The Christmas Bit

Its only taken a couple of days to unload the van and try to find a home for everything.  I am ashamed to say that I have started a charity bag with my belongings.  Anything that needs hanging will probably have to go.  The cat is coming to terms with living near a dog – in 7 years she had never seen one until this summer.  She growls louder than the dog who totally ignores her and treats the place as her own.  I like to leave the door open and both the dog and the other cat wander in and out.  Mine has learned to eat her food or go without as Kitty loves to come in every morning and have a second breakfast.  If I am quick enough, I pick it up and put it on top of the microwave where neither of them can get to it.   With Christmas just around the corner any thoughts of getting in the van and even sleeping in it have been put on hold for the moment.  I am sad to say I might not get to do this until March as there is so much else going on before then.

The first few weeks in Spain have been spent doing domestic things.  With oranges being given to us from all directions we have made marmalade three times.  Seems so wrong to use fantastic eating oranges for marmalade when I am aware how much they cost back in the UK.  But there are too many to eat, and they have no keeping qualities as they are picked fresh and not waxed or preserved in any way.  Amazing flavours.  We have also been given loads of lemons – far too many for me to use in my gin unless I take up drinking in a big way.  I have also made Christmas cakes in a bid to sell them at a local Christmas Fair.  It is almost impossible to buy mixed dried fruit and peel.  So, have had to adapt my recipes to what I can get.  For the first time in my life I had to make my own almond paste as you can’t get marzipan out here.  This is the land of almond trees as well as citrus fruits and olives. I have been converted.  The taste is fantastic and the texture divine.  I will probably never buy marzipan ever again.


It’s the week before Christmas and we are off to Ireland to spend the holiday with the parents.  I am so looking forward to looking at the mountain from our holiday home – It is called Mountain View.  The car is stacked to the roof with Christmas goodies from Spain, the tree and decorations and the dog.  The drive up to Santander was uneventful but lovely although long.  We arrived at our pre-booked accommodation at 1730hours to find the doors locked and the place in darkness.  It would seem that the booking had been cancelled and had sent an e-mail to inform us.  Sadly, without Wi-Fi you can’t read an e-mail.  And it helps if you aren’t driving.  So, after a frantic call to customer services and a bus stop where I could pick up Wi-Fi, we were found a hotel in Santander that would accept a dog for the night with paying the difference in the booking costs.  Shame we didn’t get there until 2030hours.  But it was a lovely apartment.  Opposite a beach, a park and some lovely statues and fountains.  And for once it was furnished with real furniture which hadn’t come flat packed from the Scandinavian shop.  Santander has a lot more going for it than just the ferry port.

Well what a bumpy ride across the sea on board the Connemara.  The customs officer who had questioned me said that the crossing was going to be a smooth one.  He lied!.  Captains announcement was that they were expecting gale force winds and a rough crossing in the Bay of Biscay.  How right he was.  As soon as we reached open water the boat started to bounce around.  Decision was made by me not to drink gin or brandy that night.  Good decision although my morning coffee didn’t taste so good on the way up. But it didn’t stop the truck drivers who hit the bar before we left port and were still there the next morning it seemed.  It was a disturbed night and a very rough crossing.  We didn’t find out till lunchtime the next day that they had diverted in the night to avoid the worst of the storm and we were now delayed by about 4.5 hours and wouldn’t dock until nearly midnight.  But they did give us all a free dinner to make up for it.

Our holiday home in Kilmacthomas was lovely.  Absolutely enormous and was big enough to sleep 14 people.  Called Mountain View Lodge, it was set in the middle of green fields with cows for neighbours and we even had our own little donkey for Christmas.  Sadly the mountain was obscured by mist and low cloud just about every day but I did spot the summit briefly one day.  It looked stunning.  The parents enjoyed Christmas .  My dad had an open fire to play with so he was happy (he always liked playing with fire) mother was ensconced in a comfy chair for the duration so was also happy. We just kept plying her with the Spanish equivalent of Baileys.  And both dogs loved having so much space to play in.  All in all a good time was had by all.  Hopefully Brexit wont have a huge impact on the amount of alcohol which can be transported back and forth in a car – else it could be  a dry Christmas next year.

We left Ireland for Spain to get home in time for New Year. Happy to say the return journey on the Connemara was a lot smoother than the outbound trip with 2 nights on board.  I spent most of the day in the lounge situated at the front of the boat chatting to a couple from Ireland who were returning to Portugal.  And I was overjoyed to see pods of dolphins and porpoises throughout the day.  Sadly my attempts to photograph them were abysmal. I take my hat off to wildlife film makers and photographers who are able to capture animals in their natural habitat.  My phone really wasn’t man enough for the job and my reflexes weren’t quick enough.  Trouble is – I couldn’t get them to stand still long enough to get a decent picture.  Maybe next time. My previous encounter with a dolphin was in an artificial setting which I really didn’t like.  And anyone who knows me well will tell you how much I dislike fish.  (Yes I know they are mammals) But they were truly a brilliant site on that dull grey day

I mentioned earlier that we had been given lots of oranges which we used to make marmalade, but living in a rural community in Spain there is an informal system of give and take.  We have a goatherd who comes along the track outside our house a couple of times a week for grazing.  He came into the grounds one day when we left the gate unlocked and ‘trimmed’ our olive tree.  He uses this for goat food as they love the oils in the bark and leaves.  When he brought his trailer along to collect the branches he invited us along to get some lemons.  So we followed him with carrier bag in hand and he showed us to the nearest tree and invited us to pick our own.  And then told us to come back whenever we wished to pick some more. Was great in my gin.