Karen’s verdict on the next door house was that the people who lived there didn’t seem to be there very often, mainly weekends, and were Spanish. It is quite common for Spanish people to have an apartment in the city where they live for work and then a second apartment or house either near the sea or in the country side for weekends and holidays, so we thought this would be fine.
When we moved in we were very preoccupied with making the house a home and all that entailed (light fittings everywhere, unpacking a myriad of cardboard boxes) but we did notice that the neighbours were very friendly and helpful. In the hottest weeks of the summer, as we were unpacking boxes, our pool had to be emptied and refilled because it was filthy; they said our children could swim in their pool. We discovered their names, Marie Fe, Orlando and Marie Fe’s mother, Elena.
Since then, we have discovered the attributes that make them perfect neighbours!
· They are unfailingly kind are considerate, asking us if we minded which plants they planted on our shared border
· They adore our children and quite often have them around to play
· Marie Fe speaks to us in Spanish all of the time – this is great for my language skills and for the children too
· In emergencies, Orlando can understand and speak English really well, so he can translate if necessary
· Orlando also makes a mean Martini
· Marie Fe is a qualified beautician and for my birthday gave me the most luxurious body treatment in the world, a scrub, mud bath and massage...bliss...what a gift. She also keeps my eyebrows tidy for a ridiculously small amount of money and has offered to tidy up Steve’s!
· Elena is a retired seamstress and has already completed two pairs of curtains for our house and altered a suit that was too big for Steve
· Marie Fe has taken me to the Medical Centre and the Water Company to help me out with paperwork. In each instance she has let me do my best to make myself understood and only stepped in to translate if necessary
· Whenever they plant something new, they invariably have a plant for us too
We have also been invited to their house to celebrate local fiestas, just recently they cooked us not one but two paellas (because I don’t eat meat and Ste does not eat shell fish).
Hospitality at the neighbours means that Orlando makes a jug of martini, Marie Fe cooks up something delicious, we take a couple of bottles of cava and we all get merrily drunk while the kids run around the house causing chaos!
This is a photo of Steve, pretending he's done all the cooking with Owain...
Pudding invariably involves sugary something and sometimes two desserts!
These are almond meringue tarts, lovely!
These are some sort of complex pastrt pinwheels, sugary and light, husband ate 7! (he had run 5kms that day!)
Marie Fe's mum, Elena is a very traditional Spanish hostess, always encouraging us to eat more. Marie Fe often feels the need to tell her off for speaking to us all in rapid fire Spanish and expecting us to undertand (we get between 90% and 40% of what's she's saying, depending on how much alcohol has been consumed!) Marie Fe also tells her mum off for encouraging us to eat more, this has become a very traditional moment of hilarity in the meal, as Elena turns to me, usually at the end of the meal when I am totally stuffed with food, and first of all offers me some more, then encourages me to take a little more, then says I need to eat more and then I wait for Marie Fe to notice and then we all laugh as Marie Fe admonishes her mum with a stern look and a cry of "Mama!"....
These are traditional Spanish puddings that Marie Fe made for us to taste at Easter, they're basically eggy bread coated in cinnamon sugar:
Yes, we love our neighbours because, like us, they enjoy food, it may be because Spain is a nation that loves its food, so much so that it has two words for snack! An afternoon snack is merienda and a morning snack is almuerzo
So I didn’t think about the neighbours when we were looking at houses but I am very happy that we ended up with the neighbours and friends that we have living next door!