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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Being Sandra in Spain

Being Sandra in Spain is about what living in Spain is really like, and my personal experiences as a Writer On Spain. Obviously, I get to see things and go to places that others don’t, so being the generous soul that I am,  I’ll share all these things with my readers. Feel free to invite me to anything that’s happening in your corner of Spain, and I’ll do my best to turn up and get the word out.

International Women’s Day: The inspiring women in my family

The inspiring women in my family
The inspiring women in my family – Me with my daughter and granddaughters

International Women’s Day has been around since 1911, and in 1975 it was recognised by the United Nations as a Big Thing. It’s a day to celebrate the women who inspire you, for me he inspiring women in my family, and to reflect on what you have personally achieved, as someone who happens to be a woman.

I don’t want equality for women – I want equality and respect for everyone, everywhere. We are all born equal, but inevitably, life intervenes, and equality gets pushed way down the ‘To Do’ list. Along the way, we deal with challenges, get through them and keep going. How do we do it? With the help of the Strength of the Weaker Sex, of course!

This Bellamy Brothers song says it all for women everywhere!

Why women are wonderful

Women everywhere, all through time, have tended to solve problems with compassionate emotional strength, rather than engaging in physical conflict on what is inevitably an unequal playing field. There have, of course, been notable exceptions, such as the Amazons – the female warriors, not the online selling site – Boudicca and Joan of Arc. Generally, though, women get through life on tough love tempered with tenderness, whatever the situation.

Thinking about writing this post, and the women who have inspired me through my almost three score years and ten, there way are too many to mention. I’ve been inspired by writers such as Jane Austen, J. K. Rowling and Sylvia Plath, and actresses including those fabulous Dames, Judi Dench, Helen Mirren and Maggie Smith. I admire the singing of Cilla Black, Patsy Cline and Annie Lennox, and the dancing of Jennifer Grey (Dirty Dancing), Darcey Bussell and Ginger Rogers. And there are countless women whose intelligence, strength of character, courage and innovation skills have helped fashion the modern world and its values.

However, every single one of the women I’ve mentioned has one thing in common – their first influences, for good or otherwise, came from the family. And I realise I am fortunate to have had the most wonderful women in my life, from the day I was born. So this International Women’s Day article is dedicated to the ladies I love the most – my mother, my grandmother, my daughter and my granddaughters. It’s also for those who are still to come, so they can look back and see just how much they are loved and nurtured.

Start with yourself

I’m going to start with myself. Why? Because I am so proud of what I have dealt with in my life, and I am even more proud of who I am now. I am more compassionate, more caring, more in tune with my inner knowing, and a stronger person. This is not in spite of what’s happened in my life, but because of the lessons I’ve learned from the challenges I’ve faced.

The inspiring women in my family
Enjoying lunch with my daughter

I’ve had two unhappy marriages – my first husband died, and this one won’t! There’s a serious point to this joke – which I first heard from Jethro, the brilliant Cornish comedian. I’m not a victim, who blames outside forces for the bad things in my life. I know that I am not responsible for the thoughts, words and actions of other people – only my own. Personally I can’t control them, but I can control my responses to their behaviour, and therein lies my power and my strength.

What I can do is choose to forgive them for what they did, whether intentionally or otherwise, and to forgive myself for putting myself in a position where I enabled people to hurt me. It won’t happen again. As a writer, my style is to find a lighter touch in the most serious of subjects, so the articles are balanced but not disrespectful to the readers or the subjects I write about. My little joke is my indication that I can put things in perspective and move on.

Yes, my two marriages ended before death did us part, but there were so many good times before things changed, in both cases. I didn’t fail as a wife because I didn’t stay with them when things went wrong. I succeeded as a person because I recognised that we could never put things right, and refused to live a life lacking in authenticity and happiness.

My female role models

The inspiring women in my family include my maternal grandmother, who was a major influence in my life until she passed when I was 27 and expecting my younger son, was also a strong yet compassionate lady. She married my grandfather when he was a widower with four children, one of whom was always having health problems and passed away as a young man.

That was heartbreaking enough, but she also lost three of her own children. Identical twins Gwendoline and Marjorie passed at six months old from scarlet fever, and my mother’s twin, Michael, was stillborn.

As a family, they were always short of money, but would share anything they had with anyone who needed it. I asked how they could do that, and Nanny Jones, as I called her, replied, ‘When you are able to share what you have, there will always be someone who will share what they have when you need it most. It’s the way life works, sweetheart.’

I didn’t realise it at the time, and nor did she, but Nanny Jones was living the Law of Attraction long before it became a Big Thing. Even in her 70s, she would still do anything for anyone, and when Grandad Jones passed, she spent a lot of time with us. Rather than sit with her knitting or read stories to my brother and me, she’d work away, cleaning and cooking, to make life easier for my Mum.

I’m still learning from her even now, as well – 40 years after she passed to Spirit. She’s come through at a couple of psychic nights for me, to say she realised when I was a young child that one day I would be working with Spirit myself. She did something she never did in life too. She told the medium – Ricky Whitemore, who has since become a good friend – that it was about time I started using my psychic powers, as she was fed up with waiting. So I had a telling off from beyond the veil from someone who never criticised me in life!

The inspiring women in my family also include my mother, who was very different to Nanny Jones in her approach to life. She was more direct, and she wasn’t particularly spiritual. Tellings off were common, because we were very much alike in nature, and if I wanted to do something and couldn’t, I expected a reason. For me, ‘Because I said so’ was not a reason.

Nan would try to explain why she was getting a telling off when Mum was being rebellious, but had to resort to ‘Because I said so’ in the end. Mum, unlike her siblings, was stubborn, and she passed that on to me. My daughter is now the official torchbearer for stubbornness in the family, because she would never take a telling either and still doesn’t!

Mum had to be strong and think outside the box, and she’s passed that down too. She was just 20 when she married Dad, who was 10 years older, and had come from a family of tradespeople. They were going into business themselves, and had to bring the wedding forward by six months. This was because the person they were going to rent a fish and chip shop from when he retired passed away suddenly.

They didn’t want to lose the premises, as it came with living accommodation and was well situated for both passing trade and regular customers. Back in 1949, they couldn’t just move in together before marriage, because nobody would have supported a business where the owners were ‘living in sin.’

As it was, there was lots of gossip that Mum ‘had’ to get married, so I must have disappointed a few of the local busybodies by turning up almost three years after the wedding. Mum had the last word though. When the worst offender gushed over me in my pram and said, ‘What did you have then?’ Mum replied, ‘An elephant, obviously, since you told half the street I was pregnant when I got married.’ That must be where I get my sarcasm from!

Fast forward 17 years, and I too was pregnant. Maybe Mum was still a bit of a rebel, because she told me not to get married just because there was a baby on the way. Even in 1969, that was pretty radical, and Mum was 40 years old and already a widow, so life was hard enough for her as it was. I did get married, because I was in love, and I went on to have three wonderful children.

I don’t do regrets, but I am sad that Mum never saw her youngest grandson. By the time he was born, she was blind, as a result of dangerous hypertension. Even that didn’t stop her from knitting, although I had to sew the garments up and pick up the stitches so Mum could knit the necklines.

The inspiring women in my family
My children David, Elizabeth and baby Adam. Mum never saw Adam, as she went blind before he was born.

When my daughter Elizabeth was a toddler, I mentioned to Mum that I’d been looking for a nice dress and matching cardigan, with a lovely chevron pattern that was very popular at the time. Mum said she knew what I meant, and if I got the wool, she’d see what she could do. ‘What she could do’ was to knit a beautiful dress with a matching little jacket, without a pattern – since she couldn’t read one. She worked with two colours, and an intricate pattern, and never made a single mistake. What’s more, it was exactly the right size for Elizabeth.

Mum never let anything stop her doing what she wanted, whatever was happening around her or to her. She must have worked some of that perseverance and determination into the stitches of that beautiful dress and jacket, because Elizabeth is exactly the same. It’s infuriating at times for those of us closest to her, but it’s been a lifesaver – literally!

I’ve written before about the devastating brain stem stroke, which almost killed her in 2013. It’s just about the worst stroke you can have, with a very low survival rate, and only a slightly better recovery rate. It’s a long process – or rather it is for most people. But then, my daughter isn’t most people!

For two weeks, her life hung in the balance. She couldn’t move or speak, and she had locked in syndrome. It was six weeks before she took her first steps and managed to eat something normally, but just two weeks after that she was discharged from hospital.

Elizabeth enters the Wimbledon ticket ballot every year. She’s not always successful, but in 2013, she had tickets for Number One Court on the middle Saturday of the tournament. We were going to send her tickets back, as she was still in hospital in mid June, but she insisted on going – and she did! She was in a wheelchair, but she went, and by December she was back at work as an ambulance care assistant.

She has been left with a few tiresome but not life-changing problems as a result of the stroke. Some time ago, she asked her consultant if her condition would ever improve. He confessed he had no idea, because in 30 years in medicine, he had never known anyone to make such a good recovery from a brain stem stroke!

The next generations

Coming bang up to date, the next generation of the inspiring women in my family are making their mark, and already showing signs that they, too will grow up into exceptional young women. At 13, Chloe is academically bright, popular among her school friends, and also wise beyond her years. She’s shown incredible understanding and maturity as my son copes with being a single parent to four children following the recent breakdown of his marriage.

Lauren is 9, and is usually away with the fairies and unicorns, in the nicest possible way. She’s not afraid to be exactly what she wants to be, and sees no need to explain her choices to others. She’s a free spirit who has already realised the importance of self care and self confidence. She will go far, and she will be happy, whatever she decides to do with her life.

I’m bursting with pride as I read through this before posting, and I realise I have so much to be grateful for. The women in my family have come through everything life has sent their way with strength, dignity and focus. Their experiences have not hardened them to the suffering of others. They have learned to show kindness and respect to those who need it most, because they have been in that position themselves.

This is for each of you and all of you, with love from me. Thank you for your guidance and inspiration, which has helped me to become the kind of person I would want for a friend. We are true soul sisters.

Facebook: The good, the bad and the Face Palms!

Facebook: The good, the bad and the Face Palms!
Making social media more sociable? I’ll drink to that!

As a writer, I depend on Facebook for shares and visibility. Wearing another hat as a spiritual medium, I depend on Facebook to link with clients and to spread hope, guidance and love from the world of Spirit. When I’m just being Sandra Piddock, I depend on Facebook to keep in contact with friends and family. Oh and keep up with what’s going on locally, nationally and globally of course. I love it – and I hate it!

When I first joined Facebook back in 2008, I had a really good reason to do so. We’d just bought a place in Spain, and we planned to divide our time between the Costa Blanca and the Costa Fortune. Otherwise identified as the West Country of England, where we still have lots of friends and family. It was a great way to keep in touch across the miles, without running up a telephone bill of, well, telephone number proportions.

As I got more exposure as a writer and set up my own website, Facebook became a good way to share content and bring new readers to my website. And of course, I could also set up a companion Facebook page. New posts got shared right away, and I could pass on little snippets to keep my readers interested as they eagerly awaited the Next Big Blog Post. Once I began working as a medium, I set up another Facebook page to keep the spiritual stuff separate from my other writing.

Facebook does a lot of good for a lot of people. It also causes a lot of problems for a lot of people. And frequently, it shows a side of humanity where the only possible reaction is a good old face palm. What follows is a brief personal overview, based on my own experiences and observations.

Lost people and pets

The good: Facebook enjoys global reach. When someone is in the distressing situation of having a two or four legged family member go missing, extensive sharing by friends, friends of friends and groups can get them safely home. Often, this happens much sooner than anyone could expect.

The bad: Some people just can’t resist adding their two cents, even if they aren’t in a position to help with the search. They pass judgment by assuming the missing person must have had problems at home to disappear, or inflame passions by saying things like,’It’s only a dog/cat, why all the fuss?’ Then the thread is swamped in negativity, and the original poster winds up even more distressed as a result.

The face palm: Aunty Mabel goes missing in Manchester, with no luggage, no money and certainly no passport. So why does the ‘friend of a friend’ think it would be helpful to post in missing persons groups in America, Australia and Albania? She’s 97, with dementia, and her next of kin are not minted, so it’s safe to say she hasn’t taken a surprise trip, been kidnapped or sold into prostitution. Check the locations before you share.

Making new friends – or tracing old ones

The good: Facebook is a great place to make new friends, or even track down Tracey who used to sit next to you in school. And it makes Mike’s day when he stumbles across Jim. They used to go fishing together every Saturday until Jim and his family moved 200 miles away.

The bad: People change. Tracey might have married a millionaire, or may not even remember your name. And your memories may be coloured by nostalgia, so you forget the things about her that used to rattle your chain big time. If you haven’t heard from someone for 30 years or more, is it really such a good idea to get in touch again?

By the way Mike, Jim didn’t ‘forget’ to contact you with his new address. His wife told him not to, because she hated spending Saturdays on her own with the kids. Even worse, your wife had a habit of popping around for a quick cuppa just as she was about to binge watch Emmerdale on catch up.

The face palm: Facebook is not – repeat not – a dating site. I’ve had men of all ages befriend me on the back of mutual friendships with others, or by liking lots of my posts, then they’ve tried to arrange a date. They’ve professed undying love after a quick shufty on my profile, then gone all offended on me when I tell them to go away – or something similar. Even if they were George Clooney lookalikes – and they definitely are not – I’m not going to agree to meet up with a man just because he thinks I should, because I’m on Facebook and post publicly.

Groups and likes

The good: I belong to and follow quite a few groups and pages – writing, local information, spiritual stuff, dog lovers, to name but a few. It’s great to get together with like minded people and exchange support, advice and practical hacks and fixes. It can be very rewarding, and it can enhance your enjoyment of all kinds of hobbies, interests and vocational and professional topics.

The bad: A group or page may be just what you want or need. But it won’t suit someone else, so never add people to groups, or ask them to like pages unless you know for sure they’ll get something out of it. Inactive members give false indicators of the success or otherwise of a group or page, so don’t add without asking.

The face palm: Sellers, spammers and scammers just join groups to promote their own businesses and/or recruit people for pyramid selling schemes or commission only jobs. If you admin a Facebook page or group, check on member requests to keep your site on topic and don’t allow the news feed to get backed up with adverts. Ask yourself why someone who already belongs to over 1,000 groups – yes, I kid you not – wants to join your group or page.

So there are my top Facebook likes, dislikes and frustrations. That said, Facebook is a very useful resource for recreation, business, and keeping in touch with those who need to know what’s happening in your life. Run each post through your mind, and if it’s not a true reflection of you and the message you want to convey, start again. Keep it tight, keep it light, and don’t be the cause of a Facebook Face Palm among your followers. You know it makes sense!

The Red Knickers Report 2019


Here we are again at the end of another year, so it must be Red Knickers Report time already. Before we get going, let me make a confession – as long as you promise not to report me to Trading Standards, because, dear readers, as I write this on New Year Eve 2019, I am knickerless. Well, not 100% knickerless, but the thing is, I’ve been so ill since December 3 – (more of which later) – I haven’t been out to buy the new red underwear which, according to Spanish tradition, should be worn on Noche Vieja (NYE to English speakers) to ensure good fortune in the coming year.

Before anyone rushes to correct me, yes, I know the underwear should be gifted to you, but it’s okay as long as someone actually ‘gives’ you the red knickers. In my book, when the lady on Zoco Market pops them in a bag and hands them over in exchange for my Euros, she’s giving them to me. Anyway, as a single, virtuous – well occasionally virtuous anyway – female, I have nobody to give me one. I mean of course, a new pair of red knickers. If you supposed otherwise, kindly wash out your mouth with soap – this is a family friendly blog, thank you very much!

So then, technically, this should be the Black Knickers Report – oops, letting my secrets slip here! However, it doesn’t have the same ring to it, and it might attract even more cyber wierdos than have shown up this year, wanting to be Facebook friends, then asking me to marry them or sleep with them pretty much as soon as they’ve said hello. I suppose they think I should be grateful for their attention, but strangely, I’m not.

If you’re a new reader – or even if you’re not – you may want to read the 2018 report before going further, since I’ll be referring to it now and then throughout this post. I said at the beginning of that post that 2018 had been a bad year, but in 2019, I really found out what a bad year was! To paraphrase Charles Dickens’s famous opening line in A Tale of Two Cities, ‘It was the best of years, the worst of years.’ In many ways, it was the worst year of my life – and there’s been a lot of competition for that honour, I can tell you. Yet in other ways, it has been a year of blessings, and I am grateful for what 2019 has taught me about myself, about others, and about life itself.

I’m going to get the bad stuff out of the way first, but I won’t dwell on it, because it’s gone, and while most of it won’t be forgotten, I’m not a victim, I’m a peaceful warrior and a survivor. Many of you know that my beautiful dog Paddy passed in March, aged 5, but only a few people realise that he was stabbed in front of me, as he defended me from a traumatic attack. He literally died so I could live. That’s all I want to say about it here – it’s neither the time nor the place for a full explanation.

During the incident, I broke a bone for the first time in my 67 years on Planet Earth. I must have liked it, because just a month after my finger had healed enough for me to drive again, I broke two ribs in a nasty car accident that wasn’t my fault, and my faithful 14 year old Ford Fiesta finally went to the Great Scrapyard in the Sky.

I missed the hat trick of broken bones in December, despite my best efforts. It was really sunny – rare in most of England at that time of year, I know. I didn’t see the kerb in front of me, and landed with a wallop on my right knee, dislocating the patella, but thankfully not damaging the cruciate ligaments, so another couple of weeks should see me back behind the wheel of my Peugeot 1007.

Nevertheless, 2019 has been better for me health wise than 2018 was. I’ve separated from my husband, and his health has continued to decline through the year. I’m sad about that, because although we are now apart, we had almost 30 happy years together, and I’ve forgiven him for the events that led to our separation.

Many friends have asked how I can possibly do that, and I say you can forgive the person or the situation, without condoning the deeds or words. In fact, forgiveness is a gift to yourself more than the other person, because it allows you to move forward in grace, unrestricted by blame, bitterness and the baggage of the past.

Learning to forgive – really forgive – has been one of my many blessings in 2019. For the second year running, my spiritual development has amazed many people – especially me! The fledgeling mediums event I talked about in last year’s report went really well for me. For the first time, I actually saw a person in Spirit as clearly as I can see Glenys now, sitting opposite me with a Baileys in her hand as we both wait to see in the new decade. I did consider just going to bed before midnight, and then I thought no – I want to be certain 2019 has gone, never to darken my door again.

I’ve not spent much time in Spain this year, due to a number of things beyond my control, but I was there when the Gota Fria struck in mid September. I was lucky that there was no damage to my apartment, other than a lot of water which came in under the door and through the window I forgot to close before leaving for a motor home rally in Javea. It was quite a drying up operation, but friends just a couple of miles away, near the river, saw their homes washed away. It was a terrible few days, and some people are still not back to normal even now.

I was chatting with friends in my local on La Finca, Chandelier the Showbar, and the owners – along with many other businesses in the area – were talking about doing a fundraiser to provide immediate help to flood victims. I’d had a couple of their legendary vodkas – which must be the reason I offered to do oracle card readings and donate all the proceeds to the flood fund.

It was a bit of a gamble, as until then, all I’d done were one to one readings via Skype, email or person to person, and I blame the vodka – and Rob the barman for the industrial size measures. However, since I did 20 readings, and got everything spot on for everybody, I suppose you’d call it a Good Thing. I also raised €135 for the fund, and got myself a brand name.

Gareth and Matt own the Chandelier, and when I offered to do psychic readings, Matt said, ‘More like psycho readings!’ Honestly with friends like that, who needs enemies? Anyway, that merry night saw the creation of Sandra, the Psycho Psychic, and everyone seems to like it. It does have a certain ring to it, and it’s also pretty descriptive of me, according to my ‘friends.’

Talking of friends, again, they have come up trumps for me, in England, in Spain and also on social media. Glenys has excelled herself again, and it’s been truly inspirational to know just how much people care about me, and what happens to me. I’m not going to mention names, because there are so many, and I’m bound to forget someone. You all know who you are though, and I am so lucky to have you in my life.

One of the best things that happened to me in 2019 came when I was at my lowest ebb. It was July 22, and I’d just come back from a really enjoyable day with friends and their dogs. I was nursing broken ribs, so I wasn’t driving, and after they’d left, I felt so down because I had nobody to share the day with. I was living alone for the first time in my life, I was in pain, and I was still mourning Paddy’s loss.

I sat down at the computer, ready to book a flight back to England and my family, even though I knew it would set me back months. As it booted up, I saw a notification that a friend had tagged me in a post, so I clicked on that before I loaded the Easyjet page. And there she was – my lovely Luna – a beautiful two year old crossbreed dog who had been rescued from the streets of Almoradi, the neighbouring town to Algorfa.

My friend was asking if I could foster her until she was well enough to be rehomed, as she was in a terrible state. You can read all about Luna’s story, and our journey together, here, on her very own Facebook Page. As a Spiritualist, I don’t believe in coincidences. Luna was sent to me for a reason, and she came to live with me on July 23, which was the 70th anniversary of my parents’ marriage in 1949.

It’s not been an easy journey for either of us – she’s carrying a lot of baggage from being abandoned 3 times in her short life, used in fights, and battled several infections caused by tics and malnourishment. However, with lots of love, perseverance, and the invaluable help of my daughter Elizabeth, we’re slowly making progress. She hasn’t replaced Paddy – no dog ever could – but she is helping to heal my heart, and starting to believe that she has finally found love and stability. We’ve got a lot to look forward to together, going into this shiny new decade.

Paddy is often with us from spirit though, comforting me, advising Luna, and playing little tricks on us. When we visited Glastonbury for the Spring Equinox in March, I took along Paddy’s favourite toy and a photo of him, along with my two favourite crystals, and blessed them at the top of the Tor.

As a thank you for this, Paddy surprised us in a local church by appearing as we sat in the pew for a moment. Then he ran around in the church outside, which spooked Gizmo a bit, so we asked him to announce his presence in future. Bless him, he has obeyed me on this – which is more than he did most of the time down here on Earth!

For the first time in my 67 years, I spent a day on a film set in Murcia. It was a tough job, watching big, beefy boys baring their rippling muscles as they fought it out in a warehouse, but somebody had to do it, and it happened to be me. I’m really looking forward to seeing the thriller State of Prey some time in 2020. Many of my friends are in it, and my good friend Rai’s beautiful boat – which is older than the Titanic – plays a cameo part in the action.

The upside of being in England so much this year is that I’ve spent a lot more time with my children and grandchildren than I normally do. It’s been a joy to see the children developing and doing so well at school, and my eldest grandson’s partner graduated as a staff nurse, so all my lovely family have had some really special moments in 2019, along with the the inevitable setbacks.

The great news is, they are all optimistic going into 2020, and so am I! It’s a new decade, and it’s time to turn the page on the past and look forward to a great future with my family and friends, doing what I love most. I want to do more with my psychic gifts, so I shall be studying and working with Spirit as much as possible, to deepen my connection and brush up my skills.

In February, I have been invited to work on the platform for the first time as a working medium, along with my good friend Ricky Whitemore, who is one of the most talented spiritual and trance mediums I have had the privilege to meet. It’s a charity event, and I am proud to be involved in this effort to raise money for the Intensive Care Unit Secret Garden at Derriford Hospital, Plymouth. It will be good to give something back for the excellent care I’ve received there over the years.

And in other news, 2020 will see my first book published. It’s already started, and now I’m feeling better, I’ll be working hard to get it finished and published as soon as possible. No more procrastination for me now – 2020 is the year things start moving for the Psycho Psychic, and her Luna-tic sidekick. Watch this space, and a very Happy New Decade to you all. Love and blessings from Luna and me.

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

Picture this – loving the results with my new camera!

photographer

Sunlight on the rocks in Calpe – the first photo I’ve felt confident enough to enter into a competition.

I wouldn’t describe myself as a good photographer – I’m a writer first and foremost. However, when you run your own website, it helps if you can also take your own photos for it, especially if you want something different  to the run of the mill stock photos many bloggers seem to rely on. So, over the years my efforts with a camera have improved. I’ve been the proud owner of a Canon Ixus compact camera for several years now, and what I love about it is that I can slip it into a pocket, pull it out and point and get a half decent photo. Sometimes I’ve captured some stunning images, and I thought me and my trusty Canon would be together forever.

All that changed when I went to a writers’ convention in November 2017 and a friend of mine who is also an excellent photographer did a presentation about CRAP photography. That’s Clear, Relevant and Aesthetically Pleasing, if you’re wondering. A few minutes into the presentation, he startled me by saying it didn’t matter how much you spent on your camera, because – and I proudly quote:

Sandra has produced some brilliant images for her website with her little camera.

After I finished basking in my moment of glory, I began to think that maybe if I was that good, I could be even better with something a bit more up to date than my 8 year old Ixus. So when I went to England for the Santa Run, I decided that Tony was going to buy me a new camera for Christmas, and I’d tell him about it when I got back to Spain.

photographer

Testing the zoom lens – this balloon was hundreds of feet in the sky, and I was on the ground!

I snagged a good deal on a Canon Ixus 185 compact camera, in my favourite clour – red. However, I was a bit disappointed with the initial results – most of the photos were either out of focus, too dark, or both. In the last 8 years, technology has moved on so much that even a ‘point and shoot’ camera needs getting used to before you can get decent images, and once I got to know my camera, I was delighted with the results.

The great thing is there are about 20 zoom positions, as opposed to the two on the old camera. This zoom is much more stable too, so you don’t have to stand as still as a statue or use a tripod to get excellent close up results. I’ve become more experimental with angles and individual flowers, leaves and stuff as a result, and I’m taking the kind of photos I’ve always admired, but never imagined I could achieve myself – especially with a basic compact camera and no special lenses. I actually consider myself a photographer at last.

I’m so confident with my photography skills these days, I’ve done something I never thought I’d do in my life. No, not that – this is a family-friendly blog, thank you very much! At the grand old age of 65 and three-quarters, I’ve entered a photography competition with not one, but three photos. Astoundingly, the one of sunlight on the rocks in Calpe at the top of the page came first, and I won a beautiful canvas print of the photo. To say I was astounded is an understatement – there were many photos more deserving of the top prize than mine, but hey, I’m not complaining!

Closer to home, this is the nectarine blossom in our garden. An experiment with camera angles that paid off nicely.

These days, people seem to prefer to take photos with phones and tablets, but I’m an old fashioned girl who thinks cameras take the best photos, as long as they’re idiot-proof. I’m really pleased with my new camera, and I’d recommend it to anyone who wants an easy to use camera that they can just slip in a pocket, point and shoot. Great for a budding photographer! It’s got a fairly long battery life once it’s charged up, so I can easily get 400 or more photos from a single charge, which is great when you’re attending a special, annual event like the Benidorm Expats Parade. Last year, my old Ixus flagged after 300 pics, so I missed the priceless photo opp of the Policia Local ‘arresting’ a Brit dressed as a convict!

I think you’ll agree I’m getting some great results, and they’re getting better all the time. Maybe I’ll come across you while I’m out and about with my shiny new camera. If you see a red camera pointing at you, with me on the other end of it, give me your most dazzling smile, and remember to say ‘cheese’ – or maybe that should be ‘queso.’ We are in Spain, after all!

The Red Knickers Report 2017

Apologies to those regular readers who have been looking out for my year-end roundup, the Red Knickers Report 2017, for the last three weeks, but things have been rather hectic at Piddock Place of late. We ended 2017 with an occupancy rate of four adults and two dogs, instead of the usual two adults and Paddy. My friend Glenys is over for the winter, with her dog Gizmo, and another friend – Karen – has been staying with us until she could organise her return to England. I’ve not been too well lately, so it’s all got a bit on top of me, and I’ve lost my creativity a little. However, I’ve now given myself a boot up the bum, and I’m back writing.

New readers who might wonder at the title may want to check out my previous Red Knicker Reports for 2014, 2015 and 2016 before reading on, to see how they came into existence, but if you can’t be bothered, it’s a review of my year – the good, the bad, and the ugly. So, how did it go? Read on, dear reader, and prepare to laugh a bit and maybe feel a twinge or two of sympathy along the way.

The year started well in the company of Glenys, Gizmo, Larry and June, who had come over from the UK for the winter. Together, we all explored the area, and did a few trips in our motor homes with MCC in Spain. We also managed to arrange a surprise birthday party for Glenys – no mean feat when she was only staying 200 yards up the road from us! We rustled up about 18 of our friends, and managed to smuggle them in without her knowledge. I’ve also managed to pull a surprise 75th birthday party for her this month, but as she’s now staying with us, we held it at the Camping Florantilles Show Bar.

I first met Martin and the fantastic team at Camping Florantilles when Glenys and I went to a charity poolside jam session there in June. Glenys was driving, so I overdosed a little on the vodka, to the extent that when we got home, instead of doing the promised barbecue, I crashed out on the sofa for several hours. I don’t remember much about that visit, but I was allowed back again, so I can’t have been too naughty. When we returned from our summer trip to England, I started going to their Wednesday afternoon poolside jams, and notched up another first for me. I’m a bit of a Karaoke Diva, as most of my friends know, but I’ve never sung with a live band. At the grand old age of 65, I finally did it.

Talking about being 65, when Tony asked me what I wanted for my birthday, I couldn’t think of anything. Well, I could, but apparently a ticket for the Widow’s Cruise around the Mediterranean wasn’t the answer he anticipated! So I had a rethink and decided that I’d rather celebrate my special day with all my favourite people, and organised a party at the Centro Rural de Algorfa for around 40 friends. It was a very special night, with music from Peter Taylor, one of Mike’s special chillis, and a beautiful bouquet from Tony, who by then had forgiven the Widow’s Cruise comment.

Another first was going to the UK premiere of The Cucaracha Club. If you paid attention to the blog posts, you’ll know that I’m involved with publicising the film, and helping to raise awareness of the wonderful job a group of local expats have done in making a feature film that showcased the area on a tight budget. In a whistlestop visit to Darlington, I had a wonderful experience, and an encounter with a mad Irishman. You can read all about it here.

Back from Darlington, and back to reality, we had a worrying couple of months when Tony was quite poorly. It culminated in collapse on a motor home rally in the Sierra Maria mountains in June, and as Tony refused point blank to see a doctor in Spain – despite the fantastic level of health care here – I brought forward our summer trip to the UK.

Tony was diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver a week after we put down the deposit on our home in Spain, and he was warned he had less than a year to live unless he stopped drinking. 10 years on, he’s still going strong, but initial investigations pointed towards bone marrow cancer, or myeloma to give it its posh name. Thankfully, it wasn’t that, but there was a significant deterioration in liver function, and again, we’re on the One Year Warning. At 84, Tony feels he’s lived his life, and wants to enjoy what’s left of it, which means he’s not keen on following medical advice.

Obviously it’s his body and his choice, but that bombshell, combined with a cold, wet UK summer which rendered me housebound – or more accurately caravan-bound – for several weeks, and a Poorly Paddy as a result of a severe ear infection, all took their toll. I racked up another first, but one I’d rather have missed out on. I came so close to a mental breakdown, that for the first time in my life, I find myself taking antidepressants, as well as the shed-load of medication I already take to control the Lupus and my blood pressure. I have to sit very still for a while after taking my tablets, otherwise I rattle when I walk and get some very funny looks. I’m getting back to me again though, although I’ll be popping the happy pills for a while yet.

On the professional front, I’ve stepped back a bit from the writing for several reasons. Tony’s been out of sorts for most of the year, and my almost breakdown made me realise I have to take more time for myself, so I’ve kept my hand in, but basically given more time to me. However, I did rack up another first – my first-ever writers’ conference at Velez Blanco, hosted by my good friends Elle and Alan, who are fellow members of Writers and Bloggers About Spain, a supportive and creative Facebook group. We got a dog sitter, and Tony came along for the ride, but finished up participating in the whole programme and getting an idea of what I do and why.

Talking of ‘Me Time,’ I’ve expanded on my tentative forays into the world of psychic development. I’ve been working with the lovely Alison Wynne-Ryder through the year, and have learned a lot about myself and my psychic abilities. To coin a well-known movie tag line, ‘I see dead people,’ but I’ve also discovered I have a natural ability for clairvoyance, clairaudience and spiritual healing. Alison has opened up a whole new world for me, and I look forward to seeing where this takes me in 2018. Meditation is at the core of all things spiritual, and this has helped me to deal with what 2017 has thrown at me. I’m calmer, happier, and more emotionally resilient as a result.

One thing I have realised is that I need to get rid of the negative influences around me, and I made the difficult decision to sever some long-standing connections, because I realised they were emotionally draining, and I didn’t need the associated drama. I’m happier as a result, and although 2017 has been a difficult year, with no real progress in the achievement of my long standing goals, I’m optimistic about what 2018 has in store for me. Let’s hope the new red knickers (bought in Sainsburys with 25% off the normal price) can work their magic. Find out next year!

Some of my friends in the Blogging Your Way to Riches Facebook group have also done year end round ups, reviews and reflections. Check them out:

Kate Tunstall

Leah Richardson

Lynn James

Emma Maslin

Cat Plummer

Crack the Cava – Two people in one day know what a conclusion is!

Cava

So you know how to write a proper conclusion? I’ll drink to that!

Being Sandra in Spain isn’t all glamour and film premieres, and interviewing famous people. Today, for example, I’m sitting here in our static caravan in Bigbury Bay in sunny – make that very rainy – Devon. Nobody famous – or even infamous – fancies being interviewed today, so while I was seeking inspiration for a new blog post, I did some of my ‘bread and butter’ work. Sometimes, inspiration comes from the most unexpected places, in the most unexpected ways, and today was such a day.

As well as being a writer, I’m a trained editor and proofreader, and one of my more challenging regular jobs is assessing and providing feedback to newbie writers on a training course. They write an article after completing the course, and I assess it for grammar, conciseness, readability, provision of relevant information, educational and/or entertainment value, originality and all the other stuff that goes into crafting a memorable article. The nature of the beast is that many of them are not memorable, or are memorable for all the wrong reasons. The only thing that keeps me going through the hundredth article of the week about weight loss, relationships and making money on the Internet is the hope that someone, somewhere will eventually ‘get’ the whole writing thing and go on to write stuff I’ll read because I want to, not because I’m paid to do it.

Regurgitated Google is normally the Dish of the Day, and I have a few stock phrases that I can copy and paste from a word document to save time. One of the most often used is ‘Needs a proper conclusion.’ It’s astonishing how many newbie writers have no concept of the function of a conclusion, and even less idea of how to write an effective one. All the best articles – those that make you glad you opened them in your news feed or clicked on them in the search results – have a beginning, a middle and an end, even if the reader doesn’t realise it. There’s an introduction to broach the topic in an engaging way to make the reader stay with you, a body of content that informs and/or entertains, and a conclusion that neatly summarises and wraps up the article, and reminds the reader what they should be taking away. Sounds simple really, doesn’t it, but it’s surprising how many people don’t latch on to this.

I see so-called conclusions that just say ‘Follow these tips and you will definitely lose weight/save your marriage/make friends/find your perfect date/make a six-figure income online…’ The list goes on and on in arrogance and ignorance. Where do I start on what is wrong? All these topics affect individuals, who are by definition different, so what helps you lose weight, etc. may not work for your friend or neighbour. These may not be the right tips for you, or anyone, so it’s arrogant of the author to promise results. Even the experts don’t do that, because they realise that nothing is universal or easy, especially when it comes to life as we know it.

But the real problem – and this is where the ignorance comes in – is that people do anything and everything in conclusions other than conclude the article. They’ll tack on afterthoughts like, ‘Don’t forget to exercise as well as count calories, or you won’t lose as much weight as you want to.’ This is the first mention of excercise, and it comes in the conclusion, which is not the place for new thoughts. Then there’s the trite statement that makes the reader cringe: ‘Your marriage is worth saving, because you are joined together by God for ever.’ Not everyone believes in God – or marriage for that matter – so this is patronising in the extreme. It’s going to make the reader feel bad if they can’t save their marriage, or it’s going to alienate them from the author. Either way, it’s not good, and it’s not what a conclusion should do.

Then there’s the favourite beloved of the sensationalist writers who think you have to lay it on to get on in the writing world:  ‘If you write informative blog posts, promote your product on Facebook and network effectively, you’ll soon earn a six-figure income online, from the comfort of your own home.’ That’s better, in that it’s summarising stuff you’ve mentioned in the article, but it’s holding out an unrealistic promise. There’s a lot more to making money online than this, and very few people achieve life-changing incomes just from working at home.

Times without number, I have to say ‘Please read up on what makes an effective conclusion, then rework this.’ Times without number, they don’t – they just resubmit it, hoping they’ll get a different assessor the next time, then get a shock when I tell them not to waste my time or theirs by resubmitting without following editorial advice and feedback.

Today was different though, and that’s why I cracked the cava a few hours early. Not one, but two people wrote a proper conclusion that briefly summarised the article and reminded the reader of the important stuff. Not only that, they didn’t try to fool me into thinking they know how to write conclusions by using a sub heading like ‘conclusion,’ ‘final thoughts’ or ‘the last word.’ It was a well-written resume of the article that flowed seamlessly on from the content, referred back to it and belonged there. And although there were other issues that needed addressing, it gave me a warm, fuzzy feeling to realise that there are newbie writers out there who know what a conclusion is and how to write one. It made my day, to be honest. (I know – I need to get out more!)

The Red Knickers Report 2016

Hola everyone, and welcome to 2017. It’s time for the annual Red Knickers Report 2016, which is my way of reviewing the year. It’s a well established custom now, in fact Dave Allen of Algorfa calls it ‘notorious.’ Notorious is good but not always suitable for those of a nervous disposition, so if you haven’t already sampled the Red Knickers Reports, you may want to catch up on 2015 and 2014 to see what you’re letting yourself in for.

Looking back on 2015’s report, I haven’t done everything I wanted to, but I have achieved stuff I hadn’t even thought about this time last year. The Around Algorfa website is still just a domain name, and the book isn’t finished yet, but I don’t see that as failures on my part – it’s just not the right time for them or for me. It’s been another very busy year on the professional front, and I’ve had to prioritise. My main priorities always have been and always will be to entertain, inform and help and support the people who need it with my writing – what I earn from it is a pleasant bonus, but not the motivation behind what I do.

I’m also very keen to help other writers realise their potential,  so I’ve done a lot more work with  WriteLearnEarn.com and my good friend and fellow writer Spike Wyatt. It can be a bit frustrating when you see people use 50 words when 10 will say it so much better, and some people just can’t take a telling, but when just one novice writer takes on board what you’re trying to say, and goes on to grow and earn from their writing, it makes it all worthwhile. Thank you Spike, for trusting me enough to ramp up my editing role to take in assessment and advice to our writers. Here’s to another great year working together.

I’m proud to have helped publicise lots of initatives in and around Algorfa, whether it’s new businesses such as KD Designs or raising awareness of local charities and their work. I’ve met some truly inspirational people too, such as Karen of KD Designs. Soon after moving to Spain in October 2015, she lost her partner, and it looked like the dream of life in Spain was over, but within a few short months, she was back, running her own jewellery business from a retail base in Algorfa. As we go into 2017, she’s moving into party plan and mail order, and she has a new home and a new partner. Seeing her pick herself up from tragedy and start all over again has been one of the highlights of 2016. She’s also become a good friend, even if she does lead me astray now and again!

Talking of inspirational people, the production crew behind The Cucaracha Club have to be way up there. If you don’t already know – and if you’re a regular reader, you certainly do – that’s the independently produced spy thriller, filmed entirely in and around Torrevieja. Billie Anthony Gaddess wrote it, and recruited Tom Watt to star in it. Then when the original film crew pulled out 5 weeks before filming was scheduled to start, Clive Gray set up a production company and Rai Woods agreed to direct it – even though it was a first for all of them. Against all the odds, and on a budget of just €23,000, the film saw its world premiere in March 2016 and now has the British Board of Film Classification Certificate that allows it to be shown on general release. The Cucaracha Club 2 is already written and scheduled to go into production in October 2017, and I’m proud to call Billie, Rai, Clive and many of the actors involved in the film good friends.

I didn’t become involved in the film until the post production stages, after meeting Rai for the first time in February 2016, and I was in Portugal at the time of the premiere, but in the last few months I’ve been involved in promoting the film, and I’m looking forward to being in from the start on TCC2. I’ve even been told there may be a part in it for me. Having chatted to Tom Watt for publicity interviews, I’m secretly hoping I may  feature as his love interest, but hey, I’ll take what I can get – a film star at the age of 65 looks pretty good from where I’m standing.

I’ve also become a Page 3 girl in 2016. No, not that sort of Page 3 girl – my birthday suit needs a good ironing, and I don’t want to frighten the natives. However, I was very pleased to see one of my articles featured on Page 3 of the Coastrider newspaper in December, and it looks like I may be writing regularly for the paper in 2017, so that will be more exposure for my writing, and new friends and professional contacts to be made.

2016 has been a year of firsts for me too. I went to my first-ever pool party, and managed two during the summer. I also attended my first psychic development workshop, with Quirky Medium Alison Wynne-Ryder. It was interesting and empowering, so I’m looking to expand on that in 2017. And for the first time in my 64 years, I got to own an original painting. Rai Woods introduced me to local artist Jim Barry back in May. Jim and his wife Jan Cave Barry made fascinating interviewees for my ‘No Ordinary Expats’ series for Insiders Abroad, and they have since become good friends. So when Tony asked me what I wanted for Christmas, I knew straight away. Jim’s fabulous painting of the palm trees at La Mata now has pride of place in Piddock Place, along with a couple of prints from Jim’s ‘Gaslight’ series of paintings of Victorian London.

Another highlight of 2016 was finally meeting my website designer Elle Draper, who runs the successful Spain Buddy.com website with her partner Alan Gandy. We caught up with Alan and Elle in Albox on our way to Portugal, and again when they moved to Velez-Blanco. The subsequent blog post caught the attention of the town’s Deputy Mayor, and he’s invited me back for a guided tour, so that’s something to look forward to in 2017. I love it when people appreciate what I write, and it means more wine sharing with Alan and Elle, and cuddles with their three gorgeous dogs.

On the personal front, we finally made it to Portugal with our friends June and Larry, and we had a fabulous time. Definitely a place to revisit in the future. We continued to make good use of the motor home, and discover new areas of Spain and make new friends. I’ve also become group secretary for the Motorcaravanners’ Club Spanish group, so I’m involved in the organisation as well as the enjoyment. Looking forward to new adventures with them in 2017.

Health wise, it’s been a pretty good year, even though I was floored for the first month of 2016 with a vicious chest infection. Spain continues to be my healthy, happy home. Thanks to Paddy’s ever-increasing need for exercise, I’m starting 2017 at least one dress size smaller too.

My family has grown too, with the birth of Oliver in January, just 14 months after his brother Harrison. September saw Oliver’s christening and Adam and Helen’s renewal of their wedding vows after 10 happy years together. We all spent a weekend celebrating at the Harlyn Inn, Cornwall, catching up with family and friends, some of whom we hadn’t seen for ages.

The first Red Knickers Report came about after my daughter Elizabeth suffered a horrific stroke which almost killed her in 2013, when we also lost a dear friend and Tony was diagnosed with additional health problems. Elizabeth is living life as best she can, but she still gets very fatigued, her moods are all over the place, and her appetite centre is shot to pieces. She never feels full, and never feels hungry. The all you can eat buffet places in Plymouth double up on the catering when they see her approaching, and on her birthday, her son Daniel insisted they left after her sixth plate of food! She asked her consultant how long these minor but irritating side effects were likely to last, and he said he didn’t know, because he had never seen anybody make such a full recovery from a brain stem stroke, so it was uncharted territory for him. Yet another reminder, were it needed, of how lucky we are that Elizabeth is still with us, and in relatively good health, considering what she’s been through.

So, all in all, 2016 hasn’t been too bad, but there’s always room for improvement. Let’s hope my new red knickers work their magic in 2017. According to Spanish tradition, they have to be new to be lucky. Thanks for all your support in the past, and please stay with me for more of the same this year. I sincerely hope you enjoyed my Red Knickers Report 2016.

Red Knickers Report 2016

I’ve got a Jim Barry original painting for Christmas!

When La Mata artist Jim Barry contacted me to invite Tony and myself to an open weekend at Casa Barry, I knew at once that this year, my Christmas present would not be a problem. Usually, it’s the biggest cause of conflict in Piddock Place in the Season to be Jolly. Tony’s not a shopper, and he doesn’t do surprises, so I end up with Euros in a card to spend in the sales, rather than the perfect present under the tree.

As we left Algorfa, I graciously informed my husband that he could buy me another print – or maybe two – from  Jim’s Gaslight series of Victorian paintings to go with  my ‘Omnibus’ print, inspired by the Whitechapel killing spree of Jack the Ripper. I’d fallen in love with it when I interviewed Jim and his wife Jan, back in March, and it has pride of place on the wall of our apartment. Jim has a saying: ‘Paintings like company – they fade on their own.’

We received a great Irish welcome – and a rather large glass of wine. Jim is so laid back you wonder if he’ll fall over, and before he let us loose on the paintings, we had a nice chat – and more wine – on their lovely sunny terrace. That’s when ‘Las Palmeras de la Mata’ first caught my eye, and I began to swivel in my choice of painting.

Jim explained that they occasionally held this sort of exhibition, with a limited number of invited people, so that they could clear out some paintings and make room for new art. I wondered if it was a symbolic clearing out of the old at the end of the year, but Jim’s reasoning was much more practical.

It’s coming up to Christmas, and it’s a chance for people to sort out presents for friends and family, and maybe take something back to England or wherever they hail from. All the paintings are reduced, so they can grab a bargain as well.

I asked Jim about the history of the La Mata painting. It derived from a photo he took on an early morning walk on La Mata beach, back in 2010. It  took around three weeks to paint, and by now, I was in love with it. I was also determined to rehome it in Piddock Place. I’m no art critic, but I know a lovely piece of art when I see it, and the fact that Jim had only been painting in earnest for six years when he created it makes it even more special for me.

Having chosen my Christmas present, I thought I might as well get a blog post out of it, so I asked Jim what he’d been working on lately. The guy is nothing if not versatile – you won’t get 10 different studies of the same flower from the Barry Brushes. Therefore I wasn’t all that surprised to learn his newest work is ‘The Boys are Back.’ It’s a vibrant painting of Thin Lizzy on stage, but like most of Jim’s work, there’s more to the story than what you see on the canvas.

Before he came to Spain, Jim was lead singer with The Memories, an Irish rock band who had a Number One hit with The Game, the 1990 World Cup anthem. He was playing the circuit at the same time as Thin Lizzy, and their stage positions in the painting are how he remembers them playing in the 1970s. The amplifiers in the background are 1970s models too, as are the guitars, in which the detail has to be seen to be believed.  The painting took around five weeks to complete, and Jim is justifiably proud of it.

Jim and Jan weren’t quite finished with us though – they invited us to eat out with them. I thought that was pretty special, as I had just mentioned to Jan that I ought to put a contract out on Jim so my painting would shoot up in value. However, she had an even better idea:

Buy a few more originals, and then arrange the hit!

We spent a very entertaining and educational evening with them. For example, all these years, Tony has been referring to a certain Irish whisky the way it’s spelled on the label on the bottle. However, Jim pointed out the error of his ways. Apparently, it’s pronounced ‘Jemesons,’ as in ‘gem.’ You live and learn, don’t you?

Tony must have been feeling generous – or else he’d had one too many ‘Jemesons’ – because he said I could also have another Gaslight series print. I wasn’t able to bring it home, as it needs to be mounted, but ‘Las Palmeras de la Mata’ is safely installed in its new home, and it looks stunning.

If you’re searching for that special gift, or if you just want to brighten up your home and treat yourself to something wonderful, check out Jim’s catalogue here, then message him to arrange a viewing.

Jan’s artistic style is totally different, but equally easy on the eye. She’s a former dancer, and her ballet studies are stunning. She’s also pictured sitting with two of her own originals in the slideshow. Between Jim’s and Jan’s work, you’re sure to find something really special, whatever your taste in art. Say hello from me while you’re there!

An epitome of beauty and a paradigm of elegance? Yep, that’s me!

I scrub up well when I need to, but isn't it going a bit far to call me an 'epitome of beauty' and a 'paradigm of elegance?'

I scrub up well when I need to, but isn’t it going a bit far to call me an ‘epitome of beauty’ and a ‘paradigm of elegance?’

One of the many things I love about being Sandra in Spain is when people say to me how much they enjoy reading my writing, whether they contact me through social media or, as happened last week in Algorfa, stop me in the street to say hello, even if I’ve never seen them before in my life. I’ve met some lovely people who have gone on to become firm friends, whether on social media or in ‘Real Life’ – people I would never have met but for the writing.

However, it has its downside too. There are people who dispute your facts, argue with your opinions and take what you write personally, especially on social media. I don’t mind that too much –  if I provoke an extreme reaction with my writing, it’s hitting a nerve, and at least it’s better than no reaction at all. When I received a Facebook friend request from a finance manager in New York earlier this week, who said he ‘Loved my writing,’ I thought at least this isn’t a pedant, a nutter or a know-all from Norwich who knows more about life in Spain than I do, even though they’ve only ever spent a week in Majorca (pronounced Madge-orca) in August.

Now before we go any further, I must point out that Norwich has no more know-alls than anywhere else, and I have had no detrimental communications from anyone who lives there, ever. I chose Norwich purely for alliteration purposes. It could just as easily have been Northampton, Nuneaton, North Shields, Nanpean, Nelson, Nantwich or Nether Wallop. Actually, I like the sound of a know-all from Nether Wallop, so let’s forget Norwich and go with the know-all from Nether Wallop. Previous disclaimers still apply – Nether Wallop has no more know-alls, etc…. Now, where was I? Oh yes, I remember.

So, this finance manager messaged me to say ‘Hello dear, thanks for accepting the friend request.’ I did think that if he was calling me ‘dear,’ he must be a bit older than the profile pic of a fairly fit forty-something. See what I mean about alliteration? It works well. The next communication changed the game though. It’s worth quoting word for word, so here goes:

Hello Sandra, Such a beautiful smile you have. You are an epitome of beauty, and a paradigm of elegance. your beauty is a blessing and a testament of the craftsmanship and skill of our creator. You can mend hearts and conjure up love with that smile.

To be honest, I think I’d rather have had moaners, pedants, nutters or know-alls. It’s all a bit over the top isn’t it? I mean, I’m 64, carrying a few extra pounds and a few wrinkles, and although I do scrub up okay. beauty and elegance are not words I’d apply to myself, especially when combined with epitome and paradigm, although lots of people say I have a nice smile.

The inappropriate combinations of words did lead me to think maybe my admirer wasn’t everything he said he was, but I thought I’d ask the audience on social media – or rather my Facebook friends – what they thought. Not before I sent him a reply though, which I thought was rather restrained, given the circumstances.

Steady on there – I am married, and I’m not on Facebook to conjure up love and mend hearts, just to keep in touch with family and friends and promote and share my writing. And although I added you as a friend because you said you loved my writing, you haven’t even mentioned it. Don’t contact me again.

So, on to Facebook I go, and what do I get? One ‘friend’ says it’s probably a Nigerian with a fake profile who is after my money. He’s dipped out there then, because I’m a starving writer living in a garret. Well, I’m not starving, and it’s a garden flat, but you get the picture. Another ‘friend’ says seeing as he not only knows big words but can actually spell them, maybe we can recruit him to work for the site we both edit for, so we don’t get so much crap coming our way. Yet another ‘friend’ says ‘Never mind Sandra, you do have a lovely smile. At least he told the truth about that.’ Brings a lump to your throat, doesn’t it?

Ah well, it’s a lesson learned. Next time someone tells me they want to be my friend because they ‘love my writing,’ I’ll direct them to my author page, unless I know them, or we already have mutual friends. However, like buses, the scammers come three at a time. The next one – who also ‘loved my writing’ – was an American general from Alaska with the peace keeping force in Syria. Hello? What peace keeping force would that be? According to the United Nations website, there are 16, none of which are in Syria. Next!

The perfect end to a perfect day was the third American who ‘loved my writing.’ He was also in the military, although he didn’t specify his location. After bombarding me with messages while I was trying to watch Midsomer Murders and Lewis last night, he said:

My dearest beautiful love, why are you not talking to me tonight?

Enough is enough. No more Mrs Nice Writer. I told him to Foxtrot Oscar. Only those weren’t the exact words I used, but this is a family-friendly blog.

Since each of the three ‘Americans’ used the same reason for wanting to friend me, I’m wondering if they are all the same person. Maybe -maybe not. However, just in case, all my sister epitomes of beauty and paradigms of elegance should check out their friend requests before accepting them. Be careful out there in social media land!

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