After a very wet spring …almost six weeks of heavy rain between March and May , slowing down the growth on the huerto and curtailing long hikes as our soil is a pale clay that turns walking boots into diving boots when wet…we made a promise not to moan about the inevitable long, hot summer! It has been difficult! Almost as soon as the rain stopped we had a very unseasonal heat wave at the end of May and first two weeks of June. Temperatures reaching 37 on one day!
Our visitors have started to return beginning with Walt’s brother and his wife. They all escaped on motorbikes to the Picos de Europa while I stayed in my cave, teaching and walking Rocky before 7am.. it was a bearable 18 or 19 degrees until around 9 then up it would crank again! It is a good feeling however seeing the sun come up and we are much earlier risers now than in the winter. The problem is however that to enjoy dinner and relax in the evening, we have to stay up later! Siestas are crucial!
Our visitors however have loved it…pool , beach , a potter in the huerto and picking lemons for home made lemonade!Seeing our home from the perspective of others and appreciating just how lucky we are has balanced the moan factor and watching two years old Arthur cope brilliantly in 30 + degrees ( they had a slightly cooler week after a brilliant thunderstorm cleared the air) was amazing. He is a wee blondie but his Daddy was born in Malaysia and his Grandma on Dad’s side is Australian. Maybe that has something to do with his resilience !
Temperatures are on the up again this week with weather warnings ⚠️. The predicted Scottish heatwave looks wonderful ..24 in Edinburgh, bliss! I suppose it’s all relative! We are planning our first big adventure with Ziggy and as luck would have it, the ‘cooler’ northern Spain is about to experience a heat wave! Trying not to moan! Watch this space for our escape plans!
I have just spent a couple of hours in the huerto and as always, despite the heat, feel the sense of calm our beautiful communal space and own little parcela gives me. Bringing home more lemons , lettuce, tomatoes and our first garlic harvest also makes me happy. The bees were loving it too, especially the lavender. Time to be indoors now until 4 or 5ish when we will go for a swim and chat to our neighbours about….the weather! Hace demasiado calor 😥 . It’s reassuring that we are not the only ones finding it just a little too hot!
I know that having officially bowed out of writing a blog in August this may seem a little surprising however the past weeks here in Murcia deserves a mention and an update on life on the hill!
For the first time in 18 months we have had family to stay..the Watsons. Rach, Graeme, Dougie , Penny and Anna. It was a reminder to me of a previous post ‘Sharing our Happiness ‘ and how much we missed doing just that. The week , predictably, went by too quickly but it was wonderful. Murcia weather was welcoming and warm enough for both pool and beach, hiking , eating outside and when ( it is Autumn after all) we had one very rainy day, we began knitting projects, jigsaws and lots of drawing! Saying bye bye was also predictably hard. Apparently there were tears at the airport because they didn’t want to go! Rocky mooched about all day looking sad after all the extra cuddles and adoration that he had become used to, not to mention extra snacks, that he had been getting for a week.
One of our visits during their stay had been to Hugo’s home farm. This is a small finca five minutes from our home which is now run as a donkey/horse/ goat/ hen/ dog/cat/alpaca…in fact any abandoned animal rescue. It is the passion , imagination and incredible hard work of a young Scot from Musselburgh and while the finca belongs to his partner’s family, the project began several years ago in Benidorm and moved to Murcia last year. Local cat and dog pounds and the police all know of Hugo’s and frequently supply them with new guests! This all takes a lot of funding and so on the Saturday of our gangs’ departure I spent a few hours on the ‘cake stall’ of a fusion . . British fete and Spanish paella day!It was a great success and the best of two cultures. I loved hearing the kids whose parents had moved to the region permanently and put children in to local schools, speaking Spanish and English with out missing a beat. The sun shone, animals were on best behaviour, cakes and jam sold and funds were raised. Éxito!
Four days later, the Mattisons arrived! Rocky had a playmate again ..the Duracell toddler that is Arthur with his Mummy and Daddy . So much fun ! The weather reminded us that even although this was Murcia, it was still autumn. Despite quite a lot of cloud and cool mornings it was still warm enough in the afternoons for braving the pools …freezing! the beach…invigorating and ice cream in the city…delicious. Once again, the week went too quickly but oh what wonderful memories to store away.
I was determined to savour every moment that I had with the ‘peques ‘ ( little ones) and as my classes now take up every morning, I had a mad baking/freezing breenge ( Scots for doing something with gusto- difficult to translate! ) for the fete before they arrived. October went by in a flash! It’s already half way through November and Walt has been able to get to Valencia for the final race of the MotoGP. Two years later for this pilgrimage aswell! My Fridays are suddenly busier than ever with classes all day, so I chose to stay at home with Rocky. This meant I could go on a very gentle guided walk this morning to learn about the flora in our Sierra de Carrascoy. It was a beautiful morning and perfect for wandering around learning about plants and flowers . All in Spanish! Tomorrow Anne and I will continue to amuse our Spanish huerto neighbours with our anarchic plot. We must be ‘the talk of the steamie!’ The tomatoes, especially the cherries have not stopped fruiting. We still have aubergines on the go, arm loads of basil and a few padron peppers. See photos for ‘us’ and them! We have planted some winter crops in wee spaces, kale, broccoli and onions and are using our first load of our own home made compost so haven’t done the traditional autumn clear out. Our squashes were also successful and the plants have just been cleared away. We both hate waste so while we can’t compete with the broad bean harvests that our neighbours will have next month, we are still taking edibles home everytime we visit! Anne took on the green onion chutney task this year with delicious results. I will do the annual marmalade marathon in December…when the fruit is free how can we not!!
And so another year rushes headlong towards its end…probably one of the strangest in most of our lives but with lots of wonderful memories still made despite everything and definitely so much to be grateful for. I think that is why I decided to write this wee diary. I do struggle at times, so far from my children , siblings and old friends . This past year and a half has made this even more difficult. However when Walt and I walk Rocky to the top of our urbanization and look over to the Sierra de Carrascoy, the Sierra de Espuña, our beautiful glittering city and the Ricote Valley in the distance, we realise just what wealth we have and how lucky we are to live here. Gracias Murcia..por todo!
It is exactly two years since I retired from full time teaching in Scotland, two years since Walt and I sold our home and packed our belongings in to boxes for their journey to Murcia. I can’t believe how quickly time has passed or how every new season feels different from those first few months living here full time. Walt and Ben had been the trail blazers from February until the end of June, walking ,studying Spanish and cooking! Our first autumn and winter together in Calle Jacaranda saw us turning our little holiday home in to a proper home! We took out the wonky breakfast bar, built a new dresser to house my well traveled china, installed a pellet burner for chilly winter evenings and cycled a good chunk of the pilgrim way to Caravaca de la Cruz. ( we have still to complete it.) We enjoyed the gentle autumn and winter, cold at night but sunny days , warm temperatures and longer days. It is light until 6pm even mid winter.
Our first house guests were my oldest daughter, her husband and the three wee ones.(the Watsons) It was only a month since our departure from Edinburgh but I knew that one of the harder parts of moving so far away would be missing the children and grandchildren so it was fabulous to see them again so soon. They arrived on the 31st October, in time for a Halloween treasure hunt with our neighbours and their children and making a pumpkin lantern for our garden wall. We had a lovely week , swimming in the sea, wandering around the city and generally chilling out. It was wonderful being able to share our home and happiness with them.
We were aware from conversations with other migrants to sunnier climes, that we would never be short of guests. Some said that the first year would be the busiest then the novelty would wear off and the numbers would dwindle. It’s safe to say that this has not happened! However , this is not a complaint, we love sharing our home, the chilled out life we have here in the very varied and beautiful region of Murcia.
In January 2018, my dear friend Audrey came back with me from Scotland and spent four days with us and ten days in a hotel in the city! She loves her independence and being able to watch the world go by with her morning coffee in a plaza cafe. She is more of a town mouse than I ! However Murcia is a beautiful little city and we had discovered a great cycle track along the river from a nearby town, Alcantarilla, all the way in to the city centre. I cycled in to meet Audrey and together we discovered more about the history and culture of Murcia. This is one of the big pluses gained by sharing our lives here… we tend to fall into a routine when left alone, walking , cycling, pottering well worn paths. With friends and family who come to visit, we explore more and find all sort of places and stories that we would other wise not discover. Audrey and I went on the city bus tour, it didn’t take long as Murcia is a small city , but I did learn more about its history . We also took her to Cartagena and the Roman theatre that has been so brilliantly excavated and preserved. History geeks day out!!
Several weeks later, Sue, a great friend from North Berwick and Ross High came to stay for a week. Sue like me is a country mouse and so we walked and cycled , chilled at the shore and ate tapas huddled in side our favourite beach cafe ‘Oasis’ as March winds whipped up a dip in temperatures. Spring seemed to be the least predictable season. Cycling the nature reserve at San Pedro del Pinatar was wonderful although we didn’t see many flamingos !
Liz and Leah came just after Easter and for a ten year old, the sight of a swimming pool glittering in the spring sunshine was just too much… I had to go in with her.. it was baltic! As were our picnics at Lo Pagan and Oasis once again! We had just furnished our roof terrace after 8 years of wonky deck chairs and did manage a couple of dinners out side . For the most part it was rather chilly, although Murcia looked beautiful decked in lemons and flowers for the spring festival. It was fabulous seeing our old friends and returning their hospitality which we had enjoyed on our journey south in the Autumn. They live in the gorgeous village of St Abbs, Berwickshire, it is a magical little place. The weather can’t have put them off, they returned this July for the 30 degree plus heat and like so many of our visitors, opened up new experiences for us. The Roman Spa at Archena had been on my ‘to visit ‘ list for a while but Walt is not a spa kind of guy. Liz, Leah and I had a girly day there, taking the waters and having a fabulous chill out. Thank you ladies! We also lathered ourselves in the healing mud at San Pedro, another first, and saw the flamingos!
I travelled in April, twice to Scotland for Dougie’s birthday and my daughter Hannah’s hen do and then I fell over! My brother, wife Laura and their wee boy Harry were due to stay with us at the beginning of May but as I had just been let out of hospital , they stayed in a nearby hotel. I felt dreadful but they insisted and we still had some lovely times together. It did rain quite a lot though! There’s a pattern emerging!
In June, my friend Gail came to baby sit me and allow Walt some time away on the motorbike. It’s safe to say that my dramatic escapade in April had scared him more than me! The sun had finally settled by then and we enjoyed a very chilled out weekend , swimming, watching soppy movies and building my confidence back a little. I normally bounce back from periods of not being so well, I have been very lucky with my health , so the time taken to regain confidence has surprised me. I think I am more or less back to normal now but have developed an annoying fear of going on the motor bike. This makes little sense as the bump had nothing to do with the bike!
In August as temperatures climbed to the mid 30s,the Watsons came back for a fortnight, our very kind neighbours gave us their little holiday home for the overspill! Walt and I were supposed to retire there at night for a peaceful sleep. However as we had a new puppy and my son in law is allergic to dogs, he and Rachel had the quiet house. We had three under fives a puppy and a geriatric labrador! It was a crazy couple of weeks, lots of pool time, water park and the zoo. I miss the wee ones like mad and it was brilliant having them here . They coped incredibly well with the heat and I was the only one to get a little tetchy mid visit!
After two weeks travelling to Italy for Hannah’s wedding, it’s fair to say that the following few weeks of quiet times were welcomed. I started teaching more and joined a dance class.
In October, an old High school friend, Patricia and her husband Greg stayed for a few days. They live in the Yukon and had been travelling for several months so their time here was very chilled. We ate well and swam in the sea. I think they enjoyed being at home and eating in after months of hotels.
We didn’t do as much cycling as the previous autumn, Rocky needed lots of walks and attention. Leaving him in the garden usually meant lots of plants dug out of pots and if we left him in his crate for any length of time, he would destroy all his bedding. He is much calmer now and a fabulous dog, I think he keeps us all , including Ben , young!
Hannah and her husband came out at Easter this year and needed to borrow sweaters! We had some wonderful walks and lots of laughs with them despite the chill, meanwhile Scotland was having a mini heat wave over the Easter weekend! While the ‘over three hundred days of sunshine’ promised in programmes such as a ‘ Place in the Sun’ is not an empty one , it does rain here! Many of our visitors have experienced it.
This year, my youngest son and his girl friend have been out to stay twice and enjoyed June and August sunshine. I think they have hit it luckiest with settled but not too hot weather! Our new ‘experience ‘ this visit was a night in Benidorm! Walt knew it from his youth and had painted a fairly wild picture. Benidorm has a beautiful blue flag beach and maybe because it wasn’t the weekend, we did not encounter one hen or stag do. It was remarkably civilised with lots of Spanish families enjoying the last of the summer holidays.
Most recently the weather was so extreme that it made the news in the UK and beyond. The ‘Gota Fria’ is not an unknown weather phenomenon in Southern Europe . As the summer heat wafts up wards and merges with the colder air, autumn thunder storms and torrential rain are expected. It can happen any time between September and December, very Spanish, no specific time! Sometimes it doesn’t happen at all. This year it happened in September and broke all records. Like the ever hotter summers, the Gota Fria two weeks ago was the worst storm experienced in the Murcia region for over 50 years. Its effect was devastating. There can be no doubt that our climate and planet are teetering on the edge. Sadly several people died, caught in their cars as the flood water rose. Towns on the coast and flat agricultural land have been flooded and property destroyed. Animal sanctuaries and farms washed away. We escaped with a sleepless night as the storm raged and a slightly scary diversion off the motorway, as my brother in law had just landed in Alicante airport. It was his first visit to our Spanish home, he won’t forget his first day in a hurry! We watched the TVE news with mounting dismay at how dreadful and sad the storm’s affect had been on many and with concern about driving to the airport to pick Drew up. His flight had left Newcastle and no delays were reported, Alicante airport was open therefore we reckoned that the A7 motorway must have been passable as well. What could we do? Ask him to get a hotel in Alicante which by all accounts was struggling with the effects of the storm as well? No, we would have to go and get him. This was a humbling lesson in not being smug. There was flooding and there were queues on the motorway as the Guardia Civil let cars through slowly, we were amazed that the camino rurals ( old roads that still run along side the motorway) were now rivers, we couldn’t believe how the mountains had been converted in to Scottish ones with burns running off them but over all the road was functioning and we arrived at the airport early enough to have a coffee and a snack. What was all the fuss about? We’re Scots, used to a little bit of rain. Smug or what? Drew’s flight landed bang on time and we set off back to Murcia but of course by that time , any rios or ramblas that had been struggling before hand had now burst their banks. The motorway was closed and we were diverted off on to muddy, flooded country roads with no idea of how to get back home. Eventually we circled a very muddy industrial estate several times , every road the sat nav told us to take was closed off, one had even collapsed and found ourselves back at the slip road that we had been diverted off. The police had reopened it and very slowly we were allowed to get back home. We were regretting our earlier smugness and feeling dreadful for those whose homes and businesses were in the paths of those burst banks.
Drew had come from Scotland expecting some autumn sun! It took another two days for that to reappear but when it did , all was forgiven! We went in to the city the next day where things were getting back to normal and the height of the river was the big attraction with crowds just standing looking at it. The cycle path that I mentioned earlier was now part of the river and most of the bridges were still closed for safety. It didn’t stop Murcianos enjoying their paseos, dressed to the nines and demonstrating brilliantly how life goes on.
I am back to work this week! Teaching business English and my conversation classes again . A quiet few weeks ahead with no visitors planned until November! Having house guests is a feature of living far from home I imagine. When we lived in Scotland, we rarely had visitors for more than an afternoon lunch or evening dinner. I love it when we have our friends and family to stay and can share our happiness here, they bring so much and help us appreciate how lucky we are to live on our hill!