The Bucket List


The last of the bags, bedding, and essentials, had been crammed into the back of the car. All that remained for me to do the moment that Irishman’s back was turned, was to smuggle in two plastic buckets. The minute I thought he wasn’t looking, I whisked them out of their hiding place and wedged them in between the front and back seats, camouflaging them with a couple of coats for good measure. Turning to shut the car door, there he was stood behind watching me. My timing was clearly not as impeccable as I had thought. ‘What do we need buckets for Lottie?’ This innocent question, coupled with the puzzled look on his face brought on a sudden pang of guilt. I’d been dreading this moment. For weeks I’d been waxing lyrical about the house that I’d bought for us in Spain. I’d extolled the virtues of rustic life, and the joys of living in an old house but, there were a lot of things I had omitted to tell him. And, why we would be needing buckets was one of them.

Three days earlier, Irishman and I had landed back in London. For the past two years Indonesia had been our home. Irishman had been helping to set up a new university in Jakarta while I spent my days trying to perfect my squatting technique whilst hovering over Indonesia’s finest porcelain, experimenting unsuccessfully with hose attachments, water and my hand in lieu of toilet paper, and generally trying to get to grips with Indonesian food and it’s challenging effects on my bowels. Our time there went too quickly and although there was the possibility of more work, we decided to quit while the going was good. In August 2013, three months before his work contract ended, I flew to Spain to find us a new home. It was an eventful 5 days, all of which you can read about here Despite the fact that I had only two days to complete my mission, I can only think that there must have been some divine intervention because on the morning of day two, I found exactly the house that I was hoping to find in a glorious part of Andalucía. On my return to Jakarta, not wishing to alarm Irishman about the amount of work and money it would need to restore it to its former glory, I found myself being somewhat economical with the truth when describing the ins and outs our new home. I failed to mention to him that A) it was going to need every last bean we had throwing at, B) there was no hot water or functioning bathroom C) It needed a kitchen and D) we were going to be having to pee and poo in buckets for at least a few weeks until we had a toilet installed.

When it pours with rain, we say it’s ‘pissing buckets’ and so as if to illustrate my point, the minute it was time for us to leave London, the heavens decided to do just that. There was a mighty downpour as we hurriedly kissed our children goodbye and jumped soaking wet into the loaded car. No sooner had we got to the end of the street than Irishman started to quiz me again about the wretched buckets. While negotiating London’s dismally grey south-circular road, and the open stretch of A3 down to Portsmouth, now seemed as good a time as ever for me to come clean to my beloved about what our new home was really like.

I’m not sure whether it was because he was feeling replete after the huge Sunday roast that I’d cooked earlier or, that the excitement of our new Spanish adventure was beginning to kick in, but, as I revealed the real truth about our new home , Irishman appeared to take it all in his stride. He even laughed when I told him that the whole house needed re-wiring. Perhaps in hindsight it was a nervous laugh, but the fact he laughed at all, encouraged me to think that my worst fears were unfounded and that whatever greeted us the other end, he’d embrace with the same fervour and enthusiasm that I had three months ago.

We had both been looking forward to our ferry trip from Portsmouth to Bilbao. There is something very romantic about boarding a ship and setting sail. In my wildest fantasies I had imagined us out on the deck, waving to the cheering crowds down on the quayside, a white handkerchief in my hand. A brass band, triumphantly serenading the voyagers, and myriad cries of ‘Bon Voyage’ as finally the anchor was hauled up and the boat slowly steamed out of the harbour. I’d even imagined us being invited to join the Captain at his table later in the evening.

A fellow Brittany Ferry passenger
A fellow Brittany Ferry passenger

ferry

torro-on-side-of-motorway
But alas, our 32-hour ferry trip on Brittany Ferries was nothing like this at all. When at last we did set off, it was gone 10pm. It had been a long day and after 2 hours of my confessionals on the road, it was definitely time for a drink. As we sat in the bar, I surveyed our fellow travellers. (Irishman always says that I cut a very fine line between people watching and being plain nosey, but that’s just the way that I am). They were a motley bunch, mostly British and mostly elderly or middle-aged. The women all had platinum blonde hair, were tanned and had very wrinkly decollages, no doubt from years of expat living in the Costa’s. The men had big bellies and wore lots of heavy gold chains around their necks and wrists. I wondered if this is what Irishman and I might look like in a few years? There was no band playing, just a tanoy that crackled endlessly, relaying information about Bingo, karaoke and line- dancing classes on the various decks. Back to back episodes of Coronation Street and The Jeremy Kyle show were playing on the TV screens dotted around the bar area. My heart sank watching this scene. If this was a glimpse of contemporary Britain, I couldn’t wait to be sitting on my bucket amidst the olive groves of Southern Spain.

53 thoughts on “The Bucket List

  1. Oh Lottie… How I love thee. You tell a story better than anyone I know! Thank you so much for the ferry ride, it’s snowy and grey here, so the idea of setting sail was more than welcomed. Thank you for sharing your journey. Happy New Year!!!

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  2. Don’t knock the buckets! What a lovely story. Poor Irishman learning from your gradual disclosure. How great that he didn’t overreact. I can almost hear you thinking about saying “we will laugh about this one day”. I hope the one day has arrived or will soon. What a great way to be starting a new year.
    New (old) house, new country of residence, new adventure.
    Clearly neither of you will discover boredom for quite some time
    Feliz Ano Nuevo

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  3. And…? Then what happened! Hey Lottie…it’s so good to see a post! Have you graduated from buckets to real plumbing? Good thing you learned how to squat and aim in Indonesia! Don’t keep me waiting too long for the rest of the story!

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    1. I promise I won’t keep you too long – the second part has already been started and there’s more! You are going to have to be patient Mrs Sherry, I’m not giving away any secrets. Yes, my Indonesian training – who’d have thought it eh?!

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  4. Yay, you’re back, and with a great story too. I’ve been missing the blogs and am glad you took the letter from my lawyer seriously. No sloping off like this again Lottie. More, more, we want more ( and NO my name isn’t Oliver). I’m looking forward to the next episode(s).
    xxx Huge Hugs xxx

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    1. The thing is Puffin, I’ve been a bit beastly about those broads….my blonde is straight out of a packet too. Pete’s not yet sporting a gold chain (they are advantages to being broke!!)

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      1. Yes, dear Puffin, but one look at you is enough to show you’re not that kind of blonde. You would also have to be tanned to an extreme with hoop earrings and expressions like ‘take a pew’. You would have nothing to talk about. Your conversation would be peppered with ‘ooh, I know’ and you would be bitching constantly about the UK and Spain and hate the local ‘cuisine’. Mind you, if Pete ends up buying a gold chain, then I’m de-friending you!

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  5. Hi Lottie – SO happy you are back! I have missed your blogs – still hilarious! Looking forward to your adventures in Spain!

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  6. Hysterical! I love how visual your writing style is, Lottie. I can see your entire voyage (both the real and imagined versions!). Cannot wait to read more. Love your El Tora by the Road. How cool! xoxo

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  7. Woot! She’s back!

    Hysterical! I love how visual your writing style is, Lottie. I can see your entire voyage (both the real and imagined versions!). Cannot wait to read more. Love your El Tora by the Road. How cool! xoxo

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    1. She’s back indeed!! It’s been awhile but she’s here. The imagined and real versions are about a million miles apart, in fact I could dedicate an entire post to the ‘voyage’ part but I shan’t – I need to get cracking with the Iberian side of things. Arent’ the El Toro’s great! I get very excited when I see them xx

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  8. It all sounds terribly romantic and earthy to me. A bit like an Emile Zola story really. I remember my grandparents chamber pot, shared by both (not at the same time) Those were the days. Glad you and Irish have arrived. How are the Flamenco lessons going?

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  9. I have been waiting for this. I think perhaps it could have been more lavishly illustrated. With buckets perhaps. All these trials will pass, Empress. Your studios will be in full swing. The students will be queuing at the door and you will be Andalucia’s answer to Tom & Barbara, The Good Life couple. What, pray, is wrong with back to back episodes of Corrie? I grew up on Ena, Minnie & Martha, Annie & Jack, Elsie, Len and I remember Ken Barlow’s wife being electrocuted. Good career move. Never a Crossroad’s fan although Amy Turtle and Benny brought a smile. I’m sure there are Spanish equivalents. Perhaps they squat in Andalucia too. Now that would be a bonus. All your training would be worthwhile. Next episode please. It’s going to be The Archers of Andalucia, I can tell.

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    1. In that case I sincerely hope that I do not disappoint! Putting me up on a pedestal near the Archers, what are you like?
      You are spot on about the Tom and Barbara except we need more animals – Colin Snout is not enough, we need pigs and goats and a vegetable patch.
      Painting studio is up and running but the printing studio is going to take longer – Barbara and Tom need to sell quite a few marrows for that project. I’m making more Green tomato chutney today…
      DON”T MENTION THE BUCKETS!! the illustration was appalling, i’m sorry and i was annoyed that i couldn’t get the snoring Brittany ferry passenger any larger, she made a great photo – perfectly illustrating the glamour and excitement of our ‘cruise’ experience PMP

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      1. Haha!! I adore this song and guess what?? we played this very version on Christmas Eve to jolly ourselves up! as for the rum, Genius dad and genius idea, first i need to start growing me ‘marra’s.

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  10. When I grow up I want to be a writer just like that British lady- Lottie Niven. Gee, this is one of the best or the best post thus far. I so enjoyed reading about the buckets and I wondered why you did not tell Irishman they would be used for transporting olives from the groves or you’d use them for mopping, etc. Joking aside, it was the right thing to do as you were preparing for the trip.

    All of this is so foreign- 🙂 to me. And so dang interesting. I can not wait for the next installment. I want to know about the countryside and how you “found the carpenters, plumbers, electricians, etc. All of that will make for some great reading and I do hope you are gearing all of this toward that book.

    ~yvonne xxx

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    1. Hello Yvonne! A very Happy 2014 to you (email will be on it’s way soon) My goodness, I really am going to have to get cracking with these posts now….so much to write about. Hopefully the words along with the pictures will give you some idea of what life is like here.
      Please, never apologise for spelling errors and typos on here, my posts are stuffed full of mistakes and grammatical errors – I’d need a full time editor to sort me out! Lots of love XXX

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  11. Lottie! Reading your posts is good for the soul — love that we can all follow your new adventures. Me gusta mucho el nombre de tu blog tambien. Mucho amor, mi amiga (Yikes! hopefully, my high school Spanish works in this case.) xxxxxx

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    1. I’ll tell you something Missy Steph, I so wish that I’d learnt Spanish in school – you’d laugh if you saw me here – all shall be revealed in future posts. Lovely to hear from you 😀 xxxxxxx

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  12. Yay !! A Lottie sighting !! Welcome to Spain my friend !! I rode the same waves in 2002 and never returned…..well it’s uphill back to the UK 😉 I loved this post and, by gum, I have visions of some great posts coming from you as you settle into your renovations and wine bottles. Have fun my friend. Ralph xox 😀

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    1. Ah dear Ralph, we are now not only on the same continent, we are both living in the same country. Poor Spain, do you think it can handle both of us?! Thanks for the follow btw, chuffed to bits I am! xxx

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      1. Yippee !! I read your post in the email and will visit your blog when I can. I hope you are settling in and not too cold at night……keep warm, that makes you feel better. Nice day again tomorrow !! Hugs Ralph xox 😀

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  13. Welcome back and Happy New Year Lottie! Can’t wait for the next posts so that we can all catch up on how everything’s going. Now, pardon my utter ignorance, but is that bull real or a statue?

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    1. Hayley, I’m so pleased that you mentioned the bull, no he’s not real, he’s a statue but you’ve reminded me to mention him in the next post – they are all over Spain and their history is quite interesting. Great to hear from you and sorry if I’ve been a bit aloof, lots has been happening here as you can imagine, Happy 2014 xxx

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  14. welcome back! So true about the stereotype ex-pat on the ferry. If you want to fit in with them remember to talk about property prices; that’s what interests them 🙂

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  15. Hi Lottie, it’s great to catch up with you again. I’ve just read both posts about the new life in Spain and its set me up nicely for the day! Keep em coming! I’ve subscribed by email now, so I don’t have to log in to FB everyday 🙂

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  16. It’s not the buckets that would worry me…. it is the hint at need for a hose that is a bit bothersome. But some of your tales about loo life in Jakarta would seem preparation was well started. At any rate, I would guess the pleasant sound of a flush will be in your not too distant future and will remind one of a symphony. 😀

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    1. oh yes, life in Jakarta more than prepared me for this! Funnily enough I was just thinking about you as I was out on a walk taking some pictures of plants and I thought to myself ‘Mr GIngold, I wonder what he would make of this landscape and the plants and flowers?’ Buckets aside, I think you would love it here 😀

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      1. I am sure I would love it there, Lottie. I am looking forward to seeing what you photograph and share with us. I enjoyed your posts from Indonesia very much and am sure the same will be true from your new paradise. 🙂 Should I ever visit will I need my own bucket or do you have a shelf with guest buckets? 🙂

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    1. I wish I could have made that photo larger. I stole it from Pete and for some reason couldn’t get it to enlarge. She was a fine figure of a woman who was snoring so loudly that it almost drowned out the tv that was blaring in the corner. She was in a deep sleep and every so often her head would fall back and she’d let out an enormous grunt – hours of entertainment pour moi!

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