It’s been six months since my last post. I guess the delay was down to the August doldrums, soon followed by a trip to the UK.
In September, I spent two weeks self-quarantining at a friend’s daughter’s empty home in Wiltshire (I’d never been there before, and felt a bit like a spy holed up in a safe-house). I spent the time watching This Is Us on Netflix (the characters turned into a kind of surrogate family) and developing the creative writing course I’ve been planning to teach. When the quarantine was up, I squeezed in some beautiful walks along the Kennet & Avon Canal.
Then there were 10 lovely days at home with Polly-cat in London, while the house-sitters were away on holiday. The house was just as I left it, with all my pictures on the walls and books on the shelves, and it was wonderful to be back there – playing records, cycling, catching up with friends and going through things in the loft. It was so nice, in fact, that while I was there I decided to give the house-sitters notice and go back to live there myself for five months in 2021.
In October, I returned to Spain and launched the creative writing course. I’m teaching it online because of Covid, and have six committed students in Spain, Scotland, England and Germany. They’re a mixture of friends, friends of friends and a friend’s brother, plus one who joined after I advertised on facebook. It’s going really well. We’ve all bonded and the students are doing some great writing. As it’s currently a free pilot course while I get it perfected, the next task will be to knock up a website to publicise it and start charging!
I also decided I needed a Winter Survival Plan.
I find winters in the mountains hard. It’s cold up here, and the constant, repetitive work around keeping the fires going (pellet burner at one end of the house; wood burning stove at the other), plus the need to sleep under a duvet, sleeping bag, blankets and a jarapa rug while wearing three layers of clothes and a hat gets me down.
The survival plan is a mixture of respite by the sea and getting on with practical projects at home.
Escape to the coast
Covid put paid to my usual Christmas trip to the UK, so I decided to try and split the winter months between the mountains and the coast. The owner of a beautiful holiday flat in Carboneras was willing to do a deal if I committed to a few two-week stays over the winter, and away we went!
So far I’ve managed one stay. It was wonderful. It’s about 5 degrees warmer on the coast and the weather was amazing. I found a sheltered bit of beach and swam three times – the last time was on Christmas Eve. It was so warm I stayed in for 20 minutes and a handful of Spanish people got in, too! Some friends came to watch the conjunction of Venus and Jupiter from the roof terrace on 21 December, and a local pal came over for Christmas Day, bringing her Christmas tree with her! Most days, I carried on working – only with a view of the sea out of one window and mountains from the other. It was great.
Crack on with projects
The survival plan also involves cracking on with projects in the home and garden.
Soon after I returned from London, my neighbour helped me clear a mountain of plants and cactus to make a new patio above the house. A few weeks later, acquaintances Sue, Pete and Maria turned up with their amazing biochar kilns to turn the green waste into nutritious compost. The next job will be build a frame for the grapevine and make a couple of raised beds for turmeric and vegetables.
Inside, I decided to finish the two rooms that weren’t renovated along with the rest of the house back in 2017. Work had already started in July, when the sitting room walls were re-plastered and ‘sofás de obra’ built. But the sitting room and office still needed painting. I’d procrastinated over colours for months, but my first thought on returning from the UK was that the sitting room should be light blue, and I just chose ‘Svalbard Sea’ from the catalogue and bought 10 litres.
In January, Luis the decorator started work. The blue was perfect, and we mixed the tester pots I got in the summer for a feature wall for the office. After all the agonising, the colours were fine. Luis also retouched the kitchen walls – so no longer do they look as if they are suffering from some awful skin condition when I put the corner lights on. For a blissful few months until the paint starts peeling again, which it always does here, I can enjoy feeling like I’m living in an edition of Elle Decoration!
Other than that, I’ve been powering through my Notes In Spanish classes. I’ve done around 80 so far, with around 50 to go until I’ve got to the end of the ‘Advanced Gold’. Then there are another 80 advanced classes to keep me busy in the UK until I return to Spain in the autumn. I’ve decided that when I come back, hopefully with a pretty good level of Spanish, I’ll be able to find work, maybe just voluntary work, and get out into the community at last.
New Year always brings the opportunity for a positive affirmation. I do Qi Gong online, and in January my lovely teacher, Gill Hickman, encouraged us to write down, then tear up something we want to let go of, then write what we want to welcome into our lives on a fresh piece of paper. I’ve got mine on my desktop, and it’s been helpful to glance at it once in a while.
Develop a Routine and Write!
Lastly, the Winter Survival Plan involves sticking to a daily routine and including my own writing. Even though I keep slipping, I’m up to 30,000 words on a memoir and am developing some short pieces. I’ve decided the Carboneras retreats are the perfect place for this. I can’t wait for the next one – just as soon as the current Covid restrictions are lifted.
Hopefully, it’ll be spring before we know it!
This week’s musical track is Oct 33 by the Black Pumas. I found them by accident while on my Carboneras sojourn. Discovering new music is always part of the plan. I hope you enjoy.