This is the last in our series of articles on the Ventham family following their journey on foot from the UK to the Pyrenees in northern Spain. In this last episode Tom talks about the new (four-legged) friends they made and Julia looks ahead.
And here is the last of Julia’s letters back to friends in the UK:
Having written travel updates to you all over the past 7 months (and a wider group), I am now going for a cosier more intimate group for our new ‘static’ life, possibly more mundane news!!!! How lucky you are to be on the list but if you think otherwise, I won’t be offended, so please just let me know and I will scrub you out!!
Today (20th Dec) is a very special day for the 3 of us, our electricity has been switched on, so for the first time in 7 months, we now have ‘luz’!! As with everything in life, when change occurs there is always a slight feeling of ‘loss’, it’s just the way us humans are made i guess! Our loss is the candlelit/electromagnetic free environment we have been living in but our gains are many : hot showers (high on the teenage list), washing machine, very high on my list! An oven, Molly is looking forward to baking cakes again. Warmth in our bedrooms – our house is topsy turvy, living/kitchen space is upstairs and bedrooms and bathrooms below. Going to bed has been like running the gauntlet, and wearing more attire than during the day – this none of us will miss!
I suppose the main feeling that we all have is that our camping life is over for now and we start a fresh – no bad thing, as temps can drop to -15 here!
Our house is lovely, airy and very light. As we are the first to live in it, there is a great clear energy, which means we all sleep so well, (could be the lack of electricity too,) Our views are breathtaking, I often find myself just staring out to the mountains – we are blessed.
Our time here feels more and more like a retreat, time-out from the madness of modern life. We are all finding new things that we enjoy doing that have probably layed dormant inside us for eons of time. Tom is building a stone wall, creating again with wood and learning more and more everyday about the horses, (now numbering 5, will explain more later). Molly, who I imagined might be bored or restless by now, is on the contrary getting more and more ‘into’, this sedate lifestyle. Each day her main focus is to ride and care for the horses, she learns Spanish and is now understanding a lot, keeps up with her maths and English, walks, cycles and meets her new Spanish friends in our local village (15 Min walk away). Stella, a friend from Forest row, came to visit us for 3 weeks, which involved a lot of horse riding and a bit of retail therapy in Barcelona! Only a 3 week gap and our son Barnaby joins us for Christmas in a few days – best present ever! We have missed him so much, our week together will be very precious!
Others have booked in for 2013, Jan/Feb looking the quietest months, of course, with a bottleneck around May/June but we are really looking forward to sharing this place with friends and family. Camping is easy here, as we have a lot of land that goes with the house, there are apartments and hostels very close by too.
I am loving the mountain walks with the dogs and have discovered a love of stone painting, so we have heart shaped stones gaily decorated everywhere!
We all read a lot and play lots of backgammon!!
So far the weather has mostly been good, a few dramatic storms, a smattering of snow but the high peaks behind us have been white for a few weeks now. Autumn was gorgeous, the colours were breathtaking and we still had warm sunshine up until December. The light out here is clean and fresh, the few grey days come as a shock and a ‘how dare you’ feel! If nothing else, I feel that our time here could be well spent topping up our Vitamin D levels!
We are adjusting to Spanish times but I don’t think we will ever manage to go to bed as late as they do, they come alive at 11pm!! Pace of life is slow and even though time is speeding up, it doesn’t seem to have affected this area at all. Since our arrival here in September, they’ve probably had the UK’s annual total of bank holidays – hardly a week goes by without another ‘fiesta’ day for some Saint or other, it doesn’t bother us in the slightest but it is hardly surprising that Spain finds itself in such a financial pickle! Enjoying themselves and spending time with friends and family is high on their list – I’m all for that!
Our Spanish improves daily but learning a language is so frustrating, good days and bad days – hopefully without too many embarrassing hiccups (like ‘I’m pregnant’ when I thought I was saying ‘I’m embarrassed’). Molly and Tom are both following Michael Thomas’ course and I am just throwing myself in at the deep end, having to discuss with electricians, landlords etc over the phone, ordering straw/hay or going into a hardware store for nails, it’s all part of the immersion therapy!
So, let me explain how in a few months we have increased our ‘herd’. Our rescue companion for Maggie is looking well and appears so happy. We have neighbours with 3 horses, who had little grass, they were forever escaping and coming here (I think one of them was in love with Maggie), the owner who spends a lot of time in Huesca 2 hours away, was tearing her hair out not knowing what to do, in fact her solution was to sell her horse. So we offered to have him here, and she pays for his keep – all 3 get on very well, sadly he is a ‘done’ horse so no babies for Maggie! There are 2 other horses and 2 donkeys, that Molly and Tom feed for another neighbour and Tom is doing work for him too, repairing the shelter, a horse rescue centre in the making maybe??? There is no end to the amount of horses that one could rescue here!
So, our herd now is Maggie (queen), Currito (old faithful),Sirio (3yearold Unicorn), daytime visitors – Peanut (piebald mummy), Pumpkin (2yr old still sucking baby!) and 2 very chilled donkeys, who have recently come down from the mountains to spend the winter in the valley!
As many of you know, I am not known for my ‘horsey’ traits but I am enjoying having them around and even found myself having a ride on Currito the other day – couldn’t walk afterwards though but surprised myself at how lovely it was to be atop a horse! There is hope for me yet!
We are slowly meeting some lovely people but we haven’t been in a hurry to throw ourselves into ‘community life’, a sabbatical was much needed on that front! We have been very supported by neighbours during our ‘without electricity phase’, washing machine has been the biggest help( how did our ancestors do it???!!). We also have a very cool arrangement with our Italian neighbours, who let us ‘hire’ their car, a few times a week. We pay a set amount per km, record how much in a book and then pay monthly – easy, and we don’t have the hassle or expense of owning a car! We only need it once or twice each week, Tuesdays we go to Ainsa to the outside market, we can get all our fruit and veg there, bank, hardware and even a health food shop (stocks Tahini!). We sometimes go to another town at the week-end, where Molly and I have a swim at the indoor pool (making the most of a hot shower too!) For the week that Barnaby is here, we will conveniently have it for the whole time, as they are away in Italy, so we will be able to do a bit of site seeing, possibly go skiing?!
We wish you all much peace, abundance and joy today and all days to come.
Julia Tom, Molly and Barnaby (and a whole gang of animals)
If you missed the other parts of the series, you can check on them here: