Dear Spain

Dear Spain,

Today I fell a little bit out of love with you. I have just come in from burying 7 puppies underneath an olive tree on my land. These puppies did not belong to me, they belonged to you.

Last night, some guests that had been at our house for a meal got home after leaving and informed us that on their way home they had seen 7 Mastin Espanol pups dumped on the side of the road. Our friend jumped out of the car, and through her tears checked each and everyone one of the pups for signs of life, but it was too late. They were gone. She then had to explain to her children, 5 and 4 years old, what she was doing and why she was crying.  I stewed about this, getting more and more angry about the thought that each day I was going to have to drive past these poor dogs, and watch as they slowly rotted away, or got eaten by other animals. By the time morning had come, I knew I needed to go and bring those puppies home. It was too late to save their lives, but not too late to do the right thing.

I have spoken to Spanish farmers who have told me, in no uncertain terms “If you don’t want a dog, throw it in the lake. No more problem!” I have also spoken to Spaniards who have told me that they do not like to castrate male dogs because it upsets the dog emotionally to have it’s testicles removed. Well, what about the poor mother dog, who gave birth to the puppies I just buried? She had cleaned them up, bonded with them and probably even started feeding them, before they were ripped away from her, killed, and then thrown out of the window of a car like a discarded cigarette packet. Is that not emotionally distressing for that mother? And in six months or a years time, the same thing will happen again. And again after that, providing the female hasn’t starved to death or been hit by a car, of course.

Spain, I know there is a problem here. I know there are many, many people (mostly not Spanish) working hard to take in stray and abandoned dogs off of the street or the pound and give them the chance of a forever home either in Spain or abroad, but Spain we need you to help. You need to stand up and take some responsibility. There needs to be more education about castration. It is a simple operation, and in fact, calms a male dog down and makes him less likely to run away. Castrated dogs feel no emotional distress about the procedure.

There needs to be cheaper access to veterinary care in the countryside, where dogs are often free, sometimes not being fed for days and allowed to roam, breeding with any other dog it comes across. We often see young dogs appear in the campo, obviously puppies. Mysteriously however, we always see only one or two. What happens to the rest of them? I know what happens. They are thrown to be food for another dog or drowned in a bucket. I know this, because I have been told this is what happens. The mother is allowed to keep one or two, in order to make sure she doesn’t catch mastitis, but the rest are surplus to requirements. As those puppies then grow up, what happens when they are no longer wanted? They are driven into the countryside and thrown out of a car, while the driver speeds off leaving the dog behind, scared, bewildered and wondering what they have done wrong. The alternative life is one lived on a length of chain, 24/7. If the dog is lucky someone will visit once a week to throw him some stale bread. In return for this lifestyle the dog is expected to protect the house from intruders.

I have friends who rescued two Mastin puppies, because the lady who bred them only wanted to keep one, and the rest were going to be killed. They took these two pups and raised them by hand because they were not allowed to stay with their mother. Do you know who that person was? It was their local vet!

The last thing I want to do is tar all Spaniards with the same brush, as we do know some people, in our local town and further afield who are true animal lovers, but far too often the same cycle of ill treatment is repeated, and passed on from generation to generation. It is time to start saying “No, this is not acceptable.”

I don’t know the answer. Almost every ex-pat family I know has multiple rescued dogs living with them, and I know we personally can’t take any more. Maybe veterinary universities could come up with a programme for students to go out to farms and perform cheap castrations, as a way of them getting the practice they need and the farmers getting some veterinary care at a reduced price. In Istanbul, they have feeding machines for stray dogs, and many places around the world promote catch and release programmes for strays. This means the dog (or cat) is caught, brought into a vet clinic, neutered, and then released again back on the street, but is no longer able to continue breeding. This is something to consider Spain.

Yours Sincerely


I apologise for the graphic photo here, but I think people need to see what I had to deal with this morning. 7 tiny puppies. I hate to think how they spent their last minutes.



Cover Reveal!

For the last few months I have been slaving away over a new addition to my Seriously Mum series about Lorna and I’s adventures in Spain. I am really pleased to announce that Seriously Mum, How Many Cats? is finally ready and will be launching on Monday 1st December. At some point over the weekend, the kindle version will be live on Amazon to preorder, and will be delivered to your kindle as soon as it launches. Here is the blurb of the new book –

After six years of living in the olive groves of Andalucia, Alan and Lorna should have adjusted to Spanish life, but things never seem to run smoothly. When Lily the alpaca falls pregnant, they are in for an anxious few months as they battle against the odds to keep themselves afloat.
In Seriously Mum, How Many Cats? there is concern that the cats are going to take over the farm. There are cats in the barn, cats in the garden and even a cat invasion in the bedroom one night.
Exploding tyres, flamenco dancing, religious parades and, of course, all your favourite animals return once again to entertain you in the latest story about these much loved expats.

I would like to thank Heather and Rick, and Zoe for all their hard work in helping me edit this book, plus of course Victoria Twead for her usual support.

And now to the cover. To say I am pleased is an understatement, I just can’t stop looking at the design. My cover designer is a fellow alpaca breeder from Italy, Noemi Gambini, and she has a remarkable talent! Noemi, thank you!  And here it is.



You can now download this latest instalment of our alpaca adventures over at Amazon for the special launch price of £2.99 or $4.99. I would love to hear what you think about the book :) Click here to download! 

You can download the free app from Amazon to read Kindle books on your tablet or phone! Click Here!

I Can’t Ignore the Numbers (Probably only interesting to authors)

About four weeks ago I started writing a blog post about Amazon and why I believe that Select is bad, and wider distribution is the right thing for self publishers. Thankfully, I never hit publish on that one, because this post is me turning my back on what I truly believe.

The fact is my book sales have plummeted. Alpaca has been out for two years, and, truth be told, has probably sold better than I thought it would. When I first stumbled into this ‘fly by the seat of your pants’ world I didn’t know anything about promotion, going exclusive or wider distribution.

My first instinct was to spread my wings to as many places as possible and have my book available in as many far off lands as humanly possible. Then I heard about KDP Select. Give your book away for free. Hand over exclusive sales rights to Amazon. No way! For two years my book has been available on Nook, Kobo, Smashwords and ibooks (and others). I have had sales. (Good sales when combined with a Bookbub promotion.) However, two years is a long time, and sales have stayed negligible on those other platforms. I have always thought “It takes time to build a following on these platforms, give it time”, which I have been able to do since sales have always been increasing on Amazon. I have preached to those in Select about the fact that distributing widely is the ‘right’ thing to do. Those authors have said to me “We are selling lots of books on Amazon, the others don’t matter,” but it did matter to me. I wanted to sell everywhere. I wanted to get on the New York Times Bestseller list. I love the idea of a man in the desert of the Sahara downloading my book on to his generic mobile phone, but maybe I am the one that is misguided?

This past summer Amazon launched Kindle Unlimited in the United States followed by the UK. As soon as KU launched my sales on Amazon started to drop. This is not unusual in the summer, sales are often slower, but this year they have not picked up. Now, I don’t know if Amazon are actively making non-Select books less visible, but I have witnessed fellow authors with borrows increasing dramatically, pushing them up the Amazon rankings and of course, increasing sales along the way. All the time this relegates the authors who do not have their books in KU further down in to the dross.

After discussion with my publisher (and a bit of a reality check for me), I have made the  decision to give Amazon Select a try for 90 days and see what happens. That means sacrificing those other platforms and handing over my soul to Amazon. It leaves a nasty taste in my mouth, but I can see no other option at this moment. Amazon have beaten me.

Fancy a change of lifestyle?

Have you ever thought about escaping the hum drum lifestyle of the nine to five and moving to the countryside? What about leaving the rat race behind forever and doing something you never thought possible? How about even just following that dream?

Well what about this for an opportunity? We feel that the time is right to leave the Olive Mill and move on to our next adventure. We will be staying in Spain, probably in Andalucia and if we could take our house (and Montoro) with us, we would. Here is the thing…we need better land for the alpacas. Our dream when we moved here was to make a living breeding these amazing animals, but we need a bit more flat land and to be closer to the people likely to buy them. So the Olive Mill is up for sale.


Do you like it?

The Olive Mill is situated about 15km from the town of Montoro, which is historically known for Olive Oil and it’s Semana Santa celebrations. This town has all the amenities you would expect including banks, gyms and supermarkets. Montoro is not an expat area, although there are a few UK families dotted around the campo. The road from Montoro is about 5km motorway, followed by a country road (tarmac) of 12km and finally a 3km track. It takes about twenty minutes to drive to Montoro. Although a 4×4 is not necessary, a sturdy car would be preferrable over time. The local ayuntimiento maintain the track as there are lots of olive farms on the route, plus it is on the list of Junta de Andalucias camino de campo. Two years ago they concreted the last 1km of track before our house, making it much better in the winter.



The city of Cordoba is only a 45 minute drive from the Olive Mill, and is a lively city that can be investigated on foot. A tourist attraction at most times of the year, it really comes to life in May, when the Festival of the Patios is held as well as the enormous feria.

There are plenty of places to enjoy walking within minutes of the Olive Mill, and of course, you could keep horses or even a couple of alpacas to help with the gardening.


At the moment the Olive Mill is set up as three seperate areas of living accommodation. The first apartment is a three bedroomed, spacious apartment with a large kitchen and living area and a woodburning stove for winter.

The second apartment has two bedrooms and two bathrooms. The front door is accessed from the huge cobbled terrace where the olives would have been stored in the past. This is also where the spring water for the house flows in to a deposit. On the deposit there is a pump (new last year) that is used to pump the water up to a different deposit at the top of the hill that supplies the house with water. The water is unlimited and flows at about 8-10000 litres a day.

The Casita is a large open plan space, designed to be enjoyed by a couple. The small garden area leads out the swimming pool area. There is a self contained kitchen and bathroom in the Casita. There is a large tiled bath, we call The Poolette which can be filled in the summer and used to cool off.

The land around the house totals 35000sq metres, and is predominently olives. There are 350 trees that come with the house. Currently, for us, a farmer collects the olives and in return gives us 30litres of olive oil and all the firewood from the trees each year. It would be possible for the new owners to re-negotiate this, or even take over the olive farming duties themselves. There are plenty of courtyard areas and the swimming pool is fibre glass and could be removed if necessary. There are also a lot of spare rooms, currently used for storage that could be renovated and turned in to more accommodation, at least two more apartments. Although this would need to take in to account the increased demand for electricity.

At the moment the Olive Mill is powered by solar electricity. There are eight panels on the roof of the main house and twelve batteries. We also have a second system, although that needs repairing but the panels and batteries are in place. There is electricity close by, but we have never felt it necessary, although you do need a generator for back up as the water pump runs on the generator. We have one here that could be sold with the house. 

We are aware that there are a few jobs that need doing at the Olive Mill and as such, last year we reduced the price from €450,000 to €350,000. We think that the Olive Mill would suit a young couple, who are willing to get their hands dirty and enjoy the physical side of rural life. There is ample space for growing your own produce, and, if you live in the right way, you could almost be self sufficient. We currently have a satellite internet system from Tooway, and a mobile phone as there is no fixed telephone line. There is talk that a new wifi system from Montoro will be available here soon, but as yet we have no news on that.

The IBI from two bills totals around €200 per year.

If you have any questions, or would like to see more information please contact Alan Parks at or Alan Parks on Facebook.

Beards, Trunkies and Tattoos – A Trip to the UK!

The build-up was long, and I have to admit I was little nervous about my trip back to the UK. Would there be hover-boards? Would people be wearing smart watches and talking in to their wrists? What are google glasses? Obviously I am being a little bit flippant, but this was my first trip back in five years. What was I nervous about? Well, to be honest I am not really keen on social occasions so a party and a big family barbecue were what I was worrying about. But you know what? I really enjoyed seeing everyone. Catching up, chatting and not having to think about electricity and water for a few days had its benefits. What I wasn’t expecting was to be completely freaked out by the sheer number of people and daunted by having to cope with simple things like going through passport control and security at the airport.
On Friday morning Lorna dropped me off at Cordoba station to start my journey. My main concern all along has been that all would be ok at The Olive Mill while I was away and that Lorna would be ok here on her own for the first time in about six years. The first part of the journey was pretty routine, having bought my ticket, I found my allocated seat and relaxed in air conditioned comfort for the journey of just over an hour. Once I reached Malaga airport (having stopped for a much needed MacDonald’s breakfast), I queued up to check in for my flight on Monarch Airlines. Check in was a breeze, so I headed for security. A few minutes wait and I was ushered through, and then it hit me. There were people everywhere. The airport has changed since I was last there. You are now forced through one of those massive duty free shops (which could be anywhere in the world), and once out of the other side, I just stood there, mouth agape trying to get my bearings. “Where do I go?” “Where have all these people come from?”
The screen reported that there was an hour until the gate number was going to be displayed, so I found a seat and sat down for a while. What did I see? Beards, tattoos and Trunkies.
Firstly, beards. Not just goatees or something trim and tidy, we are talking full, soup straining beards like those sported by Jim Royle or Brian Blessed. These are smart, young men and I don’t know where it has come from. Every group of young-ish people had one of these beardies in it. It looks as though they have picked a tramp up from the street and given him some nice clothes. Please people – just don’t.

A Fashionable Beard

A Fashionable Beard

Secondly, the tattoos. They were everywhere. I am not talking about a subtle little name to remind you of a lost parent, or a tribute to a child. Big, in your face things, popping out of shirt collars and stretching up the necks of the (rather scary) men (and some women) sporting them. I understand that it is fashionable, and a statement of individuality to get tattoos, really I do, but has it got to the stage that they have to be on show all of the time? And it is really individuality now everyone has them?
Now for Trunkies. I remember seeing them on Dragon’s Den a few years ago and thinking “Wow, what a fab idea.” Almost every other family must have had one these branded, miniature suitcases for children, but without exception, the look in the parent’s eyes was telling you they regretted it. I saw small children pulling them along by the supplied strap weaving in and out of elderly ladies with zimmerframes, and crossing the paths of businessmen in a hurry to get on their flight. Then there were the ones who insisted on using it as a kind of scooter, sitting on the top and pushing themselves along at a snail’s pace, while their exasperated parents huffed and puffed with suitcases, pushchairs and bags full of duty free alcohol!



Soon it was time to head to the boarding gate, where I joined the queue. I didn’t want to be one of the last on to the plane and have to have my hand luggage checked in. Surely the whole point of only taking hand luggage is NOT having to wait at the other end. “No, I wouldn’t like to check in my hand luggage for free!” The queue behind me grew, but then the lady manning the desk made an announcement. “Everyone who has paid for advanced boarding will be boarding first, followed by those who have a Monarch card.” A wave of people from the back of the queue surged forward and formed a queue to the right. One of the desk attendants started checking their boarding cards and letting them on. “Those who have children under five may now board.” Another wave of people surged forward from the back of the queue I was in. Some of the children’s age was questionable, but no one seemed to ask. By now a few people in the front of my queue were getting itchy feet, but we had to wait while people with special assistance were checked in next. Finally we were starting to move, but now, other people who were just turning up were joining the smaller queue next to me and getting on first. After being about 15th in the queue, I must have got on the plane about 115th. Thankfully I was lucky, and the seat next to me was empty. It was a good job too, as when I sat down I realised that my knees were just about able to squeeze in behind the seat in front. I’m sure last time I flew Monarch there was more space.
All around me people were firing off last messages using Whatsapp or boring old text messages, presumably saying goodbye to loved ones just in case the flight went missing over the English Channel. The phones were turned off once the plane actually started moving on the runway. We were informed that the flight would be 2 hours and 10 minutes, a pleasant surprise, but of course that meant only two hours to fit in all the trolley selling the airline needs to do to make up their money. My flight was 13.30 Spain time, so of course, full justification to consume as much alcohol as humanly possible during that time. Beer, wine, miniature spirits were all being gratefully received by the masses. Then followed a selection of magazines – OK or Moshi Monsters, if they are your cup of tea? Nothing for the men, only the need to keep passing over the credit card. Then followed watches and perfumes, and yet more money being handed over.
Very soon we started passing over the Channel and I was pleased to see the clouds clear (I was sure I was going to be landing in a thick, grey mist, complete with drizzle). We flew directly over what I assume was Southampton harbour and turned right heading for Gatwick. I could see Worthing, Brighton and Eastbourne piers, and for the first time in about five years I had a couple of pangs of homesickness. Do you know what set it off? Grass! For about twenty minutes, I had real feelings of missing the rolling hills of the South Downs, and it might even have crossed my mind that coming back at some point in the future might not be too bad. But that evaporated on landing, as, as soon as the pilot switched off the seatbelt signs and we stopped moving, the phones came back out and the little tunes played everywhere – du-du-du. Back to Whatsapp and texting loved ones to tell them we hadn’t in fact gone missing over the channel, and they would see them in five minutes!
I don’t mind admitting that for the next hour I felt like I was in a science fiction movie. Approaching passport control, I was ushered to one end of the room, where I was confronted by some unmanned booths. I must have looked quite a sight, trying to put my passport in to the reader turning it around and around, maybe slightly starting to panic as a queue formed behind me. Eventually a lady came over and talked me through, and the machine spat me out the other side. Apparently, it recognised my face. I followed the masses though the green channel and past one last opportunity to grab some discounted alcohol and exited in to the arrivals area. I looked around briefly just in case anyone had had the foresight to order me a limousine, but there didn’t seem to be anyone waiting for me, so I made my way to the train station.
By now I had a splitting headache, and was being buffeted from side to side by hundreds of people, all in a hurry to be somewhere else. My train to Eastbourne was showing on the board as being in twenty minutes, and there was a queue with loads of people and only two cash desks open. Right behind me in the queue was a beautiful Irish girl being chatted up by an American guy claiming to be the producer of movies in the US. I don’t know if she was buying it, but he was persistent. Once I got to the desk I bought my ticket. FIFTEEN POUNDS for a train to Eastbourne! And guess what? I had to stand up all the way!
On leaving the station I was feeling a little shell shocked, so I decided to wander slowly down to my Mums house, stopping at Sainsburys for a drink. What was the first thing I saw? Two drug addicts stumbling across the zebra crossing. And yes, they had beards! I wasn’t sure I was ready for this. After looking around Sainsburys and nearly choking at the price of £1.25 for a small bottle of Sprite, I opted for a bottle of water, and wandered slowly to my Mum’s. On arrival her first reaction was “Are you ok?” knowing I might be a bit daunted.
Over the weekend I met up with Frankie and Kaci (one day Kaci will speak to me as soon as I see her and not five minutes before she was due to leave), spent the day in Brighton, attended my Grandparents 60th Wedding Anniversary, with a family party, played football with my mates on Sunday morning and had a barbecue with my Dad’s side of the family on Sunday. I very much enjoyed myself at all these occasions but I am still suffering from the football, and I fear the end of my football career has passed me by this weekend. I also discovered that I am not very good with a smartphone. Fat fingers and on screen typing do not mix, particularly on a bus! (I would have included a picture from the Anniversary party, but they were taken on a disposable camera and need to be developed in Boots!)

Me with Mum, Nan, Brother Mike and his girlfriend Bea

Me with Mum, Nan, Brother Mike and his girlfriend Bea

Me with my football buddies

Me with my football buddies

My good friend Simon offered to give me a lift to Gatwick on Monday as he was going to a course in Crawley, so I limped around to where I had arranged to meet him, and strapped myself in for a bit of a hair raising drive to Gatwick. Not because Simons driving was particularly scary, but it made me miss the quiet motorways of Andalucia. At one stage he did say to me “Hold on, you might not like this bit.” As he overtook down the middle of a road.
On arrival at Gatwick, I made my way to the check in area for Norwegian Airlines. I queued for 20 minutes, only to find a sign saying “Please check in using the self-serve machines”, so I left my spot in the queue and went to the machines. I needed my booking reference, which I didn’t have, so I re-joined the queue at the back. “No problem” the lady said at the desk, so why was I getting mad?
I was once again thrust in to being the rabbit in the headlights as I tried to navigate the security area. (Please note – this is only my experience and not meant to upset anybody, particularly friends of mine that work at the airport). New, unmanned machines were there to scan my boarding pass. Then I was herded to a numbered place at a table, where I spent a panicked few seconds trying to work out where the trays were. Underneath, by my ankles of course. I then had to explain this to the person who came through next and tried to put her stuff in with mine. There seemed to be a lot of shouting and herding going on, and this did result in me getting through the system quickly, and unscathed, but I did emerge the other side feeling a bit like someone had beaten me around the head with bottle of duty free vodka. I was tempted to write a comment on their comments board, but my legs were in no state to carry me any further than they had to. I do appreciate that this is a quick and efficient way for the staff to manage this process, but, from my point of view as someone who was a little bit freaked out by the whole thing, it was all a bit too ‘in your face’. I wonder how I would have felt if I didn’t speak English?
From then on it was almost plain sailing. The flight on Norwegian was much better for leg room and comfort, and there was free in flight wi-fi, so I do admit to joining the masses and being on Facebook for most of the journey. On landing I was on a schedule to try and get on an early train, but I was held up by first a bus trip to the terminal, and then the eternally slow Policia Local man checking the passports without even looking up. Ah Spain, welcome home.
I missed my train, for which I had a return ticket already bought. No problem however, the man who sold it to me at Cordoba assured me it was no problem to change it. So I went to the desk at Malaga and asked to cambiar the ticket for the next train. The man laughed at me. “Noooo. You have missed it. You can only change the ticket before the train goes.” What good is that? Another 27 Euros and I had to wait around for two hours.
I was so pleased to finally see Lorna pull around the corner at Cordoba Station, after she had negotiated her hospital appointment on her own, due to me missing the train. Another hour later, and I was home, back in the peace and quiet of the olive groves and surrounded by the animals and The Olive Mill.
Despite what you might think, I did really enjoy my trip, and finances allowing, I would like to do it once a year, but, I urge those scientists to hurry up building those teleporters. I am not sure I can cope with the journey again!

5×50 Challenge – The Final Day

We did it! Today was the last day of our 5×50 Challenge. BUT we will still be collecting donations for a while, AND I am going to be carrying on for another three weeks or so. A day off tomorrow and then I am upping the stakes to 8 or 10km every day until my UK visit on 6th June.

So fa we have raised £390.53 for St Wilfrid’s Hospice in Eastbourne. Thank you so much to all those who have donated so far!

To donate please visit

5×50 Challenge – Day 49

One more day to go! To celebrate the penultimate day I decided to walk three of our walks combined. So this morning I set out slightly earlier and walked 13km.

So far we have raised £350.53 for St Wilfrids Hospice in Eastbourne.

To donate please visit

5×50 Challenge – Day 48

Only two days left!

So far we have raised £350.53 for St Wilfrid’s Hospice.

To donate please visit

5×50 Challenge – Day 46 and 47

Day 46 and I walked 8km in the morning, and we were planning on walking another 5km in the evening,but Eduardo the alpaca intervened and caused Lorna an injury so she was unable to walk. So today, Day 47, I walked 13km this morning and this evening Lorna and I went for a short 30 minute walk. She should be back to her best tomorrow.

So far we have raised £350.53 for St Wilfrid’s Hospice in Eastbourne.

To donate PLEASE visit

5×50 Challenge – Day 45

Only a couple of pictures from last night as we went for a moonlight walk along the dam wall! Only five more days to go!

So far we have raised £338.21 for St Wilfrid’s Hospice in Eastbourne.

To donate, please visit