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two hilarious chapters from my new book..

Life Begins At Fifty - The Book
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House Sitting in Spain

French matador Sebastian Castella is gored by a bull during a bullfight at the Maestranza bullring in Sevilla on April 15, 2013.     AFP PHOTO/ CRISTINA QUICLERCRISTINA QUICLER/AFP/Getty Images

‘Julie was supposed to be going house sitting with Katie in Spain,’ trilled my sister down the phone. ‘But Katie’s got a problem with her eyes, so she can’t fly. You’ve always said you want to go house sitting. Why don’t you go out there with her?’

‘Hmm, I’m not sure!  I’ll have a think about it.’

A week later, I started looking at flights for the next day. By 6.00pm I’d sent Julie an email saying I was coming, booked the flights and sorted car parking. I was only taking hand luggage so the packing was easy and by 8.30pm I was having supper with a glass of red vino, wondering what the hell I was doing. No change there then!
I sent a text to my daughters, who were away for the weekend.

Julie was waiting for me at the airport and seemed really pleased to see me. When we eventually got ‘home’ I could see why. The taxi had to drop us off at the industrial estate nearby so that we could walk the last 15 minutes over a dry river bed full of stones, rubble and boulders. The owners of the house hadn’t told her she’d need a four-wheel drive vehicle to access the property, and as she was relying on buses and trains, she couldn’t go out on a night as it was pitch black and she’d have broken her ankle trying to get home.

The detached house perched up high at the end of a dirt track was a pretty, white-washed building with lots of pink flowers, a small swimming pool and steps leading down to a garage, which housed doggie leads for the two dogs (which looked like fat Jack Russells but with longer legs), a washing machine and tumble drier. Part of our house sitting duties were obviously to walk the pooches morning and night, which turned out to be quite eventful. We’d set off with long leads up into the mountains not quite knowing what we would find around the next corner. Usually, it was a case of tightening the leash as we came across barking dogs left and right. One evening we came across a shepherd looking after about fifty goats on the mountainside, with about six rather vicious-looking feral dogs ‘on guard’. When three of them started stealthily walking towards us it was time to back track and go home another way pretty damned QUICKLY! Time for a sharp exit!

As we couldn’t go out at night, we made the most of our days, getting the bus into Alora and the train from there to El Chorro, Malaga and Ronda. El Chorro is famous for its huge dams and the Camanito Del Ray, a narrow walkway round the steep walls of a gorge.  On our travels we met Alison (short hair, round, cherubic face) and she was happy for us

to join her in her hire care, so we wound our way up the narrow roads, jumping out to take pictures of lakes, gorges, mountains and forests. The views were truly spectacular. Later on, she even dropped us off at the riverbed near our home, the little star.

Malaga was hot, hot, hot and there were thousands of shops to wander round, as well as the picturesque port and the amphitheatre. But Ronda was something else. We loved making our way down the windy streets, in amongst the huge mountain gorges, looking around the leather shops, displaying bags, belts, purses and shoes.
‘What colour bag you want, love?’ shouted the shop assistant.
‘I don’t actually want a bag,’ I grinned.
‘Oh, come on lurve, I give you big discount. Look, I knock a fiver off.’
There really was something very amusing about having a Spanish Del Boy in our midst 🙂

Ronda is also famous for its bull ring. We clambered up into the wooden seats overlooking the ring, imagining what it would have been like to have actually been down there with a massive great bull chasing after you, with blood dripping down its sides. Hmm, I don’t really agree with the whole caboodle, to be honest, but it was fascinating, none the less. We walked through the corridors displaying guns, horse tack and the matador uniforms, which were very ostentatious and unbelievably small. The waists on the trousers were teeny. I loved the pomp and ceremony of the whole place, but couldn’t help feeling that throwing spears at bulls, with the audience baying for blood, was really quite barbaric.

All in all, house sitting was an adventure. We honestly never knew what each day had in store for us and I, personally, didn’t realise that Spain had such fantastic culture and scenery in Andalucia. I loved the fact that it was like living in your own home, but with the wherewithal to explore a completely different culture and country. Bring it on! I’ve got a feeling deep down in my bones that this might just be the start of some other hilarious house sitting ventures. Yey! Why not? Life is for living, after all!

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