It was a scorchio day in early August. Walking back down through the village after putting our rubbish in to the bin, I spotted Carlos coming out of his house. He was noticeably hot and sweaty and his vast belly, fine testament to a lifetime of greasy Andalucían fare, had burst through all the buttons on his shirt. Not only that but he was trying unsuccessfully to do the belt up on his trousers. His eyes lit up when he saw me. ‘Oh Chica, don’t you find being fat in this weather unbearable? It’s so uncomfortable for us poor fat ones in this heat’ I roared with laughter, what else could I do short of punching him on the nose! But rather than be mortally offended at Carlos’s comment, I felt instead a sense of solidarity, of kinship. Not so much because of our obvious love of second helpings, but that it confirmed that I was now well and truly established in the village. To be eligible for such familiarity first one must earn one’s colours. Joking and banter, and merciless teasing are the litmus test for survival here, especially if you are a Brit. These rural Spaniards have little time for those that take themselves too seriously.

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It’s now early November and already two weeks have passed since the anniversary of our arrival here in Las Pilas. It seems like yesterday that Irishman and I rocked up in the village, the objects of much fascination and speculation. The couple that, just three days before had been living in Indonesia. And here we now were, the new kids on the block, excited but clueless as to how this madcap adventure was going to turn out.

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If you’ve been following this story from the start, you will remember that the early days were not all plain sailing. First off were the buckets. Irishman point blank refused to poo or pee in them and nor could he hack washing outside in a bucket of cold water. But he was wonderful at galvanizing my spirits when six weeks in to the project all I wanted to do was throw the towel in. ‘Hold your nerve, Lottieness’ he’d say to me as I lay weeping in bed, frozen cold and wondering how I could have been so dumb as to have bought a house without a kitchen, bathroom and great gaping holes in the walls and a leaking roof.

But slowly, slowly, piece, by piece, things started to come together. Hot water flowed out of shiny new taps, we had a toilet, a basic kitchen installed. Irishman did a short stint of work back in the UK and came back with enough money for a washing machine. Antonia lent me an old cooker, the oven didn’t work but the top was perfectly serviceable. The gaping holes were replaced with doors, the rubble and plaster dust diminished as the weeks passed.

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The only snow of winter fell in mid-November and with temperatures plummeting to minus seven at night, it gave us our first taste of how ball achingly freezing it can get here. Migrant Moroccan workers arrived to join forces with the local farmers and soon the olive harvest was underway. The end of November was our initiation in to the real nitty-gritty of rural living, the Matanza. I helped Antonia peel and cut eighty kilos of onions and on the day of the pig slaughter, I was invited to take part with all the other ladies in the mighty morcilla-making marathon.

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The only concession to Christmas here was a rather pathetic string of lights that the local council hung across the narrow main street in the village. Feliz Navidad is something of an anti-climax in these parts; it’s business as usual in the olive groves. Though our Christmas was frugal and low-key, New Year’s Eve was a definite turn up for the books. Antonia and Paco entertained us royally and put on an impressive spread of food – we dined on pig’s tail and ears, marvelous fish, dessert and cheese. At the first stroke of midnight we were introduced to the Spanish tradition of eating twelve grapes. The next excitement in the village was the Day of the Three Kings on the 6th January. At midday, after the little church had rung out its bells, sure as eggs are eggs the Three Kings appeared, regally towed on their float by a tractor. Sweets and small gifts were thrown in to the crowd and children and adults alike stuffed their pockets with the goodies. The next day the council came to take the lights down and Christmas was done and dusted for another year.

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And then the rain fell. For days and days, the damp and cold seeped through every crack and window, and under every door. We’d lie in our bed and watch rain water pour in through the ceiling and try not to get disheartened. Those damp, foggy days seemed interminable without proper heating but in reality we probably only had six weeks of really dank weather. By the middle of March temperatures started to rise and by April the valley was awash with bright flowers and birdsong.

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Where we live, deep in the heart of rural Andalucía away from the madding crowds of the Costa’s, life is governed by the cycle of the various harvests rather than governed by church events or seasonal tourism. That said May does have its fair share of fiestas. Fatima (not me, the saint) gets an airing at the beginning of May. Dragged out from a box in the church she’s given a quick once over with a duster then carried through the village for her annual breath of fresh air. A token short service is carried out in the church before she’s unceremoniously shoved back in her box and the party really starts to get cracking. The music doesn’t stop until 6am the following morning and then throughout May fiestas are held in the village on various weekends and also in the surrounding villages.

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In May we cut our umbilical chord with the UK and sold our house. This gave us some breathing space to get on with much needed works here. It also meant that the last of our belongings would be coming over to join the few bit and bobs that we’d had shipped over from Jakarta. Now with our possessions finally in place, the house started to look like a home.

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Village life is not for the faint hearted. There’s no question that in living here in such a tiny community, absolutely everyone knows your business. Nothing goes by unnoticed, not even a fart, though we mostly lay the blame on our dog, Colin Snout for those. We had an invasion of rats in the house a few weeks back, and by the time Irishman got to the end of the village, even the inhabitants of the outlying fincas knew about our hideous rodent problem.

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Despite everything, I can honestly say that this has been one of the happiest and most fulfilling years of my life. Indonesia was fun; it was a different, a more exotic sort of adventure, but here, nestled amongst the olive groves of Southern Spain I truly feel at home. Together with Irishman, we started an art school for the children in the village back in March and since then it has gone from strength to strength. The kids love it and we really enjoy giving something back to the community. Next March when the olive harvest has finished we are starting classes for the adults. Irishman and I still have lots of work to do here on the house, we still have to adhere to a strict budget, but our vision of having an art school where people from all over the world can come and stay and make work is what we are working towards.

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66 Comments

    1. Thank you, Rod 🙂 and thanks also for the link, what a great idea. It’s fun being able to do something that people enjoy – I always know when the children are really enjoying a class because they all start singing! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I can’t tell you how much I’ve missed the posts but this has made up for it. Fantastic pictures- except I don’r see you identified in any of them- and the story of this first year has been one of such ups and downs. Now the house looks almost perfect and life seems so much more promising. My congratulations to you both.
    xxx Massive Hugs xxx

    Liked by 3 people

  2. I’m with David. I’m very pleased to see your new post and see the house. It’s looking great and I’m pleased to hear it was a great year. The bits you shared were definitely fabulous. All the best to your school and with all your projects. Must come for a visit some time!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Please do, Olga. You will be very welcome. It’s quite hard editing a year’s events – what to put in, what to leave out. There’s so many stories to tell and so many photographs, I hope that I got the balance right! 😀

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  3. Lottieness! Beautiful, just beautiful! It seems like ten years to me, probably because I miss you and the ordeals you survived during the renovation seemed endless. The part about watching the rain pour through the roof was something I could relate to 100% since I had that issue a couple of times in my room. Filthy, black water streamed through the bedeg ceiling and down the walls pooling on the floor for a couple of hours. Nightmare. The workers had removed the roof tiles and then it was quitting time so they went home. So good to have a post from you. Again soon, please!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thrilled to bits that you like it. I’ve still got so much interior painting and filling in cracks to do but it’s bliss not having a roof like a colander. we were so touched, a roofer in the village came to fix it and refused to take any payment – he said he was happy that we were giving our classes and that his daughter really enjoyed them. It gives you a warm fuzzy feeling when things like that happen xxx

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  4. Dearest Lottie, this post is wonderful and I always hate for your stories and photos to come to an end. There is so much that I would like to mention about the photos but I’m sure that I’ll not be able to cover them all. The kitchen is my favorite. Everything- the dishes, tile, cooking utensils, the raw veggies and fruits, the yellow apples in that beautiful old bowl, the figs which look to be Mission figs? and the skirt made of cloth at the bottom of the kitchen counter. It is all, my cup of tea. I love the things in the your house and I know that you must be very proud. I’m especially glad that Pete gave you the morale boost when ever you needed to hear that things would eventually work out.

    All the photos are so interesting and I loved reading about your year of endurance. I hope that you’ll SOON be inspired for another story of your life in rural Spain.

    Most of all the art school that is planned for 2015 will be a huge success. This is a reality, for sure, I know.

    Oh and I almost forgot. I have a huge Mission fig tree that I rooted about 6 years ago. Last year it produced a heavy crop and this year a late freeze got all the little figs. Bless my tree’s heart it had to put on new leaves and only had time to grow maybe a quart of figs but I was too ill back in the summer to get no more than a handful.

    PS: I’m OK. Hope to be in touch soon.

    Hugs,
    ~yvonne

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Lovely Yvonne, I’m so glad that you enjoyed the photos. I love the kitchen, it’s tiny but works for me. I do have to be very tidy in there as there is precious little work space – probably a good thing as I’m a very messy cook 🙂 I’m not sure what kind of figs they are – we have yellow figs and purple figs. Actually we’ve just been rather harsh and given them a severe pruning, they got so huge in the summer and we were worried that they might pull the back wall down so they’ve had a serious trim. They do grow very fast. Your tree sounds very brave and hardy, but I’m sorry that you didn’t manage to get any of the figs this year, that’s sad 😦
      We are holding off the residential art school until we find somewhere to make into a large studio space. There are plenty of ruined buildings and sheds here but they don’t all have water and some of them would cost a small fortune to repair – we’ve got to be patient as money is tight – something will turn up in the fullness of time.
      I do hope that you are feeling better, you’ve been in my thoughts a lot. Huge hugs to you xxxxxxxx p.s I won’t leave the next post for so long, hopefully get another story out soon 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Your home looks so welcoming Lottie. Village life may not be for the faint-hearted, but it sure seems like a wonderful place to be…I would welcome the teasing and ribbing! Happy one year anniversary to all of you and many blessings upon your art school.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! the ribbing is all part of the fun, can you imagine the hilarity that ensued when Pete’s top teeth on his bridge all fell out?! as it turns out half the village wear dentures so there was great solidarity for my old man, bless ’em. It’s art class this afternoon so I must get on with the prep, story boards today – we are going to be making a film with the puppets and masks that they have been making 😀 I tell you, it’s all go here 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I so enjoyed this post, Lottie, and the pictures! A whole year has gone by and you have a beautiful house in a beautiful place to live in – and it IS a lovely part of the world to live, we are very lucky 🙂
    Good luck with the art school, sounds fab, I might have to pop over for a class or two x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much, Wendy. Yes, time has just flown by and we’ve achieved quite a bit so that’s good. I’ll give you a shout when we’ve got the residential art school up and running. we are still looking for somewhere to set up a large studio space and we are also going to be doing printing so if you know of any etching presses for sale or silk screens, please let me know 🙂 xxx

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m sure that the older I get, the quicker time moves! Thank you, Sarah for your lovely comment. It’s taken a while and there is still lots of interior and exterior painting and filling of cracks to do but it’s definitely home now rather than a rubble filled campsite. The weather has already started to get much colder so we have the fire lit from morning until bedtime – these old stone houses where built to be cool so they need lots of molly coddling to get them warmed up, bit like me 😉

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    1. Spot on, George! Fortunately Pete and I are as determined as each other. Next step is to get a large studio space – it’s proving more difficult than we thought but hopefully something will turn up. If you hear of any etching/printing presses for sale, please let us know and silk screens. Mr Nev desperately wants to get back in to printing 🙂 and it would be great to offer something a little different. Hope all good with you, have you finished your course yet? xxx

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      1. Lottie, I’ll keep my eyes peeled for presses, perhaps on the Ebay and Gumtree forum. Maybe this kind of thing?

        http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Littlejohn-Etching-Press-/351216510094?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_3&hash=item51c622a48e

        Thanks for asking-I completed the ‘art therapy lite’ course but will check out a postgraduate open day for the Art Psychotherapy M.A next week, course starting September 2015.

        In the meantime I’ve happily been facilitating art classes at the centre and been informed that paid work is around the corner 🙂

        It’s been a hard year for us too, but as you say it brings everyone closer together.

        Have always wanted to progress beyond mono/lino prints 🙂 so when you get the studio … I’m definitely jet setting over to Andalucia for a workshop with Pedro.

        G xxxx

        Liked by 1 person

      2. George, thanks so much for the link and for keeping your eyes open for us. Wow, it will be SO cool to have you here making prints with us. Roll on the studio! Great news about your course, art classes and work – paid work even! 🙂 and the Art Psychotherapy MA sounds like a good plan – I looked in to doing something similar but didn’t have the necessary credits – it was at Goldsmiths I think. Great to hear from you as always 😀 xxxxx

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  7. I LOVE THIS!!! What a year Lottie, you deserve a big cheer for all the hard work. Your house looks so beautiful-true to the rural style of Southern Spain. The art school is a brilliant idea, i’d book a place!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. YAY! and I’ll get to meet you at long last 😀 Really happy that you like what we’ve done, Ange. Still lots to do but we’ve turned a corner and that’s a good feeling. I’m asking everyone if they know of any etching/printing presses for sale and also silk screens? we’ve not found any here though there must be some but we’d like to start getting the kit together. Fingers crossed that we have something up and running for next year 😀 xxx

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  8. I remember feeling for you in the early months and I remember also the glimmers of sun and the joys of the festivals. You and Pete have worked marvels, Lottie. When I was a teenager I remember we moved to a village in Herefordshire. One person said he had been there 30 years and the locals still looked on him as an outsider. Integrating can be hard work but you have clearly given much as well as taken the generosity and hospitality. You both deserve to live out your lives in sublime comfort surrounded by sunshine and warm friendship. Your story is a happy one and I hope it continues so. Long may you prosper.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. What a lovely comment, thank you Andrew. Your kind words mean a lot to me. I must admit that there were times when I wanted to do a runner. I’d forgotten what being cold felt like, two years in Indonesia made me soft! It’s cold and damp today but at least we have a super snazmo wood burner roaring away. Last year it snowed on November 12th so I’m watching the skies. The Sierra Nevada already has snow on it. We’ve been amazingly fortunate to have found a such a welcoming and lovely place to live. I think integration is very important – There are some brits here who don’t get involved and go about their lives as if they still lived in the UK, That’s their choice but Pete and I have made a conscious and determined effort to get involved and by holding the weekly art classes, hopefully we’ve given the village something that they can enjoy 🙂

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  9. Oh Lottie, I’ve missed your posts. Your home looks so warm and inviting. I’m not a visual artist, but I’ve recently gone to some Cork and Canvas classes where we get to drink wine and paint. So fun and I now have two paintings to hang in my garage. Let me know when the adult classes begin!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Oh Lottie!

    What a brilliant resume and what a wonderfull and nice-cozy place you’ve got there now… How fast this year passed by.. I know how hard it is without bathroom and kitchen. Back in Berlin my flat gets “rehabilitated” for month now and it don’t get really better, unfortunatly… but that is another story..
    Hurray for you and your life and the stories from Spain, I’m looking forward for many, many, many posts more.. :))

    Liked by 1 person

    1. aww, that’s lovely, thank you Marta 🙂 I’m very happy that you’ve enjoyed our journey so far, hopefully there will be lots more stories to tell and many more adventures. Oh dear, I hope that your flat problems get sorted out soon, it’s not fun having no hot water or a kitchen. Big hugs, Lottie xxx

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  11. What a wonderful post Lottie ! That village will never be the same again in the way you have seamlessly integrated into the community. You, like many other of my local fiends, bought cowsheds, barns, dilapidated houses, suffered the extreme cold, wet and living in a building site for months, but over time now have wonderful homes, all different, homes to be proud of. You are among those of a special group of expatriates who came, worked and conquered whatever was thrown at them. Well done my friend and I look forward to the next phase of your lives in your posts. Hugs. Ralph xox ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You are so lovely, thanks Ralph. I owe a lot to Pete though, he kept me sane, made me laugh and kept his head whilst I was losing mine…I can’t imagine living anywhere else now, I think that we’ve landed on our feet here. Hope all good with you. Big hugs back at ya! xxx ❤

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hello Lottie 😀 You have disappeared off my radar for a couple of months except for the odd Like. I hope 2015 is good to you and Irishman. Lovely days but freezing nights here so my heating is on all day now. I wish you well. xox ❤

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Hello Ralph! I have been off-radar but I’ve been busy and away for a while and sometimes just don’t have the time to comment, especially when I have over 200 blog posts in my in-box! I’m sorry. I’ve not written a post since October so there is a lot of catching up to do! It’s freezing here too and I’ve been in bed for the past 4 days with some vile lurgey, generally feeling sorry for myself 😦 but the wood-burner roars away and keeps us warm. Wishing you all the best for 2015 and don’t worry, I’ve not forgotten you! xxxxx

        Liked by 1 person

      3. I’m sorry to read that you are in bed with something nasty. I hope it clears up soon. At least you are cosy and warm. That’s the main thing.
        I am also getting swamped with emails and comments, but I am just keeping up with them. I am wading through the comments on my Notifier at the moment. Getting to be an unpaid office job, but I do enjoy it. ❤

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  12. Congratulations on your first year in paradise, Lottie. It seems that way compared to life in Jakarta to one from afar. But I always find a rural setting much more rewarding than the city. And…I am so impressed by your success in fixing up your new home and settling into the community. I dare say that it is an undertaking I could never do at this stage of life.
    The pictures are a fine reminiscence of the past year. Here’s hoping the next is even better.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Steve, it’s definitely paradise compared to Jakarta. Cities have their place (and beauty) but I’m muy contento living rustica now. Thank you for your kind words, and encouragement throughout the past year, they have meant a lot to me. I recently watched a kids movie called ‘UP’ – have you seen it? If you haven’t, watch it with Mary Beth, it’s both heartwarming and sad but above all an affirmation of life, about doing what you want to do, while you can still do it – can highly recommend! 😀

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  13. Lottie, this is an amazing post. What an excellent adventure. “Bill & Ted” can eat their hearts out. It’s all so impressive — and crowning it all with the art school… Fabulous!
    (And i love how you’ve restored and decorated your home.) Hugs!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. What a lovely surprise to hear from you, Thanks, Teagan 🙂 I’m thrilled to bits that you like what we’ve done. I have to confess to not being a lover of DIY or painting and decorating but I do love putting it all together. There’s still lots of titivating to do but we are getting there. Hugs to you! xxxxxx

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Great read Lottie. Something akin to Of Men and Mice. I loved this journey of your year in Andalusia. Who did the painting on the easel? What a charming house and garden. That shot of the geraniums is wonderful. I admire you and Pete’s idea of starting an art school for the locals. Giving back to a community. Hope Colin’s Snout farting has calmed a bit. Does he eat figs as well? I hope to get your next post, somehow this one slipped by. Thanks for you reminding me!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The only reason that I reminded you was that you’d said a few weeks back that you wanted to see more photos of the house! I’m glad that you approve, Gerard and of course you and Helvi are welcome to come and dine on higos and queso with us 🙂 Colin’s farts are insufferable but we love him so much that we are prepared to put up with his appalling flatulence. He’s lying on our bed right now, paws over his head, trying to drown out the sound of the rain that is pouring down outside – mercifully the roof has now been fixed so the house is for the moment at least, water tight. We really enjoy running our little art school, hopefully it’s the start of something much bigger. Certainly the children really enjoy it and we get a real kick out of doing something for the village 😀

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  15. You are so brave, Lottie, with a huge side of perseverance. Seriously, everything you and your Irishman have been through this last year (and before that) is the definition of adventure (mad or otherwise).

    The transformation of your home is incredible. You both took the leap and now have a beautiful home. I hope you’re giving yourselves some well-deserved pats on the back and much tooting of your horns. I have no doubt that you’re on the way to having your art school and it too will be amazing. xoxo

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I feel like you drew the short straw here having seen all the photos before! but thanks billions for your lovely comment and for being such a supportive and wonderful, Sister! There’s a real gale blowing today and the wind is coming from the north-east so I hope that doesn’t mean snow is on its way. Off to market to buy a fat hen and some vegetables from the market, hope the rain doesn’t stop play. xoxoxo

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Tracy, I’m sure you don’t! You’d have a blast 🙂 The Spanish have a great sense of humour. I’ve laughed so much this year that at times I’ve had a stitch. It has certainly helped to get us through the tough times 🙂

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  16. Hi Lottie, it’s taken a while but I’m back in catch-up mode on the blogs that I actually follow! What an amazing journey you’ve both been on settling into your new home – to now be part of the colourful local fabric of life there, to have established your art school, and have created a rather gorgeous home in the process not to mention in very trying circumstances, are fabulous achievements in just one year. Your photos are as interesting as ever.

    And since the year is rapidly drawing to a close, I’ll take the opportunity to wish you a very happy Christmas and New Year – hope you’ve been able to make some nice plans this year. x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hayley, I am forever in catch-up mode with blogs so I totally understand. It’s always good to hear from you! Yes, it’s been an eventful year and I’m very glad that we’ve managed to weather the storm and now have some sense of normality going on here rather than the chaos of the earlier days! I’ve loved following your adventures this year, hearing about China, family adventures in NZ and seeing your great photographs that bring everything to life. Wishing you and yours a very happy Christmas and 2015 and looking forward to more treats from you 🙂 xxx

      Liked by 1 person

  17. Hi Lottie I love this review of your first year! congratulations on creating your new home and on making such a beautiful blog as well. This story is interesting for me as I am struggling with questions of home and where that place is. Five years after moving to Catalunya I realise that I still haven’t ‘cut the umbilical cord’ as you so well describe it. So I am way behind you in feeling part of this new community. I admire you hugely for all you have done and wish you the very best for the next year and all those to come.
    Love the photos of your bedroom especially – oh and the kitchen!
    From another lover of second helpings!

    Kate x

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    1. Hello Kate, how lovely to hear from you and thank you for your kind words. I’ve been thinking about what you’ve said regarding your struggles with finding where home is and it’s an interesting point, something I’ve often wondered at myself – Reflecting back on our situation, I’m sure that having lived in Indonesia for two years prior to our move here, has had a lot to do with us feeling more ‘at home’ here. Much as we enjoyed living in Indonesia (well, for the most part!) I never felt that it was somewhere that I could make ‘home’. We both realised how much we missed not so much the UK, but Europe – living in S.E Asia made us appreciate all the things that we’d taken for granted about Europe, culture, art, music, food, even the weather! Of course there are things that I miss terribly living here on the side of the mountain. The children, old friends, a decent pint of cider! but since England-shire is just a short hop away, it’s relatively cheap and easy to get ‘a fix’ as and when we need one. Sometimes I do get homesick for ‘home’ so I understand what you are saying. The reality is though that nowhere is perfect. A kitchen sink full of dirty dishes, boring domestic chores, money worries etc are part and parcel of life everywhere. I think the trick is to get stuck in and keep busy. I’ve been thinking about writing a post along the lines of ‘what is, where is home?’ for a while now and you’ve inspired me to get on with it – don’t hold your breath! It won’t be until after Christmas now but do please email me if you want to let off steam or chat, I’d LOVE to hear from you. Wishing you all the very best for 2015! love, Fatty XXX

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  18. With Alcala now truly up-and-running I have been browsing and have found your Pilas house….very lovely and definitely very Lottie ! Can see you have had fun here…but Atelier88 is now very much your beautiful & creative Spanish/Moorish home xxx

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    1. Thank you! We have many happy memories of Pilas . It was a wrench leaving the village and our house but now we must put all our energy in to nurturing our new baby, Atelier88 . It’s been an exciting, busy year setting it up, and we look forward to a busy, productive 2017. Come and see us soon! Xxx

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    1. I’ve got an idea for a post up my sleeve. Just waiting for some free time to write it! Yes, we are SUPER busy with the new business and lots going on. It’s been an extraordinary year – filmed for 9 months for a tv show, in the newspaper and radio interviews. The house project has been tremendous and we are still pinching ourselves that we’ve done it. Can’t wait to start art and printmaking courses next year and in the meantime I’m chief cook and cleaner for the B&B side of things. Lots of bookings which is great but zilch time for anything creative. Hopefully I’ll be able to rope some help in! Xox

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