French catch up..

So… I’ve missed a few blogs. I’m not well. I don’t think of myself as a people pleaser but I haven’t yet learnt to explain to people that I need to rest, with my feet up, for most of every day. I shouldn’t try and sit at the dinner table on upright chairs for more than half an hour and I shouldn’t offer to go on shopping trips … even short ones.

So while I’ve loved seeing people the last few weeks, I shouldn’t have offered so much. The reality is I’m not sure how not to…

So I’m sore… very sore, which means I have brain fog, haven’t written my book in a while, and when I’m tired and my brain is foggy I knock and therefore hurt myself. So I’ve had a headache for three days and quite bad concussion. Bertha is doing ok because I’ve been very good with her with all the concussion rest… but I shouldn’t ever let it get this bad.

The weather hasn’t helped. I can’t stand wind and the stormy weather of the last four days mean my joints hurt. And husbands get grumpy in this kind of weather… who knew?!

So we’ve taken the opportunity to hide from the world a bit, pop into the odd IKEA for more storage options, and driven across about half of the southern coast of France.

I sent him out on a ride yesterday, to help him increase his niceness, and it even worked for a few hours.

What I don’t like about France is their tendency to use guns in clearly risky areas. We woke yesterday morning to someone shooting what appeared to be rabbits (hanging from his belt) with both joggers and cyclists on the same road as he was!

Right here:

We’ve since heard an English cyclist was accidentally shot and killed by a French farmer recently. We’re not surprised at all!

I’ve no idea where we are right now exactly, or what day it is. Nor do I care on either score. All I know is we’re trying to work out life together without the pressures which have dominated us for decades. That isn’t always easy. Especially with concussion and Mah Eeds and bad weather and grumpy old men!

But I love this man more than I could ever say!

PS: The book’s never going to happen if I don’t finish it! Or if I don’t have a support team So I’ll keep these links at the bottom of my posts for the next month 🙂 They’re the easy, no-spam emails I’ll send out no more than weekly (and believe me, I miss sending half of those) till the book launches and you can get your free copy!

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Spain Photos

Some photos just don’t make a daily blog. Either I didn’t do one that day or there were too many things happening, or multiple stories which got lost in bigger or better stories. So now that we’ve left Spain behind, here are some of the “leftovers”…

Watch this space to see some fabulous videos and blogs about some of the fabulous people and food in Spain!!! (When I get the chance… I’m too busy living in the moment but they’ll come!)

#ASeatAtYourTable !

PS: Thanks so much to those who’ve offered to support and keep asking where and how! I’ll keep these links at the bottom of my posts for the next month 🙂 They’re the easy, no-spam emails I’ll send out no more than weekly (and believe me, I miss sending half of those) till the book launches and you can get your free copy!

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New Solar Panel!

So, the new panel arrived in the mail! Woohoo!! Thanks to Paola and Manuel for not only lending us your address, but for organizing an English-speaking Marine-engineer with a fabulous workshop who seriously knew what he was doing.

How thin is the panel 😵

It only took a few hours to get rid of the old silicone, prepare the roof, and install the new one. We should be on the road again by morning 😊

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The Big Scare!

It’s easy to forget that things can go wrong in an instant, and today we learnt this the easy way. We woke up to the most beautiful sounds of the alpacas, dogs, chickens and kittens by the dozens. This place is magical on so many levels and many of my favourite memories are actually just in my head, like a “good morning” from Lorna as one of the dogs dragged her sideways past the fence on their return from their walk.

We ate scrambled eggs straight from the chickens for breakfast then he went for a ride while I thumbed back through Alan’s first book. It’s so different (and wonderful) reading it from the real life setting. Then it was time for a quick visit to town for money and groceries.

Montoro is such a beautiful town. It hugs the steep cliffs along the river with the town built high on the left.

The photos don’t do justice to the steepness of the hills.

We needed some cash but with siesta, of course everything was closed including all the ATMs. So we did a quick Google search, found the only 24 hour machine in the whole town and prayed it was true.

Google took us down an ancient, one way, cobbled street with stunning shade sails down it’s length. It ran parallel to the road along the river in the photos above, but was a whole story higher. It was single lane, so when the ATM on Google was closed but the bank across the road surprisingly open, he stopped Molly and ran in quickly.

It’s almost creepy how quiet these towns are during siesta, there really aren’t any people around and almost no cars. But we didn’t want to be rude, so I climbed into the driver’s seat in case I needed to move.

Sure enough, a car approached slowly from behind and I should have been brave enough to let them wait the thirty seconds or so till we were done, but it’s not the end of the world to drive around the block is it?

His version of what happened next:

I came out the bank in time to see Molly’s shadow disappear around the bend in the road. I had nothing but my wallet and the money, I hadn’t even thought to grab my phone, so I settled in to wait a few minutes for Jennifer to return.

After five minutes I wished I had my phone, after ten I felt annoyed. After twenty I started to worry, and at thirty, when a tow truck hurtled down the road after her I started to panic. Do I follow? Run? Or stick to the plan and stay exactly where she left me. I felt sick to my stomach!

Visions of Spanish hospitals and crumpled Molly raced through my head, was Jennifer even alive???

At forty minutes a police car emerged, blue lights flashing, traveling in the wrong direction down the one way street towards me, turning cars away as they backed up into the square around me.

My version:

I knew I couldn’t turn right. The hill climbed steeply up to my left, and down to my right. A right-right-right-right block was never going to be an option, but hopefully some version of lefts would work.

The road was beautiful and longer than I thought, but I eventually emerged into the original town square:

It was stunning and ancient and he would love it if he was here – we’ll have to come back later again.

But as I slowly crept around the tight, single lane circle, I quickly realised the roads only became thinner and thinner. So I pulled over to check Google maps:

The square was tiny, but incredibly, also had six roads feeding it. The photo of the church above was taken as I emerged into the square at the pin on the map. Road 1 was behind me, the one I’d come from and a one way. Number 2 was the same so not an option, numbers 3 & 4 quickly became so skinny no cars could use them at all. 5 had an arch over the entrance so 6 looked like the only option and also in the right direction.

So I drove slowly round to position Molly for number 6.

Again, the photos don’t do it justice, the road was so steep and I wasn’t entirely sure it was wide enough at the top. But I hesitated for only a second … all the time it took for a policeman to appear at my window.

Sadly, I don’t speak a single word of Spanish. But she was young, maybe thirty or so. Very pretty with bright orange lipstick and perfect eye liner. She appeared modern and I was glad she’d likely speak a few words of English but I was mistaken. Not even hello, or no, or help. But she was very kind. She clearly very much wanted to help me.

She spoke at length what may have been offers of all kinds of help, but no amount of sign language, gestures, showing of maps, helped either of us understand the other.

At five minutes we were both laughing, at ten it stopped being funny for me. She asked the few passers by for help but none spoke a word of English either. At twenty minutes she had a brain wave and took out her phone. She spent five minutes typing incredibly slowly, opening and closing things, eventually showing me her screen with beaming pride: A translator! Woohoo! Very clever!

“Why daughter from where with?”

Huh?!?!?! I didn’t expect it to be perfect, but I could not for the life of me work out her intended question.

At half an hour we were back to square one. Had it been a helpful stranger I would have thanked them profusely and driven off long ago, but this woman was a police officer and wouldn’t let me.

Just short of the forty minute mark a middle-aged woman and her mother walked past. Only the fourth people we’d seen the whole time. I called for them, praying hard they knew even a few words of English. They did, thankfully and I was quickly able to establish where I needed to go. They pointed up road 6, which is where I wanted to go all along. I asked is it wide enough further along. Yes they both assured me, nodding knowingly.

Trying not to be rude and fly out of there, I gently backed up a little, ready to take Molly up the steep cobbled road, nervous of my small audience, and making a stupid mistake. As they watched me they were all speaking at once to each other in speedy Spanish.

As I crept forward, the three of them suddenly stopped and raised their arms in the air in alarm, stopping me in my tracks. The police woman dashed to her car, and the ladies told me to go with her. I started climbing out of Molly when they shook their heads vigorously. It turned out I needed to follow her in Molly.

She turned her blue flashing lights on, and took off slowly down road 1… the wrong way up the one way, … arm out the window, gesturing madly for me to follow.

I was so embarrassed as I realized that the earlier strangers who’d shaken their heads and not been able to help the policewoman, had plonked themselves down to watch the crazy English woman in the camper van. They waved me through encouragingly and shouted loud Spanish farewells as our little procession of two drove slowly down the road.

I started laughing, I couldn’t help it, I was soooo embarrassed!

As we ventured round the last curve my heart just broke at the site of my love with his hands on his head in dread and fear! They dropped to his mouth as he saw Molly… I’d no idea what was going through his head but his fear and worry again, broke my heart.

He was beside himself with so many feelings mixed in with his relief at seeing me. I hobbled out the driver’s seat as he rushed to take my place. I could tell his heart was racing and the people-pleaser in him distraught at the group of backed up cars and the police, blue lights still flashing.

They all pointed in one direction to the short road out of town, but that would require us to drive round the circle to get there, right through the middle of the gauntlet of cars watching and pointing.

He was so frazzled he just wanted to bolt in the other direction…. straight back into the labyrinth of streets I’d just escaped from! Instead of taking the blue route they pointed to, we headed deeper and deeper into the old city, higgledy-piggledy all the way to the river. His stress levels rose the further we got, but there was no turning back…

We made it through streets so tight we had to fold in the mirrors on both sides. Thank goodness for siesta and the mostly empty streets, but it was another good half hour before we were out again and heading home to the Olive Mill…

It’s all part of the adventure. But as many know, the outcome could’ve been very different. Holidays go wrong, car accidents happen anywhere, and medical emergencies don’t care whether you’re at home or abroad. For the fourth time in as many weeks, we feel thoroughly thankful for a pretty good outcome….

PS: Thanks so much to those who’ve offered to support and keep asking where and how! I’ll keep these links at the bottom of my posts for the next month 🙂 They’re the easy, no-spam emails I’ll send out no more than weekly (and believe me, I miss sending half of those) till the book launches and you can get your free copy!

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Where you can find and follow Jennifer:

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Still Settling in Spain

We keep having to remind ourselves we’re still settling in and mustn’t be cross when we lose whole days to frustrating things like rearranging Molly, building the Sphinx, sorting out the blown off solar panels or the stupid internet. We’ve set up the absolutely best ever WiFi for Molly so we’re constantly connected which has been amazing… till we crossed the border into Spain. Molly Hot Spot doesn’t like changing countries for some reason so going from the uk to France was fine, France to Belgium slow, Belgium to France again cost £5 and 4 hours in Phone nonsense trying to get hold of idiot help lines to kick her over and eventually he made her work himself (no thanks to them). Going from France to Spain however she just gave up the ghost and won’t work… even after a day of trying grrrrrr…. so while he worked on that (and learned a whole lot of new stuff which was brilliant, so it wasn’t wasted, but we’re now relying on phone hot spots which is far from ideal but will do for now) I pottered on Molly some more.

We didn’t hit the road till 3pm which was a little late in the day to begin.

San Sebastián was AMAZING. It was also very steep and there was nowhere in town to park. Which all means it was pretty much inaccessible for me without much time and planning. So apart from a couple of places, most of our viewing is on the move from inside Molly!

It’s a different view on life. Instead of walking seventeen blocks we get to drive fifty. It’s not the same, and you can’t stop for a coffee or go into shops or hang around a corner or an amazing view. It’s a faster pace but we get to cover way more… and go back a few times if we see something amazing. I wouldn’t choose it, but it’s this or nothing and I refuse the nothing.

But there’s no exercise at all! Travel eating and drinking plus no exercise is not a good combo!! …. we’re going to have address this somehow…

As we drove east we got to see quite a few towns. And stopped for the night at a strange, off the beaten track, mildly hostile very rural village. It was fascinating, tucked long and thin between the base of an endless line of cliffs and the vast plains of various crops. As we got closer I spotted little black squares in the cliffs themselves and we soon realized they were old dwellings!

I loved the contrasts of old and new. The “new” town (probably half a century old itself now) and the old one cut into the hill, and then the solar panels right across the top of the cliffs! Very impressive.

I was determined to see inside those cliff houses. It was hard work and risky (a single slip could have been disastrous … not in the lethal, tumbling down the mountain kind but in the Eeds there-goes-a-limb kind of fall), but I did it. It took forever and the path was only about 100 metres. This is soooo frustrating!!!!

This isn’t really a tourist place. The cliff homes are abandoned and dangerous, but one or two remain open with easy access. The cool inside hit me instantly as I walked in and as always I imagine myself living where ever I go. This was no different and I found myself transported into another world. Obviously, when this was a living home, there wouldn’t have been a town outside, but the view was breathtaking.

My favourite photo of the day was this one:

(Spot the bird!!)

The sun was setting and it was time to set up for the night. We have an app with free and paid places to spend the night. We’ve quickly learned that it’s mostly for motor homes as they aren’t allowed to stop just anywhere. We can, because we’re just normal van sized, but they can’t. So as we pulled up for the night they’re all lined up in the car park.

We don’t enjoy it. It’s not what we came to do. The town was also extremely rural and every few minutes the cliffs rang out with the booming echos of some huge guns out in the plains somewhere. They rattled me somewhat and despite the late hour we decided to push on.

About an hour later we stopped at a picnic point on the side of the highway. A few cars, a couple of trucks … and us. A stunning spot to make dinner in our little kitchen and tuck in for the night.

I slept like a log. He, not so much. The trucks bothered him. But he’s sure he’ll get used to it. We’ve woken to the same highway noise but also to sunrise, trees, birds, and a gorgeous view…

Happy Friday from rural Spain everyone!

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PS: Thanks so much to those who’ve offered to support and keep asking where and how! I’ll keep these links at the bottom of my posts for the next month 🙂 They’re the easy, no-spam emails I’ll send out no more than weekly (and believe me, I miss sending half of those) till the book launches and you can get your free copy!

Hare & Tortoise

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Disaster Strikes!

How much of a disaster is a disaster? Do I wait till the sky falls in to call it that? Some things do come close though!

We woke early this morning as our #SpainPlan has been to zoom across France for two days, then spend Wednesday to Friday taking the scenic route the rest of the way to Valencia. It means we don’t have a lot of photos from yesterday and today, as motorways and toll roads tend to be boring & ugly.

But France is super set up for this and the facilities along the way are amazing and all “free” (they’re on toll roads remember).

As the sun rose this morning we hurtled (under the speed limit) down the highway in cold but perfectly still weather, admiring the hot air balloons and jet trails higher up. Bliss.

But out of nowhere, we felt, as much as heard, a strange, loud, ripping sound. I thought it came from across the roof somehow, but he worries about Hitch on the back so that’s where his concerns lay.

It took a good five minutes to find somewhere safe to pull over, and a rail high enough to climb on to check. He returned to the front immediately; the solar panel that covers most of the roof had been completely ripped off! Like a band aid! It was shocking and devastating! This is our main energy source not to mention the cost and it’s only 3 weeks old.

We thought about turning back to find it, but with a concrete divider down the middle of the huge toll road that’s not really an option and we’d no idea exactly where to look. It’s likely damaged in many ways from hitting the ground, never mind ridden over by the many heavy trucks on the road. The chances of finding it were slim, but reusing it pretty much non-existent.

I shudder to think who it may have hit behind us and what damage it did to someone else of their vehicle! I pray no one was hurt and no cars were damaged!

It should look like this (but bigger):

It now looks like this instead:

All that’s left are squiggles and swirls of white and black silicone. And a hole where the attachment has ripped half way out:

We’re surprised at how rattled we are. I guess if it had happened in a storm or with a huge head wind or if we’d been speeding or dodging or whatever, it might make more sense. But it came out of nowhere.

Again, we feel blessed at another cheap outcome considering. The company who put it on on the first place are sending replacements of both the panels and the fittings, and hopefully we can have it all sorted in Spain over the weekend. We also happen to be traveling a lot right now so the drive recharged the batteries as well. But there’s something lovely about loving on solar and it does such a great job!

It all happened just before Bordeaux. We didn’t stop to check out the wine. Too much to organise and sort out. We’re now tucked in for the night down by the coast and the only wine on board is Australian! Oh well! Cheers!

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PS: Thanks so much to those who’ve offered to support and keep asking where and how! I’ll keep these links at the bottom of my posts for the next month 🙂 They’re the easy, no-spam emails I’ll send out no more than weekly (and believe me, I miss sending half of those) till the book launches and you can get your free copy!

Hare & Tortoise

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Still Tweaking!

Like all homes, I’m not sure Molly will ever be “finished”. We potter and shuffle and think of new things all the time. We’ve also been living out of suitcases for three months across five countries on both sides of the equator so we’re carrying some extra baggage. Some of it’s bulky (like Hitches travel bag which uses up half of Molly’s storage under the seats), the rest is smaller but all these extra things add up.

So we keep finding better ways to hide it and store it. Which means constant reshuffling, which can sometimes be interesting (but often boring).

I wanted one of those kitchens for Molly where everything hung on hooks. But in the end having ALL the crockery in a single soft basket seems to be the best solution. One single, non-rattling, non-sliding, soft-but-sturdy bag where if you need anything from a pot to a plate, the kettle or an egg ring, it’s in there:

It travels on the bed so it doesn’t go anywhere when we go over bumps, then sits on the counter when not needed, which is the easiest spot to access anything in it anyway. Then when you open the lid to cook or get some water, the bag moves easily back onto the bed.

Crocheting bags keep me busy as we drive and are going on the kitchen wall hooks instead of the pots. They are fun to make and I’ll show you more soon. They hold the cutlery, glass coffee plunger, glass wine glasses etc.

Oh, and I made a hanging fruit bag too so the fruit doesn’t bounce and get bruised. so today was about settling in to routines.

He makes oat porridge for me in bed each morning which is such a lovely way to start each day. The view never tires as it’s different every morning 😊

And that’s all before even climbing out of bed!

So far Molly is everything we hoped she would be and more. Belgium is absolutely AMAZING in ways I can’t explain! What a fabulous diversion!!

Another fabulous day, though Bertha’s not helping things and today was a particularly bad day 😢

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PS: Thanks so much to those who’ve offered to support and keep asking where and how! I’ll keep these links at the bottom of my posts for the next month 🙂 They’re the easy, no-spam emails I’ll send out no more than weekly (and believe me, I miss sending half of those) till the book launches and you can get your free copy!

Hare & Tortoise

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2weeks in Malta!

Exactly 2 weeks after leaving Malta, we’re leaving again! Why? Because we found a place to stay from the end of October, and they’re loving allowing us to store our belongings in the empty shell while they finish it for us (it has no kitchen yet). The camper van in the UK is ready early woohoo!! So we may as well go get it right! So tomorrow morning we fly to the UK to collect, finish setting up, and prepare for the journey ahead!

Yesterday I watched them unpack (and still did too much), then we celebrated, and tomorrow we fly woohoo!!

PS: Thanks so much to those who’ve offered to support and keep asking where and how! I’ll keep these links at the bottom of my posts for the next month 🙂 They’re the easy, no-spam emails I’ll send out no more than weekly (and believe me, I miss sending half of those) till the book launches and you can get your free copy!

Launch Teams 04

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First Week in Malta

I’m really not sure what I expected for our first week in Malta. I’m pretty sure, however, that it didn’t include being quite this hot, such a truly crappy AirBnB (we’re here for the month so we’re sucking it up and having a bit of a laugh), or an ear and chest infection (caught from the grandkids before we left I’d say, helped along by 27 hours of flying then a swim in the ocean).

But those and grumpy husbands aside, it’s really been quite amazing. Our estate agent took us to look at potential places to rent, we fell in love with one and decided to sign on immediately, …till she confessed it was 33% above the top side of our budget, and twice what we were hoping to pay. A total waste of everyone’s time and since then, everything else we saw sucks in comparison!

The upside, however, is now we know what to expect as “normal” and as we really do want to live in a small town far from the hustle and bustle of busy cities, we managed to find a really sweet agent who lives in the town we love the most. Yesterday she introduced us to the sweetest couple you could imagine, who are in the process of building some stunning little apartments right in the middle of town. Apartments that we now know are special because we know what to compare them to.

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The property belonged to his grandfather who was born right in the original home, his father was born only a block to the south, and himself three doors up. Such heritage, such “local” and what better authenticity than the actual people … without having to live in a 300-year-old house with 100-year-old plumbing and 50-year-old electricity! We really do love the old, and the stone, but the amenities, especially in this heat… no thanks!

The apartment is perfect in every way, new, fresh, spotless … except it has no views (but oh well, that’s what the camper van is for right?) … oh, and it doesn’t have a kitchen yet! But amazingly, the rest of the rooms, including bathrooms, are perfect, so they’re happy for us to unload our container of belongings in … and to store them there while they finish the kitchen. We will spend much of September collecting the camper van in the UK, and all of October driving across Europe, …and it should all be done by the time we return. So it works out perfectly for all of us.

So there are no real photos yet really, it’s just a shell. But it’s exactly what we need: a perfect blank canvas in a gorgeous little town, where we can settle in and make a nest for the next few years, and I got to choose the curtains, the place for the fridge, and they’ll plum the freezer in for us. We’re over the moon.

THIS is what we hoped for … beautiful people, beautiful countryside, small village, a garage to house the camper van when we need to, and just the right place to get those memoirs out from! What a blessing!!!

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First 24 hours in Malta

Actually, it’s only been 16 hours so far, and I decided this morning I’m in not great shape and don’t have the energy to write anything, but I don’t want to lose sight of these precious moments in the fog of deep jet lag, exhaustion and the onslaught to the senses of all things new… that if I capture a bit of it now, however badly, I’ll be glad of it later. So here goes…

Three international flights, two different airlines, one oversized piece of fragile baggage (his huge bicycle bag needs it’s own check-in as well us using up the bulk of his weight allowance), two suitcases to live out of for the foreseeable future, two Smart Crutches, special assistance in four cities, a 30 odd hour journey from door to door, all our valuables in way too much hand luggage (because everything else we own is in a shipping container somewhere), a six-hour time zone difference and swapping from the southern to northern hemispheres, and I’m exhausted thinking about it never mind enduring it.

“How was the flight?” they all ask kindly.

“Um…. considering all the above, it went really well, and by really well I mean we survived it!”

There were hiccups and nightmares and all the usual stuff, but by 8pm last night we had all our luggage, which was intact (I think, we haven’t unpacked the bicycle yet), and we were both in one piece 🙂 We spent the next 2 hours unpacking the essentials, getting a local SIM card, taking all the big pills (for pain and for sleeping) and crashed in a rather crappy bed in a rather crappy Air BnB which we’d chosen because it had enormously positive reviews online. But the “easy parking” is nonexistent, the host was grumpy (when we told him he’d given us the wrong phone number his response was I know … and the welcome pack consisted of a bottle of water).

(our apartment window/balcony and looking down, left, then right…

But a bed was better than any plane seat, we flew with Qatar for the first time and they were AMAZING on every level, the last leg was with Alitalia and we literally laughed the whole way they’re so bad (didn’t they go out of business recently??) and we’re thankful it was only a 90 minute flight from Rome. The airport here was lovely, quaint, and so helpful, till the mob of Gap Year students turned up and literally used their bulk (of both numbers and backpacks bigger than them) to push through queues, (yes, even pushing in front of the disabled people!!!) and when I spoke up they snarled, told us where to go, and pushed harder… I’ve never experienced them before, but now I fully understand and I fear I might shoot one before the week is up!

Malta is HOT … way more than I’d expected, and I’m pretty sure I’m coming down with a sore throat and unhappy chest cough. The tourists are horrendous, the parking is unbelievable, the dust and mould and … for the record, HE booked the month’s accommodation in a busy place not me! Tomorrow we have appointments to look at some properties to rent to store our stuff and build a nest (out in the countryside!), but in the meantime, I’m calling a few days off, have made myself a tiny bed nest on the couch, and I’ll see you in a few days when I resurface…

His photos this morning while out hunting and gathering for food a block or two away:

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No, I haven’t lost my love for this place … for there is so much to love! … and look forward to a wonderful 4 weeks!

No brain space to check emails or Facebook, but I’ll return to the land of the living soon so watch this space 🙂

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