Friday, December 22, 2006

Devil got the best tunes

David Baddeil the comedian and writer admitted whilst on television that having reached public school, he was all set on being a punk rocker until the day he heard Genesis on the radio and then he was [smitten] hooked. How relieved were his family? How disappointed were they when they found out it was the progressive rock group and not the good book? How pleased is he, that he didn’t share this story with Frank Skinner fellow comedian and former flat mate.

Monday, December 11, 2006

My chauffeur is elegant!

“Delivery will be 60€, I’m sorry but here in Spain it is unusual for delivery to be included, we have to employ a chauffeur with his own camion and it is expensive. How do you say camion in English?”

“We would call it a Lorry, a Wagon or a Truck.”

“And chauffeur?” he added “what is the English word for a chauffeur?”

“Driver is the usual word although we do use chauffeur it is reserved for a professional driver of a private vehicle. The English do tend to use French words to differentiate between some terms perhaps it is a more elegant way of saying driver.”

“My chauffeur is elegant! I like that; I will remember that for sure!”

On delivery day the house was a hive of activity every room was affected by the ongoing saga of the building works. I was talking to Manel about his team’s progress when we were disturbed by the call of a clearly irritated chauffeur asking for confirmation of his delivery. Delivery confirmed he turned on his heels and walked back along the track to his camion, checking the clearance between the nearby trees and the load he was to deliver as he walked. We heard the camion approaching and could see the grab above the height of the finca’s fences. The grab brushed aside the brush of the overhanging trees effortlessly, and the camion rolled into sight such a big wagon for such a small load.

Manel and I reacted as one shouting out a warning to the chauffeur to stop, because his grab was about to snag the telephone lines of nearby properties. The chauffeur got out of his cab and began cursing the telephone lines his luck and us. He pushed the lines away from the grab and then returned to the cab. We tried to point out a potential problem with a much larger tree bough just ahead of him but he dismissed us he had already seen the obstacle and taken account of it. He was we supposed, the expert a professional driver he was in fact a chauffeur.

The lorry crept passed the overhanging tree limb, the grab once more pushing against the tree and exerting overwhelming force. The tree moaned and groaned the heavy limb creaked and strained as it was pushed aside by the grab. The chauffeur was contemptuous of our alarm and inched forward. Every leaf on the tree was shaking with the force of the contact between the machine and the tree. Then suddenly there was a loud crack as the bough split and twisted away from the grab before springing back to wedge itself between the camion and the grab. The grab crashed down on the trailer.

Chauffeur or not now he had stop now. Climbing from his cab he looked angrier than ever, and after surveying the damage to his vehicle he cursed once more, though this time at the heavy branch that held his camion prisoner. The Chauffeur was unable to move the camion forward or backwards without compounding the problem. Manel and I unloaded the trailer whilst the Chauffeur spat and swore at the trees.

After assessing the problem he asked for a saw, but instead of sawing he began gnawing his way through the still green timber. The more he twisted the saw the more the blade jammed and the more he cursed. Eventually the bough yielded to the saw and he began to sever the connection between tree and branch. Impatiently the chauffeur began kicking out at the offending limb the effect of which was merely to send the branch swinging; he was clearly frustrated and his attack on the timber became more sustained. He became increasingly frantic, pushing, pulling, twisting and turning the broken limb which was creaking and groaning under this assault, although it still hung by what now seemed only a thread. The Chauffeur gave the branch one final hefty shove with his foot, the branch swung violently away and then back at the Chauffeur catching him full in the face. The branch broke away from the tree and fell on top of the Chauffeur knocking him to the floor of his trailer. When he stood up his face was bloodied and his lower teeth seemed to have punctured his bottom lip. Tearfully he cast the tree branch from the trailer, climbed into his cab

and reversed the camion back along the track to the road. Once back on the road he stopped again and examined the damage to his vehicle. The hydraulic pipes which controlled his grab had been severed in the accident, and the grab was out of action.

As for his injuries, his pride had sustained the worst the cuts and bruises would heal in a week or too.

A couple of days later I heard the sound of a chainsaw coming from the front of the house. It was Jose, slicing up the fallen branch. He began loading the logs into a wheelbarrow for the short journey to his house and I could see that little remained of the fallen oak. Time to reach for my trusty saw that is if I was to benefit from this accidental oak!

Monday, November 27, 2006

Aquí no hay quien viva

One of the best of the Spanish situation comedy television offerings is Aquí no hay quien viva a show about a group of residents sharing an apartment block in Spain’s capital Madrid. The bizarre situations that arise allow some common themes to carry over from one episode to the next. The programme is a showcase for some very talented actors.

Try and translate the title in any automatic translation and you end up with a rather unfortunate ‘Here there are not some who lives’. I believe the spirit of the meaning is that everybody is represented here, everybody being Spanish characters.

On entering the building you may expect to meet Emilio Delgado the buildings caretaker, though he is always difficult to find. Emilio is often used to link the stories that are unfolding in different parts of the communal building. His attempt to better himself by attending university resulted in an affair with his professor and surprisingly at least to him low grades.

Mariano is Emilio’s father he comes from the University of Life and is contemptuous of those who do not. Describing them as, ‘ignorante de la vida’. He is a schemer and always willing to try anything for easy money, he is dishonest and untrustworthy in a quite comic way; and always fails.

Emilio’s former girlfriend is Belén López she and Emilio often rekindle their relationship despite both pursuing other partners. Belén’s lurches from one job to the next just as she does in her relationships.

Belen’s friend of whom she is quite envious is Lucía Álvarez, a glamorous blonde from a rich background who is always being perused by male admirers.

Joining this community means that you will have to deal with the community president Juan Cuesta.

As ‘El Presidente’ Juan is the residents focus for all things to do with the administration of the building. He is a school teacher. Being the president of a community is an honorary position, and Juan feels proud and even ennobled by his election; despite being continually derided by his fellow occupants. Juan’s nobility does not preclude him from becoming involved in the dodgy dealings that take place daily in the building. He does however fear the consequences of being found out by the authorities, and his nerve will often fail him.

Isabel a nurse and former hippy is Juans live in girlfriend, when stressed she smokes a water pipe. The other residents call Isabel the herb-girl or grass, Las Hierbas. The children of the combined families are a constant worry for thier parents.

At the video store Paco is the store and bar keeper he is a film buff and fool and is often in the company of the wasters from the community including José Miguel son of the president, he is known as Josemi.

One of the funniest characters is Mauricio Hidalgo always called Mauri. A gay man who is living with his lesbian flat mate Bea, and their child Ezequiel who was conceived by artificial insemination. Mauri’s boyfriend is the community lawyer Fernando. Mauri often finds himself under the watchful gaze of Las Jubiladas a group of three retired women with nothing to do but meddle.

The jubiladas are, Concha always in arrears with her community taxes but always the first to make demands on the president. She constantly refers to him as a thief, shouting ¡chorizo! At him as he skulks away.

Concha’s sidekicks are Marísa and her sister Vicenta. Now into their seventies the sisters are like chalk and cheese; whilst Marisa has remained a wild child, drug using and hard drinking, Vincenta is genial and still a quite naïve virgin who is saving herself and still hopes to find a husband.

There are two men who constantly compete for the affections of Lucia, they are now flatmates and thus able to keep an eye on each other. They are the Architect Roberto and a would be businessman Carlos.

Carlos now owns the video shop and once tried his hand at being community president.

Friday, November 24, 2006


The city of Girona is only 35 minutes away from Figueres though parking your car in the city can take twice as long. There are no free parking places in Girona’s centre and all in all you are far better to let the train take the strain.

Parking at Figueres station is 1€ for the day. The trains are frequent and plentiful, and also clean and comfortable. If travelling to the airport at Girona you can expect to pay13€ for a direct bus but less than half that for the train and connecting bus. The short wait at the train station in Girona (the bus station is right outside) will give you the opportunity to sample the hot chocolate drink at the station bar. This is a chocolate drink so thick you could walk on it! It tastes as good as it looks.

If you are intent on sight seeing a day visit is more than enough for Girona. The old quarter around the Basilica is well served by helpful tourist information office staff that has a wealth of maps and advice to dispense. This is a stark contrast to the Figueres office where some of the staff are a little reticent in offering their services.

Shopping in Girona like many cities is slowly gravitating away from the old town to the rather lack lustre shopping malls on the edge of the city. The industrial areas around them look shabby and degraded and in need of a bulldozer.

Gonna get myself connected

Sometime soon WiFi could solve our Internet connection problems. Ah! Mañana the Spanish equivalent of never never land.

Life in a small village on the edge of a city sharpens your perspective on the divide between town and country dwelling. Those everyday things the norms of modern living are often denied you, utilities like gas, electricity and water supplies can not be taken for granted in rural Spain. The telephone too can remain out of reach. Read the forum pages of any expat web site and they are full of people trying to work around the problems they encounter obtaining a supply of any of those services.

Our own experiences in this area. We waited over eighteen months for someone to move an electric meter twenty yards the cable was already in place, and as usual everybody was waiting for somebody and nobody did it! Still, at least the meter has been moved it took less than half an hour to complete the task; and everybody, somebody and nobody had the good grace to be more than a little embarrassed over the fiasco.

It does get cold here, although according to the local people the winter lasts only three weeks. Heating your home with gas is almost laughable. A Romanian guy delivered my gas bottles; yes that’s right bottled gas in 2006. He could not believe that in this day and age cities like Figueres had no piped gas supply, back in Romania piped gas was the norm in even small towns. Here the pipes are going to be installed in 2007, here in Figueres that is, not in the villages of course not even sometime soon.

The telephone was an essential requirement for Carol, when we bought the house we asked specifically about the phone connection, the working phone was demonstrated for us. On purchase of the property we found that La Señora had taken not only the telephone but also the telephone line, a set of radiators and steps for the swimming pool.

Always intending to buy our own telephone apparatus the telephone equipment was not an immediate concern, the line however was. The village telephone installation was over subscribed and until the system was replaced there was no possibility of having a phone. We could see that our house was wired to the system but we could not be allocated a number. Still a brand new telephone system would surely mean up to date facilities whenever the work was completed.

After several months the work was completed on the new telephone exchange we could in theory obtain a number. Work on the house was continuing, (You can see the photographs of the stages we went through by following link to Spain Villa on this page) and it was at this stage we had the windows and doors replaced.

During the installation of one of those doors the telephone line was severed at the point it entered the house. The line had previously been inserted into a hole in the old wooden door frame and then glued into position, so when the frame was then removed the line was severed. The new fittings were aluminium this meant that the telephone cable would have to be fed through a 9" thick concrete wall, and then joined.

Telefonica’s new exchange is not so new after all. We can not have an ADSL line at the moment not even sometime soon. What was mid twentieth technology is still state of the art in much of rural Spain.

We had to pay for the installation as if it was new connection, Telefonica staff should wear masks! The connection was bodged by drilling through the corner of the masonry and the cable glued to the wall. This of course means that only the paintwork is holding it up.

On the edge of the village is a large factory which will supply paper products to the hotel and catering industry it is a business dependent upon fast communication with its clients and prospective customers. The factory will bring employment to the area and is a welcome development. They can not have their required internet connection.

The mayor has made unsuccessful representations to the telephone company about this absurd situation. The one remaining hope is WiFi (I say YFI they say wee fee)

The cluster of four small villages in our vicinity may one day become a WiFi zone. Ah! Mañana.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

El Neng

Murton village on the A19 near Sunderland boasts a new shopping centre the Dalton Park retail outlet. And here I am in the centre car park just three days after returning to the U.K. for a short visit. I am looking at a car which displays an icon of what maybe the most famous Spaniard of all. More famous than Don Juan and Don Quixote even!
He is El Neng de Castefa.El Neng is a comic character on the Buenefuente television show which is essential viewing for me, whenever I am in Spain which is most of the time.Neng is one of many funny characters created by very talented people on the show. His appeal to world audience is phenomenal. Every refugee arriving by boat from Senegal knows at least two people in Spain Samuel Eto'o the Barcelona striker and El Neng de Castefa. Buenefuente brought them together. The rest is comic history!
In the first show Neng meets his hero Eto'o and asks him to give Neng’s famous salute when he next scores a goal for Barcelona. When Eto'o kept the promise it made the national news. The second clip picks up where the first finished even if your Spanish is poor you should understand what is happening. (Fading away after his dream had come true he is called by God; in true Neng style he refuses after all there is the Champions league to consider here.)
Two of the better sketches from the show have links to Youtube video clips given here.

Part 1

Part 2

Sunday, October 22, 2006

True Grit!

It is 1155am on a warm autumn morning and I have just enough time to deliver my package to Eduardo in the city before the long siesta begins at 1 o’clock. Tomorrow I will be travelling and will not have enough time to meet with up with him.

Starting out on my short journey to Figueres I am immediately faced with a problem, a problem in the shape of my neighbour. Though I have tried to befriend him he seems to have taken an exception to me, and worse still he has even tried to stake a claim to my land.

Our paths cross on an increasingly regular basis and on each of those occasions he stands his ground, forcing me to change direction should I dare to pass him in the calle. Today is no exception, and once again the diminutive one eyed Mexican has fixed me in his gaze. He is the new guy in town; he is determined to make his mark and is certain that he will not allow me to get in his way. The higher ground he occupies gives him another advantage, too far along the camino, I can not go round him I can only face him or retreat.

The Mexican’s smaller stature only serves to emphasise his muscular frame. Even the lameness on his left side does not detract from his confident posture.

I need to pass him for there is no other way out of the pueblo. For what seems like an eternity we are locked in what is rather appropriately known as a Mexican stand-off. I check my watch, it is nearing High Noon.

Only when Margarita calls him away does the unrelenting gaze of his one good eye shift momentarily from me. That moment is enough! And I seize the opportunity, moving towards him purposefully. Margarita calls out to him once more. His one good eye focussed on me as he begrudgingly moved out of my path leaving only just enough room for me to pass.

When I look back I can see that he is heading for my land, maybe he is going to stake a claim!

Ay! Mi Chihuahua!

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Temperature gauge

I now have a more reliable weather forcaster or rather team of forcasters. They are the Geckos who gather each evening around the exterior lights of the Villa. Once the lights are switched on the insects which make up their food supply will be attracted to the light souce and also to the geckos.

The Geckos which look like baby crocadiles, they come and go with the heat. I counted 7 last night and sure enough today the temperature touched 100 degrees!

Friday, July 21, 2006

What on earth is that?

Spanish market places are a delight. You will be amazed at the variety and quality of the local produce on offer. Wonderful fresh vegatables that somehow seem to miss the tourist menu. The numerous varieties of pulses and dried fruit on offer. On the butchers counter unfamiliar cuts of meat await you, nothing on the pig is wasted not even it´s whistle. Encounter strange and exotic seafood much of it walking around the display if not between your feet.

I suspect that many foreign visitors play the same guessing game of trying to name the creature.

Just remember if it walks like a duck, and it quacks like a duck; then the chinese probably have 40 recipes for it!

Playing the game.

Women, so we are often told and often by women themselves; are far better at the comminications game than men,why this should be so no one really knows for sure.

I believe that we all have the same sized bag of letters with which to form words from, and just like a game of scrabble it´s how you use them that counts. Women just seem so much more adept at it than men.

In Spain, Españoles play the game just the same as us. A Spanish man when negating a statement or an action will use the word ´no´.A very simple and at the same time powerful word. He will pick up extra points because he simply repeats the word,

¡No! !no¡ !no¡

His female counterpart elaborates the same short phrase so that it becomes!No¡ !nnnnnnnnnn no¡ picking up extra points for all those n´s at the bottom of her letters bag.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Thunderbolt and Lightfoot

Thunderbolt and Lightfoot are two of the most miserable looking men you could wish to encounter.

Lightfoot is the unofficial sentinal of the village watching all the comings and goings of the inhabitants. I once returned shortly after midnight to find him gone. My god I´ve beaten him! He´s given up watching me. But there he was lurking in the shadows of a cherrytree partialy illuminated by the eiree glow of the streetlighting. One day I´ll do it .............

Thunderbolt as the owner of an ancient bicycle is retained by the Junta to deliver their official correspondence. To say he takes his role seriously is an understatement. It is possible to gauge the contents of your mail without opening it simply by looking at him. A faint smile means bad news, prohibition or censure. A blank expression means goodnews on the otherhand!

Theirs is an unlikly partership. They spend each and every summer evening sweltering in the humid night air watching the comings and goings of the villages. Hardly a word passes between them and still they are team.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

And so it came to pass!

Or rather,

"Passe y control" "Passe y control"
as rather excited Spanish football commentator was advising `La selection de Español´; during their endevours at the 2006 football world cup finals.

Passing movements were described as,

"Ticky taca,ticky taca,ticky taca"

Even the dullest passage of play was enlivend with,

"Futbol passion de multitudes"

An exclamation of,

"Huevos fritos" - fried eggs
must of meant something to his Spanish audience, even if it bemused me!

The all time favourite remains,

"GOl,golgolgolgolgolgolgolgolgolgolgolgolgolgolgolgol, España. Viva futbol,viva futbol,viva futbol"

Motson eat your heart out.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Around and about

The cement mixer in the foreground marks the begining of the construction of a swimming pool in our neighbours garden. The process will take three months to complete.

The last of the winter snows cap the peaks of the nearby Pyranees.

The birds in the picture are egrets they feed on
grasshoperrs and crickets on the grass lands near us.

Last year Mrs. Gravy and I stalked an egret on our own land. I played the part of the wild life expert teaching Carol how to creep up on the bird, describing it´s life style in the process. She was most impressed and rather excited until she raised the Binoculars and said ,"It´s a carrier bag!"

Deflated is putting it mildly!

views from the house

Mrs Gravy on the grass cutter. Looks like a lawn from the house but it is full of weeds up close

The fields around us are a rich verdent green with the growth of the spring barley

extra photos Colin

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

A fitting End.

It was for Carol the last day of her short working holiday here in Spain. Her suitcase was packed and she was almost ready to go.

We had the evening to look forward to and had booked a table at the Resturant Mas Pla. Olga and Angel the owners were always welcoming and eager to please.

The local black wine ´vino negre´was appropriate for the meat dishes we would probably choose a steak for me and Carol may have the same but with a salsa on the side. (not a dance but a sauce)

Olga returned to the table and adressed Carol.

"Do you like Wilbur?"
"Si, es con salsa"
"Wilbur is it a fish, pescado?"
"No es carne con sasla, it is the special for today only for you!"
"Thank you, but I´m not sure what it is!"
Olga turned to me and repeated Wilbur several times, becoming more hesitant with each repeated word. As her speech slowed the word Wilbur was fragmented to Wil- bur; and then it clicked,
" Wild Boar!" I exclaimed.
"Si Wil(d)bur" repeated Olga clearly pleased to have got through to us at last.
Carol joined in "Oh yes, I like the sound of that I will have Wild Boar."

Angel served his special dish of the day in a cast iron casserole dish, the dark coloured meat was covered in a dark salsa with a few vegatables incorporated in the dish.

"Look ´Gravy´" said Olga.
Both she and Carol laughed at their private joke. They had often talked of Carol´s liking for salsa english style.

Angel was pleased that his special was well received. Carol was contented and Olga could now relax.

Wilbur the wild boar had spent his short life running free in the woods of the Alt Emporda countryside. That was until he was shot by a hunter, he was destined to be the final serving of wild boar dished up on the last day of the hunting season.

Wild? I bet wilbur was furious!

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Paitience brings it's own reward.

The lone fisherman stood on the shore of the Mediterranean Sea, the waters fed here by a tidal river. Quietly he watched and waited, listening to the rhythm of the sea as it ebbed and flowed around him.

Shafts of saffron coloured sunlight pierced an aubergine sky. Gathering clouds washed over the setting sun, cooling the air and signalling that, soon day would once again yield to the night. The rising moon heralded the arrival of a breeze.

Below, tension gripped the river waters surface, a silvered mirror on whose face the sky reflected; whilst evening’s insects danced upon that watery stage. It was a picture of serenity, which was broken only occasionally by the sounds of leaping fish.

The creatures that inhabited the estuary waters had been separated from the sea by the sand deposited on an earlier tide. A safe haven had thus been formed in which they were at liberty to forage and to hunt.

Now the sea was returning to reclaim the estuary for itself, wave after wave in turn washed away the sands from the estuary mouth. The Mediterranean and the river merged. Now the former hunters would themselves become pray to the larger species which were able to navigate once more the deeper waters.

The fisherman smiled, the tide was indeed turning. Maybe his luck would too.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Right under our noses

Taiwanese scientists have succeeded in breeding luminous pigs.

Food technologists will be able to develop luminous pork scratchings (pork rind), ideal for the movies and other dimly lit entertainment venues.

The luminous skin could be the new fashion must have. Glow in the dark leather wear would be a hit with night club patrons and possibly those in the sex industry!

The pigs could be an eco friendly, but smelly, way to light up ‘el Campo’


Deep division exists between, those who favour the building of a 400 kilovolt power line to supply French nuclear generated electricity to Spain; and those against. The power line ‘Mast Alta Tension’ it is claimed, is required to supply the TGV link between Paris and Barcelona.

Catalan protest groups have rallied under the banner of ‘No MAT’, their supporters have added to the graffiti which adorns many public areas in the region. The meetings have attracted both widespread support and influential speakers. Nearly all end with supper and a dance; quite civilised really.

Thursday, January 19, 2006


Barca's midfield utility player Gabri is being linked to my home town club Middlesbrough F.C. I wonder if he could persuade one or two of his team mates to travel with him; perhaps ETO'O would like a new challenge.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Oh! Aye, I read a book once

University of Adelaide Library E-Books

The big man from Bradford did not wait for an invitation, he took a seat at my table.
I smiled and acknowledged his greeting, before returning to my book.
His curiosity was aroused,
"What are you reading?" he asked
Essays by Michel de Montaigne I replied showing him the cover
"Oh! Aye, I read a book once" he said.
"Really" I replied, showing polite interest though somewhat surprised.
"I can't remember what it was called, but it were a bigun" he added.
I knew then that my reading would have to wait. Instead we would spend yet
another evening discussing the varying amount of chopped green chilies he would add to each of the dishes in his favourite Tandoori restaurant back home.
Sometimes you need a distraction...

One of the problems of living in a foreign land is finding enough reading material. A useful site for online texts in English, is the website of The University of Adelaide Library(see link above).
The site lists authors alphabetically, and allows you to read online or download the book for your own use.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Life's a gas

The Daily Telegraph are reporting that Repsol are bidding for the Liquid petroleum gas division of Shell.

Obviously they are not expecting 'GasNatural' to connect us country folk up any day soon. The market amounts to 300 million euros per annum.

The writer Malcolm Moore states, "the (bottled) gas is popular in rural areas..."

Oh! No it's not it is a pain in the butt!

He obviously does not have to lug these relics of a bygone age around his own home. BBQ's do not count.

Even my Romanian gas delivery man was astounded at how primitive this system is; in what is supposedly an advanced society.

Don't even mention Broadband Internet! After all it is only the 21st. Century.

Sunday, January 15, 2006


Bear necessities of Life!

What was believed to be the last remaining female example of the Pyrenees bear, "Cannelle" (French for cinnamon) was shot by a French hunter a year ago. Though lamented by Mr. Chirac at that time, there has been no further news on the promised re-introduction of the species. The bears are largely vegetarian and would be a sad loss to the mountain habitat; there must be enough space in the vast and rugged terrain.

I spoke to a Danish couple who had spent the summer of that year touring the Spanish Pyranees, of all the fantastic things they had seen the sight of a brown bear approaching their Camper van was the true highlight of their visit.

If the Government are serious about promoting rural and eco tourism the re-introduced bears would be a great symbol of their commitment.

Until then this example in the city of Figueres is as close as you can get!

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Feliz Navidad

Christmas Day in Tenerife. The winter sunshine was perfect a comfortable temperature of 24C. most days.

It was good to see so many familiar faces again, and to exchange our experiences of the last twelve months.

Harry in Thailand (see links) is a book which is in turn a humerous account of the exploits of an old friend who should know much better.

Please give Harry some encouragement by leaving your thoughts on the story so far in the comments field.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

My place in the Sun

My short journey from Girona airport to the house on January 28th. 2005 was filled with quite reasonable expectations of an escape from cold and damp Britain. There was a lot of work to do on the house and there would be considerable disruption, we needed to have all the contractors working as a team to minimize delay and meet our spring deadline.

As the sun set over the mountains, the taxi driver cheerfully told me that on the past two days the temperature had climbed to 20 degrees C. Spring was on the way!

My first task was to drive to Olot and speak to the double glazing company about their pending installation work. Olot is higher than our house and set in a volcanic area surrounded by high terrain. The mountain air was fresh, cool and invigorating. As the sun began to set I started out on my journey home, the car thermometer was reading low. And then it snowed, and how it snowed. The cold mountain air swirled the snow flakes in the car headlamps, as features of the landscape disappeared into the blizzard then so did the road. A forty minute journey took twice as long in the treacherous weather.

The weather we had come to Spain to avoid was all around us. A Siberian winter was unfolding. The snow did not last long the air was freezing but devoid of moisture. The strong Traumontana winds blew for 45 of the first sixty days of 2005, the wind chill of all wind chills. Spring was no longer on the way! February was cold. So cold in fact that I heard of some expats who left Spain and returned home to face an English winter.

I had travelled out alone to arrange for central heating to be fitted prior to decorating and the later furniture shipment. We had spent several months researching the different systems, and wished to install a geo-exchange ground pump to extract energy from the ground of the large agricultural part of the finca. To this end, I had contacted the representatives of Spain on the international bodies responsible for the promotion of renewable energy for advice as well as several large scale commercial engineering organizations.

The rocky nature of the land meant that excavation or drilling was expensive. The companies which all had glossy web presentations, seemed to lack confidence in their own abilities when the specifics of the task were discussed. The heat pump was not viable.

Underfloor heating for a house of 316 m2 was also cost prohibitive, we had to settle for radiators.

The massive disruption caused during the installation had to be seen to be believed 9" of concrete had to be excavated to take the water pipes; and so in the end had to budget to re-tile the whole of the house as well.

One particularly cold afternoon the North African heating engineer ran out into the garden whooping with delight

"It's snowing! It's snowing never in my life have I seen snow" he called to me.

"Really! I returned only one week ago and already I've seen it twice" I replied with slightly less enthusiasm.

Now, as I pack my bags to return to the Spanish Costa Brava after a winter sunshine holiday I am watching nervously as the thermometer keeps falling; and reading of the record number of UK ski and snow board tourists arriving at Girona airport en-route to Andora.