This blog comes with apologies for its length.  If you manage to read it all you will see why there has not been time to write one since this time last year! We have tried to remember everything and everyone and have made the photo galleries slide shows so you can relax and enjoy. We send this to you all with our love and appreciation.

WHAT A SURPRISING YEAR IT HAS BEEN down here in the depths of the orange and olive groves of sunny Andalucia we really did not expect excitement ……. However compared to last year (our first), when we were very pleased to welcome 87 guests to La Finca,  2013 has blown all expectations. We are somewhat bemused to find that we are ending this year having welcomed a total of 257 delightful and interesting guests from all over the world!

Early in the year our very wise friend Nik Pettett in Barcelona talked to Scarlett very severely about joining Trip Advisor and very reluctantly she did as she was told (a rarity). We started at number 86 of 86 THE “B&B’s and Inns” category in Granada province and thanks to the kindness of our guests, who went to the trouble of posting a review of their stay with us, by July we were number 4. Thank you again everyone – and of course Nik! If you have not managed to write a review of your visit click here for another opportunity!  Cheeky we know but your good opinion is so important to us.

We have also been delighted very recently to find we have been mentioned in the Sunday Times travel page – on the 15th December.  A small entry but such a thrill!!

We have been astounded and touched by – and VERY grateful to – everyone who has chosen to visit and stay with us and have enjoyed every minute of their time with us.

At the beginning of this year in La Finca we decided that as the workload of the building project was completed, we wanted to find a way to manage it ourselves, with the minimum of help. The upside of this decision has been that we have really started to connect with La Finca and it is becoming not just a place of business for us but our home. There is really nothing like housework to make you connect with a place! We have deliberately avoided any large projects and worked on a few mini projects around the place – including some lovely signage and accessories produced by Emma Jacques

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We had enormous fun with creative genius Emma Plunkett and her husband Hunza Pozvil when they stayed here in the summer.  We made a video about life at La Finca which stars Dutch guests, Scarlett’s friend Annalisa Mather and her partner Richard Moss, both amazing life gurus, our daughter Louise and grandsons, Harry and Freddie, and our other grandchildren Billy, Lucia and Willow.


This year a large part of our income has come from the kitchen. We have really been on our toes …..! Chris’s breakfasts are renown – and deservedly so. He won’t let Scarlett in the kitchen until he has cleared up because (rather uncharacteristically of a Virgo) he is a truly messy cook.  Whenever a competitor is criticised on Masterchef for being untidy or disorganised – he visably squirms. The weird thing is he can deliver a different amazing breakfast to each of 8 guests round the table and wow them all.

Breakfast at La Finca

Breakfast at La Finca

Breakfast at La Finca

Breakfast with a view

We have had real fun serving and joining our guests at meals, getting to know them better and listening to all their amazing personal stories.  There is nothing that brings people together better than sharing a good meal – except perhaps a disaster…… happily there have been very few of those!

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This year Chris has celebrated the big 70 – though nobody believes it!  After a bad health year last year he is fully recovered and very fit.  He runs around La Finca – up and down all the terraces maintaining the irrigation system, the energy system, the pool and the garden – as well as cooking fabulous breakfasts and walking the dogs twice a day!!  He is amazing!

He was thrilled that he was able to celebrate this landmark by having very special time with all our daughters and grandchildren both at in the UK and here at La Finca this year and to be able to party with good friends and family.

Chris enjoyed a surprise “sedate” dinner with friends at Señoria Nevada and a friends and family picnic on the beach.  Thanks to everyone for who joined us, for your gifts, contributions to the festivities and for your love. It was all very special and Chris really appreciated it.

Wonderful friends Nik and Alex and their dog Xak and Michael and Lynne McGowan looked after La Finca when we went for two flying visits to the UK.  Chris was able to finally catch up with his brother and sister and Scarlett with her cousins Peter and Angela as well as spending time with old friends Jill Francombe, Teresa Taylor, June and David Kelway and of course our 3 daughters and 6 grandchildren who live in the UK.

We have been delighted to welcome Scarlett’s eldest cousin Peter Dean and his friend Susan and later in the year his daughter Lucy Dean. It was special to have time with them as they have missed each other for many years and it was good to make up for some of the lost time caused by a family rift between our parents.  These things happen but the cause is long past and now we have the opportunity of catching up.  Hooray!

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On top of all this revelry we have found that having so many visitors in the house has been like having lots of house parties!  We have enjoyed the company of visitors from all over the world who have mucked in in the kitchen and in the garden, who have enjoyed the tranquility of La Finca and the beauty of El Valle de Lecrin.  They have taken advantage of the unique location of La Finca to visit Granada, the Alpujarras and the beaches, to visit markets, the Alhambra, the amazing Science Park in Granada and restaurants we have recommended.  They have gone horse trekking, bicycle riding, sailing and walking – and they have slept in peace by our pool or lazed around in the hammocks on our terraces. We have been thrilled to receive their feedback that confirms La Finca has plenty to offer! We thought it did – but it is so good to have our belief confirmed.

Apart from guests staying in La Finca we have held cookery classes, catered for celebrations including birthdays, reunions, a local bank employees’ family outing and a wedding that was held at our friends Antonia and Jimmy Connell’s Casa Rural in Albunuelas.  Every event has been a pleasure to organise and execute – they have all given us a challenge and sense of achievement. One notable exception was our annual booking for what we call the “Hugh Warwick and painters dinner”.  We have done this for 10 years but sadly this year Hugh was not well and did not come to Spain.  We really missed this group and are happy to report that Hugh is on the mend and we look forward to seeing him, Pamela and the others in 2014.

We have also been delighted to have the opportunity of meeting good local friends for tapas and meals and accepting invitations to other venues, homes and very enjoyable events in the Valley and Granada.  We have met up with holiday home friends who come and go through the year, good friends who live here, people we have met on FaceBook and attended  friends’ Guy and Dani’s renewal of vows……. wonderful!

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All our cats and dogs absolutely love our guests – we are sure that it has nothing to do with the fact they get so many snacks!! However it has been a tough year for the animals with some magical and some tragic and sad news.

On the 2nd January a 2 month old puppy arrived at La Finca – wearing a collar with a piece of chewed lead attached.  There had been a great many fireworks over the Christmas and New Year period and we felt he had been tied up and frighted and had broken free.  We took him in.  He was so loving a sweet but we had three dogs already so we approached a local animal charity to see if they could find a home for him as we already had three dogs – two of which we rescued. By the time they found a home for him in Germany, 4 months later, he was so settled with our other dogs we felt that it would be unkind to move him again.  He and our wonderful dog Scamp (who arrived here in November 2011) were quickly inseparable best buddies and were wonderful to watch running and playing together.  We originally called him TeaPot because he leaked like one.  Then when friends Alex, Nik and Xak looked after La Finca in February they renamed him RatBag because he was naughty.  So in the end we called him TeaBag because we didn’t want him to have a complex! Actually it suits him – his colouring is just like a dry PG Tips tea bag!

Chris walked them every morning and evening with our Springer Missie and little rescue dog Rocket.  Then in August the two of them suddenly started to take off together after their evening walk with Chris and our guests.  For 4 nights they were missing for 1-2 hours then they came home. The next night they did not. And they did not appear during the night, nor the next morning. Scarlett was running a cookery class for 4 American guests Peter and Judy Kauer, their daughter Laura and her husband Stephen. Chris went searching for the dogs all morning accompanied by our son-in-law Bob. In the kitchen we could hear a dog cry every now and again. It was not a consistent sound so it was difficult to locate but gradually we all became convinced of the direction from which the sound was coming.  Stephen suddenly said “I want to go with Chris and Bob – I was in Afganistan and I think I can locate the sound”. The rest of us watched from the terrace as the three men drove away from La Finca and then stopped and started to walk over the ground on the other side of the ravine that borders the property.  Suddenly Stephen shouted “I have got him, I know where he is” and he found Tea Bag lying unconscious on the ground in full sun. It was now 1pm in the hottest month of the year. The sun had burned him badly and he had blood on the side of his head. We rushed him under the shower and cooled him as fast as we could and gave him water to hydrate him. Then we took him to the amazing veterinary hospital in Granada where he was diagnosed as having been hit over the head and suffered a stroke. He was blind and the vet did not think he would survive. The veterinary team put him on a drip to hydrate him further and to give him medication to prevent a further stroke. They shaved him and covered him with cream to ease the pain of his burnt skin. It was heart breaking to see him in such a state. But over the next days with their excellent care he started to recover and after 3 days he came home.  Gradually his sight has mostly returned and now he is a strong and healthy dog,  a year old, enormous and still loving a teddy bear and a cuddle.  Such a boy!

And Scamp…..?

We never found our beautiful girl. We have no idea whether she is alive or dead. We believe that she and TeaBag were causing a nuisance somewhere and were punished in the rural Spanish way. People here are still afraid of unknown dogs probably caused by the threat of being bitten and of rabies. Also the locals are dependent on what they grow in their campo land and are right to want to protect it. However both dogs were domesticated and sweet natured. They would go to anyone for a stroke and petting. The rural reaction to stray dogs is understandable to a degree – and yet SO NOT acceptable. We are so sad to have lost her and we miss her. Its the not knowing for sure that is hard to bear ……..

The problem with homing stray dogs is training the desire to roam out of them. Their natural instincts are to hunt and scavenge. However if they take off they are in such danger – not just from wild animals (we have a lot of wild  boar around us), but from human hunters, and local landowners who hit them or lay down poisoned meat that they eat (Scamp was poisoned in 2012) – not to mention traffic. TeaBag never goes out unless he is on a lead now.  It is incredible to think that out here away from everywhere he is not safe – but there it is. He would not survive another major injury so we cannot take any risks. He is becoming great company in the house and learning the rules. We had to start his training again after he recovered from the stroke. We find he is not such a fast learner as he was but he has settled and the other animals have accepted him – and now its chilly at night they even find him quite useful for a snuggle!

Then there is Rocket……

We took Rocket in back in 2005 when she was a pup running loose in Albunuelas. In 2008 she was hit by a white van and has since valiantly and literally run with the other dogs with a plate and 6 screws in one hip and a screw in the other. Suddenly in September she suffered a discal hernia and need a spinal operation. Her recovery has been slow and there have been some setbacks – but we are getting there. Her spirit is incredible and so long as remains strong we will persevere. Every morning she scoots at great speed down the hall and propels herself over the the threshold of the front door, barking her protests to Chris that he is late to give the cats and dogs breakfast. She is still bossy and shares her opinion loudly when she thinks TeaBag is being too boisterous. At the moment she does not join Chris on his walks –  instead she has learned very quickly to recognise the sound of the door opening on the “Treats Cupboard” when she settles with Scarlett in the office to keep her company while he is out. After New Year she will start physiotherapy in a special pool for dogs… another new experience for us all!

And Missie…

We have known for sometime that Missie was not well and having reached the age of 15 we knew her days were numbered.  However losing her on Christmas Eve was still a shock.

15 years ago we drove one Saturday from Oxford to Aberdeen to visit Scarlett’s childhood friend Frances Bursill and his wife Jenny where we had dinner and stayed the night. We came home with MIssie (then 8 weeks old) on our laps. We took it in turns to drive and to cuddle her on that 10 hour journey – and that was the beginning of our bonding. At 16 weeks Missie spent 4 weeks with a gun dog trainer called Rolly outside Oxford where she learned basic obedience that she never forgot. She accepted every other dog and cat  that has passed through our lives with absolute patience and tolerance, giving her own form of training to each which included snuggles and very rare low rumbly growls. She was a constant companion through all the huge changes in our lives when we decided to leave the UK and start our adventures in Spain. One thing that we never managed to change was her greed! She would have eaten until she burst! It was for this reason she loved our guests and could always be found on their terraces hopefully waiting for yet another snack!  She was shameless in her begging – using her big, soft Spaniel eyes to say “They never feed me you know………”! We are so pleased that she was able to share La Finca with us – it is land made for a Springer Spaniel – where she could put up partridges and scavenge for her favourite foods – oranges, figs and olives! RIP gorgous girl, you were a real one off.

Happily all the cats, Salt, Pepper, Kinky and White Tail are well and thriving. We hardly see them in the summer but my word, how quickly they want to snuggle indoors when the chilly evenings arrive. It makes for a cosy winter though, so we are not complaining. Salt and TeaBag have become really good pals. Salt started to care for TeaBag when he came home from hospital – cleaning him and snugging with him and we are sure played a major part in his recovery. Now TeaBag is fully recovered Salt has turned his attention to bringing gifts to us all – in the last month or two we have had a snake, a bird and a rabbit.

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Changing from a “make things happen” to a “trust and let go and it will happen”  attitude to life has been the hardest challenge ever for Scarlett.  A heavy dose of stress-related ailments including depression, stomach ulcers and palpitations on top of further deterioration in the condition of her spine, made her realise that a significant change was required. In a characteristic no-nonsense approach she made up her mind to address the key issues that she believed were inside herself. She decided to set herself the objective “Step Back” for 2013.

Stepping back after years of managing high levels of responsibility, accountability and stress at work and at home has been a tough challenge. To achieve it Scarlett has concentrated on

  • Learning to meditate daily, using a great guide “Mindfulness – a practical guide to finding peace in a frantic world” by Mark Williams and Danny Penman
  • Doing what she comfortably could, then letting go of problems when they arose to give time for things to take their course without further intervention.
  • Reducing time on administration to a maximum of one day a week
  • Increasing time on creative and cerebral activities – jewellery making, sewing, cooking, a reading group, improving verbal and written Spanish
  • Increasing time interacting with calm, tranquil friends
  • Focussing on eating reduced portions of non-processed, organic foods whenever possible
  • Going to a physiotherapy pool 3 mornings a week to strengthen core muscles and lose weight to ease the strain, to support her spine and to control pain

And the results….

The business has performed well without Scarlett spending hours everyday on administration. She has lost over 14 pounds (7kg) in weight by eating very carefully and thanks to all the physiotherapy her back has survived the requirements of over 250 guests. With the patient help of Rachel Mackie she has made some jewellery items she is proud of. She has enjoyed books she would never have considered picking up. She has met new and interesting friends (many via FaceBook whom she has had the pleasure of meeting physically) and has progressed in her use of spoken and written Spanish. Issues relating to the maintenance and running of La Finca (such as a major issue relating to the failure of the company who installed our energy system to meet their contract) have been resolved with minimal stress. Most importantly she learned to meditate which, along with Chris’s essential support and encouragement is the basis to everything else ……


….. there have been NO catastrophes – it is possible to let go! Whoop Whoop – there is no going back now!!


We are ending this year with one of the best possible of all celebrations – our 25th wedding anniversary. To say the last 25 years have been easy would be totally untrue.  We have, together, experienced bankruptcy, step-parenting, high powered, high level jobs, moving to Spain, managing a complex building project and developing another business in our sixties. We have travelled all over the world from New York to Timbuktu, Costa Rica to Singapore, Sydney to Delhi, Lima to Hanoi and more … and shared the most amazing and sometimes really scary adventures. The important thing is that we have done it all together! We have coped with unsupportive relatives and hormonal teenagers, with high levels of work related stress, with corrupt mayors, lawyers and officials, muggers and knife threats  – together. And, together, during all these years, we have received the love of dear, encouraging, kind, generous and supportive friends and we are now, together, reaping the benefits of having 4 beautiful daughters, their husbands and 9 beautiful grandchildren. SO TOGETHER WE FEEL GRATEFUL AND VERY BLESSED!

We wish you all the very best 2014 – may it be all that you wish for which we hope includes a visit to La Finca!

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We have had funny sort of year really… having finished building La Finca and moved in we mistakenly thought that 2012 would be a breeze! What can we say – this is SPAIN!


A Really Good Part

We have been SO thrilled and delighted to welcome 87 clients, friends and family to stay at La Finca in this our first year in the house .  We can honestly say we have enjoyed every single visitor who has come here.  We have had some wonderful meals introducing new friends to old, sitting on the dining terrace and chewing the fat and swopping stories.  It has been a joy to see everyone filling and using all the areas of the house, the pool and the land, having adventures in Granada, the mountains and the beaches – all so close to us – and of course enjoying the Lecrin valley.  We really look forward to 2013, to seeing some of you again and to introducing new faces to La Finca and its magic.

In the kitchen we have been busy catering for celebration birthday dinners, cookery classes and meals for all our guests

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The house functions well, its facilities and spaciousness providing ample opportunities for everyone to relax and revive during their stay here.  It has been rewarding to watch this happen.

The Not so Good Parts

We have had seemingly endless health issues, which continue…  some serious but manageable, some not too bad but inconvenient – but all too boring to relate!

The Hacienda (Spanish Tax office) that still owes us a considerable amount of money.  We have had three paltry payments this year and they still owe us a lot  more. This situation has without doubt been the most stressful to deal with as it has required us to stand up for our rights – and to manage a resulting very tight budget!

Because of the failure of the Hacienda to meet its obligations we have now not been able to visit friends and family at home for two years.  Scarlett has in particular found this very difficult and has been extremely homesick – especially in this amazing year for the UK when there was so much to make us proud to be British!

The local mayor who does his best to extract money from us at every turn (directly from our bank account with no explanation until we blocked him!!) while at the same time delaying issuing us with our final licences.

Overall, the pressure to tie off all the loose ends relating to the construction project has been really stressful.  However a chink of light exists – we are very nearly there!

Some Combined Good and Bad Parts

During this first year we have been worried about the high running costs of the energy system but delighted by the way Instalaciones Durcal (the installers of the system) have responded within minutes to any crisis.  As soon as we became quieter in October and we could risk being without power we met and agreed what changes were required. So it was out with the huge generator and in with more solar – simple really! Instalciones Durcal have completed everything and we are already seeing a difference. It has been a pleasure to work with them.



The process to make the changes was overseen by a wonderful find – Mr Roger Gomes Gonçlaves who is an absolute whizz at anything to do with alternative energy.  Call us for his number if you have a project! He was our savior!

We have loved our trips once a month up into the mountains to Los Olivos – an Anglican Retreat.  Dani and Guy are great fun and we have very much enjoyed and appreciated their warm welcome and hospitality on each visit.  It has been good to have time to reflect a little.

Scarlett had such a wonderful time on a week-long retreat at Los Olivos where the object was to “Find your voice” (as in singing voice).  It was a wonderful to have some quiet time to reflect and regroup her energy and there were rare moments when she even managed to hit the right note!

We all hoped that Lecrin Valley Sundays would appeal to a larger group and start to develop something for the community.  This has sadly not transpired.  Maybe next year?!

Really Good

We have completed a few final relatively small projects around the place with the help of a small team and our thanks go to Inma, Terry, Giles, Jose Antonio, Martin, Alphonso, Boris and several very patient local suppliers.  We planted a lawn – and can play croquet (albeit mini-croquet)!  We completed two waterfalls and a small shaded and leafy patio.  We have put railings around dangerous areas, landscaped the pool area and the terraces connecting to each guest suite and we have completed a great deal of planting of trees and shrubs some of which have actually survived – and very few that have not.  Happily everything is growing and 2013 will be the year of bringing on cuttings!

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In one of the waterfalls we were able to include the face of the Green Man that was made by a truly artistic friend of Scarlett’s, Liz Mosdell, now sadly gone.  Scarlett has carried it around for years trying to find the right place for it – at last it has a worthy home.


After an initial real scary time Chris has recovered really well from two operations in February and May and our experience of the Health Service here has been outstanding.

Scarlett has thoroughly enjoyed working with her coaching clients who have all exceeded expectations in the achievement of their personal and business goals.  It has given her a real buzz to see them succeed and move towards their dreams.

Speaking of dreams….visits from family, while limited this year, are always so very precious to us.  It is always wonderful to have our daughters and their families here – it was what we dreamed of for the house and we hope we will see much more of them in 2013. Louise, Harry and Freddie came and we had a great week with them and a super day when Bridie, Martin, Willow, Billy and Lucie joined us too.  We really felt the dream was fulfilled that day with 5 of our 9 grandchildren present!


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Then there were Tania, Andee and Meredith who came all the way from San Diego to look after La Finca and the animals so we could travel to the UK in June – only to find we only went away for a week.  They were so gracious about not having the house solely to themselves for a month, such great house sitters and so great to have around and get to know better.

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Wonderful friends Nik and Alex,  Roselyne and Michel, and Antonia and Jimmy with whom we stayed so briefly in June but who so generously gave us a very necessary brief time away to recover from the stresses of the mayor and the Hacienda.

Friends who came especially to visit us because they knew how upset we were that we could not get back to the UK.  We are so grateful to them and their visits were made extra special by their kindness and generosity of spirit.


Pascale our French masseur who has been key in helping our guests relax and enjoy their stay.  She comes to the house and sets up her massage table and works her magic.  We and all our guests love her and her healing hands!


Artist Emma Plunkett who came and painted a picture of La Finca that we could turn into post cards.  We love it!  She is such a talented artist.  Google her!

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The animals have all settled well and are really enjoying the space and tranquility we have.   They love our visitors who spoil them mercilessly and we  only see them at meal times when the house is full! Scamp who arrived on our doorstep last November and who had a tendency to wander off managed to eat poison and nearly died.  The great veterinary hospital in Granada pulled her through but it was a very close call. Missie our Springer Spaniel has had a horrible time after an emergency operation on a haematoma in her ear flap – she is better now but a bit lopsided and deaf.  The cats are all over the place.  You can usually find them sunning themselves on the garden walls looking out to the view.  They love to come with us when we walk the dogs and sit on a log that has fallen over the river near us to watch the dogs splash about.

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We have had some exciting wildlife sightings – mountain goats, wild boar, owls, eagles, foxes, wild cats, snakes, lizards and butterflies.



And Finally

La Finca has to date been an amazing (if stressful) journey of nearly 13 years living and working in Spain.  Apart from a few small final things to tie up we are satisfied that the Casa Rural is a functioning and going concern which gives us a great sense of achievement.  The time is coming for us to change direction but the economic climate will doubtlessly dictate when that will happen!  Make sure you visit us in 2013 in case it takes us by surprise!!

Christmas is a time of rest for us and we had a lovely day with our daughter Bridie, her husband Martin and their children Willow, Billy and Lucie’s visit on Christmas Day for the traditional English Christmas dinner.  We went  up the mountains to the snow on Boxing day – so we have had the best of all seasonal weather.


For all the good things we have here it will never replace being in England at this time of year – wet or not  – so our thoughts are always with home, family and friends at this time.

The sun is shining and the windows and doors are open. A cold white Christmas is wonderful but endless rain, floods and winds is no fun. For all of you suffering cold, wet conditions our thoughts are with you. In your plans for 2013 be sure to include a break in sunny Andalucia – there will be warm weather and a warm welcome at La Finca for you!

To you and yours – Peace and Blessings for 2013.


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FIRST QUARTER 2012 Achievements, disappointments and goals

Despite the achievements of finishing the building of La Finca, moving in and holding various invents, especially the Christmas Bazaar, 2011 was incredibly stressful in every possible way.   Therefore in January we decided to take stock and set goals for 2012. We have done this every year for the past 20+ years and found it incredibly helpful. However in 2011 we decided we only had one goal – finish the project at La Finca. Apart from keeping up with family and friends we did nothing else all year.  BIG MISTAKE!


We both felt absolutely dreadful at the end of 2012.  This situation was not helped by being plunged into a financial crisis when we discovered that the Hacienda (the Spanish Tax Office) had not and, it appeared, would not be paying us the enormous sum they owed us in the near future. We had received notification that we could expect the return of IVA (VAT) on the project costs monthly from January 2011.  We eventually received a payment in August and thought that the tap had opened – only to have to wait until February 2012 for the next payment after our lawyer investigated the situation.  Since then it has come in dribs and drabs – but it has come.

The funding for La Finca as with most projects, came from several sources – some of which we could not guarantee would come through (eg the sale of our home in Oxfordshire) exactly when we needed them.  Wonderfully every single one did – on time and to budget – except the money owed to us by the Spanish Tax Office.  If we had been asked to bet on it never in a million years would we have expected a government department to renege on its obligations.

The very precious silver lining to all this was that we were overwhelmed by incredibly kind offers of help – to all of you (you know who you are) we are so grateful and although we couldn’t possibly have accepted, it helped enormously just to know there were friends out there!


We therefore decided that the first of our top ten goals needed to focus on our health so after the Tres Reyes holiday (Three Kings) in the middle of January found us in Dr Francisco Linares office as we went through a long list of ailments and medical conditions that should have been checked annually but had been neglected – some for 4 years!

First blood test results were really shocking but with the excellent care of the Spanish National Health Service we have been tested for absolutely everything possible and have received all the treatments necessary – all in the space of TWO months!

During this time Chris has had an operation to remove a large but benign cyst and half his thyroid and has made an excellent recovery. He is going back to San Cecilio in May to have his Ikea related hernia sorted out!

Scarlett’s tests (which were so bad our lovely doctor repeated them) showed a compromised liver function, a tumor marker, high cholesterol plus she was experiencing a worsening of the digestive problems she has had for years.  Because of these Scarlett drinks very little alcohol and it was felt that the prescription Paracetamol based painkillers she takes for back pain were the cause of the poor results.  After all the work to move into La Finca she was taking quite a few! San Cecilio hospital did an amazingly thorough job and took her gently but steadily through some fairly invasive tests.


At the same time and with the advice of consultant friend Gonzalo Moscoso, Scarlett went on a strict diet – free of citrus, alcohol, flour, fat and painkillers. After a month and another blood test her blood counts were all in the normal range, she has lost weight and her cholesterol was lower than it has been in 10 years! All other tests proved negative, she is receiving treatment for gastric ulcers and is keeping up with the diet – feeling better every day and has not stopped her trying her hand at new culinary challenges.


Once we moved out of the village of Albuñuelas we started to realize just what a wonderful area we lived in.  We had always known it but did not really FEEL it until we moved to La Finca.

As part of the getting healthy goal we decided to take a long walk every week and in order to stick to it we have had the added joy of walking with a different couple of friends each time.  This has not only kept us to our goal but it has been really enjoyable to spend quality time with friends, new and old here in the Valley.  Thanks so much to Dot Fielding and John Blundell, Elaine Crawshaw and Lyn Baker, Dani Munoz and Guy Winter, Maria Gee, Nick and Madeleine Payne, Sue Rodgers and our three grandchildren Willow, Billy and Lucie for your delightful company!


We are delighted that Dani and Guy who run Los Olivos, an Anglican Retreat up in the mountains above the Valley, have opened up the retreat to the Community for a monthly Sunday morning service followed by refreshments.

It was touch and go that we would go at all as Chris was forced to take an overdose of religion when his father became a lay-preacher.  He had to go to church twice a week.  Then he went to boarding school and attended a service once a day.  This was followed by his time in the Air Force where he marched to church every Sunday.

The drive up to Los Olivos is absolutely spectacular and the welcome you receive when you arrive is genuinely warm and welcoming.

The mornings have proved not to be the heavy-duty religious affairs we have shied away from in the past.  Instead they are light-hearted, thought provoking and fun opportunities to grow a little spiritually, learn something new and meet others from the Valley.

We look forward to Easter Sunday morning and the Easter Egg Hunt.


In November a beautiful but thin young dog arrived at La Finca.  We had 3 dogs and 4 cats and we feed another 3 visiting cats so we really were not looking to increase permanent numbers.  We did not raise this pup’s expectations by feeding her but for 2 weeks she slept every night on our back door step regardless.  After that what alternative did we have?!

We took her to the vet and had her checked out, neutered, vaccinated and treated for parasites.  She has learned the rules of La Finca and our other animals are keeping her in order.  Now a member of the family, still young and at times overly boisterous Scamp is loving and appreciative – what a wonderful gift!


Our dear grumpy old dog Biggles sadly died after suffering renal failure on the 26th January 2012.  Sadly missed especially by Chris who uncannily shares a few of Biggles characteristics!

Biggles, a Tibetan Terrier came to us when we owned a very old (18) Beagle and Biggles’ father Henry (11).  These two old boys raised Biggles so he always behaved like an old dog… grumbling and grumping about the place.  He sometimes went to work with Chris and stood patiently in the queue when the sandwich lady came.  He would carry the sausage roll she gave him every day, in its bag to his special chair in Chris’ laboratory, rip it open and eat his lunch along with the rest of the team.

There were three TV Programme signature tunes he knew.  Countdown, Coronation Street and Eastenders (of course we put them on just for him!)  He would howl low and high notes along with these tunes and if we turned the volume off for a couple of seconds he would continue. Then when brought the volume back up he would be right on the button!  It became his party trick.

If he stayed at home when Chris went to work he was the indicator of when Scarlett could expect Chris to arrive back from work.  This was very important because Chris never came home at a regular time.  When Scarlett saw Biggles climb the stairs so he was at a level with the glass in the front door she knew Chris had left the Laboratory – 40 minutes away.  Biggles would remain on the step waiting and as Chris entered the house he would raise his paw and give Chris a hi-five! It never failed!

A real character sadly gone from our lives.


Among our top 10 goals for this year we decided on doing something together that was creative – but not cooking.  Chris, because of his work in dentistry has long been able to make jewelry and has made some great pieces for Scarlett.  So off we went to see lovely Rachael Mackie who is a silversmith and makes extraordinary items – not just jewellery – from metal and stones.

Scarlett started by making a ring for Chris whose wedding ring was cut off before his operation in January. Chris made a silver and copper sun for Scarlett to put on her special Rachel Mackie Journey Collar. We have since moved on and are making bigger items that will take much longer to finish….watch this space!


Chris is in charge of the development of the gardens and outdoor work.  He has started to lay the pipes for an irrigation system in the garden below the house that takes the cleaned water from the domestic waste water system.

Despite the dry conditions things are growing at La Finca and the plants are beginning to wake up.

We have been busy planting the gardens and coaxing back to life the plants that were hit by the very few days of frost we had during the winter.  We have actually lost very little.  We lost more by planting at the end of the summer when the conditions were far too hot.  Hi ho!

We are delighted that Giles and Terri come every week to do sterling work with the trees and plants at La Finca.  Robin is doing sterling work creating some major landscaping features. We are so happy and lucky to have our daughter Bridie and husband Martin helping us to build walls, create drainage through the gardens, paint and deal with the never ending “to do” list.  The children come too when they are not at school – more fun!


Some time ago we looked out of the window to see that the road below the house looked more like a river.  It turned out that our pool was emptying itself down the road…

We then had to get an excavator to dig an enormous hole to find the fault that was a broken joint in the pipework leading out of the base of the pool at the deep end.  The joint and not been supported or protected in anyway and had simply been covered by 3 meters of earth.  Clearly it broke.  It took ages to find it, repair it, build the necessary support and protection and then fill the hole again.

Having done this we then had to wait some days before we could get the pool pump to work and start to clean the pool water.  Once the pump was working we discovered another leak. Another enormous hole was dug and the leaking pipe and join was discovered bedded in the concrete and tiled walkway around the pool.  It was very clear that whoever laid this pipe was very aware that it was leaking because they had gone to the trouble of wrapping it in a plastic bag secured by twisted wire.  NO COMMENT!


At New Year a friend, Jane Russell, asked Scarlett if we were still doing “that goal setting thing you used to do?” because she was interested to know more about it.  It was her birthday the next day so we gave her our last copy of Jinny Ditzler’s book.  We have given this book to so many friends and team members that we stopped ordering single copies from Amazon and buy in fives!

Some friends progressed to reading the book and doing nothing, others went on and followed the advice given and still use it, like we do, many years on.

In 1991 Scarlett was working for the Post Office when she met Tim Ditzler, founder and chief executive of Printronic International Ltd.  They were collaborating with other UK Direct Marketing suppliers to set up a company in New York to encourage US Marketers to use UK Direct Marketing expertise and services to market into Europe.

Scarlett, then stepmother and mother of 4 teenage girls, was weekly commuting Monday to Friday from London to New York to head up this company as well as trying to give support to Chris whose business was struggling.  Tim, being a wise person from birth, spotted a woman being stretched in every direction and one day handed her a folded piece of white paper on which was typed 10 questions.

These 10 questions became the basis of Tim’s wife Jinny Ditzler’s book “Best Year Yet” first published in 1994, now translated into 12 languages and in its 20th printing in the UK.  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jinny-ditzler

We have used the advice contained in this book for years and years – and last New Year when about to order another 5 copies from Amazon, Scarlett decided to Google Tim and Jinny Ditzler to see how they were doing.  She connected to the Huffington Post, a free online newspaper, for which Jinny regularly writes an article.  She sent her an email and within a few days was Skyping with Tim and Jinny who now live in Denver Colorado.

Best Year Yet is now online and a major company – what a wonderful discovery.  Tim and Jinny moved back to their native USA and have really worked hard to build this incredibly successful business and valuable service.  Tim put forward the idea of training as a Best Year Yet Coach and it hit home with Scarlett.  For the first time in her life she feels that she is old enough and has had enough experience in business and in life to be able to assist others who are looking for help.


She enrolled for the course and attended it in March using “webinar” (web-based seminar).  All the attendees were able to talk to each other, see each other, share answers, debate issues and do all the things one does in a seminar – it was fantastically efficient and effective.

We have moved from the book to the Best Year Yet Online system and are using it to its fullest extent.  It goes way beyond the original book allowing not only to answer the 10 questions – but to then monitor our progress.

The process ensures that users set goals that are aligned with the roles they have in their lives, their values and beliefs, the lessons from the ups and downs of the last 12 months and what they want to achieve for each role in the coming year.  A great way to keep some balance in your life!

Scarlett now is coaching two business partners who are starting a business and a person who wants to embrace some changes in her life.

Further information can be found at



Roll on the 2nd Quarter of 2012 and the end of the development work at La Finca…!


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It has taken a few days to clean up and recover from the Bazaar and now we are raring to go for our next event –  New Year’s Eve

The evening will start with a welcome drink followed by a delicious 3 course meal with coffee and wines, then dancing to the fantastic Dr. Swing’s Jazz Band before ending with Fizz and Fireworks at midnight – all inclusive at only 45€ a head.

To maintain quality, numbers will be limited for this event and places are available strictly by reservation only.

Call 958 068052 or 659 142 826 now to book and avoid disappointment

To add to the evening’s enjoyment we are also able to offer:-


We have Bed and Breakfast accommodation should you wish to stay over night.


Guests can park by the river in Murchas and take our shuttle service from Murchas to La Finca.

We can also arrange a door to door return taxi service if you prefer not to drive at all

Call us for more information on 958 068 052 or 659 142 826

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THE CHRISTMAS BAZAAR AND CURRY LUNCH – What a delightful surprise

People are truely amazing!

A huge thank you to all stall holders and visitors who came from far and wide and made their way through the narrow campo road to The Christmas Bazaar and Curry Lunch at La Finca, El Valle de Lecrin on Sunday 27th November – and made it such a great day!

We were absolutely delighted to be able to welcome over 200 people and were amazed how far they came to be with us

At the beginning of November we were talked into having a Christmas Bazaar and thought we would attract about 10 stalls and a maximum of 75 people. In the space of just over 3 weeks the word spread….

The sun shone, 20 stallholders brought their wonderful creations, visitors drove or walked through the olive and citrus groves to La Finca, Hermy sang live, 150 Curry Lunches  and 300 coffees and pastries were served.

 People could be found busy shopping at the stalls, taking time to relax outside and chat together on the comfy garden sofas placed to soak up the views, or sitting on the “Cafe” Terrace drinking coffee and eating all the Casa Amelia cakes and pastries

Although lunches were by reservation only we were delighted that 30 more than had booked were served. We were sad that many more who had not booked had to be disappointed.

It’s true that the approach road was tricky, parking was tight and the water supply was cut but all obstacles seemed to have been overcome with jokes and smiles and willing hands – and we have learned what we can do better for next time.

Stars of the day were Anne and Glynn Snelling who worked tirelessly all day helping to park cars and manage the flow of people wanting curry lunch – we couldn’t have coped without them.  The many children who came were astounding in their community spirit. The got together and effectively created a task force even though they did not necessarily know each other. They offered childrens’ face painting and games and collected and washed hundreds of glasses and cups and saucers and served over 300 cups of coffee and pastries. Amazing!

Everyone came positive and determined to enjoy themselves –the sun shone and so did they!

It was a major challenge to manage in the space of only one month all the marketing to capture stallholders and visitors interest, organising the Stallholders, making signage, cooking for the Curry Lunch and making the Christmas Food Products for the Casa Amelia stand at the Bazaar.  It was a real kick to see it all come to fruition and see so many people get together and enjoy themselves as a result.

It took its toll – Scarlett spent two days after the event bursting into tears at the slightest thing – a sure sign she had overdone it! She felt really pathetic but couldn’t do anything to stop it! Women!

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Plans for the Christmas Bazaar and Curry Lunch on Sunday 27th November are progressing well but they are certainly keeping us on our toes. But its all worth it – we now have 15 artisans and 2 charities involved  – just great.

Marketing to stallholders, then to the shoppers we so want to welcome to the Bazaar and the diners for the Curry Lunch all require a different but coordinated approach …..lots of food for thought there! Look and feel, tone, messages, positioning, potential to confuse, the management of expectations, let alone the management of individuals seems to be sucking hard on life’s experience. No wonder we feel about 110!

Then there is the challenge of producing enough variety and quantity of appropriate products for the Casa Amelia stand ….Fruity, alcoholic, spicey smells of Christmas have pervaded the interior of La Finca for the last few days. A fast dwindling mountain of dried fruits nuts, and candied peel have been stacked alongside bottles of liquor, and jars of spices on the surfaces of the professional kitchen – taking up valuable space for prepping and cooking. Quantities we have used have been so great Inma and Scarlett have had to stand on a ladder to get the right downward stirring action to the mixes. Eventually we realised that we have a perfect for purpose huge half spherical stainless steel bowl (thank you Ikea) that fits perfectly into the round vegetable washing sink, lowering the bowl to the right level for short women to stir comfortably! Steam can be seen floating out of the Casa Amelia kitchen as traditional Christmas Puddings are steamed for hours and hours, the ovens are full of Christmas cakes and Stollen. Pans bubble to produce Christmas red chilli jam and tinsel gold mango chutney…Bliss!

The problem with producing products for sale is that in never does end there. Apart from the cooking there are the not insignificant issues of pricing, packaging and labelling …. if Sainsbury’s charge this in the UK what can we charge here in Lecrin?! Where are the finance, production, marketing and sales teams to delegate to now… ah the joys of not being in the rat race! Huh!

But how wonderful and welcome have been the offers of help, the steady flow of constructive ideas and positive comments from friends, family  and participants in this whole adventure.  Everyone is saying if we can work together to get this Bazaar right then the next ones will get better and better – and easier. Oh we do so hope so – because despite all the hours in the kitchen, in front of the computer and awake in the night – it is so great to be getting something going.

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NEXT EVENT at La Finca

Time for Christmas shopping …….
Looking forward to seeing you!

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Despite rolling dark, dark clouds, thunder and lightening the courageous few of the Lecrin Valley fell out of their beds on Sunday morning and found their way through the olive and citrus groves to La Finca.

The delicious brunch created by the Casa Amelia team disappeared, washed down by Bucks Fizz and a great deal of wine to the accompaniment of the Dr Swing Jazz band

The day ended with dancing to the band and glorious sunshine out on the terraces of La Finca – then back home for a late siesta!

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TAPAS AND FLAMENCO GUITAR – the first event at La Finca

Food, Fun and Friends

We were delighted to see so many people from the valley and beyond supporting our first event.

Chef Peter Rathke and the Casa Amelia catering team produced over 600 individual portions of tapas and each tray disappeared in seconds after presentation – which was endorsement enough! Further reinforcement of how appreciated they were has arrived over the last couple of days in the many complimentary emails we have received.

Thanks to everyone for coming – we look forward to seeing you again at our next event….

…….the JAZZ BRUNCH on Sunday 23rd October at 12:00 Don’t worry about making breakfast! Have a lie-in then come up to La Finca and wake up to the Dr Swing Jazz band and a reviving Bucks Fizz Brunch.

We look forward to seeing you!

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