All EOS blogs All Spain blogs  Start your own blog Start your own blog 

Spanish history in art and literature

A blog the history of Spain for ex-pats and others.

A Zen Garden for Christmas
Friday, December 24, 2021 @ 1:07 PM


In my pueblo there is always building work going on somewhere. People are always changing and improving their houses, so I was not surprised to see a pile of sand at the bottom of my neighbour’s garden with a shovel stuck in it. A dead giveaway that building work was going on. What did surprise me was the person standing next to the shovel. Many things go together well: cheese and wine, bacon and eggs, fish and chips. Others clash: red and green, oil and water, Loveless and a shovel.

The pueblo had many, shall we say, exotic characters. Very few were Spanish; they had all been normalised very early in their lives by the very conservative natives. The Brits, however, had no obvious constraints to their behaviour. In this respect, Loveless and Geordie were a couple who stood out head and shoulders above the rest. Nobody knew what their relationship was, but like Batman and Robin, even though they were accepted by most, you knew something was not just quite right.  

I mentioned that Loveless was standing in close proximity to the shovel, but his body language was screaming that it was nothing to do with him. When he saw me he stepped away from the heap of sand as though it was a pile of warm elephant droppings. Just then, Geordie’s voice screeched from the other side of the garden wall.

“Hurry up and fetch some more cement.” Lovelace’s face dropped. I put on a big smile.

“Hi Loveless, how are things going?” I enquired.

The expression on Lovelace’s face took on a new depth of despair. Imagine one of Napoleon's captains retreating from the gates of Moscow in midwinter. The frozen bodies of his fallen troops piled at the side of the road with Russian snipers and artillery adding to their terrible misery. If you had cheerfully asked the captain, how things were going, the expression that you would have seen would not have been too far from the one Loveless was wearing.

“OK,” he said, with a voice like dropped lead.

Just then, Geordie came through the garden gate with a face like thunder.

“I said mix some more,” he snarled.

“Hi Geordie,” I said.

“What do you want?” he hissed.

“Just passing,” I explained. “What are you up to?”

Geordie drew himself up to his full height so that he could look down his nose at me and haughtily explained.

“I have been commissioned to create a Zen Garden by Pauline.”

I have to confess I was taken aback by this revelation. In Andalusia there is a distinct rarity of Zen Gardens. Meditation and spiritual development are not high on the agenda of the average Andaluz farmer. Knowing Pauline well, I began to have a shadow of doubt about validity of this Zen Garden. It’s usually not a good idea to probe too much into Geordie’s world. It can quickly become very confusing. However I could not resist this particular probe.

“What exactly is a Zen Garden,” I asked.

“It is a secluded space where the inter-dimensional forces of the universe are channelled and controlled. The benign power that flows through everything is focused by the structure of a Zen Garden, bringing good luck and health to the people who inhabit the house. You must arrange certain stones with their relative power-vortices so that the flow of positive energy is pure. You have to say the correct prayers and incantations with each phase of the construction. I have studied the subject exhaustively and have been trained by masters of the art.” he explained.

“Wow! Very impressive,” I answered. “Where did you train to be a Zen Master? I always thought that you were from South Shields.”

“He downloaded it from the internet,” blurted Loveless. “That’s where he gets all his stuff from. He pays 10€ a month for them to send him this crap.”

“Mix some more cement!” Geordie barked, giving Loveless a scathing glare.

“May I take a look?” I probed a little deeper.

“Of course,” Geordie was warming to his new role as teacher of oriental wisdom and bringer of enlightenment. “This first wall is a step down to the rest of the garden. It will be on two levels symbolizing the Yin and Yang of the universe, where each positive force is balanced by a negative force, thus bringing equilibrium to all things.”

We stood at the side of a narrow trench which he had excavated with a gardeners trowel. Geordie had been patting in cement with his hands as a foundation.

“Why not use wooden shutters and just pour concrete in? That’s what everybody else does,” I ventured. Geordie looked at me as though I had just farted.

“Because you would violate the energy field generated by my hands and prayers,” he coldly informed me.

“I see,” I lied.

I decided that I had probed enough for one day and suggested that I would call in from time to time and see how the work progressed. I made my excuses, left the garden of eternal bliss, and stepped into the real world. As I passed I called hasta luago to Loveless, but he did not look up from his mixing. On the way to the shops I was wondering if Zen Gardens had gargoyles, because Loveless’ face would have been a perfect model for one.

Three days later I walked past the bottom of Pauline’s garden and looked over the wall. Pauline and Geordie were bending over the wall dividing Yin from Yang and talking seriously. I foolishly called out.

“How’s the Zen Garden coming along?”

Both heads snapped up and looked at me with very strange, strained expressions. Realizing that I may have put my foot in it I smiled and made an excuse.

“Must go and catch the shops before they close. Byee.”

I returned by the same route a half hour later and cheekily peeped over the wall to see what had happened. As I did so, I saw Pauline alone. She had seen my head pop up and she waved me into the garden.

“What’s all this about a Zen garden?” she demanded.

“Well, Geordie said you had commissioned him to build a Zen garden,” I explained.

“Zen bloody garden my arse! I told him to build a wall so I could have two levels of reasonably flat garden. Just look at this,” she snarled.

I followed her into the garden of tranquillity fearing that the some of the inter-dimensional forces might not be quite in balance. I was not wrong.

“Look what he has done. So far I have paid that idiot 300€ for this.”

The wall was a roughly vertical pile of bricks, which began at the steps and meandered across the garden like a drunk’s footsteps. It followed the contours of the ground beneath it exactly, showing no need for any form of horizontal linearity or vertical order. Before it got to the far wall, it fell over and lay comatose on its side having given up all hope of being a wall, and was content to sleep it off till another day. I felt sorry for Pauline having to pay for this disaster.

“I will come along in the morning and straighten it out Pauline,” I said. “It won’t take long.”

The next morning I brought a few tools and began scraping cement off the bricks. In actual fact there had been no need to rush because there was not enough cement in the sand for it to be called mortar; it would never have set anyway. That was when Geordie arrived with Loveless.

I slipped out of the garden to mix some real cement whilst a conversation developed within the Zen Garden between Pauline and Geordie. Moments later I returned with a full bucket, and as I laid anew the cleaned bricks from Geordie’s attempt at bricklaying, I listened to the conversation.

“You must understand that this work is labour intensive and the hours I spend are for your ultimate benefit,” Geordie said. “I can’t rush in case I make a mistake and waste your time and money.”

“I would hate to see one of your mistakes if this is an example of you getting it right. The whole bloody wall is a mistake. Hiring you was a mistake,” Pauline’s voice was becoming more strident. “Look at it. It’s just a pile of rubbish that I have paid 300€ for!” Geordie had walled himself into a corner, and for a moment, his eyes showed his panic, but then his true nature asserted itself.  

“The wall was not like this when I left it yesterday … there must have been an earthquake in the night!”

For a few seconds there was a silence you could cut with a trowel. I spread my feet in anticipation of the aftershock, and watched its rapid approach on Pauline’s face.

“You idiot! Do you think I am going to believe that!” she pointed at me. “Do as he says and don’t open your mouth again.”

I unravelled my line-band and pinned it to one end of the wall with a heavy stone. I did the same to the other end, but only after moment of thought. I already had the hand patted prayer laden foundations, but they were aligned to universal forces, whereas my line-band only showed the shortest distance between two points. Finding a mean was difficult because there was no obvious general direction. In the end I chose the line of least work. The wall would not be at right angles to the rest of the garden, but it would be straight. Whilst I was doing this Pauline had seen my use of the line-band and asked Geordie why he had not used one.

“Oh I have one.” Geordie glibly answered, unaware that he had just put his foot on a mine.

“Well why the bloody hell didn’t you use it!” Pauline shouted at the top of her voice. Geordie recognised defeat and was silent. At this point, I revealed my other secret weapon; a spirit level. Pauline fell on Geordie like a ton of bricks.

“Why didn’t you use a level?” she snapped. “In three day’s work I have never seen you use a level.”

“Yes I did,” blurted Geordie. “I used my bottle of water!”

“How can you use a bottle of water as a level?” Pauline barked. My ears came up too. This was a new one on me.

“The bottle of water has a bubble in it. Lay it on the wall on its side and you have a level.” Pauline gasped at this revelation. I did too.

“Then why is your wall not level? Pauline asked quietly.”

“Well it was a warm day, so we drank all the water in the bottle,” Loveless explained before Geordie could invent an answer.

Pauline was speechless with anger. She turned and stormed into the house.

“Maybe you should have taken more notice of the spirit level than the spirit guide Geordie.” I added. “Why don’t you help Loveless mix some cement.”

I had to turn away. Laughing out loud would not have helped the situation. Geordie strutted down the path, and left the garden of tranquillity.

I had the feeling that in future years Pauline would be far from tranquil in her garden when she thought of how much she had paid for this little wall. After a couple of hours, I had restored some semblance of linearity to the wall and was filling in the hollows where its original course had followed a power vortex instead of a piece of string. Pauline had by now calmed down. She came and looked at the new wall.

“I can cement render it tomorrow if you wish.” I told Pauline.

“No thank you. I am going to get a Spanish builder to finish everything off. But thanks for helping me.” Geordie’s face dropped.  

“I can finish the work now,” he offered.

Pauline walked up to Geordie and stood inches from his face.

“In two hours he has done correctly what took you three days to do wrong. Get out of my garden and don’t ever set foot in it again,” she hissed.

I gathered up my tools whilst Geordie told Loveless to pick up his. We left the Zen Garden and went our separate ways. Call me evil, but I could not resist calling over my shoulder to the master of unseen forces and his acolyte.

“See you later Geordie, and watch out for earthquakes on the way home pet.”

Like 0


Leave a comment

You don't have to be registered to leave a comment but it's quicker and easier if you are (and you also can get notified by email when others comment on the post). Please Sign In or Register now.

Name *
Spam protection: 
Your comment * (HTML not allowed)
(Items marked * are required)


This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse you are agreeing to our use of cookies. More information here. x