Tales of the Lecrin Valley

A personal view of life in an andalusian village.

On Monday someone complimented me on looking healthy with a nice sun-tanned face.  The weekend before last I was on the beach sunbathing but for the last week it has done nothing but rain, the water in the Rules reservoir has risen a metre and a half and there is snow almost down to Niguelas.  The ski station closed on 01 May and since then there has been more snow than during the whole of the winter.  Ten people have been killed in Malaga and Murcia provinces.  And my feet are cold!  During the sixties and seventies we could blame it on the Russians’ nuclear testing, but who can we blame now?  I know, Donald Trump.  He seems to be to blame for all the world’s woes at the moment so I will dash off a letter of reprimand to him.  At least he could keep dry here with that Barnet of his.  Malaga football stadium looks like an English Fourth División pitch.

TOPSHOTS A small football is covered wit...TOPSHOTS A small football is covered with on September 28, 2012 after heavy rainfalls caused floods in Villanueva del Trabuco, near Malaga, southern of Spain. Severe rain storms crossed some areas or South of Spain which caused flooding. AFP PHOTO/ JORGE GUERREROJorge Guerrero/AFP/GettyImages

I don’t know if it’s because I’m getting old, or because I think I’ve seen it all and not much lights my lamp these days, but this weekend I went around the Albaicin (the old quarter of Granada city) with some friends and saw some things I hadn’t seen before. I found it really interesting, probably because it had to do with the Moorish past of Granada and Carmen and I having spent a long time in Morocco and so I’m going to write about it. We initially wnet to see a carmen, a traditional house in the old part of Granada with a walled garden and epitomising their Moorish history. Typically, these carmens are hidden from the street by high walls but when you enter you are confronted with a fantastic garden or orchard with fountains with flowing water and luxurious plant growth everywhere. Most have a view of the Alhambra and are romantic in the extreme. The Albaicin is a UNESCO World Heritage Site https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Albayz%C3%ADn and it is easy to lose oneself in its narrow streets. After having viewed the carmen and what a delight that was, we went back through the lower part of the Albaicin and had the privilege of being shown behind the scenes of one of the processional brotherhoods where we saw the gold and silver thrones used to carry the Virgins during the Easter parades for which Granada is famous. We also went into the vestry to see all the robes which the bearers wear. Next door was a church which I had only passed before and had never entered. Again, it looked like nothing of note from outside but inside was like no other Catholic church I had ever been in. It was devoid of almost any gilded decorations and indeed one side had been left un-plastered to show the exposed wall of the original minaret, showing that it had been a mosque before the re-conquest by the Catholic Kings. It was, in fact,the place where Ferdinand and Isabel had celebrated their first Mass directly following the surrender of Boabdil, the Sultan of Granada. The minaret. now converted to a church tower, still has the original Moorish frescoes on its facings, just like the minarets in Morocco..

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And on top of the tower was something I had only seen once before and that was minutes before in the garden of the carmen we had just visited.  I’ll explain. On top of the minarets in Morocco are three spheres, often golden and they represent the three great religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam. How enlightened were the Moors compared with the fundamentalists of today.

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But I digress.  The top sphere on this church tower had been replaced by a castle and atop that a cross, showing that the Catholic Kings felt the need to put their stamp on things.

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What a marvellous piece of history.  After that we had a few drinks and tapas in a converted monastery and wended our way home.

I love the Albaicin, every trip there brings something different to light.

First snow of the season up above 10,000 feet (3000m in new money)yesterday. It has gone this morning but we normally have a dusting at the end of Sep. Serious stuff starts in late October and skiing early December. All looked very pretty from the valley, standing in shorts and T-shirt next to the river. We had our usual end of summer storm on 7th September, lashing rain and high winds. I was the last one to get through on the old road from Velez del Venaudalla before it was closed for twenty four hours to let the bulldozers clear the avalanches away. Some bright spark had cleared all the vegetation from a large swathe of hillside and now his topsoil is in the storm drains alongside the road. Why do people underestimate the power of Mother Nature? Loads of fruit and vegetables around at the moment, there is a virtual glut of everything as summer ends and the fruit is picked. Another couple of months and the oranges will be running colour. We had some lovely fruit form our newly-planted garden, not a lot of it in this first year, but what there was tasted delicious. Some leaves are beginning to change colour, especially the vines. The Señorio de Nevada bodega is carefully watching its vineyards to optimise the picking is done at just the right time and then will be the birthing of a new wine. The bodega is winning prizes had over fist lately and an afternoon wine tasting in the cellars is an afternoon well spent. See http://www.senoriodenevada.es/cellar.html The whole bodega and cellars have been completely rebuilt, the old vines have been grubbed out and new varieties planted and a hotel has been built. The restaurant is the best this side of Granada city and is a great place to lose a Sunday afternoon with friends and family with prices no more than anywhere else. I’m feeling hungry already and it’s my mother-in-law’s birthday on Sunday. She was asking us where we wanted to eat………………….

We had the first rains after the summer heat yesterday, not the benign rain that gently kisses plants and flowers, nurturing and nourishing, but a full blown brutal summer storm which ripped and raped through the hills, leaving vicious gashes in many hillsides where before there had been virgin soil. I drove back through the worst of it from Velez Benaudalla and it was awesome. For a many drivers the awe became fright , and they stopped on the side of the road, with or without their hazard warning lights flashing, refusing to move and adding another hazard to the drive up into the hills. It is a moot point as to whether stopping and being hit by an avalanche or a raging flash flood is better than being hit by the same whilst driving, but I decided on the latter and pressed on, as is my wont, at one stage following a van driver who added to his vulnerability by having no lights on. There is a small brook I look out for which normally has an abundance of flowers growing on its banks, but yesterday was vomiting, the only word for it, mud and rocks across the storm drain and into the road before streaming down the asphalt in the direction of the oncoming traffic. In the afternoon the old road was closed while the bulldozers cleared away the landslides, mud and debris and I saw rafts of flotsam littering the surface of the Rules reservoir. This morning the road was open again and all was peace and tranquillity. Within a few weeks there will be little sign of the damage as plants take over, but this area is prone to flash floods in September and it is as well to remember that we are living in the foothills of the highest mountains in Spain. Why am I writing this? Because the phones have been down since the storm and there is little else to do while we wait to be reconnected.

I was in Granada airport waiting for an arrival the other day when I saw a lot of what looked publicity leaflets. I leant over some chap’s shoulder and picked one of the sheets up to have a look, only to find that it wasn’t publicity but the notes of the chap I had leant over. He was a bit put out at first but we had a laugh when I told him I thought it was a bunch of leaflets advertising sights in Granada. He told me that he was a taxi-driver who was studying medieval architecture for an Open University degree and used his time to study while waiting for fares. He had really got into the mood as his notes were all in medieval script and very neat. You know the type, ‘f’ for ‘s’ and so on. Better than sitting in his cab playing games on his mobile like the other drivers, he told me, and I agree with him. We had a long chat about the architecture in Granada and left new-found friends. I’ll keep an eye out for him next time I need a cab in Granada. I am always amazed at the people you find driving cabs. In Washington DC a few years ago, before their country was invaded, there was a taxi company almost exclusively employing Afghani engineers as cabbies. Their qualifications weren’t recognised by the Americans so they resorted to driving taxis and studying for the American degree part-time. And there’s a Scottish taxi driver I know in Edinburgh who speaks Arabic and Turkish but prefers driving a cab to working in linguistics. Funny old lot, cabbies. Almost impossible to find a mini-cab driver who speaks English in London.

With the price of the euro sinking there are a few houses we have which are absolute bargains.

When I first came down here it was just to have a bolt-hole from a stressful job back in UK. I wanted somewhere I could get away to for a week or so to re-charge and at the same time be close to the coast and a major city. I didn’t realise at the time that Granada was one of the best venues in Spain and that the food and nightlife were superb. The beaches on the Costa Tropical, although not fine white sand, were clean with chrystal clear water and fantasstic fish restaurants right on the beach. Although I managed to get in at the right time, price-wise, the prices now are not too far off what they were nearly twenty years ago, so if you find yourself in the same situation and have a bit of money to spare, buying here makes a lot of sense. The walking and the skiing are an added bonus for the winter. From where we are at 700m to the mountains the other side of the motorway which go up to 3400m, you have all the choice you need, from hill walking to ice and snow work on the upper slopes. Fantastic and still relativley undiscovered.

Today is a normal day.  Drove 44 km and up and down 4000 feet through stunning countryside, met some lovely people, one of whom had been a bullfighter in his younger days and had the scars from some gorings to prove it, had a look at a couple of houses which the owner wanted to sell, two for the price of one.  One is a small and perfectly presented house and the other needs a complete restoration and the pair for only 68,500 euros.  that’s 50,000 pounds at today’s rates.  Buy both, live in one and restore the other in slow time then sell one of them and get your money back.  It’s what I did a few years back and had a free house at the end of it.  Then sold that house and had 100% profit on the sale price and a wonderful holiday home in the interim.  20% per annum interest and a house to live in as well. And no stress to earning it.  Not boasting, just saying.  Back to the office and did some admin, had a chat with some of the students in our total immersion school on the top two floors of our office building, took delivery of a jet-wash for the pool and surrounds so will clean and fill the pool this weekend and enjoy the 30ºC+ temperatures we have been having for this last week.,  Now it’s 16:30 and time to go back down the hill and then to Granada as it’s Friday and that means the city will be throbbing with people and not a drunk or a fight in sight.  Have a drink and tapa or two and just chill out.  How’s UK, by the way?

Image result for bee-eatersI haven’t exactly been dragged kicking and screaming into the nuclear age, but I happen to think that steam has more character and is more in keeping with the image of the valley.  Anyway, I have edged cautiously towards the future and we now have an all-singing, all-dancing website which is much easier to administer and still contains my flowery prose, much to the disgust of the RSS/XML feed tecnicos who say their uploading programmes don’t recognise such alien features as adjectives, adverbs, superlatives (of which the valley is full,) and would I mind just putting the bare facts in the text and not superfluous words and phrases.  Well I do mind and will have to find a way around this.  I don’t just want to sell houses but am trying to interest potential buyers in the ambience, character and lifestyle associated with living in this little pieece of Paradise.  I have nothing against Full English Breakfasts, Watney’s Red Barrel, chicken coops painted white and piled one on top of the other next to the costas, but not in my valley thank you very much.  This is the authentic side of Spain, flamenco, romerias, fiestas, oranges, lemons, goats, local characters and all.  The orange harvest has just about finished and spring has sprung big-time.  The orange blossom is starting to fill the valley with an undescribable fragrance, the bees are busy working sunrise to sunset, much to the delight of the bee-eaters who are out and about, their brilliant flashes of colour accentuated by their swolln stomachs, the weeds are as high as an elephant’s eye and the sun is seeping into my bones as soon as I leave the office.  If all this appeals to you, see the new website www.lecrinvalleyproperty.com and come down and see me in Melegis.

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I have written about Jesus before. A good friend, the Maestro of the rotovator, the chain-saw and the heavy-duty strimmer. I first met him about twelve years ago in Jose’s bar in Restabal. Strong as an ox, apparently daft as a brush but with an insight into people that was both accurate and faultless, generous to a fault, it was him who appeared in the upstairs bar one morning in the early hours, leading a mule. It took the whole bar to get the thing back down the stairs, it was obviously terrified of walking forwards on marble stairs and let us know just how scared in the time-honoured manner.

The first time I saw him I thought he was a member of the Spanish Legion, there are several ex-members in the valley. Somewhere I have a picture of him, brown as a berry, with his shirt open to the waist, his hirsute six-pack there for all the world to see as he has a beer after a long day in the campo. He was one of three brothers and it was the sight last night of his youngest brother walking in the dark many miles from home, that prompted me to write this. It would tickle Jesus pink to think that anyone cared enough to write about him. All three brothers lived with their mother. The youngest contracted cancer and died young. Jesus’ other brother never got over this and started to walk, at all hours, in all weathers to destinations known only to him. He is a good-looking lad, tall and slim and with long hair like a biblical prophet. I have never heard him speak.

Jesus seemed to be more stoic about the loss but he spent more and more time in the bar. For the first few years it didn’t seem to affect him, he was still always ready for a laugh and we roared away many a night. He was a good-looking bloke but never had any permanent relationship with a woman, or impermanent come to that, but would tell me hilarious stories about his forays into La Luna, the local house of ill repute. It was rumoured that more than one of the girls there, as well as a few of the local girls, had taken a fancy to him and wouldn’t have minded looking after him, but it seemed to go over his head and he stayed with his mother and very happily so, he told me on more than one occasion. Whether he was looking after her and his brother or his mother was looking after the pair of them I don’t know, but it seemed to work. He continued to do the work of a peon for Jose who regulated his alcohol intake and found him jobs to do. With the arrival of Aya in our family we stopped going to the bar on our way home from work in the evenings and I was shocked when I next saw him a couple of years later. I’m not given to exaggeration and I can assure you that he looked seventy years old. His frame had shrunk to nothing, his cheeks were sunken and grey and his eyes bloodshot and hollow. I greeted him as always and pretended not to notice his condition and the spark came back into his eyes. We joked as before but when I discreetly asked Jose what had happened to him he replied that his liver was virtually destroyed and he had just been released from a period in hospital. He got better over a period of time, put on weight and went back to work, although not as the ox he had once been. Then just before Christmas I went into Jose’s bar and asked after him. He died two weeks ago, his liver gave out, Jose’s son Cristian told me. I wish I had known, I feel remiss not having gone to his funeral, but they bury people within twenty-four hours here in Spain and we hadn’t been told. And now his brother is to be seen wandering far and wide at all hours of the day and night. Although I have never spoken to him or even heard him speak, I hope that he and his mother communicate and will come to terms with the tragedy of their family.