THE UNCHARITABLE LUNCH

After a couple of weeks of ‘settling in’ it was time to venture out and about and meet some new people, and by coincidence, I found myself at the same restaurant four times in as many weeks.

By now, I don’t have to even read the menu, or wonder what their paella tastes like.  But at 9e for a 4 course meal including wine, it would be churlish to refuse an invitation.

IMG_1040 (3)It was the last two visits that have really given me food for thought ~ no pun intended ~ MUCH!

I think I mentioned before that the ladies of the village are very BIG on fundraising for good causes, and so on visit 3 to the restaurant, I found myself at a lunch with 23 complete strangers, to raise  funds for a ‘much needed white board for the local school’.

The group were all very welcoming, an even mix of mature couples and some single women.   I chatted with a couple of ladies, and we swopped numbers with good intentions of meeting up for coffee.

It was all very nice and kind of well, ‘safe’, nobody swore, and nobody got pissed.

But then I’m not in Essex any more.

Things did get a bit more interesting when they had what us common people call a ‘whip round’.  This was in fact a little basket, which was passed round the table for everyone to donate something towards the ‘much needed white board for the local school’.

You can never be sure, at times like this, what is the right amount to throw in. It’s like the collection after a funeral at a church.  Do you put in all your old shrapnel, or is it only polite to pop in some bank notes at the appropriate moment.

I know the 72 virgins waiting thing won’t apply to us lot, but if there should be 72 fit blokes waiting, then I don’t know about you, but I want to be in with a chance, and you don’t know whose watching from on high.

So anyway, I’m thinking, OK, this lunch is for a ‘much needed white board for the local school’.  There are 24 of us here, I’m not sure how much a white board is, but collectively, we could get some helpful cash in the kitty, so I chuck 10e into the mix.

IMG_1041Of course I couldn’t be sure, but I’m probably the one with the least amount of money in the room, but nevertheless it’s all for a good cause as someone once said.

The 4 course meal, (including wine!) is only costing 9e, so worse way, along with my donation, that’s a total of about £15.00 in old money and in the UK I’ve spent  more than that on JUST a posh sandwich and a couple of glasses of Prosecco, and the only ‘board’ in site is the one saying ‘Specials’.

I know, I KNOW, champagne taste on my lemonade salary.

Using my fingers and toes, I do some elementary sums in my head, and I reckon that with 23 other people round the table, conservatively, we could end up with in excess of 200e and in my mind’s eye I can see little Maria and Jose being dazzled by their new, all singing, all dancing ‘much needed white board in the local school’, very soon

The ladies who organised the fund raising lunch, play it dead cool and to abide by the charitable rules, decide for some reason NOT to count the money at the table in the restaurant, but to count it privately in front of a chosen few.

Don’t get me wrong, the fundraising ladies are doing a fantastic job, but I have to point out here that we were in fact the only people in the restaurant at this point, it wasn’t like we were in Maccy D’s in Dalston, the risk of a mugging was fairly remote.

The results of the count up were to be posted on Facebook (where else) and I found this hilarious; anyone would think it was some kind of haul, to be tipped out of a swag bag and counted over candle light, somewhere in a dark tunnel. Talk about making a drama out of a whip round, it’s a wonder Securicor wasn’t summoned to oversee things.

Later that night, the scores on the doors were indeed freely available for all to see, and it turned out, that with 24 people in attendance, the 4 course fundraising lunch that cost just 9e per person (including wine) raised just 98e for that ‘much needed white board for the local school’.    H60 Purse strings.

 WHAT THE FUCK?

I personally put in 10e of that, which left 88e, raised between the 23 others.

Now YOU do the sums!

At this rate, it looks like Maria and Jose will be using chalk and a slate for some considerable time yet. Bless their little sombreros.

And visit number 4 to the same restaurant?

Surprise, Surprise, it had the lot, tears, laughter, camera’s and the very same Paella, BUT the very same 4 course menu (including wine) costs 3e more in the evening.

Bloody Hell, I won’t see the whiteboard fundraisers there after dark then

Charity swear box

THE DOG THAT DIDN’T COME BACK!

What could be nicer on a sunny afternoon in Spain, than going for a walk with your neighbour, and her dog?  Well, as it turned out, I can think of a few things that would have been preferable.

I was missing Buddy, as we’d been apart for nearly two weeks, while he waited for his coach trip to Spain to join me, so this seemed like a good way for me to get back into the dog walking spirit of things.

My friends dog is called Paddy, and he is more than a 10p mix up of Collie, Staffy, Labrador and I reckon  a Great Dane is lurking in his gene pool somewhere too as he’s nearly bigger than his owner, but then to be honest that’s not difficult either.

PADDY

PADDY

Paddy is  a lovely, very lively boy, and we’ve reached an understanding whereby I completely ignore him, till he stops jumping up and trying to kiss my nose every time I walk in the door. It’s a battle of wills, but I’m winning.

After Paddy had done his usual pre ‘walkies’ dance, where he jumps all over the sofa so hard that the sofa has no choice but to move, followed by a bit of boisterous leaping around on just two of his very long legs, accompanied by some hysterical squeaking, we were finally on our way.

In front of Sandra’s house there is a large expanse of scrubland, full of ‘interesting’ nooks, crannies and rabbit holes. From the top of a hill it drops down to a quarry like area, which is quite deep.

Now apparently, Paddy runs around this area more than a few times a week, so he’s very familiar with it, and Sandra assures me that when he’s let off the lead, although he runs and runs, he always comes back.

NOT THIS TIME SANDRA!

After a short ‘on lead’ walk round the road, we arrive on the scrubland and Paddy is let loose. Sandra and I carry on walking and for a short time we can see Paddy chasing around enjoying his freedom. But then he disappears.   Like, into thin air. No sign, Nada.

At first, Sandra begins to call him in quite a relaxed tone, but it reaches quite a crescendo after about 20 minutes, as it’s now pretty obvious the boy’s done a runner, and when Sandra gets slightly more frantic, the F word echoed around the quarry.

My long range eye sight is pretty good, and as I scanned the area where Paddy had disappeared, there was absolutely no sign of him. No movement in the bushes, no wagging tail, no hint of a dog.

We could, however, hear dogs barking in the distance, and one of them did indeed sound very deep and intimidating, just like Paddy in fact.

At this point, I'm standing at the far left on top of the hill....

At this point, I’m standing at the far left on top of the hill….

So as it was clear his recall button was not working that day, and he wouldn’t be coming back to his owner any time soon, she set off back down the very steep hill to get into her car to follow the bark.

I watched all this unfold from my vantage point at the top of the hill where I was waiting, just in case Paddy should decide that he was tired with all this tomfuckery and wanted to go home.

Now we all have defining moments don’t we and I had several during the next 40 minutes or so, which as any dog owner will tell you, is a VERY long time when a dog has disappeared.

My first ‘moment’ came whilst standing on my own, in the middle of bloody nowhere in complete silence, waiting for a dog to return to me that wasn’t even mine.

WTF am I doing waiting for a dog that doesn't even belong to me ?

WTF am I doing waiting for a dog that doesn’t even belong to me ?

I had a WHAT THE FUCK am I doing thought and marched back down the hill to where Sandra had now returned in her car. Still minus her dog.

There was, at this point a slight domestic going on, when Sandra had to impart the news to her husband Tony, that the dog had run off.

With the questionable wisdom of an octogenarian, he sagely commented, ‘Well if he doesn’t come back, he’ll probably get run over’, which I didn’t feel was particularly helpful given the circumstances, and I told him so.

We were about 50 minutes into the pursuit of Paddy when I happened to glance up to the top of the hill and there he was standing in the sunshine, like some majestic statue of a Spanish Bull.

Mr and Mrs Paddy went into overdrive.  Sandra was calling him like he was her long lost son, whilst Paddy’s Daddy had adopted a tone of voice which would have said to the daftest of dogs, ‘You are in the deepest shit when you get home’.

Talk about mixed messages!

Meanwhile Paddy refused to budge, and stayed put on the hilltop, with something of a ‘you’ve got to be joking’ stance.

I marched purposefully indoors and got a box of dog biscuits, and put some distance between me and the confusing doggy parents.

Gradually as I shook the box of bikkies, Paddy took some tentative steps and began making his way back to me.

Then all of a sudden, just when you think things cannot get any worse, Tony gets over confident with his dog whistle and is manically blowing it like he’s at West Ham on Cup Final day.

Meanwhile, Sandra has adopted Tony’s previous Mr Angry Tone and is telling him to stick the bloody whistle where the sun don’t shine.

Finally, Paddy is within grabbing distance and I slip the lead over his head and ‘encourage’ him fairly firmly that it would be in his own best interests to get his arse back inside the house, as I’m now really pissed off with his ‘I’ll come back when I’m ready’ attitude.

It’s clear he’s had a bit of an argument with a thorn bush, or something extremely prickly, and looks a bit bruised and battered. His nose and paws are streaked with blood and he’s acting very sorry for himself whilst having a minor panic attack.

OUCH!

OUCH!

Sandra puts on her best vet’s uniform and sits down on the floor with Paddy trying to calm him down.

I decide too many dog lovers in one room will spoil the dog, and after all this  I’m in desperate need of alcohol, so I decide to leave the building.

But not before Tony appears minus his friggin whistle and delivers his most memorable line of the day……

‘Oh Sandra, that dog will be the death of you’

 

THE BOXES AND THE BOY ARRIVE!

After taking up residence in Mi Casa, the next few days were busy, finding the nearest supermarket and stocking cupboards with wine.  Jane in Spain 3 (2)

Always good to get your priorities right no matter where you happen to find yourself.

A Macmillan Coffee morning, which turned into more of a Sangria morning, followed the next evening by a lovely event sampling Tapas made at home by the locals, and sold from stalls set around the village square, with the proceeds going to the village charity.

There were hundreds of people sitting out in the warm, late September evening, and children played together long into the night, all under the watchful eye of the collective grown-ups.

I didn’t see ONE of the kids glued to an iPad or iPhone. They were playing football, riding bikes and scooters. The younger girls were laughing together, and having girly gossips, and all were popping back to Mum and Dad at regular intervals for a drink. They were engaging with their friends and families.

And even on this darkest of nights, in a far off  land, not one of the children was abducted, nor broke a limb despite playing out till midnight, and they all survived being without their technology!

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To continue my quest for perfect timing, I purposely didn’t want my 3 large boxes to arrive until I had moved into the apartment and got a bit more organised.

I knew from past experienced that once collected, it would only take a couple of days for them to turn up.  But although the online booking system was happy to take my details and money to collect 1 box for Spain, 3 of them was clearly, 2 boxes too many,  and it took many frustrating attempts to get a ‘your items will be collected on’’ confirmation.

Even then I had to rely on the lovely Roz and Jenny to oversee things, and hope from afar that our usual dreadlocked UPS driver, wouldn’t gate crash a wedding when he collected them.

Thankfully, in the end, about 3 ‘working days’ later, they all arrived safe, but a little battered at the local Mailpoint office in the village and all that remained was for Sandra and myself to drive down in her little Fiesta and collect them.

Now it’s one thing for a young, fit and hunky UPS man to load 3 very heavy boxes into his truck in Essex, but it’s quite another for a couple of 60 something females ( one of whom makes Warwick Davies look reasonably tall ) who are both happy to be complete strangers to the gym, to manoeuvre 30kg or so of assorted knickers, books, pots and pans and fairy lights into a very small car in Spain.

Not to mention short but potentially hazardous steep flight of stairs leading up to my front door.

IMG_0930

I can tell you we were literally GASPING for alcohol after such an exhausting experience,… and I took the heavy end.

So now with what remained of my worldly goods haphazardly stacked in the hall way, the only thing missing was the dog.

One of the other questions I was asked over and over when people got to hear that I was off to Spain was, ‘what are you going to do with Buddy’’.

I was tempted to reply that I was intending to A) sell him on eBay too, as it was my go – to destination to offload unwanted items. B) Tie him to the gates of the nearest RSPCA gate with his blanket and a ‘please look after me’ note pinned on it, or C) for the shock value, dispatch him to doggy heaven.

Seriously, are people genuinely that bloody daft even to ask the question.  Curiously the same people seemed quite amazed by my eventual truthful answer, as they didn’t even know, that the option of getting Buddy to Spain by professional pet courier, even existed.

In my absence, as I was already in Spain, Buddy was carefully loaded onto the pet coach by his much loved pet- sitter, Maria, and she handed over my boy into the capable hands of Steve and Sharon from Transpet, who (along with several other 4 legged furry friends), would be driving Buddy from the UK to Spain.   www.trans-pet.com/

This is a journey Buddy has done with them before and having thoroughly researched all potential Pet Couriers some 5 years ago when I first bought him into the UK, I know they are the mutt’s nuts of their profession.

Buddy arrives at his destination either in the UK, or Spain with absolutely no signs of stress or any ill effect from the journey.   IMG_0951

Unlike some other couriers, the Trans-Pet vehicle has its own sleeping area for Steve and Sharon, and they never leave the animals unattended.  Whereas I recall another pet courier telling me that the dogs are left locked in their van overnight in a secure Hotel car park because, I quote ‘the driver needs his sleep as it’s a long journey’.

And so a few days ago my bouncy boy arrived at my door in Spain, full of beans as usual, and he was just a little bit pleased to see me!

He promptly ‘christened’ the garden, gave the place the once sniff over, and within 5 minutes had found his special look out spot and was dozing in the sun.

Now, after 8 WIFI less days, if only we could get the internet restored, as easily as I’ve accomplished these other far more difficult jobs, life would be perfect.

But then, this IS Spain!

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THE SPANISH ADVENTURE BEGINS!

As everyone who knows me will tell you, although my head has been in Essex for the past few years, my heart has always been firmly in Spain – and not always in a romantic kind of way – far from it.

Having spent 10 or so years there, on and off, I know that not only do I love the country, I love the way of life and the fact that ( trust me on this ) no matter what anyone tells you, it is so much cheaper to live there than in the UK.  And the warmth, the blue sky, the light, the air, all just make you feel so much better somehow. Maybe it’s an age thing. Who knows. Who cares!

And so with all this in mind, for Jane Walters, aged 62 ¾, it is time for another adventure

I won’t lie to you, leaving some things behind is a bit of a wrench. My lovely girls, my gorgeous boys, missing them all goes without saying.

But I also loved my job at what must be one of the most stunning wedding venues in Essex, and all that goes with it.  What’s not to like!

I will miss my bright and breezy colleague Jenny, who tired me out every Monday morning, with her tales of how manic her weekend had been, whilst we ate our respective lunches. Her weekends, and her lunches were always so much more interesting than mine.  I loved our chats and we had so many laughs, collusions and secrets that were never secrets in the first place!

I couldn’t have wished for a nicer lady to spend my office hours with. IMG_0751

Then there is the lovely Paul who gave the best hugs ever. I spent many hours chatting with him about the highs and lows of wedding venue life. Paul’s major rants were only surpassed by his major schmoozing, which accounted for most brides falling in love with him on their wedding day.

Oh the irony……..oh those hugs!

And last but not least, I will miss Roz, who has no bloody idea how truly gorgeous she is. Stunningly pretty, a drop dead gorgeous figure and a smile that can light up a room, she deserves the absolute best of everything, but is oblivious to how fabulous she actually is. If you are lucky enough to be in her life, make sure you cherish her girls and boys …..Or else!

But everything has a shelf life and after 2 years of doing weddingy things, several ‘coincidences’ meant I found myself with the option of a 6 month rental on a lovely 2 bed apartment in Spain, and a little part time job into the bargain.  How could I refuse?

And so after selling up half my life, and packing up the other half into 3 massive cardboard boxes, here I am in Spain – again. But this time it’s just me and my dog Buddy, no excess man baggage.

So fuelled mainly by Rioja, let the adventure begin.

When the initial seeds were sown about the move to Spain it seemed ages away. But as 12 weeks dwindled to 6, I realised I had 2 years’ worth of ‘stuff’ to offload.

Two sofas, a fridge, a cooker, washing machine, not to mention my beloved Laura Ashley bedstead. Storage costs are notoriously expensive, so it all had to be rehomed.

I was amazed at the same question I heard over and over, ‘but what about your furniture, what will you do with it?’ – err – sell it of course.

My response probably seemed quite flippant, but as my lovely duck egg blue leather sofas and my cream wrought iron bedstead were both eBay purchases in the first place. If I should ever find myself incurably homesick, and need either of them again, I’ll find just as good, if not better on Ebay or Gumtree.  It’s just everyday ‘stuff’, I wasn’t emotionally attached to any of it.

And so the sell off began.

One lovely chap bought both my sofas, he’d just got a new flat and not a single thing to put in it. Other purchasers rocked up on a daily basis after successful bids on auction sites, and making me offers that I couldn’t refuse. I helped load a cooker into a car that was far too small for the load, and tied a fridge on a roof rack.

Another lady drove off with a chest of drawers hanging dangerously out of the back of her car, and she was hemmed in all ways round by the 6 drawers that accompanied it.

I kissed goodbye to books and clothes at a car boot sale and reduced the contents of my 2 bedroom rented cottage down to fit into 3 cardboard boxes that would be sent by courier to Spain.  IMG_0768

Next came the car; a timely parting as after 8 years of half-hearted TLC it was beginning to complain, and money would need to be spent in the not too distant future.

But with a full years MOT and good marketing on my part, its happy new owner drove it off into the sunset (rain actually) the day before I left. Perfect timing.

It’s a very strange but oddly liberating experience not having a set of keys, to absolutely anything, in your bag   No car keys, no house keys.

After a bit of a rowdy flight from Stansted to Murcia my friend Sandra was at the arrivals gate to meet me and on cue had a large jug of her special Sangria brewing, and after a short pit stop at her place, within 36 hours of arriving in Spain I was in residence in Mi Casa.

Everything so far had gone without a hitch but there’s always something that bites you on the bum or in my case, there was nothing to put on my bum.  On closer inspection of the contents of my small carry on suitcase, I realised that I had arrived in Spain knicker less.

Yes every single pair of big pants, small pants and lucky pants, were sealed inside the aforementioned 3 cardboard boxes back in Essex.

Well as we all know, you can take the girl out of Essex, but you can’t take Essex out of the girl and in the absence of a Marks and Sparks, in such an emergency, there was only one place to go.   IMG_0880

PRIMARNI

Off we trundled the next day to a shopping mall at La Zenia, and a few branded paper carrier bags later, the knicker emergency was over, and drawers were restocked.

Apart from the 3 infamous cardboard boxes, the only other thing that was missing was Buddy ~ but he was on his way!