What a strange time of the year it appears to be! We’re experiencing one of the earliest cold spells we’ve had here in Andalucia, with ‘nieve’ (snow) all over the Sierra’s right behind us.

Combined with a northerly wind, this has given rise to some surprisingly low temperatures in the evenings though the sun by day raises things somewhat to a more pleasant level. Then today the wind changed and the thermometer shot back up to twenty five. It’s true, it’s a land of only two seasons, but take nothing away from the change in the landscape and it’s scenery, for where else can you sit outside under the palms with a drink whilst the glare from the snow peaked mountains reigns down.

My favourite season back in England had to be Autumn. That walk to work in the morning over Curtis fields gave rise to some wonderful sights, such as the appearance of deer which became more common as the thick undergrowth and trees gave way to the impending winter leaving less room for those animals to conceal themselves. It’s often said that the brown and golds of a copse or wood as the trees shed their leaves makes for some of natures most wondrous seasonal colours, and I can’t argue with that. But here also down by one of the two main rivers that run nearby, the Grande and the Fahala, you can witness the spectacle of autumnal colour as giant sycamore, birch, willow and other familiar trees go through the same process irrespective of the still warming sun, giving rise to familiar sights that might have been seen in England.

Indeed, when out cutting down some of these dead trees or bushes for clientele in the Campo, I’ve recognised the sights and sounds of such birds as the cuckoo, thrush, and a robin as well as fly catchers and most common of all, my favourite, the blackbird. This combined with such things as pelicans, parrots, and eaglets only adds to the diverse wonder, familiar and new, that can be witnessed while out and about. That and, oh yes, the dulcet tones of my chainsaw!

But there are places here where, only but a short drive and walk away, you can witness something which is all too often missed or impossible to experience. That is the sound of silence! I’ve stood on a peak overlooking one of the ‘Earths Lungs’ Forests not far from here on the nature reserve and have gazed in awe casting my eyes over a view some twenty to thirty kilometres in every direction while craning my neck in an attempt to hear any sound. But the only sound heard is that of my own breath, not a bird, not an insect, no wind, no planes, no cars and no people, just silence. It’s like the Earth had just stood still, and I wouldn’t have believed it had I not witnessed it for myself. I doubt there are many places on the planet where you can experience such a thing, but I tell you, it’s eerie and somewhat unnerving for a townie like myself.

It was around this time that I decided to contact an old colleague of my wife’s from the Land registry who had said that her husband worked for the Dorset Echo in some capacity or other and that if I was serious about writing for an English newspaper, then to get in contact with him. I have written a number of things including poems, anecdotes, even three novels which I have now finished and on completion of this weekly feature, intend to pursue my literary career further.

I made contact with the said person, corresponding through ‘e’ mail, and was very kindly put in touch with Alan Lambert who I believed at that time to be the feature editor for the up and coming Echo website, (of which many people, especially out here, use to keep abreast of all things Dorset!).

We discussed a format, title and possible inclusion as an ongoing feature/biography on the website to be posted weekly to include not only our life and times, but as you now know, hints, tips, language, people and places.

I had always wanted to break into something like this and finally have an item actually printed and read by someone other than my wife, who, I have to say, has helped tremendously in supporting and helping me with things such as grammar and spelling. (Neither of these being strong points of mine, after all, I did leave school with only an ‘O’ level in Art!).

Being given the opportunity of personal expression is quite an uplifting experience but can also be a scary one for not only do my facts and figures have to be precise. But as I found out over the coming months, all kinds of people have logged into the feature for one reason and another so you must do your best to express the positive and the negative sides of such a story without intentionally upsetting or annoying someone, (though I have managed integrate and use artistic licence on many occasions in order to express my strong emotions or feelings on certain subjects!)

So there it started. Alan read the first months instalments and informed me he was happy with the content and thus I embarked on a mission of telling everyone exactly and precisely of our experiences and life in foreign climes. Some people who have read and reported or commented on my writings have done so generally with either good humour or interest. Some have indicated, maybe not to me directly, that they refuse to believe things can actually be like the way I say, while others continue to read taking what they want from the feature, be it my personal story or other parts. Either way, embarking on such a project to begin with certainly took up a great deal of time, but remember, I had plenty of that.

It was also about this time that our new business venture came to the fore and things started to pick up, that and the fact that new found friends and opportunities also presented themselves, and it soon became obvious that the whole day it took to write some of my feature stories were taking too long.

After a while I found it became easier as I started to relax with my writings. Alan gave me some tips as did other literary partners I had met.

Soon, as it is today, I found myself putting together an article in a period of around three hours, signed, checked and with Pics on it’s way to the Echo editorial offices back in Weymouth. Some of the summer nights I found myself writing at two or perhaps three o’clock in the morning, unable to sleep due to intense heat. This became an ideal time with most of those summer months features being written in the small hours.

Soon I had it sussed as it were, with a notebook plugged in permanently outside in the summer room whereby I could just sit, write and send as and when the opportunity presented itself, much as I do now. (Until I kick the hard drive in frustration and have to wait for a repair man!)

Being now only semi retired has given me time to do things which would never have either been possible or presented themselves back in blighty. For instance, as well as this feature, I’ve had the opportunity to continue and complete the third of a trilogy of thriller novels which for me has been an ambition since my youth. I’ve been able to continue with my cooking experiments and as stated in earlier episodes, have learned all manner of DIY, home maintenance and improvement techniques I would never have had the time to even try. But possibly the most satisfying thing has been the chance to spend some quality time with Rosa my wife, something we both found difficult to do when working full time. I mean, you think you know someone and then find out that that person has more, knows more, can do more and be more of a friend than you ever thought possible.

Corny it may sound, but there’s more to life than just eating and sleeping together. Having a life in two’s has been one of the most worthwhile discoveries for me over the last fifteen months. That’s not to say that we don’t have the odd spit spat, good heavens, we can shout with the best of them when there’s a disagreement to be had. But rather than storm off, it’s nice to stomp off together to a venta and share a tapas or two and laugh about it, especially when the sun is shining. Rosa also has discovered herself more in such a short time, with time to practice her painting art, playing tennis at the local club, attending language classes and of course, tackling her fear of water by spending copious amounts of time in the pool!

But not at the moment, the water’s too chilly for that, but summer arrives quickly as we found out this year. Come March the temperatures had risen to sunbathing proportions and the beaches were filling with locals and early tourists.

It’s a far cry from the hustle and bustle of having to be somewhere you don’t want to be working for someone you don’t want to work for all for a fraction of your self worth.

But you can still miss the familiar and the safe, even if like me you’re the adventurous type, there’s always something you hanker for back in England and for me especially, getting past Christmas last year was something I thought of as a turning point.

At the start of this weeks article I wrote about how I got started in writing this feature, but not the real reason. That will come later.

Colourful Characters

Do you ever wonder about people whom you’ve either seen on the TV, or idolised from afar, or wondered what kind of life the stars really have?

Well, if your unlucky like me, you’ll get invited to a pool party and find that the guest list includes someone who in the past or present believes themselves to be famous or someone’s idol. I’m not into all that hero worship stuff myself, I mean I do have my favourite film actors or musicians which give me pleasure from their work, but I can’t think of anyone I’d want to change places with, and as for heroes, well my wife and two sons are possibly the only ones who fall into that category. But you can bump into a multitude of ‘Cardboard Cut-outs’ out here, those that attend these parties to boost what little success they may have left. For instance, at one of these parties, I met with a charming middle aged lady who, having arrived at the party dressed in nothing more than a bikini and silk wrap, proceeded to strut round the other guests uttering words like ‘darlings’ and ‘paparazzi’ in an attempt to break into conversation.

Well, not being someone to miss a chance like that, I jumped up making a beeline for her and pulling myself up to my full height, (though some six inches short of her six foot five stature) asked if she would pose for me while I took her picture. Well, she agreed and much to my amazement offered to take a dip in the pool while I snapped away. There was mild mirth from a number of guests including my wife as this woman, I shall call Tracy, because that was her name, proceeded to swim and prance and dance in the water as I snapped away.

Known to a few at the party, Tracy was one of the women featured in a programme called ‘Marbella Belles’, so called hot totty looking for success and fortunes by any means they could, even if it meant being snapped by an unknown reporter for the Daily Planet who promised her a full spread in a Sunday broadsheet. Never mind Trace, got you in the Dorset Echo, best I could do, and at least you gave us a laugh and took a joke or two.

Oh, and also, there was an entertainer there called ‘Terry’, you know, one of the original line up from the band ‘Smokey’, singing the rude version of Living Next Door to Alice and all that stuff, though looking worse for alcohol and a terrible perm. Ah well, we live and learn!

Worth a visit

Carrying on with the British granite outcrop, Gibraltar is home to a best of both worlds culture. Last year, Gib as residents call it celebrated the 300th anniversary of the British takeover. Sun baked Spanish-style houses are adorned with Victorian cast-iron balconies from England.

The labyrinthine streets and alleys of the old town, reminiscent of nearby Spanish cities like Cadiz, are dotted with iconic English phone booths, red Royal Mail boxes and bars with names like Lord Nelson and the Angry Friar. Once over the border, if your looking to visit as many of the sights and places of interest as possible, then grab a cab and take the tour. The drivers are very patient and helpful with commentary and a history dialogue in the price which will run you about £15 each, but well worth it.

There’s Europa Point, St Michaels Caves, the upper and inner gun batteries, twin peaks, and of course, the mother in laws relations, the Barbary apes! But watch your sunglasses, handbags and cameras, they’ll have them away if they get the chance! Yes, Gib is nothing like it used to be, but it is well worth a day out, though as I said, the shopping is not as cheap as it used to be, but even though it’s changed, if you never knew the old Gib like me, then you’ll still enjoy it’s charm.

Next week

We’ve nearly come full circle!