Wiped off the face of the earth –

Facebook options when a family member or loved one is deceased include deleting the profile or switching to a memorial version. Today I was told by FBP that I’d been unfollowed by a family member. As it happened death / deletion of profile wasn’t one of the suggested reasons I could have been unfollowed. Anyway. Profile gone, photos gone, and, slightly shockingly, every comment she’d ever made on my posts, and she had made many, some hilarious, some pithy, some useful – gone. Wow.

If there had never been a Facebook account we’d likely have only ever communicated with chatty birthday and Christmas cards, and the occasional phone call – different countries, different lives. Facebook can be infuriating but for family it is a way of sharing news, photos, updates, and it was oddly chilling to lose all that history.

Okay, no fun whatsoever getting birthday reminders for someone lost a year or two earlier but when I go, I have just added to my very long list of instructions to my long-suffering daughter to please choose the memorial option. Is that narcissistic? Ghoulish? Don’t care. At least if anyone, ever, gets round to wondering whatever happened to old whatsername, they’ll be able to find out.

Hopefully not too soon, of course.

Living with a #podenco, nearly 2 years in

It’s coming up two years (in November) and time for an update on living with a podenco, the Spanish hunting dog used for running down rabbits and hares, for anyone thinking of adopting one of these lovely sighthounds, especially a rescued working dog which has usually lived out.

Purdey loves little rituals, which become cast in stone – when I return from shopping I unpack the bags against the door, then open it so she can charge out and leap into the back of the car where she waits, trembling with expectation, while I transfer the shopping inside. Then we go find parking and detour into a brief walk on the way home. Not exactly exciting, but she loves it. She loves life generally, everything except thunder and bangs, which bring her trembling under the desk. She was five when we found each other and all I know of her background was that she started life as a hunting dog and three of her owners were hunters. She’s had at least one litter, possibly every time she came on heat although if a dog is too insistent (they still are, although she’s now spayed) she sits down firmly, removing temptation, and snaps crossly at him. No way José.

It seems likely she was never a house dog before, and very timid about coming indoors, but she decided eventually that anything the cat could do was surely legal. Ideal homes for them are large busy families, not single old ducks like me, but I own a guesthouse so there’s usually something on the go. Occasionally paying guests bring dogs with them – she was utterly fixated by a visiting Chihuahua which was very patient about being sniffed from nose to tail every time it appeared. Another guest brought a miniature Doberman which adored her and wouldn’t leave her alone, I’d find her sleeping in a hiding place while the little visitor searched anxiously for her. The very first guest dog was a particularly massive Newfoundland – even I was taken aback by its size. When I let her out she charged upstairs to see what was happening, took one startled glance, and charged back down, but they got on well during his stay. He was a gentle giant, still very young, and delighted to find my last dog’s neglected basket of toys. Purdey hadn’t understood the concept of play until then and now has a favourite teddy. She’ll also now chase a ball (and sometimes bring it back). Mainly she loves attention. She’s not a pest, but is radiant when being stroked and as for grooming, would probably stand rock still to the end of time so long as the brush kept moving.

What am I supposed to do with this?

Sometimes guests borrow her for walks or even dawn runs, both of which she heartily approves. Some guests bribe her with scraps when they are cooking (strictly against rules), but some shout at her to go away when she pokes her nose round the apartment door, and she skitters downstairs looking embarrassed and avoids them from then on. I worried about taking on a breed which needed lots of exercise and company but the walks are good for both of us  and she seems to enjoy the turnover in visitors. Sometimes when a favourite guest is leaving I fancy the glance she gives me says well, we tried our best, maybe next time but then I am a writer and have an over-developed imagination.

She leaps about like Tigger when I lift down the lead and harness, and is always up for adventure – if I get to my feet, any time day or night, she’s instantly alert, those enormous ears pricked, amber eyes glowing. She’s friendly, loving, eager to please, but when I’m busy she’s quite happy to head up to the patio to sunbathe, or to my bedroom for a nap. She hates baths and she hates the sea, fleeing in panic from waves. She’s swum (politely, with a guest) in the river, but generally loathes getting wet, possibly because her wiry coat takes a while to dry even with a towel. Rainy days are few and far between here but those are our shortest walks, and she’s turning for home with a pleading look even as I’m bending down with the baggie.

Because she has way more energy than I do, we worked on her recall until now I can let her off the lead to gallop in open areas. She’s even learned that if another dog comes into sight, especially one on a lead, she has to resist temptation and return to her own lead before introductions, if they happen at all, are allowed. That was essential, as Spanish dogs aren’t generally as sociable as, for example, UK dogs, and are usually on the lead for a reason, especially in the open.  They react in different ways to a pod galloping up to say hello. Some stand rockstill, frozen in shock, some launch straight into an attack, and some are delighted and the two end up having a romp while we owners make laboured Spanglish conversation. She’s very, very, good with other dogs, and very firm, tolerating no more than a polite amount of sniffing before pointedly putting a stop to it. We were on a street walk, on the lead, when a very angry terrier launched itself teeth first from a doorway. She owned him in about four seconds flat and had him on his back crying out in fear while she stood over him making dreadful noises into his face. She was in complete control of herself and the situation, and didn’t so much as nip him as she terrified him into good manners. She’s never started a fight, defends herself with vim and vigour when another dog turns hostile, but doesn’t hang about, using her hunting speed to remove herself from danger. She can jump like an ibex, from a standing start, and is surefooted on high walls or rocky terrain while I’m still palpitating with shock.  She’s in her element, of course, when back in the campo.

Hunting for rabbits – luckily, none around

That’s something to remember, anyone wanting to adopt a pod needs good fencing especially as they are the most inquisitive dogs ever hatched – she’s left in my apartment while new guests arrive, in case they aren’t dog fanciers, and can be seen through the glass door leaping up to five feet in the air while booming out her enormous challenging bark. When she’s let out to be introduced (as she has to be, even to the non dog fanciers since she has to know this lot are allowed in the house) she’s suddenly timid and diffident, then warms up to them by the day if they’re the right sort, and again that shared glance when they leave, as leave they must . . . she adores family visiting because they come into “our” space.

Family in “our” space are firm favourite

There were initial hiccups, to be expected. Even with 3 meals a day, she scavanged at first, still in “who knows when the next meal will come” mode. Although she has no animosity towards cats, anything darting away had her in automatic pursuit – she’s a sight hound, bred to chase. And she was and is stubborn when she thinks she knows best. I’ve previously nearly always owned bull breeds and know about bullheadedness but she doesn’t glower, she just – does what she thinks she should. This stubbornness makes some think them stupid but in fact once they have worked out what it is that you want, and why (logic matters to them) they are willingness itself. She is highly intelligent, clean in her habits, independent, loving, and far more protective of me than I’d expected from an initially timid dog.

I really wasn’t sure I was doing the best thing, for either of us, but she was in desperate need of a home and it turned out we needed each other. Thank you for reading to the end, perhaps you are doing so because you too are thinking of adopting a podenco. She is an enduring delight.

School’s out … end of a chapter. Ramblings, Covid impact, choices, was it worth it …

One side-effect of Covid19 changing lives was that thousands of teachers internationally switched to online work, and another significant chunk of the English-speaking population started teaching English online to keep the pennies rolling in. Many schools sprang up, and as many websites where teachers could hang out their shingles. I’d been with the same school, based in Hong Kong, since 2017, as one of their thirty thousand teachers handling Chinese, Taiwanese, Japanese, Korean, and Vietnamese students, was ranked as a senior tutor and earning good rates, especially seeing my commute was from the kitchen, bearing a cup of coffee, into my study. Lovely!

Covid19 was a personal nightmare. The vast tsunami of competition turned cut-throat, with multiple websites advertising lessons to pupils for as little as $5 an hour, which meant us senior tutors earning up to 10 quid per half-hour class, 2 classes an hour, became unsustainably expensive. The school gave a thin scream of horror and cut rates drastically. Every other decent school had firmly closed their recruiting for the interim. Even those cautiously interested in taking on more teachers for the flood of new pupils pointed out gently that a few years experience and a TEFL hardly stacked up against fully, conventionally, qualified teachers with >twenty years classroom experience competing for the same few jobs. In September last year China banned online private tutoring for schoolchildren, which cut as big a swathe through the pool of available pupils as you can imagine. At least half of my pupils had been Chinese. It made a bad situation significantly worse. The school laid off hundreds, if not thousands, of teachers and I was assigned to the Taiwanese branch, where there weren’t always enough pupils to fill the 3 hours a day I was committed to the school. No pupil, no pay.

Another Covid19 side-effect – no guests, no income. I have a small guesthouse (the Casa Excéntrico tab) which previously paid my overheads, not only letting me live free but even contributing to its own maintenance, and ongoing renovation, in a very understated way. Lockdowns kept abruptly putting that income out of reach. Spain offered some (not much) relief to the self-employed but I was registered as a self-employed teacher and was still teaching, so – nope.

Well, we all have our Covid stories and most of us are still here, even if our savings aren’t, but it got me wondering whether this whole move to Spain thing had been such a good idea. I’d never have done it without the assurance of being able to earn my daily bread, as my Spanish was close to non-existent then and still, to my shame, relies heavily on the medium of dance and the vocabulary of a slightly backward child. If I was meant to be here, if the winds which had blown me through the last few years were dropping, what next?

Lockdown lifted slowly, first within Spain, then within Europe, and house bookings started pouring in. I think the longest I’ve been without at least one guest in the last eight months has been ten days – fantastic, wonderful, luck for me, and every good review, (I have lovely guests, who review enthusiastically) especially in another language, brought in more bookings. The winds have started blowing again – I had to coach for an international English exam, enjoyed it, and was useful. It started a trickle of pupils who are already pretty fluent, appreciative, and scattered all over the world. Ideally I’d have built that up a bit more first but the most popular hours are already committed to the school. However, my contract at the school is up for renewal this month… I’ve swallowed hard, and once again taken a leap into the barely-known by telling the school I’m not renewing. That’s it, freelancing on a wing and a prayer, gambling there’ll be no more lockdowns and enough ambitious students, and that the winds keep blowing until I reach the wonderful plateau of becoming a jubilado and can count on at least one source of income no matter what horrors still lie in store for us all …

Oh, and as for wondering whether Spain was the right choice – yes, I think so. It was a bit of a mad thing to do but I am definitely a bit mad. That may not be comfortable, but it’s interesting. The winds haven’t let me down yet so I’m trusting them to whirl me on along the right paths a bit further yet.

I’d say ever researching on your behalf, as I have in the past, but how to research a wind? Shut your eyes and go where it takes you, but so far so good, no regrets.

Elegsabiff x

Expat support – is it even possible?  The #Dickason tragedy gets expats remembering what we normally don’t let ourselves think about

Expat support – is it even possible?  The #Dickason tragedy gets expats remembering what we normally don’t let ourselves think about

Quarantining and lockdown has created some understanding of loneliness but it has always been presented as temporary, even when temporary kept extending. Most of us cope, most of the time. But when loneliness comes with huge distances, when boats are burned and there seems to be no turning back –

Following the Dickason story (I didn’t want to piggyback on their tragedy, although it triggered this blog – there’s a comment with a brief outline for the puzzled) there’s been an accusation from another expat who had attempted suicide that there isn’t enough support for expats. I don’t personally see how there could be support. Strangers, however kind, are still strangers, and while yes yes a stranger is just a friend you haven’t got to know, that’s not an attitude that helps when one is surfing angst. In fact neighbours popping over to issue a friendly greeting can trigger the despair, if it’s obvious you’re never going to be bosom buddies because they are so “different”.

Perhaps the support is in recognising that stress is to be expected, loneliness is natural, and that all those brave letters and blogs and posts from expats talking about how interesting and excitingly challenging this new life is are genuine enough, but interest and excitement and overcoming challenges is a work in progress, and bad days happen. They aren’t brilliantly succeeding where you are faltering and failing – they’re having a better day. And you will too. Soon.

It isn’t actually about losing family or friends, because thanks to phones and emails and social networks they are still there, even if no longer close enough for an impromptu coffee. It is the whole fabric of life once taken for granted and now lost. We cut ourselves out of that familiar fabric and now have to stitch a patch for ourselves onto very different cloth. The minutiae of our lives – different shops, products have different names, favourite foods never appear on these shelves, where to buy wool, no librarian keeping back a book you’d like, no reliable mechanic who knows your car inside out, an awful haircut from even a recommended hairdresser, getting lost yet again on roads which never seem to have names matching the satnav. Stupid tiny things, but so many of them that at first the alienation is overwhelming. They are mastered eventually but the interim period is – daunting. Challenging, interesting, exciting, yes, and a little bit horrible, oh yes.

Douglas Adams, in the Hitchhikers Guide, says “in moments of great stress, every life form that exists gives out a tiny subliminal signal. This signal simply communicates an exact and almost pathetic sense of how far that being is from the place of his birth”.  (He goes on to say that as it is never possible to be more than sixteen thousand miles from your birthplace on Earth the signals are too minute to be noticed by others, but Ford Prefect was born over 600 light years away and the barman was hit by a shocking, incomprehensible sense of distance.) Great books, love them, but he nailed it there and that sense of terrible distance may not be tangible to others, but does rock the soul in times of stress.

Support lies in realising that feeling like you made the biggest mistake of your life is NOT personal failure but known to many, most of whom refuse to talk about it because the fear of it is still too close and too real. It passes. It comes back, and it passes again. We’re NOT on the wrong path – just temporarily lost and afraid. Where, after all, is home? The place you were born has gone forever and exists only in memory. The last place you were truly happy? For many, that’s lost in the past too because who would have left behind true happiness. The past is a different country. Knowing we can’t go back to the exact place and point in time we want to be makes the difficult present seems briefly even more to blame.

Perhaps the tragedy, and the other stories which will be following of suicide attempts and despair, will bring new awareness to the stresses faced not only by those who have chosen to emigrate, but refugees who have had it forced on them. The awareness isn’t to make others more understanding, but so that the displaced can be more understanding and forgiving of their own bad moments. It’s a time thing. Alien surroundings become less alien every day. Give yourself time. Support, for this, I think, can only really come from within, but it’s comforting to realise others go through it too.

Getting too old to bounce, tchah. Living with a #Podenco

In books when a character doesn’t return within a reasonable time from a dog walk other characters notice. “Harold”, for example, grabs his keys saying gruffly that something must be wrong, and off he goes. In books. So after I managed to roll over and sit up, and realized no WAY was I achieving the vertical with only one working arm, I rather wished I was in a book. Reality – I live alone, and although I’m in fairly constant email contact with a Harold of sorts, he wasn’t likely to start wondering at the silence for at least 3 hours. He wouldn’t come looking for at least 6 hours since we live in different towns – at best he’d phone my neighbours to say I was unusually silent (as I would with his).  I teach online and was due to start in 2 hours, but the school is Chinese and would just put in a replacement tutor and dock my pay. One puzzled man had walked by in the quiet street flanking the wasteland where we had been walking, and there would be others, and I even knew the necessary Spanish (ayudame, please aid me) but Purdey, my podenco, was in an absolute panic at my peculiar behaviour already and would attack anyone who came near me.

Purdey is an absolute sweetie but very OTT and protective. I said in the first blog I ever wrote about her that pods were timid and if trouble struck would lead the way to safety, expecting you to follow. I was wrong. She is still timid, but with a home and owner to protect she has become extraordinarily fierce.  She’s particularly wary of men, and rarely lets herself be stroked or patted, preferring to keep a safe distance unless they are sitting down and, even better, offering treats. My invaluable friend Nick, who did most of the work on this house, visited – when he stood up and started waving his arms she bit him. Oops. The fact that he was pointing to where the walls had to be replastered, and had been peacefully drinking coffee until then, held no sway. Even worse, a guest who had been using the laundry walked back past my door and paused to look in – to call me, being inquisitive, who knows – and Purdey went for her, too. Just a nip, and didn’t break skin, but honestly a warning bark or growl would have more than met requirements, stupid dog, plus saved me grovelling apologies and a brimming glassful of my best brandy. So we are working on that, and very nice local brave friends pop in every now and then to get her used to the idea that people do come and go, and she watches them narrowly and with deep suspicion. Since in normal non-Covid times I let holiday rooms this is a Problem. Normally there would have been a constant if erratic stream of guests from the time she came to live here but of course that’s been impossible and continues to be unlikely for weeks yet. We will get this sorted by then. I hope. She’ll hate being locked up.  

In every other way she is an absolute joy. She and the cat have a truce so long as he doesn’t want too much affection from me – she resents that very much. She’s stopped scavenging, and although she occasionally disembowels one of the potted geraniums it doesn’t happen very often and she is very apologetic about it. We house-sat a young terrier for a day and he was so enthralled by Leela’s old toys that Purdey has learned to play – she gallumps after a ball, even occasionally returning it, and is charmed by squeaky toys, keeping all her treats upstairs on the patio and returning them there after play.

Still squeaking. She’s giving it a chance to catch its breath.

She is ‘clean’ to the point of obsession and waits hours longer than normal for a walk if there’s an unexpected delay, although she’s nearly cross-eyed with strain by the time we reach the great outdoors.  She’s good with other dogs – there’s a pitbull with personality issues often met on our morning walks. When he’s off-lead in the wasteland he’s violently friendly, but we met him once in the street on-lead and he lunged at her, snarling and growling. She defended herself vigorously and we went on our way. A minute or two later there was a despairing Spanish scream of warning – Lou had slipped his collar and was charging after us. He grovelled apologetically (didn’t realize it was you, so sorry?) and she behaved impeccably while his owner puffed up to reclaim him. My last dog, Leela, would have resumed hostilities instantly!

She has been for one long hike in the mountains, with the company of Nick’s quite elderly pod, and proved she can be trusted to return when called back.  While I keep her on the lead in the streets I can now let her off in the wasteland and she can stretch her hunting legs in a gallop or two before returning to the lead.

2 pods on a walk

The wasteland was once a large allotment for a small herd of goats, and is surrounded by well-maintained allotments which probably wouldn’t welcome a digging dog. The last time she’d returned with muddy paws so this time I was trotting gently after her to see what she was destroying. One minute trotting, the next minute face down with an unceasing blaze of agony from my left arm . . .

Eventually I got to my feet using her as a support – she stood like a rock, never buckling, little heroine – and got home and Nick collected me to go to hospital and I had impacted my humerus and am out of action for, apparently, months. Oh great. I may do a blog on living alone with one working arm and two working hands because that’s proving a learning curve of note. From Purdey’s point of view the two main changes are that she’s now fed on the stairs out of an old saucepan with a long handle, and there’s no more harness. She’s now walked on a slip-lead, which is much easier for one hand, and so solicitous, and keeping so protectively close, I am in constant danger of tripping over her.

Having a pod was the reason I’m in this one-armed pickle, but it’s hardly her fault I’m a clumsy clot and she has been quite possibly the nicest dog I have ever adopted. Time and patience are being repaid with devotion and fun and even as I type this she is dozing on her blanket on the sofa, one eye on me to make sure I don’t suddenly do something else inexplicable and need her help . . .

The Postman Always Rings Twice – okay, leans on the bell and hammers on the door for good measure #livinginSpain

I was online in my virtual classroom when the familiar dingdongdingdongdingdong bang Bang BANG sounded at the door and there was nothing to be done about it – my junior pupils pay through the nose for their 25 minute classes (at least five times what I am paid for teaching them, at a guess) and there’s no question of putting them on hold and sauntering off to deal with a delivery. Strictly verboten. When school was over for the day I collected the notification from my postbox and made a mental note to get up early in the morning.

We’re lucky, in Velez, to have a correos at all because as towns go we are tiny. Stamps, and weighing of letters, is actually done at the tabacos and parcels have to be sent from Motril but we do have a tiny branch office and it is much appreciated. It opens early and at 10 am the local Postmistress General* shuts up shop and sets off on foot to deliver post so the window of opportunity, for a night owl like me, is narrow. I glumly reasoned it was probably an official letter from yet another authority with the sudden passionate desire to see my NIE, (tax document) there had been a couple of those lately, so I wasn’t hugely motivated and when roadworks rattled me awake at 9 I went back to dozing. The alarm went off at 9.30 (snooze) and only when it went off at 9.45 did I remember the delivery. Bugggerrrrr I was up and in yesterday’s outer clothing, hair hastily brushed, face still unwashed (masks do have their uses), dog in harness and striding down the street in 4 minutes. It took a minute or so to register it was raining a little. It does, even here, and normally is very welcome but bugggerrrrr. The farmacia street clock said 10:02 (no way) but we quickened our pace anyway. The rain quickened a little, too, and as I rounded the corner of the correos I peered in the window. Open, but a queue. Buggggerrrrr! Leela, my former dog, was stoical about being tied to the school railings and left for a few minutes, even in rain (she’d lived in Scotland, after all, rain was no novelty) but the very last word that could be ever applied to Purdey, my fairly new rescue podenco, is stoical. She is excessively timid, very flighty, and a Houdini into the bargain, and we’ve not started working yet on Waiting Outside On A Lead. I wasn’t prepared to emerge to an empty harness. I squared my shoulders and took her in with me.

I do love living in a small town in Spain, you know. The postmistress blinked, vanished for a second, and reappeared with a beaming smile to hurry past the queue with my delivery. We were out and on our way for the important business of the walk with barely a check. (Best of all, the delivery was a parcel for Christmas, YAY, well worth the collecting!)

*I don’t know if she’s the Postmistress General but a recent official had-to-be-signed-for letter about presenting my NIE to the water department within 10 days or be disconnected was signed by our “Mayor President” so I think she probably is. As a teacher I am, in Spanish, a Profesora or a Maestro. We do nice titles.

That was a mission in itself – I don’t work on Mondays, so trotted up to the ayuntimiento on the following Monday with my NIE, oops, long weekend. Returned on Wednesday to learn the policia have taken over the offices. The policeman was nice, even spoke a little English, and told me where to find the ayuntamiento, opposite the Casa de la Cultura. Except – not. The first person I could find in the Casa de la Cultura said the ayuntamiento was now next to the Jardin Nazari. And so it was, no sign up whatsoever but a long queue because there was temporarily no electricity. I had to fill in a form, in Spanish, saying what service I wanted (Mayor President he may be but his letter was obviously not sufficiently explanatory for burocracia) and the whole business of showing the authorities my NIE and letting them take a copy took a lot of walking and the best part of an hour – the other side of living in Spain.

Next time I go to the ayuntamiento I might take Purdey, it could work as a queuebuster again.

Living with a #podenco – a month later

Purdey the podenco has now been with me for a month – my lovely Dutch neighbour, who handles animal rescues and rehomes dogs all round Europe, borrowed a chip reader from the policia and there was a truly nasty moment when it pinged – she was chipped after all, against all expectations. Oh hell. She hadn’t been emaciated when found, she had adjusted so very quickly to walking on a lead, was she a loved runaway pet after all? The law requires notifying the owner, who has three weeks to respond. M got the owner details from her vet – she’d been chipped 3 years ago, reported as missing shortly after. M rang him from my house and all was well, he didn’t even remember her, was intrigued to learn she’d been found near Los Tablones, didn’t want her back. In Spain we are in municipal lockdown and my small municipality doesn’t have a veterinarian, so an appointment was made with a vet in Motril. Armed with the confirmation on my phone to show to the policia if I was stopped, I drove into town for the first time in WEEKS and got the chip officially changed to my name. The vet, who by the way looked like a teenager, hell I must be getting old, did her shots, created her ‘passport’, and gave me a printout authorising buying dogfood while I was in town. Although we have mini supermarkets in Velez their range of petfood is very limited and the cat went on a hunger strike in protest at the range they carried, living on dry food and tuna and tripping over his lip. CATS. I grabbed the chance to buy other things the local minimarkets don’t stock for their predominantly Spanish customers – Ryvita, marmite, Bournville cocoa, cheddar – my stocks were alarmingly low as the lockdown extends, and extends, and extends.

We’ve got our Christmas guidelines, by the way, while on the subject of permission to cross municipal borders  – the message is please stay at home but if you MUST go out, family gatherings of up to ten people only. Curfew is extended to 01h30 on special days (including, naturally, NYE). Family being important to Spanish life, municipal, provincial, even regional, borders can be crossed, depending on local restrictions.  Close friends is a bit hazy – some authorities say si, some say no way José. The burning issue of whether this will be an honour system or whether permission must be obtained in advance is still hanging. While the thought of spending a whole day with a good friend after all these weeks and weeks of almost uninterrupted solitude is dizzying, neither of us fancy being stopped at a checkpoint by armed officials expecting a fluent well-worded plea to continue outside municipal limits. Bugger. Watch this space.

Back briefly to Purdey. She and the cat have signed a peace treaty and are now locked in a quiet but determined struggle for territory. Anything the cat can do, Purdey feels she surely can too – I do have washable covers on the sofa and bed so had no objection to her getting up on either, but it took a while before she did. The cat has his own preferred baby blanket and she folded herself up onto that first . . .

It took a while but a chilly evening, a fire, and a long day for both of them, achieved a breakthrough.

The Spanish couple who rescued Purdey from a tumbledown finca in the middle of nowhere had advertised extensively for her most recent owner and got a reply last week – a month after he took her hunting. She vanished the first time he fired a shot. He doesn’t want her back as she is of no use to him, but he’s glad she has found a home.  She does HATE shots, the first time she heard the hunters in the hills round Velez she turned firmly for home and led me straight to the door. That was a few days in – I was pleased she knew the way, pleased she sees home as a safe refuge.

Oh and yay, we  had a breakthrough on using the great outdoors as the bathroom of choice. It took a while, filling her to the brim with food and water before long long walks, and she still prefers the privacy of the terrace, but since it seems to please me so very much when she uses the outdoors, and  she likes to make me happy, she now performs dutifully. She does still insist on kicking over her traces when outdoors so pavements are still out, but we have patches of wasteland a few minutes away in two directions which are patronised by other town dogs and fascinate her. She’s shy with other dogs, but slowly making the occasional friendly contact, ducking behind me to avoid unfriendly or bossy dogs. Like other pods, she communicates through dance – springs about like Tigger when walks or food are in the offing, sits hopefully in front of me (sometimes nearly tripping me) when wanting attention or treats or me to stop stroking the cat please, and jiggles from foot to foot when she needs a walk.

Living with a podenco? It’s great. Three walks a day is doing me a world of good, too –

Buckle up, and other irritating safety laws #livinginSpain

Just as well the whole safety-belt-in-car business was hammered out before we all became so aggressive or you can imagine the furore now. Furious complaints about being constrained. Argument that it stops you being able to reverse easily, or reach a crying child in the back seat. PROOF that wearing a safety belt won’t stop you being injured or killed in an accident. Passionate refusal to be immobilised in the car. How DARE you tell me what to do? Toys being thrown from a million cots.
Look at the stubbornness when it comes to texting while driving. To some, it is so obviously stupid that to do it at all should carry an automatic charge of attempted manslaughter. Others will argue they’ve never died or killed anyone as a result so it is ipso facto ridiculous to think that it is dangerous. The belligerent will insist that if they need to read or send a text while driving, they will.
Wearing a mask, even a scarf or a bandana over your nose and mouth, won’t stop the spread of this virus in its tracks. It won’t guarantee you won’t get the virus. It won’t guarantee you don’t spread the virus. I know we’ve been told we shouldn’t, then told we should, then confused further by the muppets in the public spotlight who don’t. Our leaders have lost some credibility in recent months, and we are all loudly forging our own paths. I’m not shouting about much and I actually hate wearing a mask. It’s like putting on a safety belt when driving. It’s a nuisance, hot, uncomfortable, and yes you have to live with your own halitosis while in public. 🙂 Grow up, shut up, put it on and improve all our chances just that little bit more.
Our law here right now in Spain as we move into the prolonged stage between “Alarmed” and “100% Normality” is that we must wear one “when contact is unavoidable” – shopping, public transport, etc. Already I can see some who carry one but only put it on if a policeman hoves into view. Seriously? It isn’t about tricking the authorities, you gloop. It’s about reducing the impact and spread of the bloody virus. You enjoyed lockdown so much?
It’s about never having to go back into lockdown. If an occasional mask in the fierce heat of Spanish summer is the price of avoiding that, it is one I pay gladly and it won’t actually kill you to do the same basic courtesy to your community. Kill you hell, it might save your life. Just like that nuisance of a safety belt.
Peevishly yours


Not me. Sigh.

Solitary confinement #livinginSpain

I’m about to go out, so I have spent 20 minutes dressing and putting on (eye) makeup (masks are a great timesaver) and doing my hair, humming under my breath.  There’s a full bag of rubbish waiting by the front door, I’m planning to take that up to the town’s central bins. I’ve always liked the Spanish system of big central bins emptied daily anyway, and now it’s a double boon.  You poor buggers who have your bins on your own properties!

quarantine mask

Was a time I’d have struggled up there laden under the bag and the recycling bags to save extra trips, oho, none of that now, play my cards right there’s three good outings in that lot. Life is change.

There was, until Tuesday past, dog walking – quarantine law allows for a dog to be taken up to 100 metres from the house. There’s less clarity on whether owners must then turn back or can traipse back and forth until nature takes its course. The cantankerous old trout who inspired the dog Maggie as far back as Three Four Knock On My Door in 2013 has mellowed and faded a great deal over the years and on Tuesday her story had to end. In the weeks of quarantine it has been I wistful for walks and she who groaned reluctantly and humoured me. This pic was taken back in Scotland. RIP old girl. You are missed.

15 OCt 002

I’m used to friends popping by, work intermittently being done on the house, Spanish classes and trying out my abominable Spanish on the patient. Since May 2018 the house has also had a steady trickle of guests. Being alone was sometimes a luxury. I won’t deny that a month into enforced solitary I’ve not felt the strain sometimes. Lurked at the window to watch for people walking by, that sort of thing. Red letter day when someone goes by without a mask and I can feast my eyes on actual features. Ooh!  A nose! A mouth!

I did get one unexpected social outing one day  – my battery-powered thermometer became, I think, unreliable (25 degrees is quite low – but on the bright side, no fever) so I decided to walk to the local farmacia for another. Wow, unplanned treat!  Five of us were at one point queued in the street, 2 metres apart, all masked and gloved, and as all the gloves were all different colours there was a definite air of fiesta. Everyone talked at once, the colourful hands flew, I was dizzied by the sociability of it all. Sold out of thermometers, though.

I did see a bloke from my  Spanish class the other day and we stood on opposite sides of the street catching up on quick news. He and his wife had bought a house just before we went into lockdown a month ago. He said they’re living in it now. Well – camping in it now. The furniture couldn’t get through in time.  They seem to be coping okay. He was on his own but then under Spanish quarantine only one member of each household can leave home without specific, written, dispensation. They mean it, too. Fines are becoming epic, thousands issued, doubling and tripling (or serving a future jail sentence) for repeat offenders. This couple always came across as companionable and affectionate  but he was still probably pleased to have a break, I’ve seen jokes about couples stuck in quarantine together, you know, begging each other not to blink so loudly.

This is a big (10 roomed) house, would it have been fun with someone else sharing the space or would we be planning murders by now? I’ll never know. It’s quiet.

Very very quiet.

Oops, that’s it, siesta over, I can sally out with my rubbish bag and maybe there will be glimpses of other people taking theirs. This is so EXCITING!

The Dance Defence #LivingInSpain #quarantine

It seems to me that this wretched virus seems to bounce fairly lightly off the young and/or active and home in on the sedentary and if that’s true, lockdown is more than just the opportunity to write uninterrupted but presents some unusual challenges.


We’re in full lockdown in Spain and my elderly dog, who entirely approves of brief constitutional outings, is slightly indignant at being hauled out several times a day instead of the usual morning and evening. I do also have the whole house to paint, alone, since my usual support and helper is similarly locked down, but it isn’t enough to keep me as active as I suspect I need to be.

uh oh

So that’s it, back to my Zumba DVD 20 minute workout three times a week. It turns out all the work of running and maintaining a guesthouse, plus the dog-walking, didn’t keep me as fit as I had thought (puff puff). I’m planning now also to download some of the more hectic songs from my teens and create a playlist to dance away the virus on non-zumba days. Who’s with me?

head banger ”