Welcome everyone Sandra in Spain - FlamencoI’m Sandra Piddock, and I’m a freelance writer, dividing my time between Spain and the UK. I’ll write about anything that interests and/or challenges me, and I like to focus on the lighter side of life whenever possible.. Read more
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Sandra Piddock

I'm 62, and I'm a freelance writer dividing my time between Algorfa on the Costa Blanca in Spain and Bigbury Bay in Devon. I write about anything that interests and/ or challenges me, but I'm happiest when writing about all things Spanish.

The Universe Has my Back for Sure!

The spiritual path is not a walk in the park. Yes, you are advised to get close to Nature to be in tune with the Universe, so you may indeed be walking in the park – or on the beach, or in the woods, or the mountains. You get the picture I’m sure. What I mean is, it’s only through facing life’s challenges head on that you can learn and grow.

Wednesday, 13th March 2019 was the challenge to top all challenges, after two years of constant physical, emotional and spiritual obstacles. Each time, my faith was tested, and each time, I meditated, asked for help from the Upstairs Team and acted with love and a desire for the highest good for all concerned. However, for a short time on that Wednesday evening, I really felt as if the Universe was just laughing at me, rather than having my back.

On that day, my beautiful friend and constant companion – my 5 year old Spanish rescue dog Paddy – was killed in front of me, as he protected me from a traumatic, ongoing situation. This is not the place to go into more detail, but Paddy’s story will be told when I am ready to fully honour my four-legged hero – who died so that I might live my best life.

I was also injured during the events of that fateful night, and two months on, I am still recovering, mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually. But I now feel that I am finally turning the corner, and it all began 10 days ago. I am guided to tell you what has been happening to me, and it’s not so that you will all say ‘Ah, poor Sandra, we must send her lots of love and healing.’ Don’t get me wrong – all love and healing is always gratefully received, but the point of this article is to demonstrate that, even in the darkest of times, the love and support of the Universe is there for every one of us.

Most Mondays, I attend a Development Circle with the fabulously spiritual Pam Goodall, of Ki Changes. Pam is really big on forgiveness – as we all must be if we wish to grow and move on from the past. Forgiveness is difficult at the best of times, but I was finding it really impossible to forgive myself, for unwittingly placing Paddy in danger, or the person who killed him. So I followed Pam’s advice, and sent love, healing and forgiveness to the whole situation during my daily meditation.

I was on the bus doing this, and then I heard a loud voice saying, ‘And remember, Paddy needs forgiving, for putting himself at risk.’ It was so loud, I looked around the bus, startled, to see who knew so much about a situation I had only talked about with close friends and family members.

Everyone was just chatting or looking at their phones, and I realised the voice was actually one of my spiritual guides, showing me the way to move on. It was obviously not a subconscious thought of my own, as to me, as I said a couple of paragraphs ago, Paddy is a hero who needs no forgiveness as far as I am concerned. Clearly, the Universe knows better, and sees the bigger picture, so I did as I was told.

Just a small detour from the story here – it just struck me as funny, so I have to share. How is it that we will argue with friends and family members we have known and trusted for years if they suggest we do something we’re not happy about, or does not sit right with us? Yet a strange, disembodied voice from we know not where says ‘Jump,’ and we ask ‘How high?’ but I digress …

The next day, I was looking for something to read, and I decided on The Universe Has Your Back by Gabrielle Bernstein. Why this particular book? I really don’t know. But I am so glad I did. As I started to read this accessible book, and work on the exercises in there, I literally felt lighter. Gabby is a no-nonsense kinda girl – she doesn’t muck around. You can implement the prayers and feel the energy shifting as soon as you open the book.

When I arrived at Circle last week, everyone saw and felt the difference in me, and I have worked on forgiveness and surrendering the outcome to the Universe every single day since I picked up the book. Thank you Gabby, and thank you Universe for being there when I needed you most, because what has happened in the last couple of days is nothing short of miraculous.

Regular readers have noticed I haven’t been writing much for some time. It’s been all I could do to keep my various Facebook pages going, as the events of the last couple of years have really stifled my creativity. Yet here I am, writing an article now, because Spirit asked me to. I had no idea what I was going to write when I started, but the words have just flowed.

A new friend on Facebook contacted me to say she dreamed we had met, so would I please do a reading for her? I’ve avoided doing too much stuff for other people, in case my energy is not up to the task, but it turns out she lives locally, so I am obviously meant to get on with helping others.

The same day, I found a new outlet for my writing. It’s well paid, and I can choose my own topics, so it will help me get back in the writing groove. And after years of fruitless endeavour, I finally have a promising contact at a major national newspaper. I haven’t been commissioned yet, but it’s on the way – I know it.

Finally, this morning, I was asked to serve Spirit at a church near me. It’s an honour, as I am very much a fledgeling medium, and it may not happen immediately, but it really seems that the Universe Has My Back, well and truly. It’s all about the energy!

Image credit: Photo from my own deck, The Universe Has Your Back, by Gabrielle Bernstein.

This card from The Universe Has Your Back deck by Gabby Bernstein, sums up this article perfectly!

The Red Knickers Report 2018

It’s that time of year again – the eagerly awaited review of the year, which I call the Red Knickers Report, due to the Spanish New Year custom of wearing red underwear for luck in the coming year. Whether it was because last year’s red knickers came from Sainsbury’s instead of Spain, or it was because they were reduced, they obviously haven’t worked their magic. I thought 2017 was a bad year – as you can read here, if you haven’t already seen it – but it was obviously just a tough training session for what was to come in 2018.

The first real indication that maybe 2018 was picking up where 2017 left off came at the end of January. We’d taken Paddy for a run by the Ermita in Algorfa, and he spotted a rather attractive lady dog on the other side of the road. Not being one to waste a chance – even though he has nothing to back it up with –  he dashed across the road, straight into the path of an oncoming car. We thought that, like the Monty Python parrot, Paddy had become ‘An ex dog, and had ceased to be,’ but it all ended well, as Paddy himself explains in this guest post.

That was a bit of a bad move, letting him loose on the keyboard, because he demanded another guest spot in July when Gizmo was getting on his nerves a bit. Then, of course, Gizmo demanded the right of reply, so there was a bit of Dog Wars going on for a while. Paddy and Gizmo may be very different in size and temperament, but they really are the best of friends, and spending a year together has given us a lot of laughs, at a time when we needed them most.

‘Spending a year together? How did that happen?’ I can hear those of you who are still awake asking. Well, I can’t actually, but it makes a good link to the next bit. You may remember I spoke about Tony’s health in last year’s review, and sadly, it’s continued on a downward spiral. We came over to the UK in May for a 6 – 8 week visit, and we’re still here as I write this on the penultimate day in December. Not only has Tony’s health been very poor, I’ve had a shaky time of it too, culminating in being rushed into hospital with pleurisy in August.

Things are starting to settle down for me now, but Tony still has a lot to deal with, so we’ve been staying with Glenys, my very good friend and Gizmo’s Mummy. I really can’t thank her enough for everything she’s done for us this year. There are friends, there are good friends, and then there’s Glenys, who has gone way above and beyond the call of friendship. She’s a true Earth Angel.

Normally, our visit to the UK is during the hottest time of the year in Spain – July and August – but we brought the trip forward, as my daughter in law was due to celebrate a big birthday in June. However, we were devastated to receive a call from my son in Shropshire to say she’d passed away from sepsis after apparently making a good recovery from surgery. As you can imagine, it’s left an enormous gap in the family and in our hearts, although I’m really proud of the way my son has dealt with everything since that terrible day in April.

My younger son also had a health scare in June, when he was taken into hospital with a suspected heart attack. It turned out to be a viral infection of the pericardium, and it’s taken several months for him to recover fully. Thankfully, there seems to be no lasting damage to the heart, and he’s enjoyed a very boisterous Christmas with the family.

For the first time since 2007, we’ve spent Christmas in England rather than Spain, and we’ve had a good time – although we haven’t had as many evenings out as we would have had in Spain. Our health and the exorbitant price of eating and drinking out has seen to that. However,  it was good to be able to hit Morrisons for the Christmas Eve bargains – you don’t get Yellow Sticker Fever in Spain, as the store buyers there seem better at getting the ordering right. Or maybe they don’t mark stuff up so much in the first place.

You may be thinking by now that 2018 has been a very challenging year for us – and it certainly has. However, one way or another, I’m going into 2019 with a smile on my face. One friend remarked that ‘If it wasn’t for bad luck, you wouldn’t have had any luck at all, Sandra!’ While I can see where he’s coming from, I don’t agree with that. Luck implies you have control over what happens, and clearly we don’t. I do have control over my reactions to events  and people though, and that makes it possible for me to look forward with optimism.

Two things have stood out as great positives in a year of physical and emotional challenges. One thing is the support and love of friends all over the world – those I already know, and those I have connected to, heart to heart and soul to soul, although we have never been in the same room together. The other thing is the way my spiritual journey has progressed.

One thing I’ve noticed is that almost everyone who comes to spiritualism doesn’t get there because they just fancy trying something new. They want to find a way to cope with the terrible things that life has thrown at them, because they want to grow stronger, rather than buckle under pressure. When I knew I would be facing an extended stay in England, I set about joining a development circle and finding a Spiritualist Church where I could develop my own powers, attend workshops and see good mediums at work.

The lovely Alison Wynne-Ryder has given me such enthusiasm for working with Spirit and the Angels, and 2018 was the year I was certified – although most people who know me think that should have happened years ago! Having completed Level 3 of Alison’s excellent Psychic Development Course, I now have the piece of paper that says I can call myself a Psycic Intuitive and/or Clairvoyant. I also have the strong desire to use my gifts to help others heal and gain comfort and guidance from the Universe, so I am every excited about strengthening my connection with Spirit in the coming year.

June 2018 saw me give my first psychic reading by Skype for a friend in England, and it went better than either of us could have imagined. You can read about it here, if you’re interested. I’ve also taken my first steps in communicating with animals, and I’ll be progressing that further by doing a course with the lovely Maureen Rolls in February. I contacted Maureen in October, when Paddy seemed to be affected by everything that was going on around him, and she was able to communicate telepathically and give me a lot of helpful information. Within days, he was back to his normal, happy self. We don’t just talk to dead people, you know!

On 12th January, I’ll be taking another giant step on my spiritual path when I take part in a Fledgelings Evening of Mediumship in Plymouth. Basically, I’ll be working on the platform with other mediums-in-training and – hopefully – bringing through messages from Spirit for members of the audience. It’s exciting and scary at the same time, so wish me luck!

Another positive move for 2018 was to gradually shorten my trademark long hair. I had no intention of having anything other than a trim back in February, but as I was discussing the upcoming appointment with friends on a motor home rally, and they asked what I was having done, a voice in my head said ‘Cut it short,’ and it came out of my mouth before I could stop it. I thought – rightly as it turned out – that Spirit were telling me it was time for a makeover. I feel so much better, more confident, and everyone says I look younger too. I did it in stages – from a bob,  which Alison Wynne-Ryder saw in my future before I even thought about it – to a pixie cut in September.

It’s easier to look after, more modern, and my hair is in better condition than it’s been for many years. My new ‘do’ has brought about a change of attitude, and put a much-needed spring back in my step. I don’t think I’ll ever go long again, but hey, never say never!

So, although I’ll be glad to see 2018 bow out, there’s been a lot of lessons and laughs, along with the trials and tears. As a result of his near-fatal accident, I’ve been much stricter with Paddy, and it’s a joy to take him out these days. I don’t have to wonder if I’ll end up on the deck, or if he’ll behave when he sees other dogs – I know for sure I won’t and he will. I also won my first-ever photography competition, and although I’ve not been able to concentrate much on my writing this year, I’ve developed my photography skills in my down time.

I’ve learned to be much more calm and patient, because getting worked up doesn’t solve anything, and it doesn’t help your state of mind or your stress levels. If you can’t change it, don’t worry about it – just trust that all will work out for the best, because it will, whatever you do. And if someone is after a row and you don’t feed their anger, it’s much more effective and satisfying than getting into a slanging match.

They say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, and it’s certainly true. There have been times this year when I’ve honestly thought I wouldn’t get through things, but guess what? With a little help from my friends, Spirit and the Angels, and a good helping of Sandra’s Special Stubbornness and Will to Survive, in the words of Elton John:

I’m still standing better than I ever did,

Looking like a true survivor, feeling like a little kid.

I’m looking forward to 2019 with joy and anticipation. Yes, there will be more challenges, but whatever happens, I know I can deal with it, and I know I can’t be beaten. There are good things waiting for me, and for everyone. Wherever you are, I wish you a magical New Year, full of love, happiness, health and joy. It’s what we all deserve, and it’s there for the taking. Never let anything dull your sparkle. Love and blessings to you all.

Other great end of year round ups

Here’s more great reading from my blogger friends for inspiration and information in 2019:

Mrs Mummypenny

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Compliments of the season – any season!

One of the most inspiring quotes I’ve read in a while.

‘Compliments of the season’ is a phrase that’s bandied about a lot in December, isn’t it? I’ve used it myself on occasion, although I do try to be a bit more original. It comes in handy when you’re dealing with someone you don’t know well, and you’re not sure if they celebrate Christmas or not, but two posts on Facebook got me thinking yesterday – shouldn’t compliments be available for every season?

The first post carried the legend, ‘Be an encourager – the world has plenty of critics already.’ I liked, shared, and commented, and thought how very true this is. The newspapers, TV and social media are overflowing with criticism of everything and everyone, but how much actual encouraging stuff do you see? Not all that much, because when people do post the good stuff, they often feel the need to say something like, ‘Here’s something positive for a change,’ or something similar. And good news doesn’t sell papers, unless it’s a royal wedding or baby.

I was still pondering this when another meme showed up on my newsfeed. This one really spoke to me out loud, because it mirrors my own feelings exactly. It went like this:

If you look for something to criticise, you will find it. If you look for something to compliment, you will find that, too. Your choice.

It’s definitely a choice you make. I don’t mean you should glide through life always being happy about everything – that would be extremely irritating for everyone around you. Nor should you habitually accept poor service and bad behaviour rather than risking offending someone or ‘causing a fuss.’ I can, and do, criticise – firmly, fulsomely and fervently – when it’s necessary. I won’t tolerate bad service, rudeness or bullying, and I will state my case and ask for appropriate action from the offender or offenders, whether it’s Tracy at the local bar having a bad day and taking it out on the customers, or big corporations.

However, I don’t go looking for something to complain about, whether I’m shopping, eating out, buying something nice or heading off on holiday. It’s all an adventure in this thing called life, and I expect to enjoy myself. I find that I pretty much always do, because I’m looking for a good time, and if that’s what I get, I compliment the people involved.

Going back to Christmas, I was stunned a couple of years ago when, just after the festivities were over, I called into our local butcher to tell the staff just how much we’d enjoyed our free range turkey crown, Aberdeen Angus beef joint and smoked gammon. The manager was taken aback, because I was only the second person to go in and say how much we’d enjoyed our meat, whereas theyd had complaints that this or that wasn’t right. Some of the complaints were justified, because when you’re serving thousands of customers over a few days with thousands of kilos of meat and other stuff, there’s bound to be the odd thing that slips through the net.

However, sometimes, the complaints were that the joint was not big enough, the turkey was too dry, or even ‘Little Johnny didn’t like it.’ All of these issues were not the butcher’s responsibility – the quantity of meat, the cooking methods, and Little Johnny’s latest food fads are down to the buyer, not the seller. It’s as if some people are looking for something to criticise and someone to blame, because Christmas wasn’t everything they’d thought it would be. It rarely is – because life in general is neigher perfectly good, nor perfectly bad. It is what it is, and you can’t change it.

However, you can change your outlook, and you can change your reactions. Look for the good things, because there are plenty of them there, if you look with joy and love for life. Babies, children and dogs live in the now, and enjoy the moment, and all that comes with it. Be more baby, be more dog.

For some time now, I’ve made sure I pay at least one sincere compliment every day. If I can’t do it in person – which I prefer – I’ll do it on social media. And if it’s been a particularly busy or trying day, and I get to bed and realise I haven’t paid anyone a compliment, I’ll tell my dog Paddy what a good boy he is. Even though I do that lots of times a day, it’s pretty much automatic – I do it without thinking about it. Actually considering why you want to say something nice is good for the soul, because it reminds you of the beautiful person you’re talking to, or the lovely thing that just happened. Conscious compliments are the best compliments of all – it’s too easy to just say something nice because you think it’s expected, or because somebody else just did, and you don’t want to be left out.

Sincere compliments are given with no thought of the feedback you may get – they come from the heart, and are all about the person you are complimenting. You want to say something nice to make them feel good, not you. And if they seem awkward about accepting your compliment, maybe that’s just because they’re not used to hearing nice things. So pay them another compliment, and make their day.

Sincere compliments take just a moment to deliver, but they can have a lasting impact on lives. People who feel good about themselves want to spread the love, and they’ll be nice to others, because they remember how you made them feel when you said they had a wonderful smile, or you enjoyed their song on the karaoke, or whatever it was.

Compliments of the season? Let’s make compliments a feature of every season, shall we? Starting now.

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Play Review – Benidorm Live

I’m a big fan of the ITV sitcom Benidorm, which has been running since 2007 – the year we bought our own Place in the Sun. I spend a lot of time in my apartment in Spain, which is about 90 minutes’ drive from Benidorm, and although some of the comic situations are exaggerated for effect, there’s a lot of truth in it.You’ll see more mobility scooters in Benidorm than in the rest of the Costa Blanca put together, and the resort is the karaoke capital of Spain. Benidorm is a place people either love or loathe, and personally, I love it. I go to the old town several times  a year on a day trip, and in the days BP (Before Paddy), we often enjoyed an all inclusive mini break in Benidorm with friends.

When the Benidorm Live stage show staged its official world premiere at the Theatre Royal, Plymouth recently, I decided to head along with a friend to see if the Solana Hotel staff were as funny in real life as they are on TV. And since many of the principal cast members started their careers in live theatre, and are therefore used to working with audiences, the atmosphere was electric right from the start.

I wondered how the company would manage to come up with a stage set that would successfully encompass the Solana Hotel reception area, the poolside, the Blow & Go Salon and Neptune’s Bar. However, set and costume designer Mark Walters went one better and came up with an effective revolving set that covered all those areas and also Solana Manager Joyce Temple-Savage’s office. The basic set is modelled on the opening credits of the TV show, and with each change of scene, the set spins around, and the cast and stage hands bring on any necessary props.

Several of the main characters from the TV series are in the stage show – Mateo (played by Jake Canuso), Joyce Temple-Savage (Sherrie Hewson), Jacqueline (Janine Duvitski), Liam (Aiden Gillen), hairdresser Kenneth (Tony Maudsley), and entertainment organiser Sam (Shelley Longworth).  The story line centres around a couple who are staying at the Solana because they were double booked in a more up market hotel in Altea, and a visiting undercover hotel inspector. Fair play to writer Derren Litten for managing to fool the cast – and the audience – right to the end, with a couple of red herrings, and a lot of hilarity on the way.

In fact, there were so many brilliant one liners and running gags, it’s difficult to remember them all, and the ones I can remember aren’t really suitable for a family friendly blog! Mateo is his usual supercillious self, mocking the English holidaymakers while trying to get the females of the species into bed. Jake Canuso is even hotter in the flesh than he is on screen, and he can dance too. He started his career as a dancer before moving into acting, and he’s also a good singer.

There are a number of song and dance routines, ably led by Asa Elliott, a singer on the Benidorm cabaret circuit who has appeared regularly in the TV series. All of the company acquit themselves well in song and dance, and to be honest, the musical numbers are a welcome relief for the chuckle muscles. Never mind laugh a minute, it’s practically laugh a second!

All the cast were excellent, but for me, Adam Gillen’s Liam stands out. His comic karaoke number is so bad, you need to be a really good singer to carry it off, and his performance brings laughs, sadness and pathos in equal measure. Benidorm Live is a real ensemble performance, and all the cast interact with each other well for maximum comedic effect. For once, predatory gay hairdresser Kenneth is the pursued rather than the pursuer, when Jacquiline’s friend Gay Derek takes a shine to him.  A wardrobe malfunction with Derek’s trousers led to some extra, unscripted hilarity.

If you like Benidorm, you’ll love Benidorm Live. It’s well-written, well acted, fast paced and really, really funny. I saw the show on Thursday, and my sides were still aching by Saturday. The show is touring the UK until April 2019, so check out the dates here to see if Benidorm Live is coming to your area. Tickets are selling fast, so don’t hang about. And give Matteo a hug from me while you’re there!

Note: The images displayed in the slideshow are my own, taken at the Theatre Royal, Plymouth on 25 October 2018. They are not intended to spoil enjoyment or give away the plot, merely to give a flavour of the show.

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The Mystery of the Algorfa Quartz

It’s great to be back in Spain, even for a short while, so I’m catching up with as many people as I can. Close to the top of the ‘Must Visit’ list are Therese and Mike at the Centro Rural de Algorfa. I arrived at just the right time, because the lunchtime rush had eased, and Therese had time to sit and chat for a while. As is often the case, when we get together, the talk often moves to crystals. Therese is an enthusiastic crystal user, and like many Irish ladies, she has a touch of the psychic about her.

I was showing her my latest purchases from Antisha Angels in Playa Flamenca, and also the beautiful healing wand Glenys bought for me. If you’ve never been there, you should. What Tony and Pat don’t know about crystals isn’t worth knowing, and he’s got stuff for cutting crystals and repairing them too.

This was when Therese mentioned that she had a large clear quartz crystal from a quarry local to Algorfa. Soon after the Centro opened in 2015, a Spanish workman brought it in, and Therese fell in love with it and displayed it in one of her glass cabinets, where it could catch the late afternoon sun.

Therese wondered if Tony could make her and myself a quartz point from the stone, which was actually a mix of clear and smoky quartz. She also thought it would be good to take some more points for a couple of friends who are also into crystals, so I agreed I’d take it when I go back to Antisha Angels on Friday. I’ve already given away a couple of the things I bought to people who needed them more, and basically, that is the heart of crystal work. A crystal that has been gifted and blessed with love and healing for the recipient will always be more powerful than anything you buy for yourself.

So, we took some photos of both of us with this magnificent crystal. and then we started to look more closely at the strata in the rock, and wondering just how many years – or hundreds or even thousands of years – each layer represented. When Therese had first shown me the crystal, I’d said I thought there was a natural division that was happening, roughly in the middle, and she agreed. I’d tried to wiggle the stone a little, but nothing happened, so I thought the division would happen when Tony went to work on it. We both hoped this beautiful, natural crystal wouldn’t shatter, but obviously, we know that crystals will do what they need to do, with or without our intervention.

Therese took the crystal from me, and as she did, it separated into two almost identical pieces. We both saw this as a sign that the crystal didn’t want to be taken away from Algorfa, and that it wanted to stay with us. Therese put the brightest half back in the cabinet, to carry on attracting sunlight and entrancing the customers. I handled the other half, feeling so privileged that the crystal had clearly demonstrated what should happen to it.

Being a natural, unprocessed crystal, there was a lot of dust and sediment all over the separated half, and it was depositing itself all over my hands, and the table where we sat. From an environmental health point of view, it’s not good, so I took it into the loo to give it a wash and brush up.

Now, if you’ve ever been to the Centro, you’ll know the decor is a little on the green side, to reflect Therese’s Irish origins. And this theme is continued into the toilet, with a bright green litter bin. When I started running water over the crystal and it gave off a green glow, I thought it was a reflection from the bin, so stood between it and the sink. It didn’t make a difference – in fact the crystal glowed even greener, and the whole room had a green glow. For a moment, I wondered if I was turning into the Incredible Hulk, then I realised that Archangel Raphael was infusing the crystal with his healing green ray.

I quickly dried it off, so I could show it to Therese, and a couple of other crystal-loving friends who’d arrived for lunch. However, by the time I got to the table, the crystal was back to normal, although significantly cleaner, allowing the smoky tones to shine through.

I placed it on the table, and we all tried to hold it. There was so much energy, all we could do was just hover our hands over it for a few seconds. It was a truly remarkable, mystical and mysterious experience, but it didn’t end there – oh no!

When I got back to Piddock Place, I did the mandatory Wednesday listen to Rai Woods’ Country Rodeo on Big FM Radio, then took myself off to the bedroom to write this post. Well, that was the idea. I’ve had a bit of a creativity block recently, with things that have been happening physically and emotionally, but I was full of ideas, and wanted to get it written while everything was still fresh in my mind.

My new crystal had other ideas, though. Because I couldn’t bear to let it out of my sight, I took it into the bedroom with me, and placed it on my bedside table. I wrote the first paragraph or two of the post, then started with a brain fog. I couldn’t think straight, so I decided I must be tired from all the excitement of the crystal and the heat. Trouble was, I couldn’t sleep either. I felt sick and dizzy, and totally out of sorts.

Eventually, it clicked – the crystal’s energy was just too powerful for the room, and for me, at such close quarters. So I returned it to the lounge, in line with the front door, went back to bed, and slept for around 9 hours. I woke this morning feeling more energised than I have for the whole of this year. and seeing I was taken to hospital with pleurisy less than a month ago, that’s a pretty positive result. And I can feel the crystal’s energy following me around the house. Isn’t the Universe truly wonderful?

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When does lost property become stolen property? Never, apparently!

Is this the real case, or is it just fantasy? The case I brought back with me

On this website, there’s a category called ‘Only in Spain.’ It’s a tongue-in cheek, affectionate look at the extensive bureaucracy and the attitudes in Spain that are so different to the UK. Well, life seems to be imitating art, because it seems bureaucracy is becoming a problem in England too. Or at least in Plymouth, at least for me.

Regular readers will know that I need to be in the UK for longer than I expected, for reasons I won’t bore you with. So in early July, I flew back to Spain to sort a few things out and check on Piddock Place. I didn’t have a suitcase with me, so Glenys loaned me one of hers – a rather nice purple and grey number she’d bought at Al Campo in Zenia Boulevard a while ago. The case stayed with me all the way over to Spain, apart from when it went in the hold of the Falcon shuttle from Plymouth to Bristol Airport. It then stayed with me all the way back to Bristol, until I handed it into the safe keeping of the Falcon bus driver at midnight.

Arriving at Plymouth at 2.45 am, I spotted a purple and grey suitcase on the pavement. Looking in the hold, there were no other suitcases of that description, so off I trundled with it. After all, there can’t be that many purple and grey suitcases travelling from Alicante to Plymouth, can there? Apparently there can, because when I opened the case next morning to give Paddy his present for being a good boy for Aunty Glenys while I was away, what did I find? To my – and Paddy’s – disgust, there was no sign of his doggy chews, or my satnav, clothes, new nighties and bras, hair stylers, and all the other stuff that I’d carefully packed the night before.

What was revealed to our incredulous eyes was a television set, a freeview box, 4 packs of Spanish chocolate croissants, and a pack of 100 evil-smelling Spanish cigarettes. Miss Marple I ain’t, but as there had been Spanish students on the Falcon shuttle, and the missing case had been bought in Spain, I assumed somebody would be rather disappointed when they found my size 16 clothes which were built for comfort rather than fashion, and industrial quantities of doggy treats, as well as crystals, floral nighties and substantial underwear. Although there were no contact details in the case I had, there certainly were in the one I’d borrowed from Glenys, so I assumed it would be a matter of hours before I was reunited with my stuff, and Paddy saw how much I’d missed him when he found out how many treats I’d brought back.

How wrong can you be? The day passed, and my phone remained silent. The next morning, I called the Stagecoach Depot and explained my predicament. As nobody had been bothering them trying to track down their case, they said they couldn’t help, but would keep my details in case the other person returned my case and wanted theirs back. So I called the Police, to ask if I could report my case stolen, but apparently, it wasn’t stolen, it was lost, and I had to take it up with the carrying company.

I did this with gusto, going to Stagecoach Head Office, and asking what they were going to do about it. They did say they’d try and track down the passengers on the bus, but due to data protection laws, they couldn’t just email everyone who’d prebooked.

Not being one to sit and wait for stuff to happen, I put on my Miss Marple hat and started thinking logically. Yes, I can do that when I chose to, despite what people may say. I plastered photos of the case and its contents all over Facebook, and asked people to share. I also contacted all the university summer schools in the area, and asked if they could circulate their students and find out if anyone had the wrong case. Again I got the ‘data protection’ stuff, but as I explained, maybe the student concerned didn’t know what to do about getting their stuff back.

I also contacted Radio Devon, and had a nice chat to the lovely Pippa Quelch, who promised to air my problem on her show. So I felt I’d done everything I could to track down my case, and return the other one to its rightful owner.

Fast forward two months, and despite everything I’ve done, and Stagecoach has supposedly done, there’s no sign of my case, and I still have the other one gathering dust. I’m making another short visit to Spain this week, when I’ll need to put in an insurance claim for my lost case and its contents, so I headed to the nearest Police Station to get a Crime Number. After all, two months down the line, the case must be stolen, not lost, right?

Wrong, apparently. It’s only stolen if I have bank cards and/or statements, a phone, tablet, laptop or anything personal that could be used for criminal gain from my personal information in the case. Thankfully, although I always put my laptop in my suitcase – I had done exactly that on the trip out to Spain – for some reason, on the return journey, I put the laptop in my tote bag, which stayed with me on the bus rather than going into the hold. I have almost 5 years of photographs, articles and notes for books I intent to write on the laptop, so that would have been a really traumatic loss. Yes, I know – I should back it all up on a hard drive, and I have done, before anybody chips in. Now, where was I?

To me, if someone has your stuff, and has the means of returning it to you but chooses not to, they’ve actually stolen it. But to the Powers That Be, because the person who has my case didn’t actually rip it from my hands, it’s lost, not

Me in Spain, wearing one of my favourite dresses, which was in the lost/stolen case. This may be the last photo of me in it

stolen. So I asked the Police if I could keep the case I have, and its contents. Apparently I can’t, because it’s not mine. Even though the other person has my stuff, which is worth considerably more than his – or hers. All I can do is register my loss on a website, and they’ll give me a reference number for the insurance claim.

I asked the Policewoman I spoke to what I should do with the case I had. All credit to her, she didn’t give the answer I would have done, which would have involved doing something physically and logistically impossible with said case. She suggested I take it to the bus company and leave it in their lost property department, making sure I got a receipt for it.

That’s exactly what I did, so now I don’t have the case that isn’t mine, or the case that is mine. And I still think my case is stolen, not lost, but bureaucracy rules OK, even in England’s green and pleasant land. One thing’s for sure, when I board the Falcon shuttle later this week, my – new – suitcase will be welded to my side, and heaven help anyone who tries to part me from it!

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Rogers Wholesale Plymouth – Best before has never been better!

My bargains from Rogers – I spent £12 and got around £68 worth of shopping.

As everyone who knows me is aware, I’m always up for a bargain or two. Especially while I’m here in England, where most everyday things seem to be more expensive than in Spain. I’ve haunted the aisles of Morrison’s, the Co-Op and Tesco on the lookout for those pretty yellow stickers, and I’ve snagged some nice bargains, like a shoulder of pork that fed three of us – and the dogs – for two days, and cost only £1.65. Then there was the shin of beef I bought to make a stifado for a little over £1, and the spaghetti bolognese ready meals for just 50p each.

All of these were very enjoyable, and all the more so because they were so cheap, but it’s all fresh stuff, and the space in the fridge and the freezer is finite. If only I could get similar bargains in non-perishable goods, that I could maybe take back to Spain in the motor home.

Unlike some people, I don’t stress too much over ‘best before’ or ‘use by’ dates. I go on what stuff looks like, smells like and tastes like, not by the calendar. So when a video for Rogers Wholesale, Plymouth popped up on my Facebook news feed, I knew I had to go and take a look.

Basically, Rogers is a discount warehouse where you can buy stuff that’s either short dated or past it’s ‘best before’ date. Some stock may not have labels, or there may be items for export where the language on the labels isn’t English. Some of the brand names may be unfamiliar, and some of the packaging may be damaged or discontinued, but basically, everything is top quality.

Rogers calls itself ‘The UK’s Biggest Gone Past Best Before Warehouse,’ and it’s only been open since January, but when I went a few weeks ago, it was very busy indeed. The owners make videos for their Facebook Page each time a new delivery comes in, but if something catches your eye, get down there as quick as you can, because they can’t guarantee more stocks, and popular items sell out very quickly.

Rogers is a ‘no frills’ retail outlet – goods are stacked on pallets, and are sold by the case, not singly. If you live alone or in a small family, it’s worth getting together with someone else to share a case of whatever takes your fancy. Prices are unbelievable – some cases are just £1 for 5 0r 6 items, and Rogers even work out the price per unit for you. There are also lots of samples of snacks and chocolates to tempt you as you shop, and the friendly staff are always available to answer your questions, or load heavy cases into your trolley and your car.

I spent £12 in Rogers, and for that I got a pack of 6 bottles of Worcestershire Sauce, 12 330 ml cartons of Vita Coco coconut water, 6 jars of chunky vegetable pasta sauce with no labels, 6 packs of Go Ahead banana bakes, and 6 boxes of Ancient Harvest gluten free lentil and quinoa pasta. The day I went, each customer also got a free pack of 12 bottles of French’s honey mustard sauce.

Okay, the Worcestershire Sauce wasn’t a brand I’ve heard of, but it was just 33p a bottle, and own supermarket brands are around 85p. The coconut water worked out at 25p a carton, and the cheapest I’ve seen it is 69p, but usually it’s around £1. The pasta sauce also worked out at around 33p per large jar, as opposed to £1. The banana bakes were 50p a pack, for the same packs that sell for £1.99 normally. Okay, they’re 2 months past their ‘best before’ date, but I just had one with a mug of tea, and it was lovely and crunchy, and very tasty for just 124 calories. The Ancient Harvest pasta is normally around £3 per 227g pack, but I got 6 packs for £2, and that’s still in date until December!

Finally, the honey mustard sauce we received for free is normally around £1.50 a bottle. Even if we’d paid for it, it would have cost us only £1 for 12 bottles. I did wonder what on Earth I was going to do with 12 bottles of the stuff, but then I found these recipes on the manufacturer’s website, so that’s a few main meals and dressings sorted out to be going on with.

Maths has never been my best subject, but I do like to know how much I’m saving, so I quickly added up the normal retail prices of these items, and it comes to around £68, so I’ve saved a fantastic amount – around £56 to be exact.

My free gift – 12 bottles of honey mustard which normally retail at around £1.50 a bottle

So, what can you buy from Rogers, apart from the items I clued up with? Pretty much anything, really. Biscuits, cereals, cakes, desserts, hot and cold drinks, condiments, sauces, preserves, crisps and snacks, chocolates, sugar, flour, pasta, rice – the list goes on. However, Rogers can’t guarantee what’s coming in, or how long stocks of particular items will last, so if you see it, buy it, because tomorrow just may be too late!

Rogers Wholesale Plymouth is located at Unit 2, Burrington Business Park, Burrington Way PL5 3LX. Opening hours are 9 am – 6 pm Monday to Friday, 9 – 5 Saturdays, and 10 – 4 Sundays. Check out their Facebook page for the latest offers, or just go along with an empty vehicle and say Sandra sent you. Who knows, I may even see you there sometime. Happy shopping!

 

 

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Ask your Angels for whatever you want!

Me at a workshop for Archangel Chamuel, the Archangel of Love

When I first became interested in developing my intuition and my psychic powers a couple of years ago, I realised that things would unfold as they were meant to, in Divine Timing. There’s no schedule when Spirit is involved, because there is no timescale as we understand it. Good intentions are all very well, but I’m not the most patient of people, and when my teacher, Alison Wynne-Ryder, asked if anything was bothering me about my spiritual journey, I confessed that I didn’t seem to be making much progress with the Angels.

Alison asked if I’d requested their help, and I said no, because it seemed a bit of a cheek for Little Old Me to be asking the Angels for stuff. After all, they have better things to do than hover around waiting for me, right? Wrong, apparently. The Angels are there for us – all of us – but they cannot intervene in our lives unless we specifically ask them to. Once we realise that we can ask for anything – as long as it is for our own Higher Good and will not cause harm to ourselves or others – we can harness the power of the Upstairs Team.

If Angels are so powerful, why don’t they just step in when they’re needed? Basically, it’s because we all have free will, and we need to learn lessons in life. The Law of Free Will means the Angels can’t advise or help us without a specific request from us, and it’s a good thing really. If they could just step in and avert the disasters we didn’t see coming, life would be pretty boring, and pretty pointless. It’s not healthy to be steered through life, avoiding all the pitfalls along the way. Those pitfalls make us what we are, and teach us life lessons that we can hopefully learn from and become better versions of ourselves.

So, how do we harness this power then? Like I said, just ask. However, it helps if you are able to understand how the Universe works for us. Everything is energy – you, me, the sofa I’m sitting on as I type this, the laptop I’m working on, the glass filled with port and brandy that I’m sipping on, because blogging is thirsty work. And of course, the Angels we call on.

Everything that is energy vibrates at different frequencies – it’s where the expressions ‘good vibes’ and ‘bad vibes’ come from. If you’re feeling negative, or if someone you come across expresses negative behaviour such as hatred or bitterness, the vibes will be low frequency. However, if you’re happy, calm, grateful, enjoying life, and appreciating everything around you, you’ll vibrate at a much higher frequency, and you’ll be closer to the Angels.

That closeness enables you to ask for their help, because it’s not just a matter of saying ‘Hey Archangel Raphael, sort this cold out for me, or I won’t be able to go on holiday next week.’ You need to call on your Angels with positivity, because they vibrate at a much higher frequency than the rest of us. And they’re not Fairy Godmothers who just wave their wands and make everything happen as we want it to. We have to work for our own Higher Good with them.

So say something like, ‘Dear Archangel Raphael, help me to do what I need to, so I can recover my health and enjoy my holiday with my family.’ It’s a small, but important, change in attitude and expression, that can make the world of difference in how things work out for you. You don’t need fancy prayers, you don’t even need to say the words out loud, but you do need to make your request in a positive way that will bring only good things to yourself and to anyone who may be caught up in your request.

Build up a connection by talking to the Angels regularly. My routine is to thank them each night for the good things that have happened during the day, then ask for help for those who need it. I may call on Raphael for healing for friends, family, or pets, Archangel Chamuel if someone I know is looking for love, or maybe a couple I know are experiencing relationship problems, and Archangel Michael for those seeking justice.

Look out for signs that they have heard your requests – finding feathers or other objects where you least expect them, or maybe a repetitive sequence of numbers, such as 11.11, 2.22, 3.33 on clocks, number plates, advertising boards or other places. And sometimes, a thought or idea will pop into your head and you’ll think, ‘Why didn’t I think of that before? It’s such an obvious solution.’ The answer to that is, you didn’t think of it, because your Angels planted that thought there.

Recently, I’ve asked the Angels for something as minor as a parking space, or the right turning to take when I’d gone somewhere new without my trusty satnav. I’ve also asked their advice on major, life changing matters. Each time, they’ve come through, and they will come through for you. You really can ask your Angels for whatever you want.

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Captain Rai Woods: The Father of Local Radio on the Costa Blanca

When people move out to Spain, they very often end up reinventing themselves and doing something completely different to anything they’ve ever done before. It’s easier for some than for others. For example, until I medically retired due to the effects of Lupus, I always worked in catering at one level or another. When I could no longer work for a living, I studied for a couple of degrees to pass the time, and when we bought our place in Spain I started writing, first for pleasure, and then for a second career. It was a natural progression. Rai Woods is a different proposition altogether though, because before he moved to Spain, he’d pretty much seen it all, done it all, and got the various t-shirts.

Originally, he was destined for a career in medicine, but decided he couldn’t go along with the prevailing philosophy of keeping people alive for the sake of it, and prescribing drugs before looking at the causes of the symptoms. He calls it ‘Sticking a plaster over it and hope it gets better, rather than looking for the real problem.’

Medicine’s loss was broadcasting’s gain, because Rai ended up working on cameras and sound desks in England and Northern Ireland. Always behind the scenes, but a vital part of productions small and large, he’s worked with the best in his time – notably with John Schlessinger on  Far From the Madding Crowd in 1967, and with Clive Donner on Here We go Round the Mulberry Bush in 1968. Rai also worked on The Avengers when Patrick Macnee was in full Bowler and Brolly mode. You won’t find him in the credits, because as he self-deprecatingly puts it:

I was third assistant director, with particular responsibility for making tea and coffee, and crowd control.

Rai’s tea and coffee must have been pretty special, because over the years, he’s worked for ITN and Ulster Television, among many others, and seen many wannabes become household names. He calmed young Rosemary Brown’s nerves before she sang her song for Ireland’s entry into the Eurovision Song Contest live on television.

Being a pretty laid back person himself, he was well qualified to do that. There’s laid back, and there’s so laid back as to be close to falling over, and Rai definitely falls into the second catergory, as he’s pretty much unflappable. In fact, if he so much as drummed his fingers on a chair arm during a production meeting, his colleagues would say, ‘Watch it, Rai’s about to have a meltdown!’

He did a pretty good job on Rosemary, because she went on to win with All Kinds of Everything. The nervous schoolgirl with the fabulous voice was better known as Dana, and even then, her potential was clear.

You’d think this was enough to keep anyone occupied, but Rai also found time to qualify as a pilot and learn to sail. Again, he became  so good at it, he is entitled to use the handle Captain as an official rank on both counts. He’s pretty much the exception to the rule when it comes to the old saying, ‘Jack of all trades, master of none.’

In 1969, he purchased the former lifeboat Dornovaria. Like her new owner, Dornovaria had experienced quite a few adventures, having served twice as a lifeboat, and also featured in the Dunkirk evacuation as one of the Little Ships. Built in 1905, she’s older than the Titanic, and still seaworthy. Rai lived on her for a number at years at Teddington, before moving to Northern Ireland. Then in 1999, Dornovaria sailed from Donaghadee to join the flotilla of 55 former lifeboats commemorating the 175th anniversary of the RNLI at Poole, Dorset.

A few years later, Rai sailed his floating twin flame single-handedly to start a new life in Torrevieja, on Spain’s Costa Blanca. Once there, he put his broadcasting knowledge to good use by setting up several English speaking radio stations in the area, and even owning a couple! I’ll save Rai’s blushes by not going into details here, as he doesn’t like to blow his own trumpet. However, speak to anyone who is anybody in local radio on the Costa Blanca, and they will tell you about his valuable contribution to broadcasting on the Costa Blanca. In fact, his nickname is ‘The father of local radio on the Costa Blanca.’ You’ll have a job to find any local broadcaster worth his salt who has not worked – or is still working – with Rai.

These days, he’s still in radio – both driving the desk and hitting things with a hammer to get them working again – or something like that! His popular Country Rodeo show, which airs on Big FM Radio each Wednesday evening at 8.00 pm Spanish time, has regular listeners all over the world. Many of them have gone on to become friends, going out of their way to visit Rai if they land in Spain for a holiday. And Rai has standing invitations to countries as far afield as Norway, America and Vietnam, if he wants to travel outside Spain. Over the years, he’s built up a loyal family of listeners, and the regulars get a mention each week. For Rai, the show is all about the music and the audience, although he’ll often come out with a cheeky quip to keep his fans smiling as they enjoy the show.

Rai loves all kinds of music, but he’s in his element with country music, as is clear when you hear him in action. He also takes his music out in the local area, playing at various events, either as one of the Big FM presenters or flying solo. When he gets together with Los Pistoleros re-enactment group, you can really feel the atmosphere of the old Wild West, and he’s a great promoter of local talent such as Charles Cole and Bobby Valentine.

Since he moved to  Torrevieja, Rai has also found time to direct his first full length feature film. The Cucaracha Club is the first film made entirely in and around Torrevieja, and the production team, Siesta Productions, managed to pull off a coup that even the big guns at Eon Productions – home of the James Bond franchise – couldn’t manage. They obtained permission to film for the first time ever in Torrevieja marina. You can read more about Rai’s part in the making of the film here, and there are more exclusive behind the scenes stories and interviews with the cast and crew in the Cucaracha Club category on the website.

So, what does the future hold for Captain Rai? Well, the Country Rodeo is set to continue for the foreseeable future, and there are two more Cucaracha Club films waiting to go into production, as well as a possible television series collaboration with a Spanish TV company. And Rai’s also helping to promote the film that’s already in the can, using his broadcasting and media contacts to get the film out to as wide an audience as possible before it goes to DVD.

Another of Rai’s interests is acting. He’s appeared in several productions with theatre group The Adhoc Players, and there is a new production coming soon. He’ll be treading the boards and bringing his engineering and production experience into play behind the scenes.

Although the Dornovaria has been moored in Torrevieja Marina since Rai moved to Spain, he spends a lot of his spare (???!!!) time keeping her seaworthy, and is hoping to take her on at least one more trip ‘before he gets too old to be able to.’

Although Rai is now seventy-something, it’s difficult to imagine him ever being too old for anything. As the saying goes, ‘You don’t stop having fun when you get old, you get old when you stop having fun.’ By that criterion, we’ll be seeing a lot more of Captain Rai before his final ‘Cheers and Away’ farewell from the Costa Blanca media scene. Former doctor, pilot, sea captain, engineer turned broadcaster, radio presenter and film director, Rai Woods is certainly No Ordinary Expat.

Image credits: Slide show photos are a mixture of my own images, and images supplied by Rai Woods and Siesta Productions.

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Rice and peas – a touch of the Caribbean for dinner

Rice and peas – a great accompaniment to any meal

I’ve always been pretty adventurous with food, and a few years back, a Jamaican friend cooked us jerk chicken with rice and peas. We’ve lost touch since we moved to Spain, and I’d forgotten about rice and peas until the weekend. We’d cooked a smoked gammon joint from Lidl – fabulous value and taste, by the way – and were wondering what to serve with it. Basically, we fancied a change from the usual new potatoes and parsley sauce, egg and chips or salad.

Then  I remembered about rice and peas. I looked up Levi Root’s recipe and adapted it to suit our taste. As we weren’t having it with curry, I thought it may be rather bland as it was, so I added some chilli flakes and sweet chilli sauce to give it a bit of pep. It paired very well with the coconut, and we ended up with a very nice accompaniment to the gammon.

Only problem was, Levi’s recipe was supposed to serve 4, but I think he meant 4 households! There was way too much for three of us, so we’re having the rest with a Kerala coconut chicken curry tonight. If I make it again, I’d halve the quantity of rice and water and cook it on a slightly lower heat to ensure the rice was cooked through, since there would be a smaller amount of liquid. However, the quantities below are as per the recipe – I’ll leave you to adjust it as you wish.

Ingredients

  • I can of coconut milk
  • I can of red kidney beans
  • I onion, chopped finely
  • I large or 2 small cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 2 cups or basmati rice, well rinsed
  • 2 cups water
  • knob of butter
  • Salt to taste
  • Chilli flakes and sweet chilli sauce as required. (Optional)

Empty the contents of the cans of coconut milk and red kidney beans into a large saucepan. Don’t rinse the beans first, as the canning

White rum and coconut water – a lovely accompaniment to rice and peas

liquid adds to the flavour  of the finished dish. Then add the onion, garlic, water, salt, chilli flakes and butter.

Bring to the boil, then add the rice. Lower the heat, and stir well. Cook for around 30 minutes, until all the water is absorbed and the rice

is nice and fluffy, with a slight sheen to it. Stir in sweet chilli sauce, if using.

Serve with curry, jerk chicken, or any other meat or vegetable dish. Rice and peas can also be enjoyed on its own as a light lunch or

supper. You could add chopped peppers, sliced mushrooms and sweetcorn for more colour and texture. It’s a really versatile dish, and is ideal for vegetarians and vegans.

I wondered what to serve to drink with the meal, and then I had a lightbulb moment. I’d bought some coconut water flavoured with lime and pineapple, so I added this to white rum for a long, tropical drink. Along with the rice and peas, it was Almost Jamaica, as the song goes!


 

 

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