first bit 09/04/2010
Hello World
It's been a busy few months since I bothered you last. Lots of changes and adjustments, and a few new projects for the spring. The weather has been interesting, for us at least, and produced a second heavy snow fall on Tuesday night. (30th/31st March.) March is by tradition supposed to leave like a lamb, having arrived like a lion. This was more like a Snow-Leopard.
I spent most of the Wednesday digging snow and clearing the drive, and with the aid of a neighbour, most of the communal road. So we were able to get to work on Thursday. I'd broken my snow-shovel on the last lot, so was pleased to have found a replacement in Wickham the week before, when visiting Mum. I'm informed B&Q decided not to stock them this year!
Fiona (my Fiona is her Aunt) and Paul arrived on their way north with Ross and Henry and Daisy the dog just as the snow cleared enough to get them here, hopefully it was ok for them on their way to Nethy Bridge. There should certainly have been enough snow for snow-boarding.
Other things, well I've finally gone part time, alternating 2 and 3 day weeks, which means I won't go in to work until Wednesday one week, and then Thursday the following week. Now I can get on with the projects that have been waiting. Rebuild the front of Fiona's garden shed, a chimney for the wood burning stove, some more woodsheds for said stove, and to finish the build of a Ford 10 special. Well actually it's an Escort / kit called a Midge, (most appropriate for the area) but it's in the spirit of a Ford 10 special that I knew and looks rather like my previous attempt that some of you might remember from those far off Farm Days.

Click the thumb nail images for the bigger picture

There's some tidying up to do on the Pot-bellied stove chimney in the workshop, and I'm trying to get to grips with the new imac computer. It works much better than the Windows based PC but as yet cannot operate Homestead, which is what I use to make these web pages. Homestead tell me they hope to have a mac version out in late July
In the garden I've learned how to use the chainsaw and have cut down three of the more obtrusive Larch, (the tallest was about 40 foot high,) without too much damage to the rest of the garden, (and missed the house and sheds completely). Most of that is logged, split and under cover "seasoning" till next winter, now I'll have to repair, refurbish and modify the house chimney to have somewhere to burn it.

I should have cut those trees down earlier, the needles from the Larch combined with unusually heavy rain around the 5th of June to cause the gutters to overflow, so I went out in the downpour to unblock them. That all went well 'till I reached the 5th section, which actually proved to be ok, but because it was the highest it also proved to be the most difficult to reach. the aluminium ladder also proved too poorly positioned and slippery. The resulting rapid decent of a couple of metres has left my left ankle rather battered, though not apparently my activities however, (after healing) but I think I might be a little more cautious in my ladder placement, probably a timely reminder since the next bit of ladder work is to be the chimney rebuild.
We had a bit of a holiday in Spain recently near Fuegirola. Landed at Malaga, picked up a car and popped over to Gibraltar to have a nose around. There are some nice and quite spacious caves, St Michael's I think, and a good Fort which is really a long tunnel. Incidentally, if you go to the Tunnel Fort I'd advise walking straight to the bottom and then stop, stare and wheeze as required on the way back up.There are also, of course, the famous apes. Here's an ape photo, he or she is actually a tailless monkey, and the top of the rock as is traditional tourist fare. 

Most of what we gawked at was on a sort of tourist trail on the west side of the central rocky peak, the East side is kind of vertical. 
Alhambra, our second excursion, was rather nice, and not too crowded, it had one of the best car parks I've been in, there's usually only a few spaces that are shaded. Here there were lots, and so they get some points for that, it makes quite a difference not getting into an oven after the car's been in the sun all day.  If you go there and feel peckish it would be worth carrying something in the car, facilities are limited and the Spanish tend to shut restaurants and everything else for lunch. You'll find one reasonable restaurant near the ticket office on the other side of the road. The opening hours are limited though and it's fairly busy. We didn't find much to eat anywhere else in Alhambra beyond a couple of coin operated sandwich machines in the nicknack hop and (oddly placed) by the toilet. Inevitably the contents are a bit strange and translations not obvious, we got spanish omelette, (egg and potato) in ours. That one has always puzzled me, it's so dull. I assume the Spanish like it like that, but it's really crying out for a bit of garlic, or at least a spot of pepper. I think I might experiment with the idea and give them a few pointers if we go back.

The holiday was largely free, in that we paid for the flights, meals etc and the "hosts" provided otherwise unoccupied accommodation. The place we stayed at is called MatchRooms, it's a sort of sports club resort, but is indistinguishable from timeshare if you get up close.  The rooms were nice and light and airy, though I would imagine the air-conditioning would get a bit of work in high summer. Sadly the balcony faced east with a limited view, so it was too hot in the morning and too cool in the evening, however we were out most of the day anyway, and soon learned to cook breakfast ourselves and save enough for a days tourism. 
The "presentation" that comes with the deal was a really long hard sell, in spite of the fact that we had clearly stated a total lack of interest quite early on, the interrogator used the full range up to the threat of physical violence. Strange really, perhaps people sign up sometimes just to get out, I would advise strongly against that. The recession must be hitting them as well, and they don't care who they pass the hit to. I imagine if golf's your thing it might be nice enough there, but the emphasis was heavily on keeping people in their own bar and restaurant, and that the best bet was to stay inside the gates except for the official excursions. In fact the avuncular "meet and greet" type at the induction or "softening up" indicated that the roads were lethal, usually impassable by car and unsafe by foot, the locals were dangerous and unfriendly and the towns overpriced.  We began to realise how economical with the truth they were when we saw the "Safari" vehicle publicity. A perfectly serviceable Land-rover with a rather sun-dried looking guide, but the picture was so stretched that it looked like a Hummer, the tyre on the back was oval, and the chap would have weighed 20 stone.

Most of the coast is plastered with holiday accommodation, quite literally like gigantic runs of toothpaste, the Spanish from northern and higher climes being very taken with a second home on the costa del sol/golf/whatever, so we avoided that bit fairly well and headed up into the theoretically inaccessible hills. The satnav has most of Europe on it, and I'm glad we took it, it saved a great deal of map searching. However I should point out that if you go to Mijas, north of Fuengarola, remember that the device doesn't distinguish between unpaved (dusty with some holes, maybe an iffy looking ford) and unpaved (I think we could die if we follow this). Just remember A. Don't go anywhere you couldn't reverse out of.  B. Don't go on, hoping it will get better if it's getting progressively worse. C. Carry your satnav to find your way back to the car-park.
You'll know by now how Fiona loves to find precipitous mountain tracks to scare me with. The town of Ronda, a few hours straight up (no, really) from our base in Fuengarola, was a lovely example of a town on the top of a  pinnacle and, in truth, well worth the visit. Having gone from the coast to the highlands in a few horizontal, and a couple more vertical, miles you find yourself and hopefully Ronda, seemingly on the edge of something like the Atacama Desert. There's a deep gorge separating the bulk of the new town from the easily defensible old town. Some houses have a drop of several hundred feet at the back. You'd want to know exactly where you were before popping over the fence to borrow the mower. 

    Regarding the car parking, the Spanish are a bit short of room, so the access to the underground car-parks can be a tad narrow for larger cars, which is curious since the area has the most spacious caves I've seen. If you aren't sure you can get your car in, walk in and look for a car of the same size.
Incidentally the people we met thought that if you keep explaining in Spanish, we would pick it up in the end, who does that remind you of?
So overall it was a nice break, but I think I prefer Italy for the food, France for the environment, Pakistan for the people, Scotland for the geography, Shetland for the conversation, Ecuador for the wine, Australia for the prices and home for bed.