Tales of the Lecrin Valley

A personal view of life in an andalusian village.

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.