Friday, February 9, 2018

A house or a home

The difference between a house and a home in more than one way!

In my last blog I was talking about the winter weather here in southern Spain with high summer-like temperatures. The month of December was extremely warm which was great for tourists, but not so good for the land as it still needs a lot of rain.

I will also start with the weather in this blog, because boy it's nippy here! True winter has finally arrived and although it still hasn't rained nearly enough, we have had quite a few pretty cold, and I mean coats, hats, scarves and for some even gloves and winter boots cold days. Even most tourists have had to give in and leave their flip-flops and shorts at home (apart from a few diehards) as some days the cold wind is just a bit too much. With temperatures somewhere between 7 and 15 degrees Celsius it's quite a shock to the system, but luckily we have a wonderful pellet stove in our home and the lovely live flame is creating a welcoming atmosphere and temperature.

When we renovated the old house just before we got married, three and a half years ago, I insisted in getting a pellet stove. I had previously rented a house with such a stove and I knew what lovely heat they give out and also, once the initial investment has been forgotten, how cheap they are to run and, what I really like, they are Eco-friendly. So I'm a happy bunny as I like to be environmentally aware.

I must admit that I do not understand many Spanish people who don't have any form of heating in their house, like my husbands direct family. Some do have just a tiny fire hazardous stove beneath a round table covered by a table cloth that goes down to the floor, so you end up with burning hot feet whilst your ears and nose are freezing cold. Many just cover themselves in layers or keep busy and when they do sit down, for women the nylon morning gown is the solution, on top of the other layers of clothes of course and the men just seem to wear a winter coat indoors. Oh yes, I've asked them why live without a heating and was told..."Winter isn't that long in southern Spain, so why bother".

I disagree and many expats who've settled here were shocked when they spent their first winter here. The houses are cold as most of them are built to keep the sun out. Many Spanish are so used to keeping the sun out that they even do so during the winter months and instead of letting the sunshine enter their windows, thus heating up the house, they prefer to keep all the shutters closed. It baffles me but, if that's the culture, then I of course respect that. Doesn't mean I have to live that way. It did take some convincing to get my husband to buy a pellet stove when we renovated the house, as he had always survived the winters without a heater, but he reminds me every year how grateful he is and he's totally fallen in love with our stove. It has turned our house into a cosy home.

When you have a nice warm house to get back to, it's a real joy to walk the dog along the sea front in the cold sea breeze. I needed that as well.... as the first week of January was a bit of a tough time for me. I had put so much energy in writing blogs, sorting out my art, creating my Buddha-inspired mono-prints and tweeting about my blogs, spreading information about my art classes and blogs on Facebook and other social media sites that it all became a bit too much. Overwhelmed, somewhat depressed perhaps, I don't know, but I felt crap, disappointed in myself, frustrated, feeling I had not enough time and as if I was always running behind the facts. I needed a break. Now, going on a holiday isn't an option, but no reason to complain about that if you live in a holiday destination seaside village.

So I had to take a few steps back and I can guarantee you that it was very difficult for me. I always do something. Not a day has gone past, literally these past few years, including Sundays, that I didn't work on something from my 'priority list', such as writing a story or a blog post, starting my next book, creating a few more
mandalas, working on my latest series of paintings, increasing my presence on social media to promote my blogs, my books and my art, studying strategies through books and online webinars on how to get my work to be seen by people, how to get my books and art sold. I was working on sorting out my own website, my art on the Saatchi onlinewebsite, my authors page in Amazon, my work in RedBubble, my weekly blog for the Cirkel van Compassie, a Dutch website that promotes holistic living, writing articles and a weekly newsletter for the LaHerradura-Cultural magazine, writing my Spanish adventure blog, organise workshops and art classes ... I bet you get tired just from reading about all these projects! So did I!

But what do you do when you get a bit overwhelmed? Well, relax and in my case, meditate, watching inspiring speakers or a nice documentary or film, walking Miki, our bouncy ball doggy, and some evenings Miguel, my husband, and Fani our bull-mastiff as well. Getting the fresh air in my face and most of all, detaching myself from the outcome. So that's what I've done and I feel a lot better. Oh don't get me wrong. That to-do-list continues to exist but in a far slower pace and without the priority attached to it. I do what I fancy doing and make sure I take care of myself.

And the result. Funny enough it seems as if I have more time than I had before. I feel relaxed and the writing is flowing again. I'm not putting myself under any pressure anymore. Painting is actually good for me as it relaxes me, so that's a plus. I feel happy and let go of my attachment to and hopes for the outcome. Whatever will come my way will be OK.

All this doesn't mean that I've lost my passion and please feel free to read my blogs. My latest art blog is about what art can do for your house. I believe it's literally the difference between a house and a home. So there you go! :-)

If you are interested to find out more about me as a writer and an artist I invite you to visit my website where you can also read my art blog or my books blog. You can subscribe for free and will receive two chapters of my book 'Cheers', which I'm currently blogging about as it is a book that brings awareness to a worldwide problem and helps people getting out of isolation.

Click the following link for my Art Blog
Click the following link for my Cheers Blog

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

A Spanish adventure update

The new year has started and it's been a really long time since I published my last Spanish adventure blog. Looking back at 2017 it has been a very intense year with ups and downs, but I think that is part of human life.


It's January 2018 now and winter in Spain. However, it certainly doesn't feel that way. Last December wasn't much of a winter month either. The weather is unbelievably mild which is both fantastic and terrifying. It surely is very enjoyable when the sun is caressing your face when enjoying a coffee or a drink on the sea front, but it also scares me. Whether you believe in global warming or not, that temperatures are rising is undeniable and when you live in Spain that isn't necessarily a good thing.

But it is funny

The new coat I bought can stay in the wardrobe as a light cardigan will do. I realise that this is always a funny time of the year with the Spanish and all-year-round expats, like me, taking out our cardigans and boots to go for a stroll along the beach. It is very clear that you adjust to temperatures of the country you live in as I definitively feel the cold a lot sooner than when I lived in The Netherlands.

So I also put on my winter boots, even though, quite frankly, the temperatures are a bit too high for that. I still like to cover up as the fresh sea breeze is a bit too chilly to my liking. However, the holiday makers feel it's mid summer as they walk around in flip-flops and vests. Yesterday at 18.00 I saw a couple walking on the beach in their swimming costumes whilst on the pavement the Spanish were dressed in winter coats, boots, hats and scarves.

I enjoy watching that as me and my husband walk our dogs along the sea front. My husband is Spanish and before meeting him I always said... I don't want a Spanish man as they don't have animals in the house. But my Miguel had a lovely, young, female Bullmastiff called Fani (make sure you pronounce that correctly) who slept in the house on her own sofa. 
I had my dog Choppy, rescued in 2005 from a life in the streets. Sadly Choppy died in February 2017 due to heart failure and lung embolism. It was of course a very sad period. We buried him in the
avocado 'cortijo' (small farm) in the mountains and I put some nasturtiums on his grave which I picked with their roots from the river bed. They actually did really well with a sea of flowers at the beginning of last summer.

Last week Miguel and I celebrated Christmas in the cortijo and we visited Choppy's grave with Miki. To my delight his grave is now a beautiful bed of nasturtiums leaves that will soon turn into a sea of orange flowers.

Miki is our new dog, an approximately one year old 'whatever-cross' who was left in the streets of the city of Granada. Beautiful as that city is, for a tiny dog that is no place to live and through the fantastic animal rescue organisation Valle Verde we were able to adopt him last August.

He makes me so happy, he is a smiley doggy who is eager to greet everybody, always jumping around as a tiny bouncing ball. He follows me everywhere, possibly afraid to be left again, but that will not happen. He's here to stay. So when we take Fani and Miki and some plastic bags out for our daily walk we are feeling blessed. The plastic bags are to pick up their 'inner beauty' from the pavement so that no one will step in it. Fani being a big lady she needs a kitchen garbage bag for her 'deposit' and it always puts a smile on my face when I see my husband pick it up with two specially cut pieces of cardboard, from a box from the local supermarket, and putting it into a bright blue garbage bag, whilst Fani calmly waits for him. We then continue our walk in the late afternoon sunshine, just before the most stunning sunset on the horizon, every evening something you can count on.

Sometimes that worry creeps in again. As much as I love those sunsets and the sunshine, there is such a huge need for rain in the region. It amazes me that Spain doesn't have a system in place to fund solar panels so that - among other things - the sea water can be turned into drinking water. I have moments that I feel bad about my own hypocrisy and that of fellow citizens. Enjoying the good life, having a shower every day, using the dishwasher and washing machine whenever it pleases me. I see people watering their plants excessively, surely taking long baths and well, the swimming pool needs to remain topped up doesn't it? Not that I have one, but I certainly would love one.

However, there is a part of me that cannot understand why everybody is not taking more care about this lack of water as rain is something we've hardly seen this 'winter' season. Being in a part of Spain where avocado and mango plantations are an important part of the Spanish economy I'm baffled that there are no signs of projects to make sure this can continue. If you know that an avocado tree needs about 120 litres of water a day in the summer you can understand what I'm talking about. Mel o'Gorman wrote an interesting article about this as well. If you haven't read it yet, feel free to read her story 'Let it Leap'

The truth is I can only do so much, perhaps irritating people a little with my words that might shock them into some awareness of the same hypocrisy that I feel. It doesn't feel good. But, life is what it is and with all the things happening in the world I can only decide to become more aware of my personal water use, but also not to forget to enjoy the moment. Pick the day. Enjoy the sun, the warm weather. Me being miserable doesn't do the world or myself any good.

I do believe in the power of positive thoughts, but more than thoughts I think it is the power of vibrations, so one of my resolutions for 2018 is to feel happy feelings for the first 17 seconds after waking up. This is a technique suggested by Esther Hicks (you can Google that). In short the theory is that thinking positive, although good, won't work if you, deep down in side, subconsciously, don't believe that thought. To get into a more positive frame of mind it is important to regularly feel the vibration of happiness.

Thinking about something that truly makes you happy and really feeling that happiness, whether that is watching a sunset, swimming with dolphins, a sky diving experience or whatever tickles your fancy, and feel that feeling for 17 seconds. It sounds easier than it actually is as the brain will try to distract you with daily to-do-lists. However, for me it works to think about my new, funny, mad happy dog Miki as I love that little monkey to bits. I intent to keep it up for at least 21 days to turn it into a habit (I hope).

But I'm also going to add another 17 seconds and think about the rain in Spain, how wonderful it is to see the water drops clearing away the dust in the streets, the smell of happy trees, grateful for a much needed shower, and the knowledge that flowers and greens will be popping up all around us in the countryside as soon as the sun comes back. Which never takes very long. Since mass meditation has been scientifically proven to work, perhaps mass rain wishes and visualisation will do the trick as well. I will give it a try and I hope you will join me.

2018 will be a year full of new adventures for me. I will continue making mono-prints, something new to me but that I really enjoyed. I also intent to continue blogging about my art and my books (see section below) and I feel a lot of inspiration coming up for another book, and a series of Angel paintings, as the world could do with a few more Angels.

Happy New Year!

If you are interested to find out more about me as a writer and an artist I invite you to visit my website where you can also read my art blog or my books blog. You can subscribe for free and will receive two chapters of my book 'Cheers', which I'm currently blogging about as it is a book that brings awareness to a worldwide problem and helps people getting out of isolation.

Click the following link for my Art Blog
Click the following link for my Cheers Blog

Monday, October 24, 2016


I'm addicted ... to a meditation app. every morning right after waking up, and I set the alarm clock for it, I meditate for anything between 10 minutes and an hour. It makes me calm and happy and I get a yellow star in the app each time I have meditated 10 successive days and 5 yellow stars turn into a red start and lots of red stars become a green star, but I haven’t reached that stage yet. However, this does mean that I do not want to stop, and that's a good thing because I absolutely need that moment of peace before my day begins with a lot of noise and chaos in my head.

Because I do create a lot of have to do’s in my life ... although it has to be said that most of these ‘have to do’s’ are in fact great fun to spend time on, but I do seem to have very little of the latter. So I try and convince myself that I have all the time in the world. They say that what you think creates your reality so the ' I have all the time in the world ' is a keeper in my brain.

In the meantime I spread my attention between contacting guest-writers because they have not yet sent the promised article, locate or create hopefully beautiful photos, invent and prepare a dish every week and make photos of it – which means you know exactly what I am serving my Spanish husband for lunch – I look for special people for interviews, interesting topics for an article, and much more. The result is not one but two web magazines, respectively, about the special seaside village in southern Spain where I live, and about the wonderful Spanish town of Almuñécar which La Herradura is part of. And the feedback is fantastic. That makes me happy again.
It is a lot of work but a lot of fun to do as well. It started as a platform to promote my latest book, Reflections from La Herradura, but has grown into a serious culture and tourism information source with nice pictures and interesting facts.

And the ‘I have enough time’ concept seems to work as well as I have found the time to design a tattoo for someone, to design the labels for three handmade flamenco guitars that were created here in the village and I am finding the time to create a few paintings because I need some new work for my upcoming exhibitions. The first in
November in a new trendy restaurant in Nerja and then in December in the official exhibition space of the Town Hall in Nerja. I need an extra painting because today – and that makes me very happy – I sold one of my flamenco paintings. If you are curious you can see some more of my other flamenco ladies here.

Moreover, I found the time to be interviewed by Costa Women, and the interview has now been published on their site where I am introduced to a large group of women on the Spanish Costas. You can read it here if you want to get to know me even better! 

Talking about reading ... my book ‘Reflections from La Herradura’ sells steadily and most importantly, I get really nice reactions. It is in fact a book you can read anywhere. You don't have to necessarily have to be in La Herradura to enjoy it, but there might be a risk that you would like to visit it after you've read it. Curious? Just click here.

So it seems to ‘flow’ as far as my books are concerned and I am even getting a little bit famous! When, a few weeks ago, the doctor called my name to invite me in to take a look at my sore knee I was approached by a Spanish English teacher. His English was excellent and he asked whether I was the writer Renate van Nijen. He had bought and read my book Secret Thoughts and asked if he could purchase 25 copies of it – it had to be really cheap – for his 18 and 19 year old students so that they could read it as part of their literature class and then ask me questions about it when I'm going to give a talk about the book on November 23rd in the school. I have to say that this does slightly feels like a visit to the gynaecologist and I will have to put myself in a similar frame of mind. I don't know exactly what it is to have an outer body experience, but I can fairly easily convince myself that I'm not really there and it then feels as if I watching from a distance. It is both scary and challenging having to talk about Secret Thoughts to a large group of young people, but also fun and a compliment for my work.

There is some news for my book Cheers too as I met someone who has offered to promote it via the social media as a practice for her, and hopefully this will soon bear some fruit, because it is really a book that can help people and to be honest, all that tweeting, instagramming, buffering, linkedinning, etc. remains a bit of abracadabra for me. In case you are looking for some ideas for Christmas presents, all the books mentioned above are for sale via Amazon. 

And there is more good news. My mandala and flamenco images on bags, t-shirts and other products can now also be purchased much closer to home for those living in Europe. Previously, the products were printed on the other side of the world which resulted in very expensive shipment costs, but now you can order products with my images on it in (in Spain) and (In Germany). Considerably cheaper so quickly take a look as they are all good quality and super original. For example... great shopping bags with your own horoscope. A great present don’t you think?  No more plastic shopping bags so it is also fantastic for the environment!

Yes it is almost Christmas. Does time fly or do I have enough time to make all my self-imposed deadlines? Time will tell. Meanwhile, it's already half an hour past midnight, early morning in fact. Time for some peace and quiet in my head. Time for my meditation app.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Miscommunication in Spain

So you’ve made the move or are thinking about making the move. Or perhaps you just love coming on holiday to Spain. Maybe you’ve got yourself a small Spanish-English language book from your nearest bookshop and try to memorize and pronounce a few sentences correctly even though you probably know that being able to ask for something in Spanish is pretty much useless if you won’t understand the answer. You went to Spanish classes? Good for you. You didn’t because you were planning to go to an expat dominated area of Spain? As far as personal opinions go I find it hard to say ‘good for you too’ but that is presumptuous as I know there is a perfectly well functioning ‘sub-society’ if I may call it that, where you can offer your services to people who speak your language, in the Spanish sun. But I have to admit that I find it rather funny to watch those reality TV shows where people start a new life in another country and cannot string a sentence together, if any words at all. And to hear an English lady ask for a chicken in the Spanish local butchers, and just repeating the word in a louder and more angrily tone when the butchers was looking at her as if she came from another planet was slightly insulting but also hilarious. And the Dutch lady who cut a piece of her farmer’s cheese for the Spanish customer telling her it is ‘mucho lekker’ (mucho delicious) and continued the conversation with Dutch words with a Spanish accent was certainly amusing. Talking about accents. I happen to have moved to Andalusia.
Now those of you who come here well prepared with a good few years of Spanish language classes behind you will get a bit of a shock as in Andalusia they seem to speak a different language. They swallow the last letters of most words and the deeper you get into the country side the more they seem to shorten their words. So don’t be surprised to hear ‘maome’ instead of ‘mas o menos’, which means ‘more or less’. It feels as if you have to go back to school again, but don’t worry, after a few years of practice you get used to the word-swallowing and might find yourself leaving out a few of the last letters of some Spanish words during a conversation with a local shop keeper. That’s when you know you are starting to blend in. Language is a funny thing. I personally love languages, which is a bit of a giveaway as I speak … ’drum ruffle’ five languages. This doesn’t mean that I never make mistakes, in fact after almost 13 years in Spain I still throw in the odd Italian word and I also cannot seem to master the ‘take and bring’ (‘llevar and traer’). More importantly I still have to think carefully when I tell people that I am feeling warm, which is a much used comment when you live here. It works perfectly well if you ask for a coffee and add ‘muy caliente’ to make sure that it doesn’t arrive luke-warm which can be the case, especially during summer time, when many Spanish like to dump a few ice cubes in their coffee, but when I told some people that I was feeling ‘muy caliente’ it was received with a lot of amusement. This suggested that I was ‘hot’ and rather in the mood. It is also a challenge, when I write in Spanish on my mobile phone, to avoid the word ‘year’ as my adapted English keyboard does not have the ñ. Year is ‘año’ but ‘ano’ has a very different meaning. You can look that up in an online dictionary. Living in a foreign country may come with language barriers, but nothing that cannot be solved with a good laugh and a smile. Although some Spanish do make an effort to speak English this comes with a challenge for them too. Especially for
Andalusian born Spanish as they tend to swallow the end of their English as well which can make it difficult to understand them. Singing in English can be a challenge for some Spanish singers as well as I found out recently during a concert. Although the voice of the singer guitarist was great, his music fantastic as he enthusiastically sang with a strong American accent, trying to cheer up the crowds, his English was so bad that I could not make any sense of it and judging by the laughter of a group of English people in the audience I was not the only one. It reminded me of when I was young and sang along with the Beatles “obladi oblada la gozon yeah la la la la la gozon” years before I learned English in school. Does all this matter? I guess not. At the end of the day the most important thing is living side by side peacefully and that is exactly what I myself and many expats do. And just in case you are wondering? You are right, I am not a native English speaker, I am Dutch and my English isn’t perfect but I hope you enjoy my Spanish adventures nevertheless! Welcome to Spain!

La Herradura Cultural

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Wednesday, August 10, 2016

How did that happen?

I was on a roll and enjoying writing regularly for my Spanish adventure blog when I took on a new project that has completely consumed me over the last few months. Leaving my blog writing somewhere at the bottom of my priority list. Not good but sometimes living in Spain just works like that. It is rather easy to get sucked into the ‘mañana’ mentality, as in ‘I will do it tomorrow’. This doesn’t mean that I have been lazing about, enjoying the sweltering heat, running to the beach early mornings to claim a spot by jamming my parasol into the sand, to then return hours later, as a lot of summer holiday makers seem to do. None of that. In fact I have been busy interviewing people, writing articles, translating articles, taking pictures and finding free pictures on the net. I am also selecting recipes that I have either invented or that come from a recipe book that I wrote over 15 years ago, but was never published. All those years ago I specifically went on a trip to Italy to interview Italian friends and their mothers for recipes.
You see, it doesn’t matter if you put time and effort in something and not see an immediate result. I like to include recipes in the web magazine and ‘hey presto’ I have many to share. This does mean that I have to cook them to take pictures as well, but that is a pleasure as I do like to cook and my Spanish husband is happy to try whatever I prepare for lunch and dinner. But creating a web magazine requires a lot more. It means I have to scroll to and make summaries and translate information about events sent by the town hall, like blues, hip-hop, jazz and other music festivals and much much more such as flamenco shows, etc.
It also involves asking people to write and submit articles. Because a web magazine needs interesting articles and in this case with a link to La Herradura, the village where I live, as the website is called La Herradura Cultural. Looking for interesting subjects can be a challenge. Managing a web magazine also means thinking up new ideas and features to use on the site in collaboration with my colleague and website builder Ferry Verhoeve. Then, by the end of the week, incorporating all these images, articles and notifications into the web magazine, both in Spanish and in English. And last but not least finding potential clients who would like to advertise on the page. And the potential is there I am sure, as the advertiser is getting prominent attention in the form of an interview which is translated into an article with attractive images. I feel like a time juggler trying to find weekly moments where I can visit the various places, like hotels, local bookshops, and other places where my latest book
‘Reflections from La Herradura’ is for sale, to find out whether something has been sold. In Spain you also have to pay autonomo, which is a monthly fee of almost 300 euros, whether you manage to earn that or not, so the pressure is on! This means I am also trying to find the time to post on Twitter, Buffer, Instagram and Facebook to let people know that I still exist and actually have some pretty cool arty stuff for sale. So if you happen to be my ‘friend’ you might come across a few sentences about my Cheers book, my visualisation books and the La Herradura book, but also about my Surrender balls, each with a specific meaning.
You think that is enough? Not really as I also want to let you know that my first visualisation book is now available in audio in Dutch and I am working on a series of Ascended Masters cards.
Moreover I would like to remind you that my mandalas (horoscope, elephant, angel and inspirational mandalas) and some of my flamenco paintings are available on products such as bags, t-shirts, skirts and much more. Sometimes the time juggling is a struggle as I also need to find time to chat with friends to avoid myself from going mad and to find time to relax, which is not happening enough. Having said that, I do seem to have finally picked up a daily routine in doing a morning meditation, which is more like a fight in my head to concentrate on my breathing whilst my ‘to do today and mañana lists’ are screaming for attention. It has to be said that I am getting better at it and actually am enjoying these early morning moments with myself. Perhaps this is teaching me a lesson. Take it easy. What cannot be done today will be done tomorrow, and tomorrow does sometimes arrive. Like this blog!

For information about the La Herradura book you can go here and remember, you don’t have to be in La Herradura to enjoy it but you might want to go there when you read it.

You can click on the various bold words to go directly to the information.

Are you interested in a publicity article in La Herradura Cultural. Feel free to contact me via

La Herradura Cultural

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Sunday, June 19, 2016

Spanish Sounds

Thinking about Spanish sounds flamenco music quickly comes to mind, and rightly so, but what about those other sounds? Like young men driving around in their cars beeping their horns to celebrate the winning of yet another football cup. Or the tail of cars, beeping their horns, following an expensive looking vehicle dressed for the occasion with flowers and bows, transporting a wedding couple from the church to the party venue. Or the extremely loud bangs, which unfortunately create a lot of fear in most animals, used to mark the start and finish of a local festival, and this on a daily basis for as long as the festival lasts. Those typical Spanish festivals with live music starting at midnight on the local square, lasting till five or six o’clock in the morning. Most villages also hold an annual main village festival which usually includes a fair with lots of loud attractions, each trying to outshout each other with their own deafening ‘disco’ music to attract people. Those festivals that usually end with a firework display with again an overdose of loud bangs. You could easily come to the conclusion that Spain is a very ‘noisy’ country and that the Spanish are very sound tolerant.
But there is also the pleasant sound of the coffee-machines in the bars, grinding their coffee and heating up the milk for the next milky coffee. I am listening to it right now as I sit here in my favourite seafront Café. I listen to the chit-chat that surrounds me in a mixture of languages from all over Europe, including Spain of course. People often feel that Spanish people talk very loud when they have a conversation and it always seems as if they are arguing. I think this is not necessarily true. Yes there are people who talk loudly but when you don’t understand a language it can easily seem as if all the words are glued together and that people are angry when they talk. However, there does seem to be a large amount, both men and women who have a very raw, husky voice in Spain and I used to think that this was a case of too much tobacco over too many years. However, I changed my mind when, the other day, I heard a very young boy, somewhere between eight and ten years old, talking with that same husky voice. It actually makes me wonder whether the tone of our voice can be influenced by what we hear around us when growing up, which could explain why I get the impression that in some areas in America but also in the UK there are groups of women with very high-pitched sharp voices something that is rather unusual in my country of origin, The Netherlands.
A strong wind is picking up and I hear the soothing sounds of waves on the pebbled patches of the beach. It brings me back to my pleasant reality on a day like this in June. The month where spring turns into summer way before the 21st, a month of excellent temperatures, warm during the day and fresh during the evening and the month where the sounds become even louder. More people, more happiness, more live music and dancing and more noise in the apartments next door. It is all part of living here.

If you like to read more about life in a small seaside Spanish village get your copy of “Reflections from La Herradura”. For sale on your nearest Amazon or you can get it from the La Herradura Cultural website.

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Monday, June 6, 2016

Sunshine and water in Spain,

I live in Spain and this means I get to see a lot of blue sky, orange glows created by late-afternoon sunshine on mountain ranges and ever changing horizons whilst the sea is playing with a large spectrum of blues and turquoises, which is, quite frankly, absolutely marvellous. Bring into the mix the light from the south of Spain in general and you get an excellent inspirational elixir, especially for artists like me. I don’t have to paint landscapes with olive trees, amazing skies above a dark indigo sea during a winter sunset in the La Herradura bay for it to become evident that I am influenced by all this. Looking at my body of work over the years it becomes very clear that the light and many hours of sunshine have influenced my art. The colours in my paintings have become brighter, livelier and more intense. I don’t use models for my paintings but like to observe and I get a lot of inspiration from just watching people and enjoy the variety of what’s on ‘offer’ in La Herradura.
Especially during the spring, autumn and winter season it isn’t very difficult to distinguish between the different types of people. Without wanting to generalize you could say that those who live here permanently notice their bodies adapt over the years to the summer and winter temperatures, becoming more tolerable to high temperatures, but less tolerable to the cold, which their winter dress codes clearly shows. Working on a tan also becomes less important. Those who escape the winter months in their home country can often be recognised by their sun tanned skin and more summery clothing, but possibly with a jumper draped over the shoulder. Then there are the holidaymakers who run around in t-shirts, shorts and flip-flops whilst the locals and permanent expats put on an extra jumper and shiver in the corner of one of the sea-front cafes.
But now, the beginning of June, summer has truly arrived, like it does every year. Everybody has got their summer gear out and I watch a group of women passing by the table where I am enjoying a milky coffee and some wholemeal bread with tomatoes, salt and extra virgin olive oil. There is an invasion of flip-flops, uncomfortably looking flimsy footwear in bright colours, exotic designs with or without a wobbly rubber flower. I am surprised by the audacity and guts of some of the female owners. Flaking nail polish on too long toe nails proudly peeking out into the open air. Cracked heals carry the smooth legs freed from unflattering hair. I am also fascinated by the ease some classy women show off their strangely shaped feet, deformed by having been squeezed into pointy tight stiletto heal shoes for too many years. Their expensive leather flip-flops revealing the fruitless attempts of yet another pedicure. Corns, dried out blisters and plasters a little black around the edges catch my attention…. I seem to be surrounded by damaged, not very attractive feet. Nobody seems to care… I wonder why I do.
So I take my attention back to the colourful mixture of people strolling along the seaside attracted by the sea, the sunshine and some ‘lucky ones’ who will be able to go back to a villa with a swimming pool to wash away the heat. Something worries me though. Most people, the tourists, the expats and also the Spanish often seem to take water for granted. Excessively watering the plants in a much loved-garden, leaving the tap wide open when brushing teeth, cleaning vegetables or freshly caught fish, and long showers to sooth a sun-burned skin or a warm bath to pamper a chilly body … it all feels so normal.
Nobody seems to even wonder where all this water is coming from. When it rains, which is quite frankly not happening anywhere near enough, it does usually pour down and streets can turn into rivers in no time, but to my amazement I then often hear people moan about it. Although it is rare to have a week without sunshine, it can sometimes happen that it rains every day of a week which happened in the beginning of May. For people who have come here for a sunshine holiday to then finding themselves in a rather chilly and wet week, this is understandably a little sad, but if you are in the privileged position to call this beautiful country your home for longer periods during a year you might want to look at the rain as a gift.
It is so very necessary in Andalusia, also in La Herradura. The local economy is based on agriculture, like avocado and tropical fruit farms, and tourism and both need large amounts of water. In a sense we are lucky that there is a large underground water reservoir in La Herradura, but to keep that full it has to rain during the winter months. When there is too little rain the salty sea water mixes in with the fresh mountain water and water from the tap will become salty, disastrous for the farmers and not so handy if you want to shower off the salty sea water.
I pay for my breakfast and realise that I am having a moan about the moaning but I also realise that I am one of the lucky ones to call this beautiful, inspiring little seaside village my home. That is something I will never take for granted and guess what…

I feel a painting coming up!

If you like to know more about La Herradura this is now possible on the new website, that I have created together with Ferry Verhoeve. Lately Ana Espildora has also joined our team and we are working on getting La Herradura better known as the cultural hotspot that it already is.
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