Tales of the Lecrin Valley

A personal view of life in an andalusian village.

Carmen in our summer office

Carmen in our summer office

I haven´t told you, but we had a special offer from Vodafone which gave us all sorts of wizbangs: dongles, SIM card fitted fixed fones, repeaters, free this and that and things I don´t understand but nod wisely when the rep talks about them.  But all to no avail.  The office has 60cm thick packed earth walls, with a fair amount of moisture content, which is more effective than a super de-luxe Faraday cage.  (look it up!)  Consequently, any mobile phone conversations have to be taken outside.  Lovely in summer but a bit of a pain when it is raining.  But it has a plus.  When Carmen is outside, she can walk up and down and swing her arms about in true Spanish fashion, so I don´t have to duck and dive, dodge and weave, around the office.  The photo shows her in full stride and about to deliver a left cross to whoever is on the other end of the phone.

Ron, Marina and Carmen is Saleres' square

Ron, Marina and Carmen is Saleres' square

We met some friends on Sunday and went off into the hills above Albuñuelas in a thirty five year old Land Rover.  The Rover was as cantankerous as to be expected and we needed to get some oil before we could leave, but that done off we went along the old forestry road to the Carretera de las Cabras, or the Road of the Goats.  That tells you what sort of road it is.  It is incredibly scenic in the Foresty Commission, Mediterranean pines, cliffs and gullies with all sorts of birds, especially raptors, ranging from hawks to eagles, and the odd deer and mountain sheep.  We stopped at the old ranger’s station and couldn´t get the Rover re-started, but with a bit more oil, some water and a battery jumper it rattled into life.  We stopped for lunch in an old hunting lodge and had venison and wild boar, which the chef utterly destroyed.  Then off to the summit of the highest hill in the Commission where there is a fire-spotter’s tower.   The duty spotter invited us up into his cupola atop the tower and we had the most fantastic views from there as far as Granada in one direction and to the sea in another.  It was a bit chilly with a stiff wind, even in September, and I wouldn´t like to be there in mid-winter.  Then we headed back into the valley and had a drink in Albuñuelas before heading to the Salerosa for a bit of food.  It turned into a nice little gathering and one of the village women suddenly appeared with a pot full of chocolate and some deep-fried bread which had been dipped in egg, milk and cinnamon, which was delicious. There was, as usual a strange mixture of people in the Salerosa, five Spanish, Marina, a friend of Alejandra’s from the Dominican Republic, two Dutch, an Englishman (me), an Italian (Alejandra) and a Belgian (Thierry from Finca la Loma).  The bar is becoming a real cultural mix and as everyone speaks Spanish plus their own language it is invariably a good night out.  Antonio Three was there and stunned us all by stating with great conviction that John Wayne was a Catalan.  I know for a fact that he was as American as apple pie, that his real name was Marion Mitchell and he was born in Iowa, but if Antonio says he was Catalan, Catalan he  was.

Chocolate time in the Salerosa

Chocolate time in the Salerosa

Running an office requires a lot of stationery, and we use Viking Direct, a sort of Spanish Office Depot, to supply our needs.  As we are most favoured clients and spend a lot of money with them we are normally entitled to a free gift of some kind with every order.  So Carmen decided that an all-singing, all-dancing alarm clock would be just the thing.  Now, I have had an alarm radio for fifteen years without it ever having failed to wake me, but as readers of this blog know by now, it is easier to go with the flow as far as Carmen is concerned.  This new thing is quite large and is mounted on two ultra-sensitive pressure pads, which serve a double function of illuminating the LCD display if you press down on the top of the clock when it is dark, and of silencing the alarm for ten minutes after the alarm goes off in the morning.  You can’t have the display on all night as it is so bright that you can see the ceiling joists through the plaster.  So you have to lean over and tap the top to get a three second illumination to let you know the time.  My old clock had a gentle red glow with big numerals that enabled me to open one eye, roll over and go back to sleep; this involves gymnastics I haven´t done since school.  It is a New-Age-Eco-Thing, so the choice of sounds you have to wake you up are either the sound of waves crashing onto a beach, a babbling brook, bird-song or a frog croaking.  Allied to this, the thing has an LCD bulb inside which would put the Eddystone Light to shame.  It is designed to glow with increasing intensity starting ten minutes before the alarm goes off, thereby ensuring that you start to wake slowly as at day-break, so that when the alarm goes off you are emotionally ready for it.  Well, it’s all a load of nonsense.  Firstly, we have a fantastic dawn chorus in the Valley and after a few years of living here you invariably sleep through it.  Or it starts an hour after you need to get up.  Secondly, any man will tell you that the sound of waves breaking or babbling brooks in the morning is not a good idea.  It means that your partner gets the fright of their life as without warning you are out of bed and bolting for the loo, your bladder needing nothing less than the sound of running water first thing in the morning.  So, by a process of elimination, the first thing I hear in the mornings these days is a frog croaking.  Delight!  The light has been immobilised as instead of providing a gradually lightening dawn, its neon light goes off from stage one with such frightening intensity that on the first morning I thought it was the Second Coming.  Carmen found me on the bedside mat in supplication seconds after it lit up.  Also, the pressure pads are so sensitive that anything you try to do sets off lights and frogs.  So to set anything or to turn the thing off you have to pick it up and relieve the pressure from the pads, which is almost impossible when you are half asleep, and try to figure which of the seven buttons to push and for how long.  It has one more week of grace and if it doesn´t sort itself out it’s going to a mission school in Africa where it can be used to confound and convert the natives by producing false dawns and the sound of running water. And then my faithful old alarm is coming back.

The last of the visitors has left and we no longer have to stay up til all hours socialising.  Although it is great to meet up with people you rarely see, having to go to work the following morning and repeat the same thing the next night tires you out, especially if one is at a delicate age such as I.  So we were delighted when Carmen’s cousin Juan Carlos and girlfriend Beatriz decided to stay with Carmen’s sister Luisa for a couple of weeks and we were left with relatively little socialising to do.  Luisa arranged for trips to all the usual sites of interest and one afternoon decided to go to the hamam, or Arabic Baths in Granada.  They went as a foursome with Luisa’s boyfriend Dani, all looking forward to a great experience.  They went for the whole shebang, baths, massage and mint tea to follow.  Dani, Luisa and Beatriz came out rejuvenated, skin pink and tingling and bodies relaxed and warm inside.  Juan Carlos evidently got a male masseur who had either just broken up with his girlfriend (or boyfriend, you can never tell),  had had his flat broken into or had just wrecked his car.  Whatever, Juan Carlos came out of the baths limping and swears his knee had been dislocated.  His skin had been all but ripped from his body and he kept glancing back over his shoulder as if scared that the masseur was coming after him to finish him off.  Personally, I hate massages and I couldn´t help supressing a smirk, but I’m sure Juan Carlos just got unlucky.  Anyway, it made for a good laugh over dinner and it gave me a bit of ammunition against having to go in the future.