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Seriously Mum, What's an Alpaca?: An Adventure in the Frying Pan of Spain Paperback – 17 Jan 2013
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I received a copy of this book as a competition prize, and would happily recommend it to anyone.
Alan Parks and his lovely wife Lorna embark on the biggest adventure of their life, packing up the whole kit and caboodle to go to Spain and breed alpacas! Their initial trials and tribulations, including an ever widening menagerie of strays are documented in this, the first of a series.
I love a travel books and this is a really lovely one! The characters the Parks encounter in the remote area of Spain where they finally settle are vivid and amusing. Alan and Lorna themselves are exceptionally likeable folk and I was thoroughly engrossed by chapter three.
I particularly enjoyed the little vignettes from the animals eye view... Amusing and sweet. A novel way to make this book a little bit different.
There is enough local colour and culture to keep the Armchair traveller thoroughly satisfied too. I love to read about the cultural differences in rural Spain. The festivals and celebrations described, made me hungry to visit.
Come Hell or (quite Literally ) High Water this couple battles the elements and language barriers, attending "Feria" until the early hours with Surly Spanish Farming Folk and being ripped off by expats.
If I have any minor grumbles, it is that Alan does tend to repeat his exposition a tiny bit from the end of a chapter into the next, but this might just be because this is being written from diary entry as source material. It is a tiny gripe and if he wants to labour those points, who am I to argue
All in all I would strongly recommend this book and most particularly to fans of Gerald Durrell, whose Greek adventures are very evocative of this book. In fact once I have read the sequel I might just did out "My Family and other Animals" to read again. I can certainly do with the vicarious Sunshine. As I write the sky's are Grey and the air decidedly frigid!
Light, well paced and thoroughly readable, I was only to pleased to realise there are two more books to devour as this one ended too soon!
This memoir, the first of two must be about falling in love with a dream that eventually reaches fruition after a lot of hard work and agonising moments. Seriously Mum, What's A Donkey? is the sequel to this Spanish adventure. Alan Parks was encouraged to write about this new venture-breeding alpacas in Spain, quite a big upheaval from life in the UK to a remote part of Andalucia, the frying pan of Spain because of the summer heat, without the mod-cons that we so depend upon!
On the bright side it seemed like a vision of utopia but in reality nerves were often shot to pieces, paranoia set in along with plenty of setbacks and heartaches.
The memoir is a frank account of two people who were tempted to abandon a safe but tedious life for a challenging adventure. Alan believed that breeding alpacas could be a profitable business. They were tempted by thoughts of a fantastic lifestyle as well as making pots of money! The animals were bewitching and naturally they fell in love with them.
"If you deal with livestock you have to deal with dead stock too." Such a sobering thought when you want to breed animals. Alan and partner, Lorna had to contend with aborted cria and dispose of the dead babies. They came to realise that sometimes sick animals don't make it and this is the gritty reality if you live the dream you have to deal with the nightmare too.
The Olive Mill near Montoro was ideal for their needs, in a remote area but with plenty of character and potential. Mary-Belle, the pot-bellied pig came with the house, so to speak and before long there was a motley collection of domesticated as well as feral animals and birds. They acquired 2 Mastin Espanol whose ears had been chopped off and tails wired and a number of chickens. Beyonce and JLo were so named because of their constant bum wiggling. Basil (Fawlty) was the name bestowed on the first cria born that survived.
Breeding alpacas in Spain was seen as a pioneering enterprise, innovative and they felt immensely proud. With the arrival of their first 3 alpacas they became instantaneous celebrities with the locals.
They tolerated scams and cons with car buying and roof repairs caught out through their own vulnerability and naivety. It happens.
The alpacas were usually friendly but were overly protective of their young and would spit a green bile from the pits of their stomachs, referred to as the most putrid gunk imaginable.
" She really must have dredged up every last bit of it from the pit of all of her stomach. It was enough to make me retch."
Lorna refers to this incident when Alan was gunged Noel Edmond's style by Bermuda who had a wicked reputation.
DIY farming and plumbing as well as administering medication to sick animals, even sleeping in the barn with the animals seem to be prerequisites. And with solar energy, if the sun doesn't shine for weeks at a time then what happens? Not a lot. No electricity. Water from a well sounds wonderful until the well blocks. What about the rain that turns a stream into a fast flowing river and the leaking roof? Sounds exciting. All part of the fun.
There were plenty of regrets but they learnt a lot about themselves before starting to appreciate this crazy country of Spain and feel stronger and better people. There is humour and warmth as well as sadness and regrets.
Publisher: Ant Press. ISBN: 978-1-48201-1609 Also available on ereader
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