This time two years ago, so Facebook reminded us, we were walking in the mountains above the Lecrin Valley in shorts and short-sleeved shirts. My daughter Lucie had come to stay for the first time, the sun was shining and the weather was still warm enough for lovely outings.
This year, what a marked difference! Winter is already here, with first snowfalls arriving in October. It was a couple of weekends ago that we tried to go for an autumn walk for that walk to be curtailed by the moody presence of solid grey clouds scudding in from the north bearing a load of the white stuff. The Sierra Nevada now looks magnificent in its winter plumage, both against any blue sky or piercing through dramatic cloud formations. The summer shorts have most definitely been packed away.
There has been a brief hiatus in our lives of late. Firstly, we have changed the builder working on our project, and this was a decision we made with very mixed feelings. Juan came recommended by the ayuntamiento (the town hall), and his skill is in structure and concrete, so he was an ideal choice for the initial part of the build, which involved excavating large amounts of rock and then constructing a framework with reinforced concrete. However, it seemed that Juan worked in a very old fashioned way, and couldn’t quite come to terms with the contract that itemises every minute detail and cost of the project. This disconnect caused frustration for our architects and the quantity surveyor charged with monitoring both costs and standard of work. As the structural part of the build came to an end, it seemed to be the best time to make a change for a builder that might be more sensitive to the finish of such a project, and who may be more inclined to stick to the contract.
We can’t say that this has been a comfortable time, as we both liked Juan as an individual, but we placed our trust in our architects and our quantity surveyor, as we know they have our best interests at heart, but these decisions are never easy. So, our lovely future home has been sitting there forlornly, waiting for the new builders to start, and activity should recommence on Monday, all being well. The change meant an unexpected juggling of finances as we had to settle one builder’s invoices before committing to the first payment for the new builder, but then that is life.
I was chatting to a radio guest this week, recording a programme for my Life Stories radio show, and this guest has set up a support group called Sober Bliss to help people who may want to rediscover a life without alcohol. The guest recounted her own story of her own use of alcohol as a way of escaping, or coping with life’s challenges. For lunch, we drank sparkling water with our pizza for fear of venturing onto the slipper slope! Of course life throws up challenges; it always does, and just because we live in a gorgeous part of the world, and consider ourselves extremely lucky, we still have to make decisions, earn a living and pay bills. It is hard to accept that, where we had optimistically hoped to be in our new home in time for Christmas, we have to concede that we may not be in much before March.
However, we must keep things in perspective. This past week has felt long, but it is but one week. In a matter of a day or two, we will very much be back on track and can then firm up all the plans we have for next year, and we have several exciting plans!
I mentioned the radio programme, and we have now set up a podcast to feature all these ‘Life Stories’ recordings. Over the past two years, we are fortunate to have met some very interesting people, many of whom have become friends. I was always fascinated to know more about why people come and make their homes here in Spain, the challenges they have faced and whether they have had any regrets, and through the programme I try to shine a light on those people who find themselves on the Spanish side of Brexit as we rapidly approach March 2019. These lives do give a great glimpse of the individuals caught up simply because they had the freedom, ability and desire to live in another EU member country. Without exception, no-one has ever said they regretted the move to live here in Spain, despite any problems they may have encountered. We can both say that we, too, have not once regretted the decision to leave the UK behind for our own new life in Andalusia, and continue to love it wholeheartedly.
We have new plans for Granada Concierge, our fledgling travel business. As of next year, we will be offering a programme of creative courses for people who want to immerse themselves in a rural community, learn a new skill, and get inside the culture, history, colours and flavours of this wonderful corner of Spain. So, we hope to be running a Flamenco course, a traditional Andalucian cookery course, yoga, botanical painting and writing and illustrating children’s books. Through these courses, we aim to bring visitors to both our village and Granada, and to include villagers in the programmes - either cooking, or as audiences for Flamenco performances. The village is an ideal base from where the independent traveller can discover something about the Andalucian way of life.
It’s worth mentioning at this stage that Andrew and I are 4 weeks into our own 10 week course of Flamenco lessons! Following the success of our sell-out performance at our wedding, we felt compelled to sign up to a further course of lessons with the fabulous Natalie. I mentioned this fact to the children whose response, based on this evidence, was that “the whole world had gone mad”. We will keep you abreast of our progress…and if you fancy a Flamenco course holiday you can register your interest now!
By way of further integration in our village, I recently submitted a proposal to the Asociacion de Mujeres, the local Women’s Association and a powerful body indeed. The proposal was to teach English to any villager who wished to learn, and last week these classes began. Generally, the students are complete beginners, and of all ages, but it has provided both of us with a further gateway into village life, and getting to know our neighbours. It was also a joy to spend time with people brave enough to try to learn a new language from scratch.
Andrew still has a pipeline of book design work, so is holed up in a chilly bedroom, wearing fingerless gloves to keep his hands warm as he sits in front of a computer screen. We both plough on, working as much as ever, and occasionally need to remind ourselves that it is all a means to an end. Last weekend, when the sun came out and the temperature lifted a little, we left the house and clambered up the nearest craggy hill. Walking through the surrounding countryside, then scampering up through huge rocks to the summit provided us with a crow’s nest of a location, with 360 degree views of a spectacular nature. These was no noise; the Sierra Nevada, iced with snow, hung like an unlikely theatrical backdrop for some extravagant production of The Sound of Music. Colours shifted, the air was soft and the sun warm, and then we remembered why we love it here and how fortunate we are.