Wednesday, 22 December 2010

My Novelist Aspirations

I have my laptop centrally placed on my beautiful antique Indian Writer's Desk. It was a purchase I treated myself to when we started furnishing our home in Spain. I love it, it is gorgeous dark wood with a mosaic trim. It is so very "The Raj" and I can picture it in a colonial study in a tea plantation house or carried out to work outside on a perfectly mowed lawn. [It has folding legs so can be moved easily.] It was supposed to inspire me when time permits to write the novel we are all meant to have within us. Well so far, my novel is yet to be commenced, but blogs are written and emails both work and personal and who knows maybe one day the grand novel!

I used to think if I wrote fiction it would have to be pen to paper but there are such advantages to the computer - the instant ability to correct or simply reject some nonsense you have just written.

We are so lucky to be away from the extreme cold and snow of England right know and we are promised some sunshine here in the next few days and temperatures around 15 - 16 degrees which compared to London is positively balmy.

Friends arriving on Sunday so I will have to get beds made up and stock up with provisions. I do hope you all get time to be with friends and family too.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Winter Break

During the early hours of Friday morning I shall hopefully, weather permitting, be flying off with The Man to our place in Spain. It is a nice way to spend our 43rd Wedding Anniversary don't you think? We try to go away just before the main Christmas rush and are not due back until early January. We have friends coming out to join us at the end of next week if the predicted further snowfalls don't trap them at the UK airports. It is during this trip that we do our olive harvest and send the sacks of olives off for pressing into olive oil so the extra hands are really appreciated.

We have both been rushing around like mad this week seeing clients and trying to get ahead on projects before we leave the country. Although the laptop travels with us and we can work while we are away courtesy of email and mobiles.

Have a great time where ever you are and keep in touch.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

The Full Monty

You may remember that a few years ago a low budget British Film called "The Full Monty" became a worldwide success. It told the story of a group of out-of-work steel workers from Sheffield who became Strippers to earn a living [for those unfamiliar with the term "The Full Monty" it is an indication of the amount revealed!] As I was travelling about London today via the tube and therefore going up and down several escalators I couldn't help but notice a promotional poster which featured at regular intervals advertising the fast train service which could, in only just over 2 hours, take you to the delights of Sheffield. Said delights, if we are to believe the poster, being not the architecture, or museums but stripping steel workers. The posters design was a cartoon representation of an iconic still from the film. I wonder what the good people of Sheffield think about this promotion?

Sunday, 5 December 2010

In Praise of Panto

December 4th 2010 - a Star is born. Actually my gorgeous No.1 Grandaughter has been a star to me from the moment she was born in October 9 years ago. Yesterday we had the delight of seeing her appear in the Junior Chorus of a professional Panto production of Aladdin at the Palace Theatre in Watford. She is so obviously enjoying the experience but whether it will lead to a performing future - who knows? We had booked to go with The Daughter and her brood but the dreaded end of term bugs hit with both her two little ones being taken "poorly" so only me and The Man sat in the stalls clapping and cheering for our girl. We collected her afterwards and made her autograph our programme [with much giggling] and then delivered her safely home.

It has been years and years since I have been to a Pantomime, possibly only a couple of times when our two were very young. I must say this was a very slick professional show with good actors in the leads, well sung musical numbers and a child friendly script. With so much on television and on film that is violent or inappropriate for youngsters it is great to recommend this Panto as real family entertainment. Looking around the audience, children as young as 2 years and grandparents [like ourselves] were all having fun. Such a shame my other two grandchildren were unable to come as they would have loved it.

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

City Snow

The snow has now arrived in my area of North London so I am contemplating the usual disruption to transport, skidding cars, school closures and usual panic that seizes this city when a touch of real winter arrives. We don't cope well with snow possibly because we don't have enough experience of this type of weather conditions. I love snow in the right places, The Alps, Aspen, Norway - whatever - but ice, slush and lack of four wheel drive vehicles and tyre chains mean the cold "snap" [strange name that Weather People give to these conditions] will be hell unless you can take time off work and build snowmen.

Another strange aspect of these weather conditions is the way it brings the siege mentality of the populace to the fore. Supermarket shelves are emptied of essentials, bread, milk, eggs etc. etc. and even more than usual the Brits are discussing the weather. The one plus is that neighbours actually start talking to one another as opposed to just nodding and "keeping themselves to themselves" and help dig each other's cars out of the snow and ask elderly neighbours if they need any shopping. This is so nice to see - why can't it last? I am probably considered a "nutter" when I talk to strangers on the tube or, and this is considered very risky, actually make eye contact and smile.

Writing about winter conditions has made me drift into thoughts of my escape to Spain just before Christmas, although it did snow for one day last year [and the locals couldn't stop talking about it] it was only for one day and disappeared as quickly as it had arrived. I need suggestions for books to take with me, I have just finished the Millennium Trilogy by Stieg Larsson [The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl who played with Fire and The Girl who kicked the Hornet's Nest]. If you haven't read them yet, don't be put off by the hype the books really are that good. However, now I need some equally good reads for my holiday reading - I read very quickly and will take as many books as I can fit into my baggage allowance. Please send recommendations.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Work Hard - Play Hard

Tomorrow I am off to run a Training Workshop on Relocation and Property Matters for organisations in the Charity Sector. It is actually a Free Workshop and we are providing lunch so, there is such a thing as a "Free Lunch".

Life is a bit hectic at the moment as The Man decided the time was right to redecorate. The Painter has been and gone and now we have a charming fellow from Slovakia laying wooden floors throughout - it will be great when it is finished but at the moment we are moving furniture from room to room and I have brought so many items out to my office at the bottom of the garden that I can just about get to my desk.

On a happier note two of our friends have confirmed their flights to come out and join us on holiday in our place in Spain for a week from Boxing Day [Dec. 26th]. We are also hoping that another two pals will also confirm flights soon. It is a lovely time to escape with friends and in addition there will be the added advantage of more hands to do the olive harvest.

We have just begun advertising our two large family sized apartments for 2011 and we have reduced the costs to make them as affordable as possible in these difficult economic times. The key is to book flights asap as they often end up being the most expensive element but great bargains can be had if you can organise your holiday days early. I know times are hard but my dear Parents who never had much money always dug deep to take us on holiday because we all felt so much better for the break. When my own kids were growing up The Man would drive us half way across Europe to stay in self-catering accommodation and we had some wonderful holidays. We tended to share holiday homes with friends and their children. A group of ten made it possible to afford some amazing places. A villa by an Italian Lake, a Hunting Lodge in the hills above Florence, a beautiful house on top of a hillside filled with lavender in the Var region of France and now we all congregate at our own Masia [traditional Estate Farmhouse] overlooking our own olive grove in the beautiful countryside inland from Alicante.

Tempt yourselves at

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Fog and a new Princess

A couple of posts ago one of my American fellow bloggers posted a comment to me in rhyme which began "A foggy day in London Town" ......

I had been meaning to reply that the idea abroad that we are perpetually wreathed in fog went out with the 1956 Clean Air Act. Well it was lucky that I haven't had time to respond yet because today, guess what, we had a an old-fashioned pea-souper! It was foggy in the early morning, just misty for about an hour midday then down it came again. Lousy visibility for driving and that awful feeling of lingering damp. I am not sure I saw daylight today at all.

The News Stations, TV and Radio, were determined to brighten our day by continuously repeating the news that Prince William and his long-standing girlfriend Kate had anounced their engagement. Amidst all the usual news of economic woes, possible strike action and diminishing pensions it did make a change. I do hope our very invasive media give this new royal couple a chance to have some privacy. Prince William seems to have inherited some of the traits that made his late Mother so popular, he gave Kate the beautiful sapphire and diamond engagement ring that was Diana's because he wanted in some way to include his Mother in their happiness.

I do believe that the majority of the country are happy for them and are looking forward to celebrating a Royal Wedding probably in the Spring of 2011 but there are some mean-spirited people out there who are ringing into TV and Radio Shows to complain about the cost of a Royal Wedding when we are all having to tighten our belts. This country does seem to have more than its fair share of whingers.

Funnily enough the people interviewed who were most excited about the news were all American tourists - seems US citizens are fonder of our Royals than some Brits. I don't include myself in the party poopers group, good luck and much happiness is wished from this corner of the realm. Kate is starting with one huge advantage over the late Diana, her Prince chose her himself, defied the snobs who looked down on her none-aristocratic family and gave her time to see what she was letting herself in for [being Royal in the UK can be quite an ordeal] before declaring his love in a relaxed TV engagement interview. This was such a stark contrast to the awkward interview I remember Prince Charles and Diana giving when he made the much quoted "whatever that means" answer to be asked how it felt to be in love.

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Treats and Guilty Pleasures

Just back from a delicious lunch out. The Man declared we needed a treat and took me to our favourite Fish Restaurant "Toffs" which is in Muswell Hill, North London. They serve the largest and most beautifully grilled Lemon Sole I have eaten anywhere. I boringly always order the same fish but, why not, if it is my favourite.

It has been a busy week with clients to meet all over London. As I've mentioned before I travel around on London Transport and my exercise regime is walking briskly, climbing up the escalators as I exit stations and walkng upstairs when viewing office properties for clients. All this is my substitution for going to a gym and is probably the only reason I am relatively fit and more or less content with my weight and dress size. It would be nice to be a little slimmer but that might mean giving up chocolate and cake which would be a sacrifice too far.

Whilst charging around the City I was very disappointed to see that one of my favourite shops had closed its branch at Moorgate. I have to admit to an addiction to a splendid hardware chain called "Robert Dyas", it is one of those shops you pop into just to have a look around and find yourself buying kitchen gadgets, or bathroom accessories you didn't even know you needed. I have discovered that this is not just my guilty pleasure and that there are quite a few secret R.D. addicts out there. If this is you - declare yourself - you will feel better to be among understanding friends.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Another Tube Strike

Today London Underground was gripped by another 24 hour Tube strike and I had site meetings to get to in Victoria and Islington. I always refuse to be beaten by these strike actions, especially when in this case I am having extreme difficulty in seeing the justice of their cause. When we are all having to face cut backs and draw in our financial belts [so to speak] to get through the recession, causing havoc for other Londoners trying to get to work isn't playing fair.

I made contingency plans and left home extra early which is not easy for me as I do not do early mornings. I used an overground train part of the way into Central London and used one of the few tube lines running with minimum disruption to get to my meeting not just on time but an hour early.

It helps to be very familiar with London and all the various routes; tube, bus and walking.

I was born in London and have lived here all my life. On most days I really enjoy living and working in London but I can understand the frustration of the tourists I met today who were totally lost trying to work out how to get to their hotels on arrival off the Gatwick Express at Victoria without spending a fortune on a taxi. The extra hour I had gained by my fortuitous journey gave me the time to play Transport Guide. It was nice to be able to put my knowledge to good use.

Sunday, 31 October 2010

Banishing the Winter Blues

It is only 9.10 am on Sunday morning, not a time I am normally wide awake enough to write. However my body still thinks it is 10.10 as last night we turned the clocks back to gain an extra hour of light in the mornings. Personally I would prefer to keep the clocks as they were and have an extra hour of light in the late afternoon. Nothing is more depressing than the winter months when it starts to get dark from about 3.30 pm.

To combat the unwelcome signs of oncoming winter The Man has booked tickets for us to go to a "Sixties Hop" that is being run by two friends celebrating their 65th birthday, the money raised is going to good causes. It is a very relaxed affair - come casual or dress 60s - just be prepared to dance the night away. Dancing has been a lifelong passion so I am going to dig into the deep recesses of my wardrobe to create a suitably retro outfit.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Teatime Trauma

Just recovering from a Sunday afternoon Birthday Tea which did not go to plan. I booked our table for 3.15 at the delightful environs of the Courtyard Restaurant at the Wallace Collection in Manchester Square. We had celebrated there before and knew they served a traditional Afternoon Tea [readers will know Tea is my favourite meal]. The Man [Birthday Boy himself] and I arrived on time as usual. Our large family table was, luckily as it turned out, alongside one of the walls of the Courtyard. The Daughter, Son-in-law and kids arrived only 15 minutes late but brought the news that The Son and his two were running rather late [not a surprise - it would have been more of a surprise if they had been on time!]. The Wallace Collection closes at 5pm so we ordered "Tea" and started without them.

First problem. No.2 Grandson, still under the weather from a bug he caught at school just before the half-term holiday, didn't even want to eat a scone - there is a first for everything. He kept yawning and eventually we had to let him lie down on a soft bench and he fell asleep. No. 2 Grandaughter took exception to the dainty size of the cakes on offer "I don't want a little cake!" but unfortunately when The Daughter procured a slice of chocolate swiss roll for her she promptly coughed as she swallowed and puked up all down her new dress, tights and shoes. Oh joy could the afternoon get any better? Her Daddy whisked her away to clean her up and she re-emerged in a rather less "chic" outfit.

So now we had one member of our tea party fast asleep and another reluctant to eat anything else. At this point Grandson No.1 and Grandaughter No.1 arrived, advance party as The Son was looking for somewhere to park. Anxious to get them seated The Daughter pulled the table towards her to make some room and succeeded in knocking over a cakestand spilling several cakes and sending a plate crashing to the floor. No.1 Grandson trying to help picked up the broken china and in the process cut his finger [not badly thank goodness]. The afternoon had now descended into complete farce! The Son had finally managed to find somewhere to park and arrived at this point with about 40 minutes left to find his son having a plaster put on a cut finger - such fun.

We were however very impressed by our waiter who, without making us feel guilty and brushing aside our many apologies, helped clear up, replaced dropped cakes and provided the said plaster.

Dear Readers, we were resolute, helped in no small part by the latest arrivals, we did justice to the Tea. Not quite the Birthday Treat I had planned but certainly an afternoon which will become the "Tea" upon which all others will be judged.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

The British are coming

Yesterday was The Man's birthday, we will celebrate with the kids and grandchildren on Sunday with a super tea out in town but meanwhile he enjoyed the telephonic "HB" serenading of both sets. The Daughter and Son-in-law are going to buy him another tree for our Spanish home and we will get it planted when we are there in December. Having now finished the interior work on the property we are into landscaping so "plant money" is always the favourite gift.

I recall that I promised to write more about the Spanish saga so.......................

It all began when an intrepid [if not slightly mad] group of four - myself, The Man, his brother and his wife - bought a 14.5 acre Country Estate in Spain approximately 40 minutes drive inland from Alicante Airport. The Masia [one of only 15 traditional Estate Farmhouses left in the area] was in desperate need of restoration but offered us the opportunity of creating two self-contained family homes and two further apartments for holiday lets. The views were glorious and within our own land we had an olive grove of sixty trees, twenty almond trees, a small pine forest, figs, pomegranates and grapes - we couldn't resist.

Being a Londoner born and bred I can do seclusion but I don't do isolation so our Masia's location only five minutes drive or twenty minutes walk into our local town of Ibi was perfect. Ibi is a fair size town of over 30,000 inhabitants with supermarkets, banks, a wonderful daily under-cover food market and even a branch of Zara [as yet only children's clothes but I am living in hope]. The town is famous for toys and ice cream - what could be better.

Before our arrival in the area the British had a reputation for only buying properties on "urbanizations" which rapidly became ex-pat enclaves, for not bothering to try and learn Spanish and only employing other Brits to do any work required. This did not make them popular. Because this was the opposite of how we wanted to proceed we quickly made friends in the local community. At first they thought we would pull down the old Masia and build a modern home [which on reflection would have cost less] but were thrilled to learn we were going to renovate, as they say, "reform" the original Estate buildings.

We found each time we arrived to stay and supervise works the word had spread that "The English were back on the hill". However since we completed the works we have been staying more regularly for as long a stretch as we can manage away from work [4-5 weeks in the Summer, 2 weeks mid-Winter to celebrate New Year's Eve in Spain, and 2 weeks around Eastertime]. Although we do not celebrate Christmas we enjoy observing the way our Spanish friends avoid the over-commercialisation that is so evident in London.

Our friends and neighbours have now visited us many times and are very interested to discover that we are Jewish. For most of them we are the first Jews they have met and certainly the first that they have had as friends. We have had guests for Shabbat [Friday Night] Dinner and much fun was had trying to explain all the traditions in a mixture of our limited Spanish and their limited English. They are very hospitable people and now that they know we don't eat non-kosher meat they go out of their way to provide vegetarian or fish options for us when we visit their homes.

Not many Spaniards are vegetarians and they probably think we are quite mad, especially when we give away a whole goat [beautifully cleaned and prepared for roasting] given to us as a "Thank You" by our closest neighbour in return for us letting him graze his flock on our land.

It hasn't been plain sailing all the way but we have got there in the end even to the extent of building our own transformer to get a decent supply of electricity. This has removed the dubious excitement of suddenly being plunged into darkness in the middle of a shower but you can't have everything!

Vista Alegre [which means beautiful sight/view] is now very much a second home not just a holiday getaway. We annually harvest our olives [around 26th December onwards if anyone wants to come and help] and when we have a good crop we spend the last days of our Summer Holiday harvesting almonds - all very biblical in our own Garden of Eden. You can see pictures and more info on our own web site:

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Honey Cake as promised

On one of my earlier posts I mentioned that this Jewish New Year we were all, particularly the grandchildren, missing the scrumptious Honey Cake [Lakech] that my late mother-in-law baked for us every year. But luckily the Recipe has been found and for those of you who requested I share Grandma Betty's Honey Cake with the world - here it is:-

8 oz. Plain Flour
6 oz. Castor Sugar
1 level teaspoon Cinnamon
1 level teaspoon Mixed Spice
1 level teaspoon Bicarbonate of Soda dissolved in 4 fluid ounces of Orange Juice
6 oz. Clear Honey
4 fluid ounces of Oil
2 Eggs
Almonds to decorate

Mix together flour, sugar and spices.
Make a well in the centre of the mixture and add honey, oil and eggs - mix together.
Dissolve bicarbonate of soda in orange juice and mix in.
Pour into greased, lined baking tin 10" x 6" x 2"
Sprinkle with flaked almonds
Bake until firm Gas Mark 3 or 160 C. for just under the hour.

This is a cake that needs to be air-sealed [tightly wrapped in kitchen foil will do] and left to mature.

Don't wait for next New Year - try it now.

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Grandma Time

Last Friday played truant from work to spend the day with No.1 Grandaughter. She had the day off from school [Teacher's training day or something] and we had wanted to have some time with her to take her on a birthday shopping trip. She had her birthday earlier in the week and has reached the very mature age of 9. It is funny that this generation who spend so much time travelling in cars actually love going on trains and buses - so we obliged and took her "Up West" via the tube [London Underground] to Bond Street. She had book tokens to spend and we headed for Waterstones, three books duly acquired and it was time for lunch. There was quite a lengthy queue for tables as, as luck would have it, we had actually picked the best day of the week weatherwise and bucking gloomy economic forecasts the world and his neighbour seemed to be out and about in town. Leaving The Man in the queue we headed off for a little clothes buying in Gap [there was a sale on..... hurrah!]. She delighted in being allowed to select three new tops and we arrived back at the Restaurant to be shown straight to a table for 3. Although we usually take our grandchildren out together it was rather nice to be able to concentrate our attention on one at a time and hear all her news without the interruption from her older brother. She was particularly excited to tell us she had auditioned and won a part in a production of Aladdin. Rehearsals start in November and the production is over the Christmas and New Year holidays. All in all it was a lovely day even if it means I will have to catch up with some work over this weekend.

Friday, 1 October 2010

The passage of time

This weekend we are looking forward to celebrating the 80th Birthday of a very close friend. It is very difficult to accept that this is his age - he neither looks it or acts it. By that I don't mean he pretends to be younger, he is not whatever the male equivalent is of "mutton dressed as lamb" - just that he is still interested in the world and therefore the world is interested in him.

We are all told that we are going to have to work longer and retire [if we can or if we want to] later than perhaps planned because of the recession and ongoing problems of national debt. This is not, of course, good news but I must admit that although I am a grandmother and, as you all know by the name of my blog, over sixty - I don't see myself as "old". The media often launches into "40 is the new 30" and questions when middle-age begins. With many of The Daughter's generation delaying parenthood into their 30s, the old idea of middle-age starting at 40 is not longer applicable. With young children around to keep them young the whole cycle changes. Therefore I am declaring that middle-age doesn't begin until you are at least 55 and I shall personally not be growing old disgracefully for a good few years yet.

Monday, 27 September 2010

Something to look forward to

Travelling around London today under relentlessly grey skies and increasingly cold winds was a clear sign that the Indian Summer weather that we sometimes get in September was not going to happen. We are close to October now and I decided I needed to brighten my day, so I've started searching the low cost airlines for flight deals for our Christmas/New Year escape to our place in Spain. Once I have that booked I know I have some sunshine and blue skies to look forward to. We regularly head away from London over this period as the UK comes to a work standstill for around two weeks. We love the fact that our local town of Ibi has a festive lights display that puts the West End of London to shame. Christmas Day in our area of Spain is very much a religious and family day and presents are not exchanged until the night of the Three Kings when there is a huge procession through the town. Ibi has the only monument to the Three Kings anywhere in the World and the procession winds down from the Town Hall at the top of the town to the Plaza where the statue stands. Marching Bands, escort the floats of the Three Kings - it is quite a sight. Any children who live in the town have a large box with their name on left at the Town Hall and friends and family leave presents for them there. At the end of the Three Kings procession a large lorry brings all the present boxes and messengers in festive costume jump out and deliver each child's box to their home. It is such fun to see the excitement in their faces as they rush their parents home as soon as they see the final lorry approach.

We usually have friends arriving on 26th December who help with harvesting our olive crop - with sixty trees we need help. Our olives go to be pressed and we keep some of the oil for ourselves and sell the rest. Frankly we don't make much money from the olives, it just goes towards paying Juan who looks after the crops for us and plants the kitchen garden which supplies our vegetables in the spring and summer. Still if anyone fancies harvesting olives let me know.

Monday, 13 September 2010

Better Times

I thought I would share this beautiful photograph that one of this Summer's house guests took of our new path from the main house to the swimming pool and summer house at our property in Spain. Just looking at it makes me long to go back especially as I am sitting in my office looking out at the drizzling rain and grey sky.

Today I again suffered tube troubles. The Piccadilly Line had signal failures, we were shuttled between stations and a twenty minute journey took over an hour. The joys of a working woman!

Since returning from Spain I have only had three working days as last Thursday and Friday was the Jewish New Year - a time for synagogue and family get-togethers and naturally food! We missed the wonderful Honey Cake which my late Mother-in-law used to bake for us every New Year. She died just under a year ago and is very much missed. I think my sister-in-law was given the recipe and I am under orders from my grandchildren to acquire the details so we can make it ourselves next year.

At the end of this week is the Day of Atonement, a time to reflect on the past year and pray for forgiveness for actions that I regret and commit to being a better human being in the year to come.

Whether you are Jewish or not may I wish you all a Happy and Healthy New Year.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010


Sorry for being so lazy.... I haven't written a word in weeks. The glorious hot summer in Spain was too enticing. We returned last night and it was grey and raining at Luton Airport, almost bad enough to turn around and take the first flight back. Hopefully getting soaked returning from my first client appointment this morning isn't a sign of things to come. I beat the Tube Strike to get there on time and felt a certain satisfaction that Bob Crow [the Union Leader we all love to hate] hadn't ruined my first day back at work. I promised when I started this blog that I would explain how we came to create our little bit of heaven in Spain and later today or perhaps tomorrow I will post the story with pictures and I would welcome any comments.

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Mid Holiday Update

Another week has rushed by, friends have come and gone. We have regulars who visit us almost every Summer in Spain and love our home here as much as we do. This property is made for large gatherings and everyone mucks in and helps so having visitors is not a chore. Our South London friends had a ghastly journey home which stressed them out - such a shame as they had such a relaxing time here. A very long all day delay at Alicante Airport was the pits, especially as they were given the grand total of 6 euros each for food! On the day they left my pal Mrs B. flew in and we have had great fun for the last week, as is the case with very old friends we don't need to entertain, she is family. Before we owned this property and when our kids were all young we regularly went on holiday together - ten in all, so we know we can share a kitchen [always a plus on a self-catering trip]. Numbers increased by another two today when the Daughter's Parents in Law joined us and when Son-in-law arrives tomorrow we will have a full house.
It promises to be a hot and sunny weekend so probably no-one will want to venture far from the pool.

Monday, 9 August 2010

Birthday Treats

Been rather remiss in keeping up with the blog - sorry. The holiday has rather taken over. The weather has been glorious and with friends arriving on the 6th I have been pretty busy. The Daughter and grandchildren are having a great time, daily swimming sessions are a highlight as are the trips to one of the many local ice cream parlours [Ibi is famous for Ice-Cream]. Saturday 7th was my birthday and I was woken with the grandchildren singing Happy Birthday which can't be a bad way to start one's 62nd year. Out into town for morning coffee and cake, afternoon by the pool and a Chocolate Birthday Cake for tea. Yes it was one naughty treat after another but we believe in celebrating birthdays in our family. In the evening we went out for dinner with our friends to a local hotel who have recently brought in a rather good chef - a lovely meal ended a perfect day.

Sunday, 1 August 2010

Summer Holidays have arrived

I have been rather rushed for the last few days trying to get work projects finished prior to flying off to our place in Spain on Tuesday.

Had No.1 Grandson and No.1 Grandaughter with us on Thursday and Friday. We won't be seeing them for several weeks so put work to one side on Thursday to take them out for the day. Met up with our other two grandchildren at the British Museum and they all had great fun in the Egyptian Section with a special backpack full of questions to which they had to find the answers. No. 1 Grandaughter took charge [she is another in a long line of organising women in our family] and No.2 Grandson impressed everyone with his excellent reading of the questions [he is only 5]. No.1 Grandson from his superior 11 years had done it all before and just kept an eye on his cousins. Our biggest laugh came when No.2 Grandaughter [two and a half yrs] declared that the Mummy lying down in the glass case was Sleeping Beauty! She is currently rather keen on all things Disney.

Worked most of Thursday evening in the office to catch up.

Only managed to snatch a couple of hours during Friday to go and play a miniature golf course in the park with the two eldest grandchildren, much to my astonishment and their disbelief I got a hole in one! What a fluke.

Picked up by their Dad after dinner on Friday,said goodbye for the Summer Hols. with, of course, lots of kisses and cuddles.

This Weekend has been filled with getting ready for Spain as No. 2 Grandson says "Only 2 sleeps to go".

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

To nosh or not to nosh?

One of the blogs I follow had a post about afternoon tea with a very tempting photograph and I felt compelled to comment. Sharing this seemed a good idea as it is probably better to talk about teatime treats rather than eat them at the moment as I have been trying to cut back on noshing prior to holidays.

Way back when I got married we had an afternoon tea dance as our reception bucking the trend for a grand evening "do". It combined my two favourites - afternoon tea and dancing.

My lovely Mother taught me all I know about serving the perfect afternoon tea. Proper china crockery, pastry forks and napkins. Sandwiches made from thin sliced bread with, of course, the crusts cut off. Two [at least] favourite cakes, scones with clotted cream and jam, possible also some baby danish pastries. The tea must be made in a tea pot, milk must be poured into the cups first - it is a real ritual.

I have added my own touches to the sandwiches [fillings of cucumber, egg and smoked salmon] by cutting them into different shapes for each filling - circles, squares, rectangles.

I have initiated my children and grandchildren into the delights of Afternoon Tea. Number 1 Grandson always requests his favourite chocolate cake, Number 2 Grandson consumes an amazing amount of scones, Number 1 Grandaughter is campaigning for ice cream to be added and Number 2 Grandaughter thinks the addition of chocolate Mini Rolls [her very very fav. treat] would make it perfect.

I have to stop now as I am feeling rather hungry.

Sunday, 25 July 2010

Working Mums

Friday p.m. welcomed the Daughter and Grandchildren back from their week in Ireland. They stopped here on their way back home from the Airport to be fed and watered and to collect their car which had been left on our forecourt. I was regaled with excited accounts of their first horse riding lessons and my grandaughter's slightly over-dramatic version of her father's fall in the river. A head to toe soaking became a "broken-leg"! Now from his more mature 5 years my Grandson told me that she wasn't even on that walk because it was too difficult for her and she had stayed at the cottage with her Grandpa.

Waved them off with "See you Thursday" - we are taking a day off work to take all four grandchildren out. The elder two are staying with us on Thursday and Friday and they love to get together with their cousins. Not sure what we are going to do yet, it may depend on the weather. A good friend taught us long ago that you should always have a Plan B - Wet weather programme ready.

We have had quite a lazy weekend and although the weather hasn't been quite as settled we have had a chance to sit out and read in the garden.

I watched a TV discussion programme while having breakfast this morning which posed the question of whether Working Mothers are Bad Mothers. They talked with a Headmistress of a Girl's Boarding School who had gone back to work 7 hours after giving birth [obviously no stitches!]. Hers was not a really fair comparison, she lived on site and had the luxury of being able to have her baby with her all the time. But even so, 7 hours??

I believe that there are mothers who don't work and stay at home who aren't necessarily good mothers and equally mothers who work [many because of financial demands] who are great mothers. You just can't make sweeping statements. I know what worked for me. Until both my children were in primary school I didn't go out to work, I did do some project work from home in the evenings to help the family finances and keep my "hand-in" so to speak. I loved being a Mum and in the whole working lifetime/career path is 5 years out so dreadful? I started work again keeping within their school hours slowly increasing to a four day week. I was lucky I had their devoted Grandma living nearby providing great support backup. Later on, after the sadly early death of my lovely Mum, my Dad came to live with us which made it possible for me to work virtually full-time.

I think [but I could be wrong] that, as the children got older, the balance of home and work kept my brain stimulated. I was not excessively houseproud - the place was clean and tidy - I didn't vacuum everyday, ironing was essential items only but kids' friends were always made welcome and offered food [I am after all a Jewish Mother]. I did find trying to keep at least Friday afternoon work free was the key. We always tried to keep Friday night as family night. Everyone at home having a meal together - yes it was Chicken and most importantly Chicken Soup! The Daughter was even inspired to write a poem for her School Magazine on the delights of arriving back from school each Friday and smelling the chicken soup through the letter box.

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Old Friends / New Blog

Last night was a rare treat dinner with friends at a lovely restaurant in St John's Wood, nothing much beats good food and good company. The dinner was our belated birthday present to them. A few months ago they threw a 100th Party to celebrate their joint arrival at a half century but, all being busy people, it had taken ages to find a mutually available date. We were practically the last to leave the restaurant we were chatting so much, bringing each other up-to-date on the latest news of their children and our children and grandchildren.

Another early start this morning to meet Clients in Southwark. Decided to use the overground train from my local station and change to the tube at Moorgate. Unfortunately there is no escape from the mobile phone on overground trains. Isn't it strange the way people are prepared to shout into their mobiles revealing all kinds of personal details to a carriage full of complete strangers?

I was without a book or paper to read on my way back to the office and I hate just sitting on a train staring into space so got a notebook out as I thought it would be useful to make some notes on the properties I had just viewed with my clients. Instead I found myself scribbling down a rhyme, must have been triggered by last night's dinner discussions where we touched briefly on the satirical revues we used to write together. After twenty plus years of scriptwriting [poems, sketches, lyrics] I must admit I miss it.

So I have decided to keep another blog for poems - first one on today. If anyone is interested look at

Wednesday, 21 July 2010


I've been working in my office all day today finalising a Report and had the radio on in the background for company. Occasionally one of the programme discussions grabs my attention and today it was all about exam standards. In particular the huge amount of "A" grades achieved at GCSE. I have long been convinced that GCSE passes are far easier than the old "O" levels. My children were just at the end of the "O" level era and I know from the content of the exam papers they worked on compared with the GCSE papers that my nephews and nieces took that they had a much easier time achieving high grades. Recently I have tried to learn Spanish [not wanting to be staying in Spain and expecting everyone to understand English] and I think I am progressing very slowly. Much to my amazement when we were given a GCSE paper just as a class test I passed. I could not believe the simplicity of the questions, I know that there is no way I could possible pass an "O" level in Spanish. Who does this dumbing down benefit? It is like the thinking that everyone should go to University whether they are academically able or not. Uni is not right for everyone and when so many graduates cannot find jobs and the workplace is short of plumbers, electricians etc.[who by the way earn very good money] why do we persist with this policy.

OK - that was a rant, which I suppose now qualifies me as a grumpy old woman!

Monday, 19 July 2010


Last Friday night we returned the invitation to dinner to our friends who had so kindly looked after us after an exhausting day on the office move of one of our clients. This week they had been dismantling an art exhibition and were in need of sustenance.

Saturday was the anniversary of the death of my Mother and as is the Jewish custom I went to Synagogue to say a Memorial Prayer. In the evening I lit a candle which will stay alight for 24 hours. It is a good tradition but I don't need a reminder as I think of her all the time and I know how proud she would be of her grandchildren's successes and how she would have adored the great-grandchildren she never lived to meet. I hope she was watching on Saturday night when we have had a late booking for the spare bedroom from our eldest two grandchildren. They appeared clutching their end of year school reports for us to read. Both sets were absolutely splendid - I wish I had had such good reports when I was at school far too many years ago!

On Sunday we had our first guests of this Summer arriving at our Spanish property "Vista Alegre" - they are staying in the first floor apartment which we call "Almendras" - all OK, our House Manager confirmed they found the property and she has settled them in. The weather in Ibi is fantastic and they should have a great week. To make you all jealous I am attaching some pool pictures.

Thursday, 15 July 2010


After the first flush of enthusiastic writing I am afraid work commitments have taken over and this will be my first post since Monday. A delightful communication from the Inland Revenue arrived reminding me I had to pay my half yearly tax bill by 31 July - always a delightful time of year for the self-employed. A day later a notification from the State Pension that my virtually non-existent pension was rising to 92p. a week [yes ninety-two pence!]. A crazy state of affairs caused by my not working for approximately 5 years when my kids were pre-school and then working part-time while they were in primary education. The "married women's NI stamp" which I was advised to pay has now been totally discredited as it has left many women like me with these ridiculous pension amounts. So no likelihood of retirement even if I wanted to - which incidentally I don't.

My daughter and my two youngest grandchildren paid a fleeting visit this morning to leave their car on our forecourt and be collected from here to go to Stansted Airport en route to a short holiday in Ireland. Mayhem for about half an hour.

I am now personally counting the days until we can leave for our Summer holiday in our place in Spain.

Monday, 12 July 2010


I was too exhausted to write on Friday as we had spent the entire day supervising the removal of the entire contents of an office at the Angel that we are reorganising for clients. Luckily very kind friends had offered us a Friday night meal which we had accepted with alacrity, so all we had to do was get home, shower, change and let someone else feed us a delicious meal in their glorious garden.

Saturday we had been pre-booked by daughter and son-in-law to have our two youngest grandchildren to stay for a "sleepover" so no time to rest there! They are absolutely delicious [yes I am a biased Grandma]and they were both in top form. After a water hose down in the garden the little one was sufficiently exhausted to be ready for an early night and our lad snuggled next to his Papa to watch the football.

Sunday was back to work again at the Angel supervising the installation of the new furniture ready for the clients to return to work on Monday and Tuesday. As you can see just because we are in our sixties now the pace hasn't slowed and honestly I don't think that's a bad thing. The team we had working were all anxious to get back to watch the World Cup Final, as were we, and this was achieved.

Having our second home and many friends in Spain we were not neutral and watched with pride as the Spanish played beautiful football and deservedly, eventually got the winning goal. We will no doubt still find our friends celebrating when we arrive in Spain at the beginning of August. Most of our friends are football mad, particularly our friend and neighbour Pepe who has a full size football pitch on his land with home team and visitor changing rooms and a bar!!!

Thursday, 8 July 2010


Reluctantly, as I am not a morning person, I had arranged to meet a client at Borough Station at 9 am this morning to view three potential offices for his organisation. This trip across town reminded me of the two extremes of living in London. The Northern Line decided to revert to its "Misery" years and cancelled two trains so that the Morden via Bank route I needed to use was at maximum sardine mode. Being barely 5ft.2ins. I suffer from inability to reach the overhead bars to hang on and the delightful view and smell of other travellers armpits. The relief of finally arriving at Borough and emerging into even muggy air was enormous. The tube in any heatwave is revolting. The office viewings did, however, lead to a walk along the river from Tower Bridge passed the very strange London Assembly Building along the bank to London Bridge. It is when I do these walks that I remember how much I love London, I am not anti-modern [Prince Charles style] I love the London Eye and the great architects who designed it Julia and David Barfield were clients of mine several years ago when I found them their offices in South London. The Gherkin has a certain something but I am not sure I am going to love The Shard which is growing apace at London Bridge. Somehow the best of the modern works alongside some of the beautiful landmark buildings which show to their best advantage from a riverside viewpoint.

I am now the proud possessor of a Freedom Pass so the pain of even the worst of journeys [like this morning's Northern Line experience] is allieviated by not having to pay. Except of course having used London Transport solidly throughout my working life and paid the often exhorbitant fares, I reckon I've probably earned it.

Wednesday, 7 July 2010


Late last night my husband was flicking through the TV channels with the remote [which naturally is his possession and which I am allowed to use only when he is not watching!] and he came across a recording of Tom Jones at Glastonbury [was it last year?]. Anyhow the guy still rocks, with a mainly young crowd singing along with not only his newer numbers but also amazingly knowing all the words of some vintage Jones. It certainly brings back memories especially when he sang "It's not unusual" which I can remember watching him sing on my Parents' black and white TV back in the 60s on 6.5 Special.

Nice to see he can still dance - me too. I do think he looks better now he has given up the very obvious black hair dye and gone with the grey, it suits him. I decided a few years ago that as my hair was determined to go silver that I would stop fighting it, it has saved me a fortune in hairdresser's bills.

It has been quite a nostalgic week all round. My grandaughter carries around a small toy horse which we named "Champion" and forced the poor child to hear us sing "Champion the Wonder Horse". Anyway the other day while staying with her other Grandparents they found on YouTube a clip of the original TV series with Frankie Laine singing and, bless her heart, she accompanied him word for word [not bad for a 2 year old]. She kept running the clip over and over again and we have been told we will have to watch it with her when she and her brother come to sleepover this Saturday. My husband loved the original programme and he started recalling his favourites from that era so no doubt he will be trawling the net for clips of gems such as Rin Tin Tin, The Cisco Kid etc etc - perhaps I'll leave home............................

Tuesday, 6 July 2010


Some of you may have seen the pictorial record that was created as a present for our 40th Wedding Anniversay [yes, amazingly some people do stay married that long - I was, of course, a child bride! ]. Although the redesign and restoration of our home in Spain was very much a joint effort the title was too good not to use.

I saw a television programme the other night which demonstrated how often property projects abroad go horribly wrong. To redress the balance I thought I would share some before and after pictures of our project. I think the fact that we used a proper Spanish Estate Agent [not a ex. pat Costa cowboy], made sure the legals were followed to the letter, all the building regulations, and all licenses applied for and received before works began was probably why our project has been a success. So if you are thinking about a project like this in the future - it can be done. Obviously we learnt an awful lot along the way and now have a great crew for any new work we undertake [David - Electrician extraordinaire, Juan-Lu - the rarity a Spanish Builder who always arrives on the day and time he says he will and who is even more of a perfectionist than I am; Rafa - our Plumber who was even prepared to fight the water board to repair a leak that was their responsibility.
It probably helped that Jack and I project manage relocations for companies and charity sector organisations here and have years of experience in space-planning and fit-out works but these television programmes seem to find people who make some very elementary and costly mistakes. Our great friend Lorenzo [who found our property for us] told us that it used to be joked that the when the British came on property buying expeditions they left their brains in the left luggage lockers at Alicante Airport.
Anyhow my lunch break is over so back to work!

Monday, 5 July 2010

JULY 5th 2010

Less than one month to go before I escape to my home in Spain. When we first thought about buying a property abroad it was going to be just for my husband and myself with a couple of rooms for when the kids might come on holiday with us. Somehow we ended up buying a property in conjunction with my husband's brother and his wife and sharing with them the ownership of a 14 acre private estate! It has been a labour of love over the past 5 years to restore the 200 yr old "Masia" and create not only a second family home for our own family, but a home for our co-owners and two huge apartments for holiday lets.

I get seriously relaxed when I am at Vista Alegre except when it is time for the Olive or Almond harvests when I have to turn estate worker and use muscles I had forgotten I had.

This year we will have visitors with us most of the Summer - luckily my husband loves to cook and friends and family seem more than happy to lend a hand.

Meanwhile I have a heavy month of work to get through first before I can board the plane with one of my charity clients having a major re-organisation of their space this weekend which will mean no lie-ins Sat. or Sun.