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.

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.


  • 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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Are your crystals ready to be charged by the Blood Moon?

Some of my crystals charging in the light of the full moon

Since I first got really interested in the healing powers of crystals, I’ve amassed quite a collection. I already knew it was important to cleanse them of other energies before using them, but I didn’t realise how important it was to charge your crystals, especially if you use them regularly, or need some powerful healing energies from them.

While crystals can be charged by intention, or under the sun or the moon in most cases. you’ll get a beneficial boost of energy by charging them under the full moon. As it happens, the full moon on Friday 27th July is very special – it’s a Blood Moon, accompanied by the longest lunar eclipse of the century. There will be a lot of emotions flying around, but it’s a good time to clear out anything that doesn’t serve you any longer and make a new start, or take your life journey in a different direction.

Don’t worry if you can’t see the moon from your corner of the world – it’s still there, and the energies are all around. And if you forget to put your crystals out on 27th, or you’re away from home, the energies on the nights either side of the full moon will still charge your crystals and amplify their powers.

You don’t need to put them outside to gain the benefits of full moon charging either – put them on a window sill indoors, especially if the weather is unpredictable. Some of the softer crystals such as selenite are water soluble.

I like to put my crystals on narrow sandwich trays on the conservatory window while I’m in the UK, but in Spain, I

A full moon not only charges crystals, it can be very energising for people too!

usually put them on the table in the courtyard. It’s really down to your own preferences, and local conditions at the

time of the full moon. There is really no right or wrong way.

Another thing I like to do is make it special by conducting a simple ritual. I don’t work from a routine, I just do what

feels right at the time. A couple of months ago, I was feeling very lethargic and a bit ‘down in the dumps.’ Not  depressed – just not happy. I know that selenite is linked to the moon, so I decided to harness the moon’s energy, using my selenite wand.

I always cleanse all my crystals before putting them out – even selenite, which is self-cleansing. I use white sage incense, because I love the smell and find it very relaxing, which is important for any sort of energy work.

When I stood outside, I took a few deep breaths, and looked up at the moon. Then I felt compelled to hold the selenite wand above my head with both hands, with my arms at full stretch. I inwardly asked the moon to energise the selenite, and through it, to also energise myself.

Some more of my crystal collection, ready to be charged under the full moon

Almost immediately, I felt a bolt of energy hit the wand, then travel down my arms, through my body, and through the soles of my feet into Mother Earth. I felt at one with both the moon and the earth, and I was filled with the strangest feeling. I felt both relaxed and full of energy, all at the same time. I thought to myself, ‘That’s it, I’m not going to be able to sleep now.’

How wrong can you be? I had the best night’s sleep in months, and ever since then I’ve slept really well pretty much every night. I woke up refreshed and ready to face the day, and my mood had lifted overnight. I’m not sure what happened that night, but I do know I’m still feeling the benefits today.

Friday’s blood moon is likely to signal the end of one chapter and the beginning of another phase of spiritual development, so there may be some difficult choices to make for many of us. Trust in the power of your intuition, your crystals and the Universe, and enjoy this special occasion as you move forward on your spiritual journey.

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Killer Chihuahua bites back!

Oh dear! I did ask Paddy if it was wise to vent about Gizmo in public, but he would insist on writing that rather incendiary guest post. If you haven’t seen it yet, you can find it here. As you may imagine, Killer Chihuahua is not exactly ecstatic about it, and he’s insisting on the Right to Reply.

Paddy says Gizmo can’t do that, because it’s not his Mummy’s blog. However in the interests of fair play and free speech, I feel I have to let Gizmo tell his side of the story.  I now have two Very Disgruntled Dogs on my hands, so let’s hope that when Gizmo’s got this off his chest, they’ll call a draw and we can all settle down again.

Me on the cliffs with Paddy. If I’d known what he ws going to write about me, I’d have pushed him over while I had the chance!

Hello everyone – Killer Chihuahua here. I mean Gizmo. I hate that nickname. I’m not a Killer Chihuahua at all – I’m a Chihuahua/Pappillon cross, but Aunty Sandra says Killer Chihuahua/Papillon Cross doesn’t have quite the same ring to it. She’s a very good writer, so I suppose she should know.

The trouble with Paddy the Petrified is he has no respect for his elders, and no backbone. After all, at 5 years and 2 months to his 4 years and 7 months, I have much more life experience to pass on, but he doesn’t take any notice most of the time, because he’s so bouncy I’m sure he’s on elastic. So now and again I have to be a bit forceful, but I don’t nip the backs of his legs like he says I do – it’s more a little tug on the long hairs to remind him who’s the boss around here, And then he goes all Drama Queen with my Mummy and his Mummy to try to get me into trouble.

He comes across as all hard done by, but I bet he didn’t tell you what I have to put up with, did he? Paddy is 35 kilos to my 5, so of course I have to address the discrepancy by being a Little Dog with a Big Attitude. Unfortunately, my attitude is the only big thing about me, and that seems to fascinate Paddy. Or to be more accurate, one little thing seems to fascinate him, which is why I call him Paddy the Pervert. Not to put to fine a point on it, every chance he gets, he’s after my willy! It’s most undignified – whenever Mummy or Aunty Sandra picks me up, his cold, wet nose is there, right where I don’t want it.

The other day, I was walking along, minding my own business, when Paddy shoved his nose under

Making sure Paddy behaves at Aunty Lesley’s. As the older, more experienced dog, I have to keep him in order.

me and lifted me so high, I almost did a cartwheel. When I complained to Aunty Sandra that if I was a human, I’d be able to get compensation for that sort of behaviour, she came out with a very hurtful remark. She said, ‘No you wouldn’t Gizmo – your willy is so small, Paddy could counter sue and ask for a search fee!’ Not difficult to see where he gets his disrespectful behaviour from, is it?

While we’re on the subject of willies, you need to know something else. Being the doggy equivalent of an irritating younger brother, Paddy has taken to copying what I do. So if I elevate my leg against a particular tree or rock, he has to do the same. They say immitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but I wasn’t very flattered recently,  when he decided to use the same attractive clump of marsh grass as me. The problem was, instead of waiting for me to finish, he had to do it at the same time. Only he went around the other side and we were nose to tail, which suited him, as it gave him another sneaky chance to check out my willy. When he raised his leg, I got a shower on the top of my head, and it wasn’t even raining!

Mummy and Aunty Sandra laughed their heads off, and then my walk was cut short because I had to go back and have a bath. Paddy’s obssession with my willy is absolutely not healthy – and now it’s getting to the stage where I fear for my dignity about 20 times a day. If anybody has a Dog’s Life, it’s me, not that big, attention-seeking lump!

Not content with that, Paddy the Purloiner is always pinching my dinner. I’m a dainty, well brought-up boy, and I don’t scoff my supper like the Hounds of Hell are after it. I like to savour my food, and graze on it during the day. However, I don’t get the chance these days, because Paddy comes and pinches my dinner, sometimes before he even finishes his own. I tell you, it’s a wonder I haven’t faded to a shadow of my former self.

I tried to get my own back the other day by pinching his dinner, but of course, his bowl is much bigger than mine, and I couldn’t get my head in there unless I balanced my paws on the edge of the bowl. The trouble was, once I bent my head down to nibble on his meaty chunks, the bowl tipped over, and Paddy’s dinner went all over me and Mummy’s kitchen floor – which she’d only mopped that morning. So that was a telling-off and yet another bath, just for trying to get even with that thieving mutt!

The worst thing of all though is the unfairness about going out. My Mummy is always thinking of

Mummy and me with Paddy and Aunty Sandra. Like I said, we take him everywhere.

nice places to take us for runs, where we can meet and play with other dogs. But sometimes Aunty Sandra takes Paddy off on her own, and she won’t take me as well. It doesn’t matter how much I cry, and I even follow her to the door, and give her the full-on Puppy Eye Treatment, but she still won’t take me. As if that wasn’t bad enough, Paddy the Poser comes back bragging about what a lovely day out he’s had with his Mummy. It’s too much for a lovely boy like me to bear.

So people, just as you shouldn’t believe everything you read in the papers, don’t believe everything you read online – especially if it’s written by a big black brute who’s scared of his own shadow. Never mind – one day karma will come along and bite him on the bum. Or maybe I will, if I can get Mummy to buy me a little doggy step ladder. That will give him something to whinge about!

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It’s a dog’s life!

Once again, Paddy has asked to do a guest post on the blog. Since I’ve taught him how to throw a sentence together, and how to spell, I can hardly refuse – especially since the last time he did a guest post he got more views than all of my posts during the month put together! Ah well, over to Paddy, who wants to get something off his chest. According to him, he hasn’t had the best of weeks. According to me, he’s an ungrateful, attention-seeking pup, but hey, it’s a free country, so over to Paddy:

Relaxing after my traumatic week. Things can only get better.

Hello everyone,  and welcome to my guest post. I felt I had to chip in before Mummy started spreading lies and exaggerating everything on Facebook. To say I haven’t had the best of weeks is an absolute understatement. And most of it is Mummy’s fault – she just doesn’t realise how sensitive a soul I am. 

The big problem is Gizmo. The longer we spend together, the bossier he gets. I mean, I’m scared to even walk past him these days – everything I do seems to be wrong. And Mummy and Aunty Glenys are no help. Instead of telling him to leave me alone, and giving him a flying lesson, they just laugh, and say I’m a wimp! Not only is that very hurtful, it’s totally untrue.

I’m not a wimp, but I am a sensible boy, and I’m not going to do anything that earns me a nip on the back legs from Killer Chihuahua. Okay, I am a bit frightened of him – but only frightened that I may choke on him if I do what he deserves and say ‘No more Mr Nice Guy’ and eat him. I don’t think Mummy and Aunty Glenys would be very happy about that though, so I’ve made a new friend.

He’s a very handsome dog – similar to me in fact, and I know we’d get on great, and between us, we could put Gizmo in his place. The problem is, my new friend is very shy. He won’t come out while everyone else is around. In fact, he waits until it’s dark, and Aunty Glenys has turned off the TV and taken Killer Chihuahua to bed. Then he plays hide and seek behind the TV screen or the conservatory window. No matter how much I talk to him, or how fast I wag my

My shy doggie friend. I do hope he comes out to play soon.

tail, he just won’t come out to play.

It’s very frustrating for a friendly boy like me, so I cried a bit and asked Mummy to coax him out to play. She laughed, so I asked Uncle Tristan instead. Then he laughed, and said, ‘It’s your reflection, you daft dog.’ Now, I don’t know what a reflection is, but it isn’t a breed of dog I’ve ever heard of. Obviously, they don’t want me to play with my new friend in case Gizmo gets jealous. I’ll outwit them though – I’ll save a couple of my favourite treats to tempt him out to play.

Really, the only thing that makes life worthwhile these days is when Mummy takes me out in the car, without Gizmo. It’s lovely to see him cry to come with us, and even better when Mummy tells him he can’t come, because she can’t manage two dogs on her own. My Mummy can do anything, so I’m sure she could – she’s just giving me some breathing space from Killer Chihuahua, so we can share some quality time together.

However, on Tuesday, even that got a bit scary. We’d been out all day, and were on our way home, when the car started making funny noises and juddering. Mummy slowed down, and told me not to worry, and we’d soon be home and safe. The words had hardly left her mouth when there was an enormous bang, right behind where I was sitting, looking for dogs and cats to bark at to liven up the drive home.

I thought the world had ended, and I did the only sensible thing and jumped into the front with Mummy, to get away from the bang. That was easier said than done, because I had to work out how to free the restraining strap from the seatbelt, but I was a Desperate Dog, and I managed it. I was shaking like a leaf, but did I get any sympathy? Not a bit of it! Mummy just laughed, and said, ‘Don’t be such a baby, Paddy – it’s just a blow out, that’s all.’

I’ve never been so insulted in my life! Mummy is always telling me off for ‘blowing off,’ but I never make such a loud noise as that – it’s not polite. A blow out must be very similar to a blow off, so in other words, I got the blame for something that frightened me almost to death. I thought my time had come to cross the Rainbow Bridge, and all she could do was laugh!

I’ll never understand humans if I live to be 100. There we were, miles from home, almost dead, and Mummy is on the phone and taking photos. I was so glad to see Aunty Glenys, I just leaped into her car, and didn’t even mind Gizmo barking at me.

Mummy’s car after the blow out. And she expected me to get back in there afterwards!

I was pretty sure I’d never see the car again – I mean, how could it survive such a major disaster? However, I was wrong, and the next day, the car came back.  Being a sensible boy, I wasn’t going anywhere near it – it was a death trap, obviously. You’d have thought Mummy would have understood, but no, she said I had to go in the car with her. No way was that happening, so I headed back to Aunty Glenys’s. I was so traumatised, I’d rather spend the day with Killer Chihuahua than go out in the car with Mummy – that’s how bad it was.

Did she understand and respect my feelings? What do you think? She actually bundled me into the car and told me to stop over reacting! Can you believe that? It was most indignified. First she grabbed my front paws and put them on the back seat, then lifted my back legs and pretty much threw me into the car. And that smarmy black cat from next door saw everything! I’ll never be able to hold my head up in the street again, because I bet that rotten cat’s told everyone.

Whoever first said ‘It’s a dog’s life’ was not wrong. I’m going to have to rethink my position after this week. If anyone would like to offer a loving home to a very good boy, I may seriously consider it. Mummy needs to examine her recent behaviour and think how she can make amends, otherwise she’s going to be very sorry. Thanks for listening, and please, if you love me, tell Mummy and Aunty Glenys to go easy on me. I may be a big strong boy, but I do have feelings, you know!

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Restaurant review: Lanterns Greek Restaurant, Cornwall Street, Plymouth

Although there are all sorts of cuisines available at a great price and quality near my home in Algorfa, I’ve yet to unearth a good Greek restaurant within driving or staggering distance. I mentioned this to my friend Glenys a few years back on a visit to Plymouth, and she took me to Lanterns, advising me to ‘Prepare to be amazed.’

The first time we road tested Lanterns together, it was coming up for Christmas, and the place was heaving with office parties, etc. So we were delighted when they cheerfully squeezed us in between two groups. They warned us that we would have to wait a while for our food, but brought out some home made Greek bread and a bottle of very nice house rose to keep us going.

Although Lanterns is a very busy restaurant in the middle of Plymouth city centre, the staff never seem pressured – in fact, they seem to enjoy themselves just as much as the diners – many of whom eat there at least once a week.

We really enjoyed our food, but because I spend a lot of time in Spain, we didn’t return for some time. Almost a year, in fact. As we walked in, the two lovely waitresses greeted us like old friends, and remarked that it had been a while since they’d seen us. With Glenys and I, it’s ‘Once seen, never forgotten,’ and they started reminiscing about the great evening we’d all had on our last visit.

The highlight of that first evening was when the group to the left of us were getting a bit too full of Christmas spirit – and wine, and beer – and started effing and blinding. It didn’t bother us, but one of the party told them in a stage whisper to ‘Pipe down, or you’ll offend the lovely ladies sitting next to us.’ I couldn’t resist it – I stood up, leaned over the dividing screen between us, and said, ‘Hey, no f***ing swearing if you don’t mind – you’re putting us off our dinner!’  That set the seal on the tone, and all of a sudden, we were extra guests at everyone’s party.

We’ve tried a couple of other Greek restaurants in Plymouth over the years, but nothing matches Lanterns for atmosphere, food quality, portion size and value for money. The first couple of times, we ordered starters, then realised there was way too much food for us, so now we tend to go for a main course and a dessert – if we have room, that is.

A couple of nights ago, we had a rather unpleasant experience at the Notter Bridge Inn near Landrake. Long story short, after waiting for almost an hour for our food, we were thrown out as ‘liars and troublemakers,’ because we had the temerity to ask why people who had come in after us were being served first. If you want to read the whole sorry story, you can find it here.

We decided to go to Lanterns, and as usual, we were welcomed with open arms – such a contrast to our treatment at the Notter Bridge Inn. Once again, we were given lovely fresh home made bread to take the edge of our hunger while we waited for our meals. I went for my favourite Lamb souvla with a tasty Greek salad, rice and tzatziki, while Glenys chose belly pork with rice and vegetables.

Previously, we’ve tried the moussaka, beef stifado, mushroom stroganoff, grilled chicken, kleftiko and the range of kebabs. Everything we’ve ever had has been cooked and presented to perfection, and we’ve invariably needed to ask to have some of the meal packed to take home. This is an old menu, but it will give you an idea of the range of food on offer.

Lanterns offer a 3 course lunch menu, as well as an early bird evening menu between 5 and 7, as well as their extensive a la carte collection.All their desserts are home made too. I couldn’t resist the Banoffee Pie, even though I’d only managed half of my lamb souvla. I asked for a ‘small’ portion, but as you can see from the pictures, it wasn’t that small! It was, however, the best Banoffee pie I have ever tasted – and I’ve tasted a lot over the years.

Do yourself a favour if you find yourself in Plymouth, and check out Lanterns. You won’t be disappointed, and you won’t need to take out a second mortgage to eat there, even if you go a la carte. We normally pay around £40 for two main courses and a bottle of wine – slightly more if we have a dessert, but usually we share one between us. Maybe we’ll see you there soon!

You can find Lanterns at 88 Cornwall Street, Plymouth PL1 1LR. Metred parking is available outside, and there are two nearby off road car parks. Phone 01752 665516 to reserve your table, or enquire about availability for special celebrations. Tell them Sandra in Spain sent you!

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Basil Fawlty is still living and working in Notter Bridge, Cornwall!

Sun shining through the trees by the River Lynher – the only bright spot of our visit to the Notter Bridge Inn!

It’s been a pretty traumatic week – even on top of the other six traumatic weeks since we left Spain. I won’t bore you with the details, but suffice to say Glenys decided I needed to cheer myself up last night, and she thought a drive out in the country and a meal in a nice friendly pub would do the trick. She also promised me photo opportunities aplenty, so off we went to the Notter Bridge Inn near Landrake, Cornwall.

It seemed to tick all the boxes. Drive in the country? Check, with the added bonus of being only 6 miles from our base. Photo opportunities? Check – the pub nestles on the River Lynher, and I got a couple of beautiful shots of the sunlight through the trees. Friendly pub? Well, in the words of the well-known song, Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad. Except it was – very bad!

When we went into the pub, it seemed friendly enough. A few people said hello, and we asked the landlady if there were any spare tables. She said yes, take our pick,  so I sent Glenys to find a table while I ordered the food and drinks. I asked if I could run a tab, and left my credit card behind the bar. The landlady said the kitchen was busy, so there would be a ‘bit of a wait,’ and I said that was okay, we could enjoy our drinks and I could take some photos outside. When we went through the bar to the conservatory, there was only one other table occupied, and the people eating outside were being served as I got the drinks, so we were confident it wouldn’t be too much of a wait, and the food looked and smelled lovely.

How wrong can you be? After we’d waited for half an hour, the conservatory had filled up, and then starters came out to the tables who had ordered after us. We wondered about that, but thought maybe they were going to bring all the main courses out together. However, when the starters were followed by main courses, while our table was still depressingly bare, I called over the waitress and we asked how long our food would be, since we had ordered before most of the other diners had arrived.

The friendly waitress went to find out, and the lady on the next table asked how long we’d been waiting. By now, it was over 45 minutes, and she said that sometimes they forgot to put the order through to the kitchen! However, she also said the food was worth waiting for, and when the waitress returned and said it would be just another 10 minutes,  and did we want a refund, I said it was fine, we were hungry, and I was happy to wait. I asked why the food had been delayed, and she said she didn’t know, but would ask the landlady.

The landlady marched across to our table and snapped ‘What’s the matter with you?’ Clearly, when she’d done the hospitality training, she’d missed the bit about keeping the customer satisfied. She also said that as we’d just walked in off the street and hadn’t bothered to book, we should expect to wait until the regulars were looked after. She went to the kitchen, then informed us that, ‘The chef says just go, we don’t want your sort in here.’

We were incredulous. We hadn’t been rude to the staff, just politely asked where our food was, and we were still prepared to wait, even though others had been served ahead of us. Graciously, the landlady said we could have our drinks on the house, as she almost threw my debit card across the bar. As we headed for the door, stomachs a-rumble and backs well and truly up, Basil Fawlty* himself blocked our exit.

Obviously, it wasn’t Basil Fawlty – he’s a fictional character, but the guy – whom we assumed to be the landlord – achieved the impossible by making the Torquay hotel owner look like the world’s best Front of House Manager. He said we’d been told it would be at least 40 minutes’ wait when we ordered, and Glenys replied that if we’d been told that, we wouldn’t have ordered food at all, and we’d just been told there was a ‘bit of a wait.’ He told us we were liars, and astutely observed that we’d complained about the food, but not about the free drinks we’d had.

I don’t think he appreciated being told that we couldn’t complain about the food, because we hadn’t had any, and the drinks were not free, they were compensation for poor service. And he wasn’t thrilled when I told him I was a writer, and although I never write negative reviews, I was happy to make an exception in their case.

Rather foolishly, he told me to ‘Write what I like.’ So I just did. Moral of the story:

‘Basil Fawlty’s’ Latest business venture – The Notter Bridge Inn.

Don’t say it if you don’t mean it. Glenys wasn’t quite sure whether to be scandalised or proud of being thrown out of a pub for the first time in her life. It was a first for me too, but we reckoned that, with a combined age of 141 years between us, being thrown out for being ‘liars and troublemakers’ would do our street cred no damage at all.

Did we get fed? Oh yes! We went to our favourite restaurant, Lanterns in Cornwall Street, Plymouth. The food, service and atmosphere was amazing. Okay, we didn’t get the fabulous photo opportunities, or the scenic drive, but we finally ticked the box for great food and service with a smile. And the bill came in cheaper too. Basil Fawlty, you can learn a lot from Lanterns.

* I’d love to claim the ‘Basil Fawlty’ monicker as my own, but the Mail Online beat me to it. Seems like we’re not the only disatisfied customers at the Notter Bridge Inn after all!

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1966 and all that – Can football come home again?

World Cup Willie – The first mascot in 1966. Image credit http://www.prmuseum.org/blog/2015/7/31/1966-the-first-fifa-world-cup-mascot

Like most English people here on the Costa Blanca – and quite a lot of Spanish ones – I’m waiting impatiently for the England-Sweden kick off this afternoon in World Cup 2018. I’ll be going to Jilly’s Bar in Algorfa to watch the match for three good reasons. They have the biggest screen in the area, a lot of my good friends will also be there, and it’s no fun watching England’s biggest match in almost 30 years when you’re home alone, as I am at the moment.

So much has been in the press about the similarities between this World Cup and 1966, when England, against all the odds, lifted the trophy for the first and only time. So far. Well, the hacks have to write something don’t they? The England squad have been playing well on the pitch and conducting themselves well off it, so the tabloids can’t run kiss-and-tells and character assassinations, which is the usual media sport when England are in an international tournament. I suppose they could bleat about how much the squad are being paid for kicking a ball around, but since the majority of England fans believe the team are worth every penny at the moment, that’s hardly likely to happen.

Admittedly, there are some uncanny coincidences. Dapper Gareth Southgate has several parallels with England’s most successful manager – so far – Sir Alf Ramsey. Tactical geniuses who were not thought to be the best choices for the job at times when English football was slightly lower than Donald Trump’s level of diplomacy skills, they brought with them qualities of dignity, integrity, independent thinking and straight talking. They were both in their mid forties when they stepped into the spotlight of the world’s biggest football competition, and they have a similar choice in clothes, as well as an erudite way of conducting interview, without the need for sound bites or jargon.

The similarities don’t end there, either. World Cup Willie, the 1966 mascot, was dressed in red, white and blue, as is the current mascot, Zabivaka. If you don’t remember the song, there’s a reminder under this paragraph – there’s still time to get word perfect before kick off. As a bonus, the highlights of the 66 campaign accompany Lonnie Donnegan’s very catchy anthem. World Cup Willie was the first ever World Cup mascot. Zabivaka means ‘The one who scores’ in Russian, so maybe Harry Kane should consider changing his name, as he’s in the running for the Golden Boot as highest scorer of the tournament. Zabivaka Kane may not roll easily off the tongue, but it has a certain quirky ring to it, doesn’t it? And we could call him Zab for short.

Talking of hat trick heroes, Harry Kane has emulated Geoff Hurst in scoring a hat trick at the world cup. The only other English player to achieve this was Gary Lineker, against Poland in Mexico, 1986. And just as Sir Alf went for youth over experience in appointing twenty-two year old Bobby Moore as captain over older, more famous players, Gareth has opted for Harry Kane, 24, bypassing international veterans such as Ashley Young and Gary Cahill. Only 8 players in the 23-strong squad are younger than Kane, yet he plays with an authority and leadership far beyond his years.

Southgate isn’t afraid to make controversial decisions either, preferring to risk defeat by Belgium, having already qualified, and keep his  key players rested and safe from injury. Alf Ramsey was vilified for keeping Geoff Hurst in the side once Jimmy Greaves, a big star at the time, recovered from injury. Hurst had played his first international just a few months earlier, in a friendly against West Germany, but Ramsey trusted his instincts and the rest, as they say is history. In a third example of synchronicity, both Hurst and Kane were pretty competent cricketers, before they became football legends.

There’s been so much written about the parallels with 1966, but you’re about to read a world exclusive – how my 1966 experience is pretty much identical to my personal World Cup 2018. So far.

Back in 1966, I was 14, and package holidays were just becoming affordable for everyone. Mum and Dad worked hard in their fish and

I was flying to Spain when England played Colombia, but I’ll be joining the regulars at Jilly’s Bar for the Sweden matxh.

chip shop, and always closed the shop for their main holiday when the surrounding factories in Bilston in the West Midlands closed down for Factory Fortnight. So when I learned that we’d be flying out abroad for the first time on 23rd July – my parent’s 17th wedding anniversary, and the day of the England-Portugal semi-final – I was Not Impressed.

Like pretty much everybody else, Dad thought the home team would be out of the tournament by the time we left anyway. He wasn’t such a big follower of English football as I was – and still am, for that matter. He wasn’t too enthusiastic about wall-to-wall sunshine either – which is why we always spent our holidays in my Gran’s caravan in Blackpool. However, when he found out that Senior Service and Johnny Walker – his favourite brands of cigarettes and whisky – were so much cheaper in Spain, he couldn’t wait to start singing Viva Espana. Well, he had to, as it wasn’t even written and first performed until around 1971, but you get the gist.

The opening games seemed to bear out his words, but I had the Faith of The Fan – or the Foolish, if you like – and just knew they would beat Argentina. Half of me wanted them to lose, so I wouldn’t miss something, but when the final whistle went, I tried my hardest to get Dad to reschedule the holiday. When he quite reasonably refused, I determined to find somewhere – anywhere – to watch the final, should England get past Portugal.

Today, people are arranging their flights so they can see their team of choice play the important matches, but 52 years ago, the flights were neither so frequent nor so fast. In fact our plane looked so old, I asked the stewardess if it was one with an outside toilet. Yes, I’ve always been like that! That earned me a telling off from Mum, but Dad shared my sense of humour and gave me an extra pound to add to my holiday spending money. He must have really liked my crack, because that £1 note – which of course we don’t have now – would be worth £18. My 10-year-old brother wanted everything I had, so he wanted a £1 as well, but Dad, remembering his birthday just a month ago when he flushed the £1 Auntie Jess gave him down the toilet because he wanted ‘real money, not bits of paper’ – sensibly refused.

When we eventually arrived at our hotel in Lloret de Mar, on the Costa Brava, I was delighted to find it not only had a TV at each end of the residents’ lounge,  but the guests were more or less equally divided between English and Germans. Our Spanish haven would turn out to be a mini Wembley with sun. Or maybe for me, it wouldn’t.

Once Mum and Dad recovered from the severe shock of waking up to sunshine every morning, they wanted to make the most of it, and were scandalised at the idea of wasting all that sun. Goodness knows why, because Dad was the prototype of the 1960s Brit Abroad on the Beach – long trousers, socks and sandals, and a long sleeved shirt. It was so hot, he did give in and take off his shirt, but the string vest stayed put, and he was blessed with a chest and back that looked like laticed fruit pies until the tan finally faded. Mum was tall with a fabulous figure, but she wore a voluminous cotton skirt over her swimming costume, as she wasn’t going to show the ‘foreigners’ her lovely long, lily white legs. Just as well really – one enamoured old Spaniard who looked about 150 offered Dad two donkeys in exchange for her. If it hadn’t been for having to pay for excess baggage, I could well have returned from my first trip abroad Sin Mi Madre. And no, I’m not translating – look it up!

Rescue came in the unlikely form of Harry and Madge, two lovely pensioners from Matlock in Derbyshire. They were experiencing similar problems – Madge wanted to hit the beach, while Harry wanted to swear at the TV screen, as all football fans do – well, the ones I mix with, anyway. So after lunch, Madge left with Mum, Dad and my Brother for the beach, while I headed for the lounge bar with Harry and the rest. With Mum’s admonitions to ‘Not let Sandra drink anything alcoholic’ ringing in his ears, Harry came back with a large beer for him, and a small one for me. Luckily for me, Matlock men didn’t like taking orders from women – other than their wives – so thank goodness Mum hadn’t said  I could have a couple of sangrias, because that was the next step.

The Spanish barman was so impressed with my smattering of Spanish and my burgeouning vocabulary of football fouls – that’s foul language not foul play, if you hadn’t already guessed – he promised me a glass of sangria for every goal England scored. That was when I fell in love for the first time – with both the barman and sangria. He must have thought he was okay when Germany scored after just 10 minutes, but he would regret that decision mightily. I was, and still am – a positive person, and I predicted that England would go on and win the game, they just needed something to get them back on track.

Right up to the 89th minute, it looked like I was right, then Weber sneaked a last minute goal, and it was extra time in stifling heat. It was pretty hot in the hotel too, especially when I made my voice heard over the nay-sayers who were predicting Engand’s chance had gone. I still don’t know whether it was bravado, sheer stupidity or a message from the Other World that prompted me to shout, ‘England will win 4 – 2, and Geoff Hurst will score a hat trick.’ Then I wished I hadn’t. There was silence, followed by roars of laughter. When my ‘Minder’ Harry stopped his shoulders from shaking, he said if both those things happened, he’d give me £1 to top up my pocket money. Good natured chaps from both sides chipped in – it was a very convivial mini Wembley – and I spent the break in proceedings trying to decide how to spend the fortune I was certain would come my way.

As we all know, I was right and they were wrong. I can’t remember exactly how many pounds I collected now, but at the time I made sure each and every one stumped up. Then it got messy. Harry said we should have a ‘proper’ drink to celebrate. He’d developed a liking for Bacardi and as my back teeth were awash after my four free sangrias, I decided to have a change and join  him. Not My Best Idea.

Jilly and Ian – our friendly hosts for the afternoon

As I lifted the glass to my lips, I spotted Mum, Dad and Madge coming into the lounge. They were not looking in the least happy, so with a hiss to Harry not to let them see or smell my glass, I went over to tell them the wonderful news, as they clearly hadn’t heard it. As it turned out, they did know the result, and that was the cause of their distress.

A bit of background here. In the Midlands, people will often add ‘then’ on the end of a question. For example, ‘What’s for breakfast, then?’ In other areas of England, this addition is seen as an aggressive challenge or an insult, as for example, ‘Who won the World Cup, then?’ which was the question my Dad asked in all innocence of the Man Mountain walking along the deserted beach towards them. Said Man Mountain was a distressed German who wasn’t going to cry in front of his mates, so he’d come to the beach to drown his sorrows, and maybe even drown himself, as tears were streaming down his face.

These quickly turned to tears of rage, because although Man Mountain’s understanding and use of English was pretty good, he’d obviously missed the class about idiocyncracies and regional dialects. Now my Dad was big of heart but small of stature, with glasses, but in his despair, Man Mountain  wasn’t considering the moral dilemma of taking an unfair fight to the enemy. After all, Dad started it – or so he thought, until Mum managed to explain. Unfortunately, she didn’t do it quickly enough to prevent MM from grabbing Dad’s 7 and a half stone, 105 lbs, or  48 kilos by the shoulders and shaking him like a rat. He even stretched his string vest, and it was new from Marks and Spencers, specially for the holiday.

Once the German realised he’d made a second mistake – the first being supporting the losing side – he was all concern and politeness, and thankfully a bit less suicidal. However, the experience had put both Mum and Dad off football for life, so they retired to a darkened room

This photo was taken at Blackpool, 9 years before Dad’s less than happy experience on the beach at Lloret de Mar in 1966.

to recover, only emerging to eat before heading back to their newfound sanctuary. I took the unexpected opportunity to party with my new friends and become better acquainted with Bacardi. It took Harry, Madge, and a couple of Germans to get me safely to my room at well past Cinderella time. My brother was asleep, so he couldn’t grass on me, and I congratulated myself on getting away with not only watching the match, but augmenting my holiday funds and being DWP. That’s nothing to do with government departments, it’s Drunk Without Permission – a very rare occurence in my family at the time.

What could go wrong? Well, Mum dragging me out of bed at 7.00 am to go for ‘A nice long walk on the beach before breakfast. After all, you had an early night like us, didn’t you, and you need some fresh air after being cooped up watching the football.’ I didn’t disagree, because that would have meant admitting to my transgressions, and Mum getting Harry to spill the beans about any I might leave out, not to say the barman and the rest of the spectators. So I staggered out of bed, showered and put my sunglasses on to hide my bleary, bloodshot eyes. Mums know it all, don’t they? Instead of telling me off, she let me learn my own lesson. I’ve never drunk such a mixture since that day 52 years ago, although my goal average has gone up considerably, as I can tolerate al lot more alcohol these days.

The similarities mount up for me, as they do for the team. In 20i8, I am in Spain for some of the tournament, but not all, just as I was in 1966. I’ll see the quarter final today, but again I’ll be travelling if England make it through to Wednesday’s semi final. Mum and Dad are long gone, but I’m the only one of my close family and friends who believe sincerely that England can win the World Cup again. I’ll be watching them – just as I was all those years ago, but in England rather than here in Spain. Right – time to get my red, white and blue dress and sandals on and head for Jilly’s Come on England!

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My first Skype reading – and it went really well!

Mrs Mummypenny – aka Lynn James. A good friend and my first client for a Skype reading.

I’m really proud of myself – and not a little bit amazed – at how quickly my psychic powers seem to be developing. I’m also getting more and more into using crystals, for myself and for others. At times it can get a bit overwhelming – such as when Lynn James, a friend and fellow writer, asked me to give her a Skype reading, as she was facing major business and lifestyle decisions, and she wasn’t really sure which path to follow.

Lynn is the creator and owner of Mrs Mummypenny.co.uk, an award-winning personal finance and lifestyle blog she started five years ago. It’s now so big that she works on it full time, and has many corporate and personal clients. She’s also writing for newspapers and magazines and making media appearances on tv and radio, spreading the message about getting debt under control and living the life you want to live.

Lynn is also into crystals, meditation and spiritual development, and has asked me to write a guest blog post about using crystals and meditation to help clear  your thought processes, reduce stress and progress your business. You may think spiritual stuff has very little to do with business and PR, but it’s surprising how many successful and aspirational people are using the power of the Universe to help and guide them in their daily life. Even Richard Branson is a keen advocate of meditation and mindfulness, and if it’s good enough for him, then it’s also good enough for the rest of us!

I was happy to advise Lynn on crystals, and suggest suitable meditation techniques, but I was rather reluctant to do a reading, especially as I’d never done one before! During my psychic development training with my friend and mentor Alison Wynne-Ryder, I’d done mini readings for fellow students and another medium, and I was pleased with the messages I was able to bring through, but a full Skype reading? That was a step too far – or so I thought!

I offered to put Lynn in touch with a more experienced psychic reader, but it was me she wanted, so I asked the audience – or rather my other psychic teachers and good friends  – how to go about it. Fiona Surtees, Alison and Tricia Lee, assured me that I would know what to do, and said I should ask the Angels and my spirit guides for help, and to bring through messages to help Lynn. It all sounded so easy, but I was terrified, and it was only my strong desire to help Lynn that carried me through.

I prepared by meditating the night before the reading, and calling on Archangel Zadkiel for help. He’s the one to help with connecting to the Divine, which is what you need to do if you want to progress along your spiritual path and help others with psychic readings and messages. In case you don’t already know, you can call on the Angels and Archangels at any time and they will help you, although they won’t chip in and sort stuff without being asked, as we all have free will, and they won’t mess around with that.

As we connected on Skype, I chatted to Lynn for a few minutes to relax us both, and also to find out what she hoped to gain from the reading. The most successful readings are those where the client has a specific purpose in mind, and tells you what they want from the reading. That helps to bring the right messages through. It’s no good turning up for a reading and being vague about it. Yes, it’s fine to hope that Aunt Mabel will come through with words of wisdom, but Spirit and the Angels don’t waste their energy by just popping in for a chat and a cup of tea. They can’t have the tea anyway, and when they come to us, they come with help, advice and comfort, not just to discuss the weather or the latest football results.

I was pleased to have some messages which I instinctively knew were for Lynn, even though they came to me in my sleep, and as we talked, I got more messages coming through. I was actually doing a ‘for real’

Myself and my friend Denise receiving our Spiritual Development certificates from our tutor, mentor and friend Alison Wynne-Ryder.

psychic reading, and I was loving it. A couple of times, Lynn looked quite shocked, and I asked what was wrong. It turned out that I’d told her things that she hadn’t told anyone else, not even those closest to her. When she asked how I knew, I admitted that I didn’t, but my Upstairs Team did, and they wanted me to pass that knowledge on to help her with her decisions.

Another thing she remarked on during the reading was that at times, I looked very much like her mother, who is in Spirit. That explained a minor mystery to me, because I felt a presence, but didn’t recognise who it was. Clearly Lynn’s Mum was showing herself in a way her daughter could accept and understand, and it brought a lot of comfort to her.

By the end of the reading, Lynn looked and felt happier and more relaxed. She said she had a lot to think about, but she could now see her path more clearly. As an added bonus, she went on to have the best night’s sleep she’d had in months. Neither myself nor anyone had told her what she should do – nobody on Earth or elsewhere in the Universe can do that. However, the messages I’d channelled for her had helped to clear her thinking, so her mind was no longer whizzing around like a hamster’s wheel at top speed.

Both Lynn and I felt both relaxed and energised after our Skype session. It’s a difficult sensation to explain, but it comes from knowing for sure that the Universe has your back, and that whatever life throws at you, you can deal with it, with a little help from the Angels and Spirit. My spiritual development teachers all say the same thing – don’t just talk about it, and read about it, get on and do it. And you know what? They’re right!

Image credit: Lynn James

Oh to be in England, now that June is here!

Okay, I know the line in the poem says ‘April,’ but I wasn’t here then, so it has to be June. Normally, we head for the UK for our summer visit in late July, but a combination of circumstances means that this year, we’re a couple of months early. And after the lovely experiences of the last couple of weeks, I think it may be a permanent change of plan from now on.

We choose July and August as our UK months mainly to escape the heat of high summer in Spain, but the weather is usually better in England in June, and the holiday crowds haven’t yet arrived. It’s lovely to be based in Devon, near enough to the River Tamar to explore Cornwall as well, but it can all get a bit lively during the school holidays.

One of the things I miss most about England is the rolling green fields, and the seemingly infinite variety of greens on display. However, I don’t miss the wet stuff that makes the green of the grass and the leaves on the trees so vivid. Another thing I miss is being able to sit outside for hours without having to worry about getting sunburned and dehydrated. And of course, Paddy finds it difficult to cope with the heat, even though he’s a Spanish dog. He loves to run free, but after about 15 minutes in the sun, he’s had enough. Although the weather here in Plymouth is lovely and warm, it’s still about 8 – 10 degrees cooler than it is in Spain right now, so Glenys suggested we take the dogs over to Mount Edgecumbe to let them have a good run on the grass and on the beach, while we soaked up the rays and watched the world go by.

The estate dates back to Tudor times, when Piers Edgecumbe married Joan Durnford and together they built Edgecumbe House. In more recent times, Mount Edgecumbe’s Barn Pool Beach was used as an embarkation point for American troops taking part in the D-Day Landings of 1944. They left for Omaha Beach, after being stationed on the estate while preparations were made for Operation Overlord.

The grounds are open to the public all year round, at no charge. You can stroll through the formal gardens and parkland, or head along the coast path, enjoy the scenery, and watch boats of different sizes navigating their way around Drake’s Island, or heading out to Plymouth Breakwater. On a clear day, you can see Smeaton’s Tower on the Hoe, and there are endless photo opportunities, both on land and on the water.

Another advantage of England over Spain is that dogs are allowed on some beaches all year round, and Paddy made lots of new four-legged friends on the small rocky cove  that was our base for the afternoon. There were also plenty of trees to sniff at and raise a leg against, so he was in Doggy Heaven, and so was Gizmo, although he’s nowhere near as adventurous as Paddy.

Rather than drive there, we decided to take the Cremyll Ferry from Durnford Street. That was a new experience for Paddy, whose only previous experience of sailing is on the Brittany Ferries Santander or Roscoff-Plymouth route. Gizmo refused to walk up the 3 metal steps to board the boat, but Paddy made up for it by leaping over him, dragging me along. The crew man came to my rescue, taking Paddy from me and helping me up the steps before I took an early bath.

We then had a lively game of ‘Jump on the seat, jump off the seat,’ which ended suddenly when another dog got on the ferry. We thought we’d been clever, hanging back until the other dogs were safely seated at the rear of the boat, while we sat at the front with Paddy and Gizmo. However, we hadn’t accounted for latecomers, and it took Glenys and I all our strength to hold onto Paddy, who was convinced it was his boat, and he and Gizmo should be the only dogs allowed on board. They were both very vocal about it too, but thankfully, once we got moving they settled down and enjoyed the journey with us.

Spain may be my home now, but when the weather is good, England is unbeatable for colour, scenery and history. I consider myself very privileged to be able to enjoy the best of both worlds. Life is there to be enjoyed, wherever you happen to be.