Writers block … #iamwriting

As a general rule I think writers block isn’t a bad thing. It does dam up a steady trickle of tripe and when the tripe is from others, well, hallelujah, there’s absolutely no downside.  When I’m the one blocked, the world isn’t missing much. Those readers chewing their nails for the next EJ Lamprey, well, my last two novels sold a bit but enthusiasm was unexpressed. I’m as grateful because reviews would have been, at the least, puzzled.

(I wrapped up the ten book Lawns series at long and complicated length in 19 20, and Do-Over . . . well, Do-Over was written in one spectacular joyous evening when the dam, for once, broke. It then took TEN MONTHS to tease into a book and sank like a stone on publication which is a shame because it hung on to that lunatic rollercoaster feeling and I like it very much)

Do-Over was the exception that proved the rule in a long block and I do blame my new life. Three years ago on a week’s holiday in Spain, practically to the day, (tomorrow is the day) I saw this uniquely odd house. BAM.  It had stood empty for a couple of years, was so run down  the few viewers before me had stopped dead in the doorway – the sort of house agents start with, you know the pitch, the next one is a little above your budget but remember you do get what you pay for. 

Not me. I saw four more houses but beetled back to see this one again, walking around dazed with delight. I patched plaster-crumbling walls without even seeing them, completely overlooked sagging ceilings, furnished one particular room with my desk and bookshelves (a STUDY of my OWN for the first time EVER) and peopled it with ink-stained scribbling guests having a wonderful time. I flew back to Scotland still dazed and thanking Providence that I had just been made redundant and was free to sell up and dash out to start this new and dazzling life in my new and wonderful guesthouse.

Six months later I’d given up:  nothing had gone smoothly, my house simply wouldn’t sell, I was living on capital when every penny of it would have been needed in Spain, the dream wasn’t going to happen. Time to give up, take my house in Scotland off the market, look for another job where I was, behave like a normal not-far-off-retirement rational human being.

As a sign of acceptance, a last nod to the dream and what might have been, I wrote a story about what I was calling the Elefante Blanco, a book for children with a 9 year old protagonist.  I knew my fading memories of the house weren’t entirely accurate, so I wrote it as it should be. Why not? I’d never live there. I peopled it with the writer guests I wanted, and gave it an owner who could have lived such a life since it wouldn’t, sniff, be me. There were a few all-nationalities neighbours and very little about the Spanish town and the lifestyle because I knew very little about the Spanish town and the lifestyle. The Kidnap Caper got as far as a few beta readers  (finding 9 year old readers isn’t as easy as you’d think, by the way) and then suddenly everything started happening and my house was sold and it was all go go GO and the Elefante Blanco story belonged to an alternative world.

It was to be the last story in a long long time to flow effortlessly. For years writing had come as naturally as breathing, something that fizzed and jiggled and bubbled endlessly, and I told myself it was because the refurbishment was so very much bigger than anticipated (it always is) and my new teaching job was draining my creativity and I was soaking up impressions and life was so very different.

I’m one of those writers who has to write, if not from life, from the life I know, and I knew very little. Not that I ever knew everything, all those whodunits, I’ve never really seen a murdered body, certainly never tripped over a fresh one. I’d more than once phoned Police Scotland direct on some procedural stuff and they’d been endlessly patient and helpful.  My Spanish was and is exceedingly pidgin. Phoning any branch of the policia here was never going to be an option. Writers block may be a boon to the writing world generally but it is a personal anguish, a mental constipation which becomes very painful. A year ticked by, and another, and 2020 dawned and I’d started and discarded at least nine book ideas, every one of them stilted and laboured and going nowhere.

When a story did finally start scrabbling for a foothold it was an Elefante Blanco one, picking up all the adult characters from the Kidnap Caper. Harriet Gant, who owns and runs the Elefante Blanco, which is not quite this house, has a life which is not my life, friends who do not exist in real life but are taken from life, and a murder or two to solve  in a country where she is still finding her feet.  Total fiction drawing on actual fact, familiar stuff, and writing is once again and at last, FUN. Whoop whoop!

Brace yourself, dear reader, because if this one gets past beta readers it may eventually be published, but right now I’m happy for me and oh wow it feels GREAT to have that dratted block gone.

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

 

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

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

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

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

the cynic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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. I had extra blankets, a heater in each room and two in the living room, and of course everything they could need to self-cater. Guess what, they never cooked a single meal at home, they too were out and about every day.

laugh

They’ve bought off plan along the coast and said they’d had a wonderful time and would be back so they can monitor progress on their apartment. 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 four heaters they had taken into the bedroom and could I show him the fusebox? He was wearing only a string vest (in February) so it obviously wasn’t exactly freezing. However they said in their review (according to Google translate) that the “electrics weren’t clean”, (without mentioning they had overloaded them, grrr), and had a general whinge. Wish they had done that the other way round. People are odd. And what on earth do I (politely) say if they meant it about wanting to come back??

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 appall 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.

cool

 

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.

yay

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.

cool

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.

laugh

Deck the halls with boughs of holly #living in Spain

DSC_0001 (1)

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.

DSC_0009

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 . . .

laugh

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.