Diary of a homecoming

Diary of a homecoming

Paul Whitelock hasn’t seen his wife Rita, except on WhatsApp video calls, for two and a half months. In early January, after a short post-Christmas break in Cádiz, the couple contracted Covid-19, Rita particularly badly. She spent 10 horrendous days in the Hospital de la Serranía, followed by 10 days bedridden at home in Fuente de la Higuera (Ronda).

Then a miracle worker in the shape of her German niece Dana, a physiotherapist, arrived from Germany. She had taken 10 days unpaid leave from work to come and treat her aunt. Rita’s son Jojo also came to relieve the pressure on Paul as lone carer.

The family then decided Rita would get better post-Covid care in Germany so she returned to Germany with them on 15 February and was immediately admitted to hospital in Ludwigsburg (Baden-Wuerttemberg) for tests.

As fate would have it the doctors discovered another, potentially fatal, medical problem, and they had to operate straightaway. But it was a false alarm, thank God!

But, nevertheless she had undergone a major abdominal operation – no joke for a lady who was already physically weak from her bad experience with the Coronavirus.

After recovery in hospital and a period of recuperation at her daughter’s, Rita went to stay with Dana and had a further 10 days of physiotherapy, which worked so well that Rita felt able to plan her return home to Ronda. She flew home last Monday 26 April after 10 weeks away.

Here’s Paul’s diary for the week.

Sunday 25 April 2021

Off to Málaga Airport early tomorrow morning to pick up Rita. She’s due to land at 09.40 on the Ryanair flight from Frankfurt International.

I haven’t seen her for two and a half months, except on WhatsApp, as she’s been in Germany recovering from a very bad dose of Covid-19 and a major operation.

But she’s feeling well enough to travel and will be back home where she belongs in our home near Ronda tomorrow afternoon.

I shan’t sleep a wink in anticipation.

Monday 26 April 2021

Left later than intended, bugger! Happens every time we do an airport run!

I estimate that, by the time she’s got her luggage, she’ll emerge in her wheelchair, being pushed by one of the airport wheelchair pushers, around 10.00 am.

That didn’t happen in Málaga! Worked fine in Frankfurt and during the flight, but no-one came to get her on the ground at Málaga.

So, with typical teutonic pragmatism she sorted herself out and when I arrived there she was outside arrivals, looking very smart indeed, I must say! But then she always dresses nicely, does Rita, doesn’t she?

I wanted to “nip” to Leroy Merlin for stuff you can’t get easily in Ronda. Unfortunately, it was really busy. Pandemic? What pandemic? The world and his wife seemed to be there, spending money like there was no tomorrow! (OOPs! Tactless remark – for some there won’t be, sadly.)

And the “nip” turned into an hour and a half.

Quite justifiably, Rita, who had stayed in the car, was not ‘appy! Well done, Paul!

We headed back to Ronda in silence, arriving late afternoon.

I cooked a nice meal tonight. Cheated on the starter (Mercadona), but the main course and dessert were all mine. Genuine beef fillet pepper steak with mushroom sauce and freshly picked broad beans from my garden, and French beans from another supermarket. Dessert was berejenas con sirope de agave. First time for me – not bad. (By the way, I used sirope de agave cos there was no honey! Just as good, if not better, and natural to boot – like honey, of course.)

Tuesday 27 April 2021

We tried to have a quiet day recovering. Rita is still unwell. She’s as skinny as a rake and is in sporadic pain.

One of Rita’s friends, Heather Cooper (Hike + Bike the Sierras), popped by in the afternoon. Heather is a fluent German speaker so Rita enjoyed that interlude immensely.

It looked like our neighbour Julian Marshall’s sheep had been rustled, until the four lambs (lawnmowers) were found wandering among the vines of the Badman Wines bodega, which is adjacent to our properties. Julian runs Cortijo Perla Blanca with his wife Jody.

We had another nice meal prepared by me this evening – pez espada, swordfish, with a king prawn garnish, fried potatoes, onion and garlic, and, of course, fresh broad beans from the garden.

Wednesday 28 April 2021

Today my British-registered VW camper van is due to have its ITV inspection pending matriculation.

I was a touch anxious, but it sailed through the ITV. Just need to go to Tráfico in Málaga City now, to complete the paperwork. Then I can get my Spanish number plates.

Bought a load of second-hand stuff for Casa Real, the house I’m doing up in Montejaque. There’s a great shop in Calle Monterejas in Ronda called Mi Atillo.

We decided today we have to let Berti, our gorgeous German pointer, go. He’s still a puppy and way too boisterous for Rita the way she is physically at the moment. We do this with great regrets, as he’s such a loveable, yet mischievous pet, but at least his new owner, José, a friend of ours, lives nearby in La Indiana, so we shall see plenty of Berti. When José needs a dog-sitter, “we’re his men”, so to speak.

This evening, Berti-free, we dined at one of Rita’s favourite restaurants in RondaLas Maravillas on Calle La Bola. Yummy!

Thursday 29 April 2021

I have to get a blood test in Ronda this morning for my urologist appointment on Monday in San Pedro de Alcántara.

Rita is expecting a visit from three girlfriends from Montejaque: Jill, Tracy and Pippa. Pippa is a relatively recent arrival in Montejaque, compared to Jill, resident about 16 years, and Tracy since 2016, I think. Pippa is a trained masseuse and Rita is hoping she can help ease her (sometimes) terrible back pain. For more information on Pippa’s services go to www.montejaquemasseuse.com

Blood test done and back home. Spent a delightful couple of hours sitting on our new terrace at Villa Indiana with Rita and her guests. Rita gets her first massage tomorrow.

Slight panic late afternoon. Our neighbour Jody WhatsApp-ed me. Did I know there was a lot of smoke coming from my field? Went to check and sure enough, smoke was billowing from a mound of dead vegetation that had been piled up there. I went to go in to try to put it out but the gate was locked and the key, which for the last 10 years has always been left in the lock, was missing! It must be José, I thought.

Rang him. Yep, he’d popped the key in his pocket automatically, without thinking. I asked him to hurry back, which he did, and we got in the field, extinguished the fire and bob’s your uncle!

Friday 30 April 2021

Today I have lots of things on my to-do list.

LIDL for some stuff from their Bazar.

Unicaja to transfer funds.

Santander to the cajero for cash. Parked in a zona de carga/descarga for 5 minutes and got booked by the local fuzz – 200€. 100€ if I pay quickly. Bugger!

GP for face-to-face consultation re Covid-19 jab, long-Covid, which I have, unfortunately, and to update my prescriptions on my tarjeta sanitaria.

Peugeot workshop with car – driver’s window won’t shut. 36€ to get it fixed. This is turning out to be an expensive day!

Ferretería to get some cupboard locks.

Mi Atillo again to identify more bargains for Casa Real.

Policlínica de la Serranía to get results of blood test ready for my urologist appointment on Monday.

Venta el Puente in La Indiana for a quick drink and to pay my builders.

Montejaque to deliver stuff to Casa Real.

Ronda for Covid jabs. We got Pfizer.

La Cascada for dinner.

Bed and sleep.

Saturday 1 May 2021

Just posted this on Facebook:

“Hi, everybody.

Rita Whitelock thinks I reveal too much about our lives on Facebook, and she’s probably right. I just felt it was the easiest and least time-consuming way for me to let people know how she was progressing.

Now she’s back home where she belongs and things are beginning to look good, so I should probably quit my bulletins while I’m still ahead. This will be the last one.

We both got our first jabs yesterday and get our second doses on 21 May.

We went for dinner last night with our good friends Kevin and Yvonne Speak at one of our favourite restaurants, La Cascada at Hotel Molino del Puente. Rita enjoyed her mejillones and so did I!

Today we’re hoping to make it to Bar Allioli for live music, a great choice of beers and burgers to die for.

So … no more FB updates. Lots of you will see us around; others will pick up info from my outpourings on www.secretserrania.com and elsewhere.

Mucha suerte a todos.”

Saturday 1 May 2021 continued

Rita drove a car for the first time in four months today! She went to Montejaque to have breakfast with her good friend Jill La Pêche. They chose La Terraza, where they offer  a damned good desayuno inglés by all accounts.

Me? I went to Ronda to get the newspapers to read later. I got SUR, Ronda Semanal, SUR in English and The Olive Press. That should keep me going for an hour or two. The Spanish Press keeps me informed about the latest news and helps maintain my level of Spanish, a good discipline to have (see “Top 10 Tips for learning Spanish”), while the two English “freebies” always come in handy for lighting the chimenea on chilly evenings.

Also popped into Mi Altillo to confirm the purchase of other items of furniture and décor.

A couple of hours gardening at Villa Indiana until Rita returned from her breakfast date.

We later went to Bar Allioli in Jimera de Líbar, where Jens, a Dane from Alhaurín El Grande played two great sets of folk, reggae and soft rock. We ate well too. Plus I met Alan, a real ale importer who was at Bar Allioli for the first time in his life. He’d brought a barrel of live beer (a delicious mild from Hobson’s Brewery in Shropshire) and a selection of the Hobson’s bottled range. For more information, contact: [email protected]

With lovely weather to boot we had a great afternoon.

In the evening I went to Ronda to withdraw some cash from the cajero and visited the Feria del Libro in the Alameda. Spent rather a lot of money, but got some great books about Ronda and the Serranía, together with some recipe books and a couple of classics: La Cabaña del Tío Tom and El Diario de Ana Frank.

I prepared a nice dinner of salmon steaks with salad, before we called it a day.

Sunday 2 May 2021

After breakfast together on our terrace I headed off to Montejaque to deliver stuff for Casa Real. I also watered the plants at Casa Rita and Las Hormigas.

Rita had plenty to do at home in Villa Indiana after being away for so long. She also found time to chill out in the garden and do some “pottering”.

I did some tidying up at Casa Real ready for the start of work on Monday.

The week wrapped up with dinner (trio of roast sausages with Mediterranean vegetables) and an early night.

It’s been a bloody good week, and well-deserved, I reckon.

A personal message

At the end of the best week of 2021 so far for both of us, we’d just like to say thanks to all of you for your continued enquiries, good wishes and offers of support. Some from people who have never even met Rita and who I haven’t seen since graduation in 1973. We were very touched.

I never thought I’d feel this positive about the good things that Facebook can do in the world. I love you, Mark (Zuckerberg)!

Paul Whitelock

Paul Whitelock

About Paul Whitelock

Paul Whitelock is a retired former languages teacher, school inspector and translator, who emigrated to the Serranía de Ronda in 2008, where he lives with his second wife, Rita, and his dog, Berti. He spends his time between Montejaque and Ronda doing DIY, gardening and writing.