Writing

Living the dream… 3 months on

It was quite easy to leave England.  Or so I thought!  I had a home in the Algarve, and a ready made life, carefully nurtured over 15 years.  A variety of friends awaited, and activities to engage in.  I loved the place I was moving to.  You’ve seen the photos.  How could I not?  And yet… was the honeymoon over?

There was a certain euphoria in making the dream a reality.  Even saying goodbye to lifelong friends was done with gaiety, each one a celebration of our shared lives.  They could visit, couldn’t they?  And the same for my family, though not without a pang or two.  Everyone was excited and pleased for me.  The move went smoothly.  Fragments of my old life, packed in cardboard boxes, made its way overland to join me.  But when it arrived I was filled with dismay.  Much of it seemed irrelevant to my new life, here in the Algarve, squeezing our comfortable space till it felt cramped.  I closed the door on the second bedroom.  Avoiding it all.

I didn’t miss my old home in the UK, as I thought I might, but I did miss its warmth.  I had moved to a land of sunshine and blue skies, but the house was cold.  Designed to keep out heat in the summer, in the winter they are not so easy to keep warm.  Tiled floors, though beautiful, don’t help.  Out and about and busy in the daytime, I was happy enough, but returning home meant putting on extra layers of clothing.  The house is air-conditioned and individual rooms can be heated, but moving between them was uncomfortable, even with plug-in heaters.  I was miserable, and cross with myself besides.  Why was I not happy?  Everyone knew I was living the dream.

Language is so important to me.  I hide behind photographs, but I deal in words.  Somehow it hadn’t mattered when we came to our holiday home but, proudly obtaining residency, I felt inadequate and frustrated by my inability to converse freely with locals.  I still do, but I’m trying!

So much gloom!  Did you know?  Could you tell?  My life in pictures continued to shine forth at intervals.  I reinstated my Monday walks, reflecting the joy I still found in the amazing outdoors, but on a personal level I couldn’t quite find the idyll.  People here are kind, and my disorientation was noted.  We discussed heating issues, and others, and I was assured that the first year could be difficult.  The weight of expectation, perhaps?

Gradually I am getting there.  Most of the boxes are unpacked, and painting done.  With new settees and carpet our home feels comfortable and welcoming.  But I’m not flexible and adaptable.  Why didn’t I know that about me?  My husband has made the adjustment far better, and retained his much needed sense of humour.  And he can still make me smile.  How lucky am I?  Living in ‘almost paradise’.

Linking to Cathy’s Prose invitation, over on Wander.essence.

On Journey : Inflight blues

‘Excuse me… why are you polishing the window?’  The young man was tall and pale, squashed into his seat beside me on our Ryanair flight from Faro to Leeds.  That was how our conversation began.  I’ve had many on board exchanges over time, but this young man and his troubles really touched me.  I was at the back of the aircraft and my husband far away at the front, because we are too mean to pay the extra to sit together.  We can cope with separation for a couple of hours, and on this occasion I had the compensation of a window seat.  Which is how I came to be polishing my smeary window.

Glancing at him, I replied ‘Because I like to take photos’.  Fair haired and blue-eyed, he nodded.  ‘That makes sense’.  He seemed eager to chat and we exchanged a few details till he sat back, with a sigh.  I thought maybe he was an anxious flier.  We hadn’t yet taken off when he reached beneath the seat and pulled out a full sized wine bottle.  Glugging at it greedily, the flight crew still about to start the safety demonstration.  Time for some friendly advice!  ‘You’re not allowed to drink your own alcohol on board’, I said, feeling a bit hypocritical because, for the first time ever, I had purchased a small rosé in the Duty Free, intending to drink it with my sandwich.  He looked at me.  ‘I need it!’  In a polite, conversational way he explained to me that he has an addictive personality, currently using alcohol, and that he has an appointment with the family doctor in Leeds tomorrow to check him into rehab.

A moment later he was on his phone, to a friend.  I assumed it was a friend.  In close proximity it’s impossible not to overhear someone’s conversation.  I looked out of the window as we began to taxi along the runaway.  He was talking urgently to Tom.  ‘You are going to meet me?  You promised!  My Dad will give you a lift to the airport’.  Almost pleading.  He was near to tears when he switched off the phone.  Out poured the story.  He was gay, and it was hard to trust anybody.  His boyfriend was supposed to bring drugs to the airport to help him till he could see his GP, but he hadn’t got them.  He was desperate to give up alcohol because it was ruining his life.  He had been terrified they wouldn’t let him on the plane home if he was drunk, but his friends had helped him board.  He had spoiled their holiday because he had no self control.

The plane was now in the air, so all he had to do was appear sober a little while longer.  He was waiting anxiously for trolley service to begin, and we talked.  I felt so sorry for him.  25 years old!  I wondered how I could bear it if my own son was in his situation.  He said that he had a good family, and that they would help, if only he could get home.  The middle child, his siblings were successful.  He had managed to work sometimes, but had spent most of his life addicted to drugs, whatever he could get his hands on.  He’d tried to ‘give up’ numerous times.  This time it had to work because his life was completely out of control.

The lakes beside the River Guadiana

He’d been to the Algarve several times before and liked the place and the people.  He was interested in the landscape unfolding below us, and was amazed at the vast area of lakes along the border.  When the trolley pulled alongside he ordered 2 beers and a wine.  I asked if he should have something to eat but he said it was better this way.  He had to drink himself into oblivion and he would sleep.  He downed one can in seconds and slumped back.  Beads of sweat had broken out on his face.  ‘Are you alright, sir?’ asked the air hostess.  He struggled to answer, and she gently informed him that she wouldn’t be able to sell him any more alcohol.  I smiled, despite myself.  After a while he drank the small bottle of wine, and soon his eyes had rolled.  Unless it’s cloudy I’m usually glued to my window throughout a flight, but I couldn’t settle.  I kept watch as he slept, hoping he could make it through the flight.

He jerked half awake, and groped for the remaining can, spilling much of it in his haste.  A male crew member went past and gave him a disgusted look.  I felt defensive for him and wanted to explain that he couldn’t help it.  The stupor overtook him again, mercifully.  With 20 minutes to go, he woke.  The captain had just announced our descent and, with relief, he reached beneath the seat for the last of his wine.  The crew man was just passing back through the cabin, reached over and took it from his hands.  ‘I must have it!’, he protested, to no avail.

We talked some more.  I asked if he would need assistance to get off the plane and he agreed.  He gave me the name of one of his party, a girl, sitting much further down the plane and said he thought she would help.  When we landed, I climbed past him and went to seek the help of the crew man.  Though sceptical, he noted the details.  I went back to say my goodbyes, to wish him luck and to hope that he could get his life back in order   ‘You’re a really nice lady’, he said.  I so hope that his family have been able to help him.  He seemed a really nice boy.

I would probably have kept this sad story to myself if it hadn’t been for Cathy.  I thought it might work for her On Journey invitation, over at Wander.essence.  She has the makings of a novel over there, and much else besides.

A Bishop Auckland Revival

There’s a new bustle to Bishop Auckland these days, and it’s not before time.  It’s been a sad little place for the last many years, but finally someone has taken pity on it and started to breath new life into the dejected streets.  There’s still an impoverished look to the shops, in common with many of our high streets, but change is afoot.  In the vanguard, No. 42 leads the way with it’s fiercely pointy roof.  Describing itself as a gateway to both past and future, upstairs the Pod provides studio space to encourage artistic creativity.  And look!  The yarn bombers are about.

It all began with Auckland Castle, and a vision to turn it into a faith, art and heritage destination on an international scale.  Jonathan Ruffer, Chairman of the Auckland Project, has never lacked for ambition, but what is being achieved in Bishop Auckland is remarkable.  Back in 2014 I took you on a walk through the beautiful castle and grounds, with their distinctive Deer House.  A highlight of the post was the story of the paintings by Spanish master, Francisco de Zurbaran.  Auctioned for in excess of 15 million pounds, they were bought by Ruffer and the Trust he set up, to enable them to stay in Bishop Auckland.  They are soon to feature in a state of the art Spanish Gallery, opposite the new Mining Museum, on Market Square.  The castle is closed to the public and the gardens a bit of a mess until they reopen in December this year.  Meantime Kynren, a spectacular action show, taking you through 2000 years of history, will enliven the grounds again this summer.  I need to book a ticket.

The town isn’t lacking in history, having strong links with the Prince Bishops of Durham.  Surrounded by the mining industry until its decline, the town was once a railway hub and has an enormous entry in Wikipedia, for those who might be interested.  I’ll leave you with that happy chappy, Stan Laurel, who lived in the town as a child.  “Another fine mess you’ve got me into”.

Speaking of which, I didn’t have my camera that day, and had to improvise with some shots taken on my phone.  Scratches head!  You’ll get a better look around, and a peep at the paintings, on my original Auckland Castle post.

The 3 Day Quote Challenge #2

“Our happiest moments as tourists always seem to come when we stumble upon one thing while in pursuit of something else.” -crime fiction writer, Lawrence Block

Arbeia Roman Fort

Following on from yesterday’s post, this is my second response to Annika’s kind invitation to take part in The 3 Day Quote challenge.  Thanks, hon!

Now for the rules :

  • Thank the person who nominated you.
  • Post a quote on 3 consecutive days.
  • Share why this quote appeals so much to you.
  • Nominate 3 different bloggers for each day.

This quote is tailor made for me.  Anyone who follows my Monday walks will know that I’m the best ‘stumbler upon’ ever!  It’s not every day that you come across a reconstructed Roman Fort in the middle of a housing estate, now is it?  Whether I’m up the north east coast in South Shields, or poking about in the back streets of Jerez, I seem to have a penchant for stumbling.  Where next, I wonder.

My nominees?  Please join in, if you can.  No hurry to take part if you’re busy.

My lovely Greek friend, EfiSoul63 

Amanda at Something to Ponder About

And Nanette, The Grey Divorcee

See you tomorrow, with number 3.

 

The 3 Day Quote Challenge #1


“We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm, and adventure. There is no end to the adventures we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open.” – Jawaharial Nehru

I’m not a great one for quotes, nor indeed for challenges and rules, but when a very lovely lady plucks at my heartstrings… well, I can’t help but respond.  If it’s good enough for Annika Perry, who am I to quibble?  I’ve long admired her writing, which seems to flow effortlessly.

The rules :

  • Thank the person who nominated you.
  • Post a quote on 3 consecutive days.
  • Share why this quote appeals so much to you.
  • Nominate 3 different bloggers for each day.

Why this quote, from India’s first Prime Minister?  I’m always straining at the leash, to be somewhere else.  It’s a gentle reminder to self.  The world IS a beautiful place and I don’t always need to go beyond my garden to experience the wonder.  It’s all there, waiting for me.  A rhododendron, after the rain, my source of today’s delight.  Tomorrow?  Maybe a little further.

My nominees?  No hurry, ladies!  Join in if you’d like :

Tish, my Writer on the Edge

Sue, at Words Visual

And Pauline, who’s Living in Paradise

See you all tomorrow!

 

Jerez de la Frontera, Spain

What is it that draws you to a place?  It’s a good question that Cathy asks on her new blog, Wanderessence and one that I can’t resist answering.  I’m going to start with my most recent visit to a ‘new’ place, Jerez de la Frontera, but I will be returning to this challenge.

Drama and passion are two of the things that brought me to Jerez.  I’m sure I must have gypsy blood somewhere in the ancestry.  The rhythmic stamp of that foot and the proud arch of the neck has me on the edge of my seat, breathing suspended, totally in the moment.  Who wouldn’t travel for this?  Andalusia Day in Jerez, during the Festival of Flamenco.  All was quiet in the city as we arrived on this National Holiday.  Until we stumbled, by accident, into the Centro Cultural Flamenco Don Antonio Chacon, in search of food.  Five deep at the tiny bar, half of Jerez were assembled to watch the show, all chattering like magpies.  A hush fell as the artist took to the stage.  Looking out into the packed hall, he claimed his audience, all eyes upon him.  And then… the passion ignites!

Our lovely host, Alejandro, at La Fonda Barranco, said that he had guests returning year on year to take part in the festival.  And to sample the sherry, of course.  No visit to Jerez would be complete without tasting two or three.  Sherish (Xères) was the Arab name for this city, founded by the Phoenicians three thousand years ago.  The warm climate, with both easterly and westerly winds and soil that was once covered by the ocean, produces sherry, a unique, inimitable wine.  Manzanilla, Fino, Amontillado, Oloroso, Palo Cortado, sweet Pedro Ximenez… so many choices!

Something else unique to the city had drawn me here.  The Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Art trains horses from the age of three, and riders, to perform advanced dressage and Spanish horse riding, country style.  The culmination of their training is the show ‘How Andalusian Horses Dance’.  Performed to classical music, and to a packed house, this is pure equestrian ballet.  Beautifully groomed and beribboned, the horses demonstrate rhythmic trotting and the ‘Spanish walk’.  They twirl, leap and balance on hind legs, all in complete unison with their rider.

Photographs, understandably, were not permitted but I can share a little of the atmosphere and excitement in this video, which shows the beautiful palace and grounds as well as the arena.  I don’t think it would be out of place in a fairy tale.

This is only a small part of my Jerez story.  There’s a mighty cathedral, beautiful churches, bodegas aplenty, distinctive architecture and wonderful food.  I can’t wait to show you my sherry trifle!  But first it’s your turn to share.  What is it that draws you to a place?  Cathy would love to know.

Jo’s Monday walk : Bristol Blues!

The last time I was in Bristol was to see the highly spectacular Balloon Festival.  It had been my first visit to the city and I was quite keen to take an introductory walking tour.  Due to the volume of people in Bristol for the festival, in glorious August weather, the tour had been cancelled.  Little did I know then that I would have another opportunity.  But this time was very different.  The sky was an unrelenting grey, rather matching my disconsolate mood, and my weekend seemed to be unravelling around me.

You see, I had made a surprise visit for an 80th birthday party.  I flew into Bristol at 8 in the morning, and had the whole day ahead of me.  I had planned to spend it with my lovely friend, Gilly.  Not only was Gilly sadly unable to meet me, but I had neglected to bring with me a vital contact number.  I had no means of getting to the party.

Leaving Bristol bus station, I wandered into the city, trying to formulate a plan.  As so often, my camera came to my rescue and I started to observe my surroundings.  Bristol is well known as the birth place of Banksy and the wave of street art that took Bristol by storm in the 1980s.

I’m always ambivalent about street art.  Some, I hate.  Some, I love.  In this case it was a welcome distraction, highlighting good and bad in the city.  I especially felt for the semi-derelict St. John on the Wall church, on Broad Street.  Posters on the rusted grills covering the windows advertised for volunteers to enable the church to continue to be opened to visitors.  600 years of history hidden from view.

I was hopeful that the Tourist Information office might come to my rescue.  The battery on my ancient cell phone was fading fast and I needed somewhere that I might connect to the Internet. The phone number I needed was on Messenger.  At 9.30 on a Saturday morning the TI was still closed, but I had a map from my previous trip.  The Central Library appeared to be just behind the Watershed, where I now stood.   A spark of hope propelled me in that direction.

The sky maintained a dreary grey as I bypassed Millennium Square with its lofty wheel.  Bristol Science Centre held promise of an interesting haven from the cold, which I might need later. Crossing over the road I headed uphill towards the Cathedral spires.  The Abbey Gatehouse provided a welcoming entrance to the Cathedral grounds and the adjoining library.

10am was opening time for the library.  I turned my gaze upon the grand countenance of the City Hall buildings on College Green.

City Hall is a grade II listed building, the seat of local government in Bristol since 1956.  I had paid it scant attention on my last visit, when rain had driven me to the bosom of the Cathedral. I still had time in hand for a swift return to the lovely cloisters.

At 10 o’ clock precisely, the doors to the Central Library admitted me.  I was totally astounded at what I found inside.

Opened in 1906, the grade 1 listed Central Library was built on land adjacent to the gatehouse of St. Augustine’s Abbey, or Bristol Cathedral. Charles Holden, the architect, has created an Edwardian building that filled me with reverence.  Quietly I mounted the sweeping stairs, from the marbled entrance to the reference library.  Chandeliers dangled from the vaulted glass ceiling, between 2 tiers of galleries crammed with books. The history of Bristol was all around me.

To my enormous relief, there was an alcove where I could plug in my phone, and in a little while had found the number I needed.  There was a temptation to stay cocooned in the library, but it was time to set forth.  I had thought I might visit the botanic gardens at the University of Bristol, but the weather was still unsettled.  The TI was now open, of course, and there were leaflets outside proposing a number of walks.  Banksy perhaps? Just as I was contemplating coffee, I realised that the 11 o’clock walk that I had missed on my previous visit was all set to go. It was meant to be…

The funny thing was that my historic walking tour retraced many of my steps.  Back to Millennium Square, where we discussed Bristol and shipping, overlooked by the globe-shaped Planetarium.  Up to the Cathedral and College Green, this time with highly informative Ken, who covered the slave trade, imports of tea and Fry’s Chocolate factory.  Dates were affixed to the many beautiful architectural details.  While I very much enjoyed having company, one thing of significance did happen.  I had seen an illustration of a Banksy entitled ‘Well Hung Lover’, about which I was curious, but had no idea where to find it.  Would you believe that it was barely two steps from where I had been previously, that morning?

At the junction of College Green with Park Street.  You might have noticed that a watery sunshine was beginning to brighten the skies, and my spirits lifted like the prancing unicorn on the top of City Hall.

The tour continued past the huge old warehouses where Bristol Sherry used to be stored, down to St. Augustine’s Parade and the art deco Hippodrome Theatre, beloved of Cary Grant.  Back to the Floating Harbour and the incredible story of how the river was diverted to ensure that Bristol’s life force, trade and shipping, could continue to prosper.

Huge Queen Square next, and it’s grand Georgian houses.  The Bristol Riots took place here in 1831 and almost 100 of the buildings were burned to the ground.  They’re a feisty lot, Bristolians.  As we looked towards the Bristol Old Vic theatre, currently undergoing renovation, a tribe of Norsemen and their ladies stomped past.

Past the Welsh Backs, and a wonderful jazz pub, ‘The Old Duke’, honky tonk music tripping off the keys.  Our tour ended at St. Nicholas Market, where you can purchase almost anything your heart desires in the lovely old Exchange building, or outside on the busy street.

It was definitely time to take the weight off my feet and I found the perfect venue,  The Cosy Club.  Yet another grade II listed building, and a former bank, the ceilings romped with art and the music had my toes tapping.  A comfortable banquette was my resting place for the next couple of hours. And then it was time to head for the party!

I hope you enjoyed my wanderings in Bristol.  So did I, after a bad start.  If you saw my Six word Saturday you’ll know how the party went.

Definitely time for a cuppa, isn’t it?  I have some wonderful walks to share with you, again. Many thanks to all of you who take part, and to you comfy armchair types too.  If you’d like to join me, details are on my Jo’s Monday walk page.  I’d love it if you could.

……………………………………………………………………………………………

What a privilege to be joined by Tish AND a gardening legend from our past!

Tulips’ Last Hurrah And A Gardening Legend

And if anyone can put a beautiful post together, it’s Debbie :

A Flowering Island

Wander back in time with Drake :

Historical flashback

Nice to see old traditions still observed, but with a modern twist.  Thanks, Lady Lee!

Maypole- raising

What’s Jackie up to this week?

Day 5- So Cal- Solvang 

And where would we be without Woolly?  Still serious this week :

Jo’s-Monday-Walk-Wk18-Anzac-Day-2

Enjoy the gentlest of ‘potter arounds’, with Susan :

Walking Small 

And a sequence of reminiscences and beautiful wistfulness, with Meg :

One tree beach

Eurobodalla beaches : One Tree Beach (the north end)

Delighted to be tiptoeing through the bluebells with Elaine.  Today I’ll be bluebell-ing in Durham, weather permitting :

Bluebell time

While Eunice shows us England’s green and pleasant land in all its beauty :

A woodland walk

My lovely friend, Cathy, is walking marathons around Japan, making the most of her time there :

From Tokyo station to the Imperial Palace Outer Gardens, topped off by a beer garden in Hibiya

That’s all for now, folks!  Hopefully I’m off to count bluebells this morning.  Have yourselves a great week!