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pépère el gato

I’m writing this from our hotel room in sunny Seville. We’ve been here since Friday and I have fallen in love with Spain.

We only booked our trip a week before we left, but I made an effort to learn some Spanish. I’m glad I did, because a little goes a long way! I learnt French and German at school. I’m now fluent in French (mostly thanks to my time as an au pair and being with Olivier) and have forgotten almost all my German (use it or lose it). I never learned Spanish at school though.

Before I left I spent about a week learning a few words and phrases, mostly using Memrise and Duolingo. (More on these later, as I can feel a language-related post coming up.) I wasn’t sure how much use a few words of Spanish would be, but I’ve been genuinely surprised at how far it’s got us. I can’t say very much, but I understand most of what people say to me. On previous visits to Spain I’ve been surprised about how little English most people speak, even those who work in hotels and restaurants. That’s not meant to sound arrogant, it’s just that in most places I’ve travelled to, everyone seems to speak pretty good English and it’s difficult to get people to speak to you in their language. One thing I’ve noticed about Spanish people is that if you try to speak to them in Spanish, they don’t automatically try to speak back to you in English, but they generally speak a bit slower and they don’t seem to mind at all when you make mistakes. I feel a lot more comfortable having a go at speaking Spanish here than I do trying to speak the local language in many other places. (And don’t even get me started on the Parisians… You have to be pretty much fluent before they will stop replying to you in English!)

When I get back to London next week I’ll be a student again, as I’m about to start a part-time masters degree whilst working full-time. I don’t know whether I’ll have any hours left in the day, but if I do I think I might sign up to Spanish classes with the university. Watch this space…

In the mean time, I’ll leave you with some pictures of Seville and the promise of a proper post when I get home!

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blackberry picking

I just didn’t feel like writing this summer.

When the air is warm on my skin and the sky remains light long into the evening, I prefer to sit outside with a cold drink and a book. My laptop has stayed inside, ignored and forgotten. With Olivier back in Paris, we’ve spent most of the summer making up for lost time, with a few trips to Paris for me and a few to London for him.

Tomorrow I’ll be catching the train to Paris after work and then on Friday morning Olivier and I are flying to southern Spain to enjoy the last of the summer before the autumn nights start to draw in. 

It was a beautiful mild day today, so after work I went out for a walk. Everywhere I looked, I saw ripe, fat blackberries hanging heavily from the brambles. By the time I come back from holiday, they will probably be gone, so I picked a whole boxful to freeze for jam-making when I come home. 

My fingers might be stained purple from blackberry juice, but I’m not quite ready to say goodbye to summer yet.

down at the bottom of the garden

One of my favourite things to do on sunny days like today is lie in the garden with a good book. My mum has pretty green fingers and the garden is a riot of colour at the moment. Our patio faces west, and on long summer days it is bathed in sunlight from lunchtime until about nine o’clock.

I don’t usually get involved with the nature side of things. Plants tend to do better if I look at them and admire them from a safe distance, but don’t actually touch them. When I was at university my mum once made me a cactus garden in a pot, and I even managed to kill that.

But today she asked me to get the seeds out of some dried bluebell husks, so I sat outside and put them in a ramekin, as if I was shelling peas.

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The seeds were tiny, black and shiny. I said they looked like caviar and my mum laughed.

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When I had finished, she asked me if I fancied planting some bulbs and seeds under the apple tree. A while ago my grandma gave us a bag of old bulbs, mostly tulips and daffodils, and they’ve been waiting for someone to do something with them. Given my lack of ability at making things grow, I was dubious, but said I’d give it a go.

It was backbreaking work, clearing the soil and planting all the bulbs and tiny seeds deep into the earth. I also quickly discovered I preferred to use my hands rather than a trowel. I felt like a small child making mud pies, and soon looked like a chimney sweep.

While I was digging, this little fellow kept me company!

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Eventually I was done, and my little patch of garden looked like this.

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Will anything grow? I hope so, but I’ll have to wait until next spring to find out. I’m hoping it’ll be full of daffodils, tulips and bluebells. In the mean time we’re going to plant some grass seed and hope for the best.

I think I could get into gardening after all…