Archive | February, 2015

Chickens, carts and chainsaws

23 Feb

So here we are 2015 and already I have had a few reminders from various people regarding my very neglected blog. It’s the time old excuse that I’ve just been incredibly busy! However, with the threat of pointy weapons at my back and in general not wanting to be nagged into a coma, I’ve decided to start posting again.

Quite a few of you were interested in what I got up to when I went away last year to Spain, and although I did catch up with a few of you individually, I will admit that perhaps there was more to tell, and so at the risk of destroying any small remaining belief in my sanity, I’ve decided that this is where I should start my blog up again.

My jolly to Spain was my second holiday of 2014 (Paris being the first) but this time I was joined by my mum and nan, staying at my nan’s villa in rural Spain.

Now when I say rural please understand this is no exaggeration on my part, I’m talking still using a horse and cart, no wi-fi/phone signal, questionable traffic crossings and no English language kind of rural. The kind of place where no tourist dare venture, and where someone pale and red headed as me is looked on by the locals as some strange exotic animal (believe me you kind of get used to it after a while).

It’s one of the few places you could say ‘Facebook’ out loud and elicit a blank expression from the locals, one because they are all predominantly my nans age and two, because the only internet café in town (also doubling as a shoe shop) was closed due to lack of use and apparently (so I hear from the one person who does speak English in the area) a shoe being jammed in the printer.

It was my first holiday in over six years with my family (I usually go away with my friends) and despite being buried in my adolescence along with electric blue eye shadow and a hideous old Reebok jumper, the memories of my childhood holidays were still very prevalent in my mind. I must be a glutton for punishment, but I was curious as to whether the adult experience would be any better.

My first realisation that the holiday would be one of those ‘experiences’ I tend to ‘enjoy’ in my life, was a slightly panicky call to my gal pal Kelly (also going away that evening) at 11pm trying to cram two weeks’ worth of items into an already over stuffed piece of hand language, that once use to be a rather nice handbag. I actually took her at her word when she suggested wearing everything I could on the plane (since mum refused on principle to let me pay for my own suitcase, not wanting to ‘put more money in the pockets of those bastards Ryan Air’ as she conservatively put it’). Let’s just say I was the warmest person on a flight of the dammed.

Every family holiday we have a tradition that is somehow always adhered to whether we like it or not, we always start with an injury. On some of our more memorable holidays away, nan slipped head first on a marble floor and had to have her head stitched up with cat gut, whilst mum squealed in a corner. Another time she fell down a bunch of stairs whilst holding my hand (dragging me with her) and we were both carted off to the doctors battered, bruised and yes you guessed it, needing more stitches with cat guts. It was an odd comfort years later not to be disappointed, when mum christened our first day with a black eye after falling arse overhead. (These are two women who use to stagger around all holiday in five inch stilettos, so it’s not exactly a surprise when one of them ends up on the floor). So mum sported a fetching bloomer on her face all holiday and nan and I looked like we were beating her up.

Mum and nan continued to amuse day three in, when driving back after a nice dinner out up the dirt track towards the villa, out of nowhere mum let out a fairly horror movie like scream causing nan to slam the brakes on and knock the switch for the headlights. Leaving mum still shrieking and nan fumbling for her asthma pump in pitch black. (You really come to appreciate the UK street lamps when staying at my nan’s sometimes).

My nan has never been the most confident driver, particularly when abroad and unfortunately my mother is that rare combination of bossy yet shrieking side passenger. Whom on more than one occasion has almost caused me to drive into a ditch (sometimes just to end the torture upon my poor shot nerves) so you can imagine the fairly heated discussions that occur with holiday driving, especially on this occasion where she had almost given us all a heart attack over a chicken running across the track.

Twenty minutes of fruitless searching for the headlights switch in a car as foreign to us as Spain, with only the light of my ipod to help, I was sent to walk up the dirt track to the villa to get a torch, returning to guide the car up the track where they would deal with finding the switch in the morning.

Feeling a bit like an extra in a horror movie about to make a fairly grizzly end, I made my way up the track using my ipod and the clucking of errant chickens to guide me. But in the end it was my mum who got the final scare, as half way back down the track she was screaming again, an overly precocious chicken making the most of its opportunity in the dark, had paid final insult and pecked her on the leg.

Animals are very much a part of all of my childhood holidays (although I will admit chickens don’t usually feature). Some of my earliest holiday memories, injuries aside, are of going around feeding all the stray animals. My nan and I feeding stray cats in Greece, attempting to re-home a little dog found in Majorca and sneaking a stray cat into our hotel apartment in Tenerife. It’s as much a part of my childhood as school and pubs. Which is why I wasn’t surprised that on day five we adopted two beautiful dogs, (we named Rocky and Lady) the cutest dog couple South of Seville. We continued on this way much through the rest of the holiday, with nan carrying cat and dog food in her purse every outing, inciting an almost parade like following of every stray animal in town. Whilst this isn’t strange at all to myself, I always smile at the scandalised looks on the faces of the locals as we proceed to feed every stray animal in sight, happily sharing a dinner table with every stray, whilst mum waves manically saying ‘gracias’ to everyone in near sight.Dogs

Both my mum and nan are fairly opposite to me, both quite raucous live wires when they get the chance and so one evening I opted out of a night out with my nan’s friend (the only person we know who can speak English and Spanish), who occasionally occupies a villa way down the track. Two am and they both stagger in not making a great deal of sense and mistaking the lilo for a bed, but just coherent enough to tell me they had arranged for us to join a town festival the next day with my nans friend Lyn.Party

I have to admit I was at first apprehensive going to a town festival where I knew no one, didn’t speak the language and stood out like a sore thumb, but if you know me then you’ll know that’s often the case wherever I go, and so I joined the locals in celebration of one of their saints days. We made our way up to the woods on the outskirts of town where it was being held and walking around the camp I was welcomed (as far as I understood) to join the party, sharing their food and later getting up to have a dance. It was pretty special and despite the fact I had very little idea of what was actually being celebrated, it was a fairly entertaining time. Before I made my way back home, I was invited to come out for a cart ride the next day with a local farmer called Paco and his beautiful mule.

I’m a bit of an equestrian nut and so despite the fact that I probably should have thought twice about going on a cart ride with an older man I had never met, in a foreign country where no one spoke English on my own, I still accepted and Lyn translated that Paco would pick me up on the cart the next afternoon.

CartPaco did pick me up in his cart that next afternoon and before I could even question how he had known where nan’s villa was (especially considering that I know just enough Spanish to order a beer, never mind give any kind of address out or directions) I jumped in and Paco and I were on our way.

Paco took me around the farmland first and through the vineyards, stopping to pick grapes and feed them to me. I will confess that people feeding me from their hands is one of my pet hates but when in Spain and all, it was only after eating them I realised they were unwashed and I was probably now home to a very happy parasite.

We continued to make our way around the fields stopping to pick some flowers and then much to my horror started driving the cart up a very steep uneven rocky path. The cart was wobbling and jolting very precariously and I won’t lie I clung white knuckled for dear life, remembering that I never did find my E111 card before I went away.

Still we made it up in one piece and I was rewarded with a spectacular view of the surrounding land and town. Other horses cantered alongside us in their fields and I enjoyed a bit of a Kate Winslet moment (depressingly without Leo) throwing my hands out to the sky. Paco later took me around the town and we stopped for a drink in his favourite bar (whilst I pondered if it was legal to drive a mule drunk) then went on to the local church for communion. (Seriously do not even ask how I get myself into these things I don’t know, but I’m probably a catholic now or something).

Just over two and a half hours later he dropped me back off at the villa, much to the confusion of my mum and nan who were trying to teach themselves how to say ‘my daughter has gone missing with a mule’ believe me they don’t cover that one in the phrase book.

As he rode off he winked at us and yelled out something in Spanish which Lyn later translated for me as ‘long live the women!’

Hmmmm…long live the women indeed.

The remainder of the holiday was mostly relaxing, bar a few worrying moments where nan insisted on getting the chainsaw out to try and trim the hedges and mum started a full on conversation with our dog at home over the phone. Upon arriving back in the UK I felt a mixture of post-holiday blues, relief at being able to wear something other than flip flops and slight concern as to what would be waiting for me at work.

Spain held a great deal of fun for me and amusingly I have just booked a holiday with my friends for a week away in the land of flamenco again, whilst I may not be going on  any cart rides again (I hope) or breaking out the chainsaws I’m sure I’ll find something to keep me entertained.

Viva Española! me

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