2013 – STILL HERE AND SURPRISED WE’VE SURVIVED!

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.

FOOD

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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FUN, FAMILY and FRIENDS

THE BIG SEVEN-O!

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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ANIMALS AT LA FINCA – A TOUGH YEAR

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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NEW OBJECTIVES AND A NEW WAY OF LIVING

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 ……

and GUESS WHAT

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

AND FINALLY….

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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1 Response so far »

  1. 1

    Luis Llopis said,

    Congratulations, dear couple.
    You people are two of a kind, and deserve to enjoy the world you have patiently built for yourselves.
    We hope to be able to share a part of it through 2014!
    Lol,
    Luis&Eva


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