Saturday, November 19, 2005

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Spain 2

Is it hot, is it warm. It seem so long since I've used a pen. From the finca, (farm) I can see many subtle and varying shades of green. The Mediterranean light suffuses the kitchen and there is a growth everywhere. Spanish autumn cold in the mornings and evenings. Last night that cold almost silenced the cicadas. I keep looking up into the sky to see if I can spot the big dipper er plough er chariot. Perhaps we are too far South? Yesterday we plunged into the valley amidst all those scented plants, the atabaca is particularly fragrant. The Moors were here and there are many Moorish loanwords in Spanish.

Atabaca plant smells very strongly of sandalwood and is extremely resinous and sticky, its defence against the sun. It looks nothing like tobacco. There were many dried flattened banana-like to a frazzle carobs lying on the ground. Shades of my childhood in Cyprus in fact. There were wasps that make adherent nests on stones out of mud. A dung beetle scarab pushing a round ball of shite up a hill and dilligent black ants in very long columns carting things back to their nests. Blue winged grasshoppers jump and fly up as you step on the ground. Lizard geckos basking and darting on the verandah, the marvellous carpenter bee. It has blue violet wings and though the size of a bumblebee it is black.

The structure in the picture is the sitooterie. This is a made-up Scots word I think, meaning outside sitting place. What a grand sitooterie it is too. It can seat 32 people around tables and it was here that we ate most of our meals. Other things were eating meals too, as the structure is predominantly made of wood, gribbles could be heard munching happily in the rafters and the odd gecko made its home here. A gribble is a maritime word for large creepy crawlies who eat a ship's timbers. One particularly night I looked up from my Rioja to see a scorpion of a brown and orange complexion furtively scuttling across the ground from here. This is an ideal spot to hang hammocks too as you can see. I referred to the structure in conversation as a "hyperstyle" because it reminded me of Classical temples. You might well imagine this.

So out of the gate made out of canyas, canes which grow up to I dunno 20 feet and are freely available for cutting and using to train beans and peas in the veg. garden. Across the bridge, up the track, over the fence. We walked up a steep, steep firebreak up to the pylons on the top where Moroccan illegals follow the electric overhead path to find work in the factories down on the Costa. We came to a ruined house, its occupants were scruffy dont wish to be disturbed sheep. Wandering the hill we found wild crocuses of pink and purple carpetting the ground. We followed the dusty, carob strewn road upwards until we came to a ruined fortress. We couldn't tell how old it was, multi-occupational, Cartheginian? Moorish? There were commanding views way over the valley to the strip of Estepona. Marbella and Malaga. beyond. Palm trees, bars, chinguritos (grass roofed beach bars) estate agents. snaking east across the Costa. The costa is just un restrained building. Below there are many fincas and plantations. As the climb up the firebreak had been so steep we searched for another way down. When we found it we had to sneak past a clump of beehives. "Atencion Abejas," I believe the sign said. Tigger, our resident Spanish guard dog was nosing around the little bee houses. Poor sod, the hunter that owned him had eaten his brother! When he first met us he was shit scared. No wonder if you just get beaten all the time and then your owner eats your sibling. Thankfully the bees did not show. Down, down down another firebreak and even steeper. I had to slide down the dry sand on my heels creating little avalanches as I descended. Past a small hole in the ground, wild wasp or bee colony, there was a piece of honeycomb that was yellow/ white against the sandy soil. Down to the dirt track that winds up, down and around until it reaches Finca La Vega,. Tigger immersed himself in a dirty yellow puddle of mud to cool himself. Sensible dog, no bottles of agua con gas (fizzy water) for him.! We found ourselves back at the river after the usual hassle of forcing ourselves through spiny bushes and leaping over rocks. I washed the mud from him in the water of the Rio del Padron. Cross the bridge, back to the Finca.

Monday, November 14, 2005


Ok. Here's the story. Outside Bolonia, very near to Tarifa on the Southern tip of Spain is a hill that translates as, "The Pope's chair." Its a good climb too. Through woods, alongside an extraordinary striated rock. On the top, once you've convinced the long horned cows not to jab you with their horns. You can get fantastic views of Morocco from here. The shore, way way below the hill, is a drop off point for what you might refer to as wetbacks. Fast boats speed across from N. Africa to here and chuck these guys over and they then race back again having dumped their human cargo. The guys have to swim the last stretch and then scramble up the beach and climb the hill to illegally enter into Spain. Clothing lies abandoned in small caves. Trainers, socks, sports bags, trousers etc. They change out of their soaking wet togs and into new ones.

We were there to see the Egyptian vultures wheeling and circling all around us. We had an excellent view over the bay to N. Africa. The sun was setting. Shaping up to be a good one too. To the West you could see the Roman ruins. "Look out Crisdean!" calls my partner. I thought I was just being warned not to go near the edge. Not being alerted about the low root which grew up about two feet from that edge. I of course stepped on it and er "nearly" tripped. If I had, I'd certainly have gone over. How close to a fool's death can one be? How close to an Evening meal for white wingtipped raptors?

We then decided rather stupidly to take a different "shortcut" down the hill. The light was fast fading and after forcing our way though bushes, spiny maquis type plants and sudden drops, there was soon so little left of it that it became impossible to see a clear way down. We managed to get back on the level by taking it very cautiously. I jammed my foot between rocks. The adrenaline dulled any sense of pain. Quite the scariest thing done since looking for cup and ring marks. Evening spent eating Pizza, drinking Cerveza, Rioja, anything and playing dice. Night spent being woken every fifteen minutes by annoying quarter of hour town hall clock chimes. Next morning Ramadan in Tangiers.

Pity this wasn't a goat sucker tale.

Chris was Anon.