|Who could not love Darwin ?|
What can I say ? The important part of my trip to the south of Spain, was not, actually, to see the beautiful Alcala la Real. It was to see Annie, Casa Rosales and Annie’s family, including Darwin.
After our guided tour around Alcala, where I must tell you, we had to stop at least a dozen times as Annie met and chatted in outrageously fluent Spanish with a former neighbour, or the parent of a child she used to teach, or a shop keeper she knew, we met Romy from school. We then went for tapas in a very unlikely looking bar. It is certainly a place I would have passed by without a second glance.
|Annie & Romy at the Tapas bar|
The food was incredible. We learned about the different tapas rules in Jaen, Granada and Cordoba provinces. If you are in Granada (or Jaen, but not Cordoba...nothing free there) and order a cold drink….ie, not a tea or coffee, you will get a small plate of tapas automatically. Places that offer tapas will also have a menu to order from. Annie chose for all of us (I thought Romy did - she certainly had a say in it all!)……and it was just amazing. The squid (calamares) and the pork in cumin (pinchos morunos) were absolutely perfect.
The plan was that after a nap back at Sam and Dave’s guest house, Mark and I would then drive out to Villalobos, with Romy guiding the way, travelling in our car, with Annie up ahead. We were to spend the evening at Casa Rosales and eat in the garden later on. All went well, except that the tiring drive, the day before, my shingles, (and my general ability to tire easily !) all meant that I was not really up to a long evening of chatting and eating. So, after we arrived at Villalobos, a quick tour of Annie’s amazing house, and a much shorter natter session than planned, I said I thought I should go back to the guest house to sleep ! (It is, of course, just possible, that my incessant talking and huge enthusiasm for my guests and my town could have exhausted you, Janice. I fully understand. I sometimes have this effect on people without shingles…)
When Drs and friends told me to listen to my own body, when I was first ill last year, I had no idea what they meant, or how to do it. Now I know. I can tell when I just need to stop and lie down, or sit for an hour doing nothing. So, despite desperately wanting to stay, we took note of my inner warning system and left.
It was the right thing to do, as the following morning, after a very long sleep, I felt fine. It is as if feeling well is perched on a narrow fence, and it doesn’t take very much to tip me over to the not feeling right side. The good thing about that is that if I take note of feeling off balance, I can regain that balance quickly, and all is well again.
We spoke with Annie on the phone after breakfast and planned another attempt at a prolonged visit to Casa Rosales. This time, all was perfect !
Mark and I did a few touristy things in the morning, in a nearby town ( a future blog, I suspect) and then went to Villalobos to see all the family, eat, play games, (but not Charades...Janice doesn’t do Charades) explore a little of the surrounding area and of course, put the world to rights through a considerable amount of nattering.
|Romy in front of Casa Rosales, by the perfectly positioned fire circle.|
FR ( more about him later) prepared the chicken on a stone ring barbeque in the garden, that had been positioned safely towards one side of the house…..but his father had visited and determined that the best place for this ring of firey stones should be right in the middle of the path between the front gate and the house……so that is where it is. (The logic being that where it was, it was a ‘fire-risk’. Now, where it is, it’s a health hazard because every trek from car to house involves walking around the barbeque….and remembering exactly where that is in the dark!)
Maybe FR’s father was perfectly right, as the chicken could not have tasted any better. It was accompanied by an exotic potato based salad that had a name I can’t remember, (ensalada rusa - or Russian Salad - happy to supply a recipe!) but FR declared it was the best Annie had ever made. We had tomatoes doused in out of this world olive oil, and life was good. We all, Annie, FR, Mateo, Ruy, Romy, Mateo’s friend who has been at college in Granada for a few weeks and was visiting, Mark and I sat around the table and enjoyed a veritable feast. Annie’s children were lively, amusing, delightful dinner companions, and we could clearly have sat there for several hours chattering away.
|My favourite collection of moulds....just waiting to be framed|
However, there were serious things to be done. Annie and I went upstairs and we considered a few matters that had been concerning us for some time. We looked at Annie’s chocolate moulds and discussed the best way to frame them. I had noticed a very interesting old frame just sitting out in the “ruin” ( stone out building that has so much potential, but is currently a woodshed come storage place)…….I am hoping to see the results soon. We looked at various bits of wall in the beautifully haphazard nooks and crannies that is Casa Rosales and identified a few spots where these pieces of Annie’s family history could reside. (FR isn’t convinced about the frame...I shall have to go ahead and convince him. Just trying to find a bit of ‘spare’ wall!)
The house is eccentric, and fabulous. It is on what seems like several different levels, in that the ground floor seems to (does!) go up and down in places between rooms, and then there is a main staircase taking you to the long white walled corridor upstairs, with more rooms and a few more nooks and crannies. In Annie and FR’s room, where she famously managed to install her hand made gothic bed, there is what I can only call some organic shelving. The shelves look as if they have emerged naturally from the stone walls and now accommodate many of Annie’s treasures. It turns out FR made them and they had not grown naturally over centuries. I was impressed.
|Annie with her treasure laden organic shelving|
After considering the importance of zentangling, and whether there is scope for organising a bloggers get together in Barcelona we eventually returned downstairs to discover what everyone was doing.
Mark and FR were putting the world to rights. FR is called Free Radical for a few reasons. It describes him perfectly, and Mark wallowed in enjoyment as they discussed the world’s problems, and particularly, education’s problems through both their perspectives. I imagine their values varied little, but possibly, their means of attaining their goals would be different. I had no need to fear that Mark would be bored whilst Annie and I continued to talk non- stop. (And don’t forget, sometimes, he’s a ‘Dangerous’ Free Radical! Not at the moment though, he’s being an absolute sweetie...hmm!)
Mateo, who from photos I have seen, has grown so much in recent months, went for a walk with his friend ( and Darwin). He wore a beautiful black leather jacket, and looked every bit , a handsome, young man, nearly ready to take on the world.
Romy and Ruy were keen to play a game, and after I explained that I was not a charades sort of person, we agreed on a card game that involved some memory work. We were about to start playing, when Mark came and saved the day. He played the game with Romy and Ruy, whilst Annie and I continued our important discussions. (Mark was a star, wasn’t he?)
My eyes had already darted around Annie’s house and captured some lovely images. In a way it was, as she said, a bit like finding a book you know. I had already heard so much about the house, and seen all the photos. So now, I was just filling in the gaps, and getting to know it better.
The bakelite telephone, the already mentioned organic shelves, the 1920s/30s tea set on the kitchen shelves, and a particularly good looking Sadler tea-pot all caught my eye.
|Annie's wonderful Sadler tea-pot. I love the colours.|
When I asked about the tea pot, Annie was delighted…she didn’t know she had a Sadler tea pot and when the children came into the kitchen she told them with great joy,
“I have a Sadler tea-pot”. (I still have no idea what this actually means but it felt right to be jolly pleased to have one!) To which the bewildered children responded by suggesting we have a cup of tea. So we did…. We had a tea party, and Romy supped her rather milkier than is usual version of a cup of tea with her little finger fantastically arranged in appropriate fashion. The tea pot belonged to one of Annie’s grandmothers and was full of memories, as was the hand painted tea set, which was so delicate and perfect for our posh tea party.
|Just look at Romy's little finger. The girl has style.|
Annie, Mark and I, then took Darwin for a walk. We didn’t go far as the weather was not particularly good. Rain threatened and we needed to dress for warmth. The land surrounding Casa Rosales is covered in olive groves as far as the eye could see. This use of land is comparatively new and has been developed over the last 20 years due to EU subsidies available for farmers who turned their land over to olives. We had noticed that for the last 100 kms of our journey south, there was nothing but olives planted on the hill sides. We wondered how some of them could ever be harvested as they were in such precarious positions on the sides of hills that were practically mountains. Apparently, the subsidies are given for olives planted….not necessarily harvested. (I might be pretty rubbish at dates and history, but I made it my business to understand a bit about the local economy…and well remembered, Janice!)
|Casa Rosales, with the "ruin" with so much potential on the left.|
|Casa Rosales,with rows of olive trees all around.|
We saw the mysterious shrine near the house, probably linked to the blue stone cross that is built into the walls of Casa Rosales. As yet Annie hasn’t been able to find out exactly what the shrine commemorates, but I have no doubt that she will !
|Although the shrine has this date on it, it also seems to commemorate something that happened in the 1950s. A puzzle for Annie to solve.|
We walked by the vegetable patches developed by some of the villagers…..more tomatoes than seemed possible, and squash starting to swell, lying on the ground. Darwin scampered off, returning, usually when called.
|The beautiful crockery that caught my eye.....and a few olives.|
I can now visualise Annie in her home, hurrying the children out of the door in the morning to get the school bus, sitting with her coffee, or possibly now with tea now that she knows her tea-pot has a name. I can see her amongst her jars of olives, oil, jams and chutneys. I can see her sitting under the pergola, zentangling. I can see her planning the garden developments and walking with Darwin, stopping to chat with her neighbours.
|Some of Annie's zentangled stones|
I think I can also see something of the future. Annie will be sought after. Her language skills are excellent, her networking skills have always been impressive, her interests, in art, music, science, the world in general are so varied and her knowledge about most of things ( except for dates) is well grounded. However, it is her approach to her new life that is completely infectious. Her curious mind, always questioning and learning, her passions and her delight in the different ways her family have adapted to their new life have been a joy to observe at close hand.
I suspect that by the time this blog is published, Annie will have been hunted down by various groups to work with them. Although she quite reluctantly withdrew from working last spring, in order to be there for the children……..I know she will find ways to continue to pursue her own interests, organise the family, be there for them in all the different ways they need her to be…..and be part of the larger community of Alcala, that she has come to love so much. (Amazing foresight, Janice. I have indeed been tracked down by a new language school...I am pondering taking on some work but will wait til I’ve been to England before making a decision. So far, no one has asked me to start up Zentangle classes but I’ve been working on my mother during her visit...)
It seemed ridiculous that we then had to part. The hugs that we had promised each other were too short. I was decidedly tearful as we drove back though Villalobos and towards Alcala. (Stop it...I am getting all emotional again as I read this.)We have said that reflecting on our time together would be rewarding, and writing this has made me feel very emotional again. (What is absolutely staggering is that you have written something that is so similar to what I too would have written about our time together - only, of course, I would saying wonderful things about you, your bravery, your incredible engagement with everything, your cheerful good sense and being a person I really enjoy being with. )Thanks for a wonderful time Annie…..and the next time needs to be soon. Certainly does - and again, so many thanks for coming. Soon, soon.