Twelve Grapes

The novelty of pooing in a bucket wore off sooner than I had imagined . I’d rather hoped that the entertainment factor would see me through at least a few weeks but in fact it was less short lived than that, a matter of hours and already I was fed up having to use a bucket. Little did I know that it would be mid December before the toilet was finally installed and I could reign supreme on my porcelain throne once more – the bucket was to remain a feature of our lives for almost 8 weeks.



The bliss we both felt when the toilet was finally plumbed in was indescribable. And not just a toilet but a bidet, a shower, a washing machine and HOT water! And following on from the excitement of being able to wash in hot water and sit on a loo, was the joy of having a kitchen. For weeks I’d been washing the dishes outside in the yard and cooking in whichever room was least full of rubble but now at last I had a proper, Spanish cocina. Things at that point were really starting to look up until; we had news from the shipping company.




The Spanish port authorities at Algeciras were not happy with our Indonesian paperwork. They insisted that we get a form signed and rubber stamped by the Indonesian Embassy in Madrid. They also wanted over $1,500 extra to be paid for the shipment of our household goods from Jakarta and transport costs up to Granada. This was not a happy situation. Both Irishman and I were devastated as we’d been planning on spending the last of our savings on going back to London and be with the children for Christmas, now with these extra costs we could no longer afford to go.


I felt quite blue around this time. Even the sound of flushing toilet couldn’t raise a smile out of me and for a while I wondered if we’d been quite mad to think that we could live solely on Irishman’s teaching pension. At least we’d got phase one of the building works done, the rest would now have to wait until we’d sold our house back in the UK. But having to tell the children that we wouldn’t be able to see them at Christmas nor be able to buy them any presents was miserable.



I’m not sure if this applies to all of Spain or if it is just here in olive growing country but Christmas is not really celebrated here certainly not in the way that it is the UK. In fact if it wasn’t for the fact that half way through December the local council put up a string of lights across the village street boldly wishing the village ‘Feliz Navidad’ you’d be forgiven for thinking it was just like any other time of the year. Of course Christmas comes at the height of the olive harvest and since both men and women work at the harvest, it leaves very little time for anything else. New Year’s Eve however is a big occasion and one that we felt hugely honoured to be included in by our neighbours, Paco and Antonia.


Truth be told, I’ve never been a huge NYE fan, in fact most years I’m tucked up in bed by 10pm with a book (and glass of cava, well it would be churlish not too). But this year things were a little different. A very glamorous Antonia pitched up on our doorstep on the morning of the 31st December with a hand written invitation to have dinner with the family that evening. ‘See you at 9pm’ 9pm? Hell, that was very nearly my NYE bedtime what was I going to do?

Irishman had been working on a painting for Paco’s 50th birthday and we decided that it would be nice to give it to him that evening. Paco was very happy with the painting of his cortijo and we felt very touched to have been invited to join in the family’s New Year celebrations. Antonia’s five course meal was delicious, and we were having such a good time that it seemed like no time had passed at all before Irishman and I were taking part in the Spanish custom of eating one grape at every stroke of the clock at midnight. You never know, the novelty of eating 12 grapes at midnight, could turn me in to a fan of New Year’s Eve after all.

45 thoughts on “Twelve Grapes

  1. I am sure that there is an Agatha Christie book called Twelve Grapes at Midnight in which the aged Spanish parent is quietly fed grapes injected with cyanide by his grasping son. Happy New Year, padre. I think you could have tried them on the port authorities in Algeciras. Miserable bastards. Still, who could not be happy with a new bathroom suite in which you can poo and watch the clothes tumble round at the same time. Luxury indeed. I do like the old colander. We had one just like that. None of this plastic rubbish. Ideal for putting on the child’s head when school play comes round too. Of course it looks just like a soldier’s helmet, Andy. I don’t know why the other children think it doesn’t. (I vividly remember the conversation).

    I think The Twelve Grapes was made into a film starring Margaret Rutherford as Miss Marple. In Red & White in honour of the grapes. Check it out on Google. Go on. You know you want to. Just in case there is a 0.0001% chance it might be true.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. but they DO look like soldier’s hats, Andrew! What a wicked idea for a plot, the 12 grapes injected with cyanide – erm, not sure about the film though….yer ‘avin a giraffe wiv me, ain’t yer!
      The shippers and the customs were all miserable bastards 😛 if we ever do a big move again, I’m leaving everything behind. It will save us a small fortune and much less stress.


  2. Ah, were the twelve grapes fermented… just asking. Spanish, in fact the Latin love affair with bureaucracy is unbelievable. If the form doesn’t have a rubber stamp from every man and his dog, nothing happens


    Liked by 1 person

    1. Plenty of fermented grapes consumed but the midnight grapes were unfermented. I agree with you about the bureaucracy, making us go all the way up to Madrid just to get something signed and stamped was lunacy!


    1. I noticed that they sold little pots in the supermarket with the 12 grapes already washed and peeled. I must admit, eating 12 grapes after an enormous meal nearly tipped me over the edge, I could hardly get them down the hatch! The bucket was a necessary evil, it had to be done – I’ll probably need new hips and knee joints soon though, all that squatting and hovering 😀


  3. What a lovely tale and set of photos. Your sense of beauty coming out in the portrayal of those lovely ingredients and kitchen utensils. NYE is overrated, a typical modern invention to encourage consumption and fatten business empires, and the Spanish know it.
    How nice to get the invitation to Paco’s family. A bidet? I’ll have to think about that one.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Gerard, I can’t believe that you don’t have a bidet, I thought that they are very dutch, a bit like those weird toilets with the shelf which used to fascinate me when I was a kid. The NYE invite was such a kind thought, it made a rather bleak end of year, much, much better.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m so pleased you got your bathroom finally with all it’s exciting facilities like a flushable loo and hot water. I’m devastated at the port authorities charging you again for something you’d already paid for. What a bunch of Christmas miseries. Such a shame it messed up all your plans for a visit home to see the children. Things will pick up now though, no more disasters.
    xxx Massive Hugs xxx


    1. It was exciting, very exciting. I’m not quite the happy camper that I thought I was. I think the final indignity was when the bucket collapsed with me on top of it – you don’t need much imagination to figure out the mess. Mr Crapper changed people’s lives!
      I hope that there aren’t any disasters – the first winter was always going to be tough and we do still need to do quite a bit to the house, nothing fancy but boring stuff like the roof. When it rains, water pours through our bedroom ceiling! Massive Hugs to you 😀 xoxoxo


  5. Yahoo two Andalusian posts on a week. When we are deprived of any of our modern comforts it really makes us appreciative when they are reinstated. Especially the stately throne. Your collapse brings new meaning to the Game of Thrones.

    I love the blue tiles and kitchen colours. Nice photo of the big guy looking wistful.

    Sorry you missed the Chtistmas time with your family. But the NYE family party sounded lovely.

    You two sure have courage and it is paying you dividends.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I know, 2 posts in as many days, it’s like waiting for London buses, nothing and then 2 roll up at the same time! Drat, Game of Thrones, that’s what I should have called this post – wake up, Lottie!
      Thank you, I’m glad you approve of the kitchen, I’m really pleased with how it’s turned out. it’s very tiny which is good as it forces me to be tidier than I normally am – still waiting for an oven but hopefully in a few months we can get one. Pete and I did a lot of staring in to the fire over the winter. The braziers were given to us by our neighbours – we tried having an open fire but were soon smoked out. Ideally we need a double-sided wood-burning stove in there – patience is a virtue so I’ve been told 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I loved reading your words but I can only say it was not a joy to read how the Spanish authorities took your money needlessly. For all anyone knows that money probably went some other place.

    Yes, the bucket thing gets old very fast. Too bad you did not have an “outhouse” to use. I grew up using an “outhouse.” Gee I hated that dang thing. Lime was sprinked on the waste but now there are better ways of composting which consists of using sawdust. Just had to add that. 🙂

    The blue tiles and kitchen utensils look to be an invitation to cook. I find your mom’s kitchen wares beautiful and endearing. I have a one old brownstone pot that belonged to my MIL but it is kept on a shelf.

    The pic of Irishman watching the logs burn in the fireplace evokes memories of when I used to stare at the fire as I mused about all things sad in my life.

    Another question for you. Is the fireplace wood, from the prunned olive trees?

    ~yvonne xxxx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve got to admit, I did think of you on occasion when plonked down on the bucket, I thought, if Yvonne used to have to do this, so can I!

      We had to chose which tiles to get very quickly and of course being on a tight budget meant that the hand-made traditional spanish ones were out of the question but I like these and we’ve also put them in the shower room. A lovely friend made the gingham curtains for me. I’m the world’s worst seamstress 😀

      Yes, the firewood is olive and there is also cherry which is cheaper to buy but burns faster. We were very fortunate because a huge store of logs was left for us so we’ve not needed to buy any wood this winter.

      I love that photo of Pete, I wonder what he was thinking? Probably something to do with his doctorate

      Email not written yet but shall be soon! Lottie xoxoxoxx

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Pooing in a bucket for eight weeks? You are of sturdy material, Lottie. Glad you finally have a throne and you have a kitchen that looks absolutely homey and welcoming.


    1. Aww, thank you! It is a HUGE relief on all counts having my throne back.

      The kitchen is sweet, tiny but lovely. It is very traditional and outside the house – fine in the warmer months but freezing in the winter, especially when I am running to and fro with plates and food in to the house and the rain is coming down…..

      Now that Spring is here we practically live outside, the next big project aside from fixing the holes in the roof, is to ‘beautify’ the courtyard. I’ve got a fancy for copying the famous Cordoba courtyards with lots of wall pots and tiles. irishman better start selling some paintings!!


  8. I can just imagine the relief of getting a toilet after eight weeks. We used portaloos at the last camp site (must post soon), but the bucket doesn’t sound joyous. I love all of the kitchen blue and white, tiles and crockery.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! I missed having a kitchen almost as much as I missed having a loo. I once peed on a very grand portaloo at the Hay Festival – it had piped music to drown out any embarrassing sounds, very sophisticated 😉


  9. You’re braver than I am. I thought life was rough when I had to take army showers (and not more often than every other day), and use the toilet sparingly (if it’s yellow, let it mellow; if it’s brown, flush it down…) for 3 months because our well was running dry.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I really can sympathise with you. I hated having to make do with strip washes, I felt really filthy for weeks – it kind of makes my skin crawl just thinking about it. We are lucky in that we have mains water here and a well. The village also has a spring and the water is free for everyone, it tastes much nicer than the water out of the tap. I hope your well is full again now, it’s a worry having to think about every drop of water – it is something that we tend to take for granted, like toilets and showers!


      1. It was quite a while ago–and when we dug a new well, we got a gusher of wonderful-tasting mountain spring water.

        It did, however, serve to remind me of what a precious commodity water is, and to this day, I’m much more reserved and careful with it.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh Ralph, you’ve just reminded me of the morning when I went out to ‘bury’ the contents in the garden and the builder came over to talk to me…I nearly died with embarrassment, he saw EVERYTHING in the bucket……YUCK! xox


  10. I think the Christmas experience might be quite peculiar of that area as in Barcelona I also remember never-ending meals, plenty of food (although not so much the presents are in Spain traditionally they used to be give on the 6th January, when the Three Wise Men arrived to visit baby Jesus… ). Sorry to hear about your bad experiences, although must say I also love the kitchen. Beautiful tiles. I do love the 12 grapes for New Years’ Eve although my mother would always start laughing and never get them eaten in time and it’s supposed to bring good luck. Easier with seedless ones but not that common to find in Spain. I hope things settle down…


    1. I don’t blame your mother in the least, I was giggling furiously but determined to swallow them! Things have settled down now and although our finances are still very ropey at least the sun is shining and we are getting on with things outside. This time last year I was holed up in a high rise apartment in Jakarta, life couldn’t be more different nor perfect now! 😀


  11. Wow, I was just relating to someone your story about finding a house in 3 days, and then trying to hide the bucket in the car w/o your husband seeing it! So funny. That last photo is gorgeous! Was it an early morning shot?


  12. The bucket lavatory would have lost its luster much more quickly for me, Lottie. I’ve not dumped anywhere in my entire life besides a proper turlet excepting the first few year’s of my life when a diaper was the only option. If a bucket was involved it was the type that slid in below my child sized commode. 🙂

    I like the idea of marking each hour with a grape. Although I prefer the seedless reds, it would be fun to mark each hour by spitting a seed into an acoustically proper metal pot. Like you, I never see the hour of the New Year. No different than any other night for us. I’m pretty jaded and would just have my grapes at 9 and then off to bed. January 1 often yields some splendid ice photographs and the occasional sunrise. As a child I’d stay up but those days are ancient at this point.

    I am a fan of blue and white tiles and the fruit and veggies look to be quite ripe and prime.
    So happy the house is shaping up. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Thanks, Steve. I’m glad I’m not the only one who slopes off to bed early on NYE. I like your acoustic idea, that’s cool – I believe that there is an olive spitting competition in these parts, I need to check it out.

    We are spoilt with good fruit and veg here – this area of Spain, especially down on the coast grows a lot of exotic fruit, papaya, mangoes and avocados. It’s harder to find ‘winter root’ veg like celeriac and turnips, suede and parnips, I guess they are more of a northern european thing. Aside from olives, cherries are the next crop to be harvested here in the village. Needless to say I’m excited about that!

    The weather is now bliss – we eat breakfast, lunch and supper outside and the yard has become our new sitting room. The fig tree gives us shade and apart from the plague of caterpillars that have eaten ALL my plants, it’s pretty perfect.

    Today is the start of a 3 day fiesta – not quite sure yet how it’s going to kick-off but there has been a lot of activity over the past week, everyone whitewashing the outside of their houses, pots of plants put out, the roads swept. Pete and I felt shamed in to doing something about the front of our house so we’ve tidied up as best we can and painted the metal fence and gate. I think it’s what is known as Civic Pride! 😀


    1. ooohh!!! Cherries!!! I love ’em. They almost killed me as a child though. My cousin climbed his cherry tree when I was 7 or so and started tossing them down to me. I didn’t stop. Fever quite high and very sick. I survived though and can’t get enough of them to this day…but I have learned restraint.
      Your three days next should be very exciting for you. There seems to be no end to the celebrations there and, even if occasionally interrupted by work and harvest, life does seem to be a long fiesta ion your village. You picked your new home quite successfully. 🙂
      We are not yet seeing much green here, but it should explode shortly judging by the non-stop rain we’ve been having.
      Enjoy your partay, Lottie. 😀


    1. A little fuzzy-wuzzy maybe but I can assure you that I ate twelve grapes, one after the other at each strike of the clock. Next NYE, I am definitely going to go for the smallest grapes that I can find…12 large grapes is A LOT to have to stuff down after a huge meal! Great tradition though, and it was fun 😀


  14. Beautiful tiles, my mum would commend your good taste – her home in Portugal is adorned top to bottom with traditional blue and white ceramic. My Auntie from Barcelona (feel like Manuel from Fawlty Towers) passed on the grape custom to us, difference is she eats sultanas or raisins. We follow this custom religiously every NYE and then I go to bed- Trafalgar Square, cider, embracing strangers and hugging police officers looooong gone!


    1. I think the sultana idea is the best yet, much easier to get down and delicious to boot.
      I could have spent a small fortune on tiles, but we had to go for something cheap. These are mass produced but I quite like the overall effect of them and they jolly the place up. I found a tile shop just outside Granada that made me almost pee my pants with excitement, the hand-painted tiles were exquisite but at almost 2€ a pop, out of the question. Roll on lottery win!!


  15. What a resilient pair you are – a bucket for eight weeks – and the upset of your Christmas plans. But it would appear you have a lovely, lovely home in the making.


    1. Thank you, Hayley. I’ve got to confess that I fell head over heels in love with this house the minute that I set foot in it. And that feeling has never left me, even though it was tough over the winter with no proper heating and no money. But, things are looking up now, not only is the weather now unbelievably gorgeous but we’ve just sold our house in the UK so we can get on with the urgent works that need doing here. Now all that remains is to generate some sort of income, then we really will have cracked it! 🙂


  16. .. the tradition of the twelve grapes I’ve heared from spanish friends too and that sometimes it can be a little bit dangerous, because you have to eat them very fast, one for every clock-strike 😉


    1. How was the 24 hour ferry ride? love this post, shitting in a bucket for that time, i like squatting in the woods …. did a lot of it in bali when i had the runs… post some of Irishmen’s art work, would love to see it …. that was steep , the 1500… things are working out .. Spain is blessed with your company and Holland isnt’ far away!


      1. I think you deserve a medal for all your comments today! Thanking you kindly, Sir 🙂
        The ferry is a 2 night job so a long trip and quite boring. I do a lot of people watching and read. BUT, this time on the crossing over I saw 2 whales! Dolphins often pop up alongside the boat but whales, I could hardly contain my excitement!


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