Costa Tropical in winter – guests from barely-20 to 70-something #CasaExcentrico

I haven’t done a blog about guests for a while since all was quiet from mid-November to January. Well, not quiet.  Some fairly hectic winter-proofing in the guest rooms was required. Thing was, when I first listed the rooms on Airbnb and HomeAway in May last year my first (and for a while only) response was from a Belgian couple who wanted the front room for 3 months starting February. That was, frankly, terrifying. The guest rooms, like most older Spanish houses, had shuttered windows, but no sissy namby-pamby modernities like glass,  what for you need glass,  is a bedroom, you only need shutters? The newly created guest living room boasted a kettle and open toaster and not a lot else.

My wanting-to-self-cater Belgians lit a bit of a rocket: having not thought about winter bookings at all, I had to refocus towards the can’t-afford-to-turn-down 3 month booking. Turned out, purest luck. Radiators were snapped up all summer whenever I saw a bargain, a sink was plumbed into the living room during a gap between bookings, a two-plate electric hob, pots and pans, were added to the tiny guest oven in the pantry cupboard. My local wand-waving DIY friend Nick, who performs miracles as standard, worked out a way of adding glass to the original shutters in the front room just in time for me to accept a January booking from a young American lass on her way to a 5 month teaching post on the coast. She chose to stay here for a week while looking for an apartment near the school because I spoke English, and she could therefore ask endless questions, some of which I could answer, and vent hilariously about the frustrations of Spain vs America. Like the day she was to report at her new school – she caught the Velez coach into Motril, then hopped on the coast bus to her destination. The driver either forgot, or hadn’t understood, where she wanted to get off. She was swept past and to the next stop, 8 km further. He shrugged, and told her to catch the next bus back. There aren’t many buses on the coastal road . . . the next was due in an hour and a half. The taxi company she phoned refused to travel so far. Almost in tears she tried to flag down drivers heading that way but (oh how times have changed) has never hitched in her life, so instead of sticking out her thumb she waved. Drivers waved back, and kept going.

She also had expected Spain to be hot hot hot all the time so her only warm piece of clothing was her jacket and the radiators and heaters I’d bought were pressed into urgent service. It is sunny nearly all the time but temperatures drop sharply overnight in mid-winter and can hover just above zero.  However her general attitude was incredibly positive, she was a fun guest to have, and we bundled up well and traipsed off to the tiny local evening parade of the Kings on January 6th. (The third king was caught up in a photoshoot off to the side in this snap)

Sara and 2 of 3 kings

There was enough of a gap after her stay to get the back room’s windows glazed, in time for my first actual English guest (I’ve had guests who live in England, but they were Polish) who was scoping out the Granada area for his 50th birthday celebrations next year. He and his friends are into golf and ski-ing so he was out and about every day testing golf-courses in one direction or shooting up into the Sierra Nevada in the other so I only ever saw him as a fleeting shadow past the study window on his way out or back upstairs to recover from the day’s exertions.

The day after he left it was, finally, time for my game-changing Belgians to arrive. Over the months since their original booking the 3 months had changed to 6 weeks, then shrunk finally down to 10 days, and I had begun to wonder if the booking would ever happen at all. They turned out to be lovely but, wait for this, I don’t think they ever cooked a single meal at home, they too were out and about every day!

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They’ve bought off plan along the coast and will, they said, be back so they can monitor progress on their apartment. Hope so, because they’re super guests, scrupulously not only replacing everything they used of the supplies provided but even upgrading the quality. He came down the first night to ask how much I charged for anything they took from the fridge or pantry (no no, on the house) and then a little later to say the lights had blown, he had now unplugged two of the heaters and could I show him the fusebox? I refused to feel guilty, he was wearing only a t-shirt (in February) so it obviously wasn’t that cold up there.

Georges et Colette 2 March 2019

Some guests want to chat, some are completely self-sufficient. The original plan was to attract writers but apart from my first guest, working on his thesis, the majority have been, oddly enough, teachers (including the Belgians) and all have been out and about most of the time, none more so than the Dublin cyclist who appeared next. He was extraordinary, not only cycling merrily up to villages like Trevélez (1476m above sea-level up a road so steep I had been hyperventilating in a car) but bringing back fistfuls of beach-stones for the atrium when he did coastal rides. He’d also bring one of the local wines down to the atrium of an evening to chat about the day. In a week he learned way more about every village, vineyard and smokery in a 40 kilometre radius than I have learned in 15 months, which is a little embarrassing.

Will March 8 2019

This area is big with cyclists, one is forever dodging them on the hills or having heart attacks rounding sharp bends to find groups of them taking up most of the road. My next booking, after the refurbishment break, is a couple of German cyclists, at this rate I may need to plan in a neat cycle rack for the hallway.

I booked myself off teaching for 2 days, planning a lazy weekend which turned instead into a rush for a last minute booking from a Madrid couple for the weekend, but they aren’t exactly intrusive – up at 11 am and off to explore Velez, and I know they plan to explore the Lecrin valley and Alpujarras while they’re here. He speaks about as much English as I do Spanish, she has no English at all, so we limp along in bilingual confusion – they did appal me en route by asking via whatsapp, in Spanish, for directions, Google Translate don’t let me down now! My spellcheck was a curse, trying firmly to change every word as I hastily typed but they made it and sent a polite whatsapp from outside  – “estamos en la puerta”, we are at the door. The  equivalent of chapping at a door in Spain is usually to lean on the doorbell while simultaneously hammering on the door itself so I’m guessing they didn’t want to rouse the house so late at night in case it was the wrong place. Note to self – get a sign for the front door.

It’s been a lively start to the year already with spring on its way, I’ve shed the fleece for dog-walking already and will shortly be packing away the radiators and hauling out the standing fans instead … two years ago I had just seen the house for the first time and was in a wistful wouldn’t-it-be-nice-don’t-be-silly reverie. Life stores up some very odd surprises.

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Officially amazing, haha – and legal #livinginSpain

I was thrilled to be featured in January as an Amazing Over Fifty on the LovingTheFiftySomething website – all too often when I’ve idly searched online for ‘over fifty‘ the links that come up show groups of impressively-preserved people demurely sipping tea and talking about how nice it is to be in the still waters following the white-water rapids of life. The women have abundant silvery hair in perfect chignons and the men are smiling to show their remarkable teeth and you’d be proud, honestly, to have them as grandparents but they didn’t seem people who would like or welcome scatty disorganized erratic types like me.  LovingTheFiftySomething features – well, not necessarily erratic types! – but those still riding the rapids and refusing to be relegated to the sidelines. YES.

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Anyway, in my scatty disorganized erratic way I’ve been taking lots and lots of advice on this whole living-in-Spain thing. It really doesn’t help that the 3 professionals I’ve spoken to had strong opinions on my only sensible route, but were touting 3 separate routes. Chris, who had sorted the car out, said firmly my best option was to become autonoma – self employed.  I would file an annual tax return, I would go instantly onto the Social so be covered by the Health service, and residency would be guaranteed trouble-free, and rubber-stamped by the local policia without a murmur.  However, he was away when it came time to do my end-of-year tax payment as a home-owner, and sent me to Ana, in a town about 40 miles away, who specializes in all things tax and legal generally. Ana was absolutely wonderful, drew up my tax document promptly and patiently answered lots of questions, but she felt autonoma was an expensive option for me. The problem was that I would have to pay all my taxes in Spain, on my international income, and while in the UK tax only applies after the first 12K, or thereabouts, in Spain the tax-free window is not only 6K, but once you cross that, you pay tax on the entire amount. Plus the Social, although for new registrations is only 50 euros a month, goes up steadily over 2 years until you are paying the whole 275 euros a month, and that’s a lot of money for someone like me who will never reap the long-term benefits of a Spanish pension –  you have to have been paying in for 15 years. Better, she said, to go for Residency. I would need to prove a stable monthly income sufficient to support me, and take out a comprehensive medical aid, and then – Bob’s your uncle.

Comprehensive medical aids are surprisingly expensive once you are no longer in the first flush of youth. At a party I asked some friends what they did, and who they used, and they recommended Nina, right here in Motril. Since I knew I had to pay tax on my rental income from the house by the end of January, I went to Nina instead of trekking the 40 miles back to Ana.  She said firmly that until we know exactly what is happening with Brexit (anyone else sick of that word?) I should remain a non-resident home-owner, pay my taxes (19%) on my rental income 4 times a year, and if Brexit brings in visa requirements which mean I have to leave the country 2 or 4 times a year, well, then we look at other options.  So I have paid my taxes and have bought a little time to think through my options.

A surprising number of ex-pats are still unregistered, some scrambling a bit nervously now to become official residents, others waiting to see what will happen.

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My Spanish vocabulario grows by the day – I am busy on a book with the working title Pidgin Spanish (based on a family called Pidgin who moved to Spain) which includes all the TEFL tricks of learning a second language, mini situational stories with handy dialogue, numbers for counting / telephones / the date / making appointments:  the Spanish alphabet for spelling out your name and address: the rudimentary basics for linguistically-challenged types (ie me) to get by.  I’m truly rubbish at languages – I spent 12 years in school in South Africa without ever mastering Afrikaans, which back then was the country’s second official language – but little by little the Spanish I need is being nailed into place. I can read documents, make myself understood with less wild mime, and every encounter navigated successfully is a joyful little oooh. It may never be published – how many others are there who simply can’t conjugate verbs efficiently, after all? – but it’s helping me no end.  Roll on 2019, I’m braced for impact.

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Deck the halls with boughs of holly #living in Spain

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The halls be decked, but it isn’t really beginning to feel like Christmas – too much sunshine around, although there obviously isn’t the heat in it that there was. The days are crisp, the nights crisper (into single figures, centigrade) but there is no denying it is extremely nice to walk the dog past the allotments at nearly 6 pm and take photographs of the late afternoon sunshine. Even nicer to remember that in Scotland it would have been dark for nearly 2 hours and the temperature would not have been 17 degrees C.

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The house is quiet, no guests at present, Goldilocks was the last and enjoyed herself, she said she’ll be back. Yay! Mr Goldilocks is a keen cyclist and as we drove about passing cyclists panting up mountains, or whizzing dizzily down the other side, she decided he would thoroughly enjoy a visit too. To each their own, but my next lot of guests in 2019 are, as it happens, cyclists from Germany. I asked if they needed the local hire place but no, they are bringing their own. Hikers are still hiking, too, this is definitely better weather for it than panting along in summer temperatures!

I’m seizing the quiet time between the tutoring to do some bits and bobs around the house, and also the next round of bureaucracy – I have to register for tax (ouch) and apply for residency and once I have the residency, for my Spanish driving licence.  So the plan is autónoma (self-employed) which carries with it a monthly payment of 80 euros to the authorities for the next two years, which will also automatically cover me for any medical issues. After two years it goes up sharply until I retire but I’ll worry about that in two years time.

I’m also busily writing simple stories in English, translating them into exceedingly simple Spanish, and in the process teaching myself enough Spanish so that fluent I will be if odd I sound.  The two big issues with the language are pronunciation, which I have basically cracked –  although nearly every letter in the 27 (yes, 27) letter alphabet is said differently, and combinations of letters have unfamiliar aspects,  the rules once learned are consistent. There are no nasty you / young / ouch pitfalls lying in wait, so I have reached the point where I can translate my question into Spanish and then sally forth confidently to ask it.  One of these days I’ll even understand the reply.

The other big issue is word order, sentences are unfamiliarly constructed, and clauses turn into actual words, some of which I love. “I go” is voy – “today” is hoy – “today I go” therefore makes me feel like a Snow White character, hoy voy, hoy  voy, it’s off to work voy . . .

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I may never master sentence construction but the Spanish are very patient  and so long as you are trying, they are friendly, helpful, and laugh with you, not at you.  Anyway, the point of the stories is that if you go for Spanish lessons the teachers almost inevitably launch into verb conjugations (because there are oh so many verbs and oh so many conjugations) and a great many students give up. Learning useful pidgin Spanish through stories is turning out to be really easy so there may be a market for my stories.  Keeps me occupied, anyway.

2018 has been quite a year. 2019 looms like an iceberg with Brexit a complete shambles. hole

Blessed be.

 

 

 

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.

 

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.

Atrium to hall

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.

churros

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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