Friday, April 07, 2006


It's the first day of Spring Break. Yay! This term was only twelve weeks long, but it's been non-stop: exams, reports, parent-teacher conferences, meetings, an open day, GCSE coursework, IB coursework, Sports Day, International Day, the Musical Evening, IB Theatre Arts lunchtime shows, GCSE Drama Performance evenings, Seniors' Night, - oh yes, and teaching too! Who are these people who think teachers have it easy? Their spouses and children could tell another story - Ha! Anyway, everyone was tired, students and staff alike, as we staggered bleary-eyed for the school gates yesterday. I'll be very glad to see everyone again in eleven days, but right now - I can wait.

So this was the first of eleven precious days without bells, deadlines, admin or marking, and my plan was to do as little as possible. It worked pretty well, too. Got up at 9.30. Cup of tea and sudoku on the sofa. Fresh cup of tea and sudoku in the bath. Back to the sofa for Turkish coffee and arabic bread pocket filled with feta cheese and fresh coriander drizzled with olive oil, microwaved for a minute. Perfect.

I'm moving to Spain with my Husband.... Beloved.... Habibi - in a couple of years, to live happily ever after (darse la gran vida) on a finca with las fruitas y verduras, los patos y gallinas, and maybe dos ocas. For further insights into this glorious future, check out First Spanish Words, published by Usborne, except that we only have un niño (Habibibaba), and he's a bit past the Poppy y Sam stage!

Anyway, I've just started reading 'The Story of Spain' by Mark Williams. So far, it's superb. This man knows his stuff, and boy can he write. Here's a taste from his introduction:

"The Iberian Peninsula forms a bridge between two continents and two seas. The southern coast lies only a few kilometres from North Africa, so throughout history the threat of invasion was always present. Control of at least one side of the narrow Mediterranean gateway became crucial. Thrusting out from one corner of Europe like a clenched fist, Iberia's pivotal location made it a focus for migrants, traders, colonizers, and conquerors throughout antiquity. The ancient Greek geographer Strabo compared the peninsula's shape to a tautly stretched ox hide, lying out in the sun to dry."

Strabo sounds worth a visit too.

Next, in a burst of dynamism, I went on-line to the Usborne site for a bit of Spanish listening practice, because I've been too tired/busy to do my fab 3-CD+book Hugo course since January, during which time my IB students and I have been working on Kabuki theatre, as a result of which, Japanese pronunciation has driven out the Spanish - that's my story and I'm sticking to it! Anyway, I wasn't up to anything too demanding, but spent a contented and fruitful hour on words containing 'll', 'qu' and 'ch' , until I could actually keep up with 'Hay una gallina encima del gallinero.' (There's a chicken on top of the hen house.) which is a very useful phrase to know, when you're going to be a campesino. Another cup of tea.

Next on the list was checking out WWOOF, which variously means 'willing workers on organic farms' and 'world-wide opportunities on organic farms' - apparently to clarify for various authorities that this is not a cover for an illegal immigrant labour network - honestly, someone always has to misconstrue a brilliant and innocent idea.

Anyway, Habibibaba and I plan to go Wwoofing in Spain this summer, as an apprenticeship for me, and a change from North London pavements and bedsit-land for him.

(Meanwhile, Habibi - Habibipapa? Habibibabapapa? Abu Habibibaba? - ok my husband - not having a cushy teaching job with all those holidays (Grr..), will be back home slaving over a hot keyboard.)

I'd previously emailed a list of possibilities from for our Habibibaba's input. I know what I'm looking for, which is primarily permaculture experience with fruit & vegetable gardens and poultry, though I'd love first-hand experience of living and working with strawbale building, solar energy, and waste water management - desertification is already an issue in Spain. People have developed what are basically natural filtration systems for grey water (used household water, excluding toilet flush) which are so effective that you can swim in the purified water. Chris Stewart describes the installation and - um - commissioning - of such a system in 'Driving Over Lemons'. Ocean Arks International's 'Living Machine' (U.S.) and Dean Cameron's Biolytix (Oz) work on similar principles: there's lots of info online and check out Earth Garden magazine if you're into sustainable development - it's excellent.

Anyway, as I was saying, I know what I want but if he's signing up to work his socks off in return for bed & board, I wanted Habibibaba's input. So we've narrowed it down between us: I don't think we'll end up in the region we intend to move to, because most postings from established farms seem to be from Andalucia; there is so much going on down there!

Tonight, I filled in an online application form, which you print and post, and attempted to pay by credit card. I live with Habibi in the UAE (United Arab Emirates), in Dubai, a city which currently has more cranes than a hedgehog has spikes as it pursues a building programme aimed at making this place the IT/commercial/financial hub of the GCC. Lots of multinationals are here - but PayPal does not operate here, nor in any other country in the Middle East. Thanks guys. Anyway, plenty of other money transfer companies do operate here, so I shall send off my ₤15 subs tomorrow - well worth it.

Here's my info for my WWOOF application:

Interests : Moving to a smallholding in Spain; water management; permaculture; alternative building materials/energy sources; being good neighbours; community arts; darse la gran vida on bread, red wine and home-grown food. Wwoofing as apprenticeship!

Countryside experience : None. UK grew fruit/veg, city farm regular & community arts worker. In Dubai, corn/tomatoes/zucchini on balcony, small colony family pets, home-made indoor ecosystem pool. Read up on sustainable development. Energetic, sociable, dirty-fingernail gardener.

Looking forward to summer!

1 comment:

ayalguita said...

hola:) I wish you luck finding the best place for you in Spain! I read that book Riding over lemons, I bought it for my husband when we were coming to live in Spain;) Now he loves the idea of having a farm, but he is too lazy to actually have one so we are ok in the city!:) Please feel free to write to me if you need any help or want to practice your spanish hehehe:) Hasta luego!