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Spanish Shilling

Some stories and experiences after a lifetime spent in Spain

The Garden
09 March 2021 @ 18:01

I’ve never had much interest in gardening. My mother planted ours around fifty years ago and I remember she would spend her time pruning, seeding and either putting things in pots, or taking them out again. She would insist on special earth (wisely, as ours is solid clay) and she would buy her flower pots from a town in the hinterlands called Albox (famous in those days for its Moorish kilns and its industrial concessionaries).

Not to be outdone, my father planted a large number of trees in the field behind and above the house and would water them with big plastic bottles filled at the village fountain and lugged up there in his little Renault.

The property, to begin with, was fed water from a tank supplied by the water-truck from the nearby village of Turre. It would then be noisily pumped into the house as ocassion demanded. Much later, we got mains water from a local agency and, when that company became a part of the current water supplier, all of the 10,000 public shares from the agency, shares that each family or business were obliged to hold in our pueblo, worth 500 euros or so each in modern money (we had nine), were – whoops! – lost in the best local tradition.

Never mind, we had water, and for many years a gardener, Cristóbal, who squirted everything with enthusiasm, explaining that ‘of course the flowers fall off when you spray them, they’re flowers’. Cristóbal fancied himself as being the wise old Son of the Soil and would laugh as my mother lost her temper with him, ‘But Señora, how can you know? This is Spain!’

He had another problem, being partial to watching the women as they lounged around the swimming pool. One time, a scantily clad house-guest marched up to my father to complain that the gardener had been peeking at her while she was having a shower. My dad threw her out, claiming that it was much easier to get another house-guest than it was to find another gardener.

But that was then. My parents both died and, after I married, I took over the estate.

In fact, as far as gardening was concerned, the estate pretty much looked after itself. Between the rare rain that falls here and the even rarer moments of me watering with an increasingly leaky hose, the garden was obliged to make its own way. The smaller stuff died out and the stronger plants survived and spread.

Twenty agreeable years passed and the garden was by this time violently overgrown and, in the opinion of at least one of the larger pepper trees, in need of a miracle.

In the summer of 2009, a brush-fire raced across the entire municipality, pushed along by a high wind. The garden got its miracle all right, and I was left with a sad mixture of charred firewood, soot, dead trees, charcoal and smoking stumps. We lost several out-buildings and some neighbours lost their homes and the cars. 2,500 hectares went up that evening. The town hall reacted magnificently – by doing absolutely nothing at all.

Except asking the Junta de Andalucía to underwrite a press campaign to re-fill our hotels, which had emptied following the blaze. Not an election year, then.

But that’s why we love it here. They only remember you when they want something.

The garden slowly returned as green bits appeared amongst the sludge. A bush survived here and it looks like a tree pulled through over there. Most of my Dad's trees had gone, but we had plenty of firewood to cheer us up. A few months later, I was standing with a few people with axes and saws under a huge dead pine tree which there and then fell over and smashed a half-ruined shed on the other side from us.

Death felt our collers that day, but moved on.

The garden needed lots of work and, in need of some daily exercise, I took to clearing the place up. A dozen years later, it goes on, with me cutting down dead branches, planting, pruning and watering the grown-up seedlings of whatever survived that long-ago fire.

Oddly enough, that pepper tree was right, it does look a lot better now.

Like 4


eggcup said:
13 March 2021 @ 10:11

Excellent writing and acute observation of local Spanish politics - although I think it's even worse than you portray. Hands in the till, extortion, corruption and so on seem endemic. How you change a culture like that, I don't know. Just by being good and honest yourself I suppose.

anthomo16 said:
13 March 2021 @ 10:55

You will never ever change a spaniard who has a little power! Backhanders still go on and if you want to live in this wonderful country then you must accept it.

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