Tales of the Lecrin Valley

A personal view of life in an andalusian village.


We got into the house at four o’clock on Saturday morning as Carmen had had to visit a member of her company who works in Granada.  We went to her friend’s house and met her husband, who everybody said is a couple of sarnies short of a picnic, but with whom I got on very well.  Birds of a feather?  At eight fifteen we were woken by Lolita braying at the top of her voice, Antonio’s dog Canela howling in a sympathetic alto, and Antonio cooing to the pair of them.  Our alarm clock in Saleres.

 We got up at about ten and opened the door to the garden, ready to receive visitors.  Antonio was first and told us that he was going to sell Lolita as he was too old to give her sufficient exercise.  He had phoned a horse trader in Motril who was coming to collect her the following day.  He didn’t know what would become of her, whether she would be giving donkey rides on the beach, be sold to another farmer, or be sent to the knacker’s yard.  He was obviously upset and he left for his stable, so as to spend as much time as he could with his beloved friend before he lost her. 

Chon was not at home as she had been seconded by the town council to work in the local Orange Festival, so we decided to go there for lunch.  We took Antonio along with us in the car and he was re-united there with all his family.  On the journey he told us that if he didn’t have ties in Saleres he would sell up and go back to Germany, so upset was he at having to let Lolita go.  I think it’s the tablets he is taking for his heart condition.

 The orange festival is to celebrate the orange harvest and there was free beer and cheap food to be had.  The food was a local dish, remojon and migas.  Remojon is orange, onion, olives and salt-cod and has a surprising pleasant taste.  Migas are fried breadcrumbs, and don’t.

 Shortly after arriving we saw Antonio’s family gathered around him in a corner of the fairground.  He was sobbing his heart out and the tears were coursing down his face at the prospect of losing Lolita and we all told him not to sell her if she meant that much to him.  He agreed to this an immediately started to smile and laugh, so Lolita has a reprieve and has been getting star treatment all week; fresh grass and  lots of grooming.  I’m sure that Antonio thinks that she knew what he had planned and he is trying to get back into her good books.  Her leg and hoof are now healed, but she still gives me the evil eye whenever I go into the stable.  For my part I take great care not to get into any position where she can bite, kick, trample or spit at me.

 In fact the stable is now a dangerous place to be.  Two of Chon’s cats had kittens about two weeks ago.  Antonio got rid of all but one of them, but the two mothers have both decided that the remaining kitten is theirs.  The three of them have taken up residence in one of Lolita’s old saddlebags near the window and heaven help anyone who comes near them.  Bearing in mind that these cats are semi-feral and answer to no-one, and that one is a psychotic Siamese to boot, going into their territory is a hazardous pastime.  Fur rises and hissing and spitting begins, as one or the other of the mothers springs to the top of the saddlebag ready to claw any approaching offender’s eyes out. The kitten is Siamese and pretty as a picture, and as it has two mothers spoiling it, it does nothing but eat and sleep.  How I envy it.

It rained very hard last week and the pool filled up with water from the cloister roof, so another job I have to do is to fit sixty feet of guttering.  Paco came one evening with Trini and his youngest son, and they stayed until late, talking and laughing.  When it was time to leave, their son came running back into the house to tell us that there was a dog in the swimming pool, and sure enough, there was a large black dog, clinging desperately to the side of the pool and whimpering pitifully.  I pulled it out, just in time to save it from drowning, and it staggered off, cold and wet.  Goodness knows whose it was or how it fell into the swimming pool, or why it didn’t try to get out by way of the steps in the shallow end.  I suspect it was Miguel’s, as his dog is almost blind and about the same size and colour as the offender.  The next day I had to check the pool for offensive objects, of which thankfully there were none, and then I had to give it a good dose of chlorine to make sure.  

Believe it or not, Carmen bought more urns this week and I had the task of finding earth enough to fill them. So now the terraces at the back of the house are wider and deeper and my phantom back pain of the week before has become a reality.  Fifty-odd buckets had to be carted from the terraces to the garden, although in all honesty, Carmen did also help, and got Chon and Pablo to help too.  Carmen also appeared one day with a semi-mature, twelve foot high wisteria, which she somehow got into the car, but which was almost impossible to remove.  It is now planted to the side of the house and we hope that next year we will have lots of wall-cover and flowers on that side of the house. 

Carmen was a bit concerned that the urns were too new-looking, so she asked the nurseryman how to age them.  He said that if you paint them with yoghurt the bacteria reacts with the terracotta to make them look older.  So she bought eight pots of yoghurt and set Pablo to work painting all the urns.  The little lad worked like a Trojan and finished them all just as it was getting dark, then came into the kitchen to get his reward of chocolate from the fridge.  He went back into the garden to eat it and we heard howls of laughter.  We rushed out to find all the feral cats in the neighbourhood busily licking the yoghurt from the sides of the pots and nothing we did would persuade them to stop.  Carmen was incensed and to avoid a night of catfights she got out the garden hose and washed all Pablo’s hard work away and gave him another slab of chocolate in recompense.

 She has also decided that we should live outside for the summer, which is why Paco visited us.  He has received orders to construct a summer kitchen under the cloister next to the barbecue.  Actually Paco will just build a couple of work surfaces, and I have to fit the gas cooker, the fridge,(we now have five), the shelves and anything else  that comes into her mind.

 As it got nearer to Easter, we were brought more into the local customs, notably the culinary ones.  Chon showed us how to make roscas, a sort of doughnut, and then gave us about twenty of them.  Luckily we have a friend who is a roscaholic and we off-loaded some onto her.  On Thursday lunchtime, Ascension Two brought us a dish of salt-cod, breadcrumbs and egg, made into a kind of meatball.  (or more accurately, a fishball.)  Chon also cooked us some of these, so we had to eat both potfuls under their watchful eyes and with careful impartiality.  Our bloatedness after this seriously curtailed our afternoon workrate. 

 This then posed another dilemma.  How well should I clean the pots?  If I cleaned them too well, military fashion, would they think that I was criticising their kitchen hygeine?  If I cleaned them too little would they think I don’t run a clean kitchen?  It may sound trivial, but this was a real problem at the time and could have affected my status in the village.  I decided to play it crafty, so I cooked some marmalade and gave them a saucepan full each, neatly sidestepping the problem.  Would you believe that they had never had marmalade before?  The valley exports two thousand tons of oranges annually and they never use it for marmalade. 

 A couple of days were idyllic.  We sat in the garden by the pool one morning, taking our breakfast of fresh orange juice picked five minutes before from our trees, poached eggs taken from under Chon’s chickens five minutes before that, fresh bread delivered half an hour before that, and a naice cup of tea.  The sun was flexing it’s muscles for the day and there was not a cloud in the sky.  The swallows were swooping gracefully over the terrace and taking sips of water from the pool whilst on the wing, disturbing it’s stillness but creating ripples that reflected the sunlight onto the white walls of the cloister.  The air was filled with the smell of orange blossom and the humming of the bees feasting on it.  Chon’s daughter Charo brought us some honeycomb which she had collected  from one of her orange groves, and spread on toast it had the most incredible flavour of orange blossom. 

 And that is about it for this week.  As you see, food and animals form the backbone of our existence of life in the village. 

 And do I miss England?  Not a jot!!!

  1. granada information dave
    6:29 am on September 6th, 2009

    I really enjoyed reading this post, Ron. You describe such an idylic style of life that I found myself wishing I was there too! And then I realised – Yes. Here I am!

    We were out with friends last night and Dave Musica (I think you will know him by that title) remarked that he had just had another one of “those” moments.

    He had suddenly looked up from the conversations we were having, looked around and thought, “I’m here, living this life. Here!”

    And do we miss England? Not a jot either!