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Brexit, Covid and Barcelona

I’m not sure how it got to October already. The year is flying by. It has been dominated by three things. The main thing for me has been Brexit. It meant I had to apply for Residency here in Spain or, if I left the EU, I would only get a 90-day visa when I came back in again. Luckily, I took a friend called Juan to the government office when I first applied. Basically, all the official did was shout at us. It was horrible and Juan said we should leave but the man did give me another appointment. Juan and I went off to have lunch with his wife to recover. We went a second time and the woman was much nicer but she didn’t seem to know what to do. I had to prove my income was over a certain amount a year and had to pay for documents to be translated. I had also had to buy medical insurance. When Juan’s wife asked how it had gone, we were not sure. However, my application was approved and, after 2 trips to the main police station, I received my card. Yeah! Of course, Covid has been on everyone’s minds this year. I was double vaccinated but didn’t let my guard down. Here in Spain, we had to wear masks everywhere outside our own houses for about a year. We don’t have to wear them outdoors any more but most people still do and we have to wear them in shops, on public transport, in cafes when not eating or drinking and anywhere where there are lots of people around. They vaccinated all the kids over 12 before school started last month but they all still wear masks at all times in school and each class is a “bubble”. They are going to start vaccinating 5-to-11-year-old kids but, again, masks will be worn at all times in school and the classes will be “bubbles”. Last July, I was supposed to visit friends in Barcelona but the trip was cancelled. I finally went there this summer and had such a nice time with friends I originally met in Singapore and then we met up in London a few times after they moved there. Their amazing son was born in London but they moved to Barcelona when he was a few months old. Meeting him for the first time was a joy. At 2 years 5 months, he speaks to his dad in Italian, his mum in Spanish, is learning the Catalan language at nursery and he knows a lot of words in English too. I enjoyed the sights of Barcelona as I had not been there before. I wore 2 masks in the airports and on the planes and I wore protective masks at all times unless I was in my hotel room or at my friends’ flat. (They were both double vaccinated but had also tested positive some weeks before so their immune systems were in good shape!) Not only am I booked to go to Glasgow again this December but my daughter and grandkids here are also booked to go just after Christmas to spend New Year in Scotland. Hopefully, it will be less stressful than my trip last year. Take care and stay safe all.

My Trip to Glasgow

I would like to wish anyone reading this a Happy New Year. Take care, stay safe and stay strong in 2021 please!

Each December, I like to go to Glasgow to help my son and his business partner in their busiest month. This year, however, was a bit of a challenge. A friend said that the title of my latest book – ‘In a Class of Her Own’ – was an appropriate title for my book and it did feel like that as I wondered who else but me would take a 3-plane journey from Northern Spain to Glasgow during a global pandemic? There were flight cancellations and airport changes, timing the journey to the airport after the Spanish nightly curfew and an important online form to fill in, print and carry on the journey but, after changing planes in Madrid and Heathrow, I finally arrived safely in Glasgow. After 14 days of quarantine in my son’s house, I finally started work and, boy, did we all work hard! Orders were flooding in every day and it was great to see the business thriving and to be part of that, if only in a very small way, through my proofreading twice a year remotely and my hard work for the month of December. We all had an enjoyable Christmas although it could only be spent with part of our family due to restrictions. Too soon it was time to leave. This proved to be even harder than getting there in the first place. I spent so many hours on the phone talking to B.A., I felt as if some of the wonderful people I spoke to were new-found friends. It was impossible to get a PCR test because of the holidays so I only had one option. The first task was to persuade the woman at Glasgow Airport to check myself and my luggage as far as LHR. Once there, I collected my luggage and joined the queue for my pre-booked LAMP test. I had to wait 90 minutes for the result but it felt good to have the certificate in my hand and I was able to board the next 2 planes and I finally arrived home. I had left my son’s house at 4am and got home at 9.30pm Spanish time but what a joy to be home – before Brexit and before Madrid Airport was closed because of snow!

Latest Book Now on Sale

I haven’t checked all the websites but I know that my latest book is now for sale and I have my own copy. I had no idea that it would be published so quickly as I had planned to send copies to people for Christmas. I cannot thank the publishers enough for their kindness, patience and understanding and their efficiency in producing the wonderful finished product. I didn’t plan to make the book as long as it is. I hope it is not boring to read. It certainly wasn’t boring living through all the experiences in the book !

Proofreading

I must be getting old. I found it so difficult to proofread my latest book. There have been a number of reasons. It is much longer than my previous books. I was able to proofread them on hard copies but printing this one in order to proofread it did not seem like an environmentally-friendly idea. I found it difficult to remain fully concentrated on the task in hand when it was on my screen. The next problem was that I had changed all the names of the characters on which the book was based and I even changed some genders too. Keeping track of all that was very difficult at times. The final problem was that it was one thing to live through all the experiences in the book without having to read about them over and over again and relive them. I got to the stage where I just had to stop and hope that I had found all the mistakes but I am still breaking out in a cold sweat at the thought of all the mistakes I could have missed. (A Million Thanks to my publishers for being so patient with me.) Of course, there will probably not be a great number of people who will read the book. Especially with this one, I wrote it to document for my six grandchildren what a crazy life their Nana had lived – and survived !

A New Book

I hear that a lot of people have been writing books during Lockdown and I have been one of them. My 4th book is now with the publishers and is being typeset as I am writing this. I thought I would be delighted to send it off but I felt quite sad knowing that it would be my last book and that I would not have lots of stories to tell in the future. However, the way my life has gone, who knows what will happen once world travel is viable again? I hope that, as you read this, you are all staying safe and I hope that none of you has been affected by the virus. Thanks to all my family and friends for their support and for letting me write about them.

Retirement

I opened my last post saying that months were flying past. Now it is years which have flown past. How did that happen? Life in Singapore was amazing but, as I neared my 64th birthday, the school, where I was so happily teaching, was finally to move to a new, bigger location. It was going to mean tons of commuting 6 days a week. I bit the bullet and decided to retire. For the last 2 years, I have been living in northern Spain near my daughter, my son-in-law and their 2 amazing bilingual kids. I have made lots of new friends and help some people with English and with playing piano but I do miss teaching Maths. I try hard with my Spanish but the only time I am with people who don’t speak English is at the hairdresser’s. My 6 grandkids are all totally amazing – now aged 7 to 13. We have sporting superstars, of course they are all very clever, and they are thoroughly wonderful people to be around. I spend as much time as I can with the family in Scotland as well as enjoying the better weather here in Spain. At some point, the 4th book just has to be written and I am making preparations to start it. I recently looked at the other 3 books and realised that it seems as if I wrote them a lifetime ago. I need to get my brain back into book-writing mode. My message in this Blog is – Watch This Space!

Holidays and Shows

The months just fly past these days. I have been back at work for some time now but my summer holiday is still fresh in my mind. I spent nearly 4 weeks with my family in Spain and Portugal. To start with the weather was cool but it soon warmed up and, on one day in Portugal, it was almost 45C. We rented a lovely house with a pool but there was also a beach at the end of the road. Being in Portugal felt like going back in time. Lots of old buildings and churches, lots of cafes but not an internet cafe or a Starbucks in sight. Since returning to Singapore, the lovely Mrs B and I went to see ‘Phantom of the Opera’ when it came to Singapore as part of its world tour. Then a colleague and I went to see ‘Hairspray’. Totally different stage shows but both were very enjoyable. The family are all thriving. 3 of my grandkids are now at school and 2 are at nursery which just leaves the youngest one to catch up on the others. I suppose he will always feel like that as the others progress through education. At my school just now we are preparing for UN Day which we are celebrating on Friday. I will be playing the piano for the songs the whole school will be singing in front of parents and invited guests. After our little show, everyone will tour the decorated classrooms and then there will be food for all. Happy UN Day to You All !

Happy New Year

Happy New Year All – I hope that 2013 will bring you everything you wish for ! Again I cannot believe how much time has passed since I last wrote a blog. On finishing my 2-year contract in Singapore, I was overjoyed when my boss said she would like to employ me for as long as the Ministry of Education would keep renewing my work visa. A good start – they renewed my present one until the end of Jan 2016 and, after that, who knows ? My 2 years here have been spent working very hard – long hours, 6 days a week. I love every minute of my job but I was getting really tired. Much as I love my family to bits,  each visit to them has been too many planes in too short a time and on the go all the time once with them. I also maximised each holiday by flying at night after teaching all day and being back at school the day after flying back. So I treated myself to a chill-out holiday and went to Queenstown, South Island, New Zealand for 16 days. The scenery was breathtaking, I met the friendliest and most generous perfect strangers I’ve ever come across and the hotel staff were just fabulous ! Three Australian ladies insisted I join them for Christmas dinner and a family invited me to join them for dinner another evening and wouldn’t let me pay despite my protests. The highlight of my trip was the day I went on ‘The Lord of the Rings’ location tour which included the places where that film, ‘The Hobbit’, all the Narnia films and ‘Wolverine’ were all filmed. A lovely family and I spent 5 hours with the best tour guide ever, gasping as another spectacular view filled our vision. After the tour, the family asked me to dine with them and we chatted for hours. My Hogmanay was spent in the hotel bar with about 20 others. We saw an amazing fireworks display then we all chatted and I didn’t get to sleep until 2am. For most of my holiday, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky but for my last 2 full days there was heavy rain and low cloud and, from 30C (86F) on Christmas Day, the temp dropped a lot. I screamed with delight when I opened my curtains and looked at the high mountain range for the last time. All the mountains were covered in snow ! Even the locals were taken aback. Someone joked it was “global cooling” ! Back to work tomorrow, feeling fresher than I’ve done in years.

Summer Holiday

Again I must apologise for the late writing of this blog. Is it just me or is time speeding up ? I cannot believe how fast the days and weeks go by. I want to thank all my family and friends who made my summer holiday so special. I spent a week in London and visited places I had not seen before and went to see the fabulous musical ‘Matilda’. Thanks to Elspeth and family for your excellent hospitality. Then it was on to Scotland to meet William for the first time – such a cutie ! Sarah, Miguel and the kids flew to Scotland from Spain. So there I was in the same room as all my relatives – magic !  Many thanks to Sarah, Miguel and the kids who let me tour around Scotland with them. We went to great places like Tobermory (the setting for the kids’ TV show called ‘Balamory’), Tomintoul (the highest village in the Highlands) and The Falkirk Wheel (a unique piece of engineering). We all enjoyed the day that William was christened – great timing with that Peter & Jill – and thanks for your excellent hospitality too. Thanks, also, to Maureen for your excellent hospitality. Maureen took me round Rosslyn Chapel which is near where she lives. It was steeped in history long before Dan Brown made it famous. The weeks since returning to Singapore have just flown past and, as always, I am really enjoying my job and life here. My landlord and landlady kindly invited me to their family meal to celebrate their 52nd wedding anniversary last weekend. How lucky I am because they are so kind to me !

Grandchild Number 6

Many apologies for the lack of blogging recently. A special apology to my new grandson, William, who was born on 19th April for taking so long to announce his birth to the world. My only excuse is that I am very, very busy at work but am still loving my job here in Singapore. If I’m not working, which is rare, someone always seems to have an idea of something to do, e.g. my boss and I went to a production of ‘Macbeth’ last night. She asked if I’d like to go at 4.30pm and, after teaching until 6.30, we were at the theatre by 7.15pm. Anyway, back to the grandkids. Holly is 2 days off being 6. She and Bryn are now at school and nursery school. Santiago and Adriana are thriving in Spain and are both going to be bilingual so I hope they will teach me Spanish some day. What I need from Matilda is some of her energy – which brings me back to her new baby brother, William. Like me, he is a Water Dragon. The Chinese people here were very excited to welcome the Year of the Dragon. No word of my other “babies” – my books – being republished but I live in hope and some day I must get round to starting number 4 !

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