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Maybe third time lucky.

Was wandering around the local tracks and dry river beds when I came across a man and his cows. He had been tilling a piece of land and was putting the acoutrements back on his beasts of labour and attaching them to a cart before wending his way home.

I stopped, we introduced ourselves and I asked if I could photograph them. Armando has been a builder all his life and is now retired. He owns several pieces of land on which he grows his vegetables and now sells produce to augment his pension. During his working life he would pay a labourer to work the beasts which was cheaper than taking time off and that way two families survived.The animals would till the fields and the cart would be loaded with sugar cane which was the main crop back then in the Axarquia which is what this part of Andalucia is called. At that time there were three factories processing the cane into sugar (1) Torre del Mar (2) Torrox and (3) Maro near the Nerja caves. There was also one at Salobreña in the province of Granada going east along the coast. All were owned by a large spanish company that eventually ended up owning vast tracts of land along the Costa del Sol.

Anyway, back to Armando: nowadays Health and Safety has reached the not so long ago quiet backwater of the Axarquia and he and the few others' like him who still have their beasts are paying very heavily for the privilege of owning these magnificent animals. The veterinary surgeons descend every six months and pump the animals full of some vaccine (at the owners' cost) and if the animal has a reaction it is deemed diseased and contagious and put to death (at the owners' expense). Once dead, it is sold (the locals believe) for human consumption. Armando and his friends would like to know why, if the animal is contagious with some deadly disease (supposedly) that does not have a name, the dead flesh miraculously purifies itself between death of the animal and Sunday lunch.

Jardinera (gardener) and Labradora (tiller of the land) are two of three cows of the Castillian Pajuna breed that Armando owns and are indigenous to the area, and each has a calf. The way things are going, these animals will become extinct in a short space of time and this small village in southern Spain that has embraced technology and the modern world wholeheartedly whilst still retaining some of the old ways will become just another tower block trap on the Costa del Sol.

What price progress when lovely people like Armando who is in his sixties and very fit and healthy no longer has his beautiful beasts to love and look after? He can't afford a tractor or a rotivator and besides, headlights don't have that doleful look that a happy cow portrays.

A Kept Woman.
20 November 2011

I recently moved from a campo house 2 kms., inland in the Axarquia to a totally isolated campo house 40 kms., inland.  Being a lady on my own and having had three children I came to Spain eleven years ago and didn' have the money to buy my own property.  Since then I have lived in several rented places as I travel backwards and forwards quite a lot.  I love the spanish way of life and having had spanish parents I grew up in London surrounded by spanish speaking immigrants so I have no problem with the language or even any of the dialects so I'm very lucky.

When I originally rented in the campo after many years of threatening I finally started writing a book about my family;  my father was a political refugee who had served with the British Army during WWII and I believe, the first refugee (certainly in the Spanish community) to be given British nationality.  I don't know what he did but his records are closed until 2055 and prior to joining the British he had a pretty adventurous and dangerous life. Having British nationality he could sign papers and give references for anything from buying a bed to buying a house so I grew up surrounded by Spaniards.  

Anyway, life in the campo appealed to me and the peace and quiet after living in a huge  exciting city like London and lots of travelling to noisy undeveloped countries gave me the opportunity to start the book and continue writing my short stories.   In September 2010 I went to London intending to return after the Christmas holiday but unfortunately circumstances didn't allow me to return until later this year so hence another move. Fortunately, during my time in the campo I had met a lovely young moroccan field worker - you know the type: sunup to sunset in all weathers for €2.50 an hour who told me of a wooden cabin where the owner lived in the big town running his business and kept his animals in the fields surrounding the campo house whilst his brother came up on a daily basis to tend the animals, do the fruit trees and generally keep an eye on the place.  

Well, to cut a long story short, when I arrived to see the house I was greeted on the track by a lovely white pony and five very friendly dogs ranging from an alsation, an english bull terrier and three Heinz 57's of different sizes and colours. How could I refuse?  Then I saw the pool..... why is it that in hot countries the locals build small pools and yet we in the U.K., if we can afford one build an olympic size monstrosity - I take that back, if I had the house and the money I'd build a big one too - well it's big enough for me and anyone else who wants to jump in.  The  cabin is actually an old campo house which has been clad in wood inside and out and is incredibly warm even if it has got air conditioning and warm air heating. I said yes, well you would wouldn't you, and moved in two days later.  The day after I moved in the father arrived, I think he once owned the entire valley but has given his children their inheritance whilst he lives up on the hill with his wife and dogs.  Upon finding out that I love animals he said he would give me a dog and two days later his son Manolo who's the one that comes daily arrived with a handbag dog from his dad.  Phaedra (as I've named her) is all of ten inches from head to the end of her tail and I think she's adorable.  

Since moving in, Manolo has kept me in fruit and vegetables, my fruit bowl cannot cope with the mangoes, apples, oranges and tangerines whilst my fridge is bursting with lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber, courgette, carrots, onions and I can't be bothered to get up and see what's left.  At this rate, I'll never have to leave the house I'd been thinking to myself and then yesterday the menagerie was completed as Manolo arrived with a pregnant goat "I thought she would be company for you" he said as she trotted off through the open gate and into a field which luckily belongs to one of his brothers or sisters or could even be his for all I know.  So now I am the proud owner of a pygmy dog and a pregnant goat. Manolo asked if I'd like some chickens too although he said that I have to make sure that the alsatian doesn't get to them (Simba likes to kill them but doesn't eat them).  From living on my own surrounded by fields with potatoes and total silence I am now living with six dogs, a pony and a pregnant goat.  Not much chance of the boar and foxes visiting me although they try very hard because several times a night the animals go wild for an hour or so and then total silence again.  

Who would have imagined eleven years ago as I arrived at Malaga airport in my suit, high heels and acrylic nails that all these years later I would be walking around picking up pony and dog pooh (the goat hasn't left the alfalfa field since she realised she has it all to herself) and even though I can't get out and on to the track because it's rained so hard that my poor car can't make it.  I DON'T CARE, for the first time in my adult life I am a kept woman.




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