Time for a catch up…

The winter chills have now faded from our memories as Spring is firmly with us and Summer doesn’t seem too far behind. I was out for a run before 9am this morning in just shorts and sleeveless t-shirt and it was so lovely to be running among the hills as the day was just getting started.

Which lends me very nicely to ceasing the telling of sunny tales for one second and slip in an update on my marathon challenge. For those of you with long enough memories you may remember me warbling on a while ago about a 7 marathons on 7 continents challenge that I wanted to set myself for 2013 raising money for The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennesse. Well, I have spent some time pondering the logistics of arranging all of this and to be honest the organising part of it was beginning to look like it would be a greater feat than actually running the marathons which kinda missed the point somewhat.

So, the challenge has changed. The cause is still the same and the timing –  2013 – remains unchanged but the events themselves are different.

There will now be 3 events spanning 2013 each in a place that is special to my heart. The events double in distance each time and look like this:-

April 2013 Bungay Black Dog Marathon, Suffolk, UK – 26.2 miles

July 2013 Lakeland 50, Lake District, Cumbria, UK – 50 miles

October 2013 Royan 24/48 hour, Royan, Charente-Maritime, France – 100 miles

I know I am still keeping the essence of the challenge alive with these three events as when I told hubby his basic reaction was WTF do you want to do a 50 and 100 miler for???? I am confident that he will come around to the idea by next year and be in full on supportive role, he just needs to get over the shock of it  🙂

Full details are on the website as always and I will be launching a donation page soon where you can go and donate in aid of the elephants.

So, training has started in earnest now that I have finally decided on the events of the challenge which means lots of hill walking as part of the build up for the Lakeland 50 (its billed as one of the greatest ultra running and walking races in Europe, if not the world) which only added a teensy weensy bit more to the challenge for me lol….So hubby should be pleased with that as he does like to climb up high. I feel a Sound of Music song coming on here altogether now….two, three, four…..Climb every mountain…….

Obviously the excitement has gotten too much for me so I will stop there and let you see some photo’s of our last two sorjourns out into the hills. Enjoy

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Out of hibernation…

So, the weather is slowly improving and apart from the odd day when winter re tightens its grip we are for the most part enjoying sunny and bright days again.

Which is just as well as me and my trusty chariot (aka Gigi) have been putting quite a lot of tarmac under our wheels over the last few weeks as I get to grips with what is commonly known as networking – or having cups of tea in assorted cafes across the Costa del Sol!!

No, in all seriousness I have met some amazing women over the last month or so and we have formed some great collaborations and friendships and out of the laughter, fun and cups of tea have morphed some great ideas and business opportunities. It seems that my humble ‘raw onion bread’ may well be manufactured and sold to actual real live health food shops – how exciting is that :)

One of the events that I have organised with two of the lovely ladies I have met is a wonderful weekend detox retreat entitled ‘Release Your Inner Calm’ – we all have some but sadly it remains hidden from us for much of the time!!

This will be my first foray into the retreat world and I have a feeling that it is going to be a great success – you may think that I am blowing my own trumpet there but no, not a bit of it.

I am just so in awe of the collective power of women when they come together in a nurturing environment that I just know that the universe is going to send us the people we need (men and women) so that we can make this retreat something really special for them.

Don’t take my word for it though, take a ride over to my website and have a look for yourself.

Its official…..winter has arrived

Those that know me will confirm that I don’t do cold weather very well. In fact I am pretty lousy at it. I hate nothing more that feeling cold and I detest being swaddled in layers of clothes trying to keep warm which means that for the 40 odd years that I spent living in the UK I was a grumpy old bear.

So, as you can imagine, spending the winter in Spain is a great joy to me as the thermometer rarely falls below 10C at night and hangs around the mid to high teens in the day. Perfect for her royal grouchiness and those that have to live with me (namely hubby and the cats 🙂 )

But, the natural order of things seems to have been shaken up this week and winter has very firmly arrived and planted its bloomin’ cold hand on our tropical paradise.

With temperatures plummeting to zero overnight and a savage icy wind howling around the campsite life in Bessie has a decidedly bleak feel to it.

I am tired having had little sleep for the last three nights due to the fierce winds that threaten to blow away our awning at any moment.

Oscar who weighs little more than a few bags of sugar nowadays and has zero fat on him is as cold as nails at night and so restless as heck. I try vainly to cover him in a blanket or duvet but that just freaks him out and so he spends the whole night getting up and down to (supposedly) keep himself warm.

Molly on the other hand has been laying down blubber all summer for precisely this occasion (or so she would tell you) and so weighs considerably more than Oscar. However, even her seal like proportions are failing to keep her warm overnight. To rectify this she has taken to sleeping on top of me to get my warmth and so the little sleep I am managing to get is thwarted as I suffer from a medieval form of torture by having the breath squeezed out of me.

Hubby has taken to wearing his bright orange ski jacket and green fleecy hat (I know but I didn’t marry him for his fashion flair) inside the caravan and I am modeling a very fetching pair of sequined fingerless mittens (a girl can still do glamour even in the most dire of situations you know) and a rather snuggy scarf whilst lounging under the two duvets on the bed.

Daisy Duke – our recent feral cat – is bravely coping with the conditions and hubby very sweetly warmed her tuna this morning as he was rather concerned about how cold she must have been in the awning overnight.

You may be able to detect from all this that I am less than happy about the situation. Shivering our ****s was certainly not on the list of things to enjoy about overwintering in Spain…… 😦

Now, I know that compared to some we are extremely lucky. Parts of Eastern Europe are suffering much, much worse conditions than these…….but just a word to whoever needs to hear…… ENOUGH ALREADY.

Feel free to resume with normal service whenever you are ready…….PLEASE.

 

 

Pictures

I seem to be spending a lot of time driving up and down the A7 at the moment but we have managed to get out the past two weekends and spend some time in the fresh and warm winter air…..

Lake Vinuela

Love the shape the shoreline makes

A perfect way to spend a Sunday afternoon…

Snow up on Maroma

Down on the beach

Gently lapping tide…

I saw sea shells on the sea shore

Boats waiting for the summer season to start again

One of my most favourite ways to spend a lazy Sunday afternoon…… 🙂

48 hour pass…and lots of food.

I took advantage of Ryanair’s cheap flights this week for a quick 48 hour trip home to visit my lovely family.

Now Ryanair are not my most favourite of airlines and it takes gritted teeth and bags of patience to navigate your way through their online booking system ticking boxes here and unticking them there to make sure you don’t incur any extra charges. I miss the days when the price quoted up front was the actual price you ended up paying.

It’s not much better at the airport as in order to keep their costs so low the planes arrive at the 11th hour and you have about 10 minutes from the time the gate is called to get to said gate and board the plane.

Herded cattle is a phrase that springs to mind as once on the plane the already harassed air steward/people (what do you call them nowadays??) try frantically to get you seated so they can get turned around and away again.

All said though, 35 euros for a return flight can’t be beaten and so for that I am happy to put up with the discomfort that comes with it.

When you land  (a loosely termed phrase) as Ryanair obviously teaches its pilots to plant the plane on the runway with all the finesse of an obese hippo, they play a rousing little tune announcing ‘another on-time Ryainar flight’ – woo hoo……

I then amuse myself by watching my fellow passengers leap out of their seats as soon as the seat belt signs go off and scramble for their bags before waiting necks craned, heavy bags in hand, all squeezed up together for the doors to open. It makes me chuckle to watch the franticness and the tut-tutting that ensues by having to wait 5 minutes. I love people 🙂

Anyway, on with my trip. I coincided it with a visit home from the sister of my best friend. She and her husband live in Australia and she was on her annual trip back to Blighty so it seemed a good time to come back and see both my family and hers. I have known her sister for (ahem) 38 years and so in reality they are family too.

We organised a lovely lunch with the three of them and my mum, sister and sister in law. Lots of laughing, catching up and way too much food 🙂 followed and it was such a lovely afternoon. Being back in their company always makes me appreciate what strong and loving women I have in my family. They truly rock.

That evening my friend and I went out for another meal to catch up properly. Afterwards as we walked to the taxi rank through the mecca that is Romford we reminisced about our days on Romford’s patch and concluded that we were well past that sell by date and that the bars sounded a trifle noisy for our liking now!!

The following day I had more time with my parents as we went and met my brother for lunch – more food 🙂 A quick stop back at my brother’s house to see his latest DIY skills and to pick up Archie the dog he then took me back to the airport.

Zipping through the back roads of Essex with Archie perched on my lap watching the world race by we had a chance to have a good chat and by the time we arrived at Stansted we had caught up on each other’s lives again.

Before I knew it I was back in Malaga, ditching the big heavy coat as I walked out into a very spring like evening and being picked up by hubby.

Although it was a quick visit it was lovely to touch base with my family, see them all in the flesh and be able to hug and laugh with them in a way you can’t over the phone.

So, I should thank Ryanair for getting me there and back safely and on time……and all for just 35 euros. 🙂

 

 

My Little Fighter….

Last October on our return to Spain we took our beloved Oscar to the vets as we knew something was not right. He had lost an awful lot of weight – down to 8lbs from the 14lbs he was in his prime (he is a Maine Coon which are a big breed of cat) as well as drinking lots and lots of water.

As we suspected he was diagnosed with Chronic Kidney failure and our vet informed us that he had probably already lost 2/3 rds of the available function of his kidneys.

They prescribed a special diet of biscuits (which he turned his nose up at) and medication that they couldn’t guarantee would do him any good but that would boost their bank balance by 50euros each month! It wasn’t a good visit and the prognosis was poor.

Anyway, we brought him home and did our own research. Thankfully he still had his appetite as many cats with this disease lose theirs. So we changed his diet to include less fish (too much potassium) and more meat. Him and his sidekick Molly haven’t eaten ‘cat food’ for many years instead enjoying tuna, sardines and coley fish. Now we include beef steak, lamb and lambs liver in their diet which they thoroughly enjoy.

We also managed to get hold of a herbal product from the States called Tripsy, which has had great results and we have been giving him this twice a day since December.

I am delighted to say that when I weighed him this morning he had put on a whole LB…….woo hoo, big excitement in the Hooper caravan and Oscar is making the most of his moment of glory and revelling in all the extra attention that is suddenly being showered upon him (Molly is rather jealous!!)

He is more settled now and sleeps better. He is still drinking a fair amount but it has definitely stabilised which is all we can hope for as kidney failure is irreversible. He is still as affectionate as ever though and enjoys his little trips outside as much as ever. His quality of life has not diminished in anyway.

So, we are happy that he seems to be fighting it for now. The next milestone we hope to see him through is his 19th birthday this May. I predict it will be well celebrated 🙂

 

 

Perking The Pansies review

As I explained yesterday Jack Scott is one of my favourite bloggers who often has me is fits of laughter about his life in Turkey.

When he said he was writing a book about his experiences as a gay man living in a Muslim country I knew it would be a good read, no scrap that hilarious read. I wasn’t wrong and it delivers on every page.

It chronicles his and Liam’s first year in Turkey and how they navigated the cultural divide not only amongst the locals but also among the odd breed of man known as the ‘expat’

Being a fully paid up member of the expat brigade I can more than identify with the different categories of people within this group. I won’t spoil it for you but some of the stories made my toes curl in embarrassment at my fellow Brits.

It isn’t all fun and hilarity though and there are parts of the story and the stories of new friends that they have made on the way that left me with a lump in my throat and a tear in my eye.

In short, Jack has a true talent for keeping it real, saying it as it is and standing up for what he believes in. But his biggest talent is that he can write it all down in a way that keeps you hooked and eagerly turning the page for more.

Perking the Pansies available in paperback and Kindle on Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com. It is also available via Jack’s website. Buy it now, I guarantee you won’t be disappointed 🙂

 

Trailer Trash

Today’s post is a guest contribution from one of my favourite bloggers Jack Scott.

Jack lives in Turkey with his husband Liam and writes a hilariously funny blog about his life entitled ‘Perking The Pansies’ (see on my favourite blog list to the right). Many times I have spat my morning tea out all over the keyboard whilst reading his riotous musings…..he’s always guaranteed to put a smile on your face.

Jack has just written a book about his life in Turkey and I was lucky enough to be asked to review it for his ‘virtual tour’. I will be telling all tomorrow but for now here is a little taste of Jack’s writing as he gets to grips with this whole caravan malarky…..

Enjoy…….

‘When I planned my virtual tour, I knew the book would have to take centre stage. There would be little point if it didn’t. But I didn’t want to just bang on about it and do the hard sell. People would get bored and simply switch channels. I know I would. I had to find a theme, something to maintain interest. I also wanted to say something related to the people that have kindly let me loose on their blogs. A theme gradually emerged: me. My favourite subject.

Today’s post is on Helen’s European Journey. Elegant Helen is wander-lusting gypsy-like across Europe (well, so far across Iberia – give ‘em time) in a travelling caravan with hunky husband and three pretty pussies in tow. So, folks, I give you… me and caravans. Not the dusty camel trains of antiquity hauling exotic goods along the ancient Silk Road from China to Anatolia, but the common or garden static metal type of my childhood. It’s a tenuous link, but stay with me.

When I was knee-high to a grasshopper, a wet week in a tiny tin caravan propped up in a stranger’s back garden was our holiday of choice. We were a large family and it was a crowded house. It mattered little; my memories of those distant days are full of fun and frolics. As I grew older, the family added a few more coppers to the coffers and ambitions of owning our very own caravan became a reality. Dad bought a monster of a thing – a top of the range fancy caravan, decked out in fetching Seventies floral orange with mains water and electricity, two bedrooms, a fully functioning flush toilet, shower room and a spacious open plan living area with kitchenette.

Our upmarket caravan was permanently parked in a back garden on Hayling Island. For the un-initiated, Hayling is a small, flat island sandwiched between Langstone and Chichester Harbours on the south coast of England. It’s a place littered with post-war bungalows and people close to death. Age Concern has a swot team on permanent standby. Despite the elderly population, it’s also where I first had sex in 1976, but that’s another story. We holidayed in our flashy van for many years. When the rest of us moved up to fancy foreign holidays, my sister took ownership and the caravan was given a new lease of life with her own young family. Sadly, all good things come to an end. Eventually, the caravan had its day and was abandoned for all time. It’s still there, I hear, with a collapsed roof and shitting pigeons roosting in the kitchenette. I look back on all our family holidays with great fondness. We were trailer trash and loved it.

My time in Turkey has been emotional, life-changing and hugely educational. I often find myself thinking about those early caravan days, about my father and his dream holiday machine. It’s not surprising, therefore, that he features in my book, Perking the Pansies – Jack and Liam move to Turkey. I sure he would have liked it, and I hope you will too. The book is available in paperback and Kindle on Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com. If you buy it via my website I’ll make a few extra pennies. No pressure. ‘

To finish off, I give you the Caravan Song by Barbara Dickson. A classic trailer.

Tune in tomorrow to hear all about Jack’s book…….

Shopping trauma…

Ok, so I am not a huge fan of supermarket shopping or for any shopping come to that matter but the good thing about shopping in Spain is that the supermarkets are rarely busy (as long as you time it right). Most Spaniards do their shopping in the evenings so if you avoid doing the same then you should be ensured a calm and relaxed stroll around with your trolley.

In fact going during the day means that the majority of shoppers are fellow English folk and it is all very jolly and stress free………………..until you hit the check out.

Yesterday was a prime example.

After a bit of queue jumping we finally got lucky as a new checkout opened to which we were second in line. We had both a basket of food for a weekend’s catering job that I wanted to pay separately for and our own weekly trolley.

Its best to have two of you on the job at the checkout which is why I am always grateful that hubby accompanies me to help. He unloads the contents on to the conveyor belt whilst I stand at the ready at the other end to receive the items as they are hurled at breathtaking speed by the checkout girls whose only job it seems is to be surly, unhelpful and downright dangerous if a hand or finger gets in the way of their throwing skills. I often think that a baseball mitt would be a good idea for protection.

There are two shopping lanes at the end of the checkout which means that as soon as the last item of your shopping has been rung through they switch lanes and begin scanning the next victims shopping; which means that you have exactly a nanosecond to see the price of your shop come up on the screen before it is gone forever. Trying to decipher how much from the surly checkout girl is not an option and so I have become something of an expert in clocking the price at the end.

Yesterday our checkout assistant was incredibly grumpy and quite obviously wanted to be anywhere but in front of me – and she wasn’t afraid of showing her displeasure. With our first basket load of shopping safely packed away and the cost determined by myself I cheerfully handed her a fifty euro note only to have it snatched out of my hand as if I had kept her waiting for an eternity. Hmmmm……deep breath from me and sweet smile pasted to my face.

I took a deep breath, picked my change up that had been tossed in my direction and started packing our second shop that was already on its way down to me. Hubby by this time had reached me at the end of the checkout and was galliantly providing back up assistance.

We got to the end of our shopping and disaster struck. Hubby had forgotten to weigh the sweet potatoes. Oh sweet lord, the look on her face as she realised our torrid mistake reduced us to quibbering wrecks as we desperately tried to apologise for our tardiness. Phone calls were made, much tutting and glaring was thrown in our direction and another assistant dispatched to weigh the errant items.

We were discarded to one side as she got to work on her next victims – also a couple. Strange how most people seem to come shopping on mass. Safety in numbers 🙂

Anyway, after a 5 minute wait our potatoes returned but of course we were now being punished and made to wait whilst she dealt with the couple standing nervously next to us. She got to the end of their shopping and suddenly stopped with a frozen look on her face. You could see the steam rising from her and we all took a collective lean back from the checkout.

She stood for a few moments trying to work out how to get around her problem without having to tell us what was going on (I had already guessed) but then realised she was in the ***t.

In her rush to get the couple’s shopping rung through after us she hadn’t rung them up as a new customer and so their shopping had just gone onto the end of our bill!!!

So, she had to take all their shopping back and ring it back through as a deduction…….which of course she did with the all the charm and grace of a couple of deliquants on day release.

Once she had done this you may have thought that she might ring our potatoes through and get us out the way but noooooo she then proceeded to put all their shopping back through again and complete their transaction.

Only then did she conceed to come back to us and finish our shop.

If you are feeling exhausted just reading this then imagine how we felt actually living it. Boy oh boy………if I could manage a round of expletives in Spanish then I am sure they would have burst forth from my lips but as it was I don’t and so we stood with stiff upper lips and did what the British do best – held it together and acted stoically whilst all hell was letting loose around us.

Oh how I miss shopping back home, a quick 5 minutes on the computer ordering a weekly shop and then waiting for my jolly delivery man to come and wheel all my groceries in for me whilst chatting away inanely about his bad back and the general state and decline of the country. Ah such blissful memories…….. 🙂

From Christmas to New Year…

Christmas has been and gone and we are now waking to a New Year – 2012 dawns with what will hopefully be a healthy, happy and prosperous year for all.

But what of my goings on over the festive period???

Well, Christmas was predictably quiet with much of the campsite gone away. We downed tools as they say the night before Christmas Eve and spent the day chilling out and putting up the last of the decorations.

Dvds were watched and scrummy food eaten to get us in the festive spirit. I realised that I had brought children’s Christmas crackers!! but then we very quickly realised that they have better pressies in them!! Here is hubby sporting his ‘pirates eye patch’ on Christmas Eve!!

Oscar and Molly were happy with their pressies of ‘new mice’ to play with. Molly has since taken hers under the bed to her ‘den’ and can be heard most evenings thundering around after them. Oscar’s are still on the end of the bed where he simply prefers to sit on them or with them!

Of course all the playing and eating clean wore Molly out and she needed to recharge her batteries with lots of cuddles and naps

Christmas day morning was spent talking to family back home and then more eating and chilling out ensued. We watched the last of the Harry Potter films which was fun and generally had a quiet and very relaxing day. We kept the curtains closed and the fairy lights on to create a more ‘Christmasy’ atmosphere which kinda of worked although every time we stepped into the awning to get something we were confronted with bright sunshine!!

We planned a walk on Boxing Day in a place called Frigiliana. It is a National Parque area and the walk follows a river bed through a gorge. We spent a few fun hours jumping over rocks in the river trying to avoid getting our feet wet (which we managed for the most part) and sat and had a lovely picnic and enjoyed the fresh air.

Downtime Frigiliana….

Caves

Following the river bed

The week between Christmas and New Year was spent relaxing and doing less than usual. A time to take stock of the past year and to make plans for 2012. I enjoyed the sunny weather and practicing yoga outside with all the cats for company. Whenever I am outdoors there is always a little furry face not too far away from me 🙂

Oscar and Molly chilling under the tree

And Daisy Duke…

On New Year’s Eve with the sun blazing down we set off for another walk in the hills. Heading to Sayalonga this time we enjoyed quite the workout climbing to the top of a hill before enjoying a picnic in the glorious sunshine. It was hard to believe as I lay looking up at the clear blue sky that it was the end of the year, December and not the middle of the summer.

Looking down on Sayalonga

Olives are ready!

Almond blossom already starting to appear on the trees

Hmmmm…..I wonder if this is English owned????

These guys did their best to act like guard dogs but the wagging tails gave them away 🙂

Sea view….

Clear, sunny blue skies….. 🙂

So, 2012 is now with us and depending on who you listen to we could be staring into the abyss and the end of the world! or we could all be lifted to a higher spiritual level and a greater oneness with each other. Whatever you believe make sure you enjoy

‘FELIZ ANO NUEVO’……………… 🙂