Wednesday, 28 May 2008

It's been a while...

Valencia's own David Ferrer smashing his way to victory, against all the odds whilst defending several match points against him, in the 2008 ATP Open de Tenis Comunidad Valenciana, April 2008

Well, it appears that over a month has elapsed since the last post on this site. Sorry, for those of you who faithfully check-in on a regular basis. I have a list of excuses as long as my exceedingly long arms.

Would you like the one about the numerous guests we've had in the past couple of months that have kept me away from the keyboard? OK, if that excuse doesn't wash (though it is true, and it would be very rude to simply keep blogging rather than showing people the sights of Valencia or cooking them tapas and paella!).

Then there's the other technology-oriented excuse - another genuine one - whilst results from my now-dead Dell PC. The hard drive, which stored by complete life (yeah, yeah, yeah... I did have a full backup!) finally died early last week - a clicking sound of the hard drive gasping its last followed by lots of blue screens and white type (why can't Microsoft vary the bad news with a bit of colour?!). Sadly, despite buying a lovely new hard drive - three times the capacity of the last one at 750GB - it wouldn't let me load Windows properly and so after crashes too numerous to mention, I have now recruited a computer-savvy person to come and bash it until it gets some sense about how Windows XP Professional is meant to just work right out of the box...

All of which means that we are now down to just three computers - one desktop, one laptop and this MacBook Pro. Lovely new Mac, but unfortunately, my life still exists on the backup hard drives and not on this little blighter, so whilst I'm able to just about cast my fat fingers around this titchy keypad, I don't have access to any pretty photos or video at the moment, so it's gonna be a few days more before I can crank something up which will spit out the necessary graphic images (though I've managed to grab one or two for the time-being).

Quite a bit has happened here in not-so-sunny-all-of-the-time Valencia over the past seven weeks or so. Firstly I took delivery of this shiny new Apple Mac and am very slowly teaching myself all the various graphics packages to enable me to be more productive in my 'virtual life', though I am so used to all the Windows shortcuts, I'm not sure if it will be in this lifetime or the next that I'll finally conquer the Mac shortcuts too!

We have navigated ourselves from one set of guests to another. It has been great fun spending time with so many people over the past year and in particular showing off this beautiful city to our friends and work colleagues. It is also simply so rewarding to spend real quality time with people when so often we communicate by occasional email, phonecall or the odd dinner. To spend 2, 3, 4 or more days with our friends - especially when the climate has been favourable - has been a real joy here in Valencia, and something we'll always treasure. Still, there has to be some benefit in all these visits coming to an end... Chris finally gets the chance to move back into his own bedroom, leaving Jo to get on with life in her own bedroom! What a star he's been, camping out, off and on, for the past nine months or so, in his sister's bedroom!

So then to events and activities - we've seen and experienced plenty during April and May. From my old fave, Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo (last saw them about 15 years ago at the old Sadler's Wells Theatre in London) to the finals of the ATP Open de Tenis Comunidad Valenciana, and from The Night of the Proms concert (one of the most surreal and weird evenings of our life!) to a long weekend camping with friends in Santa Pola (just south of Alicante), we've had an action-packed couple of months.

Going back to The Night of the Proms - we were warned in the advanced publicity within the local 24/7 Valencia Guide that the event would be a little on the strange side, and it didn't disappoint. Where else could you find the following: a 72-piece orchestra performing Land of Hope and Glory and a variety of Strauss waltzes, the Spanish heart-throb Miguel Rios, a male German singer, Galileo, who could belt 'em out in a combination of soprano and baritone - all in the same ballad (astoundingly talented), OMD (Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark), Alan Parsons (yes, he of the original 'Project' fame - and a giant of a man), 1970's one-hit-wonder-but-stunning-pianist-and-vocalist, John Miles ('Music was my first love...') and the 1980's supergroup, Simple Minds... in a 10,000-seater echo-ey athletics velodrome? Musically, the evening was superb. With regard to the choice of musical programming - Strauss, Elgar, Simple Minds' 'Belfast Child', Alan Parsons' 'Psychobabble' and OMD's 'Enola Gay' - it all makes the strangest of bedfellows.

The island of Tabarca lies just off the coast of Santa Pola, and makes a great day trip, though it's best to go on a windless day!

Scarcely had we recovered our eardrums and reaffirmed that we were in fact still living within the early 21st century and not the previous one or two hundred years (music aside)... it was time for our first camping adventure. As it turned out, more by luck than by judgement, we picked the last few clear sunny days before an onslaught of April and May showers - nay, storms! Together with friends, we spent three days and two nights camping at Santa Pola, a few miles to the south of Alicante. Well, the good news is that the brand new Decathlon-special 6-berth tent worked fine. We even managed to set it up and put it away again in around 30 minutes on each occasion. However, the land mass required to fully erect the structure is equivalent to the area of Devon and Cornwall combined, so I am anticipating the need for multiple camping 'sites' on each occasion we plan to pitch it in the future. We are really looking forward to two or three weeks' camping up around the north west of Spain in the summer, and possibly some time in Portugal if we can organise things in time...

Chris, Jo and Liz show off that vast tent, and prove the fact that it did turn out just like the instructions said it would!

Of course, aside from all the concerts and camping, we have managed to pack in a number of great meals and parties with friends. A great night out celebrating Angel's 40th back in late April and Margaret's 50th earlier in May. Both events required visits to the best local bars and restaurants, and it strikes me that even if we stay here another decade, partying everyday, we won't have managed to visit every hostelry, though we might die trying!

Chris and Jo have also had their own busy and enterprising times. Both have had schoolfriends over to play; they continue to play football with other children from our apartment block; they've done well at their respective school sports days school concerts and Chris has managed not only to achieve his faith badge for cubs back in Cottenham whilst staying in Valencia, but he has just learned that he has achieved a 'Distinction' in his Royal Schools of Music recorder exam - something he chose to study for and put himself through. Jo was mentioned in dispatches at a school parents day last term for being a finalist in a competition to design a new logo for the parents association. We were subsequently invited to attend a meeting with the parents association but felt that keeping a meaningful conversation going in Valenciano was a step too far for all of us amateur Spanish speakers! Both children have had a great academic year at school and hopefully will continue to benefit from this Spanish experience long into the future. We are both in awe of their abilities to muck in with their Spanish friends, sharing communication between English, Spanish and... Valenciano, which they have both had to study this year. Term finishes later in June and then it's time for the great summer camping fest.

Meanwhile, technology permitting, we'll be back with further blogs from time-to-time throughout the summer. Oh... and I'm still promising those Fallas videos sometime!