Tuesday, 10 February 2015


FACTOID... 2013 The estimated population of England 53.1 Million 
                     2013 The estimated population of Spain       47.25 Million

Am I too small for my size?

Land Mass in England 130,390 km2 (UK 243,789 km2   248 people per km2)

Land Mass in Spain 499,542 km2   12 people per km2

La Mata

“The rain in Spain falls mainly on the plane.” I remember giggling to those words, recited to me by my grandmother, when I was knee high to a grasshopper. I had no idea, then, that the actual words are “The rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain” and I had no idea what a Cockney was and that I had a Kiwi accent. I could digress further but I want to briefly mention rain and the temperate climate of the coastal Costa Blanca in Spain. We had two days of rain in December, three days in January, and the outlook for February is more rain this month. It's raining today and forecast for most of the week. I don’t bemoan the fall of rain in this dry part of Spain, as rain is an essential for the water of life. I have lived in a similar dry climate, in Portugal, where rain in winter is essential to fill the reservoirs. One late Autumn a flash flood decimated our valley, burying the well and the result being Senhor Water Diviner locating a suitable site, on our small holding, for a bore hole. But that was rural Portugal and not the 21st Century tiled jungle of Spain. Here water is still essential and the urbanisations are connected to mains water. We are told that water bills are sizeable and we will have proof of this when we leave,B in 3 weeks. In nearby inland rural communities outside there are shallow canals with water flowing, I am assuming, to water the crops and citrus trees.

I had low expectations of spending winter in Spain and I am pleased to report that I am really enjoying the blue skies, warm sun and coastal walks beside the blue Med. At first I was concerned that I would react to being in an ‘expat’ setting but it’s good. The British ex-Pats appear happy with their choice to live in Spain apart from the news the ‘winter heating allowance’ for British pensioners (of which there are many) living in Spain is to be stopped.

We are renting a two bedroom terraced casa in Dona Pepá an urbanisation on the edge of Ciudad Quesada near 2 large Salt Lakes. Torrevieja is the nearest major town and Murcia is close, as well. The urbanisation was really like a ghost town until a couple of weeks ago. Now there are a few more people, but not many, around. The casas are built for the warm spring, summer and autumn but not Winter. They are not warm at night-time unless you are fortunate enough to have underfloor heating or a woodburner. The gas heater, we have, is OK and we don’t use the Air-con unit in the bedroom. Instead we have our electric blanket and ‘woolrest’ (that is a woollen underlay on the mattress) and we are cosy warm at night.

I am aware that I am in Spain and I attempt to speak Spanish in situations when I think it is appropriate. It used to irritate me, in Portugal when people, with English as their first language, would not make the effort to learn the simple but polite words ‘se faz favor’ (please) or ‘obrigado/a’ (thank you). I understand it can feel embarrassing to say words that are not familiar and feel like an idiot saying them but, hey, in return what are ‘your’ expectations of people who move to ‘your’ homeland and can’t speak the lingo! Have some empathy!

At the Supermarket I needed some Baking Powder so I could make ‘Dumplings’ (I forgot to bring ‘Aunty Betty’s Dumpling Mix from England). Baking Powder is ‘Levadura’ in both Spanish and Portuguese. I asked a helpful Senora where the “Levadura” was and she discussed it with a colleague and they decided I was asking about laundry powder as they heard me say “Lavadora” which translates to washing machine. So they thought I was after Laundry Powder for my dirty washing. In the end, after much laughing, miming and words I was taken to the Baking Powder. I didn’t have to speak English and we all kept our respect in good humour. It is a moment that comedy is made of. And I’ll never forget ‘LEVADURA’.

Look what we bought DolcieBlue!

A brief history

This is a blog set up by Chris and Sarah so family and friends can catch up with their travels on the British waterways in the summer of 2011. In 2010, I went to England with the idea of getting a narrow boat built. I had specific requirements so I thought that a new build may be the way to go. I e mailed to numerous boat builders, a great percentage of whom ignored me. The problem of having a family name of Laycock is that hotmail and a few others think that I am a porn star. At an early age you learn not to put C Laycock on your school books. But I guess that my nephew Paul did worse. Anyway I spent a very pleasant few weeks driving around the beautiful English countryside visiting boatyards, marinas, boat builders and just a few pubs. I had narrowed it down to two builders and in the last week I was in Devizes Wiltshire when I came across "Avalon Mist" 54 feet of throbbing neglected narrow boat. The past owner had lost interest, hadn’t maintained her and to add insult to injury had been made redundant. After a very short negotiation I was able to buy her for a pretty fair price. On the day the sale took place I had to beg her to take her trainers and a few rather suspect items of clothing, in other words she left everything. Lock stock and barrel.

Soon after the purchase I flew to California to meet Sarah and have a short holiday. Once back in NZ I started to try and organize works. The first thing that I learnt was that the marina does not allow any contractor on site, only their chosen ones, the excuse given is a concern about insurance, the suspicion is, graft, pay back, baksheesh, call it what you like. It is possible to take the boat off the marina to have the work done, but not really practical.

The first job to be tackled was to “winterize” the boat, i.e. drain off all the water, check the anti freeze in the engine and central heating and fit an automatic bilge pump.

No real problem there except communication, the mechanic just didn’t answer e mails. Difficult to do business like that.

The nice marina lady had a quiet word with him, and things did improve, thanks Debs you have been a star through out . He later confided in me the reason for this was that he was dyslexic, apparently a malady [he] claims affects a lot of mechanics.[It turns out that he is a great mechanic and a nice guy to boot].

That goes pretty high on my list of lame excuses, the top one being a really nice Irish guy Pat, who I had employed as a carpenter years ago when I lived in London. He was always a bit late for work, when I finally collared him about it; he said he could never decide what to wear to work.

Nice one Pat.

I digress, the boat was winterized, which was just as well as it was a cold one and the whole marina froze over.

Next job was to have her taken out of the water, have the hull stripped back to bare metal and have a bit of over plating done. There were a couple of areas where there was pitting, and I though if she’s out of the water, may as well do the job right, so a small amount of over plating and then the hull was blacked, and the engine bay partially de-rusted and then back in the water.

Seems like a good job was done, I had the marine surveyor who had done the original survey, check out all the major works and give me written reports and photos, so all good except once again communications.

I then came across a great guy, the partner of the woman who runs the marina and a carpenter/narrow boat fitter outer .He replaced the stern deck and did a great job, also did a great job on de-greasing, de-rusting and painting the engine compartment. A job I should have done myself, but I just didn’t fancy it, not only that be was great with communications and chasing other people up

So that takes us up to present.

There needs to be a bit of electrical work, not much. The outside is badly in need of paint, Sarah and I can do that and a bit of a tidy up inside, and then she will be a really nice boat.