2015 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 13,000 times in 2015. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 5 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.


A new report on Sky news this morning got me thinking, how do you decide which charity to support? The news report dealt with the unwanted children of Greece. Babies abandoned in a special unit, babies’ weeks old with no names. After six months these babies are sent to orphanages run by charities but because donations have dried up one charity will run out of money in 10 days.

Run by the largest Children’s charity in Greece. ‘Smile of the child’ they are in a desperate situation but vow to do all they can to ensure these children will not be abandoned for a second time in their young lives.

These children are the human consequence of the economic crisis: Greece’s unwanted children, abandoned because of a crisis that began before they were even born.Leader Partner: The Smile of the Child – Greece

My heart went out to them and as a European I decided to donate. After all this is on my doorstep, this is Europe, this is close to home.

But how do you decide which charity to support? My niece is having all her hair shaved off in August to support a cancer charity in the UK and of course I have donated. But do we donate based on who we know, maybe the illnesses the charity covers which have affected someone in our lives, do we donate to save animals from cruelty or extinction, to save the planet or simply for what we know the charity has achieved in the past?

There are enormous pressures to support charities, some pressures have even driven people to suicide. We are inundated with television and media advertising, every crisis has a helpline number to donate to, every crisis has a text number to give water, a scarf, a pair of gloves, stop girls from arranged marriages etc. and usually all for a few pounds. But which ones get your few pounds?

Do we have to give money to show support? Are there other things we can do?

When the tsunami hit Thailand in 2004, I was one of many volunteers packing supplies to be sent for their aid. When I gave up work I volunteered for the Red Cross in the UK. I bought lottery tickets in the UK and continue to do so here in Spain to support ONCE (a charity for the blind and visually impaired) I donate clothes and unwanted items to a puppy rescue charity here in Spain and always put money in the poppy appeal box.

How do you decide what to do?

Does charity begin at home?

If anyone wants details of Brave the shave or Smile of the child please let me know, I will be more than happy to pass on details.


It’s one of those things where curiosity rather than belief makes you want to do something.


I have friends who are very religious others are spiritual, some who are atheists and others are agnostic. I wasn’t raised in a religious environment but throughout life I have tried to keep an open mind whilst listening to the different and varying views and beliefs of those around me.

It was with this open mind that my recent travels took me to a spiritual medium. It wasn’t a private reading, this was a theatre environment with an audience of around 150, so I felt it was very unlikely that any of my loved ones would come through. As it happened I was one of about six people in the audience that had a visit.

It was an interesting experience, not life changing, but interesting in some of the messages that my Grandma and Father passed on through the medium. At the time they appeared to be quite specific and accurate and I have to admit, started to sway me towards believing in an afterlife.

It was only when I returned from the weekend away that I spent some time researching mediums. There are some very skilled mediums but are they skilled at talking to spirits or at cold reading? Was I prepared to believe because I really wanted to believe? Did my body language in the audience make me look gullible or susceptible and thus I was chosen?  Did the researchers study social media to gain information (that’s the cynic in me coming through).

 What do you think? Have you visited a medium? Do you believe?

I have still not decided, maybe I never will, but it has left me feeling more curious and I would not discount another visit to a medium.

In any event, it was a great weekend away, nice hotel, great company, lovely food and the event raised almost 4000 euros for ACTIN.



The hotel was Lacumbre in Puerto de Mazarron, Murcia, Spain.

Twin room 50 euros a night including a lovely buffet breakfast.

Beautiful grounds, great facilities, rooms are basic but the staff are a delight, very efficient and nothing is too much trouble.

Hotel La Cumbre, Calle Mulhacén, 1, 30868 Puerto de Mazarrón, Murcia, Spain.

+34 968 594 861



ACTIN (Animal Care Treatment International Network)

Our Mission is to bring awareness and education to the region of Murcia and to the whole of Spain.

The aims will be to focus on what can be achieved in order to make changes in the laws against cruelty, neglect and abandonment. We also look to find the best ways to introduce education of the general care and welfare of all animals in Spain.

(Courtesy of ACTINs website)

http://www.actin-spain.com or follow them on Facebook for more information and to support their excellent work for the welfare of animals in Spain.


  • Colin Fry
  • Craig Morris
  • Barrie John


Well it’s not Everest but it is higher than Ben Nevis (the highest mountain in the UK).

What mountain is it? The one in my back yard!!

The Jabalcon stands at 1494 metres above sea level (about 4900 feet) and the other day I made it to the top.

christmas 2010 (50)

Sounds impressive? Well actually most of the climb was in the car, but even that was a bit hair-raising. Having parked up there is then a steep climb to the summit.


The high winds made it feel like sub zero temperatures and with my head in the clouds there was very little to view.

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However, at the top of the Jabalcon is a church and it is to here that the villagers carry the statue of our lady of the head (Nuestra señora de la cabeza) as part of their romeria at the end of April.


 It was exhilarating and I will be doing it again for the Romeria at the end of the month.

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Vélez-Rubio – A pretty piece of history in Almeria

Vélez-Rubio is a municipality in Almeria, Andalucia.  Located off exit 408 on the A-92N, it forms part of the Sierra María-Los Vélez Natural Park and, due to its historical heritage, has been declared a ‘place of cultural interest’.

Vélez-Rubio is somewhere I have driven past many times in recent years but it was only yesterday that I paid a visit to the town.

The Iglesia de la Encarnación can be seen from the road as you drive past and I have always promised myself a visit to go and see it. I was not disappointed.


The church can be seen from any point in the village and has been declared a National Historical Monument. It was built in the 18th century on top of the remains of what was the San Pedro church and is one of the best examples of baroque architecture in Almeria.


The old Hospital Real, a typical baroque style building and the seat of the Conservatorio Elemental de Música is also home to the tourist office and the Museum, including a great Archaeology section. Situated on Calle Carrera del Carmen 29 it opens from Monday-Friday 10am-2pm & 5-8pm, telephone 950 410148.


Another building of particular historical and artistic interest is the Iglesia de Nuestra Señora del Carmen, built in 17th century and is next to museum.

The museums are well worth a visit and show the history of Vélez-Rubio  from its time as a fortified medieval hill town, through its history when a Roman  settlement was formed,  to its greatest period of splendour during the 18th and 19th centuries.  This is when the town saw its greatest economic wealth and it was during this time that the most important and historic buildings were built.

Nowadays, as well as the historical sights, there are many shops, bars and restaurants in Vélez-Rubio and a stroll around the town in the warmer weather can be interspersed with rest breaks in the lovely shady plazas and bars.


It could not be further from the truth! I have just returned from a week’s detox and anti-ageing retreat in the beautiful area of Calpe, Valencia (North of Alicante, Spain) with The Ultimate Retreat Company and it was amazing.

Shorter hiking trails are marked in green and white (Sendero Local) or ...

The retreat is set in a wonderful location, 10 minutes walk to the beach and in a quiet residential area just outside Calpe.


On arrival I was shown to my luxury apartment and given a little time to settle in then off to lunch for a delicious goat’s cheese, walnut and avocado salad. All meals are included and are prepared by the top resident chef. They are organic, healthy, nutritionally balanced, varied and extremely filling. I have a very sweet tooth and used to snack on chocolate and sweets BUT this week I didn’t have one craving and was never hungry.

The welcome meeting introduces the team and the activities for the week. You can get involved in as many or as few as you like, nothing is compulsory, however, I would recommend you do as much as you can to take advantage of all that is on offer.

There are sessions of yoga, Pilates, core training, walks to the beach, coastal walks and, as this is also a spa, treatments on offer. I had a couple of massages, a facial and a pedicure. One of the massages was a Chuvutti massage which the therapist does with her feet! The most amazing, relaxing massage I have had anywhere in the world. You don’t just get a spa treatment, they advise and inform and share a variety of useful help and information.

Included in the timetable are various talks every evening such as talks by the Nutritionist, Naturopath, Life coach, Fitness Instructor and Make-up artist. You have the option of including 1:2:1’s with any of the team. I chose to have meetings with the Nutritionist, one of which was an intolerance test and I also had a meeting with the Make-up artist who helps to select the right products from your own make-up bag and the application giving you a modern approach to make-up.

My meetings with the Nutritionist were eye-opening. I have been a yo-yo dieter all my adult life and realise now why that is the case….. total lack of Nutrition!! I’ve lost weight before on various diets, but they were always weight loss diets (amazing how many chocolate bars you can eat every day on a 1200 calorie controlled diet) I have learned so much, how the hormonal system works, why the body behaves as it does, where to get the best nutrition and how to really ‘feed’ the body.

My meeting with the Make-up artist was a revelation, I thought Primer was the undercoat you put on a wall before painting it!!! I’ve been wearing the same colours and applying them in the same way for over 20 years but now all that has changed.

The team of professionals available are stupendous, qualified, experienced, supportive, encouraging and extremely friendly.

I am at a stage in my life where I needed a kick start to get me healthy and ready for the next chapter of my life. This retreat has done that…… and more.

I am energised, with improved skin, an abundance of knowledge, new friends and I lost 2.8 kilos (6.2llbs) in 6 days without even trying.

An amazing experience, an amazing retreat and an amazing bunch of people. Thanks to these guys my future is healthy.

For more information visit www.theultimateretreatcompany.com

I would recommend it.

2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 12,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 4 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Christmas party at the swimming pool

I love Spain and the way its people approach celebrations.

We swim twice a week at the local indoor pool, we have a monitor (instructor) who helps us develop our technique and gives us various exercises.  Last week we had to Kangaroo jump for 2 lengths of the pool (50 metres in total).  This involved jumping as high as possible out of the water, taking a breath and jumping down to hit the floor, continuously for the 2 lengths including in the deep end!!

Last week we were told that there would be a ‘Christmas get together’ this morning.  Everybody was asked to bring a plate of food (I made traditional English Christmas cake) and arrive at 1000.

We arrived at 1000 to tables and chairs laid out in reception and plastic cups which were promptly filled with hot chocolate served by the staff.  These were followed by plates of cakes and pastries, which we all enjoyed for the next hour.  At 1100 we all changed into our swim gear and entered the pool to be faced with loud dance music.  For the next hour the socorista (life guard) put us through our paces in a water dance class.  Fantastic!!

Well done guys, thank you and Feliz Navidad.


At the age of 58 I can still party with the best of them, wandering home at 6 in the morning during fiestas is not unusual. I can, occasionally, drink half a bottle of wine and still be standing! The problem is, I can’t do both on the same night!!

The half bottle of wine means that I have to be in bed by 10 p.m. at the latest or I lose the next day to a mega hangover.

Staying up until 6 in the morning demands NO ALCOHOL intake and yet I am sure that my ability to stay up so late is only due to the copious amounts of zero coke I drink. This fizzy drink intake means I have to visit the loo every 40 minutes or so and, therefore, it is better to stay up and party the night away than suffer frequent disturbances throughout a night’s sleep!!

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In my mind I am still in my early thirties.

I don’t have a blue rinse perm, although I regularly have to have the old grey hairline touched up.

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I don’t wear twin sets or pearls, but stop short of wearing anything higher than the knee except at the beach or around the pool.

I have a wardrobe full of ridiculously high, totally unsuitable shoes which I often wear, but whilst I fight the urge to wear ‘sensible’ shoes give me the choice and my flip-flops will always come first.


When driving alone, my music is loud enough to cause vibrations in the vehicle in front. I turn the volume down in traffic. Out of courtesy to fellow road users? Nah!! I don’t want them to hear me singing along to the ‘sounds of the 70’s.

I endeavour to keep up to date with technology even having to explain what a blog is to a dear 63 year old friend. I use my smartphone, kindle, tablet, laptop, Xbox and WI fit without having to resort to the instructions or get a free ‘which guide’.

But I still feel it is bad manners to use my mobile in the company of others. I text and whatsapp, but do it using the complete, full language and can’t bring myself to use text speak. I have stopped using LOL as lots of love but still can’t figure out the underlying meaning of a smiley face or a wink!

I am the first in the queue at the fairground rides, love anything that goes fast, makes my head spin and causes me to laugh out loud yet I daren’t sneeze while I do this without crossing my legs!

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I have never worried about my age, indeed, when asked how old I am I often have to work it out using the current year and the year I was born. Ok that could be down to long term memory loss but I would rather believe it’s because I don’t consider my age as important.

My birthday is late December and, whilst I am only 58, a friend reminded me recently that I am 60 next year. (Thanks pal!) However, it got me thinking. How do I celebrate? Is it a landmark age? Is 60 the new 40? Do I give a damn?

What I do know is that I intend to stay healthy, keep fit, take my vitamins, spend quality time with my friends and family, use as many anti-aging creams as possible and have regular trips to the osteopath.

I also know that I will party till the sun comes up, laugh out loud at the most inappropriate moments, play my music at high volume, giggle at the silliest things, flirt, dance, sing bad karaoke, embarrass myself and sometimes others and if gaining years means growing old then I fully intend to grow old disgracefully.  Cheers!!





Living in rural Spain means that it is sometimes a struggle to get baking ingredients, caster and icing sugar just 2 of them.

We recently had visitors from the UK and, when discussing this, the comment was, ”make your own”.

So, for anyone out there, like me, who needs caster sugar:-

granulated sugar in a blender for about a minute gives you caster sugar.

and for icing sugar, add one teaspoon of cornflour to a cup of caster sugar and blend for about a minute.

VOILA!  You have icing sugar.

Even if you can buy caster and icing sugar, think how much cheaper granulated sugar is and how much you could save by making your own.

Thanks to eugeniekitchen.com for the photo.