end of affordable housing?

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When I moved to my present apartment in 2011 things were bad enough. I remember looking at so many dumps, so that when I found this place I didn’t hesitate, even though it was considerably more than what I had been paying. A couple of years later I found out it was considerably more than what most people were paying, plus I had the serious problem of the bar noise in the street, and so the landlords put the rent down until this past February. Now it’s back up to not quite what I was originally paying, but it seems a fair price all things considered.

I haven’t seriously considered moving, in spite of the street noise, but now it looks like I won’t have any choice. Things with the landlady have become so stressful that it’s really affecting my sense of well-being here, and the state of the apartment worsens every month. She is refusing to pay for repairs on things like the central heating, or repay me for the oven I bought in December, or replace other basic standard equipment that has broken down over the past year or so. I mean, this is bound to happen after living somewhere for over 6 years. Things will need to be repaired, replaced and maintained, but the landlady doesn’t see it this way. So this morning I sent her an email saying that these things need to be addressed as they are in our contract, but I am dreading the next meeting with her. And in any case, I am sure that once the (now annual) contract comes up for renewal in February, she will say she doesn’t want to renew. And I won’t have anything to say about that. Meanwhile she will refuse to repair things.

Anyhow, I’d been casually looking around since the last Landlady Episode in February, but I think it’s time to start looking in ernest. At first I thought that within nine months I am bound to find somewhere else I like, but now I’m not so sure. The more I look around, the more I see that most housing in the centre has now been converted to holiday apartment and AirBnB rentals. And while I can understand that home owners can make more money this way, it is also destroying the sense of neighbourhood in the, um, neighbourhoods. A few years ago this was mostly apparent in the barrio Santa Cruz where I used to live. But now it’s spread to pretty much the entire Casco Antiguo, the central area within the old city walls, which is actually quite big. So it’s not looking very promising.

I remember not wanting to leave my old place in barrio Santa Cruz, but it turned out that moving to the Alfalfa to a larger apartment that had – or used to have – central heating and air-con, turned out to be a move for the better. Now I am feeling the same way, that I don’t want to leave, that I’ll never find anywhere I like as much… but you never know. Wish me luck!

lee buckley

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For ages this was the only image I ever had of Lee, from her Facebook page… and I came to think of her as this sassy Raggedy Ann chica. Then at long last I had the chance to meet her in person when I was in Madrid last January. She was still quite weak from cancer treatment, but was up for going out to have lunch, and we spent a lovely afternoon together.

Lee said she thought of me as her “cancer sister” because reading about my various struggles with cancer on my blog helped her when she was diagnosed. We could compare notes, as it were, and although our situations were very different, Lee felt like I would at least “get” what she was talking about. And yes, I think I did. I also got to enjoy chat sessions with a bright and funny woman, who loved cats as much as I do. I was also thrilled to meet her beautiful boy Tony during that last visit.

Anyhow, this morning I was out at that gastronomy event by the river and was randomly going through messages while enjoying a beer in the sun. Then I saw a message request on FB from someone I didn’t know. I clicked on it, and it was Lee’s dear friend Chris, telling me as delicately as possible that Lee had passed away a few days ago. And since then I haven’t known what to feel. Because the feelings are all so mixed up, the happy and sad ones, the scary and hopeful ones. And the worst one of all, the one I can’t yet accept – that I won’t ever be able to talk to Lee again. So for now, that’s all I can say. Except… be sure to hug someone you love today, and let them know how much they mean to you, how much you love them.  xx

Lee and I enjoying a fabulous lunch at Tandem in Madrid

de-waxing

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You may recognize this as one of the many signs of spring in Sevilla, this one specifically heralding the arrival of Easter Week (Semana Santa). After an entire week of processions with thousands of dripping candles along the various routes, you can imagine that things do get quite slippery. This also means that for weeks after Easter Sunday both shoes and car tires tend to squeak as they accumulate wax, until both heat and daily traffic gets rid of most of the waxy residue.

This year I saw two things I had never seen before. One was the use of sawdust on some of the main procession routes, which at first only seemed be making matters worse. But then…

… a couple of nights later I came across this curious machine on my way home from a tapas tour. The usual cleaners were there hosing down the streets with water, along with this thing that basically was pummelling the heckity out of the wax. I haven’t been back yet to check out the results. Will let you know.

bagels!

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So back when I met Alexis last February she told me about this new breakfast (and merienda) place next door to one of her gorgeous AirBnB apartments… and that they made their own poppyseed bagels (!!!). Well, I haven’t had bagels since I lived in Toronto, and it is the ONE THING I tell people I miss from Canada (well, when they ask me).

Anyhow, I did stop by Otto one afternoon in February just to check it out, but it wasn’t until today that I finally got over there for brekkie. And it was fabulous. Unfortunately – or very wisely – Otto owners Isidro & Serena don’t sell the bagels to takeaway. I can’t say they are the same as my favourite wood-oven baked bagels in TO, but it tasted damn fine this morning.

They also do traditional tostadas here, with a lovely selection of extra virgin olive oils, that were recommended by Alexis. You can also get pancakes, yoghurt with granola, and several other tasty breakfast options. I will be back…

mehrunnisa & omair

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Alternative title… When Sevilla Tapas Tour Guests Become Friends.

Last night I met up with Mehrunnisa & Omair from London, who had come my way via mutual Twitter and Instagram pals. They had actually arrived in Sevilla couple of days previously but, due to Semana Santa and other obligations, it was only possible to take them out on their penultimate night in town for a flamenco & tapas tour. But we made the most of it!

I knew things were off to a great start when conversation started flowing fast and furious even before we got to the flamenco venue. And by the time we got into the sherry and tapas after the show it was clear that we were kindred spirits. It was a great night out and the time passed far too quickly, but I will look forward to getting together with M & O again on my next London Getaway – I have been promised a Pakistani food tour (yay!).