No Resounding All Clear

The follow up consult last Tuesday was not the resounding all clear I was hoping for. The phrase that stuck in my head is “I think you can be slightly optimistic.”

The treatment of the surgically treated tumour seems to have gone well and the cavity left by the excision has shrunk. As has the treatment of the second tumour, which has also shrunk visibly, and prompted him to say “I think that you can be reasonably optimistic.”

He also showed us a very small shadow (about 2mm) that has appeared since the Gamma Knife surgery. He then showed us the planning pictures with the targets surrounded by close yellow circles and slightly larger green circles. The yellow circles shows the ‘full dose’ area and the green circles the half dose area, as the dose drops of in a kind of inverse square from the target volume. The new shadow is within the yellow-green torus. He thought it “could be be an artefact of the treatment”. The only way to tell is for another scan and consult in three months.

That is about the time this adjuvant Chemotherapy finishes. So I think that a follow up three or six months after that will be much more important?

Further Reduced Drip

So now I am into Cycle #4. Half way through the complete treatment at the end of this thee week cycle.

But Dr. Conn advised we try a half dose of the Oxaliplatin drip this cycle. Not exactly chuffed but I’m not going to gain say the expert.

And apart with a hiccough with the drip flow rate being too slow and then upped for the last half hour or so, it seems have gone well. The Peripheral Neuropathy is very much reduced. The only time I react to cold is if my bare hands get too cool while dog walking or I hold on to frozen goods too long. But otherwise I seem to be completely tingle free.

Interesting to realise that the ‘drip arm’ tingle disappears in warm bathwater. The flip side of this is that my chilled hands increase the tingling sensation but that it reduces as soon as I get back inside in the warm.

Bad news, GOOD news!

The Bad news is that even with the reduced dosage in the second cycle my reaction to it, although significantly less grim, has been, to quote the Consultant, “extreme” and he is clearly concerned about permanent nerve damage, as in avoiding it at all costs.

The GOOD news is that he has decided to omit the drip medication in the next cycle starting on Thursday. Which means that the likelihood of being knocked sideways for the first few days of the cycle is removed. Therefore I plan not to take any sick leave on Thursday and Friday this week after all. Nor at the beginning of next week. Obviously this might change on the day, when I resume the tablets without the side effects of the drip to mask their effect(s).

The approach is to review in three weeks time, at which point the Consultant will decide whether or not to reinstate the drip in the following five cycles.

Brilliant GF Crumb Coating For Frying

Just been watching Saturday Kitchen Live and James Martin has demonstrated neat looking GF crumb fish nuggets. Put parsley and almond flakes into a food processor and blitz to a crumb. To switch the crumb to the fish nuggets brush them with mustard and shallow fry. He used a variety of fish and shellfish but any bite size fish chunks will do. Blazingly simple!

Neuropathy Is A Nuisance!

Neuropathy is a Nuisance! It’s 6°C but this I how I have to muffle up to go out with the dogs to prevent it kicking off. Anything below room temperature sets it off. Iced drinks, cold tap water, freezer food, cold air, its a nightmare!

Chemotherapy Confirmed

This evening we met Dr. Conn, the Clinical Oncologist, and we like him. He seems quietly confident and transmits that well. He knows Dr. Hatfield (the Gamma Knife man) and meets with him each Monday, so it would seem I am well covered between them.

He is proposing the Chemotherapy as a “protective measure”. It will be a course of eight cycles of three weeks each. Each cycle will begin with a two hour drip, followed by a two week course of tablets, and the cycle ends with one week off. The total is twenty four weeks or six months in round numbers.

He gave me a good half hour and did a thorough background check and physical exam. I got the opportunity to ask all my questions, even Tony’s about running the genome and got comprehensive answers. The genome bit he said he is “doing in the background”. There was a very fleeting OSM look on his face, so he clearly didn’t expect that question at all.

He wants to see me again next Monday and if the blood tests taken today are all okay he proposes to start the therapy on Thursday, 13th March. Just over a week’s time. He was very honest with us and did not gloss over the fact that there will be side effects and they will be unpleasant. Not a nice thought but we hope that the outcome will a worth the price.

The good news is that the health insurance company are going to cover this as part of the ‘first line treatment’ condition to the cover of cancer under CSC’s policy. The bad news is that it puts the kibosh on our usual Spring trip. Between side effects and a three week cycle travelling would seem to be very unwise. So that’s September sorted – Calpé here we come!

Next Step

So yesterday I had my consultation with Mr. Steward, the Gastrointestinal Consultant surgeon who has managing my case from the start. He confirmed that the next step is my being referred to Dr. Andrew Conn, who is a Consultant Oncologist here in Bradford. And that the next step of my treatment of this phase of my cancer is ‘systemic chemotherapy’. He even picked up the phone and spoke directly to Dr. Conn during the consultation and this probably had something to do with me receiving a phone call within a couple of hours from Dr. Conn’s secretary at the Yorkshire Clinic to confirm my initial consultation with him on Monday evening coming.

It was also nice to get a follow up call from my Case Manager at the health cover company for initially an update and then to provide me with a new Authorisation code for the chemotherapy. So cover continues thank Heaven!

Still Working Towards Remission 2.0

I have had a busy week. On Tuesday I saw Dr. Hatfield, Consultant Oncologist, and on Thursday I received Radiotherapy under the Gamma Knife. A single treatment that lasted for 85 Minutes.

During the consultation I mentioned the flashing lights that had appeared Dr. Hatfield, which prompted him to check the post surgical contrast MRI again in the area for vision and point out something that “should be a blood vessel but we’ll take a closer look with our MRI on Thursday”. And that was how we learned that the waiting time was only one day! It was also the reason for the treatment extending from 60 mins to 85 mins.

The worst part of the treatment is the four jabs to freeze the skin where they screw the frame to your skull! They are honest and tell you it’ll sting and boy does it not! After that it’s a breeze. But overall it makes for a long day. In at 07:00, frame fitting and contrast MRI takes till 10:00, then sit and wait while they plan the treatment from the scan, and finally at about 13:30 the hour and thirty five minutes in the machine. I got back to Lynne about 16:00 and discharged with meds about 16:30. The drive home through Leeds was slow and we got home about 17:45.

I will be called for a follow up MRI in three months with a consultation with Dr. Hatfield after that.

Remission 2.0 Update

So today I received copies from Mr. Gnanamurthy Sivakumar, Consultant Neurosurgeon at the LGI (Mr. Bob as Andrew dubbed him) of letters that are essentially my ‘discharge papers’. The Discharge Summary to my GP and the Referral to Mr Steward to move my treatment forward as he sees fit now he is aware that the primary that he removed in November 2012 has ‘spawned’ a metastatic secondary in my brain.

I spoke to CIGNA yesterday and my Case Manager determined that I should see Dr. Jacob to put the chest anomaly to rest properly. So I have an appointment with him on Monday 9th Feb.

New Mega-telly

The new Mega-telly is going to be a big learning exercise. Not only all the bells and whistles but also the Smart TV facilities it offers, like easy access to BBC iPplayer, etc. Watching on demand is going to give way to the VHS approach of recording everything on th Sky+ box for laters catch-up viewing.

Remission 2.0

Okay, so this is the latest goss(ip)

I have today seen my Consultant Neurosurgeon (and he has given me a printed copy of the Histology results). He has confirmed that the tumour he removed was a Metastatic Secondary Tumour. The results also confirm that the primary that ´spawned´it was most likely a “intestinal tumour”, i.e. most likely the previous Colon Cancer from November 2012.

The next step is for my surgeon back then, Mr Mark Steward, to confirm the cancer type of the primary he removed to see if its the same as the secondary removed from my brain. If yes then monitoring would seem to be the order of the day. If no, then we need to find this ‘new primary’ and treat that.

In the meanwhile Mr. G. Sivakumar has effectively discharged me “back to the care of my GP”, with letters to follow. As of right now I have four weeks sick note to get over the last of the physical effects of the surgery. Then it will be time to review my situation, but likely it’ll be a return to light duties at work. No doubt how my employer will respond to all this will be revealed in due course but I have every confidence in the support of my immediate management.

So to sum up, I am guessing that all this means I currently have no detectable cancer and that puts me in “Remission 2.0”. I am working on the theory that the two years or so between the Colon Cancer and the Brain Tumour should count as Remission 1.0 (rather than my previously erroneous assumption that I had really been cured.) But there is still a chance that there will be more to come. Watch this space!

In the meanwhile I feel like I have several hours of emotional roller-coaster ahead of me as internalise this news and adjust my world view to fit the new cirumstances I find myself in.

Apple Lesson Learned

When buying Apple iOS kit with fixed RAM installed do not buy the minimum memory, always go one step higher.

On previous devices we have always gone maximum memory and the 64GB in my iPhone4S and iPad1 at ???GB most of that investment was wasted lying empty for the whole time I used the device before upgrading or it dying.

So with the iPhone6 and iPad Air I went to minium RAM, and now I keep hitting storage almost full issues. The lesson came down to me with Francesca’s iPhone4, provoked by getting frustrated with her four year old Fred Flintstone Garmin SatNav and discovering that her iPhone4 is only 8GB and any idea of putting CoPilot on it has got scuppered!

Bless Lynne, she has offered to give Francesca her old iPhone4 now the iPhone6 has arrived to use as a dedicated SatNav.

Proud of this on Linked In

I’ve just posted this on Linked In at 05:45 typed in a single flow of words and hardly any rework. Really rather eloquent of me I think!

The key word here is Business. Unless the prerequisite non-technical work is done properly FIRST(!) it is not possible to ‘develop’ a business website.

Websites are seen as magic bullets. They are not, they are information processors (data, finance, process, decision tables, etc). A website can only process information to deliver business value if there is a clear comprehensive model of the business that answers two questions. “What is all of our information?” and “How do we use it?”

That requires two things (that in my experience are not usually done, or done very poorly (as in limited in scope), which are an Information Architecture describing all of the information of the business and a Business Process Model that describes (and controls) how it is used.

Given those documents an Information Architect can design and build a business website that has a fighting chance of delivering the brief.

The issue I personally have with this blog posting is that it jumps straight into the techno-geek level. Don’t get me wrong, I love Drupal (I’ve built my site on for around 6 years now) despite some upgrade ‘challenges’. It offers five contributed modules without even hinting which kind of business each is best oriented towards. Also, lets face reality there are hundreds of contributed modules out there constantly coming, improving, declining and disappearing. So a list such as this has dangers in that direction too.

The reality is a business website has be regarded as a never-finished work-in-progress that constantly evolves with the business world it striving to succeed in. Think of a word beginning with ‘A’ – oh yes, AGILE.

Even a one man band businees with a web presence has to schedule a maintenance, review and upgrade schedule for planning, delivering and budgeting a website that is going to pay for itself.

My analogy:
A website is like a railway. You cannot build it for a fixed cost, set the trains running and walk away.

The majority of the cost has to be in a planned Opex period and Capex is a small fraction of the overall ROI period.

Brain Tumour Grading Snippet

This is an interesting snippet from about grading brain tumours.

Brain tumours cannot truly be differentiated into benign or malignant. ‘Benign’ tumours account for significant morbidity and mortality, as they can continue to grow and cause adverse effects of any space-occupying lesion. Therefore, the preferred terms are ‘high-grade tumour’ (a tumour that grows rapidly and is aggressive) and ‘low-grade tumour’ (a tumour that grows slowly, but which may or may not be successfully treated).[1]

What A Difference A Day Makes!

Or even just a morning for that matter.

I am now allowed to sit up higher than 30 degrees and the timing is perfect. Movement is much easier and pain free. The idea is to heck out after lunch an all being well get rid if the tubing and into my own pyjamas.

The Big Day (Dawns?)

Just turning over for a bit more kip, it being the middle of the night and all and the 4am alarm went off, very rude of it.

So now sitting in bed wishing I could have a cup of tea before getting in the bath and sunrise is almost four hours away.

Well dear diary, here’s to being able to come back and review this and subsequent entries into the future.

Worst Enemy!

I would not wish the last week on my worst enemy, honest!

Whilst my physical state has remained stable, the Dexamethasone has controlled the vicious headaches completely, despite reducing the initial dosage rate of 16mg per day down to 4mg per day over three days. Almost to the point of me wondering if I have been imagining all this (or its the longest most vivid nightmare ever)

In Hospital Again

After suffering with a couple of colds and a five week headache I’ve landed up in the Acute Stroke and Neurology Unit of the Bradford Infirmary. I’ve been in here since Saturday afternoon but it is unlikely I willl find anything out until tomorrow. But at least all the preliminary scans have been done now.

The Harvey Saga Continued

So in repairing the parking pawl on the automatic transmission Dr. John discovers that Harvey has an automatic parking brake that should engage when the transmission is put into park. But the lead to it has been disconnected! Also he discovered that it contained 24v relays even though its a 12v system. So it just had to be repaired, which is alright by us as the foot operated emergency brake is a real PITA!

So a few weeks go by, including our Spring trip to Spain and a call to Dr. John tells us its all done. So we arrange to pick it up on a Sunday morning. And its all looking good, until for the first time we open the fresh water locker and it hasn’t been welded. Argh! So we leave it again.

So another Sunday morning and its go, go, go. In fact we go all the way to the storage after a run out with Dr. John and putting some diesel in the tank. Apparently it ran out on them even though they said it was showing a quarter tank on the fuel gauge. When we got to the storage the new slot was waiting so I pulled into the preceding aisle and put it into reverse – and nothing. A few minutes of jiggling in and out of park, reverse and drive and it went backwards enough to be able to drive straight out and back to Dr. John.

A mid-week call tells us its ready as the automatic brake has been adjusted and its possible to reverse reliably everytime. So a repeat of the previous Sunday morning occurs. When we get there Dr. John is not there. An elderly family member has had a fall and he has gone to the hospital but tells us where he has hidden the keys. A quick test is proves that the automatic handbrake allows reversing so we set off and take Harvey home to the storage again. Only to have exactly the same issue again. With Dr. John at the hospital we decide that Lynne will go and do the planned shopping while I wait to see if I can get hold of Dr. John for any possible ideas. I pass 15-20 minutes working out how to the put the lights on and a few other basics. At which point Harvey has cooled down again and reverses without any issue into his new home.

Dr. John called me on Monday to say he is going to contact the place he is getting the Chevrolet parts from. When I speak to him on Thursday he tells me he has a wiring diagram and manual for the automatic handbrake mechanism and has read it. Se we agree to return Harvey at the weekend for Dr. John to get it right this time. He was interested to hear that while the brake stayed on when Harvey was warmed up but worked fine when cooled down. So Saturday was a good day. We recorded Saturday Kitchen Live and collected Harvey and took him back to Keighley. We then did a bit of shopping there before coming down to Shipley and doing more shopping followed by fish ‘n’ chip lunch. There were events going on in Shipley so we walked about a bit before coming home to cook our shopping and watch catch-up recordings.

Leaving Home, Returning To The UK.

The last day in Spain involves well practiced rituals – closing security shutters, opening windows behind the shutters for ventilation, charging the anti humidity devices, covering everything with dust covers, checking, loading the car, and locking up. We have now refined them down to the minimum time possible and today they were conducted without the need for much communication. Those completed we went to deliver preserves to our neighbours and friends and say our goodbyes, the most pleasant part of the parting rituals.

Those done we set off for Alicante where we had booked lunch at Prego for 14.00. This time, for the first time, there were no unplanned diversions other that doing a complete circuit plus of a roundabout because Garrath refused to believe the SatNav when it instructed him to take the first exit. We call it going the scenic route!

We arrived at Prego on time and enjoyed a leisurely and delicious lunch. Even though it is an Italian restaurant they are always able to cater for me, and Garrath has the extra bonus of being able to have a gluten feast, something he never gets at home, so he stuffed himself with croquettes and lasagne. To be fair he did have a salad too, so it wasn’t all unhealthy. I has smoked salmon, salad, grilled steak with Roquefort sauce and grilled aubergine and courgette. Deeeelish, and not a micron of gluten in there.

Ladies, if you are heterosexual and gentlemen if you are homosexual, if you are in Alicante please go to Prego for Sunday lunch. El Jefe (the boss) is one of the most delicious pieces of eye candy on the planet! I have no idea which way he swings but he is well worth a view regardless.

After lunch we had several hours to meander around Alicante, a truly delightful city. I only had my compact camera with me but managed to get a few shots of the marina and some lovely plants. I told (instructed actually) Garrath that we simply must go there with full camera kit to record its delights.

We also saw some lovely, lively, innovative art work done by an artist whom we assumed was African by the content of his art and the colour of his skin, but we could well be wrong in this assumption. We would have loved to have bought something from him but being on the plane there was no way we could have done so. His deliciously witty, humorous style will stay in my head forever though.

It was only after we had left Alicante, when I was buying shoes in their airport branch in fact, that I found out that the big El Corte Inglés Alicante had been open while we were there. Aaaaargh! Never mind, I know for next time.

For those of you who are bewildered, El Corte Inglés is the poshest department store in Spain staffed by the most elegant staff I have ever seen in a store. I swear they must have to report for work two hours earlier than the store opens for costuming, hairdressing, make-up and manicure, and that’s just the men. The women have to be drop dead gorgeous with perfect figures before they can even apply for jobs there. I reckon that the merest pimple would get you suspended for a week!

Panic and withdrawal symptoms at the fact that this was the first ever trip to Spain where I had not bought shoes to bring back to the U.K. drove me into El Corte Inglés airport branch. Needless to say I found the perfect pair and with my bank account only €99.00 lighter I found that my hand luggage had the perfectly shaped empty space to accommodate them, a sure sign that they were simply meant to be mine!!!

We were called to board the plane at 20.20 for the flight that was due to take of at 21.00 Spanish time and we did indeed start boarding. Then the queue stopped and we waited —— and waited —— and waited. Eventually people who had boarded returned to the boarding gate and we all watched in awe as the Spanish fire service mopped up a fuel spill outside the plane.

A further wait at the departure gate was followed by having to go through the passport and boarding card check yet again while a couple behind us whinged as only Whinging Poms can. So what? Things happen, get used to it!

Take off was about 40 minutes late but it is anticipated that we will only be around 15 minutes late landing.

After the flight out being so horrible with the drunken louts immediately behind me foul mouthing throughout the flight and prodding me and pulling my hair in a futile attempt to engage with me, I insisted on buying extra leg room seats at the front of the plane to minimise the possibility of aggravation by 50%. Deep bliss, for only €42.00 extra we are having a peaceful flight!

I am not a glass half empty person, neither am I a glass half full person. To me an empty glass represents the potential for champagne, so I look forward to tomorrow when I will collect the dogs from kennels, I will be mobbed by them and then I will bring them home to sleep off the frenetic activity they have been involved in for the last couple of weeks. I only hope that their holiday has been as good as ours.

Solicitors And Photo Jaunts

Having got the preserving duty over with early for a change, having consulted with and paid the gardener, and having entertained our friends and neighbours, we were free to do some ‘holiday’ stuff on Thursday and Friday.

Thursday was the designated Photo Day so we headed off in the direction of Tárbena, the famous mountain village reputed to have remained under Communist control even through Franco’s fascist regime. Certainly there is a famous Communist cafe there. (I have to do my political pilgrimages you know.)

On the way there we stopped at the delightful village of Bolulla and wandered around, snapping as we went. We stopped to try to translate the notice on the door of a closed bar and a very helpful old gentleman on the street pointed us in the direction of one that was open, so we obliged by going there for tea and much needed water. Well it would have been rude not to follow his directions wouldn’t it? In doing so we discovered yet another delightful ‘tea and wee spot’ full of noisy, friendly Spanish people. Valenciano we have discovered, is not a spoken language, it is a shouted language.

The drive up to Tárbena was punctuated by a number of stops where we captured wild flowers and beautiful views. Once in Tárbena itself we were enchanted, not only by the charming buildings but by the open, friendly manner of the people. Everybody on the streets where we wandered said hello – in Spanish of course. Sadly the Communist cafe was closed but we found another new ‘tea and wee spot’ staffed by a lovely young man who told us that he is English but had never lived there. We guess he is the progeny of parents who moved to Spain many years ago – sensible people!

We took a different route back from Tárbena along perilously steep, narrow, bendy roads. I distracted myself by having the camera on shutter speed priority and taking shots through the window. We shall see how good they turn out but whatever their quality, they prevented me from being terrified by the road.

You will have noted that I haven’t done any of the driving this trip. The reason is that this time the car hire company gave us a Corsa instead of the usual Seat Ibiza. I drove it once and refused to do so again because it has an absolutely awful automatic gearbox. It felt like driving an ill tempered kangaroo so Garrath volunteered to do all the driving duty.

On Friday morning we went to the Registro De La Propiedad to collect the Nota Simple then went on to our appointment with the solicitors in Benidorm for advice. We are very pleased with the care and professionalism of this firm and feel better able to progress our plans with their help.

After the working part of the day we followed A PLAN. The plan was to go first to Altea and walk up to the famous church at the top of the hill, through the old town, taking photographs. Altea is such a charming town with so many delightful steep, narrow streets that it just has to be photographed. The light was utterly unforgiving but I did my best and that is all that one can do. I think that I have about 100 shots that qualify for Shadow Saturday on the photo site where I post some of my images.

Altea also turns out to be the centre for Art and Artists in the area. There were paintings and ceramics everywhere some of them for sale at silly prices. There is obviously a market for art here so all I have to do is find a decent framing shop, get them framed and get them sold!

Part two of THE PLAN was to find Puerto Mascarat, somewhere we have seen signs for many times but never visited. Satnav to the rescue, we got there and it was a visual delight. It is a large marina, Marina Greenwich, it had a multi million dollar motor yacht in port and multiple fat cat cars driving in and out. Of course, my socialism was deeply offended, but I took photos anyway.

Both Garrath and I had to curtail the photography at Marina Greenwich because we were both in danger of heat/sun stroke. We Northern types are complete wusses in the Sun! We found a nice, shady bar to retire to and replenished ourselves with tea, coffee and lots of water.

Part three of THE PLAN was to go to Puerto Blanco, a marina that we have visited many times before because it has an elevated viewpoint from which we can take pictures of Calpé’s Peñon de Ifach. Sadly the steps accessing said viewpoint were closed so we didn’t stay long.

Back home and I decided to take photographs of the house and surrounding area – click addiction had set in by then. Garrath added a new chapter to THE PLAN by determining that we had to go down to Playa De La Fossa so that we could buy cigarettes for our friends at the tobacconists and relax at the wifi bar.

The trip to the tobacconists went well but the wifi at the wifi bar was buggered so we moved on to The Chicken Shack. It has a proper name now but in the past it was a shack that sold rotisserie chickens so it will forever be known as The Chicken Shack.

While out and about we were discussing photography, The Photo Mafia and their obsessions and Garrath thought of a new wheeze – Wires Wednesday. So many people dribble on about how you should clone out stuff like overhead wires, but Spain is full of them, everywhere. So Garrath reckons we should do a coordinated set of posts celebrating wires. I have already taken at least 20 Wires Wednesday shots and some of them are so arty that I might even convert them to black & white! That should up my credibility with The Photo Mafia – not!

That doesn’t mean that I have abandoned my mission to justify my label as a rubbish photographer though. Indeed not, I have some images of the bin men in Moraira and I have taken photographs of refuse bins everywhere we went. I also have a painting of a Calpe litter picker so the ‘Bin There Dumped That’ theme will run and run.

Today is Saturday, I have been awake since 04.30 hence the blog. We have abandoned plans to go to the market today. Instead we will pack, oil the furniture, take preserves around to our neighbours, get the house ready for our departure, go out to dinner in Moraira then, no doubt, repair to The Chicken Shack for the last time this trip.

Tomorrow we will put the dust covers on, say our goodbyes, then depart early so that we can lunch in Alicante and have a wander round there before our evening flight. Let us hope that it isn’t the flying drunks service again!

70 Jars & Sore Feet!

I’m knackered tonight and my feet are killing me but it is hardly surprising in view of what I have done today. For starters I produced, bottled and labelled 39 jars (30 large, 9 half size for the gardener and his boys) of Salsa Cítricos Muy Condimentado which translates as Spicy Citrus Salsa. It has a jam like consistency but is made to go with savouries such as cheese, ham, cold meats and charcuterie of all kinds.

After that we went into town to get documents from the solicitor, then we went to the butchers to buy meat and chicken for tomorrow’s party then we met with our friends who took us to Registro de la Propriedad to organise getting some documentation for the house.

After a brief soujourn to a pastry shop where our friends consumed delectable looking pastries (a torturous experience for a gluten intolerant like me) we returned to the house where I made 2 curries for tomorrow’s entertaining. The lamb curry is simmering on the hob at home as we speak. I have staggered on my sore feet to the local bar for some R&R.

I had intended to make all three curries for tomorrow but a combination of struggling with the microscopic kitchen (insufficient room to swing a mouse let alone a cat) inadequate equipment (just one induction ring) and a lack of time due to the very busy schedule means that I will have to make the chicken curry tomorrow morning along with the rice and accompaniments.

The other day I produced 20 jars (14 large jars, 6 sample jars) of Salsa Picante Y Agrio (Hot & Sour Salsa) and yesterday did an assortment of bottled stuff that included spicy figs, spiced oranges and fig purée. Last week I bottled some Nisperos so today Garrath had to take a jaunt to the Chinese shop to buy more plastic crates to store this stay’s prolific production.

Guess what, after all this activity all the preserving kit has been put away, finished, finito, I HAVE HAD ENOUGH!!! I am pleased that it has happened so early as it is usually a last minute panic to preserve as much of the garden’s produce as I can manage between other business here.

Tomorrow evening we are entertaining our Dutch and English friends and neighbours so much of the day will be spent preparing for that. I only hope that my feet are up to it

Salsa Nirvana Picante Y Agrio

No verses today, probably because we have been confined to the house for most of it. Why? Well we thawed out almost 2Kg of mandarins, 7kg of oranges and 3kg of lemons so something had to be done with them. I had thought that the oranges were Sevilles so planned to make marmalade and I sent Garrath down to the supermarket for the required amount of sugar. However they didn’t look like Sevilles so I did a taste check and they were sweet oranges so plans had to be changed. Since I had thawed out a small jar of chillies earlier in the week and bought spices at the supermarket just yesterday, the plan was amended to chutney – my first attempt to make chutney with large citrus fruits but having made excellent chutney with kumquats before I was quietly confident.

Two hours was spent just de-pipping the mandarins leaving us with 1.5 kilos so I matched these in weight with the sweet oranges which turned out to be blissfully seedless. All the other ingredients (lemons, onions, spices, chillies, vinegar, sugar) were prepared and added and five hours of boiling, stirring, sterilising kit, jars and lids, then potting we have twenty jars of Salsa Nirvana Picante Y Agrio, – Nirvana Hot & Sour Chutney.

I had forgotten how lethally hot last years rocket fuel chillies were and freezing chilies makes them even hotter so when we say hot, we mean very, very hot! Garrath made the labels for the sixteen large jars plus five sample jars. A brief jaunt to the local bar restaurant for food and a wine later (yes, remarkably I had only one glass) and they are all labelled. Success!

Although the chutney will not be ready for eating for at least three months and it will get better and better with age, initial tasting tells me that it will be sensational. Yay, we have a garden full of citrus fruits and they all make great chutney. That is a fabulous discovery because chutney is sooooooo much easier to make than jam and it keeps much better.

The rest of the sweet oranges and lemons are going to be made into chutney too but at the chilli wuss Garrath’s request, the next batch will just be sweet and sour chutney. Little does he know that I have a secret batch of dried chillies to hand. Remember, I have my neighbours’ tastes to satisfy and there were complaints on one occasion that the chilli jam wasn’t hot enough!

Señora Mermelada is in full production.

Exhausted By A Waste Of Space

The Spring Trip – episode 3

Day 5 of the trip and I am utterly exhausted.

Is it the fact that Garrath couldn’t sleep because he had a bee in his bonnet about the gardener, got up, woke me in doing so and so I have been awake since 03.00? Well partly.

Is it because of the gross injustice of him going back to bed at 4.15 and getting several more house sleep while I could not? Well partly.

Is it because we had the gardener’s partner and one of his workers attend very early, neither speak a word of English and so we had to explain that we wanted the aphid infestation exterminating without resorting to chemicals that kill bees – IN SPANISH? Well partly.

Is it because we trolled around Altea market looking for trousers for the now skinny Garrath and jim jams for the now fat me, and had to sort out sizing with traders who couldn’t decipher our crap Spanish? Well partly.

Is it because we went to our favourite Spanish restaurant where we were welcomed like old friends and had a leisurely, long, delicious lunch? Well partly.

Is it because we felt obliged to work off that delicious lunch by driving up to Guadalest, walking up the very steep road to the old town, in my case lugging a very heavy camera bag, and taking loads of photos. Well partly.

Is it because we had to stop on the way home to do some shopping at Mercadonna? Well partly.

Is it because I am into my second gin and tonic at the local bar? Mmmmmmmm, maybe that has something to do with it.

But really all these things have only made me a little tired, the kind of tired that comes as a result of a busy but very, very happy day, a lovely day, a satisfying day.

No, what has made me completely exhausted is the proximity (not that proximity was needed with the offensive, abrasive, volume and content of her rantings) of an English woman (Scouser I think) who came into the local bar, ranted and raved about things that are so monumentally bloody inconsequential that it beggars belief that anyone would waste time and energy screaming about them.

She screamed about her sister and her sister’s kids who had been to stay with her. Yeah, so you don’t like them or the way they behave, so don’t invite them.

She screeched about them leaving towels on the floor. Oh yeah, is that issue crucial to getting those Nigerian girls out of the clutches of the evil bastards who would sell them as commodities? I don’t think so.

Will not dropping towels on the floor solve the Syrian civil war? Will it end genocide? Will it bring and end to inequality and unfairness? I think not.

What exhausted me today and what always exhausts me is the frustration that I feel when people rant and rave about stuff that matters not one f’ing jot! This stupid woman’s rantings achieved absolutely nothing other than bending the ear of her companion, placing her centre stage and spoiling my evening.

This woman, like many moaners (and goodness know, Britain has produced more than its fair share of them) indulged herself with futile ranting to an unfortunate third party, but never actually did anything to resolve the situation that she was complaining about.

But more than the auditory assault of her high volume bitching, what frustrates and exhausts me is the fact that while people like her expend an enormous amount of time and energy on pointless complaining about inconsequential crap, they simply do not care about the things that really do matter. AAAAAAAAARGH!!!

Time for another gin, and make it a large one!

Neighbours and Nisperos

The Spring Trip – episode 2

It is the second full day of this trip and I have just about recovered from the unpleasantness of the flight. Yesterday Marijke, one of our Dutch friends and neighbours, called with some orchids as a welcome back gift, and we were delighted to see that almost all our neighbours are in attendance.

First we went into Calpe for cash and to buy fresh vegetables from a lovely shop on Gabriel Miro, went to Gallerias Aitana to buy a huge, induction compatible pan for bottling, then we went to my favourite supermarket in the whole wide world to stock up on the very best range of gluten free products anywhere. Then it was lunch at Spasso where we noted that Madrid seems to have decamped to Calpe for the weekend. The tourist hotels and apartment blocks are stuffed and finding a parking place is like finding rocking horse droppings!

After lunch the rest of the day was spent chatting with and visiting our neighbours, a very pleasant series of experiences as we are so welcomed here. Could my liberal donations of jams and chutneys made from the products of the garden have something to do with this I wonder? Who cares? It is nice.

So fully updated on the local gossip and fully supplied with comestibles, and preserving kit, I retired to bed at around 22.00. I was joined by Garrath at around 23.00 apparently, but I have no recollection of that as I was heavily involved in a short course in death by that time.

This morning we had a slow start, not getting up until around 08.00, a really, really long lie in for us as we don’t have the 06.30 German Shepherd alarm clocks with us. I processed the Nisperos (Loquats) and Strawberries that we had harvested yesterday, we had the strawberries with cereal and yoghurt for breakfast and I processed and bottled the Nisperos. Deep bloody joy, Garrath found a whole lot more Nisperos in the garage that the gardener had harvested so I will have to go through the whole, lengthy rigmarole again tomorrow.

We went for a meander to what we call Wild Corner in the hope of photographing wild flowers but we were disappointed. According to our neighbours and the gardener it has been the driest winter for 150 years so everything is late. I sincerely hope that the winter’s rain supplies do not arrive during our brief stay but if it does, what the hell? It never rains in bars! Sadly, neither does it rain in the preserving kitchen.

The plans for tomorrow will emerge tomorrow, after I have preserved the Nisperos of course!

The Flying Drunks Service

The Spring Trip

Episode 1, 01.05.2014

Yesterday International Labour Day but the UK doesn’t celebrate International Labour Day. Instead it calls it the May Bank Holiday and celebrates it on the Monday nearest to May 1st. If it were renamed International Exploited Labour Day or International Day Of The Masters Who Exploit The Workers or Stuff The Serfs Day than it would be celebrated on the day, lavishly and at great expense all funded by an extra tax levied on those who receive the minimum wage and a levy on benefit recipients. That is the UK way and one of the many reasons who I want to leave forever.

Today we are taking our leave, but only temporarily this time, a two week trip to my mother’s house in Spain to do the usual stuff, pay the gardener, give him and his team instructions for the next six months, talk to solicitors, do house maintenance, and, of course, to make jam. This time, however, having perfected the technique after decades of being afraid of it, I am considering doing some bottling instead of jam making. That is entirely dependent of the quantity and quality of the Nispero (loquat) crop and the amount of fruit stashed in the freezer. I will have to purchase a very large, induction-compatible pan to achieve the task but once purchased it will serve for many years to come.

Outside all these tasks we will try to make time for recreation and unless there is a disaster of similar proportions to the broken septic tank a couple of years ago, we should manage it. I would also like to do another oil painting I have yet to do my favourite character, West Yorkshire’s plus sized style delight, and she could be part of set based on the theme of tourists. My tourists will not be the young, glamorous, perfect, swimwear clad characters with perfect physiques as featured in the tour brochures. Oh no, such egocentric self-obsessives are much too dull. Mine will be the fat mamas spilling out of bikinis, the paunchy middle aged men in speedos, the loudmouthed louts and shrieking slappers excusing their atrocious behaviours under the guise of a stag or hen party.

Packing for the trip was, as usual, a last minute affair because I loathe packing with a passion. It was a little less onerous than usual after a conversation with Annette last night during which we agreed that our idea of packing is two pairs of knickers and the entire camera kit! I have been relatively abstemious with camera kit packing due to the rather severe weight restrictions imposed by Cheapo Airlines. I left behind the Sigma 150-500 (cant get my head around that lens) and the tripod, much to Garrath’s relief as the tripod weighs a bloody ton and I hardly ever use the damed thing! Give me shutter speed priority every time over lugging a tripod around.

Garrath was less neurotic than usual too Maybe he has cottoned on to the fact that the more he hassles me, the less I cooperate. Well done Garrath. It has only taken you twenty years to get that!

I took the dogs to boarding kennels yesterday afternoon and after insisting on their goodbye cuddles they were tail-wagging, happy bunnies as they headed in the direction of the kennel accommodation. One could construe that as a kind of betrayal but I see it as incredibly reassuring. They know the place, they know the staff and they are happy there.

A very pleasant, conversational young cab driver took us to the airport, checking in luggage was quick and trouble free, boarding was relatively speedy and then the bloody pantomime began. Starky’s Stag Do, a bunch of guys with this emblazoned on their T shirts, were large crowd of men who were determined to make their presence felt by crowding the aisles once the seat belt signs had been turned off. However, try as they might, they could not compete with two fat, obnoxious, foul-mouthed drunks who placed themselves in the wrong seat behind me, refused to move, maintained an ear splitting, obscene monologue and tried to engage the young women next to me in the prejudiced, unpleasant tirade that they offered as conversation. Unfortunately they had identified in the women a level of ignorance, offensiveness and drunkenness that matched their own. Members of Starky’s gang immediately in front of Garrath treated us all to a less than tantalising glimpse of plumbers’ cleavage and thus they all set the tone for the flight.

We have said before that we should never take a Friday flight, but in between visits we forget just how unpleasant they can be. This time it was more unpleasant than ever. What is it with the English, the less brain matter they have, the less they have to say and the louder and more insistently they insist that they shriek it? When we are in Spain we avoid Benidorm like the plague because of behaviours like this. It makes us ashamed to be British and increases our determination to leave the UK forever. Roll on the day when our trip to Spain is one way only and we never have to endure this torture again.

During the flight I was prodded, poked and had my hair pulled by said loud mouthed pissheads in an attempt to get me to engage with them. I ignored their attempts and the verbal abuse that resulted from my failure to engage, knowing that Garrath and I were in the minority being quiet, civilised passengers on this, the flying drunks service. Never have I been so grateful to land!

We were picked up by the car hire company and taken to their HQ where we collected a BRAND NEW Opel with just 3 kilometres on the clock.It doesn’t stand flinging around corners like our usual Seat Ibiza (damn) but it is a very smooth, quiet, elegant ride.

I am concluding this blog from the local bar, commonly known as The Chicken Shack. No my American brethren, it is not a famous whorehouse in the Mohave desert, it is a local bar restaurant that used to sell rotisserie chickens and in spite of its moving upmarket, it will forever be known as The Chicken Shack!

Vino Rosado and Agua Con gas in my spiritual home – what more can I ask?

Sh*t Weekend!

There was only one good thing about this weekend. The Black Cats stuffed Cardiff 4-0:-)

Other than that, work meant I had to cancel our weekend in Newcastle with my Mum and work all day yesterday. The morning was interrupted by a PCSO knocking on the door to ask if we’d seen or heard anything as the guy in the end house had had his car stolen some time overnight.

This morning started well enough as the dog let us sleep in by half an hour till 7am. And the morning walk was quiet enough with no encounters with Hero or other doggy ‘friends’. While having breakfast and watching the recording of yesterday’s Saturday Kitchen we noticed a couple of police officers, then a couple more, then a couple more. We quickly came to the conclusion that there was more to the car theft than we thought at first. Then the phone rang, it was one of our Councillors, an ex-Council colleague of Lynne’s, asking if we were alright? Apparently there were two Police Video vans, several Police cars, a Fire Engine and an Ambulance on our street or the main road very nearby. By that time the ‘body count’ was at least a dozen police officers, an ambulance crew, a paramedic crew, and a full fire crew. And most of our immediate neighbours were outside gardening or repairing fences or just chatting. So we felt honour bound to go and join the ‘festivities’. Long story short, the guy at the end, who has always been volatile (and alleged drug dealer) has totally lost it and has barricaded himself in with all the wood from his fence making efforts, dowsed it in lighter fluid and white spirit and is threatening to set himself and it on fire!

Thirteen hours later and the full panoply of emergency services are still here and it looks like going on all night.

West Yorkshire Police have, as usual it seems, not covered themselves in glory. Apparently they knocked up the folks in the house adjoining and told them the tale and to evacuate to the neighbours the other side. The lady of the house and youngest child weren’t even dressed but out they were bundled into the neighbours. At 5pm we saw the family walking away to her mother’s nearby home, her still in her dressing gown and night attire clutching what must have been borrowed bedding. A humiliating experience for her I’m sure.

And worse still from West Yorkshire Police? ZERO communication with anyone else on the street!

Heartening News For Spain

This is great news for us and the world!

The Harvey Saga!

The Harvey saga continues. We deferred collecting from last weekend to this one. So before driving up the valley to Autotech I gave them a ring to confirm it was ready. The answer was a very unhappy “no”. John seemed very embarrassed to have to admit that when “the lad” moved Harvey he had put it into Park before Harvey had stopped moving. I knew what was coming next. The transmission locking pin had snapped off! Argh!

A replacement part has been ordered from Chevrolet in the US at a cost (to Autotech) of £90. And I guess the cost of labour to remove the gearbox again?

We went up anyway and made a snagging list, of the ladder repair still to do, the locker door repair still to do and fit a locking fuel cap. While looking around the alarm kept going off and the tracking company rang us to alert us that there had been an alarm event.

We will collect it next week, subject to the locking pin arriving and getting fitted.

Eating Humble Pie!

Following on from my last post I have had to eat a lot of humble pie with the FitBit team. The reason? This solution actually works!

It shouldn’t but it does! At least in the short term. I’ll post on this again in a week or so’s time and maybe a month if I remember.

Totally P*ssed Off With FitBit Support!

On Wednesday I had to remove the App and do a factory reset on my iPhone 4S to get Bluetooth and WiFi working. They both were completely disabled when I used the App to sync to my phone. I raised a ticket with support and so far I’ve had two responses which did not address my problem, were clearly boilerplate scripted responses and were basically “please try xyz” when I had stated that I had done these things already. It’s like there isn’t a person reading the ticket at all! It’s now Saturday and I still do not dare to reinstall the App onto my iPhone.

I’m posting this everywhere I can think of to try to get some meaningful help!

Today Is Not A Good a Day To…

Today is not a good day. And I guess this post will be a personal litmus test of just who actually looks at this site that I toil over?

Just over twenty five years ago Sarcoidosis killed about 10% of my lungs! Then for no known reason it stopped, when it could have so easily gone onwards and killed all of me!

Fifteen months ago I was operated on because I was diagnosed with Colon Cancer. So far the outcome has been an all clear, but that is no guarantee of my longer term survival.

Today, after a short series of blood tests by my GP I get a letter of appointment from the BRI that I have a referral to their Diabetic Clinic!

All I want is a happy retirement. Is it too much to ask?

GF Orange Cake recipes

GF Orange CakeThis is the one that Douglas made from Tom Kerridge on his Christmas Special programme. for an easy gluten free cake recipe.

And this version is from Lawrence Keogh on episode 4 of Christmas Kitchen.

Second Weekend Blighted By Cold!

This is the second weekend blighted by the cold we both came down with last Saturday. Lynne’s appeared to breaks in 48 hours while mine has dribbled and snivelled all week! But then Lynne’s has come back worst than ever on Thursday evening.

Still, supper last night was very good!


In looking to see what the word “metastasectomy” meant from a friend’s FaceBook page I stumbled across this snippet in Wikipedia…

“Among colorectal cancer patients, 15-25% will have liver metastases already when the colorectal cancer is discovered, and another 25-50% will develop them in the three years after resection of their primary cancer.[2] Of patients who die from metastasised colorectal cancer, 20% have metastasis in the liver alone.[2]”

Techno-horror of a Weekend!

It started on Saturday afternoon with the tickley-nose conviction that I was getting a cold, whilst Lynne was struggling to upload a calendar. Investigation eventually showed that the hosting server was imposing an 8MB limit that it didn’t used to. It was a real blocker and Lynne and I were both developing a cold.

On Sunday I raised a ticket on the help desk and was assured it wasn’t their side. To cut a long story short I spent hours eliminating the possible perpetrators within our Drupal installation. So I tried to see if I could see the root of my server using SSH and failed miserably. (I need to get my head around the public/private key aspect.) Nett result I found I could not get to the site nor the cPanel! So I raised a critical level ticket before 8pm. As I retired to bed at 11pm feeling a little less ‘dotty-dosed’ I checked the site and ticket: nothing!

Then I noticed the ‘live chat’ button on the hosting support site. Twenty minutes later I settled down to sleep with access to site and cPanel restored (apparently my SSH login attempts had invoked a block on the IP address) and the 8MB limit in the php.ini file lifted to 100MB.


Wet Windy Weather, Roof Leaks & F***ed Fridge Doors.

Having done a whole series of happy holiday, good weather blogs I have decided to do one about our life here in the UK. We returned to wild, windy and wet weather and discovered that we have two roof leaks plus a knackered fridge door. Oh deep bloody joy, really makes us happy about being back here – not! Our ever helpful builder Phil has been round to view the problems but between the miserable weather and the fact that he is in the midst of a big job at the local conservative club means that he hasn’t been able to do anything to fix things yet. AAAAAARGH, drip,drip, drip and those bloody conservatives never cease causing me grief!

The best bit about being back in the UK is that we have the dogs back. The down side of having them back is that their body clocks don’t get the putting the clocks back malarkey so from 05.30 onwards we (well me actually) get hassled to wake up. I gave in at 06.00 yesterday, got up and started a Cookathon. Two and a half hours later we had an eight portion Frittata plus an Autumn Sunshine Curry that will give at least twelve portions. I find it easy to feed battalions but very difficult to feed just two.

Actually, early morning Cookathons are not a bad idea. Peeling, chopping and steaming butternut squash, sweet potatoes, swede, carrots & parsnips and boiling pre-soaked butter beans are mind numbingly tedious tasks so better done during that morning period when you have been woken up too early by hassling German Shepherds doing their alarm call duty and you are still semi comatose.

Speaking of hassling German Shepherds, they did it again this morning, had us both up and drinking tea at 06.10, got Garrath to take them out for wee-wees and pooh-poohs at 07.15 and are now happily fast asleep doing morning pack time on the bed with us. Maybe we should wake them up in the middle of the night then snuggle up on their beds and go to sleep?

We had the Autumn Sunshine Curry for supper and it was delicious, a vegetarian feast that needs no meat at all. In previous incarnations I have made it with just butternut squash and carrots then used cashew nots for the protein element, but this new departure with the other roots and the big fat beans for protein was a delight. I am inordinately proud of the fact that the curry masala was made entirely by hand from whole spices from my spice boxes, roasted then hand ground plus powdered turmeric, fresh ginger and garlic, and that it turned out to be just right. Smug? Me? Noooooooooooo!

The Frittata is our favourite, a Bobby’s take away Frittata which is fusion cooking at its best, Kashmiri meets Italian. We buy two portions of Special Kebabs and chips from Bobby’s, our local take away, knowing that the portions are huge, eat some of it for supper the the following morning I carefully chop the leftovers, mix it with 10-12 beaten eggs (depending on how greedy we have been the night before) season it then bake it in the combi microwave. Result – a delicious frittata that serves eight. We worked out that our two portion Special Kebab and chips actually provides ten meals that works out at only £1.56 per portion. How’s that for value? I can and do make lots of other kinds of Frittatas and tortillas (great portable food for me when I chair tribunals) but the Bobby’s version is our out and out favourite. Portioned, wrapped in foil and kept in the fridge it will serve as lunch either hot or cold for four days.

More German Shepherd hassling is imminent as it is nearly their walk time so Garrath will have to drag on some clothes and facilitate the first of the thrice daily walks. The day is bright and clear unlike yesterday, so that should be relatively enjoyable. Yesterday it was pretty miserable as we got soaked in the driving rain.

When Garrath returns from the morning walk I will ensure that all is well with the world by being in the kitchen preparing the dogs’ breakfast of tinned fish and potatoes plus shiny coat and skin conditioner capsules when then we can get on with our breakfast – Garrath’s turn to cook this morning – and we can get on with the rest of the day. Who knows what adventures it will hold?

The Autumn 2013 Trip – Last Blog

It’s Over

That’s it, we are on the plane, sadly the Autumn 2013 trip is over. This is an evening flight due to take off at 21.00 Spanish time so we were able to make the most of the last day. After turning everything off, covering everything with peliculas protectiva (dust covers) and locking up we were able to take the excesses of food to neighbours and say hasta la vista to them, which was very pleasant.

We had determined that we wouldn’t have time to go to Alicante this trip until it occurred to me that we could punctuate out trip to Alicante airport with time in the city itself. We arrived there at 13.40 and went immediately to our favourite restaurant, Prego, an Italian restaurant that has no problem accommodating my needs. We spent two hours consuming a splendid lunch that rendered the sandwiches we had made for the plane trip redundant. No matter, that’s breakfast sorted.

We wandered along the front, Garrath bought a new man bag, then we ambled around the old town, sat by the port and enjoyed the boats and beautiful light on the water, took some photos with my compact camera, then meandered back to Prego for a cup of tea. It was a pleasant, leisurely afternoon spent in a sophisticated but gently paced, elegant city. The only problem with it was that I had my jeans on in preparation for our return to England and it was too darned hot in the bright sunshine. The car’s temperature reader had the outside temperature at 26.5C. Thank goodness for air conditioning.

A leisurely and brief drive to the car hire company and their bus trip to the airport had us there in time to enjoy a very relaxed drink and internet play via our MIFI (mobile wireless hot spot). Boarding was called early and it was entirely trouble free. Take off was bang on time but we were warned that it would probably be a bumpy ride near Leeds Bradford. Deep joy, it is said to be windy and rainy there.

Joy of joys, not a single Stag or Hen part on board so the flight promised to be quiet and civilised. There weren’t any on the flight out either, much to our relief. Previous flights have been marred by these so called celebrations. It seems a bizarre practice to me, bunches of stupidly costumed, drunken, loud-mouths screeching and rampaging on the plane and around Benidorm, behaving disgracefully, spending a fortune and not being able to remember any of it. I have been married three times and never had a hen party. Mind you I have never dressed up like a meringue or a lampshade with net curtains on my head either!

We have been incredibly lucky with the weather this trip. Our friends and neighbours, Keith and Audrey, say that it has been the best October they can remember and they have lived in Calpé for twenty years. We had only one cloudy day and that was when we went to Moraira. When we returned to Calpé we found out that it had been sunny there all day. The temperature exceeded 30C on several occasions and was never lower that 18C at night. In fact we slept under a single cotton sheet every night for the entire stay. I reckon we have had enough sunshine on our skins to boost our vitamin D stores enough to last us through to our next trip in Spring.

Now it is back to reality with a bump – literally according to the captain of the aircraft though he was wrong in that. In the event it was head down back to earth , oops, no back up again and try again. He had to abandon the first landing attempt at the wind was too strong, go round and come down again. He landed very smoothly in the circumstances, though a little late. Waiting for the cab was a shock in the cold windy weather. I got used to unrelenting sunshine rather quickly!

Garrath has to work tomorrow so I get the good bit, collecting the dogs. I am so looking forward to seeing them and being smothered with doggy kisses. It will almost make our return to the UK worthwhile – almost!!!

The Autumn 2013 trip – Episode 14

Sad Day = Bad Day

Today is the last complete day here in Spain and that is the day for tedious but tiring jobs, tough when it is as hot as it was today, over 30C at one point. It is a very good thing that we employed the newly purchased lavender bag and lavender flowers last night and got a sustained and extremely sustaining long night’s sleep. That lavender bag is coming back to the UK with us!

We started the day pleasantly enough by delivering platters of the tapas that were not consumed last night to our guests of last night and we stayed for a cuppa at Keith & Audrey’s house. The stay ended up being longer than intended as they were joined by two other expat friends and we stayed to chat for a while. It was an unexpected and very pleasant interlude during which we gleaned some very useful info for the time when we finally realise our dream to move here permanently.

Unfortunately we had to tear ourselves away from what was obviously going to be a really fun afternoon so that we could undertake those tedious but tiring jobs. Oh deep joy!!! Probably the lost tedious but most essential of those jobs was to oil the furniture that we have purchased, but first we had to go down to JYSK, the shop that we bought the oak furniture from, to buy the requisite oils. Going there is always a treat as they sell such lovely, sturdy, well designed stuff and it fires our already vivid imaginations about what is possible when we remodel Nirvana.

Oils purchased it was time for lunch then time to oil the furniture – the oak dining table chairs and benches, the oak sideboard, the oak display cabinet with drawers, my oak art cupboard and bookshelves, plus the acacia wood garden bench that we assembled this time and I love to bits. Of course we prevaricated for a while but got round to it eventually. I guess that we were actually putting off facing the fact that we are having to leave the place that we have restored from being a complete wreck and that we have grown to love.

Oiling the furniture involves lots of kneeling, bending and twisting that my 65 year old wreck of a body is unaccustomed to and Garrath’s 60 year old newly slender and lithe frame isn’t accustomed to either, so there is an element of physical stress as well as intellectual paralysis. It took about one and a half hours but it felt like a century and my knee is reminding me that it is already knackered and doesn’t need these contortions.

Whatever, task done, everything reassembled and put back in place, we then had to pack. UGH, I cannot describe how much I loathe packing. No expletive can ever fully describe my passionate hatred of this task. I don’t know why I hate it so much, even when I am heading for the place where my heart resides – Spain – but hate it I do with a fervour that would but the rampaging hoards of Genghis Khan to shame. In a typical fit of pique I declared to Garrath,

“I cannot wait for the day when I never ever have to do this again, when we have moved here permanently, when we never have to see the UK again and when Harvey the RV is so fully equipped and stocked for our jaunts that no packing is involved.” I think that there was a statement of intent lodged in there somewhere!

Regardless of my loathing of the task, I faced my Gremlins (twelve feet tall with a vicious temper and ultra sharp teeth) and did it regardless, albeit accompanied with some words that would embarrass even the military. So we are almost set for tomorrow, physically if not emotionally. Having written his I realise that the tears have never been far away today and right now, they just might flow freely!

They did and with them came the realisation that I have been suppressing this for sixty one and a bit years, ever since I arrived in a very hostile England where I did not and never would fit. What a pity that I didn’t face this earlier.

The Autumn 2013 trip – Episode 13

A Full Day Preparing For A Fun Evening

Most of yesterday was spent preparing for our evening where we played host and hostess to our Dutch and English neighbours. That is apart from the early morning jaunt with Perran, our gardener, to explore potential sites to store our RV, Harvey. He is trying to buy some land which might be suitable. There is also another site in the grounds of a house that might be even more suitable. We shall see.

Back to the preparations for the social gathering, I made loads of stuff and prepared loads of stuff and we bought loads of stuff, but in the event very little of it was consumed. No matter at all, we can snack on it all for the next two days, the compost pit will benefit from the non proteins that are left and any proteins will be donated to our guests’ cats and dogs. The important thing is that people enjoyed what they did eat, that the conversation flowed and that people enjoyed themselves. Here’s the menu (all gluten free) for the foodies among you to salivate over.

Gazpacho Andaluz
Blue Cheese Dip
Spinach & Chickpea Dip
Egg Mayonnaise With Anchovy
Crudités For Dipping (Celery, Sweet Red Pepper, Cucumber & Carrot)
Crispy Cones For Dipping
Jamon Iberico Wrapped Around Figs
Cheese Wrapped Around Pickled Gherkin
Mortadella Wrapped Around Pickled Gherkin
Home Made Creamy Dessert (with home made Seville orange & strawberry dessert sauce and home grown pomegranate).

Our guests, Keith & Audrey came with a gift of genuine champagne and our Dutch friends, Robert & Marijke arrived with a bottle of Dutch Gin, Oude Jinever. Robert had noted that in a previous conversation I had mentioned my fondness for Amsterdam and for the Jinever we had consumed there and they made a special effort to get me some. I told them that I am going to hide it so that I can keep it as a special treat for myself.

Both gifts were lovely gestures and are much appreciated. We told Keith & Audrey that we will crack open the champagne and share it with them on the day that we arrive to live in Calpé for good.

Today will be the day for clearing up the party debris, oiling the furniture packing and the like. Packing! AAAAAAAAAAARGH! I HATE PACKING!

On that note of abject terror I will leave you to your day!

The Autumn 2013 Trip – Episode 12

YAY, No Preserving Today!

Today started as another business day as we had an appointment with our Abogado, (Spanish solicitor) Linda Townsend, to explore ways of being able to move out to the Spanish house with some security. You will have gathered that she is English by family origin but a qualified Spanish lawyer. She is a very nice woman, albeit from the opposite end of the political spectrum to us, something that we always manage to have a little ironic exchange about, and she always gives very sound advice. Her office deal with our non resident’s tax issues for us and they are pleasant as well as well informed and helpful.

The advice we received this morning has given us options that are very reassuring indeed. We can find a way of living here with some measure of security. We have already invested a considerable, nay huge amount of money in restoring the property, and it would be nothing short of a tragedy if we couldn’t benefit from it by living here. As friends have pointed out to me, I am so much happier, more comfortable and more relaxed here that in the UK, so we really should move out her ASAP. Thank you Linda, you have given a number of ways forward. Phew, what a relief!

After the appointment with Linda we went to the Chinese cheapie shop to buy the third cushion for the garden bench that yesterday Garrath insisted that we didn’t need. I hate to say that I resorted to ‘Yah boo sucks, I was right’ recrimination about me being right and him being WRONG, but I have to confess that I succumbed.


When we returned to Casa Nirvana I had intended to make some Kumquat chutney after lunch but the prospect of deseeding Kumquats did my head in so I did other stuff instead. Something ANYTHING is better than deseeding Kumquats! My justification is that I have done 87 jars of preserves already, albeit 36 of them being small jars, so I have no need to feel guilty. So WHY do I feel guilty?

Garrath had promised to sort out a minor problem with our Dutch friend Robert’s computer so we repaired to Robert & Marijke’s house. I accompanied Garrath partly as a friendship gesture towards Robert & Marijke, partly as a way of avoiding making more preserves. (Am I giving the impression that I am sick of making preserves yet?)

Anyway, it was a lovely gentle interlude with very good friends. We then fulfilled Garrath’s promise to me that we should go down to the Port and have tea, coffee, water and games of dominoes. The games of dominoes were punctuated by a local man who came over and asked us if we liked the game and who was winning. I was at the time so he gave me a high five an departed contented. Little did I know that his visit would change my fortunes!!! Rats, I shall learn to avoid that man in future.

After the games of dominoes that I Iost overall due to the intervention of the local man (any excuse is a good excuse) we started to drive home but this necessitated driving past the neighbourhood bar. Well it wouldn’t have been polite not to call in would it? So we called in just to be convivial?

A very quiet interlude of drinks with us piggy backing on their wifi was rudely (very rudely) interrupted by a bunch of Archetypal Essex types who exploded into the bar at full volume and minimal intellect. In truth I don’t think they had an intellect between them, and where IQ was lacking they substituted volume without content. What is it with Essex people? They all shout at once. Nobody listens at all, they all screech at the same time, and most of what is screeched it utter crap!

They are still at it, all shrieking their meaningless, inconsequential rubbish at vey high volume at the same time, all squawking, nobody listening , all shouting their crap at the at the same time. Time to go home!!!

The Autumn 2013 Trip – Episode 11

Bloody Banks and Salsa Dulce

A business day today, we had to go into Calpé to do some chores and get some essential supplies. Our first stop was our bank to do a very simple task, collect the new debit card on one of the accounts. We duly complied with the requirement to get a number from the machine, a system designed to prevent squabbles about the queue, and sat down and waited —— and waited —— and waited! There was only one person staffing the help desks , even though there are three of them, and it took us over an hour to have our number called. When we got to the desk the business was over in a matter of minutes and when Garrath commented that a wait of over an hour was unacceptable the lady on duty said that if we wanted to raise a petition to get more staff she would be delighted. When I gave her my favourite personal homily

“There is no such thing as unemployment, only understaffing,” she told us that she is paid to work from 08.00 to 15.00 but she actually works from 08.00 to 20.00. The staff whom we used to know before the bank was ‘amalgamated’ with its current senior partner, have all gone, presumably made redundant, and what is left is too few staff to do too much work. I suppose it is indicative of the current economic climate that the staff put up with this blatant exploitation, but Hells Bells, after the recent debacles with Barclays, does this mean that I have to move banks in Spain too?

We then made a sprightly sprint to our favourite Calpé cafe for tea and coffee and to avail ourselves of their facilities. All that jigging about anxiously hoping that our number would come up next had had a rather stimulating effect on our bladders and the bank had no customer toilet facilities. After that on to the shops to get bits and bats, to the supermarket for more essential supplies and then back to Nirvana for lunch and more preserving.

The Seville Orange and Strawberry Syrup that I had sieved and set aside and boiled down to to make a dessert sauce had set whilst cooling overnight so a rethink was necessary. It was a fairly soft set so we decided to call it Salsa De Frutas Para Postres Casa Nirvana (fruit sauce for desserts Casa Nirvana.) I got 36 sample jars of it, each one containing enough to dress ice cream for four if you were being abstemious, two if you were being greedy. It will also mix with yoghurt, or, if placed in an icing bag, poncify an upmarket dessert plate.

I had intended to make some Kumquat chutney today but after farting about heating up the Salsa, sterilising 36 small jars and lids and filling the little jars perfectly without spills – no easy task – I had had enough. In fact I had had more than enough, my feet were aching BIG time.

Guess what Garrath said he wanted to do immediately I had sat down. Bet you can’t guess so I will tell you what he said.

“Why don’t we go for a troll (really long walk) right down to the tobacconists on La Fossa.” If my feet could have spoken they would have uttered a long string of obscenities, but I dutifully put on my long walk boots, got my wheely camera bag (the trundley) together and set off. After forty five minutes ‘trolling’ punctuated by stopping for a few brief camera shots (the light was iffy) we got to the tobacconists and bought fags to take back for our friends in Shipley then went into our favourite beachside bar for a rest and a couple of drinks. I could almost hear my feet crying ‘Thank f*ck for that!’

The troll back involved passing the neighbourhood bar. Passing = walking past = rude, so we didn’t. Here I am, as usual on this particular holiday, writing my blog, but this time I am drinking Campari instead of Vino Rosado. See, I am not such a creature of habit after all!

The Autumn 2013 Trip – Episode 10

Jars Of Jam & Fiesta Parades

I had intended to boil up the Seville Oranges that we had thawed out and just whizz them up as pectin stock and freeze that, but me being me, it turned into a full weight preserving session. 3.6 kilos of Seville Oranges plus 1.65 kilos of strawberries plus 5 Birdseye chillies plus a day’s hard graft on my part plus the able assistance of Garrath who ran up and down stairs to get stuff for me and we have 23 jars of jam plus two litres of syrup that will be transformed tomorrow afternoon into one litre of dessert sauce. That’s 51 jars of preserves thus far and the week isn’t over yet!

As with all preserving, it is the preparation that is the really hard part but I keep learning better ways to do things. My last minute decision to include strawberries in the jam has taught me that hulling strawberries when they are still frozen is far easier than hulling thawed out ones. Must remember that one for Spring when I have no doubt that Perran’s strawberry farm will be bountiful. Deseeding the boiled soft Seville Oranges however will never new anything other that mind numbingly booooooooooooooooorin, but it had to be done and I did it! I have a bag full of Kumquats in the freezer that need de-seeding before being transformed into chutney, and the de-seeding is the most mind numbing task on the planet. I wonder if it easier de-seeding them when they are still frozen. I think I am about to find out.

Enough of preserving, when I finished that task at around 19.00 I quickly slapped my phizzer on (put my make-up on) and we headed to town to see The Solemn Parade that concluded the Fiesta Of Moors And Christians. The Moors & Christians Fiesta is the celebration of Santisimo Cristo del Sudor – the patron saint of Calpe. The festival takes place over several days in October, to celebrate the historic attack on Calpe that took place on 22nd October 1744.

The fiesta commenced with the ringing of bells, fireworks, band parades & a presentation in the Old Town. The main procession took place on a Saturday, and started in Avenida del Norte at 7pm, continued for several hours through the town to the Plaza Colon at the bottom of Avenida Gabriel Miro. We were told that this is a spectacular parade of colourful costumes & music and not to be missed, but we missed it!

Sunday offered the re-enactment of first landing on the beach, and the main activities took place at Playa Arenal at 11am. The stage was set on the beach where a castle was constructed for the simulated battle as the Moors & Christians arrived on boats. We were out to lunch with friends at the time so we missed that too, so we were determined not to miss tonight’s’ parade.

The parade started outside the Town Hall and it was very impressive. I had been expecting a frankly amateurish affair but I couldn’t have been more wrong. The bands were excellent and the costumes gorgeous. I was delighted to note that in true Spanish style the parade of the Saint’s big heavy thingy started ten minutes late. Some traditions must not be messed with and Spanish Mañana is one of them.

We followed the parade for about an hour, got loads of photographs, then hunger drove us to a local eatery for dinner. Replete after salad, entremesas, pork chops for me, liver for Garrath we drove up to the local bar for a few drinks. Well we couldn’t disappoint them could we?