra Palace and came home from that outing (by car, not bike) bubbling with enthusiasm and wishing he could go back for another look. Even at this time of year, though, it is booked solid as only small groups are allowed in at a time and every slot is booked in advance.

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He had booked  a long weekend in Baby Bear’s room (Cameron) and overlapped with Swedish B in Oliver, a retired guy who is taking a gap year to decide whether he will spend his retirement here in Spain.  He’s been staying the length and breadth of it, armed with his cafetiere and what was originally 6 kgs of Swedish coffee, now worryingly down to half a kilo.  I supply coffee, both instant and filter, along with other basics, but it seems only Swedish will do.

He used the Casa Excentrico as his Lecrin valley / Granada / Costa Tropical base for two weeks and walked his ladyfriend on videophone all round the house so she could share and appreciate the eccentricities. She too speaks good English and we were introduced for a short chat via the wonders of Skype.  Nice guy, with an impressive waist-length ponytail – I did suggest he have a look at Orgiva, our neighbouring and very Bohemian town, which I thought would suit him to a T, but he has pretty much decided on Marbella, and found Velez a bit short on millionaire Eurotrash. What can I say, that to me is one of the perks.

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I’m keeping an anxious eye on the long-term forecast (currently sunny, around 20 degrees by day, holding steady, don’t let me down Spain) and oh-so-looking-forward to a long weekend holiday out and about with Goldilocks – keep fingers crossed, y’all.

 

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Not a boarding house #livinginSpain finding a synonym – oh, and more guests

I don’t like the term boarding house, it somehow carries an indelible image (for me) of being genteelly shabby and smelling of boiled cabbage and I have no idea why, since I have never, to the best of my knowledge, stayed in a boarding house that fitted such a description.

The hunt was therefore on for synonyms, with a bewildering array of options from the handy website powerthesaurus.org – inn, rooming house, pension, hostel, hotel, lodging house, hospice, guesthouse, ordinary, tavern, fleabag, hostelry, doss house, flophouse and oh so many others – I liked caravansary but reluctantly gave it up when I realized I had to be able to put up 50 camels to really justify the name. It would be too crowded, and the dog would hate them.  The neighbours might get upset, too.

I looked up several, and guesthouse is definitely the answer. Inexpensive lodgings, tick – I’d rather have guests delighted with what they are getting, than finding fault. In a house over a century old, at least in parts, there is fault to find and always will be.  Private home with conversion exclusively for guest accommodation, tick.  So the Casa Excéntrico, with the entire upstairs exclusively for guests, is now officially a guesthouse.  By the way, that’s not a piercingly green carpet in the pic, it is fake grass. One day there will be new tiles but right now, fake grass is adding a suitably eccentric touch and coping nicely with the current, soon-to-be-sorted, occasional alarming mini-floods which burp up out of the overloaded storm drain. Spain doesn’t rain often, doesn’t rain for long, but it does rain hard.

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After the crazy hubbub of August, where I was stripping rooms in the morning and making them up for the afternoon, one anxious eye on the clock so I didn’t forget  to go teach between 1 and 4, things went abruptly quiet. No more ironing sheets in the laundry, leaning back so the sweat from my nose didn’t drip onto the pristine sheets.  No more steaming the floors with the big fans on full blast so I didn’t pass out from the combination of 40 degree temperatures and the floor-steamer. No more thanking my guardian angel for making me decide on a 3 day minimum, I honestly don’t know how hosts can do this every day.  Utter silence. The French guest who had booked for two weeks backed out two days beforehand saying eh, ‘allo, I ‘ave no memory of booking zees, and that was it until the Estonian lasses arrived.

Just as quickly it has gone back to hectic, it is an absolute mystery. October should be quiet, but I have both rooms booked at the moment, and a week’s break, and then both rooms booked again – I’m not complaining, just puzzled. I scrupulously refresh my calendars on both Airbnb and HomeAway regularly, they are the first options that come up for anyone looking on price, and now the market is booming again. Well, long may it last, although I’m rather hoping to use the week’s break to get the house ready for the anticipated winter guests from November onwards. Radiators have to be carried upstairs, a permanent cover built for the gas geyser (which currently has to be switched off and covered when it rains), and a tumbledrier not only sourced but housed.  320 days of sunshine a year is all well and good but the other 45 days are scattered between September and March, I’m a little behind. Until my builder-buddy Nick can get his car (and heavier tools) to the front door again, it’s all on hold. Grrr!

There’s an American guy in the front room who had originally booked for a weekend and keeps extending his stay – he’s house-hunting in the Lecrin Valley but becoming increasingly charmed by Velez itself  and could even end up changing all his plans and becoming a sort of part-time neighbour. I can remember all too well being utterly bewildered by the variety of the places for sale between here and Granada!  Originally he had short-listed two. One is a tiny (one bedroom) perfect villa just above the Alhambra, with a roof terrace with views of the Palace and Granada itself. The other is at the top of the mountain behind Niguelas, a solid cabin squarely in the national park with fruit and olive trees and  views, on a clear day, to Africa, but it is 45 minutes up a winding unsurfaced track. He’s thinking he will probably buy both. I said he needs to look around more. He has the option of renting the Granada one first so will be off as soon as that lease is signed.

The couple in the back room are absolutely lovely, but he’s French with a little English and a little Spanish, and she’s Spanish with no English and no French. We have the occasional glass of wine together and chatter away in three different languages. Builder-buddy Nick says I should stop being so chatty but I honestly don’t start the conversations. I’ll admit I do enjoy them and don’t run away and hide. And when we had a mini-flood yesterday (I really can’t WAIT for the roadworks to be finished and my non-return valve fitted) my lovely guest insisted on helping brush a substantial pool of water from the hallway back up the slight slope towards the atrium drain. They go today and will be missed.

My birthday falls around Halloween and I always take the day off – this year I have booked off teaching but will have the house full, so it won’t be completely relaxing. Just as well, perhaps. Wouldn’t do to be getting lazy.

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Splish-splash – oh, and 19 20 #livinginSpain

The rain in Spain falls mainly – so far as I can gather – at the top end of the town. It then roars down towards the older part of the town as a raging torrent, foams its way along the narrow streets and hits the t-junction at the bottom of my road at a speed of about sixty kilometres an hour. There’s some serious turmoil as many thousands of litres of water try to battle it out at the t-junction. Spanish plumbing, especially in very old bits of old towns, consists of grids in the street that scoop water into the storm drains. Most houses have patios and terraces open to the elements, and they have grids too, and underground drains which are linked directly to the stormwater drains.

The other day we had a heavy storm rumbling in from the east and a thunderstorm charging in from the west and they met pretty much overhead. It was bucketing down, soak-you-to-the-skin-in-seconds rain with crashing thunder and crackling lightning and I was really rather enjoying it when suddenly, and without  any warning, every drain in the house gurgled and erupted.

My downstairs bath and loo became brief fountains, the drains in the atrium and terrace burped up deliciously muddy storm water, and although I was lucky enough to have enough towels to jam into doorways to stop my downstairs apartment being flooded, other neighbours were complaining bitterly afterwards of being ankle-deep throughout their downstairs areas. I watched glumly from my towel barricade as my heavy-duty doormat floated sluggishly away and the smaller pot-plants in the atrium started shifting restlessly and still it rained. Poured.

Finally, after nearly two hours, the heavens closed again and the drains reversed themselves and started behaving normally, sucking away the flood from everywhere and leaving an attractive thin film of mud in its wake.

The Ayuntamiento (Council) had, so far as we could see, several options. Do nothing, and get lynched by several very angry householders. Put a big grid in the road at the intersection above us, and divert future floods along side streets where the water couldn’t pick up such speed. Fit every affected house with non-return valves. Or – their choice – dig up the entire road. No idea why, but it has been noisy.

By purest luck I didn’t have guests at the time  -although nearly every guest I’ve had so far has been absolutely fab, it would take a saint to take that in their stride.

I do have guests at the moment but they’ve been wonderful about the roadworks, which started on their third day.  They are a pair of Estonian blondes and the workmen stop work reverently the minute they step out of the house to go anywhere, and watch them wistfully out of sight.

Before them, and before the flood, I had an older Polish man and woman, friends who had taken the entire G suite, i.e. both bedrooms and the shared living room. The woman was very dramatic, and had a bracing personality. She said on her second day that the suite was lovely but I really shouldn’t advertise that it included a kitchen.

Um, I don’t. I’m in fact pretty clear on that.

She recovered quickly and said sternly ‘you don’t say it doesn’t have a kitchen.’  Guilty as charged but in my defence, there are over 30 photos on the listing, the ones of the living room do show quite clearly the fridge, kettle, table, no kitchen sink or oven  … anyway her main beef was the lack of a sink, and as I had a cancellation after them, and therefore an empty week, it now does have a sink.

What else – oh yes, Nineteen Twenty My Plate Is Empty is now up and running. Right now it is on a pre-publication price as it only officially hits your Kindle on October 6th. Click on the name here, or the pic in the sidebar and you shall be whisked to the Amazon nearest to you. I am not making much fuss about it today but will be issuing a flurry of tweets tomorrow because I am hoping to get a tiny surge of purchases around 6 pm GMT – well, we’ll see. It is, goes without saying, an absolutely brilliant book and fiendishly difficult to solve, even though I have checked and double-checked that every clue is in place and in plain sight.  It is also the last in this particular series and I shall miss my Lawns friends very much, I think.

So that, I think, is us up to date …

 

 

Guests, Spanish citizenship for the car, and bottles of wine #livinginSpain

It’s been a hectic August so far, more guests than I expected, they’ve been such fun – even the Spanish couple who gave me only 3 stars, partly on location. Well, location is one thing I can’t change, eh? And hardly my fault they were in the south of Spain to visit her father, who lives on the far side of Malaga, 80 km each way.  Tchah. She spoke no English but did say at least in her review ‘the owner speaks little Spanish, but one can understand’.

She took away with her my Spanish ‘notes for guests’ and the printer decided to have a strop so I couldn’t print more, but fortunately the next guests were, although from the north of Spain, fully bilingual. In fact he’s Irish – they met in Ireland, then moved back to her beloved country some 15 years ago.

Both are teachers, and he gave me a priceless list of 1000 questions guaranteed to spark students of English into comment for those awful moments in class when one has run out of topic but there is still 10 or 15 minutes to be endured. I’m still very new to tutoring, barely a year’s experience, and although I teach online through an agency, which supplies the topic and material, sometimes the pupil is more advanced than expected, the supplied material is covered in half the time, and the tutor has to get creative . . . so I was exceedingly grateful for that.

Irish J also went to the policia local with me as I am still renting out rooms on my temporary licence and haven’t heard anything from the tourist board. I know they’re snowed under with applications, but I also think I should be keeping records of guests, and advising the authorities, but, er, how? The policia local didn’t know either, but told us to go back in an hour. We did, and the next person we spoke to said to come back Thursday afternoon when there might be someone who spoke a little English who could possibly help me. It didn’t seem to be, put it this way, something that worried them very much, so I am not worrying as much as I did. At this point all my bookings are still through the websites Airbnb and HomeAway, so they are easy to track.   If all the guests who have promised to return do return, they’ve all said they will book direct, and my record-keeping will be sorted by then, right? Right.

Spanish-Irish P and J left, and were replaced by another Spanish couple, R and J, very young, with barely a word of English between them. They carried in (for a week’s stay) very nearly as much luggage as I had carted in the camper, including a portable air-conditioner, now that’s organized!

In the meantime Danish P in the front room finally left to return to Copenhagen, with hugs and promises to return often, and was replaced by a remarkably beautiful young Vietnamese lass and her devoted Czech partner, H and K.  He’d been before, she hadn’t, but fell completely in love with Spain, which she said is very like Vietnam. They diligently updated the visitor book with recommendations for other visitors – best local breakfast churros (photo below), a nearby source for paella, the closest nudist beach.  She did catch the sun quite badly on the nudist beach, and pulled down her sundress to show me her sunburn.  I asked if I could take a photo for the blog, which I think you would have appreciated very much, but she giggled and pulled the dress up again. Note to self – restock the first aid kit with more sunburn stuff.

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They spoke less Spanish than I do (yes, I didn’t know that was possible either) and had me translating for them with the daily bread van as they tried nearly all his wares. The best, they decided, was a crisp sugared bread biscuit six inches across.  I have no idea what it is called. When they left, they gave me a thank-you bottle of wine, and so did the young Spanish couple in the back room when they left yesterday. Very handy, since the lovely mecanico who has been helping me with the car matriculation refused to take payment and said I could bring him a bottle of wine instead. Sorted.

I only have one guest at the moment, with a Polish name but a flawless London accent, mainly because that’s where he lives, and he’s visiting his parents, who have retired to Velez. The occasion was a family gathering and he opted to rent a room from me rather than share one with his 6-year-old nephew. Theoretically, a wise decision. In the event, he might have slept later yesterday, as some very noisy work started without warning on a house across the street. A generator chugging, an earthmover (small but noisy) moving piles of debris and Spanish workmen chatting at the tops of their voices at 6.30 in the morning is no way to wake up on holiday. Luckily the Spanish weekend is sacred so not a sound this morning, he slept until 10, and leaves tomorrow.

work across the road digger

Even more luckily, I had already closed bookings on both rooms for the rest of the month. Just as well, if there is going to be a morning racket! More to the point, it is a year since I started this Odyssey, it has been an incredibly hectic year, and I need the break. I knew August would be hot, but nobody expected the savage humidity, which is not at all typical for Spain and has topped 80% on a few hideous days. Preparing rooms single-handed again and again to paying-guest standard in 80% humidity is not a bundle of fun.

I’m taking a teaching holiday, too – it may only be 3 hours a day, 6 days a week, but my predominantly Chinese students are also in a very hot summer and are tired, scratchy and listless by their evening which – the time difference – is when classes start. Being bouncy, upbeat, energetic and encouraging for 3 hours is exhausting.

The last book in my series – 19 20 My Plate Is Empty – has been stop-starting throughout this erratic  year and I’m still not happy with it, much of the break will be spent on that. I’ve loved the series, which has made some good friends along the way, and there’s no way I will finish with a potboiler. Already Scotland seems so distant that when I re-read some bits I’m taken aback and abruptly reminded of life there, so it has to be finished soon.

There’s one other good reason for the break, too – matriculating my car, which has been delayed so often I am now frighteningly illegal, as the MOT runs out.  With no classes and no guests I can focus completely on that (and have time to travel around on the coach system until it is sorted). The process started with Antonio the mecanico, but he’s having to close his garage and move as the city wants to widen the road. He called in the tecnico Manolo, who said all the car lights would have to be changed, but Sanchez the electrico just laughed at me for wanting to do such a thing in August. It is fiesta!  Come back on the 22nd, I will see then when I can do it.

Er, no can’t wait. The lights were sourced, ordered, and fitted by the priceless and irreplaceable Nick and I’ve spoken to Chris who will handle the re-registration (it’s what he does, deal with Spanish bureaucracy, and he is English, so there is no need for my pitiful Spanglish+mime skills, phew) and scanned to him all my documentation – passport, NIE, padron, and of course the car’s V5 logbook. He will set up the ITV appointment, arrange with Manolo to meet me there to issue the tecnico clearance, and then I can put the car in for its roadworthy test. It had its last annual MOT in August when I left the UK so – tick tock. Eek. There’ll be a blog on the matriculacion, since that’s a whole story in itself, once I have the final facts, figures, and my new registration plates. What a mission!

Today’s temperature is a rather fab 28 degrees, slight breeze, will reach 31 Celsius by late afternoon, and the humidity a not so fab but bearable 63%. We do seem to be escaping the rather terrifying storms and flash-floods up Benidorm way, my barometer is holding serenely steady.

And – breathe.

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Excentrico guests – Anglo-Saffer J et al #livinginSpain

I’ve got a current couple in Cameron who could be rated perfect  – she doesn’t speak any English, he has just enough to get us by, they’re up at 10 and out for the day, return around midnight, we smile a great deal and say a little in Spanglish, and so long as they’re smiling, I’m happy!

The previous guest in Cameron was my Anglo-Saffer buddy, come to see what the Elefante Blanco has turned into, and that was huge fun.  She’s a runner with a club we can call Narnia, and likes to run early in the morning. I’m not an early bird in any way (or a runner, perish the thought) but armed her with the necessary pidgin Spanish to ask her way back to somewhere familiar if she got lost (effectively, dónde Iglesia, where church?)

As it turned out she slept later than her usual 4 am (probably due to much tinto de verano (summer wine) and blethering the night before, she also credits the bed, ta very much) and only donned her running clobber, emblazoned with the club’s name, around 7.30. The streets were already coming to life and she was greeted with friendly interest by those she passed, and the old men sitting under the pergolas. From the second morning there were calls of ‘Hola, Narnia!’ as she sped by, waving, and by the end of her week she probably knows more people in town than I do. She loves Spain and Spain, or certainly Velez, loves her.

When under linguistic pressure she switched to Afrikaans and said it was miraculous, the person who could only talk Spanish a minute earlier suddenly managed to disinter some English from the recesses of their memories. Of course as an Anglo-saffer she’d have had problems if they’d been fluent in Afrikaans as she isn’t exactly vlot herself. But ‘twas enough, it sufficed.

We ventured through to Granada for a day, and found it experiencing bone-melting temperatures but thanks be, there is a hop-on hop-off bus-tram. We fell onto that with glowing relief and were rattled briskly around all the scenic bits of fabulously scenic Granada. There are over a dozen places to hop off, very few of which tempted any of the steaming passengers, and the route includes the perimeter  / outer gardens of the Alhambra Palace.

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We did get off to check out the cathedral and square,

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DSC_0936and again for lunch in a beckoning plaza, where huge umbrellas over the tables puffed out misty spray at regular intervals. We sipped lazily at iced summer wine and enviously watched a dog plunge into the fountain and swim around until he felt braced enough to get out.

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The return to Velez felt positively cool, but even here it was 34 degrees. Wow.  Not even August yet . . .  Danish J is still in Oliver, the front room, and has extended his stay another two weeks, and I’m considering blocking off the rest of August on both rooms and taking the month off. It will be my first August, and I have no idea what to expect, but as I don’t have air-conditioning, I’m really not sure the big fans in the rooms will be enough.  I know what last September was like – I will have been here a year, then.  That’s flown!

 

Excentrico guests – Dutch P – #livinginSpain

Dutch P couldn’t really be more unlike Danish J. Wiry, quick-moving, mid-fifties and fit as a butcher’s dog, he drove here from The Hague with one overnight stop in Bordeaux (2200 km), stacked all his wind-surfing kit in the hall (that’s a lot of kit, by the way) and we had a midnight beer on the terrace while he brought me up to speed.

His wife, although not Spanish, is from a Spanish-speaking country and has been pining for some of the sun Spanish-speaking countries have in such generous quantities. She has a sister in Motril – and a job, an ideal job, came up in Malaga. Only problem – could he start Monday? Of course he could. He’s obviously a very can-do sort of man. It was the work of a moment for him to book in the Cameron for 4 days, drive a couple of thousand kilometres, and start apartment-hunting.

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He was on the terrace with coffee and his first cigar of the day at 7.30 on Thursday morning and gone by 9, to return at midnight for another beer and update on the terrace. Success! Sister-in-law had set up 4 places to view, he’d signed the lease on the 3rd, been given the keys, and could now relax and have a holiday.

Friday morning found him in shorts on the terrace after a long lie-in (8.30) and then he was gone again, back to Motril. The new place has a pool in the apartment block and temperatures here now are over 30 degrees, so on Saturday, a day early, he repacked the car, hugged me goodbye like an old friend, and was gone.

I don’t know how much of his early departure was to do with the pool and wanting to get settled in the furnished apartment, or with the fact there was briefly no hot water on Saturday morning – eep.

I was, oh so luckily, up earlier than usual, and when I tried to shower there was no fwoop from the gas cylinder outside. CRAP. I have several gas cylinders and it was the work of but a moment to switch cylinders – even as the cap clicked into place, water started through the anti-scale filter and the heater said fwoop. Fortuitous timing, or had P been trying for a while? When I asked over coffee later, he insisted there had been no problem.

The replacement cylinder was from my winter heater and I had no idea how much gas it still had, so there  was a hasty dash down the road to the garage to get a full one.

By the way, and I mention this only in passing, the new guy at the garage looks like Jeff Goldblum.  I mean exactly like Jeff Goldblum, around his Jurassic Park period. Doesn’t speak a word of English. I really must start those Spanish lessons.

Back home, heaved the new cylinder out of the car and inside the front door, then drove off to find parking – when I returned, two minutes later, the cylinder was gone. P had spotted it, carried it through and then helpfully switched the cylinders for me, you have to admit that’s a handy guest to have! He was even dressed to match the house, in vivid green, and laughingly posed for a photograph before we packed the windsurfing kit into his Alfa-Romeo and he shot on his way.

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The neighbours are definitely intrigued by the variety of men through my door. My next guest is not only a woman but an old friend and entirely in keeping with the casa’s ambience, so the penny should drop soon but I’m enjoying my shady reputation while I can.

wink

Excentrico guests  – Danish J – #livinginSpain

1st of July and although at one stage it looked like we’d never get here, the Casa Excentrico is in business, the G suite is up and running, and there be guests!

Oliver, the front room overlooking the street, has J, a Danish writer / translator, who has been in for a week and is booked for four. We occasionally put the world to rights over summer wine (tinto de verano) on the terrace, since between us we cover most demographics (he’s male, mid-thirties, and being Danish, EEA rather than EU).  Now to get the governments of the world to listen to our brilliant solutions, eh?

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He’s keen on politics, but his passion is football, and the World Cup is on at the moment. He has become the house’s roving reporter, advising which pavement cafes have TV and, importantly, their allegiances (Barcelona or Real Madrid), as that affects which international game they will be showing.  Of course every Spanish game is shown at them all, and then the place to be is the Futball Café.

As it happened I was there with local friends W and E on the night of the kick-off between Spain and Portugal. We’d gone because TripAdvisor gives the place great reviews for its tapas and its fish dishes, just the 3 of us as our mutual friend Nick doesn’t care for fish and doesn’t live in Velez anyway. As they aren’t footie types either, we were a little puzzled when TV screens started appearing on the plaza next to the café, and stacks of chairs were carried out, followed by scores of tables. The gathering buzz, as the extra tables were briskly set up, and equally briskly claimed, was palpable. We ordered a third round of drinks, received a third included-in-the-price plate of tapas (the first had been mushrooms in a delectable dressing, the other two fish-based) and can report that the quality, despite the excitement, held up nicely. It’s sunny on the plaza until about 9 p.m., it was a good game, and the atmosphere was absolutely brilliant.

Back to guest #1, J, he’s definitely one of the most laidback guests any host could ever want. He doesn’t mind being woken by the dawn chorus as every bird choir in Spain gathers outside the window to sing the sun into the sky:  he goes straight back to sleep and doesn’t even hear the bread van when it stops at the door and hoots around ten a.m.  He’s usually first spotted around noon, coffee in hand, as he heads up to the sun patio. If he hadn’t seen me the evening before to give me the football results, he will stick his head in the study window to update me gravely on the state of play. The guest living-room fridge is crammed with interesting food-stuffs and summer wine and he says he’s loving the place, and finding it beautifully cool after Granada, where he was staying before.

Note to self – avoid Granada for the summer, since the temps here are nudging 32 degrees most days. ‘Beautifully cool’ is the very last description I would have used.

Cameron, the room overlooking the atrium, has had its first guest too, and is gearing up for the next on Wednesday. I’m not sure I’d be doing blogs for every guest, just the more excentrico ones, but P does qualify and his blog follows shortly.