HALLELUJA – The Finca is finished and open for business

RETREAT, RELAX , RESTORE, REVIVE

Apologies to our readers for leaving it so long to update the blog. Many thanks for all your emails of concern relating to the lack of news coming from the Finca. We have been on such a journey and have needed to put all admin and communication on the back burner and push and push to get the project finished. We have been flat out from early morning until late at night and have not had any uninterrupted time long enough to sit down and write anything!  As a result we have lost weight and aged about 20 years!

We managed to persuade the builders to move from one area to another so we could follow with furnishings and finishing touches and we have finished the house almost at the same time as they finished the pool.

We are therefore delighted to officially announce that we are open for business. We have received out first guests, starting with press, then family and then clients. We have held several cookery classes and two Flamenco evenings – we are off!

ALL IN ALL…

In hindsight the construction work has gone relatively smoothly but has just taken much longer than it should have done. Any delays due to bad weather have been minimal and the main cause has been down to lack of direction and control over the builders by the contractor. His lack of attendance at the site has been marked and in the circumstances the men have done remarkably well – but very slowly – sometimes it has felt like pulling teeth!

INDUSTRIAL DISPUTE

Progress was not helped when the men left the finca – refusing to work because they had been asked to clean up the site. It was a real mess and becoming dangerous to everyone working there.  A requirement of the contractors contract was to maintain the site in good, clean order.  The architects reported every week in the official “Libro de Ordenes” that the site did not meet standards and health and safety were at risk.  Scarlett then insisted that the men cleaned up.  They refused and left even after it was pointed out to them that they were in breach of their contracts and that there were plenty of out of work builders who would be glad to replace them. We were required to give them 3 days to return to work but they returned the next day, apologised and cleaned the site before starting work again.

FURNITURE MOVING

In June we hired two vans and with the help of our lovely Inma and three Spanish lads – Oscar and Angel and Inma’s son Jonathan, plus two good friends Elaine and Lyn, we moved furniture and belongings from a garage we rented nearby.  Before they saw the garage the boys asked how many trips we would do – one or two? Their faces were a picture when we opened the garage door! We had stored all the contents of our family home and barn in Oxfordshire , the house we rented in Albunuelas, the contents of Chris’s laboratory plus boxes and furniture belonging to Scarlett’s aunt and father. The garage was packed to the rafters and it took two days and 14 trips to move it all.

We had a few “moments” with one of the hire trucks whose breaks did not seem very good – particularly when the truck was full and on a slope. Hill starts were somewhat heart-stoppingly dangerous! Getting it round one very tight corner in the middle of the village was a challenge and Chris, having failed to get round, passed control to Oscar (who had no licence). He managed to get the vehicle round the corner beautifully, then in his excitement he hit a parked car just a few yards further up the street!  The repair added 400 euros to the removals bill! Men!

Angel continued to work for us for some time after that.  He must be about 6ft 8in tall and built like a bean pole.  For short people like us he was a godsend.  We called him the “living ladder as he could put things away on high shelves without the need of steps!

THE STARS

Boris our project manager has worked hard to keep a grip on things – even when they have not been part of his remit.  His outrageous character has luckily been balanced by his determination to finish the project. There is no doubt in our minds that the project would have been far harder and far less hilarious without him.

Boris persuaded us to let him do the plumbing …. To say he persevered is an understatement.  It was not all plain sailing! The outside tap on the terrace was connected to the hot water system (the plants we watered with it, before we realised, are just recovering) and he had to dig up a bathroom floor to find the connection and reconnect everything. Two of the toilets have been in and out faster than a fiddler’s elbow and one still leaks.  But practice makes perfect and the last toilets he fitted in the house went in at the first time attempt and are working perfectly.  Fingers crossed!

Boris’s desire to build motorways on the Finca has taken a bit of controlling.  He has a way of waving his arms when talking to Eloy the digger driver that implies that large areas should be cleared completely and flattened.  Scarlett woke up after siesta one day and was horrified to find Eloy removing a beautiful rock which she had planned to be the centre of a rockery.  We really did not want to remove any more rocks – having had our fill of that exercise last year when we had to remove the giant in the middle of the planned area for the house.

CARPENTRY

We have been delighted with the work of Julio Reyes our carpenter from Lecrin. The doors and windows he has made for us have been superb and we are delighted with them. We have two huge arched windows in the entrance hall which have been glazed with temperature controlling glass to maintain the temperature inside the house.  It took 6 men to carry each pane and put it in position. It was heartstopping to watch this happening as they were all moving along one plank of scaffolding – ugh!

Just wish he would come and finish the mosquito doors for the kitchen though…

Our grandson Jasper (5) made a wonderful addition to the cloakroom door…..

METALWORK

There has to be a balance and sadly Belfran the initial company we used for the metal work and railings on the house proved themselves not up to the job.  The quality of their work was simply not up to contracted specifications and within one week of being installed the paint on the railings was peeling off and the iron was rusting.  In addition they could not understand the need to adhere to the law which requires railings to be made 10cm apart.  Their’s was anything from 9-14 cms!  Needless to say they were not used for the second phase of the work and we then found a wonderful man from Lanjaron called Jorge who has done a fantastic job – even making a prototype of the moving pergola he later installed over the main terrace.

PAINTWORK

Miguel our painter and decorator has to be the most patient man in the world. He has painted the whole of the interior and all the railings with only occasional help from his son. He works steadily and quietly from early morning until sundown and has done a fantastic job.

ENERGY AND HOT WATER

Instalaciones Durcal have installed the energy system which provides electricity and hot water.  We have solar for electricity which is backed up for heavy usage by a massive biodiesel generator.  The hot water is provided by two biomass burners that we feed with almond shells. After a few teething problems the system appears to by functioning well and Chris is developing a relationship with the various, somewhat temperamental, pieces of equipment in the “Boys Room”. This is the building where everything relating to energy is housed .  Every man who visits the Finca wants to see it! The guys of ID have come at a moments notice when things have gone awry and now its all working we rather miss them!

WE ARE TOTALLY WIRED!

ELECTRICAL INSTALLATION

We have had a couple of problems with the electrical installation but Jose Luis and Viki have been quick, patient and hard working to resolve them.  Things have settled down now and everything is working well.  We wish they would come and put the plugs into the island in the kitchen and cover off the unused “emergency lighting” points though!

TELEVISION

Mel and Phil of Telly Addicts have done a great job and installed HD TV and DVD facilities in every guest suite .

WI-FI

Keiprint from Granada have created an wi-fi network using Apple Extreme in the house so guests have easy and free access to the internet! We also have a laptop available for guest use.

GARDENS

ITS OFFICIAL ……..WE HAVE BEEN CERTIFIED

Organic that is…!  After 3 years of testing and form filling we have been certified organic and all our fruit and vegetables meet requirements,  Hooray!

Giles and Terry have continued to maintain the fruit and vegetables and keep the finca tidy while we have battling with building the house.  We have been able to use our own home grown ingredients for the cookery classes and meals we have had.

We are now working to landscape the areas around the house with paths and planted areas but we have decided we cannot plant anything else until the rain starts (usually October) and the temperatures drop.  We took a risk and planted quite a lot of plants about a month ago but have lost some of them so we have decided to wait

PETER

We have been really lucky to meet Peter, a German with landscaping experience and particular skills with natural stone. As if that wasn’t enough he is a trained chef! His apple strudel is fabulous… and he is living on the Finca in our caravan! His touch can already be seen everywhere.  He quietly goes about bringing order to the chaos that was a building site.  He has laid out flower beds around the house and edged them with stone from the land.  He is now making the stone floor of the patio and water feature outside the guest kitchen. When we removed the rock to build the house we left some of it on the edge of what will be a shady patio.  We have built a water tank at the base of it and are planning to make a water feature on one side of the patio.  Peter is making a floor using black and white stones in the style of the work found all over Andalucia.

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INMA – OUR DIAMOND

We are so fortunate to have Inma still with us.  Her patience, flexibility and willingness are incredible.  Over all this time she has cleaned after the builders (repeatedly), taken cement off the floor tiles, moved furniture, cooked meals, organised the lads and most importantly been there!  Inma has worked with us for over 10 years now and we don’t know what we would do without her. What a star!

VISITORS

While we were in Vietnam we spent a wonderful night on a junk in Halong Bay in the company of a wonderful couple Roselyn and Michel Billaud.  We were so thrilled when they came to visit us here in Spain.  We had a wonderful few days getting to know them better and can’t wait to see them again….Roselyn’s energy is breathtaking – they are both such fun!

Our first clients John and Angie Clifford came for a night and a cookery day .  We felt very touched they would come to us as Angie herself is a cook!  She has a wonderful blog at http://angieskitchen51.wordpress.com .  We look forward to seeing them again.

We have also thoroughly enjoyed seeing daughter Louise and our grandsons Harry and Freddie  who came for a week and (apart from exhausting us with their antics) were responsible for inaugurating the swimming pool which was finished during their stay!

Louise when she spotted La Finca for the first time

We thoroughly enjoyed a week long visit by dentist friend Tony Caen, Helen Steel and their son John. We introduced them to Alex Swan, Jenni Richards and sons Charlie and  Zak who have a house in Saleres and the children really hit it off. We all went sailing on our favourite yacht, the Ocean Kiss, with Michael Harwood for a wonderful day of sailing swimming, eating and drinking.

Jenni

Alex, Jenni and Zak

Michael and Jackie

Tony

Charlie and John

Chris

Helen

ANIMAL VISITORS

One Sunday morning we were attempting to clean up the site and Scarlet heard some very strange noises, that could only be described as stomach rumbling and burping, coming from one of the designated bathroom areas at the back of the lower floor.  Convinced there was a drunk man coming round in there Scarlett ran to find Chris.  When we went in together we found an old nanny goat – whom brave little Rocket managed to herd out of there and off the finca!

For about a month a beautiful grey dove lived on our window sill and pergola – we called it Paloma.  Unbelievably Paloma allowed the cats to sit next to her and sat under a table on the patio while Chris was actually repairing the table with hammer and nails!  It was wonderful to have this wild creature being so confident with us and made us feel that tranquility was at last returning to the Finca after all the upheaval we have put the land through.  We were so shocked to walk into one of the suites and find blood and feathers everywhere – White Tail one of the cats was leaving and Paloma was huddled in a corner of the room still alive.  We picked her up and stroked her and she cooed at us.  We found and lined a basket to make a soft bed for her. She died within an instant of being laid in the basket. We were devastated.  It took a lot to forgive White Tail – who we had to remember was only behaving naturally.

THE ANIMALS

The dogs love living here and although all three are no longer in their prime they are doing well despite all the problems associated with old age – blood pressure, lumps and arthritis!  Despite this they love having visitors here – particularly when they take them for walks!

The cats couldn’t believe their eyes when they arrived and, having been practically full-time house cats in Albunuelas, were only seen for breakfast (theirs) before they went off hunting.  We received the gift of one mouse daily in front of the caravan.

Now that the house is quiet and the noise of cement mixers and jack hammers has abated they are all finding corners in the house in which to relax…

JUST SO THAT YOU KNOW (AND CAN TELL OTHERS PLEASE!) …… THE FINCA OFFERS

To see the Finca as it is now have a look at the Blog Post titled the Finca Slide Show .

  • a tranquil place to retreat, relax, recover and revive from hectic and stressful lives in first class accommodation in spectacular surroundings
  • a wonderful venue for special events, weddings, reunions and group gatherings providing everything required including:
    • accommodation
    • catering
    • music and entertainment
  • a convenient location from which to enjoy:
    • the buzz and culture of Granada
    • the ski slopes and facilities of the Sierra Nevada
    • the unspoiled National Park beaches of the Costa Tropical
    • help to plan your holiday:
    • reservations to visit the Alhambra
    • photography, language, painting and cookery courses at La Finca
    • walking, horse riding and sailing days
    • tapas tours

FACILITIES

All rooms have comfort as the key priority and are decorated using textiles and artifacts bought in our travels all over the world.

We have three double family suites and one double disabled suite.  Every suite has their own private terrace and all suites and terraces have uninterrupted views of the Lecrin Valley.

Two of the guest suites are suitable for families, each having one bedroom, a sitting-room with two double sofa beds, a dining area and en suite shower room

The other two suites are each open plan bed rooms with sitting and dining areas and en suite shower room shower room.

Each room has a television with integral DVD player

There is a fully equipped guest kitchen so guests can choose B&B, Half or Full Board or Self Catering with the option of additional meals as required.

All guests have access to a large paperback swopping library, free wi-fi, laundry service and fresh organic vegetables and fruit grown on La Finca.

Our professional kitchen is already producing delicious meals for guests and visitors.

In addition to the facilities in the house outside there is a large swimming pool with sunbathing areas, formal gardens and 10 acres of wild land bordering National Park to enjoy.

EVENTS

We are busy making plans for Christmas and New Year and will be advertising Christmas and New Year holiday break packages at the Finca as well as Special Christmas lunch Day and New Year’s Eve Party.

Watch this space……….!

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LA FINCA SLIDE SHOW SEPTEMBER 2011 – Retreat, relax, restore, revive

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STOP PRESS – PROPERTY FOR SALE

IDEAL BIJOU HOLIDAY RESIDENCE FOR SALE IN ALBUNUELAS – 27,500 EUROS

We are selling a property in Calle Zoraba, Albunuelas, Lecrin.  Recently used as an artist studio it is a structurally sound building with all utilities and situated in the historical lower barrio. With a little work it will make a beautiful one bedroom property with sitting room (with open fire), bathroom, kitchen-diner and roof terrace and has all the benefits of the area including close proximity to the cultural activities of Granada, the ski slopes of the Sierra Nevada and the unspoiled beaches of the Costa Tropical.

For further information just call 659 142826 or 659 183880

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WILL IT EVER END……?

RUNNING AWAY AGAIN…..

EARLY NOVEMBER 2010 – PORTUGAL

After listening yet again to the endless arguments between builder, project manager and architects we decided to “do another runner”.

We sneeked off in early November with our friends the Snellings to visit mutual friends Stuart Walton and Pauline Latham in N. Portugal.  Many of you will remember them when they lived in the Lecrin Valley.  They have just finished building a beautiful house in a stunning forested area near to the towns of Arganil and Coja – which has the additional benefit of wonderful views.  It was great to see them again and to see a project well finished.  We took our time and returned via Caceres and Merida – all of us visiting these fascinating towns for the first time. The whole trip was a very enjoyable and welcome breather and gave us hope.  Apparently though projects like ours are a whole lot more straight forward in Portugal than Spain.

We were only back a couple of weeks before we realised that the prospect of staying in the Valley over Christmas and New Year and continuing to cope with the bickering at the finca was simply not an option so in mid December we left the valley, the finca, the project and our animals again and took off with one backpack between us to first visit friends and family in the UK – then on to Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand for a month.

All our escapes since the project began have proved to be essential for our sanity but also the project has benefitted from our absence too. With us out of the way the project team have had to work together to make decisions within the limitations (ie budget!!) we have set – and without using us as referees.

CONTRACTUAL ISSUES

Before we left we organized a formal time extension to the contract for the builder and then all the other contractors who are due to follow. The reason for this was that we felt that not all the delays were down to the builder. However poor man management and discipline and a resistance to taking on more men to finish the work on time has clearly also contributed to the problem.

Originally our builder had told us that he would finish Phase One by Christmas. We felt that it would be prudent to give him more time and insisted on a finish date for Phase One of the end of February 2011 in his original contract to allow for any delays other than those he should have allowed for (eg. poor weather). In December we extended this to the end of March 2011. He signed to confirm his agreement to this extension and we went away feeling that we could look forward to Phase One being finished at the end of March.

November 2010

We had to live in hope – but its not looking likely……..!

MID-DECEMBER 2010 – TIME WITH FAMILY

We had a whirlwind trip to Southern England, landing at Bristol and first of all visiting Scarlett’s Aunt Joyce for tea near Cirencester. This is the first time Scarlett has seen Joyce (who hates to be called Aunt as she is only 16 years older than Scarlett) in 40 years.  In that time Joyce had had 6 children and moved around with her RAF husband. Scarlett had also married (twice) had her daughters and travelled with her (first) Army husband and then with Chris. It was wonderful to get together after so long and to talk about Scarlett’s Nanna (Joyce’s mother) and her father (Joyce’s brother). The next time Scarlett really hopes to meet her six cousins!

On the same day we had a super dinner with Scarlett’s father’s companion, Jill Francombe and her friend Judy Price at the Lords of the Manor restaurant in Upper Slaughter, near Stowe on the Wold. We all chose the wonderful tasting menu in this One Michelin Star restaurant. If you are ever in the vicinity include time in your itinerary to try it

http://www.lordsofthemanor.com/home/the_restaurant.aspx

The next day we went to London – always a treat these days when civilization seems a long way away from the Lecrin Valley. Here we met Scarlett’s other Aunt June, her cousin Angela and husband Alan. We all went to the Royal Festival Hall to hear the Messiah by (electric) candlelight. The members of the orchestra were all in costume that was delightful – but nothing was more special for Scarlett than getting together with June and Angela. We spent our last day of this trip in our beloved Oxford where we stayed at the Old Parsonage and had a wonderful pre-Christmas day with three of our girls, their husbands and children. We enjoyed a great lunch there and a walk in the crisp December air. Much to the children’s delight they were able to open presents early!

www.oldparsonage-hotel.co.uk

 

Jack

Justine and Ginny

Jasper

Cameron, Chris, Louise and Tom

Tamsin

Libby and Ginny

Freddie, Harry, Nanna and Grandpa in the Dorm

 

In the evening we drove to Maidwell Hall, Northampton, the prep school where our two grandson’s Harry and Freddie are boarders. We attended evening service in the chapel and were so proud to see Harry in the choir and to hear Freddie say the Lord’s prayer faultlessly. We were able to visit all the dormitories that had been decorated for the “Best Christmas decorated Dorm” competition by their residents.

MID-DECEMBER 2010 TO MID-JANUARY 2011

ASIA

The next morning we left from Luton for Madrid, Dubai, Bangkok, to Hanoi.  It was a loooong journey! ASIA The next weeks are a blur of adventure, delight, awe, discomfort, exhaustion but overall wonderful experience. Having been brought up in Malaysia and lived in Singapore and Hong Kong Scarlett feels at home in Asia and we were both amazed and delighted, in particular, with the people and country of Vietnam. We had a great trip – we managed to experience

  • The land of motorbikes – we have never seen so many in one place as in Hanoi.  Gridlock took on a whole new meaning
  • 3 classes in Vietnamese and Thai cuisine – all in lovely outdoor kitchens
  • trekking bareback on elephants in the hills of N Thailand – we rode high into the hills – stunning scenery and gorgeous animals who live in an elephant rescue home
  • a full body Thai massage for couples……you are never too old!
  • the World Heritage sites of stunning Halong Bay and ancient Hoi An of Vietnam and then the amazing Hindu temples of Angkor Watt in Cambodia
  • cruising the Mekong Delta – a fascinating insight into life in the rice bowl of asia
  • the museums, galleries, markets and back streets of Hanoi, Saigon, Phnom Penh, Chiang Mai, and Bangkok
  • walking miles and consuming loads of fabulous ultra fresh flavours and street food

MID-JANUARY – GETTING BACK

Despite the great time we had away, we were ready to get home. Happily all was well with the family, friends and animals when we returned. The project had progressed but not nearly as much as it should have done but we did find it looked more like a house.

ON THE MOVE – GOODBYE ALBUÑUELAS

Since returning it has become clear that more needs to be done to move the project forward faster.  Despite the fact that Phase one will not be finished at the end of March we have decided to move to our caravan on the site. Without the rented house in Albunuelas to maintain we can focus our own long “To Do” list for the finca and simultaneously ensure that the project does not get any later. We plan to move at the end of March.

Hopefully the weather will improve! It has been alternately wonderfully dry and sunny and then so disastrously wet it has turned the land around the project into a quagmire. Happily it only takes one dry day to restore it.

It is clear that we cannot go away again until we have seen the project finished so it was with great joy that we learned that Justine and Tom, Jasper and Ginny wanted to visit us here.  We had a perfect week.  The weather was so kind and we were able to organise a day at the beach with Bridget, Martin and their brood, a day in the snow in the Sierras, time at the Science Park and the Alhambra in Granada, time in the Valley, time at Bridget’s home in the Alpujarras including horse riding and even a grown ups only dinner.  Perfect – we can’t wait for them to come again!

THE HOUSE AS AT 16TH MARCH 2011

Its taking shape… all the smaller contractors have started and we are seeing window preframes, plaster, metal railings, and tiles appearing.  Huge ditches have appeared between the house and the energy control casetta for the water and power connections.  The colour we have chosen is gradually spreading across the external walls.  We are now required to focus on features and detail internally which is both fun and reassuring.

ALL IN ALL….

It’s fair to say that despite highlights with family and friends the progress of project has introduced an element of frustration, disappointment and annoyance which set in at the start of 2011!  The need to get the project finished and to open the business obviously becomes more important the later we are.  However busy we are with our “to do” list the delays are a cause for concern.  POOP!

Is it only us who find the fact that despite being behind schedule, work stops at 12:00 on Fridays?

Is it only us who expect the professionals on the team to have regard to the budget?

Is it only us who finds a total disregard for keeping given and/or signed undertakings both deeply disappointing and insulting?

WE DON’T THINK SO!

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THE FINCA – GETTING THERE!

17th September 2010

We returned from all our revelling to find our project at the finca had a first floor and part of the roof and everyone talking to each other. RESULT!

The completed first floor and the start of the roof

One third of the roof

Working with a view

Flat roofs over the dining room and library

 

The lower floor walls

17th October 2010

Arrival of energy and water purification components

Items for the water heating and energy system have been delivered

– Two biomass boilers (fed by olive pips and almond shells)
– Batteries
– Bio diesel back up generator
– Water purification plant

 

The solar panels are yet to come.

 

Sliding the energy equipment into the "Energy Control Room"

Chris levelled the floor of the Energy Control Room and has painted the walls with a plasticised paint to ensure a dust free environment for the equipment

Preparation for the second part of main the roof

We have an "inside" to the house!

We would like to say that the team are working harmoniously now – but that would be tempting fate!

Looking from our bedroom to the hall

Up on the roof!

Looking into the lower floor entrance and the disabled suite

The last part of the roof

 

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REBELLION, REVELS & REPASTS

……WE TAKE OFF!

End of July 2010

After receiving endless reports and emails from all the professionals on the finca – each one complaining about another we shouted ENOUGH OF THIS – and took the step of writing to each member of the team to remind them of their contract obligations and that we are their clients not their mediators.  We told them that due to this situation we had decided to “absent ourselves” for a while and expected them to resolve their differences through mutual respect and professional communication.  We became only available for serious emergencies and took time off from the project for 6 weeks.  BLISS!

THE BIG SIX-O

We went to the UK to celebrate Scarlett’s big birthday with friends and family and had a ball.  We:

*attended a family reunion with Scarlett’s family on her father’s side near Dunster, Somerset – so wonderful to be with them after more than 3 decades.
*stayed and dined with Vivien and David Holmes in Cheltenham – special quality time with dear friends
*picnicked with our daughters, grandchildren and one son-in-law at Cliveden House, Taplow (near to where Scarlett grew up) – what a joy to see so many of the grandchildren together
*stayed the night there and had dinner with Scarlett’s life-long friend Teresa Taylor and another friend Jane Russell
*had a great time tasting amazing food in London at Maze, Grosvenor Square and Pont de La Tour, Butler’s Wharf
*took part in a photography session to celebrate both Teresa and Scarlett’s 60th (their birthdays are a week apart)
*then went to Cambridgeshire and stayed with June and David Kelway – precious friends for 41 years
*dined at the 2 Michelin starred Midsummer House in Cambridge – a fabulous experience
*Tried our hand (for the first time) at clay-pidgeon shooting – with mixed results!  Chris hit 38 out of 40 – Scarlett needs more practice!

Scarlett, our grandchildren, daughters and one son-in law at Cliveden House sending off wishes with ballons,

Scarlett later shared the thoughts she had when freeing the balloons with our daughters: “It would be unnatural for my birthday not to have had a tinge of sadness for me.  However I have reached 60 before losing my father and aunt so I was thinking just how lucky I am.  I was hoping that both of them are happy and at peace.  I was hoping that all of you continue to thrive and be content, that you continue to support each other and that Chris and I continue to enjoy a long retirement in good health to see our grandchildren grow and achieve in their own right”.

Chris "controlling" photo session to celebrate both Teresa and Scarlett's 60th

AS IF THAT WAS NOT ENOUGH ….

We got back to Spain exhausted and very happy and spent the rest of August just relaxing at home, being tourists in Granada and heading for the beach.

23rd August 2010

Glynn, Scarlett, Billy, Willow, Ship's Mate Brian, Teresa, Chris, Jimmy, Antonia and Anne

 

Ocean Kiss anchored off Cantarrijan beach

At the end of the month we joined friends and family for a terrific sailing day off the Costa Tropical, meeting up with more friends for lunch at our favourite beach, Cantarrijan, near to La Herradura. We have sailed with Michael Harwood before – he always makes sure everyone has a great day.

Cantarrijan from La Barraca restaurant

We were delighted that that friends Anne and Glyn Snelling and Antonia and Jimmy Connell were able to join us on the yacht. Alex and Jenni Swan and their boys and Lyn Baker and Elaine Crawshaw joined us for lunch at La Barraca a great beach restaurant. It was very special that Scarlett’s friend Teresa was able to be with us from the UK as well as our daughter Bridie, her husband Martin and our Spanish based grand children Willow, Billy and Lucia. Much sangria was drunk and ice cream cake eaten!

Teresa, Willow and Scarlett’s birthdays are within the same week – two are 60 and one is 10 – its sometimes hard to tell who is what!

Returning to the yacht - Antonia boarding the Gemini

All aboard!

One of the many highlights of the day for Scarlett was to swim from the yacht to the beach – and back after lunch – with her best friend and our eldest granddaughter!  Another special day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Billy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Willow

Scarlett and Willow in a racing each other around the yacht Willow won by half a length!

 

We thoroughly recommend Michael Harwood and his wonderful yacht Ocean Kiss.  If you are interested go to http://www.sailthemed.org for more information

 

 

 

 

 

6th ANNUAL DINNER WITH HUGH AND PAMELA WARWICK

Early every year we receive an email from Hugh.  Hugh and Pamela come to stay with Antonia and Jimmy Connell at El Cortijo del Piño each September, Hugh loves to paint with Jimmy and Rafael, another regular.  Each year Hugh books us to provide a celebration dinner for Pamela’s birthday and we enjoy the company of the three men and their wives.  He always leaves the menu to us which is a grand challenge – particularly as we have all year to think about it!

This year we have discovered the wonderful restaurant Maze, in Grosvenor Square, London.  The three meals we have had there this year were the inspiration for our menu. Some of the recipes for this dinner are on the Casa Amelia Website.

THE ANNUAL WARWICK DINNER
2010 MENU

Chilled Pea Soup
with parmesan ice cream and polenta tuile sandwhich

Salad of cured salmon
with white Japanese radish (Mooli), red radishes, fennel, coriander and orange

Coq au vin
with potato purée, caramalised onions, tarragon emulsion and bread wafer

Chilled rice pudding
with cherry soup

or

Marinated peaches
with basil sorbet and strawberry jelly

Coffee
with petit fours

FINALLY AFTER ALL THAT A REST WAS IN ORDER

5th September 2010

The view from our room

To ensure a good rest Chris took Scarlett off to a secret location as his birthday treat. The secret did not last long! We went off to Mauritius for a week and generally relaxed in the wonderful luxury of the Oberoi and its exquisite environs.

However we did not laze around all the time as we attended a really enjoyable Mauritian cookery course (the recipes are on the Casa Amelia website) and spent a day at the second oldest race course in the world watching the races – and making a profit on our bets!

At Cookery School in Mauritius

 

 

A stunningly beautiful island, Mauritius and its multi cultural population are fascinating proof of the benefits  of living in an environment of mutual respect and harmony.

We returned to Spain restored, relaxed and ready to see the Finca Project once more …..!

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9th JULY 2010 – LOSS

 

9th July 2010

LOSS

Peggy Angela King – née Hazelton (Auntie Peggy) 1917-2010

Having lost her father in January Scarlett had to come to terms with the loss of her lovely Auntie Peg who died in the Residencia Tropical in Almunecar on the 9th July. Known to everyone as Auntie Peg, Peggy Angela King née Hazelton, flew for the first time in her life and came to Spain to live with us at the tremendous age of 90. She was the only sister of Scarlett’s mother (deceased) and had no children so Scarlett (an only child) was her only blood relative. When she came to us in August 2007 she had been diagnosed with cancer and the prognosis was that she had 3 months to live. It was a real testament to her determined character that she persevered for 3 years!

Auntie Peg and Scarlett were very close as Scarlett’s mother was a career girl and Scarlett stayed with her aunt during school holidays at her home (for over 60 years) in Keynsham near Bath. She was a great influence and certainly made her disapproval known on the many occasions that Scarlett did something outrageous. Always the lady she gave the appearance of being very mild and gentle but she had a steel backbone and knew her mind!

She had two long and happy marriages to men quite a lot older than herself who both had adult sons. Her first step son Alan is now 90 and lives with his family in Australia and her second stepson Richard is in his 70’s and living in Stowmarket, Suffolk.

It was a wonderful privilege to have so much unexpected time with Peggy. Scarlett learned a great deal about her roots and is very grateful that she was given the opportunity to give back a little of the love she received from her aunt all her life.

Peggy’s body was cremated in the beautiful Crematorium at the Alhambra, Granada. Her ashes were taken back to Keynsham and scattered in the parish churchyard by family and friends.

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Food Food Food…. and team dynamics – June 2010

Well its been a while – but then a lot of steel has been moved and concrete has been poured since our last blog posting.

First we want to thank everyone for putting comments on the blog – they do so help shore us up in the difficult moments!  Be assured everyone, while we have difficult times we are enjoying ourselves – it is a great retirement project and is drawing heavily on all our years of experience and knowledge which definitely have not gone to waste!  Hearing from you from all over the world brings you nearer and gives us that lovely warm feeling that every one needs from time to time!

We also have some balance to the challenges of the finca – food, of course. We do have fun with that!  We have been busy during June which culminated in the beautifully arranged and very professional Art Exhibition on the 3rd July at our friends’ Ann and Glynn Snelling’s beautiful home overlooking the Lecrin Valley. Work by professional artists James Connell, Caroline Cary, James Park, Paul and Sylvia Kopacek was very cleverly hung and the inauguration of the first of what we hope will be many of these events went with a swing – and a lot of wine and Casa Amelia tapas – check out our website for the recipes – they are coming soon!

……THEN THERE APPEARED TO BE WAR AT THE FINCA

The month of June was both horrendous and fantastic at once. Anyone who has done a management or team building course will know the classic theory developed by Bruce Tuckman relating to the stages of team building. We have hopefully seen the end of stage two!

Stage One – Forming – bringing a group of people together who may or may not know each other to create a team to execute a specific task or project.  In this stage everyone tends to be polite and helpful to each other while individually they are sizing each other up and forming judgements about their colleagues.  Everyone is driven by a desire to be accepted which means that serious issues are avoided and people focus on who does what, when to meet etc. In short it is the stage where conflict is avoided.

Stage Two – Storming – is the stage where the opposite is true!  This stage is both disturbing and simultaneously potentially productive.  There is no doubt it is necessary. Individuals can only be nice to each other for so long – and the important issues put aside in the Forming Stage need to be addressed. Some people’s patience breaks and conflict over both minor and major issues ensues. This is the time when good manners and good behaviour often leave the room. There is a lot of “throwing the toys out of the pram” and expressions of blame.  This is the stage when individuals behave as  if they are at war – winning or losing battles – and they look for structural clarity and rules to prevent the conflict persisting.

In June we saw two surrenders, stupendous battles and attempts to blame others.  We have not seen such tantrums since our daughters were teenagers – and we counted ourselves lucky we had had that experience – it prepared us well! This situation meant we needed to spend a great deal of time talking to individual team members to find a way forward and being very, very firm about our decisions……. grrrr …. no fun AT ALL!

Stage Three – Norming – Having gone through the battles (with or without casualties) teams usually understand each other better, and structural clarity and “rules of engagement” emerge.  Over time mutual respect for each other’s skills grows and individuals listen to each other and allow opinions to be voiced.  Pre-conceived ideas are changed and individuals begin to work as a mutually supporting team.

Having laid down a few of our own “rules of engagement” …we live in hope!

Stage Four – Performing Not all teams reach this high spot!  It is when individuals work interdependently and flexibly together and sufficient trust exists to empower independent activity.  Group identity and loyalty are the main characteristics of this stage.  The fact that the team are not focussing on inter-group battles means they are able to divert their energy to the project in hand….Halleluya!

Bruce Tuckman revisited his original work some years later and added a final stage:

Stage Five – Adjourning This is about completion of the task and moving on.  Individuals will be proud of their achievements and pleased to have been part of a successful team, the job done they move on.

There is a sense of loss at this stage – and some people describe this phase as “Deforming and Mourning”.  We can’t quite understand that feeling right now – the thought of finishing the project, saying goodbye to the dust and machines (but not all the people) is very appealing!

27 June 2010

HOWEVER DESPITE EVERYTHING WE DO HAVE A LOSA!

The losa (or base floor of the house) is at last finished.

The first task was to put down fine sand, compact it and top it with two layers of plastic.

Then to construct the network or cage of steel rods that reinforce the floor and pillars on which the house is built. This cage is lifted off the plastic with spacers so that water is not conducted through the concrete.  The owner of metal company who laid the steels had a major wobbly when it was pointed out that his men had laid a whole series of hoops directly onto the plastic.  The fact that he has done thousands of houses that way and that he had 40 years of experience probably reinforces the reason that the majority of houses in sunny Spain have damp problems and most houses in wet Northern Europe do not!  The Spanish have actually recognised this and changed the norms – but Jesus Ferralla had not embraced this.  Hi ho, more delays – but it was worth it to know it was done properly.

All the steels for the pillars needed to be lined up and their axils correctly placed – this caused more disagreement and bad humour.  However finally it was done!

Then we had the concrete to mix.  It is not possible for a ready mix concrete lorry to reach the site.  This raises many issues – the key ones being:

  1. Additional labour required and associated costs
  2. Additional equipment required on site, associated costs and the qualification of the men to operate them
  3. Maintenance of consistent quality of the concrete produced by hand as material quantities are more difficult to control

Reg and his great team overcame them all and over a period of 3 days the men worked in soaring temperatures and produced and poured 159 cubic meters of cement to make our foundation – SO exciting!!  We now wait with bated breath for the results of the tests on the concrete.  Probes were taken and they are tested at various intervals up to one month to ensure the mixture was correct and the quality is up to standard for the 10 year building guarantee.

30 June 2010

One little slip….

The men went off for a break on the first day.  Chris was still at the finca and heard a strange rumbling noise – only to see – to his horror – one of the large mobile cement mixers heading downhill towards the barranco (ravine).  The driver had forgotten to put the break on when he left.  BIG discussions about health and safety ensued after that little error!

10 June 2010

NOW WE HAVE A COMPOST LOO!

Chris has built a compost loo for the garden.  Mmmm we hear you say!  It is brilliant, uses sawdust instead of water and and will over time and through the production of humanure provide us with compost for the garden.  We should emphasise that this takes time and care – see the Humanure link for more information.  Chris has moved seemlessly from dentistry to carpentry – from very small things to much larger things and is showing a real skill and enjoyment in his creations!

13 June 1010

TO MANY COCKS IN THE COOP

We have a little bantam hen who is getting quite old now.  She is much smaller than the other hens and keeps herself busy by sitting on everyone else’s eggs. However she seems to have a knack of choosing male eggs to sit on and over the past two years has hatched out 5 cockerels.  Needless to say (and the girls among you may agree) a ratio of 1 cockerel to 3 chickens is really too much. With the help and expert guidance of David Edge from Semilla Besada – a wonderful eco home and farm above Lanjaron – Chris was taught how to quickly and humanely despatch two of the cockerels.  These were immediately plucked and pulled and put into the freezer.  Coq au Vin will follow!  Chris has to finish off two more but wants to “buy the right knife for the job” before he does it……..mmmmm!

27 June 2010

WE HAVE REPLACEMENTS

No sooner than we despatched the cockerels than the bantam hatched out 5 more chicks.  It is too early to say how many hens or cockerels!!

THEN THERE ARE THE KITTENS

The tabby kittens born in our patio in Albuñuelas are growing, becoming very domesticated and come with us and the dogs to the Finca.  Last time they came with their friend Purdy who was staying over with us for a few days.  She is 100€ siamese type princess that Chris calls Hiss and Run because that’s what she does – a lot – when she is miffed.  She is the softest, silkiest ball of fluff ever.  The two “camposinos” are in awe!

NEXT…. July – Pillars and walls (we hope)

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The road to hell ……?

1st Week of May 2010

The area for the house is finally clear …….but Challenge Numero Dos is upon us.

Eloy has left the building…….  Our favourite man has steadily and unerringly picked away at the rock and redistributed it around the finca.  Removing the rock was a hard and very non environmentally friendly thing to do.  Taking into account all the alternatives and bearing in mind we have to keep to a budget, in the end it was our only option. Having come to terms with this we were ready to start to build – however fate and the mayor had other ideas!!

Week commencing 10th May 2010

We have mentioned the access road to the finca before …. well the planned mass meeting of suppliers and labourers never happened (no surprise there!). Instead first Boris, then our solicitor, Rafael de la Rosa, visited the mayor to point out that the project has Ministry of Tourism approval, that we have paid the Ayuntamiento a huge amount for the licence, that the maintenance of the road is the responsibility of the Ayuntamiento and that we were not responsible for the damage to it.  In addition, in an economic crisis, there was a group of men standing around doing nothing and all receiving social security, who could be working if the construction materials were delivered.

The mayor’s response was words to the effect  – “F…. the English – if they want the road repaired they will have to pay for the materials”.  Charming.  So we did – in the interests of getting the house finished.  Scarlett, with advice from Rafael, is keeping a list of points that we will pick up later – apparently we have 20 years in which to do so!

As it turned out the estimated 1500 euros worth of materials was reduced to about 300 euros when Sergio (the lorry driver who is delivering the materials) agreed that the road was safe enough when only one key area of damage was repaired.  He is happy to drive the materials over the other damaged points. This means we can sort out the issue of the road with the Ayuntamiento later – Hallelujah!

While all this was going on sufficient materials were delivered to:

1. Make the “Control room”, outdoor lavatory and oil tank.  The oil containers were also delivered.  We are now the proud owners of a large block built “shed” where all the elements of our energy and heating systems will be housed, plus 6000 litres of storage for domestic heating oil (more about energy later).

2. Fill and compact the areas each side of the rock on which the side walls of the house will be built.  Plus have the necessary quality checks carried out and certifications and paperwork issued to confirm that the “compaction factor” is within the required reuirements.

3. Compact and prepare the site ready to receive the “cleaning concrete”, metal reinforcements and the base floor of the Casa Rural.

Oil containers/tank

Control Room

The site for the house

Energy

During the month we have had several meetings with a local company to talk about energy and waste water disposal.  Their engineer, Fernando, has designed heat and power systems for us based on alternative energy sources.  The energy system consists of solar panels, batteries and a biodiesel generator.  We can source biodiesel that is manufactured locally and meets all the necessary EU standards.  The hot water and central heating will be fueled by a biomass boiler fed by olive pips and almond shells sourced in the valley.  All waste water will be channelled through a water purification system that will produce water clean enough for irrigation of the garden and trees.  Very GREEN!!

1st June 2010 – Site Meeting

We have not had regular weekly site meetings in May so it was good to see the team together again.  However it was a long meeting as there was a great deal to talk about.

It was agreed that the next steps are for Reg to lay a layer of fine sand over the site and then cover it with two layers of plastic.  The steel reinforcing grid (due to arrive on Thursday 3rd June) will then be laid over that – followed by 45cms of concrete through which all the drainage pipes will be placed.  This apparently is the way that the Spanish create a foundation.  This meets all the necessary norms required – and saves us money too as the original plan was to lay 5cms of “cleaning” concrete instead of the sand.

We are now 9 weeks late on the time schedule.  However Reg is still aiming to finish Phase One by Christmas.  That would be soooo great!

Hooray – at last we are starting to build the house.

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GOING, GOING, GONE – The Rock goes

…….Well physically anyway.  The matter of the appalling survey remains to be dealt with!

THURSDAY 22 MARCH TO FRIDAY 30 APRIL 2010 The Disappearance Of The Rock

Like an El Bulli recipe the Rock has been “deconstructed” and is being reconstructed in other areas of the finca.  Nothing will be wasted – it will provide hard core, walls, rockery gardens, and decorations around the site.

Hasta luego to the Rock as we knew it……

TUESDAY 13TH APRIL 2010

Back at the house in Albuñuelas

Chris found a big surprise.  One of our “Patio” cats – who have made their home in our patio and enjoy our hospitality (ie food) has given birth to 4 beautiful tabby and white kittens.  Mother cat, who previously never talked to us or stayed around if we were in the patio is now incredibly friendly and wants lots of attention, stroking and love.  The kittens have opened their eyes and their mother allows us to hold them.  We are grooming them to move to the finca and become farm cats!

Materials Have Started To Be Delivered…..


While Eloy continued to patiently pick away at the Rock the materials for building the casetas (sheds) that will house the generator were delivered.  The generator, that is needed to power the crane, and the crane are due to be delivered very soon.

FRIDAY 16TH APRIL 2010

Reg’s Team

Martin, Jime, Serafin, Javier, Oscar

The boys met the mobile Health Check Unit to have medicals as part of the Health and Safety Plan required for the Project.

MONDAY 19TH APRIL 2010

Site Meeting

We had rain for several days and the site was a mud bath so the site meeting was held in Boris’ office in Lecrin.  It was a very noisy and somewhat bad tempered affair and it would be fair to say that there was a robust exchange of views…..!  The outcome was that by the end of the day we had a solution regarding the Rock and the position of the house to which everyone could agree!! WHEW!

Dear Eloy just continued work despite the rain…………  Thank God for a steady soul.

Redistribution of the rock….

MONDAY 26TH APRIL 2010

Site Meeting

A much more amicable meeting where we moved on from the Rock and started moving forward to make the final documentation so that Reg can start his whole team on Tuesday 4th May to begin the foundations (Monday 3rd May being a holiday).

CHALLENGE NUMERO DOS

We mentioned some time ago that Scarlett had written to the Ayuntamiento and sent a copy of the video she filmed of the damage, caused by Ayuntamiento lorries, to the road leading to (and past) the Finca.

The damage is worsening to a point where many of the lorry drivers needed to deliver materials to the site are worried about safety.  It would be very easy for a heavily laden truck to tip and fall down the slopes that border the road approaching the finca.

The Lecrin Ayuntamiento are responsible for the road and its maintenance.  They are maintaining that it was the lorries of a neighbouring Ayuntamiento at Restabal who caused the damage and that until Lecrin receives payment from them they will not commence even temporary repair.

The issue is primarily between the suppliers and the Ayuntamiento.  However if the suppliers cannot pursuade the Ayuntamiento to act quickly then we face either a significant delay or we will need to take action ourselves.

No-one wants to approach the Mayor and are scared of upsetting him.  Our neighbours at the Finca also have problems relating to the broken road.   Plans are afoot to organize a meeting en mass with Salvador, the mayor of Lecrin.  So all the project workers, suppliers and the camposinos will hopefully attend to show just how many people are affected.

It is such a typical example of the power of the Mayor in a Spanish village and the completely nonsensical way the Spanish approach problems ………hopefully next week will see some action.  Hi ho…..!

In the meantime we are innundated with eggs,  peas, broad beans, chard, radishes, early lettuces, onions, and a fantastic first crop of artichokes … Life is GOOOOD!

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