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.

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…!


2 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Luis Llopis said,

    Nice report!
    You people seem to have energy to keep going for a few dozens of years!
    Keep it up!


  2. 2

    Nan Carter said,

    Scarlett and Chris…What an amazing year…I found this captivating reading even though I already knew the details!

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