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Spanish Shilling

Some stories and experiences after a lifetime spent in Spain

Up On The Roof
09 January 2021 @ 21:59

The infinity of space is a subject that makes us dream. The Hubble observatory, drifting purposefully around our planet like an extra from a Kubrick movie, brings us its extraordinary photographs of the births and deaths of far flung galaxies and star systems. A star some ten thousand light years away explodes in a cataclysmic act and consumes, in a moment, a dozen planets that had anxiously spun around it. Everything recorded with infinite detail by the space observatory as if it were happening in real time, and not, as the astronomical measure suggests, some ten thousand million years ago. The stuff of wonders!

Led by these thoughts, when I read in the press that there was to be a spectacular meteor shower called ‘the Leonides’, ‘with various shooting stars every minute’, I went up the ladder on to my empty roof-top, with a sleeping bag and a pair of binoculars which used to belong to a German officer and were found in the sands of the Libyan desert a few years after the Second War. They had probably belonged to Rommel. I had recently snapped these gems up in the Sunday Market off a gypsy.

That particular night was cloudless, the skies clean and the stars as cold and hard as a banker’s heart.

Lying in my sleeping bag and gazing at the firmament, after a few hours had crept uneventfully past, I suddenly saw a red light coming in from the West. I doubted that it might be a UFO, common enough round here during the sixties, when Mojacar seemed to abound with them, and when people would impatiently wait for a flying saucer story to end to cap it with another even more interesting one. Meetings these days with small green creatures being a rarity, and with the absence of a non governmental organization for their care, it seemed more likely to be a light from the Madrid plane – or possibly the plane alight – or perhaps the nub end of my wife’s cigarette.

Indeed, and she had brought me a cup of tea.
‘Any meteorites?’ she asked.
‘Nary a one, the astronomers must have got it wrong’.

Apparently, they were twenty-four hours out, which isn’t bad for several million light years; so, the next night found me on the roof again. Nothing. Zip. Nada. Alright, about five in the morning I could see some red sparks over to the East, but they were probably just an illegal exhalation from the local power station. The conservative provincial media, of course, eventually convinced our mayor a few years back that the smog which he’d complained about was nothing more than a collective delusion similar to something a group of shepherds might have seen a couple of thousand years ago in Palestine, and nothing more about this phenomenon has ever been said. Odd really, as I’m the only one who still has these visions, or maybe there’s still lots of sand in my binoculars.
Meteorites though, were not to be seen.

It rained the following night, but there I was, back on top with my sleeping bag, not this time to observe the stars, but to cover a leak over the bedroom.

In the old times, our craftsmen would build flat roofs because it was cheaper, less likely to fall down, and because furniture in those days didn’t complain over the odd dousing from a leak. Economics continue to play a role today and I should state that I’m lucky to be able to enjoy the use of my own roof as the new ‘pyramid’ style of construction favoured by some developers (one man’s roof is the next man’s terrace, and so on for fifteen steps into the mountain) can lead to additional problems from your ‘next floor neighbour’, and obtaining permission to fix a leak – often with the help of a lawyer – from someone who hasn’t been back since he bought his apartment five years ago can easily become complicated.

A flat roof has another overweening advantage which will become clear when our little town fulfills its intention to expand to seventy thousand souls, with the consequent and inevitable collapse of its road system. I’ll be able to park my helicopter there.

These days, I sleep fulltime on my roof; admiring the horizontal views (while they last) and the safer, vertical ones. I breathe the reasonably uncontaminated air with relish as I continue to watch the night sky for meteorites.
There are worse ways to live.

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